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How Many Hours Did Jesus Spend on the Cross?

 

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

How long was Jesus on the cross? Maybe this question has also plagued your heart and mind. It’s not a simple answer that comes with many emotional responses. Jesus’ death is not an easy story to understand and is pretty much impossible to read without wincing, let alone watching it be portrayed in movies such as The Passion of the Christ.

That said, there is a lot of speculation as to whether the movies or shows, like Passion of the Christ or The Chosen, to name a popular few, truly adhere to the Scriptures. Well, I would claim that none of them do, as who can perfectly demonstrate what really took place two thousand years ago with such accuracy? But I am still a huge fan of some of these films and applaud them for sharing Jesus’ life with such devotion and transparency.

1 Corinthians 2:9 also eloquently reminds us of the vast difference between human knowledge and God’s infinite wisdom. Yet, through our faith and the interceding of the Holy Spirit, truth is revealed to us. Praise God for His wisdom!

So, as we seek insight by reading His Word or watching a film depicting His life, we can always invite the Holy Spirit into that intimate time and allow God to reveal what we need to know.

Based on the gospels, it is said that Jesus endured the cross for about six hours. However, John gives a different notion of timing to the events that led up to the crucifixion. While Scripture is free from error and the inspired Word of God, it is worth noting that the “hour” of Matthew, Mark, and Luke referred to the Jewish time, whereas John referred to the Roman time. It is also worth mentioning that hours were counted differently in Jesus’ day.

However, the truth is that each gospel has a unique perspective on Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet, they all provide useful and valuable information about the timeline of Jesus’ death up to the resurrection. With that in mind, I invite you to pray for God to reveal what you need to know and what wisdom you need to gain a better understanding.

Now, with that, let’s take a deeper look into each of their personal accounts and gain some insight into what may have happened that dark and dismal day and how the time spent on that cross symbolizes our God’s goodness.

Matthew’s Account

Matthew, the tax collector and beloved disciple of Jesus shares a bold account of Jesus’s death. Quite possibly, this account is the most profound regarding the implications of what Jesus’ death meant for heaven and earth.

Matthew tells us that Jesus’ death is not pointless and that His death has a purpose, giving us hope!

As far as how long Jesus spent on the cross in agony, enduring ridicule, and insulting jabs by the Romans, we see in Matthew 27:45 that from noon to three in the afternoon was darkness. During those three hours, we hear Jesus cry out to God, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).

But what happened before that gives us a better depiction of the timing. While the chronological order here is not as clear as other accounts, Matthew 27: 1-2 tells us that it was morning when the chief priest bound him and handed Him to Pilate. Furthermore, they stripped Him, put on a scarlet robe, and placed the crown of thorns on His head (Matthew 27:27-31). This leads many to believe that would total up to be about six hours on the cross.

Mark’s Account

Mark, known as John Mark, was likely a teen when this event happened. It may also be important to note that Mark is one of the first accounts of the life of Jesus. While not a disciple, Mark shares his eyewitness testimony of the service and sacrifice of Jesus in short, concise, and brief stories.

Regarding the crucifixion and the timing, there are similarities to the other gospels, but Mark’s brevity comes out in the fact that he simply states, “They crucified him.” (Mark 15:24).

We can learn from this account that Jesus was on the cross for about six hours due to Mark15:33. It was said that the sixth hour was noon when darkness fell over the land, then the ninth hour was 3:00, was the time of Jesus death, but Jesus had been on the cross since the third hour, which would have been 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25). So, while the Jewish time is a bit hard to follow, basically from the third hour (9 o’clock) to the ninth hour (3 o’clock) would have been six hours.

Luke’s Account

Luke comes in with the longest gospel written, but interestingly enough never knew Jesus personally. Yet, due to his background and being a physician, which allowed him to continually contact others, hear first-hand stories of Jesus, and be best friends with Paul, we can gather that he learned a great deal about Jesus. This led him to become known as one of the greatest evangelists.

While his account of the crucifixion is based on what others had told him, there is obviously some passion in his words. We see that play out when Luke shares more details about the two criminals who hung beside Jesus. Lukes shares how one man mocked Jesus while the other rebuked that mocker, stating that Jesus did not deserve this punishment and He had done nothing wrong (Luke 23: 39-41). He then asks Jesus to be remembered (Luke 23:42-43). Luke shows compassion for the sinners and a place where Jesus is merciful.

Luke 23:44 addresses the issue of timing on the cross by sharing how the light fell into darkness at the ninth hour, just as mentioned by Matthew and Mark.

John’s Account

The beloved disciple John was also considered one of the earliest accounts of Christ’s life. He is often referred to as one of the more emotionally driven disciples who passionately pursued Jesus. We can easily see that portrayed in His poetic and heartfelt writings.

However, John has a bit of a different take, and his testimony on the crucifixion perhaps appears as if it contradicts the timing we see from the other gospels. As mentioned before, all the other accounts went by a Jewish timeline up to this point. Jesus was crucified at the third hour (9 a.m.), the land grew dark at the sixth hour (noon), and Jesus died on the ninth hour (3 p.m.).

So, what was the timeline and schedule according to John? John 19:14 states it was the day of Preparation of the Passover, about noon (the sixth hour). In Roman times, this would have been 6 a.m.

While all the accounts show about six hours (as we would naturally count), based on either Jewish or Roman timelines, upon further digging, some Biblical scholars bring up a rather interesting point!

In Jesus’ day, hours were counted differently. We usually would count 9 a.m.-2 p.m. as six hours. But there was no concept of zero in those times, so they counted the first number as an hour, meaning 9:00 a.m. would be the first hour, 10:00 a.m. the second hour, and so forth meaning that 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. (counting nine as the first hour) led them to believe Jesus was on the cross for “seven” hours!

That would make sense since seven is a significant number to our God, as it represents a pattern, completion, and perfection. So, while many believe Jesus was on the cross for six hours, some believe, based on how time was determined at that time, that Jesus was on the cross for seven hours.

Either way, just to know that our Lord was undergoing such pain and torture for that extended amount of time should cause us to pause and reflect on His selfless sacrifice. Maybe we should all view time a bit differently now.

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Alicia Quan

Alicia SearlAlicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy.  Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.
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