John 19: 1-3.  Then, therefore, Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.  And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and clothed Him with a purple robe.  And they were coming to Him, and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews,” and they buffeted Him.’



Pilate was bent on saving Jesus, yet now he treats Him still worse, as if guilty.  He seems to have thought, that the Jews’ enmity against our Lord would be turned into compassion, if he showed how little he thought of their accusation of Christ, as one likely to be dangerous to the Emperor and his government; and if he made them see the severity of a Roman scourging inflicted on Him.  Jesus, then, was scourged for the first time.  That was a terrible infliction; not like the moderate and limited scourging allowed to the judges of Israel.  But thus was fulfilled the prophetic word (Is. 1: 6, and Ps. 129: 8). ‘By those stripes we are healed,’ Is. 53: 5.  Thus, while on man’s part it was wickedness, on God’s it was grace. In the middle ages the truth of Jesus’ atoning was forgot; and many, seriously affected with a sense of their sins, took on them to make atonement for their sins by scourging themselves, and one another, daily.  But severe as was the infliction, it did not take away one sin.  It was a piece of will-worship not accepted of God, and carrying no salvation to man; but more unbelief, overlooking God’s one atonement already made.  So the Hindoos by various tortures have attempted to put away sin.  But vain is the attempt.  Man cannot atone for his transgression.  It must be sinless blood that can alone cover sin!



Pilate by this act has taken a step still further back in evil and injustice.  He thought probably that by yielding partly to them, they would surrender to him the prisoner’s life.  Thus he grants part of their desires against his duty, and that encourages these men of enmity to demand the whole.  He cannot, since he has made their wishes his compass, keep back their full desire.



The torture and humiliation inflicted on one so innocent, so gracious, so miserable, do not touch their hearts.



The soldiers ridicule, with crown and purple robe, the pretensions of the sufferer to be a King.  This is not the scene which Matthew depicts, for that occurred after Pilate’s sentence of crucifixion.  That, too, was the mockery with a scarlet robe, and with a reed on His right hand, when the whole regiment was gathered in the guard-room.  Jesus wears the thorns as one of the consequences of the fall; a part of the curse laid by the Lord on the ground for man’s sake (Gen. 3: 8).  In the new world which this passion of Christ has won for His saved ones, there shall be no more thorns, and His people shall reign for ever and ever (Rev. 22.)



The remembrance of this scene once threw a momentary ray across the darkness of Crusading times. Jerusalem was taken by the pilgrim bands of the red cross, and one of their leaders, Godfrey, was proclaimed King of Jerusalem.  They proposed to crown him; but he said, ‘I will never wear a crown of gold in a city where my Saviour was crowned with thorns.’  Had he gone a stop farther, he had seen, that it became him to wait for his crown till Christ shall take His own throne, and shall distribute crowns in His millennial kingdom of glory (Rev. 2: 26, 27; 3: 21).



The Jews under Caiaphas ridicule our Lord’s pretensions to be the Prophet; and the men of Pilate ridicule His claims to be King.  We must learn hence, therefore, that ridicule is no test of the truth.  That may seem foolish to the eyes of men, which is a part of God’s own truth.  We must hold God’s promises in prophecy to be really true, though all seems against them.  What are all opposing powers against the might of God, fulfilling His word [literally and] in truth?  See, reader, of what importance in the eyes of God Jesus’ Kingship is.  The Heavenly Father had given Him the throne of His earthly father David, by His decree (Luke 1: 32, 33).  The Son asserts it, when He is stripped of all human resources, and when to own it is death.  But the word of the Lord shall one day prevail; and where the Saviour was mocked, His Supreme Majesty shall be owned by earth and heaven (Zech. 14: 9-16).  To Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess the King of kings and Lord of lords.’  The Most High is wonderfully patient, but not for ever will He allow wickedness to prevail over innocence and holiness.  He is patient, for He is calling to repent, and His patience has been blessed to the salvation [and reward] of thousands untold.  But at last the claims of justice will be heard, and the holy exalted, while the wicked are stripped of power misused.



The King of the Jews shall one day be the sovereign of earth and heaven.  And if we would have part with Him in that day, we must now confess Him in His kingly character.



4, 5.Pilate therefore went out again, and saith unto them – “Behold, I bring Him out to you, that ye may know that I find in Him no fault.”  Jesus therefore went forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  And he saith to them – “Behold the Man!”’



Pilate’s confession of Jesus’ innocence was good so far as it went.  The Lamb of God was without spot or blemish, enemies themselves being judges.  But how terrible the iniquity, to treat righteousness as if it were the worst wickedness!  If there was no fault in Jesus, how great the fault of Pilate and of the chief priests!  Many go so far as this - they find no fault with Christ.  But they do not find in Him salvation; for they own Him not as the Way, and Truth, and Life.’



Jesus then appears with the ensigns of mock royalty, to let all Israel see how little this teacher of peace was an object of dread to the governor of the land.  But their enmity is not disarmed.



Behold the Man!’  What a contrast in Jesus, thus bowed down in misery and contempt, to Adam, as he came first from the hand of the Most High; invested with empire over the new-formed world, clad in beauty and might!



Behold the Man now!  He is suffering for the sin of that transgressor and his posterity.  Shame, weakness, torment, and mockery gird Him and clothe Him.  How surely, then, shall torment, and reproach, and shame, assail for ever those who refuse to turn from sin, after the warnings of the Lord, so many and so solemn!  Jesus’ sufferings for sinners tell us what will righteously befall the transgressor.



How different now the lot of Jesus!  Our faith beholds Him on high on the Father’s throne; a name given Him beyond all others.  Who is the Head over all ranks and orders in the heavenly world?  A Man, glorified, exalted of God as worthy!  And one day, the Blessed and Only Potentate, His Father, will cause all creatures to confess this Son of Man as the Heir of all things, the King of earth and heaven.



Moreover, Jesus shall exalt to a platform of power and glory far above the angels, those whom He shall raise in resurrection to dwell with Himself.



6, 7.  When, therefore, the chief priests and the servants saw Him, they shouted, saying, “Crucify, crucify!”  Pilate saith to them – “Take ye Him, and crucify; for I find no fault in Him.”  The Jews answered Him – “We, have a Law, and by our Law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”’



How deep the hatred that refused to [a] compassionate One so misused, and tormented against His desert! But if His persecutors can thus push matters against justice, how surely will they themselves be tormented by God according to justice, for this iniquity among others!



Pilate is vexed, and wishes to escape the responsibility they would force upon him.  But here again he shows his sad injustice.  He would give up to a robber’s death the Faultless One! if they will only charge themselves with the guilt of it. (v. 16),  What, then, must God think of the rulers of earth, judged of by this fair specimen presented to us?  He means to take away their power, and to give it all into the hands of His Son, the Righteous.



Pilate and his men having thus turned into ridicule the Jews’ accusation of Jesus as a rival King to Caesar, they recur to the ground of their condemnation of Him before Caiaphas.  He deserves to die (by Leviticus 24: 16) because He is a blasphemer.  Here the strict sense of Son of God alone can stand. There is no blasphemy in asserting one’s self to be a son of God,’ figuratively..



Thus Pilate is forced to decide this case, which so perplexes and troubles him.  The Most High intends, that each shall come to a decision concerning Christ.  What think you of Him?’  is the question of life or death to each.  (1) Is He a mere man?  (2) Or is He Son of God, in a sense which belongs to none else? Is He God, of God?  Saviour? or blasphemer? Is He one who atones for others’ sins? or one who deserves to die for His own?  He is either a stumbling-stone over which men fall and are broken; or a corner-stone, the builder on which shall not be ashamed.



We see in Pilate’s case, that it is only truth hold previously and previously practised, which can stand the day of storm.  Pilate knew the right, but his house was built on the sand alone, and hence it could not sustain the rain, and floods, and gusts of power that now beat against it.  It fell, and great was the fall. Stephen would not have stood against the accusations and outcries of his murderers, had not his soul been rooted by faith and practice in the truth of God.



If Jesus were to die by Jewish Law, then, it must be, not by crucifixion, but by stoning.  But they regard not Law or justice, who are urging all onward to His death.



8, 9.  When Pilate, therefore, heard this word He was the more afraid.  And he went into the Praetorium again, and saith to Jesus, “Whence art Thou?  But Jesus gave him no answer.’



Whence art Thou?’  This referred not to His earthly place of birth or life.  Pilate had dealt with Him already as a Galilean.  Art Thou of heaven or earth?’  Had Jesus been a mere man He ought to have replied, ‘I am a man, and nothing more!’



Pilate was awed by Christ.  He was unlike all other men whom he had seen, in His powers of miracle, in the hatred with which he inspired His foes, and in His silence when He had the power to stop the accusers’ mouths.



