Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
32. two other] Perhaps followers of the released Barabbas. They were not ‘thieves,’ but ‘robbers’ or ‘brigands,’ and this name was not undeservedly given to some of the wild bands which refused Roman authority. See Isa_53:9.
malefactors] Kakourgoi. The same English word is used in Joh_18:30, where it is literally “doing evil.”
32. ἕτεροι κακοῦργοι δύο. This is the order of א B and Aegyptt., which has been corrected to ἕτεροι δύο κακοῦργοι, to avoid the implication that Jesus was a κακοῦργος. With a similar object Syr-Sin. with Codd. Colb. and Palat. omits ἕτεροι, and perhaps the omission of καί before ἕτεροι (Syr-Cur. b) is due to the same cause. Yet the implication is not necessary. We may retain the order of א B and translate, “others. viz. two malefactors”; or, “two very different malefactors.” In the latter case κακοῦργος is used of Jesus with irony against those who treated Him as such: ἐν τοῖς ἀνόμοις ἐλογίσθη (Isa_53:12). But it is perhaps best to regard it as what Field calls “a negligent construction” not likely to be misunderstood. In that case the AV. is courageously accurate with “two other malefactors”: for the comma after “other” is a later insertion of the printers; it is not found in the edition of 1611. These two κακοῦργοι were bandits (Mat_27:38, Mat_27:44; Mar_15:27). The hierarchy perhaps contrived that they should be crucified with Jesus in order to suggest similarity of crime. In the persecutions, Christians were sometimes treated in this way. Comp. πολλάκις ἅμα κακούργοις ἐμπομπεύσας τῷ σταδίῳ (Eus. Mart. Pal. vi. 3).
Note the characteristic σύν, and for ἀναιρεθῆναι see on 22:2.
The Latin Versions render κακοῦργοι latrones (a b e f ff2 l), maligni (d), rei (c), nequam (Vulg.), to which are added the names of the robbers, Ioathas et Maggatras (1). Similarly in Mar_15:27 we have names added, Zoathan et Chammatha (c), and in Mat_27:38, Zoathan et Camma. See on ver. 39.
And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. Many commentators suppose that these, were companions of that Bar-Abbas the robber who had just been released. They were not ordinary thieves, but belonged to those companies of brigands, or revolted Jews, which in those troublous times were so numerous in Palestine.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
33. the place, which is called Calvary] It is nowhere in Scripture called ‘a hill,’ and it was certainly not in any sense a steep or lofty hill. The only grounds for speaking of it as a hill are (1) tradition; and (2) the name. Calvary is the Latin form of Golgotha, and means ‘a skull’ (as the same Greek word kranion is rendered in Mat_27:33). Like the French Chaumont, this name might describe a low rounded hill. Ewald identifies it with Gareb (Jer_31:39), and Kraft accordingly derives Golgotha from גל, ‘hill,’ and גועת, ‘death.’ The name has led to the legend about Adam’s skull lying at the foot of the Cross, which is so often introduced into pictures.
33-38. The Crucifixion. The narrative is substantially the same as Mat_27:33-44 and Mar_15:22-32; but it has independent features.
33. τόπον. This word is used by all three. The precise place is still a matter of controversy, and must remain so until excavation has determined the position of the old walls, outside which it certainly was. See MacColl. Contemp. Rev., Feb. 1893, pp. 167-188; D. B.2 i. pp. 1205, 1652-1657.
τὸν καλούμενον Κρανίον. See on 6:15. It was so called on account of its shape, not because skulls were lying there unburied, which would have outraged Jewish feeling. Lk. omits the Hebrew name Golgotha (Mat_27:33; Mar_15:22; Joh_19:17), which would have conveyed in meaning to Greek readers, as he has already omitted (without Greek equivalent) Gethsemane and Gabbatha. It is from the Latin (locum qui vocatur Calvariæ) that the word “Calvary” has come into all English Versions prior to RV., which has, “the place which is called The Skull.”
The ancient explanation that the place was thus called because of the skull of Adam, who was buried there by Noah after the Flood, is rejected by Jerome (on Mat_27, Migne, xxv. 209), as interpretatio mulcens aurem populi, nee tamen vera. But he wrongly adopts the view that it was a place in which truncantur capita damnata, a view which even Fritzsche (on Mat_27:33) has defended. No such place has ever existed in the East, least of all at Jerusalem: and such a place would be styled κρανίων τόπος not κρανίου. A rocky protrusion, resembling a skull in form, is no doubt the meaning. Thus Cyril of Jerusalem speaks of it as “rising on high and showing itself to this day, and displaying even yet how because of Christ the rocks were then riven” (Catech. Lect. xiii. 39).
For the attractive Adam legend compare Ambrose, ad loc.: Congruebat quippe ut ibi vitæ nostra primitia locarentur, ubi fuerant mortis exordia (Migne, xv. 1852). Chrys. and Euthym. do not o beyond tradition (φασί τινες), which they do not expressly accept. See Tisch. app. crit. ad Joh_19:17.
ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτόν. It will always remain disputable whether our Lord’s feet were nailed as well as His hands. Joh_20:25-27 proves that His hands were nailed: but it is not certain that Luk_24:39 has way reference to the nails. In the Gospel of Peter, before the burial, nails are taken from the hands only. Ewald refers to the Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, i. 20, for evidence that in Palestine the mediæval tradition limited the nailing to the hands; but this is less probable.
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary; literally, unto the place which is called the skull. The familiar name “Calvary” has its origin in the Vulgate translation, Calvarium, a skull. The name “Place of a skull,” Golgotha (properly Gulgoltha, an Aramaic word atlgln, corresponding to the Hebrew Gulgoleth, tlglg, which in Jud_1:9:53 and 2Ki_9:35 is translated “skull”), does not come from the fact that the skulls of condemned persons remained lying there, but it is so called from being a bare rounded mound like a skull in form. Dean Plumptre suggests that the spot in question was chosen by the Jewish rulers as a deliberate insult to one of their own order, Joseph of Arima-thaea, whose garden, with its rock-sepulchre, lay hard by. A later legend derives the name from its being the burying-place of Adam, and that as the blood flowed from the sacred wounds on his skull, his soul was translated to Paradise. A tradition traceable to the fourth century has identified this spot with the building known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. St. Cyril of Jerusalem alludes to the spot repeatedly. In the time of Eusebius there was no doubt as to the site. The Bordeaux Pilgrim (A.D. 333) writes thus: “On the left side (of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is the hillock (monticulus) Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. Thence about a stone-throw distance is the crypt where his body was deposited.” Recent research confirms this very ancient tradition, and scholars are generally now agreeing that the evidence in support of the traditional site is strong and seemingly conclusive. And the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. St. John adds, “and Jesus in the midst,” as holding the position of preeminence in that scene of uttermost shame. Even in suffering Christ appears as a King. Westcott thus comments on the next detail recorded by St. John, (Joh_19:19) where the accurate rendering is, “And Pilate wrote a title also. ” This title (see further, ver. 38) was drawn up by Pilate, who caused it to be placed on the cross. The words, “wrote a title also,” perhaps imply that the placing of the Lord in the midst was done by Pilate”s direction.
And Jesus said, Father, forgive them. By this expression Christ gave evidence that he was that mild and gentle lamb, which was to be led out to be sacrificed, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold, (Isa_53:7.) For not only does he abstain from revenge, but pleads with God the Father for the salvation of those by whom he is most cruelly tormented. It would have been a great matter not to think of rendering evil for evil, (1Pe_3:9;) as Peter, when he exhorts us to patience by the example of Christ, says that he did not render curses for curses, and did not revenge the injuries done to him, but was fully satisfied with having God for his avenger (1Pe_2:23.) But this is a far higher and more excellent virtue, to pray that God would forgive his enemies.
If any one think that this does not agree well with Peter’s sentiment, which I have just now quoted, the answer is easy. For when Christ was moved by a feeling of compassion to ask forgiveness from God for his persecutors, this did not hinder him from acquiescing in the righteous judgment of God, which he knew to be ordained for reprobate and obstinate men. Thus when Christ saw that both the Jewish people and the soldiers raged against him with blind fury, though their ignorance was not excusable, he had pity on them, and presented himself as their intercessor. Yet knowing that God would be an avenger, he left to him the exercise of judgment against the desperate. In this manner ought believers also to restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under the burden of the cross.
Of this moderation Luke now presents an instance in our Leader and Master; for though he might have denounced perdition against his persecutors, he not only abstained from cursing, but even prayed for their welfare. But it ought to be observed that, when the whole world rises against us, and all unite in striving to crush us, the best remedy for over-coming temptation is, to recall to our remembrance the blindness of those who fight against God in our persons. For the result will be, that the conspiracy of many persons against us, when solitary and deserted, will not distress us beyond measure; as, on the other hand, daily experience shows how powerfully it acts in shaking weak persons, when they see themselves attacked by a great multitude. And, therefore, if we learn to raise our minds to God, it will be easy for us to look down, as it were, from above, and despise the ignorance of unbelievers; for whatever may be their strength and resources, still they know not what they do.
It is probable, however, that Christ did not pray for all indiscriminately, but only for the wretched multitude, who were carried away by inconsiderate zeal, and not by premeditated wickedness. For since the scribes and priests were persons in regard to whom no ground was left for hope, it would have been in vain for him to pray for them. Nor can it be doubted that this prayer was heard by the heavenly Father, and that this was the cause why many of the people afterwards drank by faith the blood which they had shed.
Cambridge Bible: Lk Farrar
34. Father, forgive them] Isa_53:12, “He bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” These words were probably uttered at the terrible moment when the Sufferer was outstretched upon the Cross and the nails were being driven through the palms of the hands. They are certainly genuine, though strangely omitted by B, D. We must surely suppose that the prayer was uttered not only for the Roman soldiers, who were the mere instruments of the executors, but for all His enemies. It was in accordance with His own teaching (Mat_5:44), and His children have learnt it from Him (Act_7:59, Act_7:60; Euseb. H. E. ii. 29). They were the first of the seven words from the Cross, of which three (vs. 34, 43, 46) are recorded by St Luke only, and three (Joh_19:27, Joh_19:28, Joh_19:30) by St John only. The last cry also began with the word “Father.” The seven words are
Luk_23:34. The Prayer for the Murderers.
Luk_23:43. The Promise to the Penitent.
Joh_19:26. The provision for the Mother.
Mat_27:46; Mar_15:34. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
Joh_19:28. The sole expression of human agony.
Joh_19:30. “It is finished.”
Luk_23:46. “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”
Thus they refer to His enemies, to penitents, to His mother and disciple, to the agony of His soul, to the anguish of His body, to His work, and to His Heavenly Father. St Luke here omits our Lord’s refusal of the sopor—the medicated draught, or myrrh-mingled wine (Mar_15:23; Mat_27:34), which, if it would have deadened His pains, would also have beclouded His faculties.
forgive them] aphes; Christ died “for the remission (aphesin) of sins,” Mat_26:28.
they know not what they do] Rather, are doing. “Through ignorance ye did it,” Act_3:17; 1Co_2:8. “Judaei clamant Crucifige; Christus clamat Ignosce. Magna illorum iniquitas sed major tua, O Domine, pietas.” St Bernard.
they parted his raiment] For the fuller details see Joh_19:23, Joh_19:24.
34, b. Διαμεριζόμενοι … κλῆρον. The wording is very similar in all three, and is influenced by Psa_22:19, which Jn. (19:24, quotes verbatim from LXX. Some texts wrongly insert the quotation Mat_27:35; but the Synoptists use the wording of the Psalm without directly quoting it. Jn. tells us that it was a quaternion of soldiers (comp. Act_12:4) who were carrying out the procurator’s sentence, and thus came to share the clothes as their perquisite. And Jn. distinguishes, as does the Heb. of Psa_22:19, although LXX and the Synoptists do not, between the upper and under garments. This dividing of the clothes is one more detail in the treatment of Christ as a criminal, and a criminal whose career was closed.
The sing. κλῆρον (א B C D L, b c d Aeth.) has been altered in some texts to κλήρους (A X, a e f ff2 Vulg. codd. plur. Syr-Sin.) to harmonize with usage, e.g. 1Ch_25:8, 1Ch_25:26:13, 1Ch_25:14; Neh_10:34, Neh_11:1, etc.
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. These words are missing in some of the oldest authorities. They are found, however, in the majority of the most ancient manuscripts and in the most trustworthy of the old versions, and are undoubtedly genuine. These first of the seven words from the cross seem, from their position in the record, to have been spoken very early in the awful scene, probably while the nails were being driven into the hands and feet. Different from other holy dying men, he had no need to say, “Forgive me.
Then, as always, thinking of others, he utters this prayer, uttering it, too, as Stier well observes, with the same consciousness which had been formerly expressed, “Father, I know that thou hearest me always.” “His intercession has this for its ground, though in meekness it is not expressed: “Father, I will that thou forgive them.” In the same sublime consciousness who he was, he speaks shortly after to the penitent thief hanging by his side. These words of the crucified Jesus were heard by the poor sufferer close to him; they with other things he had noticed in the One crucified in the midst moved him to that piteous prayer which was answered at once soquickly and so royally. St. Bernard comments thus on this first word from the cross: “Judaei clamant, “Crucifige! “Christus clamat,” Ignosce!” Magna illorum iniquitas. seal major tun, O Domine, pietas!” And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. The rough soldiers were treating the Master as already dead, and were disposing of his raiment, of which they had stripped him before fastening him to the cross. He was hanging there naked, exposed to sun and wind. Part of this raiment was torn asunder, part they drew lots for to see who was to wear it. The garments of the crucified became the property of the soldiers who carried out the sentence. Every cross was guarded by a guard of four soldiers. The coat, for which they cast lots, was, St. John tells us, without seam. “Chrysostom,” who may have written from personal knowledge, thinks that the detail is added to show “the poorness of the Lord”s garments, and that in dress, as in all other things, he followed a simple fashion.
Magnanimity an attainment.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” When at what particular point did he say that? It is commonly believed that he uttered this most gracious prayer just at the time of the actual crucifixion. Just when the nails were driven into those hands, the hands that had constantly been employed in some ministry of mercy; into those feet that had been continually carrying him on some errand of kindness; or just when the heavy cross, with its suffering Victim fastened upon it, had been driven into the ground with unpitying violence; just then, at the moment of most excruciating pain and of intolerable shame, he opened his lips to pray for mercy on his executioners. We have here
I A RARE INSTANCE OF HUMAN MAGNANIMITY.
1. Conscious, not only of perfect innocence, but of the purest and even the loftiest aims, Jesus Christ found himself not only unrewarded and unappreciated, but misunderstood, ill treated, condemned on a totally false charge, sentenced to the most cruel and shameful death a man could die. What wonder if, under those conditions, all the kindliness of his nature had turned to sourness of spirit!
2. At this very moment he was the object of the most heartless cruelty man could inflict, and must have been suffering pain of body and of mind that was literally agonizing.
3. At such a time, and under such treatment, he forgets himself to remember the guilt of those who were so shamefully wronging him.
4. Instead of entertaining any feeling of resentment, he desired that they might be forgiven their wrong-doing.
5. He did not haughtily and contemptuously decline to condemn them; he did not hardly and reluctantly forgive them; he found for them a generous extenuation; he sincerely prayed his heavenly Father to forgive them. Human magnanimity could hardly go further than that.
II A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF HIS OWN LOFTY DOCTRINE. When in his great sermon, (Matthew 5-7) he said, “Love your enemies… pray for them which despitefully use and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven,” he urged upon us to cherish and to illustrate the loftiest virtue on the highest grounds. This he now beautifully, perfectly exemplified. He was literally and truly praying for those who were using him despitefully, As the greatest generals and captains have proudly and honourably claimed that they “never bade men do that which they were not willing to do themselves,” so this our glorious Leader, he who came to be the “Leader and Perfecter of the faith”, (Heb_12:2: Alford) never desired of us any virtue or grace which he did not possess and did not himself adorn. He could and did say to his disciples, not only,” Go thither in the way of righteousness,” but also, “Follow me in every path of purity and love.” We may well love our enemies, and pray for those who despitefully use us, that we may be the children of our Father in heaven, and that we may be followers of our patient, magnanimous Master. And it is here, truly, that we have
III A CHALLENGE TO A GREAT ATTAINMENT.
1. To pray sincerely for those who do us wrong is one of the very highest points, if not actually the very loftiest, of human magnanimity. To dismiss all vindictive purpose, all resentful thought; to look at our enemy”s procedure in a kindly light, and to take, as Christ did here, a generous view of it; to cherish a positive wish for his good; to put this wish into action, into prayer; by these stages we reach the summit of nobility.
2. This is an attainment we should sedulously and devoutly pursue. There are those of noble nature, men and women whom God endows with a most “excellent spirit,” to whom this may be plain and easy; to them it is not a steep ascent to be laboriously climbed, but a gentle slope along which they can walk without difficulty. But to most men it is an attainment and not an endowment. It is an attainment which ban only be secured by earnest and continued cultivation. But we have for this great end the most effectual means:
(1) the realization of the near presence of God, and the knowledge of his Divine approval;
(2) the sense that when we succeed we win the greatest of all victories;
(3) the efficacy of prayer its subjective influence, and the aid which it brings us from above;
(4) the inspiration of our Lord”s example, and that of his most faithful followers. C. (Act_7:60 2Ti_4:16)
Sin greater than it seems.
“They know not what they do.” There is more in our actions, and therefore in our life, than there seems to be to ourselves (see “The largeness of Our life,” homily on Luk_10:16). There is more of good; more also of evil. These soldiers imagined that they were doing nothing more than executing a malefactor. They were murdering a Messiah; they were putting to death the Son of Man, the Savior of mankind. They knew not what they did; they did not recognize the extreme seriousness, the actual awfulness, of the crime they were committing. Thus is it constantly. We suppose ourselves to be doing something of very little consequence; but he who knows the realities and the issues of all things sees in our action something far more serious than we see. We know not what we do when we err from the straight line of moral and spiritual rectitude. We do not know
I HOW WE HURT A HUMAN SPIRIT WHEN WE WOUND IT. Whether this be by something said or done, by a glance of the eye, by the withholding of the expected word or action, we often wound more deeply than we think. We suppose we have caused a momentary irritation. If we knew all, we should know that we have produced a soreness of feeling, a keenness of disappointment, or (it may be) a depth of distress, which it will take weeks or months to heal.
II HOW WE WRONG OURSELVES WHEN WE SIN AGAINST OUR CONSCIENCE, It is, we assure ourselves, a very slight deviation from rectitude; it is a negligence for which we can easily make up a little further on. But, in truth, we have begun a slow, steady, spiritual descent, which will take us to the bottom. We know not what we do when we take the first step in moral laxity. We have started our soul on an evil course; we have done ourselves a wrong which we quite fail to measure.
III HOW WE DAMAGE ANOTHER”S CHARACTER WHEN” WE INJURE IT. We have only induced our neighbor to take a step which will open his eyes to that which he ought to know. So we say, and perhaps think. But, in fact, we have done much more than that. We have led him to do that which has injured his conscience, which has weakened his self respect, which has enfeebled his character. He will be less strong, henceforth, in the evil hour of temptation; he will be more open to attack, less likely to resist and to conquer his adversary. When we lead into temptation and sin, we “know not what we do.
IV HOW WE GRIEVE OUR SAVIOUR WHEN WE DISOBEY OR DISHONOUR HIM, We do not know how much he expects of his disciples, especially of those who have such opportunities as we have of knowing and doing his will how much attachment, how strong an affection, how quick an obedience, how full and patient a submission, he has a right to look for, and does wait to receive. And we do not know the fullness and intensity of his feeling of disappointment and sorrow when we fail him. The disciples did not know what they did, how grievously they failed, when they slept in that hour through which they should have watched. What depth of touching, tenderest pathos we hear in these words of gentle remonstrance: “Could ye not watch with me one hour?
V HOW WE HINDER THE CAUSE OF CHRIST when we discredit it. We think, perhaps, that the evil impression we have conveyed by our inconsistency will soon be forgotten, lost entirely in the current of human affairs. But more harm is done than we know or think. Some souls are shocked, scandalized, injured; their faith is lessened, perhaps pierced; they will not count for Christ what they would have counted. Springs of anti-Christian influence are started: who shall say whither they will flow?
VI HOW WE SIN AGAINST GOD WHEN WE WITHHOLD FROM HIM OURSELVES AND OUR SERVICE. We may imagine that we are only delaying till a more suitable or convenient time the duty we intend to discharge. But we are really disobeying a Divine command; we are refusing a Divine invitation; we are continuing in open rebellion, in unfilial estrangement. We are seriously sinning against our heavenly Father, our merciful Savior, our rightful and righteous Sovereign.
1. Our ignorance of “what we do” is. in part a necessity of our finite nature; for we cannot possibly look down into the depth of things; nor can we look on to the final issues. This is beyond the compass of our powers.
2. But it is in part also the fault of our character. We do not think, we do “not consider”, (Isa_1:3) we do not inquire. We do not use as we might our spiritual faculties. More patient, prayerful consideration of “what we do” would save us from many errors, many wrongs, and also from many painful memories and much self-reproach. C.
TEXT: “one on the left. ·And Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ Now to divide his clothes”
EVIDENCE: S*,c A C Db E K L X Delta Pi Psi f1 f13 28 33 565 700 892 1010 Byz Lect most lat vg syr(c,p,h,pal) some cop(north)
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “one on the left. Now to divide his clothes”
EVIDENCE: p75 Sa B D* W Theta 0124 1241 two lat syr(s) most cop
TRANSLATIONS: ASVn RSVn NASVn NIVn NEBn TEVn
COMMENTS: The words that are omitted are enclosed by double brackets in the UBS text, which means that the UBS Textual Committee felt that they were not originally written by Luke. The fact that they are quoted by second century writers such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus and are found in the second century Diatessaron, an early harmony of the four gospels by Tatian, is proof that they are quite old. But unless one says that they were omitted by copyists who thought that the destruction of Jerusalem meant that Jesus’ prayer was unanswered, the fact that they are missing from several early manuscripts of different types of ancient text would seem to indicate that they were not originally present. However, their age indicates that they may be regarded as true scripture which has come to find its place here in the canon.
Father, forgive them – This is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isa_53:12; “He made intercession for the transgressors.” The prayer was offered for those who were guilty of putting him to death. It is not quite certain whether he referred to the “Jews” or “to the Roman soldiers.” Perhaps he referred to both. The Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son of God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed, that he was “innocent,” and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that he was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country. It may be added, also, that, though they had abundant evidence, if they would look at it, that he was the Messiah, and enough to leave then without excuse, yet they did not, “in fact,” believe that he was the Saviour promised by the prophets, and had not, “in fact,” any proper sense of his rank and dignity as “the Lord of glory.” If they had had, they would not have crucified him, as we cannot suppose that they would knowingly put to death their own Messiah, the hope of the nation, and him who had been so long promised to the fathers. See the notes at 1Co_2:8. We may learn from this prayer:
1. The duty of praying for our enemies, even when they are endeavoring most to injure us.
2. The thing for which we should pray for them is that “God” would pardon them and give them better minds.
3. The power and excellence of the Christian religion. No other religion “teaches” people to pray for the forgiveness of enemies; no other “disposes” them to do it. Men of the world seek for “revenge;” the Christian bears reproaches and persecutions with patience, and prays that God would pardon those who injure them, and save them from their sins.
4. The greatest sinners, through the intercession of Jesus, may obtain pardon. God heard him, and still hears him “always,” and there is no reason to doubt that many of his enemies and murderers obtained forgiveness and life. Compare Act_2:37, Act_2:42-43; Act_6:7; Act_14:1.
They know not what they do – It was done through ignorance, Act_3:17. Paul says that, “had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,” 1Co_2:8. Ignorance does not excuse altogether a crime if the ignorance be willful, but it diminishes its guilt. They “had” evidence; they “might” have learned his character; they “might” have known what they were doing, and they “might” be held answerable for all this. But Jesus here shows the compassion of his heart, and as they were “really” ignorant, whatever might have been the cause of their ignorance, he implores God to pardon them. He even urges it as a “reason” why they should be pardoned, that they were ignorant of what they were doing; and though people are often guilty for their ignorance, yet God often in compassion overlooks it, averts his anger, and grants them the blessings of pardon and life. So he forgave Paul, for he “did it in ignorance, in unbelief,” 1Ti_1:13. So God “winked” at the ignorance of the Gentiles, Act_17:30. Yet this is no excuse, and no evidence of safety, for those who in our day contemptuously put away from them and their children the means of instruction.
And the people stood beholding. A hush seems to have fallen over the scene. The crowd of by-standers were awed as they at first silently gazed on the dying form of the great Teacher. What memories must have surged up in the hearts of many of the gazers memories of his parables, his mighty miracles, his words of love; memories of the raising of Lazarus, and of the day of palms! Such a silent awe-struck contemplation was dangerous, the rulers felt, so they hastened to commence their mockery clear,” as Stier remarks, “the stifling air, and deafen the voice which was stirring even in themselves.” “Look now,” they would cry, “at the end of the Man who said he could do, and pretended to do, such strange, unheard-of things!” They seem soon to have induced many to join in their mocking cries and gestures, and so to break the awful silence.
A sad spectacle and the supreme vision.
“And the people stood beholding.” “Sitting down they watched him there”. (Mat_27:36) Shall we envy those spectators the scene they then witnessed? Shall we wish that we had lived when, with our mortal eyes, we could have seen the Savior crucified on our behalf? I think not. With this distance of time and space between us, we have a better, truer standpoint where we are. No doubt we lose much by that distance; but we gain at least as much as we lose. To those who “stood beholding,” or who “sat and watched,” there was
I AN EXCEEDINGLY SAD SPECTACLE. They saw:
1. A human being suffering the last extremity of pain and shame. Some among that company could look upon that scene with positive enjoyment, some with stolid indifference; but those of whom we think, the disciples, would witness it with intense, heart-piercing sympathy, with utmost agitation of spirit. His suffering must, in a large degree, have been theirs also theirs in proportion to the love they bore him.
2. A Prophet who had failed to be appreciated, and was now a martyr nobly dying in attestation of the truth.
3. A sacred cause losing its Chief and Champion; a cause being wounded and almost certainly slain in the person of its Founder and Exponent. For who could hope that there would be found amongst his disciples any that would take the standard from his hands, and bear it on to victory? For Christ to die was for Christianity to perish. Such was the spectacle on which his disciples looked as they gathered about his cross. The scene was more vivid, more impressive, more powerfully affecting, as thus enacted before their eyes; but we see in reality more than they did. We have before us
II THE SUPREME VISION on which we can gaze on earth. We see:
1. One who once suffered and died, but whose agony is over; whose pain and sorrow are not now to him sources of evil, but, on the other hand, the ground and the occasion of purest joy and highest honor (see homily on vers. 27-31). Had we been present then, we must have shrunk teem the spectacle before us as too painful for sensitiveness to endure. Now we can bear to dwell on his dying and his death, because the element of overwhelming and blinding sympathy is happily withdrawn.
2. A grand spiritual victory. We do not see in the crucified prophet One that was defeated; we see One that told us all that he came to tell, communicating to us all the knowledge we need in order to live our higher life on earth, and to prepare for the heavenly life beyond; that was not prevented from delivering any part of his Divine message; that completed all he came to do; that was amply entitled to say, as he did before he died, “It is finished.
3. A Divine Redeemer ensuring, by his death, the triumph of his cause. Had he not died as he did, had he saved himself as he was taunted and challenged to do, had he not gone on to that bitter end and drunk that bitter cup even to the dregs, then he would have failed. But because he suffered unto death, he triumphed gloriously, and became “the Author of eternal salvation to all them that believe.” This is the supreme vision of human souls. We do well to gaze on nobility as we see it illustrated in human lives around us. We do well to look long and lovingly on human virtue as manifested in the lives and deaths of the glorious army of martyrs. But there is no vision so well worthy of our view; of our frequent, our constant, our protracted and intense beholding, as that of the merciful and mighty Savior dying for our sins, dying in wondrous love that he might draw us to himself and restore us to our Father and our home. Before our eyes Christ crucified is conspicuously set forth; (Gal_3:1) and if we would have forgiveness of sin, rest of soul, worthiness of spirit, nobility of life, hope in death, a blessed immortality, we must direct our eyes unto him who was once “lifted up” that he might be the Refuge, the Friend, the Lord, the Savior of the world to the end of time. Better than the saddest spectacle man ever saw is that supreme vision which is the hope and the life of each looking and trusting human heart. C.
Vers. 35-37. Self-saving and self-sacrifice.
We have two things here of which the latter is much the more worth looking at.
I INHUMANITY AT ITS LOWEST. There are many degrees of inhumanity.
1. It is bad for men or women deliberately to shut themselves out of the society of the wrong and miserable, in order that, without distraction, they may minister to their own comfort or consult their own well-being..
2. It is worse to look on the wounded traveler as he lies within sight and reach of us, and to pass him coldly by “on the other side.
3. It is worse still to regard the overthrow of human greatness or prosperity with positive satisfaction of spirit, to find a guilty enjoyment in the humiliation of another.
4. It is worst of all to do as did these men at the cross to mock at human misery, to taunt it in the hour of its agony, to add another pang to the keen sufferings that already lacerate the soul. Alas! what may not men become! what positively awful possibilities of evil are wrapt up in every human soul! that tiny hand, so soft and delicate, so beautiful, so harmless, what blow may it not possibly strike, some day, against all that is most sacred and most precious! It makes all the difference whether, under Christian principles, we are steadily climbing up toward that which is holy and Divine; or whether, under the dominion of evil forces, we are slowly sliding down toward all that is wrong and base. What an argument for ranging ourselves, while yet young, under the guidance of Jesus Christ, the Righteous and the Gracious One!
II MAGNANIMITY AT ITS HIGHEST.
1. The extremity of evil to which our Lord was then submitting; the most excruciating bodily pain; the most terrible and almost intolerable mental distress; the apprehension of approaching death.
2. The powerful temptation presented to him to deliver himself from it all. By one volition of his will he could have descended from the cross, thus releasing himself and confounding his enemies. He had
(1) the strongest possible inducement to do this from the instincts of the nature he had assumed;
(2) the strongest possible provocation to do this in the bitter and cruel taunts of his enemies.
3. His most magnanimous refusal to exert his power in his own favor. He heard those derisive cries, but he heeded them not. He let those revilers think that he was unable to save himself; he knew that if he did save himself he could not save others. (Mat_27:42) So he voluntarily continued to endure all that torture of body, to bear all that burden of shame and agony of spirit, to go on and down into the deepening shadow of death. Surely spiritual nobility could never strike a higher note than that, could never reach a loftier summit than that. How far can we follow our Lord along this upward path? There have been men who, at a certain point in their career, have clearly foreseen a dark and deathful ending, who have been entreated by their friends to go no further, to stand aside, to “save themselves” and think no more about the salvation of others. (see Act_21:12) And it is quite possible that, though we shall never be placed in a position just like that of our Master, we may have the choice offered us which was then offered him we may have to choose between saving ourselves and leaving others to their fate on the one hand, or sacrificing ourselves and saving our fellows on the other hand. It” that choice should be presented to us, what should we do? The answer depends very much on the measure of the spirit of unselfishness we are cherishing and practising continually.
(1) Before us is a noble opportunity that of teaching, enlightening, (instrumentally) redeeming men; but
(2) we cannot use this opportunity to any extent without self-sacrifice. If we are determined to “save ourselves,” we shall do but very little in the work of saving others.
(3) We must choose between the two: either we must resolve to spare ourselves expenditure and endurance, and let the work of human elevation go on without our help; or we must resolve not to spare ourselves, not to save time or money, or trouble, or health, not to spare ourselves uncongenial acts or unpleasant endurances, that men may learn what they know not, may see that to which they are yet blind, that they may be led out of exile into the kingdom of God. If we are keeping our Master well in view, especially if we are beholding him on the cross refusing to save himself though challenged with utmost bitterness to do so, we also shall make the nobler choice. C.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
36. the soldiers also mocked him] A quaternion of soldiers (John 19:53) with a centurion. Similarly Tacitus says of the Christian martyrs who perished in the Neronian persecution, “pereuntibus addita ludibria” (Ann. xv. 44).
offering him vinegar] It was their duty to watch Him (Mat_27:36), for sufferers sometimes lingered alive upon the cross for days. It is hardly to be wondered at if, with such a vile example before them as the derision by the Priests and Elders, these provincial or Roman soldiers—men of the lowest class, and “cruel by their wars, to blood inured”—beguiled the tedious hours by the mockery of the Innocent. By the word “mocked” seems to be meant that they lifted up to His lips the vessels containing their ordinary drink—sour wine (posca, Joh_19:29. Comp. Num_6:3; Rth_2:14)—and then snatched them away. Probably a large earthen jar of posca for the use of these soldiers lay near the foot of the Cross (Psa_69:21; Joh_19:29). All these insults took place during the earlier part of the Crucifixion, and before the awful darkness came on.
Offering him vinegar – See on Mat_27:34 (note). Vinegar or small sour wine, was a common drink of the Roman soldiers; and it is supposed that wherever they were on duty they had a vessel of this liquor standing by. It appears that at least two cups were given to our Lord; one before he was nailed to the cross, viz. of wine mingled with myrrh, and another of vinegar, while he hung on the cross. Some think there were three cups: One of wine mixed with myrrh; the Second, of vinegar mingled with gall; and the Third, of simple vinegar. Allow these three cups, and the different expressions in all the evangelists will be included. See Lightfoot.
And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar. Three times in the Crucifixion scene we find a mention of this vinegar, or the sour wine of the country, the common drink of the soldiers and others, being offered to the Sufferer.
(1) Mat_27:34. This was evidently a draught prepared with narcotics and stupefying drugs, no doubt by some of those compassionate women addressed by him on his way to the cross as “daughters of Jerusalem,” a common work of mercy at that time, and one apparently permitted by the guards. This, St. Matthew tells us, “he tasted of,” no doubt in courteous recognition of the kindly purpose of the act, but he refused to do more than taste of it. He would not dull the sense of pain, or cloud the clearness of his communion with his Father in that last awful hour.
(2) The second, mentioned here by St. Luke, seems to imply that the soldiers mocked his agony of thirst one of the tortures induced by crucifixion by lifting up to his parched, fevered lips, vessels containing their sour wine, and then snatching them hastily away.
(3) The third (Joh_19:28-30) relates that here the Lord, utterly exhausted, asked for and received this last refreshment, which revived, for a very brief space, his fast failing powers, and gave him strength for his last utterances. The soldiers, perhaps acting under the orders of the compassionate centurion in command, perhaps touched with awe by the brave patience and strange dignity of the dying Lord, did him this last kindly office.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
38. a superscription] A titulus written in black letters on a board smeared with white gypsum, and therefore very conspicuous. To put such a board over the head of a crucified person was the ordinary custom. The jeers of the soldiers were aimed at the Jews in general quite as much as at the Divine Sufferer; and these jeers probably first opened the eyes of the priests to the way in which Pilate had managed to insult them.
in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew] This is omitted in א, B, L, and some ancient versions, though the fact is undoubted from Joh_19:20. Thus the three great languages of the ancient world—the languages of Culture, of Empire, and of Religion—bore involuntary witness to Christ.
This is the King of the Jews] The superscription is given differently by each Evangelist. St Luke perhaps gives the peculiarly scornful Latin form. “Rex Judaeorum hic est.” The other Evangelists give
This is Jesus the King of the Jews. Mat_27:37.
The King of the Jews. Mar_15:26.
Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. Joh_19:19.
Although no serious and sensible writer would dream of talking about ‘a discrepancy’ here, it is very probable that the differences arise from the different forms assumed by the Title in the three languages. We may then assume that the Title over the Cross was as follows:
ישו הנצרי מלך היהודים
Ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων
Rex Judaeorum hic est.
It will be seen that St Matthew’s is an accurate combination of the three, not one of which was an accusation.
It was only while the Priests were deriding Christ that it began to dawn on them that Pilate, even in angrily yielding to their violent persistence, had avenged himself in a way which they could not resent, by a deadly insult against them and their nation. This was their King, and this was how they had treated Him. Thus our Lord reigned even on His Cross, according to the curious old reading of Psa_96:10, ἐβασίλευσεν ἀπὸ τοῦ ξύλου (LXX.), Regnavit a ligno. (See Life of Christ, i. 12, n.) For the attempt of the Priests to get the superscription altered see Joh_19:21, Joh_19:22. In refusing it Pilate shewed the insolent obstinacy which Philo attributes to him. The actual title was a glorious testimony to Jesus and an awful reproach to the Jews. Psa_2:6. Thus His Cross becomes, as St Ambrose says, His trophy; the gibbet of the Malefactor becomes the feretrum—the spoil-bearing sign of triumph—of the Victor. See this alluded to in Col_2:14, Col_2:15. (Life of St Paul, ii. 461.)
And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. The older authorities omit “in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew,” but the fact is indisputable, for we read the same statement in Joh_19:20, where in the older authorities the order of the titles is, “in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.” Such multilingual inscriptions were common in the great provincial cities of the empire, where so many nationalities were wont to congregate. The four reports of the inscriptions slightly differ verbally, not substantially. Pilate probably (see note on ver. 33, on effect of accurate rendering of Joh_19:19, “and Pilate wrote a title also”) wrote a rough draft with his own hand, “Rex Ju-daeorum hic est.” One of the officials translated freely into Hebrew and Greek the Roman governor”s Latin memorandum of what he desired to have written in black on the white gypsum-smeared board to be affixed to the upper arm of the cross. yrxnh w (John). O basileuwn (Mark). Rex Judaeorum hic est (Luke).
Dr. Farrar suggests that the title over the cross was as above. St. Matthew”s is an accurate combination of the three, and was not improbably, as a combination of the three inscriptions, the common form reproduced in the first oral Gospel.
TEXT: “an inscription over him, ‘This [is] the King'”
EVIDENCE: p75 Sa B L 0124 1241 most cop
TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “an inscription written over him in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew, ‘This [is] the King'”
EVIDENCE: S*,b (omit “written”) A C3 D K W X Delta Theta Pi Psi f1 f13 28 33 565 700 892 1010 Byz Lect most lat vg syr(p,h) some cop(north) (omit “written”)
TRANSLATIONS: KJV RSVn
OTHER: “an inscription written over him, ‘This [is] the King'”
EVIDENCE: C* one lat syr(c,s)
COMMENTS: The additional words are found with several different word orders and with two different words being used for “written.” This combined with their omission from several early manuscripts would indicate that they were added by copyists from Joh_19:20.
And one of the malefactors. This reproach, which the Son of God endured from the robber, obtained for us among angels the very high honor of acknowledging us to be their brethren. But at the same time, an example of furious obstinacy is held out to us in this wretched man, since even in the midst of his torments he does not cease fiercely to foam out his blasphemies. Thus desperate men are wont to take obstinate revenge for the torments which they cannot avoid. And although he upbraids Christ with not being able to save either himself or others, yet this objection is directed against God himself; just as wicked men, when they do not obtain what they wish, would willingly tear God from heaven. They ought, indeed, to be tamed to humility by strokes; but this shows that the wicked heart, which no punishments can bend, is hard like iron.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
39. one of the malefactors] In St Matthew and St Mark we are told that both the robbers “reviled” Him. Here then we might suppose that there was an irreconcilable discrepancy. But though the Evangelists sometimes seem to be on the very verge of mutual contradiction, no single instance of a positive contradiction can be adduced from their independent pages. The reason of this is partly that they wrote the simple truth, and partly that they wrote under divine guidance. The explanation of the apparent contradiction lies in the Greek words used. The two first Synoptists tell us that both the robbers during an early part of the hours of crucifixion reproached Jesus (ὠνείδιζον), but we learn from St Luke that only one of them used injurious and insulting language to Him (ἐβλασφήμει). If they were followers of Barabbas or Judas of Galilee they would recognise no Messiahship but that of the sword, and they might, in their very despair and agony, join in the reproaches levelled by all classes alike at One who might seem to them to have thrown away a great opportunity. It was quite common for men on the cross to talk to the multitude, and even to make harangues (for instances see my Life of Christ, ii. 409, n.); but Jesus, amid this universal roar of execration or reproach from mob, priests, soldiers, and even these wretched fellow-sufferers, hung on the Cross in meek and awful silence.
If thou be Christ] or, Art thou not the Christ? א, B, C, L.
Vers. 39, 40. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God? In the first two synoptists we read how, shortly after they were nailed to their crosses, both thieves “reviled” Jesus. The Greek word, however, used by SS. Matthew and Mark is wneidizon (reproached). The word used by St, Luke in this place of the impenitent one is eblasfhmei , “began to use injurious and insulting language a much stronger term. Farrar suggests that at first, during the early hours of the Crucifixion, in the madness of anguish and despair, they both probably joined in the reproaches levelled by all classes alike at One who might seem to them to have thrown away a great opportunity. They, no doubt, knew something, possibly much, of Jesus” career, and how he had deliberately prevented more than once the multitude from proclaiming him King. Watching him as he hung bravely patient on his cross, only breaking the dread silence with a low-muttered prayer for his murderers to his Father, one of these misguided men changed his opinion of his fellow-Sufferer, changed his opinion, too, of his own past career. There, dying with a prayer for others on his lips, was the Example of true heroism, of real patriotism. If thou be Christ. The more ancient authorities read, Art thou not the Christ ? But the other. In the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus the names of the two are given as Dysmas and Gysmas, and these names appear still in Calvaries and stations in Roman Catholic lands. Seeing thou art in the same condemnation. His words might be paraphrased, “How canst thou, a dying man, join these mere lookers-on at our execution and agony? we are undergoing it ourselves. Dost thou net fear God? In a few hours we shall be before him. We have at all events deserved our doom; but not this Sufferer whom you revile. What has he done?
Vers. 39-43. True penitence.
These verses narrate what we may call a standard fact of the gospel of Christina fact to which appeal will always be made, as it has always been made, in reference to a late repentance. We have to consider
I THE BREVITY WITH WHICH A GREAT” SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION MAY BE WROUGHT IN A HUMAN MIND. Twelve hours before, this man was a hardened criminal, habituated to a life of rapacious and murderous violence; his counterpart is to be found to-day in the cells of a penal establishment. And now, after a short companionship with Jesus, after hearing him speak and seeing him suffer, his heart is purged and cleansed of its iniquity, he is another man, he is a child of God, an heir of heaven. There are great capacities in these human souls of ours, which do not come often into exercise, but which are actually within us. Powerful speech, imminent peril, great emergencies, sudden inspiration from God, these and other things will call them forth; there is a brilliant flash of remembrance, or of emotion, or of realization, or of conviction and resolution. And then that which is ordinarily wrought in many days or months is accomplished in an hour. The movements of our mind are not subject to any time-table calculations whatsoever. No man can define the limit of possibility here. Great revolutions can be and have been wrought almost momentarily. Not slowly toiling upward step by step, but more swiftly than the uprising of the strongest bird upon fleetest wing, may the human soul ascend from the darkness of death into the radiant sunshine of hope and life.
II THE THOROUGHNESS OF THIS MAN”S CHANGE AS EVIDENCED BY HIS WORDS.
1. He recognizes the existence and the power and the providence of God (ver. 40).
2. He has a sense of the turpitude of his own conduct, a due sense of sin (ver. 41).
3. He recognizes the innocence and excellence of Jesus Christ (ver. 41).
4. He believes in his real royalty, though it is so hidden from sight, and though circumstances are so terribly against it (ver. 42).
5. He believes in the pitifulness as well as the power of this kingly Sufferer, and he makes his humble but not unhopeful appeal to his remembrance.
6. He does the one thing for Christ he can do as he is dying on the cross he remonstrates with his companion in crime, and seeks to silence his cruel taunts. Here is penitence, faith, service, all springing up and in earnest exercise in this brief hour.
III A SUDDEN TRANSITION FROM THE LOWEST TO THE HIGHEST ESTATE. (Ver. 43) “What a day to that dying man! How strange a contrast between its opening and its close, its morning and its night! Its morning saw him a culprit condemned before the bar of earthly judgment; before evening shadowed the hill of Zion he stood accepted at the bar of heaven. The morning saw him led out through an earthly city”s gates in company with One who was hooted at by the crowd that gathered round him; before night fell upon Jerusalem the gates of another city, even the heavenly, were lifted up, and he went through them in company with One around whom all the hosts of heaven were bowing down as he passed to take his place beside the Father on his everlasting throne” (Hanna). In view of this most interesting fact we gather two lessons.
1. One of hopefulness. It is never too late to repent; in other words, repentance, when real, is never ineffectual. None could be more undeniably impenitent until within a few hours of his death than this malefactor, and no man”s penitence could be more decisively availing than his. It was real and thorough, and therefore it was accepted. It is a great thing for those who speak for Christ to be warranted, as they are, in going to the dying and despairing, and telling these departing ones, that true penitence, however late, avails with God; that his ear is not closed against the sigh of the contrite, even at the last hour of the day; that up to the last there is mercy to be had by them who truly seek it. But there is another lesson to be learnt.
2. One of warning and of fear. There is every reason to hope that true though late repentance is always accepted; but there is grave reason to fear that late repentance is seldom real and true. How often does experience prove that men in apparently dying hours have believed themselves to be penitent when they have only been apprehensive of coming doom! The dread of approaching judgment is far from being the same thing as repentance unto life. Not the last hour, when a selfish dread may be so easily mistaken for spiritual conviction, but the day of health and strength, when conviction can pass into action and honest shame into faithful service, is the time to turn from sin and to seek the face and the favor of the living God. Let none despair, but let none presume. C.
40.And the other answering. In this wicked man a striking mirror of the unexpected and incredible grace of God is held out to us, not only in his being suddenly changed into a new man, when he was near death, and drawn from hell itself to heaven, but likewise in having obtained in a moment the forgiveness of all the sins in which he had been plunged through his whole life, and in having been thus admitted to heaven before the apostles and first-fruits of the new Church. First, then, a remarkable instance of the grace of God shines in the conversion of that man. For it was not by the natural movement of the flesh that he laid aside his fierce cruelty and proud contempt of God, so as to repent immediately, but he was subdued by the hand of God; as the whole of Scripture shows that repentance is His work. And so much the more excellent is this grace, that it came beyond the expectation of all. For who would ever have thought that a robber, in the very article of death, would become not only a devout worshiper of God, but a distinguished teacher of faith and piety to the whole world, so that we too must receive from his mouth the rule of a true and proper confession? Now the first proof which he gave of his repentance was, that he severely reproved and restrained the wicked forwardness of his companion. He then added a second, by humbling himself in open acknowledgment of his crimes, and ascribing to Christ the praise due to his righteousness. Thirdly, he displayed astonishing faith by committing himself and his salvation to the protection of Christ, while he saw him hanging on the cross and near death.
Dost not thou fear God? Though these words are tortured in various ways by commentators, yet the natural meaning of them appears to me to be, What is the meaning of this, that even this condemnation does not compel thee to fear God? For the robber represents it as an additional proof of the hard-heartedness of his companion, that when reduced to the lowest straits, he does not even now begin to fear God. But to remove all ambiguity, it is proper to inform the reader that an impudent and detestable blasphemer, who thought that he might safely indulge in ridicule, is summoned to the judgment-seat of God; for though he had remained all his life unmoved, he ought to have trembled when he saw that the hand of God was armed against him, and that he must soon render an account of all his crimes; It was, therefore, a proof of desperate and diabolical obstinacy, that while God held him bound by the final judgment, he did not even then return to a sound mind; for if there had been the smallest particle of godliness in the heart of that man, he would at least have been constrained to yield to the fear of God. We now perceive the general meaning of his words, that those men, in whom even punishments do not produce amendment, are desperate, and totally destitute of the fear of God.
I interpret the words ἐν τῶ αὐτῷ κρίματι to mean not in the same condemnation, but during the condemnation itself; as if the robber had said, Since thou art even now in the jaws of death, thou oughtest to be aroused to acknowledge God as thy Judge. Hence, too, we draw a useful doctrine, that those whom punishments do not train to humility do altogether resist God; for they who possess any fear of God must necessarily be overwhelmed with shame, and struck silent.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
40. But the other] The ‘bonus latro,’ or ‘Penitent Robber,’ is called by various traditional names, and in the Arabic ‘Gospel of the Infancy’ (an Apocryphal book) he is called Titus and Dysmas in Ev. Nicodem. x., and a story is told that he had saved the Virgin and her Child from his comrades during their flight into Egypt. There are robber caves in the Valley of Doves which leads from Gennesareth to Kurn Hattin (see on 6:12), and he may have been among the crowds who hung on the lips of Jesus in former days. “Doubtless the Cross aided his penitence. On the soft couch conversion is rare.” Bengel.
Dost not thou fear God] Rather, Dost not thou even fear God?
Dost not thou fear God – The sufferings of this person had been sanctified to him, so that his heart was open to receive help from the hand of the Lord: he is a genuine penitent, and gives the fullest proof he can give of it, viz. the acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence. He had sinned, and he acknowledges his sin; his heart believes unto righteousness, and with his tongue he makes confession unto salvation. While he condemns himself he bears testimony that Jesus was innocent. Bishop Pearce supposes that these were not robbers in the common sense of the word, but Jews who took up arms on the principle that the Romans were not to be submitted to, and that their levies of tribute money were oppressive; and therefore they made no scruple to rob all the Romans they met with. These Jews Josephus calls λῃσται, robbers, the same term used by the evangelists. This opinion gains some strength from the penitent thief’s confession: We receive the reward of our deeds – we rose up against the government, and committed depredations in the country; but this man hath done nothing amiss – ατοπον, out of place, disorderly, – nothing calculated to raise sedition or insurrection; nor inconsistent with his declarations of peace and good will towards all men, nor with the nature of that spiritual kingdom which he came to establish among men; though he is now crucified under the pretense of disaffection to the Roman government.
41.And we indeed justly. As the reproof founded on the condemnation might be thought to apply to Christ, the robber here draws a distinction between the condition of Christ and that of himself and his companion, or he acknowledges, that the punishment which was common to all the three was justly inflicted on him and his companion, but not on Christ, who had been dragged to the punishment of death, not by his own crime, but by the cruelty of enemies. But we ought to remember what I said a little ago, that the robber gave a proof of his repentance, such as God demands from all of us, when he acknowledged that he was now receiving the reward due to his actions. Above all, it ought to be observed, that the severity of the punishment did not hinder him from patiently submitting to dreadful tortures. And, therefore, if we truly repent of our crimes, let us learn to confess them willingly and without hypocrisy, whenever it is necessary, and not to refuse the disgrace which we have deserved. For the only method of burying our sins before God and before angels is, not to attempt to disguise them before men by vain excuses. Again, among the various coverings on which hypocrisy seizes, the most frequent of all is, that every one draws in others along with himself, that he may excuse himself by their example The robber, on the other hand, is not less eager to maintain the innocence of Christ, than he is frank and open in condemning himself and his companion.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
we … justly, etc. — He owns the worst of his crimes and deserts, and would fain shame his fellow into the same.
nothing amiss — literally, “out of place”; hence “unnatural”; a striking term here. Our Lord was not charged with ordinary crime, but only with laying claim to office and honors which amounted to blasphemy. The charge of treason had not even a show of truth, as Pilate told His enemies. In this defense then there seems more than meets the eye. “He made Himself the promised Messiah, the Son of God; but in this He ‘did nothing amiss’; He ate with publicans and sinners, and bade all the weary and heavy laden come and rest under His wing; but in this He ‘did nothing amiss’: He claimed to be Lord of the Kingdom of God, to shut it at will, but also to open it at pleasure even to such as we are; but in this He ‘did nothing amiss!’” Does His next speech imply less than this? Observe:
(1) His frank confession and genuine self-condemnation.
(2) His astonishment and horror at the very different state of his fellow’s mind.
(3) His anxiety to bring him to a better mind while yet there was hope.
(4) His noble testimony, not only to the innocence of Jesus, but to all that this implied of the rightfulness of His claims.
42.Lord, remember me. I know not that, since the creation of the world, there ever was a more remarkable and striking example of faith; and so much the greater admiration is due to the grace of the Holy Spirit, of which it affords so magnificent a display. A robber, who not only had not been educated in the school of Christ, but, by giving himself up to execrable murders, had endeavored to extinguish all sense of what was right, suddenly rises higher than all the apostles and the other disciples whom the Lord himself had taken so much pains to instruct; and not only so, but he adores Christ as a King while on the gallows, celebrates his kingdom in the midst of shocking and worse than revolting abasement, and declares him, when dying, to be the Author of life. Even though he had formerly possessed right faith, and heard many things about the office of Christ, and had even been confirmed in it by his miracles, still that knowledge might have been overpowered by the thick darkness of so disgraceful a death. But that a person, ignorant and uneducated, and whose mind was altogether corrupted, should all at once, on receiving his earliest instructions, perceive salvation and heavenly glory in the accursed cross, was truly astonishing. For what marks or ornaments of royalty did he see in Christ, so as to raise his mind to his kingdom? And, certainly, this was, as it were, from the depth of hell to rise above the heavens. To the flesh it must have appeared to be fabulous and absurd, to ascribe to one who was rejected and despised, (Isa_53:3) whom the world could not endure, an earthly kingdom more exalted than all the empires of the world. Hence we infer how acute must have been the eyes of his mind, by which he beheld life in death, exaltation in ruin, glory in shame, victory in destruction, a kingdom in bondage.
Now if a robber, by his faith, elevated Christ—while hanging on the cross, and, as it were, overwhelmed with cursing—to a heavenly throne, woe to our sloth, if we do not behold him with reverence while sitting at the right hand of God; if we do not fix our hope of life on his resurrection; if our aim is not towards heaven where he has entered. Again, if we consider, on the other hand, the condition in which he was, when he implored the compassion of Christ, our admiration of his faith will be still heightened. With a mangled body, and almost dead, he is looking for the last stroke of the executioner and yet he relies on the grace of Christ alone. First, whence came his assurance of pardon, but because in the death of Christ, which all others look upon as detestable, he beholds a sacrifice of sweet savor, efficacious for expiating the sins of the world. And when he courageously disregards his tortures, and is even so forgetful of himself, that he is carried away to the hope and desire of the hidden life, this goes far beyond the human faculties. From this teacher, therefore, whom the Lord has appointed over us to humble the pride of the flesh, let us not be ashamed to learn the mortification of the flesh, and patience, and elevation of faith, and steadiness of hope, and ardor of piety; for the more eagerly any man follows him, so much the more nearly will he approach to Christ.
42. Ἰησοῦ, μνήσθητὶ μου. “Jesus, remember me,” The insertion of κύριε (A R X Γ Δ etc. and most Versions) was made because Ἰησοῦ was mistaken for the dat. after ἔλεγεν: dicebat ad Jesum, Domine, memento mei (Vulg.). So also Syr-Sin. Comp. ἀλλὰ μνήσθητί μου διὰ σεαυτοῦ ὅταν εὖ σοι γένηται (Gen_40:14). The robber knew that he had only a few hours to live, and therefore this prayer implies a belief in a future state in which Jesus is to receive him in His Kingdom. Possibly he believed that Christ would raise him from the dead. In any case his faith in one who is crucified with him is very remarkable. Some saw Jesus raise the dead, and did not believe. The robber sees Him being put to death, and yet believes. Contempserunt Judæi mortuos suscitantem: non contempsit latro secum cruce pendentem (Aug. Serm. xxiii. 3). D again amplifies with στραφεὶς πρὸς τ. κύριον.
ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ σου. This is perhaps the best supported reading: comp. Mat_16:28, Mat_25:31. It means “when Thou comest in the glory and power of Thy Kingdom”: whereas εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν σου (B L, Vulg., Hil Ambr.) would mean “comest into Thy Kingdom.” The former refers to Christ’s return in glory, the latter to his return to the Father through death. The alteration of ἐν into εἰς as more appropriate to ἔλθῃς seems more probable than the converse. That the robber had heard what is recorded Joh_18:36, Joh_18:37 is possible, but not probable. He believes that Jesus is the Messiah, and he knows that the Messiah is to have a kingdom. It is all but certain that the robber was a Jew. This is antecedently probable; and to a heathen the word “paradise” would hardly have been intelligible.
There is no reason for supposing that the robber felt the need of obtaining forgiveness from the Messiah. To the Jew death is an expiation for sin. In the “Confession on a Death Bed” in the Authorised Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations we have, “O may my death be an atonement for all my sins, iniquities, and transgressions, of which I have been guilty against Thee” (p. 317).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
said unto Jesus, etc. — Observe here (1) The “kingdom” referred to was one beyond the grave; for it is inconceivable that he should have expected Him to come down from the cross to erect any temporal kingdom. (2) This he calls Christ’s own (Thy) kingdom. (3) As such, he sees in Christ the absolute right to dispose of that kingdom to whom He pleased. (4) He does not presume to ask a place in that kingdom, though that is what he means, but with a humility quite affecting, just says, “Lord, remember me when,” etc. Yet was there mighty faith in that word. If Christ will but “think upon him” (Neh_5:19), at that august moment when He “cometh into His kingdom,” it will do. “Only assure me that then Thou wilt not forget such a wretch as I, that once hung by Thy side, and I am content.” Now contrast with this bright act of faith the darkness even of the apostles’ minds, who could hardly be got to believe that their Master would die at all, who now were almost despairing of Him, and who when dead had almost buried their hopes in His grave. Consider, too, the man’s previous disadvantages and bad life. And then mark how his faith comes out – not in protestations, “Lord, I cannot doubt, I am firmly persuaded that Thou art Lord of a kingdom, that death cannot disannul Thy title nor impede the assumption of it in due time,” etc. — but as having no shadow of doubt, and rising above it as a question altogether, he just says, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest,” etc. Was ever faith like this exhibited upon earth? It looks as if the brightest crown had been reserved for the Savior’s head at His darkest moment!
TEXT: “remember me whenever you come into your kingdom.”
EVIDENCE: p75 B L most lat vg
TRANSLATIONS: KJV* ASVn RSV NASVn* NIV NEB TEV?
NOTES: “remember me whenever you come in your kingdom.”
EVIDENCE: S A C K W X Delta Theta Pi Psi 0124 f1 f13 28 33 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz Lect three lat syr cop
TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSVn NASV NEBn TEV? (“as King”)
OTHER: “remember me in the day of your coming.”
EVIDENCE: D (both Greek and Latin)
COMMENTS: While it is possible that “into” is a scribal correction introduced as fitting better with “come” than “in,” the UBS Textual Committee felt that the reading “into” fit better with Luke’s theology (see Luk_24:26).
Remember me – This is a phrase praying for favor, or asking him to grant him an “interest” in his kingdom, or to acknowledge him as one of his followers. It implied that he believed that Jesus was what he claimed to be – the Messiah; that, though he was dying with them, yet he would set up his kingdom; and that he had full power to bless him, though about to expire. It is possible that this man might have heard him preach before his crucifixion, and have learned there the nature of his kingdom; or it may have been that while on the cross Jesus had taken occasion to acquaint them with the nature of his kingdom. While he might have been doing this, one of the malefactors may have continued to rail on him while the other became truly penitent. Such a result of preaching the gospel would not have been unlike what has often occurred since, where, while the gospel has been proclaimed, one has been “taken and another left;” one has been melted to repentance, another has been more hardened in guilt. The promise which follows shows that this prayer was answered. This was a case of repentance in the last hour, the trying hour of death; and it has been remarked that one was brought to repentance there, to show that no one should “despair” on a dying bed; and “but” one, that none should be presumptuous and delay repentance to that awful moment.
When thou comest … – It is impossible now to fix the precise idea which this robber had of Christ’s coming. Whether it was that he expected that he would rise from the dead, as some of the Jews supposed the Messiah would; or whether he referred to the day of judgment; or whether to an immediate translation to his kingdom in the heavens, we cannot tell. All that we know is, that he fully believed him to be the Messiah, and that he desired to obtain an interest in that kingdom which he knew he would establish.
43.Verily I tell thee. Though Christ had not yet made a public triumph over death, still he displays the efficacy and fruit of his death in the midst of his humiliation. And in this way he shows that he never was deprived of the power of his kingdom; for nothing more lofty or magnificent belongs to a divine King, than to restore life to the dead. So then, Christ, although, struck by the hand of God, he appeared to be a man utterly abandoned, yet as he did not cease to be the Savior of the world, he was always endued with heavenly power for fulfilling his office. And, first, we ought to observe his inconceivable readiness in so kindly receiving the robber without delay, and promising to make him a partaker of a happy life. There is therefore no room to doubt that he is prepared to admit into his kingdom all, without exception, who shall apply to him. Hence we may conclude with certainty that we shall be saved, provided that he remember us; and it is impossible that he shall forget those who commit to him their salvation.
But if a robber found the entrance into heaven so easy, because, while he beheld on all sides ground for total despair, he relied on the grace of Christ; much more will Christ, who has now vanquished death, stretch out his hand to us from his throne, to admit us to be partakers of life. For since Christ has nailed to his cross the handwriting which was opposed to us, (Col_2:14,) and has destroyed death and Satan, and in his resurrection has triumphed over the prince of the world, (Joh_12:31,) it would be unreasonable to suppose that the passage from death to life will be more laborious and difficult to us than to the robber. Whoever then in dying shall commit to Christ, in true faith, the keeping of his soul, will not be long detained or allowed to languish in suspense; but Christ will meet his prayer with the same kindness which he exercised towards the robber. Away, then, with that detestable contrivance of the Sophists about retaining the punishment when the guilt is removed; for we see how Christ, in acquitting him from condemnation, frees him also from punishment. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact, that the robber nevertheless endures to the very last the punishment which had been pronounced upon him; for we must not here imagine any compensation which serves the purpose of satisfaction for appeasing the judgment of God, (as the Sophists dream,) but the Lord merely trains his elect by corporal punishments to displeasure and hatred of sin. Thus, when the robber has been brought by fatherly discipline to self-denial Christ receives him, as it were, into his bosom, and does not send him away to the fire of purgatory.
We ought likewise to observe by what keys the gate of heaven was opened to the robber; for neither papal confession nor satisfactions are here taken into account, but Christ is satisfied with repentance and faith, so as to receive him willingly when he comes to him. And this confirms more fully what I formerly suggested, that if any man disdain to abide by the footsteps of the robber, and to follow in his path, he deserves everlasting destruction, because by wicked pride he shuts against himself the gate of heaven. And, certainly, as Christ has given to all of us, in the person of the robber, a general pledge of obtaining forgiveness, so, on the other hand, he has bestowed on this wretched man such distinguished honor, in order that, laying aside our own glory, we may glory in nothing but the mercy of God alone. If each of us shall truly and seriously examine the subject, we shall find abundant reason to be ashamed of the prodigious mass of our crimes, so that we shall not be offended at having for our guide and leader a poor wretch, who obtained salvation by free grace. Again, as the death of Christ at that time yielded its fruit, so we infer from it that souls, when they have departed from their bodies, continue to live; otherwise the promise of Christ, which he confirms even by an oath, would be a mockery.
Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. We ought not to enter into curious and subtle arguments about the place of paradise. Let us rest satisfied with knowing that those who are engrafted by faith into the body of Christ are partakers of that life, and thus enjoy after death a blessed and joyful rest, until the perfect glory of the heavenly life is fully manifested by the coming of Christ.
One point still remains. What is promised to the robber does not alleviate his present sufferings, nor make any abatement of his bodily punishment. This reminds us that we ought not to judge of the grace of God by the perception of the flesh; for it will often happen that those to whom God is reconciled are permitted by him to be severely afflicted. So then, if we are dreadfully tormented in body, we ought to be on our guard lest the severity of pain hinder us from tasting the goodness of God; but, on the contrary, all our afflictions ought to be mitigated and soothed by this single consolation, that as soon as God has received us into his favor, all the afflictions which we endure are aids to our salvation. This will cause our faith not only to rise victorious over all our distresses, but to enjoy calm repose amidst the endurance of sufferings.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
43. To day] An unexpected boon,—for the crucified often lingered in agony for more than two days.
To day shalt thou be with me in paradise] Paradeisos is derived from the Persian word Pardes, meaning a king’s garden or pleasaunce. Here it is ‘a garden’ in which are more blessed trees than those in the garden of Golgotha. (Bengel.) It is used (1) for the garden of Eden (Gen_2:8, &c.); and (2) for that region of Hades (Sheol) in which the spirits of the blest await the general Resurrection, Act_2:31; 1Co_15:55; Rev_2:7.
Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise (Sēmeron met’ emou esēi en tōi paradeisōi). However crude may have been the robber’s Messianic ideas Jesus clears the path for him. He promises him immediate and conscious fellowship after death with Christ in Paradise which is a Persian word and is used here not for any supposed intermediate state; but the very bliss of heaven itself. This Persian word was used for an enclosed park or pleasure ground (so Xenophon). The word occurs in two other passages in the N.T. (2Co_12:4; Rev_2:7), in both of which the reference is plainly to heaven. Some Jews did use the word for the abode of the pious dead till the resurrection, interpreting “Abraham’s bosom” (Luk_16:22.) in this sense also. But the evidence for such an intermediate state is too weak to warrant belief in it.
Today … – It is not probable that the dying thief expected that his prayer would be so soon answered. It is rather to be supposed that he looked to some “future” period when the Messiah would rise or would return; but Jesus told him that his prayer would be answered that very day, implying, evidently, that it would be “immediately” at death. This is the more remarkable, as those who were crucified commonly lingered for several days on the cross before they died; but Jesus foresaw that measures would be taken to “hasten” their death, and assured him that “that” day he should receive an answer to his prayer and be with him in his kingdom.
Paradise – This is a word of “Persian” origin, and means “a garden,” particularly a garden of pleasure, filled with trees, and shrubs, and fountains, and flowers. In hot climates such gardens were especially pleasant, and hence, they were attached to the mansions of the rich and to the palaces of princes. The word came thus to denote any place of happiness, and was used particularly to denote the abodes of the blessed in another world. The Romans spoke of their Elysium, and the Greeks of the gardens of Hesperides, where the trees bore golden fruit. The garden of Eden means, also, the garden of “pleasure,” and in Gen_2:8 the Septuagint renders the word “Eden by Paradise.” Hence, this name in the Scriptures comes to denote the abodes of the blessed in the other world. See the notes at 2Co_12:4. The Jews supposed that the souls of the righteous would be received into such a place, and those of the wicked cast down to Gehenna until the time of the judgment. They had many fables about this state which it is unnecessary to repeat. The plain meaning of the passage is, “Today thou shalt be made happy, or be received to a state of blessedness with me after death.” It is to be remarked that Christ says nothing about the “place where” it should be, nor of the condition of those there, excepting that it is a place of blessedness, and that its happiness is to commence immediately after death (see also Phi_1:23); but from the narrative we may learn:
1. That the soul will exist separately from the body; for, while the thief and the Saviour would be in Paradise, their “bodies” would be on the cross or in the grave.
2. That immediately after death – the same day – the souls of the righteous will be made happy. They will feel that they are secure; they will be received among the just; and they will have the assurance of a glorious immortality.
3. That state will differ from the condition of the wicked. The promise was made to but one on the cross, and there is no evidence whatever that the other entered there. See also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luk_16:19-31.
4. It is the chief glory of this state and of heaven to be permitted to see Jesus Christ and to be with him: “Thou shalt be with me.” “I desire to depart and to be with Christ,” Phi_1:23. See also Rev_21:23; Rev_5:9-14.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
44. it was about the sixth hour] i. e. mid-day. This seems at first sight to contradict Joh_19:14, but there is fair ground to conjecture that ‘sixth’ (which would be written ςʹ) was an early misreading for ‘third’ (written Γʹ). For other proposed solutions of the discrepancy see Life of Christ, ii. 385. The solution which asserts that St John used a different way of reckoning time is very precarious. St Luke omits the presence of the Virgin and the two other Marys and Salome at the Cross, and the words “Woman, behold thy son,” “Behold thy mother.” During the three hours’ darkness no incident is recorded, but we trace a deepening sense of remorse and horror in the crowd. The fact that the sun was thus “turned into darkness” was, at last, that ‘sign from heaven’ for which the Pharisees had mockingly asked.
over all the earth] Rather, over all the land. There is no reason to believe that the darkness was over all the world. The Fathers (Origen, c. Cels. ii. 33, 59, and Jerome, Chron.) indeed appeal to two heathen historians—Phlegon and Thallus—for a confirmation of it, but the testimony is too vague to be relied on either as to time or circumstance. They both speak of an eclipse.
The time of the Crucifixion. and it was about the sixth hour. We have before given (see note on Luk_22:47) the approximate hours of the several acts of the last night and day. This verse gives us the time of the duration of the “darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour; that is in our reckoning, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. With this date the other two synoptists agree. (comp. Mat_27:45 Mar_15:33) Our Lord had then been on the cross three hours. (see Mar_15:25, where it is stated that he was crucified in the third hour, i.e. 9 a.m.) But while the three synoptists are in perfect harmony, we are met with a grave difficulty in St. John”s account, for in Joh_19:14: of his Gospel we read how the final condemnation of our Lord by Pilate took place about the sixth hour. At first sight, to attempt here to harmonize St. John with the three synoptists would seem a hopeless task, as St. John apparently gives the hour of the final condemnation by Pilate, which the three give as the hour when the darkness began, i.e. when the Sufferer had already hung on the cross for three hours. Various explanations have been suggested; among these the most satisfying and probable is the supposition that, while the three synoptists followed the usual Jewish mode of reckoning time, St. John, writing some half a century later in quite another country, possibly twenty years after Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed, and the Jewish polity had disappeared, adopted another mode of reckoning the hours, thus following, probably, a practice of the province in which he was living, and for which he was especially writing. Dr. Westcott, in an additional note on Joh_19:14, examines the four occasions on which St. John mentions a definite hour of the day; and comes to the conclusion that the fourth evangelist generally reckoned his hours from midnight. The Romans reckoned their civil days from midnight, and there are also traces of reckoning the hours from midnight in Asia Minor. “About the sixth hour” would then be about six a.m. Before touching upon the strange darkness which at the sixth hour seems to have hung over the land like a black pall, we note that somewhere in the first three hours, possibly after the words spoken to the dying penitent, must be placed the incident of the entrusting the virgin-mother to St. John. (Joh_19:25, etc.) There is no doubt that on the surface of this, his third word from the cross, lay a loving desire to spare his mother the sight of his last awful suffering. Hence his command to John to watch over from henceforth the mother of his Lord. We may assume, then, that, in obedience to his Master”s word, John led Mary away before the sixth hour. So Bengel, who comments here, “Great is the faith of Mary to be present at the cross; great was her submission to go away before his death.” And there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. St. Matthew gives us additional particulars respecting this phenomenon. He says that besides this darkness there was also an earthquake, and that several graves were opened, and the dead during those hours of solemn gloom appeared to many in the holy city. Early Christian writers of high authority, such as Tertullian (“Apol.,” ch. 21) and Origen (“Contra Cels.,” 2:33), appeal to this strange phenomenon as if attested by heathen writers. It was evidently no slight or imaginary portent, but one that was well known in the early Christian years. The narrative does not oblige us to think of anything more than an indescribable and oppressive darkness, which like a vast black pall hung over earth and sea. The effect on the scoffing multitude was quickly perceptible. We hear of no more cries of mocking and derision; only just at the end of the three dark hours is the silence broken by the mysterious and awful cry of the Sinless One related by SS. Matthew and Mark, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Godet”s comment is remarkable: “The darkness, the rending of the veil of the temple, the earthquake, and the opening of several graves, are explained by the profound connection existing on the one side between Christ and humanity, on the other between humanity and nature. Christ is the Soul of humanity, as humanity is the soul of the external world.” The darkness, he suggests, was perhaps connected with the earthquake with which it was accompanied, or it may have resulted from an atmospherical or cosmical cause. The phenomenon need not necessarily have extended over all the earth: it probably was confined to Palestine and the adjacent countries.
The shelter of the darkness.
The darkness which fell upon Jerusalem at midday and enshrouded the scene of the Crucifixion was a phenomenon for which it is impossible to account physically, and which it is not easy to explain morally. It is a matter for reverent conjecture, for thoughtful and devout inference, for sacred and solemn imagination. We are on sure ground when we say that it came from the Divine Father, and came on behalf of his beloved Son. We do not venture much when we suggest that it came in response to that Son”s appeal in this dark “day of his flesh”. (Heb_5:7) We may do well to consider what was the probable impression it made on those who were concerned in that sad and sacred scene.
I ON THE LEADERS OF THE PEOPLE. Surely they were smitten with consternation. One would suppose that, as these men witnessed the wonderful works of Christ, some doubts as to the rightness of their antagonism to him must have darted into their minds, and that beneath their confident and defiant attitude of enmity there must have lain some secret misgivings as to the course they were taking. Probably they were not without their fears that something would happen at the last to disappoint them. But as the day wore on, and Jesus actually hung upon the cross, and his strength was certainly going, and the people quietly acquiesced if they did not possibly “assist,” all seemed to be satisfactory, to be indeed triumphant. When, lo! a strange, unaccountable darkness, an impenetrable obscurity! The sun refuses to shine at midday. No man sees his fellow, or sees him only in the faintest light. The Crucified One is screened from view. The scoffs and shouts are silenced, and there is a terrible stillness and solemnity. What can that mean? God is speaking in his own chosen way, and is rebuking their guilty deed. There is a quaking at the proud Pharisee”s heart, a trembling in the soul of the scribe; there are no more taunts from their bitter lips; an unspeakable terror invades even their closed hearts which no casuistry can bar. Is it, then, the blood of their Messiah that they have been shedding?
II ON THE MULTITUDE. How must they have been subdued with awe, if not agitated with wild alarm! How overwhelming to their less cultured minds must so astounding an event have been! “Whither,” we hear them say, “have our rulers led us? Surely there is something sacred and Divine in this Galilaean Prophet! Heaven is pronouncing in his favor. Have we crucified our King? Will his blood be upon us?” and the daughters of Jerusalem already begin to weep for themselves and for their children, as they think that some great calamity impends.
III ON THE ROMAN SOLDIER. Trained to face peril and to be calm even in the presence of overshadowing death, he probably remained quiet and firm, the least moved of all the throng. Nothing could be done, and he would lean on his spear, waiting the centurion”s command when light should break; though exceedingly astonished and awe-struck, he would stand to his post with unmoved purpose and well-mastered fear.
IV ON THE DISCIPLES. To them it must have come as a relief, if not a promise. Believing in their Lord, wondering with great amazement at his capture and crucifixion, they would feel that any miraculous interposition was not unlikely, was quite probable. It raised their hopes a few degrees above despair; possibly many degrees. If God interposed thus far, he might restore everything. At the least, this welcome darkness screened themselves, who were too near the cross for security, though too far from their Master for service; perhaps it quieted their fear while it comforted their conscience.
V ON THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF. TO him we may be well assured that it was a most welcome succor.
1. It was a verdict from heaven attesting his innocence. It brought confusion to his enemies and confirmation to himself It was “a sign from heaven” distinctly in his favor. The sun refused to shine on so guilty a crime as that then perpetrated; the darkness that wrapped them round was God”s attestation of the darkness of the deed then being enacted.
2. It effectually shut the mouth of ribaldry and reproach. “it stopped each wagging head, it silenced each gibing tongue.” We cannot tell how painful and how piercing to his sensitive spirit those cruel mockings were; nor can we, therefore, tell how much of a relief was the stillness that came with the darkness.
3. It screened him from shame. Men would leave the Crucified exposed in shame and nakedness to die, but an unseen hand was stretched forth to draw the drapery of darkness round him and hide him from vulgar gaze.
4. It gave him a desired privacy for sorrow and for prayer. Sorrow and prayer always seek solitude; they desire to be alone with God. We do not like any others, except it be one that is most beloved, to witness the deeper griefs, or the sadder and sterner wrestlings of our soul. We seek the shade of some Gethsemane for such sacred experiences as these. What awful sorrow now rested upon Christ, now agitated his soul to its very depths, we may never understand. But we know that the burden he bore for us was at its very heaviest, that the sorrow he endured for us was at its extremest point just at this time, for it culminated in that terrible cry of desolation (Mat_27:45, Mat_27:46) which we do not try to fathom, which silences all speech and subdues every spirit. Such sacred sorrow, accompanied, as it certainly was, with the most close communion and fervent prayer, was not for the curiosity of that heartless crowd. It needed the most perfect privacy. And so the Divine Father, in this supreme hour of his Son”s great work and of the redemption of mankind, “made darkness, and it was night;” shut the Savior round with the merciful folds of thick darkness, that he might be alone with that Father in whose sole presence the great sacrifice was to be completed. C.
Cambridge Bible: Lk Farrar
45. And the sun was darkened] Instead of these words some MSS. (א, B, C, &c.) read “the sun eclipsing,” or “failing.” The reading seems only to be an attempt, and that a very unsuccessful one, to account for the darkness. That it could not have been due to an eclipse is certain, for the Paschal moon was at the full.
the vail of the temple was rent in the midst] The veil intended must be what was called the Parocheth, or inner veil, which hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. It was very heavy, and splendid with embroidery. It is alluded to in Heb_6:19, Heb_6:9:3, Heb_6:10:19, Heb_6:20. The obvious significance of the portent was the departure of the Shechinah or Presence of God from His now-deserted Temple. This particular event is (naturally) not mentioned by the Jews, but we may have a reference to it in the various omens of coming wrath which they say occurred “forty years” before the destruction of the Temple, and in which Jochanan Ben Zakkai saw the fulfilment of Zec_11:1. For a fuller account of these events see Mat_27:51-53; Mar_15:33. Jerome on Mat_27:51 says that a great lintel over the gate of the Temple fell and was shattered.
45. τοῦ ἡλίου ἐλέποντος. The reading is doubtful; but this is probably correct, although ἐλιπόντος may possibly be correct. “The sun failing,” or “the sun having failed.” is the meaning: and we must leave it doubtful whether Lk. supposes that there was an eclipse (which is impossible at full moon), or uses ἐκλείπειν in its originally vague sense of “fail.” The latter is probable. Neither in LXX nor elsewhere in N.T. is ἐκλείπω used of the sun. The fact that it might mean an eclipse, and that an eclipse was known to be impossible, would tempt copyists to substitute a phrase that would be free from objection; whereas no one would want to change ἐσκοτίσθη ὁ ἣλιος. The Gospel of Peter states that “many went about with lamps, supposing it is night.” and that the darkness lasted until Jesus was taken from the cross, when the earthquake took place: “then the sun shone out, and it was found to be the ninth hour.” See Charles. Assump. of Moses, 41, 87.
The evidence stands thus:—
τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλείπόντος (or ἐκλιπόντος א L al., Tisch.) א B C* (?) L codd. ap. Orig. Aegyptt. Orig. “Cels.” WH. RV. Weiss. καὶ ἐσκοτίσθη ὁ ἥλιος A C3 D Q R X Γ etc., codd. ap. Orig-lat. Latt. Syr. Marcion ap. Epiph. Lach. Treg. D has ἐσκ. δέ. The Latin renderings are intenebricatus est sol (a),tenebricavit sol (c), obscuratus est sol (d e f Vulg.). See WH. ii. App. pp. 69-71 for a full discussion of the evidence.
Julius Africanus (c. a.d. 220) in his Chronica opposes the heathen historian Thallus for explaining this darkness as an eclipse, which at the Passover would be impossible (Routh, Rel Sacr. ii. pp. 297, 476). In the Acta Pilati, A. xi. the Jews are represented as explaining away the darkness in a similar manner: ἔκλειψις ἡλίου γέγονεν κατὰ τὸ εἰωθός!
Origen (Con. Cels, ii. 33, 59; comp. 14) tells us that Phlegon (a freedman of Hadrian) recorded the earthquake and the darkness in his Chronicles. Eusebius in his Chronicle quotes the words of Phlegon, stating that in the 202nd Olympiad (4th year of the 203rd, Arm. Vers.) there was a very great eclipse; also that there was a great earthquake in Bithynia, which destroyed a great part of Nicæa (Eus. Chron. p. 148, ed. Schœne). It is impossible to determine whether the events recorded by Phlegon have any connexion with the phenomenoa which accompanied the death of Christ.
ἐσχίσθη δὲ τὸ καταπέτασμα. Between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (Exo_26:31; Lev_21:23, Lev_21:24:3; Heb_6:19; comp. Heb_10:20) there was a curtain called τὸ δεύτερον καταπέτασμα (Heb_9:3), to distinguish it from the curtain which separated the outer court from the Holy Place. The latter was more accurately, but not invariably, called τὸ κάλυμμα (Exo_27:16; Num_3:25). But Jewish traditions state that there were two curtains, one cubit apart, between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the space between them being called τάραξις because of the perplexity which led to this arrangement (J. Light. foot on Mat_27:51). It is not clear how many curtains are included in τὰ καταπετάσματα in 1 Mac. 4:51. It is futile to speculate how the curtain was rent; but the fact would be well known to the priests, “a great company” of whom soon afterwards became “obedient to do faith” (Act_6:7). The μέσον of Lk. is more classical than the εἰς δύο of Mt. Mk. and the Gospel of Peter.1
And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. This was the inner veil, which hung between the holy place and the holy of holies. It was rich with costly embroidery, and very heavy. Before the willing surrender of life told of in the next verse (46), our Lord spoke twice more. These fifth and sixth words from the cross are preserved by St. John. (Joh_19:28, Joh_19:30) The first of these, “I thirst an expression of bodily exhaustion, of physical suffering was predicted as part of the agony of tile Servant of God. (Psa_69:21) The second, “It is finished!” tells that “the earthly life had been carried to its issue. That every essential point in the prophetic portraiture of Messiah had been realized. The last suffering for sin had been endured. The end of all had been gained. Nothing was left undone or unborne” (Westcott).
The rent veil.
At the time when Jesus died it is exceedingly probable that there would be priests in the “holy place.” It was now afternoon, it was drawing toward the time of evening sacrifice; they would be in attendance rendering the service of the sanctuary; they would certainly be aware of what was happening just outside Jerusalem, and would be powerfully affected by the fact. Suddenly, as if grasped and rent by unseen hands, that most sacred veil interposing between the antechamber and the reception-room of God himself, was torn in twain, “from the top to the bottom.” The incident was undeniably miraculous. No Jew would have dreamed of daring to do an act that would have been so impious in a man. A Divine hand must have been there, and when they entered into the mysterious darkness and felt the earthquake, must not these priests have asked themselves whether the rending of the veil did not signify a new epoch in the kingdom of God? May not the conversion of a “great company of the priests” (Act_6:7) be partly accounted for by this striking and significant event? But what did it symbolize?
I THAT GOD HAD ADOPTED A NEW METHOD OF ASSERTING HIS HOLINESS AND IMPRESSING IT ON THE MIND AND HEART OF THE WORLD. That veil was an essential part of a system of carefully graduated approach to God. It divided the “holy” from the “most holy” place, and beyond it none might pass but the high priest, and he only once a year. It was intended to teach the absolute holiness of God that it was only as men were prepared, and as they were separated from sin that they could be admitted to his presence. It was not without effect on the Jewish mind; that nation had thus grasped the idea of the purity and perfection of God. But now his character was so revealed that all such symbolism was no longer needed. The death of Jesus Christ his Son, as the Sacrifice for the sin of the world, was an expression of Divine holiness incomparably superior to the symbolism of the temple and for ever superseding it. Henceforth, when men wanted to know what God felt about sin how he hated it, what he thought it worth while to do and to suffer in order to expel it they would look to that cross at Calvary, and there read his mind and know his will. Holy places were no longer needed.
II THAT GOD HAD NOW PROVIDED ANOTHER AND BETTER WAY OF MERCY FOR MANKIND. Behind the veil was the innermost chamber; and of this chamber the furniture was the ark with the two tables of the Law, and the mercy-seat above it; we read of this compartment thus: “within the veil before the mercy-seat.” Mercy was thus resting on Law. Mercy always must be founded on holiness; lot without holiness there can be no mercy worthy of the name. And on the great Day of Atonement the high priest entered this “holy of holies,” and sprinkled blood upon the mercy-seat for the cleansing of the sins of the nation. But the cross of Jesus Christ spoke of the Divine mercy as no temple furniture could do; there needed nothing to teach the supremacy of mercy above Law after the dying love of the Redeemer of mankind, and there needed no more sprinkling of blood upon a mercy-seat after this great Day of Atonement, when “by one sacrifice of himself for ever” the spotless Lamb of God presented “a Propitiation for the sins of the world.” The temple rites then became obsolete; its services were past; there need be no more guarding of one sacred place from another; let the sacred curtain be taken down or rent in twain.
III THAT THE WAY TO THE HOLY ONE HIMSELF IS NOW OPEN TO ALL MANKIND. “That veil was an instrument that not only secluded, but excluded; through it no eye might venture to glance, no intruding hand might reach, no presumptuous feet might step. To pass that limit was to incur the heaviest penalty; “the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest.” But now “the good High Priest is come, supplying Aaron”s place” and having offered up the one all-sufficient sacrifice, having obtained thereby “eternal redemption,” that excluding veil is rent in twain, that barrier is broken down; there are no more limitations, no more distinctions; there is access for every child of man to the mercy-seat of God to the Holy One himself, to seek his grace and find his favor. Are we drawing nigh? Are we entering in? Are we availing ourselves of this priceless privilege, this glorious provision for our spirit”s need? In many words and ways God invites us to draw nigh to himself: he did so when his invisible hand rent in twain that separating veil. “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. C.
TEXT: “while the sun[‘s light] failed.”
EVIDENCE: p75 S B C*(vid) L 0124 some Lect cop
TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “while the sun was darkened.”
EVIDENCE: A C3 D K W X Delta Theta Pi Psi f1 f13 28 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz some Lect lat vg syr
TRANSLATIONS: KJV RSVn
OTHER: “while the sun[‘s light] failed and the sun was darkened.”
OTHER: omit the phrase
COMMENTS: Since the text reading can also be translated “the sun was eclipsed” and no solar eclipse was possible at the time of the full moon that marked the Passover feast, the reading “the sun was darkened” seems to be a scribal correction to remove a possible mistake.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
46. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said] Rather, And, crying with a loud voice, Jesus said. St Luke here omits the Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani, and the effect of that cry on the multitude (Mat_27:46-50); the “I thirst,” which was the sole word of physical suffering wrung from Him in all His agonies; and the one word (Tetelestai) in which He expressed the sense that His work was finished.
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit] A reference to Psa_31:5; comp. Act_7:59; 1Pe_2:23. These words have been among the dying utterances of St Polycarp, St Augustine, St Bernard, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, Luther, Melancthon and Columbus.
he gave up the ghost] None of the Evangelists use the word “He died” (ethanen), but exepneusen (literally, ‘He breathed forth,’ here and Mar_15:37), and ‘He sent forth’ or ‘gave up His spirit’ (apheken, paredōken to pneuma, Mat_27:50; Joh_19:30); probably because they wish to indicate the truth stated in Joh_10:18, that He gave up His life “because He willed, when He willed, how He willed.” Aug. Comp. Eph_5:2; Gal_2:20.
46. φωνήσας φωνῇ μεγάλῃ. All three mention this loud voice, which seems to indicate that Jesus did not die of exhaustion. Comp. Stephen’s cry (Act_7:60). But here the fondness of Lk. for cognate words is conspicuous. While he has φωνήσας φωνῇ, Mt. has κράξας φωνῇ, and Mk. ἀφεὶς φωνήν: comp. 2:8 and 9, 7:29, 12:50, 17:24, 22:15: and see on 11:46. The aorist does not prove that φωνήσας is not to be taken with εἶπεν, and we may suppose that what was uttered with a loud voice was the saying, “Father, into Thy hands,” etc. Comp. the freq. ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν. But it is admissible to make the φωνήσας refer to “It is finished,” or to some separate inarticulate cry. It is quite unnecessary to suppose that Lk. has here taken the words of Psa_31:6 and attributed them to Jesus, in order to express His submissive trust in God at the moment of death. Are we to suppose that Jesus did not know Psa_31? or that, if He did not, such a thought as this could not occur to Him?
εἰς χεῖράς σου παρατίθεμαι τ. πν. μ. The psalmist, thinking of a future death, has παραθήσομαι, which L and inferior MSS. read here. The voluntary character of Christ’s death is very clearly expressed in this last utterance, as in ἀφῆκεν τὸ πνεῦμα (Mt.) and παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα (Jn.). None of the four says ἀπέθανεν, or ἐκοιμήθη, or ἐτελεύτησεν. Quis ita dormit quando voluerit, sicut Jesus mortuus est quando voluit? Quis ita vestem ponit quando voluerit, sicut se carne exuit quando voluit? Quis ita cum voluerit abit quomodo cum voluit obiit? (Aug. Tr. in Job. xix. 30). To urge that this utterance is not consistent with ver. 43 is futile, unless we believe that God is excluded from paradise(Psa_16:10, 139:8; Act_11:27).
Strauss, Renan, and others are unwilling to decide whether all the Seven Words from the Cross are to be rejected as unhistorical. Keim will commit himself to no more than “the two probable facts, that shortly before His death Jesus uttered a cry of lamentation, and when on the point of dying a death-cry” (vi. p. 162). One asks once more, Who was capable of inventing such words? Compare the inventions in the apocryphal gospels.
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said. This is better rendered, and Jesus cried with a loud voice and said. The cry with the loud voice is the solemn dismissal of his spirit when he commended it to his Father. The object of the receiving the refreshment of the vinegar the sour wine (Joh_19:30) was that his natural forces, weakened by the long suffering, should be restored sufficiently for him to render audible the last two sayings the “It is finished!” of St. John, and the commending his soul to his Father, of St. Luke. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. St. John (Joh_19:30) has related now already Jesus had uttered the triumphal cry, Tetelestai ! “It is finished!” This was his farewell to earth. St. Luke records the words which seem almost immediately to have followed the “It is finished!” This commending his spirit to his Father has been accurately termed his entrance greeting to heaven. This placing his spirit as a trust in the Father”s hands is, as Stier phrases it, an expression of the profoundest and most blessed repose after toil. “It is finished!” has already told us that the struggling and combat were sealed and closed for ever. Doctrinally it is a saying of vast importance; for it emphatically asserts that the soul will exist apart from the body in the hands of God. This at least is its proper home. The saying has been echoed on many a saintly death-bed. Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, in his great agony shows us the form of this blessed prayer we should properly use for ourselves at that supreme hour, when he asked the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit, and then fell asleep. Thus coming to the Son, we come through him to the Father. Huss, on his way to the stake, when his enemies were triumphantly giving over his soul to devils, said with no less theological accuracy than with sure, calm faith, “But I commit my spirit into thy hand, O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast redeemed it.” And having said thus, he gave up the ghost. This setting his spirit free was his own voluntary act. He already told his disciples of his own independent power to lay down and take up his life. (Joh_10:17, Joh_10:18) The great teachers of the early Church evidently lay stress on; his (see Tertullian, “Apol.,” ch. 21). Augustine”s words are striking: “Quis ita dormit quando voluerit, sicut Jesus mortuus est quando voluit? Quis ita vestem ponit quando voluerit, sieur se came exuit quando writ? Quis ita cum voluerit abit, quomodo tile cure voluit obiit?” and he ends with this practical conclusion: Quanta speranda vel timenda potestas est judicantis, si apparuit tanta morientis?” “Under these circumstances,” writes Dr. Westeott, “it may not be fitting to speculate on the physical cause of the Lord”s death, but it h,s been argued that the symptoms agree with a rupture of the heart, such as might i.e. produced by intense mental agony.
How to die and to live.
Our text treats of the dying of our Lord. We may distinguish between death and dying. All men die, but all men have not a dying experience. Those who are killed instantaneously in war or by accident, those who are attacked by fatal apoplexy, those who die in their sleep, have no such experience. It is probable that we shall have to face the fact that we are passing away from life, that when a few more hours have come and gone we shall have entered the unseen world. It is therefore of no small value to us that our great Exemplar underwent not only death, but the conscious act of dying, and that in this respect also he “left us an example that we should follow his steps.” We look at
I THE DYING OF OUR LORD IN THE LIGHT OF THESE WORDS. The words he uttered just as his end drew near indicate:
1. Deep serenity of spirit. They show nothing of agitation or anxiety; they breathe a calm stillness of soul; they are fragrant of peace and tranquility. They begin with that word, “Father,” which all along had been a name of strength and peace; he was evidently resting in the assurance of parental love. And the words that follow are in a strain of entire spiritual composure.
2. True and living faith. Jesus was resigning his spirit to God”s gracious charge, knowing that in his holy and mighty keeping it would be safe and blessed. Here was fullest confidence in God and in immortality.
3. Holy resignation. As a Son of man, Jesus felt still subject to the Divine Father of all; and as he came to do and bear his will, and had done and had borne it perfectly in every hour and act of life, so now in this last volition he yielded himself to God. Thus with a soul tranquil to its profoundest depths, realizing the unseen and eternal world, resigning his spirit to the Divine Father, he bowed his head in death.
II OUR OWN DEPARTURE. Having found in the death of Jesus Christ that which is the ground of our pardon, our peace, our life before God; having lived in the love and in the service of a once crucified and now ever-living Savior; there is no reason to doubt that we shall die as he died, breathing the spirit he breathed, if we do not use the very language that was upon his lips.
1. Our departure will be tranquil. We shall not be terrified, alarmed, agitated; our spirit will look calmly forward to the moment of departure from this world and of entrance into another. We shall face the very near future with a smile.
2. For we shall be sustained by a living faith.
(1) We shall feel that we are only going into the nearer presence of our own Father of him before whom we have been living and in whom we have been rejoicing; only passing from one room to another in our Father”s house.
(2) We shall have faith in Jesus Christ himself. That death upon the cross constitutes him a Divine Savior, in whom we hide; and we shall die in the calm assurance that we shall be “found in him,” and accepted through him. We shall say, with deeper and fuller meaning than the psalmist could, “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth”. (Psa_31:5)
(3) We shall yield ourselves to God in the spirit of consecration, assured that in that new and unknown realm which we are entering we may spend our time and our powers, liberated and enlarged, in his holy and blessed service: and the spirit of consecration is the spirit of confidence and hope. And while these words are particularly appropriate to dying lips, and very probably suggested the last utterance of the first Christian martyr, (Act_7:59) they need not be held in reserve for that occasion; they admirably express our true attitude in
III OUR DAILY LIFE. SO David evidently felt, (Psa_31:5) and so we may feel. In faith and in self-surrender we should be continually commending our spirit to Our heavenly Father”s charge:
1. When the day is done and we enter the nightly darkness and unconsciousness, during which we can take no charge of ourselves.
2. As we go forth each morning to duties, trials, temptations, opportunities, to which our own unaided strength is quite unequal.
3. If we feel that we are entering some dark cloud of adversity and trial in which we shall have peculiar need of Divine support.
4. When we are called to new spheres and weightier responsibilities, wherein other graces will be required than any that have yet been demanded of us. At all such times should we, in faith and consecration, commit the keeping of our souls to our heavenly Father, to be sheltered in his faithfulness, to be enriched by his love and his power. C.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
47. the centurion] who commanded the quaternion of soldiers. It is remarkable that St Luke gives us several instances of ‘good centurions,’ 7:2, 23:47; Act_10:1, Act_22:26, Act_27:43.
saw what was done] See Mar_15:39; Mat_27:54.
he glorified God] A notice characteristic of St Luke (2:20, 5:25, 7:16, 13:13, 17:15, 18:43).
this was a righteous man] This remark might have been drawn forth by the silent majesty and holiness of the Sufferer. After the earthquake he may have added, “Truly this man was a Son of God” (Mat_27:54). The latter phrase sounds at first incongruous on the lips of a heathen, though ‘Son of God’ is found as a title of Augustus in some inscriptions. But the centurion had twice heard our Lord pray to ‘His Father’ (vss. 34, 46), and even Pilate had been overpowered by the awful dread lest He should be something more than man (Joh_19:7-9).
47. ὁ ἐκατοντάρχης. The one who was there to superintend the execution, supplicio præpositus: all three speak of him as “the centurion.” Legend has invested him with the name Longinus (Acta Pilati, B. xi.), which perhaps originally meant the soldier with the λόγχη (Joh_19:34), and later writers make both him and the soldier with the spear die a martyr’s death. See D. of Chr. Ant. p. 1041.
τὸ γενόμενον. Not merely the manner of Christ’s death, but its extraordinary circumstances. Mt. has τὸν σεισμὸν καὶ τὰ γινόμενα, Mk. ὅτι οὕτως ἐξέπνευσεν. Mt. says that those with him joined in the exclamation, and that they “feared greatly.”
ἐδόξαζεν τὸν Θεόν. He glorified God unconsciously by this public confession, by saying (λέγων) that Jesus was no criminal, but had died in accordance with God’s will. The statement is the Evangelist’s appreciation of this heathen’s attitude towards the death of Christ. Some, however, suppose that the centurion was a proselyte, and that He first consciously praised God, and then added the remark which is recorded: comp. the use of the phrase 2:20, 5:25, 26, 7:16, 13:13, 13:15, 18:43; Act_4:21, Act_11:18, Act_21:20. The good character of the centurions in N.T. confirms the statement of Polybius, that as a rule the best men in the army were promoted to this rank (vi.24. 9). See small print on 7:5. A C P Q X etc. have ἐδόξασε.
Ὄντως … δίκαιος ἧν. Mt. and Mk. have ἀληθῶς Θεοῦ υἱὸς ἧν. Harmonists suggest that the centurion said δίκαιος before the earthquake, and Θεοῦ υἱός after it. More probably the two expressions represent one and the same thought: “He was a good man, and quite right in calling God His Father” (vv. 34, 46). The centurion would not mean much by υἱὸς Θεοῦ. See Aug. De Cons. Ev. iii. 20.
Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man. This was the Roman officer who was in command of the detachment on guard at the three crosses. St. Paul who, if he did not absolutely put together the Third Gospel and the Acts, had much to do with the compilation and arrangement of these writings on his many journeys and frequent changes of residence in different parts of the empire, had many opportunities of judging the temper and spirit of the Roman army, and on several occasions speaks favourably of these officers. (Luk_7:2 Luk_23:47 Act_10:1 Act_22:26 Act_27:43) Certainly this was a righteous Man. The noble generosity, the brave patience, and the strange majesty of the Sufferer; the awful portents which for three hours had accompanied this scene portents which the centurion and many of the bystanders could not help associating with the crucifixion of him men called “the King of the Jews;” then the death, in which appeared no terror; all this drew forth the exclamation of the Roman. In St. Matthew, the words of the centurion which are reported are “the Son of God.” Twice in those solemn hours had the centurion heard the Crucified pray to his Father. This may have suggested the words, “Son of God;” but this change in the later Gospel of St. Luke to “a righteous Man” seems to point to the sense in which the Roman used the lofty appellation.
Vers. 47-56. Friday night until Sunday morning.
It is finished!” But there are witnesses to the solemnity of the moment and the significance of the word, whose testimony gives weight to the voice of conscience. The rumble and reel of the earth-quake are felt. When “the loud voice” is uttered, the veil which separates the most holy from the holy place is torn in two; an ominous darkness covers the city; there is a crash as of rending rocks and opening tombs, and strange forms, as of those who were dead, flit before the vision. Three hours are marked by portents (vers. 44, 45), beneath whose impression even the officer in charge of the Roman soldiery exclaims (ver. 47), “Certainly this was a righteous Man. He must have been a Son of God.” And when, besides, the multitude, hushed and solemnized, gazes on the countenance now calm and still in the repose of death, and the recollection of the life so pure and noble becomes vivid in the mind, the reaction from intense excitement sets in, and (ver. 48) smiting on their breasts in unavailing sorrow, they steal away from the scene of death. Only two groups remain the soldiers, who must watch until the crucified are dead, and their bodies are removed; and “the acquaintance of Jesus, and the women who had followed him from Galilee, far off, in speechless amazement beholding these things” (ver. 49). All that remains is the burial. He whose cross was erected between the malefactors is dead. The priests and scribes had begged that the closing act of the death by crucifixion, that called the crucifragium the smiting or breaking of the legs might be hastened and the corpses removed, so that no offence to decency might be felt on the high day, “the double sabbath,” at hand. Pilate had acceded to the request; and the forms of the two malefactors had been smitten. Not the form of Jesus. No spark of life, it was said, remained. Only, to make assurance sure, a spear is thrust into the side; the spear, it may be, pierced the pericardium of the heart, or that had already been ruptured; anyhow, a mixture of blood and water flows out. St. John is emphatic as to this, no doubt to silence the suggestion that Jesus had only seemed to die, or that the seeming death had been only a swoon. No, says the evangelist, (Joh_19:35) “I saw it myself.” It is the symbolic meaning of that effusion which we set before us when we sing”Let the water and the blood, From thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Is the Lord buried in the sepulchre reserved for those who had been doomed to capital punishment? No. Here there comes into view the beautiful and striking incident recorded in vers. 50-53. And, in connection with it, we light on a word which is used at the hour when we should least have expected to find it. One of the Sanhedrists a man universally esteemed for piety and prudence Joseph of Arimathaea had not consented to the counsel and deed of his colleagues. Hitherto he had never dared to avow the attraction which he felt. Why should he now risk his reputation, it may be his life, by an acknowledgment which he had withheld in his eat liar days? Every dictate of worldly wisdom bade him be wholly silent. What do we read in Mar_15:43? It is the death of Christ that dispels the fear, that at last prompts to decision. He goes in boldly to Pilate, and craves the body of Jesus. And the demand of the senator is granted. And as he bears away the sacred frame, he is joined by another, (Joh_19:39) the Nicodemus of whom we read at the beginning of the ministry (John 3), who brings with him a princely offering of myrrh and aloes. The reverent and loving hands thus joined together wrap the body (ver. 53) in linen, and hastily and partially embalm it, laying it in the tomb which Joseph had scooped out for himself as his own last resting-place. What happened between this time and the third, the appointed day? Let us ask, first, What, as it concerns our Lord? secondly, What, as it concerns the disciples? and, thirdly, What, as it concerns the world which crucified him?
I WHAT HAPPENED AS IT CONCERNS OUR LORD? Two or three words give us some hints concerning our Lord after his death and before the Resurrection. First, his own assurance given to Mary on the resurrection-day, (Joh_20:17) “I am not yet ascended to my Father.” The place and condition into which he passed, in dying, were intermediate between the life on earth and the life in glory. He was not then, as the Man Jesus, in the glory of the Father. And, as bearing on this, we further recall the promise to the dying malefactor (ver. 43). “Lord, remember me,” he had said, “when thou comest into thy kingdom.” “To-day,” was the reply, “shall thou be with me in Paradise. Paradise, then, received the soul of Christ. Thither he bore with him the one who, in penitence and faith, had cast himself on his mercy. And Paradise meant the region in the underworld of the dead set apart for the faithful as their rest until the resurrection a blessedness real, though incomplete; a garden with the tree of life in it, but not the full enjoyment of the beatific vision. This is the meaning of the clause in the Apostles” Creed, “He descended into hell,” i.e. into Hades, the state of the dead. It is true that this clause has not the antiquity which may be claimed for other clauses; but it expresses the belief of all times that our Lord submitted to the conditions of the holy dead that he was truly and verily numbered among them. The soul was actually in Hades, or Sheol. What part in the great redemptive work was fulfilled by this descent? Had he a ministry in this short but significant period? There is a passage in 1 Peter too obscure to allow of being pressed as an answer to this question, but suggestive of interesting lines of thought. (1Pe_3:18-20) To many it has seemed that the preaching to the spirits in prison mentioned there was the work of the Hades-state; that he proclaimed his gospel to those who were kept in ward not the righteous only, but those who were disobedient, e.g. the antediluvian generations to which Noah had preached in vain. And the inference drawn from this view of the passage has appeared “to throw light on one of the darkest enigmas of Divine justice the cases where the final doom seems infinitely out of proportion to the lapse which has incurred it.” No argument can be built on a passage whose interpretation is doubtful; but the exposition hinted at falls in with convictions which have been cherished from the time of the apostles. We are, at all events, on solid Scripture ground when we suppose that, in the world of the dead, the triumph over him that had the power of death, i.e. the devil, was completed. The descent was the following of the enemy into his innermost citadel; it was the spoiling of the principalities and power of darkness; it was the opening of the way through death into life by him who has the keys of Hades. Is not Paradise all the sweeter that Christ has been there? Is not the inheritance all the surer that through death he went to the Father? Is not this the symbol of our faith and hope that “the Lord has set his cross in the midst of Hades, which is the sign of victory that will remain to eternity”?
II WHAT HAPPENED AS IT CONCERNS THE DISCIPLES. But what of those who weep and lament whilst the world is rejoicing the sorrow-stricken, orphaned company of disciples? The last to leave the place where the body of Jesus was laid, as the first to hasten to the tomb when the sabbath is past, are the holy women (vers. 55, 56). We see them on Friday evening watching the tomb, and observing how the lifeless form was attended to, end then hastening into the city, that they may make ready the spices and ointments for embalming before the sabbath began. Their love is stronger than their faith. The heart”s yearning is sometimes more than the heart”s believing. A very dreary sabbath that was to all the disciples. “They rested according to the commandment” (ver. 56). A commandment rest, and nothing more. What conflicts of thought and affection! What desolation of spirit! Peter what a strange sabbath it must have been to him! Only one thing for all. The sense of relation to the crucified Jesus can never be effaced; but it has no glow of hope, it has only the darkness of a memory, the gloom of a despair. “They rested on the sabbath; but” (the first word of the twenty-fourth chapter should be “but” rather than “now”); but the running of the spirit, the movement of the love, is only towards the garden and its sepulchre. Is it not the type of Church, of Christian, wanting the power of the Holy Ghost? Work for Christ, loyal but cheerless, without sight of his glory, or waiting for his advent this is suggested by the preparation of the spices and ointments, and the sabbath-keeping but without the true spiritual sabbath, the joy of the Lord; ordinances observed, but with no inner alacrity, only because of the commandment. This is suggested by the unrestful resting on that seventh day. Not yet is there the anointing of the Holy Ghost, the power of the Resurrection.
III WHAT HAPPENED AS IT CONCERNS THE WORLD WHICH CRUCIFIED HIM. Is it not strange that what was absent from faith as a hope was present to unbelief as a fear? Those who had crucified the Lord have their memory wonderfully quickened. They recall (Mat_27:62-64) some words which he uttered nearly three years before, about a temple which he would raise in three days, and their dread gives a force to these words. Sabbath though it be, the chief priests and Pharisees seek an audience of Pilate, and beg him to “make the sepulchre sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead: and so the last error be worse than the first.” They are told to go their way and do as they choose; and hence the sealing of the great stone and the setting of the watch. Is not all now secure? Have they not for ever dispelled the illusions as to the Deceiver? So thought the Jewish authorities; so men think still. They are always crying out that the Christian religion is effete, that the Christian”s Christ has been slain. “Are there any Christians still?” asked a notable sceptic some years ago. O purblind souls! What avail your watch and seal? He whom you call Deceiver is yet alive; and there are compunctions of heart, convictions of guilt and wrong-doing. and needs of spiritual restoration and inward rectitude, which will assert themselves against all your philosophies! Pentecost days are never far distant days when a mighty remorse rolls over the minds of men, and the cry which never can be silenced, because it is the cry of the human soul in its most solemn hours, and with reference to its deepest wants, bursts through lips which are quivering with a genuine earnestness, “What shall we do to be saved?” On that sabbath the world religious and irreligious holds its rest. It cannot altogether forget; but it holds its Paschal feasts, and complies with all the etiquette of these feasts, as if there were no Calvary, as if no Jesus had lived and died. And is not this the feature of all times? Do not men push their ambitious projects, scheme and toil, spend their strength, and hold their sabbaths without the living consciousness of the Christ who died for their sins? May not we ourselves say”I sin; and heaven and earth go round As if no dreadful deed were done, As if Christ”s blood had never flowed To hinder sin or to atone”?
There is no word more solemn than that (Heb_6:4-6) in which the sacred writer reminds us that if those who have tasted the Word of God. and the powers of the world to come fall away, they pass from the fold of the Church into the ranks of Christ”s enemies, seeing “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Vers. 47-56. The consequences of our Savior”s death.
Our Lord died in the light. The disappearance of the darkness before his decease was an outward symbol of the light and serenity which came across his spirit. His departure exercised a powerful influence upon all around the cross. Let us notice the consequences of the death, as detailed by Luke.
I THE ROMAN CENTURION WAS CONVINCED OF CHRIST”S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND DIVINE SONSHIP. (Ver. 47) In Matthew the exclamation of the centurion is given as, “Truly this was the Son of God;” while here in Luke it is, “Certainly this was a righteous Man.” The one conclusion had reference to the Roman trial. His death was so glorious and triumphant as to vindicate his character from every aspersion. He was no malefactor, but a benefactor of mankind. The other conclusion had reference to the Jewish trial, which was on the ground of his claim of Sonship. Now, his last cry was in the light of Sonship, and “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” was so tenderly and yet firmly uttered as to convince the centurion that the Lord”s claim was real. In the same way, should not our death as believers constitute some vindication of our character and claims? It should show that our righteousness and sonship were not pretences, but glorious realities.
II THE PEOPLE WERE CONVINCED OF THEIR SIN IN HAVING CLAMOURED FOR HIS CRUCIFIXION. (Ver. 48) The smiting on the breast was a sign of perplexity and penitence. They were evidently humiliated that they had so treated One who could so nobly die. If the conviction of the centurion was an earnest of the conversion of the pagan world, this was an earnest of the conversion of the Jewish (cf. Godet, in loc. ). The meek and quiet spirit with which Christ died broke down their hard-heartedness more than any other course could have done; so that its effect was a manifest preparation for the triumphs of the Pentecost. And should not a Christian”s death strike alarm into the heart of unbelievers, suggesting to them the possibility of their being unable to meet death with becoming courage?
III His ACQUAINTANCE AND THE WOMEN FROM GALILEE ARE PETRIFIED WITH ASTONISHMENT. (Ver. 49) “They stood,” we are told, “afar off.” They were so unmanned that they could not venture nigh. To them the death was inexplicable. It was apparently the defeat of all their hopes. It was a crushing blow. No mystery in providence had ever appeared to them exactly like this. They were ready to say, with Jacob, “All these things are against us.” Is this not the position of God”s people often? They have entertained bright hopes about the Master and his cause, but have found them fading away like summer flowers, so that they stand perplexed and afar off before God”s providences. Is it not the dark hour before the dawn? Is it not the travail-hour before the jubilance of birth? The disciples experienced this, and so may we. Before apparent defeat, let us always exclaim by faith, “It is real victory.
IV JOSEPH OF ARIMATHAEA IS LED BY CHRIST”S DEATH TO REAL DECISION. (Vers. 50-52) Joseph, a good and just man, had been for some time, we know not how long, a “secret disciple” of Jesus. Nicodemus and he seemed to be in the same category, and perhaps they were led into faith about the same time. In the Sanhedrin they had done all that timid men could to prevent the crime of the Crucifixion; but popular feeling was always too strong for them. They had not as yet taken the bold step of professing to belong to Christ. But, strange to say, the death of Jesus, the apparent defeat of his cause, determined them both to be professors. Joseph accordingly goes and boldly begs the body from Pilate, that he may lay it in his own new tomb, while Nicodemus goes off to procure the needful spices. And here have we what seems a law in God”s kingdom. Successors always appear to carry on his work. Christ”s death induces two at least to join his cause at once. As the apparently important pass away, it is only to be succeeded by others, and perhaps a larger number, to take up the fallen banner and prove their faithfulness. Apparent calamities are splendid tests of character they call forth the brave!
V CHRIST”S FUNERAL COULD ONLY BE A TEMPORARY INTERMENT. (Vers. 53-56) It was necessary that the body should be put away before the sabbath began. Now, if he died a little after three o”clock, there were less than three hours to complete the interment. There could not be the customary embalmment. All that was possible was to wrap the dear remains in linen with spices, and then, if nothing prevented, to complete the embalmment on the first day of the week. It was a hurried burial, therefore, and by compulsion a temporary one. Yet “with the rich was his tomb.” It was in a virgin sepulcher, so to speak, he lay for a season, just as he had lain in the Virgin”s womb. It was so far private also that none apparently but the immediate friends and acquaintances followed the funeral. All the circumstances combined to make the funeral and interment most singular. It was well known where they laid him; it was known that they intended completing the embalmment on the first day of the week; his enemies had every opportunity, therefore, to prevent any imposture about a resurrection. All was above-board, like everything in our Lord”s life. Consequently there was in the burial of Jesus a noble foundation laid for that crowning hope of resurrection. We shall see that there was every advantage offered to those who wished to expose duplicity about his rising again. It was the most important burial and most hopeless, so far as the mourners were concerned. They above all others seemed oblivious of all promise of resurrection, R.M.E.
And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. We must remember that the condemnation of the Christ was no spontaneous deed of the multitude. Their miserable share in the act was suggested to them by their rulers. In the multitude very quickly revulsion of feeling sets in, and they often regret the past with a bitter, useless regret. The wave of sorrow which seems to have swept across those wavering, unstable hearts, which induced them to smite their breasts in idle regret, was a dim and shadowy rehearsal of the mighty sorrow and true penitence which will one day, as their prophet told them, be the blessed lot of the once-loved people when “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son”. (Zec_12:10)
There was a considerable company of spectators at the Crucifixion. They were attracted not only by the spectacle of a triple execution, but, far more, by the fact that the Prophet whose fame had filled the land was to be led forth to die. It was not the riffraff of Jerusalem merely that “beheld the things that were done.” The sense of impropriety in attendance at such sanguinary and harrowing scenes is quite modern. It did not prevail there and then. Probably the leading citizens were present the well-to-do, the educated, the refined male and female. All classes and all characters were there the devout and the profane, the rough and the gentle, the selfish and the sympathetic. And of that large company of people there would be present men and women very variously affected toward Jesus Christ. We may say, without hesitation, that the eleven were there; though it is more than likely that, for a time at any rate, they stood afar off, we cannot doubt that they were there, waiting and wondering; hoping with a faint hope, fearing with a terrible and mastering dread. Many true and loyal disciples were there, among whom, truest among the true, were the women who had followed him and “ministered to him”. (Mat_27:55) Besides these were the fickle, doubled-minded multitude, who cried, “Hosannah!” one day, and a few days later shouted, “Crucify him!” And beyond these in spiritual distance were his implacable and bitter enemies. What may we suppose to have been the effect of the Crucifixion on the minds of “the people that came together to that sight”?
I IMMEDIATE EFFECTS PROBABLY PRODUCED.
1. There were physical elements sure to excite their wondering imagination. When an unnatural darkness brooded over the entire scene for three long dread hours, when the earth trembled, when the loud death-cry of the suffering Savior pierced the air, there was a combination of strange marvels and unusual experiences which must have shaken their souls and filled them with a great awe.
2. And there were moral elements there fitted to touch their hearts. There was the presence of death death, “the great reconciler,” that quenches strong animosities, that awakens an unwonted pity, that subdues the hardened soul to a surprising softness. There was the death of a Man still young, of a Man who had rendered undeniably great services to many hearts in many homes. There was death met with heroic fortitude, undergone with a calmness, a magnanimity, a moral greatness, such as their eyes had never seen before. These two elements together powerfully affected the people that drew to that sight; and with whatsoever thought in their mind they “came together,” it is certain that a very great majority of them went home astonished, if not ashamed and alarmed; they returned “smiting their breasts.” But what were
II THE ULTIMATE EFFECTS PRODUCED?
1. Some effects were permanently good. Surely it was partly, if not largely, the remembrance of what they had seen and done and felt on this great day that led to the “pricking of heart” they experienced when Peter spoke so faithfully, and led them to Christian baptism. (Act_2:22, Act_2:23, 37 Ac 11) Was not the “smiting of the breast” more than an antecedent in time to that being smitten in heart when they listened and responded?
2. Others, we may be sure, were evanescent and unfruitful. It would have been a very singular case if there were not many who felt much agitation that day, and the next, and, perhaps, the day after; but who soon allowed pressing cares or passing pleasures to drive convictions from the soul. They “smote their breasts, and returned;” but, instead of returning to God, they went back to the old routine and the old formalism and unspirituality. It is well to be affected by the facts of God”s providence, whether these be simple and ordinary, or whether unusual and startling. It is well indeed to be affected by the view of a Savior”s death, however that death may be presented to our souls. But let no man rest contented with such emotion as was in the breast of the people who “came together to that sight.” It is wholly undecisive; if it lead not to something better than itself, it will bring forth no fruit of life. It must pass, and should pass quickly, into an intelligent conviction of sin, into a real and living faith in him who was then the Crucified One, and so into newness of life in him and unto him. C.
The things which were done – The earthquake, the darkness, and the sufferings of Jesus.
Smote their breasts – In token of alarm, fear, and anguish. They saw the judgments of God; they saw the guilt of the rulers; and they feared the farther displeasure of the Almighty.