We have here the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus.
I. The place where he was crucified; it was called Golgotha—the place of a scull: some think, because of the heads of malefactors that were there cut off: it was the common place of execution, as Tyburn, for he was in all respects numbered with the transgressors. I know not how to give any credit to it, but divers of the ancients mention it as a current tradition, that in this place our first father Adam was buried, and they think it highly congruous that there Christ should be crucified; for as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, and Epiphanius (great names), take notice of it; nay, Cyprian adds, Creditur à piis—Many good people believe that the blood of Christ crucified did trickle down upon the scull of Adam, who was buried in the same place. Something more credible is the tradition, that this mount Calvary was that mountain in the land of Moriah (and in the land of Moriah it certainly was, for so the country about Jerusalem was called), on which Isaac was to be offered; and the ram was offered instead of him; and then Abraham had an eye to this day of Christ, when he called the place Jehovah-jireh—The Lord will provide, expecting that so it would be seen in the mount of the Lord.
II. The time when he was crucified; it was the third hour, Mark 15:25. He was brought before Pilate about the sixth hour (John 19:14), according to the Roman way of reckoning, which John uses, with which ours at this day agrees, that is at six o’clock in the morning; and then, at the third hour, according to the Jews’ way of reckoning, that is, about nine of the clock in the morning, or soon after, they nailed him to the cross. Dr. Lightfoot thinks the third hour is here mentioned, to intimate an aggravation of the wickedness of the priests, they were here prosecuting Christ to the death, though it was after the third hour, when they ought to have been attending the service of the temple, and offering the peace-offerings; it being the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, when there was to be a holy convocation. At that very time, when they should have been, according to the duty of their place, presiding in the public devotions, were they here venting their malice against the Lord Jesus; yet these were the men that seemed so zealous for the temple, and condemned Christ for speaking against it. Note, There are many who pretend to be for the church, who yet care not how seldom they go to church.
III. The indignities that were done him, when he was nailed to the cross; as if that had not been ignominious enough, they added several things to the ignominy of it.
1. It being the custom to give wine to persons that were to be put to death, they mingled his with myrrh, which was bitter, and made it nauseous; he tasted it, but would not drink it; was willing to admit the bitterness of it, but not the benefit of it.
2. The garments of those that were crucified, being, as with us, the executioners’ fee, the soldiers cast lots upon his garments (Mark 15:24), threw dice (as our soldiers do upon a drum-head), for them: so making themselves merry with his misery, and sitting at their sport while he was hanging in pain.
3. They set up a superscription over his head, by which they intended to reproach him, but really did him both justice and honour, The king of the Jews, Mark 15:26. Here was no crime alleged, but his sovereignty owned. Perhaps Pilate meant to cast disgrace upon Christ as a baffled king, or upon the Jews, who by their importunity had forced him, against his conscience, to condemn Christ, as a people that deserved no better a king than he seemed to be: however, God intended it to be the proclaiming even of Christ upon the cross, the king of Israel; though Pilate know not what he wrote, any more than Caiaphas what he said, John 11:51. Christ crucified is king of his church, his spiritual Israel; and even then when he hung on the cross, he was like a king, conquering his and his people’s enemies, and triumphing over them, Col. 2:15. Now he was writing his laws in his own blood, and preparing his favours for his subjects. Whenever we look unto Christ crucified, we must remember the inscription over his head, that he is a king, and we must give up ourselves to be his subjects, as Israelites indeed.
4. They crucified two thieves with him, one on his right hand, the other on his left, and him in the midst as the worst of the three (Mark 15:27); so great a degree of dishonour did they hereby intend him. And, no doubt, it gave him disturbance too. Some that have been imprisoned in the common gaols, for the testimony of Jesus, have complained of the company of cursing, swearing prisoners, more than any other of the grievances of their prison. Now, in the midst of such our Lord Jesus was crucified; while he lived he had, and there was occasion, associated with sinners, to do them good; and now when he died, he was for the same purpose joined with them, for he came into the world, and went out of it, to save sinners, even the chief. But this evangelist takes particular notice of the fulfilling of the scriptures in it, Mark 15:28. In that famous prediction of Christ’s sufferings (Isa. 53:12), it was foretold that he should be numbered with the transgressors, because he was made sin for us.
5. The spectators, that is, the generality of them, instead of condoling with him in his misery, added to it by insulting over him. Surely never was such an instance of barbarous inhumanity toward the vilest malefactor: but thus the devil showed the utmost rage against him, and thus he submitted to the greatest dishonours that could be done him.
(1.) Even they that passed by, that were no way concerned, railed on him, Mark 15:29. If their hearts were so hardened, that their compassions were not moved with such a spectacle, yet they should have thought it enough to have their curiosity gratified; but that will not serve: as if they were not only divested of all humanity, but were devils in human shape, they taunted him, and expressed themselves with the utmost detestation of him, and indignation at him, and shot thick at him their arrows, even bitter words. The chief priests, no doubt, put these sarcasms into their mouths, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, now, if thou canst, save thyself, and come down from the cross. They triumph as if now that they had got him to the cross, there were no danger of his destroying the temple; whereas the temple of which he spoke, he was now destroying, and did within three days build it up; and the temple of which they spoke, he did by men, that were his sword and his hand, destroy not many years after. When secure sinners think the danger is over, it is then most ready to seize them: the day of the Lord comes as a thief upon those that deny his coming, and say, Where is the promise of it? much more upon those that defy his coming, and say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work.
(2.) Even the chief priests, who, being taken from among men and ordained for men, should have compassion even on those that are out of the way, should be tender of those that are suffering and dying (Heb. 5:1, 2), yet they poured vinegar instead of oil into his wounds, they talked to the grief of him whom God had smitten (Ps. 69:26), they mocked him, they said, He saved others, healed and helped them, but now it appears that it was not by his own power, for himself he cannot save. They challenged him to come down from the cross, if he could, Mark 15:32. Let them but see that, and they would believe; whereas they would not believe, when he gave them a more convincing sign than that, when he came up from the grave. These chief priests, one would think, might now have found themselves other work to do: if they would not go to do their duty in the temple, yet they might have been employed in an office not foreign to their profession; though they would not offer any counsel or comfort to the Lord Jesus, yet they might have given some help to the thieves in their dying moments (the monks and priests in Popish countries are very officious about criminals broken upon the wheel, a death much like that of the cross); but they do not think that their business.
(3.) Even they that were crucified with him, reviled him (Mark 15:32); one of them did, so wretchedly was his heart hardened even in the depth of misery, and at the door of eternity.