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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 33: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

MATTHEW 27:33-38; MARK 15:22-28;
LUKE 23:33-34, 38

Matthew 26:33-38

Mark 15:22-28

Luke 23:33-34, 38

33. And they came to a place which is called Golgotha, which is the place of Calvary.  267 34. And they gave him to drink vinegar mingled with gall; and when he had tasted it, he would not drink. 35. And after they had crucified him, they parted his garments by casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments, and cast lots on my raiment. 36. And sitting down they watched him there. 37. And they placed over his head his accusation written, this is jesus the king of the jews. 38. Then were crucified with him two robbers, one at his right hand, and the other at his left.

22. And they bring him to the place of Golgotha, which is, if you interpret it, The place of Calvary.  268 23. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh, but he did not receive it. 24. And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, (to decide) what every one should take. 25. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.  269 26. And the inscription of his accusation was written, the king of the jews. 27. And they crucify with him two robbers, one at his right hand, and the other at his left. 28. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith,  270 And he was ranked with malefactors.

33. Having come to the place which is called Calvary,  271 there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one at his right hand, and the other at his left. 34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And, parting his garments, they cast lots (A little after.) 38. And there was also an inscription written over him, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew characters, this is the king of the jews.


Matthew 27:33. And they came to the place. Jesus was brought to the place where it was customary to execute criminals, that his death might be more ignominious. Now though this was done according to custom, still we ought to consider the loftier purpose of God; for he determined that his Son should be cast out of the city as unworthy of human intercourse, that he might admit us into his heavenly kingdom with the angels. For this reason the apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, (Heb 13:12,) refers it to an ancient figure of the law. For as God commanded his people to burn without the camp the bodies of those animals, the blood of which was carried into the sanctuary to make atonement for sins, (Ex 29:14; Le 16:27;) so he says that Christ went out of the gate of the city, that, by taking upon him the curse which pressed us down, he might be regarded as accursed, and might in this manner atone for our sins.  272 Now the greater the ignominy and disgrace which he endured before the world, so much the more acceptable and noble a spectacle did he exhibit in his death to God and to the angels. For the infamy of the place did not hinder him from erecting there a splendid trophy of his victory; nor did the offensive smell of the carcasses which lay there hinder the sweet savor of his sacrifice from diffusing itself throughout the whole world, and penetrating even to heaven.

34. And they gave him vinegar. Although the Evangelists are not so exact in placing each matter in its due order, as to enable us to fix the precise moment at which the events occurred; yet I look upon it as a probable conjecture that, before our Lord was elevated on the cross, there was offered to him in a cup, according to custom, wine mingled with myrrh, or some other mixture, which appears to have been compounded of gall and vinegar. It is sufficiently agreed, indeed, among nearly all interpreters, that this draught was different from that which is mentioned by John, (Joh 14:29,) and of which we shall speak very soon. I only add, that I consider the cup to have been offered to our Lord when he was about to be crucified; but that after the cross was lifted up, a sponge was then dipped and given to him. At what time he began to ask something to drink, I am not very anxious to inquire; but when we compare all the circumstances, it is not unreasonable to suppose that, after he had refused that bitter mixture, it was frequently in derision presented to his lips. For we shall find Matthew afterwards adding that the soldiers, while they were giving him to drink, upbraided him for not being able to rescue himself from death. Hence we infer that, while the remedy was offered, they ridiculed the weakness of Christ, because he had complained that he was forsaken by God, (Mt 27:49.)

As to the Evangelist John’s narrative, it is only necessary to understand that Christ requested that some ordinary beverage might be given him to assuage his thirst, but that vinegar, mingled with myrrh and gall, was attempted to be forced upon him for hastening his death. But he patiently bore his torments, so that the lingering pain did not lead him to desire that his death should be hastened; for even this was a part of his sacrifice and obedience, to endure to the very last the lingering exhaustion.

