The inquiry may now be resumed…
…of the death of our Savior which was so unexpected, after only being there but six hours on the cross. The theory of a broken heart does not well explain all the circumstances. Heart rupture can occur only in company with, and as caused by, extreme mental distress or agony of soul, continued during an extended period of days; there is no evidence in all the Gospel records, of any such extreme trouble of mind in our Lord; in all cases of this disease in modern records, there has been, during some days prior to death, such wandering or rather eclipse of the intellectual powers as to put the patient in a kind of stupor, or render him partly incapable of mental exertion; the corroding sorrow has forbidden thought and benumbed the faculties. But our Lord, during days and weeks prior to crucifixion, was of the same calm, even-minded, self-contained, rational deportment as during all former days of His ministry; in all His ways and words and works there appears no token of an unbalanced or even of an unquiet spirit, not excepting even the night in Gethsemane.
In every scene through which during the last three days he so rapidly passed, and whether in an active or passive mood, His words and demeanor evince the high and calm control He had ever exercised over His own spirit and over the minds of all who saw and heard Him; and during the six hours on the cross, His words to all around indicated a quiet repose of heart and self-possession, an utter absence of all distress; He spoke to the penitent thief the appropriate words of hope and pardon; He gave His sorrowing mother into the care of the beloved disciple; there was capacity in His soul for the exercise of pure and gentle love, both divine and human, to the penitent thief by the forgiving God, to the mother by the dutiful and considerate son; no one, suffering such dire extremity of distress as must end in a broken heart, could ever have demeaned himself so rationally and tranquilly up to and including the last moment of life. In fact, if such distress existed, it is astonishing that those who tell the story give no intimation anywhere in the story, that our Lord suffered any anguish of body or mind while on the cross; and John, having those Gospels before him when writing his own thirty or forty years after theirs, and who would be certain to supply so important an omission, not only makes no mention of pain or suffering, but even omits the one sad plaint offered up by our Lord to the God who had forsaken Him.
Another hindrance to our trust in the theory of a broken heart, is in the fact that the last cry He gave forth, and which, in the view of the advocates of that theory is most relied on for its proof, was a cry with a loud voice; but the cry of extreme distress and anguish has no voice; however loud and piercing it may be, it is yet inarticulate; the culminating agony is too bitter, too deep, too sudden at the instant the heart is torn open, to permit any form of expression more defined than a shrill, terrific shriek; but the last cry of our Savior was in clearly-spoken, intelligent words, “It is finished, Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit;” they indicate a mind unencumbered by any pressure of bodily or soul distress, and prove the possession of all natural faculties in their normal and untroubled operation.
We have seen that the victim was, by the Roman mode of crucifixion, put to very little actual bodily pain; he was suspended by ropes that allowed free circulation of blood, and would afford him all the ease consistent with such a position; he was wounded by nails through hands and feet, but only because they were customary and actually necessary to secure him; if the hands and feet were suffered to rest quietly as attached, the little of blood that flowed from the wounds soon coagulated and stopped any further flow. We have also seen that the care of the executioners for a confinement that involved little suffering from suspensory or traumatic causes, was not prompted by a sentiment of mercy or kindness, but solely with the intent to insure the more extended and intense suffering attendant on the long-drawn agonies of starvation. When the appointed moment drew near, for the yielding up of His spirit, it is reasonably certain that the strength and vigor of Jesus were in no sensible degree abated, and that His mind had been in no wise affected by the six hours’ duration of the punishment; ”the sun had not burned Him by day,” for the cool darkness had shielded Him, and arrested any ill effects from thirst or fever; we cannot, consistently with any fair inference, ascribe His death at the ninth hour to exhaustion produced by either mental or soul torture, nor to any bodily suffering resulting from the crucifixion.
What, then, caused His early death, so unexpected to everyone? We are, by a broad consideration of every view of the case, shut up to the one answer, which is, that Jesus, in the exercise of a right and power, both specially given Him, of His own will terminated His own life; He was the only being of human mold ever authorized and empowered to effect the separation of his own soul from his own body, and in John’s Gospel, chapter 10:17-18, is to be found the clear statement of that fact. ”Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power (ἐξουσία) to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father.” These are statements too strong and explicit to be construed in any other than their most direct, positive and literal meaning, and that meaning acquires great emphasis by the sets of double repetitions employed.
