The Significance of Jesus' Death on the Cross

Warm Up

Opening Question

Have each person share a brief story about a time when one of the following happened:

  • You were punished for something you did not do.
  • You took the blame for something someone else did, in order to protect that person.
  • One of your friends was punished for something you did.

Then ask:

  • How did you feel when you were punished for their wrongdoing? Did you speak up to defend yourself?

Scripture Passage 1

John 19:16-37 (Read aloud)

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Background Commentary

(From The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament and New Bible Dictionary)

  • Condemned criminals normally carried their own cross (the horizontal cross-beam—the patibulum—not the upright stake) to the site of the execution; the victim was usually stripped naked for the procession and execution as well.
  • The condemned man was stripped naked, laid on the ground with the cross-beam under his shoulders, and his arms or his hands tied or nailed (John 20:25) to it. This cross-beam was then lifted and secured to the upright post, so that the victim’s feet, which were then tied or nailed, were just clear of the ground, not high up as so often depicted.
  • The main weight of the body was usually borne by a projecting peg (sedile), astride which the victim sat. There, the condemned man was left to die of hunger and exhaustion.
  • Death was sometimes hastened by the crurifragium, breaking of the legs, as in the case of the two thieves, but not done in our Lord’s case, because he was already dead. However, a spear was thrust into his side to make sure of death, so that the body could be removed, as the Jews demanded, before the sabbath (John 19:31).
  • The young man’s arms (not his hands) were nailed to the patibulum, the cross-beam, which might indicate that Luke 24:39, John 20:20, John 20:25, and John 20:27 should be translated "arms." The weight of the body was probably borne by a plank (sedecula) nailed to the simplex, the upright beam, as a support for the buttocks. The legs had been bent at the knees and twisted back so that the calves were parallel to the patibulum or cross-bar, with the ankles under the buttocks. One iron nail (still in situ) had been driven through both his heels together, with his right foot above the left. A fragment shows that the cross was of olive wood.
  • His contorted leg muscles would then have probably caused severe pain with spasmodic contractions and rigid cramps. This could have contributed to the shortened time of his death in six hours, hastened doubtless by the earlier scourging.
  • Contemporary writers describe it as a most painful form of death.
  • Golgotha was a hill where crucifixions took place outside the city wall.

Discussion Questions 1

  • How would you feel if you were punished unjustly?
  • What do you learn about Jesus’ character/nature in the midst of his crucifixion?
  • What does verse 19 say about who Jesus is?
  • Why do you think the notice was written in several different languages?
  • John talks about the Scripture being fulfilled. What are some examples in this passage of scriptures being fulfilled?
    • Psalm 22:18 Casting lots
    • Psalm 22:15 Thirst
    • Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, Psalm 34:20 No broken legs
    • Zechariah 12:10 Pierced
  • Why do you think John included prophecies in his account of Jesus’ crucifixion?
  • What does knowing that the events of Jesus’ crucifixion were prophesied make you think or feel?
    • Make notice of day that Jesus was crucified and stress its significance.

Scripture Passage 2

Exodus 12:1-13 (Read aloud)

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. 12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Discussion Questions 2

  • In light of what we read in John, how do you think Jesus is like the Passover lamb?
  • The Passover lamb’s blood was shed for the people of Israel. So, for whom was Jesus’ blood shed?
    • 1 Corinthians 5:7
    • Romans 5:6-10
    • Isaiah 53:4-6
  • Why did the Passover lamb’s blood have to be shed?
  • Why did Jesus’ blood have to be shed?
  • What did Jesus’ death accomplish?
    • Paid the penalty of sin
    • Took upon God’s anger toward sin
    • Restored our relationship with God


  • As the leader, share your own acceptance of Jesus’ death on the cross, forgiveness of your sin, and right relationship with God.
  • Where are places in your life that you struggle with sin and desperately need forgiveness?
  • Will you accept that Jesus has taken the blame for your sin, your mistakes?