CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY.
--MAY 26, MARK 15:22-37;--MATT. 27:31-66;
LUKE 23:26-56; JOHN 19:16-42.--
Golden Text--"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."--Rom. 5:8.
VERSE 22. The sentence of crucifixion having been obtained, the excited mob, inspired with Satanic zeal, hurried the prisoner to the place of execution, which was reached about nine o'clock Friday morning. What an awful night he had passed! Beginning with the sad scenes of the last supper with his disciples, call to mind the agony of Gethsemane, the hurried march to Annas, then to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod and back again to Pilate; how during all the night he was most shamefully treated.-- mocked, buffeted, spit upon, reviled, ridiculed, falsely accused and finally crowned with cruel thorns and scourged.
After such experiences it seems marvelous that any vitality remained for the ordeal of crucifixion. It would seem that the intense and long continued nervous strain and weariness and physical suffering would have exhausted the forces of nature; but our Lord, as a perfect man, had extraordinary powers of endurance, though he had voluntarily sacrificed much of physical strength in the labors of his ministry. That he was greatly exhausted, however, is manifest from the fact that the bearing of his cross to the place of crucifixion was imposed upon another.--Luke 23:26.
Verse 23. Wine mingled with myrrh was offered as an anaesthetic to relieve the sense of pain. It is said that some of the women of Jerusalem undertook this office of mercy on behalf of criminals to be executed by the terrible methods of the Romans. Jesus acknowledged the kindness of the offer by tasting it, but declined it further, preferring to have his mind awake and clear to the last. Had he taken it, we should have missed the tenderness which committed his mother to the care of John, and those last words so full of meaning to us--"It is finished." And Peter would have missed the look of sorrow that reminded him of the Lord's love and of his disappointment in him, that quickly called him to repentance, and we should all have failed to realize how much the Lord's thoughts were upon others even amidst the agonies of such a horrible death.
Verses 25-28. The crucifixion occurred at about nine o'clock A.M., and ended in death at 3 P.M., the circumstance of the company of the two thieves being in fulfilment of Isa. 53:12--"He was numbered with the transgressors."
The saying of the mocking priests and scribes, "He saved others; himself he cannot save,"--had indeed a deeper significance than they realized. He could not save others and save himself too; for only by the sacrifice of himself could he hope to save others; and therefore it was that he bore the penalty of our sins in his own body on the tree; that of himself he laid down his life, which no man had power to take from him except as he permitted it, which willing permission was so manifest in his conduct--in knowingly receiving the betrayer's kiss in Gethsemane; in freely surrendering himself to the Roman soldiers; in maintaining [R1815 : page 123] silence in the presence of his accusers; in freely confessing before them his claims of Messiahship, which they counted blasphemy; in silently accepting the sentence of crucifixion without an effort or a word in self-defence. Truly, "as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." Why? Because he desired to save others, and knew that their salvation required the sacrifice of himself.
And so, as the Prophet (Isa. 53:5,12) declared, "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our [R1816 : page 123] iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." "He poured out his soul unto death,...and bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Oh, what love, what fortitude was here displayed! Yet men "esteemed him smitten of God and afflicted." And this was probably one of the severest of our Lord's trials--to be esteemed as an offender against God and as under the divine wrath.
In the same way the afflictions of the Lord's people are often misinterpreted by the world, as well as by the unthoughtful among professed Christians. But let such consider that "the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord;" that all who will live godly shall suffer persecution; that during this age evil is in the ascendancy, and therefore the righteous suffer; that Satan is the prince of this world; and that until he is bound righteousness shall not be exalted. This is the time for the righteous --the embryo Kingdom of heaven--to suffer violence, and when the violent may take it by force. And if Christ our Lord and Head thus suffered, let all who suffer with him for righteousness' and truth's sake be comforted with the same divine assurance that comforted him. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him;...and he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday."--Psa. 37:6,7.
Some of the friends of the Lord were also present on this occasion with their love and sympathy--Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and other women who followed the mob, some of whom probably offered the wine and myrrh, to whose weeping and bewailing Jesus replied, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children; ...for if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:27-31.) This he said in reference to the atrocities which should mark the overthrow of their nation and the destruction of Jerusalem, which would display the same wicked spirit which was then being manifested toward him. And it was even so; for the troubles upon that people were not alone from enemies without, but also from civil strife; for every man's hand was against his neighbor. It is said that at the time of the siege of Jerusalem hundreds of Jews were crucified at once, and left hanging in sight of the city walls.
Verses 33,34. The darkness that brooded over the land from the sixth to the ninth hour seems to have been a supernatural darkness; for an eclipse of the sun was impossible during the full moon of the passover time. It was doubtless sent as an expression of the divine wrath, and as typical of the darkness of alienation from God into which that long favored nation had plunged by this act.
The expression of verse 34manifests the dread realization of imminent death. Jehovah's sustaining power must necessarily be withdrawn and the bitter dregs of the cup of suffering be drained to make the sacrifice complete. But when the heart and flesh failed, it was difficult to realize the significance of this: hence the startled inquiry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Through all his sufferings the divine grace had thus far sustained him, but now he must sink beneath the rod and be cut off from the favor of Him in whose favor is life, that so, by his stripes, we might be healed.
Verse 37. This last cry, which summoned and exhausted all the remaining vitality was the last triumph of victorious faith. Though he realized that the divine favor, which had always hitherto sustained his being, must now be withdrawn because he stood in the sinner's place as the vicarious sin-offering, faith, still anchored to the promises of God to be realized beyond the vail of the flesh, sweetly and confidently commended his being to the Father. This the Apostle Peter tells all them to do who suffer for righteousness' sake, saying, "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator."--1 Pet. 4:19.