”I lay down my life, –no man taketh it from me.” ”I lay it down of myself, –I have power to lay it down.” “I take my life again, –I have power to take it again.” “I received this commandment (to lay down and to take again) from my Father.” No declaration could express more clearly and distinctly the original and complete control by our dear Master over His own human life, nor can they possibly imply a mere passive, permissive, unresisting toleration of the murderous designs of His enemies; they signify a deliberate act originating in His own will and executed on His own responsibility; every deed was done “of himself;” He lay down His life when He chose, He took it again when He chose, and that choice was made in the right way, at the right time, and with a definite purpose in view. These words would have recalled what many of those then present had doubtless heard Him say a little while before,” I go my way, and ye shall seek me and shall die in your sins; whither I go ye cannot come.” And then the query rose in their gross and sensual minds and came from their lips, “Will he kill himself? Because he saith, “whither I go ye cannot come?”” Thus with the former sayings coupled with these latter words, they thought they had from Him the abhorrent declaration, that He had been specially permitted by heaven to commit suicide and afterward to take His guilty soul back into His dishonored body; this appeared to them so monstrous and fantastic that the only admissible explanation seemed to be, ”He hath a demon and is mad, why hear ye him?”
That was the scornful accusation and deprecation on the one side, but the sufficient rebuttal of them came from the other side, ”But this demon was so good and powerful as to open the eyes of the blind; surely, no insane words can come forth from the lips of one so accredited from Heaven; He is from God and must and does speak the truth, even if we do not altogether understand it.”
The final words that accompanied the death of Jesus are most significant.
Although there are affirmations in abundance in all the New Testament that Christ was put to death by the Jews, and although Jesus himself had declared that the chief priests and scribes would conspire against and kill Him, yet His last words are as far as possible from suggesting such an effect as resulting from such a cause; the words are not such as would be uttered by a human sufferer, calling on men to bear witness to his innocence and protesting against such a bitter and undeserved taking of his life. Throughout all the pitiful scene there was no hint or suggestion offered in expostulation against the disgrace of a criminal’s death; but all is submissive acquiescence.
Every statement, therefore, of the Acts, the Epistles and Gospels in which the enemies of Christ are named as the agents and actors in causing His death, is to be taken as implying and measuring their wicked and murderous intent; at heart they were His murderers, and their every act was done to carry into effect the guilty purposes of their hearts. These last words of Jesus have thus no reference to pain of body, to regret over loss of His life, to the rancor and hate that have brought Him blameless to an untimely end; but they are altogether as the words of one who consciously had supreme and kingly control over His own life, either to retain or to give it up. ”Into thy hands I commend, παρατίθεμαι my, spirit” (Luke 23:46).
This is not an expression to come forth from the soul of one bitterly afflicted, laden with grief and going unwillingly out of life. Far from that, it indicates a rational and intelligent purpose, a deliberate act proceeding in a well-advised and chosen way; under no possible construction could they represent Jesus as going to His end in a passive or protesting attitude of mind; on the contrary, they reveal an intent insistent and facile, a conclusion reached by well-ordered thought. Our blessed Lord, the Lord of both life and death, consciously and by the single operation of His own will, separated His own soul from His own body; and for this He had received a special permission (”commandment”) from His Father. The time had come for that act.
His work was finished, as He declared, and therefore it was needless for Him to remain on the cross any longer.
His enemies had placed Him upon that cross for the one purpose of most cruel bodily torment; but such was not by any means His purpose nor that of His Heavenly Father in permitting Him to be put there. No mere suffering of the body, however slight, however severe, had any place in the economy of redemption; no mortal torture, whether mild or excruciating, ever wrought for the least effect in the reconciliation of our souls through Jesus unto God. Serene and placid, our Savior left His body, as if it were a garment He needed not for the present to wear; He left it, not by constraint, nor for relief from suffering, but for the purpose of demonstrating the possibility of reunion with that body glorified, and thus, after Him, of the reunion of all saints with their glorified bodies. The words also of the New Testament writers testify to the deliberation and calmness of this putting off: “He breathed forth, ἐξέπνευσεν (Mark and Luke). ” He gave forth, ἀφῆκεν, the spirit” (Matt) . ”He delivered up, παρέδωκεν, the spirit” (John).