As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land[l] until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
The story of Jesus’s death is stronger evidence than anything else I’ve ever read of “His ways are higher than my ways” (paraphrase of Isaiah 55:9). I simply can’t even imagine behaving in some of the ways Jesus did. Most specifically, how He tells the women not to weep because this is not a sad time. Not only is it not sad, butt He says the wood is green, as if it were the happiest of times! But also how He harbors no bitterness against the soldiers or the crowd, but forgives them instantly.
Even in the context of the narrative it is clear that Jesus’s ways are higher than ours. Everyone keeps saying that if He is the Messiah then He could save Himself. Honestly, that’s probably what I would have thought it I was one of His followers too. But He doesn’t. Jesus knows that His sacrifice will be the most important single act in human history. He can’t run away. He could have saved Himself, but He didn’t. That’s why it’s called a sacrifice, and not just any old martyr’s death.
However, we can catch glimpses of God’s high ways. When we do the things God tells us to, we reach some small part of His majesty. Like when Joseph and the women wait to embalm Jesus because it isn’t allowed on the Sabbath. I’m sure they were desperate to show their love for Jesus by honoring His body, but in not doing so they help to set the stage for the Easter miracle. Now Jesus will have His own body, instead of looking like some creepy embalmed mummy thing. And there will be people there on Easter morning to know almost instantly when His body is gone.
Our own opportunities may seem insignificant in comparison, but when we do as God asks we bring glory to Him, and maybe also somehow understand Him slightly better than we did before.