HIS FIRST UTTERANCE FROM THE CROSS was a prayer for His enemies. Appealing for His executioners and for all those involved in His death, He said:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
While Jesus’ life flowed out with His blood through the wounds of His crucified body, the crowd sought diversion. The executioners, to whom life was cheap and death was commonplace, sat at the foot of the cross and began dividing up His garments, each of the four soldiers taking a share. His tunic, however, was seamless, woven in one piece, and when they saw how it was made, they said, “Let us not tear it, but let us cast lots for it, to see whose it shall be.” And they cast dice for the seamless cloak. Thus they fulfilled the words of the Psalmist, “They divided My garments among them; and for My vesture they cast lots.”
Some of the spectators began parading before the cross, and as they passed Jesus they looked up and reviled Him, saying, “Aha, Thou who destroyest the temple, and in three days buildest it up again, save Thyself! If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross!”
The Sanhedrites and rulers mocked Him in the same way, saying, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save! Let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen one of God. If He is the King of Israel, let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He wants Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
After dicing for Christ’s clothes, the soldiers had settled down to wait for Him to die. They were supposed to maintain a degree of official dignity during their vigil; but, seeing the chiefs of the Jewish people insulting Jesus, they entered into the vile spirit of the occasion and began tormenting Him in the same way. They mockingly held up their rations of cheap wine, inviting Him to drink. And taking up the chant of the Jews, they said, “If Thou art the King of the Jews, save Thyself!”
Meditation: Christ spent His life doing good. His very purpose in coming on earth was to redeem fallen mankind. In spite of the cruelties heaped on Him by those He came to serve, He could, from the cross on which they hanged Him, ask His Father to forgive them. After such a life and after such forgiveness, He should have expected consolation and sympathy in His death agony. But He was mocked, not consoled. Our own kindness to our fellow men sometimes meets rebuff, rather than thanks. When that happens, we are walking in the steps of Christ!
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 279-280. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.