Death and resurrection

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Resource sheet 3.4

Attitudes to Judas among Christians today

Most Christians think of Judas as a traitor, because Jesus said he would be betrayed. The word Judas is used to mean betrayer. However, it might seem that Judas had no choice. He had to fulfil his destiny – and Jesus’ destiny too. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that one would betray him, but he didn’t try to stop the betrayal. This may suggest that Judas existed only to betray Jesus to fulfil the prophecy.

Judas had decided to betray Jesus by leading the High Priest’s men to a place where they could arrest him secretly. In Matthew’s Gospel, Judas is made out to be a greedy man who wants money, but Mark suggests that money cannot be the main motive. The 30 pieces of silver, mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel, would not have been generous, being the cost of a slave. Both Matthew and John’s Gospels claim that Judas is possessed by Satan, but then John also says that he is a thief, chosen by God.

The Temple police who would arrest Jesus needed to know where he would be when he was away from the crowds. Each evening he had been leaving Jerusalem to go to Bethany and even the Passover meal arrangements had been made secretly. The guards would need someone to guide them to Jesus.

Fill in the gaps in the table below to show different opinions of Judas today and reasons for them.


Opinion of Judas

Reasons for their opinion

Most Christians

• Betraying Jesus in this way is unforgivable – no matter what his reasons were.

• This is the way all of the gospels

present Judas.

Many Christians

Believe that Judas acted badly but for
good reasons

Some Christians

• The actions of Judas were all part of God’s plan

• Jesus knew what Judas was going to do but did not try to stop him.


3.5– Trial before the High Priest
Key words


Associating oneself with God/language or deeds that insult God

High Priest

The chief Jewish leader at the time of Jesus


The supreme Jewish council which found Jesus guilty of blasphemy

Biblical Reading: Mark 14:53-65 and Deuteronomy 19:15-19b
When you read about Jesus’ trial before the High Priest remember:

  • Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish court. It was responsible for criminal and religious issues. It was led by the High Priest.

  • Sanhedrin had limited authority. They couldn’t sentence anyone to the death penalty. Only the Romans could do that.

  • Trials involving death sentence were not allowed at night and a guilty verdict had to be delayed 24 hours before sentence was carried out by the Romans, who also had to agree with the punishment.

  • In order for someone to be contemned according to the Jewish law you needed two or more witnesses to testify against him.

  • False witnesses would suffer the same fate as the accused.

  • Beating a prisoner during the court hearing would have been unacceptable.

  • Jesus is silent throughout the trial, and it seems that they struggle to find evidence to convict Him. In the end, Jesus condemns Himself when He acknowledges, in public for the first time, that He is the Christ, the Messiah.

  • The High Priest tore Jesus’ robe as a symbol to show blasphemy had been committed. In claiming to be the Christ, Jesus associated himself with God and deserved to die. The Roman authorities alone could impose the death penalty, so the Sanhedrin needed to convince Pilate that the death penalty was required.

How might this trial affect Christian attitudes towards justice today?

The trial was unusual and most people today would probably say that justice was not done. It is clear that the Sanhedrin did not follow the rules found in the passage in Deuteronomy 19:15-19b. This event might then encourage Christians t be sure that justice is not only done but is also seen to be done. They might also think that the law must always be followed properly and cannot be allowed to be influenced by personal feelings or animosity as it was here.

Be ready to answer

  1. How might this story of an unjust and unfair trial be an encouragement to Christians undergoing persecution.

  2. Explain how might the trial before the High Priest might affect Christian attitudes towards justice today? Give different points of view in your answer.

  3. Do you think Jesus’ trial before the High Priest was fair? Give two reasons for your answer and two reasons why someone may disagree with you.

Resource sheet 3.5

The trial before the High Priest

Mark’s account shows these points:

• There is no formal charge to answer.

• When they start the trial they’re looking to find something to bring against him.

• Even the High Priest, supposedly the judge, is trying to accuse Jesus and find him guilty.

• The trial was at night, which was not legal, and with no opportunity for Jesus to get a defence together.

In addition to this:

• The witnesses couldn’t agree their testimony – even over the claim that Jesus had threatened to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. To attack the Temple, as the special building dedicated to God, would be a very serious charge.

• Jesus kept silent throughout, not defending himself, or claiming the charges were false.

