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word is also used to denote any thing exceedingly bitter, as wormwood, &c. The drink, therefore, was vinegar or wine, rendered bitter by the infusion of wormwood, or some other very bitter substance. The effect of this, it is said, was to stupify the senses. It was often given to those crucified, to render them insensible to the pains of death. Our Lord knowing this, when he had tasted it, refused to drink. He was unwilling to blunt the pains of dying. The cup which his Father gave him he rather chose to drink. He came to suffer. His sorrows were necessary for the work of the atonement; and he gave himself up to the unmitigated sufferings of the cross. This was presented to him in the early part of his sufferings, or when he was about to be suspended on the cross. Afterward, when he was on the cross, and just before his death, vinegar was offered to him without the myrrh—the vinegar which the soldiers usually drank-and of this he received. See ver. 49.
And they crucified him, ver. 35. To crucify, means to put to death on a cross. The manner of the crucifixion was as follows:-After the criminal had carried the cross, attended with every possible jibe and insult, to the place of execution, a hole was dug in the earth to receive the foot of it. The cross was laid on the ground; the person condemned to suffer was stripped, and was extended on it, and the soldiers fastened the hands and feet either by nails or thongs. After they had fixed the nails deeply in the wood, they elevated the cross with the agonizing sufferer on it; and in order to fix it more firmly in the earth, they let it fall violently into the hole which they had dug to receive it. This sudden fall must have given to the person that was nailed to it à most violent and convulsive shock, and greatly increased his sufferings. The crucified person was then suffered to hang, commonly, till pain, exhaustion, thirst, and hunger ended his life. Sometimes the sufferings continued for days; and when friendly death terminated the life, the body was often suffered to remain-a loathsome object, putrefying in the sun, or devoured by birds.
This punishment was deemed the most disgraceful and ignominious that was practised among the Romans. It was the way in which slaves, robbers, and the most notorious and abandoned wretches were commonly put to death. It was this, among other things, that exposed those who preached the Gospel to so much shame and contempt among the Greeks and Romans. They despised every thing that was connected with the death of one who had died as a slave and an outlaw.
As it was the most ignominious punishment known, so it was the most painful. The following circumstances make it a death of peculiar pain :-). The position of the arms and the body was unnatural, the arms being extended back and almost immovable. The least motion
violent pain in the hands and feet, and in the back, which was lacerated with stripes. 2. The nails being driven through the parts of the hands and feet which abound with nerves and tendons, created the most exquisite anguish. 3. The exposure of so many wounds to the air brought on a violent inflammation, which greatly increased the poignancy of the suffering. 4. The free circulation of the blood was prevented. More blood was carried out in the arteries than could be returned in the
The consequence was, that there was a great increase in the veins of the head, producing an intense pressure and violent pain. The same was true of other parts of the body. This intense pressure in the blood-vessels was the source of inexpressible misery. 5. The pain gradually increased. There was no relaxation and no rest. There was no prospect but death. The sufferer was commonly able to endure it till the third, and sometimes even to the seventh day.—The intense sufferings of the Saviour, however, were sooner terminated. This was caused, perhaps, in some measure, by his previous fatigue and exhaustion; but still more by the intense sufferings of his soul, bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows-in making an atonement for the sins of the world.
And parted his garments. The clothes of the sufferer belonged to those who were executioners. John says (xix. 23), that they divided his garments into four parts, to each soldier a part; but for his coat they cast lots. When Matthew says, therefore, that they parted his garments, casting lots, it is to be understood that they divided one part of them, and for the other part of them they cast lots. That it might be fulfilled, &c. The words here quoted are found in Psalm xxii. 18. The whole Psalm is usually referred to Christ, and is a most striking description of his sufferings and death.
And sitting down they watched him there, ver. 36. The chief priests were careful, no doubt, in setting this guard, lest the people, of whom they still stood in awe, should rise and rescue him. But Providence so ordered it, that those who were appointed to watch him, thereby became unexceptionable witnesses for him; having the opportunity to see and hear that which extorted from them that confession (ver. 54), Truly this was the Son of God.
