And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
I. THE SIGHT. It is the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. You have often heard of it; have you thought of it until you could see it? Have its different incidents been grouped in your mind so as to form a complete picture? Try to realize it.
II. THE LESSONS OF THE SIGHT.
1. The first lesson to which we beg your attention is the antagonism of sin to God. As if to show to the universe the true nature and tendency of sin in all its forms, all classes of worldlings were grouped around the Cross; each had an opportunity of expressing its feelings; and how awfully significant and awfully condemnatory was the part which they acted! All classes — the religious world, and the learned world, and the sceptical world, and the fashionable world, and the money-loving world, ay, and the ordinary working world — all combined to show the murderous nature and the God-defiant attitude of sin.
2. But if this sight teaches the antagonism of sin to God, it also teaches us God's hatred of sin. We cannot account for the Saviour's sufferings if they have not some connection with the sin of man. Even a heathen could understand, that if an innocent being suffers, it must be because of the sins of others. Kajarnak, a chieftain inhabiting the mountains of Greenland, notorious for the robberies and murders he had perpetrated, came down to where a missionary in his hut was translating the Gospel of John. His curiosity being excited by the process, he asked to have it explained; and when the missionary told him how the marks he was making were words, and how a book could speak, he wished to hear what it said. The missionary read to him the narrative of the Saviour's sufferings, when the chief immediately asked, "What has this Man done? Has He robbed anybody — has He murdered anybody?" "No," replied the missionary, "He has robbed no one, murdered no one; He has done nothing wrong." "Then why does He suffer? why does He die?" "Listen," said the missionary; "this Man has done no wrong, but Kajarnak has done wrong; this Man has not robbed any one, but Kajarnak has robbed many; this Man has murdered no one, bat Kajarnak has murdered — Kajarnak has murdered his wife, Kajarnak has murdered his brother, Kajarnak has murdered his child; this Man suffered that Kajarnak might not suffer; died that Kajarnak might not die." "Tell me that again," said the astonished chieftain; and by the repetition of the story the hard-hearted murderer was brought in contrition and tears to the foot of the Cross. Even so the Bible tells us, "He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; He bore our sins in His own body on the tree."
3. But if this sight teaches such a fearful lesson in reference to God's hatred of sin, thank God it also teaches that a way has been prepared by which men may escape from sin's consequences. He who became our Sin-bearer did not lay down the load till He had borne our sins away. He did not cease to suffer until He could say, "It is finished."
III. THE FEELINGS WHICH THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE SIGHT IS FITTED TO AWAKEN.
1. The first feeling which it naturally excites is that of which the bystanders were the subjects, when, "beholding the things which were done, they smote their breasts, and returned" — a feeling of shuddering horror at the magnitude of their offence.
2. But the sight is also fitted to awaken the apprehension of danger. This feeling, in the case of His murderers, mingled with the horror with which they regarded their crime. They did not understand the doctrine of the Messiahship sufficiently to know that even His death might become the ground of their pardon; and a fearful foreboding of punishment, as well as an appalling consciousness of guilt, led them to smite their breasts when they beheld the things that were done. And, no doubt, the Cross is fitted to awaken this feeling in every sinner to whom it has not imparted the hope of salvation. For nowhere is the evil desert of sin so strikingly exhibited.
3. But the sight is also fitted to awaken hopeful feelings. Whether any of the men who smote their breasts were led to cherish the hope of pardon, the narrative does not say; but we doubt not that some of them were among the three thousand who, on the day of Pentecost, found that the blood which they had shed was a sufficient atonement for the sin of shedding it, and that the death which they had been instrumental in effecting was the occasion of their endless life. Even so does the Cross proclaim pardon to you, and by it all who believe are justified from all things. The same sight which awakens in you an appalling sense of sin, and a fearful apprehension of punishment, tells you, that though you have done so wickedly and deserved to endure such suffering, there is pardon in Christ for you. Look at it until the peace which it speaks takes possession of your souls — look until you understand what Christ has done for you — look until your fears are dispelled — look until the boundless love which it reveals awakens in you the beginnings of a new and better life — look with the assurance that you cannot look in vain, for He, whose promise never fails, has said, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth."
Parallel VersesKJV: And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
WEB: All the multitudes that came together to see this, when they saw the things that were done, returned home beating their breasts.