1. Before Crucifixion (the preliminaries before 9 a.m.) See Part One
2. The First Three Hours of the Crucifixion
Finally the 650 feet journey to Golgatha is complete (Matthew 27:33-34).
First, Christ is crucified. The prisoner was again stripped of his clothes except for a loincloth which is allowed the Jews. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought iron nail through the wrist (which was considered a part of the hand) deep into the wood. Quickly the other hand is nailed.
Then the left foot is pressed downward against the right foot, and both feet extended toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each leaving the knees bet slightly.
The cross is raised and dropped with a thud into the hole. The arms are jerked out of joint. Psalm 22:14 predicted this scene: “All my bones are out of joint.”
As Christ slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms. The nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nails through His feet. Again, there is a searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet.
At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue the muscles cramp. With these cramps comes the inability to pull Himself upward. Hanging by His arms the chest muscles are paralyzed and the chest muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs but it cannot be exhaled.
Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to exhale and get one short breath. He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the air. It is undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences.
The first saying was “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Soon this prayer is answered. Two thieves were hung on either side by God’s providence. Both were able to hear, “Father forgive them.” Both were able to read the title above His head, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” Both could read what has been called the first gospel tract. Both could hear the mocking religionists say, “He saved others.” One of the thieves mocks again but the other asks for mercy.
Some unsaved people reason that they will live like the thief a life of sin and at their last opportunity receive Christ. But this was most likely not the thief’s last opportunity it was his first.
The second saying from the cross was “Today shall you be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The thief spent the morning in guilt and the afternoon in grace and that evening in glory.
3. The Last Three Hours of Crucifixion
From 9 am to 12 pm, Christ hung in the light. At noon, a supernatural darkness covered the earth. God turned off the lights. God was about to punish His Son for our sins, and God the Father did not punish His Son in public. For three hours Christ hung in darkness and silence.
The darkness broke and the silence ended with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” For three hours Christ was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Next, Jesus cried, “I thirst” (John 19:28). The Water of Life was dying of thirst that we might not like the rich man in Hell thirst for eternity.
The sixth saying of Christ from the cross was “It is finished” (John 19:28). This statement was written across tax records and meant “paid in full.” After the dark had ascended and the weight of God’s judgment borne and all the work of atonement was met.
Jesus did not say, “I am Finished.” Hebrews 10:10-11 says that “every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.”
Finally, Jesus shouts with a loud voice, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus was able to say this with a loud voice because he was not a victim of the Jews or Rome but the predetermined Lamb of God. With this statement, He “yielded up the spirit” (Matthew 27:50).
In John 10:17, Jesus asserted, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to take it again.”
With the death of Jesus, three remarkable events take place:
1) The veil in the temple supernaturally rent in two (Matthew 27:51)
The writer of Hebrews interprets the importance and meaning of this tearing in 10:19-20, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.”
2) Graves opened and believers came back to life (Matthew 27:52). Immediately after Jesus death and resurrection, Matthew tells us, some believers were raised to life.
3) The Roman soldier admitted, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54) and “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47). This calloused solder who had witnessed and helped crucify thousands was moved by all the supernatural events and the humility of the Son of God. So should every sinner be moved as he/she reads of the death of Christ or hears a sermon on the cross.
One of my favorite hymns on the atoning death of Christ is When I survey the wondrous cross written by Isaac Watts as if he were standing at the foot of the cross:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.