Forsaken by God.
We cannot fathom the depths of the dark and mysterious experience of our Lord's last mortal agony. We must walk reverently, for here we stand on holy ground. It is only just to acknowledge that the great Sufferer must have had thoughts and feelings which pass beyond our comprehension, and which are too sacred and private for our inspection. Yet what is recorded is written for our instruction. Let us, then, in all reverence, endeavour to see what it means.
I. CHRIST AS A TRUE MAN SHARED IN THE FLUCTUATIONS OF HUMAN EMOTION . He quoted the language of a psalmist who had passed through the deep waters, and he felt them to be most tree in his own experience. Jesus was not always calm; certainly he was not impassive. He could be roused to indignation; he could be melted to tears. He knew the rapture of Divine joy; he knew also the torment of heart-breaking grief. There are sorrows which depend upon the inner consciousness more than on any external events. These sorrows Jesus knew and felt. We cannot command our phases of feeling. It is well to know that Jesus also, in his earthly life, was visited by very various moods. Dark hours were not unknown to him. Having experienced them, he can understand them in us, and sympathize with our depression of spirit.
II. CHRIST AS THE ATONEMENT FOR SIN FELT THE DARK HORROR OF ITS GUILT . He could not own himself to be guilty when he knew he was innocent. But he was so one with man that he felt the shame and burden of man's sin as though it had been his own. As the great Representative of the race, he took up the load of the world's sin, i.e. he made it his own by deeply concerning himself with it, by entering into its dreadful consequences, by submitting to its curse. Such feelings might blot out the vision of God for a season.
III. CHRIST AS THE HOLY SON OF GOD WAS UNUTTERABLY GRIEVED AT LOSING THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS FATHER 'S PRESENCE . There are men who live without any thought of God, and yet this is no trouble to them. On the contrary, they dread to see God, and it is fearful for them to think that he sees them. These are men who love sin, and therefore they do not love God. But Jesus lived in the love of his Father. To lose one whom we love with all our heart is a cause for heart-breaking anguish. Jesus seemed to have lost God. To all who have the love of God in their hearts any similar feeling of desertion must be an agony of soul.
IV. CHRIST AS THE BELOVED SON IN WHOM GOD WAS WELL PLEASED COULD NOT BE REALLY DESERTED BY GOD . Not only is God physically near to all men, because he is omnipresent, but he is spiritually near to his own people to sustain and save them, even when they are not conscious of his presence. The vision of God is one thing, and his presence is another. We may miss the first without losing the second. Our real state before God does not rest on the shifting sands of our moods of feeling. In the hour of darkness Jesus prayed. This is enough to show that he knew that he was not really and utterly abandoned by his Father. In spiritual deadness, when it is hard to pray at all, the one remedy is in prayer. Our cry can reach God through the darkness, and the darkness will not last forever; often it is the gate to a glorious light.—W.F.A.
Prodigy rebuking levity.
Levity had diabolical revelry while the blessed Lord Jesus meekly suffered injustice the most outrageous, and cruelty the most refined. At its height it was rebuked—
I. BY A HORROR OF DARKNESS .
1 . This was preternatural .
2 . It was portentous .
II. BY THE RENDING OF THE TEMPLE 'S VEIL .
1 . This also was preternatural .
2 . This too was portentous .
III. BY THE PORTENTS FROM THE EARTH .
1 . The earthquake .
2 . The opening of the tombs .
IV. THE EFFECT UPON THE SPECTATORS .
1 . Upon the Jews .
2 . Upon the soldiers .
(a) Luke tells us that the last utterance was, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit." This he uttered with a loud or great voice. Then immediately he "yielded up his spirit." His strength was unbroken. He died as the Prince of life.
(b) The circumstance of his expiring sooner than was usual with crucified persons, as well as the loudness of his voice in the very act of his dying, showed the voluntariness of his death (see John 10:17 , John 10:18 ).
(c) Our Lord is nowhere said to have fallen asleep (cf. verse 52), but always to have died . "Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, breathed their last; Ananias, Sapphira, Herod, expired; Jesus gave up the ghost, dismissed or delivered up his own spirit" (A. Clarke). In the manner of his death, then, behold the manner of his love.
(d) Christ's loud voice was like the trumpet blown over the sacrifices.
3 . Upon the women .
The mystery of the forsaking.
Keble tenderly sings—
"Is it not strange, the darkest hour
That ever dawned on sinful earth
Should touch the heart with softer power
For comfort, than an angel's mirth?
That to the cross the mourner's eye should turn,
Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn?"
The conflict of Calvary reaches its climax in this text. It brings before us the sublimest moment of our Saviour's life. It is the moment in which our Champion closed with the spiritual foe of evil in the last death struggle. He spent his bodily life in the effort. He gained the soul life of obedience and trust; that soul victory was his triumph for us. Watching with the Galilaean women, a little distance off, within sight of the cross, within sound of this great, this dying cry, what should be our first thought?
I. MANIFESTLY THIS WAS THE DEATH OF A MAN . It is singular that, in the early Church, no evident effort was made to maintain the truth of our Lord's Divinity ; early controversy dealt with the reality of our Lord's humanity . And an important part in the impression of that humanity was taken by the scenes of his death. These sufferings are a man's sufferings; these cries are a man's cries; this death is a man's death. The humanity is brought home to us by his dying a violent death, a death which was certified by a public officer. Our text, whatever else it may be, is certainly the cry of a dying man, the element of the flesh, the body, is now added to our Redeemer's struggle. Medical science tells us that the accounts of our Lord's dying accurately represent what occurs in a ease of ruptured or broken heart. The same spasm of dreadful pain, forcing a great cry, and the same flowing of mingled blood and water when the heart sac is pierced. There is a very striking thing, further bringing out to view the real humanness of the cry of the text. Our Lord did not make a new sentence, separating his experience from that of men, but he used words spoken by a psalmist as an utterance of his own distress (see Psalms 22:1 ). Our Lord evidently intended to identify his struggle with that of man. It may be said that this text embodies and expresses the effect of intense bodily suffering, and of approaching death, on a man ' s will . The will of Christ was set, not on submission only, but on active obedience to the will of the Father. In Gethsemane the resolve had no present actual pain to battle with, only the anticipation of it. At Calvary the will was borne upon by actual, intense, overwhelming, physical pain; it had to struggle to hold its own. The text represents a supreme moment, when intense pain seemed to force the will aside, and darken the soul with a moment's shade. Can we estimate what dying is in its influence on the will? What is dying when it comes consciously to a man in full health? No falling asleep, and passing away; but the soul in some awful way dropping down, losing everything—light, breath, God, all; passing under, and in that dread moment seeming to be left in utter desolation. If we could know what that means, we should begin to understand our Lord's great cry. It is a dying man's cry.
II. MANIFESTLY THIS WAS THE DEATH OF THE SECOND MAN , THE LORD FROM HEAVEN . This is a Scripture term. It is the peculiar relation which Christ bears to us that gives his death scene its profounder significance. He has undertaken for man the removal of sin, and that undertaking of necessity brings him into contact with sin, and makes its consequences and its burdens rest on him. Christ undertook the work of saving men from sin; that is, of saving the life of love and obedience to God in their souls from being utterly crushed out by sin. Then he must come into conflict with it. Its burden of disabilities must lie on him. He must keep his own soul trust and obedience while all the burden, disability, agony, death of sin, buffet him. If he can keep his obedience and his love perfect under the worst that sin and Satan can do, then he breaks their power over man forever—he breaks that power for us. Sin so far succeeded as to kill the body, sin failed utterly to touch the soul; in the last moments the soul is full of affection and devotion—it cries, "My God, my God!" So the power of sin was broken. Man is freed, in Christ's triumph, from the soul bondage hitherto laid on by sin. Christ was made perfect, through his sufferings, to become the "Bringer-on of sons to glory." He is "able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God through him."—R.T.
Supernatural darkness. Last words, and death of Jesus. ( Mark 15:33-37 ; Luke 23:44-46 ; John 19:28-30 .)
Cried ( ἀνεβο ì ησεν , cried out ) with a loud voice. The loud cry at this terrible moment showed that there was still an amount of vitality in that mangled form from which extreme anguish of soul and body forced that pleading utterance. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say ( that is ) , My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken ( ἐγκατε ì λιπες , didst thou forsake ) me? This is the only one of our Lord's seven sayings from the cross recorded by St. Matthew and St. Mark. The other evangelists do not mention it at all. The language is Aramaic, doubtless that used commonly by our Lord. He quotes the words of the twenty-second psalm as applicable to himself, as offering a foreordained expression of his agony of soul. Into the full meaning of this bitter cry we cannot venture irreverently to intrude. At the same time, thus much may be said. It was not mere bodily anguish that elicited it; it arose from some incalculable affliction of soul. He was bearing the sins of the whole world; the Lord had laid on him the iniquity of us all; there was no one to comfort him in his heaviness; and the light of God's countenance was for the time withdrawn from him. He was "left" that he might bear man's sins in their full and crushing weight, and by bearing save. Yet there is no despair in this lamentable outcry. He who could thus call upon God has God with him, even in his utter loneliness. "Amid the faintness, or the confusion of mind, felt at the approach of death, he experiences his abandonment by God; and yet his soul rests firmly on, and his wilt is fully subject to, God, while he is thus tasting death forevery man through God's grace .. He held firmly to God and retained the Divinity of his life, at the time when in his unity with mankind, and in his human feeling, the feeling of abandonment by God amazed him" (Lange). The verb "forsaken" is not in the perfect tense, as translated in the Authorized Version, but in the aorist; and it implies that during the three hours of darkness Christ had been in silence enduring this utter desolation, which had now come to its climax. The Man Christ Jesus asked why he was thus deserted; his human heart would fain comprehend this phase of the propitiatory sufferings which he was undergoing. No answer came from the darkened heaven; but the cry was heard; the unspeakable sacrifice, a sacrifice necessary according to the Almighty's purpose, was accepted, and with his own blood he obtained eternal redemption for man.
I. THE ROMAN SOLDIERS .
1 . They crucified him. The evangelists relate the awful deed with that grand simplicity which is characteristic of Holy Scripture. There is no rhetorical description, nothing sensational in their accounts. But it was beyond all comparison the most stupendous event that has ever happened on this earth of ours. They crucified him. He was the Son of God, the Word of the Father, by whom all things were made. He was the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his Person; and they crucified him. He gave himself to die. That tremendous sacrifice must imply tremendous necessities, deep incomprehensible causes hidden in the mysteries of the awful holiness of God, and the terrible corruption of humanity. It must mean that the accumulated guilt of the sin of the world was a burden which none could bear, a curse which none could take away, but God himself. It must involve issues deep-reaching and mysterious, very blessed and sacred, but very, very awful. And oh, it sets before us a love beautiful above all beauty, holy above all holiness, tender, compassionate, intense, above all that our selfish hearts can conceive of sweetest pity and most entire self-sacrifice. The cross is the central point of the world's history; all the great lines of our deepest moral and spiritual interests meet in it or radiate from it. It was once a thing most hateful and most horrible, far more suggestive of shame and horror then than the gibbet is now. But the Lord most holy died thereon for our salvation; and the glory of his precious love has shed an aureole of golden light around the tree of shame. And now the cross is to Christian hearts of all things dear the dearest and the most sacred; for it tells us with its silent eloquence the blessed story of the exceeding great love of our Master and only Saviour Jesus Christ. They crucified him, the four Roman soldiers; they knew not what they did; they knew nothing, probably, of the Lord's life, of his holiness, of his works of power and love; they were but obeying orders; they were less guilty than Pilate, than Caiaphas, than Judas. Perhaps they took a wicked pleasure in that deed of blood. They may probably have taken part in the insults and mockery which preceded the Crucifixion; they had no awe for Christ at first. Afterwards the centurion in command, and (it seems from St. Matthew's account) the soldiers also, recognized the Divine majesty of the awful Sufferer. It may be, we cannot tell, that that centurion, that those very soldiers, were saved by the precious blood which was shed by their hands. They pierced the Lord; they pierced his hands and his feet; in another and a more guilty sense it was the Jews who pierced him; in another sense, a true and deep sense, it was all sinners, especially those who have sinned against his cross, against light, and against knowledge. But it is written, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him;" "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." We have pierced the Lord by our sins and hardness; but if the great love of the crucified Lord brings us to penitence, he will forgive, he will comfort, he will save. They crucified him. We can scarcely conceive the horrors which that word expresses, the shame, the cruel pain, the protracted torture. Thank God, those dreadful sights are seen no longer; the cross of the Lord saved humanity from the cross. The first Christian emperor forbade the infliction of that dreadful punishment. Christianity has done much to soften the hardness of human nature; that cruelty which was once so common seems to us now horrible and revolting. But the dear Lord suffered all that the most atrocious brutality could inflict, unrelieved by any touch of pity except the offer of the stupefying draught, and the sponge full of vinegar; unrelieved by any offices of love save the silent sympathy of the five, or four, faithful ones who "stood by the cross of Jesus." We should think much of those sufferings, and bring them home to our hearts, and try to realize them in all their touching details. The daily, constant thought of the cross is a great safeguard against wilful sin, against ingratitude, against ambitious dreams, against murmuring and repining. In our sufferings, when we are oppressed and ready to sink, let us remember the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us, by an act of faith, offer our sufferings to God, uniting them by faith with the one great acceptable Sacrifice, that he may make us accepted in the Beloved, that through faith in the crucified Saviour our sufferings may become a cross; for the cross, we know, raises the Christian man nearer to God, nearer to heaven.
2 . They parted his garments. Virtue had come out of those garments, and had healed those who had touched the very hem. They would have been regarded by Christians as most sacred relics. But the rough soldiers thought nothing of the dignity of him who had worn them. Perhaps they despised them as poor and valueless; but, such as they were, they were their perquisites; they divided them, and cast lots upon the seamless tunic. Thus they fulfilled the prophecy of the twenty-second psalm—that psalm which describes sufferings such as were never borne by David or by any of the Old Testament worthies, but which was so wonderfully fulfilled in the circumstances of the death of Christ. The soldiers little thought that they were doing what God had foreordained. How strange it seems to us that they could cast lots, perhaps shake the dice in their brazen helmets, at the very foot of the cross! Sacred symbols will inspire reverence only in those who have a reverent spirit. They will not keep careless men from irreverent talk, or even from drinking or gambling.
3 . They watched him. They watched lest his disciples should take him down. They sat there and watched, whiling away the tedious hours with vulgar jests and rough talk and idle games. Not for a long time did the awful scene touch their stern uncultured hearts. It seems to us a marvellous thing that that great sight should have had at first so little influence on the surrounding multitude. But human nature is the same in all ages. Men's hearts are as hard now as they were then. Those who read in vain, without sympathy and without emotion, the gospel story of the blessed Saviour's death, in vain had seen him die. Let us watch the dying Lord, but not as those soldiers watched him. Let us live much under the shadow of the cross, watching that precious death with sorrow and contrition and adoring thankful love. We know what was not known to those Roman soldiers—it is "the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me."
4 . The title. Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. The four evangelists give the title with slight differences . They did not heed the exact form of the expression. They all give the essential words, "The King of the Jews." It was not the accusation of blasphemy which caused the Saviour's death. That would have had no weight with Pilate. It was the charge of making himself a King which forced the Roman governor to condemn the Innocent. Pilate, by this writing, showed at once the real grounds on which his consent had been wrung from him, and his own angry contempt of the Jews. This was their King—this poor, bleeding, crucified One. And, it may be, he meant to imply his secret half belief that the Lord was in some sense a King, far more noble, high souled, king like, than those hypocritical chief priests whom he so thoroughly despised, who had driven him to a deed which he so utterly hated. We know that he is the King, the King of God's ancient people, the King of the Israel of God, the King who shall one day sit on the throne of his glory to judge the world. He reigneth from the cross. The cross is the throne which has raised him to a more than royal empire—an empire over the hearts of men, over all the best and honest and holiest human souls from that time ever onwards.
5 . They crucified two robbers with him. Robbers they were rather than thieves—perhaps accomplices of Barabbas—possibly insurgents against the Roman government. And thus the Lord, the Most Holy One, was numbered with the transgressors, for they were punished justly. One was set on the right hand of Christ, the other on the left—an anticipation of the great gathering on the right and left of the Judge in the awful day. In the centre was the cross of atonement; on the right, the cross of repentance; on the left, the cross of despair. Man is born to sorrow. All of us must bear, in some form, at some time, the cross of suffering. But in the midst of a suffering world rises the cross of atonement, the cross which the holy Son of God alone could bear. The cross of atonement draws many by its constraining power to take up the cross of repentance—repentance not to be repented of. But alas! there are some who reject and despise the atoning love of Christ; and their portion must be, at the last, the awful cross of despair.
II. THE MOCKERS .
1 . The passers-by. Mockery was a bitter ingredient in the Lord's cup of sorrow. He had been mocked by the servants of the high priest, by Herod and his men of war, by the Roman soldiers, and now, alas, that cruel mockery was renewed and intensified as he hung dying on the cross. Surely, we think, a crucified man might be left alone to die; surely that cruelty must be truly Satanic which in the presence of that intense suffering was not only without pity, but sought to embitter by insulting taunts the agonies of the dying. The indifference of others is very distressing to sufferers. "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see it there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow." But how much worse was that heartless, wicked scorn! And the dear Lord, we are sure, must have felt it all the more deeply, because he was dying there for the souls of men, for the souls of those very men who were mocking him in his anguish; and he knew that that mocking meant that their hearts were hardened against his dying love, that for most of them that tremendous sacrifice was offered up in vain. This mockery was prophesied ( Psalms 22:6-8 ); it is mentioned again and again in the predictions of the Saviour's sufferings. This shows its importance. The Lord must drink to the dregs the cup which the Father had given him; every element of woe in that cup has its part, we may be sure, in working out our redemption; nothing was in vain. The Lord must suffer scorn and contempt as well as bodily pain, cruelty of the lips as well as of the hands, that, suffering all the forms of anguish, he might make an atonement for all the forms of sin. He listened in silence; his followers must learn of their dying Lord the Christian lesson of meekness. "When thou art reviled," says Chrysostom, "set the sign of the cross upon thine heart; think how the Lord upon the cross endured that cruel scorn, and learn of him." The passers-by reviled him; they fulfilled unconsciously the predictions of the twenty-second psalm; they repeated the misrepresentations of the false witnesses; they repeated the taunt of the tempter, "If thou be the Son of God." The Son of God, the tempter had suggested, should not suffer pain and hunger; the Son of God, the mockers said, could not hang and die upon the cross. They little thought that it was because he was the Son of God that he would patiently suffer, that he would meekly die. None other than the Son of God could suffer that anguish, could die that death—"the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
2 . The chief priests. They came too with the scribes and elders; they did not think it unbecoming to join in the shameless insults of the vulgar crowd; they forgot the dignity of their sacred office; they taunted the dying Saviour with his seeming helplessness. "He saved others," they said; they acknowledged the truth of his miracles, his works of love; and in their blind wickedness they upbraided him with those very works, with that very love. In their ignorance they proclaimed a great truth, though they knew it not. "He saved others; himself he cannot save." Yes, it was because he would save others that he could not save himself He was laying down his life of himself; at any moment during those long hours of torture he might have put forth his almighty power; but how, then, should the Scriptures be fulfilled? How should God and man be reconciled? How should sin be put away, and sinful man be saved? He who would save others must forget himself. The Lord is the Divine example of the most entire self-sacrifice: let us adore him; let us imitate him. "He is the King of Israel," they said in their biting, wicked irony; they said the truth, though they said it in mockery. They bade him come down front the cross; then, they said, they would believe on him. But he knew their hearts; they would not have believed had he done so. He had raised Lazarus; he did afterwards raise himself from the dead; but they would not be persuaded. Faith and love cannot be forced by a display of power. The Lord would win the love of men by his own constraining love. Love is free; it springs from the true heart to meet the love which calls it forth. It was his blessed death upon the cross, not a descent from the cross in awful majesty, which was to draw all men to him. The chief priests derided him for his seeming weakness; they dared even to deride him for his trust in God. "He trusted in God," they said, and then unconsciously used the very words of prophecy, the words of the twenty-second psalm, in their wickedness, "Let him deliver him now. if he will have him;" repeating the insults of the passers-by, and taunting him with his assertion of his Divine nature; for he said, "I am the Son of God."
3 . The crucified thieves. They too reviled him, "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." Affliction does not always soften; sometimes it leads to discontent, murmuring, rebellion. The near approach of death does not always bring men to repentance; sin hardens the heart; men commonly die as they have lived. The outward cross cannot save the soul; in the very presence of the cross of atonement, in the very sight of the precious blood, there was one miserable death—a death of agony without hope, without repentance, without forgiveness. The cross of the Lord Jesus is very awful, but his most blessed love sheds around it a glory of unearthly radiance. The cross of the penitent thief is awful too; but his repentance, faith, and hope are full of sweet comfort for the contrite sinner. The cross on the left hand is dreadful beyond all words; for, alas! there is nothing to relieve the horror of that death of agony and blasphemy. Let us beware and take heed to ourselves; there is but one case of deathbed repentance recorded in Holy Scripture. There is one; then we may hope for others even against hope: there is only one; then we may not dare to trust for ourselves to a hope so slender.
III. THE END .
1 . The three hours ' darkness. It was about the sixth hour. The noonday sun should have been pouring its full light upon Jerusalem. But there was a horror of great darkness—a darkness that could be felt. It might well be so. He was hanging on the cross by whom all things were made. He was dying who upholdeth all things by the word of his power. So stupendous an event, the death of him who is the Life of the world, must be attended by wonders, by strange and awful signs. That fearful darkness was a stern rebuke to the cruel brutal mockers. Nature was mourning for the Lord of nature, whom man, his noblest creature, was thus maltreating. The supernatural blackness of the sky figured the black wickedness of that fearful crime. The great darkness wrapt the dying Lord like a funeral pall, hiding from unsympathizing eyes that most awful spiritual conflict by which the loving Saviour wrought out our salvation. It seems to warn us that we may not pry too curiously into the mysterious secrets of his atoning work. It is his work; he alone can accomplish it. "I have trodden the winepress alone: and of the people there was none with me" ( Isaiah 63:3 ). We stand afar off, and beat our breasts in the consciousness of great sin and utter unworthiness, and adore the most gracious Redeemer, who loved us with that exceeding love which passeth knowledge.
