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Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned.
Judas and the priests-end of evil association
Men join hand in hand for a wicked object, out of which they hope for common profit. For a while the alliance lasts, and evil seems to have power of coherence as well as good. But conflicting interests arise, and then the nature of the union is apparent. Sin began by severing the bond between man and his Maker, and what other bond can henceforth have any permanence? If left to do its will, it would disintegrate God’s universe into atoms of selfishness. Observe here-
I. Judas, and the state of mind to which he is brought. He begins in the guilt of selfishness, and ends in its utter solitude.
1. Separation from human companionship.
(a) From Christ and the apostles. After his act of treachery was committed, he felt as if a bridge were broken behind him. He had no more part nor lot in the circle of which he had been a member.
(b) From his employers and accomplices. Here again, he is alone. He has served their purpose, and is thrown away like a broken tool.
2. Self-desertion. He can no longer keep company with his own thoughts. Backward, forward, upward, his sin meets him wherever he turns, and his feeling is that which the poet has given to the apostate angel, “Me miserable, which way shall I fly!”
3. Deserted by the tempter and the bribe. He has no pleasure in the thing he coveted. “the silver, which was so dear, eats his flesh as it were fire, and he casts it from him like a viper that has stung the hand. So does the devil ever cheat the sinner of the substance for a shadow, and then robs him of that, or changes it into a frightful spectre from which he would escape if he could.
4. Separation between the soul and God. That which is reviving light to others is to him consuming fire, and he seeks flight from God as a relief and escape, Remorse only hardens. The heart of stone may be crushed and remain stone in its every fragment; it can only be melted when the love of God is suffered to shine on it. But when it refuses to admit that love, what can be done? For a time this awful isolation may not seem so terrible as it is. Other things may be put in the place of God-friendships, occupations, and pleasure. But when these pass, as pass they must, and perish like flowers on the edge of a gulf, the awful depth of the chasm will be seen. When fold after fold which now closes the eye of the soul is torn off, and it is Compelled to look on eternal realities, how will it stand the gaze?
II. The chief priests and their conduct.
1. Their disregard for their instrument when their purpose is gained. How differently would Judas have been treated, had he gone to Christ! If any friendship is to be formed that will stand us in stead in the hour of trial, it need not be sought among bad men consorting for unprincipled ends. The first stress will lay bare the hollow of such friendships, and show what bitter enemies confront one another when wicked men are separated by selfish purposes.
2. Their attempt to shake off the responsibility of the common act. One of the punishments in concerted sin is mutual recrimination, and the weakest are denied not only pity but ordinary justice.
3. Their taunt. A sneer at his being too late in coming to the knowledge of Christ’s innocence. This view of the matter should have suggested itself earlier. Infinitely better to meet the ridicule of sinners for not joining them, and to keep a good conscience, than to end by being subjected to their taunts with the bitter knowledge that they are deserved! (J. Ker, D. D.)
Judas, which had betrayed Him: treachery against a Friend
I am going to put before you the behaviour of Judas in a purely human point of view; no narrow view of the question, but that which most concerns us. I would have you look to his dishonourable betrayal of his Friend. Put out of sight, then, the crucifixion of the Son of God; for this does not strictly belong to Judas: this truth Judas never learnt. Put out of sight, also, the whole transcendent scheme of redemption: Judas knew nothing of this. But Jesus was his Friend. Day by day he had lived with Jesus. Day by day he had heard Him speak, “Who spake as never man spake.” Day by day he had seen the ineffable grace of the Son of Man. Truth had dwelt with him, and had not won his allegiance. Love had dwelt with him, and had failed to touch his heart. Purity and holiness had gradually unveiled their glories in his presence, and he had looked aside, and been proof to their loveliness. Jesus had been his Friend. The Incarnate Son of God had dwelt upon earth, not merely to promise heaven, but to be that heaven which He promised; not merely to judge and reward hereafter, but to be in each believer-Life. This was what was presented to the eyes and heart of Judas-the glories of a present immortality of purity and love; glories veiled indeed, but not unseen by watchful loving eyes. Jesus was his Friend. And we must observe that Judas was thoroughly aware of what was true and good, and perfectly conscious, as far as a broad, general choice went, of the surpassing excellence of Him with whom he lived. (E. Thring, M. A.)
Dissatisfaction of Judas
Might not Judas have sung care away, now that he had both the bag and the price of blood, but he must come and betray himself. Whiles he played alone, he won all; but soon after, his own wickedness corrected him, and his backslidings reproved him (Jeremiah 2:19). Sin will surely prove evil and bitter, when the bottom of the bag is once turned upward. A man may have the stone who feels no fit of it. The devil deals with men as the panther does with the beasts: he hides his deformed head, till his sweet scent have drawn them into his danger. Till we have sinned, Satan is a parasite; when we have sinned, he is a tyrant. But it is good to consider that of Bernard: “At the Day of Judgment a pure conscience shall better bestead one than a full purse. (John Trapp.)
Revulsion of feeling after sin is committed
What an awful difference there is in the look of a sin before you do it and afterwards! Before I do it, the thing to be gained seems so attractive, and the transgression that gains it seems so comparatively insignificant. Yes! and when I have done, the two alter places; the thing that I win by it seems so contemptible! Thirty pieces of silver! pitch them over the Temple enclosure and get rid of them I The thing that I win by it seems so insignificant; and the thing that I did to win them dilates into such awful magnitude! For instance, suppose you or I do anything that we know to be wrong, tempted to it by a momentary indulgence of some mere animal impulse. By the very nature of the case that dies in its satisfaction, and the desire dies along with it. We do not want it any more, when once we have got it. It lasts but a moment and is past; then we are left alone with the thought of the thing that we have done. When we get the prize of our wrong-doing we find out that it is not as all-satisfying as we expected it would be. Most of our earthly aims are like that. The chase is a great deal more than the hare. Or, as George Herbert has it, “Nothing between two dishes.” A- splendid service of silver plate, and when you take the cover off there is nothing in it. It is that old story over again, of the veiled prophet who wooed and won the hearts of foolish maidens, and when he had them in his power in the inner chamber removed the silver veil that they had looked upon with love, and showed hideous features that struck despair into their hearts. Every wrong thing that you do, big or little, will be like some of those hollow images of the gods that one hears of in barbarous temples: looked at in front, fair; but when you get behind them you find a hollow, full of dust and spiders’ webs and unclean things. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Gradual downfall of Judas
It is clear that he had no intention whatever of committing so terrible a crime as the consequences showed it to be. Alas l what a fearful, gradual downfall there must have been since the moment when the sweetness of the Word of Life first made him give up all to follow Christ! How day by day little dishonourable choices must have been made, with an uneasy conscience, before he arrived at the deep dishonour of the betrayal l How, whilst his companions were gradually putting away their delusions, and seeing more clearly, and clinging more strongly, he was gradually separating from them too; acting the part of the tempter sometimes-as when we find him taking the lead in complaining of the waste of ointment-but nevertheless having less in common with them every day, as they became nearer to Jesus and he became more distant. (E. Thring, M. A.)
The man who has wronged another proverbially finds it harder to forgive than he who suffered the wrong; and the heavier the wrong the more reluctant is he to admit that it had no justification. He seeks to justify himself by depreciating the character of the neighbour to whom the wrong has been done; he sets himself to think of him as badly as he can, to speak even worse of him than he thinks, that he may thus in some degree shift the burden of guilt on to other shoulders than his own. Judas, therefore, had every motive to think and speak of Jesus the worst he could. He was in the habit, too, of glossing over his sins, of inventing better motives for them than they would bear. If he could have found any fault in the Man Christ Jesus, and, much more, if he had seen in Him anything worthy of death, would he not have clutched at it now, and proclaimed it, that he might thus justify himself to the world? Nay, if he could have fixed on a single point in the character and life of Jesus on which to hang so much as a suspicion, would he not have dwelt on it, and exaggerated it, and woven from it at least some thin disguise for his own perfidy and shame? We may be very sure that the Son of Man was verily innocent when it is Judas who pronounces Him innocent. And we may also be sure that there was much that was genuine in the repentance of the man who, by acknowledging the innocence of his Victim, brought the whole weight of his deed upon himself. “The instruments of darkness,” who, “to win us to our harm,” often throw a false colour of virtue round the sins to which they tempt us, must indeed have lost their power with Judas when, seeing what he had done, he publicly confessed that it was innocent blood he had betrayed, and so left himself without palliation or excuse. (S. Cox, D. D.)
“See thou to that
The tools of more respectable sinners are flung away as soon as they are done with. These three, Judas, the priests, and Pilate, suggest to us a threefold way in which conscience is perverted.
I. Judas-the agony of conscience. I see nothing in Scripture to bear out the hypothesis that his motives were mistaken zeal; he was a man of a low, earthly nature, who became a follower of Christ, thinking that He was to prove a Messiah of the vulgar type. The sudden revulsion of feeling which followed upon the accomplished act; not like the words of a man who had acted on mistaken love. What an awful difference there is between the look of sin before you do it and afterwards; before, attractive and insignificant; after, contemptible. Here is hell, a conscience without hope of pardon. You cannot think too blackly of your sins, but you may think too exclusively of them.
II. Pilate-the shufflings of a half-awakened conscience. Here, then, we get once more a vivid picture that may remind us of what, alas! we all know in our own experience, how a man’s conscience may be clear-sighted enough to discern, and vocal enough to declare, that a certain thing is wrong, but not strong enough to restrain from doing it. Conscience has a voice and an eye; alas! it has no hands. It shares the weakness of all law, it cannot get itself executed. Men will climb over a fence, although the board that says “Trespassers will be prosecuted,” is staring them in the face in capital letters at the very place where they jump. Your conscience is a king without an army, a judge without officers. “If it had authority, as it has the power, it would govern the world,” but as things are, it is reduced to issuing vain edicts and to saying, “Thou shalt not!” and if you turn round and say “I will, though,” then conscience has no more that it can do. And then, here, too, is an illustration of one of the commonest of the ways by which we try to slip our necks out of the collar, add to get rid of the responsibilities that really belong to us. “See ye to it” does not avail to put Pilate’s crime on the priests’ shoulders. Men take part in evil, and each thinks himself innocent, because he has companions. Half a dozen men carry a burden together; none of them fancies that he is carrying it. It is like the case of turning out a platoon of soldiers to shoot a mutineer-nobody knows whose bullet killed him, and nobody feels himself guilty; but there the man lies dead, and it was somebody that did it. So corporations, churches, societies, and nations do things that individuals would not do, and each man of them wipes his mouth, and says, “I have done no harm.” And even when we sin alone we are clever at finding scapegoats.
III. And so, lastly, we have here another group still-the priests and people. They represent for us the torpor and misdirection of conscience. “Then answered all the people and said, His blood be on us and on our children.” They were perfectly ready to take the burden upon themselves. They thought that they were “doing God service” when they slew God’s Messenger. They had no perception of the beauty and gentleness of Christ’s character. They behoved Him to be a blasphemer, and they believed it to be a solemn religious duty to slay Him then and there. Were they to blame because they slew a blasphemer? According to Jewish law-no! They were to blame because they had brought themselves into such a moral condition that that was all they thought of and saw in Jesus Christ. With their awful words they stand before us, as perhaps the crowning instances in Scripture history of the possible torpor which may paralyze consciences. The habit of sinning will lull a conscience far more than anything else. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Conscience needs revelation
And it is quite possible that a man may have no prick of conscience and yet have done a very wrong thing. So we want, as it seems to me, something outside of ourselves that shall not be affected by our variations. Conscience is like the light on the binnacle of a ship. It tosses up and down along with the vessel. We want a steady light yonder on that headland, on the fixed solid earth, which shall not heave with the heaving wave, nor vary at all. Conscience speaks lowest when it ought to speak loudest. The worst man is least troubled by his conscience. It is like a lamp that goes out in the thickest darkness. Therefore we need, as I believe, a revelation of truth and goodness and beauty outside of ourselves to which we may bring our consciences, that they may be enlightened and set right. We want a standard like the standard weights and measures that are kept in the Tower of London, to which all the people in the little country villages may send up their yard measures, and their pound weights, and find out if they are just and true. We want a Bible, and we want a Christ to tell us what is duty, as well as to make it possible for us to do it. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The remorse of Judas on the condemnation of Christ
You will observe the testimony which Judas bears to Christ and His religion. Had Christ been a deceiver Judas would have been aware of it; how valuable his testimony would have been against our Lord. Yet it is evident Judas had nothing to communicate. It is evident from the narrative of the evangelists that the devil had much to do with the treachery of Judas. In no case has Satan power over the individual except as that individual shall furnish him with advantages. It was the unrestrained covetousness of Judas which opened an access to the tempter. We must not excuse ourselves by accusing the devil; but it is distinctly said that he “put into the heart of Judas Iscariot,” etc. How Satan succeeded in working up Judas to this treachery?
I. We may give it as in a high degree probable that the devil suggested to Judas that by placing Christ in the hands of His enemies he should only afford him an opportunity of showing his power by defeating their malice. How easy for the traitor to argue “No harm but good will arise from the betrayal; he would actually be doing Christ a service!” In this way professing Christians comply with the customs of the world, fancying that they will disarm prejudice and recommend piety. Satan dealt with Judas as a man with a conscience that had to be pacified.
II. We may also suppose that, in place of suggesting to Judas the probability that Jesus would escape, Satan plied him with the certainty that Jesus was to die. The prophecies attested this. Your treachery is needful, and so cannot be criminal. Men imagine that if their sins contribute to God’s fixed purpose they cannot be guilty. The purpose would have been accomplished without the sin.
III. There is something very affecting in the fact that Judas gave himself up to despair on seeing that Jesus was given over to death. The moment a sinner is brought to see his own work in Christ’s death, then is the moment for showing him his life in Christ’s work. Only feel that we crucify Christ, and we are ready for being told that Christ was crucified for us. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Refusing a legacy
I. An illustration of the lack of conscience on the part of the professedly religious is seen in the treatment of a guilty soul. They consulted about the money, but not the man. They ought to have rejoiced in the confession of Judas, and that he had time to save Jesus and himself. They discard their tool. We have frequently seen men of good position and of high moral principles associate on equal terms with those below them for civil or political purposes. The priests could not make him shoulder all the guilt.
II. The schemes of the conscienceless to get rid of an unwelcome legacy. Says one, “Pity to waste the money; “ says another, “Never mind the past, it will serve a good end now.” “Cast it into the Kedron.” “Melt it over again, and thus get out the stain.” “Buy the potter’s parcel of ground.” “Good suggestion,” was the murmur. This will secure conscience and personal advantage at the same time. How conscientious were these unprincipled men.
III. How direct sin and conscienceless scheming are overruled by Christ. His betrayal causes a cemetery to be provided for the stranger and outcast; thus it is turned to good effect. (F. Hastings.)
The repentance of Judas
I. Wherein it resembled true repentance.
1. It was similar to true repentance in that conviction of sin from which it sprung.
2. In the open acknowledgment of guilt to which his convictions led him.
3. In the deep sorrow with which his repentance was accompanied.
4. In the self-condemnation with which the repentance of Judas was attended.
5. His extreme anxiety to counteract the evil consequences of his crime, and his entire renunciation of its fruits.
II. Wherein it differed from it.
1. It differed from it in its origin. It had its origin in the natural conscience, not in the grace of God.
2. In the object of his sorrow. Judas repented not of his crime, but of its consequences.
3. In its extent. It was of a partial nature.
4. In its results.
1. That we may bear very close resemblance to the disciples of Christ, and yet remain still in the number of His enemies, and share their condemnation.
2. That a profession of attachment to Christ aggravates the guilt of sin, and renders an indulgence in it peculiarly dangerous.
3. No man can be a gainer by sin. (C. Bradley.)
The unconverted warned by the remorse of the lost
I. The sinner in the next world will know the character of sin as Judas knew it. Now men do not judge of sin aright, their imagination is dazzled by its charms. As soon as the sin is committed its promise is found to be delusive.
II. This will lead him to hate sin and everything connected with it. Now he loves it. He will hate it because of its consequences. He will hate the gains and pleasures that once allured him. As Judas hated the priests, the sinner will hate his evil comrades. Judas disliked the thought of the happiness of his fellow disciples; the sinner will know that he might have had joy. With what feelings will he regard himself? (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
I. The conduct and character of Judas. His object not malice but avarice.
II. The conduct of the high priests ash elders.
1. Judas could not endure his own reflections. Compare the unfeeling spirit with which these men treat this conscience-stricken sinner with the love of the Saviour for the sinner.
