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The Lord Jesus is hurried away before Pilate, and accused. He sends Christ to Herod; where he is mocked, and sent back to Pilate. The unjust Governor condemns him to Death; and Christ is led away to Execution. The Lord's Death and Burial.
"And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. (2) And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. (3) And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. (4) Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. (5) And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. (6) When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. (7) And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. (8) And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. (9) Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. (10) And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. (11) And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. (12) And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves."
It forms a very interesting part, in my view of those solemn scenes, to observe how the Lamb of God is worried before his death, in those many wearisome journies he is compelled to make, in walking from one place to another to gratify the malice of his enemies. And I beg the Reader to observe with me, that, as in all those places Christ received the same contempt and mockery, at the house of the High Priest, and at the palaces of Pilate and Herod, whether the whole was not intended for the greater humiliation of the Son of God, because, in that humiliation, the vast merit of his redemption-work consisted. It was the Son of God, as God, vacating, or emptying himself of his own personal glory, as God-Man-Mediator, which constituted the infinite preciousness of his undertaking, as our Surety, and which gave such an infinite, and never to be fully recompensed value, both to his active and passive righteousness, both to his doing and dying. I would entreat the Reader, methinks, to pass over, in this sublime subject, every other consideration, to attend wholly to this one. The part which those wretched characters, Pilate and Herod, with the whole Jewish crew, wreaking their malice upon the person of Christ, is a matter of no moment to regard, compared to this one. This forms the blessedness of the whole subject. This renders the whole so inexpressibly great and glorious. For the more the child of God is enabled by the Holy Ghost to enter into a suitable apprehension of this distinguishing feature of character in our Lord, as Redeemer, the infinitely higher will the merit of his sacrifice rise in his esteem.
"And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, (14) Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: (15) No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. (16) I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (17) (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) (18) And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (19) (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) (20) Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. (21) But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. (22) And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. (23) And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. (24) And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. (25) And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will."
If I pause over those verses, it shall be only to detain the Reader with remarking what an awful character this time-serving judge Pilate must bare been. He declared Jesus guiltless, and yet proposed by way of a milder punishment, to scourge him. He pronounced sentence of death upon Christ in the same breath that he declared him innocent! With what horrors must the soul of Pilate behold Jesus at the last day, when his body shall arise at the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, to receive from the Lord his sentence of everlasting misery? Revelation 1:7 .
"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. (27) And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. (28) But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. (29) For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. (30) Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. (31) For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"
I refer to the observations proposed in Matthew and Mark's Gospel, on the cruelties exercised on Christ's person, after sentence of death was passed upon him. See Matthew 27:27 ; Mark 15:16 . Let the Reader in this place remark the tenderness of the Lord Jesus, in forgetting his own sorrows to regard the sorrows of his people. Luke is the only Evangelist which hath recorded this affectionate address of Jesus to the daughters of Jerusalem. Is it not (for I do not speak decidedly on the subject, as a prophecy of the Lord, in relation to the sorrows hastening upon Zion's sons in the approaching destruction of Jerusalem? Zechariah 12:10 . But their weeping at the view of the Lord Jesus, was as might be expected. For who could dry-eyed behold the Lamb of God surrounded thus with hell-hounds, waiting to suck his blood? Nature alone, untaught of grace, hath some remains of feeling to shew that it is not totally void of humanity. It is said of Austin, that before his conversion, he delighted to hear Ambrose speak of the sufferings of Christ, and always wept at hearing the relation. But this may be, and yet not grace, Ezekiel had such hearers. Ezekiel 33:32 .
"And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. (33) And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left."
In reading the former of those verses, I beg the Reader to observe, that a stop should be put after the word other: for then the sense of the passage will be clear, And there were also two other: (which were) malefactors. For the Lord Jesus himself was no malefactor. H e did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. 1 Peter 2:22 . He stood forth indeed in the eye of the law, being the Surety of his people, and their Representative, as the greatest of all malefactors. Yea, Jehovah considered him as such. But, though laden with the sins of all his people, yet there was no shadow of sin in him. Sin was, put upon him, not in him. The Lord laid on him, it is said, the iniquity of us all, that is, the Church. Isaiah 53:6 . Reader! do you discover the blessedness of the distinction? If so, think how complete must be his sacrifice! For this purpose, God would have him loaded with all sin, and with all the possible shame of sin, as sin had made his Church marked to our shame, so Christ, the Surety, shall bear both. And hence the conclusion the Holy Ghost makes from hence, for the everlasting joy of the Church, He made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 .
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."
For the cries of Jesus on the cross, see the whole collected into one view. John 19:30 .
"And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. (36) And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, (37) And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself."
