Matthew 27:33
Upon the release of the infamous Barabbas, the innocent and righteous Jesus was delivered to be crucified; and now we see him suffering the reproach of the cross.

I. THE CROSS ITSELF WAS A REPROACH,

1. It was a symbol of shame.

(1) As a tree was the means of introducing the curse into the world, so hath God ordained that a tree should be the means of its removal. Hence from the earliest time, whoever was hanged upon a tree was accounted accursed of God (cf. Genesis 3:12-19; Deuteronomy 20:22, 23; Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:26, 27). Those curse bearers were types of Christ (see Galatians 3:13).

(2) Crucifixion amongst the heathen is traced back to the age of Semiramis. It was chiefly inflicted on slaves; on free persons only when convicted of the most heinous crimes. Hence Paul's emphatic "even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).

(3) It was a part of the reproach of a criminal that he had to carry his own cross to the place of execution. Plutarch says, "Every kind of wickedness produces its own peculiar torment, just as malefactors when brought forth to execution carry their own crosses." So Jesus carried his cross until he sank under it (see John 19:17), overcome by exhaustion through his agony in the garden followed by his sufferings in the Praetorium. He carried it as Isaac carried the wood upon which he was to be offered up.

(4) So shameful a thing was the cross, that no Jew or Roman citizen could be induced to carry one. Hence Simon the Cyrenian was impressed to bear the cross of Jesus. Probably he was pointed out as a disciple of Jesus (cf. Mark 15:21; Romans 16:13). He became thereby the honoured representative of the suffering followers of Christ in every age (cf. Matthew 16:24; Hebrews 13:13).

2. It was an instrument of shame.

(1) There was a cruel torture inflicted upon the victim before he came to his crucifixion. Jesus was accordingly delivered by Pilate to be scourged, preparatory to his being crucified. The soldiers to the scourging added cruel mockings.

(2) At the place of execution he was stripped of his garments. "The poorest man dies with some clothing on, Jesus with none; and his garments fall not to his friends, but to the soldiers who crucified him" (Harmer). David said in the spirit of prophecy of Christ, for it was never true of himself, "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture" (Psalm 22:18).

(3) Then came the actual crucifixion. The stretching of the victim upon the wood. The transfixing. The concussion through the striking the foot of the cross into the hole dug for its reception, by which the bones became dislocated (see Psalm 22:14). The lingering torture, the vitals being avoided. "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

II. REPROACH WAS ASSOCIATED WITH IT.

1. In the place of the crucifixion.

(1) "A place called Golgotha, that is to say, The place of a skull." It had its name from being the place of common execution. Christ being crucified there gives expressiveness to the prediction of Isaiah, "numbered with the transgressors."

(2) The ghastly place was an emblem of the devastated state of the Church that crucified Christ. So of every Church member who crucifies him afresh. But to the repentant sinner it is the end of death and beginning of life. "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate (Hebrews 13:12).

(3) "Golgotha" (גלגלת) resembles "Gilgal," with the Syriac addition (אּתא). The latter place was named by Joshua to commemorate the temporal redemption of Israel from the reproach of Egypt. In the former place Jesus freed his people by a spiritual redemption from the reproach of sin (see Joshua 5:9).

2. In the inscription on the cross.

(1) "His accusation written" (ver. 37). It was common to affix a label to the cross, giving a statement of the crime for which the person suffered.

(2) But the accusation of Jesus alleged no crime. It was really an accusation of the priests. They condemned Jesus for blasphemy, but had him crucified for treason. It impeached them as murderers.

(3) The accusation of Jesus asserted a glorious truth. The truth was emphasized by being three times written, viz. in three languages. Pilate could not be induced to alter what he had written (see John 19:21). Like Balaam, he blessed when he was entreated to curse (see Numbers 24:10).

(4) When we look at the cross as the emblem of suffering, we see over the head of the Sufferer the promise of triumph and the hope of glory. Sanctified suffering evermore brings forth this fruit.

3. In the characters crucified along with him.

(1) "Two robbers, one on the right hand, and one on the left." Placing the Lord between the robbers was intended to stigmatize him with peculiar infamy, as if he were the greater criminal of the three.

