“The Good News and Bad News: From Celebration to Condemnation” by Rick Sons

John and his friend George went golfing together one Saturday morning as they had for 24 years. They were fanatics about their golf game. Later that day, John returned home completely exhausted and plopped down in his easy chair. His wife was quite concerned since he was more exhausted than usual after his Saturday golf game.

She asked him if something went wrong with the game. He replied, “No, hon, I had the best game in years! As a matter of fact, I started out the first three holes at 4 under par, including a hole-in-two on the 3rd.” “So why are you so worn out?” his wife asked. “Well, George had a heart attack and died on the 4th hole.”

“What!? Are you exhausted from trying to save him?” He said, “No, honey, it was quick and there was nothing anyone could’ve done. But after that, it was hit the ball, drag George, hit the ball, drag George…”

The good news is John had a great game of golf! The bad news is George was dead and dragged all over the golf course!

The good news was Palm Sunday and the big celebration! The bad news was Monday and what was going to happen to Jesus the next week. In a sense, the scene was about to shift from celebration to condemnation.

Palm Sunday was a day of celebration. This was the Sunday prior to Jesus’ crucifixion on Friday. It is shared in all four Gospels (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19) as one of the key events of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

And on the next day, Sunday (John 12:12), Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. This was the first Palm Sunday, when the children of the Hebrews bearing olive branches went forth to meet the Lord, crying out and saying, “Hosanna in the highest!”

The Pharisees were jealous of the attention Jesus received. John 12:17-19 notes, “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.”

There are many reasons the triumphal entry of Jesus was important. It served as a fulfillment of prophecy, recognition of His role, and prepared the way for the events that led to His death and resurrection. It also reminds us of the importance of recognizing Jesus as the King He is, not necessarily as the king we desire.

The people who shouted, “Hosanna!” during the celebration, will later shout, “Crucify him!” at the condemnation.

Read Matthew 21:1-11.

So many things happened in this last week of Jesus’ life and each occurrence could be a sermon in its self. Today, we are going to touch on a few things Monday through Thursday and then become more focused on Friday.

From Monday through Wednesday, Jesus taught at the Temple daily, withdrawing at night either to the Mount of Olives, or to the village of Bethany which was located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Bethany was the home of Jesus’ friends Lazarus, and Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary.

Jesus performed a symbolic act in His role as prophet by cursing a fig tree, which in the Scriptures was a symbol of Israel. He condemned the fig tree for its failure to bear fruit.

The high priests and scribes meet to formulate a plan to kill Jesus.

Jesus’ feet were anointed at the dinner on Saturday and He instructed the disciples to let Mary of Bethany to keep some of the ointment for the day of His burial. Now, Mary breaks open the jar to get the last of the ointment as she anoints His head.

Timeline of Monday’s Events

Jesus leaves Bethany, which is about a two-mile walk. He sees a fig tree that is bearing no fruit, so he curses the tree.

Jesus arrives to teach at the Temple only to find it full of sin and dishonesty. He cleanses the temple (Matthew 21.12; Luke 19.45) for the second time in His ministry.

Late in the day, Jesus looks into the Temple, then leaves the city to walk back to Bethany to spend the night.

Timeline of Tuesday’s Events

Jesus leaves Bethany. Again, this is a two-mile walk into the city. Jesus and His disciples see that the fig tree is withered. Jesus teaches His disciples about faith (Matthew 21.20; Mark 11.22)

Judas bargains with the Sanhedrin and agrees to betray Christ to the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26.16-16; Mark 14.10-11; Luke 22.3-6).

Jesus again spends the night in Bethany.

Timeline of Wednesday’s Events (The Silent Day)

There is no record of Wednesday’s events in the Gospels, but there is likely much activity as Jesus prepares for the Last Supper and as Judas and the Sanhedrin prepare for Jesus’ arrest.

Timeline of Thursday’s/Friday’s Events

On Thursday morning, Jesus sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to see that the room He had selected for the Passover was prepared. This meal would come to be known as the Last Supper and would bring new meaning to the Passover as there was about to be a perfect Lamb offered for sacrifice.

At sundown, the beginning of the day (Friday, Jewish time; Thursday night, our time), Jesus and His disciples gathered at the Upper Room in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast.

They dine together and Jesus again predicts his death.

11:30 pm – 1:00 am

Jesus prays and waits for his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is confronted in the garden and is arrested.

The next few hours become very intense and the next portion of this sermon is very harsh and graphic.

Based on both Biblical and historical evidence, it is safe to say that Jesus may have suffered more physical pain in His final hours on Earth than any man in history. As I studied this, I had chills as I read what He endured. I believe you will find, as I have, that it certainly gives you a greater appreciation for what Jesus has done on our behalf because He loves us SO much!

1:00 am – 3:00 am

Trial 1: Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, who had was the former Jewish High Priest for 16 years. This is where Jesus receives his initial physical abuse. Jesus was struck in the face by an officer of the High Priest. The word used here comes from the word, pugilism, which means boxing. The officer literally punched Jesus out.

Trial 2: Jesus was taken before the current Jewish High Priest, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin Court. Shortly afterwards, He was blindfolded, beaten again, spit upon by the men around Him, and the people pulled His beard pulled out.

3:00 am – 5:00 am

Jesus was imprisoned in the palace of Caiaphas.

5:00 am – 6:00 am

Trial 3: Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate. Pilate questioned Him and then sent Him to Herod after finding out He was a Galilean. Herod, along with his men, “treated him with contempt, mocked Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.” Pilate questioned Him some more, and then giving into the crowds wishes, ordered Jesus to be crucified.

6:00 am – 7:30 am

Trial 4: Jesus had a hearing before Roman governor Pilate. Pilate declared, “I find no guilt in this man.”

