The Son of God was delivered to the people to be crucified. They led the dear Saviour away. He was weak and feeble through pain and suffering, caused by the scourging and blows which he had received, yet they laid on him the heavy cross upon which they were soon to nail him. But Jesus fainted beneath the burden. Three times they laid on him the heavy cross, and three times he fainted. They then seized one of his followers, a man who had not openly professed faith in Christ, yet believed on him. They laid on him the cross, and he bore it to the fatal spot. Companies of angels were marshaled in the air above the place. A number of his disciples followed him to Calvary in sorrow, and with bitter weeping. They called to mind Jesus' riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, and they following him, crying, Hosanna in the highest! and strewing their garments in the way, and the beautiful palm branches. They thought that he was then to take the kingdom and reign a temporal prince over Israel. How changed the scene! How blighted their prospects! They followed Jesus; not with rejoicing; not with bounding hearts and cheerful hopes; but with hearts stricken with fear and despair they slowly, sadly followed him who had been disgraced and humbled, and who was about to die.
The mother of Jesus was there. Her heart was pierced with anguish, such as none but a fond mother can feel. Her stricken heart still hoped, with the disciples, that her Son would work some mighty miracle, and deliver himself from his murderers. She could not endure the thought that he would suffer himself to be crucified. But the preparations were made, and they laid Jesus upon the cross. The hammer and the nails were brought. The heart of his disciples fainted within them. The mother of Jesus was agonized, almost beyond endurance, and as they stretched Jesus upon the cross, and were about to fasten his hands with the cruel nails to the wooden arms, the disciples bore the mother of Jesus from the scene, that she might not hear the crashing of the nails, as they were driven through the bone and muscle of his tender hands and feet. Jesus murmured not; but groaned in agony. His face was pale, and large drops of sweat stood upon his brow. Satan exulted in the sufferings which the Son of God was passing through, yet feared that his kingdom was lost, and that he must die.
They raised the cross after they had nailed Jesus to it, and with great force thrust it into the place prepared for it in the ground, tearing the flesh, and causing the most intense suffering. They made his death as shameful as possible. With him they crucified two thieves, one on either side of Jesus. The thieves were taken by force, and after much resistance on their part, their arms were thrust back and nailed to their crosses. But Jesus meekly submitted. He needed no one to force his arms back upon the cross. While the thieves were cursing their executioners, Jesus in agony prayed for his enemies, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. It was not merely agony of body which Jesus endured, but the sins of the whole world were upon him.
As Jesus hung upon the cross, some who passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, as though bowing to a king, and said to him, Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. The Devil used the same words to Christ in the wilderness, If thou be the Son of God. The chief priests and elders and scribes mockingly said, He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. The angels who hovered over the scene of Christ's crucifixion were moved to indignation as the rulers derided him, and said, If he be the Son of God let him deliver himself. They wished there to come to the rescue of Jesus, and deliver him; but they were not suffered to do so. The object of his mission was almost accomplished. As Jesus hung upon the cross those dreadful hours of agony, he did not forget his mother. She could not remain away from the suffering scene. Jesus' last lesson was one of compassion and humanity. He looked upon his mother, whose heart was well nigh bursting with grief, and then upon his beloved disciple John. He said to his mother, Woman, behold thy Son. Then said he to John, Behold thy mother. And from that hour John took her to his own house.
Jesus thirsted in his agony; but they heaped upon him additional insult, by giving him vinegar and gall to drink. The angels had viewed the horrid scene of the crucifixion of their loved commander, until they could behold no longer; and veiled their faces from the sight. The sun refused to look upon the dreadful scene. Jesus cried with a loud voice, which struck terror to the hearts of his murderers, It is finished. Then the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom, the earth shook, and the rocks rent. Great darkness was upon the face of the earth. The last hope of the disciples seemed swept away as Jesus died. Many of his followers witnessed the scene of his sufferings and death, and their cup of sorrow was full.
