“Lifted Up Upon the Cross”

George Reynolds, Janne M. Sjodahl

Nephi now sees the Lamb of God “taken by the people,” “judged of the world,” “lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.”

“Taken by the people” is a remarkably accurate statement of what actually happened in Gethsemane. For all the evangelists relate that Judas came with a great multitude, really a mob, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people, and armed with swords and staves, just like a rabble. John adds that they were led by “officers from the chief priests and Pharisees,” and Luke notes that there were “chief priests, captains of the temple and elders” in the crowd. (12-14)

“Judged of [or by] the world” is also a notable expression.

The word “world” in the New Testament has different meanings. For instance, it stands for an “age,” an era, as in John 14:19 and 15:18, 19, and other places.

Jesus was actually judged by the representatives and rulers of the old dispensation, the old “world” as seen by Nephi, in his vision.

Jesus, having been apprehended in Gethsemane, was first taken to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas and formerly president of the Sanhedrin, whom Josephus refers to as Ananus, the son of Seth. (John 2:13-17) but, as stated, they could not demand a death sentence on that ground, because they, themselves, not he, were the offenders. Finally Caiaphas, fearing that the victim might escape him rose and said, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.”

There is silence in the hall. Every eye is focused on the prisoner. And in the stillness of death, turning toward the persecutor and, with a voice that must have penetrated the very soul of the old sinner, he replied, “Thou hast said!” which is the same as, “Yes, I am!” And then he added, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 26:57-68)

Now they did not, according to the high priest, need any witnesses. He himself had said that he was the Messiah, and the Son of God, and he asserted that he would some day be their judge. “What think ye?” The Sanhedrin thus appealed to, answered, “He is guilty of death.” That was the sentence of that Jewish council.

If there had been any feelings of humanity in that assembly, they might have executed the sentence by stoning, as in the case of Stephen, the martyr. (Matt. 27:2) The accusation before the governor was that he claimed to be the Messiah, which to the Roman could mean only one thing, “the king of the Jews,” a pretender in opposition to Caesar. On that charge, Pilate, after tremendous pressure had been brought to bear, condemned him to the cross. And thus he was judged by the representatives of the entire world, Jewish and Roman, as stated in the vision of Nephi.

Crucifixion was an indescribably cruel and loathsome mode of death. It is supposed to have come from Persia, and that it was adopted by the Romans as a fitting punishment of rebellious slaves. It was always preceded by scourging, which reduced the naked body to a bleeding, quivering mass, and when the victim, after this unnecessary cruelty, was tied, or nailed, to the cross, where he suffered all the torments of the damned—burning fever, thirst, the sting of insects, utter helplessness as regards all the elementary functions of nature—the spectacle presented was one of extreme horror. No wonder that Nature shrouded Calvary in a thick veil of darkness, while the Son of God suffered and expired on the cross. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.” (Matt. 27:45) From noon till 3 o’clock, the time for the evening sacrifice. And thus the “Lamb of God” died for us.

Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1