Father,” he said, “into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Then with one more great effort he uttered the last cry — “It is finished.”
Continuing The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ,
our selection from Life of Christ by Frederic William Farrar published in 1874. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Time: c. 30 AD
Place: Golgatha, a Hill Ouside of Jersulam
But low as was the elevation of the cross, the head of the sufferer, as it rested on the horizontal beam of the accursed tree, was just beyond the man’s reach; and therefore he put the sponge at the end of a stalk of hyssop — about a foot long — and held it up to the parched and dying lips. Even this simple act of pity, which Jesus did not refuse, seemed to jar upon the condition of nervous excitement with which some of the multitude were looking on. “Let be,” they said to the man, “let us see whether Elias is coming to save him.” The man did not desist from his act of mercy, but when it was done he, too, seems to have echoed those uneasy words. But Elias came not, nor human comforter, nor angel deliverer. It was the will of God, it was the will of the Son of God, that he should be “perfected through sufferings”; that — for the eternal example of all his children as long as the world should last — he should “endure unto the end.”
And now the end was come. Once more, in the words of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, but adding to them that title of trustful love which, through him, is permitted to the use of all mankind, “Father,” he said, “into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Then with one more great effort he uttered the last cry — “It is finished.” It may be that that great cry ruptured some of the vessels of his heart, for no sooner had it been uttered than he bowed his head upon his breast and yielded his life, “a ransom for many” — a willing sacrifice to his Heavenly Father. “Finished was his holy life; with his life his struggle, with his struggle his work, with his work the redemption, with the redemption the foundation of the new world.” At that moment the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. An earthquake shook the earth and split the rocks, and as it rolled away from their places the great stones which closed and covered the cavern sepulchres of the Jews, so it seemed to the imaginations of many to have disimprisoned the spirits of the dead, and to have filled the air with ghostly visitants, who after Christ had risen appeared to linger in the Holy City. These circumstances of amazement, joined to all they had observed in the bearing of the Crucified, cowed even the cruel and gay indifference of the Roman soldiers. On the centurion who was in command of them the whole scene had exercised a yet deeper influence. As he stood opposite to the cross and saw the Saviour die, he glorified God and exclaimed, “This Man was in truth righteous” — nay, more, “This Man was a Son of God.” Even the multitude, utterly sobered from their furious excitement and frantic rage, began to be weighed down with a guilty consciousness that the scene which they had witnessed had in it something more awful than they could have conceived, and as they returned to Jerusalem they wailed and beat upon their breasts. Well might they do so! This was the last drop in a full cup of wickedness: this was the beginning of the end of their city and name and race.
And in truth that scene was more awful than they, or even we, can know. The secular historian, be he ever so skeptical, cannot fail to see in it the central point of the world’s history. Whether he be a believer in Christ or not, he cannot refuse to admit that this new religion grew from the smallest of all seeds to be a mighty tree, so that the birds of the air took refuge in its branches; that it was the little stone cut without hands which dashed into pieces the colossal image of heathen greatness, and grew till it became a great mountain and filled the earth. Alike to the infidel and to the believer the Crucifixion is the boundary instant between ancient and modern days. Morally and physically, no less than spiritually, the faith of Christ was the palingenesia of the world. It came like the dawn of a new spring to nations “effete with the drunkenness of crime.” The struggle was long and hard, but from the hour when Christ died began the death-knell to every satanic tyranny and every tolerated abomination. From that hour holiness became the universal ideal of all who name the name of Christ as their Lord, and the attainment of that ideal the common heritage of souls in which his spirit dwells.
The effects, then, of the work of Christ are even to the unbeliever indisputable and historical. It expelled cruelty; it curbed passion; it branded suicide; it punished and repressed an execrable infanticide; it drove the shameless impurities of heathendom into a congenial darkness. There was hardly a class whose wrongs it did not remedy. It rescued the gladiator; it freed the slave; it protected the captive; it nursed the sick; it sheltered the orphan; it elevated the woman; it shrouded as with a halo of sacred innocence the tender years of the child. In every region of life its ameliorating influence was felt. It changed pity from a vice into a virtue. It elevated poverty from a curse into a beatitude. It ennobled labor from a vulgarity into a dignity and a duty. It sanctified marriage from little more than a burdensome convention into little less than a blessed sacrament. It revealed for the first time the angelic beauty of a purity of which men had despaired and of a meekness at which they had utterly scoffed. It created the very conception of charity, and broadened the limits of its obligation from the narrow circle of a neighborhood to the widest horizons of the race.
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