7:30 am – 8:30 am

Trial 6: Pilate repeatedly tries to release Jesus but the Jewish leaders continued to object. Pilate physically tortured and beat Jesus beyond recognition, seeking to satisfy the Jewish leaders. However, the Jews demanded that Jesus be crucified. Pilate resisted, but eventually gave the order to execute Jesus.

Before being led to the crucifixion site, Pilate ordered that Jesus be flogged. This was a HORRIFIC ordeal. In fact, it was so bad that Roman law would not allow Roman citizens to undergo it. The victim was first stripped of all clothing, then tied to a post with his hands above his head (to stretch the skin making the wounds worse). He was then flogged by one or two people with a whip (or flagellum). This whip (often called a cat-o-nine tails) consisted of a handle (about 18″ long) with 9 leather straps about 6 or 7 feet long, and at the end of each strap was small lead balls mixed with pieces of animal bone or metal. These would tear into the body more and more with each successive lashing, with the lead balls ripping into the skin and the jagged pieces of bone or metal tearing it out. As the flogging progressed, muscles, vital organs, and even the spine could often be seen openly. Huge strips of skin would be hanging from the body.

According to Jewish law, this beating had to be stopped after 40 lashes, however, the Jews traditionally only gave 39 lashes just in case a mistake in counting was made. The Romans had no such law, though, and may or may not have exceeded this limit.

8:30 am – 9:00 am

Pilate’s soldiers take Jesus to the tent camp of the Roman generals where they continue to enjoy the mocking and torture, including driving thorns into his skull.

Jesus was then clothed and led to the Praetorium where the soldiers stripped Him again, likely tearing the flesh off His back as the drying blood adhered to the cloth. They put a scarlet robe on Him, and made a crown of thorns, placing it upon His head. They then mocked Him some more, spit upon Him, and struck Him on the head with a reed, driving the crown of thorns into His head. These thorns were about 2″ long and extremely sharp. Since head wounds tend to bleed easily and profusely, Jesus likely had blood pouring down His face from these thorns.

9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Jesus was forced to carry his own cross. It was common practice that after the flogging, the victim was made to carry his cross to the crucifixion site. Most scholars and historians believe it likely that Jesus did not carry a full cross as is often depicted, but rather, He carried a “crossbeam” (“patibulum”).

In those times, the cross usually consisted of a vertical beam which had been permanently secured in the ground, and a crossbeam which was placed atop this vertical beam. This crossbeam usually weighed around 100-150 lbs. and was about the size of a railroad tie. The entire cross was seven to nine feet long with six-foot cross arms. It weighed 300 pounds.

The condemned would carry this crossbeam on his shoulders to the vertical beam at the crucifixion site, 650 yards away from Herod’s temple.

According to the Bible, Jesus was so weakened from His beatings that He could not carry His cross to the crucifixion site. Therefore, a man named Simon from Cyrene was told to carry Jesus’ cross for Him.

It should also be noted that at this point Jesus hadn’t slept in 36 hours and had been walked back and forth for several miles between places in His weakened condition.

12:00 pm – 3:00 pm

By the time Jesus reached the crucifixion site, He was probably in what a hospital would call “critical condition.” At this point, His hands were nailed to the patibulum (or possibly the full cross). In my study I found that most scholars and historians agree upon is that “hands” really means “wrists.” The hands could not have been nailed to the cross because they could not support the weight of a man’s body hanging on the cross. The nail would rip right out of the hand. The wrists, however, could hold a man’s weight when done properly. History seems to bear out that this was what the Romans did. The Romans had perfected this technique, driving a five- to seven-inch nail (more like a spike) between the radius and ulna bones in the wrist and directly into the median nerve. This gave maximum strength and caused maximum pain, as well as minimal blood loss.

After being nailed to the patibulum, the patibulum was hoisted up to the top of the vertical beam with the victim attached (all of the victim’s weight was on the wrists nailed to the patibulum). This often caused the shoulders to be dislocated. Once the patibulum was attached to the vertical beam, the victim’s feet were placed one on top of the other and nailed to the vertical beam (knees at an angle). Sometimes, a small platform was placed just below the feet so the victim could push up on it.

Crucifixion was not meant to kill victims quickly, but slowly over a period of days. A victim would sometimes die after a few hours (often depending on how badly they had been beaten beforehand), but more often they would live for several days, and sometimes for even a week or more. During this time, they would endure excruciating pain.

In fact, we got the word “excruciating” from the cross (the Latin word, “excruciatus,” means, “to crucify”).

During the time Jesus was on the cross, he said seven things.

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“Woman, here is your son. And here is your mother.”

“Eli, eli lema Sabachthani” (which were the opening words from Psalm 22, My God My God why hast thou forsaken me”).

“I am thirsty”

“It is finished.”

“Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Each of these precious statements should be magnified even more when we know that in order to say them, He had to push up, causing the searing pain.

At this point, Jesus died, paying the price that was meant for each and every one of us.

He was placed in a borrowed tomb and to some of those who were with him, the story had ended.

Jesus knew when he rode in on that day of celebration what awaited him as the Passover neared, yet he approached and endured the cross with confidence and grace.

The last week of his life simultaneously shows his humanity and his divinity. Jesus’ last days led to the climax of God’s plan of redemption for humanity.

From his entry into Jerusalem to his resurrection, every day of Jesus’ last week was filled with meaning, intention, and purpose.

This chronological look at Jesus’ last days gives us a glance into the deep suffering of Jesus, yet the incredible mercy of our God.

To some, the story had ended, but the story has not ended. Next week, we will see that this story can be renamed to “From Celebration to Condemnation to the Great Celebration.” And we can all truly shout, “Hosanna in the highest!”