The cup which He must drink contains two bitternesses: first, the sins of men which the Just One must take on Himself in order to ransom His brothers, and probably the worst: an ordeal we cannot imagine. It is inexpressible. It is His Humanity that speaks: “Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.” His three faithful friends are asleep! As St. Luke says: “Poor Men!”
The struggle is terrible; an angel comes to strengthen Him, but at the same time, it seems, to receive His acceptance. It is the sweat of blood which some treat as symbolic. Hematidrosa is a very rare phenomenon, which has been well described. It is produced in very special conditions: great physical debility accompanied by violent mental disturbances, profound emotion and great fear. Dread and horror are here at their maximum.
Now we have Judas and the temple attendants, armed with swords and staves; they have lanterns and ropes. They are accompanied by a platoon of the Roman guard. Jesus steps forward; one word from Him would be enough to throw His assailants to the ground, the last manifestation of His power before He abandons Himself to the Divine Will.
Peter seizes the opportunity to cut off the ear of Malchus and Jesus has healed it—His last miracle. The yelling crowd has recovered and they have bound Christ without courtesy, as one may well imagine. To all appearances, He has been abandoned.
Now they are before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. It is by now the middle of the night. Jesus refuses to answer questions: as for His doctrine, He has taught it publicly. Caiaphas is furious and one of his soldiers, expressing his vexation, gives the accused a hard blow on His face.
Jesus is dragged from the hall into a courtyard. He sees Peter who has denied Him three times and with one look, He pardons him. He is dragged to an underground room and the rabble of attendants is going to enjoy itself to the fullest. He is beset with slaps and blows; they spit in His face. A cloth is tied over His head and each one is going to have his turn.
With one word He could destroy them…and He is silent.
In the early morning, a second hearing takes place with a wretched string of false witnesses. All that remains is a death sentence from Rome. Jesus, already worn out with fatigue and bruised all over, is now to be dragged to the other end of Jerusalem to appear before Pontius Pilate, a miserable representative of Rome, who has been taught nothing of pity; he knows only duty to maintain order. Jesus appears before him covered with bruises and spittle. Jesus impresses him and there is something he likes about Him. He will do everything he can to rescue Him from the claws of these fanatics. Jesus is Galilean; let us pass Him on to that old blackguard, Herod. But Jesus despises that old fox and refuses to answer him. And now He is back before Pilot, accompanied by the yelling crowd. They are hateful creatures.
Pontius questions this poor Man, in whom he is interested. Jesus does not despise him. He pities him for his invincible ignorance. He answers him gently and even tries to teach him. What is all this talk about the King of the Jews, the Son of God and the Messiah? Pilate knows this is a Just Man; I will have Him scourged (oh, Roman logic!), and then these brutes will maybe have some pity.
The soldiers of the guard then take Jesus into the hall and all the men of the cohort are summoned to the scene. The Savior has often shown Himself to have sympathy with soldiers. He admired the trust and humility of the centurion and the affectionate care for the servant whom He healed. The cohort seems to be seized by a collective frenzy not foreseen by Pilate. Satan is there, breathing hatred into them.
The scourging is done with numerous thongs by two executioners, one on each side of Him. They alternate their strokes with great zest. The whole of the back is now no more than a red surface, on which great furrows stand out like marble. At each stroke, the body gives a painful shudder. He has not opened His mouth and His silence redoubles the Satanic rage. They have completed the count even though they have not counted.
An old legionary’s cloak is thrown over the deep wounds of His naked shoulders, conferring on Him the royal purple. A reed in His right hand and everything is complete—except for the crown! In the corner, there is a bundle of wood with long thorns which they place on His head. (For more than 2000 years, He will be known by this crown, which no other crucified being has worn.) Each in turn comes forward: “Hail, King of the Jews.”
