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“But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (Luke 23:49)

Witnesses at the Cross

On the first Good Friday the streets and courtyards of Jerusalem were full. Throngs of pilgrims from across the world had arrived to celebrate Passover – Josephus suggests over 1 million people gathered for the annual festival.

The man who had marched into Jerusalem as King and Messiah and who cleansed, taught, and healed in the temple courts would soon be arrested and charged with blasphemy and sedition. Under cover of darkness soldiers armed with swords and clubs took hold of Jesus as His disciples fled.

News spread quickly after the High Priest and Council of the Sandhedrin pronounced judgment in a hurried trial. Jesus was taken to be plied and mocked before Herod Antipas before facing another trial under the Roman Governor. As word spread, crowds gathered in large numbers at the Governor’s palace. Encouraged by their leaders, they shouted and “roared loudly” for the crucifixion of Jesus. As Jesus was sentenced to death, a notorious prisoner was set free.

The governor’s soldiers then led Jesus before the “entire regiment”, perhaps as many as 600 soldiers, to taunt and torture Him. They placed a crown of thorns on his head, beating, spitting, and mocking. There followed the long walk as Jesus carried the rugged cross up the hill to Golgotha or “the place of the skull” (a former stone quarry where the chief Cornerstone would now be raised). Luke tells us that “A large number of people followed him, including many women who mourned and wailed for him.” (Luke 23:27)

Those who watched the crucifixion were probably fewer. Still, the site of crucifixion was near a major intersection and there were likely hundreds who passed by or stepped out of the city gate to see the sign which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Government and religious officials, soldiers, and travelers were there, along with Jesus’ mother, friends, and followers who stood at a distance and watched.

On this day we also stop to watch the terror and tragedy of the cross. We witness the full judgment for sin which is poured out on God’s Son, the Passover lamb killed on our behalf. We experience confusion, loneliness, grief, and pain. . . but the hope of Easter is already upon us. Death is being defeated. The veil that separates us from the presence of God is being torn.  “It is finished.” Watch, wait, and see what the Lord will now do.

May the power of the cross and the hope, joy, and new life of the resurrected Jesus fill your hearts and homes this season.


Dave Chaves

Dave Chaves, Technology and Product Development Manager, has worked in nonprofit, Christian communications for over 10 years, including most recently with Five Talents USA. He holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University and an MDiv from Africa International University. He’s been involved in cross-cultural missions in East Africa for over 10 years and is an Associate Missionary with the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders.  Dave met his lovely wife Lucy in Kenya and they have four children. He is excited to be part of the CSLI team and to support communications and technology to further the ministry of discipleship.

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