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who had an affection for our Lord, to abate the pain of the piercing and lingering sufferings which he was going to endure. “ But he did not receive it;"¢ being determined to give a complete example of patience, by enduring all the pain of the death assigned him without any abatement.
There is no need to add remarks on this particular. Every one sees the composure of our Lord's mind, and the propriety of his action. To have received it might have been no disparagement to a person of an ordinary character. But it was very becoming Jesus to reject it. And yet, whilst he does what is a very great instance of resolution and fortitude, the principle, from which it proceeded, is not particularly mentioned. “ He received it not.” That is all which is here said. Nothing is added to enhance such generous self-denial.
3. We now observe our Lord's prayer for his enemies ; which follows next after the words before cited from St. Luke, ch. xxiii. 32–34, “ And there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus; Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
It is plain, that it was now the beginning of the crucifixion. I think it likely that this compassionate prayer was offered up by our Lord at the very time that they were nailing his hands and feet to the wood of the cross, or else immediately afterwards, as soon as the cross was set up; at which time the pain felt by him must have been the most acute that can be conceived.
In this prayer are divers things remarkable, proofs of an heroic mind.
Here appear, at this time, under the heaviest load of ignominy, and the most painful sufferings, a calm and composed franie, acquiescence in the disposal of Providence, and a full persuasion of the favour and good will of God.
Toward men here appear meekness and benevolence. The mind is not filled, as it justly might, with bitter resentment and indignation, manifesting itself in loud complaints of injustice, appeals to heaven for the innocence of the sufferer, and earnest expostulations of immediate and exemplary vengeance upon unrighteous enemies. Instead thereof, our Lord, sensible indeed of their guilt,
Noluit autem imbibere Christus, quia, ut diximus, menti exsternendæ adhibebatur. In cruce autem pendens postea, quia sitiebat, chapero okos, accepit acetum,' id est, imbibit. John xix. 30. Grot. ad Matt. xxvii. 34.
and conscious of his own innocence, and persuaded that this treatment of him was offensive to the supreme Judge, intercedes in behalf of those who were the instruments of such pain ; desiring that they might be forgiven, and alleging the only thing that could alleviate their guilt or punishment : “ they know not what they do.” This may relate more especially to the heathen soldiers, the immediate instruments. But it will comprehend, and undoubtedly was designed in favour of the Jews also, or many of them, whose prejudices prevailed against evidence. So St. Paul speaks of the Jews at Jerusalem, Acts xiii. 27,“ — because they
knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets- -they have fulfilled them in condemning him." And 1 Cor. ii. 2, “ Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The like is said by St. Peter, Acts iii.
“ And now, brethren, I know, that through ignorance ye did it, as did also
rulers." That is the third thing, our Lord's compassionate prayer for his enemies. And we should remember the time when it was offered; not before bis passion nor after it, when the pain and anguish of his sufferings were over, and he was raised from the dead; but at the time when pain and shame, and every evil thing that can be thought of, concurred to excite displeasure and resentment.
4. Another thing, which cannot be unobserved by us, is our Lord's amazing patience, and wonderful silence, under all the reproaches cast upon him at this time. So it follows in St. Luke, soon after the forementioned prayer, ch. xxiii. 35, 36, “ And the people stood beholding, and the rulers also with them derided him, saying: “ He saved others. Let him save himself, if he be the Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, saying ; If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.” Or as in St. Matthew, ch. xxvii. 39, 42, 43, " And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads — Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said : He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God. Let him deliver him if he will have him."
