Setting

After the soldiers tortured Jesus, they crucified Him between two robbers (15:27). The Jews and the Romans continued to ridicule Him while He was suffering on the cross. In spite of the people’s rejection of Jesus, dramatic events during His crucifixion proved that He was unlike any other man. Finally, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last” (15:37). His disciples buried Him, not knowing that a greater miracle would soon take place on the third day.

Key Verse

(15:39)

Did You Know...?

1. Simon (15:21): From Cyrene, an important Libyan city with a large Jewish population. [ref] He was probably a Jew who was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. [ref] His sons Alexander and Rufus were probably well known to the early Christians. The two names are also mentioned in Acts 19:33 and Rom 16:13, respectively. However, these were common names and might belong to other men. [ref]

2. “Bear His cross” (15:21): A condemned man was usually forced to carry the crossbar (which weighed 30-40 pounds [14-18 kg]) on the shoulders to the place of crucifixion. [ref] Jesus must have been too weak to carry the cross; therefore, the soldiers forced a bystander to do it for Him.

3. Golgotha (15:22): Literally, “Skull.” The Aramaic word referred either to the place of execution or to a hill that resembled a skull. [ref] The English name “Calvary” comes from the Latin word for skull (“calva”). [ref]

4. Myrrh (15:23): The dried resin of balsam wood. It was used as medicine, and was mixed with wine to make an anesthetic. [ref]   Myrrh happens to play a role in the important episodes of Jesus’ life: His birth (cf. Mt 2:11), His death (cf. Mk 15:23), and His burial (cf. Jn 19:39).

5. “Divided His garments, casting lots for them” (15:24): The clothes were the soldiers’ bonus for guarding the cross. Often they played a game of dice to determine who got which piece. [ref]

6. Crucified (15:24): A condemned man was stripped naked and laid on the ground with the crossbar under his shoulders. The hands were nailed to the crossbar, which was then lifted and secured to an upright post. The feet were then tied to the post. [ref] A peg beneath the feet supported the weight of the body to prevent it from tearing the hands free. The victim was probably no more than a few feet above the ground (suggested by the fact that Jesus spoke with the bystanders and a sponge tied to a stick was offered to him). The pain was obviously intense, as the whole body was strained. After a while, the arteries in the head and stomach were filled with blood, causing a throbbing headache. Eventually, fever would set in. When for any reason it was decided to put the victim out of his misery, his legs were shattered with a club or hammer, as if to compensate for the act of mercy. [ref] It usually took at least 36 hours (sometimes as long as 9 days) for a crucified man to die. It was unusual that Jesus died so soon (about six hours), which might explain Pilate’s surprise (cf. 15:44). [ref]

7. Third, sixth, ninth hour (15:25, 33): 9 A.M., 12 P.M., 3 P.M., respectively.

8. Veil/curtain (15:38): An elaborate curtain separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place (cf. Ex 26:31; 2Chr 3:14).

9. Sour wine/vinegar (15:36): A common inexpensive beverage (when mixed with eggs and water) drank by laborers and soldiers. [ref] , [ref]

10. Centurion (15:39): A Roman army officer theoretically in charge of 100 men. [ref] He and his soldiers were guarding the cross against a rescue. [ref]

11. Preparation Day (15:42): The day to prepare for the annual Passover festival. [ref] Because it was late Friday afternoon, there was an urgency to get Jesus’ body down from the cross before the Sabbath (during which they could not do any work). [ref]

12.Joseph of Arimathea (15:43): A prominent and wealthy member of the Sanhedrin who was against the decision to crucify Jesus (Lk 23:50-51). He had become a disciple of Christ (Mt 27:57).

13. Tomb/sepulchre (15:46): Either a natural or man-made cave in the rocks. After a body was placed in a tomb, a large circular stone was rolled over it. To prevent anyone from stealing Jesus’ body, Pilate ordered that Jesus’ tomb be sealed and guarded (Mt 27:62-66). [ref]

Outline

General Analysis

  • 1.

    List how Jesus’ suffering, death, and burial fulfilled the prophecies in Psalm 22:1-18 and Isaiah 53:1-9.

