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which had been made to him, hereby displaying an unparalleled instance of heroic courage.
Let us learn from his example not to shrink from the sharpest sufferings to which we may be called, in the cause of truth, or in the course of our duty.
Matthew xxvii. 39----53.
39. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
40. And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou be the son of God, or since thou art the Son of God, (referring to his pretensions) come down from the cross.
Jesus had been asked by the Jewish council, whether he were the Christ, the Son of God; and the answer which he made to that question implied that he assumed that character, i. e. that he was the Messiah: his enemies now insult him, by reminding him of this declaration, and desiring that he would maintain his claim to the high office of being the Messiah, by descending from the cross, although he was nailed to it: this they said not with any expectation or wish that he would comply with their request
, but to aggravate the painful feelings of his mind, by leading him to compare his former ambitious views with his present melancholy condition. For the same reason, they remind him of another declaration, which they also considered as an empty boast, when he said that, if they destroyed the temple, he would rebuild it in three days. Shaking the head at any person was a common expression of contempt*.
* 2 Kings, xix. 21.
41. Likewise also the chief priests, mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42. He saved others: himself he cannot save; if he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross; and we will believe him.
The Pharisaic scribes were actuated by the most implacable hatred against Jesus, because he condemned their interpretations of the law, exposed their hypocritical arts, and hereby destroyed their credit with the people: it was this conduct of Christ which made them resolve to put him to death; and it was the malice which this produced, that led them to attend his crucifixion, in order to enjoy the pleasure of seeing him executed. On this occasion, they could not forbear insulting a vanquished and fallen enemy: they pretend to admit that he performed miraculous cures, but add, what, they thought, destroyed the credibility of these accounts; for, although he delivered others from pain and death, by healing their diseases, he could not deliver himself. They promise faith in him also, if he will descend from the cross, not because they were inclined to yield to such a miracle, for they were not convinced by what was much more extraordinary, by his rising from the dead, which was attested by the most undeniable evidence; but they said this because they thought it impossible for him to move.
43. He trusted in God: let him deliver him now, if he will have him: rather, if he be well-pleased with him, for he said, I am the Son of God.
Jesus, by acknowledging himself to be the Messiah, or the Son of God, before the Jewish council, at his trial, had assumed a character which implied that he was a favourite of Heaven: for the son is dearer to the master of the family than the servant. His enemies now reproach him with presumption, and say, let Heaven deliver its favourite; thus insulting God as well as Christ.
44. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth, or reproached him in the same таппеr.
According to Luke's account of this matter, it was only one of the malefactors who reviled Christ; and the other was so far from joining in the abuse, that he rebuked his companion. It has been supposed therefore that Matthew, when he speaks of thieves, uses the plural number for the singular; intending to say no more than that one of the thieves did what is here ascribed to both*. But it may not be necessary to have recourse to this method of reconciling the two evangelists; it may be sufficient to observe that the most authentic writers, in giving an account of the same transaction, vary from each other, in less articles, while they agree in the main circumstances,
45. Now, from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land, unto the ninth hour.
According to the method of computing time here referred to, the day was reckoned to begin with sun-rising and close with sun-set, and to consist of twelve hours. The sixth hour therefore from sun-rising, which was all the year at six o'clock in the morning, in that climate, must be, according to our method of reckoning, twelve at noon, and the ninth hour, three in the afternoon: so long did this darkness last, or from the time Jesus was crucified until the time that he expired: this darkness could not arise from a natural eclipse of the sun, for it happened at the Jewish passover, the time of the full moon, when no eclipse of that luminary can take place:
* Sec similar instances in Heb. xi. 33. 37.
it extended, we are told, over the whole land. by which we are to understand no more than the whole land of Judæa, and by no means the whole Roman empire *: to what degree it prevailed, we are not told, but, from circumstances mentioned by the evangelists, we may infer that it was not very great: for we find, from what Matthew mentions below, that it was light enough for the soldier to present a spunge to Christ, filled with vinegar, upon a reed; and from another of the evangelists, (John xix. 25, &c.) that Jesus could see his mother and the apostle John from the cross. As this darkness was succeeded by an earthquake, it has been supposed, with considerable probability, to be of the same kind with that which frequently precedes those dreadful commotions; when it has been observed that the atmosphere has been so darkened as to give persons the idea of the approach of night, even at noon day.
As this darkness was limited to Judæa, and perhaps to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, this will account for its not being noticed by Roman authors.
46. And, about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthanit, that is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
These are the words of the xxii. Psalm: by repeating them our Lord probably intended not to utter any complaint, which the words, when taken by themselves, seem to imply, but to refer to the whole psalm, as containing many things that were applicable to his present situation. Whoever reads that psalm, will see how naturally the writer, in describing his own ill treatment, expresses that of Christ: the revilings and insults of his enemies brought it to his recollection.
47. Some of them that stood there,
Some indeed have imagined that it reached no further than a few miles round Jerusalem : for the language of the writer is not definite.
+ The dialect spoken in Judæa at this time was probably a mixture of Hebrew, Chaldee and Syriac'; but principally composed of the latter.
when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
This mistake was made by some persons who were not acquainted with the language in which Jesus spoke, and who might be Jews who were come from foreign countries to Jerusalem, to keep the feast. They inagined that he called for Elias to help him in his present distress.
48. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink
This was done to remove the thirst of Jesus: for John tells us, xix. 28, that he had said, I thirst: The liquor was water mixed with a small tartish wine, a vessel full of which the Roman soldiers had brought with them to the cross, to supply their wants, while they remained here to guard the criminals. It was hence that they were led to give Jesus a spunge full of vinegar, when he complained of thirst.
49. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come, to sąve him.
The Jews, by misinterpreting a prophecy of Malachi, were led to expect that the prophet Elijah, who had ascended to heaven, would make his appearance among them before the Messiah. These persons seem to have entertained some kind of obscure hope that he might descend from heaven, upon
present occasion. 50. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
From its being said here that Jesus cried with a loud voice, the moment before he died, some have inferred that his bodily strength was very little impaired, and that he shortened his sufferings by preternaturally bringing on dissolution, or that God interposed in a supernatural manner for that purpose : they imagine that the