The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Division 7. (Matt. 26 — 28.)

The Completed Purchase.

The last division of the Gospel brings us to what is common to them all, and without which there would have been no gospel for us, the suffering and death of the Lord; His resurrection afterwards showing its divine efficacy. According to His own language in the parables of the thirteenth chapter, we may well speak of it as the story of the "completed purchase." The thought is characteristic of Matthew, where, as already said, the Cross is seen as the trespass-offering, which is the restitution-offering in view of the government of God, the wrong done being estimated and a fifth part added to it, that it may be the full amends which He reckons restitution. Thus the reckoning is the cost of atonement, the purchase-price.

In the parables referred to, the finder of the treasure "buys" the field and the merchant "buys" the pearl. The field is the world, and thus even the teachers of "destructive heresies" are "denying the Master that bought them" (2 Peter 2:1). These are not redeemed, but they are, purchased. The Church, Christ's "pearl of price," is both purchased and redeemed. We see again how the character of the trespass-offering suits that of the Royal "Master" whom we find in Matthew.

All through this part, spite of the depth of His humiliation; He shines out as truly Master, ― One from whom no one takes His life, but He lays it down of Himself, having "authority," as no other has, to lay down His life, and to take it up again (John 10:18), while doing all in perfect subjection (as in Gethsemane we see Him) to His Father's will. It would be doing Him wrong to say of Him, in any other sense, that He was master of Himself. There was no "self," as with the best and holiest beside. to be master to. There was no division in Him, but perfect harmony throughout. Thus all things moved in correspondence with Him, ― even His enemies working out only that which was His will because the Father's, ― stooping to death only to master it and make it serve Him, who could not be holden of it.

Subdivision 1. (Matt. 26:1-56).

The Presentation of the Offering.

We have, first, the Lord delivering Himself up, ― not in reality to man; for to man the offering was not, and his part in it was only the consummation of human guilt, ― but to God, for the drinking of that cup which only the Father's hand could give Him. Gethsemane is thus the central feature in what is before us here, although all the rest has the cross directly in view, with its consequences whether of trial or of blessing. Now, as we may say, the pledge given at the baptism of John is redeemed; the four days of the lamb being kept up are over; and He keeps the passover with His disciples, celebrating beforehand, in His own assured triumphant way, the fruits of a redemption of which the cost was all His own.

1. (1) He turns from the contemplation of His coming Kingdom to what is immediately before Him now, and for which He has been all through preparing and fortifying the hearts of His disciples: "Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is delivered up to be crucified." He sees clearly before Him, and announces the exact time of His suffering, which is not in His enemies, hands, but in His own. And immediately we are told of their coming together, as if His word had given them liberty to act. Yet they act blindly, as blind they are, determining not to take Him at the feast, the very time He has marked out as that of His betrayal. He is to suffer at the passover, as the true Passover, ― the Substance replacing the shadow; as the resurrection was on the day of the first-fruit sheaf, and the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.

(2) Next we have, in the strongest and sharpest contrast the love that pours out its precious ointment upon the Lord, and the murmuring of the disciples, prompted, as we are elsewhere told, by one who could sell the Lord Himself for the price of a slave. The last finds its occasion; also, in the first, love rousing and developing its awful opposite in the soul of this unhappy man, whom the defeat of his earthly ambitions and carnal hopes has already set in antagonism. He had begun to compensate himself, as best he could, with the contents of the common bag which carried all the means of subsistence of the little company. That pitiful compensation was coming to an end. Clearer sighted in his unbelief than his companions in their faith, he could understand the intimations, constantly now coming, of his Master's death. The enmity of the leaders of the people was too plain, to need much other prophecy of what was to be. It might not come to that: at the end we find him possessed with the hope that in fact it would not. Still he needed to make his escape from this ruined cause, and carry with him also what he could secure. The price of this ointment might well be coveted by one in such a position; and he breaks out openly with his complaint: "To what purpose is this waste?"

She, too, who has come there with her ointment, has realized as those around Him have not yet, the death that is now drawn so near Him. But the effect is only, if possible, to make Him more absorbingly the object for her heart, and whatever is precious for her goes into death with Him. Her use of the ointment testifies of this, as well as of the fragrance of the death itself, which will abide with us for eternity, and in which we too abide, and shall abide ― in the sweet savor of this wonderful obedience.

Even true disciples are caught by the cry of utilitarianism that that which is spent upon Christ alone is "waste," and taken from the poor; and such pleas become for many effectual arguments against what true devotedness to Him demands. Those who would understand and appreciate the laying down of life for His sake, can often not understand the sacrifice of usefulness on His account, even though the demand come in the way of duty. They will say, indeed, that duty cannot really demand such sacrifice; but it does very often demand that we leave entirely out of question all consideration of results, and follow simply and without reserve the dictates of the Word. And it is certainly true that the thought of usefulness governs often disastrously even the interpretation of the word of God itself. Results are never really safe as guidance, and this for at least two plain reasons. First, because they must follow the action; and therefore come too late to determine it. And secondly, if it be thought that we can profit by the experience of others, so many things combine to produce them that we are constantly in danger of mistaking the real cause. Of course, if God's word has spoken decisively, even in the least particular, then all pondering of results is mere unfaithfulness.

The Lord openly vindicates the act of the woman. This devotedness shows itself at the right time to refresh His true human heart, afflicted with the treachery of Judas, and now in near prospect of the cross. She had manifested an appreciative love which those around Him were unable even to enter into, and He declares that wherever His gospel shall be preached among men; this deed of her's shall be told for a memorial of her. It may well be, indeed, a corrective of that tendency of utilitarianism to invade the gospel itself, to the great harm and loss of souls; and this is not unapt to be where salvation is made freest, but more a boon to man than a cost to God. Thus Christ is little known, little followed: to have salvation is to have all that the heart craves; yet it is not really satisfied thus, but the world comes in to fill the vacuum.

The dearer Christ is, the dearer souls will be; and His people represent Him for hearts true to Him. But the bland liberality which so often simulates love to the people of God, while it allows His word to be slighted and His rights to be discredited, works to His dishonor and their inevitable loss. To give Christ His due is the only way by which His people can be enriched. Ah, that the savor of the woman's ointment might indeed still fill the house!

But this love and worship bring out the traitor's heart, and the Iscariot, the "trafficker," fearfully earns the surname by which we know him (see p. 119, notes). For the price of a slave he agrees with the chief priests His enemies, to deliver up his Lord into their hands, they putting contempt thus upon Him and His betrayer. They know not that they are but moving in the way predicted, and manifesting His sovereignty in their very rejection of it.

2. (1) We now come to the last passover, the story of which is by all the synoptists very briefly told. It is John alone who, while he scarcely mentions the passover itself, gives the full out-pouring of Christ's heart in connection with it. The ordering of the paschal supper is more briefly given in Matthew than in Mark or Luke, the directions as to finding the man at whose house it is to be prepared being omitted. But it is seen, all through, how fully He is Master of all circumstances, and the disciples, it is evident, are intended to feel this. If He be going down the steep decline to Calvary, it is of His own free choice, and He is still the King who does so. "My time is at hand," seems certainly spoken for the ear of a disciple; and it is natural that to such the Lord should give the privilege of entertaining Him at a time like this. That it is already the first day of unleavened bread is decisive that He did not anticipate the appointed time for the passover, as many have thought. The three synoptists unite in this specification of time, Mark and Luke adding that it was the day when they killed the passover. The statements of John alone are thought to be in contradiction to this, but have been often shown to be not really so; nor is this the place in which to consider them.

(2) The traitor is next pointed out, but by gradual approach, as if to alarm and arouse the conscience to repentance before the guilt was fixed. "One of you shall deliver Me up." Then "he that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish." Slowest of all to respond is Judas with his question; asked with fatal certainty of what would be the answer, yet with the appearance of the same innocence as the rest. But notice, he does not, as they, address Christ as his "Lord." That is ended for him: it is "Rabbi, is it I?" "After the sop," says John; "Satan entered into him;" and Satan could not say, "Lord." If there were any struggle in his soul, it is ended now; and in the face of the awful "woe" that he has heard from lips that lie not, he goes away to do determinately what would stamp him as the "son of perdition" through all eternity. Such is the hardening power of sin.

(3) This separation of Judas from the rest takes place before the institution of the memorial feast which follows here; for John tells us that "Judas, having received the sop," went immediately out. Luke inverts the order of this and the last section; but Luke's order is often different from that of time. The point, however, is not of doctrinal importance: for few would advocate a known traitor being admitted to the table of the Lord; and if it were to be permitted, no discipline could be maintained at all. If Judas were present, he was yet unknown as such to the disciples; and while the Lord knows all the secrets of the heart, His knowledge cannot, it is plain, be guidance for us, who do not possess it. The question is, therefore, as already said, of no practical importance: the principles involved are settled conclusively elsewhere.

There are others, as we know, much more widely and keenly debated, though one cannot say really more entitled to be heard. The Romanist contention that the bread and wine, after the Lord's blessing, were pronounced by Him to be literally His body and blood, involves a grossness of conception which He has Himself rebuked elsewhere (John 6:60-63). It makes Him while alive in the body, take and break His body in His hands. It multiplies the body of Christ, at the will of man; upon myriads of altars, day by day. It makes God work as constant miracles to conceal those which are in this way taking place; so that to the senses that should still be bread and wine, which has wholly changed its character. It makes the flesh to profit spiritually, while the Lord has Himself denied it. And all this is done to escape a difficulty which never existed, and to make us treat one of the commonest forms of figurative speech, which we are every day using, as if it were a manifest perversion to take it as they themselves are doing without thought of wrong. "The rock was Christ," needed no transubstantiation to make good. Nay, even; "the cup is the new covenant in My blood," cannot be understood by them but as a figure. But "this is My body," must be maintained, in the face of whatever objection from nature, from spirit, from the connection here, from Scripture elsewhere, in the grossest literality!

The doctrine of consubstantiation escapes some of these incongruities, no doubt, but it is as open to some of these charges as is the Romish one itself. It admits that the bread is bread, and the wine wine; but it maintains that the "flesh profiteth" in the way Christ denies; and the actual production; multiplication and eating of the body of Christ.

In opposition to both these is the Calvinistic or "Reformed" view, in which the reception is not by the mouth, but by faith, through the power of the Spirit; and not of the substance of His body and blood, but of the sacrificial virtue or efficacy of His work alone.

Zwingle, on the other hand, maintained that the bread and wine were simply significant memorials; but this is considered by the greater number of the Reformed "too low" a view. Yet in refusing the thought of any actual physical reception of Christ in the Supper, and limiting this reception to that of the virtue of His sacrificial work, and in declaring that it is by faith we feed upon Him, and we can do the same thing apart from the Supper altogether, they come much nearer to Zwingle's view than they seem to be aware: for if wherever there is faith, Christ is received and fed upon, and in the Supper not apart from faith, what does this add, except a significant memorial of what faith receives?

It is, however, in Luke and in Corinthians, and not in either of the first two Gospels, that its memorial character is explicitly affirmed; and this is of the most decisive importance for the interpretation. "Do this," the Lord says: for what? ― "for calling me to mind" (Luke 22:19). Here the precise object of the bread and cup is stated; and it is the only object: no other ever is; any other than this is purely an addition to the word of Christ.

Now a remembrance is of what is not present, never of what is. Moreover it is of something in the past, not in time present. The apostle's comment upon it is as plain as can be: "for as often as ye eat this bread and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death, till He come" (1 Cor. 11:26, R.V). Clearly the Lord's death is not a present thing, but past: "death has no more dominion over Him." A dead Lord it is we remember, but a living Lord with whom we have now to do.

"Body" and "blood": why, of course, this is death. Would they be mentioned apart, if it were not so? "My body which is given for you" makes us naturally think of a dead not a living body; but "body and blood" separate: of what else can we think? We have no reason at all for attributing "blood" to the Lord in resurrection. Blood is the sign of change and the means of renewal. It implies a life sustained by food and drink, ― capable of dying, though not necessarily subject to death. After His resurrection we hear Him speak of His "flesh and bones," not "flesh and blood" (Luke 24:39). But, apart from this, the blood spoken of here is the "blood shed for many," the blood of sacrifice: every thing assures us that we have before us here, not Christ as He is at all, but as He was: the bread and the cup are just significant memorials, ― nothing else. The language used prohibits all possible thought of the Lord's glorified humanity, and cuts away all basis for any view of an actual reception of Christ's body and blood; for in that case it must be a dead Christ that we receive, and there is no dead Christ.

Moreover, this "Remember Me" of our Lord and Master seems quite to overtop all thoughts of what we receive in the bread and wine. No doubt we can never have Christ really before us without finding blessing in it; and no doubt the picture given is one of how Christ as the Bread of Life sustains the spiritual strength of His believing people. But what He desires in it is our heart's remembrance, and the highest and sweetest view that we can have of it is surely that which brings before us, and qualifies us best to satisfy, this desire of His.

"Take, eat: this is My body."

"Drink ye all of it: for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins."

Faith it is, of course, that enables us to do what is spoken of here. Eating and drinking are terms which imply the fullest appropriation of that which becomes thus part of our very selves. We enter into the sweetness and blessedness of a love so free, so costly, stooping so low, so triumphant in this humiliation. Out of death has come forth life; we enter into communion with death. Evil has been explored to its depths, and there is yet no dimming of the glory of God; nay, never was He so glorious.

Therefore this blood is that of a new covenant, in which God alone speaks, and as He will. He is free from all hindrance, and thus His whole heart comes out, and the result is that it is grace to the full that appears, and nothing but grace (Jer. 31:31-34). Unlike the covenant that He had made with the people when He brought them out of the land of Egypt, this covenant thus abides. Human instability does not affect it, and sin is cancelled: "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin."

But now He is to be separate from His people's joy on earth, looking for participation with them in His Father's Kingdom. Then He will drink the wine with them in a new manner, no more a Nazarite stranger from that association with His own; for which in heaven itself He waits, as the full cup of blessing.

(4) They sing a hymn ― in Israel it was usually the four psalms called the great Hallel (Ps. 115 ― 118), ― and go out together to the Mount of Olives. And He warns them once more of what is before Him and them. They will all be offended because of Him and scattered; for the prophet had foretold the smiting of the Shepherd, and the consequent dispersion of the sheep (Zech. 13:7). But after His resurrection He would go before them into Galilee. In fact the Gospel closes with His meeting them there, passing over most of what took place at Jerusalem, for in Galilee it is that He announces to them the Kingdom as in His hand, and this is the theme of Matthew, as we well know. Every Gospel, as every book of Scripture, keeps to its own portion of the one harmonious revelation of God to which it belongs.

Peter is the one who is to illustrate most fully the "offence of the cross" among those pre-eminently named as Christ's disciples. How perfectly it is shown that divine grace alone can be the hope of any. It is characteristic of him who fails in this signal manner that he should be the one most loudly to maintain that for himself, at any rate, such failure was impossible. And this he repeats, still more emphatically, in spite of the Lord's more precise and positive assurance. He that thinketh he standeth must take heed lest he fall, not merely because of the general liability, but as being then most of all liable. Our own strength is just our weakness, as our weakness realized will be our way to strength ― a strength not our own. Every one of the Gospels enforces this most solemn lesson. Matthew and Mark assure us of the participation of the other disciples in Peter's perilous self-confidence. He who would plead exemption must condemn himself by this very pleading.

3. In approaching the mysterious suffering in Gethsemane we are warned by every circumstance ― even the scantness of the pregnant words ― of the need of reverent caution. Eight of the eleven disciples are left behind, and with Peter, James, and John He goes on further. Presently He bids these also, "Tarry ye here, and watch with Me," but Himself still goes on to what they cannot share with Him. Only a little further, and then He falls upon His face in that deep distress of which He has spoken to the three, plunged in sorrow, as unto death, ― "sore amazed," says Mark ― and desolate. So He prays, ― one prayer which with Him, we may say confidently, never had its like, ― "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

He rises, comes back to His disciples whom He finds not watching but asleep; wakes them with a reproof and yet a tender apology for their weakness; goes back to say what He has said before, but with less pleading, "My Father, if this cannot pass except I drink it, Thy will be done."

He comes again to His disciples, to find them again asleep, leaves them once more, to pray the same words.

Then it is over. He comes back to them now to bid them sleep on and take their rest. There is a conflict passed, which Luke emphasizes in two particulars which he alone relates: the bloody sweat and the visit of an angel to strengthen Him, ― two things which show the exceeding pressure of the agony upon Him physically, but add nothing to the explanation of its nature. What was the "cup" from which He shrank? which, plainly, He was not yet drinking, but which was before Him; as to which there was this prayer that could not be answered; something from which it was perfection in Him that shrank, because in Him all ever was perfect?

It seems certain that it was the cross, in some aspect of it, that cross to which He was going on; and which He had again and again announced to His disciples, and the necessity of it. "The Son of man must be lifted up," He had declared long before to Nicodemus, and again to the multitude (John 12:32-33): by this "signifying what death He should die." This, so announced by Himself, it does not seem possible that He should now pray might be averted.

