ON March 30, 2018, Christians throughout predominantly Christian Philippines will once more mark that time when the Christ Jesus died on the Cross to redeem humanity, to save mankind from the original sin and promise life with the Lord beyond this earthly life.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Holy Bible have recorded that Jesus Christ was made fun of, was not believed and tortured in the praetorium; carried His cross up the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem to Calvary, nailed to the Cross, hung between two common criminals, and suffered an indescribable wrenching end.
When religious pilgrimages to the Holy Land ended with military occupation of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, a popular devotion known as the Way of the Cross arose during Lent retracing the Passion, Crucifixion, and Death of Jesus.
The 14 stations of the Cross are (1) Pilate condemns Jesus to death; (2) Jesus takes up his Cross; (3) He falls the first time; (4) Jesus meets his sorrowful mother Mary; (5) Simon helps carry the cross; (6) Veronica cleans his face; (7) He falls the second time; (8) Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem; (9) He falls the third time; (10) Jesus is stripped of his garments; (11) Jesus is nailed to the cross; (12) Jesus Christ dies on the cross; (13) He is taken down from the cross; (14) Christ is laid in the tomb.
The Lord’s Seven Words, His last seven expressions on the Cross as recorded in the Scripture:
THE FIRST WORD. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Gospel of Luke 23:34. According to scholars, Jesus said this first word only in the Gospel of Luke, just after he was crucified by the soldiers on Golgotha, with the criminals—one to His right and the other to His left.
The timing of this suggests that Jesus asked his Father to primarily forgive the soldiers who have whipped and scourged him, mocked him, tortured him, and who have just nailed Him to the Cross.
But, scholars have asked. Could this not also apply to His apostles and the latter’s companions who have deserted Him, to Peter who has denied Him three times, to the fickle-minded crowd, who only days before praised Him on His entrance to Jerusalem, and then days later chose Him over Barabbas to be crucified?
When asked by Peter, how many times should we forgive someone, Jesus answers seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). At the Last Supper, Jesus explains his crucifixion to His Apostles when he tells them to drink of the cup: “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28).
He forgives the paralytic at Capernaum (Mark 2:5), and the adulteress caught in the publicly despicable act and about to be stoned (John 8:1-11).
THE SECOND WORD. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Gospel of Luke 23:43. Now it is not just the religious leaders or the soldiers that mock Jesus, but even one of the criminals.
But the criminal on the right speaks up for Jesus, explaining the two criminals are receiving their just due, and then pointing to Jesus, says, “this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then, turning to Jesus, he asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). The repentant sinner had enormous faith in Jesus—far more than the doubting Thomas, one of his own Apostles.
Jesus yet again ignores His own suffering, and responds with His second word.
THE THIRD WORD. “Jesus said to his mother: ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple: ‘This is your mother.’ Gospel of John 19:26-27.
Jesus and Mary are together again. First, at the beginning of His ministry in Cana and, second, at the end of His public ministry at the foot of the Cross. What sorrow must fill Mary’s heart, to see her Son mocked, tortured, and now crucified. Once again, a sword pierces Mary’s soul, the sword predicted by Simon at the Temple (Luke 2:35) .
There are four at the foot of the Cross: Mary his Mother, John, the disciple whom he loved, Mary of Cleopas, his mother’s sister, and Mary Magdalene.
St. Joseph had probably died by the time of the crucifixion, or else he would have been the one to take care of Mary. Early Christian traditions and the second-century apocryphal Protoevangelium of James held that Joseph was a widower, and his children by his former wife were the “brothers and sisters of Jesus.”
THE FOURTH WORD. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. This is the only expression of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Both Gospels relate that it was in the ninth hour, after three hours of darkness, that Jesus cried out this fourth word.
The ninth hour was three o’clock in Palestine. Just after He speaks, Mark relates with a horrible sense of finality, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37). One is struck by the anguished tone of this expression compared to the first three words of Jesus.
This cry is from the painful heart of the human Jesus who felt deserted by His Father and the Holy Spirit, not to mention his earthly companions the Apostles. To underline His loneliness, Mark even Jesus’ loved ones “looking from afar,” not close to Him as in the Gospel of John. Jesus feels separated from his Father.
THE FIFTH WORD. “I thirst.” Gospel of John 19:28. The fifth word is His only human expression of physical suffering, with Jesus now in shock.
The wounds inflicted upon Him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the nailing upon the Cross are now taking their toll, especially after losing blood on the three-hour walk through the city of Jerusalem to Golgotha on the Way of the Cross.
Studies on the Shroud of Turin, reported by Gerald O’Collins in Interpreting Jesus, indicate the passion of Jesus was far worse than man could imagine.
The Shroud has been exhaustively studied by every possible scientific method, and the scientific burden of proof is now on those who do not accept the Shroud as the burial cloth of Jesus.
THE SIXTH WORD. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished;” and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit. (Gospel of John 19:30).
The sixth is Jesus’ recognition that His suffering is over and his task is completed. Jesus was obedient to the Father and gave his love for mankind by redeeming mankind with His death on the Cross.It was the darkest day of mankind. But, prophetically, it also became the brightest day for humanity
THE SEVENTH WORD. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Gospel of Luke 23:46). The seventh is from the Gospel of Luke, and is directed to the Father in heaven, just before He dies.
Jesus recalls Psalm 31:5 - “Into thy hands I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Luke repeatedly pleads Jesus’ innocence: with Pilate (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22), through Dismas, the criminal (Luke23:41), and immediately after His death with the centurion”
“Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47). The innocent Lamb had been slain for our sins, so that we might be forgiven.
Jesus fulfills His mission, and as He says so clearly in John’s Gospel, He can now return: “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28).
Jesus practiced what He preached: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
(HBC, a sodalist, is a member of St. Benedict’s Crusade and of the Couples for Christ, San Juan chapter).