Quite a few people were present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, maybe as many as 100 (see below). There was a large crowd of people (Luke 23:27), the women who accompanied Jesus (Luke 23:49), Mary Jesus’ Mother, Mary’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25), the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:26), the centurion (Matt. 27:54), chief priests, scribes, elders (Matt. 27:41), along with the people and the rulers (Luke 23:35). A lot of people were there.
However, the gospels do not directly name any of the disciples as being present. Nevertheless, at the crucifixion, there was “the disciple whom He loved” (John 19:26). Most presume him to be John, the apostle, because it says in John 13:23, “There was reclining on Jesus bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”
Is there a contradiction?
In light of this, we have to ask if there’s a contradiction when dealing with Matt. 26:56, where it says that “all the disciples left him and fled.” This does not necessitate a contradiction for the following reasons. First, when it says “all the disciples left Him,” it could be an exaggeration with the use of the word ‘all.’ Such embellishments are frequent in the New Testament. For example, “Now in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth” (Luke 2:1). This did not include the people in Australia and Japan. In Acts 11:28 it states that there was a “great famine all over the world.” Was there? Or was Luke conveying an exaggeration for emphasis? You can read more on this idea of the biblical use of the word all by reading the article “Words mean what they mean in context – All.”
Second, it could be that literally every one of the disciples fled, and John returned later. So, no problem.
It would be natural for the disciples to flee because they didn’t want to be persecuted and crucified like Jesus. The historical context is important here. At the time of Christ, Israel was under the rule of Rome. Furthermore, Israel was a strategically important area for travel and military movement. This is why Rome was in control of Israel at that time. The Jews did not want to unsettle the balance of power that Rome and Israel had because Rome frequently dealt harshly with insurrectionists. Crucifixion was one of the means used to implement discipline and control. The disciples would be aware of all of this and would naturally be very afraid of being crucified or imprisoned since they were followers of Jesus. So, they fled.
Lots of people means lots of witnesses.
According to Scripture, there were a lot of people at the crucifixion of Christ. This is important because the Gospels and the Book of Acts recount the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The gospel writers such as Matthew and John were disciples of Jesus and could write from memory. Mark (John Mark, Acts 12:12) was a disciple of Peter (1 Pet. 5:13). Luke accompanied Paul (Acts 16:10-13; Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11). They could easily have interviewed witnesses to the events and written them down – which certainly seems to be the case with the books of Luke and Acts (Luke 1:1–3 and Acts 1:1–2). Such a large amount of witnesses adds to the credibility of the records found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts.
A crowd of people Luke 23:27, “And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him.”
The women who accompanied Him Luke 23:49, “And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
Mary Jesus’ Mother, Mary’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene John 19:25, “Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
Mary and the disciple whom Jesus loved John 19:26–27, “When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour, the disciple took her into his own household.”
Centurian Matt. 27:54, “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (See also Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47)
Chief priests, scribes, and elders Matt. 27:41, “In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying,” (Also found in Mark 15:31)
People and the rules Luke 23:35, “And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” (See also John 19:21)
Guessing at the number of people at Jesus’ crucifixion: 100
There is no way to know precisely how many people were at the crucifixion of Christ. But what might we find if I ventured a guess and assigned numbers to the texts listed above? The biblical references as to who was present at Jesus’ crucifixion are in groups and individuals. There is a “crowd of people (Luke 23:27), chief priests, scribes, and elders (Matt. 27:41), and people and the rulers (Luke 23:35). Again, there is no way to know exactly how many people this entails. But, given the population of the area where there were many thousands of people, we could say a crowd of onlookers might have been as large as 50, especially considering the popularity of Jesus. Of course, this is just a guess. The chief priests, scribes, and elders are spoken of in Matt. 27:41 might be 10 to 20. After all, they wanted to make sure Jesus was dead. I will average that number to 15. That would bring our total to 65. Then there’s the people and the rulers of Luke 24:35. I have no idea how many that would be in, so I’ll add another 15. That would bring us to a total of 80.
The individuals listed who were present at Jesus’ crucifixion totaled six. This includes the four women spoken of in John 19:25: Mary Jesus’s mother, Mary’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. There’s also the disciple Jesus loved (John 19:26) and the centurion (Matt. 27:54). This brings the total to 86. If we also add various Roman soldiers who would be there for crowd control and the actual implementation of crucifixion, we could add another 10 to 20. I would average this out to 15. This would bring the number to about 100 people present at the crucifixion of Christ. And, finally, there are probably many more looking on from a distance, as well.
This is just guesswork, but it served as an illustration that there were a lot of people present at the crucifixion, many of whom were followers of Christ.