2. The delusion which sometimes occupies the minds of the ungodly-“It is not lawful for us to put them into the treasury,” etc. They who care not for innocent blood, who care not for the remorse of their victim, are very careful about God’s treasury. Thus Satan deludes men.
(1) See what is in man.
(2) See what dreadful havoc one lust can make on a promising character.
3. How good a work to pluck men out of the hands of Satan. (G. J. Noel.)
I. His character.
1. He occupied a very high position.
2. He enjoyed great privileges.
3. He committed a great crime. Trace this sin-the plot, etc.
4. He deeply repented. His repentance was real, distressing, etc.
5. He made restitution.
6. He despaired of mercy.
II. Deduce from this subject some lessons of instruction. We learn-
1. That we may possess great privileges, make a blazing profession, and fill a high office, and still have no real piety.
2. That whatever amount of repentance a man may possess, in the absence of faith in Christ the soul will perish.
3. That there is tremendous power in a guilty conscience to inflict punishment. Cain, David, Herod, Judas, penitents.
4. The danger of indulging in the sin of covetousness.
5. That the atonement alone presents the only remedy that will meet all the deep-felt necessities of a guilty conscience. (A. Weston.)
The repentance and suicide of Judas
There are many principles underlying this tragedy.
I. That the repentance of Judas was occasioned by the new aspect which his sin assumed.
II. That, the delusion dispelled, two faculties of the mind urged him to confession and restitution-memory and reason.
III. That alliances based on sin are utterly hollow and worthless.
IV. That sin brings in its train the most maddening remorse and despair. (E. T. Carrier.)
The true confessor and the false
I. Examples of false confession. Its falsehood consisted in this-It was constrained, selfish, superficial, impulsive, temporary. Beware!
II. Examples of true confession. In true confession we take our proper place; we come to see sin somewhat as God sees it. (Dr. Bonar.)
The repentance of Judas
The history of Judas was written for our admonition, and is full of instruction to all.
1. How totally unprepared he seems to have been for the terrible results of his treachery. The condemnation of Jesus was an event on which he had not calculated. He was horror-struck and confounded with the unforeseen consequences of his villainy. No man, when consenting to temptation, can possibly tell how much evil may be involved in the sinful act which he contemplates, or determine the results in which it shall issue.
2. To what excesses of wickedness a man may be hurried, who is yet far from being hardened in iniquity. It was not any malignant or revengeful feeling which he entertained against our Lord, but the promptings of avarice only, that determined Judas to the perpetration of his immoral crime. The ungovernable grief and horror that seized him manifests that he was not hardened in iniquity. The sense of virtue and shame was far from being extinct. But there was the wretched greed of lucre in his soul. Constantly assailed by this temptation, he gradually yielded. Hence the danger of encouraging a disposition to covetousness, and of listening to temptation of whatever kind.
3. The tranciency of sinful pleasures. It was night when he received the reward of iniquity, but when morning came then came repentance too. How many such extreme cases are there l
4. How dearly the pleasures of sin are purchased.
5. The sort of sympathy a man may expect from his accomplices in iniquity.
6. How the sense of guilt may operate. He was brought to repentance, but it was a very different kind of repentance from that which he purposed coming to. The sense of guilt may take either of two very different forms-“godly sorrow” or the “sorrow of the world.” Look at Judas, and beware! Precisely the same purposes as many are entertaining beguiled him onwards, until at length it surprised him with the repentance of despair. Conclusion: Make repentance a voluntary act. Repent now! (W. H. Smith.)
What is that to us?-Responsibility not to be shaken off
Though they might disown responsibility, they could not destroy it. A man may stop his chronometer in the night, but he cannot arrest the sunrise. As long as men are in the pursuit of an object, they may be able, with the aid of passion, to stifle conscience; but when the object is reached, and the value deliberately counted, conscience can begin to strike the balance. The heat and halo of the chase are over, and the net result can be reckoned, at least on one side; the miserable gain, if not the infinite loss. So it is with the betrayer, and so it must be, by and by, with those who hired him. They may meanwhile outbrave Judas, but they have to meet God. And, let us think of it-the poisoned arrow a man uses may wound himself. The sneer is always on the way to the remorse. They have both the same hard bitterness in them-the same want of God’s love. (J. Ker, D. D.)
The devil tempts to despair
The craft of the devil is often displayed in representing a sin to which we are tempted as trifling, but after we have committed it as so great that there is no help for us in God. (Ayguan.)
Manner of Iscariot’s death
Objectors have represented the statement in this text as inconsistent with that in Acts 1:18, where he is said to have “ purchased a field with the reward of iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” But these passages do not necessarily contradict each other. Matthew does not say that Judas, after having hanged himself, did not fall to the ground; nor, on the contrary, does Luke say that Judas did not hang himself before he fell to the ground; and unless the writers affirm the reality of the events which they respectively mention in such a way as to assert or imply that if the one event be true the other must be false, it is obvious that they do not contradict each other. Of the precise relation of the two events in question to each other we have no information, and can affirm nothing with certainty. Some intermediate circumstance connected the one with the other as parts of the same transaction, but that circumstance has not been recorded. It is conjectured that Judas may have hung himself on the edge of a precipice near the valley of Hinnom, and that the rope breaking by which he was suspended, he fell to the earth and was dashed to pieces. As I stood in this valley, and looked up to the rocky heights which span over it on the south side of Jerusalem, I felt that the proposed explanation was a perfectly natural one; I was more than ever satisfied with it. I measured the precipitous, almost perpendicular walls, in different places, and found the height to be variously forty, thirty-six, thirty-three, thirty, and twenty-five feet. At the bottom of these precipices are rocky ledges, on which a person would fall from above, and in that case not only would life be destroyed, but the body almost inevitably bruised and mangled. (H. B. Hackett, D. D.)
Iscariot’s motive for suicide
One of the most learned and compassionate fathers of the early Church, Origen, reports and argues for what seems to have been a not uncommon belief in those early days, viz., that Judas was moved to hang himself by some confused thought that, beyond the veil, in the life to come, he might meet his Master once more, and cast himself at His feet, confessing his guilt, and imploring pardon for his sin. That, however, is only a tradition, though surely many of us would be glad to know that it was something more. But he must be dull and hard indeed who does not feel that in that loathing of himself and of his guilt, which made life intolerable to him, there is some proof that Iscariot was not altogether sold under sin. (S. Cox, D. D.)
The mixture of good and bad in Judas
We are too hard in our thoughts of Judas if we hold him to have been an utterly graceless, abandoned, and irredeemable reprobate; and above all, we are too hard and narrow in our thoughts of Christ if we suppose even the sin of Judas to have put him for ever beyond the pale of mercy. Judas was once a babe, such as we all have been, and had a mother who loved him, and built bright hopes upon him. Probably, too, he had a father who led him to school and to synagogue, and trained him carefully in the Hebrew wisdom and piety. He shot up into a steady and thrifty young man-not addicting himself to vicious and spendthrift courses, but rather displaying a mind unusually open to religious impressions. We can trace in him some touch of the character of his ancestor, Jacob; the same by no means infrequent combination of religious susceptibilities and aspirations with a determination to do well in the world, the same preference of crafty and subtle expedients for securing his ends over the frank and downright methods of which Esau is one type, and Peter another. Two souls, two natures, were at strife in the man, as they were also in Jacob; the one subtle, grasping, money-loving, the other keen to discern the value of things unseen and eternal, and to pursue them. And for a time, as we all know, the better nature conquered. When he heard the call of Christ, all that was noble, and unselfish, and aspiring in the man rose up to welcome Him and to respond to His call. He was not a thief and a traitor when he became an apostle; nor when he went out into the cities and villages of Galilee, without staff or scrip, preaching the kingdom of heaven; nor when he returned to his Master rejoicing that even devils were subject unto him. Goodness, honour, devotion, self-sacrifice, were not unknown to him then. Let us remember what there was of good in him once, what there was of good in him even to the end: for no man who is capable of repentance is wholly and irredeemably bad; and let us not be overhard in our thoughts of him, nor unjust even to his tainted memory. The medieval Church had a legend which shows that even in those dark stern days men had glimpses of a light which many among us have not caught even yet. The legend was that, for the sake of one good and kindly deed performed in the days of his innocency, Judas was let out of hell once in every thousand years, and allowed to cool and refresh himself amid the eternal snows of some high mountain for a whole day. But we know that while he was still true to Christ he must have wrought many good and kindly deeds; and if he still suffers the punishment of the evil deeds he did, are we to believe he does not also, in some mysterious way, receive the due reward of his good deeds. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Passion is stronger than the fear of death
The dread of death is universal and instinctive; and yet how many rush into its arms! Suicide is a most impressive fact in this connection. The disappointed lover, the discouraged adventurer, the suspected clerk, the child wounded in its self-love or fearful of punishment, faces the great enemy and invites his blow. Every now and then the community is shocked by suicides so unprovoked and so frequent as almost to persuade us that the natural fear of death is passing away. The inconsistency is easily explained. Bacon says there is no passion that will not overmaster the terror of death. For passion is thoughtless; occupied wholly with an immediate suffering it makes no estimate of any other kind of pain; absorbed in an instantaneous sorrow it takes no other sorrow into account. The mind entertains but one passion at a time, whether it be joy or fear. But men are not always or generally under the influence of passion. Ordinary life is calm, calculating, considerate, and it is to ordinary life that death is terrible. It is the thought of death that is terrible, not death. Death is gentle, peaceful, painless; instead of bringing suffering it brings an end of suffering. It is misery’s cure. Where death is, agony is not. The processes of death are all friendly. The near aspect of death is gracious. There is a picture somewhere of a frightful face, livid and ghastly, which the beholder gazes on with horror, and would turn away from, but for a hideous fascination that not only rivets his attention, but draws him closer to it. On approaching the picture the hideousness disappears, and the face is that of an angel. It is a picture of death, and the artist’s object was to impress the idea that the terror of death is an apprehension. Death is an ordinance of nature, directed by beneficent laws to beneficent ends. (O. B. Frothingham.)
The field of blood.
Site of Aceldama
The “field of blood” is now shown on the steep south face of the valley or ravine of Hinnom, near its east end, on a narrow plateau, more than half way up the hill side. Its modern name is Hak-ed-damne. It is separated by no inclosure; a few venerable olive-trees occupy part of it, and the rest is covered by a ruined square edifice-half built, half excavated-which, perhaps originally a church, was in Maundrell’s time in use as a charnel-house. It was believed in the middle ages that the soil of this place had the power of very rapidly consuming bodies buried in it, and in consequence either of this or of the sanctity of the spot, great quantities of the earth were taken away; amongst others by the Pisan Crusaders, in 1218, for their Campo Santo at Pisa, and by the Empress Helena, for that at Rome. Besides the charnel-house, there are several large hollows in the ground, which may have been caused by such excavations. The formation of the hill is cretaceous, and it is well known that chalk is always favourable to the rapid decay of animal matter. (Dr. Smith.)
Origin of name
The article τοῦ expresses a particular field known by that name; so called from having been used by a potter, no doubt to dig clay for his wares. Thus several villages in England have the prefix Potter, probably from part of the ground having been formerly occupied for potteries-e.g., Pottersbury, Northamptonshire. So the field at Athens, appropriated as a cemetery for those who fell in the service of their country, was called Ceramicus, from having been formerly used for brickmaking. This, of course, would make a field unfit for tillage, though good enough for a burying-ground, hence the smallness of the price. (Bloomfield.)
The repentance of Judas
If you ask how he repented, I think he repented as most usurers repent, upon their death-beds. There is a shame of sin, and guilt of conscience, and fear of judgment, even in the reprobate, which is a foretaste of hell, which the wicked feel; even as the peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost is a foretaste of heaven, which the godly feel before they come thither. So Judas was displeased with the ugliness of his treachery, and had a misshapen sorrow, like a bear’s whelp, but without any conversion to God, or hope of mercy, or prayer for pardon, or purpose to amend. Only he felt a guilt, a shame and anguish in his heart, which was rather a punishment of sin than a repentance for his sin, and a preparative for hell which he was going unto. For hardness of heart and despairing of mercy are sins, and punishment for sins too; but true repentance is such a sorrow for one sin as breedeth a dislike of all sins, and moveth to pray, and resolveth to amend; which falleth upon none but the elect. (Henry Smith.)
A gnawing conscience
There is a warning conscience and a gnawing conscience. The warning conscience cometh before sin; the gnawing conscience followeth after sin. The warning conscience is often lulled asleep; hut the gnawing conscience wakeneth her again. If there be any hell in this world, they which feel the worm of conscience gnawing upon their hearts may truly say that they have felt the torments of hell. Who can express that man’s “horror but himself? Nay, what horrors are there which he cannot express himself? Sorrows are met in his soul at a feast; and fear, thought, and anguish divide his soul between them. All the furies of hell leap upon his heart like a stage. Thought calleth to fear, fear whistleth to horror, horror beckoneth to despair and saith, “Come, help me to torment this sinner.” (Henry Smith.)
And Jesus stood before the governor.
The trial of Christ is a part of His humiliation; He who shall judge the nations stands to be judged of another. He who is “life” expects the sentence of death. The Eternal Word keeps silence.
I. In speaking of the character and conduct of Pilate, we desire to bring him before you, as far as possible, as a man. He has won a terrible pre-eminence among the sons of Adam. Every child is taught to say that its Lord was crucified “under Pontius Pilate.” It is a mistake to suppose that these instruments of our Lord’s sufferings were men of astounding depravity. Pilate was not of this class. He was a reluctant agent in these events. He was induced simply by expediency. Indifference to religion can issue in deeds as unpardonable as utter violation of its spirit. Again and again, on a narrower stage, has been acted over that scene of criminal irresolution, resisted impulses, and weak concession to the fear of man.
I. Consider the providence of God towards Pilate. We are sometimes tempted to think that they were in very hard case, who, like Pilate, were involved in events so peculiar as were all things connected with Christ’s life on earth, that it must have been a great trial of faith to recognize a present God in Jesus as He stood before Pilate. The answer is twofold: First, Pilate’s guilt did not lie in this, that he condemned the Son of God, but that without evidence, against his own convictions, he condemned an innocent man,-that to gratify the mob, he prostituted his high office. The fact that the prisoner was God in the flesh, only enters into the question of his guilt, so far as he might, if he would, have known Him. But, secondly, it is evident that Pilate was in a remarkable degree held back from his sin. It has been observed, that the Saviour appears to have exercised the most marked grace towards all who were concerned in His final agony. In Pilate’s instance, every possible way consistent with his free-will seems to have been tried, in order to save him from consummating his guilt. Such was the long silence of Christ at the beginning. It is clear from the Gospels, that there was in the whole of our Lord’s demeanour an almost supernatural dignity. No words dropped from His lips; He declined, i.e., to plead before an authority inferior to His own, insomuch, it is said, that “Pilate marvelled.” And when, after Pilate had uttered the fatal words, “Take ye Him and crucify Him,” yet another appeal was made to his conscience. The Jews triumphantly responded, “We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” This open and undisguised claim to superhuman rank, did for a moment startle the wavering judge: “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid.” Again, it may be, there recurred to his mind the feelings of involuntary awe inspired from the beginning by his mysterious prisoner; thoughts glanced across him, that there might be more than he surmised in the events in which he bore a part; “that Just Man,” against whom no charge could be substantiated, and of whose miraculous power tidings so strange had reached his ears, might be (as old records told there had been in former times), at least a messenger of Deity. Hence his earnest question to our Lord, “Whence art Thou?” Throughout that dread scene of judgment there seems not to have been a moment when Pilate might not have been saved for ever. Again and again he was all but delivered from blood-guiltiness. (J. R. Woodford, M. A.)
The sufferings of Christ under Pontius Pilate
I. The civil magistrate under whose administration he suffered. Pilate’s name intimately interwoven with the history of Christ’s sufferings; mentioned more than twenty times. The elements which composed his character were contradictory. He had good qualities, but associated with bad principles.
1. He was influenced by the fear of man.
2. He had a sordid regard to place and power.
3. He discovers a servile love of human applause.
4. The sequel of his history is affecting and instructive; the thing he dreaded came, he lost the favour of the emperor.
II. The peculiar nature and character of those sufferings which he endured. Look at the sufferings of Christ.
1. In their visible form.
2. Their moral design.
III. The lessons they teach.
1. The infinite evil of sin.
2. The unbounded love of Jesus.
3. The full compatibility between the irreversible decrees of God and the freedom of man’s agency, and the culpability of man’s transgression.
