Atonement (Part 3)

The Light (Pakistan), 1st July 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 14, pp. 1–3)

[Related: Parts: 1, 2, 4 and 5]

The death of Jesus [AS] on the cross is the basic principle of atonement. There can be no atone­ment if it be proved historically that he did not expire on the cross, because mere death does not amount to anything. It is death on the cross, or, in other words, the cursed death, that is instrumental to wash away the sins of humanity, according to the Christian notion.

Therefore, the most important question in this connection is whether Jesus [AS]  died on the cross or not. We have already said that the only reference of the event is to be found in the four Gospels, which are very untrustworthy from a historical point of view, as they do not contain any first-hand information on the subject. But we are obliged to refer to them as they are the only records of the incident. Let us therefore examine what the Gospels say on the point.

The description of crucifixion given in the Gospels is pretty lengthy; therefore, for the sake of brevity we will only bring the following impor­tant points to the notice of our readers:

a) When Jesus [AS] was delivered to the tribunal of Pilate by the elders and the scribes, the latter appears to be in sympathy with the former because he said to the chief priests and to the people:

“I find no fault in this man. [Luke, 23:4]”

This is a sure testimony to the fact that in heart of hearts Pilate did not wish that Jesus [AS] should be crucified, as he thought him innocent and also knew that for envy they had delivered him.

b) When he (Pilate) was set down on the Judgement seat, his wife sent unto him, saying:

“Have thou nothing to do with that just man (Jesus) for I have suf­fered many things this day in a dream because of him. [Matthew, 27:19]”

This point is very important and should be noted particularly because it gives an inkling of the divine intentions through the vision of Pilate’s wife. It shows that God intended to save Jesus [AS] from this cursed death as he prayed that

“this cup be avoided. [Matthew, 26:39]”

c) When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but rather a tumult was made, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying:

“I am innocent of blood of this just person. [Matthew, 27:24]”

This indicates that the vision of Pilate’s wife had a tremendous influence on his mind and he did not want to be responsible for the blood of Jesus [AS]. He, therefore, “washing his hands” of Jesus’ [AS] blood, delivered him to the Jews, who eventually hanged him, on their own responsibility.

The scene which follows is very touching and we should like to reproduce the very words of the Gospels:

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the earth unto the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sa-bachthani,’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’

Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, ‘This man calleth for Elias. Let us see whether Elias will come to save him.’

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. Now, when the cen­turion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous man.’

The Jews, therefore, because it was the prepara­tion, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was a high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Then came Joseph of Arimathea, a councillor of honourable estate, who also himself was Jesus’ dis­ciple, but secretly for fear of the Jews, and besought that he might take away the body of Jesus.

And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead, and Pilate gave him leave.

Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first and of the other, which was crucified.

And when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.

But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

Joseph came and took the body of Jesus, and wound it in a clean linen cloth with the spices.

And he laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock (now, in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre wherein was never man yet laid), and rolled a great stone to the door.

Now, the next day, the chief priests and Phari­sees came together unto Pilate, saying, Command that the sepulchre be made sure, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead, so that the last error shall be worse than the first.”

From this, it is transparently clear that:

  1. The legs of Jesus [AS] were not broken.
  2. Death could not occur in such a brief time on the cross.
  3. Blood and water came forth from his side, which is a sure indication of life.
  4. The body of Jesus [AS] was entrusted to one of his disciples who was an influential and rich man, and thus was in a position to acquire the best medical aid.
  5. Even the Jews were doubtful as to the death of Jesus [AS] on the cross and thought that it was their “first mistake” that the body of Jesus was taken down so soon, and insisted that the “sepulchre be made sure.” But there is nothing to prove that the sepulchre was “made sure.” On the contrary, every word of the narrative goes to prove that the “sepulchre” was a sort of cave, where Jesus’ [AS] disciples came and nursed him.

[Read the next part: ‘Part 4’]