NOTE: “Urantians”— people who have read, and believe The Urantia Book— are aware of the actual date of the Crucifixion as Friday, April 7, 30 A.D. Historians too, are largely in agreement that the crucifixion of Jesus probably occurred on Nisan 14, (April 7), according to the Gospel of John. The Urantia Book reveals unprecedented detail of the events which unfolded during those momentous days, giving amazing new depth and dimension to the timeless story of how our backward planet dealt death to the Son of God and the Son of Man, the Creator of our Universe.
JESUS ARRESTED IN GETHSEMANE PARK
Things began unfolding around eleven PM at Gethsemane Park where Jesus had been praying with three of his apostles, when Judas Iscariot led a group of an estimated sixty persons with torches and lanterns into the garden. The group included a contingent of Roman soldiers under orders of Procurator Pontius Pilate from the fortress of Antonia. Iscariot was “well out in front” of the soldiers; we are informed Iscariot was in the process of betraying Jesus, and this distance was intended to give the impression to his recently deserted fellow-followers that he was not connected with the armed guards which followed so closely on his heels.
Sources close to Jesus have confirmed that as recently as March 29th he had again pronounced to his apostles that he was completely aware of plans to deliver him into the hands of the chief priests and religious rulers, who would in turn deliver him into the hands of the gentiles, who would then “deliver him up to death.”
It had been widely reported for several weeks the Sadducees, who control and dominate the Sanhedrin, have publicly dared to condemn Jesus in advance of a trial, and Herod is said to have become so frightened by the confirmed resurrection of Lazarus that he intended to kill Jesus, or at the very least drive him from the territory.
As Iscariot approached Jesus, the prophet stepped aside and addressed the approaching captain of the Roman guards saying, “Whom do you seek?” The captain answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus calmly stepped directly in front of the officer saying, “I am he.” The front ranks fell suddenly backward, overcome with surprise at his boldness.
As the guards rallied from their initial faltering, Judas stepped up to Jesus and, kissing the prophet on the brow, said, “Hail Master and Teacher.” Jesus said, “Friend, is it not enough to do this! Would you even betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus then repeated his question to the Roman captain, got the same answer, and said, “I have told you that I am he. If, therefore, you seek me, let these others go their way. I am ready to go with you.”
Before they could depart, however, the Syrian bodyguard of the high priest, Malchus, attempted to bind Jesus‘ hands behind his back, which caused the associates of Jesus to immediately rush forward with at least one sword drawn.
But even before the soldiers could come to the defense of the high priest’s servant, Jesus raised a forbidding hand and, speaking sternly, said: “Peter, put up your sword. They who take the sword shall perish by the sword. Do you not understand that it is the Father’s will that I drink this cup? And do you not further know that I could even now command more than twelve legions of angels and their associates, who would deliver me from the hands of these few men?”
By this time the captain was extremely alarmed, and immediately had Jesus bound and gave orders that the others should be seized too— but they slipped into the surrounding darkness and eluded their captors. Jesus was then taken to the home of Annas, the former high priest, and father-in-law of Caiaphas, the acting high priest.
AT THE PALACE OF ANNAS
Roman law allows that any prisoner may have at least one friend to stand with him before the judgment bar, and John Zebedee was selected to stand with Jesus. The Roman captain said, “Go along with this prisoner and see that these Jews do not kill him without Pilate‘s consent. Watch that they do not assassinate him, and see that his friend, the Galilean, is permitted to stand by and observe all that goes on.”
The reason for detaining Jesus for several hours at the palace of Annas was to allow time for legally calling together the Sanhedrin court, as it is not lawful to convene the Sanhedrin court before the time of the three o’clock offering of the morning sacrifice in the temple. Murdering a prophet? The Son of God? Well. That’s another matter.
