Where was Jesus this Hour?

During the Paschal Triduum, it can be helpful to contemplate throughout the day on what Jesus would have been going through at that time of day about 2,000 years ago.

The Last Supper

The Synoptic Gospels present the Last Supper as a Passover Seder meal. Such meals, which included a long series of commemorative rituals, began just before sunset (around 6:00 in the evening) on the first day of the weeklong festival of Passover and typically went into the night. Several cups of wine were to be drunk at set points in the meal, and the Gospels record deep and lengthy conversation among Jesus and his disciples.

Given the length and intensity of the Last Supper and the full cups of wine drunk, it is no wonder that Peter, James, and John were tempted to fall asleep during Jesus’ agony in the garden. Jesus and his disciples walked to the Mount of Olives under the light of the full moon of Passover’s vernal equinox, which would have lit up the view of Jerusalem and the Temple. By the time Judas and the band of men from the religious authorities had arrived to arrest Jesus, it was probably well into the night.

Jesus’ Trial

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They first led Jesus to the house of Annas, the former high priest, where he was questioned and abused before being sent to Caiaphas, the current high priest. Members of the Sanhedrin assembled at Caiaphas’ house, though the midnight gathering was hardly routine. In fact, it was contrary to Jewish law for the Sanhedrin to conduct a capital trial at night. According to Matthew and Luke, the Sanhedrin reconvened in the early morning to finalize their decision to send Jesus to Pilate, since the Romans had taken away the Sanhedrin’s power to impose capital punishment.

It was likely around 6:00 in the morning on Friday that Jesus was brought before Pilate (Mk 15:1). The Roman prefect, whose headquarters were in Caesarea Maritima, was only in Jerusalem to keep order as all able Jewish men descended upon the Holy City for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. A politically-motivated lynching was hardly apt to keep the peace, so Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, who was in Jerusalem from Galilee likewise for the festival. Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, who was probably close by, at either the palace built by Herod the Great (the father of Antipas) or at the Fortress Antonia, adjacent to the Temple. The shouts of “crucify him” incited among the crowd by the religious authorities were not met with enough cries to the contrary. There were likely many supporters of Jesus in town from Galilee for the festival, but it was still very early in the morning. Jesus was then brutally scourged and at last condemned to death.

The Way to Calvary

Before leading Jesus away, probably after 8:00 in the morning, the soldiers used Jesus for their morning sport, gathering about 500 men (a “cohort”) to watch the mocking of the “King of the Jews” crowned with thorns and spit upon. The carrying of the cross likely came to an end at Calvary some time after 9:00 in the morning, just outside the city walls where Jesus was crucified (Mk 15:25).  Jesus hung on the cross for perhaps as long as six hours, expiring at 3:00 in the afternoon (Mk 15:34). Since Jerusalem was at its peak for pilgrims, a great many would have seen the “Son of Man… lifted up” (Jn 3:14) and read the inscription naming Jesus as “King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19).

Once Jesus had died, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to lay Jesus in his new tomb in a garden very close to Calvary, thus saving Jesus from being cast into a mass grave. Burial had to be done before sunset (about 6:00 in the evening), which was the beginning of the Sabbath, so Joseph’s servants likely acted quickly. Nicodemus also probably sent his servants to anoint the body, since the spices John records him as providing weighed around 100 pounds (Jn 19:39).

After sunset, the Sabbath arrived. The tomb of Jesus would not be visited by his followers again until the break of dawn on Sunday morning, when the women came to finish attending to the body.

 

Michael Ruszala

Michael J. Ruszala is the author of several religious books, including David and the Psalms and Who Created God? A Teacher’s Guidebook for Answering Children’s Tough Questions about God. He holds a master of arts degree in theology & Christian ministry from Franciscan University of Steubenville and served for a number of years as director of lifelong faith formation at a parish in the Diocese of Buffalo, and adjunct lecturer in religious studies at Niagara University in Lewiston, NY. For more information about Michael and his books, visit michaeljruszala.com.

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  • pnkyB4brain

    As I read the moving account of Jesus’ last hours, I had to pause and realize my troubles cannot compare to what this Man, this Son of God did for us. I am humbled.

  • akelly

    Holy Thursday is a most exciting time…Jesus made possible the impossible. i love the way FX Durrwell, CSSR. explains. Jesus’.REAL presence in the Eucharist in his book: IN THE. REDEEMING CHRIST. In God’s eternal now..Jesus’ Death and Rsurrectioni. is 1. hour..in an eternal Now of an hour..So everytime we are at Mass, God in whom there is no past nor future… but lives in an eternal now..makes Jesus present to us in His act of redemption. His act iof dying and rising for us. It makes so nuch sense that. we believe Jesus is the eternal Priest and Victim, He is risen in glory and yet still bears the marks of His sacrificiial,love..the Lamb standing in victory as it were slain. So we adore not just a crucified Christ but a dead and risen Jesus…the living bread.from heaven. as we surrender to Him, we also bear the marks of his dying i and his rising. in. us. How. awesome that in every Eucharist. . we are able to die a little bit to our self love. and be. transformed nto His risen life. day by day..