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1. We are here called to witness the last instance of the patience and fortitude of Jesus: dreadful indeed was the cup which he had now to drink; shame and pain and death in the worst form. No wonder that he was agitated and appalled by the prospect of such sufferings; no wonder that he prayed so earnestly that they might pass from him. He must have been something superior to human nature, if he could have beheld them with indifference. But when the hour of trial arrives, although his pains must have tortured him to agony, although they were increasing in violence, till death put an end to them; yet not a word of reproach upon his enemies, not a murmur against the wisdom or justice of Providence, falls from his lips; he is perfectly calm and resigned while hanging upon the cross, and can attend to the wants of others as well as his own: happy are they who can say, as Christ does, that their sufferings are finished, without cause for self reproach; who have passed through a long course of bodily pain or sickness, without having their minds disturbed or their patience exhausted. It is a proof of no small attainment in virtue. It is a pledge of no inconsiderable reward.
2. The crucifixion of Christ affords an instructive example of affection between friends. It is much to the honour of John that he followed his master to the cross, when deserted by the rest of his disciples; but it is more to the honour of these women that they followed him in the like circumstances: shocking to the
'feelings of a mother was the spectacle which Mary beheld; a beloved son, endeared to her by natural affection, and still more by every quality which is great and excellent, suspended by nails to a cross, dying by the lingering tortures of crucifixion, and the object of 0
scorn and reproach to all that.passed by. She was surely actuated by something more than natural affection, when she could desire to witness such a sight; by a principle of religion and a sense of duty; by a desire to bear testimony to the unblemished character and divine mission of a slandered and persecuted prophet. This induced her to stifle the feelings of nature, and to disregard the scorn of the multitude, while she resolved to attend her son in the last moments of life.
Deservedly was this instance of courage and attachment repaid by the attention of Jesus. Behold thy mother, says he to his beloved disciple. There is an incomparable delicacy and propriety in these words; to have said more, would have wounded the feelings of a friend. A word or a look from such a quarter had all the force of command. Can we help admitting the benevolence of Jesus, who, while tortured with the agonies of crucifixion, can forget his own sufferings, to think of the forlorn condition of an aged and unprotected parent? Let children learn hence that they are bound to provide for their parents, when old and unable to provide for themselves: this is no more than a common return of gratitude for favours received from them in their tender years; and hard and unfeeling must be the man who will do nothing to shelter the infirmities of those who have so often sheltered his own. This is a duty reasonable in itself, and sanctioned by the example of the Saviour, the last moments of whose life were occupied in performing it.
3. The death and crucifixion of Christ may teach us not to judge of men by their external circumstances. The greatest prophet and most excellent character whom the world ever beheld, was a person of mean origin and destitute circumstances; was apprehended, tried, condemned and crucified, as the vilest malefactor. The greatest friend of the human race is treated as their greatest enemy: the Son of God and favorite of Heaven, as a blasphemer. Let us learn hence to form our opinions of men's characters from their temper and behaviour, and not from the treatment which they meet with from the world. Judging by this rule, we shall often find merit where we least expected it, and discover that many of those who have been persecuted and put to death by the powers of this world, were the honours of human nature and the benefactors of mankind.
John xix. 31. to the end.
31. The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation, that is, for the sabbath, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day; (for that sabbath was a high day;) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
The punishment of crucifixion, although a very painful was not a speedy death; for it frequently happened that the criminal lingered a long time upon the cross, sometimes three days and even five. The law of the Jews, however, did not permit them to expose, for so long a time as a night, a criminal who had been executed, but required that he should be taken down and buried the same day. Deut. xxi. 22, 23. To suffer him to remain there a longer time, they are told, would defile the land. To prevent this violation of their law upon the present occasion, especially on so solemn day as that which was approaching, a sabbath which fell in the days of unleavened bread, they requested Pilate that the persons crucified might have their legs broken, that the fresh effusion of blood brought on by this violence might more speedily produce death. The preparation for the sabbath was a
few hours before it Commenced, from three o'clock in the afternoon till six, in which time the Jew* used to lay aside their usual occupations, in order to prepare for that solemnity. The reason why it is here mentioned is not because they considered the sanctity of that time violated by the person's hanging upon the cross, but because its arrival reminded them of the approach of the sabbath.
32. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first and of the other which was crucified with him:
33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.
34. But one of the soldiers with a spear, pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water.
This action of the soldier was intended to accom* plish with certainty what seemed to be already effected, and, no doubt, would have produced death, if it had not yet taken place. The water which accompanied the blood, some suppose to come from the pericardium, a membrane which surrounds the heart, and in which there is a small quantity of this fluid. But others, thinking that this quantity of water in the pericardium is too inconsiderable to produce the effect here mentioned, have supposed that it came from the thorax, in which, we are told, a great quantity of serum, that is, of the watry part of the blood, is found when a person dies of torture, as Christ did.
35. And he that saw it bare record that ye might believe, and his record is true, and he knoweth that he saith true.
VoL 2.] 4 F
I have changed the order of the words in this verse", in order to render the meaning more clear. The writer, although he uses the third person, is generally understood to speak of himself, and to assert that, having been an eye-witness of the fact, he could affirm i\ with certainty. As it was of importance to ascertain the resurrection, and consequently the death of Jesus,. the evangelist drops his narrative, in order to give the' evidence for it.
36. For these things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken,
The passage of scripture here referred to, Ex, xii. 46. is nothing more than the direction given the Jews respecting the manner in which the paschal lamb was to be eatpn; in doing it a bpne of him was not to be broken. Not the slightest intimation is. given that this prohibition was enjoined in order to render this lamb a type of Christ; which furnishes us with a proof, as well as many other instances, that passages in the Old Testament are applied to Christ and to the Christian dispensation by way of accommodation, and that the words, that the scriptures might be fulfilled, do not always imply the accomplishment of the prediction, but merely a correspondence between the words of scripture and the event to which it is applied.
37. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
These words, as used by the prophet Zechariah, are applied to the Supreme Being in a metaphorical sense, who is said tp be pierced or wounded, because he was ill treated by the Jews. When applied, therefore, to the piercing of Christ's side with a spear, it can only be by way of accommodation; just in the same manner as the passage in the preceding verse.