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JESUS AT PILATE’S BAR
Matthew 27:1-14 ; Mark 15:1-5 ; Luke 23:1-5 ; John 18:28-38 . “ Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the judgment-hall.”
When I was in Jerusalem last November and December, I went directly from the Sanhedrin hall, on Mount Zion in the west, to Pilate’s judgment- hall, north-east wall, on the intervening slope between Mount Moriah and Bezetha. “ And it was morning.” Thus Jesus has been up all night, dragged hither and thither, abused and afflicted by His enemies, and must be awfully fatigued and exhausted. “ And they did not go into the judgment- hall, in order that they may not be polluted, but may eat the Passover.” This illustrates the nonsense into which Satan runs religious people when they give him a chance. Here they are so fearful of contracting ceremonial defilement that they will not so much as enter the Gentile judgment-hall; while they are already guilty of the blackest murder ever concocted in the bottomless pit. You must not think that these things are peculiar to the ancient times. The world is full of them now.
“ Then Pilate came out to them, and said, What accusation do you bring against this Man? They responded and said, If He were not an evildoer, we had not delivered Him to thee. Then Pilate said to them, You indeed take Him, and judge Him according to your law. Then the Jews said to him, It is not lawful for us to kill any one, in order that the word of Jesus may be fulfilled, which He spoke, signifying by what death He was about to die.” Very early in our Lord’s ministry (John 3:14), in the case of the brazen serpent, He predicted the manner of His death by crucifixion. This was a Roman punishment, the Jews having no such a law. Consequently He was delivered by the Jews to the Romans for execution. You see here the dilemma in which the Jews were involved.
a. Having condemned Him to die for blasphemy, they now wake up to the fact that Judea is no longer free, but a Roman province, the prerogative of capital punishment having already passed out of the hands of the Jews and become the sole right of the Romans. Consequently they have to take Him to Pilate, the Roman proconsul.
b. By the time they arrive at Pilate’s judgment-hall, they have awakened to the fact that the Romans have no law against blasphemy, for which they have condemned Jesus to die. Consequently they see that it will be utterly unavailable to bring this charge against Him before a Roman court. Therefore they have no bill of charges to present to Pilate justifying the commitment of a prisoner to his adjudication.
c. Now they find themselves in a serious puzzle, as the overwhelming probability favors the conclusion that if they present to Pilate the prisoner charged with nothing but blasphemy, on which Roman legislation is utterly Silent, Pilate will simply throw the case out of court, refuse to adjudicate, and drive them all away from his tribunal, as Gallio did at Corinth (Acts 18:0) when Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, brought Paul to him for condemnation, having no charge against him except matters pertaining to their own religion, which the proconsul looked upon as superstition, and consequently, threw it out of court, driving the Jews away from his tribunal, when the Gentile multitude became so disgusted with the foolish persecutions of the Jews against an innocent man that they took Sosthenes and gave him a good thrashing, which seems to have proved a blessing to him, as we only hear of him once more (1 Corinthians 1:0), when he is associated with Paul in the evangelistic work at Ephesus, having been converted and turned missionary.
d. The final result of all this tergiversation is, that they drop the charge of blasphemy altogether, and take up a new one, on which there had been no action, committing Him to Pilate under the accusation of high treason, claiming to be King of the Jews, and consequently a rival of the Roman emperor.
Luke 23:2 . “ And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found Him revolutionizing the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is, Christ a King.” You see how adroitly they manipulated the matter. As the Scriptures denominate Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, they construe Him as claiming to be King, and consequently a rival of Caesar.
John 18:33-38 . “ Then Pilate went again into the judgment-hall, and spoke to Jesus, and said to Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews? Jesus responded to him, Do you speak this of yourself, or did others tell you concerning Me? Pilate responded, Whether am I a Jew? Thy nation and the chief priests delivered Thee to me; what hast Thou done Jesus responded, My kingdom is not from this world , If My kingdom were from this world, My servants would fight for Me, in order that I may not be delivered to the Jews. But now My kingdom is not from thence.” This statement of our Savior in reference to His kingdom is frequently quoted as an argument against the coming Millennial Theocracy; but a moment’s reflection reveals the utter impertinency of such an application. Of course, God’s kingdom is not of this world, but of heaven; but that is no reason why, it should, not bear rule over this world. The kingdom of God is here now; yet it is not of this world. The kingdom of Satan is here; not of this world, but of hell, and a usurpation on the earth. When Satan is east out and imprisoned in hell (Revelation 20:0), thus all obstructions to the heavenly kingdom being removed, the latter, will, so wonderfully prevail on the earth as to receive a boundless, new impetus, not eliminating grace, but adding to it glory, when
“He shall have dominion over river, sea, and shore, Far as the eagle’s pinion or dove’s light wing can soar.”
“ Then Pilate said to Him, Art Thou not then a King? Jesus responded, Thou sayest that I am.” N.B. This is an Oriental form of positive affirmation, Jesus admitting to Pilate that He is King. “ For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, that I may witness to the truth.” His is significantly a kingdom of truth, in contradistinction to Satan’s kingdom of falsehood and error. “ Every one being of the truth heareth My voice.” Poor Pilate was not of the truth. He was a corrupt thieving politician, therefore he did not hear the voice of Jesus, but came to a miserable end, dying a suicide in lonely exile, having been degraded and banished by Caligula, the Roman emperor.
“ Pilate says to Him, What is truth?” Pilate took up the idea that He was a dreamy, visionary philosopher, gone wild with hard study, imagining that He was a King, and that He had found out the truth, as so many Greek sages claimed to have done; meanwhile he had no confidence in His claims to have discovered the truth. Consequently, when he asked the question, he goes right away, not waiting for an answer.
