A Nearby Hill Called Golgotha

Having brutally mocked and scourged our Savior, the authorities led Him outside the city wall toward a place on a nearby hill called golgotha, where preparations for His crucifixion had been made. It takes little imagination to realize that the Savior's mortal body was very weak by this time. He had suffered untold agony and bled from every pore in gethsemane. Soldiers and others had beaten and bruised Him mercilessly during mock trials, and the vicious scourging He suffered was often known to kill its victims before they were even taken out for crucifixion. Thus, a man in the crowd of onlookers, Simon from Cyrene (a city in northern Africa) was compelled to follow behind the Master, carrying His cross for Him (Luke 23:26).

Written by David J. Ridges, author of the Made Easier Series and Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

While Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all give accounts of the crucifixion, we will use Matthew's record here for the main narrative, along with additions from the JST and an occasional reference from the others. From each of their accounts, we can gain great appreciation for this portion of the Redeemer's atoning sacrifice and death for us.

33 And when they were come unto a place called golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, (Matthew 27:33)

35 And when they were come unto a place called golgotha, (that is to say, a place of burial,) (JST, Matthew 27:35)

34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall [designed to drug the victim of crucifixion to lessen the pain somewhat— Jesus the Christ , pages 654–55]: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments [divided his clothing up among themselves], casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet [Psalm 22:18], They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture [clothing] did they cast lots.

36 And sitting down they watched him there;

37 And set up over his head his accusation written, this is Jesus the King of the Jews. (Matthew 27:34–37)

39 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross, and the writing was,

40 Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew.

41 And the chief priests said unto Pilate, It should be written and set up over his head, his accusation, This is he that said he was Jesus, the King of the Jews.

42 But Pilate answered and said, What I have written, I have written; let it alone. (JST, Matthew 27:39–42)

38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

39 And they that passed by reviled [made fun of Him] him, wagging their heads [shaking their heads],

40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. (Matthew 27:38–40)

These people obviously misunderstood what Jesus had said regarding the temple. What he said is found in John 2:19–21. He said that if they destroyed His body (the “temple of His body”), He would raise it up in three days (be resurrected in three days). By the time Jesus is on the cross, His statement has been misquoted and spread so that the mockers claim that He said He would destroy their massive temple in Jerusalem and rebuild it in three days.

41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

42 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.

43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth [threw similar statements at Him]. (Matthew 27:41–44)

The JST informs us that only one of the thieves railed against the Master.

47 One of the thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. But the other rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation; and this man is just, and hath not sinned; and he cried unto the Lord that he would save him. (JST, Matthew 27:47)

Before we continue with Matthew's account, we will take a moment to consider Luke's record concerning the thief on the cross and correct doctrine regarding whether or not he was prepared for paradise.

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

It is a common belief that the thief on the cross went to paradise. This is not the case. Our Bible Dictionary explains this. It says, “The Bible rendering is incorrect. The statement would more accurately read, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in the world of spirits’ since the thief was not ready for paradise.” See Bible Dictionary, under “Paradise.” No doubt, with his humble attitude, this thief accepted the gospel as taught by missionaries in the spirit prison (D&C 138). Now, we will return to Matthew's account.

45 Now from the sixth hour [about noon] there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. (Matthew 27:45)

In the Jewish time system, the sixth hour would be about noon, the ninth hour would be about 3 am in our time system. We understand that Jesus was nailed to the cross at the third hour, which would be about 9 am.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This was a very difficult time for the Savior, and incomprehensibly difficult for us to understand. Apparently, as part of the Atonement, Jesus had to experience what sinners do when they sin so much that the Spirit leaves them. At this point on the cross, we understand that all available help from the Father was withdrawn in order that the Savior might experience all things, including the withdrawal of the Spirit which grievous sinners experience.

Statements from the Cross

There are seven recorded statements made by the Savior from the cross. The references for these statements and the statements themselves are given here, and are in chronological order:

1. Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

2. Luke 23:43: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

3. John 19:26–27: “Woman, behold thy son!” “Behold thy mother!”

4. Matthew 27:46: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

5. John 19:28: “I thirst.”

6. John 19:30: “It is finished.”

7. Luke 23:46: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

We now continue with Matthew's account.

47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias [Elijah—see footnote 47a, in your Bible].

48 And straightway [immediately] one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias [Elijah] will come to save him [don't help him; let's see if Elijah comes to help Him].

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost [left His body, died]. (Matthew 27:47–50)

54 Jesus when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying, Father, it is finished, thy will is done, yielded up the ghost. (JST, Matthew 27:54)

It startled some of the onlookers that Jesus had so much strength that He could speak so loudly. It appeared to them as if He had power to leave His body when He so chose, which indeed He did. We see this doctrine taught in John:

17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17–18)

51 And, behold, the veil of the temple [in Jerusalem] was rent in twain [torn in two] from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent [were torn apart]; (Matthew 27:51)

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to leave His pain-racked body and the heartless mocking and jeering onlookers, and then at the appropriate time, appear to the righteous spirits in paradise who awaited His arrival with joyous anticipation and loving reverence for Him (D&C 138:11–18)? It will be interesting someday to hear our Elder Brother express what He felt at that time, perhaps in a general conference during the Millennium or on some other special occasion.

Written by David J. Ridges, author of the Made Easier Series and Our Savior, Jesus Christ.