I wondered, as I awoke several times between Maundy Thursday night and Good Friday morning, what the chances are that Jesus got any sleep between his arrest and his crucifixion.
I’m inclined to doubt it.
We have nothing to go on but the gospel accounts, of course, but they suggest Jesus was anything but serene while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, though he appears nothing but calm in interacting with Judas, the temple guard, and his fearful disciples.
Jesus’ captors hauled him to the high priest’s house that night, where he faced the indignities of being beaten, blindfolded, and spat upon, though still short of the barbarous lashing that would come the next day. Much of the narrative is given to Peter’s late-night or early morning string of denials, which Luke says Jesus observed.
After Jesus’ initial interview at the high priest’s house, the synoptics take the story up again “As soon as it was morning” (Matt. 27:1, Mark 15:1, Luke 22:66), though they don’t mention any opportunity for slumber. Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane had occurred so late that the disciples were already sleeping, the “trial” before Caiaphas seems to have been a middle-of-the-night affair, and Peter’s third denial is marked by the crowing of a rooster, which usually takes place just before daybreak.
So it’s likely that Jesus had little opportunity for rest before facing the long cruel day with a cross at the end of it. Perhaps there was an hour here or there when he might have been allowed to sit in a dark corner while the priests argued among themselves or waited until the governor’s office opened for business.
But even so, could he have slept, knowing what was to come?
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.