By S.D. Gordon
Yielding to Arrest.
It is probably close to midnight when Jesus steps out from among the trees to meet the crowds headed by the traitor. He knew they were coming, and quietly goes to meet them. There is a great rabble that the chief priests had drummed up, a city rabble with Roman soldiers, some of the chief priests' circle, and in the lead of all, Judas. Judas keeps up the pretense of friendship, and, advancing ahead of his crowd, greets Jesus with the usual kiss. Jesus dispels the deception at once with His question of reproach, "Betrayest thou with a kiss?" Damnable enough to betray, but to use love's token in hate's work made it so much worse. Then He yields to Judas' lips. It was the beginning of the indignities He was to suffer that night. Jesus quietly adds, "Friend, do what you have planned. Let there be no more shamming." But Judas' work is done. The silver secured under his belt is earned. He drops back into the crowd.
Jesus steps out into the clear moonlight, and faces the crowd pressing eagerly up. His is the one masterly, majestic presence. Quietly He asks, "Whom are you hunting for?" Back comes the reply, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus at once replies, "I am He." Again, that strange power of Jesus' presence is felt, but now more marked than ever before. The crowd falls backward and down to the ground. Soldiers, priests, crowds, Judas lying prone before Jesus! Again the question and the answer, and then the word spoken on behalf of His followers. This manifestation of power is for others this time.
Recovering themselves, the crowds press forward. The bewildered Peter makes an awkward stroke with a sword he had secured and cuts off the right ear of a man in the front of the crowd. Jesus gently stops the movement with a word. The Father would even then send twelve legions of angels if He were but to give the word. But He was not giving words of that sort, but doing what the Father wished. With a word of apology for His impetuous follower, the man's ear is restored with a touch. Surely he never forgot Jesus.
The leaders, now satisfied that Jesus will not use His power on His own behalf, seize Him and begin to bind His hands. As He yields to their touch, Jesus, looking into the faces of the Jewish leaders, said, "You hunt me and treat me as though I were a common robber. I have never tried to get away from you. But now for a while things are in your control, the control of the powers of night."
Meanwhile the disciples forsook Him and fled, except two, John and Peter. Peter followed at what he thought a safe distance. John kept along with the crowd, and went in "with Jesus." Mark tells about the attempted arrest of a young man who seemed friendly to Jesus, but in the struggle he escaped, leaving his garments behind. And so they make their way, a torch-light procession through the darkness of the night, back across the brook, up the steep slope to the city gate, and through the narrow streets to the palace of the high priest.
The Real Jewish Ruler.
Here Jesus is expected. Late as it is He is at once brought before Annas. Annas was an old man who had been high priest himself once, years before, and who had afterwards absolutely controlled that office through the successive terms of his sons and now of his son-in-law. He was the real leader of the inner clique that held the national reins in a clutching grip. Caiaphas was the nominal high priest. The old man Annas was the real leader. He controlled the inner finances and the temple revenues. To him first Jesus is taken. He begins a quizzical, critical examination of Jesus about disciples and teaching. Possibly he is trying to overawe this young Galilean. Jesus calmly answers. "I have taught openly, never secretly; everybody knows what my teaching has been. Why ask Me? These people all around have heard all my teaching." He was ever in the open, in sharp contrast with these present proceedings. One of the underlings of the high priest--struck--Jesus--in the face, saying, "Answerest thou the high priest so?" Jesus quietly replies, "If I have spoken something wrong tell me what it is, but if not, why do you strike Me?" Annas ignores the gross insult by one of his own men, and, probably with an exultant sneer that the disturber of the temple revenues is in his power at last, gives order that Jesus be bound and taken to his chief underling, Caiaphas.
This is the first phase of the condemnation determined upon beforehand, and the real settling of the Jewish disposition of Jesus. Still the forms had to be gone through. So Jesus is sent with the decision of Annas in the thongs on His hands to Caiaphas, high priest that year by the grace of the old intriguer Annas, and by Roman appointment. The thing must be done up in proper shape. These folks are great sticklers for proper forms.
