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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Luke 23

 

 

Verse 11

SETTING JESUS AT NOUGHT

‘And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought.’

Luke 23:11

I. Who is the most likely person to set our Lord at nought?

(a) A man who has once heard the Word of God and does violence to his conscience.

(b) A man who yields to sinful companions and commits a gross sin as the result of it.

II. On what ground did Herod set our Lord at nought?

(a) Because of His gentleness and patience.

(b) Because He refused to gratify Herod’s curiosity and amuse his love of sensation.

III. How do men set our Lord at nought?

(a) Some will not even consider His claims.

(b) Others prefer their business or their amusements to Jesus.

(c) Others confide in themselves.

(d) Others have no conscience whatever as to His present claims upon them.


Verse 21

SPIRITUAL IMPULSES

‘But they cried, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him.’

Luke 23:21

Every one must have felt that it is a strange and touching and instructive fact, that the Sunday which immediately precedes Good Friday should be the Sunday of the Palm.

Among the voices which cried ‘Hosanna!’ there were some who joined in the horrible chorus, ‘Crucify Him! crucify Him!’ Such a revulsion, from love to cruel hatred, is happily a rare thing. But the principle is a common one, and the tendency is deep in our nature.

There are passages of some men’s minds to which even the streets of Jerusalem could scarcely furnish a parallel. There are those who could tell—if they would-—that they have passed from a holy service to the grossest sin!

Be greatly on your guard against reactions. To some minds the danger is, of course, much greater than it is to others.

I. In a sense, all religion is an impulse; it is an impulse of the Holy Ghost; and impulsiveness is a beautiful thing. It is the germ of all great character and noble actions. But impulsiveness has its great dangers. Take care, not only of gradual slidings, but of rapid rushes!

II. To this end, remember always, that feelings are the best of servants, but the worst of masters; and those who carry the highest sail must be careful to lay in the largest ballast. I tremble for a soul which makes its religion a sensation; when I hear it always saying, ‘I feel! I feel!’ Suspicious words! dangerous words! words that are not in the Bible!

III. To us the incident was probably intended to convey two thoughts.

(a) The one, that as this week began in majesty, so the whole work of Christ’s atoning sacrifice rests upon greatness.

(b) The other, that, as with Christ, so with us, there are bright things in every grief, and earnests of glory in our deepest humiliations.

Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘A man is not necessarily what the popular verdict declares him to be. This multitude was both right and wrong—right in hailing Christ as King, wrong in regarding Him as mere temporal deliverer. Afterwards thought itself wrong in the matter in which it had been right, and acted wickedly and cruelly because it had been wrong when it had believed itself right. Christ was no more a King because of their loud hosannas, and no less a King when their craven throats made themselves hoarse with the shout of “Crucify Him.” So if society chooses to persecute a good man, or to deify a bad man, its false judgment does not make good bad, or bad good. If the opinion of the multitude cannot make wrong right, so neither shall it make us think wrong right.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

TRUE AND FALSE ENTHUSIASM

I. To-day, as long ago, Jesus Christ is the true object of the enthusiasm of mankind.—We know, as that multitude did not, the meaning of His life and mission. We know that even while the unthinking crowd was shouting around Him, the weight of the world’s sin lay heavy on His heart, and the black shadow of the Cross flung itself upon His sunlit pathway down the slope of the hill. We know that He was going to die, and to die for us that we might live.

II. There may be outward devotion to Christ while the heart remains a stranger to His nature, His claim and His love.—There was, after all, no spiritual enthusiasm among the multitudes. What of our protestations of allegiance to Christ? Are they more real, more heartfelt, more abiding than those of this light-hearted crowd? The true enthusiasm for Christ exhibits itself not in eloquent speeches about Him, not in rhapsodical outbursts of homage to Him, not in tearing down palm branches and casting them at His feet, but in the life of faith, in the patient, untiring endeavour for His sake to forsake sin, for His sake to bear life’s burdens, for His sake to do God’s will, for His sake to strive to become more like Him every day.

III. The narrative bids us beware of regarding emotional excitement as identical with religious feelings and states of mind and heart.—The religion of some people exhausts itself in Hosannas and Hallelujahs. Cut them off for a month from attendance at public services and the electricity of crowded assemblies, and the effect of moving appeals, and you will find their spiritual fervour has evaporated. The claims of Christ have only touched and ruffled the surface of their natures. Emotion certainly plays its part, but let our feelings arise from our faith, not our faith depend upon our feelings.

Illustration

‘We know that the world owes more to the man Christ Jesus, than to any or all besides; that the noblest elements in poetry and art, the splendid ideals of conduct which the best men in all ages since His day have set before themselves, the deeper sense of justice, and along with it the attempering of justice with mercy in our legislation, the civil and religious liberty we enjoy, the elevation of woman and through her of the race, the sacredness of the family tie; these, and a thousand others of our most precious possessions, we owe to the teaching and example of Jesus, and to the undying impulse which the world has received from His life and death, and living Presence in it.’


Verse 26

BEARING THE CROSS AFTER JESUS

‘And as they led Him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.’

Luke 23:26

It is very difficult to define what our ‘cross’ is; what a ‘cross’ means. The word, as we generally use it, is of course a metaphor; but, following the metaphor, ‘a cross’ will be something which carries with it shame, and suffering, and some kind of death. You must look for these three ingredients to combine to make ‘a cross.’

Let me imagine one or two cases to which the word more accurately belongs.

I. A naturally proud and shy man is called to make some confession of his religious feelings and his faith, before some man, or some company of men, of irreligious habits and sentiments. He knows what it will entail—misunderstanding, coldness, suspicion, disgrace. To do it is a real pain; and there must be such a victory over self that self is nowhere. These are the three things which make ‘a cross’—shame, and suffering, and self-mortification. And if he do it, he is really ‘bearing the cross after Jesus.’ And this ordeal will have to repeat itself again and again. The occasions will be frequent; but it will be the same ‘cross.’ He will almost every day have to show and declare before persons whom it is very difficult to meet, ‘Whose he is, and Whom he serves.’ No one knows, but those who have to do it, what a martyrdom that is to a sensitive mind. No physical pain is greater, and no act of heroism is more honourable. It needs the compulsion of a strong, irresistible motive; of a conscience quickened and kindled by the love of God. That is a ‘cross’—ignominy borne, suffering endured, self killed for Christ’s sake.