Jesus was detained about three hours at the Mount Olivet palace of Annas, which is but a short distance from Gethsemane Park. Annas had Jesus brought before him in his spacious audience chamber, where he spent several minutes trying to get Jesus to respond to his questions, when, quite visibly disturbed by his silence, said, “Do you have no care as to whether I am friendly to you or not? Do you have no regard for the power I have in determining the issues of your coming trial?” When Jesus heard this, he said: “Annas, you know that you could have no power over me unless it were permitted by my Father. Some would destroy the Son of Man because they are ignorant; they know no better, but you, friend, know what you are doing. How can you, therefore, reject the light of God?”
Annas appeared bewildered by the kindly manner in which Jesus spoke to him. He asked: “Just what is it you are trying to teach the people? What do you claim to be?” Jesus answered: “You know full well that I have spoken openly to the world. I have taught in the synagogues and many times in the temple, where all the Jews and many of the gentiles have heard me. In secret I have spoken nothing; why, then, do you ask me about my teaching? Why do you not summon those who have heard me and inquire of them? Behold, all Jerusalem has heard that which I have spoken even if you have not yourself heard these teachings.”
But before Annas could make reply, his chief steward, who was standing near, struck Jesus in the face with his hand, saying, “How dare you answer the high priest with such words?” Annas said nothing to his steward, but Jesus said, “My friend, if I have spoken evil, bear witness against the evil; but if I have spoken the truth, why, then, should you smite me?”
Annas appeared too proud to take notice of the matter, but in his confusion went into another room, leaving Jesus alone with the household attendants and the temple guards for almost an hour. Since it was nearing the break of day, Annas sent Jesus bound and in the custody of the temple guards to Caiaphas, and followed after them shortly.
A PARADE OF PERJURERS
About half past three o’clock this morning the chief priest, Caiaphas, called the Sanhedrist court of inquiry to order, a special trial court of some thirty Sanhedrists, convened in the palace of the high priest. John Zebedee was still present with Jesus throughout this so-called trial. Jesus appeared clothed in his usual garments, and with his hands still bound behind his back. The entire court appeared startled and somewhat confused by his majestic appearance; never had they witnessed such composure in a man on trial for his life.
More than twenty witnesses were on hand to testify against Jesus, but their testimony was so contradictory, and so evidently trumped up that even the Sanhedrists themselves appeared very much ashamed of the performance. Jesus stood looking down benignly upon one perjurer after another, but throughout all this false testimony he never said a word.
Finally the high priest shouted at Jesus, “Do you not answer any of these charges!?” But he did not respond.
Annas then rose and argued that the threat of Jesus to destroy the temple was sufficient to warrant the charges against him, but Caiaphas apparently could not longer endure the sight of the teacher standing there in perfect composure and unbroken silence, and rushed over to the side of Jesus and, shaking his accusing finger in his face, said:
“I adjure you, in the name of the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Deliverer, the Son of God!” Jesus answered: “I am. Soon I go to the Father, and presently shall the Son of Man be clothed with power and once more reign over the hosts of heaven.”
Caiaphas was exceedingly angry, and rending his outer garments, exclaimed: “What further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now have you all heard this man’s blasphemy. What do you now think should be done with this law-breaker and blasphemer?” And they all answered in unison, “He is worthy of death; let him be crucified!”
The high priest then stepped forward and smote Jesus in the face with his hand. Observers were shocked as the other members of the court, in passing out of the room, spit in Jesus‘ face, and many of them mockingly slapped him with the palms of their hands. And thus in disorder and unheard-of confusion this first session of the trial of Jesus ended at half past four o’clock.
Jewish law requires that, in the matter of passing the death sentence, there are two sessions of the court, the second session to be held the day following the first, and the intervening time spent in fasting and mourning by the members of the court.
But these men did not await another day for the confirmation of their decision that Jesus must die. They waited only one hour. Jesus was left in the custody of the temple guards, who, with the servants of the high priest, amused themselves by heaping every sort of indignity upon their prisoner. They mocked him, and spit upon him; they would strike him in the face with a rod and say, “Prophesy to us, you the Deliverer, who it was that struck you.” And this went on for a full hour, against the unresisting man of Galilee.
During this hour before the ignorant guards and servants, John Zebedee waited in an adjoining room. When these abuses first started, Jesus indicated by a nod of his head that his apostle should leave. The prophet knew that if his apostle were to witness these indignities, his resentment would result in his death.
