Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the middle.
What a picture is this! At a place near Jerusalem, called Golgotha, the Roman soldiery have reared three crosses. And on these crosses hang three figures. The sufferers have been doomed to die. With a criminal on either hand, the Son of man is enduring, not only anguish of body, but agony of mind unparalleled. The soldiers, with callous indifference, watch the tortured victims. The multitude gaze with vulgar curiosity upon the unwonted sight. The Jewish rulers look exultingly upon him whose death their malignant hate has compassed. Friendly disciples and tender-hearted women gaze with sympathy and tears upon the dying woe of their beloved One. No wonder that the scene should have riveted the imagination and have elicited the pathetic and pictorial powers of unnumbered painters. No wonder that every great picture-gallery in every Christian land contains some masterpiece of some famous painter, of one school or another, depicting the crucifixion of the Holy One and the Just. For us the scene has not only an artistic and affecting, but also and far more a spiritual, significance.
I. ONE CROSS IS THE SYMBOL OF DIVINE LOVE AND OF HUMAN SALVATION. The central figure of the three is that which draws to it every eye.
1. There is in this cross what every spectator can discern. A Being undoubtedly innocent, holy, benevolent, is suffering unjustly the recompense of the evildoer. Yet he endures all with patience and meekness, with no complaint, but with sincere words of forgiveness for his foes. We conceive Jesus saying, "All ye that pass by, behold, and see; was there ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?"
2. What did Christ's enemies see in his cross? The fruit of their malice, the success of their schemes, the fulfillment, as it seemed to them, of their selfish hopes.
3. A more practical and interesting question for us is - What do we behold in the cross of Christ? To all Christ's friends, their crucified Lord is the Revelation of the power and the wisdom of God, none the less so because his enemies see here only an exhibition of weakness, of folly, and of failure. The voice that reaches us from Calvary is the voice that speaks Divine love to all mankind. Here Christians recognize the provision of full and everlasting salvation; and here they come under the influence of the highest motive which appeals to the spiritual nature, and calls forth an affectionate and grateful devotion.
"From the cross uplifted high,
Where the Savior deigns to die:
What melodious sounds I hear,
Bursting on my ravished ear!
Love's redeeming work is done;
Come and welcome, sinner, come."
II. A SECOND CROSS IS THE SYMBOL OF IMPENITENCE AND REJECTION OF DIVINE MERCY. In the blaspheming robber who hung by the side of the Lord Jesus we have an awful example of human sin and crime; an awful witness to human justice and to the penalty with which transgressors are visited; and an awful illustration of the length to which sinners may carry their callous indifference to sin. An impenitent criminal reviles the one Being who has the power and the disposition to deliver him from his sin and from its worst results. Selfishness of the narrowest and meanest kind is left: "Save us!" i.e. from torture and the impending fate. A degraded life is followed by a hopeless death. Several terrible lessons are taught by this felon's character and fate.
1. How impossible it is for those to be saved who reject the means of salvation!
2. How possible it is to be close to Christ, in body, in communication, in privilege, and yet, because destitute of faith and love, to be without any benefit from such proximity!
3. How foolish it is to rely upon a late repentance, seeing that sinners are found to persevere in sin and unbelief even in the immediate prospect of death!
III. A THIRD CROSS IS THE SYMBOL OF PENITENCE AND OF PARDON. The story of the repentant malefactor shows us that, even when human justice does its work, Divine mercy may have its way.
1. The process of seeking God, even in mortal extremity. Conscience works; conviction of sin ensues, and creates a new disposition of the soul; this prompts a fearless rebuke of a neighbor's sin; faith - in the circumstances truly amazing - is exercised; true, simple, fervent prayer is offered.
2. The manifestation of compassion and mercy. The dying Lord imparts to the dying penitent an assurance of favor; free pardon is announced; bright hope is inspired; immortal happiness is secured.
3. Lessons of precious encouragement are impressed upon the spectators of this third cross. It is possible for the vilest to repent. It is certain that the sincere penitent will be regarded with favor. Even at the eleventh hour salvation is not to be despaired of. There is a prospect before those who are accepted and pardoned, of immediate joy and Divine fellowship after this life is over. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.