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John 19:17-22

17. And he, bearing his cross, went forth to a place which is called (the place) of a Skull, and: in Hebrew, Golgotha; 166166    Ou, Calvaire;” —” or, C’alvary.” 18. Where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. 19. And Pilate wrote also a title, and put it on the cross; and it was written, Jesus of Nazareth, The King Of The Jews ·20. This title then many of the Jews read, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city; and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin· 21. The chief priests of the Jews, therefore, said to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King, of the Jews. 22. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

 

17. He went forth to a place. The circumstances which are here related contribute greatly, not only to show the truth of the narrative, but likewise to build up our faith. We must look for righteousness through the satisfaction made by Christ. To prove that he is the sacrifice for our sins, he wished both to be led out of the city, and to be hanged on a tree; for the custom was, in compliance with the injunction of the Law, that the sacrifices, the blood of which was shed for sin, were carried out of the camp, (Leviticus 6:30; 16:27;) and the same Law declares that

he who hangeth on a tree is accursed,
(Deuteronomy 21:23.)

Both were fulfilled in Christ, that we might be fully convinced that atonement has been made for our sins by the sacrifice of his death; that

he was made subject to the curse, in order that he might redeem us from the curse of the law,
(Galatians 3:13;)

that

he was made sin, in order that we might be the righteousness of God in him,
(2 Corinthians 5:21;)

that he was led out of the city, in order that he might carry with him, and take away, our defilements which were laid on him, (Hebrews 12:12.) To the same purpose is the statement about the robbers, which immediately follows: —

18. And two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. As if the severity of the punishment had not been sufficient of itself, he is hanged in the midst between two robbers, as if he not only had deserved to be classed with other robbers, but had been the most wicked and the most detestable of them all. We ought always to remember, that the wicked executioners of Christ did nothing but what had been determined by the hand and purpose of God; 167167     “N ont rien fait qui n eust este decrete et ordonne par le conseil de Dieu;” — “did nothing which had not been decreed and appointed by the purpose of God.” for God did not surrender his Son to their lawless passions, but determined that, according to his own will and good pleasure, he should be offered as a sacrifice. And if there were the best reasons for the purpose of God in all those things which he determined that his Son should suffer, we ought to consider, on the one hand, the dreadful weight of his wrath against sin, and, on the other hand, his infinite goodness towards us. In no other way could our guilt be removed than by the Son of God becoming a curse for us. We see him driven out into an accursed place, as if he had been polluted by a mass of all sorts of crimes, that there he might appear to be accursed before God and men. Assuredly we are prodigiously stupid, if we do not plainly see in this mirror with what abhorrence God regards sin; and we are harder than stones, if we do not tremble at such a judgment as this.

When, on the other hand, God declares that our salvation was so dear to him, that he did not spare his only-begotten Son, what abundant goodness and what astonishing grace do we here behold! Whoever, then, takes a just view of the causes of the death of Christ, together with the advantage which it yields to us, will not, like the Greeks, regard the doctrlne of the cross as foolishness, nor, like the Jews, will he regard it as an offense, (1 Corinthians 1:23,) but rather as an invaluable token and pledge of the power, and wisdom, and righteousness, and goodness of God.

When John says, that the name of the place was Golgotha, he means that, in the Chaldaic or Syriac language, it was called גלגלתא, (Gulgaltha.) The name is derived from גלגל, (Gilgel, 168168     The Pihel of, גלל, (Galal.) — Ed. ) which signifies, to roll; because a skull is round like a ball or globe. 169169     “The place where Christ was crucified appears to have received this name, not — as some have imagined — because the shape of the mountain resembled a human head, but because it was filled with the skulls of malefactors who had been put to death there.” — Schleusner on the word Γολγοθᾶ

19. And Pilate wrote also a title. The Evangelist relates a memorable action of Pilate, after having pronounced the sentence. It is perhaps true that it was customary to affix titles, when malefactors were executed, that the cause of the punishment might be known to all, and might serve the purpose of an example. But in Christ there is this extraordinary circumstance, that the title which is affixed to him implies no disgrace; for Pilate’s intention was, to avenge himself indirectly on the Jews, (who, by their obstinacy, had extorted from him an unjust sentence of death on an innocent man,) and, in the person of Christ, to throw blame on the whole nation. Thus he does not brand Christ with the commission of any crime.

But the providence of God, which guided the pen of Pilate, had a higher object in view. It did not, indeed, occur to Pilate to celebrate Christ as the Author of salvation, and the Nazarene of God, and the King of a chosen people; but God dictated to him this commendation of the Gospel, though he knew not the meaning of what he wrote. It. was the same secret guidance of the Spirit that caused the title to be published in three languages; for it is not probable that this was an ordinary practice, but the Lord showed, by this preparatory arrangement, that the time was now at hand, when the name of his Son should be made known throughout the whole earth.

21. The chief priests of the Jews said therefore to Pilate. They feel that they are sharply rebuked; and, therefore, they would wish that the title were changed, so as not to involve the nation in disgrace, but to throw the whole blame on Christ. But yet they do not conceal their deep hatred of the truth, since the smallest spark of it is more than they are able to endure. Thus Satan always prompts his servants to endeavor to extinguish, or, at least, to choke, by their own darkness, the light of God, as soon as the feeblest ray of it appears.

22. What I have written I have written. Pilate’s firmness must be ascribed to the providence of God; for there can be no doubt that they attempted, in various ways, to change his resolution. Let us know, therefore, that he was held by a Divine hand, so that he remained unmoved. Pilate did not yield to the prayers of the priests, and did not allow himself to be corrupted by them; but God testified, by his mouth, the firmness and stability of the kingdom of his Son. And if, in the writing of Pilate, the kingdom of Christ was shown to be so firm that it could not be shaken by all the attacks of its enemies, what value ought we to attach to the testimonies of the Prophets, whose tongues and hands God consecrated to his service?

The example of Pilate reminds us, also, that it is our duty to remain steady in defending the truth. A heathen refuses to retract what he has justly and properly written concerning Christ, though he did not understand or consider what he was doing. How great, then, will be our dishonor, if, terrified by threatenigs or dangers, we withdraw from the profession of his doctrine, which God hath sealed on our hearts by his Spirit! Besides, it ought to be observed how detestable is the tyranny of the Papists, which prohibits the reading of the Gospel, and of the whole of the Scripture, by the common people. Pilate, though he was a reprobate man, and, in other respects, an instrument of Satan, was nevertheless, by a secret guidance, appointed to be a herald of the Gospel, that he might publish a short summary of it in three languages. What rank, therefore, shall we assign to those who do all that they can to suppress the knowledge of it, since they show that they are worse than Pilate?


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