Jesus fell on his face in prayer.
The magnitude of what He was facing and the weight of the eternal destinies of the world fell upon His shoulders. Eleven remained then, they were sleeping a stone’s throw away. But soon there would be none. Not one friend would stay.
“Let the cup pass,” he cried. “Father, if possible, let the cup pass!”
The Father gazed lovingly at his Son and the Son stared back already knowing his destiny.
“Your will be done, Father,” whispered the Son.
Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus saw the line of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. The mob arrived. Judas kissed. Friends fled. Soldiers arrested. And Jesus’ world suddenly became a swirl of torment and mockery.
Judas, the betrayer, would soon hang pale and gasping swinging from the end of his belt under the limb of a tree. The flames of hell already lapping at his feet, it would have been better if he had never been born.
The trial of Jesus Christ was a sham as liars lied and mockers mocked. God claimed to be God, and it was called blasphemy. And the face that Moses longed to see — the face that he was forbidden to see — was slapped and spit on.
They leveled their charges. Pilate stared intently at Jesus. He questioned him. And found no guilt. Neither did King Herod. So Pilate offered to release Jesus to the swelling crowd. But they chose freedom for the murderer Barabbas instead.
“Then what should I do with Jesus of Nazareth?” Pilate shouted to the mob. The mob thundered back: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And their voices prevailed.
Pilate washed his hands and delivered the Innocent One to death.
Next, Jesus was stripped and his hands were tied above his head to a post. The Jews would have been more merciful — no more than thirty-nine lashes. But the Romans extended no such mercy. The scourging was a horror that few survived. Fearing they had gone too far and killed Jesus before it was time, the soldiers cut him loose. He fell in an unconscious heap at their feet.
As Jesus came to he was forced to stand. A purple robe, a mock scepter and a crown of thorns were all forced upon the Savior. Jesus is bowed and bloody, heavy lumber is strapped across his shoulders. The weight of the rough wood proves too much as it grinds against the lacerations left by the Roman scourging. Pain explodes like light in Jesus’ brain. And he crumples under the beam. He no longer can carry the beam.
Jesus looks up and holds the soldier captive in his gaze. The victim’s eyes do not pierce the centurion with the hatred he expects. Instead, he finds love in those eyes. Love mingled with pain, yes — brokenhearted love — but love nonetheless. And not a love excited by one mere act of kindness. This love preceded the moment. This love preceded his existence. This love preceded the existence of the world. Somehow the centurion knows that these are the eyes of Eternal Love.
Jesus holds the soldier’s gaze as long as he can. But the blood that dripped off the ends of his hair to the ground when he was bent low under the beam now drops into his eyes. The blood mixed with sweat stings, and Jesus blinks.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning, by this time on this dark day, Jesus was all too familiar with the sting of pain.
Then Jesus is led out beyond the city gates. He sees several posts fixed in the ground. Three of those poles stand ready to receive their cross beams and the tattered body of Jesus and the two criminals carrying their own beams behind him.
Jesus now lays naked in the dirt on the hill called Golgotha. Two men take hold of his hands. Eternal Love shines forth again, as the hammer comes crashing down.
Flashes of the soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns and the blood on the ground beneath him all eternally etched into the minds of the witnesses of this fateful day.
Dark clouds gather above.
Jesus is lifted on his crossbeam to the post. His left foot is now pressed against his right foot. Both feet are extended, toes down, and a spike is driven through the arch of each. Jesus immediately pushes himself up to gasp for breath and to relieve the pain in his outstretched arms. He places his full weight on the spikes in his feet and pushes against the pain.
Jesus is now held there suspended between heaven and earth by spikes in his wrists and feet.
But it wasn’t the spikes that kept him there… it was his love.
Quickly waves of cramps overtake him — deep, throbbing pain from his head to his toes. Jesus can exhale, but he cannot inhale. His compressed heart is struggling to pump blood to his torn body. He fights to raise himself in order to breathe and in order to speak.
He looks down at the soldiers now gambling for his clothes. He pushes himself up through the violent pain to pray aloud, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.” Then he sags back into silence. But the crowd is not silent, though he can barely hear their taunts through the din of his pain. “He saved others, let him save himself! If you’re the Christ, come down off the cross! Save yourself, King of the Jews!”
It’s noon now. The rain falls harder and the clouds blacken. Jesus looks down through wet strands of hair into the familiar face of a woman. It’s his mother. She’s sobbing so hard that her breathing is as labored as his. Without words she looks into his eyes and begs to know why. He longs to hold her and to tell her that it’s all for her. He pushes upward and says, “Woman.” Then he looks his friend John in the eyes. John is standing behind her supporting his own weeping mother. “He is now your son.” then to John, Jesus murmurs, “And she is now your mother. Take her away from here.”
And he sags back into silence, back into countless hours of limitless pain.
As the sin and weight of the world crashes down on Jesus, God the Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away.
Jesus pushes himself upward and cries to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished.” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on Jesus.
It’s three o’clock and Jesus finds one more surge of strength. He presses his torn feet against the spikes, straightens his legs, and with one last gasp of air cries out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
And he dies.
The merciful centurion sees Jesus’ body fall far forward and his head drop low. He thrusts a spear up behind Jesus’ ribs—one more piercing for our transgression—and water and blood flow out of his broken heart.
In that moment mountains shake and rocks spilt; veils tear and tombs open.
And the merciful centurion looks up at the lifeless body of Jesus and is filled with awe. He drops to his knees and declares, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
But that’s not the end of the story…