II. Or it may be you may have lived much in the world, and for the world; and, for a time, its fashions and its influences are everything. A change has come across your views: your standard and your convictions have risen. You see the incompatibility—the need of real and deep spiritual religion. You are convinced that to you, at least, it is impossible to unite them. And you make up your mind that you ought to make an entire change and give the world up. But there are things in the world so dear to you that to surrender them is like sundering the cords of life. And you know only too well the penalty you will pay. You will be thought little of where you used to be very much admired. Your worldly prospects will be blasted. No one will understand you. The most unfair construction will be put upon you. You may sacrifice many of your best friends, in a worldly point of view. It will be a cloud upon your path. But, by the same token, it is ‘the cross,’ and you know it and you feel it. The path to heaven is by that ‘cross.’ And only ‘if we be crucified with Christ’ can we hope that ‘we shall be glorified together.’

III. Or a man feels he is called to some particular work for God.—If he do it, he must abandon a lucrative engagement. It will be hard work to him, mentally and bodily. And he must cut many ties. And every one will call him a fool! But he believes it to be to him a call from God, and he feels God has ‘laid that cross upon him, that he may bear it after Jesus.’ Happy the man that takes up that ‘cross’ and asks no questions!

Illustration

‘There is a mistake into which some persons naturally run, and which very much owes itself to this latent image of “the cross.” They think that the more painful anything is to them, the more it pleases God; and they carry this theory so far that they very much measure the work and acceptability of any duty by its disagreeableness to their own feelings. They almost show it, though they would not say it, that nothing can ever be pleasing to God but that which is unpleasing to oneself. A most unfilial view! It is the pleasure, not the pain, which a child finds in anything it does or bears which becomes pleasing to God. To bear the pain of “the cross” would be a great thing; but to rise above the pain to the joy that is in it, and to turn the suffering to happiness, and the shame to glory, and the death of the natural feeling into the very deliciousness of the higher life, that is far greater! On the whole, “the cross of Christ”—shame, agony, death, horror, as it was to Him—“the cross of Christ” was joy to Christ. He delighted in it. Such was His obedience and such His love! And this is the true and the grand view of every “cross.”’


Verse 28

TRUE PATRIOTISM

‘Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.’

Luke 23:28

He came to His own full of griefs, full of love, of purpose, and lofty inspiration. His own received Him not, and, by rejecting Him, prepared their fall.

What lessons should we learn from this part of our Saviour’s bitter Passion?

I. We should learn to imitate His tenderness towards the guilty race who slew Him.—Our Church has placed upon Good Friday a collect for the Jews. It is most suitable, for Jesus bears no malice, and we profess to follow Him.

II. Christ’s love for His own nation is an encouragement to us to cherish patriotic feelings.—To care not simply for our personal and petty interests, but for the honour of our country, and for the well-being and safety of the Church of which we are privileged members. We should not merely confess our personal sins and plead for personal forgiveness, but we should remember the needs of (a) our nation, (b) our Church, and (c) the cause of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

—Rev. H. A. Birks.

Illustration

‘O that the Lord’s salvation

Were out of Zion come;

To heal His ancient nation

To lead His outcasts home!

How long the holy city

Shall heathen feet profane?

Return, O Lord, in pity

Rebuild her walls again.

‘Let fall Thy rod of terror,

Thy saving grace impart,

Roll back the veil of error,

Release the fettered heart.

Let Israel, home returning,

Her lost Messiah see,

Give oil of joy for mourning,

And bring Thy Church to Thee.’


Verse 33

THE GREEN HILL FAR AWAY

‘There they crucified Him.’

Luke 23:33

‘There is a green hill far away, Without a city wall.’ Yes; such a spot there is, at a little distance from the northern wall of Jerusalem. It is a hill, low and broad, but with a steep face towards the city, and conspicuous by its position. It is ‘a green hill,’ at least during the months when the former and latter rains gladden the Judean highlands; and it is kept green, kept free from the invasion of buildings, secular or ecclesiastical, by the simple but effectual defence of a sprinkling of Moslem tombs over the summit.

Here it is at least abundantly possible that ‘the dear Lord was crucified, Who died to save us all.’

I. A great spiritual force can be conveyed, by the grace of the Spirit, through a very simple and prosaic recollection of locality and fact.—Let just that reflection possess you for the moment: they crucified Him here. Somewhere in this hard mass was cut the place for the Cross. Somewhere on this firm ground was our Lord Jesus Christ extended along the wood, and fastened down upon it with huge nails, limb by limb, and then the whole ponderous structure with its Burden was heaved into position. This air, so quiet now, was busy once with the hum and with the harsh insults of the bystanders. Over this area once came down that deepest darkness, far deeper than Egyptian, that has ever loaded earth. Out of the midst of it, here, came once the most mysteriously dreadful cry that man has ever listened to—those four Aramaic words, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.’ Here resounded the ‘loud voice,’ ‘Tetelestai,’—‘It is finished.’ Here the Son of God and Man passed through the act of death, saw death, tasted death. It was even here.

II. Let us carry our theology of salvation then to this site. Let it be, by the grace of God, a full theology. Let nothing of the massive grandeur of our fathers’ faith be left out. Let ours be no vague tenet of salvation by Incarnation only, or of an agony which has little to do but to effect (who shall say how?) the suasion of the human will. Let us confess the old ‘faith of Christ Crucified’; the faith of Sacrifice, Oblation, and Satisfaction; the redemption of our guilty persons from ‘the curse’ of a broken law by the Lord Christ’s being ‘made a curse for us.’ Let us go deep, by His grace, into the awfulness of the truths which gather round Atonement; let us ponder the dread greatness of the need, the ‘exceeding sinfulness of sin’ in view of ‘the commandment’; the unspeakable guiltiness of our ‘I will not,’ if even once only it had contradicted God’s ‘Thou oughtest’; the ‘incalculable retribution’ called down, drawn down, upon the sinner’s head by that contradiction. Let us pray and cry for conviction of sin as guilt, and let us ‘dwell deep’ in that solemn experience, so far as we can bear it.

III. And then let us go high, by the grace of God, into the radiant gifts and promises which make the eternal rainbow round the Cross.—Let us honour the Lamb of the Sacrifice, not by fearing and shrinking to take the hard-won cup of blessings which He brings us, but by taking it without hesitation and delay, by clasping it with hands which are bold to know that it is indeed within them, and by ‘drinking it heartily,’ praising God, and ‘keeping the feast’ with thanksgivings every day. Let us take the Lord’s death here and now for our emancipation, ease, joy, and victory. Let us see in it no mere example, nor let us (with a mistake more subtle, because yet more closely akin to great and elevating truths) misread it as if it were endured only that we might somehow be enabled (by sympathy? by assimilation?) to agonise for others. Let us exult in it as the propitiation for our sins, the repose of our consciences, the opening of our prison, the death of our fears, the unlocking for us now of the gates of a present Paradise and a coming glory. Let it prepare us to serve and suffer for others, first and most by assuring us that for us, in Christ Jesus, ‘there is no condemnation’; all our suffering, as due to sinners at the bar, is put away, annulled, exhausted, for He has taken our load off upon His sacred head; ‘by His stripes we are healed.’

