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The Lord Jesus is here scourged, crowned with thorns, and mocked. He is crucified. He giveth up the ghost. His burial.
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. (2) And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, (3) And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. (4) Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Everything in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ is interesting, and merits our closest regard. To a child of God, whose eyes are opened to behold in some measure or degree, the wonderous things of God's law, here is a subject, which at every step we take, shews us yet more and more, how the Lord was carrying on his own design, and they who were the actors of it, the most unconscious creatures what they were doing. What could Pilate mean by scourging Jesus? Some say it was with a view to soften the minds of those savages, who pushed him on to exercise an unjust sentence against Christ, at which his own conscience revolted. I cannot say that I think so. He was a mere instrument in my view to do that, which all along had been determined by Jehovah to be done, to fulfil that scripture in relation to his Church; By his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 . And the soldiers, what did they do? Certainly, they had no consciousness what they were about, when they put the thorny crown upon his divine head, and clothed him with the purple robe. But here they literally fulfilled what God had said in the curse: Thorns and thistles the earth was to bring forth to the man. And here Christ the God-man, as if to shew his pre-eminency in suffering as in glory, shall be crowned with them. Genesis 3:18 ; Colossians 1:18 . And they bow the knee in mockery as they meant, but in reality fulfilling the prophecy; for Jehovah had said ages before, though the kings of the earth, like Pilate and Herod, and the rulers, like the Chief Priests, and Scribes, and Pharisees, are all agreed against the Lord, and against his Christ; yet in the very moment of their most violent outrage, the Lord then sets his King upon his holy hill of Zion. For never was the kingly office of Christ more blessedly shewn than in that day, when those soldiers said, Hail, King of the Jews! and Pilate, the unjust judge was compelled to declare, that in Him he could find no fault. Sweet and precious testimony from the mouth of an enemy, to the holiness of Christ! Psalms 2:1-6 .
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! (6) When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. (7) The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. (8) When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; (9) And went again into the judgement hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. (10) Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? (11) Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. (12) And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cesar. (13) When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgement seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. (14) And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King? (15) But they cried out, Away with him, away with him; crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Cesar. (16) Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led him away. (17) And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha: (18) Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
I beg the Reader to notice with particular regard, his Redeemer coming forth with his thorny crown and purple robe, his sacred body lacerated with stripes, and the blood streaming in every direction, and ponder well the cause. Isaiah, ages before, proclaimed the cause, and here the history confirms it; He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. Isaiah 53:5 . Without an eye to this, as the surety of his people, how impossible would it be to reconcile the wonderful appearance on any principles of common justice. But, beheld as the Sponsor of his Church, and what a ray of light shines at once upon the whole, to explain the cause, and to endear such love to every heart.
If the Reader will read with attention the first verse in this paragraph, he will perceive, that in our translation it is said, when Jesus thus came forth, Pilate saith, behold the man! But if he observes, the name of Pilate is in Italics, by which is meant that the word is not in the original. And though I do not mean to speak decidedly upon the subject, I venture to think that it ought not to be there. For if it be supposed, that it is Jesus himself that saith, behold the man! it would be in conformity to the analogy of scripture. In the Old Testament Christ is introduced as calling upon his Church in like manner; Behold me! Behold me! Isaiah 65:3 . Look unto me, and be ye saved. Isaiah 45:22 . And God the Father proclaims him to the Church in like manner, and bids the people to behold him. Isaiah 42:1 with Matthew 12:18 . And so doth God the Holy Ghost. John 1:36; John 1:36 . Hence, therefore, when the Lord Jesus came forth before the high priests and rulers, , having given his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, as the Prophet described him, Christ calls upon them to behold the man! And their cry at the sight of Christ to crucify him, becomes a yet further confirmation of this prophecy, which said, that he would be despised and rejected of men. Isaiah 53:3 . Lord! grant to me grace to eye thee with that melting look described by the prophet, until the whole heart goeth out in desires after thee, and every affection is awakened into love to thee. Zechariah 12:10 .
