The principal tenets of Christianity originate from the story of the trial, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ. Those events, which occurred over two thousand years ago, cover the time when Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem for Passover to Sunday morning when his followers proclaimed that he had risen from the dead. The day of Jesus’s crucifixion has become known as “Good Friday,” and many of the events of that time are the basis of a number of idioms in our language.
Whether one is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, or of any other belief, Jesus was a real person and the events that unfolded are part of history, which can’t be denied. The story of his suffering and death is a part of our history and has shaped the way Christians and other religions have interacted for the past two thousand years.
As part of their Christian beliefs, every year, thousands of Christians descend on the Holy Land, and in the old city of Jerusalem. They trace the footsteps of Jesus along a street in Jerusalem known as the Via Dolorosa, “the way of suffering.” The actual cobblestone streets from the time of Rome and Jesus still exist and pilgrims can walk on the same cobblestone streets as he did so many centuries ago.
All along the Via Dolorosa are places known as Stations of the Cross. The route begins on the site where Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the site claimed to house the tomb of Jesus by Catholics and Orthodox.)
When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Jerusalem, he went to the temple and seeing the money-lenders and animal sellers turned over their tables reportedly saying that they had turned the temple into a “den of thieves.”
On the night of the Last Supper, he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. And Judas Iscariot then did exactly that, telling Jewish authorities where he can be found and arrested… The idiom “30 pieces of silver,” refers to that event. Jesus also told to Peter he would deny him, which also turned out to be true.
That last night, Jesus hid on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives which was and is known as Gethsemane. Today, olive trees, which are over two thousand years old, still grow in the same ground.
The next morning he was arrested either by Roman auxiliary or temple guards — it is uncertain who exactly arrested him. Judas tells the guards that whomever he kisses would be the one to arrest, hence “Judas Kiss,” an idiom that has also been part of our vocabulary.
Jesus was taken to the high priest Caiaphas, where the Sanhedrin, or the tribunal of rabbis, convened. After not getting anywhere with the questioning, the high priest demanded, “I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?” Jesus gave a non-answer with “You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven.” The high priest then condemned Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurred with a sentence of death, which had been pre-ordained.
The next morning, the whole assembly brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate with charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to the Roman emperor, and making himself a king. Pilate authorized the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own law and execute sentencing. However, the Jewish leaders replied that they were not allowed by the Romans to carry out a death sentence.
After Pilate questioned Jesus, he told the assembly that there was no basis for the death sentence. Since Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate referred the case to the ruler of Galilee, King Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questioned Jesus but received no answer; Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.
Pilate told the assembly that neither he nor Herod had found Jesus to be guilty; Pilate resolved to have him whipped and released. The priests had whipped the crowd into a mob and they demanded that Pilate release Barabbas instead who was a convicted murderer.
Pilate then asked the mob, what about Jesus, and they answered with the call to “crucify him.”
Pilate had Jesus whipped and then brought him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests informed Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death “because he claimed to be God’s son.” This charge alarmed Pilate and he had Jesus brought back into the palace.
Pilate, once again, brought him before the crowd and proclaimed him innocent. But their calls would not be silenced. As a result, Pilate “washed his hands” to show he had no part in Jesus’s condemnation. Fearing a revolt, Pilate then condemned Jesus to crucifixion.
Jesus was brought to the place called “Calvary” in Latin, where he was crucified with two common thieves who jeered at him. As his spirit left him, he hung on the cross for six hours. Reportedly, darkness fell over the land for the last three of those hours.
Longinus, a Roman centurion, stabbed Jesus with a lance in the side and he died. According to some Christian writing, Longinus later converted to Christianity.
Joseph of Arimathea, a secret admirer of Jesus from the Sanhedrin, took Jesus’s body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in a new tomb that had been carved in the rock. With the help of Nicodemus, they wrapped his body with myrrh and aloes, according to Jewish tradition.
They placed a huge stone in front of the tomb and then left as it was sunset and the beginning of the Shabbat. When they returned the next morning, the tomb was empty and Jesus’s disciples were proclaiming that he had risen.
Today, nearly one-third of the world’s population considers themselves, in one manner or another, followers of Jesus.