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Before Pilate; the Lord's last service; led out to be crucified
Before Pilate (Mark 15), He only witnesses a good confession, a testimony to the truth where the glory of God required it, and where this testimony stood opposed to the power of the adversary. To all the rest He answers nothing. He lets them go on; and the evangelist enters into no details. To render this testimony was the last service and duty He had to perform. It is rendered. The Jews make choice of the seditious murderer Barabbas; and Pilate, hearkening to the voice of the multitude, won over by the chief priests, delivers Jesus to be crucified. The Lord submits to the insults of the soldiers, who mingle the pride and insolence of their class with the hard-heartedness of the executioner whose function they performed. Sad specimens of our nature! The Christ who came to save them was, for the moment, under their power. He used His own power, not to save Himself, but to deliver others from that of the enemy. At length they lead Him away to Golgotha to crucify Him. There they offer Him a soporific mixture, which He refuses; and they crucify Him with two thieves, one on His right hand and the other on His left, thus accomplishing (for it was all they did or could do) everything that was written concerning the Lord. It was now the Jews' and the priests' hour; they had, alas for them! the desire of their heart. And they make manifest, without knowing it, the glory and perfection of Jesus. The temple could not rise again without being thus cast down; and, as instruments, they established the fact which He had then announced. Farther, He saved others and not Himself. These are the two parts of the perfection of the death of Christ with reference to man.
God's will accomplished; the Lord's service completed in obedience to the end
But, whatever might be the thoughts of Christ and His sufferings with regard to men (those dogs, those bulls of Bashan), the work which He had to accomplish contained depths far beyond those outward things. Darkness covered the earth — divine and sympathetic testimony of that which, with far deeper gloom, covered the soul of Jesus, forsaken of God for sin, but thus displaying incomparably more than at any other time, His absolute perfection; while the darkness marked, in an external sign, His entire separation from outward things, the whole work being between Him and God alone, according to the perfectness of both. All passed between Him and His God. Little understood by others, all is between Himself and God: and crying again with a loud voice, He gives up the ghost. His service was completed. What more had He to do in a world wherein He only lived to accomplish the will of God? All was finished, and He necessarily departs. I do not speak of physical necessity, for He still retained His strength; but, morally rejected by the world, there was no longer room in it for His mercy towards it: the will of God was by Himself entirely fulfilled. He had drunk in His soul the cup of death and of judgment for sin. There was nothing left Him but the act of dying; and He expires, obedient to the end, in order to commence in another world (whether for His soul separate from the body, or in glory) a life where evil could never enter, and where the new man will be perfectly happy in the presence of God.
Obedience perfected in death by the Prince of life
His service was completed. His obedience had its term in death — His obedience, and therefore His life, as carried on in the midst of sinners. What would a life have meant in which there was no more obedience to be fulfilled? In dying now His obedience was perfected, and He dies. The way into the holiest is now opened — the veil is rent from top to bottom. The Gentile centurion confesses, in the death of Jesus, the Person of the Son of God. Until then, the Messiah and Judaism went together. In His death Judaism rejects Him, and He is the Saviour of the world. The veil no longer conceals God. In this respect it was all Judaism could do. The manifestation of perfect grace is there for the Gentile, who acknowledged — because Jesus gave up His life with a cry that proved the existence of so much strength — that the Prince of life, the Son of God, was there. Pilate also is astonished that He is already dead. He only believes it when certified of its truth by the centurion. As to faith — far from grace, and even from human justice — he did not trouble himself at all on that point.
The body of Jesus laid in the tomb
The death of Jesus did not tear Him from the hearts of those feeble ones who loved Him (who perhaps had not been in the conflict, but whom grace had now brought out from their retreat): those pious women who had followed Him and had often ministered to His wants, and Joseph, who, although touched in conscience, had not followed Him, until now, strengthened at the last by the testimony of the grace and perfection of Jesus (the integrity of the counsellor finding in the circumstances, not an occasion of fear, but that which induced him to declare himself) — these women and Joseph are alike occupied about the body of Jesus. This tabernacle of the Son of God is not left without those services which were due from man to Him who had just quitted it. Moreover the providence of God, as well as His operation in their hearts, had prepared for all this. The body of Jesus is laid in the tomb, and they all wait for the end of the sabbath to perform their service to it. The women had taken knowledge of the place.
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