Let this be our faith, our teaching, as it was that of Paul, and Augustine, and Anselm, and Bernard, and Huss, and Luther, and Hooker, and Bunyan before us. Substitutes for this are poor things, however subtle in thought, however eloquent in presentation. They may sound loud, but it is a loud falsetto, to ears that have heard indeed the voice of the old truth, ‘The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all’; ‘By grace ye have been saved’; ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.’

—Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Illustrations

(1) ‘A few years ago some people held an open-air service on a village green in a remote corner of Cambridgeshire, a hamlet where, as it happened, the peasants had been left for a very long time without religious ministry. One of the evangelists had recently visited Palestine; he mentioned, in the course of an earnest address on the Lord’s saving work, that a few weeks back he had stood upon the probable place of the Crucifixion. That “open-air” was permitted, in the mercy of God, to produce a great spiritual impression on the people. And it transpired afterwards that nothing had so arrested and stirred the hearts of the ploughboys and shepherds as this allusion to Calvary as to a real place, which people might really visit—a bit of this solid earth, quite as concrete as their own: village green. They felt, with a strange movement of the soul, that this made “salvation” no longer mere talk to them, but fact.’

(2) ‘The late Dr. John Duncan, of Edinburgh, who, near the close of his remarkable career, passed from traditional orthodoxy down to pantheism, and up again (through conviction of sin) to an orthodoxy full of the living God, lamented that he had not studied the gospel narratives with quite the same care which he had eagerly spent upon the developed revelation of the epistles. “I ought to have thought more,” he said, or said words to that effect, “about His decease which He accomplished at Jerusalem.” He was conscious that he had run a certain risk, even in the glad and worshipping study of the truths of salvation, by not sufficiently keeping them in vital cohesion with the facts of the saving work. He had been in danger of letting them rise and float too far above him, like glorious clouds, by not continually remembering that “there they crucified Him.”’


Verse 34

THE FIRST OF THE SEVEN WORDS

‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’

Luke 23:34

The greatest fact in the whole world is sin; the greatest need in the whole world is forgiveness. But Christ needed not to pray for forgiveness for Himself; so He prays for our very greatest need—forgiveness.

I. We come to church, and, kneeling underneath the Cross, we ask that the blood of the covenant may fall upon us, and we say devoutly what others said in derision, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children,’ ‘for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.’ Mind that we never belong to a Christless Christianity or a bloodless gospel. What we need is forgiveness; we shall always need it to the very last breath—Pardon through the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, verily ordained before the foundations of the world.

II. Yet there is a trouble that you feel.—God forgives me—yes, I believe in the forgiveness of sins. And yet, what troubles you? There is a trouble, your heart is not at rest. Why not? Because I cannot, I cannot, I cannot forgive myself. Though I may walk down from Calvary feeling forgiven, all my pride is clean gone out of me. The Roman soldiers needed forgiveness for crucifying Him. Well, we may crucify Him; we may be what the Apostle calls the ‘enemies of the Cross of Christ’; and we need forgiveness just the same. I wonder whether they ever forgave themselves for crucifying Him. Tradition says that they were all converted and saved. But I think the soldiers must have said to themselves, ‘Can I ever forgive myself?’

III. Our consolation is our Lord’s own excuse.—We do not know what we do. When I did wrong I did not know it was so bad, but the Holy Ghost has convinced me of it. When I committed the sins I did not know how sinful I was, and I come under the Lord’s excuse. ‘Plead Thou my cause, O Lord, with them that strive against me.’ I did not know what I know now. God forgive me. Let us hide ourselves right away in the Rock of Ages, for our only happiness must be in our Crucified Lord. Kind hearts are near us, yet every one has a limit to his kindness, but God has none. Man’s forgiveness may be sweet, but God’s forgiveness is sweeter; yes, He stoops to give it, He lays forgiveness at our feet.

—Rev. A. H. Stanton.

Illustration

‘The first act of Jesus in the recovery of man must be forgiveness. The first word to the soul must be, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Forgiveness is the beginning of the life of the soul with God. In vain we build on any act but this: and this is the act of God. “Who can forgive sins, but God only?” “But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, He saith unto the sick of the palsy, Arise, take up thy bed.” All things in their places. Forgiveness comes first, the rest afterwards—“remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion.”’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

IGNORANCE AND CRUELTY

‘They know not’: that is why they are so cruel. It is ignorance that makes us cruel.

I. It is because of our sinful ignorance that we are so pitiless, so savage.—It is when we pass responsibility about from one to the other, until no one knows exactly what is being done, that society shows itself cruel, without any check from a startled conscience or a sympathetic regret. War, for instance, some wicked war into which a nation plunges in a passion, is a crime done again and again by men who know not what they do. Surely if those home citizens who in the frenzy of some jealousy or crime have voted wildly for some needless war had themselves to witness and take part in the brutalities that follow, they would recoil from it. But the transference of responsibility enables it to happen. The man who voted says, ‘I never knew it was so horrible as that’; and the soldier who carries it out says, ‘Under his orders it is right.’ And between them they know not what they do.

II. And not only in war, but in peace, society is always committing sins like this, trampling under foot the neglected, the forgotten, the despised, no one knows how nor why. The order passes. Those who give it do not see what is involved; those who receive it never know why it was given; and each is satisfied, and each is unaware of guilt. So it is that savage things are done in the gross, done in London to-day, done by a system of society to which you and I belong; brutalities which every single member of that society would never tolerate if he knew what he did. So Christ’s little ones, young children, are given over to shame and a curse; many led, slaughtered, doomed to inevitable sin by us. So the poor are driven under by the fierce pressure of relentless competition which we support, that when we see it enrages us.

Such a world of unknown guilt you and I carry about us every day. Recall the dreadful fact, though you cannot measure its reality. Pray to-day that your eyes may be opened a little to see what they do. And now, in humility and shame, confess how sorely we too need this first pleading of the Holy Martyr on our behalf: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’

Rev. Canon Scott Holland.

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE UNKNOWN SINS OF OUR SOCIAL SYSTEM

In times of sorrow, of agony, what is it which most occupies our minds? Is it not ourselves? Who were those for whom Jesus so prayed? It was for the Roman soldiers, and it was because they knew not what they did.