4. The true ground of hope for the self-accusing sinner.
5. What a provision of comfort for the suffering Christian.
6. The fear of man bringeth a snare. (G. Clayton.)
The silence of Jesus
He had never been slow of speech when He could bless the sons of men, but He would not say a single word for Himself. “Never man spake like this Man,” and never man was silent like Him.
1. Was this singular silence the index of His perfect self-sacrifice? Did it show that He would not utter a word to stay the slaughter of His sacred person, which He had dedicated as an offering for us?
2. Was this silence a type of the defencelessness of sin? Nothing can be said in palliation or excuse of human guilt; and therefore He who bore its whole weight stood speechless before His judge.
3. Is not patient silence the best reply to a gainsaying world? Calm endurance answers some questions infinitely more conclusively than the loftiest eloquence. The best apologists for Christianity in the early days were its martyrs. The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing the blows.
4. Did not the silent Lamb of God furnish us with a grand example of wisdom? Where every word was occasion for new blasphemy, it was the line of duty to afford no fuel for the flame of sire The ambiguous and the false, the unworthy and mean, will, ere long, overthrow and confute themselves, anal therefore the true can afford to be quiet, and finds silence to be its wisdom.
5. Our Lord, by His silence, furnished a remarkable fulfilment of prophecy (Isaiah 53:7). By His quiet He conclusively proved Himself to be the true Lamb of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ.
The release of Barabbas
I. It illustrates the evasion of personal responsibility. We always admire courage in the abstract. Look at the position of Pilate! “I must sentence, gentlemen, you choose the culprit.” We may be doing this same thing. How often we allow others to determine our duty. “If my wife would be religious I would.” “Will you go if I will?” Alone you must die and give an account to God.
II. The controlling power of prejudice over moral approbation. They were to forget all the munificence of Jesus because He outraged their prejudices.
III. The choice of Barabbas in the end exalts the eternal principles which underlie the government of God. The eternal plan of God is carried out in the death of Jesus.
IV. The attitude of Barabbas. Suppose he had refused release on the ground that it was not possible for him to live by the death of another. Some reject the substitution of Christ for themselves. (R. Jeffery, D. D.)
No trace of this custom is found in the Talmud. But the release of prisoners was usual at certain festivals at Rome, and at Athens during the Panathenaic festival prisoners enjoyed temporary liberty. It is not, therefore, improbable that Herod the Great, who certainly familiarized the Jews with other usages of Greece and Rome, introduced this custom, and that the Roman governor, finding the custom established and gratifying to the Jews, in accordance with Roman practice, retained the observance of it. (A. Carr, M. A.)
His wife sent unto him saying, Have thou nothing to de with that just man.
I. The testimony of women to Christ.
II. The testimony of dreams to Christ.
III. The testimony of suffering to Christ-“Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things,” etc. The wife failed; but it was well to have tried. (G. T. Coster.)
The dream of Pilate’s wife
I. Let us observe her dream as a sign that various obstacles are placed in the way of completing sin.
II. Let us observe the dream as a sign that continuance in sin depends upon injustice done to Jesus Christ. (D. G. Watt, M. A.)
It is easier to do right than wrong
Is there one of you who would seriously maintain that it is easier to drive a horse and cart over a steep embankment than it is to drive along the road on the top of the embankment? Oh yes, you say, the former is easier! It is but a plunge, and you have done it. But then, you must consider how many obstacles you have to overcome before you can take the plunge, and- these obstacles make it a harder thing to go over than to go along the road. The beaten road says: “I am the way; you must not leave me.” You will have to overcome the obstacle which that clear statement raises. “There is certain damager to limb and life”-you will have to overcome the obstacle which respect for your own safety raises. “The horse, if it has been properly driven, will back off from sharp descent.” You will have to overcome the obstacle which the animal raises. Putting together the forces which are exerted by such matters, you will acknowledge that it is not fair to say that it is easier to drive over a precipice than it is to drive along the road which skirts its summit. Just so is it with us in life. Right and wrong solicit us. It may appear more easy to submit to the representations of evil impulses than to those of good; but, however it may appear, remember that before you can yield to the former you must have cast off the restraint of a law of God; you must have stifled your desires to be truly happy; you must have broken away from the influences which proceed from those of your friends who stand in awe of the Christ of God. (D. G. Watt, M. A.)
The warning word to be welcomed
Put not this word from you. If-to use one of Dr. Payson’s illustrations-you should see at this moment a very fine, an almost invisible thread coming down from heaven and attaching itself to you, and knew it came from God, what would you do? Would you dare to thrust it away? Now, this word of appeal is like such a thread. It is weak and frail, and you can easily brush it away. But will you? No! Welcome it, and it will enlarge and strengthen itself until it becomes a golden thread to bind you to that just Man-the Saviour-and to bind you for ever. (G. T. Coster.)
The wickedness of Pilate forced him to assume all the appearance of weakness. How striking the testimony given by enemies to our Lord; He is to die as a malefactor with the judge’s verdict in His favour.
I. The great principle of conscience was not dormant in Pilate, but on the contrary acted with faithfulness and vigour. Whatever the sensuality and tyranny of this Roman he had not succeeded in silencing conscience. The enormity of his sin is also enhanced by the warning he received through his wife.
II. We consider God as acting upon Pilate to deter him from committing a great crime, and therefore to leave him without excuse in the commission. God has nothing to do with causing the wicked actions he overrules. No man can take refuge in God’s foreknowledge of his sins, as having made them unavoidable. It left Pilate as free as if there had been no foreknowledge.
III. How the method used by God was eminently fitted to prevail with Pilate, and how it cut off all excuse when he gave up Jesus to the multitude. It may seem singular that the vision was to Pilate’s wife, and net to Pilate himself. Would not the admonition have been more likely to prevail if directly conveyed to him? But to please his wife may have been a motive in addition to obedience to the vision. God took this course because the Roman governor was probably most accessible through his affections. It is far from an unfrequent thing that God causes His warnings to be conveyed through the channel of the affections. One member of the family is saved in order to impress another. If this does not succeed, there remains no more likely method. Let not men think it would be better if they were acted upon directly by the gospel.
IV. How greatly it increased the criminality of Pilate that the message of his wife reached him at the very moment of his taking his place on the judgment seat. It was precisely when his convictions were urging him to release Christ, that there came to him a testimony to His innocence. When men are tempted God sends seasonable aids and disposes events for their strength and victory. The whole judicature of conscience is constructed on the principle of counsel being given at the precise moment when temptation is urgent. It remonstrates at the moment the bait allures. What a scene will it be when this Roman stands forth to answer for himself at the tribunal of Christ. How changed their condition. Christ will then be in glory and power. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
And destroy Jesus.
The cruel purpose
Moral beauty generally admired, etc. None more lovely than “Jesus,” and yet He was envied, hated, persecuted, and crucified.
I. The efforts to destroy Jesus (Matthew 2:1-17; Luke 4:28). In the final conspiracy hired Judas, etc. (ch. 28). Though put to death, He rose, etc. Since then, Jews, etc., have laboured to destroy Him.
II. Why have they sought to destroy Jesus?
1. Not on account of the viciousness of His life.
2. Nor His opposition to law and order.
3. Nor the evil tendency of His doctrines.
4. Nor the injury He did by His influence (Matthew 27:4; Luke 23:14; Matthew 27:19).
1. Enmity to the truth.
2. Envy of His goodness.
3. Hatred of His person.
4. Love of wickedness.
III. How they have failed to destroy Jesus. Herod, Jews, Pilate, though they killed Him. He rose, etc. He lived on in His body, the Church. Trace the history of those destructive attempts down to Strauss and Renan, etc. Jesus is Divine, and cannot be destroyed. “He shall live,” etc. (Psalms 72:15-18). His titles. The enemies of Jesus shall be destroyed. The nations that will not serve Him shall perish. So individuals. Learn:-
1. The baseness of the human heart to try to destroy Jesus.
2. Our obvious duty and interest to accept and honour Christ.
3. He should have our hearts and lives. (J. Burns, D. D.)
Satanic policy defeated
I. The destructible Jesus. To what extent could the purpose of the foes of Jesus succeed? They might succeed in disparaging His character and station before men. Maliciously assaulting the person of Jesus-to this Jesus had long been subjected. Restraining His personal freedom. Silencing His tongue. The torture they applied to His feelings. His crucifixion. Suggestions: In that it was possible for Jesus to die, lies the very basis of our redemption. In the death of Jesus, promises of the deepest import to our race were accomplished. In the death of Jesus lay His most sublime victory for men.
II. The indestructible Jesus. The purpose of Jesus’s assailants was an entire and egregious failure. The very body of Jesus recovers its vitality. The Deity that was within the destructible temple they could not touch. They could not frustrate or retard His designs. The violent death of Jesus did not secure the permanence of the old Jewish establishment. Nor did it lead to the destruction of the New Kingdom, or to the dethronement of Jesus. Conclusion: Show who are in sympathy with this unholy purpose, and who are in living sympathy with the Indestructible Jesus. (Anon.)
They said, Barabbas
The choice-Barabbas or Jesus
The same choice continues still.
All, throughout the whole world, is one choice between God and Satan, Christ and Barabbas. We know not, indeed, what we do; and so, again and again, our blessed Lord intercedes for those who deliver Him to His foes. Rut whenever a choice is given, if we have but any fear that we are choosing amiss, if we do what we suspect to be wrong or worse, if we say wilfully what we think better unsaid, what do we, in fact, but choose Barabbas?… We must in all things make this choice. There is, in everything, a better and a worse, a good and an evil to us. If we choose good, we choose God, Who alone is good, and is in all things good; if we choose evil, we do, in fact, choose the evil one. There are degrees of choice; as there were degrees and steps in the rejection of our Lord. Yet each led on to the next. Each hardens for the next. “No one ever became at once wholly vile,” is even a heathen proverb. But there is no safety against making the very worst choice, except in the fixed, conscious purpose, in all things to make the best. The last acts are mostly not in a person’s own power. They who compass themselves about with sparks, cannot themselves quench the burning. They who make the first bad choice are often hurried on, whether they will or no. The one choice is manifoldly repeated. The roads part asunder slightly; yet, unmarked, the distance between them is ever widening, until they end in heaven or in hell. Each act of choice is a step toward either. Either we are striking more into the narrow way, or we are parting from it; we are, by God’s grace, unbinding the cords by which we are held, or we are binding them tighter. (E, B. Pusey, D. D.)
Christ before Pilate-Munkassy’s picture
The scene is in the pavement or open court before the governor’s palace, which was called in the Hebrew tongue Gabbatha, and in which, after all his efforts to wriggle out of the responsibility of dealing with the case, Pilate ultimately gave up Jesus to be crucified. At one end of the court, on a raised bench, and dressed in a white toga, Pilate sits. On either side of him are Jews, each of whom has a marked and special individuality. The two on his left are gazing with intense eagerness at Christ. They are evidently puzzled, and know not what to make of the mysterious prisoner. On his right, standing on one of the seats, and with his back against the wall, is a Scribe, whose countenance is expressive of uttermost contempt; and just in front of this haughty fellow are some Pharisees, one of whom is on his feet, and passionately urging that Jesus should be put to death, presumably on the ground that, if Pilate should let Him go, he would make it evident that he was not Caesar’s friend. Before them again is a usurer, fat and self-satisfied, clearly taking great comfort to himself in the assurance that, however the matter may be settled, his well-filled money-bags will be undisturbed. Beyond him stands the Christ, in a robe of seamless white, and with His wrists firmly bound; while behind, kept in place by a Roman soldier, standing with his back to the spectator, and making a barricade with his spear, which he holds horizontally, is a motley group of on-lookers, not unlike that which we may see any day in one of our criminal courts. Of these, one more furious than the rest is wildly gesticulating, and crying, as we may judge from his whole attitude, “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” and another, a little to the Saviour’s left, but in the second row behind Him, is leaning forward with mockery in his leering look, and making almost as if he would spit upon the Saintly One. There is but one really compassionate face in the crowd, and that is the face of a woman who, with an infant in her arms, most fitly represents those gentle daughters of Jerusalem who followed Jesus to Calvary with tears. Then, over the heads of the on-lookers, and out of the upper part of the doorway into the court, we get a glimpse of the quiet light of the morning as it sleeps upon the walls and turrets of the adjacent buildings. All these figures are so distinctly seen that you feel you could recognize them again if you met them anywhere; and a strange sense of reality comes upon you as you look at them, so that you forget that they are only painted, and imagine that you are gazing on living and breathing men. But, as yon sit awhile and look on, you gradually lose all consciousness of the presence of the mere on-lookers, and find your interest concentrated on these two white-robed ones, as if they were the only figures before you. The pose of the Christ is admirable. It is repose blended with dignity; self-possession rising into majesty. There is no agitation or confusion; no fear or misgiving; but, instead, the calm nobleness of Him Who has just been saying, “Thou couldst have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above.” The face alone disappoints. The eyes, which look so steadily at Pilate as if they were looking him through, seem to me to be cold, keen, and condemnatory, rather than compassionate and sad. They have not in them that deep well of tenderness out of which came the tears which He shed over Jerusalem, and which we expect to see in them when He is looking at the hopeless struggle of a soul which will not accept His aid … The Pilate is well-nigh faultless. Here is a great, strong man, the representative of the mightiest empire the world has ever seen, with a head indicating intellectual force, and a face, especially in its lower part, suggestive of sensual indulgence. There is ordinarily no want of firmness in him, as we may see from the general set of his features; but now there is in his countenance a marvellous mixture of humiliation and irresolution. He cannot lift his eyes to meet the gaze of Christ; and while one of his hands is nervously clutching at his robe, he is looking sadly into the other, whose fingers, even as we look at them, almost seem to twitch with perplexed irresolution. He is clearly pondering for himself the question which, a few moments before, he had addressed to the multitude, “What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?” He is annoyed that the case has been brought to him at all, and as he feels himself drifting on, against his own better judgment, toward yielding to the clamour of the multitude, he falls mightily in his own conceit, and begins to despise himself. He would at that moment give, oh, how much I to be rid of the responsibility of dealing with the Christ, but he cannot evade it; and so he sits there, drifting on to what he knows is a wrong decision, the very incarnation of the feeling which his own national poet described when he said, “I see and approve the better course; I follow the worse.” Thus, as we look at these two, we begin to discover that it was not so much Christ that was before Pilate as Pilate I that was before Christ. His was the testing experience. His was the trial; his, too, alas! was the degradation; and at that coming day, when the places shall be reversed, when Christ shall be on the judgment seat, and Pilate at the bar, there will still be that deep self.condemnation which the painter here has fixed upon his countenance. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
What shall I do then with Jesus?
The question that must be answered
Perhaps we all feel more or less a certain satisfaction that we have not, as Pilate had, to make that terrible decision which, with the limited knowledge of that day, we might have made as he did. Nevertheless, this question which Pilate asked, and which he answered so fatally, is a question which we have every one of us, still to answer. It is far more awful for us than it was for Pilate. We have to answer it with a full knowledge of what Jesus was and is. We have to answer it, aided by the light of centuries streaming upon that Divine face. So long as Christ is popular, so long as being with Him means going on safely with a rejoicing, happy multitude, there is no doubt or difficulty as to what we will do with Christ. We will gladly follow Him. But oh! brothers, there come awful moments in every experience-the Passion Week of each life-when the Christ stands pleading before your soul. A wild, frenzied mob of passions, prejudices, indulgences, sins, raise their murderous clamour, and demand that we shall give Him up; that we shall take into our favour some other popular idol, and each of us has then to answer the question, “What shall I do then with Jesus?” (T. T. Shore, M. A.)
Our treatment of Jesus
This is no dried or withered question, but one that throbs with warm and quick pulses in the heart of each one. We must do something with Jesus. He is here. What shall it be?
I. You can let Him stand without a word of recognition. But surely your sense of common courtesy will not allow that.
II. You can thrust Him back from your heart, and tell Him to stand aside. But surely you will not. Even Pilate treated Him better than that.
III. You can look on Him merely as an optician to help blind eyes, or an aurist to retune deaf ears, a friend, a good friend, a helpful companion, a cheerful passenger on shipboard. Yet what good will all that do you? Surely He is something more.