Throughout this awful hour Jesus uttered no word.
THE WAY TO CALVARY
The second session convened at five-thirty this morning, and a half-hour later, Jesus was indicted as a perverter of the Jewish nation, that he taught the people to refuse to pay tribute to Caesar, and he claimed to be a king who incited treason against the emperor. This procedure was of course, wholly contrary to the their laws, as no two witnesses had agreed on any matter save the destruction of the temple and raising it again in three days; even then, no witnesses spoke for the defense, and Jesus was never asked to explain his intended meaning. By six AM, Jesus was on his way to appear before Pilate.
Pontius Pilate was up and ready to receive these early morning callers, having been informed the previous evening that Jesus would be brought before him early. The trial was to take place in front of the praetorium, an addition to the fortress of Antonia, where Pilate and his wife stayed when in Jerusalem.
All Jerusalem knows Pilate is a coward, but the events of this morning will probably lead to the undoing of his tenuous relationship with the Sanhedrin. There was his earlier run-ins with the high priests over the use by Pilate of temple funds for a new aqueduct to provide more water for the millions of visitors to Jerusalem during the great religious feasts, and the removal of images on the Roman military banners where Pilate had his legs taken out from under him by Rome.
Pilate knew the priests had been up all night trying to convict Jesus of something, but when he surmised that the charges had to do with infringements of the Jewish ecclesiastical laws, he referred the case back to their own tribunal. Pilate appeared to take great delight in making the priests publicly confess that they were powerless to pronounce and execute the death sentence upon one of their own race.
When they finally produced the written charges, (1, Perverting our nation and stirring up our people to rebellion, 2, Forbidding the people to pay tribute to Caesar, and 3, Calling himself the king of the Jews, and teaching the founding of a new
kingdom), Pilate insisted that they be read before Jesus, who had not yet heard them.
Jesus still made no reply. Even when Pilate offered him a chance to answer his accusers, he remained silent. Pilate was so astonished at the unfairness of the whole proceeding and so impressed by Jesus‘ silent and masterly bearing, that he decided to take the prisoner inside the hall and examine him privately.
Pilate’s questioning of the Galilean prophet was sufficient to convince him that the prisoner had done nothing worthy of death. One look at Jesus, face to face, was apparently enough to convince even Pilate that this gentle and weary, but majestic and upright man was no wild and dangerous revolutionary who aspired to establish himself on the temporal throne of Israel. Pilate was thoroughly convinced that, instead of being a dangerous sedition monger, Jesus was nothing more or less than a harmless visionary, an innocent fanatic.
Pilate returned to the chief priests and said, “I have examined this man, and I find no fault in him. I do not think he is guilty of the charges you have made against him; I think he ought to be set free.” When the Jews heard this, they were moved with great anger, so much so that they wildly shouted that Jesus should die; and one of the Sanhedrists boldly stepped up by the side of Pilate, saying: “This man stirs up the people, beginning in Galilee and continuing throughout all Judea. He is a mischief-maker and an evildoer. You will long regret it if you let this wicked man go free.”
Pilate thought he had at least a temporary solution: send the prisoner to Herod! And Jesus was dragged off to stand before Herod. For some fifteen minutes Herod asked Jesus questions, but he would not answer. Herod taunted and dared him to perform a miracle, but Jesus made no reply to his many inquiries or taunts.
Then Herod turned to the chief priests and the Sadducees and heard all and more than Pilate had listened to regarding the alleged evil doings of Jesus. Finally, convinced Jesus would not perform a wonder for him, Herod, after making fun of him for a time, arrayed him in an old purple royal robe, and sent him back to Pilate.
On the steps of the praetorium, Pilate, sitting in his judgment seat, said, “You brought this man before me with charges that he perverts the people, forbids the payment of taxes, and claims to be king of the Jews. I have examined him and fail to find him guilty of these charges. In fact, I find no fault in him. Then I sent him to Herod, and the tetrarch must have reached the same conclusion since he has sent him back to us. Certainly, nothing worthy of death has been done by this man. If you still think he needs to be disciplined, I am willing to chastise him before I release him.”
