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They drove the nails through His hands and feet, and thus fastened to the cross they hung him up naked to die of pain, and thirst, and misery.
LUKE xxiii. 34. “ Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them ! for they know not what they do.”
O Holy Saviour, how shall we adore thee for this thy prayer. In these thy first agonies pleading for all thy murderers ! The Chief Priests and elders of the people, who envied and who hated thee; the ignorant multitude, who one day proclaimed thee the Messiah King of Israel, and the next shouted "Crucify him, crucify him!”-the cowardly judge, who declared thee to be without fault and yet gave thee up to death; the ruffian soldiery who abused thee and dragged thee thither, the men who nailed thee to the cross,—all were in that prayer ;—They knew not what they did. Even the proud and vengeful Priests and Pharisees knew not the full extent of what they did. The misguided people knew not their Messiah who had at last “come to his own" who "received him not :” the Romans knew him not in any way. Of them all, both people and rulers, it is written,
through ignorance they did it.”* And of this, in that hour of anguish the Saviour thought. This their ignorance, he pleaded in their behalf. Their cruelty was sin, and it was to atone for sin that he had yielded himself into their hands. He was the sacrifice appointed from the beginning, that through Him sinners, yea His very murderers, might be saved.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The prayer rose from the cross to heaven and found acceptance there. It was the first intercession offered by the Crucified Sait must produce mortification, the immediate consequence of which is extreme nervous depression, excessive anxiety, and a sense of prostration; the skin is moistened with a cold, clammy sweat, and death ensues. The wounds in them. selves are not fatal, but the nails remaining in them and the weight of the body hanging upon them, increases the intensity of the inflammation till it produces gangrene.”—Taken from Biblical Cyclopedia.
* Acts iii. 17.
viour, and we know that it was heard and answered by God the Father in due time. He sent His Holy Spirit down, and repentance and faith were granted to many of those who caused the death of the Son of God. But were they now touched by His sufferings ? Ah no. “ They compass Him about," they look and stare upon Him, “they laugh Him to scorn, there is none to help.”
MARK xv. 27, 28. * And with him they crucify two thieves : the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors."
After the nailing to the cross was completed, four soldiers appointed for that duty took their places beneath it. It was the custom then as now, for the executioners to take to them. selves the clothes of those they put to death, and
JOHN xix. 23, 24. “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part : now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be."
There is something horrible in the quietness with which the soldiers divided, as was best for their own interests, the garments of Him who was hanging in agony above them. The coat, or inner vest, was of value, being woven in one piece. To divide it, would have been to destroy it; therefore they agreed to cast lots for it. They did not know that all they were now doing had been foretold by David a thousand years before. Then was the
Verse 24. Scripture fufilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did."
LUKE XXIII. 38.
MATTHEW XXVII, 37. MARK Xv. 26.
JOHN XIX, 19–22.
JOHN xix. 19-22. “ And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews : for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city : and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not the King of the Jews, but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written."
Happy would it have been for him had he shown a like firmness before.
Why did the Chief Priests protest against the writing ?
Most likely because they were indignant that such a title should be nailed to the cross where all could read the words which brought their nation into contempt. Perhaps too it was for that very reason Pilate persisted that it should be there. It was the custom that the crime for which a man suffered should be affixed to the cross at the place of execution, “and Pilate knowing that for envy they had delivered Jesus," chose thus to style Him.
His weakness and his firmness were both from the same cause; no principle of public duty, but a selfish regard for his own private feelings and interest. He hated while he feared the High Priests; therefore though he dared not let his sense of justice lead him to deliver Jesus out of their hands, he resolved to gratify his ill-will by fixing upon His cross a title which was so offensive to them, but which they had themselves put forward as claimed by Ilim. Thus ever is the evil will of man made to work out the will of God. Serve His purposes we must; what madness and folly not to serve Him willingly as bis dutiful children and obedient servants, instead of ranking ourselves among his enemies. Pilate in three languages caused the crucified Messiah to be proclaimed King of Israel in the sight of the hundreds of thousands that had come to attend the Passover; and when the excited passions of the principal actors in the cruel scene were calmed down, they would find that in their rage and malice they had exactly fulfilled all that the prophets had spoken, and that they themselves had become witnesses against themselves. With what feelings would they afterwards read Psalm xxii., when they remembered that scene !
LUKE xxi, 35. “And the people stood beholding. ."
MATTHEW xxvii. 39-43. “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likeurise 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 now, if he will have him : for he said, I am the Son of God.”
LUKE xxiii. 36, 37. “ And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering to him (but not giving him) vinegar, and saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.”
Vinegar, or what is called vinegar, was the common drink with which the soldiers used to satisfy their thirst in those burning climes. There is something peculiarly refreshing even in its smell; and as the sense of thirst is one of the worst tortures of crucifixion, the taunting offer of vinegar to drink was more like the malice of fiends than of men.
Surely this bitter mockery, these savage insults in His hour of agony, must have been to the soul of Jesus, what the nails had been to his body. They must have pierced him through and through. Never had He spoken but in kindness. He had sympathized with the woes of all. He had spent His life in acts of mercy. He had striven to comfort the sorrowful and to strengthen the faint-hearted, by teaching them to trust in God His Father, who through Him made them offers of peace. All this was now cast in His teeth. He was taunted with His deeds of kindness, “ Let Him now be kind to Himself if He could; and with his trust in God, if He had not forsaken Him, would He have thus left Him hanging on the cross?” Had Jesus been merely man, His faith might have forsaken Him, for in that hour of unspeakable trial He was left alone. He had to bear the full weight of the sins of the whole world, and because He in Timself represented the sinful race of man, His Father's awful frown was turned upon Him. There was no comfort for Him. Men reviled and mocked His suffering, God filled up the measure of His woe by His heavy displeasure, for on that cross He was only regarded as the Son of Man steeped in the sins of the whole world, drawing down upon Himself the curse of the just and Holy God, in whose sight all sin is abomination. But Jesus knew that He was still the well-beloved Son of that just and Holy God, and that the work which was now accomplishing would add to the glory of His Father's crown. He knew that man could not be redeemed, had any pain and grief of body or of mind been wanting; for all griefs and all pains are the consequences of sin, and all must now be heaped upon the suffering Redeemer, or the atonement could not be complete. Oh ! how often has the thought of these sufferings of Christ brought a calm in hours of anguish! Who has endured as He has endured ! and the remembrance of this, and of the cause, comes like a holy message from above in our extremest need.