I. The unknown sins of our social system.—We want to realise one thing as we think of these words, that those sins that we are committing every day that we know not, need God’s forgiveness. We belong to a great social system. We know of it, we read of it, we say it is impossible for us in the fullest sense to be our brother’s and our sister’s neighbour; yet is it not true—I say it in no reproving sense—that quite unconsciously you and I are causing suffering to others? In our ordinary commercial transactions, in our ordinary business dealings, nay, in our social duties, in those things which occupy our everyday attention, in the very shopping that we do, are we quite certain that we are not causing others to sin? Are we not committing sin in ignorance, then? And is it because we cannot find out how our brothers and sisters are living? Is it because we cannot know, or because, too often, we say we have no time to inquire? Are we quite certain, for example, that the things which we buy have not been made in sweating dens, and caused suffering and anguish, that the very stitches which are sewn are not sewn with tears and almost with blood?

II. The practical lesson.—If the Cross and Passion of our Blessed Lord means anything at all, it means something very practical, it means something which will touch our daily life to-morrow, which will send us forth to our daily work with a keener sense of our social responsibilities. So I ask each one to pray, ‘Father, forgive me for the sins which I know not, for the things I have never inquired about, for the things I cannot inquire about; forgive me for these sins.’ I ask you to pray that God will forgive us all the suffering, all the sorrow, all the pain that, it may be, we have needlessly caused.

—Rev. T. G. Longley.

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

TRUSTFUL, PERSEVERING, SELFLESS

If ever God’s cause seemed lost in this world, it was at the moment when the Cross of Jesus was uplifted; and yet that is the very moment when the Eternal Son lifts up His voice in prayer to God—prayer trustful, prayer persevering, prayer selfless.

I. By this wondrous prayer, uttered at such a moment, Jesus is the Helper of them that doubt.—You find it hard to believe in the Providence, in the overruling care of God. But Christ would have us not confuse imagination with knowledge. Just as in science we know many things which we cannot imagine, chemical transformations which we cannot picture to ourselves, so it is with the doctrine of the Providence of God, which, though we cannot imagine, we know, we believe.

II. We must remember not to attempt a generalisation of God’s children.—This world in which we live is not wholly given over to the powers of the enemy. Everywhere God has His own children. We must never give way to that faithless thought that God has forsaken the world, or that He has left Himself without witness.

III. And then we should always remember that much of the apparent forgetfulness of God which distresses, much of the sin and neglect that vexes our souls is, after all, due to ignorance. ‘They know not what they do.’ We can put ourselves by the side of Jesus Christ, and thank and bless His gracious name that He has brought us relief in one of the most painful and fundamental doubts that can shake the soul.

(FIFTH OUTLINE)

THE SCOPE OF THE SAVIOUR’S PRAYER

‘Forgive them.’

I. The scope of the prayer.—We need not be at too great pains to ask who they are—whether the Roman soldiers, only ignorantly doing what they were told to do; or the Jews, who in ignorance were smiting themselves with a mortal blow; or Herod; or Pilate; or the false accusers, the religious leaders of the people and their priests. We need not limit the scope of our Saviour’s prayer to any one class, for the forgiveness of it is infinite. It is a prayer for the whole race of sinful men from the beginning to the end of the world.

II. The ground of the prayer.—‘They know not what they do.’ That is in a measure true of all sin, and it is part of the wonderful love of Jesus that He takes it all into account. Let us reflect, however, that though we do not know the full horror of the sin we commit, we do know enough, if we only acted up to our lights, to be saved from committal thereof. We need to pray that our eyes may be opened, and that we may be forgiven our sins, not as we know them now, but as He knows them.

III. Forgive as we would be forgiven.—To persist in unforgiveness is to set ourselves in direct antagonism to the will of Christ. We must repress our hatred of those who wrong us, our irritability with those who vex us. If there is one person, enemy or friend, against whom we cherish the thought ‘I shall never forgive him,’ that thought stands between us and the Saviour’s forgiveness.

IV. And let us pray for those who sin in ignorance, that they may know.

—Rev. Lionel G. B. J. Ford.

Illustration

‘How often men exclaim, “I’ll pay him out,” “I’ll be level with him yet,” “He shan’t insult me for nothing,” “I’ll put a spoke in his wheel.” How often we cannot forgive at all—as when Queen Elizabeth (if the tale be true) said to the Countess of Nottingham, who confessed that she had kept back the ring by which Essex pleaded for forgiveness, “God may forgive you, but I cannot.” I remember one edition of the story is that the Queen even shook the dying Countess in her bed as she said, “God may forgive, but I never can.” “If you pray for a man sufficiently often,” said William Law, “and sufficiently fervently, and sufficiently in secret, you cannot but love that man, even were he Alexander the coppersmith.”’

(SIXTH OUTLINE)

TYPICAL WORDS OF CHRIST

Christ had not spoken under the tortures of the scourge. He had been dumb, as a lamb brought to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). But now He speaks, not in words of complaint or of anger, but of sweet forgiveness—‘Father, forgive them.’

I. The words are typical:—

(a) Of His office; because He was Saviour and had come to obtain forgiveness for sinners (Acts 5:31; Ephesians 4:32).

(b) Of the whole course of His life. Had he not constantly put aside and forgiven offences against Himself (Matthew 12:32)? And made His ministry a constant scene of kindness and self-sacrifice (Matthew 20:28), often to those who were ungrateful?

II. The Saviour is ever saying, ‘Father, forgive them.’ He ever liveth to make intercession for us. The Cross is His mediatorial throne. When he ascended it, He began to intercede—His first word is one of intercession; and so it has been ever since.

III. ‘They know not what they do.’

(a) They obeyed partly the orders of their stern discipline, partly (as in their cruel mocking and scourging of Jesus) they followed the impulse of savage and brutal natures, to torture whatever came helpless into their power. But they had no idea that they were putting to death the Lord of Glory.

(b) So with sinners. They (Hebrews 6:5) crucify the Son of God afresh by every sin. Do we think of that when we sin? Do we think what sin was to Jesus on Calvary—and what it is to Him when He sees it in His people now?


Verse 42

RECOGNISED AT LAST

‘Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.’

Luke 23:42

At last Christ is recognised. The secret is out. The mystery is solved. He was a King; and yet what a strange moment to make the discovery! No one but the poor thief on the cross could see it.

I. Not Pilate, the clever man of the world, the man of position, in authority, of social rank, skilled and cultivated, not without thoughtfulness, sceptical rather whether there be any solid truth, and yet capable of recognising moral and spiritual character when he saw it.

II. Religious leaders could not see it.—They were angry that even the self-mocking title of the cross should stand over His dying head to suggest such a wild impossibility.

III. His own disciples could not see it now.—They had lost touch. Once they had asked to sit at His right hand, but now all had forsaken their King.

IV. One poor criminal robber saw what no one else could see.—He, and he alone, at the very hour which hid the royalty from the eyes of those nearest and dearest.

Always it is happening. The thieves and the robbers and the harlots and the great sinners see deeper into the mysteries of the cross than we do.

—Rev. Canon Scott Holland.