IV. You can take Him into your heart. That is the best thing you can do with Him, and the only safe thing. Trust Him. Love Him. What more could He do, than He has done, for you? (T. de Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The changed question
The question will, after a while, change, and it will not be any longer, “What shall we do with Jesus?” but “What will Jesus do with us?” Ring all the bells of eternity at the burning of a world! On that day, what do you think Christ will do with us? Why, He will say, “There is that man whom I called, that woman whose soul I importuned; but they would not any of My ways. I gave them innumerable opportunities of salvation. They rejected them all. Depart. I never knew you!” Blessed be God, that day has not come. Halt, ye destinies of eternity, and give one more chance! (T. de Witt Talmage, D. D.)
What shall we do with Jesus?
I. Some kind of answer must be given to this question.
1. It cannot be evaded. You must answer it.
2. Jesus Christ is offered to you as a means of salvation, etc., and you are free to accept or reject; but one of these two things you must do.
3. We know how Pilate answered this question.
4. This is the great question of the age.
5. It is a personal question.
II. Consider some of the answers that have been given to this question.
1. Some answer it by placing themselves in direct opposition to Christ, they give it a bold negative, they deny His Divinity, His gospel, and His claims.
2. Others give an answer that seems more respectful: they say, “Probably His claims are well founded; but association with Him would involve separation from friends and pursuits we love-we will do without Him,” etc.
3. Others give a somewhat imposing reply, but think they need not be too intimate with Him, etc.
4. Others admit His claims but delay their decision.
5. Others accept Him as their Guide and Saviour, etc.
III. The answer God expects us to give. Welcome Him to our hearts. Love Him supremely. Obey Him fully. Serve Him faithfully and constantly. (S. Smith.)
What will you do with Jesus?-I
remember a young man in New York city, whose father I knew. He was a great prodigal, and had broken his mother’s heart, and brought her down to the grave in sorrow. Every night he was out carousing with boon companions. The father’s heart was just broken too, and one night a few weeks after the mother’s death the young man was just starting out; the old man said, “My son, I want one favour of you. I would like you to stay at home and spend one night with me.” The young man said he did not want to stay, it was so gloomy. “But,” said the father, “will you not stay and gratify your aged father? You know your conduct killed your poor mother. My boy, won’t you say?” The old man pleaded with him, and just begged him to stay, but the boy said, “No, I am not going to stay at home.” The old father put forth one more effort to save his prodigal boy, and he threw himself down before him in the hall. What did that boy do? He just leaped over the body, and went out to join his comrades. There is not one of you but would say, “That was an ungrateful wretch, not fit to live.” Ah, sinner, what would you do with Christ in such a case? Why, many of you, I believe, if He were to throw Himself down before you and plead with you, you would step right over Him. And now, sinner, what will you do with Christ? Will you send back the insulting message that you do not want Christ to rule over you. Oh, may God forbid it, and this very night may there be hundreds who shall receive Him. (D. L. Moody)
When Pilate saw that he could pervail nothing.
Pilate a type of self-justifying rejectors of the gospel
Observe the resemblance in his evasive pleas.
1. Assuming that the matter presented had no claims on him-“Take ye Him.”
2. Substituting a favourable opinion of Christ for a decision-“I find in Him no fault at all.” “I have the highest regard for the Christian religion,” say some.
3. Assmning that it was out of his power to decide-“And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction he sent Him to Herod” (Luke 23:7). A law is in the way, perhaps the Divine decree: the law of inherited corruption.
4. Proposing a compromise-”I will therefore chastise Him and release Him.” With Christ in some things quiets conscience.
5. Surrendering the rights of judgment “What shall I do with Jesus?” I submit the case to your decision.
6. Turning censor-“Why, what evil hath He done?” (S. V. McCorkle.)
Pilate and his modern imitators
I. Whoever does wickedness through others is not less wicked than they, but more. Pilate was no less guilty because the Jews hated and condemned Christ first. As soon as he said to them, “Take Him; see ye to it,” he did all that was necessary to make him a partaker in their villainy..
II. Evil which many men commit is not distributively borne. If a thousand men commit a murder, each man is not guilty of one thousandth part of that murder; but of the whole.
III. Evil actions are not less guilty because they are done for reasons of state. Pilate sacrificed Christ from political considerations.
IV. Wickedness which a man can prevent, and which he does not prevent, inculpates him. (H. W. Beecher.)
Better to be a Puritan than a Pilate
There is another point. This makes me a Puritan. I had rather be a Puritan than a Pilate. What is a Pilate? A Pilate is one of those courtly gentlemen, polished, tasteful expert, who is not disturbed nor warped by convictions in over-measure; who looks upon all moral qualities as a gambler looks upon cards, which he shuffles, and plays according to the exigency of his game-and one just as easy as another. A Pilate is a man who believes in letting things have their own way. “Do not sacrifice yourself. Do not get in the way of a movement. Do the best thing. Live in peace with your time. Be not like the fool, who stands in his own light. Maintain good appearances-that is profitable. See to it that you do not go too far, one way or another. Study the interest of Number One all through. And, whatever comes, see that you come out uppermost. Do not be gross, brutal, fanatical-that is not profitable. Preserve your balance. See that you keep your eye on the chances. If they go this way, you go with them far enough to reap them. If they go the other way, go with them. Do not be too scrupulous. Be just enough so to gain your ends. Use men, use events, use everything that is profitable. Do not use your conscience too much i “ This is the language of the Pilates of our day. Those men who ride astride of the times, and of administrations, and of policies; those men who are polished, cold, calculating, speculating-these are the Pirates-the Pilates, I mean! It was a blunder of the lip, but, after all, it hit right! (H. W. Beecher.)
Lessons from the incidents
I. Men have not always that strict regard to justice and honour, that might be reasonably expected from their stations and characters.
II. Truth and innocence are frequently overpowered by numbers, and oppressed by noise and tumult.
III. A party spirit does oftentimes hurry men to the most fatal extremities. (William West.)
His blood be on us.
God taking self-cursers at their word
God said Amen to this woeful curse, which cleaves close to them and their posterity, as a girdle to their loins, soaking as oil into their bones to this very day. Thirty-eight years after this fearful imprecation, in the same place, and close by the same tribunal where they thus cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children,” historians tell us that Herod, wanting money, demanded of the Jews so much out of their treasury as would pay for the making of a water-course. But the Jews, supposing it a needless work, not only denied him, but gave him outrageous stud spiteful speeches, tumultuously flocked about him, and with great clamours pressed upon him, even as he was in his seat. Whereupon, to prevent mischief, he sent to his soldiers to apparel themselves like citizens, and under their gowns to bring with them a dagger or poniard, and mingle themselves amongst the multitude; which they did, observing who they were that made the greatest uproar. And when Herod gave the sign, they fell upon them, and slew a great multitude. Many also, for fear of loss or danger, killed themselves; besides others, which seeing this massacre, suspecting treason among themselves, fell one upon another. What a dispersed and despised people they are ever since 1 exiled, as it were, out of the world, by the common consent of all nations, for their inexpiable guilt. And beware by their example, of wishing evil to ourselves or others, as our desperate Goddamn-toe’s do at every third word almost, and God will undoubtedly take them at their words, as He did those wretches that wished they might die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:28). As He did John Peters, the cruel keeper of Newgate in Queen Mary’s days; who commonly, when he would affirm anything, were it true or false, used to say, “If it be not true, I pray God, I rot ere I die; “ and he had his desire. So had Sir Gervase Ellowais, lieutenant of the Tower, hanged in our remembrance on Tower-hill, for being accessory to the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury: who being upon the gallows, confessed it was just upon him, for that he had oft in his playing of cards and dice wished that he might be hanged if it were not so-and-so. In the year 1551, the devil in a visible shape lifted up a cursing woman into the air in Germany; and therehence threw her down in the view of many people, and brake her neck. Another brought her daughter to Luther, entreating his prayers for her, for that she was possessed by the devil, upon her cursing of her. For when she had said in a rage against her daughter, “The devil take thee,” he took possession of her accordingly. The same author relates a like sad story of a stubborn son, cursed by his father, who wished he might never stir alive from the place he stood in, and he stirred not for three years. Cursing men are cursed men. Seest thou another suffer shipwreck, look to thy tackling. (J. Trapp.)
His blood be on us and on our children
I. Consider the daring impiety and wickedness of thus calling down on themselves the blood of Christ.
II. Consider the heavy wrath of God which fell on them. In the destruction of Jerusalem.
1. We gather an awful warning from this history. The fulfilment in the Jew of God’s righteous anger.
2. It establishes the perfect innocence of the condemned Saviour. The destruction of the Jewish nation was God’s seal to the perfect righteousness of Him whom they put to death.
3. This fearful vengeance upon the Jewish nation stands also as an evidence of the truth of the gospel.
4. We have also a moral evidence of the truth of the scriptures in the whole Jewish nation. God hath kept them separate from the nations.
5. Learn to pity and pray for all who do not know the Lord Jesus. (J. Pratt.)
The responsibility of blood
Can we bring this blood upon ourselves? The murderers of Christ may be amongst ourselves. The means of blessing perverted into a curse. The means of blessing is the blood of Jesus Christ, prefigured by sacrifice. Blood provided must be blood imputed. His blood be on us-this is our salvation. Blood provided, imputed, accepted. It was sin that compassed His death. You then who knowingly continue in sin have identified yourselves with the enemies who killed our Lord. His blood is on you. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
The horrid imprecation of the Jews
I. The aggravating circumstances with which the imprecation was attended, and the solemnity, unanimity, and warmth with which it was expressed.
II. The wonderful manner with which it was accomplished, in the destruction of the city and nation of the Jews.
III. The justice of God vindicated, in respect to these sufferers. His wisdom, by making them, in their destruction, an irrefragable proof of our Saviour’s Divine mission; and in their dispersion, means of propagating those Divine oracles that foretold and described him.
IV. Inferences to be deduced-
1. To abstain from all rash and horrid imprecations, and to aim at simplicity of speech, as well as sincerity of heart, and integrity of manners.
2. TO admire the inscrutable methods of God’s providence, in bringing about the salvation of sinners; and making the scandal of the cross turn to its greatest advantage.
3. To attribute the infidelity of those men to a judicial blindness, who live where the gospel of Christ is professed, and yet shut their eyes against the light of it.
4. To be fearful of despising the mercies of God, and falling into that sin, by which God’s peculiar people forfeited His protection and favour. (F. Atterbury.)
And when they had platted a crown of thorns.
Mocked of the soldiers
The shameful spectacle! What element of scorn is lacking? Roman soldiers mocking a supposed rival of Caesar are sure to go to the utmost lengths in their derision. The spectacle is as cruel as it is derisive. Thorns and rough blows accentuate mockeries and scoffs. Roman legionaries were the brutalized instruments of a race noted for its ignorance of all tenderness; they wrought cruelties with a singular zest, being most at home in amusements of the most cruel kind.
I. Hers learn a lesson for your heart.
1. See what sin deserved. All laid on Him.
(a) Ridicule for its folly.
(b) Scorn for its pretensions.
(c) Shame for its audacity.
2. See how low your Saviour stooped for your sake.
(a) Made the substitute for foolish, sinful man; and treated as such.
(b) Scoffed at by soldiers of meanest grade.
(c) Made a puppet for men who play the fool.
3. See how your Redeemer loved you. He bears immeasurable contempt, in silence, to the bitter end.
4. See the grand facts behind the scorn.
(a) He is a King in very surety.
(b) Glorified by conquering earth’s sorrow.
(c) Rules by weakness.
(d) Makes men bow the knee.
(e) True Monarch of the Jews.
5. See that you honour and love Him in proportion to this shame and mockery. The more vile He has made Himself for us, the more dear He ought to be to us.
II. A lesson for the conscience.
1. Jesus may still be mocked.
(a) By deriding His people.
(b) By despising His doctrine.
(c) By resolves never fulfilled.
(d) By beliefs never obeyed.
(e) By professions never justified. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The crown of thorns
According to the Rabbis and the botanists, there would seem to have been from twenty to twenty-five different species of thorny plants growing in Palestine; and different writers have, according to their own judgment or fancies, selected one and another of these plants as the peculiar thorns which were used upon this occasion. But why select one thorn out of many? He bore not one grief, but all; any and every thorn will suffice; the very dubiousness as to the peculiar species yields us instruction. It may well be that more than one kind of thorn was platted in that crown: at any rate sin has so thickly strewn the earth with thorns and thistles that there was no difficulty in finding the materials, even as there was no scarcity of griefs wherewith to chasten Him every morning and make Him a mourner all His days. The soldiers may have used pliant boughs of the acacia or shittim tree, that unrotting wood of which many of the sacred tables and vessels of the sanctuary were made; and, therefore, significantly used if such was the case. It may have been true, as the old writers generally consider, that the plant was the spina Christi, for it has many small and sharp spines, and its green leaves would have made a wreath such as those with which generals and emperors were crowned after a battle. But we will leave the matter; it was a crown of thorns which pierced His head, and caused Him suffering as well as shame, and that suffices us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Christian’s crown, not gold but thorns
That thorn crown cures us of desire for the vain glories of the world, it dims all human pomp and glory till it turns to smoke. It takes the glitter from your gold, and the lustre from your gems, and the beauty from all your dainty gewgaws, to see that no imperial purple can equal the glory of His blood, no gems can rival His thorns. Show and parade cease to attract the soul, when once the superlative excellencies of the dying Saviour have been discerned by the enlightened eye. Who seeks for ease when he has seen the Lord Christ? If Christ wears a crown of thorns, shall we covet a crown of laurel? Even the fierce Crusader, when he entered into Jerusalem and was elected king, had sense enough to say, “I will not wear a crown of gold in the same city where my Saviour wore a crown of thorns.” Why should we desire, like feather-bed soldiers, to have everything arranged for our ease and pleasure? Why this reclining upon couches, when Jesus hangs on a cross? Why this soft raiment, when He is naked? Why these luxuries, when He is barbarously entreated? Thus the thorn crown cures us at once of the vain glory of the world, and of our own selfish love of ease. The world’s minstrel may cry, “He, boy, come hither, and crown me with rosebuds!” but the voluptuary’s request is not for us. For us neither delights of the flesh nor the pride of life can have charms while the Man of Sorrows is in view. For us it remains to suffer and to labour, till the King shall bid us share His rest. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Crowned with thorns
I. The crown of thorns was placed upon the brow of our Divine Redeemer in derision of His true kingly dignity. It suggests the world’s general treatment of His claims. Herod’s question-“Art Thou a King?” Christ claims this supremacy on the ground of His Divine fulness and sufficiency as our Redeeming God.
II. The crown of thorns reminds us of kingship over suffering, or the passive perfection of the Lord Jesus.
III. Of the disappointments which are inseparable from the earthly and the seen. (C. H. Davison.)
The crown of thorns
1. A striking exhibition of the intense love of Christ to guilty man.
2. The profound depth of His abasement.
3. The development of the nature of that kingdom which Christ came into this world to establish.
4. There is a description of the character, tendency, and issue of the affliction of the righteous. Afflictions prick and tear, but suffering is a crown.
5. An affecting image of the reality, extent, and the permanence of the dominion of Christ. (J. Clayton.)
The thorn crown
I. See what that age must have sunk to. We test forces in depravity by their resistance of good. Rome decadent! Do you know its wealth, armies, etc. It was withal corrupt, dying.
II. See what a limited power Christ’s enemies have. They can put thorns on His head, but none on His heart. How calm in all His sorrow. The keenest physical agony is little felt in the joyous sense of triumphant love for others.
III. See what suffering love can do.
IV. See what is the sin of the world today. Our rebellion is a crown of thorns on his heart.
V. See the altered verdict of the ages. The crown was then a mockery, now a royal symbol. Learn
(1) never to be carried away by a mere temporary judgment;
(2) what a contrast we have in the glorious vision of the Apocalypse, “On His head were many crowns.” (W. M. Statham.)
The crown of thorns
The crown of thorns symbolized-
I. That Christ was about to bear the curse for sinful man. Thorns were part of the original curse upon the soil.
II. That Christ was about to endure pain for sinful man. The piercing thorns were harbingers of the cruel spear and nails.
III. That Christ was about to conquer death for dying man. Christ was crowned before He came to the cross; undesignedly indicating His victory. (F. W. Brown.)
Him they compelled to bear His cross.
Simon bearing the cross
I. We may derive from this narrative A confirmation of our faith. It was in accordance with the customs of the country; the correspondence is minute. Not compassion towards Christ that His cross was carried.
