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(d) [Within the Praetorium.] The unjust scourging, and the crown of thorns.
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. The force of the "therefore" may be seen in the foregoing observations (see especially Luke 23:23-25). He obviously fancied that the sight of their victim's utter humiliation, his reduction to the lowest possible position, would sate their burning rage. Scourging was the ordinary preliminary of crucifixion, and it might be regarded as Pilate's verdict, or the conclusion of the whole matter. Roman and Greek historians confirm the custom (Josephus, 'Ant.,' John 5:11.John 5:1; 'Bell. Jud.,' John 2:14. John 2:9; comp. Matthew 20:19; Luke 18:33) of scourging before crucifixion. It may have had a twofold motive—one to glut the desire of inflicting physical torment and ignominy, and another allied to the offer of anodyne, to hasten the final sufferings of the cross. But the governor clearly thought that he might, by first humoring the populace, in releasing Barabbas from his confinement, and then reducing to a political absurdity the charge of treason against Caesar, save the suffering Prisoner from further wrong. The morbid suggestion of a mind accustomed to gladiatorial shows, and to the sudden changes of feeling which ran through the amphitheatres at the sight of blood, not only reveals the incapacity of Pilate to understand the difference between right and wrong, but proves that he had not sounded the depth of Jewish fanaticism, nor understood the people he had been ordered to coerce. John uses the word ἐμαστίγωσεν, a purely Greek word. Matthew and Mark, who refer to the scourging which preceded Christ's being led to Calvary, use another official and technical word φραγελλώσας (identifiable with the Latin word flagellans). This does not require us to believe in two scourgings. Matthew and Mark simply refer to the scourging, which had been arbitrarily and informally inflicted, as John informs us, before the condemnation was pronounced. The Roman punishment flagellis inflicted hideous torture. "It was executed upon slaves with thin elm rods or straps having leaden balls or sharply pointed bones attached, and was delivered on the bent, bare, and tense back." The victim was fastened to a pillar for the-purpose, the like to which has actually been found by Sir C. Warren in a subterranean cavern, on the site of what Mr. Ferguson regards as the Tower of Antonia (Westcott). The flagellation usually brought blood with the first stroke, and reduced the back to a fearful state of raw and quivering flesh. Strong men often succumbed under it, while the indignity of such a proceeding in this case must have cut far deeper into the awful sanctuary of the Sufferer's soul.
Pilate then allowed the wounded and bruised man to be yet further and cruelly insulted by the Roman soldiers, who delighted in cruel play and coarse scorn. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe. The "gorgeous robe" £ which had been put upon Jesus by Herod had been probably taken' from him before he was brought the second time into the Praetorium, and necessarily before his scourging. Now, though it is called a "purple robe" by John, it was probably a cast-off toga of the Herodian court, in all likelihood it was the same garment which was thrown again around his fettered limbs, his bowed and bleeding form. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns; in imitation of the victor's wreath at a "triumph," rather than the coronet or diadem of a king. The material is believed by Winer, Hug, Luthardt, and Godet to be the Lycium spinosum, often found at Jerusalem, not the acanthus, whose leaves decorate our Corinthian columns. It is of flexible stem, and would be soon woven into a wreath, the spikes of which, when it was placed around that majestic head, would be driven into the flesh, and produce great agony.
They kept on £ coming to him, and saying to him, in sportive mockery of his supposed Kingship, and utter scorn of the nation whose Messianic hope they derided, Hail, King of the Jews! They did a sham obeisance to him, having elected him, as Roman guards often did, an "imperator" on the field of battle. The offerings which they presented to him were not the kiss of homage, but ῥαπίσματα. They kept on offering him blows on the face, strokes with the hand or with rods (cf. John 18:22, note). Hengstenberg, recalling here (Matthew 27:29) that they put a reed in his hand, symbol of a scepter, supposes that he refused to hold it, in consequence of which they took it from him, and smote him with it. The awful indignity was a wondrous prophecy. Nay, from that very hour he began to reign. That crown of thorns has been more lasting than any royal diadem. Those cruel insults have been the title-deeds of his imperial sway, by which he has mastered the nations. He was wounded, bruised, for the iniquities of us all. The representatives of the outside world thus share expressly in the shame and ban by which the Hebrew theocracy is crushed, and the prince of this world is judged. "They know not what they do;" but Jew and Roman are guilty before God.
(e) [Without the Praetorium.] Further protestations by Pilate of Christ's innocence bring out the hitherto-concealed Jewish verdict that he had claimed to be the Son of God.
And Pilate, with grim insouciance, allows the mockery to take place, and then, with his poor derided sham-king at his side, he went forth again £ from the Praetorium to the public seat, where he kept up the conflict with the accusers and the ever-gathering crowd, and saith to them, with more of passion than before, imagining that this pitiable caricature of a king would reduce the cry of "Crucify him!" into some more moderate and less preposterous demand. Behold, I lead him forth to you, crowned, but bleeding, robed as a king, but humiliated to a condition worse than a slave, that ye may know that I find no crime £ in him; literally, no charge; i.e. no "crime." Pilate rims renews and varies his testimony to the character of the Holy One! He makes another fruitless appeal to the humanity and justice of the maddened mob. But what a revelation of Pilate's own weakness and shame! He can find no fault, but has connived at, nay, ordered, the worst part of this atrocious punishment. Keim would have us think that Pilate's anxiety to save a Jew is a mere invention made by the second-century fabricator. There is however, nothing incompatible with a Roman official's anxiety not to commit a judicial murder, for his own sake, and perhaps for the honor of his order. The hypothesis is irrational that the entire representation of Pilate's desire to screen or save Jesus from the malice of the Jews was a device of the author, due to his Gentile nationality and proclivities, anxious to put even the Roman officials in the best possible light. Surely Christians had no temptation to mitigate their judgments upon Rome at the time of the persecution under Marcus Antoninus. Thoma, like Strauss, finds the basis of the representation in the prophetic types of Isaiah 53:1-12. and Psalms 22:1-31.
Jesus then came forth, at Pilate's order, into some prominent position, wearing (φορέω, not φέρω), as a regular costume, the thorny crown, and the purple robe, and he (Pilate, from his judgment-seat) saith to them, as this hateful and tragic melodrama was being enacted, Behold the Man! ECCE HOMO! This was, doubtless, said to mitigate or allay their ferocity. "Let his simple humanity plead with you! After this surely you can desire no more." £ "The Man," rather than "the King." As Caiaphas did not know the enormous significance of his own dictum (John 11:50), so Pilate, from his purely secular position, did not appreciate the world-wide meaning of his own words. He did not know that he had at his side the Man of men, the perfect veritable Man, the unattainable Ideal of all humanity realized. He did not anticipate that that crown of thorns, that robe of simulated royalty, that sign of bloody agony, and these insults borne with sublime patience and ineffable love, were even then lifting Jesus to the throne of eternal memory and universal dominion; nor how his own words would be enshrined in art, and continue to the end of time a crystallization of the deepest emotion of the Church of God. The hymn of Gerhard expresses in thrilling tones the universal and perpetual feeling of all Christians-
"O Haupt veil Blur und Wunden
Voll schwerz und yeller Hohn!
O Haupt zum Sport gebunden
Mit ether Dornerkon!"
But the appeal to humanity was vain, and Pilate's momentary sentiment failed of its end. Not a voice in his favor broke the silence; but—
When then the chief priests and the officers saw him, they stifled every movement of possible sympathy by "loud harsh cries" (ἐκραύγασαν). They cried out, Crucify, crucify him! £ Scourging and mockery do not meet the case, nor exhaust the curse and the verdict they have already pronounced. He must die the doom of the vilest. He must be done to death as a slave. Pilate saith unto them, certainly not granting to them permission to take the law into their hands, irrespective of the Praetorian court and against his will, but in angry sarcasm, and with an unconcealed threat, Take him, ye yourselves, and crucify; that is, if you dare. Go, do your deed of blood by your own hands, take all the responsibility; for I find no crime in him. Pilate thus derides their powerlessness, and repeats his verdict of acquittal (see John 18:31). At this moment the so-called trial might have ended, so far as Pilate was concerned, with a frank and immediate release. It would seem as though the governor had decided, and there could be no more discussion. But—
The Jews answered him, £ ready with an expedient which hitherto they had not ventured to try upon the Roman official. It might have met with the kind of reception which Gallio gave to the accusers of Sosthenes in the Corinthian court. He might have driven them at point of spear or whip from the judgment-seat. "The Jews' here mentioned, rather than "the chief priests and officers" of the previous verse, for the multitude—by some other spokesmen than they—exclaim, We have a law, and according to that (the) law £ he ought to die; whatever you may have made of the charge of political treason. In full session of our Sanhedrin, he made himself, represented himself, as something more than Caesar, nay, more than man, as Son of God. "King of Jews" was a usurpation of the Messianic dignity; but he had claimed, in their very hearing, to be more than a national leader. He raised himself to the position of being "Jehovah's King upon his holy hill," to whom Jehovah had sworn, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee;" "Son of God" as well as "King of Israel." Pilate would not and could not understand this strange "testimony to the truth;" and the people were now in a more angry and excited state than ever, and appealed to the law of their own code (Leviticus 24:16), which denounced death upon the blasphemer. This charge was just unless the claim was true. If Christ had not been to his own inmost consciousness what he said he was, the Sanhedrin was in the right; and, according to law, he was guilty of death. It is here vastly interesting to see another indication of relation between the synoptic narrative and the Fourth Gospel. Though John passed ever the scenes before the Sanhedrin, and the circumstance that Christ had been actually there doomed because he had made there no secret of his Divine claims, and declared himself to be a king in a higher sense than Pilate dreamed; yet John has given clear proof that he was well aware of the confession, and records the still more striking tact that this special claim of supreme prerogative actually came to the ears and before the judgment-seat of Rome.
(f) [Within the Praetorium.] The fear of Pilate, and the apportionment of the measures of guilt by the majestic Sufferer.
When therefore Pilate heard this word he was more afraid, implying that John had seen all along that some element of "fear" had moved Pilate, and that now it was augmented. Superstition goes hand in hand with skepticism. Instead of this being (as Keim says) contrary to psychologic laws, the history of skepticism is constantly presenting the same features (cf. Herod Antipas the Sadducee, who would dogmatically have repudiated the idea of resurrection, crying out concerning Jesus, "It is John the Baptist, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead," etc.). We need not suppose that Pilate was suddenly affected by the truth of Jewish monotheism; but he may readily have believed that the wondrous Being before him was enshrouded in a mystery of supernatural portent and pretension that he could not fathom, and before which he trembled. The idea of Divine energy enshrined in and wielded by human beings was not altogether foreign to heathen thought—and one centurion, at least, who was probably present on this very occasion, exclaimed that Jesus was a Son of God (Matthew 27:54).
And he entered the Praetorium again (Jesus following him), and he saith to Jesus, Whence art thou? but Jesus gave him no answer. Almost all commentators reject the old explanation of the question of Pilate given by Paulus, that he simply asked Jesus of his birthplace or his home. The governor was disturbed, and ready to suspect that he had on his hands some supernatural Being whom no cross could destroy—some mysterious half-human, half-Divine creature, such as filled the popular literature; and, without any spiritual insight on his own side, he enticed Jesus to give him his confidence, and entrust to his keeping some of the secret of his origin, and the source of the bitter antagonism to his claims. There was fear, curiosity, and great desire for his own sake to save the suffering Man from the clutches of his enemies. "Whence art thou? Hast thou indeed made this claim? Best thou call thyself Son of God? that God is thy proper Father; that thou art coming in the glory of heaven; that thou, in thy purple robe and bleeding form, art already seated on thy throne of judgment?" Surely all this was really conveyed by the question, for we cannot suppose that "the Jews" confined themselves to the laconic recital of the charge as here recorded. The silence of Jesus is very impressive, and we, in our ignorance, can only vaguely say what it meant. Very numerous explanations are offered. Luthardt's idea, that Christ would not give an answer which would have the effect of preventing Pilate, in his agitated state, from giving the order for his crucifixion, is stagey and unreal. Moreover, it is bound up with very questionable ethic, and suggests that Jesus is answerable for the awful sin of Pilate, from which, by a word, he might have saved him. We admit that at any moment the Lord could, if he had chosen, have smitten his foes with blindness, or delivered himself from their malice by passing through them (cf. Joh 12:1-50 :59). They would all have fallen to the earth if he had glanced at them as he had done upon the Roman guard in Gethsemane upon that very band of men who were now so busy in wiping out the stain of their momentary panic. On other occasions, when his hour of self-deliverance and self-devotion to the Father's will had not arrived, he discomfited his enemies; but now his hour had come, and he did not shrink. All this is true, but it does not account for the refusal to answer a question like this. Doubtless the silence was as expressive as speech, and even less likely to be misunderstood. He could not have denied that he was "Son of God." He could not have affirmed it without leading Pilate to put human and heathen notions into it. But could not he, who is infinite wisdom incarnate, have given an answer which would have avoided both dangers? That, however, is practically what he did effect. The prophetic picture had foretold of him, that "like a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth;" and the previous silences of Jesus before Annas, and before the false witnesses, before Caiaphas, and Pilate himself, and before Herod, are all governed by the same rule—a refusal to save himself from malignant falsity, or tricky design, or conspicuously lying charges; but when challenged to say whether he was the Christ, whether he was the Son of God, whether he was a King, he gave the answers needed. There was some likeness between the spirit of Herod, Caiaphas, and the false witnesses, and of Pilate's "Whence art thou?" which did not deserve an affirmative answer. The governor, who had scourged and insulted an apparently defenseless man, at the very moment when he was proclaimed innocent, and now was afraid of what he had done, came into the category of the slayers of the silent Lamb. But to the next inquiry, which went down to the depths of his heart, and revealed the utter unspirituality and self-ignorance which needed response, a wondrous reply was given.
Therefore £ saith Pilate to him; nettled by this silence, and with the arrogance of a Roman procurator, Speakest thou net to me? "I do not wonder at your silence before that malignant crowd, but to me your refusal to speak is inexplicable." He did not appear to desire genuine information, nor was his conscience touched by reflecting upon the hateful mistake he had made. "The ἐμοί bears the emphasis of mortified power, which attempts even then to terrify and entice" (Meyer). Archdeacon Watkins says well, "Pilate is true to the vacillating character which now, as man, trembles before One who may be a being from the other world, and now as Roman governor expects that Being to tremble before him." Knowest thou not that I have authority (ἐξουσίαν) to release thee; £ and that I have authority to crucify thee? Pilate scoffingly assumes supreme authority of life and death, He virtually says, "I am the judge; you are the accused criminal. I am your master, and the master of the Jews; you are absolutely in my power." This, then, was another moment of critical and intense interest, and of tremendous temptation from the prince of this world. The destiny of the Church, of Christianity, and of the world might seem to be trembling in the balance. A single glance, a single word of admission or pleading, a gesture of deference, or merely human confidence, or gentle flattery, to say nothing of the exercise of the very power by which the Lord had erewhile spell-bound his captors, or paralyzed the arms which meant to stone him, and the whole history of the world (judged from human and historical standpoints) would have been utterly different. But the same Christ who would not accept the help of daemons, nor ascend from the mountain of Transfiguration to his native and primeval home, nor at any time work a miracle for the supply of his merely personal need, uttered the memorable words—
Thou wouldst not have £ authority against me of any kind, either judicial or actual, or both combined: thou wouldst hold no judicial position which I or others could recognize, nor wouldst thou have the faintest power to proceed against me unless, etc. Here our Lord points to the great doctrine which Paul afterwards expressed (Romans 13:1) about the powers that be, and hints that every circumstance and event which led to Pilate's occupancy of that judgment-seat, or which in recent times had delivered up the people of the Lord to the authority of Rome, and prepared for the occupancy of the Praetorium by Pontius Pilate himself, was altogether beyond the range of his judge's spontaneity and competency. Unless it were given thee from above (ἄνωθεν). He does not say, "from my Father," or "from God"—phrases which would have been incomprehensible to a skeptical heathen; but "from above," from that Divine providential source of all power which rules all. The Lord thus implies the Divine legitimation of the judicial rank of Pilate; and the fact that his continuous occupancy of it was a talent revocable in a moment by the hand that gave it, and that all the exercise of his so-called ἐξουσία was dependent on his supreme will. For this cause he that delivered £ me up to thee. Though Judas is continually described as παραδούς (John 18:2; John 13:2; John 11:21; John 12:4; John 6:64-71), yet we have already seen that the act of Judas had been endorsed by the people, and by the Sanhedrin, who now by their highest official representative had "delivered" him up to Pilate (John 18:35, note), betrayed him with murderous intention to the power which could not merely excommunicate, but could kill by judicial process. Our Lord may either refer to Caiaphas (Bengel, Meyer, Luthardt) or to the Sanhedrin and people as a whole (Godet). Hath greater sin. "Because the initiative has been taken by him, and irrespective of thee; because thy power, such as it is over me, is a Divine arrangement, made irrespective of thy will; and the whole of this proceeding has been forced upon thee against thy better judgment." Nevertheless, he implies that Pilate has sinned: he was exercising his seeming judicial rights irrespective of justice. He had declared Jesus to be free from blame or charge in open court, but he had nevertheless submitted the innocent Sufferer to the utmost wrong; but he that delivered Christ-to Pilate had done so out of willful ignorance, and was sinning against light and knowledge. Caiaphas might have recognized Christ's true Messiahship, and accepted his true claims, and bowed before him as the Sent of God, as the Son of the Blessed; but instead of this he had violated the law, and sacrificed the hope and spiritual independence of his own people, out of deference to the sacrosanct honors of his own order. Pilate's consciousness of independence is rebuked, and his conscience appealed to, and the Lord, in this last word to his judge, claims to be his Suzerain, and awards to him his share of blame. Pilate said to the Jews, "I find no fault in him;" Jesus said to Pilate, "Thou hast committed a great sin, though there is another God-given ἔξουσια, which is more seriously and culpably trifled with than thine is: he that delivered me to thee hath committed a greater."
(g) Pilate vanquished by his selfish fears, and judgment given.
Upon this [Revised version (ἐκ τούτου); not from this moment, or "henceforth," as in the English version, but in consequence of this statement and apportionment of blame, and not from any appreciation on Pilate's part of the Divine Sonship which Jesus had admitted without further definition]—upon this Pilate sought (imperfect tense, suggesting repetition and incompleteness in the act) to release him. We are not told by what means, and we have no right to introduce the additional notion of "peremptorily," or "the more," but that he made some further steps in the direction of resistance to the will of "the Jews." Baur and others think that the author is, from doctrinal grounds by mere fabrication, emphasizing the hostility of the Jews, and prolonging the agony of a vain attempt. Every one of these vivid touches impresses us with the unintentional indication of the eye-witness. Probably the governor proceeded to give the order of release; beckoned his body-guard to remove our Lord to a place of safety, and took some obvious steps to screen him from the malice and envy of his tormentors. But the Jews, catching sight of the process, and imagining some maneuver to baulk them of their prey, revealed a spirit that has sometimes, but rarely, disgraced humanity: they dropped their religious plea, they smothered their affected loyalty for their ancient Law, and, having no further charge to bring against Jesus, hid their most intense hatred of Roman rule by assuming the mask of loyal subjection to Tiberius and to the majesty of the Caesar. They endeavored to work upon the fears of Pilate, who knew perfectly well that his position and life were at jeopardy if the matter stood as they pretended. With unscrupulous abandonment of all their patriotic boasts, the men who hated Rome and were perpetually plotting against the imperial power, exclaimed (ἐκραύγασαν, £ shouted with harsh loud yells of bitter hate, that κραύγη rang for half a century in the ears of the loved and faithful disciple), If thou release this Man, thou art not Caesar's friend. The friendship and confidence of Caesar was the title in their hearts to an unresting hatred and loathing; yet they are cunning enough to know that Tiberius was jealous of his own authority, and no charge was so fatal to a Roman procurator as crimen majestatis (Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 3:38). Amiens Caesaris was a title of honor given to provincial governors, and sometimes to allies of the Caesar; but (as Alford, Meyer, and Westcott think) on this occasion it was used in wider sense, and was capable of a mere deadly emphasis. Every one who maketh himself £ a king speaketh against (declares himself opposed to, rebels against) Caesar. As if that was likely to distress these maddened fanatics; and as if the very charge had not been already deliberately laughed to scorn by both Herod and Pilate. There was a Man who said he was a King, and Pilate was guilty of misprision of treason. Pilate's political history aggravated his fears. His relations with the emperor were not satisfactory (Josephus, 'Ant.,' John 18:3. John 18:1,John 18:2; 'Bell. Jud.,' John 2:9. John 2:2-4; cf. Luke 13:1), and his knowledge of the power of these Jews to renew partisan and patriotic charges against him was now a very serious danger.
