● It was the great and last sacrifice (Alma 34:10–14).
● He drank from the bitter cup which the Father gave to Him (3 Nephi 11:11).
● The Father sent Him specifically to do what He did for us (3 Nephi 27:14–15).
● He was commanded by the Father to die and then resurrect Himself (John 10:17–18).
● An Incredible Statement: At the end of His suffering in Gethsemane, Jesus said: “It is finished” (John 19:28–30). Considering what was coming, including the cross, this statement reveals the severity of what happened there in the Garden.
SEVERAL ILLEGAL TRIALS
Jesus Is Arrested
● The Savior was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47).
● Judas betrayed Him with a kiss (Matthew 26:48–49).
● Peter cut off the ear of one of the guards, but Jesus restored it in miraculous fashion (Matthew 26:50–56).
● Jesus showed concern for his disciples in this moment of danger (John 18:2–12).
Jesus’ Trial Before the Sanhedrin
● These Jewish leaders were determined to destroy Jesus (John 11:34–53). Every circumstance of his Jewish trial was illegal. Not only did his enemies hold it at night, but they also obtained false witnesses (For a detailed discussion of the trial’s illegalities, see Jesus the Christ).1 Jesus must have known this but chose to remain silent. (Isaiah 53:7).
● Jesus was taken before Annas, a former high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest (John 18:12–14).
● Jesus was then taken before Caiaphas to be interviewed (John 18:19–23).
● False witnesses were sought to testify against him (Matthew 26:57–62).
● The high priest asked if He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 26:63).
● He was convicted by the Jewish council for blasphemy (Matthew 26:65–68).
Peter Denies He Knows Jesus
● As Jesus was led from the Garden of Gethsemane, most of his disciples “forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).
● Confronted by people outside Caiaphas’ palace, Peter denied three times that he even knew Him (Matthew 26:69–75). Jesus had prophesied he would do this (vv. 33–35).
● President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“My heart goes out to Peter. So many of us are so much like him. We pledge our loyalty; we affirm our determination to be of good courage; we declare, sometimes even publicly, that come what may we will do the right thing, that we will stand for the right cause, that we will be true to ourselves and to others.
“Then the pressures begin to build. Sometimes these are social pressures. Sometimes they are personal appetites. Sometimes they are false ambitions. There is a weakening of the will. There is a softening of discipline. There is capitulation. And then there is remorse, followed by self-accusation and bitter tears of regret . . .
“If there be those throughout the Church who by word or act have denied the faith, I pray that you may draw comfort and resolution from the example of Peter, who, though he had walked daily with Jesus, in an hour of extremity momentarily denied the Lord and also the testimony which he carried in his own heart. But he rose above this and became a mighty defender and a powerful advocate. So, too, there is a way for any person to turn about and add his or her strength and faith to the strength and faith of others in building the kingdom of God.”2
Jesus’ Trial Before Herod and Pilate
● Jesus was charged with blasphemy, worthy of death under Jewish law, but not under Roman Law.
● The Jews wanted Jesus’ death, but under Roman law they could not kill Him. Only the Roman governor could do that, so they took Him to Pontius Pilate for trial (Matthew 27:1–2).
● Realizing the gravity of what he had done, Judas declared “I have betrayed the innocent blood” and commited suicide (Matthew 27:3–10).
● Seeking His death, the Jews accused Jesus of being an enemy to Caesar (Luke 23:1–2).
● When Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean, he turned Him over to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch or ruler of Galilee (Luke 23:3–7).
● Christ refused to respond to Herod, so He was returned to Pilate (Luke 23:8–12).
● When Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, Jesus replied, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:36–37).
● Pilate concluded that Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:13–17).
● The crowd demanded that Jesus be crucified (Matthew 27:15–23).
● Lacking courage, Pilate gave in to the crowd’s wishes (Matthew 27:24–26).
● The crowd hypocritically declared their loyalty to Rome, who they hated (John 19:12–15).
SCOURGING AND HUMILIATION
Jesus Is Scourged
● The Lord was scourged, or whipped, before the crucifixion (Matthew 27:26). Elder James E. Talmage explained, “Scourging was a frightful preliminary to death on the cross. The instrument of punishment was a whip of many thongs, loaded with metal and edged with jagged pieces of bone. . . . The condemned [sometimes] died under the lash and so escaped the horrors of living crucifixion.”3
Jesus Is Humiliated
● Jesus was stripped, humiliated and mocked (Matthew 27:27–31).
● Elder James E. Talmage explained:
“In accordance with the brutal customs of the time, Jesus, weak and bleeding from the fearful scourging He had undergone, was given over to the half-savage soldiers for their amusement. He was no ordinary victim, so the whole band came together in the Pretorium, or great hall of the palace, to take part in the diabolical sport. They stripped Jesus of His outer raiment, and placed upon Him a purple robe.