There is, however, a passage in Hebrews which at first sight might seem to put it in this way, as it most certainly seems to refer to this very time, when the Lord "in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications unto Him that was able to save Him from death," was heard for His godly fear" (Heb. 5:7). This surely refers to Gethsemane, in part at least: yet it does not speak of an unheard prayer, but of a heard one. Moreover, as He was not saved from death, what, both in the Revised, and in the older Version, has been put into the margin, should be in the text ― "to Him that was able to save Him out of death," not from it. Out of it He was saved, was perfected as Captain (or "Leader" or "Originator") of salvation by the obedience wrought in suffering, and so is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.

Resurrection was the divine answer, then, to a prayer that was heard; but in the twenty-second psalm, which also emphasizes a prayer that was heard, we have a prayer of the same blessed Person, as to which He says, "I cry in the day-time and Thou hearest not; and in the night-season; and am not silent." Have we not here the true Gethsemane prayer for which we are seeking? could there be more than one such prayer of the Lord Jesus?

The subject of the psalm also is the cross, and that in its sin-offering aspect. The cry that characterizes it is the cry that in Matthew the Lord takes up and uses as His own ― the awful cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" a cry which is answered in the psalm by Him who utters it (See Notes on the psalm). And here, surely, is that from which the Lord must needs shrink because of His very perfection. Such a cup He might take as the Father's will for Him, that God who is holy might dwell among the praises of His redeemed people, but not otherwise. Here then is the awful "cup" to which He is looking forward in Gethsemane, the subject of the one only prayer as to which it could be said of Him who "heard Him always," "Thou hearest not."

To realize the subject of the prayer is not to solve the mystery of it. It certainly gives us to see how true, while perfect, the humanity of the Lord Jesus was. In the seventh century, the words "Not My will, but Thine be done" were used against the Monothelites to prove the distinctness of the human from the divine will in Christ. But while we recognize their competency for such purpose, it is for us to acquiesce in the Lord's own assurance that "No one knoweth the Son but the Father," and to refrain from seeking to penetrate beyond what is ours to know. The truth of His humanity, and its personality (without which it would not have been true) we may thank God for showing us in so clear a manner; and we must hold it fast as essential to the proper Christian faith. Analysis of His inscrutable nature we should not venture upon.

Gethsemane, the "oil-press," answers to its name. We find in it, not the wine-press, the suffering that wrought atonement, not the bearing of sin itself, but the pressure upon Him of that supreme sorrow, as now He touched the very border of it. We are allowed to see the agony of it to Him, who nevertheless takes the cup in its full bitterness, humbling Himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. From the "oil-press" nothing flows but that which is of the Spirit: to God, uncompromising obedience; to man, self-sacrificing devotion to meet every need. We can understand how in the oil here as in the dove before, the types of Christ and of the Spirit should be one; and even so it is that the Spirit rests upon Him in absolute congenial delight. The meat-offering is first mingled with oil and then anointed with oil.

Mere human incompetence for that hour is seen in the disciples. Oppressed with it, they are found asleep ― stupefied. As on the mount of glory, so in the valley of the shadow of death. They neither respond to His tender request that they should watch with Him, nor realize their own need, that they enter not into temptation. Even this incompetence might have been warning to them but was not, and they have to prove by sadder experience what they have not learned in a happier way.

And yet, indeed, they may now sleep on and take their rest. The work of deliverance is in hands that cannot fail in what they undertake, although there is now to be laid a deeper foundation than for the earth of old, and the "new creation" to be built upon it is to transcend in every measure the dimensions of the old.

4. (1) The traitor comes now, with the armed men he has procured, ― a great multitude with swords and clubs from the chief priests and elders. "The swords indicate that the Roman cohort (John 18:3) was the centre of this multitude; while the clubs and so forth indicate that the Jewish temple watch, and other miscellaneous fanatics, were there also" (Lange). Jew and Gentile, men of different nationality and diverse classes, were ready to take part, and did, in the world's crowning sin.

The treachery of Judas would fain still conceal itself in the kiss of identification; which is given emphatically, as if to assure the One he is betraying that he is not part of the multitude that follow him. The Lord penetrates this disguise, not with a rebuke but with a question: "Friend, wherefore art thou here?" to which He adds, as Luke tells us, the more direct one, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Divine love has not, even yet, ceased its expostulation, ― has not closed the door against his return even yet.

(2) They take Him unresisting. But Peter is again to illustrate how far even a loyal heart may be from the mind of Christ. In speaking of the hostile attitude of the world in which He is leaving them, the Lord had enjoined one that had no sword to sell even his garment and buy one (Luke 22:36). Peter, taking this literally, as we may suppose, no sooner finds his beloved Master thus assailed than his weapon is out, and he smites a servant of the high priest and cuts off his ear. But he has belittled and misrepresented Him whom he would serve, who must be fallen low indeed to need His disciple's sword to extricate Him from such hands as these. If He yield, it is to God, not man; He yields, ― to take the cup from the Father's hand: and what should the sword do here? Were not heaven's legions dependent on His will? and would not the Father, if He had willed it, give Him, not twelve frail disciples, but more than twelve legions of angels?

But He had proclaimed also as the law of His Kingdom that they "resist not evil." The men in authority upon earth ― to whom God for the need of men had given authority ― to these it belonged to do this. If they failed, God was still upon the throne and could not fail. But for His people, His own path of quiet submission was ordained, ― submission not to man; but to God. Here to resist would be to resist Him.

This was the path which for Christ Himself alone could give Him the throne for which He came, and His enemies were but unwittingly preparing to fulfil the prophetic voices which from the beginning had proclaimed this as the way of the divine counsels for Him. For the "Captain of salvation" must be "perfected through sufferings." The ram of sacrifice is taken by its horns (Gen. 22:13); the need of man thus laying hold, through the love that was His nature, of the power that dwelt in Him.

(3) Of this fulfilment of the prophets He reminds the multitudes that had come to seize Him, as He had just reminded the disciple that would have fought for Him. Why had they not taken Him, while daily in the temple He had been teaching publicly amongst them? They had feared the people, as we know; and Judas's treachery alone had given them what they deemed their opportunity. But neither power nor guile could have succeeded against Him, had it not been for that will of God which Scripture witnessed to; which indeed bound them so little, but Him so absolutely; yet they too were fulfilling it.

(4) Now the sheep of the flock are scattered, as the prophet had borne witness: protected in their flight, as John shows us, by their smitten Shepherd. In fact, they could not follow Him now, as He had said to Peter. There could not be permitted even any obscuring of the truth of the solitary, unique place in which He was now to stand, not with but for His people. Even though for Peter it might be entirely different in reality from the cross of his Lord, yet who could think of Peter on the cross beside his Lord? No, He might be "numbered with the transgressors" but not with His disciples. He was alone, therefore, now, and to be alone; until, His work perfectly achieved, He should come forth in the morning of resurrection, with the night for ever past.

Subdivision 2. (Matt. 26:57 ― 27:54.)

The Cross.

The Lord of glory is now in the hands of men; and we are to see what is in their hearts to do with Him. The perfect and ordained trial of man it is, this opportunity of theirs, and in result the world is manifest in all its dreadful alienation from God. The Cross gives character to all that is before us now; men are acting, and God too is acting in view of it, although the special, anticipated cup is not taken till the Cross is actually reached, and even then is confined to the three hours of intensest suffering marked off by the preternatural darkness from all the rest. Those will lose much of what God would teach us as to the mystery of atoning suffering who do not see the distinct meaning here. All the ground is holy, all the suffering necessary; but the more on this account, not less, must be the meaning of such differences as we find here.

1. Christ is now before men's judgment-seats, the ecclesiastical, as we call it, and the civil; before the high priest and the governor; the Jew and the Gentile. The charge before each is different: in the one case, blasphemy; in the other, rebellion. The last was to the Jew every way a false charge, made to serve a purpose, and by the Roman so fully seen through that it was but like mocking him to his face to prefer it. The whole land as soon to go up in flames in opposition to the hated tyranny of the Gentile; and Pilate had already tasted the temper of these men now so careful to maintain the authority of Caesar. Nay, they were using him in all this for their own purposes, as he well knew, and making him the instrument of their malice. For an upright man the escape for him was easy; but being the man he was, it was impossible.

The first charge was the real one, though here too they might seek false witness to establish it. But the essential provocation for them was in this, what He had already told them to their faces. They were saying, "This is the Heir: come, let us kill Him and seize on His inheritance." "They have seen," He declares, "and hated both Me and My Father."