Probably it is across a courtyard they go to another part of the same pile of buildings or palace. Caiaphas, too, is ready, unusual though the hour is. With him are several members of the senate, the official body in control of affairs. The plans have been carefully worked out. This night work will get things in shape before the dreaded crowds of the morrow can be aroused. Now begins the examination here. These plotters have been so absorbed in getting Jesus actually into their power that they seem to have over-looked the details of making out a strong case against Him. They really didn't need a case to secure their end, yet they seem to want to keep up the forms, probably not because of any remnants of supposed conscience left unseared, but to swing the bothersome, fanatical crowds that must always be reckoned with. Now they deliberately try to find men who will lie about Jesus' words, and swear to it. They find some willing enough--money would fix that--but not bright enough to make their stories hang together. At last some one brings up a remark made three years before by Jesus about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. It is hard to see how they might expect to make anything out of that, for in the remark, as they understood it, He had proposed to undertake the rebuilding of the famous structure if they should destroy it. And then they can't even agree here. Clearly they're hard pushed. Something must be done. Precious time is slipping away. The thing must be in shape by dawn if they are to get it through before the crowds get hold of it.
All this time Jesus stands in silence, doubtless with those eyes of His turned now upon Caiaphas, now on the others. His presence disturbed them in more ways than one. That great calm, pure face must have been an irritant to their jaded consciences. Suddenly the presiding officer stands up and dramatically cries out, as though astonished, "Answerest thou nothing? Canst thou not hear these charges against Thee?" Still that silence of lip, and those great eyes looking into His enemies' faces. Then comes the question lurking underneath all the time, put in the form of a solemn oath to the prisoner, "I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou art the Christ, the Son of God." Thus appealed to, Jesus at once replies, "I am." And then, knowing full well the effect of the reply, He adds, "Nevertheless--notwithstanding your evident purpose regarding Me--the Son of Man will be sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven, and ye shall see it."
In supposed righteous horror Caiaphas tore his garments, and cried, "What further need is there of witnesses? Behold you have heard His blasphemy. What verdict do you give?" Back come the eager cries, "He deserves death--Guilty." So the second session closes with the verdict of guilty agreed upon. Yet this was not official. The senate could meet only in daylight hours. The propriety of form they were so eager for requires them to wait until dawn should break, and then they could technically give the decisive verdict now agreed upon. While they are waiting, the intense hatred of Jesus in their hearts and their own cruel thirstings find outlet upon Jesus' person. They--spat--in--His--face, and struck Him, with open hand and shut fist. He is blind-folded, and then struck by one and another with derisive demands that He use His prophetic skill to tell who had been hitting Him. And this goes on for possibly a couple of hours before dawn permits the next step, soldiers vying with senators in doing Him greatest insult.
Held Steady by Great Love.
Meanwhile a scene is being enacted within ear-shot of Jesus that hurts Him more than these vulgar insults. Peter is getting into bad shape. John was acquainted in the high priest's house-hold, and, going directly in without striking his colors, is not disturbed. Peter gets as far as the gateway, leading through a sort of alley into the open courtyard, around which on the four sides the palace was built. Here, as a stranger, he was refused admittance, until John comes to speak a word for him. In the center of the open court a fire was burning to relieve the cold of the night, and about this was gathered a mixed crowd of soldiers and servants and attendants. Peter goes over to the fire, and, mingling with the others, sits warming himself, probably with a studied carelessness. The maid who let him in, coming over to the fire, looks intently into his face, and then says, "You belong to the Nazarene, too." Peter stammers out an embarrassed, mixed up denial, "I don't know what you mean--I don't understand--what do you say?"
Taken unawares, poor Peter mingles a lie with the denial. As soon as possible he moves away from the fire toward the entrance. It's a bit warm there--for him. He remembered afterwards that just then the crowing of a cock fell upon his ear. Again one of the serving-maids notices him and says to those standing about, "This man was with Jesus." This time the denial comes sharp and fiat, "I don't know the man." And to give good color to his words, and fit his surroundings, he adds a bit of profanity to it.
An hour later, as he moves uneasily about, he is standing again by the fire. Something about him seems to make him a marked man. Evidently he has been talking, too. For now a man looking at him, said, "You belong to this Jesus. I can tell by the twist of your tongue." Peter promptly says, "No." Lying comes quicker now. But at once another speaks up, who was kin to the man that temporarily lost his ear through Peter's sword. "Why," he said, "certainly I saw you with Him in the garden." Again the denial that he knew Jesus mingled freely with curses and oath. And even as he spoke the air was caught again with the cock's shrill cry. And then Jesus, in the midst of the vulgarity being vented upon Him, turned those wondrous eyes upon Peter. What a look must that have been of sorrow, of reproach, and of tenderest love. It must surely have broken Peter's heart. The hot tears rushing up for vent were his answer. Those tears caught the light of love in that look, as he goes away into the night and weeps bitterly. Those bitter tears were as small, warm rain to a new growth within.
An Obstinate Roman.
And now the impatient leaders detect the first streaks of gray coming up in the east. The national council can now properly meet. Like their two chiefs, these men are prompt. The whips had been out over the city drumming up the members for this extraordinary session. There seems to have been a full attendance. Jesus, still bound, is led through the streets; followed by the mixed rabble, to the meeting hall, probably in the neighborhood of the temple. He is brought in and faces these men. How some of those eyes must have gloated out their green leering! Here are the men He had not hesitated to denounce openly with the severest invective ever spoken.
Some time is spent in consultation. The difficulty here is to fix upon a charge upon which they can themselves agree, and which will also be sufficient for the desired action by the Roman governor. It was a tough task. They fail in it. These men divided into groups that were ever at swords' points. There were utter opposites in beliefs and policies. But their common hate of Jesus rises for the time above their hatred for each other. The charge must appeal to Pilate, for only he has power of capital punishment, and nothing but Jesus' blood will quench their thirst.
Their consultation results in another attempt to question Jesus in the hope of getting some word that can be used. The president goes back to his former question, "If Thou art the Christ, tell us." Jesus reminds them of the lack of sincerity in their questionings. They would not believe Him, nor answer His questions. Then He repeats the solemn words spoken in the night session, "From henceforth shall the Son of Man be seated at the right hand of the power of God." Eagerly they all blurt out, "Art Thou then the Son of God?" Back comes the quiet, steady reply, "Ye say that I am," equal to a strong yes. Instantly they decide fully and formally upon His condemnation. So closes the third phase of the Jewish examination. The death sentence is fixed upon. The thing has been formally fixed up. The ground is now cleared for taking Him to Pilate for His death sentence.
It is still early morning when Jesus is taken to Pilate. It was an imposing procession of the leading men of the nation, headed very likely by Caiaphas, that now led Jesus across the city, through its narrow streets, up to the palace of the Roman governor. Jesus is conducted into Pilate's hall of judgment within, but, with their scrupulous regard for the letter of their law, these principals would not enter his palace on that day, but remained without. They seem to be expecting Pilate to send the prisoner back at once with their death sentence endorsed.
To their surprise and disgust, Pilate comes out himself and wants to know the charge against the prisoner. They are not prepared for this. It is their weak point, and has been from the first. Their bold, sullen answer evades the question, while insisting on what they want, "If He were not a criminal we would not have brought Him to thee." They didn't want his opinion, but his power, his consent to their plot. But Pilate doesn't propose to be used as such a convenience. With scorn he tells them that if they propose to judge the case they may. This wrings from them the humiliating reminder that the power of capital punishment is withheld from them by their Roman rulers, and nothing less will satisfy them here. Then they begin a series of verbal charges. They are all of a political nature, for only such would this Roman recognize. This man had been perverting the nation, forbidding tribute to Caesar and calling Himself a King.
It takes no keenness for Pilate to see the hollowness of this sudden loyalty to Caesar. He returns to the beautiful marble judgment hall, and has Jesus brought to him again. He looks into Jesus' face. He is keen enough to see that here is no political schemer. At most probably a religious enthusiast, or reformer, or something as harmless from his standpoint. "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" he asks. Jesus' answer suggests that there was a kindliness in that face. If there be a desire for truth here He will satisfy it. This political charge had been made outside while He was within. "Do you really want to know about Me, or are you merely repeating something you have heard?" He asks, with a gentle earnestness.
But Pilate at once repudiates any personal interest. "Am I a Jew?" he asks, with plain contempt on that word. "Thine own people are accusing thee. What hast Thou done?" Then comes that great answer, "My kingdom is not of this world, if so I would be resisting these leaders and these present circumstances would all be different. But my kingdom is not of your sort or theirs." Again there likely came a bit of softening and curious interest in Pilate's face, as he asks, "Art Thou really a King then?" Jesus replies, "To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." Pilate wonders what this has to do with being a king. With a weary, impatient contempt, he says, "Truth? What is that?" The accused seems to be an enthusiast, a dreamer, yet withal there certainly was a fine nobility about Him. Certainly He was quite harmless politically.