“Then with a sense of fiendish realism they platted a crown of thorns, and placed it about the Sufferer’s brows; a reed was put into His right hand as a royal scepter; and, as they bowed in a mockery of homage, they saluted Him with: “Hail, King of the Jews!” Snatching away the reed or rod, they brutally smote Him with it upon the head, driving the cruel thorns into His quivering flesh; they slapped Him with their hands, and spat upon Him in vile and vicious abandonment.”4
● When Jesus was no longer able physically to carry His cross, Simon the Cyrenian was compelled to bear the cross for Him (Luke 23:26–31).
—Note the Savior’s admonition to the “daughters of Jerusalem” and their children regarding the terrible trials that would come to that city.
Jesus Is Nailed to His Cross
● Jesus was crucified upon a cross at Golgotha on the Hill of Calvary (Matthew 27:32–33).
● Dr. Fosdick said:
“Let a man stand before some great picture of the crucifixion like that of Rubens’ in Antwerp; let him imagine that he had himself seen such a thing done to a human being and knew that it was going to be done to him, and he can understand a little of the conditions under which the latter part of Jesus’ ministry was passed.
“As Rubens pictures it, one thief is gasping for breath, the other, struck upon the leg by a Roman soldier to see if he is dead, is crying out in a sudden excess of agony, and writhing, tears one foot loose from the nail that pierced it. The Master’s mother and John are weeping with averted eyes, unable to endure the sight, and Mary Magdalene, in passionate grief, is trying with vain hands to ward away the soldier who from horseback drives the spear into the Savior’s side. The body of the Master hangs limp and dead.
“Jesus had probably seen crucifixions, and knew that He was going to be crucified. Our words fortitude, courage, and patient resolution need an expanded meaning before they are qualified to cover the case.”5
● S Dilworth Young said, “I read that he was hung on a cross. I look at my own hands and feet and try to imagine the pain of such torture—to hang there in the heat of the day, the weight of his body on those tearing nails, every muscle and nerve drawn tight in agony. No stopping, no escape until he, having said: “It is finished” (John 19:30), gave up the ghost. I realize that this was endured for me and for you; I bow my head; it is hard to hold back the tears. Even now 1900 years later, it is as poignant as though it occurred yesterday.”6
● President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“No member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer who gave his life that all men might live—the agony of Gethsemane, the bitter mockery of his trial, the vicious crown of thorns tearing at his flesh, the blood cry of the mob before Pilate, the lonely burden of his heavy walk along the way to Calvary, the terrifying pain as great nails pierced his hands and feet, the fevered torture of his body as he hung that tragic day, the Son of God crying out, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34).
“This was the cross, the instrument of his torture, the terrible device designed to destroy the Man of Peace, the evil recompense for his miraculous work of healing the sick, of causing the blind to see, of raising the dead. This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit.
“We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us.”7
The Last Recorded Statements of Christ:
1. About the Soldiers: “Father, forgive them [the soldiers], for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ . . . Jesus said, referring to those Roman soldiers who carried out the orders of their superiors. Jesus’ utterance of this prayer unto the Father is a demonstration of his magnanimity, his forgiving nature, and of his personal compliance with the command to forgive one’s enemies, Yet, appreciating the fact that Jesus had the largeness of soul to pray in behalf of his crucifiers, we should not see his utterance as a means of absolving their personal sins.
“This first ‘word’ from the cross is equally as important for what it does not say as for what it does. It is not an utterance whereby anyone’s sins are forgiven, but it is a petition asking for forgiveness in a particular and limited sense of the word. Jesus was the Son of God; as such he had power to forgive sins, a power which he had freely exercised in proper cases . . .
“But no such power is exercised here. He does not say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee,’ as had been his wont on other occasions. Nor does he ask the Father to forgive the sins of those involved, in the sense of cleansing them from sin so as to qualify them for church membership or celestial inheritance. The law whereby such forgiveness is gained requires repentance and baptism. But he says, rather, ‘Father lay not this sin to their charge, for they are acting under orders, and those upon whom the full and real guilt rests are their rulers and the Jewish conspirators who caused me to be condemned. It is Caiaphas and Pilate who know I am innocent; these soldiers are just carrying out their orders.’
“Jesus did not, it should be noted, pray for Judas who betrayed him; for Caiaphas and the chief priests who conspired against him; for the false witnesses who perjured their souls before the Sanhedrin and in the judgment halls of Rome; for Pilate and Herod, either of whom could have freed him; nor for Lucifer whose power and persuasive ability underlay the whole wicked procedure. All these are left in the hands of Eternal Justice to be dealt with according to their works. Mercy cannot rob justice; the guilty do not go free simply because the righteous bring no railing accusation against them.
