A number of weeks ago, Tim Challies identified the third Reading Classics Together book that he would be reading: “The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross” by A. W. Pink. Tim will be posting comments on a new chapter each week until he completes the book, and invites anyone reading along to contribute their comments. Today was Tim’s first post on the book, and he addressed the introduction. It is not my intention to write full reviews or summaries of each chapter. Rather, I expect to point out a few things that impacted me from the readings.
This is the first book by Pink that I have read, and I can already tell that it will not be the last. He handles the Bible carefully, understanding that each word has genuine meaning, and he extracts thoughts that seem obvious in retrospect, but are often missed or ignored in casual or careless reading. This dedicated approach to understanding Scripture has already been an encouragement to me.
In the introduction to the book, Pink devotes significant space to pointing out evidences that Christ willingly gave his life as opposed to having it taken from him. Three of these seven distinct evidences are Christ’s words “I thirst,” Christ bowing his head and giving up the ghost, and the breaking of the legs of the two other crucified with him.
From John 19:28 (“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.'”) Pink asserts that Christ was in full control of himself on the cross, not powerless, exhausted, or otherwise reduced in mental capacity. As Pink explains, after Christ had hung on the cross for six hours, he reviewed in his mind the prophecies related to his passion and found one yet unfulfilled: Psalm 69:21, which says “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” So Jesus, recognizing that he had fulfilled everything to this point, said “I thirst.” This points to “our Lord’s complete self-possession” during the crucifixion, and supports the premise that his life was not being taken, but was being given.
The second of these seven evidences that struck me was based on John 19:30: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Pink states that from this, we know that prior to this point, Christ’s head was held erect. “It was no impotent sufferer that hung there in a swoon.” Additionally, the scripture states that Christ “bowed” his head, indicating a conscious act, as opposed to a helpless, weak dropping of his head. Christ’s head did not fall, he bowed it, showing again his complete self-possession. “How sublime was his carriage even on the Tree! What superb composure did He evidence.”
Finally, in the breaking of the legs of the two thieves, we see a third evidence that Christ willingly gave his life. All three of these men had been on the cross for the same amount of time. Pink explains that crucifixion is a slow death, with victims often living for two or three days. Yet six hours after it began, with the two thieves still very much alive, Christ was dead. This is yet another proof that Christ’s life was given, not taken from him.
These three evidences help verify that Christ did indeed lay down his life, and support the point that Christ’s death was very different from any other death.
I’ve already started into the first chapter, and am anxious to post about it. But in keeping with Tim’s schedule, I will wait until next week.