When Pilate therefore heard these words, or, sayings £ his fear of Tiberius became greater than his fear of Christ; his anxiety for himself predominated over his desire for justice and fair play. He found he had gone too far. Some commentators and harmonists here introduce the "hand-washing" (see above, John 18:40); but such a proceeding at this moment, when he was straightening up his back for the last act of injustice, would have roused fresh and dangerous charges against his personal honor. He brought Jesus out from the Praetorium to a place in view of the peoples and sat down (not, as some say, caused Jesus, in mockery, to take his place upon the judgment-seat (κάθιζω has the transitive sense in 1 Corinthians 6:4 and Ephesians 1:20, but not in Jn; and undoubtedly it has the intransitive sense, not only in John, but in Acts 25:6, Acts 25:17. Moreover, the mockery was the act of the soldiery and of Herod's men of war, not of Pilate). It is remarkable, as Dr. James Drummond points out, that Justin Martyr ('Apol.,' 1:35) apparently refers to this supposed transitive usage of κάθιζω in this very connection by John, by the words, Διασύροντες αὐτὸν ἐκάθισον ἐπὶ βήματος καὶ εἶπον κρῖνον ἡμῖν. It is reasonable inference that Justin read John's Gospel, and supposed him to give transitive force to the verb. Upon the judgment-seat in a place called λιθόστρθτον, the tessellated Pavement—equivalent to "stone-joining"—in which Romans delighted from the days of Sulla; a decoration which Julius Caesar carried about with him (Suet., 'Vit.,' 46.) for purposes of judgment—but in the Hebrew, Oabbatha. This was probably an elevated and fixed platform overlooking the temple-courts, or joining the Castle of Antonia with the temple. Its etymology is אתָיבִ־בגַּ, the ridge of the house or temple. £ Ewald has endeavored to find in the word the root עבַּקָ, Aramaic for "insert," modified into עָגָּ, and then to suppose that we have here an exact equivalent to λιθόστρωτον; but where this word occurs in the LXX. it is the equivalent of the Hebrew פצַרָ, Song of Solomon 3:10. The λιθόστρωτον was possibly some elevated seat reached by a flight of stairs, and in the open air, not the bema within the Praetorium, where the more private conversations took place.
Now it was the preparation of the Passover. Once more the question of the discrepancy between the Johannine and synoptic implication of the day of our Lord's death reappears. This statement is claimed eagerly by both classes of critics. Hengstenberg, M'Clellan, Lange, Schaff, etc., all urge that the word "preparation" is simply the "Friday" before the sabbath—"the eve of the sabbath," and that τοῦ Πάσχα is added in the broad Johannine sense of the entire Paschal festival, and means the "Friday" of the Passover week, and that thus John only confirms the synoptic narrative that the Passover had been sacrificed on the previous evening. To this it is replied, by Meyer, Godet, Westcott, Farrar, etc., that this use of παρασκευή belongs to a much later period, and here it is used in the sense of the "preparation" for the Paschal meal, without interfering with the fact afterwards mentioned, that it was the pro-sabbaton, the day before the sabbath; the first day of unleavened bread coinciding with the ordinary weekly sabbath. The τοῦ πάσχα here would have no meaning for a reader, who had not learned this technical and later patristic usage. Why should not John, on that understanding, have simply used the word in the sense which the synoptists give to it, as equivalent to the προσάββατον? [There is another difficulty in the former interpretation: if our Lord was crucified on the first day of unleavened bread and after the Paschal meal, there would be a second preparation of the Passover on that day week, so that John could not have spoken of it with the precision which he used (see notes on John 13:1; John 18:28).] The balance of argument, so far as John is concerned, is in favor of the Passover meat being still in prospect, and the statement is made to call attention to the fact that, as St. Paul said, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." Thus doubtless the blindness of the Jews is aggravated, and the typical and symbolic meaning of the correspondence between the ritual and its antitype emphasized. Another serious perplexity occurs. It was about the sixth hour. This is in manifest opposition with Mark's statement (Mark 15:25) that the Crucifixion took place at the third hour, and with all three of the synoptists, that the supernatural darkness overspread Jerusalem from the sixth to the ninth hour. This is represented as taking place after our Lord had been hanging for some time upon the cross. Some relief to this great difficulty of horology is found in the slight modification of the text from ὥρα δὲ ὡσεὶ ἕκτη of T.R. to ὥρα ἦν ὥς ἕκτη, £ which may suffer the reading of Lange ("es war gegen die"), "it was going on towards the sixth hour"—the third hour, 9 a.m., was passed, and it was moving on to midday. Westcott, in an elaborate note on John's measurement of time, endeavors to prove that he always uses the Roman system of measure from midnight to midday, instead of the Oriental method of measurement from sunrise to sunset, and that he meant by the sixth hour 6 a.m., not 12 midday. But if this is possible, the perplexity is rather increased than diminished. It is difficult to imagine that this stage of the proceedings could have been reached by six o'clock a.m., and that three hours still followed before the Lord was crucified. M'Clellan hotly espouses this interpretation, and, against Farrar, maintains that the Romans did adopt this computation, by quotations from Censorinus ('De Die Nat.,' 23.), Pithy ('Nat. Hist.,' 2.77), Aulus Gellius, and Maerobius; and he reminds his readers that John wrote in Ephesus, and proves that there was an Asiatic computation of time which corresponded with the Roman, and that there is abundant time before 6 a.m. for all that is needed to have taken place. This is the interpretation of Townson ('Discourses on the Four Gospels'), and it is espoused by Cresswell, Wieseler, Ewald, Westcott, Moulton. Coder, however, gives strong proof, on John 1:39, that the Greeks of Asia Minor were familiar with the Jewish reckoning from sunrise to sunset (see notes on John 1:39; John 4:6; John 11:9). Eusebius supposed an alteration of the text of John, converting Γ' = 3 into ς' = 6. It is strange that no manuscripts have revealed the fact, though the third correcter of א and the supplement to D suggest this early solution of the difficulty. Eusebius was followed by Ammonius and Severus of Antioch. Beza, Bengel, and Alford with hesitation accept this conclusion. Luthardt, Farrar, and Schaff seem inclined to think that this may be the explanation, unless the ὡς be used with great latitude of meaning, and that what is really intended was that it was moving on to midday. The nine o'clock had been passed. Luthardt is dissatisfied with every explanation, not simply because it is inconsistent with the synoptic narrative, but because it is incompatible with John's own reckoning. Hengstenberg thought that the division of the day into four periods of three hours each is far older than either the Talmud or Maimonides, and that the synoptic narrative reckoned by the terminus a quo, which, taken literally, would be too early for the act of crucifixion, and that John's reckoning points to the terminus ad quem, which, taken literally, would be too late. M'Clellan thinks this "outrageous!" though Andrewes, Lewin, Ellicott, and Lange practically adopt it. Augustine says, "At the third hour (Mark) he was crucified by the tongues of the Jews, at the sixth hour (John) by the hands of the soldiers." Da Costa suggested that the sixth hour was reckoned backward from 3 p.m., the commencement of the preparation. Mark, by using the aorist, cannot have intended to convey that the whole process of crucifixion, commencing with the scourging, including the procession to Golgotha, and the last scene of all, was included in the verb. At the hour, thus indicated by a term which cannot be finally interpreted, Pilate, trembling with rage and impotent fury, endeavored to fling at the head of the haughty priesthood another maddening taunt, and yet with a flash of inward conviction which, after all, staggered him: he pointed once more to the sublime Sufferer, bleeding from his wounds and crowned with thorns, having every mark upon him of their insulting cruelty and insensate hate, wearing the mock and cruel habiliments of royalty, and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! There is the King whom you have crowned, and whose claim lies altogether beyond your ken. Wavering between the favor of Tiberius and the claims of justice, remembering that Sejanus, to whom he had personally owed his own appointment, had already been a victim to the jealousy of their common master, he yet cannot suppress the bitter taunt involved in Ἴδε ὁ Βασιλεὺς ὑμῶν
John 19:15, John 19:16
They on the other hand therefore yelled £ out, Away with him! away with (him)! Crucify him! The aorists, ἆρον σταύρωσον, imply the haste and impatience which they manifest to have done with the conflict; and Pilate, eager to thrust another envenomed dagger into the heart of their pride, and knowing that to call this Man whom he had made vile in their eyes their "KING," and to crucify One to whom such a title could be given would be gall and wormwood to them, cried, with flashing anger, Shall I crucify your King? This wrung forth from them a cry which expressed the uttermost and basest abandonment of all their proud boasts, a heartless and fateful acknowledgment of their servility and dependence. The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar! Our Messianic hope is dead, our national independence is at an end, our witness as a people to truth, our listening to the voice which would have gathered us together, are over. As before they had shouted, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" so now, "Not the Lord of glory, but the damon lord of Rome; not this King of kings, but Tiberius Augustus et Dominus sacratissimus noster." In renouncing Christ by the lips of their chief priests, they put themselves under the power of the prince of this world, and terribly they answered for their crime. "They elected Caesar to be their king; by Caesar they were destroyed" (Lampe). Their theocracy fell by their mad rage against the perfect embodiment of the highest righteousness and purest love. "The kingdom of God, by the confession of its rulers, has become the kingdom of this world." How terribly symptomatic of the perpetual resistance of his claims by all those who deliberately reject his authority! "We have no king but fashion! … We have no king but mammon!" "We have no king but the leader of our clique!" "We have no king but pleasure!" "We have no king but our royal selves!"—are voices not infrequently heard even now. This cry was too much for Pilate; he wavered, paltered with justice, vented his insolence and pride, knew better and did the thing which he felt to be base. "He who had often prostituted justice was now utterly unable to achieve the one act of justice which he desired. He who had so often murdered pity was now forbidden to taste the sweetness of a pity for which he longed" (Farrar). Then therefore he delivered him to them, in order that he might be crucified. "IBIS AD CRUCEM. I MILES EXPEDI CRUCEM," were the awful words in which he would deliver his judgment and secure an everlasting execration. He delivered up Jesus unto them; for they, though not the positive hands by which the foul deed was done, were the sole inciting causes of the act. Luke, as well as John, involves this idea, and Peter (Acts 2:23) says, "Ye slew him, crucifying him by the hands of lawless men," and (Acts 3:15) "Ye killed the Prince of Life." Yet they were profoundly anxious for his death by Roman crucifixion, not only because thus they were impelled to fulfill the great prophecy and confirm the words of the blessed Lord himself, but because they wished to stamp out in disgrace and shame all his claims; because they wished that the supreme court, the heathen and corrupting power, should dash down to earth and defile this idol of some of the people and even some of their own number; because they wished to deliver themselves from the responsibility of the act, and to avoid being called to give an account to Rome of their judicial murder; and in the act itself they wished to have a Roman guard to prevent an escape and quell an emeute. The school of Tübingen endeavor to invalidate the Johannine portraiture of Pilate, and to ascribe its fictitious creation in the second century to a desire then rampant, to charge upon the Jews all the blame of the act, and to exhibit Pilate as a symbol of the sympathy which the Gentile world was extending to Christianity and the Church. The persecutions which prevailed from the days of Nero, Domitian, and Trajan, to those of the Antonines, rebuke such a supposition. Moreover, the synoptic narrative is equally explicit with St. John in setting forth the sympathy of Pilate, or rather his desire to release Jesus. Luke tells us that Peter charges the guilt of the Crucifixion upon the Jews (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15; cf. James 5:6; Revelation 11:8). The explanation of Pilate's conduct and of his final despicable act is given only in John's Gospel; and even Reuss admits that we have in John "the true key of the problem".
(4) THE CRUCIFIXION. Love unto the uttermost.
John 19:17, John 19:18
(a) The circumstances of the death.
Therefore they took (received) Jesus £ from the hands of the Gentile, leading the way in their accursed procession, gloating over their victim. Παρέλαβον reminds us (Westcott) of the παρέλαβον, (John 1:11), where it is said, "His own received him not." They did not receive him in the fullness of his grace, but they did receive him to inflict the curse and shame and death for which they had plotted and clamored. This powerful suggestion is brought out by the amended text. At this point, when the sacred Sufferer left the Praetorium and was dragged into the rush of the vociferating crowd, the synoptic narrative becomes far fuller in detail. The terrible tragedy in-eludes the disrobing. The bleeding form is once more clothed with his own garments. It is not necessary to suppose a second scourging (see John 19:1). The circumstance mentioned (Luke 23:26 and parallel passages) of Simon of Cyrene made to bear his cross after him, shows how Jesus in his human nature had suffered already. A second scourging (if we judge by all we can gather of such an infliction) would have been followed by immediate death, and would thus have snatched from them the realization of their inhuman purpose. The statement that, bearing his cross for himself, he went forth, shows that they tried to force him thus in his agony to endure this additional humiliation, and, from his physical exhaustion, were compelled to make use of the expedient described by the synoptists. Mark (Mark 15:22) introduces another most suggestive word, φέρουσιν αὐτὸν, literally, "they carry him" from the place where they compelled (ἀγγαρεύουσιον) Simon to take up his cross, and at least he hints, if he does not express, the terrible fact that they had, by their fell cruelty of all kinds, at length exhausted all the human physical strength of the Sufferer. John's language, though at first sight discrepant with Luke's, really explains it. Luke also describes the wailing of the daughters of Jerusalem, and the sublime self-forgetfulness with which Jesus turned their thoughts from his agony to themselves and their children. Matthew and Mark both relate another scene, which seems as if one gleam of pity had crossed some heart—"They offered him wine, mixed with narcotic gall," to stupefy his senses, and lull his physical agony. He did not put it by "with suicidal hand;" but, as Keble sang—
"Thou wilt feel all, that thou mayst pity all;
And rather wouldst thou wrestle with strong pain
Than overcloud thy soul,
So clear in agony,
Or lose no glimpse of heaven before the time."
He went forth to a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha. "He went forth" from the Praetorium along the via Dolorosa, wheresoever it was, beyond the city wall (Hebrews 13:12, etc., "He suffered without the gate"). Moses had forbidden (Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 15:35) capital punishment within the camp (cf. 1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:58). The traditional site of the place is far within the present walls in the north-western quarter of the city, not far from the gate of Damascus; and endless discussions have prevailed with respect to the line of the second city wall, which at that time must either have included or excluded the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The identification of the site of Golgotha is rendered difficult from the eagerness with which theories have been sustained.
(1) Ferguson's £ theory is that Constantine's" Church of the Resurrection" is to be found in the 'dome of the rock' in the temple enclosure! He urges that the tradition was moved thence to the "Church of the Holy Sepulcher" in the eleventh century, when Fatimite kaliphs drove the Christians away, and persecuted the pilgrims to such an extent as to produce the reaction of the Crusades.
(2) The ecclesiastical theory is that the tomb and all the awful and blessed associations are to be reckoned for somewhere within the buildings or ruins of the present church. The difficulties are great; for, instead of being "without the gate," or "nigh the city," it is situated in the heart of the present city, and it is very difficult to imagine or trace any line of wall which could have run in such a way as to exclude the supposed site of the tomb from the city.
(3) A modern theory (see 'Survey of Palestine') finds the tomb in the immediate vicinity of Jeremiah's grotto, to the north of the Damascus gate. This site has good claims, from the probability
(a) that it was the place of public execution;
(b) that the second wall of the city did correspond with the present wall;
(c) that there are reasons to think that it was built over and concealed from view until comparatively recent years.
Warren and Conder give a drawing of the tomb and its arrangement, which sustains the probability that it is the tomb once hallowed by the most stupendous event in the history of the world. Robinson said, "The place was probably upon a great road leading from one of the gates, and such a spot would only be found upon the west or north side of the city, on the roads leading to Joppa or Damascus." The word "Gulgotha" or "Gulgaltha" is the Aramaic (cf. Syriac Gagulta) form of Gulgolath, Hebrew for "skull," and may derive its name from the form of the mound or bare place where was the garden in which the rock-hewn tomb of Joseph had been excavated. The vulgate translates the word Calvaria, a skull, from which our word "Calvary" is derived. The English version in Luke 23:33 thus translates the Greek word κρανίον, and from this passage the word has been naturalized in our language. There is no authority for the appellation "Mount Calvary." The name probably refers to the shape of the site where the event took place. From this verse we learn that Jesus went forth to the spot, and (John 19:20) John further says it was "nigh unto the city," therefore not within it. The same position relative to the city is obvious from Matthew 28:11, where the Roman guard came from the tomb εἰς τὴν πόλιν. The Romans were accustomed to execute their criminals in some conspicuous position, adjoining a traveled road, so that those passing by, as well as those who congregated for the purpose, might know and learn its meaning. They reached the chosen spot—
Where they crucified him. As John barely mentions this awful climax of his Gospel, it is not needful here to enlarge upon the heartrending details of this hideous process, one which Cicero described as "crudelissimum,teterrimum,summum supplicium," one from which no Roman citizen could suffer, and which was reserved for the most ignominious and degraded of mankind—for traitors, brigands, and condemned slaves. £ It is sufficient to say that, from the mention of the ἐπιγραφὴ ἐπ αὐτῷ (Luke 23:38), the cross was not simply of the T shape called crux commissa, but rather (Luthardt and Zockler) of the familiar shape + and termed crux immissa, upon the upper arm of which the title or accusation, which had been placed round his neck, was affixed. The victim of this punishment was stripped, laid on the central bar, and the arms attached by ropes to the transverse beam, the hands and feet fastened with huge iron nails to the wood. A sedile was arranged to bear a portion of the weight of the body, which would never have been sustained by the gaping wounds. The cross was then raised by the executioners, and thrust with a fierce jerk into the hole or socket prepared for it. There was nothing in this inhuman torture necessarily to occasion death. The sufferers often lingered for twelve hours, and sometimes for several days, dying at last of thirst, starvation, and utterly intolerable agony. The Romans generally left the bodies to be devoured by birds of prey; the Jews buried the corpses. Constantine I., after his conversion, out of reverence for the Lord whom he had chosen, abolished the punishment, which, far more terrible than one by wild beasts or fire, has never been renewed, and rarely practiced in Europe since that day. There, then, these Jews, by the hands of lawless men, by Roman executioners, "crucified the Lord of glory," and by their hideous insensibility to goodness, by judicial blindness, bigotry, envy, and pride, not knowing the infinite crime they were committing, offered up a sacrifice, slew the Lamb of God, killed a Passover of transcendent price. That torture-tree has become his throne, and the very symbol of all that is most sacred and awe-inspiring in the entire region of human thought. They did not by this gross and inconceivable wickedness bring their rage to its full satisfaction; for they crucified two other with men with him either side one (ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ἐντεῦθεν, an expression only found in this passage and Revelation 22:2), and Jesus in the midst, most prominent in this tragedy, and exalted to what they believed was the very pinnacle of shame. The synoptic narrative has told us these two men were "robbers" (λῃσταί, not κλεπταί) or (κακοῦργοι) "malefactors," who, according to their own confession, were "suffering the due reward of their deeds." For a while both these dying ruffians tried to add torment to their quiet and patient fellow-Sufferer. Luke's account of the change that came over one of them as the awful hours rolled on is one of the sublimest portents that attended the Crucifixion. John passes this well-known incident by, most obviously supplementing the synoptists' narrative with matter which they had omitted. It is strange that John, if he had simply a theological purpose in his selection of facts, should have omitted the sublime prayer, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), a revelation of compassion, power, inward agony, blended with Divine prerogative and unspeakable tranquility, which has done so much to reveal "the heart of Christ," the essence and character of the living God.
(b) The title on the cross
The evangelist turns to an event of which the synoptists say little, and quietly attribute to the Jews themselves. John, from the special access which he had to information about the high priest and the court of Pilate, says, Now Pilate wrote a title also (the Latin technical word τίτλον is used in preference to the Greek word ἐπιγραφή, "superscription"), and he put it, by the hands of his own soldiers, on the cross. We cannot translate ἔγραψε as a pluperfect, and therefore it becomes probable that after the procession had gone howling and cursing away to Golgotha, he had had the τίτλον, prepared. And there was written upon the parchment, or the tablet, in letters all could read, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS, thus Pilate resolved to sting these murderous Jews to the last point of exasperation, in harmony with the character given him by Philo-Judaeus; but perhaps this motive was also stimulated by another—though he sought to punish their pride with scorn and scoff at their hypocritical charge, he may have had some strange irresistible conviction that there was reality in the royal supremacy of this marvelous Being, who throughout was conspicuously triumphant in his patient dignity. He seems muttering to himself, "Let him be Chief of malefactors, but he is and will be King of the Jews nevertheless, and I do not ignore the memories of either David or Solomon, Zerubbabel, Hyrcanus, or Idumaean Herod." The title differs slightly in its phrase in the four evangelists, yet they all preserve literatim the central fact of the change, "the King of the Jews." John alone mentions the circumstance, which may explain the minute differences (so Gresswell, 'Diss.,' 42.), viz. that it was written in three languages,
(a) the vernacular, or "Hebrew;"
(b) the official, or "Latin;"
(c) the speech generally understood by all strangers, or "Greek."
The minute differences may be represented by Matthew using the Hebrew, Mark the Latin, and Luke and John the Greek, the latter simply adding the personal name of the crucified. Whether this hypothesis explaining the "this is" of Matthew, the "Rex Judaeorum" of Mark, the "this" of Luke, and the fuller statement of John, which gives what was contained in one of the languages, be verified or not, it should be observed that the four evangelists agree as to the verbatim form of the αἰτία, John more abundantly supplementing the information by recording the full τίτλος. Even Strauss does not regard these differences as discrepancies.
