Our Lord was brought before the Roman governor Pilate. He was anxious to let Jesus go; but he was a weak-minded man, easily swayed by the noisy cry of the people, prompted by the chief priests and elders.
Mat_27:22-23. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
A blind, unreasoning hate had taken possession of the people. They gave no answer to Pilate’s wondering enquiry, “Why, what evil hath he done?” for he had done nothing amiss; they only repeated the brutal demand, “Let him be crucified! Let him be crucified!” The world’s hatred of Christ is shown in similar fashion today. He has done no evil, no one has suffered harm at his hands, all unite to pronounce him innocent; and yet they practically say, “Away with him! Crucify him!”
Mat_27:24. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
Ah, Pilate, you cannot rid yourself of responsibility by that farce! He who has power to prevent a wrong is guilty of the act if he permits others to do it, even though be does not actually commit it himself. If you are placed in positions of power and responsibility, do not dream that you can escape from guilt by merely allowing other people to do what you would not do yourself.
Mat_27:25. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
All the people willingly took upon themselves the guilt of the murder of our dear Lord: “His blood be on us, and on our children.” This fearful imprecation must have been remembered by many when the soldiers of Titus spared neither age nor sex, and the Jewish capital became the veritable Aceldama, the field of blood.
Mat_27:26. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Why scourge him before delivering him up to be crucified? Surely this was a superfluity of cruelty. The Roman scourging was something which I scarcely care to describe, one of the most terrible punishments to which anyone could be subjected; yet Pilate first scourged Jesus, and then gave him up to die by crucifixion.
Mat_27:27-28. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
Some old soldier’s coat, that they found lying about, they cast upon Christ in imitation of the royal robes of Caesar or Herod.
Mat_27:29-31. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
By that fact, though they did not intend it, our Lord was recognized in the street as the same person who had been taken into the Praetorium by the soldiers. Had Jesus been brought forth in the scarlet robe, persons looking at him might not have known him to be the same man who wore the garment woven from the top throughout; but in his own seamless raiment, they readily recognized the Nazarene.
Mat_27:32. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
I wonder if he was a black man. There was a Simon in the early Church; and it certainly was the lot of the Ethiopian to bear the cross for many and many an age. This Simon was a stranger, anyhow, and a foreigner; truly honoured was he to be compelled to bear the cross after Christ.
Mat_27:33. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
From its shape. There appears to be to this day a hill still in the form of a human skull outside the gate of Jerusalem. When they came to that common place of execution, the Tyburn or Old Bailey of the city,
Mat_27:34. They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
A stupefying draught was given to the condemned that is the only mercy that there was about the whole thing. The Romans did give to the crucified a draught of myrrh to take away something of the agony of crucifixion; but our Lord came not to be stupefied, he came to suffer, therefore he would not take anything that would at all impair his faculties. He drank even to the dregs the bitter cup of grief and woe.
Mat_27:35. And they crucified him,
Horrible scene, to see those blessed hands and feet pierced with nails, and fastened to the cross!
Mat_27:35. And parted his garments, casting lots:
Rattling the dice-box at the foot of the cross! Gambling is the most hardening of all vices. I believe that crimes have been committed by persons, under the influence of gambling, which never could have been committed by them in any other condition of mind: “They parted his garments, casting lots.” See here, ye gamblers! With Christ’s blood bespattering them, these soldiers dared still to raffle for his robe.
Mat_27:35-36. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there;
His enemies gloating their cruel eyes with the sight of his sufferings; his friends with many tears watching his amazing griefs. It is for us, tonight, with humble faith and grateful love, to mark the incidents connected with his painful death.
Mat_27:37-38. And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
Giving him the place of honour, which means in this case the place of dishonour. He was the apex of that terrible triangle.
Mat_27:39-40. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
This is the cry of the Socinians today, “Come down from the cross. Give up the atoning sacrifice, and we will be Christians.” But, by rejecting his vicarious atonement, they practically un-Christ the Christ, as those mockers at Golgotha did.
Mat_27:41-42. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
Just so. Get rid of a crucified Saviour, then they will believe in Him. Atonement, substitution, vicarious sacrifice, this staggers them. They will have Christ if they can have him without his cross.
Mat_27:43-46. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Every word in this terrible cry from the cross is emphatic; every syllable cuts and pierces to the heart.
Mat_27:47. Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
They knew better, yet they jested at the Saviour’s prayer.
Mat_27:48. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge,
It always seems to me very remarkable that the spunge, which is the very lowest form of animal life, should have been brought into contact with Christ, who is at the top of all life. In his death, the whole circle of creation was completed.
Mat_27:48-50. And filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
Christ’s strength was not exhausted; his last word was uttered “with a loud voice”, like the shout of a conquering warrior. He need not have died on account of any infirmity in himself; but voluntarily, for your sake, for your sake and mine, he “yielded up the ghost.” Blessed be his holy name!