This accusation then frightens him.  There were heathen stories of vengeance sent on those who did injury to the gods or their sons, while travelling in disguise.  At Iconium we find, that at once on Paul’s miracle, they shouted – The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.’  Might it not be so here?  Pilate feared to encounter such unknown perils.  He would learn, then, from the prisoner’s lips who He was.



Whence art Thou?’  A good question on Pilate’s part, going deeper still than What is truth?’  But he wins no reply.  Why not?  Perhaps we may not know all the reasons; but one seems pretty clear.  It was because of the way in which Pilate had dealt by the Saviour’s former teachings.  He had shown himself indifferent to what was truth.  Had he accepted the Saviour’s testimony to Himself as sent to proclaim truth, he could have been led on by the answer here.  But how can he enter the house who falls at the threshold?



This question, however, to which Pilate obtained no response, is for us answered in many passages - specially in the opening words of this Gospel.  The Saviour had again and again testified to the Jews, respecting Himself as the Sent One from the Father.  His forerunner had borne witness to Jesus as superior to himself, and to all others; in that, while they were of earthly origin, He was from above (John 3: 31).  The Saviour had testified to the Jews in the temple, that He was about to leave them.  They speculated in a jesting manner respecting the locality to which He would go; but their thoughts do not rise above some region of earth, or the place of the dead.   Our Lord enlightens them.



Ye are from beneath; I am from above.  Ye are of this world; I am not of this world.  I said, therefore, unto you, that ye shall die in your sins.  For if ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins’ (John 8: 23, 24).



10.  Pilate saith unto hin, “Unto me speakest Thou not?  Knowest Thou not, that I have power to crucify Thee, and power to release Thee?”



I have power.’  Power was given to Pilate, to use only in accordance with law and justice.  And had he so used it, as it was intended, he must have dismissed Christ in freedom; as not innocent only, but righteous.  But, specially in those times, crying acts of injustice were of continual occurrence.  Pilate was ruler at a distance from Rome, and there was no one to call him at once to account.  His will stood in the place of right.  One, therefore, not bound by strict sense of duty could assume that he might do what he pleased; and hence he looked for the most entire respect from those whose lives hung upon his sentence.



The power to crucify comes first.  Not of right, but of might.  And it was, indeed, then nearest.  But the Saviour behold in His power the Father’s will, and to that He bowed.  If Jesus were guilty, Pilate had no right to release; if guiltless, none to crucify.  But he speaks after the usual manner of men, as if the whole matter lay simply in his choice.



Pilate is displeased at this silence.  He is astonished that one so completely in his power is not more alive to His perilous position, anxious to make friends with him, and to obey him in all things.  He might be silent to accusing foes; but to the governor, who had his life in his hands, silence was death.



11.  Jesus answered, “Thou wouldst not have had any power against Me, except it had been given thee from above, therefore he that delivered Me to thee hath the greater sin.”



The Saviour teaches him a lesson of the utmost moment to all, specially to those possessed of power as the magistrate.  Pilate looked no higher than the earth, and to him the one source of authority was, the Emperor at Rome.  It is so with most politicians.  They cannot trace events higher than the things we see. They refuse to listen to the witness which comes from above that power belongs to God,’ in its every form (Psalms 75: 4-7; 62: 11, 12; 58: 11).  In Daniel we see this lesson enforced on Nebuchadnezzar. But the Gentiles had forgot it.  The Saviour, then, confesses the power possessed by Pilate.  But it was only lent under responsibility.  It came from heaven.  God was not, as the philosophic heathen, many of them, thought, careless of what man does.  But they lacked the testimony which we have, that a day of account is coming, in which God will render to each of the possessors of power according to the righteousness or unrighteousness wherewith he has exercised His authority.  Pilate’s power, then, as being exercised unjustly, was power against Christ, instead of for Him.  The Most High is showing in this – man’s day- what man is when left to himself.  The accusations now against the injustice of governors are frequent, and sometimes well founded.  Men in general consider, and some Christians teach, that believers ought to use their influence to set right the governing powers of the world.  But they see not God’s testimony, that Satan is the god and ruler of this world; and that till he is cast out, it is vain to look for righteousness here.  For the world is the mass of unbelievers, who act without regard to God; and of the unrighteous, who act only as it shall be best, as they think, for themselves.  But all power is from God; the powers at any time existent in the world are appointed by God (Rom. 13: 1). Wicked rulers are as much appointed of God as good ones.  God, by wicked rulers, smites the world for its sins, as truly as He smites it by pestilence or earthquake.



Our Lord now hints whence He came.  From above.  Thence He descended as the bearer of truth thence came the power of Pilate.  Heaven really rules earth it will visibly rule in the millennial days. There can be no true sovereignty or right rule without the confession of One higher than man, the Judge of rulers and of ruled alike.  Pilate had authority from God to judge, and therefore his sin in judging wrongly was less than his, who, having no judicial authority, urged on the death-cry, against Pilate’s wish.  Pilate’s part in the matter was unsought for, and judgment was incumbent on him as an officer of Rome.  But Caiaphas’s pursuit of Jesus unto death was uncalled for, save by malice.



Notice how our Lord in these words speaks as the Judge, measuring the guilt of his Judge.



This delivery of Jesus, then, into the hand of Pilate was a part of God’s counsel.  The Saviour confesses the power he had over Him, though he was a bad man; and though the Emperor who appointed him was a worse; and though He knew that Pilate’s power would be exercised in putting Him to death.  Our duty then to the rulers of earth is to own the source of their power, and to obey them as God’s ministers, set to keep the world in some degree of control and order.  This gift of power from on high is very often noticed in the Apocalypse.  It comes out especially, in the day when God in His wrath surrenders the whole earth into the hands of Satan’s King (Rev. 13: 5, 7, 14, 15).  Power is so given to him, that to rise up against that power is to draw down God’s displeasure unto death.



How completely the world and its power are against God, was shown by both the Chief Priests and Pilate sentencing the Righteous One to death.  Vain are all attempts to set authority right, and to keep out injustice from among rulers.  While Satan is the master, injustice will be.  And Christians who attempt to rule the world, find that they must do many things contrary to Christ’s commands and principles.  Not till He comes, whose right it is to reign, will the governments of earth be just, and approved by God.  And Christ shall then give power unto those that patiently waited for God’s time, and to those who now walk obediently in Christ’s ways and commands (Rev. 2: 26, 27).



What is the meaning of – He, therefore, that delivered Me unto thee, hath the greater sin?’  First, it tacitly tells Pilate, that in thus managing all unjustly, and especially in his scourging of the innocent One and his delivery of Him unto death, he was sinning.  Injustice is not only a crime against men, but also a sin,’ or offence against God.  We should supply, in thought, after hath greater sin,’ the words - ‘than thou hast.’  As from God came the power, so from Him also came the principles on which that power was to be exercised.  And injustice is a sin, for which Pilate would have to answer before God.  Pilate was one of the rulers of earth tested by the call – Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way.’  How different was his treatment in scourging and crucifying the Son!



But who was the deliverer of Jesus to Pilate?  (1) We naturally think of Judas.  But Judas did not betray Jesus to Pilate.  (2) Some think it was the nation of Israel, as represented by its leaders.  But the singular seems to show that an individual is in question.  Caiaphas, then, is the person designated.  With him began the determination to put our Lord to death (John 11: 49).  Before him came on the trial, and from him the sentence on our Lord for blasphemy.  In his palace the trial took place (Matt. 26: 3, 57; John 18).  Judas and the band were engaged by him.  After Caiaphas’s sentence the Lord Jesus was led away to Pilate, to be put to death by the governor, as one sentenced by the High Priest.  Pilate’s sin took place mainly through ignorance of God and of His truth.  It was quite new to him to be told, that he was accountable to any one but the Chief Governor of earth.  But Caiaphas and his fellow-priests knew well the origin of power, and the responsibility it carries to God who gave it.  They were aware of the principles of justice set forth in the Law, and of God’s awful threatenings against those who should commit injustice.  They know the strong words and sentence of the Law against false witnesses.  Yet they procured them against our Lord, and themselves testified falsely against Him.  Now sin is black and perilous, just in proportion to the light bestowed.  He, and those who followed him, were sinning against light.  The Saviour had exposed to them, in His parables, their guilt and its doom.  In The Wicked Husbandmen He describes them, as aware of His superiority above all other previous messengers of God; and yet their determination to put Him to death, because His claims came into collision with theirs.