At this moment, a vast crowd came marching up to the praetorium, for the purpose of asking Pilate for the release of a prisoner in honor of the Passover feast. The crowd surged up on the steps of the building, calling out the name of one Barabbas. Barabbasis a known political agitator and murderous robber despite being the son of a priest, who was recently apprehended in the act of robbery and murder on the Jericho road, and is under sentence to die as soon as the Passover festivities are over.
We note that a few days before, this multitude had stood in awe of Jesus. But such a mob does not look up to one who, having claimed to be the Son of God, now finds himself in the custody of the chief priests and the rulers and on trial before Pilate for his life. Jesus could be a hero in the eyes of the populace when he was driving the money-changers and the traders out of the temple, but not when he is a nonresisting prisoner in the hands of his enemies, and on trial for his life.
Pilate was visibly angered at the sight of the chief priests clamoring for the pardon of a notorious murderer while they shouted for the blood of Jesus. He could see their malice and hatred and perceived their prejudice and envy. Then he said: “How could you choose the life of a murderer in preference to this man’s, whose worst crime is that he figuratively calls himself the king of the Jews?”
Pilate is clueless about how deeply the priests resent the intimation that the meek-mannered teacher of strange doctrines should be referred to as “the king of the Jews.” But how could he not know such a remark was an insult to everything they hold sacred and honorable in their national existence?
Pilate paused a moment to read a communication he had just received, a note from his wife, Claudia, beseeching him “to have nothing to do with the man called Jesus.” According to onlookers, Pilate appeared shaken and grew pale, and asked the crowd, now thoroughly organized for Barabbas, “What shall I do with him who is called the king of the Jews?” They all shouted with one accord, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Once more Pilate said: “Why would you crucify this man? What evil has he done? Who will come forward to testify against him?” But when they heard Pilate speak in defense of Jesus, they only cried out all the more, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
But again Pilate appealed to them regarding the release of the Passover prisoner, saying: “Once more I ask you, which of these prisoners shall I release to you at this, your Passover time?” And again the crowd shouted, “Give us Barabbas!”
Then Pilate said: “If I release the murderer, Barabbas, what shall I do with Jesus?” And once more the multitude shouted in unison, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Obviously now afraid to defy the clamor of the mob who cried for the blood of Jesus, he ordered the Jewish guards and the Roman soldiers to take Jesus and scourge him.
Then Pilate led forth the bleeding and lacerated prisoner, clothed in a old purple royal robe with a crown of thorns piercing his brow and, presenting him before the multitude, said: “Behold the man! Again I declare to you that I find no crime in him, and having scourged him, I would release him.”
The crowd, quickly recovering from the first shock of seeing his plight, only shouted the louder and the longer, “Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!” It was finally sinking in that it was futile to appeal to their supposed feelings of pity. Pilate stepped forward and said: “I perceive that you are determined this man shall die— but what has he done to deserve death? Who will declare his crime?”
Then the high priest himself stepped forward and, going up to Pilate, angrily declared: “We have a sacred law, and by that law this man ought to die because he made himself out to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he seemed visibly afraid and trembled at the thought of Jesus possibly being a divine personage. He waved to the crowd to hold its peace while he took Jesus by the arm and again led him inside the building to further examine him. Pilate was now so confused by fear, bewildered by superstition, and harassed by the stubborn attitude of the mob, that he knew not what to do.
But apparently his last talk with Jesus really frightened him. He appeared again before the crowd, saying: “I am certain this man is only a religious offender. You should take him and judge him by your law. Why should you expect that I would consent to his death because he has clashed with your traditions?”
Pilate appeared ready to release Jesus when Caiaphas approached and, shaking an avenging finger in Pilate’s face, said with angry words which the entire multitude could hear: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend, and I will see that the emperor knows all.” This public threat was way too much for Pilate. Fear for his personal fortunes now eclipsed all other considerations, and the cowardly governor ordered Jesus brought out before the judgment seat.
