Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.The Silence of Jesus
The Lord Jesus did not deal with every man in precisely the same way. If you would not misunderstand my meaning, I would say that He was not equally frank with every man, but treated each according to the spirit which He found in each. As I have been meditating on the deportment of the Living and Incarnate Word in this recorded instance, I think I have seen in Him a close analogy to the Written Word. The Scriptures, which are so responsive to some, are silent to others. The extent to which the Bible is a revelation to any man is conditioned very largely by the moral character and distinctive principles of the man himself.
I. Among the influences in men which make the Bible a silent book to them, we find prejudice. If you bring a full pitcher to the spring, you can take no water away from it. If the mind be already made up to reject the Bible, it can get no answers from it to any of its questions. We must not, therefore, allow ourselves to be overawed by the mental greatness of many who have affirmed that Jesus in the Scriptures has given no answer to them. For more than intellect is needed here—even the docile, candid, guileless spirit, together with the religious sense; and in the absence of these, the mightiest mind will go astray. Here is the law: 'If any man be willing to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself'. Nor ought it to be forgotten here that the same prejudice that makes the Scriptures as a whole a sealed book to so many operates also in the embittering of religious controversy, and the keeping of Christians from coming to agreement regarding the teachings of the Bible.
II. Habitual indulgence in sin will prevent us from receiving any answers to our inquiries from the Scriptures. The man who is constantly hammering boiler plates soon becomes deaf from the very noise which he and his fellow-workmen make by their hammering. The hand becomes horny and callous by the constant doing of that very thing which at first blistered it and made it bleed. And in the same way the conscience becomes hardened, and the spiritual perception becomes blinded by habitual sin. When the life is immoral the Scriptures are silent to the man.
III. The influence of sceptical philosophy makes the Bible silent to those who are under its power. For this again is a case of prejudice. A man comes to the Scriptures with convictions already formed which are at variance with their principles, and so it is not strange that they have nothing for him; and before he gets any help out of them, or any revelation that will benefit him, he must get rid of the false philosophy which he has accepted. The sum of the matter, then, is that what we get from Christ or from the Scriptures will depend entirely on the disposition which we bring to Him or them.
References.—XIX. 10.—A. M. Fairbairn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 113. XIX. 10, 11.—H. P. Liddon, University Sermons (2nd Series), p. 300. C. Bosanquet, The Consoler and the Sufferer, p. 241. R. J. Campbell, Sermons Addressed to Individuals, p. 51. XIX. 11.—R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 203. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 349. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 33. XIX. 12-16.—H. S. Seekings, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 124. XIX. 13.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 363. Expositor (4th Series), vol. viii. pp. 221, 296; ibid. vol. ix. p. 123. XIX. 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1353. Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 19. XIX. 16.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons, p. 186. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 497. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 59. XIX. 16, 17.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 231. XIX. 17.—W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 217. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1683. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 380. XIX. 17, 18.—A. M. Fairbairn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 328. XIX. 17-30.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 252. XIX. 18.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 399.
The Inscription on the Cross
Let us read this inscription in the light of its setting. I take three points. First, the consummating claim of Christ. Secondly, the proofs of that claim. And thirdly, the unalterable verdict which each man must pass upon it.
I. First, the consummating claim of Christ. Every reader of the New Testament is familiar with the claims made by Jesus. (1) He claimed, to begin with, to be the final moral authority of the race. When He stood up in the synagogues, when He gathered His disciples around Him, when He spoke at men's tables or to the multitudes by the seashore or in the Temple, He claimed to make the final and absolute revelation of the things of God.
(2) A second claim Jesus made was to a perfect holiness. This claim very naturally was seldom openly on His lips. Only once, when slander was busy with His life and depreciation was quick with its scorn, did He put the question, 'Which man of you convicteth Me of sin?'
(3) A third claim of Jesus is to be the judge of all men. It is one of the slightly noticed marvels of Christ's life that all who stand in His presence find themselves judged. What He claimed in parable and in prophecy, what men felt instinctively when He was on earth, as we all feel it now, was what Paul declared in his solemn words, 'We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ'.
(4) But Christ's consummating claim is to be a king. Jesus might have been the last and greatest prophet of God, the supreme authority of the conscience, the wearer of a stainless moral beauty, and even the instant and final judge of humanity, and yet He would not have been enthroned as a king. As a matter of simple fact, Christ did not achieve His kinghood until He hung where Pilate nailed Him and set His title over His head on the cross. It is the cross of Christ which is His throne. It was because He hung upon the cross that His followers went out into all the lands where Caesar's name was known speaking of 'Another king, one Jesus'.
II. In the second place, the proof of this claim. The first line of proof must lie within the Gospels.
This first line of proof broadens out to a second which may have a more convincing appeal for some minds. That proof is the history of Christendom and the increasing dominion of its Christ. Who is king today? Enter any picture gallery and you will find that the face which hangs on every wall is the face of Him in whom the excellency of the knowledge of the glory of God has been revealed. Charles Lamb set the truth in his own quaint and tender way, when he said that if Shakespeare entered the room we should all rise and bow, but if Jesus came in we should all kneel.
There is a third line of proof which I do no more than mention. That is the personal devotion of His subjects. The imagination falters when it attempts in a backward glance to call up the millions who have lived and died for Jesus. The unquestioned heroes of humanity are the saints and martyrs of Christ Their names shine like the stare of the firmament. Their sainthood at its best and highest has the wisdom and sanity and joy and the splendour of sacrifice which only the devotion to their king can give.
III. In the third place, there is the unalterable verdict on this claim. Towards this claim of Jesus there were three attitudes taken up on the day of the cross. These three attitudes are taken up today. Some, like the chief priests, fiercely deny it. You can hear their cries repeated in much of our popular literature. It is keen with confident protest in the pages of the subtle criticism of unbelieving scholarship. It is hoarse with passion in the secular journals of the mob. Again, some, like Pilate, disregard it. Much that Jesus said and did evokes their sympathy and wins their commendation. But His claim to be the king, with absolute authority over the lives and destinies of men, they think to be an unreality, and a demand to be ignored. The third attitude is that of those who, like Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and John the disciple, read the inscription and bow down in consent. But mark this truth, that whether a man deny it, or disregard it, or consent to it in devotion, he comes to a day and an hour when he finds his verdict unalterable, and he uses the words of Pilate either in pride or in petulance or in adoring gladness, 'What I have written I have written'.