This, then, is a great and solemn truth - the responsibility arising out of light.  It applies all around.  The heathen that know not God act contrary to their conscience and understanding, in serving idols; and in committing offences against men.  That is sin.  It is, indeed, far less awful than sinning against revealed light, but it is enough to condemn them.  But it shall be more tolerable for them in the coming day of judgment, than for those who have had the Bible in their hands, and have been pressed to turn to the Lord and His ways, yet refused.  There are degrees of sin, and of punishment for it; while the wrath for all the lost is eternal.



This sentiment is also true of us - that none has any power against us, save as it is given of God.  The sparrow's fall is of God’s providence.  And God, who calls us to the encounter, will supply the strength and patience necessary for our day.



12.  From thenceforth Pilate was seeking to release Him.  But the Jews shouted – “If thou let Him go, thou art not Caesar’s friend; every one who makes himself king, speaks against Caesar.”’



Some regard the two opening Greek words of this verse as meaning - (1) ‘As the effect of this speech.’ Others - (2) ‘From this as a point of time.’  But both come nearly to the same thing.  The speech was the cause from which the effect sprung; it was also the point of time from which Pilate’s attempt to rescue Jesus sprang.



The Jews saw, that their statement of His claim to be Son of God, had hindered their cause.  They return, therefore, to the appeal which was most likely to win with Pilate. They hint about accusing him as unfavourable to the Emperor if he only did his duty, and did not comply with their wishes.  And the Emperor then on the throne was very jealous of his dignity, and would not scruple to take away the life of any one who should dare to put himself near the high place of imperial authority.  His word was law. And human life was then very lightly esteemed.  Moreover, Pilate had offended in other ways, and was afraid of being accused for past acts of injustice.



Pilate has no principles of truth.  Hence, he acts according to his own views of his interests, which shift continually.  As he fears not God whom he cannot see, he fears man.  He must, he thinks, sacrifice either himself or Christ. Will he be friend of Caesar,’ or ‘friend of justice and of Christ?’  When things have come to this issue, the matter is very soon decided.  Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we die,’ is a very sandy foundation for right conduct.



Is there any one of my readers who has hitherto preferred the world to Christ?  Let him take warning by Pilate.



Pilate chooses at last rather to be Caesar’s friend, by putting the Son of God to death, than to have Christ on his side, as an honest judge.



13.  When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth and sat down on the judgment-seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.’



This induces an immediate and visible change in the whole procedure.  Before that, he had hoped to be spared the necessity for judging at all.  He expected to be able to manage the matter without a direct judicial trial.  Hence these comings out and in.  But now he is called on as the Emperor’s lieutenant to judge a rival king.  The last arrow had smitten him between the joints of his harness.  He takes his seat now in his official place as judge.



The judgment-seat took notice of offences between the king and his subjects.  John notices the very spot. It was placed on a pavement - a mosaic-work of stone-tesselated.  Has not John’s touching upon this a tacit reference to some other scenes?  After Jehovah has taken Israel into covenant as their Governor and God, He allows some of them to behold their King and Judge.  Ex. 24: 10.  And there was under His feet, as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as the body of heaven in its clearness.’ That is, it was of a deep blue, not like the faint colour of the distant horizon, but like the deep blue of the zenith.  Thence it seems to be observed (in the next verse), by Moses, that though He was the awful Judge, and these before Him were sinners, yet now, by virtue of the blood of the covenant just shed and sprinkled on them, He would not take vengeance.



When the Most High represents Himself as the Judge of Israel and of the world, He is seen by the Prophet Ezekiel as seated on a throne, the throne resting on a pavement, and that upborne by the four living creatures, and moved to and fro at his pleasure (Ex. 1: 22-25).



Thus the thoughts of men about the ornaments of the seat of justice, and the thoughts of God, seem, in a remarkable way, to agree with each other.



14.  Now it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour.  And he saith to the Jews – “Behold your King.”



How can the time of the day here mentioned accord with the notice given by one of the evangelists, that Jesus was nailed to the cross at the third hour?’ (Mark 15: 25).  How could He be crucified at the third hour, when He was not condemned to the cross till the sixth?  The answer turns on the mode of reckoning the hours of the day.  Israel began to reckon the hours from sunrise - that was the first hour of the day.  It answers to our six o’clock; for we count from midnight.  It appears, then, that while the other evangelists reckon by the old computation, John reckons by the new mode.  The sixth hour,’ then, would be six o’clock.  And there were yet three hours before Jesus was crucified, or nine o’clock.  These three hours were consumed in the events named by the other evangelists - His sentence, and His going to the place of execution, with the preparation of the ground and the cross.



It was the preparation of the Passover.’  That would seem to prove, that the Passover was to be celebrated that day, and was not yet slain.  John especially notes this, as perceiving the rites of Moses summed up in this the Lamb of God, bearer of the sin of men.  As the True Passover, He was to die at the hour commanded in the Mosaic rite.



It has been suggested, that at this moment Jesus was seen by Pilate, who was now seated on the judgment-seat, returning from His mission to Herod, clothed in the royal robes in which the king had arrayed Him in mockery; and that this suggested to him the sarcasm-, Behold your King!’  You see Herod and I are both of one mind!  We both consider it ridiculous to speak of this religious teacher, as likely to cause any fear to Caesar!’  But this is their last chance of gaining their end, and therefore they hold it fast.  They will not own Him their king.  It was the first utterance of a rebellious speech, to be thundered out yet more fearfully by Gentiles, in a day near at hand.  We will not have this man to reign over us.  Let Him die the slave’s death - He is no king of ours!’



Now Jesus was really their king, as Son of David, by promise, oath, and prophecy of God.  But four days before, he had presented Himself to Jerusalem in the guise which the prophet Zechariah foretold that the King should assume.



15, 16.  But they yelled, “Away, away, crucify Him!”  Pilate saith unto them, “Shall I crucify your king?”  The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”  Then, therefore, he delivered Him to them, that He might be crucified, and they took Jesus, and led Him away.’



A new word points out to us their increasing violence of demand.  The shout has become a ‘yell,’ a ‘roar’ demanding His death.  Pilate’s last feeble reed is then hurled at them – ‘Shall I crucify your King?  Will it not be a disgrace to your nation and to yourselves?’



Then followed the open and un-resisted surrender of all their high hopes attached to the Son of David. To obtain Jesus’ death they sacrifice the promises of the kingdom of God, which had been presented in their prophets.



How men contradict themselves under the influence of their passions!  Their usual boast was – ‘Israel has no king but God.’  On the ground of this they would gladly fight.  In their resistance to our Lord their cry was – We are Abraham’s seed, and never were in bondage to any; how sayest Thou then, ye shall be made free?’  But, now, to gain this object, they throw themselves into the arms of an empire which they feared and cursed, and by which they were themselves finally crushed at the Passover WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR!’



Had Jesus shown Himself really hostile to Caesar, and willing to do battle for this crown of Palestine, they would gladly have welcomed Him, and fought under His banners to death.  But now, to gratify their hatred of the Son of God, they are willing to declare themselves only one of the nations under the iron sceptre of the fourth great empire of men.



This speech, then, stands as accusation against them on the page of God.  They have never withdrawn it, never denied it.  Accordingly, Rome came forty years after, and destroyed them and their city, as a rebel province against Caesar.  But a worse fate awaits them.  Awful was the Caesar (Tiberius) then seated on the throne.  But they prefer him to the Son of David - the Holy One of Israel.  Now God means, in a day to come, to fulfil their wicked word of unbelief, to their own confusion and sorrow.  (1) When first Israel desired a king, Samuel told them how wrong they were, and God declared that it was a rejection of Himself.  But they persevered.  Samuel forewarned them, how much of hardship and tyranny they were plucking on their own heads; but they would not hear (Sam. 8.) Now the accomplishment of this prophecy has yet to take place; specially those words of Samuel in verse 16 -  And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye have chosen, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.



(2) The last and clearest prophecy of the New Testament discloses to us the great and terrible day, in which this their evil word will be punished.  As they refused the Son of David, and Lamb of God, God will give them a Caesar, the first-born of Satan -  the Wild Beast of the Apocalypse.  We have his description as a blasphemer of God, and slayer of His saints, requiring the worship of all, and receiving it at the hands of all but God’s elect, in Revelation 13.  And Revelation 17. tells us of the Seven Heads of the Wild Beast.  The angel declares, that they are seven sovereign kings, belonging to the royal city of Rome.  So fearful a ruler is the coming Antichrist, that his subjects cry out to God against Him. But it is the day of wrath, and the temple above is closed against prayer, till the last tremendous plagues of God are poured out on an evil world.  Christians, ask your Father that you may escape the coming woes! (Luke 21: 36).



17, 18.  And He bearing His cross went out into the spot that is called the spot of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew “Golgotha;” where they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on the one side, and one on the other, but Jesus in the midst.’



