You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs…
I. WHO WAS DELIVERED?
I. Jesus of Nazareth had at once a name of ignominy, and a name of renown. He was called a Nazarene by the Jews because He was brought up at Nazareth; and they availed themselves of that fact to fasten upon Him what they thought would be an indelible stigma. Jesus is a name of glory. It was, indeed, a human, a common name, borne by many before; but when it was once put on Him it never was put on any other. You do not hesitate to call your children by the names of the apostles, but no father dares to call his son Jesus, because God has called His Son Jesus. "This is the name to sinners dear, the name to sinners given," the name above every name.
2. The particular feature of His character here developed is the power of working miracles. A miracle has been defined — "a suspension or counteraction of the laws of nature." And what are the laws of nature? They are the agencies of God, by which He employs certain causes to the production of certain effects. What philosophers signify by the essential, inflexible, eternal laws of nature, is nothing but the will of God acting in a definite way; and these laws Jesus of Nazareth broke in upon, disturbed them when He pleased. He showed that He was the Author of nature, and that all these laws were of His own making; and, therefore, as He produced the effects apart from the usual associated causes He was the God of nature. His miracles are called wonders, because they filled the spectators with wonder; and signs, because they were indexes of the properties, and prerogatives, and character of Him that wrought them.
II. TO WHAT WAS HE DELIVERED? To a death the most extraordinary in its nature, and the most dolorous in its circumstances, if you consider: —
1. The place where He died. We all hope to die in our own homes and beds. But your Lord and Master died at Calvary, a place putrid with blood and bones — the atmosphere of which was impregnated with a blasphemous breath.
2. Among whom He died. He was crucified between two malefactors; He had the middle place as though He was worse than either of them.
3. The death itself. Crucifixion was the most lingering and painful mode of death, and the most infamous. "Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree." What part of His body was exempt from anguish? Was it His hands and His feet? — they were pierced with nails. Was it His temples? — they were punctured with thorns. Was it His back? — that was lacerated with scourges. Was it His side? — that was broken by the hostile spear. Was it His bones? — they were all as it were out of joint. Was it His muscles? — they were stretched upon the gibbet. Was it His veins? — they were deprived of their purple fluid. Was it His nerves, those canals of feeling, those rivers of sensation? — they were wrung with anguish. And all this was as nothing compared with the sorrows of His soul. Though He had been a man of sorrows and a child of grief, yet, when He came to be delivered up, He said, "Now, now is My soul exceeding sorrowful." The weight of mental anguish may be alleviated by three sources.
(1) The sympathies of affectionate friends. But when Christ died, His disciples forsook Him and fled; He was surrounded with grim guard-by hostile bands.
(2) By the holy angels, who are ministering spirits sent forth to minister' unto them who are heirs of salvation; and perhaps the most important part of their ministration is rendered to us just when the immortal spirit is on the confines of eternity. Our Saviour had Himself, during His life, been ministered to by angels; but when delivered up to death, the angels afforded Him no sympathy. He drank the wine-press alone, with Him was none, neither man nor angel could sympathise with Him in His suffering.
(3) By the consolations of our heavenly Father. But Jesus of Nazareth when delivered up to death was without these. The Father that had honoured His birth by a new star, and His baptism by the sound of a more than mortal voice from the excellent glory, that had honoured Him when He performed the miracles to which I have alluded, forsook Him upon the Cross.
III. BY WHOM WAS HE DELIVERED? I notice —
1. The human agents. It was the Jews that did it; their high priest had said it was expedient for Christ to die; it was their Pontius Pilate that condemned Him; it was their Judas that betrayed Him; their priests that plotted it; their Scribes and Pharisees that hailed it; their populace that shouted for it. But let not the Jews imagine that their guilt is at all diminished by the fact of the death of Christ being "according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Their actions were not at all influenced by the determinate counsel of Jehovah; the apostle tells them they were not; he says, "Ye have done it."
2. But there is another agency in this "transaction (a God appears in this amazing scene). Lift up the eyes of your mind to the throne of the heavens, to the Majesty on high, and see God delivering up His own Son to this accursed death. They could have had no power against the Son of Man except it had been given to them from above. The death of Christ was not casual, it was not accidental, it was according to the certain councils entered into between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in the abyss of a past eternity. In these counsels it was agreed that one of the persons of the Trinity should become incarnate for lost human nature; that one should die for our guilty world. According to the contract entered into, Jesus of Nazareth was delivered up unto death. How amazing that such deliberations should be followed by such results I Hear the declaration of the apostle on the subject, "He spared not His only Son, but freely gave Him up for us all."
IV. THE DESIGN ON ACCOUNT OF, AND THE END FOR WHICH, JESUS OF NAZARETH WAS DELIVERED. He was delivered up for what? for whom? Not for His own iniquity, for He had none; not for Himself, for He was no transgressor. He could challenge the bitterest of His enemies and say — "Which of you convinces Me of sin?" Now, we are only acquainted with the iniquity of angels and men, and the question is narrowed to this: If Jesus were not delivered for His own iniquity — having none at all — He was delivered for the iniquity of angels that sinned, or for ours. Now then, for which was it? He passed by the angels, He took not hold of their nature, He never was found in fashion as an angel. I love the angels, because, among other reasons, they do not envy man the grandeur and glory of his being redeemed by the Son of God, while part of their own species was not taken hold of by the Son of God. When Jesus of Nazareth was born the angels sang — "Glory to God in the highest" — and in hell peace? No; and because they could not sing in hell peace, did they refuse to sing on earth peace? They could not say, and they did net say, "Good will to devils," to our lost brethren; but could say, and they did say, "Good will to man." Jesus of Nazareth took hold of our nature and was delivered, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. Why He felt for us, rather than for angels that sinned, I know not. It is enough for me to know that He loves me, and loves you, and that He loves all our apostate race. Here comes in the old, good-for-nothing objection to the innocent suffering for the guilty. Why, then, did Christ suffer? Oh, they say, He suffered to give us an example of magnanimity and patience under suffering. And they talk about justice. Why, if there is injustice in His dying to save a world from the curse of God, there is a million times more monstrous injustice in His dying merely to teach us how to suffer. He died by His own consent. What bound Him to the Cross? Was it the nails? If He had never been fastened by anything but nails, He had never been fastened at all. It was love that led Him to go to the high altar, and it was love to us that fastened Him to that altar. Conclusion: It is not enough to hear of this Saviour, and of this salvation, and the love that prompted it; there must be a personal appropriation of the benefit of the death of Christ.
(J. Beaumont, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: