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The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.


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32. They found a man, a Cyrenian. This circumstance points out the extreme cruelty both of the Jewish nation and of the soldiers. There is no reason to doubt that it was then the custom for malefactors to carry their own crosses to the place of punishment, but as the only persons who were crucified were robbers, who were men of great bodily strength, they were able to bear such a burden. It was otherwise with Christ, so that the very weakness of his body plainly showed that it was a lamb that was sacrificed. Perhaps, too, in consequence of having been mangled by scourging, and broken down by many acts of outrage, he bent under the weight of the cross. Now the Evangelists relate that the soldiers constrained a man who was a peasant, and of mean rank, to carry the cross; because that punishment was reckoned so detestable, that every person thought himself polluted, if he only happened to put his hand to it. 265265     “S’il luy fust advenu d’y mettre la main.” But God ennobles by his heralds the man who was taken from the lowest dregs of the people to perform a mean and infamous office; for it is not a superfluous matter, that the Evangelists not only mention his name, but inform us also about his country and his children. Nor can there be any doubt that God intended, by this preparation, to remind us that we are of no rank or estimation in ourselves, and that it is only from the cross of his Son that we derive eminence and renown.

Matthew 27:33. And they came to the place. Jesus was brought to the place where it was customary to execute criminals, that his death might be more ignominious. Now though this was done according to custom, still we ought to consider the loftier purpose of God; for he determined that his Son should be cast out of the city as unworthy of human intercourse, that he might admit us into his heavenly kingdom with the angels. For this reason the apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, (13:12,) refers it to an ancient figure of the law. For as God commanded his people to burn without the camp the bodies of those animals, the blood of which was carried into the sanctuary to make atonement for sins, (Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 16:27;) so he says that Christ went out of the gate of the city, that, by taking upon him the curse which pressed us down, he might be regarded as accursed, and might in this manner atone for our sins. 272272     “Et effeçast nos peche, et en fist la satisfaction;” — “and might blot out our sins, and make satisfaction for them.” Now the greater the ignominy and disgrace which he endured before the world, so much the more acceptable and noble a spectacle did he exhibit in his death to God and to the angels. For the infamy of the place did not hinder him from erecting there a splendid trophy of his victory; nor did the offensive smell of the carcasses which lay there hinder the sweet savor of his sacrifice from diffusing itself throughout the whole world, and penetrating even to heaven.

34. And they gave him vinegar. Although the Evangelists are not so exact in placing each matter in its due order, as to enable us to fix the precise moment at which the events occurred; yet I look upon it as a probable conjecture that, before our Lord was elevated on the cross, there was offered to him in a cup, according to custom, wine mingled with myrrh, or some other mixture, which appears to have been compounded of gall and vinegar. It is sufficiently agreed, indeed, among nearly all interpreters, that this draught was different from that which is mentioned by John, (14:29,) and of which we shall speak very soon. I only add, that I consider the cup to have been offered to our Lord when he was about to be crucified; but that after the cross was lifted up, a sponge was then dipped and given to him. At what time he began to ask something to drink, I am not very anxious to inquire; but when we compare all the circumstances, it is not unreasonable to suppose that, after he had refused that bitter mixture, it was frequently in derision presented to his lips. For we shall find Matthew afterwards adding that the soldiers, while they were giving him to drink, upbraided him for not being able to rescue himself from death. Hence we infer that, while the remedy was offered, they ridiculed the weakness of Christ, because he had complained that he was forsaken by God, (Matthew 27:49.)

As to the Evangelist John’s narrative, it is only necessary to understand that Christ requested that some ordinary beverage might be given him to assuage his thirst, but that vinegar, mingled with myrrh and gall, was attempted to be forced upon him for hastening his death. But he patiently bore his torments, so that the lingering pain did not lead him to desire that his death should be hastened; for even this was a part of his sacrifice and obedience, to endure to the very last the lingering exhaustion.

They are mistaken, in my opinion, who look upon the vinegar as one of the torments which were cruelly inflicted on the Son of God. There is greater probability in the conjecture of those who think that this kind of beverage had a tendency to promote the evacuation of blood, and that on this account it was usually given to malefactors, for the purpose of accelerating their death. Accordingly, Mark calls it wine mingled with myrrh. Now Christ, as I have just now hinted, was not led to refuse the wine or vinegar so much by a dislike of its bitterness, as by a desire to show that he advanced calmly to death, according to the command of the Father, and that he did not rush on heedlessly through want of patience for enduring pain. Nor is this inconsistent with what John says, that the Scripture was fulfilled, In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. For the two accounts perfectly agree with each other; that a remedy was given to him in order to put an end to the torments of a lingering death, and yet that Christ was in every respect treated with harshness, so that the very alleviation was a part, or rather was an augmentation, of his pain.




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