(2) Herein note a further fulfilment of the words of Isaiah, "He was numbered with the transgressors." He was so numbered that we may be numbered with his saints.

III. REPROACH WAS CAST UPON HIM.

1. By those that passed by.

(1) "They railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself." Here is a shameful misconstruction of his words. Cruelty has its refuge in falsehood. "Save." They mock at the name of Jesus, equivalent to" Saviour."

(2) "If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross." Had he not by many miracles proved himself the Son of God? He would not save himself by coming down from the cross, his gracious purpose being to sacrifice himself in order to save sinners. The sign he had given them was not his coming down from the cross, but his coming up from the grave.

(3) Why have they not the patience of the "three days" to which they referred, and they might see the raising of the temple of his body?

(4) The wagging of the head was the expression of a malicious triumph. Little did they consider that this very gesture was the fulfilment of a prophecy to their dishonour (see Psalm 22:7).

2. By the heads of the nation.

(1) "In like manner also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders said, He saved others; can he not save himself?" A Saviour who saves not, but sacrifices himself to be the victim for salvation to others, they cannot understand.

(2) "He is the King of Israel." Here is irony founded on the inscription which they could not induce Pilate to alter. "Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe on him." Sceptics are ever ready to prescribe to God what miracles he must work in order to gain their confidence, as though that confidence also were an infinite benefit to him. When Christ gave them the more astonishing evidence of his Messiahship by rising from the dead, they did not believe. His completing his work and not coming down from the cross is the reason why we believe.

(3) "He trusteth in God; let him deliver him now if he desireth him: for he said, I am the Son of God." In this railing they unwittingly fulfil a remarkable prophecy of the Messiah (see Psalm 22:8). The fulfilment of the predictions concerning the sufferings of Messiah by the enemies of Jesus establishes his claims.

3. By the impenitent malefactor.

(1) "And the robbers also," or one of them "that were crucified with him, cast upon him the same reproach." The plural is sometimes put for the singular as, "They are dead," meaning only Herod (Matthew 2:20); and, "When the disciples saw it they had indignation," meaning only Judas (Matthew 26:8; John 12:4).

(2) The arguments used by the railers are the stock arguments of infidels. Libertines like the Jews are offended at the paradoxes of a High Priest who designs to destroy the temple; at a Saviour who saves not himself; at the Son of God submitting to be crucified. But in these very paradoxes the believer finds the sources of the joys of salvation. - J.A.M.







And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots.
The thought of those who with tender heart watch by the cross of Jesus.

I. The first thought concerns the visible tragic elements of the scene.

II. The contemplation of the sufferer, His character, and His works.

III. The Divine permission of these atrocities.

IV. What a plenitude of grace there is in this Divine provision.

(J. H. Davison.)

I. The spectacle.

1. There was that which all might see.

2. There was that which only enlightened and quickened minds can see.

II. The spectators and their various emotions. Of the spectators some were —

1. Bad.

2. Hopeful.

3. Good.

(Anon.)

I. The PROCESS of the crucifixion.

1. The preliminary by which it was preceded.

2. The act itself.

3. The explanation by which the act was accompanied.

II. The DESIGNS of the crucifixion.

1. It was the accomplishment of a Divine purpose.

2. In order to offer an all-sufficient atonement for human sin.

3. In order that it might found for our Lord an exalted mediatorial empire.

III. The CONCLUSIONS which the crucifixion should leave on the hearts of those who contemplate it.

1. To esteem supremely the love from which it emanated.

2. To repent humbly of the transgressions it was necessary to pardon.

3. To repose implicitly upon the merit by which it is signalized.

4. To avow zealously the cause with which it is identified.

(J. Parsons.)

I. What they did to Him. "They crucified Him."

II. How He conducted Himself under it.

III. The results of all this.

1. A great consternation did befall the universe at this crucifixion.

2. It gave to the church its sublimest and most central theme.

3. It established a city of refuge for guilty men.

4. It was the opening of a fountain for the washing away of sin.

5. It was the stretching forth of a mighty hand to help, comfort, and deliver in every time of need.

6. It gave to the believing soul a pillow on which to lie down and peace.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

That is the Bible's picture of gamblers. What is gambling? It is neither begging nor stealing, but it resembles both in that it consists in getting money from another for which you have rendered no honest equivalent. The winner of a bet has rendered no service at all to country or to the individual; and ought to feel a sense of theft. Do you ask where is God's commandment against it? "In its results scored deeply on the character of gamblers." The love of gaming springs from the love of excitement that is in our nature. It unfits a man for life's duties. It is strange how uniformly no good comes of it. It has been disallowed by all ethical and religious teachers.

