Question: "How long was Jesus on the cross?"

“So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, “I am the Son of God.”’” (Matthew 27:41-43). Crucifixion was the method the ancient Roman Empire used to carry out the death penalty for those found guilty of a capital offense.

The Jewish theocrats, in order to eliminate Jesus and maintain their power, devised a plan to convince Roman authorities that Jesus must be killed (Mark 14:1; cf. John 19:12; 19:15). The Jewish leaders accused Christ of encouraging rebellion and proclaiming Himself as King. This is how Jesus ended up on a Roman cross rather than being stoned to death, the ancient Jewish method of execution.

Crucifixion was designed not only to kill but to dissuade others from criminal actions. Victims of crucifixion were to be humiliated, often left to hang completely naked. The cross carried a stigma, and Jewish Law said it brought a curse (Galatians 3:13; 5:11). The term excruciating literally means "out of crucifying"; crucifixion was an “excruciating” way to die because it was a very slow and painful means to death. Depending on the circumstance, some people could live for days after being nailed to a cross.

“And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews’” (Mark 15:24-26). Christ’s crucifixion began at 9:00 A.M., according to Mark (based on the Jewish method of calculating time). John said it was “about the sixth hour” when Pilate sentenced Jesus (John 19:14), which means John used the Roman method of calculating time (which counted the hours from midnight), so John’s “sixth hour” would have been 6:00 A.M.

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45). The sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3:00 P.M.) was Jesus’ final three hours on the cross. At the end of that time, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50). Jesus had been on the cross from approximately 9:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M., a total of six hours. Notice the language used in Matthew 27:50: “yielded up his spirit.” Christ voluntarily gave His life as an act of His will; no one took it from Him (John 10:17-18). Oh, the riches and depths of His grace and mercy!