2 . The great cry. The ninth hour was almost come. The Lord's last moments were now very near, when an exceeding loud cry pealed through the encompassing darkness. The Lord's holy human soul was emerging from the awful struggle. He had been bearing, we may reverently and sorrowfully believe, the extreme burden of the sins of the whole world. They had been pressed upon him, in all their horror and loathsomeness, in that hour when he was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin." The Lord looked back in clear consciousness upon the fearful strife. "My God," he said. He quoted that wonderful twenty-second psalm, in which, ages before, he had by his Spirit depicted his own future sufferings. He teaches us by his own example to use the blessed words of Holy Scripture in our distress, in our death agony. "My God." The Son of God never lost his trustfulness in his heavenly Father. Never for one moment could there be a darkening of the perfect love, of the ineffable communion, of the Father and the only begotten Son; and then came those mysterious words, "Why didst thou forsake me?" Did those words relate to some strange awful experience of the Lord's human soul? Was that soul left as it were alone for a while in the presence of sin—the sin of the whole world? Had that blessed soul to bear the guilt of my sin, and to fee! that horror of great darkness when the face of God is hidden from the sinner? We cannot but ask ourselves these and such-like questions. We cannot answer them. It is a subject less suitable for words than for prayer and solemn meditation. But if it is most awful, it is also full of precious comfort. In the extreme anguish of spiritual depression the Christian soul is not cut off from Christ. There is no sorrow so great as this; and sometimes God's holiest children seem very severely tried by it. Yes, in those saddest hours when we seem well nigh hopeless, when we have lost heart, and there is no joy, but only darkness all around, even then let us draw closer to the cress, and strain our eyes to see the Crucified One, and think of the great darkness that hung around his cross, and listen to his dying words. Let us say, "My God, mine ever in gloom and spiritual dryness and chill joyless depression—my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Only let us trust him, and we shall know at last, even in that bitterest of sorrows, that "whom he loveth he chasteneth." We shall hear at last in our inmost hearts the words of comfort, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
3 . The vinegar. A strange dread came upon the souls of the surrounding multitude; there was no mockery now, but awful expectation. They thought that the Lord had called for the great prophet Elijah, the prophet who was to appear before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Would he come? they said to one another, in excited whispers. And now there was some sympathy, perhaps springing from fear, for the dying Lord. One of them gave him to drink. The Lord did not refuse the vinegar as he had refused the medicated potion, he received it in gracious condescension. He had nothing of that haughtiness which prompts men to reject acts of kindness from those who have wronged them. There was a solemn hush among the crowd, a stillness of awe, such as we feel sometimes when a great darkness comes over the heavens at the approach of some tremendous storm. Would Elijah come? they whispered one to another. He came not. The Lord needed him not; he was giving his life for the love of souls.
4 . The Lord ' s death. The Lord cried again with a great voice. Perhaps that cry was the word of triumph recorded by St. John, "It is finished!" He had finished the work which the Father had given him to do; he looked back upon his finished work, and summed it up in that one loud cry of victory. That loud cry from the cross peals through the world; still its echoes fall upon our ears. It calls for our devout contemplation of that finished life of holiness and beauty. It calls upon each Christian so to live, in the imitation of that perfect life, that he too may, through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the cleansing power of the precious blood, look back in some poor measure on a work in some sense finished, when his last hour is come. That loud cry spoke not of exhaustion; but at once, when his work was finished, the Lord bowed his head, and yielded up the ghost. The physical antecedent of his death was probably a broken heart; the true cause was his own sovereign will. He yielded up the ghost; he let his human soul pass from the body. It was his act, his will; none took his life from him; none could take it from him; he laid it down of himself. The holy body hung lifeless on the cross; the holy soul passed into Paradise.
1 . The cross is the central fact in the world's history. Let it be the central motive in our hearts.
2 . The Lord suffered cruel pain. Let us lift up our hearts to him in our anguish.
3 . He is the King of the Jews. Let us take him for the King of our hearts.
4 . He was cruelly derided. Let us take insults patiently.
5 . He died. Let us learn of him how to die.