“ Saying this again, he went out to the Jews, and tells them, I find nothing criminal in Him.” The Roman Empire had conquered all the world, and was at that time ruling all nations. The very idea that a poor prisoner in bonds, without an army to defend Him, should claim to be King of the Jews was, in Pilate’s judgment, sheer nonsense. Consequently he looks upon the royal claims of his prisoner as simply a matter of ridicule. Believing Him to be a harmless fanatic, dreaming that He is King of the Jews, therefore he makes short work of the judgment by bringing in a verdict of innocence.
Matthew 27:12-14 . “ And while He was being accused by the high priests and elders, He responded nothing. Then Pilate says to Him, Do You not hear how many things they witness against You? And He responded to him not a word, so that the governor was astonished exceedingly.” Will you not follow the example of Jesus, when people falsely accuse you, and keep silent? Let them tell; ever so many scandals on you, give them no attention whatever; and they will soon get ashamed and let you alone, and in all probability make a specialty of showing you kindness.
Luke 23:4-5 . “ Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, I find nothing criminal in this Man. And they continued to become more and more uproarious, saying that He revolutionizes the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee even unto this place.” The sun having risen about five is rapidly climbing the Oriental skies, and pouring down, the day from the summit of great Mount Olivet. His enemies, having worked hard all night to get Him condemned and killed before day, lest the people rally and fight, for Him, are now in an awful dilemma. They have Him on hand and are determined to kill Him; meanwhile the people are pouring in from all directions, and they awfully fear an outbreak, in which they will very likely be killed.
PILATE SEEKS TO RELEASE HIM IN LIEU OF BARABBAS
Matthew 27:15-26 ; Mark 15:6-15 ; John 18:39-40 ; Luke 23:13-25 . “ And Pilate, having called together the high priests, rulers, and the people, said to them, You have brought to me this Man as revolutionizing the people; and, behold, I, having judged Him in your presence, found nothing in this Man criminal of those things which you accuse against Him; neither did Herod; for I sent you to him, and, behold, nothing worthy of death has been done by Him. Therefore, having scourged Him, I will release Him.” The cruelty of the Roman punishments actually beggars all description. This scourging which Pilate mentions was horrific in the extreme. Previously to the crucifixion of a man, they beat his naked body with thongs of rawhide, having in them steel points, which lacerated his flesh most excruciatingly, so that it was nothing uncommon for the poor victim to die during the scourging. Pilate, however, lights upon this as a dernier ressort to save the life of Jesus, thinking that a punishment so awful administered to an innocent man would certainly produce a reaction on the part of His enemies, constraining them to relax their apparently implacable animosity toward Him, so that they would consent to His release. Pilate, though a corrupt heathen ruler, in this matter underestimated the diabolical malice and hellish venom which was at that time the controlling principle of the big preachers and ruling elders, who were determined to have Him put to death. When the devil gets possession of religious people, they have in all ages proved more demoniacal than the wicked people of the world.
Mark 15:6-12 . “ But during the feast he was accustomed to release unto them one prisoner, whom they demanded. There was one called Barabbas, having been bound along with the insurrectionists, who had committed murder in the insurrection. The rabble, roaring, began to ask as he was always accused to do unto them. Pilate responded to them, saying, Do you wish that I shall release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the high priests had delivered Him through envy.” It is said that Joseph’s brethren sold him to the Ishmaelites through envy. He was a beautiful type of Christ, sold for money, and suffered seven years in the loathsome State prison, thus vividly symbolizing Jesus, in His first coming, to suffer and to die. Finally, when promoted to the throne of Egypt, the ruling kingdom of the world, invested in royal robes, riding in a golden chariot, fifty couriers running before him, shouting, “Bow the knee for the king cometh,” how vividly does he emblematize our glorious King Jesus in His second advent, accompanied by the mighty angels, and crowned King of kings and Lord of Lords! Pilate is so anxious to release Jesus that he restricts their choice to the two Jesus and Barabbas. Then, coming before them, he seeks to forestall their verdict by shouting aloud, “ Shall I release unto you the King of the Jews?”
Matthew 27:19 . “ He, sitting upon his tribunal, his wife sent to him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that Righteous One; for I suffered many things this day in a dream on account of Him.” In common parlance, the day includes the night. Of course, the woman had the dream during the night. Tradition has given us the character of this dream. It is said that when the courier arrived from their suburban home at Bethany, bringing a letter from Lucia Metella, the governor’s wife, in the midst of this momentously exciting trial, Pilate took it hurriedly, and aiming to read inaudibly, was so excited that his tremulous utterances were overheard. “My Dear Husband, Be sure that you have nothing to do with that Righteous One; for this very day I saw Him, in a vision seated on high Olympus, and all the gods and goddesses hurling their crowns at His feet! I tell you, my husband, He is one of the gods.” Of course, she and Pilate were Romans, believing in the many gods of the Roman Empire.
Luke 23:8-23 . “ And the whole: multitude cried out saying, Take Him away; but release unto us Barabbas, who , on account of a certain insurrection and murder in the city, had been cast into prison,” and Barabbas was a formidable robber chief, who had given them awful trouble, the Roman guards with difficulty having finally succeeded in arresting him, and thus breaking up his robber band. “ Then Pilate again called to them, wishing to release Jesus. And they continued to cry out, saying, Crucify Him! crucify Him! And the third time he said to them, For what evil has He done? I have found nothing worthy of death in Him; therefore, having scourged Him, I will release Him.” You see Pilate’s plan was to move their sympathies and mitigate their cruel wrath by scourging Him, thinking they would then consent to His release.