I stay not to make long remarks upon the conduct of Pilate. It would keep us from higher subjects. But, it is interesting in some measure to observe, what different passions of fear and guilt, and the contending conflicts of this man's conscience, operated upon his mind. But I more particularly request the Reader to keep in view that most precious answer of the Lord Jesus, when after long silence, he reproved the unjust judge for his insolent assumption of power, which he said he had, either to crucify Christ or to release him. Thou couldest have no power, said Jesus, at all against me, except it were given thee from above. Jesus looked over the heads of all his foes, to eye the hand of Jehovah in this appointment. And, Reader! it would be always well for you and for me, and for all the Lord's people to do the same, in all the lesser considerations we meet with in life. See Genesis 45:7-8 ; Acts 2:23 .
On the subject of Christ bearing his cross, I have already taken notice in the former Evangelists, to which therefore I refer.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross, and the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (20) This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. (21) Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. (22) Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written.
There is somewhat very striking and well worthy of our regard, in the title which Pilate wrote and put on the cross of Christ. I will beg to detain the Reader while I propose an observation or two upon it.
It appears from history, that it was the custom of the Romans, when at any time inflicting capital punishment, first to proclaim the name and crimes of the person going to suffer. Sometimes this was done by an herald going before the culprit to the place of execution, and sometimes by publishing his name and crimes over his head, that all passing by might read. And in all those cases, it was done with a view to justify the sentence, and to make known the equity of the Roman nation and character.
In this instance of our dear Lord, there are two points which are more particularly deserving our notice. The first is, that the Inscription on Christ's cross was the very reverse of what they intended, for it confirmed both Christ's innocency, and proved by their own confession what Jesus had claimed; This is the King of the Jews. And the other is, that Pilate himself who had passed sentence of death upon Jesus for the claim, now confirmed it with his own hand. And no sooner was the thing done, than some of the more knowing ones perceived the oversight, and begged Pilate to alter it. But the Lord who compelled Pilate's hand thus to honor Christ, and write his own mittimus of condemnation, restrained his heart from allowing any change. What I have written, (said he,) I have written. And this positiveness in such a character as Pilate is the more wonderful, who had before shewn such a changeable, fearful, and irresolute mind. Reader! think of it, and behold how the Lord thus overruled the whole to vindicate Christ's innocency, to proclaim his royalties, and to have his name published in the three great languages of the chief part of the then governing world. The Hebrew tongue being the language of the Jews, the Greek of the Gentiles among the greater parts of the earth, and the Latin the ordinary dialect of the Romans. What but the predisposing power of the Lord could have induced all these things? And who but must see the divine hand in the whole?
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat; now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. (24) They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
We cannot but be led to make similar observations of the overruling power of God, in respect to the soldiers casting lots for one of Christ's garments, and dividing the other into four parts, for each soldier a part. How should such an exact fulfilment of prophecy have taken place, and which was delivered at least a thousand years before, had not the Lord who gave the prediction, watched over the accomplishment, and predisposed and gave a direction to everything leading to the end of it? The very words were minutely fulfilled; They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did!
Just let me add, that there seemeth somewhat very emblematical in these garments of Jesus. Infidels, like these soldiers, may, and will take a part of Christ, some that are infidels respecting his divine nature, and some that call in question his atonement. They are willing to call him a Prophet and a teacher of morality, and one who died as a martyr to confirm these characters. But they desire but a part in Christ, and therefore rend the scriptures to this purpose. Truth, however, like the seamless coat of Jesus, in the lot of everyone where Christ is given, is a complete whole. It admits nothing to be taken from it, neither admits anything to be added to it. A whole sinner needs a whole Savior. Christ must be all, or nothing. And blessed are they who thus have the Lord for their God. So sung the Church, and such will be the song of every individual of Christ's body. Isaiah 61:10 .
