Our blessed Savior, having passed a life of piety and virtue, amply illustrated by the doctrines he had taught and practised, and the benefits rendered mankind, was at length betrayed by Judas Iscariot into the hands of the Jewish High Priest and Council, whose hatred and malice against him were without bounds, as the truths he had proclaimed were but faithful commentaries on the vice and wickedness of their own characters.
He was tried and condemned—though his judge declared that he found no fault in him,—his body mangled with whips, and a wreath of thorns pressed upon his head as a mock crown. They spit upon him, taunted him, smote him on the crown with staves, that it might wound the more deeply, till his head, face, and body were bathed in blood.
In this situation, condemned and abandoned by the world he came to save, the heavy cross was laid upon his shoulders, and he was conducted in public through the city.
Passing the gates, he was brought to a place called Golgotha and Calvary, the place of execution for the city. His clothes were then stripped off, his body stretched out, and his hands and his feet nailed to the cross, which was then lifted up. Over his head the inscription was placed by Pilate, “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews,” in three different languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, in order that strangers might know for what he suffered. With this inscription the Jews were offended, and wished it altered. But Pilate replied that what he had written should stand good.
While our Savior hung thus languishing in torment on the cross, the multitude around strove to add to his misery by reviling speeches and horrid blasphemies. Some nodded their heads and cried, “If you be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The priests and rulers scoffed in like manner, “He saved others, but himself he cannot save.” The blessed Savior replied not, but lifted up his eyes and prayed for his enemies, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Nay, even one of the thieves who were crucified, one on each side of him, derided and urged him to save himself and them, if he was the Messiah. But his fellow criminal acknowledging the justice of their condemnation, and the entire innocence of Christ, seriously rebuked him, and looking upon Jesus with humble reliance, cried “Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” The Lord rewarded his great faith, embraced him with the arms of mercy, and assured him, that “that very day he should be with him in Paradise.”
His mortal agonies became now unutterable. His enemies still mocked him with their bitter taunts and revilings; they gave him vinegar to allay his burning thirst. He tasted thereof, and feeling the pangs of death, he cried, “all is accomplished.—Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;” and meekly bowing his head, he expired.
His death was accompanied by a terrible earthquake. Rocks were shattered, graves were opened, and the veil of the temple torn in two parts. In short, the whole face of nature seemed changed. The sun was so shadowed that the stars appeared. The eclipse was awful, and the miraculous darkness universal, having been recorded by many even of the Pagan writers. It continued for three hours, during which time all things were full of terror.—Many who saw and heard were converted, and cried “Truly this is the Son of God.”
The body of our Savior having been buried, by one of his friends, in a new tomb hewn out of a rock, the Jews and rulers went to Pilate and told him, that this impostor having declared within his life time that he would rise again within three days, they wished the sepulchre kept under a strong guard until the third day, lest his disciples should come by night and steal the body, and then persuade the people that he had risen from the dead. They procured the desired guard, and secured the tomb, setting a seal upon the stone. Vain precaution!—The prophecy was fulfilled. The Savior burst from the tomb, and rose triumphant to the bosom of his Father which is in heaven.