Volume 10, Issue 1: Stauron
Harmony of the Cross
The Bible is the infallible word of God, and as such it cannot contradict itself. However, when we consider separate portions of scripture which describe a single, common event (a frequent occurrence in the gospels), details mentioned in one account are often absent from, or may even appear to conflict with, another. The crucifixion of our Lord is one such event, described in some detail in all four gospels. But given the assumption of infallibility, the believing Bible student should be confident that the different accounts can harmonize, that careful study will resolve any apparent contradictions. What follows is one such harmony.
One morning of the Preparation day before a Jewish high Sabbath nearly two thousand years ago, the soldiers of the governor of Judea and the leaders of the Jews brought our Lord Jesus Christ and two malefactors bearing crosses through a gate of Jerusalem. Jesus was wearing his own seamless tunic over bloodied undergarments. Perhaps due to exhaustion from his beatings, Jesus could not continue to carry his cross. The soldiers compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus to bear his cross for him. A large crowd followed this company, including a group of women.
They soon reached Calvary, the Place of a Skull (in Hebrew Golgotha), not far from the city. There the soldiers offered Jesus vinegar mixed with gall to drink, but upon tasting it, he refused to drink it. Then they crucified him, nailing his feet and hands to the cross. Yet even as they did so, Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Pilate had written a sign in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin which they attached to the cross. Though perhaps worded slightly differently in each language, the thrust of the message was this: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Then the soldiers crucified the two criminals, one on his right, the other on his left. It was the third hour, about nine in the morning.
Four soldiers, when they had lifted the cross, took his garments and divided them into four parts, to each soldier a part. But when they came to the tunic they said, "Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be." So they did, unwittingly fulfilling the scriptures. Then sitting down, they kept watch over him, while the people stood looking on.
Some of them began blaspheming, shaking their heads and deriding him: "Ah, thou who destroys the temple and builds it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross."
Then the chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jews sneered at him, saying, "He saved others; himself he cannot save." "If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, that we may see and believe." "He trusted in God, let him deliver him now if he will have him, for he said, `I am the Son of God.'"
Then the soldiers came up to him and offered him more vinegar, saying, "If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself."
The criminals hanging next to him joined in the taunts. "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." But then one of them rebuked the other, saying, "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing amiss." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Verily, I say to thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
After a time the mocking ceased. Jesus' mother, his mother's sister, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the wife of Clopas stood near the cross. The disciple whom Jesus loved stood by them. Jesus saw the women and this disciple, and to his mother said briefly, "Woman, behold thy son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold thy mother!"
As noon came on, darkness covered the land. The sun stopped shining, for the Father had turned away from the Son. After three hours of darkness, Jesus lifted his head and cried out with a loud voice, in the words of the psalmist, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" Some of those who stood there heard him, though not understanding the Aramaic, and said, "This man calls for Elijah!" Then Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst." One of them ran and filled a sponge with the vinegar, put it on a hyssop reed, and put it to his mouth. The others said, "Let him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take him down."
Jesus, having now completed his redemptive work, cried out in a loud voice, "It is finished!" With his last breath he bowed his head, praying again in the words of the psalmist, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
At these words, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, graves were opened. And the centurion, who stood in front of the cross and saw what happened at his word, feared God and declared, "Certainly this was a righteous man!" The soldiers who were guarding Jesus with him agreed: "Truly this man was the Son of God!"