As the Master stood there before them, he pointed to him and tauntingly said, “Behold your king.”
And the Jews answered, “Away with him. Crucify him!”
And then Pilate said, with much irony and sarcasm, “Shall I crucify your king?”
And the Jews answered, “Yes, crucify him! We have no king but Caesar.” And finally Pilate realized that there was no saving Jesus; since he was clearly unwilling to defy the mob.
Pilate was now afraid of a riot. He dared not risk having such a disturbance during Passover time in Jerusalem, due to recently receiving a reprimand from Caesar, and not wanting to risk another. The mob cheered when he ordered the release of Barabbas. He ordered a basin and some water, and before the multitude, he washed his hands, saying: “I am innocent of the blood of this man. You are determined that he shall die, but I have found no guilt in him. See you to it. The soldiers will lead him forth.”
And the mob cheered, shouting, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
Approximately 200 onlookers, consisting mostly of enemies of Jesus, curious idlers, and a few supporters, follow along with the Roman soldiers who take Jesus up to Golgatha shortly after nine o’clock this Friday morning, April 7, 30 A.D. With the crossbeam on his shoulders according to custom, Jesus is led by the captain of the guard, who carries the white boards with the names of the criminals and the nature of their crimes. Two of the boards carry the word “brigand,” but the board for the cross of Jesus has been written by Pilate himself— in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic— and reads: “Jesus of Nazareth— the King of the Jews.”
The customary route to Golgatha is not followed, the captain instead choosing the more direct route via the Damascus gate north out of the city. Still, many women who had known of Jesus’ life of loving ministry dare to follow the procession, weeping and lamenting, in bold disregard of the law prohibiting such displays of sympathy for the condemned. Jesus takes notice of the women and speaks briefly to them saying,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but rather weep for yourselves and for your children. My work is about done— soon I go to my Father— but the times of terrible trouble for Jerusalem are just beginning. Behold, the days are coming in which you shall say: Blessed are the barren and those whose breasts have never suckled their young. In those days will you pray the rocks of the hills to fall on you in order that you may be delivered from the terrors of your troubles.”
Observers marvel at the stamina of the prophet, having had no food or water— and certainly no sleep— since his arrest at Gethsemane park Thursday night. Not surprisingly, he appears near exhaustion, and shortly after passing through the Damascus gate, he falls. Despite several severe kicks to his body by the soldiers, he cannot rise; the captain seeing this, commands the soldiers to stop, and orders a passerby, one Simon from Cyrene, to assume the burden of the crossbeam.
Shortly after nine o’clock the procession reaches Golgatha, and the grim task of nailing the three to their crosses begins. Jesus is quickly garbed with the customary lion cloth provided by the Romans after his clothes are removed, accommodating the Jewish people’s great objection to public exposure of the naked human form.
The soldiers first bind the Teacher’s arms with cords to the crossbeam, then nail his hands to the wood. It is said that the ideas, motives, and longings of a lifetime are openly revealed in a crisis. As they nail him to the crossbeam, he is heard to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
When they have hoisted this crossbeam up on the post, and after they nail it securely to the upright timber of the cross, they bind and nail his feet to the wood, using one long nail which penetrates both feet. The upright timber has a large peg inserted at the proper height, which serves to support the body weight. As is customary at Golgatha, the cross is not high; the prophet’s feet are but three feet from the ground.
After the Galilean is hoisted on the cross, the captain nails the title up above his head, which reads in three languages, “Jesus of Nazareth— the King of the Jews.” Many who stand under the cross are infuriated by this perceived insult. Pilate, who surely felt he had been intimidated and humiliated, now takes this method of obtaining his petty revenge. He knows too, how the Jerusalem Jews detest the very name of Nazareth, and now he humiliates them. He knows that they will also be cut to the very quick by seeing this executed Galilean called “The King of the Jews.”