Leaving Him there, again he goes to the leaders waiting impatiently outside. To their utter astonishment and rage he says, "I find no fault in this man." It is the judgment of a keen, critical, worldly Roman; an acquittal, the first acquittal. The waiting crowd bursts out at once in a hot, fanatical tumult of shouted protests. Is all their sleepless planning to be disturbed by this Roman heathen? The prisoner was constantly stirring up the people all through Judea and Galilee. He was a dangerous man. Looking and listening, with his contempt for them plainly in his face, and yet a dread of their wild fanaticism in his heart, Pilate's ear catches that word Galilee. "Is the man a Galilean?" "Yes." Well, here's an easy way of getting rid of the troublesome matter. Herod, the ruler of Galilee, was in the city at his palace, come to attend the festival. It would be a bit of courtesy that he might appreciate to refer the case to him, and so it would be off his own hands. And so the order is given.
A Savage Duel.
Once more Jesus is led through these narrow streets, with the jeering rabble ever increasing in size and the national heads in the lead. They are having a lot of wholly unexpected trouble, but they are determined not to be cheated of their prey. And now they are before Herod. This is the murderer of John. He is glad to see Jesus. There has been an eager curiosity to see the man of whom so much was said, and he hoped to have his morbid appetite for the sensational satisfied with a display of Jesus' power. He plies Him with questions, while the chief priests with fierce vehemence stand accusing Him, and asking for His condemnation.
But for this red-handed man Jesus has no word. To him rare light had come and been recognized, and then had been deliberately put out beyond recall. He has gone steadily down into slimiest slush since that. Now, with studied insolence, he treats this silent man with utmost contempt. His soldiers and retainers mock and deride, dressing Him in gorgeous apparel in mockery of His kingly claims. When they weary of the sport He is again dismissed to Pilate, acquitted. It is the second mocking and the second acquittal.
Again the weary tramping of the streets, with the chief priests' rage burning to the danger point. Twice they have been foiled. Now the matter must be forced through, and quickly, too, ere the crowd that are friendly have gotten the news. They hurry Jesus along and make all haste back to Pilate. Now begins the sixth and last phase of that awful night. Things now hasten to a climax. The character of Pilate comes out plainly here. He really feared these wildly fanatical Jews whom he ruled with a contemptuous disgust undisguised. Three times since his rule began their extreme fanaticism had led to open riot and bloodshed, and once to an appeal to the emperor, by whose favor he held his position. His hold of the office was shaky indeed if the emperor must be bothered with these superstitious details about their religion. The policy he pursued here was but a piece of the whole Roman fabric. Yet had he but had the rugged strength to live up to his honest conviction----. But then, that is the one question of life everywhere and always. He failed in the test, as do thousands. Unconsciously he was touching the quivering center of a whole world's life, and so his action stands out in boldest outline.
He comes out now and sums up the case. He had examined the prisoner and found no fault touching their charges of perverting the people. Herod, their own native ruler, who was supposed to know thoroughly their peculiar views, had also fully acquitted Him. Now, as a concession to them, he will disgrace this man by a public scourging and let him go as harmless. Instantly the air is filled with their fierce shrill cries, "Away with Him: Away with Him."
But Pilate seems determined to do the best he can for Jesus, without risking an actual break with these fanatical Orientals such as might endanger his own position. It was usual at feast times to release to the people some one who had been imprisoned for a political offense. The crowds, prompted by the chief priests, doubtless, begin to ask for the usual favor. Pilate brings forward a man named Barabbas, who was a robber and murderer and charged with leading an insurrection against Roman rule. Meanwhile, as he waits, a messenger comes up to him and repeats a message from his wife. She has been suffering much in dreams and urges that he have nothing to do with "that righteous man."
Apparently Pilate brings forward the two men, the one a robber and murderer, the other with purity and goodness stamped on every line of His face. It is a dramatic moment. "Which of the two will you choose?" he asks. It is the appeal of a heathen to the better nature of these Jews, called the people of God. Quick as a flash of lightning the word shot from their lips and into his face, "Barabbas!" "What, then, shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" He is weakening now. His question shows it. They are keen to see it and push their advantage. Again the words shoot out as bullets from their hot lips, "Crucify Him: crucify Him." Still he withstands them. "Why? What evil has He done? I find no fault in Him. To please you I will chastise Him and release Him." But they have him on the run now. At once the air is filled with a confused jangle of loud shrill voices, "Away with Him! Give us Barabbas! Crucify! Crucify."