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    forsaken by God (Ps 22:1; Isa 53:4, 6); rejected and ridiculed (Ps 22:7-8, 17; Isa 53:3); torture and persecution (Ps 22:12-13; Isa 53:7-8); physical agony (Ps 22:14-15); pierced (Ps 22:16; Isa 53:5); dividing His garments (Ps 22:18); buried (Isa 53:9); (Note that Jesus’ resurrection, glory, and salvation are also prophesied in Ps 22:19-31 and Isa 53:10-12)

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  • 2.

    What is the greatest physical and/or mental pain you have suffered? How does the knowledge of Jesus’ suffering help you overcome your pain?

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    Jesus was tempted throughout His ministry, even while He was on the cross. The devil attacked Him with physical torture (flogging, crucifixion) and mental anguish (forsaken, ridiculed). That is how we are assured that He knows our weakness (Heb 4:15). When we rely on the Lord Jesus, we can overcome our suffering, like He did.

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Segment Analysis

  • 15:21-22

    1a.

    What might have been on Simon’s mind when he was carrying the cross for Jesus?

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    Because Simon was “compelled” (21) to carry the cross, he was not a willing participant. He was just passing by, and did not expect to get involved. He probably did not consider it an honor to carry the cross, a symbol of shame (cf. Lesson 14, Did You Know 4). Perhaps he was just a curious bystander. Being from far away (cf. Did You Know 1), he might never have heard of Jesus. Or, perhaps he was a disciple of Christ who (like Peter) wanted to remain anonymous, but somehow caught the attention of the Roman soldiers.

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  • 1b.

    Have you ever been “compelled” to work for God? How did you react? What can you learn from Jesus’ example as a servant?

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    From the beginning, Jesus set His own wishes aside. Everything He did was for the good of others. He obeyed God’s will for Him to suffer and die on the cross, even though His human instincts told Him not to drink the bitter cup. Sometimes, work is placed upon our shoulders, even though we are unwilling. We want to hide because we feel like we did not ask for the responsibility. In those times especially, we must learn from Jesus, who prayed to the Father for the wisdom and strength to finish His work. When we put our faith in the almighty God, He will make our burdens light (Mt 11:28-29).

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  • 2.

    Contrast the procession to Golgotha (cf. Did You Know 2) to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (cf. Mk 11:8-10).

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    In both cases, there was a commotion. Many people followed Jesus. However, whereas they shouted “Hosanna!” when He entered Jerusalem, they now cursed him on the way to Golgotha. Before, they wanted to crown Him king. Now, they mocked Him as “The King of the Jews.” They were easily influenced by the chief priests and the scribes. They forgot about Jesus’ words and miracles. All they wanted was to watch Him die a painful and shameful death on the cross.

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  • 15:23-28

    3a.

    Why did Jesus refuse the wine mixed with myrrh (cf. Did You Know 4)? (Read what He did while He was on the cross in Lk 23:34, 40-43; Jn 19:25-27).

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    Either Jesus would not rely on human means to reduce His pain, or His pain was too great for medicine to have any effect. Also, Jesus did not want to dull his senses because He still had work to do. Even as He was hanging on the cross, He continued to show His love (to His tormentors and His mother) and to save souls (the robber who repented).

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  • 3b.

    Jesus accomplished God’s work even while hanging on the cross. How do you serve God and help others, in spite of your own limitations and troubles?

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  • 4.

    What did the charge “The King of the Jews” (26) mean to those who crucified Jesus? What does it mean to a Christian? Compare it to the symbolism of the cross.

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    It was a declaration of Jesus’ “guilt” as well as a mockery to His claim. However, our Lord Jesus has proved that he is not only the King of the Jews, but the King of kings who triumphs over evil (cf. 1Tim 6:15-16; Rev 17:14, 19:15-16). The written notice “The King of the Jews” and the cross were meant to demean Jesus, but they have become a symbol of hope and power for Christians. When we are saved, we boast in nothing except for the cross of Jesus Christ (Gal 6:14).

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  • 5.

    How might a person “crucify” Jesus today? (cf. Heb 6:4-6).

