The Crucifixion (1622) by Simon Vouet; Church of Jesus, Genoa
The crucifixion of Jesus is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross. Collectively referred to as the Passion, Jesus’ redemptive suffering and death by crucifixion represent the central aspects of Christian theology, including the doctrines of salvation and atonement.
Jesus’ crucifixion is described in all four Canonical gospels, attested to by other ancient sources, and is firmly established as an historical event confirmed by non-Christian sources. Christians believe Jesus’ suffering was foretold in the Hebrew Bible, such as in Psalm 22, and Isaiah’s songs of the suffering servant. According to a Gospel Harmony, Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane following the Last Supper with the Twelve Apostles, and forced to stand trial before the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, and Herod Antipas, before being handed over for crucifixion. After being flogged, Jesus was mocked by Roman soldiers as the “King of the Jews”, clothed in a purple robe, crowned with thorns, beaten and spat on. Jesus then had to make his way to the place of his crucifixion.
Once at Golgotha, Jesus was offered wine mixed with gall to drink. Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels record that he refused this. He was then crucified and hung between two convicted thieves. According to Mark’s Gospel, he endured the torment of crucifixion for some six hours from the third hour, at approximately 9 am, until his death at the ninth hour, corresponding to about 3 pm. The soldiers affixed a sign above his head stating “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in three languages, divided his garments and cast lots for his seamless robe. The Roman soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, as they did to the other two men crucified (breaking the legs hastened the crucifixion process), as Jesus was dead already. Each gospel has its own account of Jesus’ last words, seven statements altogether. In the Synoptic Gospels, various supernatural events accompany the crucifixion, including darkness, an earthquake, and (in Matthew) the resurrection of saints. Following Jesus’ death, his body was removed from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea and buried in a rock-hewn tomb, with Nicodemus assisting. According to the Gospels, Jesus then rose from the dead two days later (“the third day”).
Christians have traditionally understood Jesus’ death on the cross to be a knowing and willing sacrifice (given that he did not mount a defense in his trials) which was undertaken as an “agent of God” to atone for humanity’s sin and make salvation possible. Most Christians proclaim this sacrifice through the bread and wine of the Eucharist, as a remembrance of the Last Supper, and many also commemorate the event on Good Friday each year.