Life Of Christ:
Jesus Before Annas
Jesus Before Caiphas
Jesus Before Pilate
Jesus Before Herod
Jesus Is Condemned To Death
Way Of The Cross
Crucifixion Of Jesus
Seven Last Words Of Jesus
Miraculous Events At Our Lord's Death
Side Of Jesus Pierced With A Lance
Read More Articles About: Life Of Christ
Crucifixion Of Jesus
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
JESUS at length reached the spot where He was to suffer the worst punishment His enemies could inflict. In order to degrade Him in the eyes of His nation, they caused Him to be led thither in company with two malefactors, who were about to receive the just re-ward of their crimes. "And there were also two others, malefactors, led with Him, to be put to death." (Luke XXiii. 32.) By this additional ignominy, however, the enemies of Jesus unconsciously fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias, who said of Our Lord : "He was reputed with the wicked." (Is. liii. 12.) As He stood upon the brow of Calvary, meekly awaiting the completion of the arrangements for His death, there was offered to Him, according to custom, a draught of wine mingled with myrrh. "And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh, but He took it not." (Mark xv. 23.) Our Lord just put His lips to the cup that He might taste of its bitterness, and then refused the draught, that He might be able to drain the chalice of suffering to the very dregs; for this wine was given to criminals who were about to die, fo, the purpose of deadening their senses to the agony of their torments. He was then stripped of His garments.
This inflicted upon Him a twofold torment: one of physical pain, by reopening once more all the wounds He had received in His cruel scourging; the other of moral torture, by exposing Him naked to the gaze of the multitude. Being thus made ready for the sacrifice, He was thrown upon the cross, and the revolting scene of His crucifixion began.
A huge nail was fixed upon the palm of one hand, and the point driven home by the blows of a hammer, through the quivering flesh and muscles, into the wood of the transverse beam. Then seizing the other arm, which had shrunk in the agony of this cruel torture, the executioners stretched and pulled it till the hand reached the spot marked in the wood for the nail. Again the blows were struck, and again the nail was driven into the wood of the cross. The sacred feet of the unresisting Saviour were then drawn down and fastened into the place marked for them. How fearful must this spectacle have been! We cannot bear to look upon a trivial surgical operation; how could we have stood by while Jesus suffered this terrible agony for us? There He lay, crushed beneath the weight of the world's iniquity, silent and uncomplaining. After a few moments the soldiers came, and, raising the cross aloft, carried it to the hole which had been made in the ground to receive it. There it was finally secured, and the disfigured, scourge-torn, bleeding form of Our Lord appeared high above the heads of all, a spectacle unto angels and men.
Look at your Lord and Master as He hangs upon the cross, and learn from Him a lesson of patience and resignation. No word of repining, no murmur of complaint will ever break from the lips of him who fixes his eyes upon that torn and bleeding Victim. It matters not how sorely he may be tried, either by anguish of mind or pain of body, his sum of woe cannot even be compared with that ocean of sorrow which deluged the heart of Jesus. " O all ye that pass the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to My sorrow." (Lament. 1. 12.)
You may be tempted severely by the devil ; he may give you no rest day or night, but fill your mind with foul images, whisper filthy suggestions into your ear, and affright you with his illusions. This is a sore trial, but it cannot equal the cross. Your heart may be oppressed with despondency; your spirit may faint within you, and all hope seemingly die out of your soul; yet, dark and God-forsaken as your life may appear, it cannot equal the gloom and abandonment of the cross. Even when all you undertake fails miserably, and a blight falls upon the plans which ought to succeed, reflect that your life cannot possibly be a greater failure than seemed the life of Our Lord, which closed amid the horrors of a public execution.