This title therefore many of the Jews read: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh unto the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Roman (Latin), and in Greek. The word Ἑβραῖστί occurs four times in this Gospel and twice in the Revelation, and nowhere else in the New Testament. Codex B reads Ῥωμαῖστι first. The Latin form of the trilingual inscription may very naturally have been placed at the top. The reference to this peculiarity of the inscription as also given by Luke, in T.R., is there omitted by Tischendorf (8th edit.), Tregelles, Westcott and Herr, and R.T., M'Clellan, and others; it looks as if the reading had been borrowed from John, or rather from the spurious 'Acts of Pilate,' with which it verbally agrees. The proclamation of Christ's royalty to the three great divisions of the civilized world is a providential fact of supreme interest. Thousands of Jews would carry the news of the mysterious "title" to far-off places, and ponder it in their homes. This was part of the preparation made by Divine providence for announcing to the whole world the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Since the cross from the very first thus became a throne, and the Crucifixion an installation into the kingdom, we learn thence the meaning of the Christian principle, "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him."
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate. They must have hurried back to him with petulant resentment of his intentional scorn. Observe the very unusual phrase, "the chief priests of the Jews," as though the priesthood felt the connection between the priesthood and kingship of the theocratic people, and it gave additional sting to the sarcastic reproach involved in the inscription. Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. They resented the association of the theocratic or Messianic symbol with the spiritual Being whom they had condemned. Had they not already declared that they had no king but Caesar? Doubtless he said, "I am the King of the Jews;" he made the claim, not in a sense which could be rationally entertained in a Roman court, but in the true Messianic and prophetic sense. The priests knew perfectly well that because Jesus had altogether refused, Heir of David though he was, to entertain the Kingship in the only sense in which they desired to proclaim it, they had rebelled against him and rejected his claims. For Pilate to have given any color to the purely spiritual prerogative of their victim roused their remonstrance, but that it might be treated as identification of the national cause with a convicted and crucified felon exasperated them.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. And he curtly dismissed them. Pilate no longer dreaded their making his apparent favor to Jesus into a complaint to the emperor, and he gave way to the indomitable temper of which Philo accuses him. He found grim satisfaction in insulting and browbeating them for a moment, Ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα. "I said it, and I meant it; I have crucified your King; yes, true King in his own sense, but not in yours. You have falsely charged him with rebelling against Caesar, and you know that you have lied to my face. Let be; he is your King, and so perish all your futile attempts to shatter the arm that holds you now in its grasp." That and more was condensed in this haughty and obstinate reply. While this was going on in the Praetorium, the tragedy was proceeding at Golgotha; and St. John now returns thither, and describes an event of intense interest which occurred, as all synoptists say, at the very time of the elevation of the cross. John, however, has further facts and symbolic detail to append which were omitted by them.
John 19:23, John 19:24
(c) The seamless garment.
Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, and Luke 23:34 all mention that the soldiers took his garments (ἱμάτια), and divided them according to the ordinary custom followed at executions amongst themselves. These were the head-dress, the large outer robe with its girdle, the sandals, one taking one thing and another another, and each evangelist added that the soldiers cast lots upon the garments, as to who should take which. As these garments may have been of varied value, the lot may have been required; but John, in his narrative, throws fresh light upon this latter and humiliating act. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part. This shows that a quaternion of soldiers, and not the "whole band," had been told off for the infernal deed. Pilate knew now that there was no need of an army to keep the people from popular insurrection. The rest of the garrison were not far off, should they be required; moreover, the servants of the high priest were ready to act on an emergency; but John adds, And also the coat (the χιτών, the שׁוֹבּלְ); the long vesture which clothed his whole person, reaching from the neck to the feet, and which, when removed, left the sacred body naked. This had probably not been removed by either tiered or Pilate before, and the cursed indignity thus reached its climax (Hengstenberg; cf. Job 24:7-10). Now the coat was without seam £ from the top—from the upper portions—woven throughout (δι ὅλου, an adverbial form)—woven, possibly, by the mother who loved him, and corresponding with the dress of the priests. Keim and Thorns see here "a symbolizing of Jesus as the High Priest" (see Holman Hunt's celebrated picture the "Light of the World"). Certainly John saw the Lord in his glory with a garment of the kind (woven of radiant light, and reaching to the feet, Revelation 1:1-20.). The unity of the Savior's seamless vesture has been variously treated in patristic literature: as symbolic of the unity of natures in his Person, by the Monephysites; and by Cyprian ('De Unitate Ecclesiae,' § 7) in his conflict with Novatianists, as symbolic of the unity of the Church, and he actually builds on it his dictum, "He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ." This garment could not be conveniently divided.
They said therefore to one another, Let us not rend it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be. How obviously we have the eye-witness again, and the observation of one whose whole heart was bleeding with unutterable anguish! Here is the true explanation of the "lot" referred to by the synoptists, and moreover a subsequent reflection of the evangelist, who saw once more a realization of the prophetic picture of the ideal Sufferer at his last extremity of reproach and humiliation. He quotes almost verbally from the LXX., That the Scripture might be fulfilled (which £ saith), They parted my garments among them (to themselves), and for my vesture (ἱματισμόν μου) they did cast lots. If John had quoted accurately from the Hebrew, he would have preserved more obviously the contrast between the מדִגָבְּ and the שׁוֹבּלְ,which yet was clearly in his mind. The χιτών was the portion of the ἱματισμός upon which the lots were cast. Lucke and De Wette (though not Meyer) regard it as certain that John took the ἱματισμός as identical with the χιτών. Strauss describes Psalms 22:1-31. as the programme of the Crucifixion. He styles it thus for the purpose of undervaluing the historical character of the narrative, and of suggesting that it owed its origin to the prophetic picture rather than to the actual fact (so Thoma). There is another sense in which the statement is true. Unconsciously the various concomitants of the suffering of the Holy One of God were being one by one realized by the Divine Lord. The synoptists, without reference to the ancient oracle, record the fact imperfectly. John adds what came under his own eye, explains their inadequate representation of the "lot," and discerns the veritable fulfillment of the prophecy. The reference in Matthew to this fulfillment of prophecy is expunged from the text by Tischendorf (8th edit.), Westcott and Herr, and R.T., on the authority of א, A, B, D, nine uncials and two hundred manuscripts, numerous versions and Fathers. Thus the fourth evangelist is the solitary authority for this fulfillment of the prophetic word, and he reveals a feature which is sometimes denied him by those who try to establish the Gentile origin of the Gospel. These things therefore the soldiers did. A graphic and historic touch, corresponding with the method in which Herodotus closed his account of the slaughter at Thermopylae. In John's case more was suggested. While Pilate had announced to the world that Jesus of Nazareth was "King of the Jews," and Caiaphas had declared that "it was expedient that one man should die for the people," the Roman soldiers, without any knowledge of Hebrew oracles, had all unconsciously filled up the features of the suffering Messiah in literal harmony with the ancient prediction. In a commentary on John's Gospel we cannot here discuss some of the other impressive features of the Crucifixion, upon which the fourth evangelist is silent. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all describe a revolting scene of brutal mockery which ridiculed the dying Lord with his helplessness, and charged him with hypocrisy, scoffed at his having boasted of his Divine Sonship, and of power to build the demolished temple in three days—an ominous charge, which he was so soon to meet. They did not see that they were destroying the temple of his body, and that he would verily paralyze all their power to crush his kingdom by building it up at the predestined hour. The great cry was, "Come down from the cross, and we will accept thy claims, and believe that thou art ' Son of God.'" This was even a greater provocative of his human soul than that which the devil had suggested in the wilderness, or which he had endured on the Mountain of Transfiguration (Godet's 'Biblical Studies of the New Testament'). He knew that he could at once have stepped upwards from the high mountain on the shining way, and left behind him a perfect and most gracious memorial dud ideal of the blessed life. But he had a "decease to accomplish," and he came down to "give his life a ransom for many," to take all our burden and all our care and all our sin upon him, to lay down his life that he might take it again (cf. John 10:17). But the question does arise—Has he not done enough to meet all the case? Has he not been offered up as certainly as Isaac was when Abraham bound his son upon the altar? Could he not, might he not, now come down from the cross, having perfectly consecrated himself? Would he not by this act make converts of the Sanhedrin? and would not tens of thousands at once turn their curses into jubilant hosannas? The chief priests join in the same taunt, and, according to Matthew and Mark, even the dying robbers cast the same reproaches in his teeth. The special taunt was, "He saved others; himself he cannot save." Sublimely true, the very hurricane of abuse, as it reaches him, is transformed into the sweetness and fragrance of the eternal love. He had power in the desert to make the kingdoms of the world his own, if he would have bowed down to the prince of this world. He had authority to vanish into the ethereal home with Moses and Elijah. He might have saved himself, but he could not. He must drink the cup to the final dregs. He must bear the death-penalty itself. If he had not done this, the sympathy with man had fallen infinitely below the demands of his own heart. Sin and death would still have been inseparably linked; the curse would not have been broken, nor the sacrifice been completed. As before Pilate, Herod, and the rest, he was silent. No murmur, no rebuke, broke from him. The breath of his mouth is as vet no two-edged sword. But the penitent brigand, overcome by his majestic patience, pleads for mercy, and, after the long hours have passed, the cry of the helpless sufferer at his side meets with immediate response, while all the cruel howling bigots around him could not prevail to draw from him one syllable of remonstrance! The "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise" is the royalist of all the words from the cross. According to the hypothesis of the Tübingen school, they ought unquestionably to have been selected for citation by the author of the Fourth Gospel. The assumption of the existence and reality of his kingdom, and the admission in the other world of his conscious Lordship over the souls of men, is the most explicit and unapproachable claim that he ever made to Divine prerogatives. John takes notice of another most impressive scene, in which himself had personal concern, and which affected the remainder of his own wonderful life. An incident this which the other evangelists did not presume to touch. It was the Divine expression of the true humanity of the Son of God.
(5) The words on the cross.
John 19:25, John 19:26
(a) Filial love—"Behold thy son!"
But there were standing by the cross of Jesus. Matthew says that many women stood afar off beholding these things, and amongst them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (the less, i.e. the son of Alphaeus) and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children, expressly identified here as elsewhere with Salerno, "women who followed him from Galilee" (Luke 23:55), and ministered unto him. The παρὰ of this verse implies that, in the courage of their love and tenderness, they had drawn nearer to the cross, led on as it would seem by his mother herself, whom John with fuller knowledge mentions as the most important member of one group. John adds, and the sister of his mother, then (it must be admitted without any conjunctive καὶ) he adds, Mary the (wife) of Clopas, and Mary Magdalen. Κλωπᾶς is by almost all admitted to be identifiable with יפַלְחַ, Alphaeus, of Matthew 10:3. Consequently, "the Mary (of Clopos)" is none other than the mother of James the less-known disciple, as well as of others. And this second Mary is identically the same as the Mary spoken of in Matthew and Mark by slightly different phraseology. The question arises—Does John here speak, then, of four women? or does he say that this Mary was the sister of the virgin Mary? If "Mary the wife of Clopas" be the sister of the virgin, then James the less, Joses, and others are cousins of our Lord. This hypothesis has been used by those who identify these men with the "brethren of the Lord;" but it is rendered improbable by the fact referred to twice over in the synoptists and John, that his "brethren did not believe in him," and the growing certainty that "James the brother of our Lord" was not "James the less." Moreover, it is improbable that two sisters should have the same name. The other supposition is that the third woman mentioned by the synoptists (namely, Salome, the mother of Zebedee's sons) was the sister of the mother of Jesus. Against this is the non-appearance of the καί between the second and third names. This absence may be simply due to the fact that John mentions "two and two," singling them out from "the many women," according to his wont. Against it, Godet and others have urged that we have no other hint of the relationship; but of many similar facts throughout the Gospel we have only the slenderest indications—take, for instance, the identification of Judas (not Iscariot) with Lebbaeus and Thaddseus; Nathanael with Bartholomew—and there is much which makes the identification natural. It is after the manner of John to omit the name of Salerno, as he always does his own throughout the Gospel and Epistles. But the entire narrative from beginning to end is illumined by the fact that John was the near relative of Jesus. The ὅν ἠγάπα flashes into light and justification at once. Very much, both in the synoptic and Johannine narratives, receives a deeper meaning. The early friendship, the private ministry of our Lord, with John as his principal companion, the request of Salome, and the exquisite incident which now follows, all receive a richer meaning when it becomes clear that Salome was so nearly related to Jesus. In this conclusion Wieseler, Luthardt, Lange, Westcott, Sears, Moulton, Schaff, and others coincide, though Meyer and Hengstenberg take the other view. Hengstenberg thinks the tradition of three Marys is enough to counterbalance what he calls a learned device! Assuming, then, that John was so dear a friend, so near a relative, we understand better what follows.
Jesus then, seeing the (his £) mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, saith to the (his) mother, Woman, behold thy son! The term "Woman" was on his lips an honorific title rather than an expression of coldness. No atom of disrespect or failure of affection is evinced, nor can we conceive it possible that our Lord was here separating himself in his mediatorial character from all relationship with the mother who bore him! This view, adopted by Hengstenberg in part, by Steinmeyer, Luthardt, Alford, and originally by Professor Hoffmann of Erlangen, seems utterly inconsistent with the spirit of Christ. True, he had warned her not to intrude upon his modes of activity (John 2:4), and had said that his disciples were his brothers, sisters, mother; but the greatness of his heart is human to the last. No Monophy-site explanation of the status majestaticus, no Nestorian severance of the Divine and human Christ, is needed. Christ yearned over the mother whose heart was being pierced by his agony, and with filial anxiety entrusted her, not to those brothers of his—whatever was the degree of their relationship to him—who, nevertheless, did not believe on him, but to the disciple whom he loved.
(b) Filial love—"Behold thy mother!" and the issue. Then he saith to the disciple, Behold thy mother! The very garments that covered him had been rudely divided among the soldiers. He is therefore as a dead man, and yet he made the most royal gifts and precious assignments of that which was nevertheless inalienable. He gave a mother to his dearest friend. He gave a son most precious to the bereaved and desolate and broken heart of his widowed mother. Inconceivable that Weisse should call this "the basest self-adulation." The animus manifested to this document by a certain school partakes of the animosity of political partisanship. From that hour, says the evangelist, the disciple took her (εἰς τὰ ἴδια) to his own home. This may have been some temporary lodging in Jerusalem, but it is more probable, as we have seen, that Salome and John had homes both in Jerusalem and Capernaum. The mere phrase is used in John 16:32 in a more general sense of all the apostles. It is not necessary to believe that John at once removed the sacred deposit and bequest of his dying Lord to that home, though it is just possible. Bengel and many others think so, but it is not necessary to limit the meaning of "hour" to moment. The departure could hardly have taken place till all was over. In this brief reference a key is given to what John became to the Church. We must think of Salerno and John ever by the holy mother of the Lord, whether at Jerusalem, Capernaum, or Ephesus. The few words speak volumes, and his reticence here, as elsewhere, gives an unutterable grandeur to his words.
John 19:28, John 19:29
(c) "I thirst"—the last agony.
It does not come within the purpose of John to record the portents which attended the final scene—either the supernatural darkness on the one hand, or the rending of the veil of the temple on the other. He does not record the visions of the saints, nor the testimony of the centurion. He does not record the further quotation of Psalms 22:1-31.; the cry, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" nor the misinterpretation of the multitudes; nor the jeer at his dying agonies. But he does record two of the words of the Lord, which they had omitted. He, moreover, implies that he had purposely left these omissions to be filled up from the synoptists, for he adds, After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had been (τετέλεσται) now finished, said, I thirst, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. John heard in this word the comprehensive cry which gathered up all the yearnings and agonies of his soul, which fulfilled its travail, which expressed the awful significance of his suffering, and strangely filled up the prophetic picture (Psalms 69:21).
There was set there £ a vessel full of vinegar, probably for the use of the soldiers, and occasionally offered to the sufferers to soothe a part of their torment. John clearly associates this fact with the unconscious fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew gives it, with strange lack of connection, as following the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" So they (Matthew, "one") having placed £ a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop. This hyssop plant, if identical with the caper plant, does produce stems three or four feet long, and may therefore be identical with the "reed" mentioned in Matthew and Mark, while Luke (Luke 23:36) refers the act to the soldiers offering him vinegar to drink, saying, "Let us see whether Elias will come and save him." They put it, brought it, presented it to his mouth. This was not the stupefying draught which he refused, but an exhilarating one.
(d) "It is finished!"—the great victory of completed sacrifice. When he had received the vinegar, he said (τετέλεσται), It is finished! and he bowed his head and delivered up his spirit. The other evangelists record yet another word of Divine and sublime submission, "Father, into thy hands," etc. John simply adds the climax, and leaves the Divine, inscrutable, mysterious fact in its awful grandeur. The world's debt was paid. The types and symbolism of the old covenant had been adequately fulfilled. The mighty work, undertaken by him who would realize the expectations of the oldest prophets and the unconscious prophecies of heathendom, was done. Every iota and tittle of the Law had been magnified. The reality of which the temple and the sabbath were shadows, the priesthood and the offerings innumerable were figures, had all been realized. Τετέλεσται! Consummatum est! From the ground of human nature, from the heart of the Man in whom all the wants, perils, sins, mysteries of the human race were gathered up, has gone the adequate admission of the righteous judgment of God against that nature in its present condition. Death itself becomes, not his shame, but his veritable glory. The sin of humanity is branded with an eternal curse, more deep than any previous manifestation of the Divine justice could have produced; and yet it loses its sting. God reconciles the world to himself by the death of his Son, by this curse thus falling upon his Only Begotten. The earthly judges are condemned by their victim. The great and last enemy is itself wounded unto death. The Seed of the woman bruises the serpent's head when that Seed receives the bruise in its own heel. The Paschal Lamb is slain. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. The prince of this world is east out. The reader must turn to the synoptic narrative for the other portents of the Crucifixion—the earthquake, the supernatural darkness, the rending of the temple veil, and the testimony of the Roman centurion. The silence of the Fourth Gospel concerning these events, on the supposition of its late orion, or on the hypothesis of the glorifying myth, or upon the suggestion that this evangelist was a theologizing mystic of the second century, who was merely fashioning the narrative to establish the doctrinal thesis of the Divine incarnation of the Loges, becomes entirely unintelligible. But the hypothesis that this eye-witness was supplementing other well-known narratives with particulars which came forcibly under his own observation, and made a deep impression upon his own mind, is suggested by every line. Dr. Westcott places "the seven words from the cross" in the following order:—
(a) Before the darkness—
(1) "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
(2) "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
(3) "Woman, behold thy son:… behold thy mother!" (John 19:26).
(b) During the darkness—
(4) "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?".
(c) After the darkness—
(5) "I thirst" (John 19:28).
(6) "It is finished!" (John 19:30).
(7) "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
It is a question whether the sixth or seventh word is the more triumphant.
(6) The piercing of the side, with its significance—the final close of the life of earth.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation; that is, the day before the sabbath (Mark 15:42). This note of time certainly blends both the synoptists and John in the assurance that the crucifixion took place on a Friday. It was also, according to the previous statement, the preparation of the Passover, which, we have seen, is better understood in that literal sense than in the sense of "the Friday of Passover week." Consequently, there was a twofold sanctity about that particular sabbath, seeing that the sabbatic rest of the day following the Paschal meal coincided with the ordinary weekly sabbath; (for great, or high, was the day of that sabbath) (cf. Exodus 12:16; Le Exodus 23:7; and notes on John 13:1; John 18:28' John 19:14). It was a "great" and "high" day in a sense far more profoundly impressive than any that could be derived from the ceremonial enactments of the Hebrew code. The sabbath of his rest came at length. The toil, the agony, are over, the whole world is transformed during its hours into his resting-place. There has been no such sabbath since the creative Word rested from all his work. In order that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath. This statement, with the events which followed, strongly confirms our interpretation of the day of the Crucifixion. The Jews would scarcely have justified a crucifixion on the first sabbatic day of the feast, if they shrank from the proceeding here described as in danger of taking place on the ordinary sabbath. They follow the law (Deuteronomy 21:22, Deuteronomy 21:23) so far as it would apply, and hasten the dissolution of the crucified, if it had not already occurred. (They) asked Pilate that their legs might be broken (crushed) [κατεαγῶσιν, the same as aorist passive, κατάγνυμι, ἀρθώσιν, first aorist passive], and that they might be taken away, as polluting corpses. The σκελοκοπία, equivalent to crurifragium, is a Roman custom, as it is clearly established by numerous authorities;—a brutal custom, which added to the cruel shame and torment, even though it hastened the end.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first—two of the quaternion employed on the one deed, and two on the other—and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they brake not his legs. Their barbarous mercy was unnecessary, and John caw in this another correspondence with the sacred symbolism and prophetic anticipations of the Old Testament. But one of the soldiers pierced—gashed, probably, for the word ἔνυξεν is used in both senses—his side with a spear (λόγχῃ, a lance, a heavy formidable weapon) to give him the coup de grace, should their expectation not be actually realized, and forthwith came there-out blood and water. We do not enter into the numerous physiological reasons which have been advanced by Gruner, Bartholinus, and Dr. Stroud ('Physical Cause of the Death of Christ') for this event, but regard it as one of the great portents of the Crucifixion, which cannot be entirely explained as some physiologists have done. Dr. Schaff appears willing to accept the hypothesis that the extravagated blood, being first separated into its two constituents, was thus liberated from the pericardium—a phenomenon that might seem to justify the supposition of the evangelist, that it was blood and water. Dr. Stroud endeavored, with much medical learning, to show that this might follow the side-piercing if the Lord's physical death had followed, as he argued, from rupture of the heart due to his intense agonies. Sir R. Bennett has accepted this solution. Nor, further, do we see here any reference to the sacramental system of which John elsewhere says so little; but we do see a token miraculously given of the twofold power of his redemptive life and work
(1) renovation, refreshment, rivers of living water issuing from the κοίλια of Christ, the first great rush of spiritual power which was to regenerate humanity; and
(2) the expression of that redemptive process which was effected in the positive shedding of his precious blood. It was, moreover, a proof and sign given to Roman soldiers that their victim was actually dead. We cannot think, with Westcott, that it was a kind of sign of the commencement of the resurrection-life, which goes perilously near to the assertion that he never really died. Moulton argues that the phenomena were physiologically possible if the-event occurred immediately after death. There is nothing in the narrative to prevent such juxtaposition. That John should have witnessed it, and been unable to understand it, and therefore put it down among the marvels of the Crucifixion, corroborates the veracity of the eye-witness (Webster and Wilkinson). The interesting catena of patristic interpretations given by Westcott ('Additional Note') shows that the earliest writer who refers to the marvel, Claudius Apollinaris, regarded it as expressive of λόγος and πνεῦμα, "the Word and the Spirit." Origen showed that from a corpse such a phenomenon could not occur; and so even in his death there are still the signs of the living one. Cyril of Jerusalem saw the two baptisms of blood and water; Chrysostom, the two sacraments, or the mysteries of baptism and of the flesh and blood. Macarius Magnes and Apollinarius saw an allusion to the side of Adam, from which Eve, the source of evil, was taken; that now the side of the second Adam should give forth the means of salvation and deliverance. Tertullian dwells on the two baptisms of water and blood; so Jerome; while Augustine sees in it the laver and the cup. That there was some special, abnormal phenomenon seems specially noticeable from the emphasis which the eye-witness lays upon the observation and record of the fact.
