The Aftermath of Jesus' Crucifixion


"The chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again'" (Matthew 27:62-63).

According to Matthew the "next day, the one after Preparation Day" (in other words, Saturday, the Sabbath), the chief priests and the Pharisees (the latter believed in the resurrection of the dead) were still seething over the fact that two members of the Sanhedrin, the very body that condemned Jesus, had given him an honorable burial. Attempting to regain control over the situation, they went to Pilate, requesting that the tomb be sealed to prevent anyone from stealing Jesus' body and claiming to the people that he has been raised from the dead. But, Pilate put the request back into their court:

"'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how'" (Matthew 27:65).

The chiefs priests were thus compelled to send some of their own guards a kind of civil police force normally used to keep order around the Temple to seal and keep watch over Jesus' tomb:

"So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard" (Matthew 27:66).

It would seem, then, the tomb was guarded by a Jewish, not a Roman guard, as many have long presumed! Further proof of this came after the resurrection when, as stated in Matthew 27:11, some of the guards went straight into the city and "reported to the chief priests everything that had happened." These "soldiers," no doubt, were part of the large contingent of Temple "police" the chief priests of the Temple had at their beck and call, not Roman soldiers who answered only to Pontius Pilate.

As for the seal: it was nothing more than a cord strung across the rock and held in place at each end by a lump of clay. Its purpose was not to prevent the tomb from being opened, but to indicate any tampering with it.

(Right) Tomb with rolling stone discovered during road construction near Megiddo, about 12 miles from Nazareth.


That the crucifixion truly took place at all is proved by the fact that the first Christians were unlikely to have invented so degrading and humiliating a fate for their holy man, knowing how it was viewed by the world. As Paul stated in letters to the churches in Corinth and Philippi:

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18)

"And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

Around the time of Jesus, it was customary to wrap the dead in linen shrouds and place them in small niches cut in the walls of tombs. About a year later, after the flesh had decayed, the bones were placed in ossuaries carved limestone boxes to save space in expensive rock-cut tombs. In actuality, the burial preparations performed on Jesus' body by Joseph and Nicodemus were the first step in the final interment process. If Jesus had not risen, his remains would have been collected and put in an ossuary.

Thousands of ossuaries (below left, found at Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives), used for the secondary reburial of remains, have been found in cemeteries around Jerusalem. In 1968 archaeologists discovered four cave-tombs at Giv'at ha-Mivtar, just north of Jerusalem immediately west of the road to Nablus. These family tombs are dated from the late 2nd century BC until 70 AD and within them were fifteen limestone ossuaries containing the bones of thirty-five individuals whose skeletons revealed a startling tale of the turbulence and agony that confronted the Jews during the century in which Jesus lived. Nine of the thirty-five individuals met a violent death. Three children died from starvation. Another child died after suffering greatly from an arrow wound that penetrated the left side of his skull. A young man of about seventeen burned to death after being tied to a rack, and an elderly women probably collapsed from the crushing blow of a mace. Then there was a man between twenty-four and twenty-eight years of age who was crucified the first skeletal remains of a crucifixion ever unearthed from the 1st century AD. The ossuary also contained the bones of a three or four-year-old child with no marks of violence or disease. Two names could be seen on the ossuary. The first was Jehohanan, or John, and the second "Jehohanan, son of hzqwl." As it stands, the last word is unreadable, but it may be a corruption of Ezekial. It may also be read "the one hanged with knees apart," reading "hzqwl" or "h'qwl." Thus the name of the victim was certainly "John," and his young son (?) was perhaps called "John, son of the hanged."

John/Jehohanan was a young man between twenty-four and twenty-eight years old, he stood 5 feet, 5 3/4 inches tall and was of slight build. He was crucified probably between 7 AD, the time of the census revolt, and 66 AD, the beginning of the revolt against Rome which ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. A scratch on the inner surface of the right radius bone of the forearm, close to the wrist indicated the possibiliy that a nail had been driven into the forearm to secure it to the cross. However, the scratch was determined to be non-traumatic suggesting that his arms were tied rather than nailed to the cross. His right heel bone had a 4.5 inch-long nail driven through its side (above right). The position of the nail relative to the bone indicates that the feet had been nailed separately to either side of the upright post of the cross, not from the front. The point of the nail had olive wood fragments on it indicating that Yehohanan was crucified on a cross made of olive wood or on an olive tree. Also, fragments of acacia wood were found between the nail head and the heels, indicating that boards were placed over Jehohanan's ankles before the nails were driven in, presumably to prevent him from freeing his feet by sliding them over the nails. The nail-point (right side of photo) was bent in the shape of a fishhook, probably from hitting a knot while being driven into the upright beam of the cross. This necessitated the amputation of his feet to remove his corpse from the cross.

Additionally, while Jehohanan was on the cross, presumably after an interval of some time, his legs were savagely smashed. Once forcible blow shattered his right shins into slivers, and fractured the left ones. This breaking of the legs was a procedure used only in Jewish crucifixions to hasten death. Elsewhere the victims were left on their crosses to take up to three or four days to die.

Where were the disciples and the women followers after Jesus' crucifixion?

On Saturday, the day after the crucifixion Jesus' family and close circle of followers were in shock, stunned by what took place over the previous six days. On Sunday they saw Jesus hailed as a hero by a jubilant crowd. On Thursday stretching into Friday they witnessed a lynching. Their son, brother, friend and teacher was dead, slowly suffocated on a cross, the most "cruel and unusual punishment" ever devised by any civilization. To Jews he was an apostate, a blasphemer, a person under God's curse.

The disciples, who were demoralized, afraid for their lives, and ready to call it quits,

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