II. An affecting illustration of our Saviour’s love.
1. The preliminary sufferings were marked by severity.
2. The preliminary sufferings were marked by ignominy.
III. We may see an incitement to christian obedience.
1. TO self-denial
2. To observance of the public ordinances of religion. (R. Brodie, M. A.)
Simon the Cyrenian
I. It is interesting to remark that the accomplishment of ancient prophecy seems often to have hung upon a thread, so that the least thing, a thought, a word, might have sufficed to prevent its occurrence. The marvel is that the enemies of Christ were not more on the alert than to allow things to be done which they could see were evidences of His Messiahship. How easy for them to have taken care that vinegar and gall should not be given Him on the cross. It is a striking proof of the certainty with which God can reckon on every working of the human mind. Isaac was a type of Christ; he carried the wood on which he was to be sacrificed. This type was fulfilled when our Lord was led forth carrying His cross. This was the better Isaac, bearing the wood for the burnt-offering. Yet how near was the prophecy to being defeated! It was only for a part of the way that Christ carried the cross.
II. What induced the fierce and brutal soldiers to grant the redeemer this little indulgence, and relieve Him for a time of the burden of the cross. They probably feared, from the exhausted condition of our Lord, that death would ensue before He reached Calvary. This an incidental notice which shows us how great were the endurances of the Mediator. This incident shows us that Christ was as sensitive to bodily pain as we are.
III. The incident symbolical. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” He teaches His disciples that they must bear the same cross as Himself. St. Paul says:-”I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh,” etc. There is no greater mistake than to represent it as an easy thing to attain eternal life; the bearing the cross is the indispensable condition of wearing the crown. Many a cross is of our own manufacture, the consequence of our sin; these are not the cross which was laid upon Simon, and which had first been on Christ. “They are counted worthy to suffer shame for His name”-so we read of the apostles. The offence of the cross has not ceased. The followers of Christ gain nothing by those compromises which may be made in hopes of conciliating the world. You will make it all the heavier by avoiding it when it lies in the clear path of duty. But take comfort: the cross was carried by Christ before it was carried by Simon. And is this all that was typically represented by the laying of the cross on Simon the Cyrenian? Indeed we ought never to press a type too far: it is easy, by indulging the imagination, to injure or bring into discredit the whole of the figurative lesson. Yet there is one thing more which we would venture to advance, though we may not speak with the same confidence as when asserting that Christ taught by action, as He had before taught by word, that His disciples must suffer with Him, if they ever hope to reign. We have already mentioned our inability to ascertain any particulars respecting Simon, or even to determine whether he were a Jew or a Pagan. Many of the ancient fathers suppose him to have been a Pagan, and consider that, in being made to bear the cross after Christ, He typified the conversion of idolatrous nations which either have been or will be brought to a profession of faith in our Lord. And there are no such reasons against this opinion as can require its rejection, nor such even as can show that the weight of probability is on the opposite side. We must be therefore at liberty to entertain the opinion, and, at least, to point out the inferences which would follow on supposition of its truth. But once let it be considered that Simon was a Pagan, and our text becomes one of those bright, prophetic lines which shoot through centuries of gloom, giving promise of a morning, if they cannot scatter night. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The cross to be borne gladly
Mr. Simeon, of Cambridge, conversing with Mr. Gurney, made the following remarks:-“Should you see a poor maniac knocking his head against a wall, and beating out his brains, you would not be angry with him, however he might taunt you. You would pity him from your very soul; you would direct all your energies to save him from destruction. So it will be with you: the world will mock and trample on you: a man shall come, and, as it were, slap you on the face. You rub your face and say, ‘ This is strange work; I like it not, sir.’ Never mind, I say, this is your evidence; it turns to you for a testimony. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but now you are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Many years ago, when I was an object of much contempt and derision in this university, I strolled forth one day, buffeted and afflicted, with my little Testament in my hand. I prayed earnestly to my God, that He would comfort me with some cordial from His word, and that, on opening the Book I might find some text which should sustain me. The first text which caught my eye was this: ‘ They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear His cross.’ You know Simon is the same name as Simeon. What a world of instruction was here-what a blessed hint for my encouragement! To have the cross laid upon me, that I might bear it after Jesus-what a privilege! It was enough. Now I could leap and sing for joy as one whom Jesus was honouring with a participation in His sufferings. My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs.”
And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots.
The watch by the cross
The thought of those who with tender heart watch by the cross of Jesus.
I. The first thought concerns the visible tragic elements of the scene.
II. The contemplation of the sufferer, His character, and His works.
III. The Divine permission of these atrocities.
IV. What a plenitude of grace there is in this Divine provision. (J. H. Davison.)
I. The spectacle.
1. There was that which all might see.
2. There was that which only enlightened and quickened minds can see.
II. The spectators and their various emotions. Of the spectators some were-
3. Good. (Anon.)
I. The process of the crucifixion.
1. The preliminary by which it was preceded.
2. The act itself.
3. The explanation by which the act was accompanied.
II. The designs of the crucifixion.
1. It was the accomplishment of a Divine purpose.
2. In order to offer an all-sufficient atonement for human sin.
3. In order that it might found for our Lord an exalted mediatorial empire.
III. The conclusions which the crucifixion should leave on the hearts of those who contemplate it.
1. To esteem supremely the love from which it emanated.
2. To repent humbly of the transgressions it was necessary to pardon.
3. To repose implicitly upon the merit by which it is signalized.
4. To avow zealously the cause with which it is identified. (J. Parsons.)
I. What they did to Him. “They crucified Him.”
II. How He conducted Himself under it.
III. The results of all this.
1. A great consternation did befall the universe at this crucifixion.
2. It gave to the church its sublimest and most central theme.
3. It established a city of refuge for guilty men.
4. It was the opening of a fountain for the washing away of sin.
5. It was the stretching forth of a mighty hand to help, comfort, and deliver in every time of need.
6. It gave to the believing soul a pillow on which to lie down and peace. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
That is the Bible’s picture of gamblers. What is gambling? It is neither begging nor stealing, but it resembles both in that it consists in getting money from another for which you have rendered no honest equivalent. The winner of a bet has rendered no service at all to country or to the individual; and ought to feel a sense of theft. Do you ask where is God’s commandment against it? “In its results scored deeply on the character of gamblers.” The love of gaming springs from the love of excitement that is in our nature. It unfits a man for life’s duties. It is strange how uniformly no good comes of it. It has been disallowed by all ethical and religious teachers. (B. J. Snell, M. A.)
Gambling unproductive of wealth
In honest business you give an equivalent for so much received. It may be a service, or it may be the result of service. The farmer gives his farm produce, the result of his toil; the mechanic renders his skill; the pilot his knowledge of the channel; the lawyer his acute knowledge required to navigate channels more intricate. In any one of these cases money is earned by the performance of actual service, and in every case the body politic is the richer for the service. But gambling is unproductive, the wealth of the whole body is not increased. The only result is the circulation of moneys, and even that is a questionable benefit seeing that the cash is but transferred from the pocket of the fools to the pocket of the knaves, always with a contingent reversion to the publican. The community is no more enriched by the mere circulation of gold than the level of a pool is raised by a tempest blowing upon it; gain in one direction is balanced by loss in another. (B. J. Snell, M. A.)
The excitement of gambling
The love of gaming springs from the love of excitement that is in our nature. This has existed always and everywhere. Tacitus says that the ancient Germans would stake their property and even their life on the throw of the dice-box. The typical Asiatic will risk child or wife on the turn of a die or the fighting of a game-cock. Civilization does not seem to diminish the fascination of gambling. And excitement, so long as it is within bounds, is healthful, bracing, and necessary; beyond these bounds (which no man can well define for another), it is exhausting and destructive. At first a man bets to gain a new sensation, a certain thrill of the nerves; to repeat the pleasant thrill an increased dose is necessary. The sensation itself palls; it must be intensified. The process itself is luring, and at last it heats every part of the mind like an oven. It is notorious that the passion grows; no more experiments need to be tried in that direction, vivisection could not demonstrate it more amply. The winnings that come so easily are not so much the gifts of fortune as they are the baits of misfortune that lead on to beggary. Nice distinctions are drawn between “playing” and gambling. Play is harmless so long as it is play; but “playing” is a seed that comes up “gambling.” It is a dangerous seed to play with. Not drunkenness itself is as hard to cure as is the gambling mania when it has once enthralled a man; he cares only for it-every passion is absorbed into that one intense consuming lust. The day lags heavy on his hands without it, all other pursuits are tasteless; he is only alive when he is gaming, and then the very dregs of his soul are stirred into fearful activity. (B. J. Snell, M. A.)
The watchers round the cross
Note the varied types of watchers around the cross.
1. The careless watch of the soldiers.
2. The jealous watch of the enemies.
3. The anxious watch of the women.
4. The wondering watch of angels on high. (Anon.)
The blind watchers at the cross
These rude soldiers had doubtless joined with their comrades in the coarse mockery which preceded the sad procession to Calvary; and then they had to do the rough work of the executioners, fastening the sufferers to the rude wooden crosses, lifting these with their burden, fixing them into the ground, then parting the raiment. And when all that is done they sit stolidly down to take their ease at the foot of the cross, and idly to wait, with eyes that look and see nothing, until the sufferers die. A strange picture!
I. How ignorant men are of the real meaning and outcome of what they do. Think of what a corporal’s guard of rough English soldiers, out in Northern India, would think if they were bade to hang a native charged with rebellion against the British Government. So much, and no more did these men know of what they were doing. And so with us all. No man knows the real meaning, the possible issue and outcome of a great deal in our lives. If we are wise, we will let results alone, and just take care that our motive is right.
II. Responsibility is limited by knowledge. These men were ignorant of what they were doing, and therefore guiltless. God weighs, not counts, our actions.
III. It is possible to look at Christ on the cross and see nothing. For half a day there these soldiers sat, and it was but a dying Jew they saw-one of three. They were the unmoved witnesses of God manifest in the flesh, dying on the cross for the whole world, and for them. Their ignorance made them blind. Let us all pray to have our ignorance and blindness removed, our hearts softened by the sight of Christ crucified for us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Two thieves crucified with Him.
Jesus between two robbers
I. The moral condition of these men before crucifixion-Robbers. They are also called “malefactors.” At the earlier stage of the proceedings these two men were equally depraved.
II. The moral condition of these men after they were affixed to the cross. In the case of one-
1. There was a beholding of the crucified Jesus.
2. There was a perception of his own sinfulness and of the purity of Christ.
3. There is a prayer for a participation in all that Christ has to offer.
4. His acceptance promised by Jesus. The other sinner mocks our Lord. The men the same at first, but now how changed the condition of one.
III. The position these two robbers occupied in respect to Christ.
1. Christ is placed on the central cross. He was first suspended on the cross by the cruel malignity of men.
2. That Christ’s sufferings were for all men. He was crucified between two, not on one side.
3. These robbers were the representative men of the world.
4. You may perish with Christ close beside you. (G. Venables.)
The three crosses
I. There may be the same outward circumstances where there is the greatest inward diversity.
II. We have no choice as to the fact of suffering: our choice refers only to its nature. Each has his own cross: Christ was not without one. The wicked have their woes.
1. The sufferings of the good are consoled.
2. The sufferings of the good are limited-“For a season.”
III. The means used for Christ’s disgrace promote His glory. Satan was wounded by his own weapon: and the robber designed to insult our Lord was saved. Thus temptation is turned to good ends. (T. R. Stevenson.)
Christ dying amid thieves
There then are the two stories (of the thieves and of Jesus). See how far apart they begin. One in the innocence of perfect holiness; the other in the blackest wickedness. And then see how they meet at last. As when a black and turbid stream goes hurrying towards a cavern’s gloom, into which it is destined to plunge itself oat of sight, and just before it reaches its dark doom, a pure fresh river that was born among the snows in the sunlight on the mountain’s top, and has sung its way down through flowers, drops its quiet, transparent waters down into the tumultuous current, and shares its plunge, so the pure holiness of Christ fell into the stream of human wickedness, and shared its fate. (Phillips Brooks.)
The penitent thief
The different effects the judgments of God have upon the minds of men. The wisdom of God in setting the examples of His justice and mercy so near together, and has taught us to fear without despair, and to hope without presumption. What would the dying sinner give to have his Saviour so near him in his last moments.
I. Let us see the circumstances which distinguish it from that of the dying Christian.
1. In all this there may be nothing resembling a death-bed repentance. The dying thief seems to have heard and known much about the character of Christ: he had elsewhere learnt His dignity and was persuaded of the truth of His mission. And what is this to them who have no desire to lie down Christians upon their death-beds, though they would willingly go off penitents.
2. Suppose this great work were begun and finished on the cross, yet it cannot be drawn into example by Christian sinners; because the conversion of a Jew or a heathen is one thing, and the repentance of a Christian another.
3. The profligate life of this unconverted sinner was not attended with such aggravated circumstances as the sins of Christians are. He sinned against the light of nature and reason only. The greater his weakness was, the fitter object for mercy was he. Not the same excuses for Christians.
II. But there are other circumstances fit to be observed which render a death-bed repentance very insecure and dangerous, though we should allow it all the hopes which have been raised from the case before us.
1. He that sins in hopes of repentance at last, may sin so far as to grow hardened and obdurate, and imcapable of repentance when the time cosines. Nor is it in your own power to sin to what degree you please; habits grow insensibly. There is more reason to fear that sin indulged will get the better of you, than you of it.
2. Could you preserve your resolutions of repentance, yet still it is not in your own power to secure an opportunity to execute them. The thief on the cross died by the hand of justice, knew how long he had to live; he had no pretence to defer his repentance.
3. His death not being the effect of disease, but of the judge’s sentence, he brought with him to the cross, which you may call his death-bed, a sound body and mind. He had his senses perfectly, his reason fresh, and was capable of faith and acts of devotion. How different is the case of the languishing sinner. How can one know His Saviour who cannot know even his own luther at such a time. (T. Sherlock, D. D.)
He saved others; Himself lie cannot save.
He saved others, Himself He cannot save
I. The incontestible fact-“He saved others.” Let us bring forth witnesses: Angels, healed men and women.
II. Himself He cannot save. He is Divine. The world was made by Him; yet Himself He cannot save. The acts of unlimited providence are ascribed to Him” He sustaineth all things by the word of His power.” “Himself He cannot save.” The resurrection of the dead, administration of judgment are ascribed to Him. “Himself He cannot save.” The power to save Himself is demonstrated in those very acts by which He “saved others.” The devils were subject to Him. “No man taketh my life from Me, I lay it down of Myself.”
III. However paradoxical all this may seem, I must proceed to establish the momentous truth ignorantly expressed in those words. In its literal sense it was false; Jesus was not destitute of physical power to save Himself; in its theological sense it was true. There was no original necessity that the Son of God must die; He might have left the race to perish. The necessity of the death of Jesus was founded-
1. In the purpose and foreordination of God.
2. On the fulfilment which that event gives to the predictions of sacred Scripture.
3. To fulfil the typical representations by which, under the Mosaic law, it had been prefigured.
4. In order to verify His own declarations.
5. As a sacrificial atonement for the sins of the world.
6. In order to the effusion of the Holy Spirit.
7. Even in order to the perfection of His example.
1. The affecting display which our subject presents of the love of Christ.
2. The glorious and certain effects of the Redeemer’s sufferings.
3. I conjure you to seek a personal interest in the important benefits of the Saviour’s death.
4. Let it be the theme of your meditation and the confirmation of your faith. (J. Bowers.)
Success in apparent failure
Christ seems a failure. Thus His enemies asserted and His friends seemed to admit it. Where they right?
I. What is success?
1. Certainly not that which is merely in appearance strong, beautiful, or prosperous, for inwardly it may be quite different. The ship on the waters may be beautiful to look at, but if made of inferior material is not a success.
2. Not that which is good merely for the time being. The finest house built on a sand-hill has its ruin beneath it.
3. Nor is it a necessary element of success, that it should confer aught of benefit or reward upon him who has brought it about. The highest favour often comes after death.
4. Nor is any result, however magnificent, obtained on doubtful principles worthy of this royal title. God and His laws are against it. Success is that good purpose which hath been conducted upon right principles to a prosperous and durable completion.
II. Christ we claim was and is a success.
1. His purpose was good-to “save His people from their sins.”
2. His purpose was conducted upon pure and holy principles.
3. Though small in its beginnings His purpose is evidently intended to prosper. His influence has been steadily increasing.
