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occupied a great deal of time, especially if Herod
and Pilate resided, as some have supposed, in dif-


ferent apartments of the great palace built by-
Herod the Great.

The governor was entirely satisfied that Jesus
was innocent of the charges urged against him,
and perfectly aware that they had been made ma-
liciously. He was desirous, therefore, to discharge
him. This desire was strengthened by a mes-
sage brought to him from his wife, who had been
troubled respecting Jesus in a dream, and who
entreated him to "have nothing to do with that
just man." When, therefore, the prisoner was
brought back to him from Herod, he made another
attempt to save him; not by directly exerting his
authority in releasing him; he had not moral
courage enough for this; but by appealing to the
magnanimity of the accusers. It was customary
for the governor to honor the feast by granting
pardon to some criminal. He proposed that Jesus
should receive this boon. But the chief priests
and elders instigated the people to refuse the
proposal. " Away with him," they cried, " and
release to us Barabbas." Now Barabbas was a
robber, who had been convicted of sedition and
murder. "What then," asked Pilate, "shall I
do with Jesus, who is called Christ.^" They
cried out, "Crucify him." The governor still
parleyed. "Why?" said he, "what evil hath
he done? " But the mob had become excited
and impatient. Neither argument nor entreaty


could avail. They only shouted the more loudly
and fiercely, "Crucify him, crucify him! "

When Pilate perceived that expostulation was
vain, and that there was danger of a serious tu-
mult, he yielded; and to show that he did so
reluctantly, he took a vessel of water, and publicly
washed his hands, saying " I am innocent of the
blood of this just person; see ye to it," The
infatuated people cried out, " His blood be on.
us and on our children! " Little did they guess
the extent of the dreadful imprecation. It was-
followed, in the retributions of Providence, by-
calamities such as perhaps no other nation ever
endured, by the ruin of their city and the disper-
sion of their people.

Crucifixion was the Roman punishment for se-
dition, and as such was demanded for Jesus. It
was always preceded by scourging. To this pre-
liminary cruelty the Saviour was now publicly
subjected. He was then led back into the court
of the Praetorium. The soldiers of the band upon
duty there gathered around him, and in heartless
sport derided and insulted him. In mockery of
his regal title they clothed him in a robe of impe-
rial purple, placed upon his head a crown, which
they had made of thorns, and put a reed into his
shackled hands for a sceptre. They bowed the
knee before him, and saluted him with "Hail!
King of the Jews ! "


Pilate was still willing to make one more at-
tempt to save him. He caused Jesus to be led
out again, and presenting him in his condition of
wretchedness to the people, sought to move them
to relent. He urged again, that he had found
him guiltless of all offence. But the only answer
he received was the hideous shout of "Crucify
him, crucify him ! " Pilate answered, " Take ye
him and crucify him; for I find no fault in him."
Finding the governor thus resolute ti maintain
his innocence, they replied, that however it might
be with the charge of sedition, he deserved death,
by the Jewish law, for his blasphemy; he had de-
clared himself to be the Son of God. This was
giving a new aspect to the affair. Pilate did not
know what meaning the Jews attached to the title;
but he believed, as the heathen did, that the sons
of some of the deities were often found among
men. He therefore went back to Jesus, who had
been again withdrawn to the Proetorium, and ask-
ed hnn, with some uneasiness, who he claimed to
be, and what was his origin. To this question,
Jesus, who knew that enough had been already
said, made no reply. Pilate then reminded him,
that he was in his power, and that his life or death
might depend on his answer. Jesus answered,
that the governor had that power only through di-
vine permission; and therefore, he added, ready,

John xix.


as he ever was, to make allowance, "he who de_ j
livered me unto thee hath the greater sin."

The result of this conversation was, that Pilate
returned to the people more than ever anxious to
save his prisoner. But they still had one argu-
ment in reserve, the displeasure of the Emperor,
"If thou let this man go," they said, "thou art
not Caesar's friend." Pilate well knew the jeal-
ous and unreasonable temper of Tiberius, and
that if the Jews should make an unfavorable
report of this proceeding, it might excite that
tyrant to ruin him at once. He dared not meet
the hazard. He sat down on the tribunal, caused
Jesus to be brought before him, passed the sen-
tence which his accusers had desired, and deliv-
ered him into their hands.