He that hath seen hath borne, and is now bearing, herein and hereby, witness, and his witness is veritable—the highest and surest kind of witness, that of direct observation, staggering, confounding the ordinary sense, but proving that the Son of God died in his human body—and he knoweth, by his own inward experience, that he saith true things, that ye also £ may believe. A vehement effort has been made to sever this testimony from the evangelist, and refer it to a third person ἐκεῖνος, and suppose that it took place during John's absence from the cross (so Weisse, Schweizer, Hilgenfeld, and others); but, as Meyer, Godet, etc., affirm there is no necessity whatever for such an interpretation. Ἑκεινος is used of the subject of the sentence when it is clear from the context that the speaker himself is that subject (see John 9:37). Concerning a third person, the writer could not have written, "He knoweth that he saith true things, that ye may believe," but rather, "We know that he saith true things, that we may believe." But John here speaks strongly of his own invincible conviction, and, as in John 21:24, it is here given to induce a stronger faith on the part of his readers—not of himself and his readers in the supernatural death, in the signs that accompanied it, adapted to convince the bystanders of its marvel, and to fill up the prophetic picture, Hilgenfeld, with strange perversity, urges that the clever forger of the narrative "falls out of his part" and forgets himself. The symbolical and allegorical explanations are numerous. E.g. Toplady's well-known hymn, "Rock of Ages," contains the words—
"Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power."
For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Both the omission of the crurifragium, and the piercing of the Redeemer's side, with its solemn and strange issues, confirm to this great eye-witness the spiritual meaning and Messianic portraiture involved in them. A bone of him shall not be broken. This quotation from the ceremonial of the Passover (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12), where the lamb offered to God was to be shielded from unnecessary mutilation, is in harmony with the words of the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God!" and with Paul's language (1 Corinthians 5:7), "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us," and shows that the Fourth Gospel does recognize this parallel, which is in a very remarkable way thus quietly reaffirmed. This passage acquires meaning from the supposition that the Jews were hurrying away to eat their Paschal lamb, not a bone of which could be legally broken. The opponents of the authenticity think that incidents are invented to establish the supposed relationship. Those who seek to reply to them by explaining away this reference to the Passover think that Psalms 34:20 is referred to, "He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken;" but the force of that passage in this connection would violently clash with any such adaptation of it as could make it refer to the cruel and violent death of the Lord.
And again another Scripture saith. The second of the Old Testament quotations is in several ways important and noteworthy. They shall look on him whom they pierced (εἰς ὅν ἐξεκέντησαν). The original passage is (Zechariah 12:10), וּדקָדָּ רשֶׁאֲ־תאֵ ילִאֵ, "They shall look upon me whom they pierced." The evangelist altered the ME into HIM, which, as it stands in the old oracle, and regarded as the language of Jehovah, is sufficiently surprising. The LXX. had felt the difficulty, and translated it Ἐπιβλέψονται πρός με ἀνθ ὧν κατωρχήσαντο, i.e. "They shall look towards me, because they have insulted me." Their repentance and misgiving shall be aroused, because in response for those things which they have done contemptuously against me. It is interesting to see that John is more accurate in his Greek translation of this prophetic passage, viz. ὄψονται or ὃν, "They shall look" with love and grace and repentance "on him whom (ἐξεκέντησαν) they pierced." This Greek rendering of the Hebrew is followed by Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, and is quoted by Justin Martyr; it is also found in Revelation 1:7, forming a link of connection between the Gospel and the Apocalypse. Moreover, it is most impressive to find that the awful tragedy does not close even in the hands of this writer without a word of promise and hope. Zechariah 12:8-14 is clearly in the mind of the apostle. The merciful Lord waits for the repentance of Israel, of those who, by instigating Roman power for his destruction, pierced him by their trenchant ingratitude as well as by the Roman spear. It will be fulfilled more completely when every eye shall see him, and the full revelation of his majesty shall smite the whole world with penitence or despair. This remarkable event and its issue, whatever may have been the precise physiological fact, establishes:
(1) The autoptic testimony of one who scarcely expected to be credited with the result of his observation.
(2) The genuine humanity of our Lord.
(3) The more than humanity of his manner of death.
(4) The fact of his death, and therefore the reality of the Resurrection.
(5) The symbolic and twofold aspect of his redemptive act.
(6) The fulfillment of prophetic word.
(7) The establishment of the connection between the Passover sacrifice and the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.
(7) The burial—the two friends, Joseph and Nicodemus.
After these things—i.e., after all these transactions and impressions, after the crurifragium and the piercing and the proceedings of the soldiers with Pilate's permission; after, that is, time was left to see the full issue of the previous act, and the awful fact was patent to all—Joseph, who is from Arimathaea. This "Joseph" is introduced with the article (Ὀ £), and a second before ἀπὸ, implying to the reader that he is now. by reason of thesynoptic narrative, a well-known person. This Arimathsea is probably the Ramathaim of 1 Samuel 1:1, the birthplace of Samuel, known now as the Nebi Samwil, about two leagues north-west of Jerusalem (Caspari, § 49). Hengstenberg thinks the site is Ramleh, eight hours from Jerusalem. The maps of the Palest. Explor. Fund place it about a league to the east of Bethlehem. He was a "rich man" (Matthew 27:57)—a fact which the First Gospel recalls without quoting the remarkable oracle of Isaiah 53:9, that Messiah, Servant of Jehovah, was with the "rich in his death." We may judge that Joseph had a residence in Jerusalem, even though he may still be known as belonging to and "from" Arimathaea, because he bad prepared, hard by the metropolis, a sepulcher which as yet had never been used. He was, moreover, a βουλευτής, a member of the Sanhedrin, of high character, "good and just … waiting for, expecting the kingdom of God', "and by no means consentient to the counsel and deed of his colleagues" (adds Luke). The whole position is briefly put by John: Being a disciple of Jesus, but a hidden one (κεκρυμμένος), who had been concealed as such up to this crowning climax of his Lord's humiliation, not daring to confess Christ, by reason of his fear of the Jews. Strange that he and Nicodemus should have cast away their fears at such a moment! Joseph asked of Pilate (ἠρώτησεν); a word that implies something of claim and confidence on his part. The synoptists all three use ἠτήσατο, which rather denotes the position of a suppliant for a favor. That he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. This is supposed by some, who are anxious to make difficulties where none exist, that Pilate had already given permission for the crurifragium, and yet was astonished that he was dead already. The statement of Mark is perfectly consistent with this and with the ἀρθῶσιν of verse 31. Joseph, when all the transactions were over, sought for himself the privilege of a friend to take the body and bury it. Roman law permitted this privilege to friends; as Luthardt says, "The Christian martyrs of Rome were often buried in the catacombs." Not until death was obvious was it lawful to remove a body from the cross. The death had taken place; the Jews were prepared with Pilate's authorization to remove the corpse to the valley of the Son of Hinnom. Joseph comes with a permission to take the corpse for honorable burial. He came therefore—by reason of the permission—and took £ the body (of Jesus).
But there came also Nicodemus who at the first came to him by night pointing back (as the evangelist also does at John 7:50) to the memorable converse with our Lord detailed in John 3:1-20, when Jesus made clear to his visitor that he would be lifted up, even as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness." There is no proof that this "ruler of the Jews" and "master in Israel" had been encouraged by the act of Joseph; but it might seem that these two between them had arranged the costly cerements. There is a world of suggestion lying in this quietly mentioned fact. Doubtless there were many others of timid disposition, who had received deeper convictions than the narrative of the Passion seems to suggest. Nicodemus had said, "We know that thou art a Teacher sent from God." By reason of their unacknowledged faith, the way was prepared for the marvelous conversions of Pentecost and later days. Nicodemus came to the cross, in all probability aided by the loving cares of the women and the disciple whom Jesus loved, bringing a mixture £ of myrrh, an odoriferous gum, and aloes, a fragrant wood, prepared for the embalming process, about an hundred pounds weight. This was a vast quantity. It reminds the reader of "the myrrh and aloes" of the royal Bridegroom of the Church (Psalms 45:1-17.); of the frankincense and myrrh brought by the Wise Men of the East; of the lavish gift of Mary the sister of Lazarus; of the outburst of boundless love which, spite of all the cruel persecution and rejection to which the Lord was exposed, at length was lavished upon him. The myrrh and aloes were pounded and mixed for the purposes of resisting the decomposition of death. The method was entirely to cover the ὀθονίαι, with its pungent and purifying powder, and then to swathe the whole body with the grave-clothes thus enriched.
They took therefore—i.e. Nicodemus and Joseph—the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen clothes with the spices, as is the manner of the Jews to bury. The synoptists specially mention a linen cloth (σίνδων), which they wound around it. It would seem probable, from what is afterwards said, that John wished to discriminate and affirm both processes (see John 20:7). The Jews' method differed from the Egyptians' embalming process. The latter removed all the viscera; and, by long baking and other processes, rendered the remaining shell of the corpse incorruptible and almost imperishable. The Jews' process of sepulture differed from the Roman cremation, and is emphasized. Importance was attached to a splendid funeral (Luke 16:22); and this costly interment was not without its deep significance.
Now there was in the place where he was crucified, close at hand to the very cross, a garden, and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein as yet no man was laid (on site, see John 19:17, notes). John alone tells us of the "garden;" and he clearly saw the significance of the resemblance to the "garden" where Christ agonized unto death, and was betrayed with a kiss, and also to the garden where the first Adam fell from the high estate of posse non peccare. We are not told, however, by him that this sepulcher was Joseph's own (Matthew gives this explanation), nor that it was cut out of a rock, nor the nature or quality of it. Matthew, Luke, and John remark that it was καίνον, not simply νέον, recently made, but new in the sense of being as yet unused, thus preventing the possibility of any confusion, or any subordinate miracle, such as happened at the grave of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21), and so our Lord's sacred body came into no contact with corruption. Thus from the hour of death, in which the love of God in Christ is seen at its most dazzling moral luster, and the glorification of Christ in his Passion reaches its climax, death itself beaus to put on new unexpected forms and charms:
(1) the symbolic effusion of water and blood;
(2) the costly unguent spices and honorable burial lavished on One who had been put under ban, and had died the doom of the slave;
(3) the garden and the watchers.
There, therefore, by reason of the preparation of the Jews, for the sepulcher was nigh at hand, they laid Jesus. John assigns the rapidity with which the process could be completed as a reason for entombment in this particular garden sepulcher, and the ground of the urgency was the "preparation" solemnities. Once more the critics divide into two groups as to the significance of this reference to the date of the Lord's death. It is obvious that both the synoptists and John imply that it was a "Friday," and that the next day was the sabbath. Why, for the third time in the space of a few lines, should this circumstance be noticed? On the first occasion, the morning of the day is said to be "the preparation of the Passover;" on the second it is called "preparation before the sabbath," and John adds that that particular sabbath was a "high day," which, as we have seen, is explained by remembering that its sanctity was doubled, seeing that on that particular year the weekly sabbath would coincide with the 15th of Nisan, which had a sabbatic value of its own. Now he says for the third time it was the "preparation of the Jews"—as we understand it, a day or a time when special preparations were being made by the Jews, and that before sunset, for the slaying of the Paschal lamb. Moreover, the sabbath was drawing on (ἐπέφωσκεν, Luke 23:54). This threefold statement implies that there was something more in the παρασκευή than the Friday of the Passover week. It is curious to observe the precisely contradictory conclusions drawn from this statement by two classes of interpreters. Godet has given an interesting sketch of the extraordinary idea of M. Lutteroth, that the Lord was crucified on the 10th of Nisan! that he rose from the dead three full days and nights afterwards, on the morning of the 14th. But why should John three times over thus designate the day? and why should the synoptists lay such emphasis on its being the "preparation," if the day were really the first great day of the Passover Feast? It is remarkable that St. Paul, referring to the institution of the Eucharist, does not say "on the night of the Passover meal," but on "the night in which he was betrayed" (1 Corinthians 11:23), and he speaks of Jesus as the (ἀπαρχή) "Firstfruits of the dead," as though the resurrection morning coincided with the presentation of the firstfruits, which, on the idea that Jesus suffered on the 15th, would have been presented on the morning of the Jewish sabbath, while the reference in 1 Corinthians 5:7-9, written at the time of a Passover, is rather in favor of the slaying of the Paschal lamb coinciding with the death of Jesus than the institution of the Eucharist doing so. The most extraordinary reference to the Παρασκεύη is that which St. Mat 28:1-20 :62 introduces, when he actually refers to the sabbath when it had begun (on the evening of the 14th or 15th, whichever it was, i.e. after 6 p.m.) under the designation of "the day after the preparation." Generally the more important day would receive its own proper name, and not be designated by the less signal day. Why did not St. Matthew say, "On the morrow, which was the Sabbath"? The one group of interpreters answer that he wished to discriminate the veritable sabbath as distinct from the half-sabbath of the previous day, made so by being also the great day of the feast! But it is more natural to suppose that "the day of preparation," the death-day of the Lord, loomed so largely in the mind of the evangelist, that its morrow derived importance in this particular instance from itself. The only real difficulty in settling this wearisome controversy arises from one statement in the synoptists, which, if resolved in the rigid sense of limiting their expressions to the evening of the 14th and beginning of the 15th, involves us in grave difficulties when considering five or six distinct and independent statements of John's Gospel. We have shown at each of these places the double method of exegetical treatment that has been attempted, and in each case honesty compels us to admit that John is here in apparent discord with the synoptists. If, however, our Lord anticipated by a few hours the celebration of the Paschal supper, seeing that his "hour was come," not indeed deviating from the legal day (though, as Lord of the sabbath and greater than the temple, he was amply justified in doing so), but hurrying on the process between the 13th and 14th, when the water-bearers would be seen fetching their pure water for the purpose; and if he celebrated the Passover at the beginning rather than the end of the 14th of Nisan, then the apparent discord between John and the synoptists vanishes, and the terrible events of the trials and crucifixion of Jesus really took place at the time when the Jews (not Christ himself) were preparing for the Passover proper. On this hypothesis the two narratives would be no longer in hopeless antagonism. With this conclusion we are more satisfied, since, as we have seen in John 13:1 and elsewhere, the synoptists themselves afford numerous corroboratory evidences.
John 19:17, John 19:18
The end has come at last.
I. JESUS CARRYING HIS CROSS. "And he, bearing his cross, went forth to the place of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha."
1. The condemned, according to Roman law, had to carry the instrument of their own punishment.
2. Jesus bore his cross part of the way, till he sank with exhaustion. Accordingly, Simon of Cyrene was required to do the office. The exhaustion of Jesus was caused
(1) by his long watching and his deep mental anguish in Gethsemane;
(2) perhaps, also, by the pain or smart which the cross would inflict upon his scourged and galled shoulders.
II. THE SCENE OF THE CRUCIFIXION.
1. It was outside the gate of the city, according to ancient Jewish law. (Leviticus 24:14.)
2. The exhortation, "Let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach" (Hebrews 13:12, Hebrews 13:13), is founded upon this ancient custom.
3. The actual spot is called Golgotha, or Calvary; but it has not been identified in modern times.
III. THE CRUCIFIXION. "Where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst."
1. Who were they who did this deed?
(1) Not some savage people belonging to an uncivilized land, who had never heard of Jesus.
(2) Not some prowling banditti, who had got the upper hand in Jerusalem, and rioted in murder.
(3) It was the Jews, acting through the Roman soldiers.
(a) God's ancient people;
(b) the witnesses of his marvelous works;
(c) in the land where Jesus was best known;
(d) and in the capital of its solemnities.
2. What did they do? "They crucified him."
(1) This was the death of slaves and malefactors.
(2) It was, in Cicero's words, "the most cruel and the most terrible punishment."
(a) The victim was nailed by his hands and his feet to the cross, while, it still lay on the ground.
(b) These nails, by their position, added to the victim's torture.
(c) It was a lingering death, for the victim sometimes survived till the third day.
3. Whom did they crucify?
(1) The Lord of glory, the Prince of life, the Son of David, their own Messiah.
(2) Mark the indignity of his position at Golgotha.
(a) He is crucified with two robbers, as if he were the fit colleague of malefactors.
(b) He is crucified between them, as if to add to his disgrace. He is the Prince of malefactors. He was indeed "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).
(c) His central place in that death-scene—"Jesus in the midst"—is, after all, in keeping with his central place in heaven and in earth, and in the hopes of dying men.
(α) He is central in heaven; for "the Lamb is in the midst of the throne."
(β) He is central on earth,
(i.) as the Lord who, at the heart of the universe, upholds all things by the Word of his power;
(ii.) as the Center of the invisible Church, for he is its only Head;
(iii.) as the Center of the visible Church, for all Christendom crystallizes around the Person of Christ;
(iv.) as the infrangible Center of man's dying hopes.
The inscription on the cross.
"And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews."
I. PILATE TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A ROMAN CUSTOM TO INSULT THE JEWS BY REPRESENTING THIS MALEFACTOR AS THEIR KING. It was an act of revenge for all the humiliation the Jews had inflicted upon him.
II. IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE LANGUAGES OF THE THREE PRINCIPAL PEOPLES OF THE WORLD. "Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin."
1. Hebrew was the national language of the Jews.
2. Greek was the language of common life.
3. Latin was the language of their Roman masters.
III. HOW DO WE RECONCILE THE "VARIOUS FORMS OF THE INSCRIPTION WITH THE DOCTRINE OF VERBAL INSPIRATION"
1. It is extremely probable that Pilate employed representatives of each language to draw up the title, which would therefore be variously framed according to a threefold idiom.
2. The title in John's Gospel, "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews," would be the Greek form. The title in Mark, "The King of the Jews," would be given with Roman brevity, "Rex Judaeorum." The title in Luke, "This is the King of the Jews? does not differ from that in Mark, for the introductory pronoun is Luke's own. The title in Matthew, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews," would be the Hebrew form.
IV. THE DISSATISFACTION OF THE JEWS AT THE FORM OF THE INSCRIPTION. "Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews."
1. The title here given to the remonstrants suggests that they were the guardians of the theocratic honor of the Jews.
2. They wished to disconnect the name of Jesus from all their ideas of Messiahship, and represent him as a usurper.
3. Or, perhaps, they were anxious to adhere to the fatal admission, "We have no king but Caesar."
V. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF PILATE. "What I have written I have written."
1. He is very resolute in his purpose now that all danger is past. Philo calls him "an inflexible man." Well had it been for him if his firmness of purpose had been manifested in the earlier hours of the day.
2. He was, after all, by his inscription, only representing the true fact unconsciously. Pilate is the herald to proclaim the Kingship of Jesus.
John 19:23, John 19:24
The parting of the raiment.
The soldiers regard Jesus as already dead, and therefore dispose of his raiment according to the usage of Roman law.
I. IT WAS A GREAT HUMILIATION TO THE VICTIM TO SEE HIS GARMENTS PARTED.
1. It implied that nothing remained for him henceforth but to die. He had done with earth.
2. It is implied that his body was exposed naked on the cross.
II. THE SOLDIERS WERE ONLY FULFILLING THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY. "That the Scripture might be fulfilled, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture did they cast lots." Little did the rude soldiers think that they were unconsciously fulfilling the letter of ancient prophecy.