Verse 43

THE SECOND WORD FROM THE CROSS

‘Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.’

Luke 23:43

The dying thief desired to be near the Lord.

I. His is no fragment of repentance; it is the full conversion of the whole man to God.—The last act of a man’s life is not more momentous than the first, except it prove what the character of the whole man is. If God judge a man by the last thing he did, it is not because it is the last—what is time to God?—but because it is the expression of his whole life. Jesus knew that in this relenting word, ‘Remember me,’ the penitent in one bound leapt into his Saviour’s arms. His confession was irrevocable; his will invincible. Had he lived a thousand years he would have been found faithful; and Jesus accepted him wholly, at once and for ever.

II. Our Lord adapts His promise to the particular desire of the longing heart.—He does not usually address Himself to the sensuous nature of man, but now to a man of low spiritual attainment He promises the most intelligible comfort—paradise, refreshment, rest. The promise suits the need.

III. The rest begins at once; repose and refreshment come with the beginning of conversion. ‘Peace, peace to him that is afar off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord, and I will heal him.’

Archdeacon Furse.

Illustration

‘“To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Surely it was a consolation to our Lord in the midst of His sufferings to pronounce these words—to open the door of Paradise for one penitent soul. At once He answers, graciously, giving more than is asked—(more than either we desire or deserve—Collect for Twelfth Sunday after Trinity). What a striking instance of Christ saving to the uttermost! How it shows that none are too wicked for His Spirit to regenerate, for His love to purify and save! May such a promise be ours, when we come to die!’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

FIRST-FRUITS OF THE PASSION

‘Father, forgive,’ has been spoken. The words have died upon the ear, but they live for evermore.

I. So the Father, hearing the prayer of the suffering Son, gives Him at once one soul, earnest of all the souls that are to follow. One soul, and that, as one would say, the most unlikely soul of all, the soul of one of those criminals who hung beside His Cross. No sooner had the Lord prayed His prayer, ‘Father, forgive,’ than on His ear falls the sound of the prayer of the poor penitent, ‘Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.’ Oh, sweetest music to the ear of the dying Christ! There is a soul turning to Him. There is one to whom He may extend mercy and happiness. Think how the angels must have joyed over this one sinner that repented,’ this one sinner, whose mighty privilege it was to be the first-fruits of the Passion, and to give the first thrill of satisfaction to the dying Saviour.

II. So the fruit of the Cross ripens.—Not intercession only, but now the ripe fruit of pardon. A saved soul; one soul actually saved by the great sacrifice, as it were by anticipation and before the ‘It is finished’ could be uttered. It was indeed the earnest that God would surely hear the intercession of the Son, when you find that the Cross could thus at once melt the heart and win the love of a dying criminal. Oh, marvellous change for that penitent soul. Yesterday a criminal; this morning a convict; before night with Christ in Paradise.

III. The lesson for us is, that if our sins bring us to misery and grief, to a very crucifixion of punishment in this world, we may yet, like that penitent thief, look to the Cross of Christ, and be received with Him in Paradise.

Illustration

‘One thief, it has been said, was saved upon the Cross that we might hope, and but one, that we might fear. Does the cross that we have to bear soften us or harden us? Sickness, poverty, bitter trials, they are meant to soften us, to bring us to Christ, to refine our earthliness.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE ROYALTY OF GOODNESS

What shall we specially note in this scene for ourselves?

I. The royalty of goodness.—Outwardly there was nothing to show that Jesus was a King. The scene of the Cross must have been a sordid scene. We must think of it not as it has been moulded by art into forms of earthly grace, but in its stern, dread reality. And thinking of it so, what we deduce from it is surely this—the compelling power of goodness forcing itself upon the heart of the criminal.

II. Let us note this touching desire for remembrance.—‘Remember me.’ Is not that the true key-note of real penitence? We would so gladly forget, and so gladly have our sins forgiven; but real, deepest penitence does not ask to be forgiven; it says, ‘Remember.’ It flings itself into the arms of Divine forgiveness. It is not a hiding away beneath, it is confession before the face of the Saviour.

III. And then, for our comfort, let us read out of this story the hope that it contains.—True penitence, even at the eleventh hour, is not refused. Thank God, it can come to the most hardened sinner. No case could outwardly be more desperate than that of the thief. What did he plead? Nothing; no merit past, no future in which he could make reparation possibly. There was no hope of mercy for him in this world, yet what he could he gave. He was sorry; he accepted his punishment, threw himself upon Jesus.

—Rev. Lionel G. B. J. Ford.

Illustration

‘We have not the right ever to despair either of ourselves or of others. We may never say that any habit, ingrained in us as it may be, is too strong to be overcome, or that our hearts are too cold and callous to be changed. “I am too old,” one said, “for religion now.” Even at the last moment the illumination may come, and we shall see in an instant, and be saved.’

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

DIVIDED BY THE CROSS

What is it which God looks down upon with so much pleasure, which the angels rejoice to see?

I. A soul come back.—It is a soul come home, come back. Here we have a wonderful illustration of how God seeks and wins. This man was not a penitent; he was a robber, going about in those bands which haunted the mountains of Judæa, just as years and years ago there were bands of robbers infesting the forests in this country. What shall win him back, what shall bring him back to his God? Then he was to suffer death as a criminal; he was to be hanged upon a cross as a felon. Was it too late then? Was there no chance that this man might yet be touched? There was only one way—that God should place His own Son on the Cross next to him. God is seeking each one of us; He has sought us all our lives. God makes a last appeal to us. He brings His Own Blessed Son to die on the Cross next to us that we may witness His suffering; and we humbly pray, ‘Lord, remember me!’ and the blessing comes back swift and sure, ‘To-day, to-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’

II. The Cross as the divider of men.—Again, there is another thought which is suggested, How the Cross divides men! Is it not strange that the only man who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ at that moment in the world, the only one who really believed in Christ, was the dying robber upon the cross! All the others had gone. The disciples had fled. A few women in their tenderness and love stood at a distance from the Cross. They had lost all hope; only the robber could say, ‘I believe.’ There was the Cross a dividing power amongst men. These two men, the two malefactors, crucified one on one side and the other on the other, had witnessed the same suffering, had had the same appeal made to each of them. They had heard the same prayer; and yet what was the effect? The one was made penitent and the other was hardened. And the same spectacle is going on all through the ages.