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    If we turn away from the Lord Jesus after we’ve tasted His grace, it is as if we are crucifying and disgracing Him all over again. We’d be no better than the Jews who, after having received healing and mercy from Jesus, repaid Him by nailing Him on the cross.

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  • 15:29-32

    6a.

    List the insults hurled at Jesus.

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    distorted and laughed at Jesus’ words about rebuilding the temple in
    three days (29); dared Him to come down from the cross (30,32);
    mocked Him that He could not save Himself (31); mocked His title of
    Christ and king (32); jokingly waited for Elijah to come save Jesus (36)

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  • 6b.

    How did the people’s insults show their ignorance?

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    In this passage, twice the people misunderstood or misheard Jesus, and laughed at Him. First, they blindly repeated the false claims on what Jesus had said regarding the temple (cf. Lesson 23, Question 7). Second, when Jesus cried out to God (“Eloi”), they thought He was calling for Elijah. They thought Jesus was just a failed prophet less than Elijah (Mk 8:28). They repeatedly challenged Him to come down from the cross, not knowing that they were speaking against the will of God. Their hearts were so hardened that even the three-hour darkness before Jesus’ death did not faze them (33, 35-36). They simply refused to repent.

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  • 7.

    Would the chief priests and the scribes have believed if Jesus had come down from the cross, as they claimed they would (32)?

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    No, the chief priests and the scribes would not have believed. They said they would believe only because Jesus seemed doomed on the cross. A further proof of their unbelief is their cover-up after Jesus’ resurrection (Mt 28:11-15). Like Jesus said in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, because they rejected the word of God, they would not be persuaded even if one rose from the dead (Lk 16:30-31).

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  • 8.

    Why didn’t Jesus save Himself and come down from the cross?

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    Jesus didn’t come down from the cross for the same reason He did not ask the Father to send twelve legions of angels to protect Him (cf. Mt 26:53-54). After Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He resolved to fulfill the Scriptures (Mk 14:49). His earthly ministry was finished; nothing would be accomplished by staying longer. If Jesus didn’t suffer and die, how could He have resurrected to prove that He has triumphed over sin and death? If he had chosen to save Himself, today we would have no hope of salvation.

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  • 9.

    How is the cross a “stumbling block” (1Cor 1:23) to the people who rejected Him?

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    The people rejected the idea that they would be saved through the cross, a symbol of shame. They refused to believe, even though Jesus had clearly revealed the truth to them. They trusted in their own wisdom and rejected Jesus as foolish. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” (1Cor 1:27). Because our wisdom is nothing when compared to God’s infinite wisdom, we must humbly believe in His words.

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  • 10.

    Whom did Jesus forgive while He was on the cross? (cf. Lk 23:34, 40-43). What does this teach you about forgiveness?

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    When one of the robbers repented, Jesus forgave Him (Lk 23:40-43). He also forgave the people who had rejected Him (Lk 23:34). “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6-8). Through His example, Christ teaches us to forgive regardless of whether or not it was asked. This was Paul’s plea to Philemon to forgive Onesimus (Phm 15-18, 21).

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  • 11.

    Although both of the robbers heaped insults on Jesus (32), one of them later repented (cf. Lk 23:40-42). What does this tell you about how a person might come to Christ?

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    The robber who later repented probably had first based his opinion of Jesus on what other people said. But when he saw for himself who Jesus is, he knew that the others were wrong. Jesus’ words of forgiveness and love (Lk 23:34, 40-43; Jn 19:25-27) convinced Him to believe. Today, a person might have misconceptions about our faith. Our words and actions must show the love of Christ, so that they too will repent and believe in Jesus.

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  • 15:33-41

    12a.

    What miraculous signs occurred while Jesus was on the cross?

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    During Jesus’ last three hours, darkness came over the whole land (33). When He died, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (38). There were others recorded in Mt 27:51-52.

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  • 12b.

    What did these signs mean? (cf. Amos 8:9; Heb 10:19-20).

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    These signs showed the spiritual power and significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. The darkness was a sign of mourning for Jesus’ agony (Am 8:9). The torn curtain symbolized how Jesus broke His body so that we can enter the Most Holy Place, to be able to directly receive God’s forgiveness.