Certainly, not even to themselves, would they have admitted this. Not only was there a multitude that blindly followed them, but the leaders too were in the deepest sense "blind" also, as again He had told them. There is, in the awful mystery of our fallen nature, a blindness which is all the more intense because intentional, ― an ignorance which is the fruit of know ledge. And such was the misery of these unhappy men; with whom the very light in them was darkness, knowing not because they would not know, and condemned therefore even because they did not.

But this was the ground, then, of His accusation, as they declared themselves, "by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God" (John 19:7). This was the issue, though they never faced it, "Was He the Son of God?" Confessedly even, that they never meant to lace. Scripture had silenced them. David in Spirit had certainly called his Son his Lord. Why this? They had no answer, and they would not seek one.

(1) He on His part stood by this issue ― would not accept another ― would not take the Kingdom upon any other ground. "Thou art the Son of God" must in the lips of a disciple be the basis of the other affirmation; "'Thou art the King of Israel." False witness, such as they sought, they did not need to condemn Him, nor would He plead one way or the other against it. Let them put the real question, He will answer under oath, and does. "Tell us if Thou be the Christ the Son of God." And He answers, "Thou hast said, Moreover I say unto thee that from henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."

There is His counter-challenge. He, yet in their hands, patiently subject to all the indignities they can heap upon Him, ― He is just at the end ― at the end for ever, of all this humiliation. "From henceforth" all will be changed for Him and for them. And He summons forth Daniel again to link that manhood of His, which they deemed a sufficient disproof of His highest claim, with those prophetic scriptures to which, through all that was in contradiction to it, the heart of the nation clung. Let them give heed to the voices, then, which out of the past spoke with new energy in the living present. Affirmed as such, with all the glory of His words and works to give authority to His witness, Christ the Son of God was there.

But it avails only for His condemnation, and to set loose the fury of wild passion stirred by the breath of satanic enmity: for this was their hour and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53). Frenzied with the majesty of that calm Presence in which they stand, they break out in insult and defiance of all His claim. Rending his clothes as in horror, the high-priest declares the trial over; He has blasphemed, He has condemned Himself. To which they all agree, that He is worthy of death. Then the pitiful form of justice being ended, the spirit beneath is free to manifest itself; and all the depths of men's hearts are poured out.

(2) The true witness of the Master is followed by the denial of the disciple, ― the foremost of them all, and under his Master's eye. Three times over and even with noisy profanity, he denies companionship with or knowledge of Him; until it would seem, this reckless overflow of a heart too like their own; assures them, more than his denial, that indeed he cannot be a follower of "Jesus the Nazarene." Only the Eye that Peter discerns presently upon him can find still under all this the partaker of the old intimacy, the man to whom the Eternal Father had revealed His Son. Alas for this other self we carry with us, and which would disown the Christ that we think we could die for! Matthew does not indeed record the look of Jesus upon His fallen disciple, but how, when immediately the cock crew, he remembered the words of prophetic warning that had been addressed to him, but which had been surely part of the provision made for him to sustain the faith which Christ had prayed in that critical moment might not fail, even though it might seem to have already failed. With an awful spasm of conviction, out he went into the night, a crushed and broken man.

Night! but already the darkness was not unrelieved. That which had brought it into his soul was that which heralded the coming day.

2. The charge made before the high-priest was, as already said, the real one, and was the truth. He did affirm Himself to be what they charged Him with affirming, and was condemned for His own true witness. The charge before the governor was on the contrary a fictitious charge, with just so much truth in it only as would make it serve their purpose. Pilate hears it, hears His own declaration that He is a King, nay, that He is King of the Jews, and having heard and examined, declares Him innocent, and does so to the end. The Kingdom that He claimed was not to be established by human power, nor might they draw sword on His behalf. He had exhorted them to give to Caesar what was Caesar's, and declared that they that took the sword should perish by the sword. Caesar had nothing to fear, therefore, except it were possibly from a quarter where to resist would be hopeless.

But the Jews had not the power of inflicting a penalty of death, and had need, therefore, of the Roman governor for this purpose, and were, no doubt, full of grim satisfaction at the thought of having him in their hands, towards whom they had plenty of ground for ill-feeling, and little enough for good will. Crucifixion was not a Jewish penalty: they might hang the dead upon a tree, but not the living. The Lord, the Yielder up of His own life, had declared that He was to be delivered to the Gentiles to be crucified.

There was a spiritual reason governing all here. For the curse of the law was to be upon Him, and the public, open sign of the curse was hanging on a tree (Deut. 21:23); but the infliction of this as a Jewish penalty would have carried this beyond death, and altered its significance. In the hands of the Gentiles alone would crucifixion answer to its end. But this we must look at further in a little while.

In connection with this charge before the governor it is that we see God bringing forward His witnesses to the spotlessness of His beloved Son. Matthew especially dwells upon this, because Matthew gives us all through the governmental side of things, and even the aspect of the Lord's sacrificial work (the trespass-offering) is governmental.* The witness of Pilate is given more fully here than elsewhere; that of Judas, and that of the dream of Pilate's wife, are only in this Gospel. Correspondingly we have the purchase of Aceldama with the money cast back to them by Judas, which is surely significant. The witness of the acceptance of His work we shall look at in its place. The four testimonies previously mentioned are all found in the present section. They are the evidence in rebuttal of the charge brought against Him.

{*See Introduction pp. 27, 28, and the notes on the offerings, vol. 1, pp. 296-300.}

(1) Israel deliver up their King, then; to the Gentiles. It is done formally, by the heads of the nation; whom we hear little later refusing positively any king but Caesar, as the result of counsel taken to put Jesus to death. The evangelist breaks off at once to follow the course of Judas to the end.

(2) A hope seems to have remained or freshly risen in the heart of Christ's betrayer that, after all, He might not be condemned. Perhaps the words here do not convey as much as that, but rather the horror produced by the actual thing when now accomplished, never to be undone. What tales have we of deeds deliberately done, which when done have assumed at once a new shape of terror and dismay, as if never contemplated before. With what different eyes might the traitor have seen the actual condemnation of his Lord and Master from those with which he had looked on to it, however certain. Clearly it is the awful agony of remorse that awakes now in Judas, and not repentance. He cannot keep the money he has gained, to which even for the chief priests the blood-stain indelibly attaches. Nay, he shrieks out even in their ears the confession of his sin in having betrayed the innocent blood. But there it ends: "innocent blood;" not holy or righteous, still less "the Holy and the Righteous One": the glory of the Son of God has no part in it ― neither heals nor even smites him. There is no turning to Him with whom he had companied so long, ― no sense of any one to whom he can turn. There is, in short, no faith, and therefore no repentance. "He cast the silver pieces into the temple" ― practically, the sanctuary, the part proper to the priests alone, ― "and departed and went away and hanged himself." In this we see again the opposite of faith. How many times must he have seen the miraculous deeds which testified that "the Son of man had power on earth to forgive sins"! but he seems to remember nothing of all this, or else cannot believe in the divine mercy toward himself; and thus he plunges headlong into irrecoverable ruin.

(3) So the money is on the hands of those who scruple to defile the treasury with it, though as to their souls they have no such care. But the price of blood they cannot put into the "Corban," among the offerings to Jehovah, and so they take counsel, and buy with it the potter's field ― a special place known as that ― "to bury strangers in." "The expression," says Lange, "does not refer to Jews from other countries (as Meyer supposes), who in a religious point of view were not strangers; nor to professing heathens, who were left to themselves; but to Gentile proselytes (of the gate), to whom a certain regard was due, while priestly exclusiveness would not allow them to rest in properly consecrated graves. Thus even in this act of cheap charity and pious provision on the part of a Sanhedrin which slew the Lord of glory, Phariseeism remained true to itself. The price of blood and the field of blood are declared quite suited for 'strangers.'"

But this is on man's side only; on God's there was surely a witness of what Israel had really acquired for themselves with this fatal blood-money. Had they not in fact purchased for themselves in every land into which they were to be cast "a burial-place for strangers"? Strangers they have indeed been ever since, and their graves how often in a "field of blood:" ― a "potter's field" too, as the quotation here declares; not simply that which lay on the slope of the valley of Hinnom, but the field of the Great Potter of Jer. 18, in which "the word of Jehovah came to me," says the prophet, "saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you, as this potter? saith Jehovah. Behold, as the clay in the potter's hand, so are ye in My hand, O house of Israel."