And set up over his head his accusation, &c., ver. 37. It was usual for the vindicating of public justice, and putting the greater shame upon malefactors that were executed, not only by a crier to proclaim before them, but by a writing also over their heads to notify what was the crime for which they suffered ; so they set up over Christ's head his accusation written, to give public notice of the charge against him- This is Jesus the King of the Jews. The evangelists differ in the account of this title. Mark (xv. 26) says, it was "The King of the Jews." Luke says (xxiii. 38), " Tbie is
the King of the Jews.” John (xix. 19), “ Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." But the difficulty may be easily removed. The title was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. It is not at all improbable that the inscription varied in these languages. One evangelist may have translated it from the Hebrew; another from the Greek; a third from the Latin ; and a fourth have translated one of the inscriptions a little differently from another. Besides, the evangelists all agree in the main point of the inscription, viz., that he was the King of the Jews.
Then were there two thieves crucified with him (ver. 38) at the same time, in the same place, under the same guard—two highway-men, or robbers upon the road, as the word properly signifies. It is probable that this was appointed to be execution-day; and therefore they hurried the prosecution of Christ in the morning, that they might have him ready to be executed with the other criminals. It added to the ignominy of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus, that he was crucified in such company; but in it the Scripture was fulfilled (Isa. liii. 12), “ He was numbered with the transgressors.
And they that passed by reviled him, ver. 39. Ilis extreme misery, and exemplary patience under it, did not make them relent; but they who by their outcries brought him to this, now think to justify themselves in it by their reproaches, as if they did well to condemn him. They upbraided him with his destroying of the temple. Though the judges themselves were sensible that what he had said of that was misrepresented (as appears from Mark xiv. 59), yet they industriously spread it among the people, to bring an odium upon him, that he had a design to destroy the templethan which nothing would more incense the people against him. And this was not the only time that the enemies of Christ had laboured to make others believe that of religion and the people of God, which they themselves have known to be false, and the charge unjust." Thou that destroyesi the temple, that vast and strong fabric, try thy strength now in plueking up that cross, and drawing those nails, and so save thyself. If thou hast the power thou hast boasted of, this is a proper time to exert it, and give proof of it; for it is supposed that every man will do his utmost to save himself." This made the cross of Christ such a stumbling-block to the Jews, that they looked upon it to be inconsistent with the power of the Messiah ; he was crucified in weakness (2 Cor. xiii. 4), so it seemed to them ; but indeed Christ crucified is the power of God. They upbraided him also with his saying that he was the Son of God. If thou be so, say they, come down from the cross. Now, they take the devil's words out of his mouth, with which he tempted Ilim in the wilderness (chap. iv. 3, 6), and renew the same assault--If thou be the Son of God. They think that now, or never, he must prove himself to be the Son of God; forgetting that he had proved it by the miracles he wrought, particularly by his raising of the dead ; and unwilling to wait for the complete proof of it by his resurrection, to which he had so often referred them, and which, if they had observed it, would have anticipated the offence of the cross. This comes of judging things by the present aspect of them, without a due remembrance of what is past, and a patient expectation of what may farther be produced.
Likewise also the chief priests and scribes, &c.—the church rulers, and the elders, the state rulers—mocked him, ver. 41. They did not think it enough to invite the rabble to do it, but gave Christ the dishonour, and themselves the diversion, of reproaching him in their own proper persons.
