Book Excerpt from Source of the Light, A Witness and Testimony of Jesus Christ, Savior and Redeemer of All
Study materials: Mathew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; and John 18.
Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane when a string of torchlights came up the Mt of Olives, a multitude of armed soldiers led by Judas. “Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”1 Approaching Jesus, Judas greeted Him and “not only kissed [him], but covered Him with kisses, kissed Him repeatedly, loudly, effusively.”2 Defending Jesus against the arrest, Peter raised his sword and cut off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Touching the ear, Jesus healed it, saying, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?”3 But now was the time for divine restraint as He allowed Himself to be taken captive that the scriptures might be fulfilled.
As the soldiers took Jesus, “they saw before them nothing but a weary unarmed man, whom one of His own most intimate followers had betrayed, and whose arrest was simply watched in helpless agony by a few terrified Galileans”4 who finally fled in panic. This was the beginning of a long and terrible night of inquisition. First, He was led to degenerate Annas, the former High Priest for seven years, the money-hungry usurper of Jewish power. One of the abominable men of the earth, He appointed and controlled the High Priest, who would have slavishly followed his word.
Bound and Led to Caiaphas
Next, in exhaustion, He was led bound to Caiaphas, the legal High Priest in whose palace at least a quorum of the Sanhedrin was gathered. They had before them a prisoner innocent of any crime. “Their dilemma was real, for they themselves were sharply divided on all major issues save one—that the man Jesus must die.”5 However, since they needed to find a charge, they sought false witnesses. Many were eager to bare false witness, but “their testimony was so false, so shadowy, so self-contradictory, that it all melted to nothing.”6 Through all their hopeless argument, Jesus listened in majestic silence, which only confounded them more until Caiaphas, enraged, hurled this question: “Answerest thou nothing? . . . I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered, for it had never been a secret, “Thou hast said.”7
Meanwhile, Peter waited in the courtyard below, mingling with the crowd and listening to malcontents tell stories of the arrest. The damsel who had admitted him to the palace said, “Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples?” “I am not,”8 he said. Later another maid said, “This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.” This time Peter, more threatened, denied with an oath, saying, “I do not know the man.”9 Then later as Peter was warming himself by the fire, another said, “Surely thou art one of them,”10 and “Did not I see thee in the garden with him?”11 Peter cursed and swore with an oath, “Man, I know not what thou sayest.”12 Just then the cock crew, and the Lord, probably being led out a suffering prisoner, turned and looked upon Peter. Seeing that face of love, those suffering eyes, and knowing his own desperation, Peter went out and wept bitterly.
After the Savior’s interview with Caiaphas, Christ’s captors spit in His face and buffeted Him and made up a cruel game. Blindfolding Him, they slapped Him with the palms of their hands and then taunted, “Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” When, at last, the lingering hours of the night had passed, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin for the sham of a trial, which would be in flagrant violation of their own laws. The charge was blasphemy against the only one who could not commit blasphemy—the Lord Himself. “What need we any further witness?”13
Bound and Led to Herod
They were, however, bent on His death, and being subject to Roman overlords, they could not impose it themselves. So, followed by a riotous mob, they led Him bound to Herod’s magnificent palace, where Pilate, the Roman procurator, was keeping a wary watch over the Passover rabble. This being a Gentile house with leavened bread, the fastidious Jewish leaders would not defile themselves and enter, though ironically they found no defilement in seeking to kill the innocent. Thus it was that Pilate came out to them, asking, “What accusation bring ye against this man?” It was a hard question from a practical politician, and they had searched for and found the charge—not blasphemy, which would mean nothing to a Roman. No, this time they charged Him with sedition. He is a traitor to Caesar. He calls Himself the king of the Jews! Of all those who examined Jesus, Pilate was the least guilty of malice toward Him. Something about the Lord touched the man, and after questioning Him he said frankly, “I find in him no fault at all.”14 To this the chief priests responded in a clamor of accusations, among which a single word stood out: “Galilee.” Pilate thought he saw a way out. With relief, he sent the Savior on to Herod, whose jurisdiction included the green hills of Galilee.
Herod had killed John the Baptist, so before the cruel and insolent questioning of this despot, Jesus said not a word. For the weak, the sick, the child, the sinner, Christ had soothing, loving tones, but for the tyrant He had only silence, all the more infuriating to Herod, for he had longed to see a miracle performed.