“ And they continued to lie on, with great voices demanding that He should be crucified; and the voices of them and the high priests continued to wax stronger and stronger.” As they were disappointed in their plan of killing Him in the night, and it is now eight o’clock, the news flying on the wings of the wind, and all who hear of it rushing to the scene of action, crowding the streets and alleys and the flat roofs of the houses all around Pilate’s judgment-hall, the high priests, Sanhedrin, and ruling elders feel that the crisis is on them, and if some-thing is not done quickly, the mob will rise and take Him out of their hands. Hence they roar and roar as if they would split their throats, demanding of the governor His crucifixion.
Matthew 27:24-26 . “ And Pilate, seeing that he profits nothing, but the more is the uproar, taking water, washed his hands in presence of the multitude, saying, I am innocent, from the blood of this Just One; you shall see to it. And all the people, responding, said, His blood be upon us and our children. Then he released unto them Barabbas.”
Luke 23:24-25 . “ And Pilate decided that the request should be granted, and he released unto them the one who on account of sedition and murder had been cast into prison, and he delivered Jesus according to their choice.” Contemporary history says that Pilate had but few soldiers in Jerusalem at that time comparatively with the ordinary force which he kept on hand, having recently been under the necessity of sending away a large detachment to quell an insurrection in Syria. He was therefore apprehensive of a bloody revolution, surging like the waves of the stormy sea, and every moment threatening to break out, deluge the judgment-hall in blood, blockade the streets with the slain, and wrap Jerusalem in a terrible civil war. Consequently, resorting to a principle long rulable, especially in Oriental despotisms, that one innocent man would better die than for many to lose their lives, and having repeatedly pronounced Jesus innocent, he signs His death-warrant as a mere peace measure, in order to prevent a bloody conflict, in which many would certainly perish.
JESUS SCOURGED AND MOCKED
Mark 15:19 ; John 19:1-3 ; Matthew 27:26-30 . “ And having scourged Jesus, he delivered Him up, that He may be crucified.” As it was customary with the Romans to precede the crucifixion of condemned criminals by this awful and cruel scourging, Pilate now proceeds to have Jesus scourged, thus publicly demonstrating His condemnation, and afterward delivering Him up to be crucified pursuant to criminal law, at the same time congratulating himself on the presumed clemency of the Jews to permit His release. This was Pilate’s weakness. He here let go his grip, thinking to regain it, but failed.
“ Then the soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus into the judgment-hall, gathered round Him the whole band; and divesting Him, put on Him a scarlet robe; and plaiting a crown of thorns, placed it on His head, and a reed in His right hand, and bowing the knee before Him, continued to mock Him, saying, Hall, King of the Jews. Spitting upon Him, they repeatedly took the reed, and struck Him on the head.” All this pomp, pageantry, and abuse, dressing Him up like a king, paying Him royal adoration, at the same time indulging in the vilest insult and abuse, was their way of humoring what they regarded as a ridiculous joke; i. e., His claim to be King. While Pilate, especially since the reception of his wife’s warning letter, was awfully troubled with suspicion and apprehension that He might be superhuman, and even one of the Roman gods, as their poets had described their deities as coming down in human form and walking over the earth ever and anon, the soldiers looked upon Him as a regular oddity, fanatically dreaming that He was King of the Jews. Consequently they intensely enjoyed amusement at His expense, dressing Him up like a king, with a crown on His head and a scepter in His hand, and His loyal subjects round Him, bowing the knee and doing homage to His Majesty.
JESUS LED TO CALVARY
Matthew 27:31-34 ; Mark 15:20-23 ; Luke 23:26-33 ; John 19:16-17 . “ And they took Jesus, and led Him away, carrying His cross.” Mark: “ And when they mocked Him, they divested Him of His purple robe, and put on Him His own raiment, and led Him away, that they may crucify Him.” You see the crown of thorns was not taken off but remained on His brow throughout His crucifixion. “ They compel Simon, a certain Cyrenian along with them, having come from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, that he may bear His cross.” As the city of Cyrene stood on the northern shore of Africa, there is at least a probability that this was a stout, muscular colored man, who enjoyed the honor of carrying the cross, which proved too much for the fainting Jesus after a night of sleepless harassment and terrible suffering, attended by the loss of much blood.
Luke 23:27-32 . “ And a great crowd of people followed Him, and of women, who continued to weep and bewail Him. And Jesus, turning to them, said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves, and your children. For, behold, the days are coming in which they will say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs which did not bring forth, and the breasts which did not nurse. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.” These words of our Savior describe the horrific sufferings which came on those people forty years from that date, the Roman wars lasting five years, and resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem, the death of a million, the slavery of another million, the exile of the little remnant, and the annihilation of the Jewish polity. All this He saw in vivid panorama before His eyes mountains of the dead, rivers of blood, and the desolation of the city and the land.
“ Because if they do these things in the green tree, what may be done in the dry?” This statement is metaphoric; e. g., If, while Mercy’s door is wide open, the Holy Ghost wooing, Jesus and His apostles and evangelists preaching, and everything prosperous and auspicious, they reject and crucify Him who came from heaven to save them, killing their own Christ for whom they had waited two thousand years, what will they do when the Holy Ghost has retreated away, and God has turned them over to hardness of heart and reprobacy of mind, to believe lies and be condemned? Thus the green tree emblematizes the mercy and grace abounding in the days of Jesus; and the dry, the horrific spiritual dearth coming on the land because they insulted God, slew His Son, and outraged the Holy Ghost.
