The Darkest Day of All the World
The Crucifixion Bible Story
Matthew xxvii: 31 to 66; Mark xv: 20 to 47; Luke xxiii: 26 to 56; John xix: 16 to 42.
Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, gave order that Jesus should die by the cross. The Roman soldiers then took Jesus and beat him again most cruelly; and then led him out of the city to the place of death. This was a place called "Golgotha" in the Jewish language, "Calvary" in that of the Romans; both words meaning "The Skull Place."
With the soldiers went out of the city a great crowd of people, some of them enemies of Jesus, glad to see him suffer; others of them friends of Jesus, and the women who had helped him, now weeping as they saw him, all covered with his blood, and going out to die. But Jesus turned to them, and said:
"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For the days are coming when they shall count those happy who have no little ones to be slain; when they shall wish that the mountains might fall on them, and the hills might cover them, and hide them from their enemies!"
They had tried to make Jesus bear his own cross, but soon found that he was too weak from his sufferings, and could not carry it. They seized on a man who was coming out of the country into the city, a man named Simon; and they made him carry the cross to its place at Calvary.
It was a custom among the Jews, to give to men about to die by the cross some medicine to deaden their feelings, so that they would not suffer so greatly. They offered this to Jesus, but when he had tasted it, and found what it was, he would not take it. He knew that he would die, but he wished to have his mind clear, and to understand what was done and what was said, even though his sufferings might be greater.
At the place Calvary they laid the cross down, and stretched Jesus upon it, and drove nails through his hands and feet to fasten him to the cross; and then they stood it upright with Jesus upon it. While the soldiers were doing this dreadful work, Jesus prayed for them to God, saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing."
The soldiers also took the clothes that Jesus had worn, giving to each one a garment. But when they came to his undergarment, they found that it was woven, and had no seams; so they said, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who shall have it." So at the foot of the cross the soldiers threw lots for the garment of Christ. Two men who had been robbers and had been sentenced to die by the cross, were led out to die at the same time with Jesus. One was placed on a cross at his right side, and the other at his left; and to make Jesus appear as the worst, his cross stood in the middle. Over the head of Jesus on his cross, they placed, by Pilate's order, a sign on which was written:
"THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH,
THE KING OF THE JEWS."
This was written in three languages: in Hebrew, which was the language of the Jews; in Latin, the language of the Romans, and in Greek. Many of the people read this writing; but the chief priests were not pleased with it. They urged Pilate to have it changed from "The King of the Jews" to "He said, I am King of the Jews."
But Pilate would not change it. He said, "What I have written, I have written."
And the people who passed by on the road, as they looked at Jesus on the cross, mocked at him. Some called out to him, "You that would destroy the Temple, and build it in three days, save yourself. If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!"
And the priests and scribes said, "He saved others, but he cannot save himself. Come down from the cross, and we will believe in you!"
And one of the robbers who was on his own cross beside that of Jesus joined in the cry, and said, "If you are the Christ, save yourself and save us!"
But the other robber said to him, "Have you no fear of God, to speak thus, while you are suffering the same fate with this man? And we deserve to die, but this man has done nothing wrong."
Then this man said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!"
And Jesus answered him, as they were both hanging on their crosses:
"To-day you shall be with me in heaven."
Before the cross of Jesus his mother was standing, filled with sorrow for her son, and beside her was one of the disciples, John, the disciple whom he loved best. Other women besides his mother were there, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and a woman named Mary Magdalene, out of whom a year before Jesus had sent an evil spirit. Jesus wished to give his mother, now that he was leaving her, into the care of John, and he said to her, as he looked from her to John, "Woman, see your son."
And then to John he said, "Son, see your mother."
And on that day John took the mother of Jesus home to his own house, and cared for her as his own mother.
At about noon a sudden darkness came over the land, and lasted for three hours. And in the middle of the afternoon, when Jesus had been on the cross six hours of terrible pain, he cried out aloud words which meant:
"My Lord, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" words which are the beginning of the twenty-second Psalm, a psalm which long before had spoken of many of Christ's sufferings.
After this he spoke again, saying, "I thirst!"
And some one dipped a sponge into a cup of vinegar, and put it upon a reed, and gave him a drink of it. Then Jesus spoke his last words upon the cross:
"It is finished! Father, into thy hands I give my spirit!"
And then Jesus died. And at that moment the vail in the Temple between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn apart by unseen hands from the top to the bottom. And the Roman officer who had charge of the soldiers around the cross saw what had taken place, and how Jesus died, and he said, "Truly this was a righteous man; he was the Son of God."
After Jesus was dead, one of the soldiers, to be sure that he was no longer living, ran his spear into the side of his dead body; and out of the wound came pouring both water and blood.
There were even among the rulers of the Jews a few who were friends of Jesus, though they did not dare to follow Jesus openly. One of these was Nicodemus, the ruler who came to see Jesus at night. Another was a rich man who came from the town of Arimathea, and was named Joseph. Joseph of Arimathea went boldly in to Pilate, and asked that the body of Jesus might be given to him. Pilate wondered that he had died so soon, for often men lived on the cross two or three days. But when he found that Jesus was really dead, he gave his body to Joseph.
Then Joseph and his friends took down the body of Jesus from the cross, and wrapped it in fine linen. And Nicodemus brought some precious spices, myrrh and aloes, which they wrapped up with the body. Then they placed the body in Joseph's own new tomb, which was a cave dug out of the rock, in a garden near the place of the cross. And before the opening of the cave they rolled a great stone.
And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and some other women saw the tomb, and watched while they laid the body of Jesus in it. On the next morning, some of the rulers of the Jews came to Pilate, and said:
"Sir, we remember that that man Jesus of Nazareth, who deceived the people, said while he was yet alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Give orders that the tomb shall be watched and made sure for three days; or else his disciples may steal his body, and then say, 'He is risen from the dead;' and thus even after his death he may do more harm than he did while he was alive."
Pilate said to them, "Set a watch, and make it as sure as you can."
Then they placed a seal upon the stone, so that no one might break it; and they set a watch of soldiers at the door.
And in the tomb the body of Jesus lay from the evening of Friday, the day when he died on the cross, to the dawn of Sunday, the first day of the week.