“They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull)”. Mark 15:22
Jesus to Golgotha? The perfectly pure One—He who was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners—He, brought to a spot regarded as the most polluted and defiled, where skulls and bones marked the place of public execution, and which was branded with the anathema of all—Jesus to Golgotha? Jesus—the greatest Philanthropist whom the world has ever known—who went about doing good, whose life was love—He, brought to the place to which were dragged the violent and the dishonest, the assassin and the murderer—Jesus to Golgotha? Jesus—the incarnate Deity—to whom all power was given in heaven and on earth, whose will the armies of heaven obey—He, seized by wicked men, and dragged as if He were a helpless victim of their cruelty, instead of being their Monarch and their Judge—Jesus to Golgotha?
They bring Him—and He comes! They could not have brought Him against His will. One thought in opposition to their malice would have rescued Him from their impotent grasp. Therefore, if they brought Him, it was because He did not resist them. He said of His own life, “No man takes it from me—I lay it down of myself.” Why, then, did He allow Himself to be led to Golgotha—the pure to the place of impurity, the ‘benevolent One’ to a spot identified with violence—the ‘omnipotent One’, as if, like common culprits dragged there, he was helpless?
Because He was pure and holy He went to Golgotha; for thus He fulfilled the purposes of the Father, as He said, “I delight to do Your will, O my God.”
Because He was benevolent He went to Golgotha; for thus it was He must accomplish the redemption of the sinful race He came to save.
Because He was the Son of God He went to Golgotha; for it was with a view to this very hour that He took our nature, and was found in fashion as a man, “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.” And so “they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha.”
Golgotha was a spot of all others the most disgraceful; and so He who occupied the loftiest seat of honor in heaven stooped to the very lowest, in order to lift up to the highest those for whom Golgotha had been a more fitting place.
Golgotha was a region of death. Here was the palace of the last enemy; here he held his revels. It was death’s chief temple; here ghastly sacrifices were continually offered up. Here, at the very citadel of death, they led Christ to do battle with death.
Golgotha! There is a legend that it was the very center of the earth’s surface—the middle point of the habitable globe. We think nothing of the legend, but very much of the truth it suggests. For the cross of Christ is the true center of the church, where all believers meet, of all tribes and nations, of all parties and sects. Here all may forget their differences; here all, who from different directions converge, are one church.
Golgotha! There is a legend that the body of Adam was buried there, and that the blood of Christ trickled down until it reached the bones; which then were clothed again with flesh and revived. We think nothing of the legend, but very much of the truth which it suggests. For when by faith the blood of Christ is applied to our guilty souls, the old Adam, dead by sin, lives again, but lives renewed and purified. Christ is the second Adam, who remedies the ruin of the first, and by whom paradise lost becomes paradise regained.
Golgotha! It was the “place of a skull.” And all are going there. Every possession, every enjoyment, has death for its goal. However beautiful the path, it leads us ever onward to Golgotha. How closely does affection bind us to our friends! But they, too, are traveling to Golgotha; and every day brings us nearer to that “place of a skull.” Those who have everything to make life happy, as well as those to whom life is a dreary waste of disappointment, are on their way to Golgotha! Those who are radiant with health and beauty, as well as those who are sickly or deformed, and to whom existence is a burden, are on their way to Golgotha! Those who have riches, and honor, and fame, and power, as well as the poor, the unknown or despised, are on their way to Golgotha!
But if by faith we are disciples and followers of Jesus, our Golgotha is changed by His. No longer the place of a skull, it becomes the gateway of glory. Sorrow turns to joy, sickness to health, poverty to riches, when, in company with Jesus, we are on our way to Golgotha. Yes, afflictions all become blessings, and death is life, through the grace of Him who was led to Golgotha.
Then we will look to Golgotha no longer as the place of a skull, but as the Hill of Paradise, the Mount of Salvation. Golgotha? It is where the lily and the rose exhale their fragrance. Golgotha? It is where the Tree of Life grows, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, and whose fruit is ever fresh. Golgotha? It is where the river bursts forth, which flows in every direction for the salvation of the world. Golgotha? It is thence that we catch distant but transporting views of the glories of the heavenly city, and see the open gates of the New Jerusalem inviting us to enter. Golgotha? It is where heavenly breezes blow, and the Sun of Righteousness shines, and where angel voices sing, “Lift your eyes; O, lift your eyes unto this hill, where comes—where comes help.” Yes, we will lift our eyes to this Hill of Salvation, and triumph in this place of a skull—mysterious, life-giving, glorious Golgotha.
“They gave him to drink, wine mingled with myrrh, but He received it not.” This was the customary drugged draught, intended to stupefy, and thus deaden pain. It may sometimes be thought necessary to administer such a dose to a dying person; but the responsibility is very great of giving it to a patient who has but a few days or hours to live, and whose real life is thus cut short, inasmuch as all power of thought is destroyed. There was a woman, of whom I heard, who, in her last illness, entreated her physician, saying, “O, doctor, do let me go before my Maker sober.” But whatever we suffer, Christ suffered. He endured without mitigation all the pain of that most painful death. Alleviations of suffering are allowed to us, and may be received with thankfulness; but Jesus died as a sacrifice, and would neither avail Himself of His divine power or of human expedients to escape any portion of the trial, and so when “they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh He would not drink.” He would not allow His mind to be for a moment incapacitated for His great work, and so “He would not drink.” He had to implore forgiveness for His murderers, and so “He would not drink.” He had to manifest sympathy for His mother, and commend her to another’s care, and so “He would not drink.” He had to receive the prayer of the dying thief, and to assure him of paradise, and so “He would not drink.” He had to maintain the battle with the foe, and to cry with the loud voice of victory, “It is finished,” and so “He would not drink.”
“And they crucified Him.” They tore off His clothing, which the sick had touched for healing. With cruel nails they fastened to the cross the feet which had borne Him about on errands of mercy, and the hands which had been stretched out only to bless. They raised Him up to be an object of their scorn, while His life’s blood slowly ebbed away. Hear the blows of the hammer which drives in those nails! Hear them, you careless ones! Jesus was crucified for you. Can you neglect the salvation which cost Him so dear? “Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?”
Who nailed Him there? Was it the priests? Was it Pilate? Was it the soldiers? It was our sins—yours and mine. Those sins struck the hammer. We crucified Him. O, let us hate those sins; let us renounce them forever. Backslider, will you crucify the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame? Shall we repeat, in any degree, so far as we are able, the insults of His murderers? Lord, forgive us that we should ever have pierced You. Henceforth may we crucify the world, our sins, ourselves. Henceforth let us trust, adore, and love You as our only Savior, our Lord, our Friend, reigning now on Your glorious throne, though once, for our redemption, crucified at Golgotha.
By Newman Hall, November 3, 1867