139: The King of the Jews
No one on earth will ever be able to fully understand the love of Jesus. No one will ever be able to understand how He could willingly go through that horrible suffering for sinners.The sun moved steadily toward the south and burned down on Jesus' wounded body.
The crosses were set up, each one with its end in a hole in the ground. Silently Jesus watched. Then His clothing was removed; He had only a loincloth left. Jesus suffered this in silence.
A soldier approached Him with a full cup and offered it to Him.
Jesus reached out for it eagerly, for He was tormented by a burning thirst. As soon as He put it to His lips, He pulled back and handed it to the soldier again. It was a mixture of wine and myrrh, a drink that dulled the senses and lightened the pain. Jesus was determined to drink the bitter cup of His suffering to the last drop. He wanted to suffer for His people with a clear mind.
How could people stand on that hill and watch this horrible punishment? His body was lifted against the cross. There was a wobbly support for His feet near the bottom. His hands, which had so often been opened in blessing, were now opened to have nails driven through them. His feet, which had never rested while there was a place to go to help someone, were nailed to the cross. Blood ran down the cross.
Then, in that intense pain, Jesus made His voice heard. What came from His mouth was not a curse but a prayer for the men who were nailing Him to the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
No one knows if those rough soldiers heard and understood Jesus' words. They were already busy with the two robbers. One was crucified to Jesus' left, and the other to His right. Above each of the condemned men they put a small sign on which they wrote an accusation.
The sign above Jesus' head was in three languages—Greek, Latin and Hebrew. The sign said: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
Those words were written at Pilate's orders. It was a final cruel joke on the people who had proven too strong for him.
The chief priests understood the joke. They raced to the hall of justice and said to the governor indignantly, "Don't write: `The King of the Jews.' Write: 'He claimed to be the King of the Jews.' "
Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written." He did not let the Jews take away this last bit of revenge.
There hung the King of the Jews, the Redeemer, the one for whom the people had yearned for centuries. Now they had let Him be crucified.
The King of heaven and earth, the Son of God, hung there as a cursed man. Through His freely chosen suffering, He did penance for the sin of the world.
The soldiers did not understand this miracle. They sat by the cross and divided His clothes, for He wouldn't need them anymore. There were four soldiers, and each one got something. One got a turban, and the others got His belt, His outer garment and His sandals.
Only His undergarment was left. It was a costly piece of clothing woven of one piece of cloth, without a seam. They said to each other, "Let's not divide it into pieces. Let's cast lots instead to see who gets it."
While Jesus suffered His terrible pain, the soldiers sat at the foot of the cross throwing dice to see who would get His undergarment. This fulfilled a prophecy that had come from David a thousand years before: "They divide my garments among them, and cast lots for my clothing."
His heart pounded. A fiery fever streamed through His veins.
How could people mock such agonizing suffering? Satan must have come into their hearts that horrible day.
People who passed by slandered Him and cried out, "So You were going to break down the temple and build it up again in three days? Save Yourself if You can, and come down from the cross!"
The chief priests and scribes stood before the cross and made fun of Jesus to humiliate Him further: "He saved others, but He cannot save Himself. If He is truly Israel's King, let Him come down from the cross. Then we will believe in Him. He says He has put His trust in God. Let God deliver Him if He takes pleasure in Him. Didn't He say He was God's Son?"
No human being would have put up with such humiliation and scorn if he had Jesus' power. A single word from Jesus would have been enough to destroy them all. Yet, He remained silent. He had not come to destroy people but to save them.
The soldiers made the suffering even worse for Him. They saw that He was thirsty and held before Him vinegar—a sour but refreshing soldier's wine. They continued to taunt Him: "If You are the King of the Jews, then save Yourself."
Jesus suffered all this in silence.