III. The appeal to the individual.—Let us remember that the greatest obstacle to our coming to God is not sin in its outward form, but sin and self-righteousness. ‘Lord, remember me!’ How the cry rings out! ‘I am suffering and deserve it.’ Was there ever a greater confession of sin than that? ‘Lord, remember me!’ Was not that a great, stirring appeal of faith? And the answer was as sure and certain: ‘To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’ What did our Lord actually mean? How can I say? I only know this, that He meant that the man should be with Christ. And the lesson for us is surely a pressing one, something for to-day, for our own lives. We who watch by the Cross may not be as that man actually was; but is there no sin in our lives to-day, no secret thing that is eating the very heart out of all our religious exercises, no wayward will which we cannot bring to be subdued and to be submitted to the eternal Will of God? Oh that to-day the call might reach some of us!

Rev. T. G. Longley.

Illustration

‘The penitent thief proved himself in this last distress to be one of the greatest men that ever lived in the world. If you analyse his speech you will find that in philosophy, in audacity of thought, in width and penetration of conception, no greater speech was ever made by human lips. What did this dying malefactor do to prove his intellectual greatness? He saw the Lord in the victim. What did all the other minds round about Him? What vulgarity always does—they defied the impotent, crushed the worm. In so doing they did not debase Christ; they wrote themselves little men. Little minds have all little scales of proof. If Jesus had come down from the Cross, and taken the two thieves with Him, that would have been conclusive. This malefactor, a man who could have played with thrones and nations, did more than see the Lord in the victim. He saw life beyond death. Consider where he is: on the cross, his life oozing out of him in red drops, but he is not conquered; he dies to live. “Lord,” said he, “remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom,”’

(FIFTH OUTLINE)

THE WORD OF GRACE

The first word was the word of Forgiveness. I should like to call this the word of Grace. When they crucified our Lord, of course they did it with all the malice conceivable. But malice did a beautiful thing for me. They hoisted Him up between two malefactors—‘Jesus in the midst,’ a sinner on either side.

These poor men never had a chance, brought up amid evil associations, cruel, hard, covetous, with the odour of hell about them. At last to both of them comes a chance: they find themselves dying beside the Saviour; it is the one opportunity of their lives. One seizes it, and becomes the Lord’s companion, not only in death, but in everlasting life. Was there ever such a beautiful story? He goes home, and is with Christ in Paradise—the first fruit of the Passion. It was his chance, and he seized it.

I. You must always hope about people who are dying that there may be a chance.—I wonder what made the thief turn and confess the Saviour. Was it, do you think, that he turned and read the sweet little gospel over the head of the dying Saviour: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’? Was it the sacred Name Jesus? There is a great power in that Name. There never was such a name as that; and when it was put above the Saviour on the Cross it was the ‘Name above every other name.’ The little sweet gospel which they wrote over the Saviour was the thief’s one opportunity, and he seized it, and went home to heaven.

II. What about the other thief?—Did not he die by the side of the Saviour? Yes. Is he damned? According to an old picture the angels are carrying off the soul of the one man, and the devils the soul of the other. But I do not read that in Holy Scripture. Is he damned or was he saved, do you think? I cannot tell you, I do not know; but I do know one thing about him—he suffered, and he suffered, bad as he was, by the side of the Saviour. What about these thousands of people who have no religion, to whom the chance does not come? Are they all going to be damned? What are you going to say, who have been to Calvary and seen the sight? At least you can say this, ‘I cannot tell you what will become of these men; they have not had a chance, and I have had ten thousand chances: I cannot say, but I leave it to the mercy of Him Who tasted death for every man. God help them, and God help me, a poor sinner.’

—Rev. A. H. Stanton.

(SIXTH OUTLINE)

THE SINNER RESTORED

How does Jesus help sinners in this blessed second word from the Cross?

I. He assures the sinner of the reality of His restoration.—‘Verily to-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.’ Is it not one of the great miseries of sin that it robs us of our faith, our hope, our trust in God’s mercy and love? Jesus helps us by assuring us of the reality of the restoration; and forgiveness is a fact attested by multitudes in every age of history at every time.

II. Jesus helps us sinners by teaching us the method of restoration.—The robber was not released from his hard bed of pain, the penalty not remitted. Yet amid it all he had peace because he was forgiven. Punishment is to the true penitent transformed, and that which while you are impenitent and hard of heart is a crushing, fiery vengeance that will not let you go, that very thing when you are penitent becomes a healing, purifying discipline, which you can bear with even a kind of joy because you know that your Saviour bore it before you.

III. Then Jesus teaches us the blessedness of restoration.—‘To-day’ with Him in Paradise. ‘To-day.’ How prompt is the response of love! So it is with the forgiveness of sins. At once the sinner is welcomed, pardoned, cleansed, relieved. ‘With Me.’ What blessedness is that! How strange it is that the last should be as the first, and that this penitent robber is the very first who shall know the full meaning of that great promise! And the blessedness of restoration is seen in the fact that the storm-tossed, sin-driven soul is at rest in Paradise.


Verse 46

THE LAST WORD FROM THE CROSS

‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’

Luke 23:46

Do those we have lost still live? The last word of Jesus gives us the answer, an answer which we cannot mistake. Yes; the soul lives. ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’

I think our Saviour helps us very simply by dwelling on two fundamental truths of religion which we are very apt in the strain and stress of life to forget or overlook.

I. First of all there is the true Fatherhood of God.—If God seems other to us than the Father, if He seems a hard taskmaster or tyrant, if He seems to us a relentless force that carries us we know not where, we have yet to learn the chief lesson which Jesus came to teach; and if that great truth is to sustain us at death, as it has sustained so many, we must learn to grasp it and make it our own now.

II. And the other great truth that Jesus would have us remember to hold fast throughout life is the reality of spiritual things.—You have only got to look within you, and there you find the presence of your Lord Jesus Christ. If you have only got a longing to serve God better, that longing is His gift, whereas if you know that you have the Spirit of your Father within you, you need no other evidence that He is at work in the world, and that God Himself is your God, your Father, your ‘guide even unto death.’

III. Every Christian man and woman lives in two worlds.—There is this world that surrounds us and hems us in so closely that it seems, as it were, to shut out the sight and the thought of God. And yet there is another world. The Christian is in London, just as of old he was in Galilee, in Philippi, in Rome, in Ephesus; but he is also in Christ. There is his true home. And here is our comfort, our last word of comfort, as we think of the dead. We and they are alike in Christ—one in Christ as our home, as the atmosphere in which we walk and move, and they also are in Christ.

Illustration

‘If you once begin honestly and whole-heartedly to believe in the Fatherhood of God, you are on the way to become one of those who adore the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and who find their freedom and their joy and their blessedness in the ancient faith of the sons of God from the beginning. Hold fast to the Fatherhood of God. There you shall find a secret that shall transfigure life. You will look upon all your work as given you by a Father’s hand; you will look upon your suffering as measured by a Father’s love; you will feel that sense of sonship growing up within you which will imperatively lead you to acknowledge the Divine Sonship of the blessed Saviour Himself.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE UPWARD LOOK

I. Up to the Father the Son’s heart went, at the opening of the Passion, as they nailed Him to the tree. ‘Father, forgive!’