“ And there were also two others, malefactors, being led, along with Him to be put to death.” Matthew 27:33-34 : “ And having come into the place called Golgotha, which is denominated the place of a skull, they gave Him vinegar mingled with gall to drink; and tasting it, He did not wish to drink.” This was a soporific potion, conducive to the lulling of the nerves to insensibility and the obtundification of the feeling, so as to mitigate the awful severity of the pain, somewhat corresponding with the modern chloroform. You see that Jesus declined to drink it, preferring to enjoy the clear and unclouded exercise of His intellect and the full acumen of His nerves. So when physicians want you to take chloroform, or some kind of a nervous sedative, which might probably render you unconscious of your suffering, you have the example of Jesus declining all artificial relief when passing through the terrible ordeal of crucifixion, enjoying the normal exercise of nerves and brain. Calvary is not far from Pilate’s judgment-hall, the ascension beginning in the city about one square from the hall, and continuing really to the summit of Calvary, passing northward through the Damascus Gate, then turning somewhat eastward, the mountain being one of the peaks of Bezetha, and within the angle formed by the road to Jericho, leading east, and the way to Damascus leading north, as the Romans were in the habit of crucifying their criminals in the most public and conspicuous places, so as to present the greatest possible terror to evildoers. Hebrews 13:12, locates it “without the gate.” Calvary is Greek, and means “skull,” because the hill has the shape of a human skull. When I first came to Jerusalem, with nothing but the Scripture for my guide, I recognized Calvary before any one pointed it out to me.
Matthew 27:35-38 ; Luke 23:33-38 ; John 19:18-24 ; Mark 15:24-28 . “ And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” Here you see the bloody work of death began at 9 A.M., and they remained on the cross till 3 P.M. “ And they crucify along with Him two thieves; the one on His fight, and the one on His left. And the Scripture was fulfilled, saying, He was numbered with the transgressors.” Thus the high priests maneuvered to do their utmost to cover Him with ineffaceable disgrace, having Him crucified between two robbers. N.B. If you would follow Him up to heaven, you must go with Him to Gethsemane, and there give up all the world, your will sinking away into the Divine. Then you must go with Him to Calvary, and be crucified between two robbers; i. e., if you would get sanctified, you may expect the people to pronounce you a thief robber, or some other vile reprobate. They will so misunderstand and misjudge you as to identify you with the worst people. All this you must bear patiently and unmurmuringly, like Jesus, if you are going up to live with Him in heaven.
Luke 23:34 . “ And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.” How true! If those preachers had known that they were killing their own Christ, they would not have done it for a million of worlds. They were so blinded by the devil that they did not know what they were doing. So have the people claiming to be God’s elect slaughtered about two hundred millions of God’s people. They killed them all under criminal charges, believing them to be bad people. What is the solution of this wonderful mystery? Satan, as in the case of the Jews when they crucified Jesus, had so deluded them as to make them follow him, thinking he is God. Amid these delusions, are the people inculpatory? Certainly they are. Having rejected the light and believed Satan’s lies, they have drifted into the awful dilemma where they call evil good, and good evil.
John 19:23-24 . “ Then the soldiers, when they crucified Jesus, took His garments, and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier; also His tunic. For the tunic was seamless, woven from the top throughout. Then they said to one another, Let us not tear it, but gamble for it, whose it shall be; in order that the Scriptures may be fulfilled, saying, They parted My garments among themselves, and upon My vesture they did cast the lot. Indeed, then, the soldiers did these things.” Roman law gave the garments of the crucified to the quaternion, consisting of four soldiers, who took charge of each criminal and executed the bloody work. In that day, when there were no factories, clothing was not only very valuable, but quite scarce. The vesture or tunic was the inner garment, and, as you see here, it was seamless throughout, beautifully illustrating the absolute unity of the true Church, the body of Christ, the divisions all having been made by Satan, and, so far as they go, represent the Satanic phase of the true Church. The soldiers having divided all of His other garments, now recognized this seamless vesture, and concluded that it will spoil it to tear it into pieces; consequently they agreed to settle the ownership by a game of dice. O that all religious people could only have the gumption of these heathen barbarians, and see that they can not divide up the Church of Christ without serious detriment! Luke 23:38 : “ And the superscription was written over Him in Greek, Roman, and Hebrew letters, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Roman law claimed pre-eminent justice in all things. Consequently the crime for which every culprit was crucified was written on the cross over his head, so the multitudes could all read it and know the reason why he suffered this awful death. Though the Jews had condemned Him for blasphemy, they could not use that charge against Him under Roman administration, as their law knew no such a crime. Though both Pilate and Herod had positively vetoed the charge of treason against Caesar which the Jews tried so hard to get them to recognize, yet in the finale, Pilate had it written over Him simply to fill a vacancy, as he had nothing else. As you pass by Roman Catholic cemeteries and churches, you frequently see a cross, superscribed I.N.R.I. This is an abbreviation of Jesus Nasarenus Rex Judaeorum, “Jesus of Nazereth, King of the Jews.”
These are the very words which were superscribed on the cross above the head of Jesus, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the language of religion, learning, and law, for the convenience of all the multitudes, as they could all find it out from these three languages.
