Noon, Friday, April 7, About 30AD: The hardened Romans who lead the bloody and battered Jesus on His final walk through Gennath Gate towards Golgotha – the Place of the Skull – are mostly indifferent to His acute pain and impending execution.
On the 500-metre journey from Pontius Pilate’s Antonia Fortress, several Jewish women join the mob following the execution party.
They begin to weep and wail, but Jesus – speaking in the manner of the great prophets – warns of a world of the future; a time of great misery for those who reject his message of love.
The two thieves who are to die with Him are probably already naked and semi-conscious on their crosses when Jesus arrives. The centurions who accompanied the robbers are sitting on the ground, sharing out the possessions of the two men.
Others untie the ropes binding Jesus and strip Him of His clothes. The Roman practice of crucifixion includes total degradation. The only concession is that women are allowed to be crucified facing the cross, but they, too, are naked.
The soldiers work efficiently to nail Jesus’ wrists to the patibulum (the horizontal part of the cross) and attach it to the upright. Two nails are then driven through each foot.
Looking down from the cross, Jesus must experience the world’s rejection. This final barbaric operation is watched by His enemies.
A priest, perhaps the High Priest Caiaphas, shouts: “He helped others. He can not help Himself.”
There are no clouds in the sky and no sound of thunder or flashes of lightning. But the heavens deepen to a deep blue and continue to darken for the rest of the day. Many are afraid.
The darkness seems to be experienced throughout Europe. In fact, records found later in Rome state the darkness is worldwide and can not be explained.
Greek historian Phlegon is later to write that in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was a great darkness over Europe, surpassing anything that had been seen. At the same time, an earthquake caused significant damage in Cyprus.
1pm: Behind the crosses, according to a chilling account in Luke, the soldiers play a game rolling knucklebones and argue loudly over the possessions of the condemned.
About this time, Jesus looks up and says something extraordinary: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
He is praying for his enemies, as He encouraged others to do in that unforgettable sermon delivered on Mt Hattin.
This is what He meant by love.
The crowd is thinning, but there are still the mocking voices. They are joined by one more from a cross.
The man on Jesus’ left finally explodes in anger.
“Are you not the Messiah?” he screams. “Save yourself, and then us.”
The other thief yells that he and his companion deserve death, but Jesus does not.
“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” he says.
The Messiah, speaking and breathing with great difficulty, makes a promise: “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
The three men are weak, but death is not ready for them yet. Of the three, Jesus is closest to death. He has been given no food or water for many hours, He has been beaten and is in great shock.
2pm: Jesus begins his final hour on the cross, surrounded by a few who love Him, and a few who despise Him.
He calls forward His mother, Mary. He says to the disciple John, “Behold, here is your mother”.
The message is clear. John must care for Mary as if she were his natural mother.
3pm: He cries: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Then, with a final cry, “It is finished”, Jesus’ body sags on the cross and dies.
The ground trembles and a crack splits the hill of the execution. The crack goes right through Jerusalem, right through the middle of the Temple.
The inner veil of the Temple is split from top to bottom. The news of this rending is not revealed immediately to the people.
A CENTURION, jumping to his feet in alarm, looks at Jesus.
“Surely, this man was the Son of God,” he says.
The bodies of the crucified must be removed from the crosses by sundown on the Passover, otherwise the place will be defiled and no Jew can set foot in it.
The guards are ordered to apply the crufragium, an instrument designed to break the legs of the crucified. This brings certain and quick death by asphyxia because the condemned can no longer catch their breath by pushing on their legs to raise the body.
The guards begin with the one to be called The Good Thief. He sinks to the bottom of the cross.
Then they move towards Jesus. A guard says Jesus is already dead, but another is to make certain because any mistake on the soldier’s part will result in his death.
The guard draws back his lance and aims for the right side of the Messiah’s chest. The lance drives inwards between the fifth and sixth ribsEven if Jesus was in perfect health, He could not survive this blow.
Out of the wound comes blood and water. Modern medicine tells us this can only happen when the aortic valve ruptures because of the formation of thrombotic vegetations in the valve. Such certain death is caused by extreme emotional trauma.
This banal act of desecration is conclusive post mortem evidence that Jesus is dead – not the usual crucifixion death of suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock.