So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified.
They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast [f]lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.
But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He *said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
As I continue through this hymn as my inspiration for this series, the main theme has been remembrance. It was for the purpose of remembrance that this hymn was written and to evoke and attitude humility because of what Christ has done. The song has an emotional appeal that causes us to remember the sufferings of Christ and in particular the sufferings of the cross. The line ‘nailed him to the tree’ is particularly telling.
The suffering of Christ begins very early on in the story but it is most notable when Jesus is actually on the cross. Christ by the time he arrives at the cross is already human rubble. He has been punched out, he has been scourged, he has been mocked and humiliated. The cross itself will amplify this ten fold.
We sterilize and clean up the cross so it does not offend our western sensitivities. Jesus was stripped of all clothing and was displayed to the world naked. Because he was scourged, his back was raw hamburger. His head aching from the crown of thorns and the punching to his face. Now his further testes as nails are driven into his ankles and wrists. The nature of the cross as a form of public execution is to humiliate and suffocate the person. Each breath requires the victim to push themselves up to breathe and each breath is agony itself. There comes a point where the person cannot push themselves up any more and they suffocate on their one weight. There are documented cases of people lasting four days on the cross. Jesus will not last that long.
Jesus’s death is a moment of power. Matthew’s account records an earthquake. the temple veil being torn, people rising from the grave and the remarks of a centurion. The main thing being that Jesus would announce that things are finished and that it was time to go into the hands of his father.
For us today, these event signal the beginning of our redemption. It would take three days and nights with a resurrection at the end to truly complete our redemption but what was needed to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation was done the moment Jesus bowed his head and died. It is what we remember in communion. It is something that we should never forget and so the words of the hymn: “Were you there?” calls us to remember and tremble.