Pilate’s most painful task was to comply with Jesus’ wishes and with the Jew’s demand to pronounce the death sentence on Jesus and execute Him. In the Gospel of John (19:2-3), to induce mercy and hopefully a release for Jesus, Pilate had his soldiers mock Jesus, but to no avail. Jesus, Himself, was kinder to Pilate than to the Jewish leaders. Jesus actually consoled Pilate in telling him that he only carried out orders as predetermined by a higher authority from above, and that his guilt was less than those who demanded His crucifixion (John 19:11). Fear caused Pilate to lose control! And so Pilate turned Jesus over to his soldiers to finish the horrified act of crucifying an innocent and righteous man. However, there were two soldiers who had some pity and forced a man from Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21). Most of the Roman soldiers were cruel and they took pleasure in abusing our Lord Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. However, Jesus did forgive them, “… for they did not know what they were doing” (Luke 23:34). The soldiers were given the impression that they were disposing of a dangerous enemy of Caesar and Rome.
THE ROAD TO GOLGOTHA WAS SATAN’S LAST ATTEMPT TO SHAME THE SON OF GOD AND DETER MAN FROM BELIEVING IN JESUS AS THE LAMB OF GOD
The Roman soldiers were told to make Jesus look like the worst criminal in the Roman world. Two other criminals were induced to be Jesus’ companions. They were not physically robbed of their strength and so they could bear their crosses with ease. But Jesus, in addition to being humiliated and ridiculed, was sapped of His strength to a point that He broke down and was made to look like a worthless being, who had conspired to be a king like David and even Caesar. That was the picture we would have seen if we had been there that morning at nine am. By that time, the road filled up with people and many were shocked by what they saw and their hearts went out for Jesus. The Jewish leaders with Barabbas set free to continue his rebellion, had intensified public disgust for the Romans.
And the soldiers led Jesus away inside the palace (that is, the praetorium); and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they knelt down in homage to him. And they struck his head with a reed, and spat upon him and they knelt down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull) (Mark 15:16-22).
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And keeling before him they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him.
As they were marching out, they came upon a man of Cy-rene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross (Matthew 27:27-33).
And the soldiers led Jesus away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laidon him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus (Luke 23:26-32).
THE RAISING UP OF CHRIST AS THE SON AND AS THE LAMB OF GOD WAS COMPLETED ON GOLGOTHA
Jesus told Nicodemus that Jesus will not be glorified and that He will ascend to heaven until man will raise Him up like Moses did the serpent before anyone could be healed. And also, while Jesus will die, that He will be recognized as the Son of God.
Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can this be (how can this happen)?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have see; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:9-15).
And behold, the curtain in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rock were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was a son of God!” (Matthew 27:51-54).
And when the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was a (the) Son of God” (Mark 15:39).
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Beth-sai-da in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him (John 12:20-26).
When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him (Jesus) in himself, and glorify him (Jesus) at once” (John 13:31-32).
GOLGOTHA BECAME THE PLACE OF HONOR WHERE GOD AND MAN CAN MEET WITHOUT INTERMEDIARIES
Jesus, the Son and the Lamb of God, directly opened the way to God. Man, no longer, has to pass through sacrifices by priests, by preachers, by visiting the temples, or by climbing the mountains to pray to God, or to pay, and make sacrifices to placate an offended God. Jesus Christ, the Door to God, the Jewish leaders handed over to the Romans. And they took the Lamb of God outside the walls of Jerusalem where the Lamb was slain and where the Lamb of God was raised as the “Lord and Savior” of the world. The writer to the Hebrews understood why Jesus had to die outside the city:
Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by food, which have not benefited their adherents. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to consecrate the people through his blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing abuse for him. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:9-16).
To a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar, Jesus revealed the most significant truth how God can be most effectively approached:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seek to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:21-26).
In order to be lifted up so that Jesus could draw all men unto Himself and to secure man’s place with God and with Himself, Jesus had to die! Jesus was the “Door to God’s Sheepfold and to God’s Kingdom.”
“ … and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, we draw all men to myself.” He (Jesus) said this to show by what death he was to die (John 12:32-33).
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheepfold. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this girl; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:7-18).
It was the feast of Dedication at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered round him and sad to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:22-30).
The great question is, “Where are God, the Father, and God the Son?” We are told that they have moved out of all human constructions and fabrications, and earthly places! And “THEY” have taken up residence in cleansed and sanctified human bodies. Jesus, before He died, promised that the Father and He, Himself, would come and live in them, and when He had risen from the dead, Jesus did breathe the Holy Spirit into his disciples.
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will not see me no more, but you will see me, because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, who is it that will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:18-24).
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:19-23).
TRADITIONS SURROUNDING GOLGOTHA, THE HOME OF THE CROSS, GOD’S ALTAR WHERE THE LAMB SHED ITS BLOOD FOR MANKIND
During the time of Moses, capital offenses were hung on trees and prolonged hanging appeared to cause discomfort in the air. Therefore, Moses instituted a law that the bodies had to be taken down and buried before the sun set (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). In case the criminals had not died, they hastened death by breaking their bones and piercing their sides, and when blood turned to water, the bodies were take down and they were buried or burned. This tradition was still in effect in Jesus’ day.
Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear,and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also believe. For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” And again another scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (John 19:31-37).
Golgotha is the Aramaic word for “skull.” The Latins called it Calvaria and the English call it Calvary. There was a man by the name of Abimelech. His mother was Gideon’s secret love or concubine. Gideon had several legal wives and eighty children. He defeated the Midianites with three hundred trumpetiers, refused to be king, and returned to worship his idols. After Gideon’s death, Abimelech took up his father’s mantel, killed seventy of his half-brothers except Jotham, and gained recognition by subduing Israel’s enemies. But, Abimelech also subdued his own people and when a town refused to recognize him as a legitimate king, he was bound to destroy the people. The people withdrew into a tower and a woman dropped a millstone on Abimelech’s skull and killed him. The rock the man stood on resembled a skull (Judges 9). As to whether this still was the place where people were crucified in Christ’s time is uncertain. The place where Jesus was crucified was still called the “Skull or Golgotha.” Nevertheless, Golgotha was on a hill overlooking the city, which was to serve as a reminder to criminals and insurrectionists, and it also was near a major road. Luke used the word skull to identify the place where Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33). Mark (15:22), Matthew (27:33) and John (19:17) all used skull and Golgotha and so does the Greek text. The Vulgata, Jerome’s Latin text, translated the Greek “Kranion” Skull as “Calvaria.”
The fall and destruction of Jerusalem brought changes to the area. The emperor Hadrian built a temple to Aphrodite on the Skull. Three hundred years later, Constantine, at the counsel of his queen mother, removed the temple Aphrodite and built two Churches: Golgotha and Anastasis. These were replaced with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher within the walls of Jerusalem. This Church has been destroyed and rebuilt many time since the fourth century AD (Note 1). At the end, it does not matter where the Skull ended up; however, what is of vital importance to humanity and to the world is that Golgotha housed the cross that became the altar upon which the Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the world.
Note 1: The Interpreter’s Dictionary of The Bible, Abingdon Press, New York, 1962. Vol II p. 439