March 30, 2024

The Day Jesus Died

Timothy Birdnow

Here are a few interesting points on the crucifixion of Jesus:

First, It was an equal opportunity thing. A few interesting points:

1.Pilate did more to save Jesus than most people realize. He acted as defense counsel per Roman law in his repeated questioning of the legal reasoning employed against Jesus. And that because his wife send him a note to not condemn Him.

Interestingly enough Pilate's wife Procula is a saint in the Catholic Church and there used to be a feast day - the feast of Procula and Pilate. Pilate is a saint in a couple of Orthodox churches. Procula was a Christian convert and one of the Early Church leaders.

It still doesn't excuse him for being a coward in my book, but it's understandable because...

Pilate was the protege' of Gaius Sejanus, who had been head of the Praetorian Guard. Sejanus secured Pilate the position as Procurator. Sejanus had risen very high and was working as a regent for Tiberius and expected to be named his successor when Tiberius turned on him, executing Sejanus and his whole family and all of his allies. This was about the same time as the trial of Jesus. Pilate was in very hot water. So when the rent-a-mob said "we have no king but Caesar" it was a not so veiled threat. Pilate dared not rock the boat.

(BTW Pilate would not take any heat for the incident with Jesus but three years later would quell an uprising in Samaria and be recalled for using "excessive force". To his great good fortune Tiberius died while he was en route to Rome and Caligula offered a general amnesty as his first imperial act.)

2. Judas was the only educated Apostle, and he probably did what he did not for money so much as because he was growing increasingly worried about the mesage of Jesus and hoped to temper His message. It seems fairly clear to me that Judas didn't think Jesus was going to be crucified so much as taken in, questioned, and perhaps punished mildly. Judas committing suicide suggests he felt horrible guilt over what he did.

It was still a terrible thing; Jesus was his friend and mentor and he betrayed Him.

3.Caiaphas always struck me as a guy who was jealous for his own power. Remember, Israel was a theocracy, or had been. Rome ruled politically but usually let provinces run their own affairs and the High Priest was basically a politician, the guy who had the power. Jesus was an existential threat to that power.

Of course Caiaphas also probably believed he was protecting the nation. They were occupied by the Romans, and Rome was not known for high tolerance of possible rebellion. He and the rest of the Sanhedren no doubt were very afraid of what was happening - especially after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was clear Jesus had a very large following and if He proclaimed a rebellion they would follow, Caiaphas probably thought. It was a sticky situation.

4. Jesus WAS a Pharisee, insofar as philosophy and belief. But He openly opposed them for being far too legalistic and also corrupt. He called them vipers and hypocrites and they didn't like it at all. They were powerful in Israelite society, powerful enough to present a real danger to Him. Like going after the CIA.

5.Yeah; the Roman soldiers had little choice but to follow orders; Rome executed those who didn't. Of course they needn't have had so much relish. That crown of thorns business was just sadistic, plain and simple.

Interestingly enough, I've read that it was rare to scourge a prisoner in the fashion Jesus was scourged; they died quickly on the crucifix if you did. Pilate probably wanted to elicit sympathy, bring out a half-dead Jesus and hoped the crowd, which clearly was a rental like Black Lives Matter rioters, would cool it. So the Roman soldiers were no doubt following orders even in this.

6. Herod Antipas presents an interesting twist to the story. Pilate tried to palm off his problem with Jesus by sending Him to Herod. Herod ruled as a puppet in Galilea and Jesus was his subject so Pilate hoped to wriggle off the hook. Of course Herod was too smart for that, although the courtesy of a Roman deferring to a Jew helped mend some political fences. In the end Herod wouldn't do anything; he was already facing a backlash for kille John the Baptist. So, like a boomerang, the matter of Jesus just flew right back to Pilate.

I can only imagine the swear words from Pilate when he heard Herod had sent Jesus back to him!

In the end everyone was guilty in this matter, and also everyone had an excuse. Everyone pointed the finger at everyone else, but at the end of the day it was a mutual matter of abuse, by the system and by the individuals involved.

As to the manner of His death, it was indeed horrible. Nailing Jesus rather than just tying Him meant his tendons would spasm, making it very hard for Him to raise up to catch a breath. Crucifixion kills by suffocation; you can't breath except by pulling yourself up. There is a little seat for you butt on a crucifix so you can get a little rest; it helps stretch out the process, which is what hte Roman wanted. They would usually tie a convict so he would last long. But they werein a hurry with Jesus so they nailed Him. They also nailed His feet, one on top of the other, to make it harder for Him to push upward to breath. He had to arch His back for every breath, adding to the suffering.

Pilate was surprised that Jesus died so quickly; he didn't realize how badly his troops had abused Jesus. And Jesus was so terrified the night before He was sweating blood - Hematohidrosis - a rare medical condition caused by excessive stress. And then He was put through the ringer, beatings and abuse and a crowning with thorns. He was up all night too.

So when Jesus died He is said to have shuddered and died and when a spear was stuck in His side he bled "water". That is a sign of heart failure. It is believe Jesus' heart actually burst open, and the blood all drained out. His side was full of fluid because the heart wasn't working any longer.

Jesus was also buck naked, an indelicate fact often ignored. It was humiliating, especially in the Israelite culture of the day. You could see Jesus lose control of His bowels and his urine. And everyone would stand there watching that and laugh at Him.

If it had been me I would have come down from that cross with might and fury and an army of angels and EVERYONE would have been sorry. I'd have made a poor redeemer.

One last word, the Shroud of Turin shows a man who is six feet tall, so Jesus was quite tall for His day, assuming the Shroud is correct. The Shroud was a disappointment when it was first dated in the eighties as it did not comport with the time frame, but newer, better carbon dating techniques show it is indeed from the era of Christ.

It also shows the nail holes in Jesus' wrists and not hands, which is exactly what you would do if you wanted to support His weight; the hands would simply tear. The word used in the Bible means hands but also the wrists, and was traditionally mistranslated as hands.

One more thing about the Shroud; it's a photographic negative. You can't see much unless you take a picture of it and do not develop the film.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 07:32 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 You do well to point out the fact that Pilate was not some all-powerful functionary, but a man who took some pity on Jesus and realized that the Jews were playing games with him. Indeed, the High Priest was doing his level best to "run the show" along with the Romans, and I wouldn't be surprised if Pilate would have preferred to have been able to put the squeeze on him. It's obvious he wasn't happy with the crap the Jews were putting him through.

Politicians in those days were no better than the ones we have to deal with today.

Posted by: Dana Mathewson at March 30, 2024 11:36 PM (yndMF)

2 Agreed Dana; Pilate knew Caiaphas was jerking him around and wanted to lay blame on him and Rome for killing a prophet.

But it was Pilate's own fault in that he took away the power to execute criminals after a riot in Jerusalem a few years prior. It came back and bit him in the butt.

But still that was why he washed his hands; he wanted to make it perfectly clear that he was being forced into this terrible act.

I've always had a soft spot for Pilate. He was a guy in a no-win situation and he did about what most of us would have had we been there. He wasn't a brutal man or a bad man (at least based on standards of the times) but he was weak enough to let an innocent, perhaps crazy as he saw it, man be tortured and killed.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at March 31, 2024 08:24 AM (0s1/Y)

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