It is not easy for us, at the present day, to
conceive the terrible suffering of a death by cru-
cifixion, or to understand the disgrace which was
attached to it. It was the most shameful as well
as cruel of all modes of execution. It was re-
served for the most abandoned malefactors and
for slaves. When we speak of the disgrace of
being condemned to the gallows, we present no
picture of ignominy to be compared with that
which pertained to crucifixion.

The form of the cross is familiar to us. But
it is commonly represented as of a far greater alti-
tude, than really belonged to it. It was rarely
more than ten feet in height. The upright beam,
which was planted in the ground, was called the
tree; and hence the Apostle Paul uses that name
for the cross. Near the top it was crossed by a
bar at right angles, on which was written the
crime for which the person suffered. To the ex-
tremities of this his hands were fastened by nails
driven through the palms. Thus the whole
weight of his body was suspended by his hands,
excepting as he partially sat on a small projecting
piece of wood. His feet were nailed to the beam,
but without any thing to support them. In this


torturing situation, the poor sufferer hung for
many hours, and died at last in indescribable
agony. So terrible was the torment, that it be-
came customary to give the victim an intoxicating
drink for the purpose of deadening his feelings;
and the executioners often hastened the time of
death by suffocation or otherwise, especially if
the struggle continued longer than a day.

This was the suffering to which the blessed
Jesus was destined. No interval was allowed
between the sentence and its execution. He was
hurried away immediately, carrying on his shoul-
ders the cross to which he was to be nailed; for
it was part of the cruelty of this mode of punish-
ment, that the condemned should bear his own
instrument of torture. Thus he was led through
the city by the unfeeling soldiers, and out of the
western gate, on the side of the city opposite to
the Temple. It soon appeared, that the watching
and fatigue of the last day and night had rendered
him incapable of sustaining the burden of his
cross; and as he sunk under it, the soldiers
seized upon Simon, a Cyrenian, who is commonly
thought to have been one of the disciples, and
compelled him to carry his Master's burden.
Mark speaks of two sons of this man by name, as

Matt, xxvii. 32. Mark xv. 21, Luke xxiii. 26.

John xix. 17.

THE ORucinxrox. 245

iC it had been accounted an honor to be the chil-
dren of him who had thus helped hiis Lord in an
hour of need.

The crowd of spectators, as might be expected,
was immense. The whole male population of
Judea was assembled at the city, and the history
and character of the sufferer were too well known
not to excite a universal and intense interest.
The inhabitants of the city, being under the im-
mediate influence of the leading men, had never
been friendly to him, and they undoubtedly com-
posed the principal part of the mob which had
crowded around the tribunal in the morning, and
intimidated the governor. Many too, without
doubt, who had joined in honoring him when they
thought him the Messiah, on the preceding Sun-
day, now turned violently against him in revenge
for their disappointment, when they fancied him
proved to be an imposter. Still, however, it could
not be, that enemies alone attended the melan-
choly procession. Multitudes there must have
been whose attachment for a matchless benefac-
tor survived the disappointment of the day, and
who now followed him with heavy hearts and tear-
ful eyes to the place of his suffering.

It was about the third hour, or nine o'clock in

the morning, when they arrived at the place of

execution. This was a small eminence on the

northwest side of the city, not far from the walls.