The cries of the multitude, led by the chief priests, prevailed against all righteousness.  When the day of partial recompense came, the Romans crucified so many, that wood was wanting for the crosses, and space to set them up.



Jesus bore His cross, as it was customary.  To this He prophetically alluded more than once.  (1) Where He was commissioning the twelve, and giving them their charge; He demands the first place in their souls.  He is to be obeyed and loved more than the nearest relatives.  He Himself would tread first the same path of rejection and death to which He called them (Matt. 10: 37-39).  He is not truly a disciple who is not willing to surrender all things, yea, life itself, for Christ.  And this, far from being a bare loss, shall issue in the blessed and eternal life of glory.*  (2) Again, after Jesus has distinguished His disciples from the people of Israel, because of their unbelief, and has drawn out that confession of Himself as Son of God, having life in Himself, on which the church was to be founded, He foretells His own death at the hands of the Chief Priests at Jerusalem; and then He generalizes the matter, and bids disciples to bear the cross after Him (Matt. 16: 24).


[* Would be better to have written: ‘And this, far from being a bare loss, shall issue in the blessed millennial glory as well as the blessed “free gift” of “eternal life,” (Rom. 8: 17b-25; 6: 23, R.V.)’]



He went out of the city, in order to be put to death as the evildoer.  Jerusalem was by the Law supposed to be holy - the City of God.  Those put to death as criminals were therefore cast out of the dwellings of the holy; and each step was one of suffering.



The Saviour, in His parable of the Wicked Husbandman, foretold, that they would cast Him out of the vineyard, ere they slew Him the Son and Heir.



He is stripped of His clothing.  And that answers to the stripping off the skin of the victims destined for sacrifice.  To be stripped naked, in pain and death, was a sore suffering.



But He bore sin; and, as none but He could do, He put it away.  He took away from Satan his power, and soon the strong man armed shall be cast out of the world he has deceived, and be tormented in fire and brimstone, day and night, for ever and ever.’



Jesus has by bearing death taken away its sting, so that now to His people to depart is to be with Christ, which is very far better.  He went to the spot called Cranium.’  It is generally supposed that skulls and bones of the dead were lying about the place of execution, as being the unburied remains of criminals. But this is certainly a mistake.  (1) The Jews were careful to bury the dead.  The Law commanded the criminal’s burial on the day of his putting to death (Deut. 21: 23).  (2) Moreover, the touch of any portion of a dead body entailed a week’s uncleanness on him who touched.  This was so great an inconvenience, that it would not be lightly incurred.  Had skulls been lying about, so great a multitude could not have stood around the place, and read the title, without some of them being defiled by the dead, and that in Passover-time!  (3) In the last place, it is not said, ‘the spot of skulls,’ which would be the natural expression, if the usual ideas were true ; but ‘the spot of a skull.’  Tradition has fastened on the expression, to affirm, that the skull in question was Adam’s, who dwelt near Jerusalem after his ejection from Eden, and was buried there!



The spot is usually supposed to be a hill; and is commonly called, ‘the Hill of Calvary,’ or Calvary.’ This is derived from the Latin translation of the Gospels, which translates the Greek Cranium,’ by the answering Latin word, Calvary.’  It is probably not a hill, but a small eminence near Jerusalem, resembling the human skull.  Hence, one of the Evangelists calls it, the place called “Skull.”’  One living at Jerusalem informed me, that he was acquainted with the spot of Jewish execution, about fifty or sixty yards to the north of the Damascus gate.  A pamphlet by Herr Schick, with section and plans of the locality has lately come forth.  Whenever Cranium is found, the sepulchre of Christ is close by.



Jesus must suffer outside the gate; for His blood was to be carried into the Holiest above, to atone for sin. He must be cast out of the city of God, that we may enter it and dwell there (Heb. 13: 10-14).  Therefore now we bear His reproach, and men are to cast out our names as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.  But such present disgrace is the token of future [millennial] glory.



Its name is in the Hebrew, Golgotha.’  It is not at once apparent, why John, four times in his Gospel, gives us the names of places and things, both in the Greek and Hebrew.  But in the Apocalypse also he uses the same mode of expression.  Thus the author of the Gospel and that of the Revelation are indicated as the same.  For no other of the sacred writers uses the expression.



Jesus is crucified first.  He must in all things have the pre-eminence.  Also He is fixed in the midst, between the two robbers, as if He were the worst.  For this must needs be fulfilled in Him, He was numbered with the transgressors.’



Our Lord was the sin-offering, and therefore He suffered without the gate.  He was the sacrifice tried with fire: burned without the camp.  He was thus lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness, that the bitten might look and live.  And one day to Him, as the centre of glory, all the earth will be drawn.  He was nailed to the tree, for from the tree of knowledge of good and evil sprang the curse.  That tree was a beautiful one, with leaf, flower, and fruit.  This a bare dead tree, bearing pain and death alone!  Adam and his wife were pleased with the juicy fruit.  But he who bears the penalty of sin has a devouring thirst, which ends in death.  Eve stretched out her hand to take the fruit, and her feet moved towards it. But He who bears the penalty has His hands and feet nailed for death, to the tree of the curse.



Before He was fastened to the cross, He bore it, that He might fulfil the type of Isaac, who bore the wood of the burnt offering before he was laid upon it.



Adam, was driven out of Eden as the transgressor.  Jesus is taken out of the city of God for death, ere in resurrection He could open to Himself and others the better city.  His heel was by this mode of death literally bruised.  The Old Deceiver is now himself expecting the judgment of the bruised head to be inflicted on himself.



If so great were the sufferings of the Holy One, what will those of the transgressor be?  If the green tree be cast into the fire, how much more the dry? 



But while the cross and the curse are so closely allied, out of them springs the blessing.  The pains were in our stead!  He hath borne them to put them away!  Blessed be His name evermore!



19-22.  Moreover, Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross.  Now it was written – “Jesus the Nazarite, the King of the Jews.”  This title, therefore, many of the Jews read, because the spot where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.  The Chief Priests of the Jews, therefore, said unto 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.”’



John discerns God’s hand in this seemingly small circumstance.  It was customary to affix to the cross a notice of the reason for which the culprit was put to death, that all might be satisfied of the justice of the execution.  Pilate wrote with his own hand the title.  Matthew calls it, the accusation.’



The title, then, was, Jesus the Nazarite, the King of the Jews.’  Now this was no offence worthy of death.  Jesus was by birth King of the Jews, as being of David’s line; and it was proved by Mary’s travelling to David’s city from Nazareth, at the command of the Emperor of the world.  It was Christ’s due given by prophecy - prophecy of the Old Testament, and the promise of the angel at His birth.



Jesus the Nazarite.’   In Pilate’s mind the only thought was that he was thus distinguished from the many other Jews who bore the name of Jesus.  This Jesus was to him the man born, or living at, Nazareth.  But in God’s mind the significance of the name struck much deeper.  The Nazarite under the Law was one who set himself apart to the Lord by way of self-denial, specially in regard of the produce of the vine.  Now Jesus was specially consecrated to God through all His life, and at the Last Supper He took the Nazarite vow.



Moreover, significance is added to the title, if we look at the matter as illustrated by the typical histories of those Old Testament worthies who wore Nazarites.  (1) To Joseph the name is given (Gen. 49: 26), and he, before he became Viceroy to Pharaoh, was rejected and sold by his brethren; but at length is reconciled with them.  (2) The history of Samson is, as a later type, still more distinct.  He was to be a Nazarite from his birth, and also a Deliverer to Israel (Judges 13: 5).  But in spite of this promise, and his miraculous strength, he is bound by the men of Judah; and given up to the hands of their rulers the Philistines, because he had smitten their foes.  But when he is betrayed to the enemy, the Spirit of God bursts his bonds, and he slays with the jawbone of an ass a thousand men.  He is thirsty, almost to death; but God bids water spring up, and he revives, and judges Israel twenty years (Judges 15: 11-20).  John notices for us the Saviour’s thirst, and the wicked supply offered.  That was the last point of our Lord’s foretold humiliation, in which the Saviour was active.  But the Redeemer’s cry of thirst has caused to spring up for us the perpetual fount of the Spirit.  And one day He shall lead His people to the river of the Water of Life (Rev. 22.)



The Saviour’s smiting of His foes is yet to come (Rev. 19.)  The bonds of death He has burst in resurrection.  As yet He is patient.  But the deliverance of Israel and of the world by power has yet to take effect.  And Jesus’ judgment of the world shall proceed from Him, as Lord of lords, and King of kings, for fifty times twenty years!



