Bent nearly double under the weight of a huge cross, a man, guarded by soldiers and followed by a yelling, mocking mob, struggles up a hill. Sweat and blood are mingled on His white, pain-drawn face, for a crown of sharp thorns has been pressed upon His head with such force that it is piercing the flesh deeply. One needle-like dart is sticking just above one eye, and the blood is running down and partially obscuring His vision. His hands are bound tightly behind His back which, with horror we see to be streaming with blood, cut and lacerated terribly and with long, livid welts, showing where the lash of the whip has fallen in the awful scourging He has received. His face is swollen and the marks of someone’s fingers can be seen on one pale cheek.
He staggers, the rough cross lying with all its weight on the horribly lacerated back. Realizing that the Man can go no further thus burdened, the soldiers lay hold on a member of the howling mob and bind the cross to his back. In the meantime, the Man has been revived and is once more standing on His trembling legs, and at once, the procession is again on its way up the steep hill.
Reaching the summit, the cross is laid upon the ground and the Man is loosed and stretched upon it. Someone sits at its base and places His two feet together on the heavy beam, as someone else brings a huge spike about eight inches long, and a heavy hammer. Someone else has also brought hammers and spikes as two burly fellows stretch His arms out on the crossbeams. The thud of a hammer against nails is mingled with the sound of deep groans from the bloodless lips of the stricken Man, as the heavy spikes tear through the flesh and grate past bones on their way to the wood beneath. Surely now they will be content with their hellish hate. But no! There is a deep hole dug at the base of the structure and now several husky soldiers lift the burdened cross and drop it with a thud into the hole. The strain of His weight on the nailed hands and feet force a cry from the lips of the Man, but He does not curse those who so cruelly torture His body. Instead, He lifts His eyes to the heavens and speaks. What does He say? Does He pray for Himself—that His pain may be lessened? No! This is His prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” A plea for forgiveness to these cruel, heartless people, who have subjected Him to such untold suffering and humiliation, and now have nailed Him to a cross to die in excruciating agony.
Minutes pass and He hangs motionless, while the blood drips ceaselessly from His head, His back, His hands and His feet. His throat is parched, and feebly He asks for a drink. Someone runs quickly, and dipping a sponge into a liquid, raises it on a long reed to the white lips. But it is not water. Their hate of this poor, suffering Man is so great that He is denied what one would give to a dying dog—a cooling drink of water. They bring Him vinegar. It would seem that they could have pitied Him now, seeing that He is dying. Surely, there must be someone in all that vast mob who would relent and have compassion. But no! Instead, they mock and taunt Him in every way, wagging their heads and telling Him to save Himself if He is the Son of God as He has affirmed.
But suddenly every voice is hushed and the people stand scarcely daring to breathe. A feeling of horror grips their hearts as every light in creation seems to be snuffed out and an intense darkness, so deep as to seem tangible settles over the earth. As they fearfully ask each other what such a phenomenon can mean, a vivid flash of lightning which splits the darkness for a moment, only to make it more intense, seems to strike at the cross, and is followed by a crash of thunder that shakes the earth. For three hours the Man on the cross is the center of this strange and terrific storm. It is as if the mighty wrath of God has joined its fury with that of the mob against this One forsaken suffering Person. Suddenly a loud cry issues from His tortured lips, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And with another last loud cry, His head falls forward and He dies. It seems that in that moment God would vent His wrath upon the people who have so misused His only Son. The earth shakes, rocks; and then the veil of the temple is torn from top to bottom and many graves are opened. Then it is that the terrified people begin to speak to each other in awed tones. “Truly this must have been the Son of God, and we have crucified Him.” And they flee in every direction from the awful place of the skull.
FOR YOU—FOR ME
Have I caused you to see this tragedy? If not, will you read it again? Will you go with Him in your mind all the way, and see, hear, and feel all that you would if you had actually been there. Then will you ask, “Why must such a tragedy have been done?”
And let me tell you! It was for you! It was for me!
It was for me He had His back cut to ribbons with a cat-of-nine tales; for me someone slapped His face until the marks remained for hours; for me someone mocked Him and crushed the sharp thorns on His brow; for me He carried the heavy cross till He fainted; for me He is stretched on the cross and nailed there; for me He endured the awful pain without the comfort of a drop of cool water to ease His fever; for me His last hours were tortured with a sense of separation from the Father He adored.
It was my sins that hid the Father’s face from Him and made Him cry out in terror; it was my sins that sent Him to His death. It was all for me, unworthy as I am. It was I who deserved all He endured, but He did it for me. Why? Why did he volunteer to die for us—for you and for me? I cannot tell you more than to say it was because He loved us. How could it be! It is too wonderful for me to fully understand. My mind is too small. I only know that He suffered and died so that I could be freed from the power of Satan and that I might have eternal life, and I know that I love Him because of it, and that I shall never cease to thank Him and praise the Father for the matchless love He revealed when He let His dearest possession suffer for me.
Is your heart still hardened? Are you unwilling to believe Him when He says He is the only way for the salvation of your soul? Does your heart not thrill with the love He has shown for you? Think on these things! All that happened on the hill at Golgotha was for the assurance of eternal welfare.
Such suffering, such love—for you, for me! Ⅸ