AT LAST THEY REACHED GOLGOTHA, the Place of the Skull, where Jesus was to suffer death. Following the custom of the Jews, He was first offered a cup of wine mixed with myrrh, which was supposed to serve as a narcotic and to lessen the suffering of the condemned. He put His lips to the cup, but He did not drink it: the world was to be cheated of none of His suffering.
Then they stripped Him of His clothes, laid Him outstretched on the cross, and drove nails through His hands and feet, fixing them to the planks. Having completed the rudest part of their chore, the executioners heaved the cross upright on the ground, dropped it into a hole which had been dug, and tamped the earth in solidly around the foot. Working with dispatch, they crucified the two thieves in the same way and set up their crosses on either side of that of Christ.
Above Jesus’ head they placed a plaque bearing in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, Pilate’s inscription of the charge against Him: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” When the Jews saw the plaque, they were offended and sent a delegation to Pilate asking him to change it to read, “He said, I am the King of the Jews.” But the procurator rejected their complaint, saying, “What I have written, I have written.”
Now began the darkest hours of Jesus’ suffering. He was astride a kind of support which prevented His transfixed limbs being torn from the spikes by the weight of His body. But the weight of His weary arms alone deepened the wounds of the nails and crushed the plexus of tiny nerves in His palms, so that the slightest movement intensified His agony a thousandfold.
As His enfeebled body struggled against the advance of death, nature reflected His anguish. Though it was only a little past midday, the sun was now completely obscured and the whole countryside was enveloped in a hazy twilight. The crowd which had gathered on Golgotha was only half discernible in the mysterious dusk, but the cross of Christ stood clearly silhouetted against the gloom.
Meditation: The title over the head of Christ on the cross was meant to be a description of His crime, the reason for His shameful death. But, as the providence of God arranged it, the title accurately expressed Christ’s position as head of the old Israel and of the new Israel, His Church. The representatives of the Jews, refusing to advance into the new Israel, resented this title. But it belonged to the King whose work was the completion of the mission of Israel. As He was theirs, He is also our King.
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. 277-278. © 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.