Some Night Thoughts

It is a remarkable fact that not one of the four writers of the Gospels should have recorded all the words of our Lord as He hung upon the Cross. We should have thought that of all the words He uttered in the ears of men, these would have been the most eagerly recorded. It is more than possible that neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke were present, but they would often talk together of the scenes and be eager to record them. What is more remarkable is that John was present — so far as we know the only one of the disciples to be there — and he records but three, and these not the most important, we should think; which shows us plainly that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit had as much to say with what they left out as with what they recorded. Matthew and Mark record but one of the sayings which we might well call the central one of the seven; Luke and John record three each — but every one is in keeping with the character of the Gospel they were inspired to write.

Luke is especially the Gospel of Grace. The one thing above all others that the enemies of the Lord complained of, as recorded in it, was His interest in publicans and sinners. "Why do ye eat with publicans and sinners?" they ask in chapter 5. He is "the friend of publicans and sinners," they jeer in chapter 7. "This man receives sinners and eats with them," they complain in chapter 15, and " He is gone to be guest with a man who is a sinner," was His crowning crime in chapter 19.

We see from the beginning to the end that they hated Him for this, so when we come to the Cross we are not surprised to find that His utterances recorded there are in keeping with this. The first of the three is His great answer to men's hatred and cruelty — "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." There could have been no grace at all for men but for this prayer. If this prayer had been imprecatory instead of what it was, there would have been nothing but judgment for men; but as His first recorded words in this Gospel were, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" so His first recorded words on the Cross must be in keeping with that declaration. His Father's business was the salvation of men.

The next words are His answer to the cry of the malefactor's heart, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." What an answer! "Verily, I say to thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise."

If His first words were His prayer for blessing upon mankind as such, His second words indicate how individual and personal the blessing is. Not in the mass does He see and save men but as individual souls having sins and needs. The last of the sayings recorded is, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." It is not difficult to see how consistent this is with this Gospel.

What infinite grace flows in these words that he records — that a polluted and wretched sinner, washed from all his pollutions, should enter Paradise in company with the One who had filled the Father's heart with delight! This exceeds every conception of ours, but it was not the end — God had something beyond even that for us. It would have satisfied us, but not Him; so we have the group of words in the Gospel of John. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother… and the disciple… whom He loved. He says to His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then says He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!" There were no two people on earth who loved Him more than His mother and John. It would not have been in place to speak of their love in presence of His; but nevertheless it was a fact that their love to Him had brought them there that day — their response to His love to them. "Woman," said He, "behold thy son!" and to John, "Behold thy mother." That most surely meant "You love Me — love one another." From that day forward they dwelt together in love and unity. It was the Lord's great purpose that those whom He loved should love one another thus — it is the great triumph of Divine Grace. The Lord never said, "Love Me;" it were impossible to do otherwise if we know His love to us; but "we love because He first loved us"; and because we are so selfish and often think that words can take the place of deeds, He has commanded us to love one another. His death was the revelation of His love to Mary and to John, to you and to me. Those outstretched arms embrace the whole family of God, and He says, Behold My mother and My brethren! Behold thy son! Behold thy mother! Thus by that cross are the saints of God gathered together in one — one flock, one family.

Now the Lord speaks of His physical sufferings; His strength was dried up like a potsherd, and His tongue cave to His jaws. Then broke forth His cry, "I thirst." Did not ten thousand times ten thousand angels break through the host of His foes and refresh Him with purer water than that of Bethlehem's spring? No, there was no answer to that cry from heaven. And what of men? Will they relent? For surely His thirst then was more than the physical thirst — He thirsted for a love responsive to His own; but He had to cry, "They gave Me gall for My meat, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." No, there was no succour from men for Him, their answer to the deepest need of His heart was vinegar — the sourest thing that earth can produce. The challenge comes to each one of us — What shall be our answer to His thirst? Shall we pour out to Him the sweet wine of undivided hearts, hearts that have been won by His great love? The world still gives Him vinegar. Let us hasten to His feet and give Him the rich pure vine of our love. " If ye love Me, keep My commandments" — and we pour forth our love to Him as we love one another.

Now the last cry that John records is, "It is finished." All His sufferings were over, but there was more than that in the words. He had accomplished the great work to secure for God what He desired — even worshippers. But these worshippers were to worship the Father; He was to be known in this family character so that He could say, "Thou shalt call Me My Father and shalt not turn away from Me" (Jer. 3:19). He had accomplished that work which enabled Him to say in resurrection, "Go to My brethren and say to them I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." Thus we group the sayings given by John together, and learn that they unfold for us a circle of Divine love in which we have our part.

To Matthew and Mark it was given to record the cry of a forsaken One. Deep and mysterious it was; no mortal mind can understand it or mortal words explain it. It is the central cry of the seven; rightly so, for on its deep mysterious meaning here depends not only our salvation but the glory of God and the purposes of His love. Jesus our Saviour who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.