—W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 199.
References.—XIX. 19.—J. Trevor, Types and the Antitype, p. 232. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 258. XIX. 19, 20.—J. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 326. Bishop Alexander, Verbum Crucis, p. 111.
The Threefold Inscription on the Cross
What were these three languages used in the inscription that hung above the head of the dying Jesus? Each had its own note, its own significance and character, summing up in itself the character of a nation. The Hebrew was the language of religion; the Greek was the language of culture; the Latin was the language of power.
I. And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross, and it was written in Hebrew—and Hebrew is the language of religion. The Hebrew did not argue the existence of God: he presupposed it. He is the crowning achievement of a race whose special mission it was to reveal God, and that writing on the cross is indelible, and amid all the changes of the ages has only grown clearer and more indubitable in significance—Jesus, the king of the Jews. For us, on whom the ends of the world have come, the lesson is, then, unmistakable. In the language sacred to religion Jesus is proclaimed the King of all religion. In no other religion, in no other scheme of morality or social service, can we find security; we are driven to the refuge of Christ.
II. And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross, and it was written in Greek, the language of culture—'Jesus the King'. How may we best sum up the essence and spirit of Greek teaching and philosophy? Broadly generalising, we may say that the Greek had taught the world two things, the first of which was the deification of the present. The Greek had also done another thing for the world: he had boldly created his gods out of the materials of human nature. For us, again, the lesson is clear. The spirit of the Greek has not left, and will never leave, the world. Wherever there is youth, there is the love of life, and joy in the beauty of the earth, and the deification of the present. No man can ever reach the full stature of his intellectual life who is ignorant of Christ.
III. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross, and it was written in Latin, the language of power—'Jesus the King'. Three great ideals governed the Roman civilisation, and they also, but in a nobler form, were the ideals of Jesus. (1) Rome sought to fashion unity in religion, and so did Jesus, when He reduced religion to its simplest elements. (2) Rome aimed at universality in empire, and so did Jesus—only He sought to gain it by spiritual and not carnal weapons. (3) Rome taught worship of the State as the basis of all religion, and fidelity to the State as the highest expression of religion: Jesus also taught that loyalty to the invisible kingdom of God and His righteousness was the only real form of religion. The title of king is written on the cross: do we discern therein mockery or truth? Can it be truly said that Christ has proved Himself a king? I think it can, and eighteen centuries are its witness.
—W. J. Dawson, The Comrade Christ, p. 113.
The Inscription on the Cross
Bishop Pearson, speaking of languages as part of the requirements for a theologian, says, 'Tres in titulo crucis consecratae sunt'. His words were quoted by Bishop King of Lincoln in his paper on Clerical Study. The Love and Wisdom of God, p. 344.
References.—XIX. 22.—G. T. Newton, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xii. p. 108. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 103. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 119. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 266. XIX. 23.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 458.
Mary the Mother of Jesus
Mary standing by the cross, patient and resigned, in the unspeakable anguish of her motherhood, is doing the typical deed of her life. No other could so fully have told the story or interpreted the mind of Jesus, yet no syllable, either of appeal or of protest or of sorrow, come from her. And as we think upon her character, it seems to express itself in three dominating traits.
I. Of these three outstanding features the first is her inwardness. It is difficult to express in a single word that quality which penetrates her whole thought and action, but there is no better word for it than inwardness. Her spotless purity to the utmost depths of thought and motive; her lowly, simple ways; her few, soft appealing words; her gracious considerateness; her marvellous silences; her tenderness of feeling—'a thought ungentle couldna be the thought' of Mary of Nazareth—all indicate the inwardness of her character. When we think of the vanity which might have been bred in her by such a Son, the presumption which might have marked her words and deeds, when we realise how impossible to her is any flaunting forwardness, we understand that deep inwardness which kept silent when other women wailed around her, which had no cry even to the cross, which could nourish the sure persuasion that He who reads the hearts of all would discern her sorrow and supply her need.
II. The second notable trait of Mary's character is her submissiveness. Art, with its keen eye for a pathetic and typical situation, has often drawn Mary at the foot of the cross, and always in the attitude of perfect submission, not even lifting her eyes. Her sorrow can be matched by that of no other, yet she stands uncomplaining, fulfilling her last obedience, steadfast in her faith. That act of submission was but the summing up of her life, the closing and final expression of that grace which bore the rebuke at the marriage feast without rejoinder, accepted His perplexing words, 'Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business,' without further chiding, and first of all, when the secret of the Lord was with her, and He showed her His covenant, bowed low before the will of God with her meek answer, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Thy word'.
III. The third notable trait in Mary's character is her selfsacrifice. The sacrifice of the cross is the sacrifice of Jesus. But it was the sacrifice of the Father likewise 'who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all'. And it was also the sacrifice of Mary, who stood in meek acquiescence to see her Son die. This sacrifice of Mary has been finely conceived by Holman Hunt He has drawn the carpenter's shop at Nazareth. Jesus stands at His bench with uplifted arms, as though in a moment of aspiration, and Mary, stooping behind Him, sees the shadow of His arms cast on a wall before Him. To her foreboding heart, it is the shadow of a cross. It is a fine suggestion of the chilling fear which early possessed her heart, and became a heavier sorrow as He passed onward in His ministry, and now was realised in this dying hour. 'A sword shall pierce their own heart also,' Simeon had prophesied. Now standing by the cross she felt its sharp thrust, and she bowed her head as she made the mother's last sacrifice 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,' was the psalm that she chanted in spirit.
—W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 255.
The Two Saint Maries At the Cross
Truly the Captain of our salvation, who knew what was in man, chose for Himself most valiant soldiers to assist at His death. His Blessed Mother whose trust never wavered; the thief, who, next to her, showed greater faith than any other Saint; St. Mary Magdalene who so resolutely followed His example in despising the shame. We read of a captain in the Old Testament who chose out a place where he knew that the valiant men were. Of all such places that the world has ever seen, the greatest was the foot of the cross.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 69.
