Ellen G. White Writings

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The Present Truth (UK)

January 21, 1886

The Sufferings of Christ

By Mrs. E. G. White

(Continued from page 2.)

Upon arriving at the place of execution, the condemned were bound to the instruments of torture. While the two thieves wrestled in the hands of those who stretched them upon the cross, Jesus made no resistance. His mother looked on with agonizing suspense, hoping that he would work a miracle to save himself. Surely He who had given life to the dead would not suffer himself to be crucified. What torture wrung her heart as she witnessed the shame and suffering of her son, yet was not able to minister to him in his distress! How bitter her grief and disappointment! Must she give up her faith that he was the true Messiah? Would the Son of God allow himself to be cruelly slain? She saw his hands stretched upon the cross. And now the hammer and the nails were brought, and as the spikes were driven through the tender flesh and fastened to the cross, the heart-stricken disciples bore away from the cruel scene the fainting form of the mother of Christ.

Jesus made no murmur of complaint; his face remained pale and serene, but great drops of sweat stood upon his brow. There was no pitying hand to wipe the death-dew from his face, nor words of sympathy and unchanging fidelity to stay his human heart. He was treading the wine-press alone; and of all the people there was none with him. While the soldiers were doing their fearful work, and he was enduring the most acute agony, Jesus prayed for his enemies—“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” His mind was borne from his own suffering to the crime of his persecutors and the terrible but just retribution that would be theirs. He pitied them in their ignorance and guilt. No curses were called down upon the soldiers who were handling him so roughly, no vengeance was invoked upon the priests and rulers who were the cause of all his suffering, and were then gloating over the accomplishment of their purpose; the Saviour uttered only a plea for their forgiveness—“for they know not what they do.”

Had they realized that they were putting to torture one who had come to save the sinful race from eternal ruin, they would have been overwhelmed with horror and remorse. But their ignorance did not remove their guilt; for it was their privilege to know and accept Jesus as their Saviour. They rejected all evidence, and not only sinned against Heaven in crucifying the King of glory, but against the commonest feelings of humanity in putting to death an innocent man. Jesus was earning the right to become the Advocate for man in the Father's presence. That prayer of Christ for his enemies embraced the world, taking in every sinner who should live, until the end of time.

After Jesus was nailed to the cross, it was lifted by several powerful men, and thrust with great violence into the place prepared for it, causing him the most excruciating agony. And now a terrible scene was enacted. Priests, scribes, and rulers forgot the dignity of their sacred office, and joined with the rabble in mocking and jeering the dying Son of God, saying, “If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself.” And some deridingly repeated among themselves: “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God.” “And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself and come down from the cross.”

These men, who professed to be the expounders of prophecy, were themselves repeating the very words which Inspiration had foretold they would utter upon this occasion; yet in their blindness they did not perceive that they were fulfilling prophecy. The dignitaries of the temple, the hardened soldiers, the vile thief upon the cross, and the base and cruel among the multitude, all united in their abuse of Christ.

The thieves who were crucified with Jesus suffered like physical torture with him; but one was only hardened and rendered desperate and defiant by his pain. He took up the mocking of the priests, and railed upon Jesus, saying, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” The other malefactor was not a hardened criminal; his morals had been corrupted by association with the base, but his crimes were not so great as were those of many who stood beneath the cross reviling the Saviour.

In common with his nation, he had believed that Messiah was soon to come. He had heard Jesus, and been convicted by his teachings; but through the influence of the priests and rulers he had turned away from him. He had sought to drown his convictions in the fascinations of pleasure. Corrupt associations had led him farther and farther into wickedness, until he was arrested for open crime, and condemned to die upon the cross. During that day of trial he had been in company with Jesus in the judgment-hall and on the way to Calvary. He had heard Pilate declare him to be a just man; he had marked his god-like deportment and his pitying forgiveness of his tormentors. In his heart he acknowledged Jesus to be the Son of God.

When he heard the sneering words of his companion in crime, he “rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss.” Then, as his heart went out to Christ, heavenly illumination flooded his mind. In Jesus, bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross, he saw his Redeemer, his only hope, and appealed to him in humble faith: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus did not promise the penitent thief that he should go with him, upon the day of their crucifixion, to Paradise; for he himself did not ascend to his Father until three days afterward. See John 20:17. But he declared unto him, “I say unto thee today,” meaning to impress the fact upon his mind, that at that time, while enduring ignominy and persecution, he had the power to save sinners. He was man's Advocate with the Father, having the same power as when he healed the sick and raised the dead to life; it was his Divine right to promise that day to the repentant, believing sinner, “Thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

The Saviour, lifted upon the cross, enduring pain and mockery, is sought by a guilty, dying soul with a faith discerning the world's Redeemer in him who is crucified as a malefactor. While the leading Jews deny him, and even the disciples doubt his Divinity, the poor thief, upon the brink of eternity, at the close of his probation, calls Jesus his Lord! Many were ready to call him Lord when he wrought miracles, and also after he had risen from the grave; but none called him Lord as he hung dying upon the cross, save the penitent thief. Never during his entire ministry were words more grateful to the Saviour's ears, than was the utterance of faith from the lips of the dying malefactor, amid the taunts and blasphemy of the mob.

The enemies of Jesus awaited his death with impatient hope. That event they imagined would forever hush the rumours of his Divine power and the wonders of his miracles. They flattered themselves that they would then no longer tremble because of his influence. The unfeeling soldiers who had stretched the body of Jesus upon the cross, divided his clothing among themselves, contending over one garment, which was woven without seam. They finally decided the matter by casting lots for it. The pen of Inspiration had accurately described this scene hundreds of years before it took place: “Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”

The mission of Christ's earthly life was now nearly accomplished. His tongue was parched, and he said, “I thirst.” They saturated a sponge with vinegar and gall, and offered it him to drink; but when he had tasted it, he refused it. The Lord of life and glory was dying, a ransom for the race.

(To be continued.)

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