The title on the cross was much read, on two accounts.  (1) The place of execution was near the city, so that all could saunter out, and see it.  (2) The accusation was uttered in three languages; so that those who knew but one of them, could understand the ground of the Saviour’s death.  They were the three languages best known in the world of that day.  First comes the Hebrew - for the crucifixion was at the instigation of the Jews, and Pilate wished them to be sensible of the scorn he felt of them.  Next came the Greek,’ the language spoken by the educated, and by multitudes of Jews, who were thence called Hellenists.  Lastly came the Roman,’ the language of the rulers.  The sin of man is exhibited in these three chief languages.  And God would cause the knowledge of the death and ransom of His Son to be celebrated in these tongues.  It was a hint of the undoing of the confusion of Babel by the cross of Christ.



This order of the languages is not followed by Luke, who gives the order as Greek, Latin, Hebrew (Luke 23: 38).  Luke, as the Gentile Evangelist writing in Greek to a Greek, puts that language first, and Roman next.  The Gospel was first proclaimed to Israel, then to the Greeks, lastly to Rome.



This little notice enables us to answer satisfactorily an objection of some force, ‘How can we trust the Gospels as accurate, when no two of them agree with regard to the words on the cross?’  We answer, that there were three different inscriptions; and while they were alike in the main, they differed in detail. Probably different persons wrote the title in the different languages.



But the title did not please the Jewish leaders.  And no wonder!  For it seemed as if they had agreed to own Jesus as their King, while they had expressly disavowed Him.  We have no King but Caesar.’  How, then, should they be pleased with the words which implied that Jesus was really their King?  They wish for a change, then - a trifling change, which should make the Kingship not a real thing, but resting only on Jesus’ unauthorized assertion.  Were they really crucifying their Messiah, the Son of David?  Far from it!  He was only the Pretender.  But Pilate, though he yielded to their petitions in other points, here is firm.  He had written it, and it should stand!  Ah! if he had but been as firm before that, in dismissing Jesus from the hands of His foes!



Now this firmness of Pilate’s accorded with God’s mind.  On Pilate’s part, it was probably due to his secret displeasure at the Jews for compelling him to condemn Jesus, whom He knew to be innocent.  He despised Israel; and to the Roman, the crucifying a King, and that the King of the Jews - was a grim jest, by no means to be thrown away.  A pretty people this to crucify their King.  A pretty King, and quite suited to the people, this pacific teacher!’



This sin of theirs shall one day strike home to the heart of the nation of Israel, and they shall lament that thus they slew the Son of David, the hope of Israel.  David was rejected by the nation in favour of Saul, though David was the accepted of Jehovah, the Lord’s anointed; and often was his life in peril from the servants of Saul.  David was the rejected by Israel, when Absalom set himself up as their king; and it was only after the death of the usurper, that they returned to the chosen of the Lord.  But never was David in such circumstances of woo.  Therefore, at last Israel shall bethink them of the sin of so many ages lying un-forgiven on their nation, and at length with deepest sorrow mourn, and own Jesus to be Messiah, Son of David, and King of Israel (Zech. 12.).



If the writing of Pilate is not to be altered, variable as he was, how much less shall what God has written, be changed!  His sentence of death and the curse cannot be moved at last from the lost; awful as will be their woe, deep their anguish!  What I have written, I have written,’ is their eternal sentence.



23, 24.  The soldiers, therefore, when they crucified Jesus, took the garments and made four portions; to each soldier a portion, and the tunic.  Now the tunic was without a seam woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves – “Let us not rend it, but casts lots for it, whose it shall be:” in order that the Scripture should be fulfilled – “They parted My garments among themselves, and for My vestment they cast lots.”  These things therefore the soldiers did.’



Around the cross of the Christ clusters the fulfilment of many [prophetic] Scriptures.  Some of these are noticed by one of the Gospels, some by others.  The cross is one of the great centres of prophecy.  Here is the stripping naked of Him who was the Righteous One.  A sense of nakedness was the first effect of the fall.  This consequence our parents sought to remedy first of all; and God, after He had proved the vanity of their attempt, stepped in to give the true and needed covering.  But now He has come, who is to bear the penalty of the transgression.  Before, then, that He is fixed to the tree, He is stripped of His raiment, as though He had been guilty.  Law exacts all from Him who would atone for its transgression. The sacrifice must be stripped of its skin.  As numbered among the transgressors and under sentence of death, the Saviour has nought as His own His very raiment is forfeited to the executioners.  But out of this stripping of Himself as bearing the penalty of Law for the guilty, He provides for us the robe of righteousness, in which we may stand before God.



Jesus, eternally rich, became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.  If the degradation of our Lord was fulfilled in all its minuteness, how much more shall the glories after that be accomplished?



He made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.’  Under the Levitical law, as soon as sin is transferred from the offender to the sacrifice, the skin is stripped off.  So here the spoils are divided among the four executioners.  The turban, the girdle, the outer coat, and the sandals, probably made up the four parts of the Saviour’s dress.  But there was yet a fifth garment - the inner one - answering to the shirt with us.  There was a peculiarity in the make of this, which prevented the soldiers from dividing it into four parts.  Each part, if torn, would have unravelled, and become useless.  They, therefore, dispose of it by lot.  In this matter they were led by their own natural choice.  They knew not that they were fulfilling God’s counsels, expressed in His book of prophecy.  But so it was.  God serves Himself of the ignorance of His enemies, as well as of the knowledge of His friends, to glorify Himself.  (1) See, then, the minuteness of prophecy; how it touches not only the things which men think great, but on the small things also.  We have to do with a God, who not only made the vast Alps, but who feathers the wings of the moth.  See how His eye is upon all that befalls his Son; and therefore on what happens to His children also.  (2) Observe its literality.  The words of the Psalmist were not true of David; yet David wrote them, as though he saw the whole proceeding (Ps. 22: 18).  Just at the proper time the coat (or shirt), whose peculiar manufacture occasioned this mode of its disposal, comes into Christ’s hands, and is worn by Him.  And the disposal of the Saviour’s raiment literally fulfils the [His] prophet’s words, or rather those of God.



Why is that statement added ? – These things therefore the soldiers did.’  It is not easy to say. Probably John (or the Holy Spirit by him) wished us to observe, how in this chief sin of man the soldiers bear a conspicuous part, to deter Christians from becoming soldiers.  The Chief Priests are the prominent ones in the plot; the soldiers in the execution of the plan.  These last are conspicuous in the mockery, and the guarding of the tomb; and chief agents in raising the false report under whose shadow of death unbelievers abide to this day.  In the earliest days of Christianity, Christians would die rather than become soldiers; for Christ’s Sermon on the Mount forbids war to the Christian (Matt. 5: 38-48).



25-27.  Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene.  Jesus, therefore, seeing His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, saith to 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.’



How many persons are noticed here? Are there three, or four?  Commentators are not agreed.  Is Mary, the wife of Cleopas,’ the same person as the sister of our Lord’s mother?’  It seems very unlikely that two sisters should be called by the same name of Mary.’  She might be Mary’s sister-in-law.



The other Evangelists notice the women’s standing afar off but here we have some standing near the cross.  This difference, probably, turns on the difference of the points of time described.  At first, while the work of crucifixion was going on, they withdrew a distance.  Towards the close these with John drew near.  Here Mary, our Lord’s mother, stands first.  This incident turns on her relationship to Christ.  It is remarkable, that it is here said of John, that Jesus loved him; while it is not said how Jesus loved His mother, or how she loved Him.



This was the time of which the aged Simeon had spoken to Mary.  Jesus was now a sign, lifted up to be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed.  This was the time when a sword pierced through her heart (Luke 2: 34, 35).  Why was this last word of the aged servant of God spoken to Mary alone?  Why not to both her and Joseph?  Because Joseph would not be there.  He had probably died many years before.  See, then, how the departure from earth sometimes hides us from the piercing of sorrows which assail survivors.  It may help, too, to fix on our memory that compendious word - the corollary of prophecy – Pray that ye may be accounted worthy to escape the things that are coming to pass.’



In general, severe pain and the approach of death swallow up all the thoughts of the sufferer.  But the Saviour in this His sore agony forgets not His mother; and provides her a home when He Himself would no longer be on earth to watch over and sustain her.



Though stripped of all, He gives her a son and a home.  How surely may widows and the destitute of Christ’s flock look to Him to provide! specially when the resources of nature are broken up.



It is to John that our Lord’s mother is confided; not to Peter.  Had it been to Peter, how surely would some have discovered in that act, that Mary represents the church, and that the Prince of the apostles is to rule it.  It is not to Mary’s protection that Christ commends John, but He commends Mary to John’s.  He heals the wound in Mary’s heart caused by His own departure, by giving her a son in His stead.