John 19:20-21 . “ Then many of the Jews read this title; because the place was near the city where Jesus was crucified.” Calvary overlooks the city, the prominence rising only about one hundred yards from the north wall, the Jericho road running between, and then the hill about one hundred yards more to its summit, which is somewhat level on top, uniformly and gradually descending, actually resembling a human, skull, for which it is named, and is the most conspicuous place about Jerusalem, lying in the angle of the two most important roads i. e., those leading to Damascus and Jericho in harmony with the Roman policy of crucifying criminals in the most conspicuous places. I emphasize these, specifications because the Greek, Roman, and all other Oriental Churches, locate Calvary some distance within the present wall of the city, where there is no mountain, but rather a subsidence, between Zion and Akra, within the great Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which has stood there since the days of Constantine, the most magnetic pilgrim-resort in all the Holy Land, as they believe that Jesus there laid down His life to save a guilty world. I believe they are mistaken as to the location of Calvary; and this lonely hill, outside of the wall, for more than a thousand years a Moslem cemetery, is, beyond doubt, the true Calvary. You remember that the Romans utterly destroyed the city, A. D. 73, verifying the prophecy of Jesus, leaving it utterly desolate fifty years. Then the Emperor Adrian went there, and founded a Roman colony, using the ruins to rebuild the city, calling it Elia Capitolina, thus even burying the name “Jerusalem” in (as they supposed). hopeless oblivion. So two hundred years rolled away during the nonexistence of Jerusalem, this Roman city occupying the site. When the Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, A. D. 325, he and his royal mother, Queen Helena, came to this sacred spot, revived and rebuilt the city, and restored the heaven-born name, Jerusalem. During these three hundred years there were no people there who knew the sacred places. Hence the confusion with reference to the locations. For an exhaustive elucidation of this matter, see “Footprints of Jesus.”
“ Then the high priest of the Jews said to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate responded, What I have written, I have written.” In Oriental dialect, this is the very strongest negative, bluntly and stubbornly muttered out by the impatient proconsul. The truth of the matter is, they had browbeaten Pilate from the beginning, and run over him like a dog. Fearful of official depreciation, deposition, arraignment before the emperor, and untold humiliation, with which the high priests and elders threatened him, despite all his protestation of the innocence of Jesus, and the diversity of stratagems to which he resorted for His release, they treated all his efforts with utter contempt; having yielded to their imperious clamors again and again, and finally, though with the utmost reluctance, signed His death-warrant, and, pursuant to the Roman custom, superscribed the only accusation they had brought against Him on the cross above His head, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” and still they are dissatisfied and clamored for a change, his patience broke down, and he positively and abruptly refused. No wonder Pilate refused to change that writing. He could not change it; Jesus is King of tile Jews, and will be forever. In coming eternity, as well as through the bright millennial centuries, when God will honor the patriarch and prophets, the elect custodians of His Revealed Oracles, amid a world of darkness and sin, Jesus will be King of the Jews forever, encumbering and honoring the Theocratic throne of David.
THEY REVILE HIM ON THE CROSS
Mark 15:29-32 ; Luke 23:35-43 ; Matthew 27:39-44 . “ And passing by, they continued to blaspheme Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise the high priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, continued to say, He saved others; Himself He is not able to save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe on Him. He trusted in God; let Him now deliver Him, if He wishes Him: for He said, I am the Son of God.” This scene, led off by the high priests, elders, and scribes, whose honorable example, of course, many thoughtless people followed, both citizens and soldiers, was not only barbaric in the extreme and infinitely worse than brutal, but diabolical in the superlative degree. And yet it was perpetrated by the ministers and elders standing at the head of the Church, illustrating the significant fact that collegiate education, religious professions, official dignity, and clerical sanctity are no guarantee against the vilest and most demoniacal persecutions when the devil is in them. Shall we not all learn a profitable lesson by this scene, and that is, to have no faith in man, but all in God?
“ The thieves also, being crucified along with Him, continued to cast this same reproach on Him.” Luke 22:39-43 : “ But one of the malefactors, having been hanged up, continued to blaspheme Him, If Thou art the Christ, save Thyself and us.” There is no contradiction of the preceding with the following. Simply recognize the fact that both of the robbers at first joined with the high priest and the rabble in reproaching Him. But after so long a time, something in the look or the manner of Jesus sent conviction deep into the heart of one of the malefactors, superinducing a tremendous reaction, such as to evoke from the repentant thief the following: “ And the other one, responding, continued to rebuke him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, because thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the punishment worthy of the crimes which we have committed; but this One has done nothing wrong. He said to Jesus, Lord, when Thou mayest come in Thy kingdom, remember me. And Jesus said to him, Truly I say unto thee, This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” On the resurrection morn, three days subsequently, Jesus said to Mary, “ I have not yet ascended unto My Father,” setting forth the indisputable fact that He had not met the thief in heaven. He was a Jew, and was saved under the Abrahamic covenant, which all concentrates in Christ. So he went to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:0), whither Lazarus and all of the Old Testament saints had been gathering since the days of Abel. Jesus, expiring on the cross, His disembodied human soul (1 Peter 3:19) went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison i. e. the inmates of hell the victory won on Calvary (Acts 2:27-31); then, crossing the impassable chasm, entered the intermediate paradise i. e., Abraham’s bosom and met the thief before the expiration of that day at midnight; spent a wonderful hallelujah Sabbath with the patriarchs and prophets and all of the Old Testament saints; early, the first day of the week, abolished the intermediate paradise, and led up all the inmates with Him (Ephesians 4:8-10), and, coming to the tomb, received His body, the mighty host of Old Testament saints being invisible, because not having their bodies accompanied Him the forty days, and finally ascended with Him up to heaven. The prophetic eye of David (Psalms 24:0) catching the vision of the triumphant host, hears the shout, “ Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and let the King of glory come in.” Then the shout roars back from the celestial portals, “ Who is this King of glory?” The answer is prompt, “ The Lord, mighty to save and strong to deliver; He is the King of glory.” Now the gates swing high, and millions of glorified spirits shout Him welcome, with the triumphant host captured from the cruel clutches of Satan. The grandest ovation heaven has seen in all the ages now monopolizes the interest of the celestial universe, while the Conqueror of Mount Calvary leads His blood-washed pilgrims up into the august presence of the Almighty Father, presenting them before Him, “ Behold, I and the children whom Thou hast given unto Me.” O what a thrilling testimony-meeting follows, Father Abraham, the patriarchs and prophets, all participating, to the most delectable edification of angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim! A false exegesis has been put on this passage, in order to sustain that miserable materialistic heresy which deprives man of his soul, ignoring the idea that the soul is ever separate from the body, as this false dogma does not concede that you have a soul. As this positive statement of Jesus to the thief, “This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise,” so clearly and unequivocally recognizes the soul of the thief as going out of the body hanging on the cross and entering paradise that very day, to their ineffaceable shame be it said, they have condescended to the diabolical audacity to change the punctuation of the very identical words which Jesus spoke, so moving the comma as to make it read, “ Truly I say unto thee this day, Thou shalt be with Me in paradise,” making the adverb semeron, “this day,” qualify “say unto thee,” instead of “thou shalt be with Me in paradise,” thus making our Savior commit a solecism and talk nonsense. As this occult form of infidelity i. e., soul-sleeping materialism has been sown by Satan throughout this continent, we feel it our duty to expose it, as it is utterly destitute of truth. The salvation of the thief on the cross is infinitely consolatory to penitent sinners in the hour and article of death. However, it is awfully risky to make our Lord’s mercy in this notable instance an apology for continuing in sin. All should bear in mind the obvious fact that this poor thief had never seen Jesus before, nor hardened his heart by slighting opportunities.