They are mistaken, in my opinion, who look upon the vinegar as one of the torments which were cruelly inflicted on the Son of God. There is greater probability in the conjecture of those who think that this kind of beverage had a tendency to promote the evacuation of blood, and that on this account it was usually given to malefactors, for the purpose of accelerating their death. Accordingly, Mark calls it wine mingled with myrrh. Now Christ, as I have just now hinted, was not led to refuse the wine or vinegar so much by a dislike of its bitterness, as by a desire to show that he advanced calmly to death, according to the command of the Father, and that he did not rush on heedlessly through want of patience for enduring pain. Nor is this inconsistent with what John says, that the Scripture was fulfilled, In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. For the two accounts perfectly agree with each other; that a remedy was given to him in order to put an end to the torments of a lingering death, and yet that Christ was in every respect treated with harshness, so that the very alleviation was a part, or rather was an augmentation, of his pain.

35. They parted his garments. It is certain that the soldiers did this also according to custom, in dividing among themselves the clothes of a man who had been condemned to die. One circumstance was perhaps peculiar, that they cast lots on a coat which was without seam, (Joh 19:23.) But though nothing happened to Christ in this respect but what was done to all who were condemned to die, still this narrative deserves the utmost attention. For the Evangelists exhibit to us the Son of God stripped of his garments, in order to inform us, that by this nakedness we have obtained those riches which make us honorable in the presence of God. God determined that his own Son should be stripped of his raiment, that we, clothed with his righteousness and with abundance of all good things, may appear with boldness in company with the angels, whereas formerly our loathsome and disgraceful aspect, in tattered garments, kept us back from approaching to heaven. Christ himself permitted his garments to be torn in pieces like a prey, that he might enrich us with the riches of his victory.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. When Matthew says that thus was fulfilled the prediction of David,

they part my garments among them, and cast the lot upon my vesture,
(Ps 22:18,)

we must understand his meaning to be, that what David complained of, as having been done to himself metaphorically and figuratively, was literally, (as the common phrase is,) and in reality, exhibited in Christ. For by the word garments David means his wealth and honors; as if he had said that, during his life, and under his own eyes, he was prey to enemies, who had robbed his house, and were so far from sparing the rest of his property, that they even carried off his wife. This cruelty is represented even more strikingly by the metaphor, when he says that his garments were divided by lot. Now as he was a shadow and image of Christ, he predicted, by the spirit of prophecy, what Christ was to suffer. In his person, therefore, this is worthy of observation, that the soldiers plundered his raiment, because in this pillage we discern the signs and marks by which he was formerly pointed out. It serves also to remove the offense with which the sense of the flesh might otherwise have regarded his nakedness, since he suffered nothing which the Holy Spirit does not declare to belong truly and properly to the person of the Redeemer.

Mark 15:25 And it was the third hour. This appears not to agree well with the testimony of the Evangelist John; for he relates that Christ was condemned about the sixth hour, (Mr 14:14.) But if we consider—what is evident from other passages—that the day was divided into four parts, and that each of the parts took its name from the first hour of its commencement, the solution will not be difficult. The whole time, from sunrise to the second part of the day, they called the first hour. The second part, which lasted till noon, was called by them the third hour. The sixth hour commenced at noon, and lasted till three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Thus, when the Jews saw that Pilate was wearing out the time, and that the hour of noon was approaching, John says that they cried out the more vehemently, that the whole day might not be allowed to pass without something being done, (Mr 14:15.) But this is not inconsistent with the assertion, that our Lord was crucified about the close of the third hour; for it is plain enough, that no sooner was he hastily condemned, than he was immediately executed; so eager was the desire of the Jews to put him to death. Mark therefore means not the beginning, but the close, of the third hour; and it is highly probable that Christ did not hang on the cross longer than three hours.

Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them. By this expression Christ gave evidence that he was that mild and gentle lamb, which was to be led out to be sacrificed, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold, (Isa 53:7.) For not only does he abstain from revenge, but pleads with God the Father for the salvation of those by whom he is most cruelly tormented. It would have been a great matter not to think of rendering evil for evil, (1Pe 3:9;) as Peter, when he exhorts us to patience by the example of Christ, says that he did not render curses for curses, and did not revenge the injuries done to him, but was fully satisfied with having God for his avenger (1Pe 2:23.) But this is a far higher and more excellent virtue, to pray that God would forgive his enemies.

