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How Long Was Jesus on the Cross?
To answer the question: how long was Jesus Christ on the cross? Let us turn to the gospels for the facts. The chief priests of Israel falsely accused Christ and together with Pilate sentenced Him to death by crucifixion (Luke 23). And they took Him to a place called Golgotha. There, they crucified the lamb of God. The Messiah was nailed to the cross and a sign was placed above Him, which reads, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Matthew 27:37).
Jesus hung on the cross for about six hours. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke used the Jewish method of measuring time, while the gospel of John used the Roman method because the gospel was written near the close of the century and chiefly for Gentile believers.
Using the Roman method of measuring time, the apostle of John documented that Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate took place, “about the sixth hour” (John 19:14). So, counting from midnight, the trial was about 6:00 A.M (our time).
Using the Jewish method of measuring time, the gospel of Mark stated, “They crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him” (Mark 15:24–25). So, counting from sunrise, the crucifixion of Jesus started at 9:00 A.M (our time).
Also, using the Jewish method of measuring time, Matthew recorded, “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land” (Matthew 27:45). The sixth hour is noon (our time). The darkness continued from 12:00 noon to 3:00 P.M. The non-canonical Gospel of Peter (sec. 5; see p. 128) confirmed that “it was noon, and darkness came over all Judaea.”
Matthew added, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45,46). These same words were prophesied in Psalm 22:1. Just before His death, Jesus said,“Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit'” (Luke 23:46) and “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). The Son of God completed the work of saving mankind (John 4:34). And Satan failed in his attempts to stop the plan.
The Roman soldiers came and broke the legs of the two thief’s, who were crucified with the Lord. 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 immediately blood and water came out (John 19:32-34). And Joseph of Arimathea took the responsibility of the burial of Jesus in the “preparation day” or Good Friday.
Let us summarize:
- Pilate condemned Jesus at “about the sixth hour” or about 6:00 A.M. (Roman timing)
- The Savior was crucified three hours later at “the third hour” or 9:00 A.M. (Jewish timing)
- Darkness started at “the sixth hour” or 12:00 P.M. while Jesus was hanging on the cross. (Jewish timing)
- Jesus died at “the ninth hour” or 3:00 P.M. (Jewish timing).
Thus, the Savior hanged on the cross from 9:00 A.M. till 3:00 P.M., that is, 6 hours in total.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4,5).
During the life of Jesus, He experienced all the pain, sorrow, and suffering known to man. Through His humanity, divinity experienced all which finite people go through. All the hate and enmity that evil men and angels could inflict upon Him were His daily share. He did it all gladly in order to save doomed sinners from eternal death.
God’s Infinite Love
God’s love for men led Him to offer His only begotten Son for their salvation (Romans 5:8). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus’ suffering opened the way for the redemption of mankind. His love was even extended to those that crucified Him. For He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Through the Father’s gift of love, it becomes possible for humans to be “called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). There are no limits to the love of God. And there are none to whom He refuses the benefits of saving grace, redemption and reconciliation.
But there is one condition—belief in, and willing cooperation with, Christ. It is God’s goodness that leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4). It is the light of His compassion that softens evil hearts, brings back the fallen, and transforms sinners into saints. Therefore, every believer should rejoice that he has “everlasting life” now, as a gift of God. For “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11,12).
How Can a Person Get Saved?
While God’s love enfolds all humanity, it directly benefits only those who respond to it. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). To become a child of God is to enter into the covenant relationship with Him (Hosea 1:10) by the new birth (John 3:3).
This covenant relationship grows by daily study of the Word, prayer, and witnessing. Thus, obtaining eternal life is conditional upon the believer allowing the Lord to abide in His heart. Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).
To believe in a person doesn’t merely mean a mental agreement. Demons believe in the existence of God (Mark 3:11; 5:7). Their belief may be intellectually right, but they remain demons (James 2:19). Therefore, faith that merely admits the facts is not enough. The faith that saves is the one that changes the life.
To believe in Jesus is to receive the benefits of salvation through His Word. Faith is the condition upon which God has seen fit to promise forgiveness to sinners for it can lay hold on the merits of Christ, for forgiveness of all past sins (Acts 2:38-39) and also for victory over all the inherited and cultivated weakness of the heart (Philippians 4:13).
He who believes has everlasting life and has “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24, 25; 6:54; 8:51). He is born from above, has God as his Father, and resemble Him in character (1 John 3:1–3). He tries by the grace of Christ, to live away from sin (Romans 6:12–16) and does not yield his will to its bondage (1 John 3:9; 5:18).
The born again is re-created by God for the purpose of “good works.” Paul wrote, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Righteous deeds are the natural fruits of a converted heart (Titus 2:7,14; 3:1,8,14). The purpose of the plan of salvation is the transformation of man’s Character to reflect that of His loving Creator (Genesis 1:26,27).
Christ’s life is an example for the believer. He went through pain to peace and through suffering to glory; so also will all who love Him (Matthew 10:38; 16:24;20:22; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 3:3). To suffer with Christ means to fight the powers of temptation as He did, so that as He was made “perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9, 10, 18), the believer may do also. And to suffer with Christ means to suffer for His sake and the gospel’s.
Christ rejoiced in doing His Father’s will (Matthew 26:39, 42; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). Therefore, through His atoning sacrifice, the Father’s plan will succeed among humans (Matthew 6:10; 7:21; John 17:6) and many will live and have eternal life (Hebrews 12:2). The outcome will fully justify the sacrifice that was necessary to achieve it.
All that had been lost as a consequence of sin would be regained. For Christ became “heir of all things,” and He will share His inheritance with those He has saved from the enemy (Hebrews 1:2; Romans 8:17). The believers will share in His victory, not as servants, but as children saved by His blood and honored to reign with Him eternally. The apostle Paul affirmed, “And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10; also 22:5; 2 Timothy 2:12).
Also, at the end of the great controversy between good and evil, Christ will receive a “name which is above every name,” one before which “every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9, 10). For exaltation naturally follows humiliation and surrender to God’s will (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14). And every creature will acknowledge Christ’s Lordship (Revelation 5:11–14). Even Satan and his servants, will admit that His ways have been merciful, just, rightouss and perfect.
In His service,
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