It is commonly called Mount Calvary; but its
elevation is so slight, that it hardly deserves the
name of a mountain. Here the Saviour was cru-
cified, in company with two malefactors, one on
each side of him. The soldiers offered him the
customary draught of stupefying ingredients; but
he refused it; he would take nothing which should
deaden his feelings or cloud his perception, Hei
would die with his faculties in all their bris^htness.
The scene which followed is too painful to be
dwelt upon. The soldiers sat down in sport at
the foot of the cross, dividing part of his raiment
among themselves, and throwing dice for his
woven and seamless coat. The brutal mob, that
crowded around, vented their enmity in cries of
insult and derision. Even the priests, and scribes,
and elders, men of distinction and dignity, joined
in the mockery, and poured out their rnalignanti
revenge on the meek and patient sufferer. Nay,
one of the malefactors, who hung groaning at
his side, joined the dreadful ribaldry. But all
this the meek and patient sufferer heeded not,
except that it drew forth a prayer for their for-
giveness. He seemed to have no ear for the cries^
that were filling the air. But to other things he
was attentive, and exhibited the same readiness,
to think and feel for others which he had dis-
played in his days of power. When, during the
painful progress from the city, he observed the


women in the crowd lamenting, he turned to
them and said, " Daughters of Jerusalem! weep
not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your
children." When one of the malefactors ap-
pealed to him for mercy, he answered him with
ready words of encouragement and promise.
When he looked round upon the crowd, and saw
there, amid a group of weeping friends, his dis-
consolate mother, he remembered what she must
endure at his loss, and felt for her bereaved and
desolate loneliness. He turned therefore to his
favorite disciple, John, who was standing with
her, and charged him to regard her as his mother,
a charge which, John assures us, he faithfully
observed, giving her a home in his own house.

At about noon, the day grew dark; not from an
eclipse of the sun, for the moon was at the full.
It was a supernatural obscurity, which extended
over the land, and lasted for three hours. At
that time, the Saviour's sufferings had continued
for six hours. They were now drawing toward a
close ; and, as it is usual for the pains of this death
to be growing constantly more dreadful to the last,
they appear to have increased in severity. He
cried out, " My God, my God, why hast thou for-
saken me.^" They are the words which form the
beginning of the twenty-second Psalm; and he
is thought to have repeated them, in order to draw
attention to a passage of Scripture so descriptive


of his condition. He then complained of thirst,
and a soldier put to his mouth a sponge soaked in
vinegar. All was now over. He exclaimed,
"It is finished!" and devoutly addressing God
with the words — " Father, into thy hands I com-
mend my spirit!" he breathed his last.

Then occurred other prodigies to attest the
dignity of the person who had suffered, and the
interposition of a divine hand. The vail of the
temple was rent from top to bottom; the earth
quaked; the rocks were torn asunder; the graves
were opened; and some of the dead came back
to life. It was impossible to mistake these signs.
The centurion, who presided at the execution,
exclaimed, " Truly, this was the Son of God!"
And the people who had come together, awe-
struck and alarmed, smote their breasts and re-

It was the custom with the Romans to leave
the bodies of crucified criminals exposed on the
cross without burial; but they made an exception
in Judea, because the law of Moses commanded
that all such should be buried before night. The
Jews were particularly desirous that this should
be done at the present time, because at the set-
ting of the sun the sabbath was to begin, and a
sabbath during the Passover was a day of more
than ordinary sacredness. The soldiers were ac-
cordingly directed to hasten the death of the suf-


ferers, by breaking the bones of their legs. But
finding, to their surprise, that Jesus had ah-eady
expired, tliey forbore to commit this violence on
his body. One of the soldiers, however, from
what motive we do not know, thrust a spear into
his side. It was thus put beyond all doubt that he
was actually dead; for the wound was followed
by a mixt flowing of blood and water, which could
have come only from the region about the heart.
It was of great consequence to put this fact be-
yond question, because upon this must depend
the all important fact of the resurrection which

The last hours of Jesus were not wholly unat-
tended hy the kindnesses of friends. Of the Apos-
tles, John at least, and perhaps others, w^ere pre-
sent at the crucifixion. So also were many of
th )se devoted female friends, who had accompa-
nied him from Galilee. And now, when the last
agony was past, two disciples from among persons
of dignity and wealth, obtained his body from the
governor, that they might give it a decent and
affectionate burial. These were Joseph of Ari-
mathea and Nicodemus. They took the body of
their departed friend, and hastily preparing it for
interment, conveyed it into a garden near the
place of crucifixion, and placed it in a new tomb
belonging to Joseph. The women from Galilee


attended, and say/ where he was laid. None of
them imagined that they should ever behold his
face again. And when they had placed a stone
at the mouth of the cave, they felt that all they
had most honored and loved was buried there for-

But his enemies remembered what his friends
had forgotten, — that he had spoken of rising
again on the third day. Not that they expected
any such event; but they feared that the disciples
might remove the body and pretend that he had
risen. They therefore sealed the door of the
sepulchre, and placed a guard of soldiers there to
keep all secure.