How much below the grandeur and gravity of their character was this! Could any thing tend more to make them contemptible and base before the people? One would have thought that, though they neither feared God nor regarded man, yet common prudence should have taught them who had so great a hand in Christ's death, to keep as much as might be behind the curtain; but nothing is so mean as that malice may stick at it. Two things the priests and elders upbraided him with—That he could not save himself, ver. 4?. He had been before abused in his prophetical and kingly office, and now in his priestly office as a Saviour. They take it for granted that he could not save himself, and therefore had not the power he pretended to, when really he would not save himself, because he would die to save us. They should have argued, “ He saved others, therefore he could save himself; and if he do not, it is for some good reason. They insinưated that, because he did not now save himself, therefore all his pretence to save others was but sham and delusion, and was never really done; though the truth of his miracles was demonstrated beyond contradiction. They upbraid him with being the King of Israel. They dreamed of the external pomp and power of the Messiah, and therefore thought the cross altogether disagreeable to the King of Israel, and inconsistent with that character. Many people would like the King of Israel well enough, if he would but come lown from the cross—if they could have his kingdom without the tribulation through which they must enter into it. But the matter is settled ; if no cross, then no Christ, no crown. Those that would reign with him, must be willing to suffer with him; for Christ and his cross are nailed together in this world. They challenged him to come down from the cross. And what had become of us then, and the work of our redemption and salvation? If he had been
provoked by these scoffs to come down from the cross, and so to have left his undertaking unfinished, we had been for ever undone. But his unchangeable love and resolution set him above, and fortified him against, this temptation ; so that he did not fail, nor was discouraged. They promised that, if he would come down from the cross, they would believe him. Let him give them that proof of his being the Messiah, and they will own him to be so. When they had formerly demanded a sign, he told them that the sign he would give them should be, not his coming down from the cross, but, which was a greater instance of his power, his coming up from the grave, which they had not patience to wait two or three days for. If he had come down from the cross, they might with as much reason have said that the soldiers had juggled in nailing him to it, as they said, when he was raised from the dead, that the disciples came by night, and stole him away. To promise ourselves that we would believe, if we had such and such means and motives of faith as we ourselves would prescribe, when we do not improve what God has appointed, is not only a gross instance of the deceitfulness of our hearts, but the poor refuge of an obstinate, destroying infidelity. 2. They upbraided him, that God, his Father, would not save him, ver. 43. He trusted in God, that is, he pretended to do so; for he said, I am the Son of God. Now they suggest, that he did but deceive himself and others, when he made himself so much the darling of heaven; for, if he had been the Son of God, he would not have been abandoned to all this misery. David complained more of the endeavours of his persecutors to shake his faith, and drive him from his hope in God, than of their attempts to shake his throne, and drive him from his kingdom; their saying, “ Their is no help for him in God” (Psal. iii. 2), and, “ God has forsaken him” (Psal. lxxi. 1). In this, as in other things, he was a type of Christ. Nay, these very words David, in that famous prophecy of Christ, mentions, as spoken by his enemies (Psal. xxii. 8), “ llę trusted on the Lord, that he would deliver him."
The thieves also, which were crucified with him (ver. 44), were not only not reviled as he was, as if they had been saints compared with him, but, though fellow-sufferers with him, joined in upbraiding him. From Luke (xxiii
. 39) we learn, that one of them did it, and that the other reproved him and was penitent. The account in Luke may, however, easily be reconciled with that in Matthew, by supposing that, at first, both of them reviled the Saviour, and that it is of this fact that Matthew speaks. Afterwards one of them relented, and became penitent-perhaps from witnessing the patient sufferings of Christ.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness, &c., ver. 45. That is, from our twelve o'clock. The Jews divided their day into twelve hours, beginning to count at sunrise. This darkness could not have been occasioned by an eclipse of the sun, for the passover was celebrated at the time of the full moon, when the moon is opposite to the sun. Luke says (xxiii. 45), that the sun was darkened ; but it was not by an eclipse, but, perhaps, by the vapours and clouds that preceded the earthquake. The only cause of this was the interposing power of God, furnishing testimony to the dignity of the sufferer. It was also peculiarly proper to furnish this testimony when the Sun of Righteousness was withdrawing his beams for a time, and the Redeemer of men was expiring. A dark, thick cloud, shutting out the light of day, and clothing every object with the darkness of midnight, was an appropriate covering for the world when the Son of God expired. This darkness was noticed by one at least of the pagan writers. Phlegon, a Roman astronomer, speaking of the fourteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, which is supposed to be that in which our Saviour died, says,
" that the greatest eclipse of the sun that was ever known happened then, for the day was so turned into night that the stars appeared.” Extended over all the land. That is, probably over the whole land of Judea, and perhaps some of the adjacent countries. The extent of the darkness is not known. The ninth hour. Till about three o'clock in the afternoon, at which time the Saviour is supposed to have died.