References.—XIX. 25.—G. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p. 157. J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 192. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1682, p. 495. C. F. Aked, The Courage of the Coward, p. 117. J. C. M. Bellew, Christ in Life; Life in Christ, p. 302. John Hunter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 296. R. C. Trench, Sermons New and Old, p. 241. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 67. W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 283. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 355; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 36; ibid. vol. vi. p. 468. XIX. 25, 26.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 244. XIX. 25-27.—Bishop Welldon, The Gospel in a Great City, p. 181. XIX. 26.—A. G. Mortimer, The Chief Virtues of Man, p. 47. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 106.
The Considerateness of Jesus
I. It is neither wise nor true to the spirit of the Evangelists to make too much of the physical suffering of the cross. Jesus Himself despised it. But here it adds to the grace and greatness of His deed. He came to Calvary after a night of sleeplessness, following on the agony in the garden, when the sweat stood like drops of blood on His brow. During the long anguish of the morning, He stood for hours with no one to bid Him rest, and He was scourged and crowned with thorns, and smitten by the soldier's rough palms. His limbs refused the weight of the cross on the way. He came to His dying act, with every nerve quivering with exhaustion, and every muscle crying out with pain. He hung upon His cross, with the nails piercing His hands and feet, and He felt the agony of an unappeasable thirst, and that slow chill which told Him that the shadow of death was upon Him. And although it may not so stir our human imagination, still more awful was the travail of His soul. The burden of human sin which He must bear alone, and the felt approach of that tide of forsakenness which swept for a moment between Him and the Father, were agonies which even David's conscience could not have fathomed. Who would have aught but words of praise had He concentrated every thought and word on the great redemption deed? Yet He lifts His eyes to look upon His mother. A flood of recollection, we can boldly say of Him who took upon Him our nature, passed over Him. The home in Nazareth, in His vision, hid the walls of Jerusalem. The crooning of His mother's voice as she sung her lullaby to Him; the feel and pressure of His mother's arms; the tending of her care as His boyhood grew to strength; the reverent wondering of her mind as He bore more plainly the marks of His divinity, and the piercing of her heart as He strained forward to the cross—all came back to Him. Now also clear before Him rises the picture of her future. The widow's loneliness made more desolate, the whitened hair given another sorrow as it goes down to the grave, age feeling its failing strength, poverty and homelessness stinting her of the sweet comforts of life! He masters His agony, He refuses His groan, and in brief words, never forgotten by two of those who heard them, He said: 'Woman, behold thy Son'. 'Son, behold thy mother.' The disciple, who understood Jesus best, fulfilled His charge by taking her to his own home. Love needs only a hint.
II. Every one must feel the charm and power of this grace of considerateness. Every one realises the wideness or its sphere. Of deeds like this our human hearts and lives are in sore and constant need.
The spheres in which this grace is most needed are always those in which it seems to be most difficult of exercise. It is easiest in the greater experiences of life, in times of trial and sorrow, in days of sickness, and in the manifest calamities of life. There are many who bestow abounding gifts of mercy then, who let whole days of common life pass without a kindly word. The searching tests of a deep considerateness, a considerateness that costs, are to be found in the rough business, the daily commonplace intercourse, the worries, the vexations, and the petty mortifications of lite.
III. How shall we win this lovely and most potent grace?
When Jesus looked on His mother He thought with His heart. And this grace can be learned, not even in the least measure of it, nowhere except at the cross. The man who has only passed by the cross, and in some hour of tender feeling understood and sympathised with this deed of Jesus, cannot fail to acquire a desire after it, which will be operative in his character. But that will not suffice. We must accept the truth as it is in Jesus. We must look up at the cross for our forgiveness and our healing. We must accept that mastership of Him in whom God was reconciled unto us, who loves us in spite of all the evil of our nature, and now reconciles us to God, and as we kneel at the cross in self-surrender, we shall hear and feel the compelling power of the call: 'Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you'.
—W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 271.
Jesus Providing for His Own
Here we see Jesus forgetful of Himself providing for His own. In this word Jesus is the helper of those who have home duties, and we draw near to the cross because Jesus here hallows, blesses, and sanctifies home life.
I. Notice the tenderness of the Saviour for the lonely. The lonely are very close to the heart of Jesus Christ. He understands their loneliness, He shares it, He ministers to it. It would be well if we Church people could, by our freedom from foolish reserve and pride, by our freedom from the spirit of controversy, make the Church what it ought to be—the true home of the lonely. And yet there is no doubt that Jesus is here trying to help those whose life of discipline, and trial, and of preparation, is chiefly earned on in their own home.
II. He teaches the blessedness of home life. Home is for most of us the training place for heaven. In the humble and unnoticed duties of husband to wife, of wife to husband, of children to parents, of servant to master, however humble be that round of duties, those qualities are being developed, those graces of character are growing to perfection which are, after all, the mainstay of cities and of nations. There is something unspeakably sacred in the life of home, and I love to think that my blessed Saviour gathered those whose lot is cast in families by His cross, and, though His heart is open to the lonely that have not the blessings of home, yet He lets His benediction rest on those to whom He has given the blessedness of home life.
III. And then consider the things that threaten home life in its security and peacefulness. There is the great army of the homeless. By whose fault are they homeless, and what is to be done to cope with this ever-increasing and most unnatural evil that is eating away the very life of our nation, the homeless condition of so many of the poor? And then there are other evils which threaten home life. There is a dreadful short-sighted selfishness and love of pleasure that is unwilling to submit to the restraints of home. There is a great selfishness in every class of society on this matter. And then there are Godless homes, homes where the children are brought up without discipline, and without love, and without care. Let us remember in passing the iniquities, the enormities revealed in our shameful divorce courts. And remembering these things, let us pray to our God that a new spirit of devotion, nay, of patriotism, may be aroused among us, and that again our nation may be built up by this pure, beautiful, family life which Jesus has blessed at the cross.
The Word of Tender Care
The beloved mother is given into the charge of the beloved disciple. Love only can take charge of loved ones, and John was the disciple whom Jesus loved, and, although he does not say it, the disciple who loved Jesus.
