Friday, April 10, 2009

Christ's Crucifixion, Last Words, and Death

We don’t know for certain where Golgotha is found. Many hymns and paintings over the years depict it as being on a hill, but none of the four gospels indicate this to be true. As we learn more about the culture and the times, we come to know crucifixions were done outside city walls along main roads. This was done to further humiliate the person being crucified, as well as a warning to others what would happen if they were caught.

We know Christ was crucified at nine o’clock in the morning (Mark 15:25). Spikes were driven through the palms of His hands as well as the wrists, and then into the feet, making sure no bones were broken in the process. At this point He would have been lifted up to the tree where everything would be nailed into place. Included in this was the sign written up by Pilate. It read:
Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews

As we read in John 19:19-22, the chief priests wanted Pilate to add two more words, so that the sign would read, “I am King of the Jews.” In this point Pilate finally stood firm. “What I have written I have written.” Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. Perhaps he also knew of Christ’s divinity.

Bruce R. McConkie describes some of what Christ went through on the cross.

“A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly – dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful…and, while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. Such was the death to which Christ was doomed” (McConkie, Bruce R., Donctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, p.816).

Everything Christ endured on the cross is horrible to think about. What is miraculous to me is through all of it He was concerned about others, as we can see in His last words.

1. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Who were ‘they?’ Certainly not the men and soldiers who arrested, scourged, and mocked Him. None of these men had repented, nor deserved forgiveness. Christ was speaking to His Father in behalf of the soldiers who, following orders, nailed Him to the cross.

2. “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Two thieves were also crucified at the same time as Christ. One of these men went so far as to begin mocking the Savior. The second thief rebuked the first, showing come compassion. Was he more concerned with himself, wondering if he might make it into heaven? This is certainly a possibility. Even so, his heart was in a better place, and Christ gave him some peace in the promise to meet in the world of Spirits.

3. “Woman, behold thy son! … Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26-27). One among a group of faithful women was the Lord’s own mother. How her heart must have suffered to see her beloved Son come to such an end. Near her stood John the Beloved, one of Christ’s own faithful followers. In putting the two of them together, He ensured His mother would be well taken care of.

4. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). For me this is the most heart-wrenching cry to have been uttered from the Savior’s lips. At this moment He had gone through so much. So much! His life was ending, His body pushed to it’s limits. I think the only thing that kept Him going was His link to the Father, and now it had been removed. Now there was no angel to help support Him, no promise of a return, only darkness.

5. “I thirst” (John 19:28). At the removal of the Father’s light and life, Christ may have felt the physical torment to an even greater degree. Admitting such a base need truly testifies to the agony He was then suffering. Still, when offered, Christ declined, putting His mission before His own needs.

6. “It is finished” (John 19:30). In the footnotes of the King James version of the Bible put out by the Mormon Church we find a slightly different account as translated by inspiration through Joseph Smith. “It is finished, thy will is done.” Herein we see the completion of the Atonement. All that Christ suffered was at the will of the Father. In this moment, this blessed moment, Christ knows He has done all that the Father has asked.

7. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Christ gave up the ghost. It was His choice. He had power over His own death, as was given to Him by being the literal Son of the Father. Why is this so significant? It wasn’t the chief priests or Roman soldiers who brought about His death. Because of the light and life of the Father, which was in Him, Jesus could have lived on. This was in part the reason the Spirit left Christ, so that He could have total control over when to end His life, of His own free will and choice.

The earth quaked, the veil of the Temple ripped in two, mountains were laid low and valleys became mountains. The earth, and all that was upon it, mourned for the loss of its Creator. But somewhere in the afterlife was a Being who stood in the presence of countless loved ones, free of pain and sin, at last at peace. Only one thing more was required, and those on earth would have to wait three more days to see it happen.

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