JESUS EXPIRES AMID THE DARKNESS
Luke 23:44-46 ; John 19:28-30 ; Mark 15:33-37 ; Matthew 27:45-50 . “ And from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” Infidelity has ransacked astronomy to find a total solar eclipse at this time and thus account for the darkness. If you will think of one fact you will see the utter folly of such an effort. You know it was the time of the Jewish Passover, which always took place at the full moon of our April. You know this is a time when a solar eclipse is utterly impossible, as the moon is in the east and the sun is in the west, the eclipse necessarily taking place when they are both on the same side of the earth, as the moon must come between the earth and the sun in order to produce the eclipse. Luke 23:45 : “ And the sun was darkened.” This settles the matter against the hypothesis of an eclipse, as the sun is not darkened in that case, but shining as brightly as if no intervening object casts a dark shadow on the earth. The revelation sustains the conclusion that the sun himself actually refused to shine.
“He dies, the Friend of sinners dies! Lo, Salem’s daughters weep around! A solemn darkness veils the skies, A sudden trembling shakes the ground. Come, saints, and drop a tear or two For Him who groaned beneath your load: He shed a thousand drops for you
A thousand drops of richest blood.”
Matthew 27:46-49 : “ About the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a great voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Thus the darkness, prevailed from twelve to three o’clock, when our Lord expired with these words. A momentous crisis right here culminates, leading us down into the profoundest depths of the redemptive scheme.
“He made Him sin who knew no sin, in order that we may be the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21.)
In this wonderfully terse statement of the vicarious atonement, be sure you recognize the fact that “sin” in both clauses is a noun. If you take it for a verb, you ruin the passage. In the Greek, you see on a glance that it is a noun in both instances; but not so in English, which is a loose, unmechanical language, splendid for universal use, but really unfit for a Divine revelation. Consequently, God in mercy made the intensely mechanical Greek, in order to reveal His wonderful truth to the world in such an explicit presentation that human ingenuity: can never evade its legitimate meaning. While Jesus knew no sin i. e., was always perfectly sinless and holy, God made Him “sin” as a substitute for a guilty world. E. V. gives it “ to be sin,” as you see, italicizing “ to be,” showing thereby that it is not in the original, which is true. “To be” is objectionable, too much savoring the idea that Jesus in some way had sin in Him, which is utterly incorrect and unsustained by the Scripture. I trow, this moment, when God turned His face away from Him, was the identical crisis when He laid on Him the sins of the whole world, and the above Scripture was verified.
God can not look upon sin under any circumstances; hence when He laid the sins of the whole world on His Own Son, He turned His face away from Him, when the humanity cried out as above. You see here that sin and righteousness are antithetical and coextensive, all sin being laid on Jesus and all the world receiving the righteousness of God i. e., being justified in Him this taking place in infancy, and explaining the fact of universal infantile salvation. This is also the sinner’s hope. As Jesus carried all of his sins on the cross, he has nothing to do but forsake all, receive the righteousness of God by faith, and become a disciple of our Lord.
“ And certain ones of those standing by hearing, said, He is calling for Elijah.” As they did not understand the Hebrew word “Eli,” taking the sound, they mistook it for Elijah. “ And immediately one of them, running, and taking a sponge, and filling it with vinegar, putting it on a reed, gave Him drink. And the rest said, Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah is coming to save Him.” They all knew well that Elijah never died, but was translated to heaven alive. Therefore, looking upon him as still alive, and thinking that Jesus was calling him, they did not know but he would ride down from heaven on his fiery chariot, as he had gone up from the land of Moab many centuries ago.
Luke 23:46 . “ Calling with a great voice, Jesus said, Father, into Thy hands I will commit My spirit. And saying these things, He expired.” Matthew and John say, “He gave up His spirit;” i. e., the human spirit left the body, going into Hades as above described, proclaimed His victory in hell, meeting the thief and all the Old Testament saints in the intermediate paradise, and returned the third morn, when He re-entered His body. As Jesus is both man and God, He has a perfect human soul and body, like Adam before he fell. O what a time the soul-sleeping heresy has with plain and unmistakable Scriptures like these, showing positively that Jesus had a human soul, which He gave up when He died, and it returned to His body in the resurrection, as they are under the necessity either to abandon their false doctrine or prove that Jesus had no soul, which you see flatly contradicts the Word of God, as here given! I hope, reader, if you have a creed of any kind you will throw it away, and take the Bible for your only guide. If your creed is true, you do not need it, as the Bible includes it; if untrue throw it away, lest it lead you to hell.