The mother of Jesus at the cross.
Here is the record of the filial legacy.
I. THE SYMPATHIZING GROUP OF WOMEN. "Now there were standing beside the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene."
1. The was a company of Galilaean women standing at a distance from the cross, "beholding afar off" (Matthew 27:55). They were more courageous than Christ's apostles, who had all, but John, fled through fear of arrest.
2. There was an inner circle of three women more courageous than the rest, who stood under the very shadow of the cross.
II. THE LAST BEQUEST OF JESUS. "When Jesus therefore saw his mother and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold thy son!"
1. Mary was now experiencing the bitter truth of Simeon's prophecy, "A sword shall pierce through thine own heart." It was a terrible ordeal for a mother to watch the protracted sufferings of her beloved Son.
2. Jesus is not so absorbed by his agonies as to forget his mother.
3. He calls her "woman," not "mother," as if the old relation was now to end, and a new one to be formed for her future comfort. Death was to close all the earthly relationships of the Redeemer.
4. While he gives a son to his mother, he gives a mother to his beloved disciple. "Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!"
(1) It was a mark of loving confidence in John.
(2) John was to comfort Mary in her widowhood, for Joseph was evidently now dead.
(3) The charge was promptly accepted, and faithfully carried out. "And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home." Nothing is known of the after-life of Mary. Tradition says she died eleven years after the Lord at Jerusalem, in the fifty-ninth year of her age.
The death of Jesus.
After he has thus ministered to others, attention is turned to himself.
I. THE THIRST OF THE SUFFERER. "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst."
1. The burning fever caused by the inflammation of his wounds made him athirst. The cry attests his extreme suffering.
2. The minute fulfillment of prophecy is present to the Sufferer's mind. "They gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalms 69:21). He was surely "made perfect through suffering."
II. THE THIRST ASSUAGED. "Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar, and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth."
1. This drink was not that which he had refused at the beginning of his crucifixion—a drink given in mercy to stupefy the sufferer. Jesus would die in the perfect clearness of his faculties.
2. The act of the soldiers was one of compassion, not of mockery.
III. THE SURRENDER OF LIFE. "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished! and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
1. The cry, "It is finished!" proclaimed:
(1) The consummation of his sufferings.
(2) The final accomplishment of his Father's will that he should give himself a sacrifice for sin.
(3) The complete fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies, as well as the types of the dispensation.
(4) The perfecting by one offering "them that are sanctified."
2. The death.
(1) It was a free, spontaneous act. "No man taketh my life from me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18).
(2) The apostles regarded it exactly in this light. "He gave up himself" (Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:25; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:23). Though therefore his death was violent and cruel, it was a voluntary sacrifice.
The breaking of the legs.
It was usual for the Romans to leave the dead on the cross to the ravages of wild beasts. A providential event changed the usage in this case.
I. THE ANXIETY OF THE JEWS FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE BODIES. "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away."
1. The Jews had accomplished their purpose, and were now anxious to carry out the letter of the law. The bodies ought, in any ease, to be removed before night'; but there was a special necessity on account of the day of the Crucifixion preceding a great festival.
2. Mark their hypocrisy. They regarded themselves as strictly bound to observe the outward ceremony, but they had no scruple in crucifying the Son of God. The ceremonial part of religion was of greater moment to them than the moral.
II. PILATE'S CONCESSION TO THEIR DEMANDS. "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him."
1. Though a cruel act, it was designed to shorten the sufferings of the crucified. Gangrene was the immediate result. The breaking of the legs, together with crucifixion itself, was abolished by Constantine, the first Christian emperor.
2. The soldiers treated Jesus in an exceptional manner. "But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs."
(1) The quickness of Christ's death took Pilate by surprise.
(2) Scripture was fulfilled in the exemption of Christ from the crurifragium. "But these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken."
(3) The act of the soldier, in piercing the side of Jesus, made his death certain. "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water."
(a) It could not be said hereafter that he had merely swooned, and that his disciples had come in the night and taken him away.
(b) The pierced side was the subject of prophecy. "They shall look on him whom they pierced?
(c) The blood and water had a figurative application. "This is he who came not by water only, but by water and blood" (1 John 5:6).
(α) The blood indicated life sacrificed.
(β) Water was the symbol of the spiritual life. The death of Christ secured at once the cleansing away of sin, and the quickening of dead souls by the Spirit.
III. THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLE JOHN TO THESE FACTS. "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true."
1. It was the testimony of an eyewitness.
2. It was designed to support the faith of the world in the facts of our Lord's death.
The burial of Jesus.
It was an honorable interment.
I. THE DEVOTED MINISTRY OF FRIENDS. "After this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave."
1. The character and position of Joseph.
(1) He was a member of the Sanhedrin;
(2) a just and honorable man (Mark 15:43);
(3) a disciple of Jesus, who "waited for the kingdom of God, and did not consent to the counsel of the Sanhedrin against Jesus;
(4) yet a timid disciple, who feared to compromise himself with the Jews.
2. His application to Pilate.
(1) His position as a member of the Sanhedrin would entitle him to the consideration of the governor.
(2) The cross brings out curious contrasts in the conduct and circumstances of those who are related to Christ.
(a) The disciples, who were openly identified with him in life forsake him in his last extremity, and have no share in the honors of his burial.
(b) Two disciples, who had no open relations with him in life, step forward boldly at his death, and give him the last offices of the dead.
(3) Joseph obtains possession of the body of Christ. "He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus." He interred it in his own new sepulcher.
II. THE ASSOCIATION OF NICODEMUS WITH JOSEPH IN THE HONOR DONE TO THE DEAD. "And there came also Nicodemus, which, at the first, came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pounds."
1. The character and position of Nicodemus.
(1) He was a member of the Sanhedrin, who first appears in Scripture history as a secret inquirer (John 3:1-36.).
(2) He was, like Joseph, afraid of the Jews.
(3) He manifested a growing faith when he pleaded for justice in the council, "Doth our Law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?"
(4) The last stage in his experience is reached when he meets Joseph in presence of the dead body of his Redeemer.
2. The two friends wind the body of Jesus in linen with spices, and then place it in the sepulcher of Joseph.
(1) It was done in haste, "because of the Jews' preparation."
(2) The holy women intended to complete their provisional embalming after the sabbath day.
3. The two friends then disappear from history.
(1) They are never again mentioned in Scripture.
(2) We envy them the sacred privilege they enjoyed.
(3) Their conduct suggests the following lessons.
(a) It is better to be a timid disciple than none at all.
(b) There are drawbacks to secret disciples' life. How much they lost by missing the opportunity of constant association with Christ in life!
(c) Timidity does not save men from annoyance. Joseph and Nicodemus would lose the confidence of those with whom they were still visibly identified, while they would be exposed to the first just reproach of Christ's open friends.
(d) Let none of us tread the solitary way, but rather openly confess the Lord.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The crown of thorns.
How deeply the incident here related impressed itself upon the mind and heart of Christendom is manifest
(1) from the romantic legends current among Christians regarding it, from the time of Helena, the mother of Constantine, downwards; and
(2) from the frequent representations of the thorn-crowned Redeemer produced by Christian painters, who have used all the resources of their art to give to the "Ecce Homo!" the interest of sorrow and of spiritual beauty.
I. THE OBVIOUS AND ORIGINAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CROWN OF THORNS.
1. It was an evidence of the cruelty and brutality of Christ's foes. The actual plaiting of the crown, and the actual placing of it upon the holy Sufferer's head was the deed of the Roman soldiers. Insensibility to the pain experienced by Jesus may have been natural to such men; but the mockery and scorn displayed in the pretence of homage must have been learned from the Jews.
2. It was an opportunity for Jesus to exhibit those moral qualities which have ever since been peculiarly associated with his name. His patience, his meekness, this dignity, were never more conspicuous than when he was insulted and ill used by his calumniators and foes. Nor can we see that such dispositions could have been so strikingly exhibited except in circumstances such as those in which the Man of sorrows was then placed.
II. THE SYMBOLIC AND PROPHETIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CROWN OF THORNS.
1. This affecting coronation is an emblem of our Savior's earthly ministry. His career brought together the hate and the loving devotion of multitudes; it was marked by poverty and lowliness, and yet by a majesty quite unique; he was despised and rejected of men, yet his teaching constrained the exclamation, "Never man spake like this Man!" and his miracles constrained the cry, "What manner of Man is this?" The thorns of hatred and contempt were thrust into his head; yet love and loyalty wrought them into a victor's wreath, a monarch's diadem.
2. The crowning of Jesus with thorns symbolized the character of the religion which he founded. The cross was followed by the resurrection; the entombment by the ascension. Thus God brought together, in the career of his own Son, the profoundest humiliation and the most exalted glory. And this arrangement represents the nature of Christianity. It is a religion of humility, contrition, and repentance, and also of peace, victory, and power. It smites the sinner to the earth; it raises the pardoned penitent to heaven.
3. This incident was prophetic of the progress and the victory of the Christian faith. Our religion has indeed triumphed, but it has triumphed through suffering. Its onward course has been marked by the blood of confessors, martyrs, and missionaries, and by the toil and anguish of thousands of faithful promulgators. The thorns of suffering are the means; the crown of glory and of conquest is the end. Christ was made perfect through suffering, and his Church shall reach a universal dominion only by a toilsome path of strife, watered by tears and stained with blood.—T.
Observe the spirit in which Pilate uttered these words. We discern in them pity for Jesus, whose character was innocent, whose position was sad and grievous, whose attitude was one of calm and patient endurance. Contempt mingled with pity—contempt for a fanatic who deemed himself possessor of the truth, and for a prisoner who held himself to be a King. In the governor's mind was perplexity as to how he should deal with the accused, in whom he felt was something mysterious and unaccountable. Towards the Jews Pilate felt a sentiment of disgust, for he read their motives and despised their malice, even though he knew not how, without danger to himself, to protect his prisoner from his foes. Observe, too, the spirit in which the Jewish rulers and multitude heard these words. They were untouched by the pathos of his position and demeanor, by the Divine dignity of his character, by the appeal of Pilate to their compassion, by any concern for themselves and their posterity as to the consequences of their injustice and malevolence. The same Jesus who was exhibited by Pilate to the people of Jerusalem is set before us who hear his gospel, and these words which the Roman governor employed before the Praetorium are addressed to all to whom the Word is preached: "Behold the Man!"
I. WHOM DO WE BEHOLD?
1. The Man whom God sent into this world—his Representative and Herald, his Anointed One, his only Son.
2. The Man whom, as a matter of history, the Jews, in their infatuation, rejected.
3. The Man whom his own disciples forsook in the hour of his distress.
4. The Man whom the Romans, unconscious instruments of a Divine purpose, crucified and slew.
5. The Man who was destined, as events have shown, to rule and bless the world where he met with a treatment so undeserved. Reading the Gospels as ordinary narratives, gazing upon the figure of the Nazarene as a great figure in human history, we see thus much. But as Christians we are not satisfied to behold him thus. We see in him what the lessons of inspiration and of experience have taught us to see, and what we wish the world to see for its own enlightenment and salvation.
II. WHAT Do WE BEHOLD IN HIM? The Man: more than meets the eye, the ear, far more than Pilate understood by the words he used. We behold:
1. The faultless Man. He alone of all who have appeared on earth claims sinlessness, and is admitted to have been without a stain. ]n his character he fulfilled the law of holiness.
2. The benevolent, self-sacrificing Man. Not only was he without sin; in him was exemplified every active, self-denying virtue. He lived and died for others—for the race whose nature he assumed.
3. The Man, the Mediator, bringing about reconciliation between heaven and earth, introducing the Divine grace and the Divine life into human hearts.
4. Thus the ideal Man, and the Head and Founder of the new humanity. Wonderful is the correspondence between Christ and man as he first proceeded from the plastic hand of the Eternal, between Christ and man as he shall be presented at the last before the Author of his being and his salvation.
III. How SHOULD WE BEHOLD HIM?
1. With sincere interest and concern. Well may the world be asked concerning Christ," Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" etc.
2. With admiration and reverence. The hero-worshipper has often been disappointed in the object of his adoration, in whom he has discovered unsuspected flaws. But the longer we gaze at Jesus, the brighter grows his glory, the more harmonious his perfections.
3. With gratitude and love. To behold him is to remember what he has done, what he has suffered for us, is to cherish towards him those feelings to which in the same measure no other has a claim.
4. With faith and trust, dispositions of the soul which find in him their supreme Object.
5. With consecration and obedience. He who finds it hard to serve God is bidden to behold his Savior as he stood crowned with thorns before his murderers: there is no such rebuke to selfishness and willfulness, no such motive to devotion and serf-denial.
6. With the hope of beholding him more nearly and for ever, not in lowliness and shame, but in beauty transcendent, in glory eternal.—T.
"Whence art thou?"
This question, put by Pilate to the Lord Jesus, was not so much intended to guide the questioner in his judicial capacity, as to satisfy his own curiosity. It is clear that Pilate was satisfied of the Accused's innocence of any political offense. But it is also clear that he was perplexed in mind, and unable to satisfy himself as to the real character and origin of the mysterious Being who stood before him. There is no reason to suppose that the Roman procurator felt any very deep or lasting interest in the Prophet of Nazareth. Still he had his misgivings as to whether Jesus was not possessed of some superhuman claims. Hence the question, "Whence art thou?"
I. THE INQUIRY.
1. There is much in Christ himself which prompts the question. His character, his wonderful works, his still more wonderful language, the whole ministry which he fulfilled upon earth, and especially the sacrifice and the victory in which that ministry culminated,—all are fitted to suggest and urge inquiry into his origin and nature.
2. There is much in man which induces him to seek the truth upon this most interesting question. It concerns every one to whom the gospel comes to know with what authority Jesus spoke, and what value attaches to his redemption. And in order to this it is necessary to know whence he is, from whom he comes, and in whose name he makes his claim upon men.
II. THE REPLY. Why Jesus did not answer Pilate is not hard to understand. He had already, both by his language and by his demeanor, given abundant evidence for the formation of a judgment. And Jesus intended Pilate to understand what were their relative positions. The governor deemed himself in this case omnipotent; Jesus gave him to understand that in reality his power was very limited, whilst the power of the accused and apparently helpless One was in reality that of God himself. But we should make a mistake if we supposed that the Lord Jesus was or is unwilling to give reason for men to acknowledge his claims and to render honor to the Son.
1. Christ's origin is Divine: he came forth from God, and was one with the Father.
2. Christ's authority is Divine: he spake, wrought, and suffered in the name of God.
3. Christ's Divine origin and authority render him in all his offices fit to fulfill his gracious purposes towards mankind. Is he our Prophet, Priest, and King? It makes all the difference to his sufficiency whether or not he fulfils these offices with Divine authority. Men are right in asking of Jesus, "Whence art thou?" But they are wrong if, receiving his own answer, they refuse him the faith of their heart, the allegiance of their life.—T.
"Behold your King!"
It is not easy to decide in what spirit these words were spoken by Pilate. Certainly the Roman governor was not deceived into believing that Jesus made a claim to a temporal sovereignty which might conflict with the Roman dominion. Certainly he could not expect to move the Jews to pity by representing Jesus as One who had in some way authority among them, a claim to their regard; for they had delivered him up on the charge of assuming royalty. It would seem as if Pilate took a pleasure in angering and insulting the priests and Pharisees, whom he hated and despised as he did the nation whom they headed and guided. He had no motive for ridiculing Jesus; he had a motive for scoffing at the Jews. He could not but recognize the superiority of the august and patient Sufferer before him over the hypocritical priests and the fanatical mob who demanded that Sufferer's death. And even when yielding, for his own safety's sake, to the unjust and clamorous request of Jesus' enemies, he gratified his own scorn of the Jewish rulers and people, first by summoning them to behold their King, and then by causing the inscription to be placed upon his cross, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." The language which Pilate uttered in derision, and which the Jews rejected in their wrath, is nevertheless language which contains precious and glorious truth.
I. THE GROUND OF CHRIST'S KINGSHIP. Earthly sovereigns come to the throne sometimes by right of conquest, sometimes in virtue of inheritance, sometimes by means of election. Now, Jesus is King:
1. By Divine appointment and native right. "Yet," ran the prophecy, "have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." He is Christ, i.e. the Anointed, and he is anointed Monarch of mankind. Men's recognition or rejection of him makes no difference as to the fact. In the very nature of things, because he is Son of God, he is the rightful Ruler.
2. By mediatorial acquisition. He is Prophet and Priest, and therefore King. In order that his rightful sovereignty might become an actual sovereignty, the Lord Jesus was obedient unto death, and purchased his own inheritance. The cross was the means by which he won the throne.
II. THE REALM OVER WHICH CHRIST EXERCISES HIS SWAY.
1. His kingdom is differenced from the kingdoms of this world in that it is not over the outward actions, the life merely, of men. He does not reign by the scepter and the sword. He has no palace, no army, none of the paraphernalia of earthly royalty.
2. Our Lord's kingdom is spiritual; it is first and chiefly a dominion over the hearts, the convictions, and the affections of men. He sets up his throne in the inner being and nature of his subjects; and if he rules over their speech and actions, it is because he first rules over their thoughts and desires. All his true subjects, therefore, are such willingly, and not by constraint.
III. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST'S ROYAL DOMINION. Our Lord Jesus combines in himself the two supreme attributes of government.
1. He is the Legislator King. He promulgates the laws which his subjects are bound to study, to respect, and to obey. The laws of earthly kingdoms are sometimes unjust. But Christ's laws are supremely righteous; they are commandments of God himself; only the authority which properly belongs to them is penetrated with a spirit of grace and kindness.
2. He is the judicial King. He enforces his own edicts. He is the Judge alike of the Church and of the world. He demands submission and obedience. And from the sanctions of his rule none can escape. His friends shall be exalted, and foes and rebels shall be placed beneath his feet.
IV. THE EXTENT AND DURATION OF CHRIST'S KINGSHIP.
1. His kingdom is universal. When Jesus, in his parables, spoke of the kingdom of God as destined to include all nations, nothing could have seemed to ordinary listeners less likely of fulfillment than such a prediction. And when he himself was crucified, what prospect there was of dominion to be exercised by him must, in the view of most men, have vanished utterly. Yet our Savior's dominion has been constantly extending, and is still taking in new provinces. And faith realizes the approach of the time when "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ."
2. His kingdom is immortal. Of states and empires historians have written the decline and fall; no earthly kingdom can resist the law of decay to which all things human appear subject. Of Christ's kingdom, however, "there is no end;" it is "from everlasting to everlasting."
1. Let attention be given to this Divine Monarch. "Behold your King!" Of all beings he first claims the regard of men.
2. Let his dignity and authority be recognized. When Pilate pointed the gaze of the multitude to Jesus, his was a disguised royalty, for Jesus was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" and his was a derided, insulted royalty, for he had been clothed in mockery with a purple robe, and a crown of thorns had pierced his head.
3. Let homage, reverence, loyalty, devotion, be rendered to him to whom they are justly due. Truly to behold Christ is to discern his just claim to all that our heart, our life, can offer. His sovereignty is absolute, and our obligation to him is unlimited.—T.
What a picture is this! At a place near Jerusalem, called Golgotha, the Roman soldiery have reared three crosses. And on these crosses hang three figures. The sufferers have been doomed to die. With a criminal on either hand, the Son of man is enduring, not only anguish of body, but agony of mind unparalleled. The soldiers, with callous indifference, watch the tortured victims. The multitude gaze with vulgar curiosity upon the unwonted sight. The Jewish rulers look exultingly upon him whose death their malignant hate has compassed. Friendly disciples and tender-hearted women gaze with sympathy and tears upon the dying woe of their beloved One. No wonder that the scene should have riveted the imagination and have elicited the pathetic and pictorial powers of unnumbered painters. No wonder that every great picture-gallery in every Christian land contains some masterpiece of some famous painter, of one school or another, depicting the crucifixion of the Holy One and the Just. For us the scene has not only an artistic and affecting, but also and far more a spiritual, significance.
I. ONE CROSS IS THE SYMBOL OF DIVINE LOVE AND OF HUMAN SALVATION. The central figure of the three is that which draws to it every eye.
1. There is in this cross what every spectator can discern. A Being undoubtedly innocent, holy, benevolent, is suffering unjustly the recompense of the evildoer. Yet he endures all with patience and meekness, with no complaint, but with sincere words of forgiveness for his foes. We conceive Jesus saying, "All ye that pass by, behold, and see; was there ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?"
2. What did Christ's enemies see in his cross? The fruit of their malice, the success of their schemes, the fulfillment, as it seemed to them, of their selfish hopes.
3. A more practical and interesting question for us is—What do we behold in the cross of Christ? To all Christ's friends, their crucified Lord is the Revelation of the power and the wisdom of God, none the less so because his enemies see here only an exhibition of weakness, of folly, and of failure. The voice that reaches us from Calvary is the voice that speaks Divine love to all mankind. Here Christians recognize the provision of full and everlasting salvation; and here they come under the influence of the highest motive which appeals to the spiritual nature, and calls forth an affectionate and grateful devotion.
"From the cross uplifted high,
Where the Savior deigns to die:
What melodious sounds I hear,
Bursting on my ravished ear!
