Various people were at the cross for differing reasons.
We know that God sent Jesus to earth as a pathway to salvation for Gentiles or those without Jewish backgrounds. Jesus became the sacrifice so humanity could access God’s forgiveness. We know Jesus was convicted of blasphemy because He was God’s Son. His accusers beat Him and made another man carry His cross. Jesus was crucified on the cross between two thieves, but who was there when He was crucified?
What led to Jesus’ crucifixion?
Before His betrayal, Jesus was prepared for burial. Matthew 26 tells the tale of a woman with an alabaster box pouring precious ointment on His head. Those gathered with Him questioned why she did it, seeing it as a waste. Still, Jesus asked the crowd not to bother her because she was preparing Him for burial. Judas went to one of the chief priests, asking what they would give to turn over Jesus. From the moment they told him they only wanted 30 pieces of silver, Judas sought to betray Jesus.
At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him. When Judas asked if he would be the betrayer, Jesus said, “Thou hast said.” He also said it would be better if the betrayer were never born. Later in Matthew 27, Judas hung himself after betraying Jesus. The Bible says all of Jesus’ disciples fled and forsook Him. Many declared they wouldn’t leave, while Peter denied Jesus three times.
Who was at the cross when Jesus died?
The story of Jesus’ crucifixion starts at the point He was betrayed. From that point until His death, specific people were involved in the final stages of Jesus’ life.
By the time Judas betrayed Jesus, He was already a wanted man. His preaching upset the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the Pharisees, but the final straw was His storming the temples and accusing the leaders of turning God’s house into a market. His arrest was unavoidable. Judas’ role was to lead the group of men to Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. After betraying Jesus, Judas returned the silver and ultimately hung himself.
Before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was tried by Caiaphas. As one of Jerusalem’s most influential and revered high priests, Caiaphas’ involvement in Jesus’ crucifixion is the most significant. Jesus threatened Caiaphas’ power, so he had to stop Him by any means necessary. Jesus was unfairly tried in a manipulated court at Caiaphas’ house, where he took on the role of judge and prosecutor. Jesus was accused of blasphemy in the following hours and sentenced to death. However, without the power to order an execution, Caiaphas asked for the help of the Roman authorities.
In 63 BC, the Romans invaded Palestine, so they were in power during Jesus’ time. Pontius Pilate was in charge of Jerusalem and wasn’t interested in Jesus, except he felt Jesus threatened to disrupt the peace. So when Caiaphas brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate, it was for sedition, not blasphemy, which would’ve been meaningless to Pilate. Still, Pilate said Jesus was innocent, but it didn’t end there.
Pilate’s decision didn’t sit well with the gathered crowd, who also believed Jesus was guilty. While acknowledging that Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, Pilate didn’t want the protesting group to transform into a riotous mob, especially during Passover. So he exercised the tradition of letting a prisoner go on Passover, hoping the crowd would free Jesus and punish someone else. Barabbas, a well-known prisoner, was alongside Jesus, and the crowd was invited to free one of them. Instead of choosing Jesus’ freedom, the group opted to save Barabbas, leaving Pilate no choice but to condemn Jesus to death before washing his hands of the ordeal.
Simon of Cyrene.
Jesus was beaten and taken to Golgotha for crucifixion. The cross that He died on was carried behind Jesus by a man the Bible calls Simon of Cyrene. We don’t know much about this event, but three of the four gospels mention him by name. In all versions of the crucifixion, we can understand that Simon was forced to carry Jesus’ cross by the guards, but what was his significance? So far, he was the only person that did nothing to harm Jesus and momentarily eased His suffering.
Like Simon of Cyrene, Mary Magdalene was a relief during all this horror. The Bible says that Jesus cured one of her demons, and all of the gospels, aside from Luke, say she witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Maybe even more significantly, it was to Mary that Jesus first appeared after His death. We should note that some scholars think Saint Mary Magdalene, or Mary of Magdala, isn’t one but two or three separate people. Still, none of these beliefs diminish the significance of her presence during Jesus’ final hours.
The other Marys.
St. John notes that Jesus’ mother, Mary, also witnessed the crucifixion, but it gets slightly confusing. The gospels say that as many as four Marys were present at Jesus’ crucifixion. St. John says Jesus’ mother, Mary of Magdala and Mary, the wife of Cleopas, possibly Jesus’ aunt, were also there. St. Mark and St. Matthew believe another Mary, James’ or Joseph’s mother, was there.
Longinus was the name given to the anonymous soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with his spear. His name arguably comes from the Greek word for “spear tip” because so little is known about him. According to Luke and Mark, an anonymous Roman Centurion also comes up in the gospels. In this version, the soldier announced that he believed Jesus was the Son of God.
Jesus died on the cross so that we may live. We should spend our time witnessing. We don’t know when Jesus will return to collect the church, as the Bible says He’ll come like a thief in the night. Jesus doesn’t even know when He’s returning because only God knows. It’s up to us to prepare and be ready for His return.