In the Fulness of Time/Part 154

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2012
When Pilate penned the words “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews,” he certainly did not intend that they should be of any help to the cause of Christ; but be that as it may, the title served to point up the truth that the man hanging on the middle cross was truly Jesus of Nazareth, the One Who claimed to be the Son of God, the Good Shepherd Who would die for His sheep.

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The Seven Last Words from the Crowd

1. The Word of Identification: From Pilate. John 19:19-22

John 19:19-22 “And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews, for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh unto the city; and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priest of the Jews to Pilate, Write not¸ the King of the Jews, but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written.”

When Pilate penned these words he certainly did not intend that they should be of any help to the cause of Christ; but be that as it may, the title served to point up the truth that the man hanging on the middle cross was truly Jesus of Nazareth, the One Who claimed to be the Son of God, the Good Shepherd Who would die for His sheep. There could be no mistake; this sufferer was no impostor! The three languages in which the title was written made it understandable to all who passed by.

While it showed the scorn of Pilate for such a weak, Jewish king, the title also revealed the overruling hand of God in eliciting messages from evil men. Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written,” but he was merely a pen in the finger of God. The Jews demanded, “Write not,…” but God wanted the world to know the truth, so the writing stood!

These words are a reminder that another handwriting was there, unseen by human eyes, but very definitely on the cross: “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us… and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14). Yes, it was Jesus, “Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), Who was so clearly identified by Pilate!

2. The Word of Confirmation: from the Soldiers. John 19:23-24

John 19:23-24 “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.”

On the day of the crucifixion, after the trial before Pilate, the soldiers took away the garments of Christ and clothed Him with a soldier’s red robe. Then they crowned Him with thorns and saluted Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” To them it was an act of mockery; they were Romans, obeying the orders of their superiors; they were not despised Jews; He was no king to them!

So it came to pass after they had crucified Him, that these same soldiers uttered the words confirming Scripture. Certainly no one would say that such men had any knowledge of Psalm 22:18 from which they “quoted,” or that they would seek to fulfill Scripture by their deeds at the crucifixion! No, this was total ignorance on their part, and in a completely unrestrained manner the soldiers followed that which to them was the desire of their own wills. Yet, they carried out a prophecy of the Word of God which had been written a thousand years before!

Their sole purpose was to realize such profit as they could from the clothing. It was perhaps their only pay for such an unpleasant task, so they divided everything among themselves except the seamless vesture, and cast lots for it. They were indifferent to the prisoners, and the true God was not in their thoughts, though His Word was upon their lips! Once again, the Lord used the wrath of man to praise Him. Christ was shamefully unclothed, and on the cross was made sin for us, that we might be clothed upon with the righteousness of God in Christ!

3. The Word of Misintrepetation: From Those who Passed By. Matthew 27:39-40.

Matthew 27:39-40 “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads And saying, Thou that destroyeth the Temple, and buildeth it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

On the occasion of the first cleansing of the Temple Christ spoke these words, but not quite as these people claimed; in fact, they twisted His words so that the opposite meaning was taken. He did not say that He would destroy their Temple. What Christ had said three years before was: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2: 19). Even then the Jews thought He was speaking of their Temple, and reminded Him that it had taken 46 years to build it; how could He expect to rear it up in three days? Of course, Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body, meaning that they would kill Him and that He would rise from the dead after three days. Strangely enough, apart from the charge of blasphemy, this was the only accusation brought against the Lord as He stood before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin: “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought for false witnesses against Jesus, to put Him to death, but found none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days” (Matthew 26:59-61).

It is noteworthy that the disciples were equally dull of hearing as Jesus had spoken this unto them. John adds the reminder that even they did not understand His saying until after His resurrection; then they remembered and believed.

Unfortunately, the Jews never came to realize the importance of their own words which they were correctly and accurately interpreting by destroying the temple of His body. Thinking only in terms of ability to rebuild a Temple of stone in three days, they said in so many words: “If you have this power, why are you hanging helplessly on the cross? If you are the Son of God, come down, save yourself.” Having misinterpreted the one thing, they failed to comprehend the other. They were about to destroy His body, thus He could not come down, for He would only be able to prove that He was the Son of God when, in that same body He would rise from the dead. It is because of the resurrection of Christ that salvation has been made sure.

4. The Word of Rejection: From the Rulers. Matthew 27:41-43

Matthew 27:41-43 “Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him; for he said, I am the Son of God.”

The rejection of Christ by official Jewry was manifested in three ways. First, they refused to believe in His power: “He saved others, himself he cannot save.” Many of these same individuals must have witnessed some of His miracles. When Christ caused the blind man to see, the Jews attempted to discredit His power, but the evidence was overwhelming. After Lazarus came forth from the grave and witnessed to the life-giving power of Christ, many believed on Him so that the rulers took counsel to put Him to death. But now, hanging on the cross He seemed so powerless, and they said, in effect: “We told you so; his so-called miracles were all tricks! If he really had such power he would save himself!”