Love's redeeming work is done;
Come and welcome, sinner, come."
II. A SECOND CROSS IS THE SYMBOL OF IMPENITENCE AND REJECTION OF DIVINE MERCY. In the blaspheming robber who hung by the side of the Lord Jesus we have an awful example of human sin and crime; an awful witness to human justice and to the penalty with which transgressors are visited; and an awful illustration of the length to which sinners may carry their callous indifference to sin. An impenitent criminal reviles the one Being who has the power and the disposition to deliver him from his sin and from its worst results. Selfishness of the narrowest and meanest kind is left: "Save us!" i.e. from torture and the impending fate. A degraded life is followed by a hopeless death. Several terrible lessons are taught by this felon's character and fate.
1. How impossible it is for those to be saved who reject the means of salvation!
2. How possible it is to be close to Christ, in body, in communication, in privilege, and yet, because destitute of faith and love, to be without any benefit from such proximity!
3. How foolish it is to rely upon a late repentance, seeing that sinners are found to persevere in sin and unbelief even in the immediate prospect of death!
III. A THIRD CROSS IS THE SYMBOL OF PENITENCE AND OF PARDON. The story of the repentant malefactor shows us that, even when human justice does its work, Divine mercy may have its way.
1. The process of seeking God, even in mortal extremity. Conscience works; conviction of sin ensues, and creates a new disposition of the soul; this prompts a fearless rebuke of a neighbor's sin; faith—in the circumstances truly amazing—is exercised; true, simple, fervent prayer is offered.
2. The manifestation of compassion and mercy. The dying Lord imparts to the dying penitent an assurance of favor; free pardon is announced; bright hope is inspired; immortal happiness is secured.
3. Lessons of precious encouragement are impressed upon the spectators of this third cross. It is possible for the vilest to repent. It is certain that the sincere penitent will be regarded with favor. Even at the eleventh hour salvation is not to be despaired of. There is a prospect before those who are accepted and pardoned, of immediate joy and Divine fellowship after this life is over.—T.
John 19:26, John 19:27
The third word from the cross.
Whoever of our Lord's friends, followers, and kindred were absent during the awful hours of the Crucifixion, we know that his nearest relative, his mother, was there, and that his most intimate and congenial friend and disciple, John, was a witness of the solemn scene. These, with some others, lingered by the cross. Not unseen by the dying Redeemer, his nearest friends were the objects of his affectionate regard; and, as these verses relate, some of his last thoughts were of them, and his last provision concerned their future relations.
I. WE CANNOT BUT REVERENTIALLY ADMIRE THE SELF-FORGETFULNESS OF THE CRUCIFIED REDEEMER. The absorbing nature of extreme bodily suffering is well known. In the hour of agony it is hard for the sufferer to think of aught but his own pains and torture. We know that the Lord Jesus was exquisitely sensitive to suffering. Yet even amidst the anguish of body and of mind which he was then enduring, the Savior was able to turn away his thoughts from himself to her who gave him birth, who had often shared the honors and the trials of his ministry, and who had now, with noble fortitude and sympathy, come to witness his death.
II. WE ARE INSTRUCTED BY THE REVELATION OF THE HIGH PLACE WHICH HUMAN LOVE HELD IN OUR SAVIOR'S HEART. Mary was now advancing in life; her husband Joseph was probably dead. Her long-proved affection was reciprocated by that Son whose filial devotion had been perfect, and who had not now to remember one unfilial act, or word, or even thought. As he looked upon her he saw that the prediction was now fulfilled, "A sword shall pierce through thine own heart also." He had loved her all his life, and his love was never more grateful, more tender, more compassionate, than now. He was bearing the burden of a world's sin and sorrow; yet there was room in his sacred heart for affectionate thoughts of his beloved mother. John, too, who records this incident, in which he occupied a part so prominent, took pleasure in speaking of himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He had reclined on the Master's breast at the Supper: right and meet it was that he should take his station at his Master's cross. Jesus, who had loved him in life, cherished the same affection towards John in this his own hour of anguish. As it would have been a comfort to Jesus had his three favored apostles watched with him in the garden, so no doubt it was a comfort to him that the beloved disciple was standing hard by the cross of ignominy and woe. Jesus loved his friend for his faithfulness, and rewarded him for it even in the hour of his own decease. We thus recognize with gratitude the persistence of Immanuel's tender affection: "Having loved his own … he loved them even to the end."
III. WE ARE ASTONISHED AT THE FORETHOUGHT AND WISDOM EXERCISED BY THE DYING SAVIOR. He had already prayed for his murderers; he had already cheered his fellow-sufferer by words of grace and promise. He now turned his thoughtful regard to the mother who stood weeping among her friends. The arrangement which he proposed was one the propriety and suitableness of which are most apparent. Who so fit to take his place—as far as that place could be taken—as the beloved disciple? There is a pathetic grace and beauty in the language in which Jesus commended the two to each other. He acknowledged the mother's fidelity and devotion to himself; he foresaw the desolation which must come to her; he provided for her not only a protector and a home, but that solace which would come with common memories and mutual sympathy. There were those, perhaps, nearer of kin, but none could be nearer in heart, to Mary than Jesus' most intimate and trusted friend. Thus it was secured that Mary should be removed from the distressing scene, and should be assured of constant and affectionate tendance. Nor can we doubt that this arrangement was a permanent one—that Mary enjoyed the friendship and ministrations of John until she went to see her Son in that glory which followed upon his bitter humiliation. Thus love and wisdom went together in this as in preceding acts of the Son of man. And what Jesus said and did upon this occasion was an earnest of his work for humanity at large. Hone are so happy, so safe, so strong, as those to whom the Savior reveals his heart, and for whom he in his wisdom takes holy, helpful thought.—T.
The fifth word from the cross.
This is both the shortest of all the dying utterances of Jesus, and it is the one which is most closely related to himself. It came from the parched lips of the Divine victim towards the close of his agony, and after the darkness which endured from the sixth to the ninth hour. Most touching in itself, it has its spiritual significance for us.
I. THIS CRY REMINDS US THAT OUR LORD JESUS SHARED OUR HUMAN NATURE AND ITS INFIRMITIES. The need and desire to which expression was thus given had a physical cause and was accompanied by a physical pain. Jesus had thirsted upon his journey when he asked from the Samaritan woman a draught of water from Jacob's well. Jesus seems to have taken no refreshment from the time when he supped with the apostles in the upper room; since then he had endured the agony in the garden, had passed through the repeated examinations before the Jewish council and the Roman governor, and had hung for hours upon the cross. The bodily anguish and exhaustion of crucifixion, aggravated by his unspeakable mental distress, account for the thirst which possessed the dying Sufferer. When the refreshment was offered, Jesus moistened his lips with the posca, or sour wine, offered him in the sponge raised on the stem of hyssop. This seems to have revived him, and strengthened him for the last cries which he uttered in his humiliation.
II. THIS CRY IS AN EVIDENCE OF OUR LORD'S EXTREME HUMILIATION. When we remember that Jesus was the Lord of nature, who could feed multitudes with bread, and could supply a banquet with wine; when we remember that this acknowledgment of thirst was made in the presence of his enemies and persecutors; when we remember from whom Jesus deigned to accept the draught by which his thirst was relieved;—we cannot but be impressed by the depth of humiliation to which he stooped, He was "obedient unto death;" the "things which he suffered" were unexampled. Christ not only condescended to die; he accepted death in a form and with accompanying circumstances which rendered it something more than death. His death was sacrificial, and he shrank from nothing that could contribute to make him "perfect through suffering."
III. THIS CRY INSTRUCTS US AS TO THE PRICE BY WHICH OUR REDEMPTION WAS SECURED. Our Lord's pain of body, his anguish of soul, the ignominious circumstances attending his decease, were all foreseen and accepted. This very cry was a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy; and the language of the evangelist forbids us to regard this as a mere coincidence. "By his stripes we are healed;" and we may look upon his voluntary endurance of thirst as a means of satisfying the deep thirst of our immortal spirit. At all events, in his anguish he paid the price by which his people are redeemed.
IV. THIS CRY SUGGESTS TO US A METHOD BY WHICH WE MAY, IN ACCORDANCE WITH CHRIST'S OWN DIRECTIONS, MINISTER UNTO HIM. Jesus has taught us to identify his people with himself. If love to him would find an opportunity for its display, an outlet by which it may flow forth, this is to be found in those ministrations to Christ's "little ones" which he enjoins upon those who recognize his authority and who love to please him. The cup of cold water may be given to the thirsty one in the name of a disciple. Some want may be supplied, some suffering alleviated, some wrong redressed. And they who for Christ's sake thus minister to the thirsting, the needy, the friendless, are justified in deeming themselves, so far, ministers to Christ himself. It is all as though, hearing his dying cry, they raised the refreshing draught to his parched lips. He will account the deed of charity as done unto himself.—T.
The sixth word from the cross.
To this solemn, awful moment Jesus had been looking forward during the whole of his ministry. As the ministry drew to a close he felt the approach of its consummation, and again and again gave utterance to his feelings. He knew that the hour had come, that he was about to leave the world; he had looked up to the Father and had said, "I come to thee." And now the reason for living was over, and nothing remained for him but to die. The end was marked by the brief, momentous exclamation, "It is finished!"
I. THE PREDICTIONS REFERRING TO THE MESSIAH WERE NOW ALL FULFILLED. It had been written, "The Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head;" "Thou hast brought me into the dust of death;" "It pleased the Lord to bruise him;" "The Messiah shall be cut off;" "I will smite the Shepherd." These predictions of the sufferings of the Anointed of God were now verified in the experience completed by the Son of man.
II. THE OBEDIENCE AND HUMILIATION OF THE SON OF GOD WERE NOW COMPLETED. His humiliation had been apparent in his taking the form of a servant, and enduring poverty and privation, anguish and contempt. His obedience had commenced with his childhood, had been continued during his ministry, and was now perfected in death, even the death of the cross. His active service was one long act of obedience, and his patient endurance now made that obedience complete. He "learned obedience by the things which he suffered." Nothing had been left undone which could prove Christ's unhesitating submission to the will of God his Father. When he had endured the cross, despising the shame, his offering of filial obedience, subjection, and consecration was ready to be presented to the Father by whose will he had come, and had endured all the consequences of coming, into this world of sin and misery.
III. THE TERM OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING AND SORROW WAS AT AN END. He had shrunk from no trial; he had drained the cup to the dregs. Now there was no more humiliation, subjection, conflict. He was about to exchange the mock robes of royalty, the reed-scepter, the crown of thorns, for the symbols and the reality of universal empire. The period of agony was past; the period of triumph was at hand.
IV. THE SACRIFICE OF THE LAMB OF GOD WAS ACCOMPLISHED. The one offering appointed by Divine righteousness and love was now to fulfill its purpose, to supersede the prophetic and anticipatory sacrifices of the dispensation which was passing away. The economy of shadows was to give place to that of substance. Reconciliation, not merely legal, but moral, not for Israel only, but for mankind, was now brought about by the work of the Divine Mediator. The veil of the temple was rent, the way into the holiest was opened. Provision was made for the inflowing of mercy like a mighty stream. The means were now introduced to secure the end dear to the Divine heart—the everlasting salvation of sinful men.
1. In this language we have an appeal to the Father's approval. It is to us a matter of infinite importance to know that the will of God was fulfilled to the very utmost by our Substitute and Representative.
2. We have also in this cry an exclamation expressive of Christ's own satisfaction and joy. To him it could not but be a relief to feel that the experience of pain and bitter woe to which he had submitted was now at an end. It is our privilege to suffer with him, and with him to die unto sin.
3. The hearer of the gospel may in these words welcome an assurance that redemption has been wrought, that the ransom has been paid, that salvation may now be published to all mankind through the once crucified and now glorified Redeemer.—T.
A disciple, but secretly.
Of the man thus described by John we know but little. His birthplace, or family seat, was Arimathaea; his rank among the Jews was of the highest, for he was a member of the national council, or Sanhedrin. His wealth is mentioned, and accounts for his possession of land, and for the provision by him of costly spices to be used in our Lord's interment. His moral character is summed up in the description of him as "good and just." As he comes before us in connection with the closing scene of our Savior's humiliation, he combines opposite elements of disposition; for he is represented as timid and standing in dread of the Jews, and yet so bold as to go to Pilate and to beg of the governor the body of the crucified Jesus. The office of committing the body to the tomb was discharged by Nicodemus, also a ruler of the Jews, and also apparently a secret disciple, and by this Joseph, who offered for the purpose the place of sepulture which he owned, and evidently designed for the use of himself and his family. Joseph of Arimathaea may be taken as a representative of the secret disciple. Circumstances vary with times, but the disposition here exemplified still exists.
I. THERE ARE VARIOUS CAUSES WHICH ACCOUNT FOR SECRECY IN CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP.
1. It is natural and proper that the beginnings of conscious discipleship should be hidden. When the seed begins to germinate, to put forth the signs and the promise of life, it remains hidden beneath the surface of the soil unseen by any eye. And when a young heart in its yearnings, or a penitent heart in its mingled regrets and hopes, turns to the Lord Jesus, as to a Divine Friend and mighty Savior, the change is unknown, unheeded by the observer. The time comes when the plant appears above the ground; and the time comes when the tokens of spiritual life in a changed character, disposition, and habits are unmistakable. But there is a time for secrecy, and there is a time for publicity.
2. There are those who keep secret their interest in Christian truth, their affection for Christ himself, through a trembling reverence for spiritual and Divine things. Doubtless many are sincere in the public shouts and songs, by which their boisterous natures boast of new-found light and liberty. But many gentle, timid, and refined spirits are equally sincere and devout in their reserve. Men and women there are like her who "kept and treasured these things in her heart." A time there is in Christian experience when feeling is too sacred to be professed.
3. Distrust of self, and an awed sense of responsibility, account for the backwardness of many sincere disciples to avow their faith and love. What if they should profess to be Christ's, and then afterwards should prove ashamed of him, or should discredit him by any want of loyalty? The very fear lest this should be so leads to reticence and silence.
4. An inferior motive has to be considered, viz. the fear of man. Some, especially among the young, fear the opposition or the ridicule or the reproach of their fellow-men. Such was the case with Joseph, who feared the Jews—dreaded lest he should, like Jesus, be persecuted, or lest he should be despised and hated. A member of a distinguished and privileged class is peculiarly sensitive to the coldness, the contempt, or the ridicule of those whose opinion makes the public opinion which has most influence over him.
II. THERE IS MISCHIEF WROUGHT BY SECRET DISCIPLESHIP. When those who love Christ, and make it their aim to serve him, conceal their attachment and their pious resolution, whether through timidity or distrust, harm follows.
1. The disciple who withholds or delays his open confession of the Savior, by so doing thwarts his own religious progress and happiness. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." The very attitude of bold and public acknowledgment of faith in the Lord Jesus is a means of spiritual confirmation and improvement. For such an attitude is the natural expression of faith, and attracts the countenance and sympathy of those who are like-minded.
2. The withholding of a confession of Christ is disobedience to Christ and to his Spirit. If we learn of him, we are bound to obey him. And be has bidden us take up our cross and follow him. He has bidden us observe the Lord's Supper in memory of his death. It is not honoring Christ to delay, without sufficient reason, such an avowal of our faith in him as his own Word justifies, and indeed requires.
3. Secrecy of discipleship is discouraging to the Church of Christ. That Church has many enemies; it has need of all its friends. It weakens the forces of the spiritual host when those who should fall into the ranks stand aloof. There is a sense in which those who are not with Christ are against him.
4. The world is confirmed in error and unbelief when there is a disinclination on the part of Christians openly to avow themselves what they really are. It is natural enough for the world to interpret such conduct as indicating a want of heartiness and thoroughness in discipleship. Men ask whether those who stand outside are not in the same position as those who go up to the door, but do not enter in.
III. THERE ARE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAY PROTECT AGAINST THE TEMPTATION TO CONCEAL CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP.
1. The greatness of the Master to whom we owe allegiance. Christ is so great that none need feel any shame in belonging to him; such a relation is the highest honor accessible to man. Christ is so great that none need feel any fear in openly avowing loyalty to him. None is so well able as the "Lord of all" to protect and deliver those who adhere to him.
2. It should be remembered by those who are in doubt whether or not to confess Christ, that a day is coming in which the real position of all men with regard to the Divine Redeemer must be made manifest. Of those who are ashamed of him before men the Lord Jesus will be ashamed in the judgment before his Father and the holy angels.—T.
The last stage of the Savior's humiliation.
John, who presents to us the most sublime views of the Divine nature and glory of the Christ, does not shrink from relating in this passage to how deep humiliation that Christ condescended.
I. THE HISTORICAL PURPOSE FULFILLED BY CHRIST'S BURIAL. It is observable that all four evangelists record, and with many details, the interment of the Son of man. This is accounted for, not so much by any intrinsic importance belonging to burial, as by its intermediate position between the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord.
1. The burial of Jesus is of moment, as establishing the fact of his actual death. It has been absurdly contended by some infidel theorizers, at a loss to know how to deal with the evidence for our Lord's subsequent appearances, that he did not really die upon the cross, that he merely fell into a swoon, from which, under the care of his friends, he recovered. If such had been the case, the body could not have been laid in the tomb and left there.
2. The narrative is also conclusive as to the reality of our Lord's resurrection. He could not have risen from the dead unless he had first died. It is not possible to disconnect the several parts of the narrative from one another. As it stands, the record is consistent and credible.
II. THE APPLICANT AND THE APPLICATION. It is remarkable that, in the very crisis when the professed and prominent disciples of Jesus were timid and vanished from the scene, two secret disciples came forward and discharged the last offices of friendship for the Lord in his humiliation. Of Joseph we know that he was from Arimathaea, that he was rich and an honored member of the Sanhedrin, that he did not agree to the condemnation passed upon the Prophet of Nazareth; We also know concerning his religious position that he was one of those who were looking for God's kingdom to be set up, and that he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. With Joseph was associated Nicodemus, who seems to have been emboldened by the example of Joseph to come forward, to declare his affection for Jesus, and to take part in the interment of his Master. An illustration of the contagion of a courageous example, which may be commended to those who are hesitating between secret and open discipleship. With respect to Pilate, it is to be observed that, as he had no personal hostility to Jesus, and probably took a pleasure in annoying the Jewish leaders, he was naturally willing enough, apparently without being bribed, to agree to the request of Joseph. He satisfied himself, by the testimony of the centurion, that Jesus was dead, and then suffered the applicant to take the body. Thus neither was the corpse exposed during the Paschal solemnities, nor was it consigned to the indignity of a criminal's interment.
III. THE PLACE AND MANNER OF THE BURIAL. Tender care is manifested in every line of this picture. Affectionate hands wound the body in folds of costly linen. Consecrated wealth placed myrrh and aloes in the folds. Generous fellowship offered the tomb which was designed for the owner's family, but which was deemed to be honored and sanctified by becoming the temporary abode of the Savior's form. Strong and willing hands rolled the great stone against the opening to the rock-hewn sepulcher. Reverent and loving women, who had watched the Sufferer when on the cross, now watched the lifeless body consigned to its peaceful resting-place. These are homely incidents, but they are hallowed and glorified by the human love which they reveal. Fancy lingers by the garden which was the scene of these ministrations, and finds it seemly that, as a garden had witnessed the Savior's agony, a garden also should witness his repose.
IV. THE WONDROUS FACT OF CHRIST'S BURIAL. That Jesus, being what he was, the Son of God, the Lord of glory, the King of men, should consent to die and to be buried, is amazing indeed. That such a life—a life devoted to benevolent purposes, a life evincing the possession of irresistible power—should end in the grave, this appears altogether anomalous. That men should slay their Savior, that he should consent to die, that the Father in heaven should suffer such an end to such a career,—this must fill a thoughtful and sensitive observer with wonder akin to fear! Earth was for some hours the sepulcher of the Son of God!
V. THE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BURIAL OF CHRIST.
1. We remark Jesus sharing the whole of our lot in its utmost humiliation. He who stooped to the manger at his birth did not disdain the grave after his death. As Son of man, he would shrink from no human experience. It behooved him in all things to be made like his brethren. Thus he qualified himself to be at once our Representative before God, and our eternal Brother—a High Priest touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
2. We remark that the end of our Lord's humiliation was the beginning of his glory and reign. He was made perfect through suffering. Through the grave he passed to the throne. His "precious death and burial" were the means and the introduction to the majesty and dominion which are his of right, and his for ever.
VI. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS OF CHRIST'S BURIAL.
1. Our obligation to gratitude and love is brought strikingly before our hearts when we thus learn what our Savior bore for us.
2. Christians are spiritually to share Christ's death and sepulture. They are buried with Christ,—by their baptism unto his death.
3. The grave loses its terrors to those who know that Jesus shares it with his people. As the tomb could not hold him, so the stone which seals his people's sepulcher shall surely be rolled away.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
John 19:23, John 19:24
The division of his garments.