“Here on the cross Jesus is simply complying with his own command to forgive your enemies and to bless those who curse you.”8
2. To the Thief: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Prophet Joseph Smith said that Jesus told the thief, “This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits.”9
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Jesus did not lend any credence to a death-bed repentance of the malefactor. What Jesus did do was give recognition to the “seeds of faith and repentance” that were evidenced by a penitent man. As always, the Lord’s efforts were directed toward offering as much hope as possible to one who would turn from darkness unto the everlasting light.”10
3. To Mary & John: “Behold thy son,” and “Behold thy mother” (John 19:25–27).
— There were several women present at the Crucifixion (Matt. 27:55–56). President Thomas S. Monson said, “There remained yet a few faithful followers, From his tortured position on the cruel cross, he sees his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing by. He speaks: ‘woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! . . . From that awful night when time stood still, when the earth did quake and great mountains were brought down—yes, through the annals of history, over the centuries of years and beyond the span of time, there echoes his simple yet divine words, ‘Behold thy mother!’”11
4. To God the Father: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
— Elder J. Reuben Clark Jr. said, “His being cast off by the world and by his own did not fill his cup of rejection. At the crucifixion, while the passers-by and the soldiers mocked, scoffed and reviled him, he hung on the cross alone, save for a thief on either side, forsaken not only by the throngs of the idle curious, but forsaken by the scores he had healed, by the multitudes he had fed, by the greedy crowds that would have made him king, he hung, forsaken by his disciples, even by his Apostles who had boasted they would be devoted and loyal, even to death itself; forsaken by all except his mother, her sister, and Mary Magdalene, and John the Beloved, and some women who stood afar off. So crucified and hanging in his infinite, forsaken loneliness, his spirit about to go, his mighty grief burst forth in that cry of mortal near despair, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’”12
— Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Because he must ultimately tread this winepress of redemption unaided, can he endure the darkest moment of them all, the shock of the greatest pain? This comes not with thorns and with nails, but with the terror of feeling utterly alone:.. ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34). Can he bear all of our sins and our fear and loneliness too? He did and he does and he will.”13
— Elder James E. Talmage said, “It seems, that in addition to the fearful suffering incident to crucifixion, the agony of Gethsemane had recurred, intensified beyond human power to endure. In that bitterest hour the dying Christ was alone, alone in most terrible reality. That the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fulness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death.”14
5. “I thirst” (John 19:28–29). Elder James E. Talmage said, “The period of faintness, the conception of utter forsakenness soon passed, and the natural cravings of the body reasserted themselves. The maddening thirst, which constituted one Of the worst of the crucifixion agonies, wrung from the Savior’s lips His one recorded utterance expressive of physical suffering. ‘I thirst’ He said . . . John affirms that Christ uttered the exclamation, ‘I thirst,’ only when He knew ‘that all things were now accomplished’; and the Apostle saw in the incident a fulfilment of prophecy.”15
6. “It is finished” (John 19:30). When the Savior exclaimed in triumph, “It is finished,” He knew His atoning sacrifice had been accepted by the Father. (John 19:28). Elder James E. Talmage said, “Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed.”16
The Death of Christ
● “The Ninth Hour:” Jesus died late in the afternoon, just before sundown would have ushered in the Sabbath. The sixth hour was about noon, and the ninth hour about three o’clock in the afternoon.
● The soldiers pierced His dead body with a sword (John 19:31–37). The fact that water came out rather than blood would indicate that His heart had stopped pumping blood.
● The earth reacted to the death of its Creator (Matthew 27:50–51, 54).
● There was also intense destruction to the Western Hemisphere (3 Nephi 8).
● Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared his body for burial (John 19:38–42).
● Elder James E. Talmage said: “Jesus the Christ was dead. His life had not been taken from Him except as He had willed to permit. Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed. In the latter days the voice of the Lord Jesus has been heard affirming the actuality of His suffering and death, and the eternal purpose thereby accomplished. Hear and heed His words: `For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.’ (D&C 18:11).”17
1. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 644–48, note 4.
2. “And Peter Went Out and Wept Bitterly,” Ensign, Mar 1995, 2–4, 6.
3. Jesus the Christ, 638–639.
4. Jesus the Christ, 638–639.
5. The Manhood of the Master , 69.
6. In Conference Report, April 1975; Ensign, July 1973, 114.
7. In Conference Report, April 1975; Ensign, May 1975, 93.
8. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:818–819.
9. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 309.
10. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:823–824.
11. In Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 30; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 31–32.
12. Behold the Lamb of God, 301.
13. In Conference Report, Oct. 1989, 32; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 26.
14. Jesus the Christ, 661.
15. Jesus the Christ, 661.
16. Jesus the Christ, 662.
17. Jesus the Christ, 662.