Pilate is back—what have these brutes been doing to Him? He is quite astonished at the pity he feels for this Poor Creature. He underestimates the hatred of the crowd and Pilate, the coward, surrenders completely and washes his hands.
The cross is ready, they place it on His shoulders and the blood starts to flow once more. He starts His journey with bare feet, along the rough roads strewn with stones. Jesus painfully puts one foot before the other. He often falls onto His knees which are soon all too raw. He is worn out. He falls again. Will He be able to get up again?
The soldiers see Simon of Cyrene, a man passing by when returning from the fields. They order him to help carry the cross and this good man is willing. Soon Simon and his sons, Alexander and Rufus, will be good Christians. They make their way to the top of the hill and the crucifixion begins.
It is not very complicated. The executioners know their work. They lay His stripped body, caked with blood and dust, onto the cross and the horrible deed begins. The executioner holds out one of the arms with the palm uppermost. One single blow with the hammer and the nail is fixed in the wood in which a few vigorous taps hold it firmly. The other arm is pulled and the same action is repeated with the same pains. The left foot is flat against the cross. With one blow of the hammer, the nail is driven into it. The right foot crossed over the left is pierced with a second blow.
Jesus has not cried out, but His face is contracted in a way that is terrible to see. The whole work has not taken the executioners much more than two minutes. Now, they deal with the two thieves, one on each side of Our Lord, and they are arranged facing the city which kills its God.
Do not listen to these triumphant Jews, as they insult Him in His pain. He has already forgiven them for they know not what they do.
He has not eaten or drunk anything since the evening before and it is now midday. He thirsts. His throat is dry and on fire, but he can no longer swallow. How can one recognize the fairest of the children of God if one did not see through it the serene majesty of God? A simpleton soldier, wishing to hide his compassion, soaks a sponge and holds it up to Him at the end of a reed. He breathes in, but cannot breathe out. He thirsts for air. With superhuman effort, he raises Himself up in order to speak to us: “Father, forgive them”.
Yes, may He indeed forgive us, we who are His executioners.
At the foot of the cross, stand His Mother and John, and the women who attended upon Him. The centurion, who has been standing a little apart, is observing the scene which has already become respectful. He draws Himself up and speaks: “Son, behold Thy Mother.” (Oh, yes, dear Mother, you who adopted us from that day!) A little later, that poor wretch of a thief manages to have the gate of paradise opened for him.
It will soon be three o’clock. But while His friends are there indeed, His Father seems to have forsaken Him: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” Now He cries out: “It is consummated”. The cup is drained; the work is complete. Then drawing Himself up once more, He makes us understand that He is dying of His own free will: “Father into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”
There has been an earthquake and the sun has undergone an eclipse. “Jesus, King of the Jews” has been crucified like a slave. The centurion has gone to make his report and this brave man has proclaimed You to be truly the Son of God. Soldiers break the legs of the thieves, but this does not apply to You. (“You shall not break a bone of Him.”)
With an exact and tragic gesture, another soldier has raised the shaft of the lance and with one blow upward on the right side, he drives it in deep. But why? “Immediately there came out blood and water.” John truly saw it—a broad stream of dark liquid blood and a flow of clear liquid like water, which gushed out on to the soldier. Why is it so that we should know this, that this man performed this odd aggressive act? Your resurrection needed this testimony. Thank you, soldier, thank you, Longinus; one day you will die as a Christian martyr.
All these horrible pains were foreseen by Him all through His life; He premeditated them and willed them, out of His love, so that He might redeem us from our sins. He directed the whole of His passion, without avoiding one torture. He died when and how because He willed it. It is right; it is good to suffer with Him and to thank Him when He sends us pain to associate ourselves with His pain. With Mary, His Mother and our Mother, let us accept our fellow-sufferings fraternally and with joy.
O Jesus, You Who had no pity on Yourself, You Who are God, have pity on us, who are sinners.
(Edited from “A Doctor at Calvary” by Connie Bagnoli for The Remnant)