I. After the Incarnation was given to man the blessed mother seems to retire behind the scenes; we do not hear much about her—very little. Her work in the world was to be the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, her beginning and her end, her Alpha and her Omega, her first and her last. Being His mother, she is here at His death-bed, under the cross. She does not appear during the Passion: she is not reported to have said anything or done anything. Each of the Evangelists gives us four chapters about the Passion, and all that was said and done, but the blessed mother is left out until we come to Calvary. Why do you think this was? What are we to gather from it? Surely, first of all, that His mother knew all these things—it was no news to her. The dear Lord and Master must have told her what was going to happen.
II. And another point is this: she willed it. She made no complaint, no remonstrance against the cruelty of wicked men. She who said, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Thy word,' knew that the word of God had gone out from everlasting that thus it must be She uttered no word; her will was the will of her Son. He laid down His life right willingly, and in His will was hers. She will not go on Easter morning to bring spices to the tomb—not she. She will not show any faithless love. She will not go to Him at all. Why? She knows He is not there. 'The secret of the Lord is with those that fear Him.' She knows.
III. What was it that distressed her so much then? Why was it that the sword passed into her soul? What was the piercing of the soul, if she willed it? (1) First, because she was His own mother. As our own Prayer Book says, He was 'of the substance of the Virgin Mary His mother'. He was not of the substance of any father'; He was twice as much of His mother as ever you or I are of ours, and that 'twice His mother' was hers. He is all the world's, but still He is hers. Though He have the world's worship, still her heart avers, 'The Child Divine belongeth unto me'. And now you can understand the first reason why the sword was piercing her soul. (2) And the second. If she was the dear mother of Christ, she was still the dear daughter of God. Who was it that put her Son to death? Who was it that was slaying Him? The Church. Pilate would not have killed Him. It was Mary's Church. Brought up amid all the associations of the old service and the old ritual, as dear a daughter of Israel as ever lived, she saw that the Chief Priests, and scribes had delivered Him up to be crucified. The thing was done by those she had loved most. Heathens cannot crucify Jesus. I tell you who can crucify Him. The Church—only the Church. If the Lord Jesus Christ is to be put to death in these days it is by the Church of God—no one else can crucify Him.
—A. H. Stanton.
References.—XIX. 26, 27.—W. Robertson Nicoll, The Seven Words from, the Cross, p. 37. Bishop Alexander, Verbum Crucis, p. 51. G. S. Barrett, The Seven Words from, the Cross, p. 40. J. C. M. Bellew, Christ in Life: Life in Christ, p. 149. T. V. Tymms, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. p. 282. A. G. Mortimer, In the Light of the Cross, p. 28. XIX. 26-30.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 223. XIX. 27.—C. H. Grundy, Luncheon Lectures at St. Paul's Cathedral, p. 9. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 372.
I. If our Lord had only been a mere man, determined to brave it out and show a perfectly unflinching conquest over His tormentors, He could have endured the nails to be driven through His hands and feet without a word. He could have kept back this word, but He said, 'I thirst,' and I thank Him from my heart, for it is a word of sympathy with me in my frequent bodily weariness, when I am trying to do the will of God. For we do get tired, physically tired, even in prayer. Let us be real and true, and let us be on our guard. The flesh and the body always say soft and tender things of themselves. Be on your guard: the body is sure to say soft and pitying things about itself and its own capabilities, but still, there is over and above that the fact that we are of different degrees of strength, and we cannot do what some people do; and we should be much more cheerful, much better tempered, much happier, and get on much better with our spiritual duties, if sometimes we had the humble courage to say, 'I cannot do so much as you do, but I try, and I hope God will lead me on'.
II. 'I thirst' expressed a weakness of body; but does it mean only that? I cannot think so.
Surely it was from these very lips that we have heard the words before, 'Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled'. One cannot but imagine that the Psalms which were so frequently in our Lord's heart must have brought to His lips more than once, 'Like as the hart panteth for the waterbrooks, so longeth my soul after Thee, O God; yea, my soul, my heart is athirst for God, even the living God'. There was a longing for something to slake His natural thirst, and there was a thirst, I venture to say, for the souls of men. It was a thirst for the satisfaction of His Father's will, and therefore of His own will, that humanity might be restored, and made one in Them, as They were One. That, I believe, was the origin of this thirst—a thirst which was a longing for the souls of men, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and for the accomplishment of the perfect will of God.
III. In considering this word 'I thirst,' I would beg you to ask yourselves, are you in any sense conscious of being able to make it your own? Do you hunger and thirst for more knowledge of God? If you know that at the present moment but one-third of the people in the world are Christians, and hundreds only Christians in name, are you anxious to make the conquests of Christ more perfect in England and out of England? Or is the want of this spiritual appetite because you are still sick in sin, because you are not growing in grace, because you are not working hard as Christ would have you work, as one really employed in His vineyard?
Do ask yourselves such questions, and resolve to have a more real relation to missionary work in four ways: (1) by reading more about it, and the hundreds of millions who know nothing about Christ; (2) by giving more of your means to help on their conversion; (3) by praying for them; and lastly, by setting an example of the power of Christ in your own life so that the heathen may see that it is worth while becoming a Christian, because it is an advance towards the perfection of humanity, and the higher happiness, the higher knowledge of the will of God.
—Bishop Edward King, Meditations on the Seven Last Words.
The Pains of Thirst
Here we see that our Lord had a body, which, like our own, could feel the pains of thirst. Like some fever-tossed patient, after a night of suffering, as the darkness rolls away our Lord says, 'I thirst'. 'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.'
I. How wonderfully do the Beatitudes correspond to the words from the cross. The various appetites of our nature were implanted in us by God in order to impel us to seek, and to do, that which is for our good. (1) The appetites of the body, hunger and thirst, for instance, impel us to eat and drink, because the body needs food to supply its waste. (2) But there are also appetites of the mind, or, rather, an appetite—that strange passion of curiosity, the desire to know, which is so deeply implanted in every child of man. God made the mind of man for truth, and in endowing it with the passion of curiosity He gave him that which would impel him to seek truth. (3) But, again, there is an appetite of the soul, the passion of love, the desire to possess the object of our love. Its true purpose is to impel us to seek God for His own sake, to love God.
