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further than to cast lots for the robe at the very foot of the Cross ?
But the thing that most concerns us here is that Jesus submitted to that extremity of shame and humiliation, and hung there naked for all these hours, gazed on, while the light lasted, by a mocking crowd. He had set the perfect Pattern of lowly self-abnegation when, amid the disciples in the upper room, He had laid aside His garments,' but now He humbles Himself yet more, being clothed only with shame.' Therefore should we clothe Him with hearts' love. Therefore God has clothed Him with the robes of imperial majesty.
Another point emphasised by John is the fulfilment of prophecy in this act. The seamless robe, probably woven by loving hands, perhaps by some of the weeping women who stood there, was too valuable to divide, and it would be a moment's pastime to cast lots for it. John saw, in the expedient naturally suggested to four rough men, who all wanted the robe but did not want to quarrel over it, a fulfilment of the cry of the ancient sufferer, who had lamented that his enemies made so sure of his death that they divided his garments and cast lots for his vesture. But he was 'wiser than he knew,' and, while his words were to his own apprehension but a vivid metaphor expressing his desperate condition, the Spirit which was in' him 'did signify' by them 'the sufferings of Christ.' Theories of prophecy or sacrifice which deny the correctness of John's interpretation have the New Testament against them, and assume to know more about the workings of inspiration than is either modest or scientific.
What a contrast the other group presents! John's enumeration of the women may be read so as to
mention four or three, according as His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas,' is taken to mean one woman or two. The latter is the more probable supposition, and it is also probable that the unnamed sister of our Lord's mother was no other than Salome, John's own mother. If so, entrusting Mary to John's care would be the more natural. Tender care, joined with consciousness that henceforth the relation of son and mother was to be supplanted, not merely by Death's separating fingers, but by faith's uniting bond, breathed through the word, so loving yet so removing, : Woman, behold thy son!' Dying trust in the humble friend, which would go far to make the friend worthy of it, breathed in the charge, to which no form of address corresponding to 'Woman'is prefixed. Jesus had nothing else to give as a parting gift, but He gave these two to each other, and enriched both. He showed His own loving heart, and implied His faithful discharge of all filial duties hitherto. And He taught us the lesson, which many of us have proved to be true, that losses are best made up when we hear Him pointing us by them to new offices of help to others, and that, if we will let Him, He will point us too to what will fill empty places in our hearts and homes.
The second of the words on the Cross which we owe to John is that pathetic expression, ‘I thirst.' Most significant is the insight into our Lord's consciousness which John, here as elsewhere, ventures to give. Not till He knew that all things were accomplished' did He give heed to the pangs of thirst, which made so terrible a part of the torture of crucifixion. The strong will kept back the bodily cravings so long as any unfulfilled duty remained. Now Jesus had nothing to do but to die, and before He died He let flesh
have one little alleviation. He had refused the stupefying draught which would have lessened suffering by dulling consciousness, but He asked for the draught which would momentarily slake the agony of parched lips and burning throat.
The words of verse 28 are not to be taken as meaning that Jesus said "I thirst' with the mere intention of fulfilling the Scripture. His utterance was the plaint of a real need, not a performance to fill a part. But it is John who sees in that wholly natural cry the fulfilment of the psalm (Ps. lxix. 21). All Christ's bodily sufferings may be said to be summed up in this one word, the only one in which they found utterance. The same lips that said, 'If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink,' said this. Infinitely pathetic in itself, that cry becomes almost awful in its appeal to us when we remember who uttered it, and why He bore these pangs. The very 'Fountain of living water' knew the pang of thirst that every one that thirsteth might come to the waters, and might drink, not water only, but wine and milk, without money or price.'
John's last contribution to our knowledge of our Lord's words on the Cross is that triumphant 'It is finished,' wherein there spoke, not only the common dying consciousness of life being ended, but the certitude, which He alone of all who have died, or will die, had the right to feel and utter, that every task was completed, that all God's will was accomplished, all Messiah's work done, all prophecy fulfilled, redemption secured, God and man reconciled. He looked back over all His life and saw no failure, no falling below the demands of the occasion, nothing that could have been bettered, nothing that should not have been there. He looked upwards, and even at that moment He heard in His
soul the voice of the Father saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased !'
Christ's work is finished. It needs no supplement. It can never be repeated or imitated while the world lasts, and will not lose its power through the ages. Let us trust to it as complete for all our needs, and not seek to strengthen the sure foundation' which it has laid by any shifting, uncertain additions of our own. But we
may remember, too, that while Christ's work is, in one aspect, finished, when He bowed His head, and by His own will 'gave up the ghost,' in another aspect His work is not finished, nor will be, until the whole benefits of His incarnation and death are diffused through, and appropriated by, the world. He is working to-day, and long ages have yet to pass, in all probability, before the voice of Him that sitteth on the throne shall say 'It is done!'
THE TITLE ON THE CROSS
*Pilate wrote a title also, and put it on the cross.'-JOHN xix. 19.
This title is recorded by all four Evangelists, in words varying in form but alike in substance. It strikes them all as significant that, meaning only to fling a jeer at his unruly subjects, Pilate should have written it, and proclaimed this Nazarene visionary to be He for whom Israel had longed through weary ages. John's account is the fullest, as indeed his narrative of all Pilate's shufflings is the most complete. He alone records that the title was tri-lingual (for the similar statement in the Authorised Version of Luke is not part of the original text). He alone gives the Jews'
request for an alteration of the title, and Pilate's bitter answer. That angry reply betrays his motive in setting up such words over a crucified prisoner's head. They were meant as a savage taunt of the Jews, not as an insult to Jesus, which would have been welcome to them. He seems to have regarded our Lord as a harmless enthusiast, to have had a certain liking for Him, and a languid curiosity as to Him, wbich came by degrees to be just tinged with awe as he felt that he could not quite make Him out. Throughout, he was convinced that His claim to be a king contained no menace for Cæsar, and he would have let Jesus go but for fear of being misrepresented at Rome. He felt that the sacrifice of one more Jew was a small price to pay to avert his accusation to Cæsar; he would have sacrificed a dozen such to keep his place. But he felt that he was being coerced to do injustice, and his anger and sense of humiliation find vent in that written taunt. It was a spurt of bad temper and a measure of his reluctance.
Besides the interest attaching to it as Pilate's work, it seems to John significant of much that it should have been fastened on the Cross, and that it should have been in the three languages, Hebrew (Aramaic), Greek, and Latin.
Let us deal with three points in succession.
I. The title as throwing light on the actors in the tragedy.
We may consider it, first, in its bearing on Jesus' claims. He was condemned by the priests on the theocratic charge of blasphemy, because He made Himself the Son of God. He was sentenced by Pilate on the civil charge of rebellion, which the priests brought against Him as an inference necessarily resulting from His claim to be the Son of God. They drew the same conclusion