|Nicodemus with Jesus|
" 'I am afraid,' said Nicodemus,' lest Pilate should be enraged, and some evil befall me. But if thou wilt go alone and beg the dead and take him, then I will go with thee and help thee to do everything necessary for the burial.'
"Nicodemus having thus spoken, Joseph directed his eyes to heaven, and prayed that he might not fail in his request, and he went away to Pilate, and having saluted him sat down. Then he says to him:
" 'I entreat thee, my lord, not to be angry with me, if I ask anything contrary to what seems good to your highness.' And he said: 'And what is it that thou askest?' Joseph says: ' Jesus, the good man, whom through hatred the Jews have taken away to crucify him, I entreat that thou give me for burial.' Pilate says: 'And what has happened that we should deliver to be honored again the dead body of him against whom evidence of sorcery was brought by his nation, and who was in suspicion of taking the kingdom of Caesar, and so was given up by us to death?'
"And Joseph, weeping and in great grief, fell at the feet of Pilate, saying: "My lord, let no hatred fall upon a dead man, for all the evil that a man has done should perish with him in his death. And I know your highness, how eager thou wast that Jesus should not be crucified, and how much thou didst say to the Jews on his behalf, now in entreaty and again in anger, and at last how thou didst wash thy hands, and declare that thou wouldst by no means take part with those who wished him to be put to death, for all which I entreat thee not to refuse my request.'
"Pilate therefore seeing Joseph thus prostrate, and supplicating, and weeping, raised him up and said: * Go, I grant thee this dead man, take and do whatever thou wilt.' Then Joseph thanked Pilate, and kissed his hands and his garments, and went forth rejoicing indeed in heart, as having obtained his desire, but carrying tears in his eyes. Thus also, although he grieved, he was glad. Accordingly he goes away to Nicodemus, and tells him all that happened. Then having bought myrrh and aloes a hundred pounds, they with the Mother of God, and Mary Magdalen, and Salome, along with John, and the rest of the women did what was customary for the body with white linen, and placed it in the tomb." (Gospel of Nicodemus, Chapter xi.)
While these things were taking place in the city, silence reigned round Calvary. The multitude of Jews, who had been so noisy with their clamors and insults, when the Lord was crucified, had become, first silent, then terror seized them. But when they saw the prodigies which took place at his death they became panic-stricken. Many of them were converted. But the leading Jews, filled with their fanaticism and hatred, refused to believe. The Jews had put Christ to death and they hated him even in death.
"And all the multitude of them that were come together to that sight, and saw the things that were done, returned striking their breasts. And all his acquaintance, and the women that had followed him from Galilee, stood afar off beholding these things." (Luke xxiii. 48.)
Calvary was soon nearly deserted, the Lord's Mother, John, Mary Magdalen, Mary of Cleophas, Salome and their women friends remained weeping beside the cross. A few soldiers were gathered around, some leaning over the little low stone wall around the top of Calvary. Casius rode up and down on horseback in full armor, as officer over the guards. Soon six soldiers with ladders, spades, ropes and heavy iron mallets came up to remove the bodies of the condemned from the crosses. This operation the Romans called the Crurifragium: " Breaking the legs."
They came first to the cross of Christ, and placed the ladder up against the cross to break his legs, as Pilate had ordered. They said he was only pretending to be dead. Then they put their hands on his body, and reported that it was stiff and cold, and that he was really dead. They took down the ladders and placed them up against the crosses of the thieves, who were still alive. Swinging back the iron sledge, they broke the thieves' arms above and below the elbow, while at the same time another smashed their legs below and above the knees. Gesmas uttered groans and curses, and they finished him with three frightful blows, breaking in his chest. Desmas gave a deep groan and died. They loosened then the cords, the bodies fell to the ground, and they dragged them to a deep morass, or hole in the rocks about thirty feet deep, at the foot of the hill, about one hundred feet directly east and towards the city wall. Into that deep hole they threw the bodies and later they threw in the same water-hole the three crosses, and there long after wards St. Helena found them. She had the place cleaned out, and it is now called the Chapel of the Finding of the Holy Cross.
The soldiers were doubtful whether Jesus was really dead, and they debated it among themselves, and with Casius, their commander. The Mother with her friends trembled least they might mutilate him as they had the thieves. But the officer had a duty to perform, the execution of these criminals, and their burial before the setting sun, and without knowing he fulfilled a prophecy, and proved to all generations the real death of Christ. With his long narrow Roman lance, sharp as a knife and doubled-edged, he rode up to the top of the hill, and seizing the shaft in both hands he drove it into the right side of Christ's body, right through the heart till the point came out below the left arm.
When the Lord through Moses laid down the regulations relating to the preparation of the body of the dead paschal lamb, eaten every Easter during the Passover, he said:" Neither shall you break a bone." (Exod. xii. 46.) Clearer still came out the prophecy telling how to remove the remains of the lamb, after the supper; telling how in future times the body of the Lord would be in haste removed from the cross that evening. For he was the real Lamb of God sacrificed for humanity, the true Victim which the little lamb fore told. " They shall not leave anything thereof until morning nor break a bone thereof, they shall observe all the solemnities of the Phase." (Numbers ix. 12,) So strongly was this law against breaking a bone of the roasted lamb enforced, that at the time of Christ, the Jew who would, even in carelessness break one of its bones, was punished with thirty-nine stripes by the Sandedrin.