Pick up any newspaper in the world. One of the first things you will notice are the headlines. These phrases alert the reader to the main events or stories of interest found in the paper. They also give some important information about the following article. Imagine for a moment the possible headlines of a Jerusalem newspaper one weekend almost two thousand years ago.
Late Night Sanhedrin
Meeting Finds Man Guilty
Self-Proclaimed Son of God
Sentenced To Death
Son of God Crucified:
Where Were His Angels?
Vandalism at the Temple
During Mid-Day Blackout
Jesus' Body Missing from Tomb:
The account of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection and the events leading to the crucifixion can be read in all four gospels (Matthew 26:47-28:8; Mark 14:43-16:8; Luke 22:47-24:12; John 18:2-20:10). The information found in these passages can give us a good idea about the contents of articles corresponding to each of the above headlines.
Stolen by Followers or Resurrected?
Late Night Sanhedrin Meeting Finds Man Guilty
An article about the arrest of Jesus would follow Friday's headline. As Jesus and his disciples were preparing to leave the garden, Judas arrived with a mob to take Jesus into custody. From the garden, Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin for trial. This trial was illegal; trials were not to be conducted on feast days, days in preparation for feasts, or on the Sabbath (Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985). The trial was obviously not an honest one either. The Sanhedrin was determined to find Jesus guilty at any cost. The prosecutors found witnesses and finally the defendant's own words were misconstrued as proof enough to condemn him. The Sanhedrin's call for the death penalty could not be carried out on its own. Though they were Israel's governing authority, their decisions were subject to the Roman law. Plans were made to appeal to the governor for a death sentence.
Self-Proclaimed Son of God Sentenced To Death
On Friday morning the members of the Sanhedrin took Jesus to Pilate, the governor. Pilate asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews. Jesus agreed that he was. When the chief priests and elders of the Sanhedrin accused him, he declined an answer. Pilate realized Christ was innocent but agreed to the death sentence at the request of the Jews. They were very adamant about seeing Jesus dead. Pilate gave in to avoid rebellion that could bring unwanted attention from Rome. Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Son of God Crucified: Where Were His Angels?
As was custom, Jesus was beaten and abused before bearing his cross to the place of crucifixion. While on the cross, those around mocked him. Many had heard his claims that he was the Son of God. Those present also acknowledged that as the Son of God he would have the power to call angels to rescue him. Mockers told him to save himself as he had saved many others (healing, raising from the dead). Some said, "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God" (Matthew 27:43). When Jesus died on the cross that day, his adversaries thought they had won.
Vandalism at the Temple During Midday Blackout
Two events occurred while Christ was on the cross that must have puzzled many in Jerusalem. At noon, while Jesus was hanging on the tree, the world became dark. This darkness lasted until three o'clock. At a time when the sun should have been its brightest and the temperature the warmest from the midday sun, the sun was not to be seen. Other mystifying events marked the moment of Jesus' death. The veil of the temple tore from top to bottom. Earthquakes shook the land. Looking back, we understand the tearing of the veil represents the end of the old law and the beginning of the new. Anyone could now see into the Most Holy Place, a symbol that one no longer need to go through the priests to have access to God. Now, we go directly through Jesus. Darkness occurred at the world's blackest hour spiritually--a time when Christ took on all the sins of the world, past, present and future.
Jesus' Body Missing from Tomb: Stolen by Followers or Resurrected?
On Sunday morning a most amazing thing happened. Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb. The unbelieving Jews of the day claimed followers of Christ stole the body. However, there was no proof of this so they had to pay the guards to lie. The guards falsely said the body was stolen while they were asleep. This was an absurd claim for a couple of reasons. First, the guards, Roman soldiers, knew such neglect of duty was punishable by death. Only money and a promise by the Jewish leaders to come to their aid would make this report acceptable to the soldiers. How, except by later telling the truth, could these Jews prevent Roman law from being carried out? Second, it would take many men to remove the stone in front of a tomb and then remove a body (that was also guarded by armed soldiers). With such a number and task, enough noise would have been made to wake a sound asleep guard. The only true and plausible explanation was a resurrection from the dead, especially since Christ was later seen by many who knew him well.
One weekend almost two thousand years ago, newspapers in Jerusalem would have had some very interesting headlines. A great number of important events took place. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ changed the world. We no longer have to offer blood sacrifices; Christ was the last blood sacrifice that will cover all humanity for all eternity (Hebrews 10:11-12). The Old Testament was nailed to the cross with Jesus (Colossians 2:14) and a new covenant was established. Many people often say, "That was a day I'll never forget" when referring to something that happened to them. One weekend two thousand years ago is a date no one should ever forget. It changed all our lives forever!