Jesus Saves Others by Not Saving Himself, part 2
"A class hated for their abominations [is] called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…."
So wrote the Roman historian Tacitus in 116 AD. This record is one of the earliest non-Christian references to the origins of Christianity and to the execution of Christ by the Romans. Most historians believe Tacitus’ account to be an authentic confirmation of the crucifixion of Christ. Even skeptics and critics have to admit that the Romans crucified Jesus.
We didn’t need Tacitus’ account to know about Jesus’ crucifixion, but it is helpful to know that there is solid historical evidence proving that Jesus “suffered the extreme penalty” under Pontius Pilate. In the Gospel accounts, we have four separate but very similar records of Jesus’ crucifixion. What we have before us is some of the most well-verified historical information from the ancient world.
This is part 2 of a message I started two weeks ago. Last time we considered Jesus on the way to the cross. Simon of Cyrene had carried the cross part of the way to Calvary. Jesus spoke to the mourners and revealed to them that they would soon be suffering a great disaster themselves. Then we looked at how Luke described the crucifixion. The soldiers took Jesus outside the city walls to a place called Calvary and crucified him along with two criminals. As the soldiers were gambling for his clothes and as the Jewish leaders were mocking him, Jesus asked God to forgive them. And the last thing we mentioned was that Pilate ordered a placard to be affixed to the cross above Jesus’ head with the words “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”