|My Comparative Study
Crucifixion of Jesus
|Comparative Study using the Four Gospel Accounts
(New International Version Bible)
- Matthew - Chapters 26 & 27
- Mark - Chapters 14 & 15
- Luke - Chapters 22 & 23
- John - Chapters 18 & 19
Amidst the release of the movie, The Passion of the Christ, there were a lot of discussions regarding the
exaggerated or high level of violence in the movie. But if we take the time to read a comparative study of
the four Gospels, wherein each tell of the crucifixion, we can surely see that the events that took place were
violent and bloody. A lot of descriptive words were used; flogged, hit, seized, bound, crucified.
The Gospels do not go into all the gory details, and perhaps because of this, many people cannot seem to
accept or absorb the full extent or totality of what took place. The Gospels simply state the events as fact
and truth. They are not the colorful writings of a novel and therein are void of the graphic details.
Today, when we hear a story of someone dying of a gunshot wound, we do not need to be told what a
gunshot wound is. Nor do we need to be told how a gunshot wound is inflicted or how extensive multiple
gunshot wounds can be to the human body. In the same way, the Gospel writers had no need to explain the
how-to's, the stages, or the horrible scene of Christ's death; other than in the manner it was - a crucifixion.
We read that Jesus was 'flogged' and then 'crucified'. Words that describe actions that we might not fully
grasp. But if we closely study and aptly define the words, we can gain a better understanding of what we
are reading. In the same way a good movie can bring to life the reality and richness of a historical event, we
too can bring a deeper dimension to our reading of the events of Christ's crucifixion if we take the time to
understand the ways and customs of the times in which the events took place.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus was flogged. Flogging entailed being beat with a short whip that had iron balls
or sharp bones at the ends of the leather thongs. A person being whipped would be stripped of his clothing
and have his hands tied to an upright post. Not just the back, but the buttocks and thighs were also whipped
with that tool. The wounds brought on by such a cruel beating would often lead to death, regardless of any
further punishment. After a flogging of this nature, how can we not imagine the scene as anything but
violent and gruesome.
During the time of Christ, crucifixion was the most horrendous method of putting someone to death.
Crucifixion is first attested among the Persians, perhaps derived from the Assyrian impalement. It was later
employed by the Greeks, especially Alexander the Great, and by the Carthaginians, from whom the Romans
adapted the practice.
If the victim was attached by nails, he was laid on the ground, with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms
were held out and nailed to the two ends of the crossbeam, which was then raised and fixed on top of the
vertical beam. The victim's feet were then nailed down against this vertical stake.
Crucifixion was intended to be a slow and agonizing death. And, in order to prolong the agony, Roman
executioners would even devise an instrument that would keep the victim alive on the cross for extended
periods of time. Known as a sedile, it was a small seat attached to the front of the cross, about halfway
down. This device provided some support for the victim's body, allowing the victim just enough strength to
gain short gasps of air, thereby slowing the eventual suffocation. This additional form of torture may explain
the phrase used by the Romans, "to sit on the cross".
Today, we generally only see horrendous methods of torture and death in third-world dictatorship countries,
and short of doing missionary work in these countries or watching tragic events unfold on television, we are
somewhat removed from the reality of it. And, perhaps because of this we tend to gloss over the actual
barbaric and savage nature of Christ's torture and crucifixion. And, so the purpose of my study was to
revisit the account of Christ's crucifixion to gain a renewed understanding of the magnitude and depth of the
events that transpired.
Doing my comparative study below, I read and found similar phrases, events, and scenarios of Christ's
crucifixion from the accounts given in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. To track the abuse
Jesus received, and to draw a parallel from each book's author, I used a bold black italicized font. I also
color-keyed each Gospel author, and organized my study in an event time line. (All scripture is taken from
the New International Version of the Bible).
1. Because Jesus called the Pharisees (high priests and teachers of the law)
on their hypocrisy, they plotted to arrest and kill him.
Matthew 26:3-4 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high
priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.
Mark 14:1 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief
priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him.
Luke 22:1-2 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2and the chief
priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the
John 11:53 So from that day on they [the chief priests] plotted to take his life.
2. The arrest of Jesus
Matthew 26:47 While he [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large
crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
Mark 14:48 "Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to
Luke 22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had
come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?
