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no, not even where he might "lay his head," we may understand that the cares of those women were of real service to Him, and we feel how gladly they must have rendered their assistance to Him. But now they could do nothing. All hope was at an end. Terrified and distressed, they stood afar off beholding the fearful scene. We may judge what they felt when they beheld their beloved Lord raised up on high above the shouting crowd, nailed to the accursed tree. Did they then call to mind that before He had set out on his last journey from Galilee, He had warned them that thus it must be? How on the way He had said "Behold we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the Chief Priests and unto the Scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify him, and the third day he shall rise again? *
We know not how far terror overcame remembrance; all we know is, that there were many of these women, and that terrified and distressed they "stood afar off beholding," and that there were among them, three whose hearts were so bound to Jesus that afar off they could not remain. His mother, her sister, and Mary of Magdala ventured through the furious crowd, and St. John tells us that they stood with him beneath the cross of Jesus. He had in the first moment of fear, with the other disciples, forsaken his Lord and fled, but, recovering from the panic, he followed Him into the High priest's Palace; and now he is at hand to catch His dying words. From the cross, Jesus sees them. In His agony He remembers their distress. He knows that his mother's soul is pierced by that sword foretold by Simeon when he lay an infant on her bosom. A mother's anguish fills her heart. Her hopes are all laid low. Her very faith may fail. He gives her in charge to the beloved Apostle, whose life shall be spent in bearing witness to the wondrous truth that her crucified Son was God manifest in the flesh, and that through Him alone eternal * Matthew xvi. 23; xx. 18, 19.
life is given to man. By this last request, Jesus gives to them both a pledge and assurance of His love. From henceforth they were to regard each other as Mother and Son. Thus was the highest honour conferred upon the beloved Apostle, for by the Lord's own appointment he was to replace Himself in the tenderest of His earthly ties, and while Mary lived he had in her the pledge of the trust placed in him by his Lord. John "from that day took her to his own home," and our thoughts may follow them there. Can we imagine any thing among human ties like the holy bond that united them? The Mother and the friend of Christ dwelling together in one home! We wonder not that John, once named by his Lord "the Son of Thunder," whose fiery spirit would have called down fire from Heaven upon those who would not receive his master, became so softened, so full of the loving spirit of his Lord; that Love, Christian love, was his constant theme, and that the name which has been handed down to us even to this day, by which he is distinguished from his fellow Apostles, is "the Apostle of Love." While we read of our Lord's last tender care for His mother, does any thought of our own parents rise within us? Does the remembrance of any look of sorrowful love rise up before us as if in sad reproach? Children! while your parents yet live, remember Christ's care for His mother; her bosom had been his pillow, her arms his shelter when He had veiled his Almighty power in an infant's form, and on the cross He did not forget it. Even in the agonies of such pangs as you can never know, He thought of his mother, and provided a shelter for her old age. Will you then suffer your own light trials to be an excuse for neglecting your parents in their old age? can any difficulty you may find in life justify you, a Christian, in the neglect of those who overcame all difficulties to watch over your childhood? O think of Him, the Lord of Heaven and earth, who as a child was subject to his parents, and whose last care
* 1 John.
† 1 John ii. 3, &c.
in death was for his widowed mother. And you whose parents are gone beyond your reach, who did not while they lived feel all the loving gratitude you owed, now that death has taken them from you, and with vain regrets you remember how little their love was requited by you, fall down at the foot of the cross; worship there God manifest in the flesh, the eternal Son of the Most High God, who that such as you might be redeemed was born of woman, and took upon Himself the affections and the duties of your nature. He fulfilled them all, and died to atone for your neglect. Cry unto Him, and he will pardon. Your parents are gone from your reach. They need your cares no more, you never can atone for past neglect; but He the Redeemer, on the cross has paid your debt, and for His sake God the Eternal Father will pardon you the undutiful child.
Now must we descend with our suffering Lord into that still lower depth of woe in which His human soul was left to struggle beneath the Father's frown with the powers of hell.
MATTHEW Xxvii. 45. "Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land, until the ninth hour."
The sixth hour of the Jews is our noon. From twelve till three at mid-day (as we reckon the hours,) darkness was upon the land of Judea. It was a striking type of the sins of the world, which have wrapt in gloom all human nature. For these sins Jesus was dying; and the outward darkness which covered the face of nature, pictured well the inward darkness which fell upon his soul, for God treated Him according to the character he had chosen to represent, The sinner of all sinners; yea, sin itself.*
A horror of great darkness had enwrapt the land of Egypt just before the first-born of every house was struck with death. Then were the first-born of Israel saved alive by the sign of the * "He made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin."
blood of the paschal lamb sacrificed by God's command. Jesus had been pictured both by the first-born of Egypt, dying in punishment for their father's sins, and by the Lamb sacrificed that God's people might escape. Darkness was on the land, and darkness was on the soul of Jesus.
Verse 46. "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?”
How is this? Jesus Himself was God. He could not forsake Himself! This is most true, but He had taken upon Himself a true manhood, and his human soul was filled with anguish by the more than separation from God his Father that He now endured. For three long hours of darkness without, and darkness within, He had kept silence, but at length the intolerable agony of the Son abandoned by the Father broke forth in the mournful cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Who dares make light of sin that really believes this-believes that God the Father thus turned away from His own beloved Son in His utmost need, because he represented sin? And who dares speak lightly of sin's deservings, that knows the horrors of the punishment wherewith God punished His own Holy Son, because on Him was laid the iniquities of us all, and He had undertaken to bear their weight?
The Redeemer's anguish upon the cross is an awful thought; for if He who knew that He in Himself was God, and when all was finished must return to the Father's throne, was weighed down by its intolerable weight, how shall those sinners against their own souls, endure it, who, despising the finished work of the atonement, reject the Saviour, and are left to bear their own punishment?
Sometimes the shadow of that darkness is permitted to fall upon the believer; and he too, struggling with the powers of
327 Hell, cries out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Let him take courage and hold fast the faith that, as surely as Jesus was God, and therefore could not be forsaken by God, so surely is each believing soul redeemed by that redemption accomplished on the cross. He may feel Himself a captive, but the debt is paid, therefore He must be set free.
It was in Hebrew, the language spoken by the native Jews, that Jesus cried aloud to God, and those around Him mistook the meaning of His words. The Hebrew "Eli, my God," is like the sound of the name of Elias the prophet, therefore
Verse 47. "Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias."
This mistake of their's, perhaps shews that there was in their hearts a trembling dread that the man they had crucified might still be the Messiah. They had always been taught by the Scribes, that Elias was to return to this world immediately before Messiah came.
The last of the prophets had declared that this should be. The Old Testament, which to them was the whole Bible, closes with those solemn words :
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”*
A dim remembrance of this, may have oppressed their minds when they heard Jesus, as they thought, twice call upon Elias, and may have awakened the fear that the darkness, which for three hours had gloomed around, was the beginning of that "great and dreadful day of the Lord" of which the prophet spoke.
A growing dread is evident amongst them; the insulting spirit that had possessed them died away, and though there is still * Malachi iv. 5, 6.