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acted as guards and executioners, after they had mocked him, took off the purple robe, and put on him his own raiment, and led him away to crucify him. It is not said that they took off the crown of thorns: he probably wore that to the last, as explanatory of his title on the cross, Matt. xxvii. 26, Mark xv. 20, Luke xxiii. 25, John xix. 16.
Matthew, on this occasion, and Mark also, say that they scourged him; but as only one scourging is mentioned by each of the Evangelists, and the rest agree in assigning to it an earlier date, and a second, at this later, would be wantonly cruel, when he was going to suffer the most dreadful punishment of crucifixion, and that also against Pilate's will, it is highly probable that Matthew and Mark meant the same; connecting the two punishments together, though not in immediate succession.
And now JESUS was led through the city, by the dolorous way towards Calvary, bearing his cross, according to the Roman custom; not the whole cross, but only that transverse part to which the arms were fastened, called furca, (whence the criminal was called furcifer,) as distinguished from the upright beam, called stipes, fixed in the ground.
As he went, (like Isaac, his type, bearing the wood for his own sacrifice, Gen. xxii. 6,) exhausted with fatigue and fasting, Psalm cix. 24, and fainting under the burden, the soldiers pressed into their service Simon, the Cyrenian, as he came out of the country, opposite the gate of Ephraim, (by tradition,) and compelled him to relieve JESUS, by carrying the cross after him. Matt. xxvii. 32; Mark xv. 21; Luke xxiii. 26; John xix. 17.
And there followed him a great number of the people, and also of women, who beat their breasts and bewailed him, but JESUS turning to them, said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep rather for yourselves and for your children, upon whom my blood was imprecated: for lo, days of vengeance are coming, in which people shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps that never gave suck! when they shall see the infants massacred by the RoThen shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on
• See the
of Jerusalem, and its explanation, Vol. I. p. 437.
us, and to the hills, Cover us, from the divine wrath, Hosea x. 8, Rev. vi. 16, for if they (the Romans) do such cruel things in green wood, or to the righteous, what shall be done in the dry*, or to the wicked? as foretold by Ezekiel, (xx. 47,) Luke xxiii. 27-31.
To increase the infamy of his punishment, there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death, who were probably associates of Barabbas, Luke xxiii. 22. And when they had gone out of the city, by the ancient gate of judgment, or gate of the valley (which is still standing), into the place called in Hebrew Golgotha, or the place of a skull, at the foot of Calvary †, they offered him a stupifying potion of vinegar mixed with myrrh and wormwood, which it was usual to give criminals, but when he tasted, he would not drink it, Matt. xxvii. 33, 34; Mark xv. 22, 23.
And when they had reached the top of Calvary, the soldiers crucified him there, in the midst, and the two malefactors on each side; thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, “and he was numbered with the transgressors," liii. 12. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. Then JESUS said, FATHER forgive them, for they know not what they do! Thus, in the midst of his own excruciating agony, our adorable HIGH PRIEST" interceded for the transgressors" also, Isa. liii. 12, who surely, if they had known, would not have crucified the LORD OF GLORY, neither the Jews nor the Romans, Acts iii. 17; 1 Cor. ii. 8; 1 Tim. i. 13.
After they had crucified JESUS, the executioners divided his garments among them into four parts, one for each, but they cast lots for his vest, or tunic, because it was woven without seam, from the top throughout, and therefore did not chuse to rend it, fulfilling prophecy in this minute distinction, (Psalm xxii. 19,) Matt. xxvii. 35; Mark xv. 24, 25; Luke xxiii. 32—34; John xix. 18-24.
They also set up an inscription, written by Pilate, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, over his head:
• In several passages of Scripture, green trees represent good men, and dry trees, bad. See Psalm i. 3, v. 2—10, Jer. xvii. 8, Hosea xiv. 8, Job xv. 30.
See Vol. I. p. 432.
JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS *. Matt. xxvii. 37, Mark xv. 26, Luke xxiii. 38, John xix. 19.
This inscription, which was read by many of the Jews, because the place of crucifixion was near the city, offended the chief priests, who applied to Pilate to alter it, into "who called himself the king of the Jews." But Pilate peremptorily refused, What I have written, I have written, and it shall remain ; wishing to mortify them, and insult the whole nation, while he unwittingly gave the despised JESUS OF NAZARETH, (John i. 47,) his true scriptural title, THE KING Of the Jews, or CHRIST, John xix. 20-22. And sitting down, the Roman soldiers watched him there, that none might take him down from the cross, Matt. xxvii. 36.
And the people stood in silence †, beholding the spectacle; while the passengers blasphemed him, wagging their heads, and repeating his own words, " Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself! If thou be THE SON OF GOD, come down from the cross! Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, said, mocking, He saved others, cannot he save himself? If he be THE CHRIST, the KING OF ISRAEL, THE ELECT of God, let him now come down from the cross, that we may see, and believe on him! He trusted in GOD, Let Him deliver Him now, if He chuse to adopt him : for he said, I am THE SON OF GOD," Matt. xxvii. 39-43, Mark xv. 29-32, Luke xxiii. 35. How critically did these impious mockers unintentionally fulfil prophecy, Psalm xxii. 8, 9, lxix. 21, lxxxix. 19, cix. 25-28, Wisd. ii. 18.