If corporal infirmities, such as sickness, should attack you, look at the cross, and you will bear the pain with patience. In the loss of all that is dear to you, when parents die, when children are called away, when property is lost, or friends prove unfaithful, look at the cross: Jesus is there, stripped of all He possessed, deprived of His good name, abandoned by His disciples, without a spot on which to rest His dying head, or a friendly hand to wipe away the gathering sweat of death. There is no one nigh to Him but His loving Mother, whose presence does not assuage but rather augments His pain; and as for the few friends who with her have not feared to stand by the cross, their grief only serves to cut Him to the heart. Verily, then, does Jesus hang before us a Man of sorrows.
We must not, however, contemplate Jesus hanging on the cross merely for the purpose of making our own misfortunes bearable. We must meditate upon His. sufferings in order to obtain from Him, through their merits, that courage which will enable us to support the ills of life with that holy resignation which He displayed in the midst of His bitter passion. In times of temptation, when the weary and harassed soul begins to sigh for rest, and to think that, perhaps, it would be better to yield, the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross will inspire us with a willingness to bear that which, after all, is a mere nothing compared with the misery of sin. It will tell us to be brave and generous, and not to fling down our arms under the very eyes of our Chief, who has borne the brunt of the fight, and broken for us the might of our adversary's arm. In times of dejection it will bid us hope on, and wait confidently for the moment when God shall visit us again. Did not the dark pall of disgrace and of death hang gloomily enough over the crucified form of Our Lord on Calvary? Yet there was in store for Him the glorious day of His resurrection. So, also, will it be with us. We are in darkness and in sorrow now, but let us wait patiently for the Lord, and He will give us the desire of our hearts. And if our projects do fail, even so we must not lose courage. The recollection of Our Lord's perseverance in a career which, to the eyes of men, seemed to be an utter failure, ought to enable us to go on hopefully and perseveringly, till we win our crown. In sickness and in pain, a glance at the cross will remind us that it was for our sins that God struck His only Son; and we shall be comforted and strengthened to bear patiently our illness, by the thought that we are making some little atonement for our sins, and helping Our Lord to carry their heavy weight. And should death take away those who are dear to us, or should false friends desert us in the days when fortune smiles not upon us, still when we look at the cross we feel assured that there is One, at least, who will stand by us to the last, to soothe and to comfort us, because we have ever turned to Him to learn how to bear our sorrows and our trials, and have made them bearable by seeing that none of them can be compared to His.
O adorable crucified hands of my Saviour, so bountiful in dispensing blessings and goods of every kind to Thy creatures, but now so frightfully lacerated on account of my sins! I salute ye; and kiss ye, and press ye to my heart. O beloved sacred feet of my Saviour, although ye have always trodden the path of virtue, and hurried about eager to carry blessings to all, ye are now torn with harsh and jagged nails for my sins! I would wash away your blood with my tears. O precious blood of my Saviour, flowing from the wounds in hands and feet cleanse me, heal the wounds that sin has made in my soul !
" And they that passed blasphemed Him, wagging their heads, and saying: Vah, Thou that destroyest the Temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again : save Thyself, coming down from the cross. In like manner also the chief priests, mocking, said with the scribes one to another: He saved others, Himself He cannot save. Let Christ, the king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with Him reviled Him." (Mark xv. 29-32.) What a spectacle was this ! Men, the chiefs and leaders of the people, so far forget both themselves and the sanctity of their office as to mingle with a crowd of scoffers, cursing and reviling their now helpless Victim. They put the word of scorn, of bitter taunt, into the mouths of those who had not wit enough to frame it for them-selves, and so led the chorus of hate and malignity which struck upon the ears of Christ dying upon the cross.
How deeply must these insults have wounded the heart of Our Lord! The priests and scribes jeered at Him for four things in which He took the greatest glory. In the first place, they derided His power. If He was, as He pretended to be, the Son of God, where was that omnipotence which must have been His in consequence of His divine nature? He had not been able to frustrate the treacherous design of a false disciple, nor to escape from His captors. He could not ward off the blows showered down upon Him, nor avoid the sentence of death, nor loose Himself from the cross. "He saved others, Him-self He cannot save." Therefore all His miraculous works were nothing better than cunning impostures, contrived and executed by the aid of the devil.