4. His success is always durable.
III. Hence the pharisees erred. They mistook the dawn of success for the clouds of a coming failure. The causes that led them to the error.
1. The bad habit of looking only at the outside of things. They were quick to see a colour or a cloth, but not a principle.
2. Because they judged results by what they wanted instead of by what He wanted. They wanted a temporal Messiah, He a spiritual.
3. Because they deemed success a matter of thirty or forty years instead of all time.
4. They could not understand His tearing self out of view. The omnipotence of love exceeds mere physical almightiness. (W. W. Walker.)
The Saviour of all bus Himself
I. What they deemed he could do. “Himself He cannot save.”
1. He could. It was not in the power of man.
2. He could not. He would fulfil the Scripture.
II. What they allowed he could do. (S. H. Simpson.)
When originally spoken.
I. Implied a critical position.
II. Expressed a mistaken view of religion. The men who saw the Saviour dying thought exclusively of the present; were more concerned for pain and physical deprivation than for sin; argued from self-love to the salvation of others.
III. Witnessed unconsciously to the principle of atonement. A moral necessity compelled Him to die: the righteousness of God had to be vindicated; He could only save others (in the deeper sense of the word) by self-sacrifice. The great question with us all now should be, not “Could He save Himself?” or “Could He save others?” but, “Has He saved us-has He enfranchised us from self?” (A. F. Muir, M. A.)
Many voices from Calvary; all significant.
I. A great truth. Truer word never uttered. Who meant by” others”? Whoever referred to, the words true. This His work day by day. All ages shall declare that this testimony of enemies was true.
II. A falsehood. He could save Himself. Did the speakers know their words were false?
III. A latent truth. Concealed from the men who proclaimed it. A power at work within Christ which made it impossible for Him to save Himself. Impossibility seen in whatever way we regard His death. As a martyr, example, victim of sin, substitute for sin, He could not save Himself. Conclusion: The death of Christ a lesson of self-sacrifice. The highest rule in the world that of Christ. His Spirit’s rule who could not save Himself. Is the cross of Christ such a power in our lives as to lead us in daily life to feel and to show that though we can, yet we cannot? Appeal to men to yield themselves to Him who gave Himself for them. (J. M. Blackie, LL. B.)
He saved others, Himself He cannot save.-
Necessity of the cross
These men only needed to alter one letter to be grandly and gloriously right. If, instead of “cannot,” they had said “will not,” they would have grasped the very heart of the power, and the very central brightness of the glory of Christianity. “He saved others; “ and just because He saves others, Himself He will not, and, in a real sense, “He cannot, save.”… It was His own will, and no outward necessity, that fastened Him to the cross; and that will was kept steadfast and immoveable by nothing else but His love: He Himself fixed the iron chain which bound Him. He Himself made the” cannot.” It was His love that made it impossible He should relinquish the task; therefore His steely will, like a strong spring constantly working, kept Him close up against the sharp edge of the knife that cut into His very heart’s life. Though there were outward powers that seemed to knit Him there, and though to the eye of sense the taunt of the priests might be true, “Himself He cannot save,”-the inmost verity of that cross is, “No man taketh My life from Me, I lay it down of Myself, because I love and will save the world.”… Yet a Divine necessity for the cross there was. No saving of men from any evil can be effective but at the cost of self-sacrifice. The lamp burns out in the very act of giving light. So that, while on the one side there is necessity, on the other there is free, willing submission. It was not high priests, Pilate, soldiers, nails, that fastened Jesus to the cross. He was bound there by the cords of love, and by the bands of his own infinitely merciful purpose. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
He saved others, Himself He cannot save
I. The confession made by the bitterest enemies of the Lord Jesus. They had long tried falsehood, now they admit the truth-“He saved others.” But we may go back to the earlier eras in proof of this assertion. It was He that saved Lot; the Egyptians from bondage; the people out of Babylon. He is able to save others to the uttermost of human guilt, to the uttermost of human life, to the uttermost of human time. How it comes to pass that He who saved others, could not save Himself? It was not for want of power, for He had all power in heaven and earth. It was not through any deadness to a feeling of pain; for his sensibilities were keen. It was not from any ignorance of the issue. The answer is, “He came to seek and to save, etc.” The inability to save Himself was not physical.
I. It arose from the nature of the work he had undertaken. Without shedding of blood was no remission. If others were to be saved Christ must die.
II. The everlasting purpose of the Father was another reason why He could not save Himself.
III. The Saviour’s free undertaking of the office of a Priest and Victim and Redeemer brought Him into the condition that while He saved others Himself He could not save. He pledged Himself to go through with the amazing work of redemption, even though hell oppose.
IV. The glory and honour of God made ,it the only alternative that while He saved others, Himself He could not save.
V. The love that He bore to us is another reason of the truth of the text. Learn:
1. The inseparable connection that subsists between the sacrifice of Jesus and the salvation of His people.
2. Deduce the length, height, depth of the love of Jesus.
3. What a fearful and obnoxious thing is sin.
4. What must be the great theme of the gospel ministry. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
There was darkness over all the land.
Good Friday and its lessons
A dark shadow belongs to the best of things.
I. The first lesson is patience and perseverance. We must be patient with others if they stumble in the darkness, if they do not at once find their way towards the truth.
II. The darkness of Good Friday is a likeness of the opposition which each one of us ought to be, and will be, called upon to face, in doing his duty.
III. The darkness of the dismal tragedy of the crucifixion reminds us of the consoling truth that failures are not perpetual failures. Good Friday was outwardly a failure; the Easter morn was its complete success. (Dean Stanley.)
A sermon suggested by an eclipse of the sun
The infidel has attempted to impugn its credibility. He has urged: “Why we do not read of it in profane history?”
1. That, according to the evangelical history, the darkness may not have extended beyond the limits of Judea. If this be true it would not be observed in Greece, Italy, or any other country beyond Judea.
2. The historical accounts of that period, especially of matters then occurring in Judea, are, if we except those of the New Testament, very scanty indeed.
3. The policy of both Jews and Gentiles who were opposed to Christianity, was to suppress facts that might tend to record it.
4. It is assuming what cannot be proved when it is said that this event is not named by other than Christian writers. Most of the works of that time have perished; and Tertullian, in his apology for the Christian religion, addressed to the magistates of the empire and to the Senate of Rome, appeals as having this miraculous darkness preserved in their archives.
I. This darkness as indicating the agency which then predominated. Sin was then prevailing over holiness.
II. This darkness as indicating the crime which was then perpetrated.
III. This darkness as indicating the sufferings which were then endured.
IV. This darkness as indicating the evils which were then removed.
V. This darkness as indicating the judgments that were then incurred. (W. Urwick, D. D.)
My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
The forsaken Christ
the desertion itself is plain. “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Then He felt Himself to be forsaken? The Divine nature could not be separated from the human; He was eternally God. Nor could the Father be separated from the Son in the Divine Godhead, since that in affection and will He was insolubly one. Nor could the Father forsake the Son in any sense that He ceased to love and uphold Him; for at that moment Christ was accomplishing that act of holy obedience worthiest of the admiration of Deity.
I. There remain three senses in which it might be said that he was deserted of his Father.
1. In the first place, it might be said that He bore at that moment the wrath of God on account of our sins. How could the Almighty, as He loved His Son, convey to the mind of Christ a sense of that wrath which was not real?
2. In the sense that God forbore to interfere on Christ’s behalf to terminate those sufferings, and rescue Him from the hands of His enemies. But many saints have endured as great physical sufferings without complaint.
3. That our Lord was suffered in this hour of anguish to be left destitute of the sense of His Father’s love, and care, and protection. There is a close connection between mind and body; so that when the body is languishing in pain, the mind contracts a sensibility as keen, and shudders at the approach of the least suffering, which in a state of health it would meet unmoved. But there was far more than this in Christ. The comunications which God makes to the minds of His people are directly from Himself; this he is free to give or withdraw. I suppose that on this occasion our Saviour had it withdrawn. It is clear that however pious, however convinced of acceptance with God, there can be a state of mind in which a Christian may be deprived of the present sense of the Being of God; and that this will inflict great misery.
II. Our Saviour’s complaint under the desertion. Our Lord made no complaint of the nails and spear, but is now urged to lament.
1. Consider the nature of that sorrow which our Lord at this time experienced. Love is a great source of misery or happiness; the former if withdrawn. If so in human objects, how much more as regards Divine.
2. The complaint of these words-“Why hast Thou?” He was forsaken by His disciples, but now forsaken by His best Friend, and at a moment when He most needs consolation and help. The Almighty thus marks His view of sin. Christ hung upon the cross that we might never be forsaken by God. Every ungodly person is advancing to that sentence, “Depart from Me,” etc.
3. That God may desert for a moment in the same sense, and in that sense alone, those whom He still loves and upholds. There is nothing in the relationship of a child of God to prevent that experience, and it may be a requisite discipline, by which sin is embittered. (B. Noel, M. A.)
The Redeemer’s desertion
I. The import of the redeemer’s language.
1. It does not mean that the Godhead of Christ was separated from His manhood, so that His humanity alone was present on the cross.
2. The language is not that of murmuring.
3. It is not indicative of distrust.
4. It is not that of despair. All sensible comfort is eclipsed.
II. Some of the great designs to be effected through this desertion.
1. The punishment due to the sins of the people was herein endured.
2. The manifestation of God’s regard for the honour of His law.
3. That He might be like unto His people in all things.
4. The brightest pattern of confidence in God.
5. To enable Him to enter upon His mediatorial glory. (J. R. Mackenzie.)
The despairing cry of Jesus on the cross
I. The surroundings of the sufferer uttering this wail of distress.
II. What is the import of this lamentation of Jesus.
1. It is not the result of any corporeal pain being endured. There are two primary causes for this cry.
(1) In a manner beyond finite comprehension God then withheld from His dying Son, as the latest and most appalling ingredient of His atoning sufferings, a cloudless consciousness of His supporting presence.
(2) Track His public ministry and He is never found murmuring as to His Father’s absence. In demonstration of his moral fidelity Daniel went down into the den of lions; but God was with him. Jesus Christ, the purest character, was the only one dying for the Father’s glory, who could not by possibility secure a consciousness of the Divine presence and favour amidst His pains.
2. This seeming abandonment of His suffering Son was the crowning manifestation of God’s wrath against sin. Christ was man’s representative at Calvary. The cross at the ninth hour of gloom is the loftiest observatory from which men look at sin.
3. The value at which God rates a human soul is seen in this cry, and the responsibility of the unsaved.(S. V. Leech, D. D.)
Victory in desertion
Thus the will of Jesus, in the very moment when His faith seems about to yield, is finally triumphant. It has no feeling now to support it, no beatific vision to absorb it. It stands naked in His soul and tortured, as He stood naked and scourged before Pilate. Pure and simple and surrounded by fire, it declares for God. The sacrifice ascends in the cry, “My God.” The cry comes not out of happiness, out of peace, out of hope. Not even out of suffering comes that cry. It was a cry in desolation, but it came out of faith. It is the last voice of truth, speaking when it can but cry. The divine horror of that moment is unfathomable by human soul. It was blackness of darkness. And yet He would believe. Yet He would hold fast. God was His God yet. “My God”-and in the cry came forth the victory, and all was over soon. Of the peace that followed that cry, the peace of a perfect soul, large as the universe, pure as light, ardent as life, victorious for God and His brethren, He Himself alone can ever know the breadth and length, and depth and height. (G. Macdonald, LL. D.)
Reasons for Christ’s desertion
He does not even say “My Father,” the term of endearment, but employs the sterner word, as though more fully to express the desolation which He feels. We may not, however, understand these words as though they signified that the union of the Godhead and the Manhood was at this time dissolved; that could never be. The union between the Father and the Son could never be severed, though for a while the vision of the eternal Presence of God was removed from our Lord’s human nature. Let us try to discover why it was ordained that this terrible desertion should take place.
1. It was no doubt designed in order to prevent our supposing that the indissoluble union of the Godhead with the Manhood in our Lord’s Person would interfere with His suffering, to the full, the agony of death as Man. It was for our sakes, that we might be established in the true faith concerning Himself.
2. Hence we gather from it that it was not only possible for Him to suffer, but that He really did suffer as none ever did before or since. His martyrs in their hour of trial were strengthened and refreshed by spiritual consolations, but He would die the very bitterest death, bereft of all.
3. From our Lord’s privation of all sensible comfort we may learn somewhat concerning the sinfulness of sin. One drop, indeed, of that precious blood would have been enough to save the world from the punishment of sin, and from its power, but He would pay the full price, and drink the cup of sorrow to the very dregs.
4. In the abandonment of Christ we may learn, if we will, what our deserts would be if we were dealt with only in rigid justice. He was forsaken that we might never be forsaken. He was left to suffer the loss of all consolation in order the more fully to convince us of the greatness of His love.
5. How very terrible it must be to be deprived for ever (as the finally reprobate will be) of the presence of God. (J. E. Vaux, M. A.)
Comfort not the measure of grace
Take heed thou thinkest not grace decays because thy comfort withdraws … Did ever faith triumph more than in our Saviour crying thus! Here faith was at its meridian when it was midnight in respect of joy. Possibly thou comest from an ordinance, and bringest not home with thee those sheaves of comfort thou used to do, and therefore concluded, grace acted not in thee as formerly. Truly, if thou hast nothing else to go by, thou mayest wrong the grace of God in thee exceedingly; because thy comfort is extrinsical to thy duty, a boon which God may give or not, yea, doth give to the weak, and deny to the strong. The traveller may go as fast, and ride as much ground, when the sun doth not shine as when it doth, though indeed he goes not so merrily on his journey; nay, sometimes he makes the more haste; the warm sun makes him sometimes to lie down and loiter, but when dark and cold he puts on with more speed. Some graces thrive best (like some flowers) in the shade, such as humility and dependence On God. (W. Gurnall.)
God’s comfort may be withdrawn, but not His presence
Sometimes God takes away from a Christian His comfort, but He never takes away His sustaining presence. You know the difference between sunshine and daylight. A Christian has God’s daylight in his soul when he may not have sunlight; that is, he has enough to light him, but not enough to cheer and comfort him. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The true sense of this cry
Two reasons why Christ chose to express Himself on this occasion in the language of David.
1. That the Jews might call to mind the great resemblance between His case and that of this illustrious king and prophet.
2. This psalm was allowed to belong to the Messiah, and to have its ultimate completion in Him.
I. Consider the style Christ makes use of in addressing Himself to God-“My God, My God.” This seems to denote His innocence, His choice of God for His God, and His filial trust and confidence in Him.
II. In what sense was Christ forsaken by God in His passion?
1. Are we to believe that God was angry with His well-beloved Son?
2. If God was not angry, might not the Son apprehend that He was, or at least doubt of the continuance of His Father’s love to Him?
III. The reasons of God’s thus forsaking His beloved Son.
1. To add the greater perfection to His example.
2. To increase the perfection of His atonement.
3. To contribute to the perfection of His priesthood.
4. To render His triumph the more glorious.
1. How should this endear the Redeemer of the world to us, who was willing to suffer such things for our sakes.
2. This part of the history of our Saviour’s passion carries in it a great deal of instruction and consolation to His faithful disciples when they are in like circumstances with Him. (Henry Grove.)
The Hebrew term, “Forsaken”
In the Hebrew way of speaking, God is said to leave or forsake any person when He suffers him to fall into great calamities, and to lie under great miseries, and does not help him out of them; and therefore Zion, being long afflicted, is brought in by the Prophet Isaiah (ch. 69:14) thus complaining: “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” And the psalmist, as he is frequent in this complaint, so does he manifestly explain himself in the words following the complaint of his being forsaken: “Why art Thou far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Whitby.)
I. That Christ, being in extremity, was forsaken.
II. Being forsaken, He was very sensible of it, and from sensibleness complains, pouring out His soul into the bosom of the Father.
III. He not only complains, but believes certainly that His Father will help Him.
IV. And to strengthen His faith the more, He puts it forth in prayer, the fire of faith in His heart kindled into a flame of prayer. (R. Sibbs.)
The forsaking itself
I. In what sense was Christ forsaken?
II. In what parts He was forsaken.
III. Upon what ground He was forsaken. And
IV. To what end all this forsaking of Christ was. Christ was forsaken in regard of His present comfort and joy, and He positively felt the wrath and fury of the Almighty, whose just displeasure seized upon His soul for sin, as our surety. (R. Sibbs.)
