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Verses 39-44

Matthew 27:39-44. They that passed by reviled him, &c. As it was a great aggravation of our Lord’s sufferings that he was crucified along with two thieves, and in the middle of them, as though he had been the chief malefactor of the three, so it was a further aggravation thereof that he was reviled, mocked, and derided by different descriptions of persons. The common people, whom the priests had incensed against him by the malicious lies which they spread concerning him, and which they pretended to found on the evidence of witnesses, seeing him hang as a malefactor on the cross, and reading the superscription that was placed over his head, expressed their indignation against him by railing on him, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, &c., save thyself The rulers having, as they imagined, wholly overturned his pretensions as the Messiah, ridiculed him on that head, and, with a meanness of soul which will render them for ever infamous, mocked him while in the agonies of death, and even most basely upbraided him with the saving power, which they could not deny that he had exerted; saying, he saved others, himself he cannot save Thus they scoff at the wonderful miracles of healing, by which he had demonstrated that he was the Messiah; and they promise to believe on him on condition that he would prove his pretensions by coming down from the cross. In the mean time nothing could be more false and hypocritical, for they continued in their unbelief notwithstanding that he raised himself from the dead, which was a much greater miracle than his coming down from the cross would have been; a miracle also that was attested by witnesses whose veracity they could not call in question; for it was told them by the soldiers whom they themselves had placed at the sepulchre to watch his body. It is plain, therefore, that their incorrigible stubbornness would not have yielded to any proof, however convincing, and that when they said they would believe if he would come down from the cross, they only meant to insult him; thinking it impossible now for him to escape out of their hands. In saying, He trusted in God, &c., they deride his faith and reliance on God, whom he had called his Father, and thus show themselves to be either real infidels, or very profane, though under a profession of religion. In speaking thus, however, they fulfilled a remarkable prophecy concerning the Messiah’s sufferings, Psalms 22:8, where it is foretold that his enemies would utter these very words, in derision of his pretensions. The thieves also, &c., cast the same in his teeth That is, one of them did so, for, according to Luke 23:39, &c., the other exercised a most extraordinary faith in our Lord, and that at a time when he was deserted by his Father, mocked by men, and hung on a cross as the worst of malefactors. Some commentators endeavour to reconcile the two evangelists by supposing, that both the thieves might revile Jesus at first. But this solution is not very probable. In Scripture, a single person or thing is often expressed in the plural number, especially when it is not the speaker’s or writer’s intention to be more particular.

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