The Title on the Cross.
Amid enthusiastic acclamations of joy on the part of the populace, who salute Him as King of the Jews, Jesus to-day makes His entry into Jerusalem. A few days later this King of the Jews hangs in the sight of all, pilloried upon the cross, His regal title being the only crime for which He is tortured and put to death. “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” is inscribed in three languages upon the cross. It is related of a well-known Religious, that when upon his death-bed he took the superscription that was on the cross in his hands, fixed his gaze upon it, and thus looking upon it expired. Do you also, my soul, turn your eyes to-day upon that title, and consider:
1st. The word “Jesus.” It is Jesus who hangs upon the cross. Thus involuntarily His enemies bear testimony to Him. The superscription is to be read by every one, and every one may learn from it that this Individual, about whom there is nothing striking, crucified between two malefactors, is Jesus, the Saviour of mankind. Yes, it is as a Saviour, not as a criminal, that He hangs upon the cross, for no crime could be imputed to Him. The first time that this name was given to Him was when His blood was first shed at the circumcision, when He gave a pledge and earnest that later on He would fully merit that title by His death upon the cross; for on the cross He shed His blood to the very last drop, shed it because “He became obedient, even to the death of the cross”; and for this cause, St. Paul adds, “God also hath exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above all names; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” (Phil. ii. 8.) Consequently the name of Jesus is a glorious title for Him who is crucified, and for us a word full of sweetness—as sweet as it was for the penitent thief, who not only read the superscription, but made experience of its truth, since the Sufferer crucified at his side proved in truth for him a “Saviour.”
2d. Consider the second word of the superscription: “Nazarenus,” the Nazarene. By this Pilate meant to indicate the place whence He came, but unintentionally the Roman governor bore a fresh and glorious witness to the Lord by assigning this title to Him, for the word Nazarene signifies one who is fair and beauteous. But how can Jesus be said to be beauteous, He who is pale and withered like a dried-up flower, who is devoid of all bright color and beauty of form? And yet, my soul, this One who is despised and crucified is a tree rich in fairest blossoms, for He is the tree of life, whose fruit is immortality. Look upon this new tree of life, planted in the paradise of the bitter Passion of your Lord. Its root is the deepest humility, the most holy poverty; the rough bark is the toil and torment that He underwent for our salvation; the branches of the tree are His holy doctrines which He has disseminated throughout the whole world; its beauteous blossoms are His sacred innocence and purity; the height of the tree is His wondrous love, its fruits are the glorious graces which He bestows on us. That tree is watered and rendered fruitful and bright with blossoms this day, when Jesus of Nazareth hangs upon the cross, a lovely flower, white and crimson; white in the ghastly pallor of death, tinged with the crimson of His precious blood.
3d. Consider the final clause of the title: “King of the Jews.” This title was given to Him in mockery, but unwittingly His enemies spoke the truth. For this Crucified One is indeed a king. To all appearances He has no throne but a cross of shame, no palace but the place of execution; His courtiers are two malefactors and His regal table gall and vinegar. Yet He is in very truth a king, only His kingdom is not of this world. See how gloriously this King reigns from the cross! At the moment on which He expired the rocks were rent, the veil of the temple was torn from the top to the bottom, the dead were called forth from their graves. A far more powerful Ruler than any prince of this world, from the cross He overthrows Satan’s kingdom, and establishes the kingdom of God, the limits of which are the boundaries of the earth, and of which the duration is to all eternity. And He is the King of the Jews, not of the carnal descendants of the faithful Abraham, but of the spiritual children of those who are true Judeans, that is confessors; who with the penitent thief confess their sins and by their good works show whose disciples they are. Look to it, my soul, that you are in word and deed a true Judean, a confessor of Jesus Christ, for He is your King; and then you will one day make your solemn entry into the heavenly Jerusalem with Him, Jesus of Nazareth, eternally fair and beauteous above all the sons of men.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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