Their words also indicate rejection of His program: “If he be the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross and we will believe him.” Christ had already presented His credentials as Messiah/King. When the two disciples of John the Baptist came asking for proof, the Lord said: “Go and show John again those things ye do hear and see; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). This was not enough for the Jews; they kept repeating: “Give us a sign; Give us a sign!” The Lord told them that the only sign would be that of Jonah the prophet, who was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. So also would the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. This is how His program was to be carried out; later He would return as Messiah/King and fulfill all the Jewish hopes.

Finally, their rejection and unbelief was directed against His Person: “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now; if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God.” If they had read Moses and the prophets, surely they would have remembered that God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26); or how Jacob wrestled with the “man” and then confessed that he had seen God face to face (Genesis 32:24-30); or how Joshua fell on his face and worshiped the “man” with the drawn sword, “the captain of the host of the LORD” (Joshua 5:13-15); or how King David spoke of a greater King to come when he said: “” (Psalm 2:7, 12); or that The LORD said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee…. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way Isaiah prophesied: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… his name shall be called… The Mighty God, the everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6).

All this and much more in their own Scriptures testified to the fact that God has a Son; but they would not hear! They said they would believe His words if He would come down from the cross, but, as it had been predicted: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). So it came to pass after He had risen from the dead; the Jews abode still in unbelief.

5. The Word of Decision: From the Thieves. Luke 23:39-42

Luke 23:39-42 “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

Opposite reactions of the human heart are manifest in these two men. The one took up the words of the crowd and dared Christ to save all three of the victims hanging on the crosses. The sacred record shows no change in his attitude; the decision was made and he died in unbelief The other thief apparently expressed the same arrogance at first according to Matthew 27:44, but his own testimony reveals how his thoughts changed concerning Christ. He recognized first of all his own guilt and the sinlessness of Christ. In a very real sense he was experiencing Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death” since he knew the two of them deserved death for their deeds, but the One hanging on the middle cross had done nothing to deserve such punishment. Second, he comprehended the Lordship of Christ. As Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 12:3: “No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit evidently operated in the heart of this malefactor, persuading him of the deity of Christ. It was only a step further to apply this to his own need, so he asked to be remembered. His faith was great enough to span the experience of crucifixion and trust that Christ would fulfill His promise: “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” Once his decision was made, the answer came, assuring him of a place with the Lord forever!

6. The Word of Confusion: From Some Who Stood There. Matthew 27:47, 49

Matthew 27:47, 49 “Some of them who stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elijah…. The rest said, Let be; let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

It is not revealed just who these people were; someone has observed that their mistake in thinking the Lord had called for Elijah indicates that they were Jews. Jesus spoke either in Hebrew, or Aramaic, which was the common Jewish tongue of that day, and His cry was loud enough for any Jew to understand clearly. Whoever they were, they possessed some knowledge about the Elijah of the Old Testament. The utterance of Christ to which they referred is from Matthew 27:46: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” or, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This was in fulfillment of Psalm 22:1 and speaks eloquently of this very experience when the sins of the world were caused to fall upon the Lord Jesus. The Holy, Eternal God turned His back upon the Sin-Bearer. It is strangely ironic that these people should have been confused about this particular cry of the Savior. At the very moment He was bearing the burden of sin and providing salvation for the world, they thought He was helplessly calling for Elijah to come and save Him!

7. The Word of Recognition: From the Centurion. Mark 15:39

Mark 15:39 “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he cried out, and gave up the spirit, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.”

As his rank indicates, the centurion was in command of one hundred soldiers. In all probability, a quaternion of four soldiers was assigned to each of the three prisoners. The remaining soldiers were given the task of keeping order in the crowd. The centurion was the officer of the day, and therefore witnessed everything that occurred at the crucifixion. His final estimation of the Lord came after the most convincing eyewitness evidence.

This evidence issued from the attitude of the Lord as He hung upon the cross, as well as all that transpired during His trials. From the Cross, the centurion heard Him speak the word of pardon regarding those who crucified Him, the word of promise to the repentant thief, the word of provision for His earthly mother, and the awful cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He saw Jesus look down and say, “I thirst.” He observed Christ as He said, “It is finished” and then committed His spirit to the Father.

Let the Jews say what they may during the trials; let them mock and deride; let them falsely accuse Him before Pilate. Then place all of this alongside the quiet perfection of our Savior as He endured all things without rebuke. This evidence was more than enough to convince the centurion that Christ was Who He claimed to be. There could be only one conclusion: “Truly this man was the Son of God” and “In the fulness of time” only one destination for the centurion, that is, he would be with that One for all eternity!

Read Part 155

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