When the Jewish leaders learn how Pilate is deriding them with this inscription on the cross of Jesus, they hasten to Golgotha, but they dare not attempt to remove the board, as the Roman soldiers are standing guard. These leaders then mingled with the crowd to incite derision and ridicule, lest anyone give serious regard to the inscription.
Just as the captain is nailing the title above his head, the Apostle John, with Mary the mother of Jesus, Ruth, a sister of Jesus, and Jude, his brother, arrive. Apparently this apostle is the only one of the eleven apostles to witness the crucifixion of their “Master.” As Jesus sees his mother, with John and his brother and sister, he gives them a brief but silent smile.
Meanwhile the four soldiers, as is the custom, divide his clothes among them. One takes the sandals, one the turban, one the girdle, and the fourth his cloak. This leaves his tunic, a seamless vestment reaching down to near the knees, to be cut up into four pieces. But when the soldiers see what an unusual garment it is, they cast lots for it. Jesus looks down on them as they divided his garments, and as the crowd jeers at him.
Before eleven o’clock, upward of one thousand persons are witnessing this spectacle of the crucifixion of the so-called “Son of Man.” If we are to believe him, we are all witnessing the death of the Son of God; we must also assume that a watching universe of angels stands by in silent horror, as they witness God dying the death of the creature, even this, the most ignoble death of a condemned criminal.
Many who pass by wag their heads and, railing at him, say: “You who would destroy the temple and build it again in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, why do you not come down from your cross?”
Some of the rulers of the Jews mock him, saying, “He saved others, but himself he cannot save!”
Others say, “If you are the king of the Jews, come down from the cross, and we will believe in you.” And later on, they mocked him the more, saying: “He trusted in God to deliver him. He even claimed to be the Son of God— look at him now— crucified between two thieves.” Even the two thieves rail at him and cast reproach upon him. But Jesus makes no reply to their taunts.
By half past eleven o’clock most of the jesting and jeering crowd have gone their way; less than fifty remain on the scene as it nears noontime of this special preparation day. The soldiers now prepare to eat lunch and drink their cheap, sour wine as they settled down for the deathwatch. As they drink their wine, they derisively offer a toast to Jesus, saying, “Hail and good fortune! to the king of the Jews!” And they are astonished at his tolerant regard of their ridicule and mocking.
When Jesus sees them eat and drink, he looks down upon them and says, “I thirst.” When the captain of the guard hears Jesus say “I thirst,” he takes some of the wine from his bottle and, putting the saturated sponge stopper upon the end of a javelin, raises it to Jesus so that he can moisten his parched lips.
One of the brigands rails at Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, why do you not save yourself and us?” The other thief says to him, “Do you have no fear even of God? Do you not see that we are suffering justly for our deeds, but that this man suffers unjustly? Better that we should seek forgiveness for our sins and salvation for our souls.” When Jesus heard the thief say this, he turns his face toward him and smiles approvingly. When the thief sees the face of Jesus turned toward him, he musters up his courage and says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And then Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say to you today, you shall sometime be with me in Paradise.”
It’s now after twelve o’clock and the sky darkens from the fine sand in the air. The people of Jerusalem know this means a hot-wind sandstorm from the Arabian desert is coming. By one o’clock the sky is so dark the sun is hidden, and the remainder of the crowd hastens back to the city. The Teacher is near death, but seems to be uttering passages from the scriptures. One of the women says they are the twentieth, twenty-first, and twenty-second Psalm, which begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is to be one of his last utterances.
“It is finished! Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
The sandstorm grows in intensity, and the heavens increasingly darken. The soldiers crouch near the cross, huddled together to protect themselves from the cutting sand. Others watch from a distance, where they are somewhat sheltered by an overhanging rock. When the Galilean, called “Master” unbidden by those who followed him, gives up his life shortly after this hour, less than thirty people are present; the thirteen Roman soldiers and a group of about fifteen believers.
Just before three o’clock, Jesus, with a loud voice, cries out, “It is finished! Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And when he had thus spoken, he bowed his head, and moved no more. When the Roman centurion saw how Jesus died, to our astonishment he smote his breast and said: “This was indeed a righteous man; truly he must have been a Son of God.”