II. Now, not only has each part of our nature its own appetite, whose office it is to impel us to supply the needs of that part, but in order that the appetite may be satisfied, that the need may be rightly supplied, we must take into account the character of the food we eat; for all food is not alike—some nourishes, other does not, or only to a slight extent, while some food is actually poisonous. (1) We know that a very large proportion of the diseases of the body may be traced to the food we eat. As the health of the body depends upon its food being the right food, both in character and quantity, so is it with the health both of the mind and of the soul. (2) We have already observed that the appetite of the intellect is curiosity, that its true food is truth—the knowledge of good; but in the world in which we live, as well as in the Garden of Eden, we find trees laden with fruit which promises a knowledge of good and evil. The mind's thirst to know needs to be disciplined, to be satisfied with the knowledge of good, of truth, of the food which God provides for the mind; but there is a terrible temptation to try to assuage our thirst, to satisfy our curiosity, with a knowledge of evil. The noblest appetites are capable of the greatest perversion, and the danger to the appetite of curiosity is that we may feed it with poison. (3) There is yet another part of our nature to be thought of—the soul. What is the food of the soul? The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ
—A. G. Mortimer, Lenten Preaching, p. 206.
The Fifth Word From the Cross
Here we have Jesus crucified helping the suffering, and we feel we are drawn, with the great army of those who suffer, closer to His side.
The Passion is from first to last a mystery, filled with purpose. St. John tells us expressly, 'Jesus, therefore, knowing that all things were now fulfilled, saith, I thirst'. Everything was orderly, deliberate, and self-controlled in our Saviour's sufferings. He died, not because His life was taken away from Him, but because He chose to lay it down of Himself.
How does the Blessed Jesus help the sufferer?
I. First, of course, He helps us by sharing our sufferings. He has carried with Him to the throne of heaven a human heart that has passed through a true human experience, and there is no sorrow that He does not know by experience, no grief which racks the heart of man which has not found its place in Him. Thirst is a type of all suffering, bodily suffering and spiritual suffering, and especially perhaps of that restless suffering, the discomfort of a spiritual need which is not, but which might be, penitence.
II. And then, secondly, He helps us by His example. See how He takes His sufferings to God. Surely that word 'I thirst' is not uttered to man. It must be taken as His plaint to God on high. And, if so, what is the lesson from it? We go about complaining of our sufferings to each other. Each of us has his own tale of discomfort, or of woe, or of annoyance; but the real end of all suffering is to draw us nearer to God. We must cast ourselves boldly upon God. We utter to Him the deep desires, the intensified longings of our hearts. That is surely the lesson of this cry of pain.
III. And then, thirdly, Jesus accepts pain, and especially the pain of His Passion, as the due reward of sin. He suffers, the Just for the unjust, that He may bring us to God. God's will was that sin should suffer, and Jesus accepts suffering. He hates sin with the Divine hatred, He judges it with the Divine judgment, He sorrows for it with the Divine sorrow, and therefore there is Atonement (at-one-ment) between God and man.
IV. And then, lastly, Jesus sanctifies suffering, whatever it be, as the means of cleansing us from sin. He calls us to go nowhere where He has not Himself led the way. He lays upon us no burden which He has not borne Himself.
The Fifth Word From the Cross
'I thirst.' It is the shortest of the seven words from the cross, and the only one that refers to our Saviour's bodily sufferings at all. There is a pathos about it, a touch of human weakness so appealing to us, especially if we have failed to follow the spiritual pathos of the preceding word: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' But for that 'I thirst' we might have thought of our Lord as hardly human. But Jesus felt it all. For Him there was no Divine assuaging of bodily pain. His lips were parched with fever, the thirst of the dying was upon Him, thirst, a keen expression of utter bodily exhaustion, and He is not ashamed to give it voice, for in His utmost need He craves for human sympathy, and asks for bodily relief.
I. What are we to learn from this? I think the true humanity of our Lord. His Divinity has often been denied; but I think there is truth in what has been said—that, on the whole, men are in greater danger of denying His humanity. That is a commoner error, even if it does not find its way into print. One meaning, surely, of the cry 'I thirst,' is to remind us that the Christ Whom we worship as Lord is a human Christ. It helps us to bear pain, and to suffer, and to be tempted when we know that He was tempted and suffered too. There is a so-called Christian science which would have us regard pain as the product of a diseased imagination. If pain were only an imaginary thing, our Saviour would not have found it so stern a reality, nor made it the means of the world's redemption. And, surely, there is also a meaning in our pain, if by the cross it is changed into a fellowship with the sufferings of Christ.
II. Once more, if the Lord Himself both needed and accepted human sympathy, let us not be too proud to accept it also. There is a pride in us that shuts itself up in its own sorrow and insists on bearing its burden alone. It is part of our discipline that we should quell our proud wills and learn to bow the head as Jesus did. Let us not say: 'I do not choose to be under obligation to this man or that. I will bear my own sorrow alone.' Make it not impossible for willing friends to fulfil in you the Lord's behest: 'I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink'.
III. And let us not hold back our sympathy from those who suffer. There must be some who could do so much and gain so much by giving, by a simple transference from the account of self, its pleasures, its comforts, its recreations, to the account of the needs of the needy. Do we not know, have not the Gospels taught us, that we make our burden lighter and not heavier when we add to it the burden of another's sorrow? Therefore let no shyness, no shrinking, check the spirit that prompts the kindly visit, the tender and sympathetic letter, the gift of flowers or fruit to the sick; above all, let us remember in our prayers those who need to be prayed for.
'I thirst.' Some have heard in that cry the Divine love thirsting for us. Let there be in us a responsive thirst.
Let us consider, then, our Lord as truly human, one of ourselves under the discipline of pain; let us consider that pain as the great message of fellowship, of sympathy elicited and going back, that fellowship which we are meant to have one with another.