They had indeed cast this money to the potter, and they have been ever since as a vessel marred upon the wheel, and to be re-moulded. This is the meaning of their discipline in all the long years since.

(4) Jesus before the governor at once declares Himself the King of the Jews; but to all the accusations of the Jews replies nothing whatever; so that Pilate marvels.

But now the question of His acceptance or rejection is to be pressed on all the people; and again we see how the government of God has arranged every thing to this end. First, there has been established a custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of the paschal feast, and the people had the decision as to what prisoner it should be. Then they had at this time a prisoner of a notable kind, most suitable every way for comparison and by way of contrast with the spotless Victim now before them. This is at once suggested by his name, Barabbas, which is "son of the father." The Syriac and some other versions, with some cursive MSS., even read "Jesus Barabbas," an insertion very hard to explain if not genuine. All Christian feeling would naturally be against it, and certainly favor omission rather than insertion. Together, the names would be an awful diabolic assumption of titles most significant in the Lord.

Mark and Luke add that he had been cast into prison for sedition; thus had actually committed the crime with which they were falsely charging Jesus. Added to which, he was a robber and a murderer. Thus for the people to choose Barabbas would seem impossible, when now Pilate desired to know whether he should release this notorious criminal or "Jesus who is called Christ."

The mercy of God has given Pilate warning also from a wholly unexpected quarter. "As he was sitting on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have nothing to do with that just man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of him." It was the very thing most calculated, perhaps, to act upon the sceptical Roman; a voice out of that dark border-land which by its very darkness seems to attract the imaginative faculty, to fill it with possibilities the less challengeable the less they are defined. Outside of all priestly influence also, his wife is made the witness to his conscience, and against these priests whose measure he has long since taken and whose motives he penetrates. "He knew that for envy they had delivered Him."

In his uneasiness Pilate would fain put the responsibility which he cared not to face upon the people. Not the chief priests but the popular voice shall determine what is to be done, and the people also shall decide but one way, if he can accomplish it, ― it shall be Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ!

But the unhappy people are under the control of their leaders, and urgently insist upon their choice of Barabbas. It is the heart of man exposed to its depths, ― the mind of the flesh, which is enmity against God; and when Pilate, still anxious to escape the fatal responsibility, puts it to them, (as he had no right to do,) what they would have done with Jesus then, immediately the awful cry breaks out from the crowd as with one voice, "Let Him be crucified!" Pilate asks in vain, "Why? what evil hath He done?" The only answer is the more vehement cry, "Let Him be crucified!"

It is the popular vote, after He has been among them three or more years, borne witness to by a constant display of power in grace that ministered to every need of man; by wondrous words that went even beyond this, and revealed, as light from heaven; the whole face of the world, while bringing in for it the glory of what is beyond and above it; Himself in Himself the incarnate glory of God, the seal and perfection of all that He uttered. The end is full, absolute rejection; hatred for His love, passionate hatred as if for some unspeakable wrong, that dooms Him to death, a death of shame, of unutterable anguish, the death of a criminal, a frightful and accursed death. They deliver up the Prince of life and desire a murderer to be granted to them. One cannot but realize in this Jesus Barabbas of Matthew the shadow of one to come, in whom man's natural choice will find its final expression, and of whom the Lord said to the Jews, I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another come in his own name, him ye will receive" (John 5:43). Another will come in his own name, God allowing all the thoughts of man's heart to come out in full public expression, ― another "saviour," the son of another father, true "child of the devil," in whom the unbelief as to Christ shall come to faith, and the crop of sin at last be harvested. "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work, only he who now letteth" (hindereth) will hinder until he be taken out of the way and then shall that wicked one be revealed, the son of perdition; whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of His mouth, and destroy with the manifestation of His presence: even him whose coming is after the working of Satan; with all. power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:7-11).

Awful are words like these, but they are words of truth, and to be fulfilled in days that are yet before us. The common application to Popery destroys for us in large measure its power for warning, and teaches us to look for its fulfilment in what has been manifested for centuries, and the day of Christ has not yet come. Not in the Christian Church, but in the Jewish temple of God

" will this defiance of God be uttered, and where Christ was rejected, there shall antichrist be installed. Israel have, alas! saved their Barabbas, to enthrone him in a day which every sign of the times assure us to be very near at hand. And as the Gentiles then joined hands with the Jews to put Jesus to death, so shall they join hands also to enthrone antichrist.

(5) The government of God in all this shows itself, and the power of the enemy itself works in compelled subjection to it. We find now Israel invoking it, and not in vain. Pilate, determined to escape the responsibility of that which under pressure he is about to do, adapts to his purpose part of the Jewish ritual in the case of an unknown murder, and washes his hands in the presence of the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just man: see ye to it." "And all the people answered and said, His blood be upon us and on our children." Thus, if they cannot lift the load from Pilate, they accept their own responsibility in the fullest way; and ever since, flee as they might into all the countries of the earth, the avenger of blood has been behind them. No effectual city of refuge has been found for them; nor will be until they look upon Him whom they have pierced, and in repentance and faith find it in Him the source of all their blessing.

Barabbas is released, and Pilate has the One whom he has owned to be righteous scourged, preparatory to crucifixion.

3. With one more step we come to the Cross itself, the lowest point of Christ's humiliation, and the place of deepest suffering, but not only this: the Cross has a character peculiarly its own, and here alone do we reach what is in the proper sense, atonement. This is, however, contested by so many, and is of such importance in itself that we must look at it in this place sufficiently to understand the character of what is before us.

If sin-bearing be, as it plainly is, an absolute necessity for atonement, Scripture declares without any obscurity whatever, that it was on the Cross He bore sin, and only there. "Who His own self," says the apostle, "bare our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). Scripture says this, and only this. It never speaks of our Lord as a sin-bearer in life, but in death; including, however, in death not simply the act of death, the expiring, but the suffering connected with it, "the death of the cross": suffering which gave its character to the death itself.

To distinguish it from mere dying, the circumstances are associated with it in a way that at first seems strange enough, to be put (as they are) as if essential to atonement itself. Thus it is said, "Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate" (Heb. 13:12). Why without the gate? does not that seem a mere circumstance, quite separable from the suffering itself even; and certainly from the power of the precious blood of Christ to sanctify?

Yet, when we examine the connection with the preceding verse, we find that this suffering without the gate, or what is implied in it, is undoubtedly contemplated in the type to which the apostle is referring: "For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest for sin; are burned without the camp." "Burned without the camp" certainly answers to "suffered without the gate." And here, notice that the distinction between those offerings whose blood went into the sanctuary and those that did not, was not in the burning, (for all were burnt, though indeed not all wholly burnt,) but in the place of burning: the emphasis is laid upon this very thing.

But what, then, is the meaning? the ordinary place of burning was upon the altar in the tabernacle-court, and there was the place of which it was said, in connection with the blood, "I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11).

Yet the blood of what was burnt upon the altar could not go in where the blood of that which was burnt on the ground outside the camp could and did go.

Notice again, that this is the sin-offering, called this distinctively as that in which the judgment of sin is what is prominent ― is differential. The judgment of sin; then; is that which is expressed in the banishment of what is nevertheless the "most holy" sin-offering into the holy place outside not merely the courts of Jehovah's house, but outside the camp also, the place of a people in relationship with God.

Banishment from God is what is marked by it: for God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and that cannot look at sin; while sin and sin-offering are the same word in Scripture, a man's sin-offering being that in which his sin was put before God. Thus outside the gate, as outside the camp, expresses either the place of one himself a sinner, or the place of One "made sin" for sinners.

"The Tree" intensifies still more this thought; for "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree;" and the cross is thus a death of curse. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written; Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. 3:13). Here again; what might seem merely circumstantial is made to express that which marks the death of Christ as truly propitiatory, the bearing of sin's awful penalty. Here is the "cup" from which the Lord necessarily shrank, but which nevertheless He drank in obedience to the Father's will, as requisite for our redemption. Death and judgment are man's natural portion, because of sin; not death only and there an end, but "after death the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). Thus death alone could not be what Christ had to bear, and death simply was but its least part. Death is provisional, temporal, a governmental infliction, not an absolute necessity. For judgment in its full character resurrection must come in: death yields up to judgment, and judgment is eternal.

We must not look at the "curse of the law," then, as if it were mere circumstance ― the hanging on a tree. That was but the outer garb of a reality more fearful far. Man could give man the cross: atonement was not an effect of suffering at the hands of man, but of suffering Godward. And this is what the cry of abandonment on the cross expresses. It was not that He had been given up into the hands of men; and to make it that would be to make Him less than the many of His people who have suffered such physical agonies at the hands of others without any such thought of being forsaken of God as is heard in this desolate cry. Nay, the psalmist, in that prophetic psalm to which the very words of the cry refer us, has distinguished carefully between this and all that saints ever suffered: for "our fathers trusted in Thee," he says: "they trusted in Thee, and Thou didst deliver them; they cried unto Thee, and were not confounded; but I am a worm and no man … be not far from me" (Ps. 22:4-6, 11; and see the notes on the Psalm). The sorrow here is an unequalled sorrow, and wholly different from any other.

How different from anything that could be true of Him in that wondrous life He had lived, in which His testimony was, "And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always the things that please Him" (John 8:29). How would such a cloud in any other place than this have marred the glory of that life of manifest communion with God, which in its unbroken perfection shone out in Him. Nay, how it would have shadowed the divine glory revealed in Him, that He, being what He was, should have been yet ever in the distance of the sinner's place with God! Or do we think that what is involved in this is only the bearing some results of God's government of a fallen world, ― as one of an exiled family, though innocent, not being able to sleep at Jerusalem (!) and such things? If that were all, what need of the cross at all? Is it possible that any one can fail to see the difference ― the total, absolute contrast, between the forsaking of God and His being ever with Him? between His life-work and His sacrificial death?

Another thing that results from all this, and the want of perception of which has clouded for many the full intelligence of the atoning work, is the need of realizing that the penalty upon sin that had to be lifted from us could not be satisfied or modified, by the infinite glory of the blessed Sufferer. Such thoughts appeal to us very strongly and from two different directions. We think of the Father's Son; of the Word made flesh, and shrink confounded from the thought of what seems to be suggested by it, as if a schism (though but for a moment) in the divine nature, or between the divine and human in the Lord. Or, again, contrasting the eternity of the penalty upon man with the actual brief endurance of the Lord's suffering, we incline at once to say, here certainly there was modification of the penalty, and a very great one.

Now in the first case, we are simply baffled by the inscrutability of that which the Lord assures us is inscrutable, the mystery of His divine-human Person, which for those who have not been content to accept the necessary limitations of creature-understanding, darkened now by sin; have constantly ended in the acceptance of some impairment either of humanity or divinity in Him. But neither in this way have they escaped from perplexity, nor, had they done so, could they have found the inscrutable Christ of Scripture. We can but accept Scripture, in its declarations and its silences; and in doing so, we shall find a Christ never impaired in His humanity by His divinity, capable as Man of being understood by men; One capable of all that is proper to man; capable of faith, nay, the supreme example of it; capable of a will which, though holy, He gave up to the Father; capable of being tempted in all things like as we are, sin apart" (Heb. 4:15). Can we reconcile it all with that higher glory of deity in Him, which gives new glory to His humanity itself? We should gain nothing by the attempt, but lose wholly. We need a Christ whom we can know, but yet not wholly know; with whom there are inner recesses of light which no man may explore; and that is what we find in Him.

As to the second case, the eternity of the penalty is no necessary element in it, except where the sins or the sinful condition eternally abide: and that is the case wherever the atonement provided has no effect. It is a common mistake to argue against the eternity of the penalty from the time during which the Lord endured it, or upon the same ground for a modification of the penalty as He endured it. Indeed, some will have no penalty at all in His case, but a substitute for it; while others say an equivalent or one modified in some way. The Scriptures cannot be made to agree with any of these thoughts. Christ honored the God of judgment by taking the very judgment lying upon man: He was made a curse for us; He was made sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. But let us go now with the solemn history before us.

(1) And here the indications of the divine meaning in the Cross are found in that which is nevertheless but the awful display of diabolic cruelty at the hands of man. A new class of men are the soldiers to whom Pilate has given Him up, and in them man comes to a new trial. They have heard the justification by the judge of the One whom he sends as innocent to an agonizing death. They are not Jews, these soldiers, care nothing about the Sanhedrin, are not pressed to what they do by the chief priests or the outcries of a people whom they despise as senseless and bigoted fanatics. There was not only in general no love between them and the Jews, but the fiercest scorn and enmity. Nor are they forced by their office as executioners to that for which now as their own special mocking and insult, not to be lost willingly by any of. them, they gather the whole band.

How the various classes of men are made to bear witness against themselves through all this scene: most freely acting out the very depths of their hearts, while overruled by the divine purpose to show out the glory of the Man so seemingly helpless in their hands. These are the men of blood and iron, the men with whom might is right, the men who delight to pull down others from their excellency; men with no wrongs even imagined to repay, but simply at their business, which they enter into with the zest of the amphitheatre, the cruel Roman frenzy, which possessed all sections of the people. Now they have a king in their hands ― a King! ― and with an inscrutable dignity about Him which nothing that man has done can touch. Now it is their turn: what can they do that has not yet been done, and which shall accomplish what all else has failed in?

Herod had mocked Him with a royal robe; it should be theirs to crown Him; but with what? with bay, laurel, myrtle? He takes satire easily, as it were, unconsciously: can they not make Him feel it, this impenetrable Man? You see the brutal jest of the soldier: crown Him? yes, crown Him! make the satire pungent: crown Him with thorns.

So they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet cloak, and having plaited a crown of thorns, put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they mocked Him, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!"

But they could not know how, ever after, we should be gazing with eager adoration at this wondrous Figure just as with their cruel hands they had arrayed it and how the centuries should see in all they had done, no more their malignant mockery, but indeed the divinely significant emblems of God's glorious King.

The scarlet cloak or pallium was such as was worn by kings and emperors, but its color was produced from the coccus; it was a death-stain.

Thorns are the sign of the curse which He was now taking to remove it from us.

And the reed, the type of weakness, becomes the symbol of His power, ― or at least of the way through which He has taken it: "He was crucified through weakness." Yet the cross is that which has annulled every foe that was against us, while it has made Him the Sovereign of an Empire soon to be universal: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."

How plain that every detail here is under the government of divine wisdom, and proclaiming in fact His glory. They have failed, and cast aside their mockery, to turn it into mere brutality as useless. They have failed; every foe must fail. The King goes on to His throne.

(2) Of the Cross we have first the human side, ― a cross which man may be permitted to carry after Him: and so Simon; the "hearkener," the "obedient," is seen at the outset, here. For by dull hearing we may escape the world's impressment after this fashion; though as Simons we shall find it companionship with the Lord. Still we must remember that there was another Simon who had professed readiness to take this place and more, and did not though he afterwards did. We have to learn the secret of power, even though we have the will; and that the strength we need is made perfect in weakness.

So the place of a skull is reached, the objective point which had been before the Lord all through. A scene of death was the attraction for the Lord of life; for none other could it have had any. But He comes into it, therefore, not to be merely a visitor, but to "taste death" in its reality. He refuses therefore the stupefying draught* offered to those led to execution, and gives Himself up to the full endurance of all that is before Him. Then they crucify Him and divide His garments among them, casting lots; all the while the light of prophecy steadily shining upon all this, as the great Eye of God, though unheeded, heeding silently, until the time comes for interference. And meanwhile still for faith there runs through all the deeper meaning which, if we could not read it, we should be satisfied must be there. But is He not in fact providing at His own cost the clothing which is to cover men's nakedness, and that by divine appointment also, (of which the lot in Israel spoke,) even for His enemies? Certainly thus alone it is that any one of us can say, "He has covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10).

{*The "gall" mingled with the wine was probably "wormwood," a strongly stupefying ingredient, though the Septuagint use it for various bitter substances. The "vinegar," an alternative reading here, and with evident reference to Ps. 69:21, was no doubt simply the sour wine in common use.}

Nay, was it not we, the sinners enriched by Him, who guarded Him there, keeping Him upon that cross of shame which He could not leave, because of our necessities? This was indeed more than all the legions of the Roman army, that which made rescue for Him impossible, and kept all the hosts of heaven from breaking through for His relief.

His title is His accusation: He is Jesus, the King of the Jews; and for that they class Him with robbers, who is presently to sit down upon the Father's throne; and the passers-by revile Him, wagging their heads as they see Him there who according to their false accusation was to destroy the temple and in three days was to build it up again. In fact it was they who were now destroying it, and in a little while they will begin to realize the true application; "In three days I will rise again."

But against all His claims, the cross is in their minds a conclusive argument. The Son of God upon a cross! He must, if He is to be believed at all, come down from the cross. And the priests follow, mocking Him with the same arguments: "He is the King of Israel? well, let him come down from the cross, and we will believe." And then they use, all unconsciously, almost the words of the mockers of the twenty-second psalm: "He trusted in God: let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him." Nay, even "the robbers who were crucified with Him, reproached Him" with His powerlessness and lack of help. He is the King with the reed-sceptre and the crown of thorns!

(3a) Deeper the chasm under Him yawns. A preternatural darkness settles down upon the whole land for three hours together, from the sixth to the ninth hour. When it disappears the crisis is over, He Himself declares that "It is finished" (John 19:30), and then; in the language here, dismisses His spirit and departs. His work is accomplished: the rent veil and the graves broken through remain as the tokens of what is accomplished.

It is surely a superficial thought that the sympathy of nature with her suffering Lord is what the darkness falling over all expresses. The Lord, as it passes away, Himself interprets it in a different manner. If God be Light, darkness is the natural sign of His turning away. The three days' darkness in Egypt we have seen to have such a meaning. The final "outer darkness" of the lost is the most distinct and awful expression of it ― darkness outside, — away from the presence and glory of God. It is the rejection by God of those who have rejected Him. It is the necessity of a holy nature which cannot have fellowship with evil. And Christ in the darkness is the sign of His being the Sin-bearer of His people, ― the sign of that which was to Him was the deepest agony that He could suffer, the forsaking of God.

We have already in some measure considered the meaning of this. It is not here that we shall find the doctrine of atonement, but the fact, the making it, with presently the consequences Godward and manward, which show how perfectly it has been made. Christ in the sinner's place, the reality of substitution, God's judgment upon sin owned and borne by Him who knew no sin, — that is what is before us here. These three hours are apart from all other in human history; in which have been manifested, as nowhere else, both man and God; evil and good have come together; the good, not by power interposing for it, but by its own intrinsic blessedness, o'er-mastering the evil; God glorified, so as to bring Him in in answer to it, in righteousness the justifier of every one that believeth in Jesus.

To those standing by the cross the Lord's words are a call for Elias; a misinterpretation, probably, of the soldiery, rather than the Jews, but who had caught up some of the common Jewish beliefs which they would have heard expressed around them. Would Elias come and take Him down? Conscience getting roused, they still it with faint mockery addressed to the man who ministers the vinegar to the agonizing thirst of crucifixion; "Let be: let us see whether Elias will come to save Him."

(b) But the end now is reached. Still, master of Himself, not conquered of death but yielding Himself to it, He cries with the loud voice of unexhausted strength, and dismisses His spirit. The expression is peculiar to Matthew, the royal Gospel, and very unhappily obscured in the common translation.* It is the explicit assertion, as to the moment of death, of what He had Himself before declared: "No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I have authority to lay it down, and authority to take it again" (John 10:18). Notice that here it is the simple expression of authority and thus absolutely in place in the Gospel of Matthew, one of those more hidden harmonies of inspiration, which we are apt to let through mere inadvertency escape us. But what a testimony to Him whose royal title was proclaimed upon a cross, whose sceptre was a reed, whose crown was of thorns, and lately in the deepest agony of One suffering for sin! But such are the mysteries of our salvation, now made so fully intelligible to us, yet still the mysteries of a "love that passeth knowledge."

{*"Yielded up the ghost," (R.V.) "yielded up His spirit."}

(c) The peculiar agony passed of the forsaking of God, there remains but death to complete atonement. All that lay upon man is then taken; God's righteousness approved and manifested, sin in its reality as before Him exposed. The result begins at once to be apparent in a double way. The veil of the temple is rent in the midst; and on the other hand the quaking earth opens the graves, "and many bodies of the saints that slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city and appeared unto many."

This latter sign is, again; a thing peculiar to Matthew. As the effect of the Lord's work, it would naturally have reference to that special aspect of the work which is presented here; and this we have seen already to be in Matthew the trespass- (which is the governmental) offering.

This is easily understood, if we consider the difference between that which is the necessary part of the penalty upon sin, as resulting from the very nature of God, and therefore unchangeable as that nature, and that which it may please Him to affix to it as the special brand of His displeasure.

As has often been said, while "God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look at sin," and therefore His separation from it is an unchangeable necessity, ― death (I am speaking of what we ordinarily call that) is, in man's case, such a governmental brand, and can be removed from him without change on his part, or atonement for him. This is important to realize as bearing upon the resurrection of the wicked. It has been often argued and with apparent justification from a certain statement in Scripture, that the resurrection even of the wicked is due only to Christ's atoning work, and so in their case also has a redemptive character. Here is not the place to discuss the fundamental passage; but the Lord's own words assure us that as, on the one hand, there is a "resurrection of life," so, on the other, there is a "resurrection of judgment" (John 5:29, R.V.). As, on the one hand, life claims even the bodies of the heirs of life, so on the other, does judgment claim the bodies of the unsaved. And thus it is said, "after death the judgment" (Heb. 9:27), which takes place, as we see in the book of Revelation, only when "death and hades" have given up the dead.

Thus death has place in God's dealings with man this side of eternity only; and indeed, though it be the brand upon sin; yet still as part of a discipline of mercy. As the removal of man from the place for which he was originally created, and the sundering of all sweet, familiar ties, sending him out alone, naked as he came into the world, but with neither the ignorance nor innocence with which he came into it, to meet he knows not perhaps what, yet fears with a true instinct, if he knows not, ― death is the constant appeal to him as to the ruin in which he is, ― the "Adam, where art thou?" of God who seeks him. Whatever, then; the final issue, death has no part in it. For even the second death is no repetition of the first, but that in which it is swallowed up and lost; while the saint inherits life eternal.

Notice, now, the peculiar way in which the resurrection of the saints of which Matthew speaks here is connected with the work of atonement. They do not come out of their graves till "after His resurrection." They do not actually rise till then. Plainly, because Christ is the "first-fruits" of them that sleep, the "First-born from the dead;" and none, therefore, could precede Him.* On the other hand, it is when the Lord dies that the graves open: it is this that opens them; we are intended to find connection between this death and the apparition of living men brought up out of death. No phantom merely, we are assured; "bodies of the saints that slept" arising; not to take again their place among men; but as those that belong to another sphere, glowing with the light of it.

{*For this is not a restoration to mortal life once more, as in the case of Lazarus, of the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Nain; or it would not exemplify, as is plainly intended here, the power of atonement.}

The rending of the veil of the sanctuary precedes in the account here, as it preceded in order of occurrence, the resurrection of the saints. It is plainly connected with the three hours of darkness, in the same way in which the latter is connected with the Lord's death. The veil was the sign of that "thick darkness" in which under the law God dwelt. "The way into the holiest was not made manifest." None could see God and live. If Moses himself is permitted to see His glory, it is after He is gone by: thus with His face turned away.

Here, then; is the darkness of the Cross, the darkness in which man abides, spite of all that he can do in his own behalf. He sits in darkness and the shadow of death. Pass the veil he cannot. His Deliverer must come out after him, even to where he is; but having come there in the perfection of that marvelous obedience, cannot abide there. The veil is rent in the divine way, from top to bottom. The light of the glory of God streams forth, God fully manifested in righteousness and in love, and by that way, the way of the Cross which has revealed Him, men be they what they may can draw near, if they will, to Him, ― nay, find in His presence thus their one possible sanctuary of refuge.

The resurrection of the saints that follows here is but that which completely fits them for that place, and puts them fully into it. Restitution Godward, with its overplus of glory being fully made, man too can receive his overplus of compensating blessing. If the first paradise be not restored, he shall enter in Christ the paradise of God. Thus the trespass-offering view of the Cross is here complete.

(d) The fruit of it is seen also in another way. The Gentile centurion and those that are with him, convinced by all that they have seen and heard, confess Him to be, not the King of the Jews merely, but the Son of God. Thus the Roman soldier takes his place with Peter the apostle in proclaiming that which Israel has denied. The dispensational intimation here, according to the character of Matthew's Gospel, seems to be shown in this, that what in Mark and Luke is given as the individual faith of the centurion is here testified as shared by "those that were with him." It is the general faith of a Gentile company.

Subdivision 3. (Matt. 27:55 — 28.)

The Resurrection.

The atoning work, then, is done: we are now to have before us the answer on God's part to it, an answer which certainly cannot be long delayed. Indeed, as we have seen, there has been already answer; but not yet the answer. That will be no less than in raising Christ from the dead, and setting Him at His own right hand in heavenly places, with all authority given to Him in heaven and earth. We do not see Him in Matthew at the right hand of God: that is reserved for Mark. Nor do we even, as in Luke, see His ascent into heaven. But in accordance with the character of Matthew, we do find all authority put into His hand, ― the Kingdom of heaven begun; with its administration committed to men, but with the assurance that He is with them to the end of the age.

1. The Lord having gone down to the depths of His humiliation, from this point all is changed. God permits no more indignity, and, marked out still, as every thing here is, by the voice of prophecy, the rich man comes forward to bear testimony to Him, and give His body its temporary resting place. "They assigned Him a grave with wicked men," says the prophet, "but with the rich man when He had died" (Isa. 53:9, Heb.). He is numbered with transgressors no more, but in the hands of disciples, tender, if feeble hands, which though it be the shadow of death upon hopes lately so bright, will anoint Him for His burial. These women that have followed Him from Galilee, ministering to Him, wait on Him still with their eyes through all the terror of the Cross, too intent for fear or sorrow to divert their riveted gaze until the stone closes the sepulchre. This Joseph, too, just at the hour when all seems lost, comes forward openly to join himself to the disciples of a crucified Master. He goes to Pilate to beg the body of Jesus, and having obtained it, lays it in his own new tomb. For this death cannot mingle with the common deaths of men, but is that which dispels death. Nor can the Holy One enter into the abode of corruption ― He who is to know none. The instinct of the heart goes, as it would seem, beyond knowledge; and God is over all, guarding and guiding.

2. The enemy, too, is at work to make more secure His coming triumph. His disciples shall not come and steal the body away, and make men think that He is risen. Upon the supposition that they were dealing with imposture merely, that would be well enough: but did they think so? Could they, fresh from the spectacle of such a death as He had died, imagine it?

They remember the words which His own disciples had forgotten; words which had contemplated what they had done to him, and asserted His own final triumph. On the third day He would rise again. If that were indeed true, how vain any effort of theirs to avert the consequences! Yet fear has its fascination; which compels its subjects to follow to the end they dread, ― to know and face the worst that can come. Perhaps there were mingled motives, the result of contradictory thoughts which urged them on. At any rate they do all they can with their company of soldiers and their seal upon the sepulchre to make fraud and illusion both impossible, and to certify the only hope available for man.

3. Matthew gives us very briefly the resurrection of the Lord; and of all His manifestations of Himself to His disciples at Jerusalem only that to the women visiting the sepulchre. In His message given through these also He speaks of meeting them, not at Jerusalem, but in Galilee, the scene of His former labors. There the .commission with regard to the Kingdom is given them, and it is the Kingdom with which Matthew, as we know, is occupied.

The connection of our Lord with Galilee was from the first the token of His rejection by Israel. In His infancy Jerusalem under the sway of Herod had refused Him, and the rule of Archelaus there had turned Him aside from Judea to Nazareth. Galilee of the Gentiles was the witness of the ruin of Israel, as largely given up to these, the land of the former kingdom of the ten tribes, who had not returned from their captivity in Assyria. Out of Galilee, said the scribes, no prophet could arise. Yet it was there, among a people sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, that the Light was to arise.

The passing by of Jerusalem in the close of Matthew is easily seen, therefore, to be significant of the world-wide aspect of the Kingdom now to be proclaimed, a remnant of Israel sharing in it, in the time of their national rejection; the blessings of Christ's rule. But not even into these does Matthew enter deeply: the air of reserve which we have noticed in Matthew clings in measure to him, to the end. There is one expression only which seems to break through it, and carry us on towards the complete revelation, ― "Go and tell My brethren." But it is not developed further, and by itself might only apply the language of the Lord's prophecy (Matt. 25:40) to His present followers.

The separation which some would make between an evening visit of the women to the sepulchre, and a morning one, when the angel addresses them, seems neither necessitated by the words themselves,* nor consistent when the account is taken as a whole.** The stone had been rolled away when they got near enough to see; and thus the resurrection had already taken place. They may have felt the trembling of the ground and seen something of the lightning-like flash that had scattered the watch. But He was risen; and the opening of the tomb was to publish to all that it was empty. The victory is gained; and, as of old, the women celebrate it. Mary of Magdala here comes into prominence, out of whom seven demons had been cast by the word of Christ. And now that He has spoiled principalities and powers and led captivity captive, she in whom the complete power of Satan has been met and conquered is fittingly the leader of this company. Her heart is not empty since the unclean spirits left, but Another has filled it. The dead Christ still lives in her and controls her; and now she is a true "Mary of the watch-tower," even while yet she has no knowledge nor expectation of what has taken place.

{* opse ton sabbaton may mean "after the sabbath" as well as "in the end of" it: see Lange on the text.

**Yet it is evident that Matthew's account is of the briefest, and that the Lord's appearing to Mary Magdalene alone is omitted by him. Mark states that He appeared "first" to her, which does not seem to allow the presence of the other women at that time, as thought by some, while yet Matthew and Luke (Luke 24:10) plainly seem to include her with them in what is narrated here.}

It is John who details to us the way in which the risen Lord reveals Himself to her, during an interval of time passed over by Matthew, in which she has left the company with which she had come to the sepulchre to bring Peter and John to see that it was empty. The other women, less bold than she, must have waited for her to rejoin them before they went on to the tomb. If so Mary Magdalene must have already been gladdened with the knowledge that He was risen before she went back with them there. Matthew certainly intimates that Mary was with them at this time, as he only mentions "the other Mary" as her companion; and to these the angel addresses himself.* Now they are told that not only is He risen, but that He is going before them into Galilee, and there they should see Him.

{*In fact there were others, as Luke assures us (Luke 24:10).}

Galilee is in fact the gathering place of the disciples, characterizing the circumstances under which the new faith begins to be published, as we have seen. Presently an unexpected joy is theirs; for Jesus Himself meets them on the way, and while they worship at His feet, repeats to them the message given to them by the angel.

4. Meanwhile some of the guard bring word to the chief priests of all that has taken place. The impotence of all their efforts is revealed; and they have even to publish it, along with the manifestly false account of what had happened while the witnesses were asleep. Spite of all they will continue the vain struggle with omnipotence itself; and such are Israel's chosen leaders.

5. The Gospel closes with the appearing of the Lord in Galilee, where by appointment the eleven meet Him; with others also, as is plain, for it could hardly be of the eleven, after all that we know to have taken place in Jerusalem, that it is written; that "some doubted." From His words to the women also Galilee seems to have been appointed, as already said, for a general gathering of the disciples, and it was probably here that He was seen, as the apostle tells us, "of more than five hundred brethren at once" (1 Cor. 15:6). The institution of His Kingdom would naturally call for such a gathering; and here it is that He declares all authority to have been given to Him in heaven and upon earth, and sends them out to disciple all nations to it.

It is not a Kingdom set up as yet in power, but established as a Kingdom of the truth by the sowing of the "word of the Kingdom" in the hearts of men. This the parables of it (Matt. 13) have already shown us. "Discipling" is therefore the mode of introduction into it; but this has two parts, which the Lord joins together here. The great essential for a disciple is, of course, reception of the Word; but since it is a Kingdom into which men are discipled, there is added to this an outward recognition to be made of the authority under which they come: and these are assuredly the "keys of the Kingdom," of which the Lord spoke to Simon Peter (16:19). The "key of knowledge" He had spoken of elsewhere (Luke 11:52); here we have the external authoritative admission on the part of those to whom the Kingdom is committed: "disciple all the nations, baptizing them" the name to which they are baptized being that of the Triune God, now fully revealed.

"All nations" shows the whole world to be the sphere in which the Kingdom is to be proclaimed, and cannot be the Gentiles only: Israel cannot be left out of such a commission. Certainly, they have not received the Kingdom, nor the King: they cannot be looked upon as an inner circle from which His messengers are to be sent out; and in Luke "repentance and remission of sins" are to be "preached among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (24:47). This is in fact the course that was pursued. By and by Paul is raised up of God to lead in the special Gentile work, and the other apostles, owning what God has done, give it up as apostles to Paul and Barnabas; but this is no failure on their part, nor change in the original plan. Paul still preaches "to the Jew first"; and if of the other apostles we have little scriptural notice, tradition scatters them variously among the Gentiles. Moreover, the commission given here in Matthew to baptize and teach is not one that we can limit in any way to the apostles, but must have wide enough application to embrace all who, in fact and according to Scripture, baptize and teach.

Thus the Kingdom takes its place outside all nations, while having its door wide open towards all, its blessed gospel call for all that have an ear to hear.

The King is, as we know, to be away; and just on this account He gives to those who represent Him here the assurance of His being ever present with them. Faith may reckon upon Him as securely all the way as if He were still bodily and visibly in company with His disciples; "all the days" ― every single day ― cloudy or bright ― until the consummation of the age is reached, and the opened heavens yield Him once more to earth.