• Eventually the High Priest faced Jesus with the question, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus replied ‘I am.’ He finished by saying, ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming in the clouds of heaven.’

• Jesus was found guilty of saying he was the Son of God. This was blasphemy.

• The High Priest tore his robe as a sign that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy.

• The Sanhedrin could only recommend the death penalty to the Roman authorities – the Romans themselves had to agree and carry out such a sentence.

So what are the real issues here?

1 Who was Jesus really?

2 What right did he have to say the things he did?

3 What does this trial show Christians about justice today? How should Christians behave when they are put on trial unfairly?

3.6– Trial before Pontius Pilate
Key words

Pontius Pilate

The Roman procurator (governor) of Judea at the time of Jesus

Biblical Reading: Mark 15:1-15 and Isaiah 53:7-8
When you read about Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate note:

  • P.P. was the Roman governor of Judea between 26 and 36 CE. Historians (like Josephus and Philo) describe him as a violent man. He had killed thousands of Jews and his actions were provoking riots all the time. At the start of his term, he provoked the Jews by ordering the imperial standards (banners) to be carried into Jerusalem. He later helped himself to Jewish revenues to build and aqueduct and sent in soldiers who killed hundreds of people protesting against the project.

  • Jesus again doesn’t say much. He quietly goes through the trial knowing the end from the beginning. He does not try to defend himself. Mark’s description ties in with the prediction made about the Messiah hundreds of years before. (Read Isaiah 53:7-8)

  • Pilate is reluctant to condemn Jesus. He offers to free Him but the crowd chooses Barabbas. Barabbas had led a minor revolt against the Romans.

  • The way Mark records the events seems to be blaming the Jewish crowd for Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate seems to fear the crowd because they might cause a riot. He needed to keep order or he might have lost his job.

How today’s believers view the trial

Many believers in the past blamed Jewish people for the death of Jesus because of the accounts in the gospels. That led to hundreds of years of anti- Semitism and persecution of Jewish people by Christians. Today, most Christians see the trial as fulfilling God’s plan. Christians today realise that they should not be anti-Semitic because this goes against Jesus teachings of treating everyone as you would wish to be treated, and also because Jesus himself was a Jew.

Be ready to answer

  1. Was the trial before Pontius Pilate a fair trial? Support your answer with 3 arguments. If someone disagrees with you what 3 arguments will they give?

  2. Explain why many Christians today see the trial before Pilate differently from Christians in the past.

  3. Pilate was not to blame for sentencing Jesus to death’. Do you agree? Give 3 reasons for your answer. Give 3 reasons why someone may disagree with you.

  4. What is the meaning and significance of Jesus’ behaviour throughout the trial?

  5. What is the meaning and significance of Pilate’s behaviour throughout the trial?

  6. What is the meaning and significance of the crowd’s behaviour throughout the trial?

3.7– The crucifixion according to Mark
Key words


The Roman death penalty suffered by Jesus when he was nailed to the cross


The place of the skull, the place where Jesus was crucified

Biblical Reading: Mark 15:21-39 and Deuteronomy 21:23
The importance of Jesus’ crucifixion for Mark

Crucifixion was a punishment used only for slaves or major troublemakers, and Roman citizens were exempt from it. From the earliest accounts of crucifixion, it was thought to be the most painful form of death. To a Jew, it would seem even more horrible because of the curse that is written in Deuteronomy. ‘…you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.’ Deut. 21:23
Mark does not say much about Jesus’ physical suffering. The Romans crucified hundreds, if not thousands, of people, so for Mark it was more important to show his readers how Jesus bore the suffering. In that way, they would be helped to understand who Jesus was. The Old Testament prophecies told of the Suffering Servant of God and this was the message Mark wanted to convey to the early Christians as they faced persecution. If the founder of their faith could face suffering and rejection, then so could they.

The Road to Golgotha

  • Simon of Cyrene only appears at this one point in Mark’s gospel. His sons, Alexander and Rufus, became members of the Church (Romans 16:13), so it would seem that they could have been known to Mark’s readers, possibly even fellow members of the Church in Rome. This would suggest Mark had an eyewitness to the event.

  • At Golgotha, the drink offered to Jesus was a drug t help ease the extreme pain of the crucifixion, but Jesus refused it.

