And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
I. BEHOLDING CHRIST ON THE CROSS. Look on the multitude now — see how they who before had triumphed in His misery, are struck with deep astonishment. One says, "Surely this was a righteous man." Another says, "This is the Son of God," "And all the people who came together to that sight seeing what had passed, smote their breasts and returned." They came to the execution with eager haste and bitter zeal. They retired slow, silent, and pensive, with downcast looks and labouring thoughts. Their smiting their breasts indicated some painful sensations within.
1. It expressed their conviction of the innocence and divinity of this wonderful sufferer. Whatever sentiments they bad entertained in the morning, they had now seen enough to extort from them an acknowledgment that this was a "righteous man" — this was the "Son of God." This character Jesus had openly assumed; and with unwavering constancy He maintained it to the last.
(1) Observe His calmness. Amidst the rudest and most provoking insults, He discovered no malice or resentment toward His enemies; but all His language and behaviour was mild and gentle. When He was reviled, He reviled not again; but committed Himself to Him who judgeth righteously.
(2) See His benevolence. He attended to the case of His afflicted mother, and commended her to the care of His beloved disciple. He wrought a miracle to heal an enemy wounded in the attempt to seize Him. He extended mercy to a malefactor who was suffering by His side.
(3) Consider His humble piety. He maintained His confidence in God; called Him His God and His Father; and into His hands committed His Spirit. Such distinguished piety, benevolence, and constancy, under trials like His, showed Him to be a righteous man — to be more than man. And heaven itself bare solemn testimony in His favour. The darkness which overspread the land was evidently supernatural.
2. Their smiting their breasts was expressive of their compassion for this innocent and glorious Sufferer. Their rage, which had been wrought up to the highest strain, now began to subside, and give way to the tender feelings of humanity.
3. This action expressed a deep remorse of conscience.
II. BEHOLDING CHRIST IN THE HOLY COMMUNION. To behold this Divine Saviour in the flesh, and to see Him expire on the cross, was the lot only of those who lived in His day. But the frequent contemplation of His death is a matter of so much importance, that He was pleased, just before He suffered, to appoint an ordinance for the purpose of exhibiting His death to our view, and bringing it to our remembrance. Here He is set forth crucified before our eyes. Do we turn away from this ordinance? We have little reason to think we should have attended the crucifixion on any higher motive than mere curiosity. If a real regard to Him would have invited us to follow Him to the cross, the same regard will invite us to come and see Him at His table.
1. Have any of you entertained indifferent notions of Christ and His religion? Come here, and reflect on those characters of divinity which He exhibited.
2. Here meditate on the worth of your souls.
3. Here behold the great evil of sin.
4. Here meditate on the wonderful mercy of God.
5. Look here and behold an instructive example of patience and resignation.
6. Look to Christ and learn to despise the world.
7. Look to Christ, and learn meekness and forgiveness.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.