Satan did not then exult as he had done. He had hoped that he could break up the plan of salvation; but it was laid too deep. And now by Jesus' death, he knew that he must finally die, and his kingdom be taken away and given to Jesus. He held a council with his angels. He had prevailed nothing against the Son of God, and now they must increase their efforts, and with their cunning and power turn to Jesus' followers. They must prevent all they could from receiving salvation purchased for them by Jesus. By so doing Satan could still work against the government of God. Also it would be for his own interest to keep from Jesus all he could. For the sins of those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, and overcome, at last will be rolled back upon the originator of sin, the Devil, and he will have to bear their sins, while those who do not accept salvation through Jesus will bear their own sins.
Jesus' life was without worldly grandeur, or extravagant show. His humble, self-denying life was a great contrast to the lives of the priests and elders, who loved ease and worldly honor, and the strict and holy life of Jesus was a continual reproof to them, on account of their sins. They despised him for his humbleness, holiness and purity. But those who despised him here, will one day see him in the grandeur of heaven, and the unsurpassed glory of his Father. He was surrounded with enemies in the judgment hall, who were thirsting for his blood; but those hardened ones who cried out, His blood be on us and on our children, will behold him an honored King. All the heavenly host will escort him on his way with songs of victory, majesty and might, to him that was slain, yet lives again a mighty conqueror. Poor, weak, miserable man spit in the face of the King of glory, while a shout of brutal triumph arose from the mob at the degrading insult. They marred that face with blows and cruelty which filled all heaven with admiration. They will behold that face again, bright as the noonday sun, and will seek to flee from before it. Instead of that shout of brutal triumph, in terror they will wail because of him. Jesus will present his hands with the marks of his crucifixion. The marks of this cruelty he will ever bear. Every print of the nails will tell the story of man's wonderful redemption, and the dear price that purchased it. The very men who thrust the spear into the side of the Lord of life, will behold the print of the spear, and will lament with deep anguish the part they acted in marring his body. His murderers were greatly annoyed by the superscription, The King of the Jews, placed upon the cross above his head. But then they will be obliged to see him in all his glory and kingly power. They will behold on his vesture and on his thigh, written in living characters, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. They cried to him mockingly, as he hung upon the cross, Let Christ the King of Israel descend from the cross, that we may see and believe. They will behold him then with kingly power and authority. They will demand no evidence then of his being the King of Israel; but overwhelmed with a sense of his majesty and exceeding glory, they will be compelled to acknowledge, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
The shaking of the earth, the rending of the rocks, the darkness spread over the earth, and the loud, strong cry of Jesus, It is finished, as he yielded up his life, troubled his enemies, and made his murderers tremble. The disciples wondered at these singular manifestations; but their hopes were all crushed. They were afraid the Jews would seek to destroy them also. Such hate manifested against the Son of God they thought would not end there. Lonely hours the disciples spent in sorrow, weeping over their disappointment. They expected that he would reign a temporal prince; but their hopes died with Jesus. They doubted in their sorrow and disappointment whether Jesus had not deceived them. His mother was humbled, and even her faith wavered in his being the Messiah.
But notwithstanding the disciples had been disappointed in their hopes concerning Jesus, yet they loved him, and respected and honored his body, but knew not how to obtain it. Joseph of Arimathea, an honorable counsellor, had influence, and was one of Jesus' true disciples. He went privately, yet boldly, to Pilate and begged his body. He dared not go openly; for the hatred of the Jews was so great that the disciples feared that an effort would be made by them to prevent the body of Jesus having an honored resting place. But Pilate granted his request, and as they took the body of Jesus down from the cross, their sorrows were renewed, and they mourned over their blighted hopes in deep anguish. They wrapped Jesus in fine linen, and Joseph laid him in his own new sepulchre. The women who had been his humble followers while he lived still kept near him after his death, and would not leave him until they saw his sacred body laid in the sepulchre, and a stone of great weight rolled at the door, lest his enemies should seek to obtain his body. But they need not have feared; for I beheld the angelic host watching with untold interest the resting place of Jesus. They guarded the sepulchre, earnestly waiting the command to act their part in liberating the King of glory from his prison house.
Christ's murderers were afraid that he might yet come to life and escape them. They begged of Pilate a watch to guard the sepulchre until the third day. Pilate granted them armed soldiers to guard the sepulchre, sealing the stone at the door, lest his disciples should steal him away, and say that he had risen from the dead.
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