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (26) When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (27) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! and from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (28) After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. (29) Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. (30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished. And he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
We have within these verses, as recorded by this Evangelist, only Three of the last words of Christ on the cross. But, from the corresponding history of the crucifixion, as related by the other Evangelists, there were Four others, and all particularly striking and important. It is a very usual thing among men to treasure up the last words of dying friends, as being more than ordinarily ponderous and meriting regard. Those of the Lord Jesus must surely be eminently so. I would begin this place, as John is the last of the Evangelists, and who closeth the history, to gather them into one point of view, and as far as we can well form our judgment with correctness, to look at them one by one, in the order in which we may suppose the Lord delivered them.
It is worthy our observation, that three of those last sayings of Christ on the cross, were addressed to the Father, and four to those around him. But, like his farewell prayer in the midst of his Apostles, the greater part had respect to his Church, and not to himself. See John 17:0 . The first in point of order, seems to have been that in which Jesus said, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34 . Was not this, (I ask the question,) as in the Lord's High Priestly Office, now entering upon it, as on the great day of atonement? The Cross his altar, himself both sacrifice and sacrificer, his blood streaming over his sacred body, his wounds as the incense of his censer, and his dying sweat ascending as the burnt-offering before God? And in this manner, his arms extended, as the High Priest his type in the temple was stretched forth to bless the people; so Jesus when he cried out, Father! forgive them, for they know not what they do! Reader! were you and I included in this prayer? It is a grand enquiry. Let us pause over it, and ponder it well.
The second voice of Jesus heard on the cross, was this, which is recorded by John in this place. These words of Christ in their first meaning, should seem to have had an especial regard to the disposing of Mary after the Lord's death, but I humbly conceive somewhat of higher moment was intended by Jesus, and in relation to his whole Church and people. For, surely, the temporary care of this woman might have been provided for in a less public way. It would hardly have been left to this hour. Neither would the Holy Ghost, one might be led to suppose, have thought it necessary to have made such a special record of it among the last weighty sayings of the dying Jesus. But, as I have often in the course of this humble work observed before, so here again I desire to say, that I do not presume to speak decidedly. I venture to think that the Lord had higher motives in view, than merely recommending Mary to the care of John. And might it not be, (I ask the question,) to remind Mary, and in her his whole Church, when he said, Woman, behold thy Son! what the angel had announced to her before the incarnation of his name and glory, as Jesus a Redeemer, and when in consequence she called Christ her Savior? See Luke 1:26-47 . And when the Lord said to John, behold thy mother! was not this intended no less to correct, and reprove, all those honors which the Lord knew the idolatry of the future ages of the world would produce, in ascribing to Mary, whom Christ always called Woman, unsuitable and improper names?
The Lord's answer to the cry of the penitent thief on the cross, we may, I think, without the danger of misplacing in point of order, consider as the third voice of Jesus in those solemn hours. And, oh! what a number of the richest contemplations arise out of those gracious words of Christ. Lord! remember me, said the dying malefactor, when thou comest into thy kingdom! And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise, Luke 23:42-43 . I must not allow myself to enter into the sweet and almost endless subject those words lead to. But just let me remark, what rich, free, unmerited, unlooked for, boundless grace, was here shewn by Christ, to a poor perishing sinner? What wonders hath Jesus here at once opened of the invisible world; and the instant possession of paradise, and Jesus with it, by every spirit when departing the body, in the faith and enjoyment of Christ's blood and righteousness? And what a most effectual silence doth it give to the ungracious and unbecoming pretensions of all self-righteous Pharisees? How sweetly were the Apostle's words proved in this instance, and how suitably to be applied to every other; Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:5-6 .
The fourth words of Jesus on the cross, were remarkable indeed, and full of the highest import. The Lord of life and glory had hung upon the cross full three hours, when he uttered this dolorous cry: Eli, Eli, (or as Mark renders it, Eloi, Eloi, for both are the same. Mark 15:34 .) lama sabachthani, which is, being interpreted, My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me? Matthew 27:46-47 . The first three of these words are Hebrew, and the latter Chaldee or Syriac. We have the same word in the Chaldee paraphrase of the Psalms 22:1 . So that Christ here fulfilled that prophecy, and the application of it was plainly seen to be to Him, and to Him only.