A true human experience
Without this last trial of all, the temptations of our Master had not been so full as the human cup could hold; there would have been one region through which we had to pass wherein we might call aloud upon our Captain-Brother, and there would be no voice or hearing: He had avoided the fatal spot. (George Macdonald.)
This is the faith of the Son of God. God withdrew, as it were, that the perfect will of the Son might arise and go forth to find the will of the Father. (George Macdonald.)
The cry a model cry
Troubled soul, will thou His will. Say to Him, “My God, I am very dull, and low, and hard; but Thou art wise and high, and tender, and Thou art my God. I am Thy child, forsake me not.” Then fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. Fold the arms of thy faith, I say, but not of thy action. Bethink thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go and do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not Thy feelings. Do thy work. (George Macdonald.)
Significance of small cries
The pennant at the mast-head is a small thing, yet it shows plainly which way the wind blows. A cloud no bigger than a man’s hand is a small thing, yet it may show the approach of a mighty storm. The swallow is a little bird, and yet it shows that summer is come. So is it with man. A look, a sigh, a half-uttered word, a broken sentence, may show more of what is passing within than a long speech. So it was with the dying Saviour. These few troubled words tell more than volumes of divinity. (R. M. McCheyne.)
I. The completeness of Christ’s obedience.
1. Words of obedience.
2. Words of faith.
3. Words of love.
II. The infinity of Christ’s sufferings.
1. He suffered much from His enemies.
(a) He suffered in all parts of His body;
(b) He suffered in all His offices;
(c) He suffered from all sorts of men;
(d) He suffered much from the devil.
2. He suffered much from those he afterwards saved.
3. From His own disciples.
4. From His Father.
Three things show the infinity of His sufferings.
1. Who it was that forsook Him.
2. Who it was that was forsaken.
3. What God did to Him-forsook Him.
III. Answer the Saviour’s “Why?” Because He was the surety of sinners, and stood in their room.
1. He had agreed with His Father, before all worlds, to stand and suffer in the place of sinners.
2. He set His face to it.
3. He knew that either He or the whole world must suffer. (R. M. McCheyne.)
I. These words do not imply, on the part of the Father, an entire and perpetual abandonment of His Son.
II. These words do not imply, on the part of the Son, any discontent or rebellion against His Father. (A. L. R. Foote.)
God forsakes only for sin
I venture to lay down this as a fundamental principle-an axiom, it may almost be called-that God never forsakes any one but for one cause, and that cause, sin. He must have seen sin in Christ, or on Him. He must have seen real or imputed sin to warrant His acting towards Him as He did. There is no way of accounting for the sufferings of the Son of God-from His incarnation to His death, from the manger to the grave, from His cradle to His cross-but on the supposition of His being, in the eye of justice and the law, a sinner, the sin-bearer, the sinner’s substitute. Except on the grand principle of an atonement, all this is unaccountable. (A. L. R. Foote.)
Christ our surety
Christ took not the desert of punishment upon Him (from any fault in Himself), He took whatsoever was penal upon Him, but not culpable. As He was our surety, so He everyway discharged our debt, being bound over to all judgments and punishments for us. (R. Sibbs.)
I. What was Christ’s desertion? I shall for more distinctness, handle it negatively and affirmatively. First-Negatively.
1. It was not a desertion in appearance and conceit only, but real. We often mistake God’s dispensations. God may be out of sight and yet we not out of mind. When the dam is abroad for meat the young brood in the nest is not forsaken. The children cry as if the mother were totally gone when she is employed about necessary business for their welfare (Isaiah 49:14-15). So we think that we are cut off when God is about to help and deliver us (Psalms 31:22). Surely when our affections towards God are seen by mourning for His absence, He is not wholly gone; His room is kept warm for Him till He come again. We mistake God’s dispensations when we judge that a forsaking which is but an emptying us of all carnal dependence (Psalms 94:18-19). He is near many times when we think Him afar off; as Christ was to His disciples when their eyes were withheld that they knew Him not, but thought Him yet lying in the grave (St. Luke 24:16). But this cannot be imagined of Christ, who could not be mistaken. If He complained of desertion, surely He felt it.
II. Though it were real, the desertion must be understood so as may stand with the dignity of his person and office. Therefore-
(1) There was no separation of the Father from the Son; this would make a change in the unity of the Divine essence (St. John 10:30). This eternal union of the Father and Son always remained.
(2) There was no dissolution of the union of the two natures in the person of Christ, for the human nature which was once assumed was never after dismissed or laid aside.
III. The love of God to Him ceased not. We read (St. John 3:35).
IV. His personal holiness was not abated or lessened. The Lord Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (St. John 1:4). Neither His nature nor His office could permit an abatement of holiness (Hebrews 7:26). The Son of God might fall into misery, which is a natural evil, and so become the object of pity, not of blame; but not into sin, which is a moral evil, a blot and a blemish.
V. God’s assistance and sustaining grace was not wholly withdrawn, for the Lord saith of Him (Isaiah 42:1). The power, presence, and providence of God was ever with Him, to sustain Him in His difficult enterprise.
I. God’s desertion of us or any creature may be understood with a respect to his communicating himself to us. We have a twofold apprehension of God-as a holy and happy being: and when He doth communicate Himself to any reasonable creature it is either in a way of holiness or in a way of happiness. These two have such a respect to one another, that He never gives felicity and glory without holiness (Hebrews 12:14). And a holy creature can never be utterly and finally miserable. He may sometimes give holiness without happiness, as when for a while He leaveth the sanctified whom He will try and exercise under the cross-or in a state of sorrow and affliction. Now apply this to Christ. It is blasphemy to say that Christ lost any degree of His holiness, for He was always pure and holy, and that most perfectly and exactly. Therefore He was deserted only as to His felicity, and that but for a short time.
II. The felicity of Christ may be considered either as to his outward and bodily estate, or else to his inward man or the estate of his soul.
(1) Some say His desertion was nothing else but His being left to the will and power of His enemies to crucify Him, and that He was then deserted when His Divine nature suspended the exercise of His omnipotency so far as to deliver up His body to a reproachful death.
(a) Why should Christ complain of that so bitterly, which He did so readily and willingly undergo, and might so easily have prevented.
(b) If we look merely to bodily pains and sufferings certainly others have endured as much if not more; as the thieves that were crucified with Him lived longer in their torments, and the good thief did not complain that he was forsaken of God.
(c) It would follow that every holy man that is persecuted and left to the will of his enemies, might be said to be forsaken of God, which is contrary to Paul’s holy boasting (2 Corinthians 4:9).
(d) This desertion was a punishment one part or degree of the abasement of the Son of God, and so belongeth to the whole nature that was to be abased, not only to His body, but His soul (Isaiah 53:10).
(2) As to the felicity of His inward estate, the state of His soul. Christ carried about His heaven with Him, and never wanted sensible consolation, spiritual suavity, the comfortable effects of the Divine presence, till now they were withdrawn that He might be capable of suffering the whole punishments of sins.
1. I will show how this sort of desertion is-Possible. The union of the two natures remaining; for us the Divine nature gave up the body to death, so the soul to desertion. Christ, as God, is the fountain of life (Psalms 36:9). And yet Christ could die. The Divinity remained united to the flesh, and yet the flesh might die; so it remained united to the soul, and yet the soul might want comfort. There is a partial, temporal desertion, when God for a moment hideth His face from His people (Isaiah 54:7). This is so far from being contrary to the dignity of Christ’s nature that it is “necessary to His office for many reasons.
2. That it is grievous. This was an incomparable loss to Christ.
(1) Partly because it was more natural to Him to enjoy that comfort and solace than it can be to any creature. To put out a candle is no great matter, but to have the sun eclipsed, which is the fountain of light, that sets the world a wondering.
(2) Partly because He had more to lose than we have. The greater the enjoyment, the greater the loss or want. We lose drops, He an ocean.
(3) Partly because he knew how to value the comfort of the union, having a pure understanding and heavenly affections. God’s children count one clay in His presence better than a thousand (Psalms 84:10). One glimpse of His love more than all the world (Psalms 4:7).
(4) Partly because He had so near an interest and relation to God (Proverbs 8:30).
(5) Partly from the nature of Christ’s desertion. It was penal. There was nothing in Christ’s person to occasion a desertion, but “much in His office; so He was to give body for body and soul for soul. And this was a part of the satisfaction. He was beloved as a son, forsaken as our Mediator and Surety. Why was Christ forsaken? Answer. With respect to the office which He had taken upon Himself. This desertion of Christ carrieth a suitableness and respect to our sin, our punishment, and our blessedness.
1. Our sin. Christ is forsaken to satisfy and make amends for our wilful desertion of God (James 2:13). Now we that forsook God deserved to be forsaken by God, therefore what we had merited by our sins, Christ endured as our Mediator. It is strange to consider what small things draw us off from God. This is the first degeneracy and disease of mankind that a trifle will prompt us to forsake God, as a little thing will make a stone run down hill; it is its natural motion.
2. It carries a full respect to the punishment appointed for sin (Galatians 3:13). It is true the accidentals of punishment Christ suffered not. As-
(1) To the place, He was not in hell. It was not necessary that Christ should descend to the hell of the damned. One that is bound as a surety for another, needs not go into prison provided that he pay the debts.
(2) For the time of continuance. The damned must bear the wrath of God to all eternity, because they can never satisfy the justice of God. Therefore they must lie by it world without end. Christ hath made an infinite satisfaction in a finite time. He bore the wrath of God in a few hours, which would overwhelm the creature. Christ did not bear the eternity of wrath, but only the extremity of it; intensive, not extensive. The eternity of the punishment ariseth from the weakness of the creature, who cannot overcome this evil and get out of it.
(3) There is another thing unavoidably attending the pains of the second death in reprobates, and that is desperation, an utter hopelessness of any good (Hebrews 10:27).
3. With respect to our blessedness, which is to live with God for ever in heaven. Christ was forsaken that there might be no longer any separation between us and God.
1. How different are they from the Spirit of Christ that can brook God’s absence without any remorse or complaint?
2. It informeth us of the grievousness of sin. It is no easy matter to reconcile sinners to God, it cost Christ a life of sorrows, and afterwards a painful and accursed death, and in that death, loss of actual comfort, and an amazing sense of the wrath of God.
3. The greatness of our obligation to Christ, who omitted no kind of sufferings which might conduce to the expiation of sin.
4. The infiniteness of God’s mercy, who appointed such a degree of Christ’s sufferings-as in it He gives us the greatest ground of hope to invite us the more to submit to His terms. (T. Manton.)
And gave Him to drink.
The relenting crucifier
No ill motive could have prompted this relief of thirst.
I. The relenting crucifier may have wished to conceal his interest in Christ. It is not uncommon for those who are really convinced upon the subject of religion to use arts to conceal their feelings. Or the man may only have acted a prudent part: He concealed his interest for safety, while he gave Him a proof of his compassion.
II. The relenting crucifier may have been A sincere inquirer Learn:
1. Christ on the cross for our sins is reduced to such extremity that the most common act of humanity is grateful to Him.
2. Christ will one day behold each of us in the same need of compassion and help in which we have now contemplated Him. (N. Adams, D. D.)
The cavelling Jewish teachers aptly illustrate the attitude of many modern critics of Christ and Christianity.
1. They are alike mistaken in the nature and meaning of the supernatural in connection with revelation, as, in their views of prophecy, miracles and providence.
2. They are alike mistaken as to the methods of securing truth. “Let be, let us see,” etc.
3. They are alike mistaken in waiting for other signs, when the most stupendous sign of the centuries is hanging before them.
4. They alike make their greatest mistake in substituting eye for heart, experiment for faith, the intellectual for the spiritual.
Lessons: These mistakes, in all ages, lead to the same results, viz.:
1. To increased blindness of spiritual vision.
2. To an increased opposition to Christ in feeling and desire.
3. To an increased difficulty in coming to the truth as revealed in the gospel.
4. To an increased guilt. Inference: If men would avoid these unhappy outcomes, they must avoid the mistakes leading thereto. (J. M. Allis.)
Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the Ghost.
There were seven wonders which made the death of Christ exceedingly remarkable.
I. Over His head was written an inscription in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” That there should be a distinct recognition of His kingship over the Jewish people has ever been regarded as one of the most remarkable splendours of the Saviour’s death. Typical of His sovereignty over the entire Church, which is but the prelude to His sovereignty over all worlds. Is He King in your heart?
II. The conversion of the thief (Luke 23:1-56.). See here the majesty of Christ as a Saviour, even in His misery as an atonement. What the thief saw about Christ let us all endeavour to see-His almighty power to save. God hath laid help upon One that is mighty. Trust Him only and fully.
III. The total darkness at noon-day made a fitting cavern into which Christ might retire. A picture of Christ’s tremendous power. Your darkness is never so black as His.
IV. The rending of the veil. An eminent type of the departure of God from the symbolical dispensation. It was all over now. Now there was no veil between man and God. The dying Saviour rends away for ever every impediment which shuts us out from the Most High.
V. The earthquake. Here we see Christ’s lordship over the world. The Lord of Providence.
VI. The resurrection of certain of the saints. How I should like to know something about them l They were representative men; they arose as specimens of the way in which all the saints shall in their due time arise.
VII. The confession of the centurion. A picture of Christ’s convincing power. I hope we have felt this convincing power-it lies in the doctrine of the cross. The unrecorded wonder connected with the cross of Christ is that when we hear of it our hearts do not break, and that our dead souls do not rise. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Prodigies attending the Crucifixion
I. The great event of the Saviour’s death
1. That this great event did take place we have abundant testimony-
(2) The testimony of the early Christians.
(3) The testimony of the inspired writers.
2. The design of His death.
(1) To atone for the world (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 10:12; John 1:29-36; Hebrews 7:27).
(2) To procure for the guilty, pardon of sin (Hebrews 9:22; Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:25). Withheld from the unforgiving, the unbelieving, the impenitent (Matthew 11:26; John 7:21; John 7:24; Luke 13:2-5).
(3) To procure the Holy Ghost to quicken dead sinners, etc.
(4) To exhibit to the world the amazing love of God.
II. The emblematical and awful prodigies that attended that event. Christ had been charged as an imposter; how important that this testimony should be borne just at this time!
1. The darkness. Dionysius, a heathen, who observed the darkness, declared that it portended something extraordinary, and exclaimed, “Either nature is deploring, or the God of nature suffers.”
2. “The veil of the temple was rent.” Signifies: The abolition of the Jewish economy; that the mysteries of that dispensation were now explained; that the way of access to God was open to all believers.
3. “The earth did quake.” The shaking of the moral world then, since, now, etc.
4. “The rocks rent.” Emblems of the hard hearts that should be broken by Christ’s death.
5. “Graves were opened,” &c, Signifying that the dead in sin should be raised to a life of righteousness; that Christ had won a victory over death; that the saints of the early ages had an interest in the work of Christ; that there shall be a general resurrection of the dead.
III. The clams it has upon us.
1. It claims our attention.
2. Our faith.
3. Our affections.
4. Our zeal. (A. Weston.)
Effects of the death of Christ
I. The circumstances attendant on the Saviour’s death claim our attention and they attest His Divine character. “The earth did quake.” The death of Christ shook the moral world and shakes it still. “The rocks rent.” Emblems of the hard flinty hearts that should be subdued by the power of Christ’s death. “Graves were opened,” as if to denote that the hidden things of darkness should be revealed.
II. The manner in which these striking events should influence us.
1. They should confirm us in the dignity of His character.
2. We should reflect upon the power of His death.
3. We should search for these effects upon ourselves. (Dr. Cope.)
I. The fact of the Saviour’s death.
1. Christ died according to the appointment of the Divine counsels.
2. This design of God was announced in prophecy.
3. The particular manner of our Lord’s death.
II. The signification of those awful prodigies by which his death was attended.
1. Of the whole of them. So many testimonies to the Messiahship of Jesus, and approbations of His work.
1. “The veil of the temple was rent”-
(1) That the ceremonial arrangements of the Jewish economy were about to be abolished;
(2) That the way of access is opened to all believers in God;
(3) That the mysteries peculiar to the Mosaic economy were now displayed and explained.
2. “The earth did quake.”
(1) Another emblem of the destruction of the Jewish system.
(2) How God expressed His wrath at the scenes now transacting.
3. “The graves were opened.”
(1) It showed that Christ achieved a victory over death.
(2) That the saints of the early ages had an interest in the work of the Redeemer.
(3) That there should be a general resurrection of the dead.
