Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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After Jesus had been relieved of the burden of the cross by
Simon the Cyrenian, the procession moved forward. It was the
custom for the heralds to carry the accusation of each convict
before him, written on a tablet whitened with gypsum. Some
such epigraph, we suppose, was carried before Jesus, as it was
afterwards nailed to the cross. The procession grew as it pro-
ceeded. People came forth of their houses. A great company
of persons had gathered, and there were many women among
them, drawn together by the strange curiosity

, , , which is felt to see those who are about to die.

oi Jerusalem.

These women, without special sympathy with
Jesus as a religious teacher, but having their womanly compas-
sions stirred by seeing the sufferings of a man whose appearance
contrasted with that of the robbers, who were also carrying their
crosses to the place of crucifixion, broke out into bewailing
lamentations. It was a touch of nature. The men were all
against him. The temper of the mob was opposed to any pity for
him. These women did not love him as tenderly as Mary of
Bethany, as passionately as Mary of Magdala ; but they were
women, and women instinctively know the true man ; and they



wept. It moved Jesus. It was the only incident on the way to
the crucifixion which seems to have arrested his attention. lie
said nothing when he fell beneath the cross. lie said nothing
when they lifted it from his shoulder and gave it to Simon. But
who can bear a woman's tears? Jesus turned and said to them,
:i Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for your-
selves, and for your children; for see! the days are coming in
which they shall say, ' Happy are the barren, and the wombs that
bare not, and the breasts that suckled not.' Then shall they begin
to say to the mountains, ' Fall on us ; ' and to the hills, ' Cover us.'
For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done
in the dry \ "

The spirit of prophecy came upon him. He seemed to see
what would occur on that spot forty years afterwards. Touched

by the womanly tribute of tears, he did not reiect T , .

J i ' •> Jesus prophesies.

the proffered sympathy, but seemed to feel that
he was gazing into the eyes of now happy young mothers whose
old age should be crushed by a catastrophe of the most over-
whelming character. lie forgot his grief in theirs. Beyond his
cross and sepulchre he saw the Roman investment of the holy
city, the siege, the suffering, the horrors, starving mothers snatch-
ing food out of the mouths of their own children, and other starv-
ing mothers killing and roasting and eating their own offspring;
while men and women and children went creeping through sub-
terranean passages and foulest sewers; and others, fleeing, hid
themselves in crevices of mountain rocks from the storm which
was sweeping Jerusalem. This address to the women was the last
utterance of patriotism which came from the month of Jesus.

He was then brought to a place which was called Golgotha in
the Hebrew tongue, meaning "Skull."* The site of the true
Calvary has of lute years been a subject of pro-
found interest to topographers. That the present
Church of the Holy Sepulchre is over the place where Jesus died,
as it is professed, cannot be believed by those who examine tho

* " Golgotha means Skull, and the
place is not called Kpaviuv tottos, i. e. ,
place of skulls, but Kpavlov, i. c, skull.
Luke uses Kpaviov." — Langs.

The word "Calvary" occurs in our
authorized version only once. Luke

xxiii. 3:3, and there it is not a proper
name in the original, but was adopted
literally by our translators. The He-
brew Octgotha, the Greek Krankm, and
the Latin Calvaria all mean the same
thing, a skull.


