Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong…
(with Luke 23:34): — Here prophecy and history unite in taking us to the place which is called Calvary.
I. IN WHAT LIGHT SHOULD WE REGARD THESE WORDS?
II. WHAT IS THE REQUEST? For whom? "Forgive them," those who were the instruments and agents in His crucifixion. These were —
1. The people.
2. The chief priests and scribes.
3. The rulers.
4. The soldiers.
5. The Roman governor.
6. The passers-by, who were reviling Him.
7. Those who were crucified with Him, joining in the mockery and jests.What is the plea by which the petition is urged? "They know not what they do." Not one of them knew the full extent of the crime. Not even the disciples could have estimated the guilt of the people (Acts 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:6). There was only One, even the Sufferer Himself, who could view that sin in all its manifold complications, and hold evenly and righteously the scales of judgment.
III. WHAT A SPIRIT OF LOVE THESE WORDS BREATHE! Their self-forgetfulness is wonderful. The sin of those thus wronging the Saviour was a far greater cause of distress to Him than all the degradation, ignominy, and pain He was enduring; on these things He could be altogether silent, in order to plead for the forgiveness of others sin. We see here, too, a love which, rising above human repulsiveness and guilt, ever regards itself as sent to save; a love which would carry on a redeeming work, even when stretched in agony on the Cross. Here, too, is not only the love of One, whose saving energy could neither be repulsed nor trammelled, but of One who, though He is most fully acquainted with the greatness of their guilt, pleads before Him, to whom sin is an abominable thing, the mitigation of their crime. Truly, it is a marvel of comfort that He, who judges sin most exactly, deals with the sinner most tenderly! Here, too, is Divine love making intercession for the transgressors; not for the good, but for the bad; not for the penitent, but for the impenitent; that they may be brought to repent; showing us. how Christ's love goes after men always, under all circumstances, in the lowest depths of guilt. Nevertheless, Divine love so pleads, as to imply that if this sin had been committed with full understanding of its enormity, He dared not have asked for its forgiveness. "For they know not what they do." Thus the spirit of this prayer has its terrors as well as its comforts. "There is a sin unto death," for which the Redeemer does not intercede, and for which we have no commission or authority to pray. Where that sin lies, what is its precise character, whether this or that man has committed it, we dare not say. We can tell four things about it: — we know the region in which it lies, the sign it has been committed, the sign it has not been committed, and why there is no mercy for it. Where one who has the fullest light indulges in the greatest sin, he is getting very near the unpardonable sin. The sign that it has been committed, would be hard, final, impenitence. True repentance is a sure sign it has not been committed. It is not pardonable, because at such a stage the sinner will not repent.
IV. WHAT ARE THE DOCTRINES THESE WORDS INVOLVE?
1. They teach us that the Father saves us through the Son.
2. That sins of ignorance need forgiveness. Paul sinned "ignorantly in unbelief," and yet was the "chief of sinners."
3. Whatever palliation of guilt may be allowed, owing to ignorance, full recognition is taken thereof by the great Intercessor.
4. We are taught that the fuller the light the greater the sin (Hebrews 10:26, 27).
5. That forgiveness of sin, by God, is so precious to us, because it is made over to us in. perfect knowledge of every aggravation and mitigation.
V. WHAT RESULTS DID THIS INTERCESSION SECURE? We are sure that this prayer was answered. It did not indeed avert the destruction of the doomed city, but —
1. It secured the forgiveness of every penitent who might be, nevertheless, involved in its temporal disasters.
2. The Great Pleader's work soon proved its power in the salvation of the thief on the Cross, and shortly after of thousands more.
3. By means of the intercession of our Lord, begun on earth, and now carried on in heaven, we are "not under the law, but under grace."
(C. Clemance, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
WEB: Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.