And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, &c., ver. 46. This language is not pure Hebrew, nor Syriac, but a mixture of both, called commonly Syro-Chaldaic. This was probably the language which he commonly spoke. "The words are taken from Psalm xxii. 1. My God, my God, &c. This expression is one denoting intense suffering. It has been difficult to understand in what sense he was forsaken by God. It is certain that God approved his work. It is certain that Jesus was innocent. He had done nothing to forfeit the favour of God. As his own Son-holy, harmless, undefiled, and obedient—God still loved him. In either of these senses, God could not have forsaken him. But the expression was probably used in reference to the following circumstances, viz.,-1. His great bodily sufferings on the cross, highly aggravated by his previous scourging, and by the want of sympathy, and by the revilings of his enemies on the cross. 2. He himself said, that this was “the power of darkness.” The time when his enemies, including the Jews and Satan, were suffered to do their utmost. It was said of the serpent that he should bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, Gen. iii. 15, which expression is commonly understood to
mean that though the Messiah should finally crush and destroy the power of Satan, yet he himself should suffer through the power of the devil. When he was tempted (chap. iv.), it was sud that the tempter departed from him for a season. There is no improbability in supposing that Le might be permitted to return at the time of his death, and exercise his power in increasing the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. In what way this might be done, can be only conjectured. It might be by horrid thoughts; by temptation to despair, or to distrust God, who thus permitted his son io suffer; or by an increased horror of the pains of dying. 3. There miglit have been withheld fruta the Saviour those strong religious consolations--those clear views of the justice and goodness of God which would have blunted his pains and soothed his agonies. Martyrs, under the influence of strong religious feeling, have gone triumphantly to the stake; but it is possible that those views might have been withheld from the Redeemer when he came to die. Ilis sufferings were accuralated sufferings; and the design of the atonement seemed to require that he should sutter all t. human nature could be made to endure in so short a time. Yet, 4. We have reason to think that there was still something more than all this that drew from him.such an exclamation. Had this been no deeper and more awful sufferings, it would be difficult to see why Jesus should have shruti from these sorrows, and used such a remarkable expression. Isaiah tells us (lii. 4, 5), that he has our griefs, and carried our sorrows; that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruiseul is our iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him; that by his stripes wear healed. He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal. ill. 1571; he was made a sin-offering (2 Cor. v. 21); he died in our place, on our account, that he mi is bring us near to God. It was this, doubtless, which caused his intense sufferings. It was in manifestation of God's hatred of sin to his soul, in some way which has not been explained, bu which he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering endured by him, that was due to us; and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death.
They said, This man calleth for Elius, ver. 17. Some think that this was the ignorant misis of the Roman soldiers, who had heard talk of Elias, and of the Jews' expectation of the coming is Elias, but knew not the signification of Eli, Eli, and so made this blundering comment ujit these words of Christ, perhaps not hearing the latter part of what he said for the noise of the people Others suppose that it was the wilful mistake of some of the Jews, who knew very well what issaid, but were disposed to aluse him, and make themselves and their companions merry, arlin misrepresent him as one who, being forsaken of God, was driven to trust in creatures; pertures hinting also, that he who had pretended to be himself the Messiah, would now be glad to low beholden to Elias, who was expeeted to be only the harbinger and forerunner of the diessiah. 50 | "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the gho-i.
51 And, behold, 'the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the
graves were openedl; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared into many. 54 *Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and tliose things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this way the Son of God. 55 And many women were there beholding afar oil. * which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: 56 "Amon: which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses and the mother of Zebedee's children.
q Mark xv. 37; Luke xxiii. 46. r Exod. xxvi. 31; 2 Chron, iii. 14; Mark xv. 39; Luke xxi. 45
Mark xv. 39; Luke xxii. 47. 1 Luke viii. 2, 3. u Mark xv. 10.
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Jesus died between the third and the sixth hour, that is, between nine and twelve o'clock of our time he was nailed to the cross, and soon after the ninth hour, that is, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, he died. That was the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, and the time when the paschal lamb was killed; and Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us and offered himself, in the evening of the world, a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour. It was at that time of the day, that the angel Gabriel delivered to Daniel that glorious prediction of the Messiah. Dan. ix. 21, 24, &c. Some think that from that very time when the angel spoke it, to this time when Christ died, was just seventy weeks, that is, four hundred and ninety years to a day, to an hour. Immediately before he expired, our Lord cried with a loud voice, It is finished. John xix. 30. It was in the height of his agony, probably attended with deep groaning, and uttered amidst sorrow
which were never else experienced in the world, the work of atonement was finished, the way of salvation opened up.