(B. J. Snell, M. A.)

In honest business you give an equivalent for so much received. It may be a service, or it may be the result of service. The farmer gives his farm produce, the result of his toil; the mechanic renders his skill; the pilot his knowledge of the channel; the lawyer his acute knowledge required to navigate channels more intricate. In any one of these cases money is earned by the performance of actual service, and in every case the body politic is the richer for the service. But gambling is unproductive, the wealth of the whole body is not increased. The only result is the circulation of moneys, and even that is a questionable benefit seeing that the cash is but transferred from the pocket of the fools to the pocket of the knaves, always with a contingent reversion to the publican. The community is no more enriched by the mere circulation of gold than the level of a pool is raised by a tempest blowing upon it; gain in one direction is balanced by loss in another.

(B. J. Snell, M. A.)

The love of gaming springs from the love of excitement that is in our nature. This has existed always and everywhere. Tacitus says that the ancient Germans would stake their property and even their life on the throw of the dice-box. The typical Asiatic will risk child or wife on the turn of a die or the fighting of a game-cock. Civilization does not seem to diminish the fascination of gambling. And excitement, so long as it is within bounds, is healthful, bracing, and necessary; beyond these bounds (which no man can well define for another), it is exhausting and destructive. At first a man bets to gain a new sensation, a certain thrill of the nerves; to repeat the pleasant thrill an increased dose is necessary. The sensation itself palls; it must be intensified. The process itself is luring, and at last it heats every part of the mind like an oven. It is notorious that the passion grows; no more experiments need to be tried in that direction, vivisection could not demonstrate it more amply. The winnings that come so easily are not so much the gifts of fortune as they are the baits of misfortune that lead on to beggary. Nice distinctions are drawn between "playing" and gambling. Play is harmless so long as it is play; but "playing" is a seed that comes up "gambling." It is a dangerous seed to play with. Not drunkenness itself is as hard to cure as is the gambling mania when it has once enthralled a man; he cares only for it — every passion is absorbed into that one intense consuming lust. The day lags heavy on his hands without it, all other pursuits are tasteless; he is only alive when he is gaming, and then the very dregs of his soul are stirred into fearful activity.

(B. J. Snell, M. A.)

Note the varied types of watchers around the cross.

1. The careless watch of the soldiers.

2. The jealous watch of the enemies.

3. The anxious watch of the women.

4. The wondering watch of angels on high.

(Anon.)

These rude soldiers had doubtless joined with their comrades in the coarse mockery which preceded the sad procession to Calvary; and then they had to do the rough work of the executioners, fastening the sufferers to the rude wooden crosses, lifting these with their burden, fixing them into the ground, then parting the raiment. And when all that is done they sit stolidly down to take their ease at the foot of the cross, and idly to wait, with eyes that look and see nothing, until the sufferers die. A strange picture!

I. How IGNORANT MEN ARE OF THE REAL MEANING AND OUTCOME OF WHAT THEY DO. Think of what a corporal's guard of rough English soldiers, out in Northern India, would think if they were bade to hang a native charged with rebellion against the British Government. So much, and no more did these men know of what they were doing. And so with us all. No man knows the real meaning, the possible issue and outcome of a great deal in our lives. If we are wise, we will let results alone, and just take care that our motive is right.

II. RESPONSIBILITY IS LIMITED BY KNOWLEDGE. These men were ignorant of what they were doing, and therefore guiltless. God weighs, not counts, our actions.

III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO LOOK AT CHRIST ON THE CROSS AND SEE NOTHING. For half a day there these soldiers sat, and it was but a dying Jew they saw — one of three. They were the unmoved witnesses of God manifest in the flesh, dying on the cross for the whole world, and for them. Their ignorance made them blind. Let us all pray to have our ignorance and blindness removed, our hearts softened by the sight of Christ crucified for us.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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