Apparently he yields. Barabbas is released. Jesus is led away to be scourged by the soldiers. His clothing is removed, and He is bent over, with thongs on the wrists drawn down, leaving the bare back uppermost and tense. The scourging was with bunches of leather strips with jagged pieces of bone and lead fastened in the ends. The blows meant for the back, even if laid on by a reluctant hand, would strike elsewhere, including the face. But reluctance seems absent here. Then occurs another, a third of those scenes of coarse vulgarity, horrid mockings, based on His kingly claims. The whole band of soldiers is called. Some old garments of royal purple are put upon Jesus. One man plaits a crown of the thorns that grow so large in Palestine, and with no easy gesture places it upon His head. A reed is placed in His hand. Then they bow the knee in turn, with "Hail! King of the Jews," and spit in His face, and rain blows down upon the thorn-crown. All the while their coarse jests and shouts of derisive laughter fill the air. Surely one could never tell the story were he not held in the grip of a strong purpose.
But now Pilate springs a surprise. The scourging might be preliminary to crucifixion or a substitute. Again Jesus is brought forward, as arrayed by the mocking soldiers. There must have been an unapproachable majesty in that great face, as so bedecked, with the indescribable suffering lines ever deepening, He stands before them with that wondrous calm still in those sleepless eyes. Pilate seems caught by the great spirit of Jesus dominant under such treatment. He points to Him and says, "Behold the Man!" Surely this utter humiliation will satisfy their strange hate.
Realizing that their fight is not yet won as they had thought, they make the air hideous with their shouts, "Crucify--crucify--crucify." Anger and disgust crowd for place in Pilate, as, with a contemptuous sneer, he says, "You crucify Him. I find no fault in Him." It would be illegal, but it would not be the first illegal thing. But these men are bound to get all they want from their weakening governor. One of the leaders sharply spoke up, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die because He pretends to be the Son of God." The Roman custom was to respect the laws of their subject-peoples. All pretense of a political charge is now gone.
Pilate is startled. The sense of fear that has been strong with him intensifies. That face of Jesus had impressed him. His wife's message disturbed him. Now that inward feeling that this man was being wronged grips him anew. At once he has Him led into his judgment hall for another private interview. Looking into that face again with strangely mingling emotions, he puts the question, "Whence art Thou?" But those lips refuse an answer. The time for speech is past. Angered by the silence on the part of the man he had been moved to help, Pilate hotly says, "Speakest Thou not to Me? Knowest Thou not I have the power to release or to crucify?" Then this strangely masterful Man speaks in very quiet tones, as though pitying His judge, "Thou wouldst have no power against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath greater sin."
Again Pilate comes out to the waiting crowd more determined than ever to release Jesus. But the leaders of the mob take a new tack. They know the governor's sensitive nerve. "If thou release this man thou art not Caesar's friend. Every one that maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar." That word "Caesar" was a magic word. Its bur catches and sticks at once. It was their master-stroke. Yet it cost them dear. Pilate instantly brings Jesus out and sits down on the judgment seat. The thing must be settled now once for all. As Jesus again faces them he says, "Behold!--your King." Again the hot shouts, "Away--Away--Crucify--Crucify." And again the question. "Shall I crucify your King?"
Now comes the answer, wrung out by the bitterness of their hate, that throws aside all the traditional hopes of their nation, "We have no king but Caesar." Having forced that word from their lips, Pilate quits the prolonged duelling.
Yet to appease that inner voice that would not be stilled--maybe, too, for his wife's sake, he indulges in more dramatics. He washes his hands in a basin of water, with the words, "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man. See ye to it." Back come the terrible words, "His blood be on us and on our children." Surely it has been! Then Jesus is surrendered to their will. They have gotten what they asked, but at the sacrifice of their most fondly cherished national tradition and with an awful heritage. Pilate has yielded, but held them by the throat in doing it to compel words that savagely wounded their pride to utter. The savage duel is over.
Jesus is turned over to the soldiers for the execution of the sentence. His own garments are replaced, and once more He is the central figure in a street procession, this time carrying the cross to which He has been condemned. His physical strength seems in danger of giving way under the load, after the terrible strain of that long night. The soldiers seize a man from the country passing by and force him to carry the cross. As they move along, the crowd swells to a great multitude, including many women. These give expression to their pitying regard for Jesus.
Turning about, Jesus speaks to them in words that reveal the same clear mind and masterly control as ever. "Daughters of Jerusalem, be weeping for yourselves and your babes, rather than for Me. The days are coming when it shall be said, 'Blessed are the barren, and the womb that never bare, and the breasts that never gave suck.' If they have done these things while the sap of national life still flows, what will be done to them when the dried-up, withered stage of their national life is reached!"
Now the chosen place is reached, outside the city wall, probably a rise of ground, like a mound or small hill. And the soldiers settle down to their work. There are to be two others crucified at the same time. A drink of stuff meant to stupefy and so ease the pain of torture was offered Jesus, but refused. And now the cross is gotten ready. The upright beam is laid upon the ground handy to the hole in which the end of it will slip, and the cross-piece is nailed in place. Jesus is stripped and laid upon the cross with His arms, outstretched on the cross-piece. A sharp-pointed spike is driven through the palm of each hand and through the feet. The hands are also tied with ropes as additional security. There is a small piece half-way up the upright where some of the body's weight may be supported.
As the soldiers drive the nails, Jesus' voice is heard in prayer, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." Then strong arms seize the upper end, and, lifting, shift the end of the cross into the hole, and so steady it into an upright position. It is nine o'clock, and the deed has been done. The soldiers, having finished their task, now go after their pay. Jesus' garments are divided up among them, but when the outer coat is reached it is found to be an unusually good garment, woven in one piece. It was the love gift of some friend likely. So they pitch dice, and in a few moments one of them is clutching it greedily as his own.
As quickly as the cross is in position the crowds are reading the inscription which has been nailed to the top to indicate the charge against the man. It was in three languages, Latin the official tongue, Greek the world tongue, and Aramaic the native tongue. Every man there read in one or other of these tongues, "The King of the Jews." Instantly the Jewish leaders object, but Pilate contemptuously dismisses their objection. This inscription was his last fling at them. And so Jesus was crucified as a King. There He is up above them all, while the great multitude stands gazing.
Now begins the last, coarse, derisive jeering. Some of the crowd call out to Jesus, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself; if Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross." The chief priests have dignified the occasion with their presence. Now they mockingly sneer out their taunts, "He saved others; but He can't save Himself. He is the King of Israel. Let Him come down from the cross and we will believe on Him." The two others hanging by His side, in their pain and distress, join in the taunting cries, and the soldiers add their jibes.
But through it all Jesus is silent. There He hangs with those eyes watching the people to whom His great heart was going out, for whom His great life was going out, calm, majestic, masterful, tender. The sight affects at least one of those before unfriendly. The man hanging by His side is caught by this face and spirit. He rebukes the other criminal, reminding him that they were getting their just deserts, but "This Man hath done nothing amiss." Then turning so far as he could to Jesus, he said, with a simplicity of faith that must have been so grateful to Jesus, "Jesus, remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom." Instantly comes the reply, "Verily, I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."
In the crowds were many of Jesus' personal acquaintances, including women from Galilee. Close by the cross stood His mother and aunt and faithful John and a few others of those dear to Him. Most likely John is supporting Jesus' mother with his arms. Turning His eyes toward the group, Jesus speaks to His mother in tones revealing His love, "Woman, behold thy son;" and then to John, "Behold thy mother." So He gives His mother a son to take His own place in caring for her, and to His friend John this heritage of love. John understands, and from that hour the ties between these two were of the closest and tenderest sort.
So the hours drag along until noon. And now a strange thing occurs that must have had a startling effect. At the time of day when the sunlight is brightest a strange darkness came over all the scene, the sun's light being obscured or failing wholly. And for three hours this strange, weird spectacle continues. Then the hushed silence is broken by an agonizing cry from the lips of Jesus, "My God--My God--why--didst--Thou--forsake--Me?" One of the bewildered bystanders thinks He is calling for Elijah, and another wonders if something startling will yet occur.
Jesus speaks again--"I--thirst" and some one near by with sponge and stick reaches up to moisten His lips. Then a shout, a loud cry of victory bursts in one word from those lips, "It is finished." Then softly breathing out the last words, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit," and bowing His head, Jesus, masterful, kingly to the last, yielded up His spirit.