I pray the Reader, again and again to mark the insults offered to the person of the Redeemer in his offices. As the Church by sin had put an affront on all the characters of her Lord, Jesus, in redeeming her, shall sustain in his own person those insults. Hence the rabble mocked at his office as the Great Prophet of his people, when they smote him, and said unto him, prophecy, thou Christ, who is he that Smote thee. So again, in his Priestly office; the derision of the rulers in all those instances of pardon, Jesus had shewn (Mark 2:5-12 ) was blasphemously used, when, as in the passage before us, they said, He saved others, himself he cannot save. Think, Reader! what an awful instance was here! And his Kingly office, the Roman soldiers insulted, when they said, as they offered Christ the predicted vinegar, (see Psalms 69:21 .) If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. Reader! do not fail to behold the hand of Jehovah in these solemn transactions. Both Jew and Gentile shall bear part in those insults offered to Christ's person and offices. For the Lord Jesus was at that moment redeeming his whole Church, both Jew and Gentile. The heathen was his for an inheritance, now Christ, was set as king on his holy hill of Zion. Psalms 2:0 throughout. Never did the glory of the Lord Jesus shine out more fully! Never did Christ more fully prove his suretyship character as now, when his glorious offices were thus set at nought and despised.
"And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (39) And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. (40) But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? (41) And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. (42) And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (43) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Of the titles on the cross, I refer to John 19:19 . But, as Luke is the only Evangelist which hath recorded the abundant mercy shewn to the dying thief, I shall beg to make a short observation upon it here. Matthew and Mark are both express to shew, that those men which were crucified with Jesus, joined the rabble to insult Christ. And Luke saith, that one of them reproved his hardened companion; owned Christ for a Savior; found mercy from Christ; and received the assurance of being that day with him in Paradise. And, no doubt, the whole relation of the Evangelists is correct. Both thieves at the first, when nailed to the cross, joined the cry against our Lord, until one of them, struck by divine conviction, had his heart suddenly changed, and cried out for mercy. Jesus snatched him as from the very brink of hell, and as a trophy of his rich, free, and sovereign grace, took him with him to heaven. I beg the Reader not to pass away from the view of such wonderful love, until that he hath feasted his soul with the contemplation. Here was no merit, no pre-disposition, no service, no ordinance, no means, neither baptism nor the Lord's supper; but, on the contrary, everything of demerit, a life of infamy, and within a short period all over, and dying under the hand of justice. And yet such an one the Son of God took with him at once to everlasting joy! What will any man call this? Was Christ, or was He not, in this instance, the whole of salvation? And is He not so in every other?
"And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. (45) And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. (46) And 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. (47) Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. (48) And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. (49) And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things."
I have no power to conceive, and much less to describe, the awful prodigies which attended the cross of Christ. The cries of Jews; the darkness which at mid-day covered the land; the rending of the vail of the temple in twain from the top to the bottom; the yawning of the graves; the dead bodies of saints which had mouldered to dust arising, going into the holy city, and appearing unto many; the Centurion himself compelled to acknowledge Christ for the Son of God; and the rabble which came to the sight of Christ crucified, smitten at what they saw and heard, returning under horrors; these are events soon recorded, but never to be fully contemplated. For my own part, I would pray for continual grace to take my stand by faith at the foot of the cross, and with the Evangelists in my hand, go over again and again the marvellous subject, according to the plain, simple, and unvarnished manner in which those holy and inspired men have related it. And I would above all contemplate Him, who by that death procured my life; until, like Paul, I found grace to say as Paul said, and to feel as Paul felt; to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ, and him crucified; and from the same heartfelt conviction as his, knowing it is the power of God, and the wisdom of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth. 1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 1:24 .
But, Reader! with all these high objects before us, let us take one view more of the Lord Jesus on the cross, and look over the heads of men and devils to behold what is the highest and most momentous object to contemplate in the whole, I mean the hand of God the Father in this wonderful transaction. The Scriptures of God teach us, that it pleased Jehovah to bruise him: it was He that put him to grief. Isaiah 53:10 . Here then was the grand part which put a finishing wound to the soul agonies and bodily pains of Christ. It was the hand of God which pierced most deeply in the Redeemer's heart. This clenched the work. This drove the nail of bitterness home to the head. The iron entered into his soul. Psalms 105:18 .