Her sons were unbelievers at that time.  Probably, therefore, they would feel the less interest in her who believed.  John accepts the charge, and cares for her as a son.  It is well for Christians in view of death to regulate their earthly affairs, and to honour their parents, if they are still alive.



But Jesus is leaving earth for His Heavenly Father’s house.  He, therefore, addresses Mary, not as Mother but as Woman.’  The Holy Spirit foresaw the tendency to the worship Mary, and interposed checks in Scripture against that awful idolatry so fearfully developed in after times, and so flourishing in Romanism.



28-30.  After this Jesus, knowing that all things were already fulfilled, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, “I thirst!”  Now a vessel of vinegar was set there; and they having filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it on hyssop, 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 His spirit.’



Men may vilify and quarrel with the Scripture, and account it ‘a mere dead letter.’  Not so our Lord!  As the word of His Father, it was of deepest moment and value to Him.  In the midst of His (dying agonies, His eye is on that.  Let us always value it, and increasingly!  He was silent about His other pains on the cross.  But respecting His thirst He was not to be silent.



His thirst was to be known, in order that the reply to His word, on His enemies’ part, might fulfil the Scripture.  As Messiah He must accomplish this.  Thirst was one of the signs of the curse, the contrary to that refreshment and pleasure which the juices of the fruit of the tree of knowledge had supplied to Adam.  Now the natural effect of the wounds of the Saviour, and the punishment of the cross was to produce a fearful thirst.  That, then, was foretold, as a part of the sufferings of our Lord* in the crucifixion-Psalm (22: 16).  The reply made to it by the Saviour’s foes was also predicted.  In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink(Psalm 69: 22).  Thus Jesus fulfilled wholly what was written byway of pointing out to us Messiah as the sufferer.  He fulfilled, as has been observed, the type of Samson in His thirst.  Only, Samson’s thirst arose out of his exertion and victory.  Jesus’ thirst came before His victory.  Let us remember, that the glorious part of the life of Samson has yet to be fulfilled by the complete deliverer of Israel!


* Thirst is also part of the foretold sufferings of the lost (Luke 16: 24).



How different the treatment of David the King, when he expressed his thirst, and longed for a draught of water out of the well at the gate of Bethlehem.  Then three mighty men burst through the Philistine host, drew him a draught of the water he desired, and brought it.  But, as bought with the peril of their lives, he would not drink it.  Life belongs to God, not to men.  But we may and should drink of the spiritual water which Christ has purchased for us by His death.  Moses, to supply Israel’s thirst, at God’s command, procured water out of the rock.  But, on the second occasion, he himself stumbled and fell, excluded thus from the hope of Israel.  Jesus in this His thirst accomplishing the Scripture shows Himself the perfect Son, fulfilling all righteousness, and mindful of His Father’s words.



In order that the vinegar might be presented to Christ, a vessel of it was standing there;-‘by accident,’ as far as men were concerned, but by ordination of God.  And in order to lift the vinegar to the Saviour’s lips, since He was suspended above them, they needed a stick.  They used, therefore, a sponge fastened to a stalk of hyssop.  The hyssop is the caper plant, which bears a woody stem from two to three feet long. Now this was also a fulfilment of Scripture.  (1) Into the burning of the red heifer, out of whose ashes mixed with water, the purification of the unclean was to be made -  wood, searlet wool, and hyssop, were to be cast (Num. 19: 6).  For the work of Christ, and of the Spirit, purges the conscience of sinners unclean before God, to serve Him.  (2) The blood of the Passover-lamb was to be stricken on the door with a bunch of hyssop.  Christ, then, is the true Passover-Lamb, by Whose blood comes deliverance from the angel’s sword of justice.  (3) The leper cleansed from his disease, was to be purged by the blood of the two birds, and by cedar-wood, scarlet, and hyssop (Lev. 14: 4, 6) dipped in the blood of the slain bird.



(4) Also at the making of the old covenant, and in connexion with the sprinkling of the blood on the people at Sinai, Moses took the blood of the calves and of the goats with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying – This is the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined to you’ (Heb. 9: 19).  But we boast of a Mediator better than Moses, Who by His own blood effects what the blood of bulls and goats cannot.  For the Law made nothing perfect; but there is the bringing in of a better hope, by which we draw nigh to God.’



We have seen how the scarlet wool and the wood enter into the sacrifice of our Lord; and here we have now the hyssop.  How naturally it takes its place in the history!  There is no effort on the part of God to introduce it.  The men of unbelief unconsciously accomplish it.  God values the smallest portion of His word.  In that He is unlike man.  The smallest jot or tittle shall in nowise pass away from Law or Prophets, till all be fulfilled.



This is a joyful word to those who are God's saved ones, walking with Himself.  He will fulfil all His promises:  He will even go beyond them.  It is a terrible word to His foes!  Let men deny as they will, the brimstone and the fire of the eternal lake of woe, both will be there!  Let men spiritualise the fire,’ and declare it is only the remorse of conscience; let them deny that eternal torment means that which ends not, yet God will fulfil His word - His written word.  Fear God, my reader!  Trust not to Satan’s whispered unbelief – Ye shall not surely die.’  For the Second [eternal] Death - the lake of fire - will be the everlasting place of those who are overtaken in impenitence and unbelief.



This point accomplished, Jesus says – It is finished!’  I do not think that this means, that the Saviour’s sacrifice was complete; for without death and the outpouring of the blood that was not finished.  Jesus had yet to die, and the Roman spear was needed to pierce His side, and pour out His blood.  But the evangelist cites the words as the Saviour’s perception, that it was the last of the prophecies of His humiliation which it was incumbent on Him actively to fulfil.  Then, His Father’s last word accomplished, He surrenders His spirit.  He came into the world to fulfil all righteousness.  He has done it.  And now death - His gracious, voluntary death - ensues.  Each step occurs exactly at its appropriate time, according to the Father’s good pleasure and prediction.



He must die.  Nothing short of that could save.  The soul that sins shall die.’  And Christ is the sinner’s substitute, the bearer of sin and its penalty.  Jesus’ life alone will not avail.  So had the Law of Eden said: ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt die.  The wages of sin is death.’



Wonderful was this voluntary death; not enforced oil our Lord without His knowledge, or against His will.  He was not driven out of the body by the thrust of disease, as some have speculated; He surrendered His soul as the priest offering the sacrifice.  Partly, as far as men’s choice were concerned, His death was enforced; but partly also His death depended on His own choice.



31-34.  The Jews therefore, in order that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath day was a great day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.  The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first and of the other that were crucified together with Him.  But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was already dead, they brake not His legs.  But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and at once came forth blood and water.’



The Jews, though careless about the greater things, were scrupulous about the ceremonial of the Law, and therefore desired that the three crucified should die earlier than usual.  They must not be taken away till dead.  They could not bear to see them on the cross during the Sabbath, their day of rest.  That Sabbath, too, was a festival Sabbath of especial holiness or greatness - the day of offering the first fruits. Hence they were more particularly anxious that this ghastly sight should not be exhibited in the face of Jerusalem, on her solemn feast.  They, therefore, desired that the deaths of the crucified might be hastened, by the legs of the criminals being broken.  It was not with any view of shortening the sufferings of those who were executed; but to spare themselves, and to fulfil the Law (Deut. 21: 22), which required that the body of the malefactor should not remain beyond sunset on the tree to which he was suspended.  Pilate, it is evident, gave permission, and the decree went forth to be executed by his soldiers.



They strain at the gnat, and swallow the camel!  Against law and justice they slay Christ, yet would keep the ceremonial law, while they broke its moral part.  They observe the Sabbath, yet killed its Lord.



Notice here - God hinders one part of their plan, and prospers another.  Let us trust our God in His providence, both for life and in death!  He knows His own mind, and will accomplish it, not only despite His enemies, but even by their hands.



Break the legs of the three crucified!’ Forth they go!  It seems as if these were a new set of soldiers, detached from the governor’s castle, armed with hammers, to break the legs of all the three.  Thus Jesus’ word to the penitent robber was fulfilled, To-day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.’  Jesus thus foretold that they two should die that day; and it accordingly came to pass; His enemies unknowingly fulfilling His words.