III. The influence which the death of Christ and its prodigies ought to possess, over the human mind.
1. Frequent contemplation on His death.
2. Pungent sorrow for the cause which produced His death.
3. Cordial faith in His merits.
4. Grateful thanksgiving to God for the scenes which have been unfolded. (J. Parsons.)
Miracles of Calvary
I. Miracle evinced itself in the great victim of Calvary. In the voluntary surrender of His life. Christ had power over His own life; and, not depending on the operation of nature’s laws, He could dismiss the spirit, or retain it at His pleasure.
II. Miracle as it evinced itself in the circumstances attending the crucifixion.
(1) The miraculous facts, darkness, earthquake, rent veil, graves burst open.
(2) The design of this miraculous interposition.
(a) These miracles constituted a Divine attestation to the Messiah, even in the hour of forsaking and death.
(b) The prodigies of Calvary served to betoken the more dread conflict and terrifying darkness of the Saviour’s soul in the hour of atonement.
(c) In the rending of the veil we are taught that the Mosaic institutions were henceforth to be superseded, the objects which they symbolized being now accomplished.
(d) We see in these miracles the trophies and the earnest of the Redeemer’s triumphs. (John Ely.)
Yielding up the Ghost
It does not appear that the special agonies which the Saviour’s mental sufferings created produced death prematurely; for there does not seem to have been a paroxysm producing convulsion, nor does death appear to have been the effect of mere exhaustion: the calm which succeeded the sufferer’s exclamation under Divine forsakings forbids are former conclusion; the vigour of His dying shout forbids the latter. (John Ely.)
Reasons for these miracles
In respect of-
1. The Sufferer dying.
2. The creatures obeying.
3. The Jews persecuting.
4. The women beholding.
5. The disciples forsaking. (Thos. Adams.)
Divine testimonials to Jesus
I. The dream of Pilate’s wife.
II. The darkness of the sky.
III. The rending of the veil of the temple.
IV. The earthquake at Calvary.
V. The rising of the dead. (N. Lardner.)
The mysterious resurrections
I. The place where this resurrection happened.
II. Who were raised.
III. The time when they were raised.
IV. To whom they appeared.
V. Whether they soon after ascended up to heaven, or died again.
VI. The truth of this history.
VII. The use of this extraordinary event. Reflections:
1. We may perceive a great agreement between the life and the death of Jesus.
2. It cannot but be pleasing to observe the mildness of all the wonderful works performed by Christ and done in His favour.
3. The testimonials given to Jesus should induce us to show Him all honour and reverence.
4. Let these meditations inspire us with courage and resolution in the profession of His name, (N. Lardner.)
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain.
The rent veil
I. The event as literally recorded.
II. The event in its spiritual significancy. What did the veil represent? The human nature of Christ, which was now suffering for sin. The veil of sin which separated between God and us. The abolition of Jewish ordinances. The removal of all distinctions between the Jewish and Gentile nations.
III. The effects it should produce upon us. Reverence for the person and work of Christ. Confidence in His offering. How to present all our services to God. The necessity of the veil of sin being removed from our hearts. That the veil of our mortal flesh must be rent before we can enter the holiest of all. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The rent veil
I. The intimations conveyed thereby.
1. That the ceremonial dispensation was now abolished. Into the holy place none were permitted to enter but the high priest alone, and he but once a year, and only then with the blood of the annual atonement. But now it is exposed to public view. The design of its institution having been accomplished, God Himself has thrown it open, thereby intimating that it is of no further use, but that another way of propitiating Him is established.
2. That the barrier between Jew and Gentile is thrown down. The offerings presented in the holy place were for the Jewish people only. But now an atonement has been made for the whole world.
3. That the way to the holiest of all is opened. The way into the holy place was with the blood and incense; the way to heaven is through the blood and intercession of Christ, who has not only abolished separation, but brought life and immortality to light. The mists which hung over the future have been dissipated by the rising of the sun of righteousness, who has shed life, fertility, and beauty over the entire prospect.
II. The encouragement afforded thereby. In the rending of the veil we have exhibited-
1. The gracious designs of God concerning us. He would have us no longer to be on the outside of the temple, ,’ far off” from Him. He would have us freed from all the evils of separation; He would have us enjoy all the pleasures that are at His right hand for evermore. This event ought to teach us-
2. Frequently to approach within the veil. There is nothing to hinder our approach; we are not confined to stated periods; the more frequently we come the more welcome we shall be.
3. Let us place all our confidence within the veil. Let us have the anchor of our hope there, sure and steadfast; thither the Forerunner has entered. (Pulpit Outlines.)
The rending of the veil
I. As A miracle attesting the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. As A Symbol of the putting away of the levitical dispensation.
1. There were many things about this veil which made it a very exquisite and beautiful type of the religion then existing. It was beautiful for appearance. Was there ever a system of worship that was more beautiful, more awe-inspiring, or more touching? On the outside of the veil there were pictured the things which really existed inside.
2. While the veil was very suggestive it was yet very obscure-it was one through which the glory streamed, and which, by and by, was to be broken down. This rending of the veil was, on the part of God, the glorious “amen” which the Father gave to the life of Christ.
III. As setting forth some of the great objects and results of the atonement.
1. It set forth the body of Christ, as the Apostle Paul tells us.
2. It gave men the truth about the old Levitical dispensation. It finished it, but did not abrogate it.
3. It is through the rent veil that a way was opened into the holy of holies. You can only get to the mercy-seat through the rent veil. It is through the rent veil that the Holy Spirit descends. The way is open to everybody. In the old dispensation only the high priest could go into the holiest once a year, and in a particular manner. Blessed be God, it is not so now! There is no veil now-nothing to keep you away. If there is a veil, you weave it with your own hands; it is in your own hearts. (S. Coley.)
Christ the only way to the Father
Theodore Parker, in one of his books, so flashingly bright with genius, but so awfully dark with infidelity, daringly asks why we cannot go ourselves before the All-Father, and speak to Him for ourselves, without talking by attorney, and whining about our Brother’s name! Ah, he has made a great mistake. No, no; you can never get into that holiest place but through the rent veil, and you will be shut out for ever if you try to go in any other way. It is through Christ, and through Christ alone, that we can get access to the Father. I am glad to leave my case with Jesus. I am glad to go to the Father through my Saviour, and to use His name, which is ever fragrant with merit; but if any man shall go without that name, and should choose to stand OH the ground of bare justice, he will get justice, and he will not get any mercy. (S. Coley.)
The Divinity of Judaism
I should like you to notice that the very way in which God put away Hebraism, at the same time marked its Divinity. Supposing an Act of Parliament were passed in this year of the reign of Queen Victoria to repeal a law that was made in the time of Charles I.
do you not see that the very Act which would repeal the law would acknowledge that it was a law? for Parliament never repeals that which is not law, but the very form of repeal is itself an endorsement. So when God by a miracle repealed Hebraism, it was as if He had said that up to that moment it had been Divine. Thus, you see, in this way Christianity linksion with Judaism, and you are not to think that the New Testament throws any slur or slight upon the old dispensation. In fact, I should think that the Jews would have been quite right in keeping on their services if it had not been that God, by miracles, had put them away; for it was by miracle that He had instituted them, and it wanted the same authority to repeal as it did to enact. (S. Coley.)
The veil rent in twain
I. The event recorded. It meant broadly the end of the age of shadows: the end of the childhood’s stage in man’s education.
II. The special relation of the rending of the wit, to the event which it illustrated. The deep meaning is that it was rent at the crucifixion: it fixes our thoughts upon that death as the end of the incarnate life.
III. The light which this sign forecasts on the experience, the history, and the destiny of mankind
1. It proclaims that man as man has access to the heavenly temple.
2. That the powers of the world to come have entered into and possessed man and his world. The human is not an outer dependency but an inner province of the heavenly kingdom.
3. The final overthrow and abolition of death. The angel of death advances through the veil to meet us, to repay our tears with glories. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Truly this was the Son of God.
Homage of reason and conscience to the facts of the Christian religion
Men’s hearts often harden in proportion to the privileges they enjoy. Hence heathens look on the affecting scene in a different state of mind than the Jews. They were nearer the kingdom of heaven.
I. We have in this declaration A testimony to the impressive character of those great historical facts which were connected with the foundation of Christianity. These facts are the basis of Christianity. Familiarity with them may tend to rob them of their greatness. It is so with the wonders of nature; the sun ceases to astonish us. It is with the first impression produced by these events that we have to do. The centurion and his band were not predisposed to attach any peculiar sanctity to these events. They had no previous knowledge as to the meaning of them. They had been educated in the paganism of the Romans; they worshipped many gods. They may have seen that the Jews adored no images, that they paid respect to the Temple as the house of their one God. This knowledge of Judaism may have prepared this centurion to use language different from that of the pagan idolatry. This Roman officer would appear to have had every opportunity of becoming acquainted with the things which happened at this time at Jerusalem. Natural and civil history are full of remarkable events. They are to be viewed in general relation to the sinfulness of man; they may at the same time he traced to natural causes. But the events which attracted the attention of the centurion were of a different order. It was a solitary occurrence in the history of the world. The like had never happened before. There was a remarkable response and sympathy between the natural and moral world of human life. The course of nature is generally indifferent to the facts of human life; the moon shines on the wreck. But here nature seems roused from her general apathy to human affairs. Well might such extraordinary events convince men that more was going on than met the eye-that the sufferer was no ordinary Person. The prelude of events to the cross might deepen the impression.
II. Practical improvement from their testimony. I regard their testimony as the homage of reason and conscience to the general truth of the Christian religion. All they had seen manifested that Jesus was the Son of God. What a depth of meaning in these words to us.
1. The glory of the Son of God was more illustrious by the very humiliation which attended His course.
2. In what light does “this was the Son of God” exhibit man’s moral view and the evil of sin.
3. If the Son of God must thus become a public spectacle of suffering and death, in order to exhibit the method by which it seems good to the Sovereign Will of God that sinners should approach Him; let us rejoice in the Father’s love, and in the Saviour’s love, Who became obedient unto the death of the cross.
4. How solid is the ground on which the guilty may apply for pardon.
5. The Saviour justly claims the hearts and obedience of all. (J. Hoppus, LL. D.)
There came a rich man of Arimathaea.
Joseph of Arimathaea
I. The burial of Jesus by Joseph and his friend is an interesting illustration of faith. He accepted the evidence that Jesus was Christ. The popular fury had not affected his faith. Calm and dignified in his faith, he respectfully makes his request to Pilate. When we believe with all the heart we shall not be hindered by great difficulties from professing Christ.
II. In the conduct of Joseph we have an illustration of moral courage and decision of Christian character. It exposed any man to loss of reputation to favour one who was subject to crucifixion.
III. The conduct of Joseph is an illustration of the power which ardent love for Christ has on the life and conduct. Here was the secret of his courage, the hiding of its power. He loved Christ.
IV. The grace of God can prevail over hindrances to faith and Christian zeal in the characters and circumstances of men. It is remarkable that the two men who performed this courageous act were men once timid and cautious. God can place us in circumstances where our faith can suddenly acquire the force of years. We naturally like men at once to declare for Christ, like the morning star which glows in the sun-rising. Some are like St. John, constant from first to last.
V. The reward which Joseph had for his conduct. There in his tomb life and immortality were brought to light. The builder of the Pyramids is not to be compared for fame to the owner of that tomb. Every one of us has his own peculiar opportunity of showing his attachment to Christ. (T. Adams, D. D.)
The burial of Jesus
There has been no time to get a bier, or it is felt that the distance is so short that it is not needed. That body, however, has the best bier of all-the hands of true affection to lift it and carry it across to the new tomb which waits to receive it. The feet let us assign to Joseph, the body to Nicodemus, and that regal head with those closed eyes, over whom the shadows of the resurrection are already flitting, let us lay it on the breast of the beloved disciple John, who, possibly, was present standing with the Galilean women. The last service which Jesus ever needed at the hands of men it has been their privilege to render. For this service shall we not honour them, and forget that they were once secret disciples? Yea, verily; what they thus did for the Lord’s burial shall be told for a memorial of them, wherever this gospel of the kingdom is preached. (Dr. Hanna.)
A remarkable funeral
I. The corpse-It is “the body of Jesus.”
II. The undertaker-”A rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph.”
III. The preparations he made for the burial-He first “begged” the body, etc.
IV. The time of the funeral-Evening.
V. The mourners-No hired ones. (American Horn. Review.)
The burial of Jesus
I. This sepulchre.
1. Its situation-in a garden. Preaching of a new life arising from decay and death. In all human gardens of domestic and social joy, there is death.
2. It was a new tomb. The true consecration of the great world-sepulchre.
3. It was a rich man’s tomb. Jesus has been in many rich men’s homes and hearts since. Yet the aim of “many rich” seems to be, to bury Jesus-fashion, form, etc.
4. Hewn out of a rock. The strength of the tomb collateral proof of genuineness of resurrection.
II. The mourners.
1. Their characters suggestive.
2. Their number very small-a mere handful. More rejoicers than mourners. Very few of the disciples, but He is present at the death of every disciple.
3. Their grief intense. The Magdalene had lost her Saviour; the Virgin her Son; the rest a dear Friend.
III. The interment.
2. Costly. More was spent upon Jesus at His burial than at any time before.
3. Vigilance of His enemies; they cannot leave even His sepulchre alone. The seal and the guard. Their unintended testimony to the reality of the resurrection.
1. Christ entered the grave to rob it of its gloom.
2. Rejoice in a living Saviour-not hide Him out of sight. (J. C. Gray.)
Command therefore that the sepulchre be made secure.
The Jew and the Roman watching the sepulchre
I. This passage of sacred history illustrates the truth that God has “made all things for Himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” “There is no counsel, nor wisdom, nor understanding against the Lord.”
II. Some Christians are chosen of God to display by their great trials His power and wisdom, as Christ was by His death and burial and resurrection.
III. Bad men should be objects of pity rather than of fear or anger.
IV. Everything relating to the resurrection of Christ is unspeakably interesting for this reason, “He was raised again for our justification.” (N. Adams, D. D.)
It is a poetical justice that they who have so often accused the Saviour of Sabbath-breaking, now themselves finally desecrate this day. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
Anxiety on account of Christ, even when dead
It is a common proverb, “Dead men bite not.” But here Christ, though dead and buried, bites and beats hard upon these evil men’s consciences. They could not rest the whole night before, for fear He should get out of the grave some way, and so create them further trouble. Scipio appointed his sepulchre to be so placed, as his image standing upon it might look directly towards Africa, that being dead, he might still be a terror to the Carthaginians. And Cadwallo, an ancient king of this island, commanded his dead body to be embalmed and put into a brazen image, and so set upon a brazen horse over Ludgate for a terror to the Saxons. It is well-known that Zisca, that brave Bohemian, charged his Taborites to flay his corpse, and head a drum with his skin; the sound whereof, as oft as the enemies heard, they should be appalled and put to flight. And our Edward
I. adjured his son and nobles that if he died in his journey into Scotland, they should carry his corpse about with them, and not suffer it to be interred till they had vanquished the usurper and subdued the country. Something like to this the prophet Isaiah foretelleth of our Saviour (and we see it here accomplished), when he saith, “In that day the root of Jesse shall stand up for an ensign to the people, and even his rest (or, as some read it, his sepulchre) shall be glorious (Isaiah 11:10). There are that think that these words, “The day that followed the day of the preparation,” are put ironically, or by way of a jest against the hypocritical sabbatism of the high priests, who would so workday-like, beg the body, seal the sepulchre, and set the watch on that Sabbath, for the which they seemed to prepare so devoutly before it came. (John Trapp.)
Now they seemed to dance upon Christ’s grave, as thinking themselves cock-sure of Him. So did those bloody tyrants of the primitive times make no other reckoning, but to raze out the name of Christ from under heaven. Therefore, also, they did not only constitute laws and proclamations against Christians, but did engrave the same laws in tables of brass, meaning to make all things firm for ever and a day. But He that sat in heaven, and said, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion,” laughed at them; Jehovah had them in derision. Look how Daniel was innocently condemned, cast into the lions’ den, had the door sealed upon him, and, to see to, no hope or means of life was left him; and yet, by God’s good providence, he came forth untouched, and was made a greater man than before. So our blessed Saviour was innocently condemned, cast into the grave, sealed up among the dead, and to common judgment left as out of mind; yet early in the morning, at the time appointed by the power of His Deity, He raised Himself from death, and gloriously triumphed over it and hell. (John Trapp.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 27". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24