  • The soldiers divided his clothes out by playing dice to see who would get each piece. This mirrors a verse from Psalm 22, a psalm that figures throughout Jesus’ crucifixion: They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ Psalm 22:18

Jesus is crucified

  • Jesus was nailed to the crossbeam by his wrists and then hoisted to the fixed upright of the cross. His feet were nailed to the upright. A small block of wood at the base of the spine would provide support for his body. Crucifixion was a slow process as the prisoner fought to lift his body to breathe and then dropped back to relieve the intense pain. As he weakened he would slowly suffocate.

  • The custom was to nail a written notice of what the person was guilty of above their head – in this case it read – The King of the Jews -. Pilate may have meant it to warn off other revolutionaries of maybe to insult the Jewish leaders. For Mark, it was important because it showed who Jesus really was. Israel may have rejected him, the Romans may not have recognized him, but here was the true King of Israel.

  • Two robbers were crucified with him. Even at this stage, Jesus was to be found in the company of outcasts.

  • Next came insults: If he was so powerful why not save himself? How difficult would it be for him to come down from the cross? Psalm 22:8 talks of this deliverance. To Mark the significance of this is that Jesus actually stayed on the cross because he was the Messiah. He could have saved himself but the Messiah had to suffer and die in this way for a reason.

  • ‘At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.’ Was this a solar eclipse perhaps? Whatever it was, it lasted fro three hours, from the 6th hour (12 noon) until the 9th hour (3pm). Perhaps Mark was thinking of the prophecy in Amos 8:9b, ‘I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight’. Darkness suggests that something terrible was happening. God was at work and in control, even as this act of great importance was unfolding.

  • Mark wanted to show the importance of Jesus’ suffering and death, and Jesus’ words helped this too. Mark only records the words, ‘Eli, Eli lama, sabachthani?’ – Aramaic for ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ – the first line of Psalm 22. Was this a cry of despair as Jesus was about to die, deserted by the Father? Or did Jesus die before he could finish the Psalm?

  • Some of the people watching thought that Jesus was calling for Elijah the prophet. Traditionally, Elijah had been linked to the arrival of the Messiah, while some also believed he would come to help good people in trouble.

The death of Jesus

  • As Jesus died, the Temple curtain was torn in two. He had taught that the Temple should be for all believers to meet with God but the curtain had separated the Holy of Holies, from the rest. Only the High Priest could go into this section, under strict guidelines. The Holy of Holies had contained the Ark of the Covenant in the time of Solomon, but it was no longer there. Mark included this detail because the torn curtain symbolises the breakdown of the barrier separating people from God brought about by Jesus’ death. The old, exclusive religion of the Jews is replaced by the inclusive gospel of Christianity.

  • The Roman centurion summed up the events: ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ (Mark 15:39). Some people suggest that he was being sarcastic, but more likely he recognized Jesus as being the Messiah. The Romans would call their great heroes ‘a son of God’ or ‘a son of the gods’. Mark would have included this to show that the first person to show faith in Jesus after his death was a Gentile. For Mark, as for the centurion and Christians ever since, Jesus was the Son of God who died on the cross.

Be ready to answer

  1. Mark used several Old Testament references to underline the idea that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. List the ways in which Mark shows links between Jesus and Old Testament prophecies.

  2. What is the meaning and significance of the crucifixion for Mark?

  3. Jesus had to be crucified’ Do you agree? Give 3 reasons for your answer. Give 3 reasons why someone may disagree with you.

  4. Explain why the crucifixion is important for Mark.

3.8– Why is the crucifixion important for Christians today?
So what does this mean to Christians today? Why did Jesus have to die?

Christians have different views on Jesus’ crucifixion.





Christians believe that Jesus died to overcome the Original Sin that had separated people from God since the Garden on Eden. His sacrifice ‘atoned’ for the sins of humanity. This teachihng is called the ‘atonement’



Good Work






Many Christians believe that there is nothing they can do to get back in contact with God- no good works, no religion, no philosophy and no morality will bridge that gap.

Jesus’ sacrifice

Many Christians view Jesus’ death as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices because Jesus gives his blood voluntarily so that every person can bridge the gap between God and humanity. The diagrams below explain this idea.