And here, to all human appearance, was the
close of expectations from Jesus of Nazareth.
Executed as a criminal, his immediate followers
dispersed, and a Roman guard watching over his
tomb, the mind of man could not conjecture that
he would ever again be heard of, except as one of
the many unsuccessful adventurers who had ex-
cited and disappointed the hopes of a credulous
people. His enemies had completely triumphed.
His adherents were wholly disheartened. Noth-
ing can account for the revival of his cause and
the spread of his religion, except that they were
the special charge of a superintending Providence.
Most truly did Gamaliel declare, a few weeks


afterward, that if this enterprise had a human
origin, it would come to nought. For all the
power of man was exerted to overthrow it. That
it was not overthrown, proves it to have been up-
held by the power of God.




The Sabbath came, with its holy hours of wor-
ship and rest. The incense and the sacrifices
were offered up in the Temple, and its ample
courts resounded with the tread of innumerable
worshippers, and the voices of those who sang
praise. There were no signs to show that the
glory of Israel, the object of so many prophecies,
the desire of all nations, the great benefactor of
the human race, had just been rudely destroyed
by the people whom he had come to bless. The
festival went on, and the crowded city rejoiced.
The religious leaders, wrapt up in their bigotry
and self-importance, exulted in an achievement
which was to bring down ruin upon them from
the God whom they had offended; and the mass
of the people, ignorant and blind, were content
to have gratified their passions and the will of
their superiors, little knowing that they had risen
against their truest friend. Had they known it,
they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But all were not thus. There were friends of
that holy and just one, who, though they were
far from a full comprehension of liis character,
yet mourned him in the depths of their souls as


the most excellent and admirable of beings. It
is easy to judge what was the gloom of this day
to them. To the eleven Apostles especially, who
had cause to feel shame for their desertion of him,
as well as grief at his death, it must have been
a day of unmixed sorrow and despair. Not a
ray of hght appears to have beamed upon their
minds. He, whom they had loved, trusted, and
followed, as the Redeemer of Israel, had been
cut down by their side, and with him all hope,
all gladness, had fled. They had no power, so
stupefied were they by a calamity for which they
were unprepared, to call up to mind the conso-
lation and promises, by which he had attempted
to fortify them for this very hour. And instead
of rejoicing in the confidence of his revival, they
could do nothing but deplore his loss.

Thus the Sabbath passed away, and the dawn
of the first day of the week drew nigh. The af-
fectionate women, who had accompanied Joseph
and Nicodemus when they hastily deposited the
body of their Master in the tomb, had waited
anxiously for the dawn, that they might finish the
rites of burial. They had prepared the customa-
ry spices and ointments, and with the first ray of
light after the holy time was passed, they made

Matthew xxviii. Mark xvi. Luke xxiv.

John XX.


haste to return and complete their mournful office.
So little did they anticipate the event which was
about to take ],lace!

They arrived at the tomb, and to their astonish-
ment found it open. The stone had been rolled
away from its mouth. They entered it, and to
their yet greater amazement found it empty.
While perplexed at this, they were addressed by
a person in white raiment, whom Matthew de-
scribes as the angel who had rolled away the
stone. " Why seek ye the living among the
dead?" said he. " He is not here, he is risen as
he told you he should do." He then pointed
them to the empty sepulchre, and bade them re-
turn with the tidings to his disciples.