Two words—'I thirst'—but how full of meaning! They came from One Who had cried out in the streets of Jerusalem—'If any man thirst let him come to Me and drink'. It was the same Jesus Who a little time before sat with that woman in Samaria by the well and told her that the water would only quench her natural thirst for a while, but He would give her water which, if she drank, would not only quench for ever that thirst, but would enable her to go out and quench the thirst of others. And yet He said, 'I thirst'.
I. Bodily Thirst.—After the agonies of the Garden, after the mockery of the Jews and the Roman soldiers, after those three long dark hours, after all that He had endured, He felt a bodily need—'I thirst'. If we could only think of all it means for you and me—'I thirst'. That awful agony was borne for you and for me.
II. Soul Thirst.—'He thirsted,' says a modern writer, 'to be thirsted after. He thirsted long for the souls of men and women. He came down from heaven to draw all the world to Himself.' Read once again the story of His Passion, the story of the cross, the story of His death, and you will understand if you read aright something of the awful soul thirst through which Christ passed. Christ thirsted for human souls: He thirsted for yours and mine. He thirsts. Is not that pathetic? Still He thirsts, thirsts for the souls of men and women all over the globe. Whenever a man or woman is brought to Him, whenever a man or woman comes to Him, it is as though some one had taken a drop of water and touched the dry lips.
III. Fellowship with His Suffering.—'I thirst' If you and I had been on Calvary we should have loved to do something to minister to the wants of our Saviour. And when little souls cry on beds of sickness, when a man finds the struggle for daily existence more than he can stand, Christ through them is crying 'I thirst' to you and me, and their thirsty souls can be satisfied and Christ will be satisfied through you. Christ believes in man. Christ on the cross might have been silent, but He chose to speak—'I thirst,' and He showed the world what His sufferings were. He says again, speaking through suffering humanity, 'I thirst,' and He asks you to do something to quench that thirst, because He knows that deep down in the bottom of the heart there is some hope after all for the very worst man. The way of the world is to make the worst of everybody, to paint every one as black as possible. But Christ believed in man. He thought there was some good even in the heart of a Roman soldier, and He was not disappointed. Show your love for Christ by thirsting for souls that He came to save. Any good that we can do, let us do it now. Do not let us neglect it, for we shall never pass through this world again.
References.—XIX. 28.—W. Robertson Nicoll, The Seven Words from the Cross, p. 79. A. G. Mortimer, In the Light of the Cross, p. 45. J. S. Bartlett, Sermons, p. 79. H. Bonar, Short Sermons for Family Reading, pp. 119, 125, 132. A. G. Mortimer, The Chief Virtues of Man, p. 79. J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 271. Bishop Alexander, Verbum Crucis, p. 77. G. S. Barrett, The Seven Words from the Cross, p. 76. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1409. XIX. 28, 29.—Bishop Alexander, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 385. XIX. 28-30.—A. Bradley, Sermons chiefly on Character, p. 254.
Christ's Finished Work
I. This cry is a sigh of relief. We should not make too much of our Lord's physical sufferings. Nor should we overdraw the pain and sorrow of His earthly life. We should not read 'the Son of man hath not where to lay His head' as though that were an appeal of Christ to our pity. He was merely emphasising, to a man who was not counting the cost, His homelessness, and declaring that homelessness should be the lot of all. Yet life was a serious and burdening thing to Him, as it is to all high and rare spirits. In spite of that constant joy He had in things beautiful, and His deep delight in men He loved, and in little children who loved Him, and despite the radiant calm that was ever on His brow life had its own strain, its many sorrows, its frequent wearinesses.
In the year 401 b.c. an army of ten thousand Greeks was marching westward to their homeland. Some months before they had gone out eastwards into Asia, in the service of an ambitious ruler. They had fought and won a fruitless victory. Leaderless, half-starved, harassed by foes, yet unbroken in spirit, they marched their way back again across desolate mountain ridges, beside foul and undrained marshes, fording unbridged rivers, they tramped on. At last they reached the chain of hills which Asia Minor lifts around the Black Sea. They climbed their long flank, and reached the summit, and there lay the cool, dark, wine-coloured water. 'The sea! the sea!' they cried. It was a sigh of relief. Tears welled up in their eyes. Their long and weary trudge was over. The journey was done. The hunger and thirst and exhaustion were things of the past. Thoughts of home made their hearts leap up. They sighed with relief. So Jesus, remembering all the way He had come, about to slip off the mortal coil which had been His prison, looking forward to the Father's face, utters His sigh of relief, 'It is finished'.
II. In the second place, this cry is a word of victory. Life with Jesus, although it had its joy, and had also, as we have seen, its underlying strain and sense of alienation and exile, had a deeper trial. It was a long and difficult and perilous pathway. It was a time of temptation such as no human soul has ever known. We find it difficult to understand the reality of our Lord's temptations. We cannot imagine the awfulness of the conflict. Yet we know that the hours of His temptations were the keenest and bitterest of His life. The sweat came out like great drops of blood in one crisis. 'Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations,' He gratefully says to men who helped Him more wondrously than they were aware. Only at the end could He say, 'The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me'.
These great hours of strain and conflict are marked as they recur in the Gospels. The reason why the temptation in the wilderness has been revealed is that we might understand how stern was the battle He fought. Every temptation was a temptation in a wilderness.
We may enter, although only feebly, into the meaning of such a significance. We all know the joy of overcoming temptation. We know that hour of the day in which we have resisted some seduction to sloth, turned a deaf ear to some call to self-indulgence, kept some promise at cost of pain to mind and heart, and reached the close of the day, or finished the bit of work we had begun, without faltering. When James Stewart, the engineer of the African Lakes Company, had almost completed the Stevenson Road along which the Gospel and its civilisation were to pass up into the heart of the continent, he was smitten by his last fever. He lay down to die in a hut near the northern terminus of the road. His body was racked with pain, but his spirit had a singular elation. He looked out in imagination along the road, and he heard the chariots of God pass along the highway. As he fell asleep in Christ he had also that word on his lips which was an echo of his Master's cry, 'It is finished'. Time and time again he had been tempted to desist because of the difficulties of the survey and the obstacles placed in his path by fever and by pitiless foes, but he had kept on his way in the strength of God, and the victory was his. So Jesus rejoiced in His dying hour. No blot had marred the stainless past. No word that needed to be forgiven could be recalled. No deed left undone now vexed His spirit. As He remembered the fierce battle, His cry was a word of victory, 'It is finished'.