Several miracles attended the death of Christ. The veil of the temple was rent in twain, ver. 51. Just as our Lord Jesus expired, at the time of the offering of the evening-sacrifice, and upon a solemn day, when the priests were officiating in the temple, and might themselves be eye-witnesses of it, the veil of the temple was rent by an invisible power—that veil which parted between the holy place and the most holy. They had condemned him for saying, I will destroy this temple, understanding it literally; now, by this specimen of his power, he let them know that, if he had pleased, he could have made his words good. In this, as in others of Christ's miracles, there was a mystery. It was in correspondence with the temple of Christ's body, which was now in the dissolving. This was the true temple, in which dwelt the fulness of the Godhead; when Christ cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost, and so dissolved that temple, the literal temple did, as it were, echo to that cry, and answer the stroke, by its veil being rent
By the rending of the veil of the temple, we may understand the revealing and unfolding of the mysteries of the Old Testament. The veil of the temple was for concealment, as was that on the face of Moses, therefore it was called the veil of the covering ; for it was highly penal for any person to see the furniture of the most holy place, except the high priest, and he but once a-year, with great ceremony and through a cloud of smoke,-all which signified the darkness of that dispensation. 2 Cor. iii. 13. But now, at the death of Christ, all was laid open, the mysteries were unveiled.The rending of the veil also signified the consecrating and laying open of a new and living way to God. The veil kept people off from drawing near to the most holy place, where the Shechinah
But the rending of it signified that Christ by his death opened a way to God, 1. For himself. This was the great day of atonement, when our Lord Jesus, as the great High Priest, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, entered once for all into the holy place-in token of which the veil was rent. Heb. ix. 7, &c. Having offered his sacrifice in the outer court, the blood of it was now to be sprinkled upon the mercy-seat within the veil : wherefore lift up your heads, 0 ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; for the King of glory, the Priest of glory, shall come in. Now was he caused to draw near, and made to approach. Jer. xxx. 21. Though he did not personally ascend into the holy place not made with hands till above forty days after, yet he immediately acquired a riglit to enter, and had a virtual admission. 2. For us in him. So the apostle applies it (Ileb. x. 19, 20), “ We have boldness to enter into the holiest, by that new and living way which he has consecrated for us through the veil.” He died to bring us to God, and, in order thereunto, to rend the veil of guilt and wrath which interposed between us and him, to take away the cherubim and flaming sword, and to open the way to the tree of life. We have free access, through Christ, to the throne of grace or mercy-seat now, and to the throne of glory hereafter. Heb. iv. 16, vi. 20. The rending of the veil signified that, when Christ had overcome the sharpness of death, he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
believers. Nothing can ob or discourage our access to heaven ; for the veil is rent--a door is opened in heaven. Rev. iv. 1.
And the earth did quake, or shook. Earthquakes are violent convulsions of the ground, caused commonly by confined and rarefied air. This was, however, a miraculous convulsion of the earth, in attestation of the truth that the sufferer was the Messiah, the Son of God. It was not confined to Judea, but was felt in other countries. It is mentioned by Roman writers. The rocks also were rent, and the graves were opened. Graves or sepulchres were most commonly made among the Jews in solid rocks, or in caves of rocks. The rending of the rocks, therefore, would lay them open. The same earthquake that rent the rocks, opened the
many bodies of saints which slept, arose. Death to the saints is but the sleep of the body, and the grave the bed it sleeps in. They awoke by the power of the Lord Jesus, and (ver. 53) came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into Jerusalem, the holy city, and appeared unto many. This matter is not related so fully as our curiosity would wish ; for the Scripture was not intended to gratify that. Yet we may learn many good lessons from it,-1. That even those who lived and died before the death and resurrection of Christ, had saving benefit thereby, as well as those who have lived since ; for he was the same yesterday that he is to-day, and will be for ever. Heb. xiii. 8. 2. That Jesus Christ, by dying, conquered, disarmed, and disabled death. These saints that arose were the present trophies of the victory of Christ's cross over the powers of death, which he thus made a show of openly. Having by death destroyed him that had the power of death, he thus led captivity captive, and gloried in these re-taken prizes—in them fulfilling that Scripture, “ I will ransom them from the power of the grave.” 3. That, in virtue of Christ's resurrection, the bodies of all the saints shall, in the fulness of time, rise again. This was an earnest of the general resurrection at the last day, when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And perhaps Jerusalem is therefore called here the holy city, because the saints, at the general resurrection, shall enter into