The soldiers also insulted him, offering him vinegar to drink, (their common beverage,) and saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself! Luke xxiii. 36, 37. And to crown all, even one of the malefactors upbraided him likewise, If thou be THE CHRIST, save thyself and us! But the other rebuked his fellow, saying, Dost not thou fear GOD? how then darest thou to follow the example of those impious mockers, and insult a dying person? seeing that thou art also dying thyself in the same punishment with him; and shouldst rather, therefore, pity a fellow
* This was the actual inscription, recorded by the eye witness, John; the other Evangelists give only the purport, " This is," &c. as Matthew and Luke; or "the king of the Jews," only, as Mark.
The people seem to have been affected with compassion; they afterwards "smote their breasts and returned," Luke xxiii. 48.
sufferer: especially since we suffer justly, receiving the deserved recompense of our deeds; but this man did nothing amiss. Then he said to JESUS, LORD, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom! JESUS authoritatively replied, Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise! Luke xxiii. 39-43.
This penitent seems to have been one of those worldly minded disciples, who forsook their master when he refused the proffered royalty, and predicted his own suferings and crucifixion, John vi. 66, xii. 34—37. He was now fully converted by the extraordinary accomplishment, and "drawn to CHRIST when hanging on the cross!" John xii. 32; now convinced that his kingdom was not of this world. With hearty repentance, therefore, and true faith, he besought admittance into his MASTER'S spiritual kingdom, at the regeneration, in future; and was graciously accepted by Him, who exercised an act of sovereignty, even on the cross; in all the fullness of assurance, promising him an immediate reward, even admittance, that very day, with himself, after death, into paradise, or that region of hades, appropriated for good souls; according to the popular belief, as expressed by OUR LORD in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke xvi. 20. See Vol. II. p. 84, note.
The next, and the most affecting occurrence, was our blessed Lord's display of filial piety and friendship, in the midst of his tortures. Mary, his mother, with astonishing fortitude and resignation to the mysterious will of heaven, (little inferior to Abraham himself, the intentional sacrificer of his darling son Isaac, now stood beside the cross, in speechless woe*, paying the last sad duty of maternal tenderness to her DIVINE SON; and now experiencing herself the full accomplishment of Simeon's paradoxical prediction, delivered in the fulness of her joy at his nativity, " Yea, a sword shall pierce even through thine own soul!" as it must have done, with the keenest edge, when she saw him set up as "a sign," or spectacle of public ignominy; and heard him" spoken against," and blasphemed, as a false Christ and false prophet; and shortly after beheld him pierced to the heart with a spear! Among the faithful friends who attended her in her distress on this most trying
• This circumstance is expressive of the deepest affliction. Cura leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent," Slight griefs do speak, but the profound are dumb."
occasion, was Mary, the wife of Cleophas, her own sister, or cousin, and Mary Magdalene, and John, the beloved disciple. JESUS, from his dreadful elevation, seeing his mother, and pitying her now desolate and disconsolate state of widowhood and childlessness, looked significantly first on her, and then on John, saying at the same time, Woman, behold thy son! to supply my place, and then bequeathing her, as a dying legacy, to his dearest and worthiest friend on earth, Behold thy mother! Words few and simple, indeed, but full of meaning; easily and equally understood, and obeyed by both: for, from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home; and assuredly, beheld, or treated her with all the respect and tenderness due to such a mother, so recommended. This precious anecdote, where every look, as well as every word, conveys a volume, (John xxi. 25,) we owe to John himself, xix. 25—27.
And now, when JESUS had hung on the cross near three hours, at the sixth, or noon, the sun was darkened, and darkness overspread the whole land for three hours more, until the ninth hour. This obscuration of the sun, must have been preternatural, in its extent, duration, and opposition of the moon, at full, to the sun. It was observed at Heliopolis in Egypt, by Dionysius, the Areopagite, afterwards the illustrious convert of Paul at Athens, Acts xvii. 34, who, in a letter to the martyr Polycarp, describes his own and his companion, the sophist Apollophanes' astonishment at the phænomenon, when they saw the darkness commence at the eastern limb of the sun, and proceed to the western, till the whole was eclipsed; and then regrade backwards, from the western to the eastern, till his light was fully restored; which they attributed to the miraculous passage of the moon across the sun's disk. Apollophanes exclaimed, as if divining the cause, " These, O good Dionysius, are the vicissitudes of divine events!" Dionysius answered, "Either THE DEITY suffers, or He sympathises with THE SUFFERER!" And that Sufferer, according to tradition, frecord by Michael Syncellus, of Jerusalem, he declared to be “THE UNKNOWN GOD, for whose sufferings all nature was darkened and convulsed."
This most curious and valuable testimony * to the fact, and
* This testimony is infinitely more important than that of Phlegon's Eclipse, which is usually adduced; but which happened the next year, A.D. 32, April 28, by Pingre's tables, which state only one solar eclipse, this year of the passion, a lunation and half