Luke 23:45-49 ; Mark 15:38-41 ; Matthew 27:51-56 . Our Lord has already expired on the cross, and now we proceed to consider the concurrent miracles so overwhelmingly attesting His Divinity, and pouring a cataract of conviction on the multitude, which rankled like Scythian arrows in their spiritual vitals, preparing them for the glorious Pentecostal revival which followed at the end of fifty days. “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” The old dispensation was on the plane of justification, which is symbolized by the outer court of the temple, in which the shewbread had to be renewed frequently, as it would get stale and moldy, while the lamps had to be supplied with oil and lighted, or they would go out, thus in constant need of human agency and attention. Not so with the inner court of the temple, the Holy of Holies. There the manna in the golden pot was always fresh and delicious, while Aaron’s rod constantly exhibited swelling buds, evolving leaves, blooming flowers, growing fruits, and ripe almonds, delicious to the taste and ready to be eaten. Meanwhile the Shekinah, the symbol of the Divine presence, kept the temple bright as cloudless noonday all the time, so no one could discriminate the night as it went by, as perennial noonday did there abide, so wonderfully illustrating the truly sanctified experience. The moment Jesus expired on the cross, the dispensation of Christian perfection was inaugurated, God with His own hand tearing down the veil, and admitting all the inmates of His temple into the Holy of Holies, the Old Testament saints being priests and the New Testament saints high priests unto God. You see this veil was rent from the top to the bottom, showing that the sanctifying power always comes from heaven. When you get it by priestcraft or carnal ordinances, it is always spurious.
“ The earth did quake, and the rocks were rent.” During both of my tours in the Holy Land, as Calvary had more charms for me than any other spot, I spent much time praying and meditating on this holy mount, where Jesus laid down His life for me. I could have no idea as to the number of my visits to that hallowed summit, or the time I spent there. Though one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven years have rolled away, the footprints of the old earthquake that visited the land are still obvious. I saw them in the irregular ruptures of the great rocks.
“ The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the sleeping saints did rise, and coming out from the tombs after His resurrection, did come into the holy city, and were made manifest unto many.” There is an Oriental tradition that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as other eminent prophets and saints, did rise at that time. We have no revelation as to what became of them. I doubt not but that they accompanied our Lord the ensuing forty days and ascended with Him to heaven. You see that though the great stone tombs were broken up by the earthquake, occurring at 3 P.M., Friday, when Jesus bowed His head and died, yet they did not come out of the tombs till after He arose at the early dawn the ensuing Sunday morning.
Good reasons for this: He was to be “the first fruits of them that slept,” the antecedent resurrections being abnormal and abortive, as the persons arose with their mortal bodies, and consequently died again. As these resurrections, above described, were subsequent to our Lord’s, they of course received their immortal bodies, no more subject to death, and consequently flew away to heaven, constituting a prelude of the glorious first resurrection, including all the members of the Bridehood, and taking place at the Lord’s premilennial coming. (Revelation 20:4-6.)
Mark 15:39-41 . “ And the centurion, standing in front of Him, and thus crying out He expired, said, Truly this was the Son of God. And there were women from a distance looking on, among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome; who , when He was in Galilee, were accustomed to follow Him, and minister unto Him; and many other women having come up along with Him to Jerusalem.” Luke 23:47-48 : “ And the centurion seeing that which took place, glorified God, saying, Truly this was a righteous Man. And all the multitudes being present at this sight, seeing the things which took place, were going away, beating their breasts.” Matthew 27:54 : “ And the centurion, and those along with him, having charge of Jesus, seeing the earthquake and the events which took place, became alarmed exceedingly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” Thus you see, an awful pall fell on the vast multitude, so that even the heathen Roman soldiers, who, under the rigor of military law, had been forced to execute this bloody work stalwart men, who never knew fear on the battle-field tremble and quake with paralyzing trepidation and heart-convulsing terror, confessing outright, “Surely this was the Son of God.” Among the Jews, “beating the breast” denoted the deepest sorrow and most terrible anguish. Luke says the multitudes who were present at that awful scene went away beating their breasts. O what a volcano of conviction came upon the Jews, who were there from all parts of the world attending the Passover, and returning to their homes in all lands were thus so wonderfully prepared for the coming of the apostles and the preaching of Jesus! As these Roman soldiers were Gentiles, and the time had arrived for the evangelization of the Gentile world, I trow the convictions fastened on them transformed them into prolific seed-corn, soon to germinate in many countries throughout the world-wide Roman Empire.
Matthew 27:57-61 ; Mark 15:42-47 ; Luke 23:50-56 ; John 19:31-42 . “Then the Jews, in order that the bodies may not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, since it was the preparation (for the day of that Sabbath was great), asked Pilate that they may break their legs, and take them down. Then the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first, and the other one who had been crucified along with him.” It seems that the soldiers had a veneration for Jesus, as they passed Him by after breaking the legs of the one, going on to the third, and returning to Him, as He was in the middle. “ And having come to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers pierced His side with his spear, and blood and water immediately came out.” Roman law was terribly rigid, taking the life of a soldier for apparently trivial delinquency in duty. Hence the soldier felt it important to be sure that He was dead before he consented to intermit the verification of the order given to break their legs. Consequently he plunged the spear into His heart, thus making sure that He was dead. The Bible is a wonderful book, never relaxing its ipse dixit. If you are going up to heaven to live with Jesus, you must walk in His footprints by way of Gethsemane, the judgment-hall, and Calvary. This wicked world will plunge the spear of ridicule, contempt, and persecution into your side. Jesus died so dead that He did not feel this awful cruelty. Lord, help us to do likewise! Let me die so dead
“That no desire shall rise To pass for good or great or wise, In any but my Savior’s eyes.”