Angels are incompetent to explain the mysterious subject; and surely it never can be the province, of man. But, it appears from the whole tenor of revelation on those deep things of God, that the whole burden of sin, and the curse due to sin, meeting together, and with the whole wrath of Jehovah against sin, like a mighty cataract in the sluices of divine displeasure, were poured forth on the person of Christ. The darkness at mid-day intimated somewhat of it, For this darkness, which was altogether supernatural, could not be, as hath been said by some, as if to shew the Father's anger against those who crucified Christ; for Christ himself, by his cry on the cross, most fully proved the contrary. My God! My God! (said the Holy Sufferer), why hast thou forsaken me! But this part is abundantly plain, that Christ was now expiating sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as such, the whole weight of sin, and the punishment due to sin, fell upon him. And as the damned in hell have eternal darkness, unvisited by the light of God's countenance, the Son of God in our nature while sustaining the judgment due to his Church for sin, shall be in darkness and unvisited by that light whose absence he had never known before, He is now sustaining what is his Church's due. He shall therefore feel the effect. But wherefore not go into hell then to endure this? No, there was no necessity. It is not the place, but the extremity, which constitutes the fulness of misery. When, therefore Christ was lifted up upon the cross, he was suspended between heaven and earth, as one unworthy of either. Indeed Christ might be said to be then in the territories of Satan, for he is called the prince of the power of the air, when hanging on the tree, and according to the law cursed. Ephesians 2:9 ; Galatians 3:13 . And it is worthy remark, that Christ called his sufferings by this name. The sorrows of death (said Jesus) compassed me; the pains of hell gat hold upon me. Psalms 116:3 . And elsewhere by the same spirit of prophecy the Lord said, All thy waves and billows have gone over me. Psalms 42:7 .
"And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (51) (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. (52) This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. (53) And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. (54) And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. (55) And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. (56) And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment."
Concerning this Joseph, the Holy Ghost hath made mention of hire to his advantage, in calling him an honorable counsellor; and though of the Sanhedrim, he had not joined them in the horrible transactions concerning the death of Jesus. So far from it, that he determined to give Christ, though crucified at Golgotha, a decent interment. See, Reader! how, by seemingly unlooked for causes, the Lord overrules things to his own glory. The Holy Ghost, ages before had said, that the Messiah should make his grave with the rich in his death. Isaiah 53:9 . A thing the most improbable, seeing that Christ was to die under the hands of both Jews and Gentiles, and as a common felon, and at Golgotha, a place where the bodies of the criminals executed there, lay, for the most part, unburied, and their skulls kicked about with contempt. Yet so it was. Jesus shall have an honorable burial, partly that his death, which is the life of the Church, may thereby be fully proved; and partly, that the identity of his person, being put into a tomb wherein before never man lay, may be the more perfectly known. Reader! let you and I follow in solemn meditation, the funeral of the Lord Jesus; and behold those holy sacred remains, which the grave cannot detain, lodged there for a few hours, until the time appointed for his resurrection! Never did the grave, though but for a short season, hold such a prisoner! But let us not overlook the needs be for Christ's interment. It proved his death. It proved the truth of the prophecies. He must, as a part of his Suretyship, be brought into the dust of death. Psalms 22:15 . The type of Christ implied this, and Jesus himself taught it. For; saith Christ as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40 . And above all, as Christ must be brought down to the dust of death, to fulfil the whole of his abasement, so from the grave it became necessary to prove the triumphs of his exaltation. In the grave Christ destroyed the power of the grave, and by his own death, the power of Sin, Satan, and Death. Read Hosea 13:14 :explained by 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ; Hebrews 2:14 . Here then it was, from this memorable sepulchre, the faithful in Christ Jesus were taught to look up, and behold the complete victory over death. And here the everlasting mansions of glory first clearly opened by Christ to his people. Precious Jesus! it is thou, by thy death, hast overcome death; and by thy resurrection hast secured the final resurrection of thy members.
See, my soul! thy Lord taken from prison and from judgment. And who shall declare his generations? Behold Pilate, Herod, the Chief Priests, and Scribes, yea, the whole multitude, all engaged in the foul act of Christ's crucifixion. And was there none beside? Think, my soul! how much thy sins, both in the original and actual transgression of thine Adam-nature, added to the vast account. Oh! for grace, that in a conscious sense of my own sins, upon this solemn occasion, I may look unto him whom I have pierced, and mourn, as one that mourneth for his only son; and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first born!
Precious Jesus! enable me to connect with the solemn view of thine unequalled sufferings, that thou hast made my peace by the blood of thy cross, and by thy stripes I am healed. And from the cross enable me to behold thee proclaiming peace to all thy people, and doing away, the whole of sin by the sacrifice of thyself. Yes! thou Almighty Lord! truly, in the instance of the dying thief, thou hast shewn the sovereign efficacy of thy finished salvation. Here may poor, despairing, self-condemned, and self-condemning sinners, find the sweetest encouragement. And, if Jesus in the days of his flesh offered up strong crying and tears, and was heard in that he feared, will he not have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, since he himself was thus compassed with infirmity?
Lord! I would take my stand at the door of the sepulchre. Like Mary, I would wait in humble sorrow until my risen and triumphant Savior shall speak to me, as the Lord did to that poor woman. Oh! for grace, to have the first views of Jesus, the first love tokens as she had of Jews, that I might hasten with the same tender commission, and tell the brethren of Jesus of the glorious tidings of the resurrection. Lord! give me the assured earnest, in a resurrection of grace, for that great day of my God, when all his redeemed will partake in a resurrection to glory!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Luke 23". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany