John 19:17

I. THE CRUCIFIXION AND ACCOMPANYING EVENTS,

1. The words of the Creed. The words of the Creed, "crucified under Pontius Pilate," are familiar to almo







And He bearing His cross went forth.
I. BEARING THE CROSS FOR HIMSELF (Isaiah 63:3).

1. An aggravation of His misery.

2. An intensifying of their sin.

3. A heightening of His love.

4. An enlargement of their hope.

II. BEARING THE CROSS FOR US.

1. As an expiation of our guilt (Colossians 1:20; Colossians 2:14).

2. As a pattern for our life (1 Peter 2:21).

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

(Text, and Mark 15:20, 21): —

1. When our Lord had been condemned, the execution of His sentence was hurried. Every moment of delay was wearisome to the Jews. It was the day of the passover, and they wished to have this matter finished before they went with hypocritical piety to celebrate the festival. We do not wonder at their eagerness; but at Pilate we do wonder. In all civilized countries there is usually an interval between the sentence and the death. As the capital sentence is irreversible, it is well to have a little space in which possible evidence may be forthcoming, which may prevent the fatal stroke. With the Romans it was usual to allow the reasonable respite of ten days. Now Pilate might have pleaded this; and he was culpable, as he was all along, in thus yielding to the clamour for an immediate execution. When once we begin to make the wishes of other men our law we know not to what extremity of criminality we may be led.

2. Being given over to death, our Saviour was led away outside the city.(1) Because by the Jews He was treated as a flagrant offender who must be executed at the Tyburn of the day. Alas! Jerusalem, thou didst cast out thy last hope.(2) Because He was to be consumed as a sin-offering. The sweet-savour offerings were presented upon the altar, and were accepted of God, but sin-offerings were burnt without the camp or gate, because God can have no fellowship with sin.(3) Because He died, not for Jerusalem, nor Israel alone, but for the race. Out in the open He must die, to show that He reconciled both Jews and Gentiles unto God.(4) That we might go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. "Come ye out from among them," &c.

3. Let us draw near our Lord for awhile, and carefully observe each instructive detail.

I. HIS DRESS.

1. The crown of thorns. Jesus died a crowned monarch. The Man by whom we are redeemed is crowned with that product of the earth which came of the curse.

2. He was bound. By Roman custom criminals were bound with cords to the cross which they were doomed to carry. "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar."

3. Jesus wore His own clothes —(1) For identification, that all who looked on might know that it was the same person who had preached in their streets and had healed their sick.(2) That there might be a fulfilment of prophecy. "They parted My garments among them," &c. Other raiment could readily have been rent and divided.(3) To indicate that our Lord's passion was a true and natural part of His life; He died as He lived. His death was not a new departure, but the completion of a life of self-sacrifice, and so He goes to die in His ordinary everyday garments. Does not it almost seem as if people put on their Sunday clothes because they regard religion as something quite distinct from their common life? Can we not wear our own clothes, habits, characteristics, and peculiarities and serve the Lord? Is there not some suspicion of unnaturalness in services which require men to put on a strange, outlandish dress? It is ill for a man when he cannot lead his fellows in prayer till he has gone to the wardrobe.

II. HIS COMPANY.

1. The rough Roman soldiers, strong, muscular, unfeeling men, ready to shed blood at any moment. I do but bid you look at them to remind you that from beneath their eagle our Saviour won a trophy; for their centurion confessed, "Certainly this was the Son of God."

2. Two malefactors. He must not be separated from the basest of men. I mention them because our Lord won a trophy by the conversion of one of them.

3. The scribes and Pharisees and high priests. Their hate was insatiable, but it was accompanied with fear, and that night it was seen that Christ had conquered them, for they begged a guard to prevent their victim from leaving the tomb.

4. A great rabble. The same, who a week ago shouted, "Hosanna!" The Lord endured the popular scorn as He had once received the popular acclamation. He lived above it all.

5. Kindly women.

6. We must now leave the company, but not till we have asked, Where are His disciples? Where is Peter? Did he not say, "I will go with Thee to prison and to death"? Where is John? Holy women are gathering, but where are the men? Though the women act like men, the men act as women.

III. HIS BURDEN. Our Lord carried His own cross at the commencement of the sorrowful pilgrimage. This —

1. Increased His shame. It was a custom of the Romans to make felons bear their own gibbet. Furcifer, "gallows bearer," was hissed at men in contempt, just as "gallows-bird" is now.

2. Note next its weight.

3. There was a typical evidence about this. If Simon had carried Christ's cross all the way, we should have missed the type of Isaac, who carried the wood for his own sacrifice.

4. The spiritual meaning of it was that Christ in perfect obedience was then carrying the load of our disobedience.

5. It also has a prophetic meaning; that cross which He carried through Jerusalem shall go through Jerusalem again. It is His great weapon with which He conquers and wins the world. "The government shall be upon His shoulder;" that which He bore on His shoulder shall win obedience, and they that take His yoke upon them shall find rest unto their souls.

IV. HIS CROSS-BEARER.

1. He was pressed into this duty. The word used signifies that the person is impressed into the royal service, How often has a burden of sorrow been the means of bringing men to the faith of Jesus!

2. His name was Simon; and where was that other Simon? What a silent but strong rebuke this would be to him, "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Simon Peter lost a crown here, and another head wore it.

3. Simon was a Cyrenian — an African — I wonder if he was a black man. In Acts 13., we find mention of a Simeon that was called Niger, or black. Surely the African has had his full share of cross-bearing for many an age. Blessed be he, whether African or Englishman, that has the honour of bearing the cross after Christ.

4. He was coming in from the country. How often the Lord takes into His service the unsophisticated country people, who as yet are untainted by the cunning and the vice of the city.

5. He was the Father of Alexander and Rufus. Which is the greater honour to a man, to have a good father, or to be the father of good sons? Under the Old Testament rule we usually read of a man that he is the son of such a one, but here we come to another style.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Our Lord, when a workman in the carpenter's shop at Nazareth, had willingly carried pieces of timber in the service of His foster-father. Here, with no less cheerfulness, He bears to Golgotha the timber of the cross, in order to raise the altar on which He is to be sacrificed, and to do the will of His Father in heaven.

(R. Besser, D. D.)

I. THE CROSS IS THE POWER OF GOD FOR EXPOSING SIN AND FOR SUBDUING THE SINFUL HEART. What will sin do? Show us this and you give us the best exposition of sin. This gospel story tells us that sin crucified the Son of God. But the Cross, as we have said, is God's power for subduing the sinful heart. The subduing power of the fact that we crucified Christ, our best Friend, may be illustrated by an incident which Bronson Alcott relates as having taken place in his school. He made it a law that all offences should be punished in order that the authority of the school might be kept inviolate. The punishment of offences he decreed should be borne by himself He intended to put every offending scholar under the power of this thought, "I made my friend and teacher suffer." So much for the law of the school; let us see how it worked. Mr. Alcott gives us this instance: "One day I called before me a pupil, eight or ten years of age, who had violated an important regulation of the school. All the pupils were looking on, and they knew what the rule of the school was. I put the ruler into the hand of the offending pupil and extended my hand. I bade him strike. The instant the boy saw my extended hand and heard my command, I saw a struggle begin in his face. A light sprang up in his countenance. A new set of shuttles seemed to be weaving a new nature within him. I kept my hand extended. The school was in tears. The boy struck once, and he himself burst into tears. I constantly watched his face, and he seemed in a bath of fire which was giving him a new nature. He had a different mood toward the school and toward the violated law. The boy seemed transformed by the idea that I should take chastisement in the place of his punishment."

II. THE CROSS GIVES US A STANDING EXHIBITION OF THE WAY IN WHICH SOME MEN TREAT CHRIST. I wish to speak especially of the soldiers at the cross, who are an ancient type of a modern class. They gamble for tim seamless robe of Christ. To them the garments of Christ were everything, but Christ Himself was nothing. They prize the garments but despise Christ. When Christ was within the robe, it had healing virtue; but when Christ was crucified it had no healing, life-giving power whatever. There are multitudes to-day who are like these soldiers. For example, there are crowds of citizens in this republic who glory in the civil rights which our national fathers bequeathed, but they hate and crucify the Christ of our fathers. It was under the inspiration of Christ that our fathers sacrificed and fought for the rights which they bequeathed. If there had been no Christ, there would have been no Plymouth Rock Pilgrims in Massachusetts. There is no fact more patent in history than this: American freedom owes its origin to Christ. Yet there are Americans by the thousand who would take the freedom and crucify the Christ. But what is freedom disassociated from Christ? What is it worth in comparison with the freedom which throbs with the life of Christ? Freedom, when it is a robe with the living Christ in it, will cure and keep in life the nations which touch its hem; but freedom, when it is a robe torn from Christ, will let the nations die even while they handle it, own it, and boast about it. We needed Christ to procure our liberty and we need Christ to secure our liberty.

III. THE CROSS WITH ITS SACRIFICE FOR SIN OPENS UP TO US THE ONLY WAY OF SALVATION.

(David Gregg.)

The Rev. C. Simeon, in conversation with a friend, once said, "Many years ago, when I was an object of much derision in this university, I strolled forth one day afflicted, with my little testament in my hand. I prayed earnestly to my God that He would comfort me with some cordial from His Word, and that on opening the book I might find some text which should sustain me. The first text which caught my eye was this, 'They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name,' &c. You know Simon is the same as Simeon. What a world of instruction was here! What a blessed hint for my encouragement! To have the cross laid upon me that I might bear it after Jesus. What a privilege! It was enough. Now I could leap and sing for joy as one whom Jesus was honouring with a participation in His sufferings."

(W. Baxendale.)

Christian at Work.
At a large Sunday-school anniversary it was found that the speakers expected had failed, and none were ready to take their places. After some singing the meeting became dull, and the interest seemed to be dying out. The superintendent, who had set his heart on success, was anxious, and at a loss to know what to do, but finally gave a general invitation to the scholars to repeat any texts or hymns they had learned. He was pleasantly answered, but only for a short time. Eventually a boy of Jewish caste, with piercing eyes, in the midst of deep silence rose and repeated: "Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee," &c., in a voice so thrilling as to move the whole audience. Many eyes were moist, for the story of the young Jew was known. His father had told him he must either leave the Sunday-school or quit home for ever; and the hymn showed what he had given up to follow Christ. The meeting was inspired with new life. Friends gathered round him at the close, and business men united in securing him a situation by which he could earn his own living.

(Christian at Work.)

I. UNDER THE CROSS (ver. 17).

1. The weary pilgrim — Jesus.

(1)Exhausted by the agony and the subsequent excitement.

(2)Suffering through the scourging.

(3)Burdened with the weight of the cross, the upright lying along His back, the transverse fastened to His fettered hands.

(4)Degraded by the white tablet borne before Him, or suspended from His neck, proclaiming His alleged crime.

2. The varied attendance — robbers, soldiers, &c.

3. The sorrowful way.

II. UPON THE CROSS. Jesus in the midst, numbered with transgressors (ver. 18), arrived at Golgotha. The cross was —

1. Furnished with its victim. As it lay upon the sward, with nails driven through His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Luke 24:40), He prayed (Luke 23:34).

2. Upraised to its position. Suspended by His hands and feet, His body resting on an upright peg, our Lord was exhibited a spectacle of woe — the priests and people mocking His misery.

3. Set in the midst. On either side a crucified robber proclaimed Him the worst of the three.

III. ABOVE THE CROSS. The title (ver. 19).

1. Its conspicuous position — seen by all.

2. Its threefold language — to be read by all.

3. Its providential use — to attest —

(1)Christ's true humanity, "Jesus of Nazareth."

(2)His Messianic dignity: "King of the Jews."

(3)Israel's sin: they had crucified their Sovereign.

(4)The world's hope: Israel's rejected Messiah was the Saviour of men.

IV. BENEATH THE CROSS. Gambling for the Saviour's clothes, the soldiers fulfilled prophecy (vers. 23, 24).

1. Heartless cruelty.

2. Moral insensibility.

3. Appalling criminality.

4. Unconscious instrumentality.

V. NEAR THE CROSS. The Galilean women: the post of love (ver. 25).

1. Their names.(1) Mary, the mother of Jesus. True to her motherhood she was there to be pierced (Luke 2:35).(2) Mary's sister, Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and mother of the Evangelist, who was thus Christ's cousin, which may account for the mental and spiritual affinity between them.(3) Mary, the wife of Clopas, or Alphaeus, the mother of James the less and Joses.(4) Mary Magdalene.

1. Their position by the cross, marking —

(1)Their courage — not afraid of crowd or soldiers.

(2)Their fidelity in contrast to the male disciples.

(3)Their affection.

(4)Their sympathy — intending to console Him, as they doubtless did.

(5)Their privilege — a gracious opportunity of hearing His last words.Lessons:

1. The completeness of Christ's obedience (Philippians 2:8).

2. The depth of His humiliation (Isaiah 53:12).

3. The reality of His atoning work (2 Corinthians 5:21).

4. The certainty of His Messiahship, proved by the title.

5. The moral insensibility to which depraved natures may sink (Ephesians 4:19).

6. The heroism of women when inspired by faith and love (Daniel 11:32).

7. The startling contrasts of life — the soldiers and the women.

8. The power which still lies in the Cross to reveal human hearts.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

A place called the place of a skull, which is in Hebrew Golgotha. — Two explanations of the term are given.

1. That it was the spot where executions ordinarily took place, and therefore abounded in skulls; but according to the Jewish law, these must have been buried, and therefore were no more likely to confer a name on the spot than any other part of the skeleton. In this case, too, the language would have to be plural instead of singular.

2. That the form of the spot was bold, round, and skull-like, and therefore a mound or hillock in accordance with the common phrase, for which there is no direct authority, "Mount Calvary." Whichever of these is the correct explanation, Golgotha seems to have been a known spot — outside the gate (Hebrews 13:12), but close to the city (ver. 20); apparently near a thoroughfare on which there were passers by. This road or path led out of the "country," and was probably the ordinary spot for executions. Why should it have been otherwise? To those who carried the sentence into effect Christ was but an ordinary criminal, and there is not a word to indicate that the soldiers in "leading Him away" went to any other than the usual place for what must have been a common operation. A tradition at one time prevailed that Adam was buried in Golgotha, and that from his skull it derived its name, and that at the crucifixion the drops of Christ's blood fell on the skull and raised Adam to life. The skull commonly introduced in early pictures of the Crucifixion refers to this.

(Sir G. Grove.)

is consecrated by three chapels of different sects. An opening, faced with silver, shows the spot where the cross is said to have been sunk in the rock, and less than five feet from it is a long brass open-work slide over a cleft in the rock which is about six inches deep, but is supposed by the pilgrims to reach to the centre of the earth. This is said to mark the rending of the rocks at the Crucifixion. But there is an air of unreality over the whole scene, with its gorgeous decorations of lamps, mosaics, pictures, and gilding; nor could I feel more than the gratification of my curiosity in the midst of such a monstrous aggregation of wonders. Faith evaporates when it finds so many demands made upon it. When it is assured that within a few yards of each other are the scene of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac; that of the appearance of Christ to Mary; the stone of anointing; the place where the angels stood at the Resurrection; the tombs of our Lord, Joseph, and Nicodemus; the column to which our Lord was bound; His prison; the burial place of Adam; the tree in which the goat offered instead of Isaac was caught, and much else.

(Cunningham Geikie, D. D.)

There is little in the New Testament to fix its exact position, though Hebrews 13:12 is enough to prove that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not on the true site. The name Golgotha may well have referred to the shape of the ground, and, if this be so, a spot reminding one of a skull must be sought outside the city. It must, besides, be near one of the great roads (Mark 15:29). That Joseph carried the body to his own tomb, hewn out in the rock, and standing in the midst of the garden, requires further that Calvary should be found near the great Jewish cemetery of the time. This lay on the north side of Jerusalem. Now, just here, outside the Damascus gate is a knoll or swell which fulfils all these conditions. Rising gently towards the north its slowly rounded top might easily have obtained, from its shape, the name of "a skull." This spot has been associated from the earliest times with the martyrdom of Stephen, who could only have been stoned at the usual place of public execution. And this is fixed by local tradition as "the Place of Stoning" where offenders were not only put to death, but hung up by the hands till sunset after execution. As if to make the identification still more complete, the busy road, which has led to the north in all ages, passes close by the knoll, branching off, a little further on, to Gibeon, Damascus, and Rameh. It was the custom of the Romans to crucify transgressors at the sides of the busiest public roads. Here then, apparently, on this bare rounded knoll, rising shoat thirty feet above the ground, the low yellow cliff of Jeremiah looking out from its southern end, the Saviour of the world was crucified.

(Cunningham Geilkie, D. D.)

Where they crucified Him.
The common mode of inflicting it, in all probability, was to strip the criminal — to lay him on the cross on his back — to nail his hands to the two extremities of the cross-piece, or fork of the cross — to nail his feet to the upright piece, or principal stem of the cross-then to raise the cross on end, and drop it into a hole prepared for it — and then to leave the sufferer to a lingering and painful death. It was a death which combined the maximum of pain with the least immediate destruction of life. The agony of having nails driven through parts so full of nerves and sinews as the hands and feet must have been intense. Yet wounds of the hands and feet are not mortal, and do not injure any great leading blood-vessel. Hence a crucified person, even in an eastern climate, exposed to the sun, might live two or three days, enduring extreme pain, without being relieved by death, if he was naturally a very strong man and in vigorous health. To a sensitive, delicate-minded person, it is hard to imagine any punishment more distressing. Whether the person crucified was bound to the cross with ropes, to prevent the possibility of his breaking off from the nails in convulsive struggling — whether he was stripped completely naked, or had a cloth round his loins — whether each foot had a separate nail, or one nail was driven through both feet — are disputed points which we have no means of settling. Of one thing, however, we may be sure. The feet of a crucified person were much nearer the ground than is commonly supposed, and very likely not more than a foot or two from the earth. In this, as in other points, most pictures of the Crucifixion are grossly incorrect, and the cross is made out to be a piece of timber so long and so thick that no one mortal man could ever have carried it. Concerning the precise amount of physical suffering, and the precise effect on the human body in a crucifixion, the following medical account by a German physician, named Richter, says —

1. The unnatural position and violent tension of the body caused a painful sensation from the least motion.

2. The nails driven through parts of the hands and feet, which are full of nerves and tendons, and yet at a distance from the heart, created the most exquisite anguish.

3. The exposure of so many wounds and lacerations brought on inflammation, which tended to become gangrene, and every moment increased the poignancy of suffering.

4. In the distended parts of the body more blood flowed through the arteries than could be carried back into the veins: and hence too much blood found its way from the aorta into the head and stomach, and the blood vessels of the head became pressed and swollen. The general obstruction of circulation caused an internal excitement, exertion, and anxiety, more intolerable than death itself.

5. There was the inexpressible misery of gradually increasing and lingering anguish.

6. To all this we may add burning and raging thirst." When we remember, beside all this, that our Lord's head was crowned with thorns, His back torn with savage scourging, and His whole system weighed down by the mental and bodily agony of the sleepless night following the Lord's Supper, we may have some faint idea of the intensity of His sufferings.

(Bp. Ryle.)

A person who travelled through Palestine told me that an ingenious person, his fellow-traveller, who was a Deist, used to make merry with all the stories that the Romish priest entertained them with as to the sacred places and relics they went to see, and particularly when they first showed him the clefts of Mount Calvary, which is now included within the great dome that was built over it by Constantine the Great. But when he began to examine the clefts more narrowly and critically, he told his fellow-travellers that now he began to be a Christian; "for," said he, "I have long been a student of nature and the mathematics, and I am sure these clefts and rents in this rock were never made by a natural or ordinary earthquake, for by such a concussion the rock must have been split according to the veins, and where it was weakest in the adhesion of the parts; for thus," said he, "I have observed it to have been done in other rocks, when separated or broken after an earthquake, and reason tells me it must always be so. But it is quite otherwise here, for the rock is split athwart and across the veins in a most strange and supernatural manner. This, therefore, I can easily and plainly see to be effect of a real miracle, which neither nature nor art could have effected; and therefore I thank God that I came hither to see this standing monument of a miraculous power by which God gives evidence, to this day, of the divinity of Christ."

(J. Fleming.)

A little girl in a mission-school sat on the front seat; and, when the superintendent was telling about how they hanged Jesus on the cross, the tears came to her eyes, and she had to get up and go out. In the afternoon she came back smiling; and the superintendent asked her, "Mary, where did you go this morning?" And she said, "Oh, teacher! I could not stand it when you Spoke to us about Jesus being nailed on the cross; for I felt just as if I helped to pound the nails in; and I went off a little piece from the school, and got down on my knees, and told Jesus that my sins helped to hang Him on the cross; and I asked Him to please forgive me for helping to kill Him; that I was so sorry! but now I feel so happy!"

Colossians Gardiner was won from a life of worldly pleasure by a dream in which he saw the Saviour hanging on the cross, and saying, "I have suffered this for thee, and is this thy return?" The deep conviction of his ingratitude led him to repentance and a life of piety.

Krummacher describes the mysterious cross as a rock, against which the very waves of the curse break; as a lightning-conductor, by which the destroying fluid descends, which would have otherwise crushed the world. Jesus, who mercifully engaged to direct the thunderbolt against Himself, does so while hanging yonder in profound darkness upon the cross. There He is, as the connecting link between heaven and earth; His bleeding arms extended wide, stretched out to every sinner; hands pointed to the east and west, indicating the gathering-in of the world of man to His fold. The cross is directed to the sky, as the place of the final triumph of His work in redemption; and its foot fixed in the earth like a tree, from whose wondrous branches we gather the fruit of an eternal reconciliation to God the Father.

(J. Caughey.)

Tacitus reports that though the amber-ring among the Romans was of no value, yet, after the emperor began to wear it, it began to be in great esteem: it was the only fashion amongst them. So our Saviour has borne His cross, and was borne upon it. We should esteem it more highly than many of us do, and bear it daily in remembrance of Him.

(W. Baxendale.)

Do not be afraid to bow before Jesus. That cross is the enfranchisement of theology. It stands up against heaven to say, "God, with His infinite power, is not cruel. God is the sufferer, and not one that makes suffering." The Divine nature is not one that oppresses races, as the cluster is pressed, that the wine may flow out into the vintner's cup. The testimony of Christ's life, and the mission of Christ's death, and that everlasting love that streams from the cross of Christ is, "God so loved the world." Loved it? No mother ever loved her child half so much. And yet, what mother is there that did not, in her small, feeble way, symbolize the whole atonement of Christ? What mother is there that did not bring forth her child with pangs, and strong crying and tears? What mother is there that did not take the utter helplessness of the little babe for weeks and months, and give her life for it? How she gives up her sleep; how she gives up her heart's desires; how she foregoes pleasure; how she withdraws herself from society; how she gives the whole royalty of her rich nature to that little child that can neither speak nor think, nor know what helps it! And then, through what sickness does she watch! And with what labour and pain does she develop the child! And how does she bring it finally to intelligence and virtue and manhood, all the way through a living sacrifice of love for the child!

(H. W. Beecher.)

There is an affecting passage in Roman history which records the death of Manlius. At night, and on the Capitol, fighting hand to hand, he had repelled the Gauls and saved the city when all seemed lost. Afterwards he was accused, but the Capitol towered in sight of the Forum where he was tried, and as he was about to be condemned he stretched out his hands and pointed, weeping, to that arena of his triumph. At this the people burst into tears, and the judges could not pronounce sentence. Again the trial proceeded, but was again defeated; nor could he be convicted till they had removed him to a low spot, from which the Capitol was invisible. What the Capitol was to Manlius the cross of Christ is to the Christian.

(Preacher's Lantern.)

While your bark is tossed about at sea, it is very likely that she wants a new copper bottom, or the deck requires holy-stoning, or the rigging is out of repair, or the sails want overhauling, or fifty other things may be necessary; but if the wind is blowing great guns, and the vessel is drifting towards those white-crested breakers, the first business of the mariner is to make for the haven at once, to avoid the hurricane. When he is all snug in port, he can attend to hull and rigging, and all the odds and ends besides. So with you, child of God, one thing you must do, and I beseech you do it. Do not be looking to this, or to that, or to the other out of a thousand things that may be amiss, but steer straight for the cross of Christ, which is the haven for distressed spirits; fly at once to the wounds of Jesus, as the dove flies to her nest in the cleft of the rock.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A clergyman in Germany, who had exercised the ministerial office for twelve years, while destitute of faith in and love to the Redeemer, one day, after baptizing the child of a wealthy citizen, one of the mere. bers of his congregation was invited, with some other guests, to a collation at this person's house. Directly opposite to him, on the wall, hung a picture of Christ on the cross, with two lines written under it: — "I did this for thee; what hast thou done for Me?" The picture caught his attention; as he read the lines they seemed to pierce him, and he was involuntarily seized with a feeling he never experienced before. Tears rushed into his eyes; he said little to the company, and took his leave as soon as he could. On the way home these lines constantly sounded in his ears — Divine grace prevented all philosophical doubts and explanations from entering his soul — he could do nothing but give himself up entirely to the overpowering feeling; even during the night, in his dreams, the question stood always before his mind, "What hast thou done for Me?" He died in about three months after this remarkable and happy change in his temper and views, triumphing in the Saviour, and expressing his admiration of His redeeming love.

(J. Whitecross.)

I. THAT OF JESUS; dying for sin — redemption.

II. THAT OF THE IMPENITENT ROBBER; dying in sin — perdition.

III. THAT OF THE PENITENT ROBBER; dying out of sin — salvation.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)There were three hanging there. The first was the Saviour; the second to be saved; the third to be damned. The pain of all three was one; but the cause diverse.

( Augustine.)

On the cross, between earth and heaven; in the grave, between the living and the dead; on the throne, as separating between the saved and the lost. Everywhere, in all time, in whatever aspect or relation, men shall contemplate the Saviour, the same central object shall meet them — "Jesus in the midst." We cannot look upon Christ as lifted up without seeing —

I. THE JUNCTION POINT BETWEEN THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL. The sacrifice of the Cross constitutes that crisis in all dispensational history, at which shadows were to become substances, outlines perfect forms, and the pale lamps, which had shed light on the ancient sanctuary, to give place to the Bright and Morning Star. The veil of the Temple was rent, and it told of a covenant waxed old; of the superseding of the blood of bulls and goats by the blood of Him who, "through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God." Christ was "the end of the law for righteousness;" the end of the prophecies for fulfilment; the end of devout anticipation as of a surety the Lord's anointed; the end of all expected revelation, as God speaking to us by His Son. And He was especially in the midst of the two systems, as He hung upon the cross. For He felt all the terrors of the law, while His lips were dispensing all the tender charities of the gospel. And He saw, in marked contrast, the effect of the two systems the chief priests and rulers hurling the mockery on the one side, and the great company of people lamenting Him on the other. And yet all are looking to Him; all are drawn towards Him. Whether to revile or to pity, to blaspheme or to pray, none could turn their eyes to any other object. He who in heaven has a throne which is above every throne, seemed to have a cross which was above every cross.

II. CHRIST OCCUPYING SOME MYSTERIOUS ISTHMUS BETWEEN CONDEMNATION AND FORGIVENESS — a place where the two seas meet — that of infinite justice, unable to clear the guilty; and that of the infinite mercy, cleansing from all spot of sin. Here mercy triumphs, for wrath is done away; and yet justice is honoured, for the victim dies. Both these attributes put in their claims. Neither of them, without dishonour to the Divine character, could endure to have them set aside. But the meeting here was not hostile. These attributes met to embrace, to unite, to shed, each on the other, new glory; to vindicate, each for the other, its prescriptive and everlasting claims. It seemed as if in the whole universe there was but one spot, where, in a posture of reconciliation, God and man could meet. Thither the Eternal Father would repair to make sublime demonstration of His holiness; thither the penitent child was to go to lay down the burden of his sin. And over that cross they were to be made one.

III. A REPRESENTATION OF CHRIST AS HE IS IN THE WORLD NOW.

1. The cross is set up in the midst of condemned men. Men dying, with the means of life before them — lost, while a look would save them. One, like Pilate, sees no fault in Christianity, but will not yield to it; another, like Herod, is curious to see what Christianity is, and mocks it; and a third, like Judas, sells it.

2. The circumstance shows how very near two people may be to the same outward Christ, ordinances, truth, influences for good — and yet the one to be subdued to penitence, and the other hardened.

3. Especially is the scene emblematical of the different effect produced on two persons by affliction and Divine chastisement. Jesus is in the midst — having emptied a cup more bitter far than any of which they have tasted — and that too in order that any bitterness in their cup might be mitigated or pass away. And both these afflicted ones will look to Him. But how? One is chafed, and stubborn, and rebellious. The other is subdued, and tender, and heart-stricken. And therefore his looking to Jesus is one of humble, loving faith.

IV. AN EMBLEM OF THE SOLEMN ADJUDICATIONS OF THE LAST DAY. "That cross," says , "was the tribunal of Christ, for the judge was placed in the middle; and whilst one thief who believed was set free, the other who reviled was condemned." They who on earth were divided by the cross, are they who in heaven will be divided by the throne. The impenitent here will be the lost there; the railing here will be the accursed there — on the left hand both, whether at the cross or before the throne. But the humble and the trusting shall be on the right hand. And their life in heaven will be a continuation of their life on earth — a looking to "Jesus in the midst" — in the midst of His saints, to be glorified; in the midst of His angels, to be worshipped; in the midst of the upper paradise, a tree of life; and in the midst of the throne of God, "a Lamb as it had been slain."

(D. Moore, M. A.)

It is to this position that our Lord owes His glorious title of Mediator. He is the Days-man who stands between the perfection of a holy Creator and the imperfections of His creatures. And it is in virtue of this office that He is entitled to His position as the central object in the economies of grace and of judgment. Very interesting and instructive it is to notice how frequently this position — "in the midst" — is assigned to our Lord. He is represented as —

I. "In the midst" OF HEAVEN (Revelation 5:6; Revelation 7:17). Twice the expression is employed of the mystical tree of life — the type of Christ (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2). His maintenance in this position is the secret of heaven's harmony. Just as in the solar system the planets observe a fixed relation to each other because they all have a common relation to the sun, just as their motions are the very embodiment of order and harmony because of this common relationship, so the countless intelligences of heaven all fall into their own proper relationships to each other because of their common relation to the central object.

II. "In the midst" OF THE CHURCH He was "in the midst" of that embryo Church, the simple peasants whom He gathered around His person (Luke 22:27). "Where two or three," &c. Here we have a description of the first component elements of the Christian Church. In keeping with this, we notice that He takes His rightful place at the moment when He greets His Church after His resurrection. "Jesus Himself stood in the midst." Once again we are permitted to gaze upon the risen Lord, now no longer visibly present, yet still "in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," i.e., of the Church as she exercises her office of light-bearer. She shines by reflecting the light shed upon her by the Master, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Or, once again, He is represented as in the midst of the Church in her worship, "inhabiting the praises of Israel" (Hebrews 2:12). But, alas! the great sin of the outward Church has ever been to put Christ on one side. How often has the Church placed a hierarchy, a system, a party, a creed, a superstition, &c., in the place that belongs to Him. Hence our unhappy and disastrous divisions. If Christians are to draw nearer to each other, it must be by a determined attempt to restore the Lord Jesus to His proper position. Then we shall find it possible to make some progress towards the enjoyment of that harmony in our relations with each other which ought to characterize the sons of God on earth, and which must bind all together in heaven.

III. As with the Christian Church at large, so with THE INDIVIDUAL HEART. "Know ye not that Christ is within you?" &c., not as a distinct part of our being, but as a power pervading and supreme over all. This is what St. Paul meant when he exclaimed, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Let us not think of assigning Him a corner in the palace. Christ will not accept such a subordinate position.

IV. When Christ is in the heart, He will also be "in the midst" of OUR HOME. Of how many of us may it be said, as it was said of Martha, that she "received Him into her house"? How many of us can fill in our name where the word Martha stands? If we would really have Him abiding with us, it must not be so much as a mere guest, "a wayfaring man turning aside to tarry for a night," but as the true though invisible Head of the house, just as He is the true though invisible Head of the Church. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." In our domestic arrangements, it is His will that must be consulted. We cannot keep Him in our closet, and deny Him the right of access to our scenes of social intercourse and pleasure. We cannot place Him at the head of our family on Sunday, and bid Him go into retirement for the remainder of the week.

V. "In the midst" of our WORLDLY BUSINESS. Ah, this fatal distinction between sacred and secular! how much it has done to drive religion out of our lives! Surely everything becomes sacred that is done with Jesus in the midst. Our offices are consecrated as actually as our churches; holiness to the Lord is written upon the very "bells of the horses;" upon our ledgers and cash-books.

VI. "In the midst" OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENTERPRISE. "They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them," &c. How possible it is to work for Christ, and yet in our very work to deny Christ His proper place in relation to the work; to be guilty of self-seeking even while we seem to be endeavouring to further His cause (Jeremiah 45:5). It is when we see Jesus in the midst that self loses its tyrant power, and worldly motives cease to influence us. Conclusion: How are we to ensure the presence of Jesus in the midst of our hearts, and therefore in the midst of our lives? By accepting Him as the Mediator between God and man.

(W. Hay-Aitken, M. A.)

1. All men have looked up to the heavenly bodies. This fact invests them with additional interest. We have not seen the men of past ages; we cannot see those of distant continents; but we can look at the same objects as they all have looked at.

2. In a higher degree, when we look into the pages of the Word of God, and consider how many eyes have looked at the same words — wondering, weeping, inquiring, praying, and scoffing; and how many hearts have beat over the same book, do we feel that this great light of time has been uniting the generations.

3. In a still higher degree do we feel the uniting power of one great central object — "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." As we look, our gaze is drawn to Calvary and its three crosses — resting at last upon the middle cross. On one cross the physical suffering is doubly darkened by the gloom of despair; on another it is lighted up by hope and faith; on the middle cross it is crowned and glorified by the infinite and unutterable love of God. Many executions took place on Golgotha. Why then should these three have remained, burning like beacons in the night of time? It is because "Jesus is in the midst." And, as around that central cross there were all kinds of lookers at the time, so has it been in every time. There fell on that cross the look of hate, and of love, of indifference, and of interest.

I. JESUS IN THE MIDST OF THE VISIBLE WORLD.

1. Jerusalem was in the middle of Palestine, and Palestine in the middle of the civilized world. The cross, then, was literally in the midst of the visible world: and its position there is symbolical of Christ's position, for His life was lived between the two great continents of history — the ancient and the modern. A new civilization dates from His birth — the old civilization died in His death. And thus, in relation to human history, as developed in place and time, it is a simple geographical and chronological fact that "Jesus is in the midst."

2. Nature is a part of the visible world, and Christ is the centre of nature, for He is its Creator. "All thing were made by Him," &c., and "by Him all things consist" — the whole material universe is held together by Him.

3. The Hebrew Theocracy was a part of the visible world, and Christ Jesus was in the midst of it.(1) The Tribes went up to Jerusalem as their centre. The centre of Jerusalem was the Temple. The centre of the Temple was the Holy of Holies, and the centre of the Holy of Holies was the mercy-seat, sprinkled with blood, containing the Law, of which the shed blood was the satisfaction; all of which represented our Saviour's mediatorial work.(2) This was His position in relation to the whole life and history of the Jews. In so far as they were children of God, they were moulded after the image of the Son of God. His Spirit inspired the prophets. In the dark house of bondage, and at the bitterest hour of their history, Jesus is found in the midst, making a fourth in the furnace of Babylon.

4. Heathendom is a part of the visible world, and Jesus is in the midst of it. For what mean those victims slain in sacrifice all over the world? Jesus is "the desire of all nations," and is in their midst — if only in this negative sense, that the void at the heart of humanity can be filled only by Him.

5. Coming to Christendom, Christ is the visible centre of it. Europe embraces the highest life in the world, and the centre of that highest life is Christ. The great Church in the middle of every capital city is called a Christian Church. Jesus is acknowledged to be the source of all our moral and spiritual activities. And if we enter the world of thought, most emphatically is Jesus in the midst here. His Person includes the inmost and ultimate question in every sphere. Do we try to form a science of theology? The foundation must be our doctrine of the Person of Christ. The view we take of that will determine our view of God, man, sin, atonement. Jesus very soon became the central figure in the schools. At twelve years of age He was found in the Temple. If we take any ultimate question, we find Jesus the living and practical solution of it, Do we take the question, How can finite man ever know the infinite God? Jesus is the Man who knows God fully. Hence the variety of forms in which the account of His life is ever appearing in modern times.

6. The political world is a part of the visible world; and the rightful place of Christ is in the midst of it, too. If any one rules a nation in the name of any one but Christ, he is a usurper. Christ's cross has been the centre of the past; His crown will be the centre of the future. "All kings shall fall down before Him," &c.

II. JESUS IN THE MIDST OF THE INVISIBLE WORLD.

1. The true Church on earth is a part of the invisible world; and Jesus is in the midst of it. In the midst of —(1) The individual life. He is the most intimate Counsellor, Friend, and Companion of every Christian soul.(2) The Christian family. His presence is the bond of its perfectness.(3) The little prayer-meeting. "Where two or three," &c.(4) The Christian Church on earth viewed as a whole. "Lo! I am with you alway," &c. "In the midst of the candlesticks, one like unto the Son of Man." All true lights are fed by the hand of Christ.

2. Lifting our eyes to the Church in heaven, it is still the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne. The throne itself is in the midst; the first position of dignity and power in the universe, and Christ sits upon it. He must, therefore, be God — King of kings, and Lord of lords. Further, it is as the Lamb that He is on the throne — showing that the centre of His work is His sacrifice of Himself. His highest value to the world is not that He is a pattern of virtue merely, or a moral Reformer. The Apostle conducts us from company to company until we come to Him who is in the midst. "Ye are come unto Mount Sion," &c.

3. But, higher still, Jesus is in the midst of the Godhead. In the threefold name, Jesus is in the midst; and in the manifestation of the three-one God, He occupies the same position. In the First Dispensation there was the revelation of the Unity or first Person of the Godhead. Our dispensation is that of the Holy Spirit, for in it we have a revelation of the work of the third Person. But in the midst of the two, there is the manifestation of the second Person.

4. Jesus is in the midst: of all the Divine attributes. They have their harmonious meeting-place in Him. He is love, and love is the bond of the Divine perfectness as well as of human. In Him the problem has been solved, how God can be just and yet the Justifier of him that believes in Jesus.

III. JESUS IN THE MIDST BETWEEN THE TWO WORLDS.

1. He descended into the visible that He might translate us into the invisible. He is the only Door between the two worlds. Through that, ministering angels, and all Divine and saving influences, come forth to enlighten and enliven this lower world; and through it there pours in return the multitude of sinners saved by grace. He is the spiritual reality symbolized in Jacob's ladder. He has this position became He is in the midst — between God and man. In the translation of sinners from the: kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, Jesus is in the midst. He was lifted up on the cross between the two worlds that He might draw all men unto Him.

2. At the moment of death Jesus stands on "the dark frontier," to receive the soul of the believer. There are weeping friends on the one side, and rejoicing angels on the other; and the Saviour is between the two.

3. And, last of all, who is this sitting on the great white throne — the holy angels with Him? The Son of man; "Jesus is in the midst!" In conclusion: Is all this true of Jesus of Nazareth?Then —

1. He is indeed "the Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father."

2. What sort of a universe would this be without Christ? It would not be a universe — a cosmos, or a well-ordered system of thing; but a chaos. Yea, if there were no Christ, evil would triumph.

3. Consider what the life and heart of the individual man is without Christ. It has no centre. All its pursuits, however refined, are worse than useless. All its pleasures are short-lived and false. Apart from Christ, there can be no aim in a human life adequate to the worth of that life.

(F. Ferguson, D. D.)

Now, away among the mountains, I know a place, where once three shepherds, brothers, were to leap, as they had often done, from rock to rock, across the narrow chasm through which the swollen waters rushed onward to their fall. Bold mountaineers, and looking with careless eye on a sight which had turned others dizzy, one bounded over like a red deer; another followed — but, alas, his foot slipping on the smoothly treacherous ledge, he staggered, reeled, and falling back, rolled over with a sullen plunge into the jaws of the abyss. Quick as lightning, his brother sprang forward — down to a point where the waters issue into a more open space, just above the crag over which they throw themselves into the black, rock-girdled, boiling cavern. There, standing on the verge of death, he eyes the body coming; he bends — his arm is out — thank God, he has him in his powerful grasp. Bravely, brotherly done! Alas! it is done in vain. The third brother, sad spectator of the scene, saw him swept from his slippery footing: and, in their death not divided, as of old they had lain in their childhood, locked in each other's arms they went over, horribly whelmed in the depths of the swirling pool. Not so perished our elder Brother, and the thief He stretched out His hand to save. He plucked him from the brink of hell; He saved him on the dizzy edge of the dreadful pit.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

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