II. Up to the Father His eyes still turn as the agony hastens to its end: the last and the first words, ‘Father.’ From first to last the Father is felt overshadowing, embracing the entire scene.

III. Up to Him our hearts turn, in Him our last thoughts close. Into His hands, as our dear Lord does, may we too venture to commend our spirits!

—Rev. Canon H. Scott Holland.

Illustration

‘We dare not imagine, of course, what pain and sorrow can be to God the Father! But this one thing the Cross makes sure to us, that the pain and the sorrow, bitter and searching, which the Son endured, are the true and perfect expression of that intense desire which works in the heart of the Father for our forgiveness and for our glorification. We may not sound or measure the deep things of the Father’s spirit. But we do know that as we shudder at the awful price paid for our winning by the Beloved Son—we do know a little of what it costs the Father. Through the gaping wounds in feet and hands and side we read out all that can be told us of the Father’s longing, of His passionate tenderness, of His unshaken faithfulness, of His inexhaustible pity.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE DEATH OF CHRIST

I. Nothing now remains but to die.—To die—the last sad necessity of human kind—was needful to the Saviour: (a) That He might go through the conditions of human life. (b) That He might become Lord of the spiritual as of the physical and external worlds, making (as it would seem) the dwellers ‘behind the veil’ sharers of the benefit of His atonement by actual communication with them (1 St. Peter Luke 3:19).

II. The death of Christ a pattern for us at the hour of death.—The words with which He died ought to be our words when we die. Could we so use them? The Church is a witness to us of our duty, in that a ‘Commendatory Prayer’ for the parting soul is put into the lips of the priest who is attending the dying. But how can the soul that remains still in its sins appear before its righteous Judge? For it there is no resting in faith and love—no ‘committing itself as unto a faithful Creator’ (1 Peter 4:19), but rather the ‘fearful looking for of the judgment’ which the past life has deserved. But to Christ’s own people His death and passion the source of all peace and joy.

Thine the sharp thorns, and ours the golden crown.

III. Let us therefore go on our way with thankfulness in our hearts too great for words.—We have seen the Saviour suffer; we have heard His words; we have seen Him die. Let us enshrine this memory in our hearts, to be their holiness and their safeguard in time of temptation. Let our life be modelled on the spirit of Christ’s passion.

Illustration

Our souls are sinful, sin-stained at their best, serving God with a divided allegiance, unworthy to offer themselves to Him, still more unworthy to be “commended” to Him. But He makes us one with Himself. Because we are made one with Him, therefore we, too, are “accepted in the Beloved.” When God accepted the human soul of Christ, He accepted also the brethren of Christ. This commendation of His soul to God includes us too. We, listening to these words, take courage that when our last hour shall come we may do the same, though our obedience has fallen so far short, so utterly short, of His. So, as these closing words went through the spaces up to the throne of God I fancy that I hear the great response “From henceforth blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. Yea, saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours.” They who die in the Lord are accepted in Him. His words are their words; in His steps their feet tread; He receives their spirits; He presents them to the Father. The words of the first martyr tell us this.’

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

THE LOOK FORWARD

All the last four words from the Cross are words which come from the human soul of Christ, from His human soul in its suffering, in its endurance, in its emergence from that endurance, and lastly in its blissful self-surrender into the Father’s keeping.

I. This last word is a word of peace.—Those of us who have striven to enter into the fellowship of the sufferings, to conceive something of the agony of the long slow hours of bodily anguish, and still more frightful spiritual trial—those of us who have in any degree striven to realise this, will find no difficulty in sympathising with the intense joy and peace of this final commendation. It is the return to the Father of Him Who has done the work it was given Him to do, and Who knows that He has done it.

II. As the ‘It is finished’ looked back on trial conquered, so the ‘I commend My spirit’ looks forward to the recompense of the reward: the human soul of Christ triumphant; perfected through sufferings, now commended unto God.

III. It is the crown and triumph of the human soul to be able to commend itself to God.

Illustration

‘Have we noted that no less than three of the seven sayings from the Cross, three of the four that alone had reference to Himself, are quotations from the Psalms? In those hours of darkness, was the Lord recalling through and through those prophetic Psalms of the suffering servant, and applying them to Himself? We know not; but we know that He was steeped in the Old Testament, that His whole life was a fulfilment of its prophecy, that the words with which He repelled temptation at the beginning were words from the Old Testament. It is written, it is written, it is written. Is not this meant to enhance our reverence for the sacred Scriptures when we reflect that not only did Christ base His own moral teaching upon the Old Testament, but made it and its language the staple of His own religious life? It has been finely said: “What was indispensable for the Redeemer can hardly be other than indispensable for the redeemed.” In these days of higher criticism, when the Old Testament is likely to be disparaged, let us remember that. Let us Churchmen who say, and truly say, that it is the province of the Church to teach the Bible, remember that it is better to say it after, and not before, we have steeped and saturated ourselves with the teaching and words of the Bible.’

(FIFTH OUTLINE)

PEACE AND SECURITY

I. There is a false peace of death, the peace of mere exhaustion, or the peace of the unawakened conscience, when the spirit is asleep and there is no sense of sin, none of the feeling that prompted the publican to cry, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ That is a false peace.

II. But there is a true peace, too, and it may be ours, the peace of a will that, having been surrendered to God, has with it the sustaining will of our Redeemer. That peace will carry us through the valley of the shadow, and, as we come out into God’s presence, we may come with Christ as our Companion.

III. ‘Father.’ Hear the word once more, see the glad confidence in it, the old confidence restored, the full certainty now that the darkness is gone, the light of the Father’s face revealed.

IV. ‘Into Thy hands.’ What security is there? God bears Jesus into Paradise. The spirit returns to God Who gave it, and on the third day God raises Him again to sit at His right hand for evermore. So for us also, if our wills are God’s now, He will bear us into Paradise, and at the last raise us again to eternal life with Him in heaven.

—Rev. Lionel G. B. J. Ford.

(SIXTH OUTLINE)

OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH

This is the word of Expiration. I always like to remember that our Lord said this ‘with a loud voice,’ because He died when He willed. No man took away His life—He laid it down. It is not, He was ‘put to death’ for me—a thousand times No—He ‘died’ for me.

