Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Holy Week Part VII: Consummatum Est

March 30th, 2018, Promulgated by Diane Harris


The name “Consummatum Est” (It is Finished) alludes to Christ’s last words at the Crucifixion (John 19:30). The painting also has been called “Golgotha: Consummatum Est” and  “Jerusalem: Consummatum Est,” the latter looking toward the destruction of the city 40 years later.

Consummatum Est by Jean Leon Gerome Oil on canvas French School

Consummatum Est by Jean Leon Gerome (1824-1904)
Oil on canvas; French School


How could it happen that the Son of God ended up on a Cross, unto death? Some have said the Jewish leaders bear prime responsibility. Others say that it could not have happened without Pilate giving the order, or at least standing back and allowing the Jewish leaders to have the crucifixion they wanted. The crowds get blamed too, and when we realize what had to be accomplished through the sacrifice, we have to admit we are each, at least partially, albeit terribly, to blame.  But we have some clues in the biblical text, that God the Father did not intervene to prevent the crucifixion, and that Christ Himself ‘deliberately’ precipitated the decision of His death. The reason for that last claim, outrageous as it may seem, is borne out by simple reading of the text, nothing too extreme.  Here are some verses to note:

  • Notice how the trial set before the Sanhedrin requires two witnesses to agree. Three would have been preferred because in the Old Testament (Book of Daniel) Susanna almost was executed by the testimony of two lying witnesses. Christ Himself often brought Peter, James and John — three witnesses to His miracles. However, the high priest couldn’t get two witnesses to agree on the accusations against Christ, let alone three. And time was running out. Remember how Christ told Judas: “What you are going to do, do quickly!” (John 13:27). Jesus hardly sounded like someone dragging out the process until sunset when the execution might not have occurred, or at least been delayed. Yet, He refused to answer. Under Jewish Law He technically did not have to testify against Himself, although there are also harsh endurance “tests” which may be administered to determine if some one is lying or not. But that is not the case in the testimony before the Sanhedrin. So why did Christ indict Himself by answering the high priest?
  • It might well be that He actually waited until it was clear that two witnesses could not be found, as further evidence that He was willingly offering Himself up as a sacrifice.  “… the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from My Father.”  John 10:17-18.  There may also be a matter of obedience (and that mysterious phrase that He “learned” obedience). The high priest,  who is invested with power from God, has authority to give orders. Is it possible that Christ waited for and obeyed that order, most strongly worded in Matthew 26:63: “But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'”  The Merriam Webster definition of “adjure” is to command solemnly under or as if under oath or penalty of a curse. 2 : to urge or advise earnestly.”   Adjure is only used in this verse, and is a very strong order based on authority.  Seemingly, Jesus submitted Himself to that authority by answering. In Matthew 26:64, Jesus replied:  “… You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” In essence, Christ sealed His own death warrant by speaking up. “Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard His blasphemy.” Matthew 26:65. Then He was condemned by the Sanhedrin and taken to Pilate, since the Jews could not execute a criminal under their law.

Something very interesting is going on in the background at this point, to which we usually do not pay much attention. Peter is in the process of denying Christ three times. What we see as we read through the four gospels is a kind of consensus reading that there were two “maids” who approached Peter. One of the two was apparently a relative of Malchus whose ear Peter had cut off, and which Christ had healed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  A third witness against Peter is a bystander who makes the same allegation; i.e. that Peter is part of Christ’s followers, a follower of the man about to receive a death penalty for blasphemy. It is not only a matter of whether or not Peter was part of the disciples of Christ; rather, there are now three eyewitnesses who are sufficient to bring charges against Peter. The noose has tightened. This time Peter “curses” — who? Himself. He has escalated the level of sin. Can anyone say this sin is likely not mortal? And there is apparent contributory negligence, as we don’t see Peter praying in the Garden as he was instructed to do, to strengthen himself against temptation. We have seen him asleep, and then cutting off Malchus’ ear!

  • But there is something else which is easy to miss. When Christ stands before Pilate, the governor asks Him where He comes from, and Christ does not answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release You, and power to crucify You?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over Me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:10-11. The key here is that most of us read with emphasis the idea that Pilate couldn’t put Jesus to death unless he received the power to do so from ‘above’; i.e. from God the Father. But much less do we read what is equally true — that Pilate has no power to release Christ. He has no power to go against the Divine Will– the Father’s or Christ’s. Again, we see Christ’s cooperation with offering Himself as perfect Sacrifice.

There is much more which we could explore in any of the Gospels, to go deeper into the mystery of the Passion, but for the moment we leave Peter weeping, and it will not be long before he learns that Judas took the suicide way out, challenging Peter to stay strong and seek forgiveness. And Saturday morning, the day of the Passover and Sabbath, if Peter had slept at all during the night, he will wake to the sound of the cock crowing one to two hours before sunrise.  And, oh! the thoughts that will go through his mind, anticipating the cock crow for every day of the rest of his life.


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