III. In the third place, this cry is a message to the Father. It was a sigh of relief and a word of victory, but it was more. We are taken back to another word spoken in the upper room, as He prayed, 'I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do'.
IV. In the fourth place, His cry is a proclamation to men. This may be called the full gospel of Jesus. It is the note which should never be absent from every Gospel preacher's message. It is Christ's declaration that the final revelation of God has been given, that all alienation between God and man has ended, that all other religious rites and ordinances, even those of the priests in the Temple, and the sacrifice of the Jew, are abrogated, and that henceforth there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
—W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 127.
It Is Finished
'Finished!' What a cry of relief from the long strain which had been upon Him! And what may we say the words specially refer to?
I. Finished Sufferings.—I think, first of all, to His own sufferings. Christ must suffer. That was, if we may say it reverently, a foregone conclusion. Think of all the world, with all its accumulated wickedness and sin. The sin which animates their hostility to Christ, do you not think that that sin would put Christ to death again if He came to the world? Do you not think that if Jesus came to the world today He would not be wanted? Would He be wanted in our homes, our social life? If He came to our churches would He be wanted there? He must suffer in order to enter into His glory. How is it with us? Need we wonder if when we try to do right we must also suffer? It has been so from the very beginning, but because Christ has said in His moment of apparent defeat, when the world thought that they had done with Him, 'It is accomplished,' therefore you and I may be assured that we shall have victory. The glory will be ours through suffering.
II. Finished Temptations.—Not only were His sufferings accomplished, but also His temptations. He had wrestled with the tempter and had overcome. All His life He had temptations to overcome. There is a note of quiet rest struck in these words, just as much as there is a note of triumph. And the same way with our sin, and griefs, and pains. Do not let us despair because they take so much overcoming, because we have always to fight and wrestle with them, and there seems no finality with them. Jesus has said: 'It is accomplished. Thy temptation is at an end. It is finished.' The most powerful thing in the world, Christ has vanquished it, and if you will but go on fighting in His strength, the time will come when you will be able to say, 'It is finished'.
III. Finished Work.—And then something else, too, Jesus accomplished—His triumphant work. The battle of His corporeal life was over, but not before redemption, full and free, had been secured. In our Communion Service we say that Jesus made upon the cross 'a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world'; but that sacrifice is of no effect if we do not believe it and accept it as God's way of salvation. Let us look at the cross now, and pray that God will give us the faith we need, that we may see in Jesus our Saviour and our Redeemer, our Prophet, our Priest, and our King, One Who ever liveth to make intercession for us.
It Is Finished
When we come to this great word, 'It is finished,' we feel at once, I think, how great a distance there is between our Lord's life and our own. The best of us are in such a constant muddle, in such confusion and hurry; this life goes at such a pace, it is such a race, such a confusion—duty upon duty presses one upon another, we can only, as it were, just brush the things away to see where the mark is; still there always seems a quantity of undone things round about us.
I. Well, when we think how our blessed Lord quietly ended His life with the words, 'It is finished,' I think one practical reflection ought to be, are there not many important duties which we could and ought to finish? It would be a great thing, a very great thing, if part of our Good Friday's resolutions turned upon this word in that way. The best way to make it quite simple and practical. There are so many things probably which we have left unfinished that the difficulty is to select some few, four or five, two or three, or even one which we will really try and finish up. Some people, for instance, are very irregular in their accounts, not that they are dishonest at all, or have no money to pay, but they do not attend to them, and, therefore, don't know exactly how they stand, and very often thus cause inconvenience, without intending it, to their friends or their neighbours. Now it would be a most real, yet simple and plain way, to apply this word 'It is finished,' if a person were to resolve to say, 'Thank God, I have enough, without being dishonest; but if I were to be more punctual in my payments, more punctual with my worldly affairs, I should be more in order, more in hand, and I should have more leisure, more peace of mind, more time for reading my Bible, I should enjoy my Sundays more, and I should have more time for prayer and meditation.'
II. Let us try then and bring this word, 'It is finished,' across our homely life, across our daily business, and see what we can do to finish up our work better. To our Lord this word was far-reaching, when He said, 'It is finished,' for He could look back upon all the means which He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, had been devising for the redemption of the world. Perfect patience, perfect unwearied patience, perfect unbroken love; having loved His own, He loved them to the very end; nothing had been left undone. He had done all things well—just at the right time, just in the right place, just in the right way; not too much, nor yet too little. 'It is finished;' it was done, and He could rest.
We never, of course, could say that. And yet it was not merely, so to speak, the satisfaction that He had done all this; but the real satisfaction was rather this: That now the great sacrifice was over, the Lamb of God was slain, and the debt of the world was paid.
III. This is included in the 'It is finished'; the one perfect sufficient sacrifice which was made for the sins of the whole world. We are saved; we are saved by the Blood of Jesus. He has been bearing our sins, and has been offering up Himself to the Father for us: and we are delivered. We, though we may have been sinners, yet may be saved. We, though we may have broken God's law and commandments again and again, yet now in the death of Christ have a new and living way made open by His Blood.
The veil is rent in twain, the wall of partition is thrown down, and there is free access now to the Throne of Christ; all have been sinners, yet may be saved. That is the Father's wish, that is what the Son came to accomplish, that was what enabled Him to say with joy 'It is finished'. The bridge, as it were, between earth and heaven is completed; Jacob's ladder is set up, and there is now a way from earth to heaven, and the poorest, and the most unlearned, and the youngest, the wayfaring man, may go on this way if they will and need not err. This was the joy of 'It is finished'.
—Bishop Edward King, Meditations on the Last Seven Words.