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  • 13.

    Contrast Jesus’ cry (“My God”) with His prayer (“Father”) in Gethsemane (Mk 14:36). How was Jesus forsaken by God (34)?

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    In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to His “Abba, Father.” However, in the moment of His greatest agony, Jesus was severed from His Father. He suffered the wages of sin—eternal death, forsaken by God (Rom 6:23). On the cross, Jesus no longer felt His Father’s presence. When He carried the sins of all mankind, He was abandoned. When He cried out, He felt as though God did not answer (Ps 22:2). The darkness over the land symbolized how His spirit suffered.

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  • 14a.

    Contrast the centurion’s faith to that of the Jews.

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    Unlike the people who were set to crucify Jesus, the centurion was sensitive to what he saw and heard. With only a few hours of firsthand experience of Jesus, he became convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. He saw how Jesus forgave those who persecuted Him. He must have realized that the darkness across the land meant something. He heard Jesus’ bitter cry to God. Jesus’ power and love compelled him to exclaim the truth he now believed.

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  • 14b.

    The centurion used the past tense when he exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” What does this tell you about his understand of Jesus Christ? From the centurion, what can you learn about growing in spiritual knowledge?

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    The centurion’s understanding of Jesus was incomplete. He thought that it was the end, and did not realize that Jesus would soon rise again. Jesus is alive today. He is the Son of God!

    In terms of faith, the centurion was ahead of the Jews (including the chief priests and scribes); he saw what Jesus did and believed. However, if that was the extent of his understanding, he might have lamented not knowing Jesus sooner and passed up a chance to know Christ better. When we experience the power of the Lord Jesus, we must continue to grow in spiritual wisdom. The more we know, the more we are sure of what we believe. The more we believe, the more God will teach us.

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  • 15.

    What does Jesus’ death mean to you? (cf. Heb 10:19-31, 2Cor 5:14-15; 1Jn 3:17-19).

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    Jesus’ death is the most powerful example of love (1Jn 3:16). He died to wash away our sins, so that we can come to God with a clear conscience (Heb 10:22). If we are truly convinced that Christ died for us, we would no longer live for ourselves (2Cor 5:14-15). We must follow Christ’s example and love our brothers (1Jn 3:17-19). If we deliberately continue to sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, then we will be judged (Heb 10:26-27, 29).

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  • 16.

    Are you afraid to die? Why or why not?

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  • 15:42-47

    17.

    Jesus was on the cross for a relatively short time before He died (cf. the last part of Did You Know 6). What does this unusual fact tell you? (Think in terms of Jesus’ physical suffering).

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    Jesus served with all His might. He put all His energy into His ministry—teaching, healing, forgiving sins, etc. On the cross, He was finally drained of His last strength. The physical torture was too much. The spiritual severance from God stripped Him of all hope. No one could have survived long under those circumstances.

    Jesus’ short time on the cross might also indicate God’s mercy when we suffer. The heavenly Father does not allow anyone to suffer more than necessary (1Cor 10:13). When we’ve “fought the good fight” (2Tim 4:7) for the Lord, we need not fear death. It is a blessing to die in the Lord because we no longer have to suffer in a world of sin (cf. Lk 16:20-22; 1Kgs 14:12-13). There will be a “crown of righteousness” (2Tim 4:8) waiting for us in heaven, where “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Rev 21:4).

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  • 18.

    What did Joseph of Arimathea do after Jesus died? What does this teach you about having faith with deeds (Jas 2:14-26)?

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    He “boldly” (43 NIV) asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He offered a new tomb, some linen cloth (46), and a large quantity of spices (Jn 19:39). He and Nicodemus personally embalmed Jesus’ body (Jn 19:39-40). Both of them had been disciples of Christ in secret (Nicodemus came to Jesus at night [Jn 3:1-2]), but now both were not afraid to proclaim their faith. Sometimes it is a “risk” to put our faith into action. People will know that we are Christians. Sometimes it’s for the better. Sometimes it’s for the worse. We might risk embarrassment before the unbelievers. We might have to sacrifice our time, effort, money, etc. But James reminds us, “faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:26).

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