If any one think that this does not agree well with Peter’s sentiment, which I have just now quoted, the answer is easy. For when Christ was moved by a feeling of compassion to ask forgiveness from God for his persecutors, this did not hinder him from acquiescing in the righteous judgment of God, which he knew to be ordained for reprobate and obstinate men. Thus when Christ saw that both the Jewish people and the soldiers raged against him with blind fury, though their ignorance was not excusable, he had pity on them, and presented himself as their intercessor. Yet knowing that God would be an avenger, he left to him the exercise of judgment against the desperate. In this manner ought believers also to restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under the burden of the cross.

Of this moderation Luke now presents an instance in our Leader and Master; for though he might have denounced perdition against his persecutors, he not only abstained from cursing, but even prayed for their welfare. But it ought to be observed that, when the whole world rises against us, and all unite in striving to crush us, the best remedy for over-coming temptation is, to recall to our remembrance the blindness of those who fight against God in our persons. For the result will be, that the conspiracy of many persons against us, when solitary and deserted, will not distress us beyond measure; as, on the other hand, daily experience shows how powerfully it acts in shaking weak persons, when they see themselves attacked by a great multitude. And, therefore, if we learn to raise our minds to God, it will be easy for us to look down, as it were, from above, and despise the ignorance of unbelievers; for whatever may be their strength and resources, still they know not what they do.

It is probable, however, that Christ did not pray for all indiscriminately, but only for the wretched multitude, who were carried away by inconsiderate zeal, and not by premeditated wickedness. For since the scribes and priests were persons in regard to whom no ground was left for hope, it would have been in vain for him to pray for them. Nor can it be doubted that this prayer was heard by the heavenly Father, and that this was the cause why many of the people afterwards drank by faith the blood which they had shed.

Matthew 27:37. And placed over his head. What is briefly noticed by Matthew and Mark is more fully related by Luke, (Lu 23:38,) that the inscription was written in three languages. John also describes it more largely, (Joh 14:19-22.) Under this passage my readers will find what I pass over here for the sake of brevity. I shall only say, that it did not happen without the providence of God, that the death of Christ was made known in three languages. Though Pilate had no other design than to bring reproach and infamy on the Jewish nation, yet God had a higher end in view; for by this presage he caused it to be widely known that the death of his Son would be highly celebrated, so that all nations would everywhere acknowledge that he was the King promised to the Jews. This was not, indeed, the lawful preaching of the Gospel, for Pilate was unworthy to be employed by God as a witness for his Son; but what was afterwards to be accomplished by the true ministers was prefigured in Pilate. In short, we may look upon him to be a herald of Christ in the same sense that Caiaphas was a prophet, (Joh 11:51.)

38. Then were crucified with him two robbers. It was the finishing stroke of the lowest disgrace when Christ was executed between two robbers; for they assigned him the most prominent place, as if’ he had been the prince of robbers. If he had been crucified apart from the other malefactors, there might have appeared to be a distinction between his case and theirs; but now he is not only confounded with them, but raised aloft, as if he had been by far the most detestable of all. On this account Mark applies to him the prediction of Isaiah, (Isa 53:12) he was reckoned among transgressors; for the prophet expressly says concerning Christ, that he will deliver his people, not by pomp and splendor, but because he will endure the punishment clue to their sins. In order that he might free us from condemnation, this kind of expiation was necessary, that he might place himself in, our room. Here we perceive how dreadful is the weight of the wrath of God against sins, for appeasing which it became necessary that Christ, who is eternal justice, should be ranked with robbers. We see, also, the inestimable love of Christ towards us, who, in order that he might admit us to the society of the holy angels, permitted himself to be classed as one of the wicked.



Qui vaut autant à dire que, La place de test;” — “which may be interpreted, The place of a skull.”


Qui vaut autant à dire que, La place de test;” — “which may be interpreted, The place of a skull.”


Or il estoit trois heures quand ils le crucifierent;” — “now it was the third hour when they crucified him.”


Ainsi fut accomplie l’Escriture, qui dit;” — “thus was fulfilled the Scripture, which saith.”


Qui vaut autant à dire que, La place de test;” — “which may be interpreted, The place of a skull.”


Et effeçast nos peche, et en fist la satisfaction;” — “and might blot out our sins, and make satisfaction for them.”

Next: Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-37, 39-42