The Day Christ Died

In Gethsemane, Jesus, “having been heard for his godly fear, though he was the Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7–10).

Of course, in that perfect heart of Christ there never was even an inkling of disobedience or rebellion. Nevertheless, in the expression of perfect surrender there was this glorious progress:

First prayer: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Notice that in the first part of this sentence the main clause is: “Let this cup pass away from me.”

Second and third prayer: “O, my Father, if this cannot pass except I drink it, thy will be done.” Here the main clause is: “Thy will be done.”

The agony which Jesus began to experience was such that “his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling upon the ground.” Was this because he could no longer feel the closeness of his Father, and did this very desertion give him a preview, as it were, of the most bitter suffering on the cross?

Soon the traitor came with the temple guard. Very vividly the Gospels describe the “Onslaught of the Treacherous” (Judas), the “Defeat of the Defenders” (the disciples, who left him and fled, just as Jesus had predicted), and the “Triumph of the Captive” (he offered himself willingly; otherwise, they could not have captured him).

Jesus was led to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. It was here that Peter denied the Lord. Before Caiaphas the Lord declared that he was the Christ, the Son of God. He was pronounced worthy of death, a blasphemer, was spit upon and mocked.

Some hours later—very early in the morning—the preliminary sentence was confirmed by the Sanhedrin gathered in formal meeting. It is hardly necessary to point out that just about everything with respect to the trial of Jesus was illegal: the fact that his judge also acted as his accuser; that the city was scoured for witnesses; that the trial took place at night and was confirmed officially only a few hours later; that the sentence was carried out on the day on which it had been pronounced, etc., etc., etc.

Inasmuch as the Sanhedrin did not possess the power to execute a death sentence, Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman procurator. This man tried by every possible means to rid himself of Jesus.

He did not want to pass sentence. Hence he tried: a. to return the prisoner to the Sanhedrin—“Judge him according to your law”; b. to let Herod judge him; c. to persuade the people to take him off his hands by permitting them to choose between Jesus and Barabbas; and d. to meet the Sanhedrin halfway by scourging Jesus and then releasing him. But all these efforts were in vain. In thorough exasperation he cried out, “What shall I do then with Jesus, which is called Christ?” The clamor of the crowd became louder and louder: “Crucify him, crucify him.”

The knockout blow was dealt Pilate when “the Jews cried out saying: ‘If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend!’” Now, the procurator knew that Tiberius was very suspicious. He reasoned that if the rumor should ever reach the emperor that he, Pilate, had sided with an insurrectionist, deposition and banishment would be the result. Pilate finally delivered Jesus over to be crucified. “I find no fault in this man,” he had said again and again. Herod, too, had found no fault in him. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to die a most accursed death. The solution of this problem is found in Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for our transgressions.”

Jesus, having been tormented in the soldiers’ quarters, was compelled to carry his own cross. When his strength failed, a certain Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service. Jerusalem’s aristocratic ladies, who shed tears when they saw that a man so young was being led to such a cruel death, were rebuked by the Saviour in these words: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children … For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”

At last the procession reached Golgotha, the place of the skull. It was here that the Lord was crucified, and together with him two thieves. Truly, “he was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). From nine o’clock in the morning until three o’clock in the afternoon Jesus suffered the agonies of hell upon the cross.

Excerpt from Survey of the Bible by William Hendriksen Evangelical Press and Services, Ltd. Welwyn Garden City, United Kingdom.

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