The entire constituency of salvation came out of the Savior’s side in the blood and the water. The blood redeems and sanctifies; the water regenerates, nourishes, and purifies. Hence you have the true works of grace represented by the water and the blood.
“Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure:
Save from wrath, and make me pure.”
O what a pity the millions run after the priests, who at best are nothing but saved sinners, forgetting that they need nothing but the blood and water flowing out of the Savior’s side! Then fly for a sale retreat in His clefted side.
“ And the one having seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he speaks the truth, in order that you may believe.” You see from this that John was an eye-witness of all he wrote in his Gospel. The same is true of Matthew; while Mark is believed to have served Peter as an amanuensis, receiving his narrative from the senior apostle; Luke being the amanuensis of Paul. Hence the literary culture manifested in the latter, and the straight, solid, flinty truth in the former.
Luke 23:54 . “ And it was the preparation day, and the Sabbath drawing nigh.” Vv. 50-52: “Behold, a man by name Joseph, being a senator, a good and righteous man, who was not consenting unto their counsel and deed, from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who also himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; he, having come to Pilate, begged the body of Jesus.”
Mark 15:44-46 : “ And Pilate was astonished if He was already dead, and calling a centurion, asked him if He were dead a long time. And learning from the centurion, he delivered the body to Joseph. And purchasing linen, and taking Him down, he wrapped Him in the linen, and placed Him in a sepulcher which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone to the door of the sepulcher.” Matthew 27:59-60 : “ And Joseph taking the body, wrapped it in clean linen, and placed it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. and rolling a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, departed.” Luke 23:53 : “ And taking it [ the body ] down , he wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a hewn sepulcher, where no one had ever been laid.” John 19:38-42 : “ After these things, Joseph from Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, and having been concealed on account of the fear of the Jews, requested Pilate that he may take the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted him. Then he came, and took the body of Jesus. And Nieodemus also, the one having in the first place come to Jesus by night [John 3:0 ], came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about one hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and wrapped it in the linen, along with the aromatics, as it is customary to the Jews to embalm. And in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulcher in which no one was yet deposited. Then they placed Jesus there on account of the preparation of the Jews, because the sepulcher was nigh.” Luke 23:55-56 : “ And the women following along, who had come with Him from Galilee, saw the sepulcher, and where His body, was placed; and turning away, they prepared aromatics and myrrh; and they kept the Sabbath according to the commandment.”
a. Such was the punctilious rigor with which the Jews kept the Sabbath that they postponed the completion of His embalmment till the day of sacred rest had passed away; however, in order to expedite the embalmment as much as possible, they procured the materials on Friday evening, so that, all things being ready, they may proceed at the early dawn of the incoming week, and perfect the work begun on the preceding Friday by Nicodemus and Joseph.
b. I passed through the city of Ramlah, in the Plain of Sharon, on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa. Though, like other cities in that land, it went into utter desolation, in the last few years it has been colonized by Jews, who have made it very prosperous, like all of their colonies in that land. It now contains eleven thousand inhabitants, and is growing rapidly. This is said to be the ancient home of Nicodemus and Joseph, by whose kindness our Savior received a royal interment. John says they were secret disciples of Jesus on account of the fear of the Jews. This is an instance in which we see the power of death signally revealed, as these two great and good men never publicly confessed Him during His life, but when they saw Him die, covered with shame and popular contempt, calumniated as a malefactor (and not only executed in the most disgraceful method, such as hanging in this country, but, in order to augment His ignominy, actually crucifying Him between two robbers, thus proclaiming to the world His identity with the worst criminals), they became more courageous than ever before, coming out boldly, and Joseph furnished a valuable new sepulcher, hewn out of the great, precipitous rock at the base of Mount Calvary, and Nicodemus brought one hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, both very costly, and especially the former, which was not native in Palestine, but transported from Arabia Felix; and the latter, though indigenous, was rare and costly. Thus these two wealthy theologians actually favored Him with a royal interment. This courageous public intervention on the part of these men, who were so prominent in the Theocracy, really warrants the conclusion that their faith had received a wonderful impetus during those memorable hours when the powers of darkness dominated earth and hell, and heaven veiled her face in sable night rather than behold the awful tragedy. If the trend of things at that time had continued, both of these men would have been executed as accomplices in the treason, heresy, and imposture with which Jesus was charged.
c. Down at the base of the skull-shaped summit on which our Lord was crucified, as here specified, there is a garden, and in it there is a sepulcher hewn out in the perpendicular rock, really constituting a part of Mount Calvary; and in that sepulcher there are three tombs, cut out in the solid stone. As it is said that the tomb in which they deposited the body of Jesus was new, no one ever having been laid in it, therefore we conclude that the one of these three which looks newest was the identical tomb in which the body of our Lord was laid. As this is the only sepulcher in that garden, we conclude that it is the identical one honored by containing the crucified body of our Lord.
d. The fine linen with which He was wrapped was made in Egypt, and used by kings for underwear, the Tyrian purple constituting their external robes. Thus we see our Lord received a royal burial in every respect. O how contrastive with His humble and lowly life, having no temporal estate, no money, no living, no home, not as much as a place to lay His head, thus vividly symbolizing the glorious victory won by His expiatory death, and at the same time adumbrating His brilliant royalty in His second coming!
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Mark 15". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension