The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Some writers say Demas, the good thief, was a pagan, and Gestas, the impenitent robber, was a Jew. (Gnomon in Luke xxii. 19.) The good thief was crucified on the right and the bad one on the left of Christ. (Smith's Dic., Thieves, The Two.) A legend of the Apostolic age says that during the flight into Egypt, the Holy Family came on a band of outlaws, who wished to rob and murder them, but one of them, Demas, takes compassion on Joseph and Mary with the infant, purchases the silence of his companions, and the Child Jesus tells him, that thirty years later he will be crucified with him, and with him enter Paradise.
The Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea, states that seven days before the crucifixion, these two robbers were sent from Jericho to Pilate, and their case was as follows.
"Gestas put travelers to death, murdering them with the sword, and others he exposed naked. And he hung up women by the heels, head down, cut off their breasts and drank the blood of infants, never having known God, nor obeying the laws, being violent from the beginning, and doing such deeds.
"And the case of the other was as follows: He was called Demas, and was by birth a Galilean, and kept an inn. He made attacks on the rich, but was good to the poor—a thief, like Tobias he buried the bodies of the poor. (Tobias i, 19.) And he set his hand to robbing the multitudes of the Jews, and stole the Law itself in Jerusalem, (One MS. says he plundered the Temple.) and stripped naked Sarah, daughter of Caiphas."
But let us return to the trial. The charge against Israel's Messiah before Pilate was the crime of Læsæ Majestatis, " an injury to the majesty of the emperor," for he made himself a king, and the crime of Blasphemy against the Jewish Law, for he claimed to be the Son of God.
When Pilate had taken his seat to pass sentence, the trumpet sounded for silence. The Jews gloated over their victory. The Romans looked on coldly. Latin was the language of the Roman courts, and Pilate turned to the Lord and said to him in Latin : " Ibis ad Crucem." " Thou shalt suffer the Cross." Then to the officer he said: " I Lictor, expedi Crucem. Go Lictor, prepare the Cross."
Taking a long stick in his hands, he broke it in two and threw the pieces at Jesus' feet as was customary with the Roman judges when they condemned a criminal to death. He ordered the executioners to bring the two thieves, Desmas and Gestas, and ordered them to be crucified one on each side of Christ.
Then Pilate began the writing of the sentence; beginning by stating that he had condemned Jesus to death for claiming that he was the King of the Jews and the Son of God, ending with these words " I have been compelled by fear of an insurrection to yield to the wishes of the priests, the sanhedrin and the people who tumultuously demand the death of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they accuse of having disturbed the public peace and broken their law. I give him up to them to be crucified, although their accusations appear to be groundless. I have done this for fear of their alleging to the emperor, that I en courage insurrections, and cause dissatisfaction among the Jews by denying them the rights of justice.
" I condemn Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, to be crucified."
The Roman custom was for the judge himself to write out the sentence of death and also to write an inscription placed over the head of the criminal, stating the crime for which he was executed. Neither the judge himself nor anyone else could change the sentence when delivered, a principle still followed in civil and canon law, that was why Pilate refused to change the title. Clerks made many copies of the sentence to be sent to the emperor and high officials of the empire. (Gospel of Nicodemus, Cap. 13) Pilate wrote a letter to Tiberius giving an account of the case. He then wrote the Title to be placed over the head of sin's Victim as follows.
ln the Aramean or Syro-Chaldaic:
THIS-IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
(.Matt, xxxvii 37.)
JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF JEWS.
(John xix. 19.)
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
(Luke xxiii. 38)
The high priests, Scribes and Pharisees standing by, were extremely dissatisfied when they saw the Title. They protested with loud words: " He is not the King of the Jews." " He only said he was the King of the Jews." Pilate could not change the sentence. The title must state the crime for which the criminal was executed, and Pilate silenced them with the words; " What I have written, I have written." (John xix. 22.)
Then they asked that the Title be not put up at all, that it would make the Lord's cross higher than those of the other two prisoners. But it was the law, which Pilate was obliged to follow, and the cross was made with the upright beam higher than the arms so the Title could be attached to it above the head, and this gave the final shape to the cross.
The Mother Maiden with John, and the lady followers of the divine Son, with a few of the disciples, stood in a part of the Forum, where they could see and hear what was taking place. The women were closely veiled so as not to be known. The sinless Mother was clothed in a long flowing blue dress, from her shoulders fell a long white mantle, on her head was a yellow veil flowing down to her waist, as was the custom of Hebrew women. When she heard the sentence of death pronounced, the sword of anguish pierced her soul (Luke ii. 35.) for she realized that her Son must suffer the awful death of the cross. John and the women led her away quietly so the Jews and bystanders would not recognize her and mock her grief. She asked to be taken to the places where her Son had been scourged and crowned with thorns, where she shed many a tear.
While the sentence of death by crucifixion was being pronounced, Jesus stood below the portico, on the paved court before Pilate, his hands bound, and the two thieves on each side of him. Claudia Procla sent back again the pledge her husband had given her promising that he would not condemn Jesus. That evening she left his house, and took up her residence with the disciples.