history and the spot free from the influence of tradition. Too
much stress has been laid on the erection of abasilica on this spot
in the early centuries. Churches may have been built to com-
memorate facts when there was no intent to designate sites, as we
know that the Church of the Ascension, built by the Empress
Helena, is not within sight of the spot from which Jesns ascended.
The true site must meet all the conditions of the history. These
are six, namely : 1. It was without the then existing walls of Je-
rusalem, Matt, xxvii. 31, 22; xxviii. 11; and Paul in Hebrews
xiii. 12. 2. It was near the city, John xix. 20. 3. It was popu-
larly known as " The Skull," Matt, xxvii. 33; Mark xv. 22; Luke
xxiii. 33 ; John xix. 27. 4. It was near a gate to a leading thor-
oughfare, Matt, xxvii. 39; Mark xv. 29; Luke xxiii. 26. 5. It was
a conspicuous spot, Matt, xxvii. 55; Mark xv. 10; Luke xxiii. 49.
6. It was near sepulchres and gardens, John xix. 38-42. Not one
of these propositions can be affirmed of the spot on which the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands, which is a low place in-
side the old walls, off the thoroughfares, and where no tombs would
be allowed. All these six particulars meet in an elevation called
the Grotto of Jeremiah, a short distance north of the Damascus
Gate. It is outside the city. It is near. It is conspicuously
shaped like a skull, and from almost every point of view reminds
the beholders of a skull. It is near what is still the entrance to
the great thoroughfare from the north of Judaea and all L^pper
Syria. It can be seen from almost every elevation about Jerusa-
lem, and looks down on hills that look down on the modern Church
of the Sepulchre. According to Joscphus, it was a place of tombs
and gardens; and even now "the number of rock tombs at this
place, and the extent and beauty of some of them, impress the
stranger with the wealth and splendor of the ancient Jewish capi-
tal." (Dr. Porter's Hand-look, i. 93.)*

When they reached the spot, before proceeding to crucify him,

they offered him a drink composed of sour wine, in which myrrh

had been dissolved. There seems no proof that

e Bourwine. jj^g wag a j> omau custom. Lightfoot quotes from

the Talmud: "To those that were to be executed they gave a
grain of myrrh infused in wine to drink, that their senses might

* See True Site of Calvary, by Mr.
Fisher Howe, published by A. D. F.
Randolph & Co. , New York, a capital

treatise on this whole question, contain-
ing much authority in support of the
position taken in the text above.


be dulled , as it is said, ' Give strong drink to them that are ready
to die, and wine to those that are of a sorrowful heart.' " But
this narcotic Jesus refused. He would have nothing to dim the
clearness of his vision or enfeeble the vigor of his intellect.
Then they crucified. him.

Section 10. — From Nine o'clock to Noon.

It was now nine o'clock in the morning of Friday, 7th of

On each side of him was a thief crucified. It does not appear

that Jesus was submitted to any torture beyond that which was

inseparable from crucifixion, and beyond what
, . . , . TT . , . .£■ -i Jesus prays for

the two thieves endured. His being crucmecl tis tormentors.

with them may have been intended as an indig-
nity ; but perhaps simply came to pass because it was customary
to have executions at this feast. His disciples declared that in
that fact was a fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah (liii. 12)," He
was numbered with the transgressors." While his executioners
were performing their work, Jesus prayed for them : " Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do." It was touching
and characteristic. He does not say, "I forgive you." That
would be to allude too distinctly to the wrongs he was suffering.
lie thought of their guilt, not his own sufferings. It was a prayer
of pure unselfishness.

When they had set up the cross they sat down to watch it, as
their duty was. The usage was to crucify convicts naked, and
the clothing fell to the executioners as a perqui-

Tiio soi ml ess

site. In the case of Jesus they had no difficulty gaime iit.
with his outer garments, but when they came to
his inmost article of dress they found it a strange fabric, without
a seam, woven throughout, It may have been the product of ma-
ternal love. It may have been the handiwork of the tender ami
loving Mary of Bethany, or the passionate Mary of Magdala.
ilow little did love think, as love's fingers wove it, to what tor-
ture the precious body it was to cover should finally come. There
was something about it which made even rude Roman soldiers
pause. They determined not to tear it ; and so cast lots. Again
his disciples saw a prophecy fulfilled. In Psalm xxii. 16, L8, it
is said, " The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me ; they


pierced my hands and my feet. They part my garments among
them, and cast lots for my vesture." This their loving hearts ap-
plied to Jesus.

When Pilate felt himself compelled to sentence Jesus he made
ont the accusation on which he had condemned him. This had

m , . , probably been carried before Jesus, and was now
The epigraph. 1 ;

attached to the cross over his head. It was writ-
ten in Hebrew, and in Greek, and in Latin — in the language of
the populace, of the cultivated foreigners, and of the Roman
officials. It was this : —


The Roman judge thus decided that Jesus had no guilt; that

nothing had been substantiated against him ; for this is no crime

„ ,. A that his name should be Jesus, that he should

( Tsir s verdict

either have been born or have lived in Nazareth,
that he should have been literally or somehow figuratively a king
of the Jews. It is the assertion of Caesar's government that Jesus
was without crime. Personally to Pilate it was more. It was a
gratification to be able to fling this slur in the faces of the persis-
tent ecclesiastics who had coerced him. It is as if he had said,
" This poor forlorn -peasant, hanging on this cross, is good enough
king for these Jews." Or it might mean, " They said they would
have no king but Caesar : I crucify Jesus : if he be their king he
is a dead king, and the nails by which I fasten him to the cross
bind them to their rejection of all kings but Caesar."

