Jesus Led to Calvaryby Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
IN OUR TIME, and in all well-governed lands, when a man has been sentenced to death, he is taken to prison and kept there safely for a few days, that he may prepare to die.
No one is allowed to do him harm; good food is given him to eat, and he is allowed to live his last days in peace. But in the old times, when Jesus was among men, prisoners appointed to die were treated with the greatest cruelty.
They were mocked and beaten and spit upon for an hour or more, and then they were led away to death.
So it was with Jesus on that day. After the soldiers had treated him shamefully, they took off the scarlet robe and put on him his own clothes.
Then they laid upon his wounded shoulders the heavy beam of his cross, and led him from Pilate's palace through the streets of Jerusalem toward a hill outside the city wall.
This hill was called in the Hebrew tongue, the language of the Jewish people, "Golgotha," a word meaning "Skull-place." In the language of the Romans, the word meaning "Skull-place" was "Calvaria," and from this word the place where Jesus was crucified has been called "Mount Calvary."
It is not certain where was the true Mount Calvary, the place of Christ's cross. For a long time it was believed to be a little hill on the west of the city; and over that hill was built in the after years a great church, called "The Church of the Holy Sepulchre," because inside that church they show not only the place where people thought that the cross stood, but also the tomb or sepulchre in which Jesus was buried.
To this church thousands of people go every year, thinking that they can see the very places where the Saviour died and was buried.
But most of those who have studied carefully all that can be known about the city of Jerusalem and the hills around it, have believed that the true Calvary was not where the great Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands, but at some other place.
Many think that it was a rounded, grass-covered little hill just outside the city on the north. The side of this hill looking toward the city is very steep, and in it are two great caves.
As one stands on the city wall and looks at this rounded hill, with the two holes in it, he thinks of a skull--which is a man's head without the skin and the flesh, and with two eye-holes.
This hill may have been called "the skull-place," because it looks so much like a skull. On this skull-like hill it may be that Jesus was crucified.
Jesus walked through the streets of the city loaded down with the heavy beam of his cross on his shoulders. The soldiers were dragging him on, and some were driving him forward with blows, when suddenly, worn out with suffering, and fainting from loss of blood and want of food, he sank down upon the ground, unable to carry his load any further.
Just then a man coming from the country into Jerusalem, met the soldiers and the crowd with Jesus. This man was named Simon. He was not Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus, but another Simon, who had come from a city far away in Africa, called Cyrene.
The soldiers seized this man, and made him help Jesus in carrying the cross, until they came to Calvary.
Following the soldiers who had been commanded to crucify Jesus, was a crowd of Jewish priests and scribes, the teachers of the law, and a multitude of the lowest of the people, all shouting aloud their rejoicing that Jesus was to be put to death, just as if he had been the wickedest man in all the land. But among these were a few friends of Jesus, and some of the women who had known him and loved him, and were now weeping over the wrongs done to him.
Jesus turned and spoke to these women:
"Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children! For the time is coming when they shall say, 'Happy are those who have no children to suffer and to die.' In those days they shall call out to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Hide us.' If this is what they do now in the beginning, what will they do then in the end?"
Even in those terrible moments Jesus was not thinking of himself and his own sufferings, but the sorrows that would soon come upon others.
There is a story told of Jesus on the way to Calvary, which is not found in any of the gospels, and may not be true. It is said that a good woman, named Veronica, was standing by the street when Jesus went by.
Seeing his face covered with sweat, and dust, and blood, she went to him and wiped his face with a napkin. When she looked at her napkin, she found that on it had been printed the portrait of Jesus; and she kept it ever afterward as her greatest treasure.
They led Jesus out of the gate in the city wall, and up the side of the hill Calvary, wherever that hill was. There they laid the cross upon the ground and stretched Jesus out upon it. They drove nails through his hands and feet to fasten his body to the cross.
Then they lifted it up with Jesus upon it, and dropped the lower end of it into a hole so that it would stand upright.
With Jesus they had brought two other men, who had been robbers, and sentenced to die by the cross. These two men they crucified with Jesus, one on his right hand and the other on his left, and Jesus between them, as if he had been the most wicked man of the three.
Jesus knew that the Roman soldiers who fastened him to the cross were not his enemies, as the Jews were, but were only obeying the orders that had been given them by their officers. He prayed to God for them.
"Father," said Jesus, "forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!"
It was nine o'clock on Friday morning when Jesus was placed upon the cross; and he hung there living for six awful hours, until three o'clock in the afternoon.