These scoffs must have been very trying. Nevertheless our Lord bears them meekly and patiently. He does not come down from the cross as he might; nor strike these blasphemers dead as he could. He does not make any reply as he might have done, to those especially who stood near the cross; reminding them of the innocence of his life, the greatness of his works, or any other demonstrative proofs of the special regard and approbation of the Father. Nor does he remind them of his expected resurrection, which he had foretold. But he silently bears all the reproaches which the present circumstances seemed to justify. This silence is greater than all words. It was, as he said at the beginning of this strange scene, “ their hour, and the power of darkness." And he had “ committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” He now therefore meekly endures all, which the malice of evil and prejudiced men prompted them to do to him, and patiently waited for the full vindication which in due time would be given of his innocence and great character.d
5. Another mark of greatness is the regard shown by our Lord to the penitent thief. For, as St. Luke proceeds to relate in the forecited twenty-third chapter of his gospel : “ And one of the malefactors railed at him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.” But he was rebuked for it by the other, who also said unto Jesus: “ Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus saith unto bim, Verily, I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
He bears all the reproaches of his enemies without saying a word. But he hears and answers the petition of a humbled, penitent sufferer. This request of the malefactor is a proof that he had seen something very great and extraordinary in the person and behaviour of Jesus under his sufferings. If before he was set upon the cross, he had some knowledge of Jesus, and a faith in him, as the Christ, (which may be reckoned probable,) yet, undoubtedly, his faith was increased and confirmed by the excellent behaviour of Jesus, during this afflictive and melancholy season. And our Lord's answer sets before us another and manifest instance of the excellent frame of his mind. 6 Verily, I thee, This day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Which shows that his spirit was not broken, sunk down, and dejected by the continued scene of various afflictions of the most trying nature. He is still composed. He is persuaded of the happy issue of all. He knows his own innocence, and eyes the reward set before him. He receives the profession made of a belief in his character and kingdom. He shows his approbation of it, and his satisfaction therein; and with full authority he promises a place that very day in
d Our Saviour's meekness under sufferings is prophetically represented in a beautiful similitude: “ and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth," Isa. liii. 7.
paradise. How great is Jesus here! He triumphs every where; and how glorious is this triumph! On the cross, during the very time of his most ignominious sufferings, he carries on, and accomplishes his great design of converting and saving sinners. Truly the pharisees had still cause of envy and indignation. They were before offended, because sinners resorted to him to hear him, and he taught them; or because he received them, and comforted them with assurance of pardon, when they gave tokens of compunction and repentance. They make him suffer with sinners, yea, with malefactors. And one of them openly professes faith in him, and humbly seeks to him. And Jesus receives bim, and promises him immediate admission, together with himself, into paradise.
In a word, Jesus is the same every where. And on the cross he receives penitent sinners with like readiness and satisfaction, as when sitting at table in the house of a pharisee. Such uniformity is there in his life and in his death!
6. Another thing very observable is the regard that Jesus showed to his mother Mary. “ Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When therefore Jesus 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 to his own home,” Jobn xix. 25–27.
Certainly never was there a greater instance of full composure under sufferings than this. On the cross our Lord disposes his only worldly concern, and recommends his mother to the person fittest to take care of her, to comfort her, and secure her from contempt and injury, so long as she should survive himself on this earth.
It is much to the honour of Mary, that we find her present at this mournful scene; as it is to the honour of our Lord that he took such notice of her,
7. I add but one thing more, the conclusion of these sufferings, or the greatness and majesty of our Lord in his death; though it will contain more particulars than one.
Matt. xxvii. 46-50, “ And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ! that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?” St. John, omitting that particular, says,
• After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished: [that is, knowing that all things were now near a full and entire accomplishment,] 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 therefore Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished. And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost,” ch, xix. 28–30.
I once intended, after going through the several tokens of greatness and majesty appearing in our Lord's last sufferings, to consider those words as an objection, which were just now recited from St. Matthew, where our Lord says,
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But I now rather think it best to clear them as we go along. The same expressions are also in St. Mark : “ And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" cb. xv. 34.
Some may apprehend that these words import uneasiness and impatience of mind. But when duly attended to, I think there will be no foundation for that supposition. The address, “ My God, my God,” shows a claim of interest, and a persuasion of acceptance. And the whole, if rightly understood, will be perceived to be a request to be now released from these troubles, and presented with a full belief that he should now be released, all things concerning the sufferings of the Messiah being quite, or well nigh, accomplished.
The words are at the beginning of the twenty-second psalm, entitled, A psalm of David. And in them our Lord chose to offer up his petition at that time : “ My God, my God, wby hast thou forsaken me?" It follows: “ Why art thou so far from helping me ?"
Our Lord's expiring is thus related by St. John in the text. “ When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished. And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.” In St. Luke xxiij. 46, “ And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Joining together those two evangelists, the history, I think, is thus; having received the vinegar, he said, “ It is finished.” And soon after that he said: “ Father, into thy hands I cominend my spirit. And then declining his head, he gave up the ghost.
Thus died Jesus, after having endured all manner of indignities, as well as the most exquisite pain, with perfect composure of mind, and full confidence in God. Having offered up an earnest request to be released and dismissed, he says, " I thirst.” And having then received one indig