The Evangelists describe, in the most natural
manner, the agitation of the women at this unex-
pected address. " They went out and fled from
the sepulchre; they trembled and were amazed,
neither said they any thing to any ane." Thus
they came, breathless and in haste, to the Apos-
tles. But so little prepared for such an event
were these men, that the words of the women
seemed to them like idle tales, and they gave
them no credit. None but John and Peter so
much as went to examine for themselves; and
they, when they found the sepulchre empty, by no
means inferred that Jesus was risen, and return-
ed home without further inquiry.


Not SO Mary Magdalene. She could not per-
suade herself to withdraw, but remained behind
weeping. And she soon had the happiness of
seeing and speaking to her risen Master. He
came to her from the garden, as she stood in tears
before the tomb. At first, she did not recognise
him, so absorbed was she in her grief. She sup-
posed him to be the gardener, and begged him,
if he had removed the body of her Lord, to inform
her whither. Jesus uttered her name; the tones
of his voice pierced to her heart, and she knew
him. "My Master!" she exclaimed; — and it
was all she could say. She would have detained
him to express her gratitude and joy, but he
would not permit her; he told her that for the
present he should remain with them; " but go
to my brethren," he said, for thus affectionately
did he style his disciples, " and say to them, I
ascend unto m^y Father and your Father, and
unto my God and your God."

Mary found the Eleven still mourning and
desponding; and they refused to give credit to
her story. They seemed incapable of rismg above
the stupor and despair in which they had been

A striking picture of their state of mind on this
eventful day, is found in the interview which took
place in the afternoon, between two disciples, as
they were walking to Emmaus, and Jesus him-


self who had joined them on the road. He in-
quired of them the cause of their sadness; and
they, supposing him a stranger, gave him the
history of Jesus and his death. "But we had
trusted," they added, by way of explaining their
grief, " that it had been he who should have re-
deemed Israel." This showed that they still cher-
ished a wrong idea of his redemption; and they
repeated the stories, which they had heard from the
women who had that morning visited the tomb,
as things perfectly incredible. Jesus exclaimed
against their incredulity, and explained to them
from the Scriptures, how the sufferings and resur-
rection of their Master had been foretold. Still
they did not suspect it to be he, until he blessed
the bread as they sat down to supper. Then
they knew him ; and they hastened back to Je-
rusalem to tell the other disciples.

Here they found that the state of things had
somewhat changed, Peter had seen his Lord;
and upon his report the eleven had come to-
gether, believing and congratulating each other.
The two from Emmaus had hardly added their
testimony to that of Peter, when Jesus himself
entered among them. Their minds were not yet
sufficiently composed, and they were startled at
his appearance. They doubted if it were not that

Luke xxiv. 16.


af a spirit. But he reassured them by allowing
them to feel of his flesh, and convince themselves
that it was indeed he. And when they could
hardly believe it for joy, as Luke expresses it, he
put the matter entirely beyond doubt, by asking
for food and eating it in their presence. He re-
mained with them for some time, enlightening their
minds, clearino- ud their doubts, and illustrating the
Scriptures Vvhich relate to the Messiah. He ex-
plained to them the true character of the work to
which he had appointed them. He gave them a
charge to publish the things of which they had been
witnesses, and to preach repentance and remission
of sins in his name to all nations; directing them,
however, to remain in Jerusalem until they should
have fully received power from on high. In this
he referred to the effusion of the spirit, which was
to take place fifty days afterward at the feast of

Tlius were the minds of the not too credulous
Apostles put at rest. They were convinced that
Jesus had been restored to life, and they began
to understand something of the meaning of much
in his communications which had formerly been
obscure to them. Their m.inds began to open to
the true character of his office, and the grand pur-
poses of his mission. But m.ore than the instruc-
tions of an evening were necessary to change
their long established habits of thought, and imbue


them thoroughly with the spiritual views which
must belong to the preachers of his truth. He
therefore continued his interviews with them for
forty days. And, as we learn from Paul, he
showed himself, not only to the Eleven, but to
many others, and on one occasion to five hundred
at once.

Of these instances, only four are particularly re-
lated by the Evangelists; three of which were at-
tended by circumstances of peculiar interest. The
first was on the first day of the week succeeding
his resurrection. The Apostles seem to have

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Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 14 of 15)