Brought Before Pilate
The chief priests and rulers of the people were assembled, and the mocked, spat-upon, exhausted Jesus was once again brought before Pilate. Word of His arrest had spread through the streets of the city, and a mob of onlookers had gathered. To these Pilate made his pronouncement: “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man.”15 This could have been enough; the Roman leader had spoken. But the pack of fanatics before him thirsted for blood. Pilate’s pity for the Lord was crushed under his cowardice, for Pilate had that most inconvenient of burdens, a guilty past. Several times before, he had ignited Jewish fury against Him. One time, for instance, he had confiscated money from the sacred treasury to build an aqueduct and then had sent soldiers in Jewish costume among the people carrying hidden daggers to punish those who had opposed him. Now he was caught; for past sin, he would sin again, violating his own best instincts.
So he tried another kind of appeasement. It was the custom at Passover to release a criminal. Here were two men, perhaps even standing before the mob as Pilate spoke. One was Barabbas, the leader of an insurrection, a murderer. The other was Jesus, the proclaimer of peace, who raised the dead. “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?”16 Some in that crowd had been healed by the Lord, some had heard His healing words, but the chief priests moved among the people stirring them up until they shouted, “Barabbas.
Pilate would have released Jesus, and his feelings were even more stirred when his wife came to him pleading, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”17 Whatever these flickerings of conscience, Pilate sent Jesus to be scourged. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and jammed it on that tired head; they placed a purple robe on His shoulders and then, gloating and leering, they smote Him and spit upon Him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!”18 Consider this humiliation, this stinging injustice, and know that He who has suffered all things can succor us in every hour.
Behold the Man!
Now Pilate brought the bleeding, wounded Jesus again before the crowd. “Behold the man!” he said. Was there even now no stirrings of pity for Him? Where was the man or woman who would speak up? Where were all those who were waving palms just five days before? Their hosannas had vanished on a fickle wind. No, there was only Pilate’s corrupt voice repeating, “I find no fault in Him.” It was still early morning when Pilate gave in: “Shall I crucify your King?” and the people answered, “Away with him, crucify him. . . . We have no king but Caesar.”19
“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” And the people shouted, “His blood be on us, and on our children.”20 So Jesus, numbered with the transgressors, carried His cross to the place of the skull, Golgotha, until He collapsed under the weight and mounting misery. The men along the road were silent; some women wept. The cross was raised between two thieves, and at noon the earth turned dark in shame.
For capital punishment, the Jews stoned, burned, beheaded, or strangled, but the Romans chose the cruelest punishment of all—crucifixion. It was a lingering death for its tortured victims. “The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; . . . there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst,”21 dizziness, cramp, starvation, sleeplessness, and shame. In Jerusalem, a charitable women’s group administered a mixture of wine and drugs to dull the pain as the victim was stretched on the ground and nailed to the crossbeam, but this Jesus refused.
The Son of God Raised on a Cross
Stripped, He was raised on the cross with a mocking sign over His head: “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.”22 As the soldiers beneath Him cast lots for what was probably His only material possession, a coat without seam, He asked in their behalf, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” As He hung in anguish, the rulers and people gaped and cursed and condemned Him, taunting, “He saved others; let him save himself.”23 Through the anguish, He had only loving words. To His mother, Mary, who must have felt the pangs of near-death in her own body, it was concern that she be cared for. To the beloved John He said, “Behold thy mother,”24 and from that hour John took her into his own home. To the thief who would repent, He gave hope. At noon the heavens grew black for three hours, as if the universe itself were weeping for the agony of the Creator. In that time all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane returned, and His Father’s spirit itself withdrew that the victory might be His. At the ninth hour, 3:00 P.M., “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, . . . My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”25 In that eerie midafternoon darkness, someone ran and filled a sponge with vinegar. Having received the vinegar, Jesus said, “Father, it is finished, thy will is done.”26 As He died, the veil of the temple was rent, and the earth quaked and rocks were rent as if to say with a nearby centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”27
1- Psalm 41:9
2- Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, 2: 543.
3- Matthew 26:53
4- Farrar, Life of Christ, p. 586.
5- McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4:150
6- Farrar, Life of Christ, p. 597.
7- Matthew 26:62-63, 64
8- John 18:17
9- Matthew 26:71-72
10- Mark 14:70
11- John 18:26
12- Luke 22:60
13- Luke 22:64, 71
14- Isaiah 53:3
15- Luke 23:14
17- Matthew 27:19
18- John 19:3
19- Matthew 27:24-25
20- Hymns, no. 86
21-Farrar, Life of Christ, p. 619
22- John 19:19
23- Luke 23: 34, 35; Matthew 27:43
24- John 19:27
25- Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34
26- JST Matthew 27:54
27- Mark 15:39