References.—XIX. 30.—W. Robertson Nicoll, The Seven Words from the Cross, p. 101. J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 270. W. L. Alexander, Sermons, p. 83. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i. p. 83. G. S. Barrett, The Seven Words from the Cross, p. 93. P. Brown, Penny Pulpit, No. 1576, p. 239. A. G. Mortimer, The Chief Virtues of Man, p. 93. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 232. Bishop Alexander, Verbum Crucis, p. 91. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 378; vol. vii. No. 421, and vol. xl. No. 2344. A. B. Davidson, Waiting Upon God, p. 255. A. G. Mortimer In the Light of the Cross, p. 50. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 123. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 268. XIX. 31.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 408. XIX. 31-37.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1956. XIX. 32-37.—G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 201. XIX. 33, 34.—Bishop C. Bickersteth, The Gospel of Incarnate Love, p. 70. XIX. 34.—C. G. Clark-Hunt, The Refuge of the Sacred Wounds, p. 47. XIX. 34, 35.—J. Keble, Sermons on the Baptismal Service, p. 197. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 244. XIX. 3.5.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 48. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 331. XIX. 36-37.—H. S. Holland, Church Times, vol. lix. p. 696. XIX. 36.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 289. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 79; ibid. vol. iii. p. 117. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 277.
The 'other scripture' may not contradict the one that has been already quoted; the other scripture may expand it, complete it, may be the hemisphere needed to complete the globe. This is a lesson in Bible reading. We are not to stop just where we please; it is no business of ours to pick out favourite texts and found fantastic theories or mutable denominations upon them. The Scripture is a whole; every verse belongs to every other verse. Sometimes a text may be singular; that is to say, may be the only text of the kind in the whole Scripture. Yet, though brief, it may be pregnant, it may be a condensed revelation; it may be Biblical, that is to say, charged with the very spirit of the Bible, though it has no solitary parallel passage. These considerations show us how careful, and even critical, and sometimes even suspicious we should be in reading detached portions of Scripture. Always attend to the 'again'; never forget the 'another'; collate, bring into vital relation all the passages bearing upon any given subject.
I. You could take the text, 'Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,' and you could by that one text destroy a great portion of the Scriptural revelation and testimony. Charity is to be a thing absolutely speechless, no hint is to be given that we have done anything beneficial, gentle, helpful: here is the passage which distinctly says so; that you may have no difficulty about it I will quote it again: 'Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing'; however multitudinous the charities of the right hand, the left hand must be kept behind, out of sight. Why dispute this? here is the text; here is our plain authority; we have nothing to do but obey. All this would seem to be reasonable and Scriptural: whereas it is neither the one nor the other, because another scripture saith, 'Let your light so shine before men that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven'. The one passage does not destroy the other; there is no mutual cancelling, but there is expansion, explanation, a different standard and a fuller suggestion. Bring the passages together; let them be mutually explanatory; neither overlook the one nor the other: in this way we come into possession of the mind of the Spirit, and in this way, and in this way only, do we become profoundly and beneficently Biblical.
II. So then we come to the collation and parsing of Scripture, the mutual interpretation of divers texts, some of them apparently contradictory; and yet that which may not subject itself to easy interpretation of grammar and lexicon may be reconciled and built into a great solemn meaning by the magical worker Experience. We know some things simply by living them. The teacher can never make the scholar a gentleman; he must be born of God to be gentle. The schoolmaster can inform him, correct his errors, extend his knowledge, but that peculiar magical thing, gentlemanliness, the highest life, the most perfect and gracious refinement, why, this is a grace taught but in one school, the school of the Holy Ghost. If not so taught, it is simulation, veneer, a calculated attitude, not the outbreathing and the outgoing of a truly regenerated and divinely inspired character.
III. The ever-recurrent lesson is, Do not build upon one text, upon a solitary instance; build upon the whole testimony. The devil had his text; he said once to Jesus, Cast Thyself down from this great height, have no fear, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee; they will delight to catch Thee in their outspread arms and bind Thee to their heaving, loving bosoms; the air is full of them: why not put this text to the test? it is written—you are fond of quoting the Bible, let me quote it also—it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone; Thou art the darling of God, Thou art the radiant life of the angels; without Thee they would be solitary, swallowed up of sorrow; their great wings would be under Thee in less than the twinkling of an eye; then all the world would say that Thou art in very deed the Son of God. Jesus answered and said unto him, in effect, Yet again another scripture saith, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God; thou shalt not seduce the Almighty; thou shalt not create difficulties in order that God may extricate thee from them; thou shalt be wise, prudent, thou shalt exercise the reason and the forethought with which God has endowed thee; they are not thine, they are God's great gifts; act in the light of those gifts and in their exercise, and do not create a fantastic God or represent a fantastic piety.
IV. The whole of this idea is beautifully set forth in the very text and context. The appointed officers went about and brake the legs of the malefactors, and when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs; and they said, There is no need to break the legs of this malefactor, He is quite dead. That was their account of the matter. A poor superficial and unsatisfactory account, but the right reading of the whole was as is given in the 36th verse—'that the Scripture should be fulfilled'. The accident you had not long ago was that the Scripture might be fulfilled. God is having His way; His way is right and is best. The Scripture vindicates itself by manifold human experience. Whilst we are looking at the Bible as a book taken out of a library, God says, Go now and read the Bible as a record of life, and read the record of life as a Bible. Not a translation, but a transmigration, an outgoing of this great book-spirit into the rugged literature of strife and tears and misery, of wedding bells, and knells that tell that the dead are going to their home. You have read the Bible as a revelation of life. Now read life as a confirmation of the Bible.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p. 136.
References.—XIX. 37.—F. Bourdillon, Plain Sermons for Family Beading, p. 90. W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 325. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 20; ibid. vol. v. p. 178; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 136.
I. The Reality of Hidden Discipleship.—Many names are written in the Book of Life that are not recorded upon Church registers.
II. The Unsatisfactoriness of Hidden Discipleship.—(1) It violates the finest instinct of the Christian heart. (2) It is contrary to the genius of Christianity. (3) It is contrary to the development of Christian character.
—W. L. Watkinson.
References.—XIX. 38, 39.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 286. XIX. 38-42.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2390. XIX. 39.—W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 353. XIX. 41.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. i. p. 221. W. J. Dawson, The Comrade Christ, p. 279. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 324. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 297. XIX. 42.—W. S. Swanson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 67.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.
The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
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.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
And 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. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.