The high-priests were not slow to see this. They chose, not-
withstanding their averment that they would have no king but
CaesarJ to leave that question open. They were very loyal eccle-
s'u^tics, and the history of the world shows how far such men are
to be trusted. Pilate had no faith in them. They rushed back
to his palace, where he must have sat moody over the events of
the day in which he had played so conspicuous and disagreeable a
part. They called his attention to the character of the epigraph
on the cross. They prayed him to change it, at least so as to show
that it was only a claim set itp by Jesus. His surly answer was,
" What I have written, I have written." With that he dismissed

Crucifixion was a tedious mode of execution. The soldiers
took out their implements for gaming and sat down to play while


they keep guard over the crucified. At almost every public exe-
cution there are displays of bitter feeling and outbreaks of grim

humor. It is not a means of grace to see a fellow-

, . , . -t l mi Jesus reviled.

bemg tortured, however guilty, lne cross was set

up beside a thoroughfare. Those who passed by saw it. Some one
of these recollected what had been testified at the trial, so called,
and he wagged his head and taunted Jesus, saying, "You who de-
stroy the Temple, and build it in three days, save yourself, if you
are the Son of God, and come down from the cross." This revil-
ing was not confined to the lower populace. The chief priests
took it up, and probably walking in front of the cross, or stand-
ing near enough for Jesus to hear, they said among themselves,
not addressing him, "lie saved others; he cannot save himself.
If he be the Messiah, let him save himself. lie is the king of Is-
rael! Let him now come down from the cross, and we will be-
lieve on him. He trusted in God; let Him now deliver him, if
He will ; for he said, 'I am Son of God.' "

The spirit of reviling spread itself. The Roman soldiers, hav-
ing no ecclesiastical bias and no theological views, began to echo

the taunt of the populace and the priests. They

«.ii. • i • i mi in Save yourself,

offered him vinegar to drink. lhey mocked.

They also said, " If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."
That apparently forlorn and helpless peasant-prophet on the cross
made great contrast with Caesar's grandeur on the Palatine Hill
in Rome, and with the barbaric splendor of some of the kings
these soldiers had helped to conquer. The soldiers said to him
directly, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." They
would like to see him do it. It would be a marvel to see a man
disengage himself from the cross. If he should attempt it, he
would find Roman valor superior to any legerdemain or terrify-
ing magic. If the Jews around these soldiers were not utterly
obtuse, they must have felt that this insult reacted upon them in
their civil and their ecclesiastical positions. These rude warriors
from the Tiber were stamping out their State and their Church
in .lesus.

Even one of the thieves, in the recklessness which often befalls
men who are about to perish, began his raillery.

,,-ir , at . i »i -11 , r The impenitent

"If you are the Messiah, said he, " save your- ^.^

self and as, my comrade and myself." This man

is a perplexing study. Nature calls Eor sympathy in behalf of


one who was in like sufferings with himself. lie knew nothing
against Jesus personally. If they had not been friends in life
they might have been friendly in death. The world was all
againsl them both ; why should they not make common cause, and,
as far as possible, sustain each other in this last dark passage of
their lives? But no; he turns upon him, he joins the mad crowd
of persecutors. Is it that it was some relief to this man to have
the tide of the public hate turned away from himself towards Je-
sus ? Is it that we are always gratified to find that there are
others more obnoxious than ourselves ? Whatever the motive or
the temper of the man, his conduct was another pain inflicted on

But the other robber was not so obdurate. lie rebuked his
comrade. " Do you not fear God, seeing that you are in the

same condemnation ? And we indeed "justly ;
The penitent .. .... ,

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 67 of 77)