John 18:3 So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief
priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
3. I've used The Book of Luke to outline how Jesus was passed around from
authority to authority, in an attempt to find merit in His capture and issue of
His death sentence. And, Jesus never fails to affirm to them that he is who he
has said he is.
- First, Jesus is arrested and taken by the high priests:
Luke 22:54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest.
Luke 70a They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am."
- Next, Jesus was turned over by the high priests to Governor Pontius Pilate:
Luke 23:1-3 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying,
"We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be
Christ, a king. So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
- Pilate then turns Jesus over to King Herod:
Luke 23:7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in
Jerusalem at that time.
Luke 11a Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him.
- Herod in turn sends Jesus back to Pilate:
Luke 23:11b Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.
- Finally, Pilate turns over the fate of Jesus to the crowds, who choose to have the Roman authority crucify
Luke 23:24 So Pilate decided to grant their [the chief priests, the rulers and the people] demand.
4. Jesus' treatment in the custody of the high priests and their charges.
Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him their fist. Others slapped him and said
"Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?"
Mark 14:65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said
"Prophesy!" And, then guards took him and beat him.
Luke 22:63-65 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him
and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" And they said many other insulting things to him.
John 18:20-21 "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the
temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard
me. Surely they know what I said." When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face.
"Is that any way to answer the high priest?" he demanded.
Matthew 27:1-2 Early in the morning all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to
put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
Mark 15:1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole
Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
Luke 22:54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took into the house of the high priest.
John 18:24 Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.
5. Jesus' treatment in the custody of Pilate, the Roman authority, and the
elders of the people prior to His Crucifixion.
Matthew 27:22-25 "What shall I do then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered
"Crucify him!" "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder,
"Crucify him!" When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he
took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is
your responsibility." All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"
Mark 15:12-15 "What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.
"Crucifyhim!" they shouted. "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the
louder, "Crucify him!" Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus
flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Luke 23:24 So Pilate decided to grant their [the chief priests, the rulers and the people] demand.
John 18:39b-40b "Do you want me [Pilate] to release 'the king of Jews?" They shouted back, "No, not him!
Give us Barabbas!"
John 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.
Matthew 27:26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be
Mark 15:15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and
handed him over to be crucified.
Luke 23:25 He [Pilate] released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder
[Barabbas], the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
Matthew 27:28-29 They [Pilate's soldiers] stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then wove a
crown of thorns and set it on his head.
Mark 15:17 They [Pilate's soldiers] put a purple robe on him, then wove a crown of thorns and set it on him.
John 19:2-3 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a
purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, O king of the Jews!" And they struck him in
Matthew 27:30 They [Pilate's soldiers] spit on him, and took the staff and stuck him on the head again
Mark 15:19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him.
Matthew 27:31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then
they led him away to crucify him.
Mark 15:20 And when they had mocked him, they took of the purple robe and put his own clothes on him.
Then they led him out to crucify him.
John 19:4-7 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you
know that I find no basis for a charge against him." When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and
the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw
him, they shouted "Crucify! Crucify!" But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find
no basis for a charge against him." The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must
die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."
6. Jesus' treatment at the Crucifixion.
Matthew 27:35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Mark 15:24-25 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It
was the third hour when they crucified him.
Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals
- one on his right, the other on his left.
John 19:17-18 Carrying his own cross, he went out to The Place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called
Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others - one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
John 19:23a When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one
for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.
Matthew 27:39-40 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who
are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you
are the Son of God!"
Mark 15:29-30 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who
are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!"
Luke 23:36-37 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you
are the king of the Jews, save yourself."
John 19:31-34 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because
the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs
broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had
been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was
already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear,
bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
In concluding my study, it is clear to me that the accounts of the four gospels weave a common thread
regarding the events of Jesus' crucifixion. He was plotted against, betrayed, hunted down, seized, illegally
tried, beaten, and sentenced to death. And, indeed His death by crucifixion was horrifying, agonizing, and
excruciating. For those who may feel the violence in the movie was excessive, I would refer you to a website
that fully examines what affect the abuse Jesus received would have on the body.
As Christians, we are comforted against the cruelty of Jesus' death with the knowledge of the promise
fulfilled by His Resurrection. Through His Resurrection, Christ conquered death and the grave, and He has
promised the same for His believers. By educating ourselves and facing the reality of the horrendous and
true nature of our Savior's death, perhaps our gift of salvation can be all the more awesome to us.
He is Risen!