What follows shows us somewhat peculiar in the arrangement of the crosses.  They came to the first.’ How did they reckon the first?  Probably that on the left hand; which, perhaps, was a trifle in advance of the other.  His legs they brake, and then turned to the other, and brake his also.  These two crosses were, I judge, near together, and facing one another.  But though man had decreed that the legs of all three should be broken, God had determined otherwise, and had foretold that it should not be.  This result He effected in the simplest way.  It was understood by the soldiers, that the intent of the order was to produce death quickly, and both they and the governor supposed that all three would be alive.  The cross of Jesus, it appears, was not close to the other two, but higher up the eminence.  For it is said – When they came to Jesus.’  As they mounted, with their eyes fixed on the third cross, they saw that Jesus was dead already: by His drooped head, and by His stiffened limbs.  A soldier - man of battles - knows how to discriminate between death and life.  They then, though subject to martial discipline, and accustomed to obey to the letter, ventured to disobey in this case.  One pierced with a spear the Saviour’s side.  It is not said which side; but whichever side it was, it was a wound capable of inflicting death, had it not already occurred.  Thus we see, how exactly the Saviour’s death was timed, with a view to this result.  He would not die, while one word of His Father’s yet remained to be observed.  But neither would He remain in life any moment longer than was necessary to the fulfilment of this word of God.



But God would thus establish the reality of Christ’s death, as the foundation of our faith in the reality of Christ’s resurrection.  Had Jesus not died already, this thrust had slain Him.  This wound would prevent any return to life; even if, as some imagine without evidence, Jesus had only swooned.  Considerable was the size of the wound inflicted.  While Thomas was to put his finger only in the hole of the nails, he might put his hand into the gash made by the spear.



35.  And he that saw it hath borne witness, and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, in order that ye also may believe.’



The result of this spear-thrust was unexpected.  It would appear that its issue was miraculous.  Forthwith came out blood and water.’   The attempts at explanation of this matter are not satisfactory.  Some have affirmed that the affair was only an ordinary one; that the heart’s blood had coagulated in the body, and had separated into its two parts - the watery part (or serum) drawn off by itself, and the red clot separated from it.  But medical men (I believe) say, that the blood does not so separate while in the body.  And that, on the piercing of a corpse, blood does not flow out.



We have, then, John’s earnest commentary on the circumstance.  He expects the unbelief of many in regard to this point, and accordingly lays peculiar stress upon the certainty of it, as beheld and narrated by himself, an eye-witness close by the cross of his Lord.  If any one way be credited, it is an eye-witness. John was so.  His character for truth was good.  His testimony is true.’  But were not his senses deceived? No!  He was too near for that.  He is certain of the fact.  He testifies it here, on purpose that others may believe what he saw.



That you may believe.’  For this is testified by the Old Testament, as well as by the eye-witness John. It is essential to salvation to believe in Jesus’ death.  God has given you in the Old Testament His prophecy; and in the New His [literal] fulfilment - both the direct and the mystical.



It would seem, then, that there was something supernatural in the matter.  Probably it is referred to in the crucifixion-Psalm (Ps. 22.)  My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels(ver. 14); and again – ‘I am poured out like water.’ 



Why is John so earnest in insisting on this?  First, be it observed - that his solemn attestation does not apply to this circumstance alone, but to all the three points (perhaps more) which he has just recounted. This is proved by the citation of two passages of Scripture which were fulfilled on the present occasion: (1) the non-breaking of Jesus’ legs, though orders to that effect had been given; and (2) the piercing of His side instead, which was not ordered by man, but foretold by God.  Thus is prophecy fulfilled down to its details, as well as in its greater features.  Thus is it fulfilled by the hands of the ignorant, and enemies.



Both these things were subjects of prophecy: the one a typical prophecy, given by Moses; the other a direct prophecy, given by Zechariah.



1. The first relates to the Saviour’s legs not being broken.  ‘A bone of it shall not be broken.’  Though all sorts of indignities were experienced by the Saviour up to His death, yet as soon as death has ensued, there comes a turn in the tide of humiliation; and speedily He begins to be exalted.  The command alluded to by John is found in Exodus 12: 4, 6, in reference to the lamb of the Passover.  The same law is repeated in Numbers 9: 12, where the Passover of the second month is commanded for those who were unable to celebrate the Passover in the first month, by reason of legal uncleanness.  This was designed then to point out Jesus as the true Passover-Lamb.  The apostle supposes it in his Gospel, where John Baptist speaks of Jesus, as being the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world.  Now that law, as well as others, might have been broken by Israel ignorantly in the case of our Lord, in whom they discerned not the Passover sacrifice.  But God’s eye was on the matter, and it was fulfilled; for it depended on His vigilance.  Another passage also is concerned in the matter (Psalm 34: 20).  David therein appeals to God with thanks, because of his deliverance in one of his distresses (ver. 6).  He invites all who would behold the coming good days of the [millennial] kingdom, to speak only that which is good, and to do it.  For God is the Judge, Who by a [redeemed]  man’s words and works will in that day justify him as righteous, or condemn him as wicked.  Then follows the word in question – He keepeth all his bones (of the righteous): not one of them is broken’ (ver. 20). While, then, wicked Israel had intended to break our Lord’s bones, in that also adjudging Him to be one of the transgressors, yet God as the Governor stepped in to interfere and prevent it.  Thus He discovers to us Jesus as the Righteous One,’ all whose words and deeds pleased Him.  It was God’s hand therefore that turned aside the intended blow from His Righteous One, the true Lamb of the Passover.  And thus He distinguished Him from the two real malefactors, with whom man had associated Him.  Their ways and words were evil.  The Lord would not keep their bones.  Let them be broken!’  They saw corruption, but Jesus was distinguished from them after death also.  As the Holy One of God, He saw no corruption.



The second passage is taken from the prophets.  Zechariah, who foretold the sale of the Good Shepherd for thirty pieces of silver, and the sword’s awaking against the Man who was Jehovah’s Fellow,’ foretells also the day yet looming in the future, when all the tribes of Israel shall mourn over their fathers’ crucifixion of the Son of God, and their own attitude of unbelief, and shall be forgiven (Zech. 12: 10).



This thrust of the spear, then, which was the result of Israel’s application to Pilate to hasten the death of Him whom they crucified, is imputed to them.  And, in that day, they will own it as their sin.  It seems to me that the Greek word used signifies, Whom they pierced to death.’  Against this, of course, it is obvious to remark, ‘that Jesus was already dead, and therefore they could not pierce Him to death.’  I reply (1) first, that the piercing was not the only one, and that the Psalmist Prophet had also said, They pierced My hands and My feet,’ with the intention of putting Me to death.  (2) Secondly, that while Jesus was dead before the spear thrust Him through, yet Israel knew it not, but supposed Him to be alive, so that had He not been dead already this would have produced death.  They are responsible, therefore, for their guilty intention in the affair, though the Most High in one point disappointed them.*


* To this I add that the Greek word is generally used in the Old Testament to signify a thrusting through unto death (Judges 9: 54; Num. 22: 29)



Behold here the Lord’s foretold preparation for, and pledge of, the better day which one day shall dawn upon Israel.  They pierced Messiah.’  They shall mourn over their sin, and the Lord shall appear to them.  And then, this scar in the side of Christ shall remind them, how their nation murdered Him Who was their hope.  And that repentance of Israel is the preparation for the reign of Christ over Israel and the world (Zech. 14.)



Let us then trust the powerful Providence of our God, and the truthfulness of Scripture.



But John says nothing respecting any prophecy or any fulfilment of the third point - the blood and water issuing from the wound.  And why then is he so full of emphasis, as soon as thirst is mentioned?  1.  He is so, I believe, in order to refute some errorists of that day, and of modern days, such as the Docetists and Swedenborgians, who affirm that the body of our Lord on the cross was not a real body of flesh and blood like ours, but only a phantom!  This idea is refuted, then, by the fact that the body, pierced after death, gave forth blood and water.  It was a body of flesh, therefore; and the Evangelist stakes His truthfulness on the assertion, in order that we may believe the [Holy] Spirit of God who testifies it through Him, and may give credence to the saving of the soul.  For if Jesus did not really become man, and die in our stead, we must die in our sins, and be lost!



2. But there is another reason, which appears in John’s first Epistle.  And that Epistle, I persuade myself, was the apostle’s comment on the Gospel which he had written, and was designed to remove some objections to that, and to add some important doctrines to it.  In that Epistle, as in his Gospel, John labours to prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that He is not two persons, but one.  In his fifth chapter of the Epistle he affirms that the faith that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, is saving faith.  It makes a man a child of God, and enables him to overcome the world.  Then he adds, This is He that went through* water and blood, Jesus the Christ.  He was not in the water only, but in the water and in the blood; and the Spirit is He who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.  For three are the witnesses, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three are in favour of the unity.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God, which He hath witnessed concerning His Son’ (1 John 5: 6-8).


* Those who would pursue the subject can consult my tract, The “Three Witnesses” and my comment on John’s first Epistle – “The Trinity, the Atonement.”