It is impossible with our scanty faculties, to fathom the depth of this wonderful cry of Christ. One thing, however, is very plain. The forsaking which the Lord speaks of, could not mean that that union of God and man in One Person was in the smallest degree lessened, for death itself could not accomplish this. In Christ dwelleth forever and uninterruptedly, the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Colossians 2:9 . Neither had he lost the favor and love of Jehovah, for that also was, and is, impossible. But, if one may venture to offer a conjecture on a subject of such a deepness in mystery, probably it might be for the time, the Lord's having lost an enjoying sense of that favor, which all along before he had possessed. And as Jesus was now sustaining the whole weight and burden of the sins of his people, he felt what those sins merited; and was therefore for a space, as one deprived of the refreshing presence of Jehovah, that his people might not be deprived of it forever. Reader! think, if the beloved Son of God was thus exercised, and sent forth such an heart piercing cry at the apprehension of divine withdrawings; what must be the shrieks of the eternally miserable who have lost the gracious presence of God forever?
The fifth voice we hear from our Lord on the cross, seems most probably to have been that which John hath noticed, (John 19:28 ) when he said, I thirst. I say most probably this might be according to the order in which the Lord spake, for I am not able to determine. Neither is it I should suppose material. But what I think of more importance is what John hath said concerning it, that Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. The fulfilling of the scripture, was in reference to that prophecy of Christ, Psalms 22:15 where the Lord is described as brought into the dust of death; and where, according to another prophecy, vinegar is said to be given to him. Psalms 69:21 . The soldiers who gave Christ the offered vinegar were unconscious what they did; but how precious are such things to a child of God? And what was implied in this thirst of Jesus? Not merely a thirst of body, but of soul. An holy thirst to see all the whole purposes of his soul-travail, and sufferings, and death, accomplished in the salvation of his people. Reader! Jesus thirsted for his chosen. And shall not you and I thirst after Him? Oh! for a vehement thirst as one of old expressed, when he cried out, As the hart thirsteth for the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee O God! Psalms 42:1 ; Song of Solomon 8:6 .
The two last cries of Christ upon the cross, are those related by John and Luke. Perhaps the former was that which John hath recorded, for he saith, when Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished. And Luke adds, when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father! into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost, Luke 23:46 . It should seem, therefore, that it was in this order the Lord thus spake. But I presume not to determine. However, the words themselves are the same, in whatever manner they were delivered; and they are full of the highest import and richest consolation. Redemption-work was finished; and all the purposes for which Christ made his soul an offering for sin, were fully answered. The Son of God, therefore, in our nature, as a mighty conqueror retiring from the field of battle, having gotten himself the victory, cried out with a loud voice; not as one whose strength was consumed, but as One who laid down his life, as he had said, that he might take it again, and no man taking it from him, (John 10:17 ) it is finished. And now committed himself into his Father's hands; as if to teach all his redeemed how to die in faith, and to whom to commit their souls in a dying hour, as unto a faithful Creator. 1 Peter 4:19 ; Psalms 31:5 ; Acts 7:55 , to end.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath-day, (for that sabbath-day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (32) Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. (33) But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: (34) But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water. (35) And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. (36) For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. (37) And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
The preparation here spoken of, was, I apprehend, that which was usual for the sabbath, see Mark 15:42 and this was still more highly esteemed, being a sabbath in the passover season; and added to these, it was the sabbath in which all the people presented themselves before the Lord. Leviticus 23:10 , etc. And the law allowed none to hang on a tree until the night. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 . But what is most worthy our observation, and indeed the Holy Ghost hath put his divine emphasis upon what is here recorded, in the preservation of the bones of Christ unbroken, (as his mystical body forms a complete whole, and never to be broken,) and the side of Jesus pierced; thereby fulfilling at once two memorable prophecies. See Exodus 12:46 ; Numbers 9:12 ; Psalms 34:10 ; Zechariah 12:10 ; Revelation 1:7 . See also John 3:5 and the commentary upon it. And I beg to detain the Reader with a short observation more on the words of John, in quoting the passage from Zechariah 12:10 . If the Reader will compare what John here saith with the words of the Prophet, he will find, that in the prophecy, Jehovah is speaking of himself; and therefore saith, that when he hath poured upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; the consequence, saith the Lord, shall be, that they shall look upon me. Whereas John records the fact, and is, therefore, only the historian to prove the correspondence. But, Reader! do not overlook that He who predicted and promised these things was Jehovah; (indeed who less than Jehovah could so foresee and so promise,) and that Jehovah is Jesus. Nothing can be more plain and palpable. And how was the whole yet further accomplished, when at the day of Pentecost, as Jesus promised his disciples, he sent the Holy Ghost with these tokens? Luke 24:49 ; John 15:26-27 ; Acts 2:33-41
And after this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. (39) And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound w eight.(40) Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. (41) Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. (42) There laid they Jesus therefore, because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
I do not think it necessary to enlarge on the circumstances relating to these honorable men. But in addition to what hath been offered by way of note in the history of it, as recorded by Mark and Luke; I would just observe, that the interment of the body of Christ became a most important service, both as it proved the reality of his death, and as it confirmed the types and prophecies concerning him. Isaiah 26:19 ; Psalms 16:9-10 ; Matthew 12:38-40 . And as the life of the Church in her recovery from the Adam-nature fall, ariseth out of the assurance, that Christ by his death had destroyed death; so the reality and certainty of it became a momentous article of the faith in Christ. It was necessary Christ should die, to do away sin and death by the sacrifice of himself. It was as necessary that he should be buried, that his humblings might be complete. The Lord had said by the spirit of prophecy a thousand years before; thou hast brought me into the dust of death. Psalms 22:15 . And it was necessary, that though he died as one under the hands of justice, he should have an honorable funeral, and therefore, though his body was forfeited; yet to fulfil the seemingly contradictory prophecies, in which it was said, h e is taken from prison and from judgment, and cut off out of the land of the living; yet, contrary to all human probabilities, he should make his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; Isaiah 53:8-9 . these godly men, Joseph of Arimathea, an honorable counsellor, and Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, should arise to perform this office. And, as all these things were done by his death, his burial, and the honorable nature of it to fulfil those grand purposes; so his resurrection which followed, arose out of all those circumstances. Jesus must conquer death by his own death. He must go into the grave to subdue the power of the grave. And he must arise from the dead, in proof that he hath triumphed over both death and the grave in their own territories, and shewed the way to all his followers, how they are by virtue of their union with him, and communion in all that belongs to him, secured in all the blessings of his resurrection. So interesting an article of our holy faith, becomes therefore the certainty of Christ's burial; and blessed be God, who hath made such ample provision in the scriptures to ascertain its reality.
My soul! never give over thy meditations of this unequalled subject! Follow the footsteps of thy Lord from place to place, the hall of Pilate, the hill of Calvary, from Gabbatha to Golgotha, and through all the painful process of the wonderful sights exhibited on that memorable day, and hear the voice of thy Lord at every one; Behold! and see! if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger!
But do not barely contemplate the astonishing scene, but meditate the cause. Read the inscription on the cross. He was wounded for our trangressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed! Matchless love! The Son of God becomes man that man might become a son of God. Jesus the Holy, harmless, undefiled Jesus, is made sin who knew no sin, that his people might be made the righteousness of God in him.
From the cross let my soul in holy meditation follow the Lord to the tomb. And why not hear the same voice as the holy women did, which said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Never, surely, did the grave receive such a Prisoner, though but for a short space! Never had death and the grave their full triumphs, when in the same hour their empire received a full overthrow. Precious Jesus! thou hast the keys of death, hell, and the grave. Oh! for grace frequently by faith to visit the garden and the tomb where the body of Jesus hath lain. Here let my soul meditate the wonderous subject, until He who hath the key of David, opens my little spot and grave to receive my body. Even now I hear the voice of consolation, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 19". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18