So here we are again; the annual Easter choc-fest-pig-out. All in celebration of the saviour rising from the dead. Now I’ve read the crucifixion yarn many times, and as crucifixions go, Jesus sure had a strange one.
Crucifixion was a Roman punishment, and it was designed to humiliate the victims and make their suffering go on as long as possible. It served as a warning against rebellion and normally took two or three days for the victim to die. If one lingered too long, death could be hastened by an act of mercy: the breaking of the legs with a hammer. The victim no longer able to support his body, would find his head sink into his chest and would suffocate as breathing became impossible.
The crucifixion itself took place on the eve of the Sabbath; the day of preparation. The law forbade any Jew to handle a body on the Sabbath.
The gospel of Mark informs us: they crucified him on the third hour, and he gave up the ghost, on the ninth hour. Matthew describes what happened when he gave up the ghost. “And behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake and the rocks rent.” Imagine the scent as Matthew goes on.. “and the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. And many came out of their graves after his resurrection and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” Just like a scene from Shaun of the dead.
The gospels also tell of someone producing a sponge, and of Jesus drinking from it through a reed: after which, he gave up the ghost.
John explains, that because of the preparation for the Sabbath, the Jews besought Pilate for the legs of those on the cross to be broken, so that they could be taken away. He goes on .. ” then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first, then the other which were crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw he was dead already, they brake not his legs, but, one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came out blood and water.”
So, there we have it, all done and dusted in a mere six hours: they’ve knocked at least forty hours off the average crucifixion. Afterwards, Joseph of Arimathea; who is a wealthy disciple of Jesus, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave to do so.
Surely what we have here, is not a description of Jesus dying on the cross: but him surviving the cross. Why did Jesus; a fit healthy man, give up the ghost so soon? The Zealots on either side of him, were understandably still alive: hence the leg-breaking.
Why didn’t the soldiers follow their orders and break the legs of those on the cross?
Could they tell just by looking up at him that he was dead? Did anyone climb up there and check his pulse or his heartbeat? Doesn’t the fact that Jesus bled profusely when pierced in the side, indicate that his heart was beating and pumping, and that he was still alive?
The only person who would have known, was Joseph of Arimathea, when he removed him and carried him to his private tomb. We are later told that Joseph arrives in the night accompanied by Nicodemus; bringing with them a mixture of myrr and aloes: both of which have healing properties.
On the first day of the week, all of the gospels tell us that the mysterious Mary Magdalene and others come to the sepulchre and find – surprise- surprise: Jesus isn’t there – only a couple of angels sharing a spliff.
But Matthew goes one better: “behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, and rolled the stone from the door and sat on it.” You must admit; the guy is a bit of a drama queen.
Now when news got out that the blasphemer and rebel, was missing, there would have been an uproar, wouldn’t there? Why wasn’t Joseph of Arimathea dragged in for questioning, after all, he was the last to be seen with Jesus. The baying mob would have thought there was some conspiracy afoot. They would have had search parties out looking for him; because they certainly didn’t believe that he was the son of God and had risen again.
Then we come to the main event of the whole Jesus story: his ascension to heaven – the thing that has kept him going all along. This surely would have been a wondrous occasion: with the earth quaking and thunder and lightning and a host of angels blowing trumpets. But alas, none of the gospels seem brave enough to describe it – he had just gone, now you see him, now you don’t. But we shouldn’t be too surprised, because the fact is you see: they didn’t write any of it down at the time. The gospels were written many decades after Jesus died. We don’t have any originals; all we have are second or third hand copies: written – edited – fabricated, one hundred years after the event.
Happy Easter – enjoy your chocolate eggs.