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way to secure lasting fame; for, although our characters may suffer for a while, we may safely leave it to time, and to the good sense of mankind, to do justice to our motives.
John xix. 19–30. In the last section we left Jesus nailed to the cross : we are now called to attend to his dying behaviour upon it.
19. And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross : and the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the
Jews. . After what we have read of the reluctance of Pilate to condemn Jesus upon this charge, no one can suppose that he was at last convinced that it was well founded, and that on that account he ordered him to be crucified and to have this inscription upon his cross. But as it was customary with the Romans to put some title, he chose to put one that contained the crime imputed to Jesus, although he thought him innocent.
20. This title then read many of the Jews; for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city, and it was written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin.
Jerusalem, at the time of the passover, was resorted to by Jews of every nation: this made it necessary to have the inscription in different languages; in such, at least, as were generally spoken.
21. Then said the chief priests of Vol. 2.)
the Jews 'to Pilate, Write not " the king of the Jews;" but that he said, I am king of the Jews.
The words of the inscription might imply that Jesus was acknowledged by the Jews as their king, in which case his crucifixion might be regarded as an insult to the whole Jewish nation. The chief priests, there. fore, desire him to alter it, but without success.
22. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
What I have written I will not change: he probably thought that altering the inscription would detract from his dignity, and therefore refused to comply.
23. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, his outward garment or cloak, and made four parts, to every soldier a part, the cloak was formed of four parts; and also his coat, an under garment or waistcout, without sleeves: now the coat, " the vest,” was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
This garment, so curiously wrought, was probably the present of some friend, who took this method of expressing his respect for the character of Jesus.
24. They said, therefore, among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it whose it shall be ; that the scripture might be fulfilled which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast
lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
These words are found in Ps. xxii. 18. and are applied by David to his enemies, who were so set upon spoil, and so sure of his destruction, that they cast lots for his garments before they had overcome him. I have already had occasion to observe to you that the words, “ that the scripture might be fulfilled,” are not to be understood as asserting that the words of scripture referred to were originally delivered as a prophecy of the event to which they are applied, but, that being originally intended for something else, they may, by way of accommodation, be applied to this: just as if he had said, thus the words of scripture are fulfilled. If any one, however, thinks that the words quoted cannot with any propriety be applied to the enemies of David, he will consider them as intended for the enemies of Christ and as prophetic of their temper.
25. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
Matthew says that they stood afar off, yet it appears that they were not so far off as not to be within sight.
26. When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother and the disciple standing by whom he loved, the apostle John, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son, him to whom thou art to look for protection and support.
27. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother.
Behold her to whom thou art to behave with the tenderness and respect due to one in that relation.
From this story it has been justly concluded that Joseph, the husband of Mary and the father of Jesus, was now dead; for Mary would not otherwise have stood in need of any other protection. It may also, I think, be inferred that our Lord's brethren did not believe in him; for if they had, and had been his disciples, there would have been no occasion to recommend their mother to a stranger. We are not surprised to find that a recommendation from such a quarter proved successful.
And from that hour," from that time," that disciple took her unto his own home.
28. After this Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
This thirst was the natural consequence of a great loss of blood and of the fatigue which he had undergone, as well before he was crucified as after that event. The evangelist, however, tells us that Jesus did not utter these words to complain of his sufferings; for had he been disposed to complain he had something more grievous to mention; but with the expectation that he should give occasion hereby to the fulfilment of a certain prophecy relating to himself, which expectation was founded upon the fulfilment of many other prophecies in his own person. The words, knowing that all things were accomplished, are not to be understood as if every prediction respecting Jesus had already been accomplished, for there were some predictions on the subject of his resurrection, which had not yet taken place, and the prophecy here referred to must be allowed, at that time at least, to be unfulfilled; but they are to be taken generally, and with some limitation, so as to imply that most of the predictions which related to the character which he
should maintain while on earth were fulfilled, and that this would complete their number.
29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar, and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, that is, fastened it to a twig of that plant, and put it to his mouth.
The liquor given to Jesus to drink upon the cross is supposed by Dr. Lardner to be vinegar and water, the common liquor of the Roman soldiers, and brought here for their use while they watched over the body. This Jesus received, though he had refused the potion of vinegar and myrrh or gall, mentioned by Matthew xxvii. 34. which was probably offered to him as a stu. pifying draught.
30. When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost, or, as it would be better rendered, “ expired.”
The English words, gave up the ghost, seem to im. ply that Jesus dismissed his spirit, and that his doing so was voluntary; but the expressions in the original convey no such idea, and are no other than what are used to express the dying of other persons, and are equivalent to the phrases expiring, or breathing the last, in our own language. The bowing of the head was an involuntary act, and a symptom of death. It appears, however, that Jesus retained possession of his faculties to the last; for the preceding moment, having received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; meaning hereby, My sufferings are ended; I am about to be delivered from them.