In the next place, they sneered at His royalty. " If He be the king of Israel, let Him come down from the cross. There He hangs, this so-called king! A king without subjects, crowned with thorns, with a reed for His sceptre and a gibbet for His throne!" They forgot that He had said: " My kingdom is not of this world ;" that the day was coming when they should see Him seated upon the throne of His majesty. Their shouts of rage had drowned all this.
Furthermore, they dared to jeer at Him even for the confidence which He placed in God. They cried "Where is that boasted trust of His in God? If such a man as He ever had any trust in God, let God now show that suck was the case. Let Him prove that this criminal is innocent, by coming to deliver Him; for if He is His Son, God will surely claim His own."
Finally, to crown all their profane and blasphemous injuries, they insult Him for saying that He is the Son of God. At His trial they charged Him with blasphemy for having uttered the words, and shrieked out that He was worthy of death for daring to usurp such a title; and now they taunt Him with it. Jesus, on His cross, could dimly see them through the mist of blood and the shadows of death which were falling over His eyes. He was dying to save them, and they were looking up at Him, jeering at Him, wagging their heads in mockery, and gloating over Him in the bitter agony of His death. All the time the crimson drops were falling one by one upon the earth; He generously gave all His blood to save them, but they would not have it; they trampled it under their feet in the dust.
Do not imagine that the mockers of Jesus have ceased to exist. The impiety of those who dared to insult Him in His death has been imitated, and is still imitated at the present day. Some, like the Roman soldiers, deride Him by their unbelief; others, like the Jewish people, by their wicked lives. And, again, there are others, like the priests and ancients, who turn the special gifts and favors bestowed upon them by God into so many instruments with which to offend Him. Take a glance at your past and present, and see whether you ought to count yourself among those who reviled and jeered at Our Lord. If the past has upon its records many a dark ac-count scored up against you, let us hope that tears of repentance have long since cancelled your debt. But look well to the present, and see whether you are not hurried away with the crowd, and mixed up with those who jeer at Christ, by trampling under foot His holy law.
" And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it on the cross. And the writing was: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. This title, therefore, many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city : and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: Write not, the King of the Jews, but that He said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered: What I have written, I have written." (John xix. 19-22.) Admirable dispensation of Providence! The decree of the eternal Father guides the very hand of the unjust judge to write in the inscription no other charge and no other cause of condemnation, but that Jesus was really and truly the Messias foretold by the prophets, a Nazarene, and king of the Jews. Of this inscription we are reminded by the four letters L N. R. I., which we see at the top of every crucifix, and which are the initials of the Latin words, Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum—" Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews." We may, moreover, be reminded also of another inscription, or handwriting, alluded to by St. Paul, saying: " Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us, and He hath taken the same away, fastening it to the cross." (Col. ii. 14.) What is the meaning of this handwriting? It is nothing more or less than the sin-record of man, blotted out by the Redeemer. Rejoice, O sinful mankind! This bill of indictment has been nailed to the cross, and cancelled by the saving blood of Jesus Christ. Henceforth no man shall perish on account of his sins; for if he perish, it will be only because he failed to apply this saving blood to his soul, by faith, hope, charity, and obedience.
PRAYER TO BE SAID BEFORE A CRUCIFIX.
Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while be-fore Thy face I humbly kneel and with burning soul pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; the while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Thy five wounds, pondering over them within me, whilst I call to mind the words which David, Thy prophet, said of Thee, my Jesus "They pierced My hands and feet; they numbered all My bones." (Ps. xxi. 17, 18.)
NOTE.—For the above prayer Pope Pius IX., July 31st, 1858, granted a plenary indulgence, when it is said contritely and with devotion, after confession and communion, before an image or picture of our crucified Redeemer, and praying, at the same time, for the Sovereign Pontiff.