The next day Je-sus was bound and led to Pi-late, who ruled in Je-ru-sa-lem at that time for Rome, that he might judge him. What the chief priests' hoped was that Pi-late would bid them go and do their will with Je-sus. They know that the case is too weak to bear sharp search from his eye. But Pi-late hates the Jews, and he will not be a mere tool in their hands. He bids them tell him with what they charge the man whom they have there bound.
The priests do not wish to tell Pi-late how slight their charge is, so they say, "If he had not done wrong we should not have brought him to you."
Pi-late says, "Judge hirn by your own law." He says this to vex them, for they now have to say the law will not allow them put a man to death. They take a new course to get Pi-late on their side, and make up a fresh charge. They say, "We found this man had tried to lead the Jews to cast off the yolk of Rome. He told them not to pay Ca-sar's tax, but said he was Christ, the King of the Jews."
Then Pi-late took Je-sus to one side to talk with him. He asks, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "I am; but my king-dom is not of this world. If I were of this world, then would they who serve me fight, and save me out of the hands of the Jews. As thou hast said, I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I to the world that I might make known the truth. He that is of the truth will hear my voice."
Pi-late said to him, "What is truth?" and then took Je-sus out to the Jews, and said, "I find no fault in this man." Then the chief priests charged him with new faults. Pi-late, as he heard them, said to Je-sus, "Dost thou not hear all these things with which they charge thee?" But Je-sus said not a word. The chief priests then said, "He stirs up the Jews. He has taught through all the land from Gal-i-lee to this place."
When Pi-late heard that Je-sus came from Gal-i-lee, he was glad of the chance to get rid of the mob and their suit. He-rod, the King of Gal-i-lee, was in town at the time, so Pi-late bade the chief priests take Je-sus to him.
Now He-rod had a strong wish to see Je-sus. He had thought at one time that he must be John the Bap-tist, whom he had slain, and who had come back to life. He was glad when he, of whom he had heard so much, was brought to him. His hope was that Je-sus would do some great sign in his sight. But Je-sus stood still, with weak, pale face, and bound hands. He knew that He-rod had no faith in him, so he would not talk or work miracles for him; and this vexed He-rod so much that, though he could find no crime that he had done and so could not put him to death, he and his men made sport of hinm, and dressed him like a mock king, and sent him back to Pi-late.
tells the priests and the mob, "I have found no fault in Je-sus nor has He-rod, so I will scourge him and then let him go." He thought he could keep at peace with the chief priests if he should scourge Je-sus, and yet he could save his life.
But the Jews cried out, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Ce-sar's." When Pi-late heard these words, he said, "Shall I put your King to death?" but they cried, "We have no king but Ce-sar; when Jesus says he is a king, he does a wrong to Ce-sar, and when he says he is the Son of God, he does a wrong to God: our law says he who does that must be put to death, and, as Ce-sar wants you to rule us by our laws, if you break those laws he will not let you rule at all."
At each of these feasts of the Jews, some one who had been shut up in jail for crime was set free, and Pi-late meant to let Jesus go on this plea. While he sat on the throne of the judge, his wife sent word to him that she had a dream as to "that just man" Je-sus, which gave her great fright and pain, and she bade Pi-late do him no harm.
This made Pi-late's wish still more strong to set Je-sus free. Once, twice, three times he tries to save him. But the mob cries, "Not this man, to go free, but Bar-rab-as." (Bar-rab-as was a Jew who had killed some one, and was in jail at this time.)
Pi-late then asks, "But what shall I do with Jes-us, whom ye call the King of the Jews?" The chief priests urge on the mob, and all cry out, "To the cross, to the cross with him!" But Pi-late still pleads with them, "why, what wrong thing has he done?" But their cries ring out more loud and fierce, "To the cross with him! to the cross with him!"
Pi-late gives in to the mob; he fears they might bring tales of him to great Ce-sar at Rome which would cost him his place, but he stands up in the sight of all the crowd to wash his hands, as a sign that the guilt of Je-sus' blood would not rest on him. "I am clean of the blood of this just man," said he, "see ye to it."
The Jews cried out, "We will bear the blame of it; his blood be on us and on our children."
Then Pi-late freed Bar-ra-bas, but took Je-sus and gave him up to those whose place it was to use the scourge. When the whip had done its work, Pi-late gave Je-sus up to the mob to do their will with him. His own men of war sieze the chance of brute sport. They once more put on the red robe which He-rod gave him in scorn, and which had been stripped off when he gave his back to the scourge. They weave a crown for him out of a shrub which has leaves of rich, dark green, but which has stiff, sharp thorns which pierce the skin as they force it on his brow. They put a reed in his right hand, they bow the knee to him and mock him as they cry, "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they smite him with their hands; they spit on him; they snatch from him the reed, and smite him on the head with it, though each blow drives in the thorns more and more.
Pi-late is not at ease. He hears the shouts and howls and blows of the brutes in the hall, and goes, out once more to see the "just man" Je-sus, whom his own act has made their prey.
The sight of the white, sad face with blood drops on the brow, but with firm lips that will not curse or cry, moves the heart of Pi-late. He hopes the same sight may move the mob who wait at the door and in the street for their turn at the given sport. So he leads Je-sus forth in the robe and crown, and pleads, "See the man! I bring him forth that ye may know that I find no fault with him."
The sight, so full of woe, seems but to rouse more thirst for the blood of Je-sus, and the chief priests once more lead the cry, "To the cross with him!" Pi-late yields to their threats and gives up Je-sus to them to be put to death on the cross.
The Jews take Je-sus and lead him out, they too, mock him, they take off from him the king's robe and put his own clothes on him, and lead him out through one of the gates of the town. On his back, sore with the wounds which the scourge has made, they lay the cross of wood on which he is to die. But he is too faint and weak from the long fast and his loss of blood to bear it, and he sinks with its weight, they chance to meet a man named Si-mon, who is on his way to town, and stop him and make him bear the cross for Je-sus.
Then the train once more moves on, more and more join it. There are some whose hearts ache at the sight of such shame and woe as are put on Je-sus, and they break out in sobs and cries. The sad wail comes to the ears of him for whom they mourn, and he turns to speak to them: "Weep not for me, ye wives of Je-ru-sa-lem, but weep for your own fate and that of those whom you have borne. The days are near at hand when she who has borne no child shall be thought the most rich of you all. Then shall all cry to the rocks, Fall on us! and to the hills, Hide us! For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"
The place where the cross was to be set up was a round knoll, which was shaped so like a skull as to go by that name --- THE PLACE OF A SKULL. To add to the shame of the scene, two thieves had been brought with them to meet the same death with him who had no sin. They nailed the feet and hands of Je-sus to the cross, and all the while Je-sus prayed, "Blot
out their sin, for they know not what they do."
And now they lift up the three and make each cross firm in its place. Je-sus is in the midst,
and the two thieves on the right hand and the left. Pi-late sent a scroll to be put on the top of Je-sus' cross. He wrote it with his own hand in three tongues, so that all who went by could read it: JE-SUS OF NAZ-A-RETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Some of the chief men of the Jews are there to watch him; and they mock him with the cry, Let him save his own life if he be the Christ of God. The cross stood near the gate of the town, which was filled with the great crowd who came up from all parts of the land to keep the Feast, so that a throng went back and forth by the cross. All, as they drew near and read the scroll which is on Je-sus' cross, feel the scorn which Pi-late has shown them in its words, and vent on Je-sus the rage which they dare not show to Pi-late.
So they, too, rail on Je-sus and take up the cry of the chief priests, "If thou be the Son of God come down from the cross, that we may see and have faith in thee!" And the priests and
scribes once more mock him and cry, "He came to save us, but he cannot save his own life."
One of the thieves adds his voice to the shout of scorn and rage and says, "If thou be the Christ, save thine own self and us!" But the thief who hangs on the third cross, chides him for his words: "Dost thou not fear God since the same doom is on thee? We, in truth, ought to be here, but this man has done no wrong." And he said to Je-sus, "Think of me when thou art on thy throne." Je-sus said to him, "This day shalt thou be with me where God is. And I, if they lift me up, will draw all men to me." So Je-sus had said months since, and now this thief at the point of death, leads the great host who have been drawn and shall yet be drawn to the cross of Je-sus.
There is a group at the foot of the cross on which Je-sus looks with love. Ma-ry, his moth-er, and John, the one of the twelve most dear to him. As he looks on the dear face which has been bent on him with love and awe from the first hour of his life till now, he longs to make sure that she will have love and care to the last, and he bids John who knows most of him and his love, take his place and be a son to her. From that hour he took her to his own home.
crowd still surge at the foot and send up their jeers and taunts at him who hangs in the midst. But all at once all grows dark, the sun hides its face, not in clouds which soon drift by and leave it clear and bright; but for three long hours there is no light.
But at the ninth hour (that is three o'clock) Je-sus cries out with a loud voice, "My God! My God! why hast thou left me?" It was not mere pain which wrung that cry from his heart, but the same woe which he had borne in Geth-sem-ane. It was the sins of the world.
Then he cried, "I thirst," and some one who stood by wet a sponge in sour wine and put it on a large reed so that it would reach his lips. Then Je-sus, who knew that all which the word of God had said that the Christ must do and bear had now been done, said, "It is done," and then with a loud cry to God, he bent his head on his breast and died.
At that last cry the earth shook; the rocks were rent, and the veil of God's house was torn in twain; and the graves gave up their dead. Then came a new proof that Je-sus Christ on his cross will draw all men to him. Those who kept watch of Je-sus while he hung on the cross, when they saw what was done cried, "In truth this was the Son of God!"
Some of the Jews who did not know that Je-sus was dead, and who did not wish that the cross should still stand on God's day which now drew near, went to Pi-late to beg that he would have his guards break the legs of those who hung there, and thus put a quick end to their life. So they broke the legs of the two thieves, but when they came to Je-sus they found him dead, so they did not break a bone of him, as it had been said of him like a lamb slain for the feast, they shall not break a bone of him.
There was a rich man, Joseph of Ari-ma-thea, a judge of high rank, and well known to Pi-late who begs leave to take the corpse of Jesus. Pi-late does not know what to make of it when he hears that Je-sus is so soon dead. Death on the cross is a slow mode of death and Jesus has hung there but six hours at the most. Pi-late sends for the chief of his troops who were there to watch the scene, and learns from him that it is so in truth. Then he gives Joseph leave to do what he asks. Jo-seph's own grounds are near at hand, and in them is a new tomb which he has had hewn out of the rock, but where no one has as yet been laid.
Jo-seph, and Ni-co-de-mus (he who went to Je-sus by night for fear of the Jews two or three years back), take Je-sus down from the cross. They wrap the limbs in soft fine bands and rare drugs, and lay him in the tomb, and roll a great stone to the door, and left him there, and make haste back to the town, so that they may reach it ere the first hour of God's day shall strike, which will be six o'clock of the night of that same day on which Je-sus died.
The chief priests went to Pi-late and said, "It has come to our minds that Je-sus said that he would rise on the third day; so we pray thee to have men watch the tomb lest some of his friends come by night and steal him, and then go and say that he rose from the dead."
Pi-late said, "Ye have a watch; go your way; make it as sure as you can." So they went and put a seal of wax on the great tomb, and set men to watch by the tomb.