The Bible contains four accounts of the passion of Christ. Each of them tell the story from a different perspective – but each of them also leave out background stories and facts that are crucial to understanding the gravity of Christ’s trial, torture, and death on the cross.
It’s not that the Gospel writers intentionally left out important details. Instead, they wrote primarily to people who had been alive when Christ died. They had grown up in the same streets that Christ had walked, knew the people mentioned in the stories by name, and were familiar with the politics of the day. But for us modern readers diving into the story of the passion twenty centuries later, those details are essential to having a complete appreciation of the passion of Christ.
Read more: What Went Unrecorded in the Bible?
So, in order to fill in the gaps, Father Ralph Gorman gathered details from the Gospels, Old Testament prophesies, facts from Jewish and Roman history, intricacies of the laws of the day, and geographical information he gathered while spending three years in the Holy Land.
The result of his intensive research is The Last Hours of Jesus: From Gethsemane to Golgotha, a book that brings the passion of Christ to life like never before. You’ll learn amazing new information about the life of Christ from Father Gorman’s research. To give you a sneak peek of the scores of wealth of knowledge within the pages of Father Gorman’s new book, here are five facts about Christ’s passion that blew our minds:
1. Judas was on the only apostle who was not a Galilean
Although we don’t know much about Judas, we know that some of the Gospels refer to him as “Judas the Iscariot.” Translated, “Iscariot” means “man of Carioth”. This would mean that Judas, or at least some members of his family, came from Carioth Hesron in Judea. Because this would make Judas the only apostle who was not a Galiean, this could have caused some friction between Judas and the other apostles. H
“The people of Judea looked down upon the Galileans,” writes Father Gorman. “Galilee was at a distance from Jerusalem, the religious center of the nation, and was separated from it by heretical and racially impure province of Samaria.” If Judas was indeed from Carioth Hesron, it may have been difficult for him to be close to the other apostles. This is shown in the Gospels in their quarrels among themselves.
His heritage could have left Judas wondering about the authenticity of Christ’s message. “He may have even come to feel that the Kingdom preached by Christ was essentially a Galilean movement, and, as such, a rebellion of sorts against the supreme spiritual authority of Jerusalem,” Father Gorman explains.
2. Christ experienced fear in Gethsemane
Christ’s reaction to His coming death has puzzled scholars and philosophers for centuries. The pagan Celus questioned Christ’s prayer in the garden, writing: “Why then did he lament, why does he moan, why does he seek to avoid the death he dreads, saying: ‘Oh Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me?'” When viewed in light of the courage (and wry humor!) shown by the martyrs, Christ’ reaction to his upcoming crucifixion can leave us scratching our heads. Why was He afraid of his upcoming passion if He knew full well the reality of His redemptive suffering?
“We must make a clear distinction between fear and cowardice,” Father Gorman explains. “A coward is not one who fears but one who allows fear to overcome him. In Gethsemane, Christ feared, but in a terrible interior struggle, He completely conquered fear.” In the garden, Christians encounter Christ as lovable and approachable. Like us, he suffered and summoned courage to resist fear.
“Jesus’ struggle to overcome His natural fear is our model and inspiration in time of interior trials,” Father Gorman writes. “His agony teaches us better than any word that God does not despise or condemn the weakness of our human nature, that Christian virtue does not consist in callousness or stoical indifference but in dominating and controlling our human emotions.”
3. There was a reason Christ refused to answer his accusers
Have you ever wondered why Christ is silent during most of His trial? There’s a reason that He doesn’t respond to His accusers.
After the witnesses they had summoned contradicted each other’s testimonies, Annas and Caiaphas had to switch gears in order to condemn Christ. They decided to make Christ’s confession the crime for which he would be sentenced to death. Jesus was indifferent to the conflicting testimony, so Caiaphas himself began asking questions. He asked Christ, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”
Christ had not interacted with his accusers much during His trial. This mainly was because He did not want to enter into a discussion of testimony that was contradictory. But at Caiaphas’ question about Christ’s legitimacy, Christ answers. “Jesus tells them in effect that they are not seriously in search of information,” Father Gorman writes. “They have no more intention of believing Him now than they had when He taught publicly. Neither would they now answer His questions concerning the true role and nature of the Messiah, since but a few days before they had refused to answer His inquiries.”
The only time Christ answers questions during His trial is when he faces a challenge to His person and his mission. He gives clear, undeniable answers that left no doubt in the minds of His accusers. He finishes His response by declaring under oath, before the supreme court of his day, that He is the Son of God.
4. John may have been with Peter when he denied Christ
The Gospel of John reads, “Simon Peter was following Jesus and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.” But just who was the other disciple who was with Peter?
“We confess that we do not have a certain answer to that question,” answers Father Gorman. “From earliest times, however, it has been thought it was Saint John himself. John seems to be giving an indication that he knew what happened because he was there.”
John and Peter had developed a friendship throughout the Gospels. Together, they had been called by Christ to leave their boats and become fishers of men. They had been allowed to follow Christ into the house of Jairus to witness the miracle of raising a young girl from the dead. Finally, it is these two who run to the tomb after hearing that Christ is not buried there anymore. John more than likely knew a servant in the house of the Annas or Caiaphas and had no trouble entering the courtyard.
5. Christ carried the crossbeam of the cross up to Calvary
Modern research has left us with a large amount of detail concerning crucifixions. Although John refers to the cross as if Christ carried the whole cross up to the site of His death, Father Gorman believes that it was more likely that Christ carried the crossbeam of the wood He would soon die on.
“This part of the cross,” Father Gorman explains, “probably weighed between seventy-five and a hundred pounds, and the whole cross two hundred or more. It is doubtful if a man weakened by scourging could have stood up under the weight of the entire cross. It is possible that His arms were fastened by ropes to the crossbeam.”
Want to learn more about the details of Christ’s passion and death? Father Gorman’s newest book is a perfect read for the upcoming Lenten season. To find out exactly why the “Hosannas” of Palm Sunday led so quickly to “Crucify Him!” on Good Friday, pick up a copy of The Last Hours of Jesus: From Gethsemane to Golgotha at your local Catholic bookstore or online here.