In the 21st century some people may feel that this idea shows God as harsh and cruel in condemning his own son to suffering and death. Besides this, they reject the idea that God needed a perfect sacrifice. However, Jesus chose to be that sacrifice.








Lack of purpose



Abundant Life

Eternal Life

Christians believe Jesus was sent by God the Father to show people a way back to himself- to reconcile people to God.

Some Christians believe that God was offended by the sins of the people so that Jesus’ death was necessary to repay the debt. Jesus could repay this debt because he alone was perfect, and nothing less than perfection would satisfy God’s sense of justice.

A ransom for many

Other Christians think about this in a different way.

Mark wrote that Jesus gave ‘his life as a ransom for many’. A ransom is a sum of money demanded for the release of somebody who is being held prisoner – a payment to ensure the release of the victim.

This ransom had to be paid to free people from their sin and bring them back to God.

God showed his love for humans to such an extent that he was prepared to allow Jesus to die on the cross as this ransom that would enable humanity to come back to him.

This view is explained by Paul who wrote: ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:8

Christians who do not agree with this view may ask why God would need a ransom to allow people to come back to him?
Why did Jesus have to die?

Death and suffering were never in God’s original plan. When God created Adam and Eve his plan was for them to live in a perfect environment (paradise). Because He wanted a relationship and not a new model of robots He gave humans the right of choice. Stay with Him or not. The freedom to be or not to be with a person is what determines a mature relationship.

Humans chose to live away from God and that is called sin. Sin is whatever comes in between and breaks the relationship of God and humans. The outcome of sin is death (spiritual). Death is total separation from God. Even though a human might have life in his body he might, at the same time, be dead spiritually. So humans, who were created to live in the perfect place (paradise), are now found to live in the worst state. Being dead, separated from the purpose of their creation.

God loved His creatures so much that it was impossible for Him to keep seeing them living separated from Him. There was a problem though. God, because He is just, couldn’t erase sin. His character is such that could not just overlook what had happened. Humans were separated from Him (dead) and the only way for that gap to be bridged was that someone else dies in their position. An exchange needed to be made for justice to prevail (remember the example with the just judge whose son is condemned to life sentence because of murder but instead of him paying the price his father, the judge, steps down from his sit and takes his position). Since all humans are sinners and nobody can die for someone else’s sins the only solution was for God to become human and complete this mission (since He is the only one without any sin).

So in the person of Jesus Christ we can find God becoming human, going through every difficulty and temptation we go through and at the end we, His creatures, lead Him to death (in the worst possible way). So at the time of crucifixion Jesus collected all the sins of the world gathered together. So it was finished. The road towards God is open. The price for justice is paid, the exchanged has been made. Only one think is left. That every human, freely, will accept God’s offering. That every human will say “I don’t want to live my life separated from the purpose of my creation, living for something less, but I want to live life to the maximum, knowing why I was created and find full joy in living for it”. That’s why Jesus had to die. Paying the price of our mistakes. Out of love, because no one else could do it.
Be ready to answer

  1. If Jesus had not been crucified, there would have been no Christianity.’ Write 3 reasons why you might agree with this statement. Give 3 reasons why someone may disagree with you.

  2. Explain why the crucifixion is important for Christians today.

Resource sheet 3.8

Why did Jesus have to die?

Jesus could have avoided his arrest and all that followed, but he seemed to believe that it was his destiny.

• He deliberately put himself in danger by going to Jerusalem, having warned the disciples about what was in store for him.

• He claimed to be the Jewish Messiah by going to Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

• He knew Judas was going out to betray him from the Last Supper, but he did nothing to stop him going to the Chief Priests.

• He knew Judas would bring the soldiers to arrest him in Gethsemane, but he still went to pray in

the garden.

• Even when he was on trial he did not try to defend himself or prove his innocence. Pilate seemed to want to find a way to release him, yet still he made no attempt to plead for his life.

The Son of Man gave his life as a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:45)

When Jesus said this, what did he mean?

It would appear that in some way, by dying, Jesus was able to take away the punishment that sinners deserved because of the sins they had committed. Sin happens when a person goes against the will of God because they are breaking God’s Law. When someone sins it puts up a barrier between them and God. By his death Jesus paid the ransom which, in a sense, was the price of sin.

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