I. We have all to taste of death.—However young you are, however strong, you have to go through it. The coward dies a thousand deaths, the strong man only one. Face it with a heart that can love and a mind that can think. Expiration, dissolution, death. It is so hard to become obedient to this. The Lord, we are told, ‘learned obedience by the things that He suffered.’ Let all that you suffer teach you the same lesson. I am speaking to dying men and women, and I am a dying man myself. It is a certain fact; and we can learn to die best at Calvary. That is why I say, Learn to die now, that, through the grave and gate of death, with Him you may pass to your joyful resurrection. Be true men and women now, and learn how to die, because you do not know how you are going to die. It may be a sudden death, or a lingering death; it may be without pain, but it may be ‘even the death of the Cross’; but whatever death it is, ‘let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, Who became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross.’

II. When you think about your death, say our Lord’s own words, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.’ And then we must add, ‘For Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, Thou God of truth.’ The spirit came from God: we give our spirit back to God from Whom it came. ‘Into Thy hands’—the Creator’s hands, and now the wounded hands—‘I commend my spirit, for Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, Thou God of Truth.’

—Rev. A. H. Stanton.

(SEVENTH OUTLINE)

FATHER!

It was that word ‘Father’ which summed up the whole purpose of Christ’s life.

I. The removal of sin.—And it suggests, first of all, that here is the result of the removal of sin. Through the darkness He was bearing the curse of sin as He had borne it at no other time. Then, having made atonement, having borne the curse, having taken it away, having made a living new way by which men might approach and come back to God, it is not ‘My God,’ but it is ‘Father.’ So it is with us.

II. The purpose of life.—And yet, again, that word ‘Father’ seems to sum up the whole purpose of our Blessed Lord’s life. You remember how constantly He was saying, ‘I go to My Father.’ Now the time has come when He is going to His Father. If you and I could have that same thought in our minds, do you not think that as we look upon our lives it would unravel many of the mysteries? We are faced with so many problems, but our Lord saw no mystery in them. He saw no mystery in suffering and pain as He shared it. It was quite plain. Why? Because of this great fact of Fatherhood.

III. The source of comfort.—Not only that, but they also come to us in words of comfort. The death of Jesus has been called a magnificent and royal procession, and yet how He shuddered and shrank from it! You and I need not think that we are faithless because we have a fear of death. Most of us have that, and, believe me, the more we realise what life is, the more we realise what life can be, the more we realise that our bodies are the temples of the living God, the more, perhaps, will that fear of death come to us.

—Rev. T. G. Longley.

Illustration

‘The sunshine of love came through the darkness. “Father,” it thrilled the heart of Jesus, “I am coming back to Thee. Take care of Me. I commit all to Thee.” Perfect trust. Perfect love. Oh, let us come back to our Father God. He will receive us. Daily, let this be our first step on rising. Each day committed into the Father’s hand will be our rest and peace. Soon for us will dawn the long day that knows not night.’


Verse 48

LESSONS FROM THE CROSS

‘And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.’

Luke 23:48

We, too, have come together this day to the sight and contemplation of the Cross, and Him Who hangs thereon. We, too, have smote upon our breasts, and bewailed our sins. We are about to return from that sight. Let us take home a few thoughts to stand us in good stead in our Christian conduct in the days that are to come.

I. And first, from this sight of Christ hanging dead upon the Cross, let us go back to our Christian life and work with the strengthened conviction that failure in good is impossible.

II. And this being so with our personal religion, it is so, too, with all efforts for God’s glory in the work and mission of His Church.—It is treason to Him to think otherwise.

III. Thirdly, let us learn the lesson of never indulging in desires for God’s glory, except in God’s own ways.—Even now we can see in some measure that the Cross of Christ did in a signal degree set forth God’s glory and conduce to His honour.

Illustration

‘Let us be very careful about mistaking zeal for our own plans for zeal for God’s glory. One iota of calm perseverance beneath the shame and humiliation of the Cross which Christ has appointed, is worth years of zealous endeavour for our own plans or notions as to how God’s glory is to be advanced. The Apostles would gladly have fought for Christ. One only of them stood beneath the Cross. His bravest and most zealous Apostle denied Him utterly when he saw Him brought to trial. To follow Christ is the Christian’s duty: not to decide in what way Christ’s glory will best be served. It may be that we serve Christ best in absolute quiet, in total self-surrender, and even in withdrawal from all visible work whatever. There are those whose life’s work is like that of Mary and John beneath the Cross on the day of the Crucifixion—to stand there silent and observant in rapt adoration of His total self-surrender. It is ours to offer ourselves. It is His to decide the form of service.’


Verse 56

SABBATH REST

‘And rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.’

Luke 23:56

In such simple and beautiful words does the evangelist record the action of the devout woman. He tells you how these faithful followers of Christ had come—after that awful Friday evening when His body was taken from the Cross of Shame—to perform their last tribute, as they thought, to His sacred memory. And even in this loving act of anointing His sacred body with precious spices, they were heedful to keep holy the Sabbath day, and were careful to get this, their work of devotion, done so that they might spend the day in rest and devotion.

We all know that man’s nature is threefold—body, mind, and spirit. When God gave us the Sabbath, he gave it to be a rest for each part of our nature.

I. Rest for the body.—There is a cessation of all toil and labour. Thank God for that! How beautiful it is to go into the country on a summer evening where, on all hands, you see the evidence of blessed, peaceful rest!

II. Rest for the mind.—Some people will say, ‘When I have been busy all the week, I like to go out on Sunday and play cricket or golf. It does me so much more good than going to church.’ I quite agree that there is more physical exercise, and bodily exercise certainly profiteth for a little time, but ‘Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.’

III. Rest for the soul.—How many aching voids there are in the lives of all of us! That is why Jesus said so Divinely, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ And He says, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in their midst.’ Do you go to God’s house to seek rest? ‘Seek and ye shall find.’

Rev. Canon M’Cormick.

Illustrations

(1) ‘A gentleman was inspecting a house in Newcastle with a view to occupying it as a residence. The landlord took him to the principal window and expatiated on the beautiful prospect. “You can see Durham Cathedral from this window on Sunday,” he said. “Why on Sunday above any other day?” The reply was conclusive: “Because on that day there is no smoke from those tall chimneys.” Blessed is the Sabbath to us, when the earth’s smoke of care and turmoil no longer beclouds our view.’

(2) ‘Lord Macaulay says, “We are not poorer but richer because, through many ages we have rested one day in seven. That day is not lost while industry is suspended, while the plough lies idle in the furrow. A process is going on quite as important as is performed on more busy days.’

(3) ‘The great William Wilberforce once said, “Oh, what a blessing is Sunday, interposed between the world of business! There is nothing about which I can advise you to be more strictly conscientious than keeping the Sabbath day holy. I can truly declare that to me the Sabbath has been invaluable.” There were few men who had to pass through more stress and worry than William Wilberforce. When he set himself the task of freeing the slaves he had all the world against him.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Luke 23:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/luke-23.html. 1876.

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Tuesday, February 19th, 2019
the Sixth Week after Epiphany
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