The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken from prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
At Calvary the darkness produced a kind of consternation. When it first began, the noise of nailing the two thieves, the insulting remarks of the Scribes and Pharisees, the shouts of the rabble, the raising of the crosses had attracted people's attention. After the executioners, had finished their work, they began to drink deep of the cheap acid wine they brought with them. Then they, sat down to watch the victims die, and silence fell on the multitude. After this every one began to notice the great change creeping over the face of nature. As the deep night fell on the world, voices hushed, faces paled with terror, men moved little. Jesus had given Mary to John, and she retired a little from the cross, and as the darkness became denser, deep silence fell on the multitude. They looked at the darkening sky, at the dim sun, at the figure on the cross, and they became filled with fear and awe. Some struck their breasts according to the Jewish custom, some were sorry for their sins, and some became converted.
The Scribes and Pharisees first tried to put on a bold face, but they were at last forced to yield to the general horror. The birds flew low, or fell twittering to the ground, the horses and asses the officers and leading Jews rode trembled, put their heads down between their fore legs, and crowded close together. A storm of rain and hail had passed over Palestine that morning, and it was cold and damp. But when the dense darkness obscured all things, a deep silence fell on all the people. It was like the Egyptian darkness the Lord sent on the Nile land, when he delivered their fathers from bondage, which was a type and a prophecy of this darkness now covering the whole earth, while he was dying to deliver his race from the slavery of the demon and from endless hell.
Jesus now hung on the cross alone. Friends, followers, disciples, all had fled from him, and they looked on him as an impostor and deceiver. Only his Mother knew the mystery, for she knew his miraculous conception, had heard from Angel words that he would save his people from their sins, and the spotless Virgin, with St. John and Mary Magdalen on each side of her, stood by the cross to see him die.
At nine in the morning, the lamb was immolated in the Temple, a service they called Shacharith from remotest ages, when he was condemned to die, and the Hebrews tell us that Abraham established this morning time of prayer, then Pilate pronounced the death sentence. At noon, as the priests with the trumpets were calling the people to the Mincha, the noon service of prayer Isaac founded, then he was nailed to the cross. At three in the afternoon when they were sacrificing the lamb in the Temple, a time of devotions added by Jacob, called the 'Arabith, then the Saviour died. Thus the three great patriarchs, fathers of the Hebrews, seem to have been inspired with a dim fore knowledge of Jesus' agony.
Amid the deep, gathering, encircling gloom, and while the mocking multitude hushed in silence, forth from the lips of the dying Son of God rang out the words : " Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani." (Mark xv. 34.) " My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me." They are the opening words of the Psalm, xxi., where with minute details his Passion was foretold. The dying Saviour did not use the pure Hebrew, for the vast multitude, hundreds of thousands of people, covering the walls, and gathered on the hills to the south and west of Calvary would not have understood him. Only the priests and Rabbis knew Hebrew. lie spoke in the Aramean, or Syro-Chaldaic, so they could all understand he was calling their attention to the Psalm. (Fouard, Life of Christ, II., p. 336.) Christ did not use the words: " Look upon me," for there was a dispute at that time regarding the authenticity of these words in the first verse.
Some writers seem to think that God had abandoned him, but that could not be. For in the incarnation, God and man were united in the one Person of the Divine Son, and they could never separate. Nor could the Father abandon his Son, for they are one and the same Divine nature. The Psalm means that Christ was abandoned to die for the sins of the world, and that he took all these sins on himself as though he himself had actually committed them.
"But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people. All they that saw me laughed me to scorn; they have spoken with the lips and wagged their heads. He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him, let him save him. They have opened their mouths against me as a lion ravening and roaring. I am poured out as water, all my bones are scattered. My heart has become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up as a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my jaws, and thou hast brought me down to the dust of death. For many dogs have encompassed me, the council of the malignant hath besieged me. They have dug my hands and feet, they have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared upon me. They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots." (Psalm xxi.)
Hate, anger, and fanaticism blinded the Jews, and although the words were pronounced in the language of the common people, they did not seem to understand the opening words of the prophecy but: " Some of the standers-by, hearing, said : " Behold he calleth Elias." (Mark xvi, 35.)
Never did a dying human being feel as he felt, hanging by his hands and feet, dying on the cross with the world's sins upon him, for he alone lived with God, and in God, and he was God and man, and as man he was dying for the sins of all his brothers and sisters, from the first man to the last who will be born into this world. There he was, rejected by his own nation, doubted by his followers, abandoned by his Father as the victim of iniquity, with the weight of all sins, all wickedness upon him, as real as though he had been guilty of them all. " He is accursed of God that hangeth on a tree." (Deut xxi. 23.) The sorrows of Gethsemane filled his soul with greater horrors; hell alone, the everlasting loss of God, was greater than his pains. For now his exquisite, indescribable mental sufferings were added to his bodily pains, so that he might drink to the very dregs the chalice of all human sorrows.
When his Mother heard his cry of anguish, she broke through the line of soldiers, followed by John, Mary daughter of Cleophas, her niece, Mary Magdalen and Salome. The guards were so frightened at the darkness that they did not disturb them, and there they remained till the end. A troop of about thirty men on horseback was passing by, on their way from Joppa to the city, and when they saw what was taking place they were filled with horrors and exclaimed: " If the Temple of God were not in Jerusalem, the city should be destroyed for having taken on itself such a fearful crime." These words from strangers made a great impression on the by standers, and loud murmurs and expressions of grief were now heard on every side. The rabbles were not so loud in their mocking, the Pharisees assumed a more humble tone, the common people began to beat their breasts and lament, the tide was turning in favor of the Crucified.
The leading men of the Jews held a conference with the Roman centurion, who at their request closed the nearby gate leading into the city, and sent to Pilate for five hundred more soldiers to guard against an insurrection. Abenadar the centurion now began to stop the Jews from reviling Christ, for the people were turning in his favor, and he feared a revolt.
The light became gradually brighter and the body of the Lord was seen high in the air against the dark sky. It was white from the quantity of blood lost. (Isaias lix. 7.) " I am pressed as the grape which is trodden in the wine-press. My blood shall be poured out until water cometh." The Lord had lost so much blood that his mouth and tongue were parched, and he said : " I thirst," (John xix. 28.) that the Scripture might be fulfilled, " Meeting the thirsty bring him water." (Isaias xxi. 14.)
Through his prophet, he spoke eleven hundred years before in his thirst on the cross: " O my God, my God, to thee do I watch at break of day. For thee my soul hath thirsted, for thee my flesh, O how many ways. In a desert land and where there is no way, and no water so in the sanctuary have I come before thee." (Psalm Ixii. 3.)
Fainting for want of water, there he hung and his parched throat and swollen mouth could only utter the words " I thirst." (John xix. 28.) Again the dying Lord spoke and said, " Could you not have given me a little water." John replied : " We did not think of doing so, O Lord." John then offered money to the soldiers to allow him to approach and give the Lord a little water. But they re fused in a brutal manner as prophet had foretold. " For the fool shall speak foolish things, and his heart shall work iniquity to practise hypocrisy and speak to the Lord deceitfully, and to make empty the soul of the hungry and take away drink from the thirsty." (lsaias xxxii. 6.)