Notice this circumstance—
I. As ILLUSTRATIVE OF CERTAIN THINGS WITH REGARD TO THE CRUCIFIERS AND THE CRUCIFIED.
1. With regard to the crucifiers.
(1) Their utter want of common delicacy. The first thing they did in executing the sentence was to strip the culprit of every rag of clothes, and hang him on the cross in a state of nudity. This reveals on the part of the patrons of this custom utter lack of delicacy, and grossness and barbarity of taste. They were willing to gratify the most morbid tastes, most animal passions, and lowest curiosity of an excited and thoughtless mob. The Romans were not the first nor the last to manifest these qualities with regard to the execution of criminals. Till very recently our executions were much of the same style. Thousands went to see the last struggles of a criminal with very much the same feelings as they would go to see a bull-fight, and many of them very much worse in the sight of God than he who was hung. But, thanks to our advanced Christian civilization, this has passed away. Our executions are now performed in private, with as much decency, and as little pain to the culprit as possible, thus recognizing the sacredness of life, even that of the meanest, most worthless and injurious. It is to be hoped that life will soon become more sacred still in accordance with the merciful spirit of the dispensation under which we live.
(2) Their refined cruelty. It was not enough for the Crucified to bear all the torture of the cross, but also be had to bear all the shame and indignities of nakedness. To some, doubtless, who were sunk in the deepest physical and spiritual debauchery, it was not so painful, but by the pure soul of Jesus it must have been keenly felt. There was no consideration shown in his case. He was not exempted from a single item in the catalogue of indignities, nor from a single ignominy in the program of shame; but rather to the contrary, these were lengthened by the voluntary contributions of a servile crowd. The crucifiers of Jesus were as refined in their cruelty as they were coarse in their tastes, and as minute in their indignities as they were lax in their sense of common delicacy.
2. In relation to the crucified One. It indicates:
(1) The simplicity of his dress. Only the common costume of a poor Galilaean. Jesus did not go in for fashion and finery in dress anymore than for luxuries in diet; but in all he was characterized by simplicity. In one sense this was strange, too, that he who paints the lily and rose in the richest hues, and the bird's wing in the most fantastic colors, should be himself clothed in the simple dress of a poor artisan! But, in another sense, this is not strange; it is generally the case with true greatness. He was sufficiently glorious in himself. It is not the garment, but he who wears it.
(2) The poverty of his circumstances. When his worldly affairs were wound up they consisted in a humble dress. When this was divided all was divided, he possessed in this world, He had no houses, money, nor land to be confiscated by the government, and to enrich the imperial treasury, only the robe and the tunic, and these probably the gifts of some kind friend, the latter, perhaps, woven by the tender hands of his mother, or by Magdalene, as the original device and gift of love for an original and Divine kindness. This is very affecting and significant, that he who was in the world, and the world was made by him, should leave without any of it. He who made the world could alone be satisfied to leave it thus. He was.
(3) His more than human submissiveness in suffering. When deprived of his garments he made no complaint, no request to be spared this indignity. One would naturally expect that he would ask this favor, and say, "I am willing to suffer even unto death, but let me die in my clothes." But not a word or a murmur. "As a lamb he was brought to the slaughter," and all for us. He was stripped that we may be clothed, became naked that we may be robed in spotless white.
II. AS AN ACT OF SELFISH RAPACITY. "The soldiers," etc.
1. They were inspired by the love of sordid gain. Every base principle in existence was represented on Golgotha that day. All the vultures of hell hovered over the cross ready to descend on their respective prey. And among the dark groups was the love of gain ready for his garments. It cared for nothing else.
2. This was confirmed by habit and custom. The clothes of the victim were their fee for the execution. It was not such a profitable job then as it is now. But you will find people willing to do anything for a little worldly advantage. They will hang you for your clothes; they will murder you physically or morally, which is worse still, for the attainment of a little selfish end. His own disciple sold him for thirty pieces of silver: why, then, should we wonder at these rough and ignorant soldiers crucifying him for his garments? And this demon of selfish gain was sanctioned by law.
3. It was done with great haste. As soon as he was crucified, before he was dead, they hastened to divide his garments under his very eyes. In this they are typical of a good many more. The love of gain is ever in haste. The votaries of selfishness are ever in a hurry. As soon as the victim is safe in the grip of affliction, they begin to search for the keys. The grave is opened before almost he has breathed his last.
4. The division is just and fair. This is one redeeming quality in the affair. Rather than spoil the vest, they cast lots for it. This probably arose from selfishness, each one hoping it would be his; but, if selfish, it was wise, and an example to many in dividing the spoil. It is better to cast lots or leave a thing alone, than render it worthless. There is some honor amongst thieves, yes, more than among many men of higher standing. "The children of this world are wiser," etc.
III. AS THE FULFILMENT OF SCRIPTURE. "That the Scripture," etc.
1. Christ was the great Subject of ancient Scripture. His incarnation, character, and many incidents of his life and death were foretold centuries before he made his appearance. Many of the prophets described him as if he were really present to them. David, the great anti-type of the Messiah, was often so inspired that he personified him, and related facts as if they had actually happened in his own experience, whereas they related entirely to the coming King. Such was his reference to the parting of his garment.
2. In the life and death of Christ the ancient Scripture was literally fulfilled. Even in the division of his garment.
(1) In this the soldiers were unconscious agents. Nothing could be remoter from their knowledge and consciousness than that they fulfilled any Scripture.
(2) In this they only carried out their own contract, and fulfilled their own designs. There was no secret and supernatural influence brought to bear upon them, so that their actions may fit with ancient prophecy; but ancient prophecy was a true reading of future events, and was proved by these events as they occurred.
(3) Through these unconscious agents the Scripture was fulfilled.
3. This literal fulfillment of ancient Scripture was a remarkable proof of the Messiahship of Jesus—that he was the Divine One promised of old, and with whom the old dispensation was in travail. Even the division of his garment testified to his identity and the Divinity of his mission; and these soldiers bore unconscious testimony to his Messiahship.
1. Everything connected with true greatness becomes interesting. The birthplace of a great man, the house in which he afterwards lived, the chair in which he sat, and the staff he carried. The garments of Jesus are full of interest, especially the seamless vest. The disposal of even his garments is not passed unnoticed.
2. The garments of Jesus fell into thoughtless hands. One is almost curious as to who had the pieces of the robe, and who had the seamless tunic. What an exchange! The vest once worn by the Son of God was afterwards worn by a thoughtless soldier. It was well that none of his garments fell to his friends; if so, there would be a danger of idolatry.
3. The garments of Jesus lost their virtue when he ceased to wear them. The outer robe, the hem of which was so healing to faith, was so no more. The virtue was not in the garment, but in the wearer. He gave greatness and virtue to everything connected with him.
4. Let us arrange our affairs as far as we can ere we die, and leave the rest to the lottery of events, which is ever under Divine control. It matters but little to us what will become of our garments after we finish with them. If we have them as long as we require them, we should feel thankful.—B.T.
Clinging to the cross.
Earth, hell, and heaven were represented at the cross of Jesus. These representatives naturally formed themselves into groups. Notice—
I. THIS INTERESTING GROUP AT THE CROSS. Who composed it?
1. The mother of Jesus. She is mentioned first. She stands prominent among the rest, as well she may. Of all mothers, she is the most popular and interesting. She stands alone in the maternal roll of the world. Never a mother had such a Son, and never a son had such a mother. She has been made too much of on the one hand, and too little on the other. From her the Son of God inherited his humanity and his human breeding. Humanly speaking, he owed much to his mother for his fine human nature and sympathies. That Mary was his mother was not an accident. Never a mother had such joy nor such sorrow; and she was now overwhelmed with the latter. She was there: and what could keep her away?
2. Her sister. Who was she? not the wife of Cleophas. She was also a Mary; and two sisters of the same name was not a likely thing. She was doubtless Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John. John was Christ's first cousin, which accounts for the likeness, the attachment, and the trust. Her name is not mentioned, which is characteristic of John's modesty. He would not mention his own name, neither that of his mother.
3. Mary the wife of Cleophas. The mother of James the Less, Joses, and Judas. Whether this Cleophas was the same as that who met Jesus on the way to Emmaus, it is difficult to decide. He was, doubtless, a good man and a disciple of Jesus; but is brought into prominence in the sacred history in connection with his more heroic wife, who outstripped him in the race, left him on the outskirts of the crowd, and pressed on with her comrades to the cross of the Lord.
4. Mary Magdalene. A well-known character of this period. Jesus healed her of many infirmities, at least from her seven unclean spirits, and ever afterwards she was specially attached to her great Benefactor, and was one of the many good women who followed Jesus from Galilee, and administered to him of their substance, according to the custom of the Jews; and she was now among that little group of sympathetic souls who attended his last moments.
II. THEIR POSITION. "By the cross of Jesus." In this position they manifested:
1. Great fortitude. To realize this:
(1) Think of the sufferings they had to witness, and the spectacle they had to see. They had to witness the agonizing death, the shame, and the untold indignities of their best Friend. Many a stout heart has failed at the death-bed of a loved one; but they stood at the death-cross of their Lord.
(2) Think of the public scorn and ridicule to which they were exposed. They were, doubtless, known to many of the Savior's foes as his adherents, and it was not at all fashionable for women to appear at such a scene; but what cared they for social propriety or public scorn? Their courage towered far above this in the performance of a sacred duty.
(3) Think of their personal danger. As the friends of the crucified One, in the very teeth of his cruel foes, their lives were in jeopardy; but they counted not these dear unto them, but stood there face to face with death.
2. Strong affection. This accounts for their courage. Their heroism was that of love, and their courage that of affection. Their affection may be looked at as:
(1) Maternal affection. What love so faithful and heroic as that of a mother? And it was never stronger than in her heart who was the mother of our Lord; and it drew her now near to his cross.
(2) Social affection.
(3) Pious affection. It was more than the ordinary affection of human kindred and friendship. It was love arising from pious attachment, from Christian hope, and faith in him as the Messiah and Savior. Mary Magdalene was still on fire with gratitude and faith, which blazed all the more near the cross.
3. Strong and genuine sympathy. They were ready to render him any help, and would, if possible, have taken some of his agonies upon themselves. They were helpless, but did what they could and went as far as possible.
4. Great self-control. We have read of mothers becoming frantic and losing their lives to save loved ones; but here there was a wonderful calm maintained, which makes the mother's love more heroic, and her heroism more sublime. There were emotions deep and stirring in their breasts, with but little or no demonstration; but there was wonderful self-control manifested, as if their souls had caught the calm spirit of the crucified One.
III. THEIR CONDUCT AS AN EXAMPLE FOR THE IMITATION OF ALL.
1. They stood by him in his hour of greatest trial and sufferings. It was one thing to stand by him in his hour of joy and triumph, in the day of his power and the exploits of his loving strength, when the heaven opened and streamed upon him its glory; when Divinity encircled his brow, and made his word omnipotent and his very gaze or touch almighty; when at his bidding diseases fled, and demons quitted their dark haunts; when the storm was hushed, and the waves crouched at his voice; when food increased under his hands, and even Death gave up his prey when he spoke. But it was another thing to stand by him on a cross, when hell besieged him with its torments, heaven seemed closed to his breathings, and Divinity itself seemed to have deserted him.
2. They stood by him when others had left him. It is one thing to stand by Jesus, one of many; but it is another to stand by him, one of four. It is one thing to follow him with faithful disciples and a jubilant crowd; but it is another to stand alone by his cross. Where were zealous and good-hearted Peter, James, Andrew, and Philip, and others? They had all left, with the exception of the disciple of love and these loving women. Others may be among the crowd, or on the outskirts, beholding from afar; but they stood by his cross when all had left him. As others leave Christ, let us stand by him and draw to him all the closer.
3. They did all they could. They were helpless, and could render no assistance. They could make no progress; still they stood their ground, and manifested their undying and unconquerable attachment. They clung to Jesus for his own sake apart from circumstances. Like them, let us do what we can, and advance as far as possible, and, when we cannot go any further, let us stand; and, indeed, in the hour of direst temptation the utmost we can do is to stand our ground.
1. Jesus has not been at any time wholly deserted.
2. It is worthy of notice that the faithful ones at the cross were women. Surely "he giveth power to the faint." In the weaker vessels was the greatest strength.
3. Those who stood by the cross of Jesus unconsciously stood near a rich treasury. The outward scene was that of shame, poverty, and untold agony and misery; but the inward was that of untold peace, joy, riches, and glory. There was the atonement made, the fountain opened, and the work of redemption finished. They stumbled on a rich fortune. This did not occur to them then, but flashed upon them afterwards. The cross did more good to them than they to him who hung upon it.
4. Those who stand by Jesus in his hour of trial, he will stand by. We all have our crosses, affliction, and death in our turn. Let us stand by the cross of Jesus, and he will stand by ours, and will not leave us in the hour of our greatest trial.—B.T.
John 19:26, John 19:27
Filial love strong in death.
I. THE INFERIORITY OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS. Our Lord addresses his mother as "woman"—a term of tenderness and respect; still suggesting at once the inferiority of human relationships when compared with spiritual ones.
1. Human relationships belong to this world. They belong to the natural, physical, and visible order of things. They are the outcome of our existence, the arrangements of wise Providence, and important for the government of the human race, their social order, progress, and happiness, and capable of serving our highest interests.
2. Christ spoke of and treated them as inferior to spiritual relationships. Although he was the most obedient, affectionate, and exemplary of sons, yet he ever spoke of his spiritual and Divine relationships as being superior and more important—those arising from a Divine and spiritual birth, from the will of God, as superior to those arising from physical birth, or the will of the flesh. The former had ever his preference, and he was louder of his relations after the spirit than of those after the flesh. Once. when told that his mother and his brethren were outside, seeking him, he said, "He that doeth the will of my Father," etc.
3. At death human relationships are merged into those of a higher life. He saith, "woman," not "mother;" and, pointing to John, and not to himself, "Behold thy son!" As much as to say, in the old sense of the term, "Henceforth I cease to be thy Son, and thou ceasest to be my mother." She had to think of him, not as her Son, but as her Lord and Savior. By the regenerative influence of Christianity and the transition of death, the material is lost in the spiritual, the human in the Divine, and the temporal in the Eternal.
II. THE PERFORMANCE OF FILIAL DUTY. "When he saw his mother," etc. This duty involved provisions for the future support and comfort of his mother.
1. This duty is felt and admitted by Christ. This implies:
(1) That human relationships involve special duties. Brothers have special duties to brothers, parents to children, and children to parents. Christ felt that his widowed mother was dependent upon him for support and comfort, and he feels it his sacred duty to provide for her.
(2) These duties are incumbent, although the relationships whence they arise are about to cease. Jesus was about to cease to be Mary's Son, in the old sense; he was about to enter into a higher life. Still he felt it is duty to provide for her. The spiritual does not atone for the material. The obligations of every state of existence should be performed in that stage. Our obligations survive the relationships which gave rise to them.
(3) Christianity makes all under its influence more alive to the duties of human relationships. It is not Christ-like to leave the world as thieves and those who loved and were dependent upon us as absconders. The higher life of Christ inspired him to perform the duties of this, Christianity ennobles every relationship, and consecrates every duty of life. The Christian son will be the most affectionate and careful of his surviving mother.
2. This duty was performed by Christ under the most trying circumstances. This duty was done amidst the most excruciating sufferings, physical, mental, and spiritual. It was done in the very act of dying. When uttering these words of tenderness, he was in the grip of the most painful death. It was done when performing the most important work of his life. When providing for the spiritual wants of the world, he provided for the temporal wants of his mother. These facts prove:
(1) His utter self-obliviousness. "He made himself of no reputation." Not himself, but others. Not his own agonies, but the comfort of his surviving and stricken mother.
(2) His wonderful sovereignty over the most adverse circumstances of life. In the midst of sufferings and indignities he was perfectly calm and self-possessed. He had full control over his feelings, actions, sufferings, and even death. He kept death at bay till he performed the last duty of love pertaining to this life.
(3) The strength of his filial affection.
(4) His continued inherent interest in those he loved. In his beloved mother and disciple. And this interest, which blazed so brightly in the gloom of death, was net likely to be extinguished in the happiness and effulgence of the life beyond.
(5) The minuteness and. tenderness of his loving care. While we contemplate this, his last act of filial love, under the circumstances in which it was performed, we are ready to exclaim, "How human! how Divine! how comprehensive! how minute! how God-like! How like the Father of all!" While he governs and sustains the vast universe, he forgets not a single object—not even the smallest. He lights the sun and guides the stars, but forgets not the glow-worm—nor to smile on the rose and the lily. And so the Divine Son now on the cross, while he made an atonement for sin, satisfied justice, and honored the Law; still, at the very time, his mother is not forgotten.
3. This duty was performed in the best way.
(1) in the most efficient way. He entrusted her to the care of his best earthly friend, one with the means and the heart, the will and the way. He could do nothing else. He had no means to bequeath to her; but he had a loving heart at his command, which would ever be kind to her.
(2) In the most natural way. What could comfort the bereaved mother as much as another son, and so loved by and so like the lost one? John would remind her of Jesus, and their society would be congenial, and their conversation sweet as to the past and the future.
(3) In the most suitable time. Up to this time he was with her; there was no need of any one else. But now his life is past hope; his mother was in the suppressed agonies of grief and sorrow—the sword was through her heart. Then another son was introduced who would never cease to care for her—a very present help.
III. THE EXERCISE OF LOVING OBEDIENCE. This is illustrated in the mother and in the disciple.
1. The new relationship is most naturally felt and realized. It jars not on the feelings of either; but a flush of a new kinship passes over their countenance.
2. The sacred charge was most cheerfully accepted. There was no need of along lecture; only the brief introduction, "Behold," etc.! By his Spirit and providence he had prepared both for the new relationship.
3. It was practically accepted. He took her to his own home. Loving obedience is ever practical and full. To his own home, which was the home of love.
4. It was immediately practical. There was no delay. "From that hour." The obedience of love is hearty and prompt. Probably that very minute he took her away.
(1) For her own sake. She could scarcely stand the heart-rending scene any longer. Her motherly instincts would cling to the cross till the last; bat the tender instincts of her newly adopted son would considerately lead her away. It was enough.
(2) For Christ's sake. His human eyes should see the obedience of love. The sacred charge would be taken at once, and his will immediately executed. This should not press a moment on him. A weeping mother should not hold him back from death. Would not even Christ die more happily after seeing his mother cared for?
1. There are some whom Jesus loves more than others. John was such. He specially loved him on account of his specially loving qualities and his likeness to him.
2. Those whom Jesus specially loves he specially honors—honors with his confidence, friendship, mind, and treasures.
3. The greatest honor which Christ can confer upon us is to employ us in his special service.
4. Jesus has many poor relations still in need of care. Those who befriend the orphan and the widow are doing Jesus special service. We hear still from the cross the words, "Son, behold thy mother!" etc.—B.T.
I. THAT JESUS IN EVERY AGE HAS SOME SECRET DISCIPLES. There are two mentioned here—Joseph and Nicodemus. Why were they secret?
1. Because of the danger with which they were surrounded. "For fear of the Jews." What were the influences which excited their fear?
(1) The influence of position. They were in a high worldly position, members of the chief council of the nation, and to confess Jesus meant the loss of this.
(2) The influence of caste. Caste feelings were very strong among the Jews; as they are, indeed, specially strong among all nations, Christian as well as heathen. These councilmen would be outcasts from society if they accepted Jesus as their Teacher.
(3) The influence of wealth. They were wealthy men, and their public confession of Jesus would mean the loss of this.
2. Their natural timidity of disposition. We may well assume that the natural disposition of Joseph and Nicodemus was modest, thoughtful, cautious, timid, and retiring; and this naturally influenced their public conduct. Their disposition was the very reverse to Peter's, and their temptation would lie in an opposite direction. On account of natural disposition it is no effort, and consequently no virtue, in one to be brave and heroic; while in the other it is the difficult task of life.
3. The essential incompleteness of their faith. Faith in Christ at this time, in the best, was weak and imperfect. It was so in the disciples, who had all the advantages of Christ's ministry and miracles. What must it have been in these more distant and secret disciples? They had not enjoyed the advantages of religious education, and therefore their faith was naturally incomplete.
4. Nevertheless, they were genuine disciples. The fear of the Jews, although it had some influence with them, was not really predominant. Publicity of profession is not a guarantee for sincerity; neither is secrecy a barrier to it. Every true discipleship commences in secret, and has much that is secret throughout its career. The true moral force of man is in the secrecy of his heart.
II. THAT GENUINE DISCIPLES, ALTHOUGH SECRET, ONLY REQUIRE SUITABLE CIRCUMSTANCES TO DRAW THEM OUT. These were drawn out; and what drew them?
1. Additional evidence to faith.
(1) The evidence of Christ's conduct. His meek, patient, submissive, and dignified conduct in the most tried circumstances, and the most excruciating sufferings and provocation, was highly calculated to inspire faith in him.
(2) The false and mad conduct of his enemies. Their perjury, their extreme and mad cruelty in relation to such a character, would naturally tell in his favor, and would recoil upon themselves.
(3) The evidence of Pilate. Whatever the character of that remarkable governor, he most decidedly pronounced judgment against the Jews and for Jesus. He only delivered him up to them at last under a protest. This, to any reflective and well-disposed person, must have been very significant and even convincing.
(4) The evidence of nature. The rending of the veil and rocks, the quakings of the earth, the opening of graves, and the darkening of the sun at noontide when Jesus hung on the cross, spoke mightily to faith in his favor. There was such a concurrence of evidence from beginning to end which would naturally bring faith out wherever it was, and even produce it where it was not.
