This is the final installment in our short series detailing the final few moments that led to Jesus’ death on the cross. We began this series with a simple thought – these trials were more than simple threats, more than physical wounds, they were also emotionally devestating. They were situations that tested Jesus’ endurance. As He faced betrayal, abandonement, false testimony, weak judges, and eventually shame and embarassment, He was tortured. There’s no way around it, the suffering of Jesus was overwhelming in its cruelty.
Today, it’s time to address the emotional toil that must have accompanied the actual moments on the cross. As we begin, I want to remind each of you that this was preappointed for Jesus. He knew, as He made the world (see John 1 and Hebrews 1) that this outcome awaited Him. He knew, as He came to the world that this verdict was His to bear alone. He knew, yet He still came. A slight reminder of Isaiah 53 should be all we need to remember that this was something God knew had to happen. Verses 7-9 tell us:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
What He endured on the cross is something we should never be able to forget. It was purposefully painful, humilitaing, and degrading. It was the lowest moment of humanity’s relationship with God coupled with His greatest victory. While there are many forms of capital punishment in the world, crucifixion just might be the worst. The Roman Empire was good at dispering punishment (just look at Revelation 2-3), and crucifixion was the “cadillac” of capital punishment. Most people who suffered this fate eventually died from dehydradtion and asphyxiation after several days of suffering on the cross. Mercifully, Jesus only had to endure a few hours.
While on the cross, Jesus endured the mocking of Jewish leaders, the presence of His mother at such a tragic time, and (quite literally) the weight of the world upon His shoulders. Those three things would have been too much for any mere mortal to bear, it took the strength of God’s very own Son to face that moment.
In Matthew 27:39-44, those who had already “won” the day took the opportunity at their disposal to rub salt in an open wound. While the Jewish leaders look bad throughout this ordeal, its at this moment they truly sink to new depths of depravity. It says:
And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
Luke 23:36-37 tells us they weren’t alone in that cruel mocking:
The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
What infuriates me the most is that Jesus’ death was what they had clamored for and literally encited a mob to bring about. From their point of view, they had won, yet still felt the need to rub it in. Surely, that lack of decency and disdain for all Jesus had been must have been troubling to our Savior.
In John 19:26-27, we see the exhange between Jesus, Mary, and John the Apostle. As a minister, I’ve set in many hospital rooms, nursing homes, and funeral homes as loved ones said goodbye to a beloved member of their family. Those moments are never easy. They are filled with an existential dread unlike any other. Death humbles us, reminds us of our immortality, and leaves us empty. Jesus knew He’d see her again. He knew in a few short days these moments would have a greater purpose than anyone could see on that rocky hillside. He knew, but they didn’t, at least, not completley. Unexpectantly, His thoughts were still on her well-being. It says:
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
Knowing that Jesus had her best intentions on His heart at that moment is reassuring to me. He knew He was still responsible for her and secured her security in the form of His best friend, John. That John and Mary were amenable to the suggestion shows how much they respected Jesus’ wishes. I’m amazed that He was able to say those words, think those thoughts, and ensure that situation with all He was facing. It had to have been though to look them both in the eyes and say what had to be said.
At the end of the day, I don’t believe there’s any other evidence needed to describe Jesus’ emotional status other than Mark 15:34. It says there:
At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
As Jesus cries out, I truly believe the weight of the world was upon Him. He knew sin had to be rectified. He knew the only way it could be done was with a sacrifice. He knew He was the sacrifice, spotless and pure. He knew it had to happen and that God had to accept it. He knew, but it still hurt. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like and neither can you. We really don’t even need to try. What we must do is appreciate and honor the pain it must have required to say those words.
What’s often lost on us is the fact that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit have always existed in perfect unison. They are One, yet in this moment, two personalities of God had to turn away and leave the other to humanity’s evil wishes. How tragic must it have been to know you can stop it, but you won’t? As a Father, I can tell you, it had to be heartbreaking.
As we bring this series to a close, I want to emphatically state that I believe the trials of Jesus are truly the most horrific moments in all of history. Humanity subjected our Savior to betrayal, a mock trial, unfathomable torture, and a cruel death. We did it, not because we wanted to, but because He let us. I implore you to remember all our Savior endured and honor His sacrifice with a life devoted to Him. I encourage you to remember the advice of Hebrews 12:2:
Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Follow His example and endure the cross that waits for you for the joy that awaits all those who are “faithful unto death,” (see Revelation 2:10).
All Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.