This passage cannot be understood, save as the apostle’s contradiction of false doctrine then current. Some errorists at Ephesus and elsewhere, affirmed the error several times noticed here, that Jesus was the mere man, on whom the Christ (a superior spirit) came, when He was in the water of the Jordan, undergoing immersion at the hands of John.  They affirmed also that this heavenly being deserted the man Jesus, before He shed His blood on the cross.  Against this deceit then the Spirit of God testifies, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, before He passed through the water, and after His blood was poured out on the cross.



Moreover, the ordinances of baptism, and of the Lord’s Supper (‘water’ and ‘blood’) are then only binding on Christians, if it was one Divine Person who commanded them both; while the Holy Ghost had descended at Pentecost, and had inspired believers as the Spirit of Jesus Christ the Risen.  If men had asked any of the Christian Prophets Whether Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God?’ the inspired would with one voice of inspiration confess that it was so.  Evil spirits of falsehood, the spirits of Antichrist, inspired those outside the Church: the Holy Ghost, as the Spirit of truth, inspired and taught the Church of Christ.  God was responsible for the truth of all these three witnesses; and they all agreed among themselves, and were to be accepted as His witnesses.  On faith or unbelief here turned perdition or salvation; while the Spirit of Antichrist already in the world asserted, that Jesus Christ had neither come in the flesh in the past, nor would return in it at a future day.



The water and the blood refer us back to Old Testament rites.  (1) The old covenant was bound on Israel, by means of the mixture of blood and water sprinkled on the people (Heb. 9.)  (2) In the cleansing of the leper there was the employment both of blood and water.  (3) In the cleansing from defilement by the red heifer, there was first the presentation of the blood, and then the addition of water (Num. 19.)



The water and blood were a sign.  From Christ’s heart have flowed the two or three rites of His appointing.  The water belongs to baptism, and the washing of feet.  The blood belongs to the Lord’s Supper.  They are God’s witnesses to the present dispensation.



They are two out of the three Witnesses given of God.  They testify to His people of Christ’s present absence, and they call on us to believe on God’s testimony truths, which we have not seen.  So the Saviour’s bones not broken testify, that Jesus is the true Paschal Lamb.



But the second passage noted here again tells of Israel, and future dispensation.  They shall look on Me.  The Law is a thing of sight.  And Israel shall then, forgiven, be restored to their land.



38, 39.And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate permitted him.  He came, therefore, and took away the body of Jesus.  Nicodemus also came (he that came to Jesus by night in the first instance), and bore a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.  They took, therefore, the body of Jesus, and bound it in the rollers with the spices as is the manner of the Jews to bury.’



The death of the Saviour, one would have thought, would have discouraged secret disciples, and made them afraid to be known as belonging to the Crucified.  But it drew forth into the light two of them.  The first and most courageous was Joseph of Arimathaea.  He was a rich man, and was naturally slower to move, lest he should endanger his property, his reputation, and his place in the Synagogue and the Sanhedrim.  He asks permission to remove the body forfeited to the Law.  Pilate, as soon as he is assured that death has taken place, gives leave.  For now was to be fulfilled the word of the prophet, With the rich man was His tomb,’ Is. 53: 9 (Lowth).  Jesus has touched the lowest point of His humiliation, and He begins to ascend.  The body then is taken down from the tree of the curse, in order to be buried. This change marks the passage of the soul of Jesus into [the underworld of] Paradise, after His preaching to the spirits in Tartarus was accomplished [and after three days He was resurrected] (1 Peter 3: 19[; (Matt. 12: 40. cf. John 20: 17)]).



In Nicodemus we see faith and grace increasing with the advance of time.  At first he was afraid to peril his reputation on the being known to be a disciple of the strange man from Galileo.’  As the time runs on, he grows sufficiently bold, to interpose a word against the injustice and murderous designs of his follow-elders in the Sanhedrim.  But now that their enmity has fully shown itself against the Son of God, he, through grace, has become bold enough to bury with honours the body of One hated and slain by the great of his nation.  He stands forth now in the light of day, who at first came by night.  He has now seen the fulfilment of that word, As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.



He fears not the defilement of entering the Roman Praetorium.  He fears not to touch the dead, even one crucified as a malefactor.  Thus God takes the body of His Son out of the hands of the Romans, and puts it into the hands of friends.  This is grace to us; for had Jesus’ body been buried with those of the robbers, how should it have been distinguished with certainty?



He had pondered, perhaps, those words which Christ spake at His first interview, He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that are wrought in God,’ John 3: 20, 21.  God is glorified in the confession of the Son of God, by those who believe in Him.  The two friends helped one another.  Thus, too, God encourages the timid to come forth before the world, by associating together in church-fellowship the disciples of Christ.  Union is strength.’



He showed His love and zeal by the large quantity of expensive spices prepared for the Saviour’s burial. It is remarkable, that these two spices are mentioned in close juxtaposition, in the Psalm that tells of Jesus’ return as the King of Kings.  Thou lovedst righteousness and hatedst iniquity; therefore, 0 God, Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.  All Thy garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad,’ Psalm 45: 7, 8.  The two disciples disposed of the body honourably, as it was the custom to do with their kings, for instance in the case of Asa (2 Chron. 16: 14).



The two proved their faith in Jesus by their bearing disgrace and expense in order to bury the body of the Lord.  But they showed also their want of faith, in attempting to preserve from putrefaction the body which was so soon to be removed from the sepulchre.



41.  Now in the place where He was crucified was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid.  There, therefore, because of the Jews’ preparation, because the tomb was near, they laid Jesus.’



He who had no house of His own in life, has no tomb of His own in death.  But what need of a tomb for Him who rises the third day?



In the Garden sin began.  In the Garden Jesus’ hour of sorrow burst upon Him, and from it He was hurried away to death.  But now His dead body is restored to the Garden, and His first appearance in resurrection takes place there.  The tomb in the Garden shows us how death has entered with sin, to deface and pollute Paradise.  But this is a new tomb, which never has been profaned by the body of the dead.



Moreover, thus there could be no question as to the identity of the person buried, and the person who rose.  It was not like the case of the dead man, in haste let down into Elisha’s tomb, who revived from touching the prophet’s bones.



The burial of Jesus was a part of God’s plan as foretold in Scripture (Ps. 16: 9).  Thus was He to resemble the soils of men whom He came to redeem.  Thus the gloom of the tomb is removed for the believer.  Christ has opened the Paradise above, wherein is no tomb.  Burial was to be interposed between Christ’s death and resurrection; lest any should imagine that death is resurrection.  Our Christian friends’ burial-places are merely their [bodies’] sleeping chambers, till the Saviour wakes them [and their ‘souls’ are reunited to them, (See Acts 2: 26, 27, R.V.)].



The Sabbath was so near, that they had no time to bear the body to a distance.  They were glad to be able to dispose of it so readily, the tomb being close at hand beside Golgotha.  Whenever Golgotha* shall be identified at Jerusalem, the tomb will probably also be quickly discovered also.  God had thus arranged the circumstances for His own glory.  The Sabbath must be observed.  Hence, much as they revered Jesus, the tomb was left alone the next day.  The Saviour’s work of atonement to Law in life and death being thus ended, He rests in His redemption-work; as before He rested from His creation-work on the seventh day.  After it He came forth the first day of the week in a new life, beyond Law, and not to be touched by it. .


* That Golgotha should be looked for to the North of Jerusalem, seems intimated by the command to kill the burnt-offering to the north of the altar (Lev. 1: 11).



There is a future fulfilment of the law of the sin-offering, and of the burnt-offering, respectively.  The whole bullock with which the atonement of the sin-offering was made, was to be carried outside the camp into a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and was to be burnt on the wood with fire (Lev. 4: 12).  A similar command was given in the case of the burnt-offering (Lev. 6: 11).  For Christ is both our burnt-offering, as meeting God’s entire claims upon us for a perfect service, and also our atonement for sin.



Jesus [body] lay during the Sabbath in the rest of the tomb.  Law can only lead to death, and keep men there.  But on the eighth day begins a new life, beyond Law, in resurrection.  On the first day of the Creation-week, light began to be.  Now begins a new light out of the darkness of sin and death.  Jesus, the first of the select resurrection, was, according to Moses and the prophets, to announce light to the people of Israel, and to the nations (Acts 26: 13).



The morrow after the Passover-Sabbath was to be the day of the waving of the wheat-sheaf of first-fruits. And Christ is the first-fruits of the sleepers - indicating, that the whole harvest is to follow.



They laid Jesus.’  Here Scripture and our usual phrases agree, in opposition to Swedenborg and his followers.  Those errorists maintain, that the body is no lasting part of the man, that the corpse once laid in the tomb is to be allowed to decay, and never more to belong to the man; seeing that the spirit-state is the eternal state of men.  Hence, such errorists could never call the buried corpse, the man.’  But Scripture, indited by the Holy Ghost, does.  They laid Jesus in the tomb!



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