2. The death of Christ, in itself, was calculated to draw out latent love and courage. Death is a circumstance which has a tendency to lessen man's faults and magnify his virtues. Of the former Jesus had none, and through the gloom of death the latter shone with Divine brilliancy. In the timid breast they would naturally inspire conscience with regret, and with a desire to make amends, and would fan the smoking flax of love into flame. Only at the death of a dear one we and others come to know how much we loved him in life. Joseph and Nicodemus never knew that they loved Jesus so much till he was crucified and had passed away.
3. Latent love and courage were brought out by example. Joseph came out first, and his example was inspiring. Nicodemus caught the contagion, being the most timid of the two, and he came also; probably he watched the movements of Joseph. He was almost dying to show his respect and love to the crucified One, but felt too weak till he saw the decided action of his stronger brother. This at once decided his course, and he came also. Joseph and Nicodemus doubtless held many a secret converse on the object of their common love, and one encouraged and inspired the other.
III. THAT SECRET BUT GENUINE DISCIPLES, DRAWN OUT BY SUITABLE CIRCUMSTANCES, ARE OFTEN VERY HEROIC AND BENEVOLENT. These qualities are manifested here in:
1. A courageous request. Joseph came to Pilate to ask permission to take away the body of Jesus to be buried. This was a bold venture, as expressed by Mark, involving considerable personal risk, and so contrary to his natural temper and past conduct. But he is now his new self and not his old, or his old and real self in its true garb.
2. A courageous and loving deed. Permission was given. His inspired venture proved successful. His eloquent request was granted, and he took away the body. This was a public act, in which he shared and for which he was responsible. His fear of losing position, caste, and wealth is now gone. He is under the sway of the opposite principle of love. It is not the fear of the Jews, but the love of Jesus, sways him now, and he is soon joined by a timid brother.
3. Benevolent gifts.
(1) The gift of Nicodemus. A hundred pounds of costly spices. He came to the funeral neither empty-hearted nor empty-handed, but with a princely gift—abundance of spices to embalm the dead but sacred corpse.
(2) The gift of Joseph. The linen and the grave. He was determined that the body of Jesus should not share the fate of ordinary criminals, but that it should have a grave—a new grave in his garden, probably intended for himself. Jesus should sleep in his bed. But there would be no inconvenience, as Jesus would leave it early enough; so there was no danger of its being needed by Joseph before it would be left by Jesus. And he left it much improved. A garden was never the depository of such a seed; and a grave was never the resting-place of such a tenant.
(3) These were gifts and acts of devotional love. Theirs was the heroism of unconquerable affection, which could no longer be repressed. The river overflowed its banks and swept all before it. The living Christ was in Joseph's heart, and his dead body was now in his sacred grave. The hundred pounds of costly spices were the devotions of Nicodemus's love to the Savior.
4. All this was manifested at the darkest hour.
(1) When his enemies had completed their work. They had accomplished their purposes, and realized their fondest hopes in the crucifixion and death of Jesus. But while the council had crucified him, two of its members buried his body. When hatred had reached its highest mark of triumph, latent and secret love reached a higher mark of public courage.
(2) When his friends had deserted him. Only the women and the beloved disciple were in attendance at his last hour. None of his public followers came to bury him, nor follow his body to the tomb. Then these secret disciples came forward as the reserve force of the King, and courageously and lovingly performed his sacred obsequies.
(3) When his cause was apparently at an end. Nicodemus never came to him on such a dark night as this. The common faith was eclipsed, and hope all but extinguished; but then the faith, hope, and love of these private disciples glowed and shone in the gloom of death.
1. That general sincerity of character is advantageous to the reception of Jesus. Joseph was a just and honorable man. This was his general character, and to such Jesus must recommend himself.
2. In the most wicked councils generally there are some good men. In the very nest of his murderers Jesus had at least two genuine friends.
3. Genuine principle, however weak, will triumph in the end. Life ultimately will make itself seen and felt. Those who sincerely come to Jesus by night will come to him at last by day, and in the day of greatest need.
4. Jesus has ever some secret disciples, who wilt do for him what others will or cannot. It was intended that he should have a princely burial. If in life he was with the poor, he was with the rich in his death. No one could foresee how this could come to pass; but Jesus had secret friends among the rich, and they buried his body in a rich fashion, very befitting. Others buried him; he rose himself.
5. Christ was more influential in death than in life. In life he had failed to draw Joseph and Nicodemus out publicly; but in death they could not resist the attraction. He said, "If I die, I will draw;" and here is a striking illustration, but not the only one.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
I. PILATE'S MEANING. He meant that a very little thing frightened the priests and elders and their sympathizers. He invited them to look at Jesus, with the. thorny crown encircling his brows, and the purple robe—doubtless some tattered and outworn piece of costume thrown over his shoulders. Surely if Jesus were indeed a King, if his royalty was in power as well as in word, all this mockery would have brought the reality out.
II. THE ACTUAL RESULT OF THIS TREATMENT. Pilate meant that Jesus should appear utterly contemptible. Little did be dream how in course of time a vast multitude of all nations, and kindred, and people, and tongues, would respond to this summons, and count Jesus King all the more, just because of the crown of thorns and the purple robe. It was Pilate, not Jesus, who was to become ultimately contemptible. The very Jews themselves could not look on things with Pilate's eyes, and Pilate even could not keep straight on in the tone of scorn and contempt. A few verses later we read of him being afraid. And we, as we leek back on this scene, with all its manifestation of beautiful character, may almost feel as if we owed Pilate's memory a debt of gratitude. The soldiers did something which no disciple of Jesus would wish to have been done; but, being done, every disciple of Jesus is glad for what it showed. The work of coronation, if looked at in the proper light, was a most real one.
III. WE MUST BEHOLD, NOT JESUS ONLY, BUT THE MEN WHO TREATED HIM SO. The men into whose hands Jesus was delivered up were to have their own way without let or hindrance. Men had full opportunity to show how bad they could be. Pilate points to Jesus and says, "Behold the Man!" God points to Pilate and the priests, and says, "Behold mankind!" These men were not specially bad specimens of humanity, but just average expressions of the spirit of the world. But in the very contrast between Jesus and his tormentors there is hope and joy. For if the tormentors are of the same flesh and blood as we are, so also is Jesus. Jesus, the thorn-crowned, always gentle, always harmless, always beneficent, always far above everything that is selfish and resentful, is of our race. We should never look at any of the degrading specimens of humanity without looking also at Jesus. For then we keep the just mean between saying too much and too little. We shall both remember how much better Jesus is than the best, and how patient and pitiful he is with the worst.
IV. WE MUST BEHOLD THE MAN IN ALL HIS MANIFESTATIONS. On the cross. After his resurrection. To Paul on his way to Damascus. To John in Patmos. In glory, as in humiliation, the man is still evident. With whatever brightness the Divinity may shine, it cannot conceal the humanity. Here is the man we ought to be; here is the man we shall be. There can be no true knowledge of human nature without the knowledge of Jesus; and the more we know of him, the more shall we know of ourselves.—Y.
John 19:10, John 19:11
Human power Heaven-bestowed.
Human judges see all sorts of people brought before them to be dealt with. Some prisoners, in the most critical situations, betray the utmost coolness and indifference; others are beside themselves in the agonies of despair. And Pilate doubtless had had a large experience of all sorts of prisoners. But now at last Jesus makes his appearance, and Pilate is profoundly perplexed how to deal with him. If Pilate had been a perfectly just man, and dealing with Jesus under a perfectly definite code of laws, he would have had no difficulty. But because the man thought of his own interests first, and was left to perfectly arbitrary methods, he found himself in the utmost difficulties. Every additional question he asks only lands him in greater puzzlement. "Whence art thou?" he says to Jesus; and what use was it for Jesus to reply? Pilate would have understood no explanation; he was too far from the kingdom of heaven for that. Canaan cannot be seen from Egypt; one must reach Mount Pisgah first. And so Jesus stood in gentle, patient silence.
I. PILATE'S ASSERTION OF AUTHORITY. It was very natural for Pilate to speak so. He mistook the spirit or' Jesus; but he made no vain boast in speaking of his power to crucify and to release. He had troops of obedient soldiers at his disposal, to effect whatever he decided. This exhibition of Pilate's power had its good side. Bad as Pilate may have been, he held a necessary and a beneficial office. Brutal as the soldiers were, they made the last barrier against anarchy and lawlessness. The office of Pilate is ever honored in all true Christian teaching. A strong executive is a thing to be thankful for. Judges and magistrates have to be watched, for the mere wrapping of a man in scarlet and ermine cannot take away his frailties, prejudices, and antipathies. But the office is good, and the man that fills it is often good. We are not wild beasts. There must be something to restrain the violent and predatory hand. If the lion in the desert sees the antelope, he springs on him at once; no after-power will come in to demand of the lion wherefore he slew the helpless beast. But if a man in a civilized community ponders an evil deed, he has to ponder also all the possible results. He cannot get past the risk of punishment.
II. JESUS AND THE ORIGIN OF AUTHORITY. Pilate was not a man caring to seek and think under the surface of things, or he would have asked himself the question, "Why are these soldiers so ready to obey me? Why is it that I, one man, have all these dwellers in Jerusalem under my control?" Man recognizes the need of authority. Jesus did not mean to dispute the right of Pilate to do what he liked with him. Pilate would have traced the origin of his authority to Rome, but that only threw the question a little further back. When we get to the very highest seen thing, we feel that, as it were, an invisible hand is stretching down and making it what it is. Jesus wanted to make Pilate feel that, whatever power he had, he would be called to account for the use of it. Judas had the greater blame, but Pilate could not escape.—Y.
The king acknowledged by the high priests.
I. THE STOOPING OF MEN WHEN THEY HAVE AN END TO GAIN. "We have no king but Caesar." Assuredly the high priests would never have said anything like this except in the way they actually said it. They had no love to Rome and Rome's ruler, and Pilate knew it, and must have despised them as they professed to be influenced by loyalty to Caesar in all their enmity to Jesus. They were ready to say anything and do anything, however inconsistent, however mendacious, if only it helped them to their end. Thus we have clear evidence from their own conduct of what bad men they were. We cannot give them the credit of being mistaken patriots. Real lovers of their country, however exasperated, however driven into a corner, would never have made a lying confession of allegiance to the hated foreigner.
II. EVEN IF THE STATEMENT HAD BEEN TRUE, THE ACTION BELIED THE WORD. Suppose there had been a real fidelity to Caesar, rejection of Jesus was the very way to injure Caesar's government. The more subjects of Jesus there are in any kingdom, the better for that kingdom. Christians can struggle bravely against all that is tyrannous and overbearing without forgetting that human authority of some sort is an ordinance of Heaven, and must be maintained and honored. All opposition to Christianity tends toward anarchy, and none the less so because the tendency may be denied.—Y.
"Jesus in the midst."
It can hardly have been by chance that Jesus was placed in the midst. If three men were crucified together, surely he who was reckoned the chief offender would be put in the central position. The details of punishment would be left to the subordinates charged with carrying it out, and perhaps the feeling on the part of the soldiers was that one who claimed to be a King should have some sort of honor on the cross. But whoever ordered the position, and from whatever motive, we cannot but feel that the position was the right one. If intended as an insult, it has turned into an honor. The soldiers put Jesus just in the proper place. It was his place before, and has been his place since. It was right that, if others were to suffer with Jesus, he who suffered for all mankind should be able to look on a sufferer on either hand.
I. SOMETHING IN HARMONY WITH THE POSITION JESUS NATURALLY TAKES. Jesus never put himself officiously in a position of eminence. He never needed to say, "Leave the central place for me." Wherever he sat naturally became the central place. We cannot help putting Jesus in the midst. He acted in such a way that he could not help being the central character in every assembly. And this is the glorious thing about Jesus that, being the first, he has never lost his position in the midst. He is not so much above men as among them. Wheresoever two or three are gathered together he desires to be in their midst. Jesus, we may be sure, is interested in everything that ought to interest mankind. And in the same way we ought not to be interested in anything unless we can have Jesus in the enterprise.
II. AN EXAMPLE FOR US. There is not anything else in which we should follow the example of these soldiers, but we may well do it by always putting Jesus in the midst. And especially when we have to deal with sufferers of any sort, we should try to make them feel, by a remembrance of his position on the cross, that Jesus himself as a Sufferer was in the very midst of sufferers. And may it not be hoped that all evil-doers, all law-breakers, all suffering punishment for crime, will be particularly susceptible to the claims of Jesus, when it is made clear to them that in this emphatic way Jesus was "numbered with the transgressors"?—Y.
John 19:26, John 19:27
The great Model of filial duty.
The last hours of Jesus, as might be expected, were marked by a very deep feeling of the tie that bound him to his Father in heaven. The ruling motive was strong in death. But the human mother was equally remembered according to her claims and needs. Even in the midst of intense pain, and on the verge of death, Jesus thinks of everybody who ought to be thought of. The pain, intense as it is, will soon be over, but the Father in heaven will remain, with whom Jesus has to dwell in power and glory, and the mother on earth will remain, provided for through the ministry of a trusted friend. Jesus seems to have had a trying time with his relatives; well is it that this last glimpse is so beautiful.
I. CONTRAST WITH THE WAY IN WHICH THE RELATIVES OF JESUS TREATED HIM. This is the only transaction of Jesus with his kinsfolk in which he takes the initiative. Jesus had to guard himself from the plausible suggestions of those who felt they had a claim to shape or at least to modify his course. His difficulties in this way would begin long before he emerged into public life. We may be sure Jesus did not love opposition or contradiction for opposition's or contradiction's sake. But when his natural kinsfolk pointed one way, and his heavenly Father another, there could be no doubt in his own mind which way to take. And we must learn, as Jesus did, to make little of kindred as advisers, and yet remain loving and helpful to them as kindred. That a man is your father does not make him more competent to advise you; it may only make him more powerful to mislead and ruin you, if his advice is bad.
II. KINSFOLK MUST EVER BE TREATED AS KINSFOLK. The time comes when the claim of nature is recognized, and met all the better because other claims had to be refused before. If Jesus had listened to the expostulations of his kindred, he himself might have supported the old age of his mother, and soothed her dying pillow. But he did something far better. Whatever Mary may have lost in the natural, she had the chance of gaining far more in the spiritual. Mary was among the praying band in the upper room, waiting for Pentecost, and doubtless, when the Spirit of power came down, she would rejoice with exceeding gladness that her Son had gone on in single-hearted devotion to his Father's will. Jesus, therefore, is a great Example and Guide to us in all dealings with kinsfolk. In such dealings we peculiarly need an example and guide. He would not let his kinsfolk go beyond their rights, but all the time he was keenly observant of their claims. As we read of him providing a protector and son for his mother, we cannot but remember his indignant exposure of those who kept back helpful gifts from father and mother under pretence that they were dedicated to God. To please Christ we must both attend to the legitimate claim of natural kinship, and also we must be ready for the claim that comes upon the human friend.—Y.
Suffering, yet not ascetic.
Each of the seven words from the cross, if they are to be appreciated at their full value, must be looked at in the light of the other six. Especially is this the case here. This word comes the fifth in order. The first three words show Jesus thinking of the needs and sufferings of others rather than of his own. The fourth word shows him feeling mental suffering far more than bodily. While Jesus felt forsaken of the Father, the needs of the body would almost lie dormant. But when the gladdening sense of the Father's presence returned, then for the first time would Jesus feel fully conscious of physical pain. Pain of body is forgotten in pain of mind. But, after all, bodily thirst is a reality, rising to one of the intensest, most intolerable pains that the physical frame can suffer; and thus, when Jesus became fully free to feel that he had a body, he naturally gave expression to the keen want. What a curious correspondence there is with the experience of Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning! Then he hungered; now he thirsts. There he was in solitude, and needed to say nothing; now there ere people round him, able to allay his thirst, if they are so disposed.
I. THE FEELING ITSELF. To know that Jesus thirsted in this way is to know that he must have suffered a great deal of physical pain. The pain is suggested rather than described, which is a great deal better; for who wants minute descriptions of physical pain? And yet there must be some particular hint to produce on our minds a most distinct impression as to the reality and intensity of the suffering through which Jesus passed. Jesus, while a calm Sufferer, must be also a great Sufferer, otherwise it cannot be fully true that "he tasted death for every man." Painless death—euthanasia, an easy exit from the world—such is the portion of some; they seem to dissolve out of natural existence with hardly an ache. But what a scene of suffering other deaths present! what groanings! what clenched hands! what unendurable misery revealed in the face! And because of this, Jesus also had to know the greatest intensity of physical pain. His comforts in pain are the comforts of one who has been through pain. The very fact that he suffered so much physically shows that physical suffering is far from the worst of evils. It is a thing to be escaped, if possible, and relieved as much as possible; but there are things far worse. A suffering Jesus with no feeling of forgiveness for those who had so treated him, with no sympathy for his fellow-sufferer, with no solicitude for his mother about to be bereft, absorbed in his own suffering,—a Jesus such as that would have suggested experiences more deplorable than any physical pain.
II. THE UTTERANCE OF THE FEELING. The thirst might have been felt, yet the feeling not expressed. Why, then, was it expressed? The mere fulfillment of a prophecy does not explain, for then the prophecy itself has to be explained. Surely the great lesson of the utterance is that, when suffering has done its work, it may cease. In suffering merely as suffering there is no merit. The merit of suffering is measured by the remedial and purifying agencies it brings into play. Jesus was no ascetic, even on the cross. He never went an inch out of his way to seek privation and pain. What came in the way of duty he faced and accepted; but to the notion that God can be pleased with suffering as suffering, with austerity as austerity, he never lent the slightest sanction. And so, when the mental pain was over, he took the first opportunity to relieve the physical pain. But we must not stop with the mere literal interpretation of the cry. It was not enough for Jesus to escape from suffering. Bodily thirst was soon allayed, but there remained a thirst of the heart to be satisfied. We have to think of the aims, desires, and achievements that lay beyond all this suffering. There is the intense desire in the heart of Jesus to win the world to himself. The longings of prophets and apostles for a better world are but faint types of the longing that abides in the heart of the Savior. He knew from experience the delight of a draught of cold spring water in a dry and thirsty land. Pleasant to him such a draught must often have been. But pleasanter far is it, because refreshment to his loving heart, when each latest one among the children of men comes to him in fullness of trust and obedience.—Y.
The finished work.
From the nature of the case this could not be more than a mere ejaculation; but the meaning is plain enough to those who wilt put their minds into a state to perceive it. Suppose you have a friend who is building a house. You had been present when the foundation was laid, and from time to time you had watched the progress of the building. At last your friend breaks in on you some morning with the cry, "It is finished!" You would know at once what he meant—that the house was finished. And your friend would presume on your part a real and lively interest in hearing the news. So too we must know a good deal of what Jesus said and did during life, or we shall fail in understanding what he said and did in the hour of death. He who said, "It is finished!" must also have had seasons in which he could say, "It is begun," "It is going on."
I. We must illustrate how JESUS LOOKED FORWARD TO A TIME FOR UTTERING THIS WORD. Recollect what he said to the disciples by the well: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Recollect also his word to the Jews after he bad healed the impotent man on the sabbath day. He speaks there concerning the works which the Father had given him to finish. Here are specimens of the peculiar and testifying works of Jesus. Here are declarations by Jesus himself of the uniting and definite purpose with which his life was bound up. What he talked of now and then he must have thought of continually. To the superficial eye, indeed, the life of Jesus did not look as if it had any definite purpose. How would he have been put down in the "occupation" column in a census record? Yet the life of Jesus was full of purpose—purpose never absent, never forgotten. The parable of the man who went away from home, leaving his money as a trust in the hands of his servants, is surely a parable out of the very depths of the Savior's own experience. To him there was given a stewardship of inestimable value. How the servant with the five talents would look forward to the surrender and accomplishment of his trust! And just in this spirit Jesus must have looked forward to the hour when he should be able to say, "It is finished!"
II. THUS IN THE INCARNATE LIFE OF JESUS WE HAVE SOMETHING COMPLETE FOR US TO PROFIT BY. Something complete! The life of Jesus was complete, just as the life of a seed becomes complete when it has gone through all the cycle of its changes—germination, budding, blossoming, formation of fruit, ripening of fruit. The very life of Jesus was a finished work. It was like a book on the last page of which "Finis " could be truly written. Here is the book of a really complete human life. What a difference between Jesus and many authors and makers of finished things! Many complete things, things that the world is agreed in calling complete and precious in their own order, were achieved by very incomplete men. Read the words of Gibbon the historian, in which he records his emotions on completing his monumental work. He has succeeded, and yet in the bottom of his heart he has somehow failed. Thousands are finishing many things, but never touching the one thing needful. We, from our life's incompleteness, should look on the completeness of the life of Jesus, and, while we look, rise into that hope and confidence which his manifested completeness is meant to give. Here is One who lived out the life of humanity according to the ideal of him who made humanity. He never needed to pray," Forgive me my debts;" for he never owed a debt he did not pay, never closed a day of life which was not as full of service as of opportunities of service. And he finished that we might begin and also finish something which, but for the finishing of his own work, we never should have had the disposition to touch.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26