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Sitting And Watching

Scripture: Matthew 27:29-38; Text: Matthew 27:36

"And sitting down they watched him there" (Matthew 27:36).

The passage from which the text is taken, is one of tremendous importance to those who are saved. It describes the many indignities which the Son of God suffered, as He was mocked by the Roman soldiers. It also declares the horrible scenes of the crucifixion of our blessed Saviour. Unquestionably, the messages of these scriptures are of eternal significance.

After having read such a tremendous passage of scriptures, it may seem strange to some of you that I have selected such a short and seemingly insignificant verse as a text. May I remind you that it seems insignificant only as it is compared to the events that are mentioned in the passage. In my defense I use the words of Paul to Timothy which state: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This description of the Bible, is true of those verses which describe Christ being crowned with thorns, beaten and finally nailed to a cross to die by the horrible means of crucifixion; but it is also true of the scripture which says, "And sitting down they watched him there." It is now our chief duty to understand how this statement can become profitable to the children of God.

As we endeavor to discover the spiritual significance of the text, we will consider the following questions: (1) who were they watching? (2) who was watched Him? (3) what did they see? (4) what we should see? and (5) what effects should it have upon us?

First we need to ask - "Who did they watched?" The text informs us that a group of people were watching someone. The language of surrounding scriptures clearly identifies the person they were watching. It was not the crowd that had gathered for this event, nor the violent mob that had sought the death of Jesus. Neither are we to presume they were watching the two thieves who at this point had not been crucified. It was none of the above upon whom they fixed their eyes, instead they looked upon Him who is the central theme of all the Bible; they sat down and watched Jesus. They watched attentively the crucified Christ.

Second, we must consider who did the watching. It was most likely the centurion and his band of Roman soldiers. They had parted His garments and nailed Him to the cross and it was their responsibility to keep Him there. It was not at all unusual to post soldiers to watch over those who were crucified. It was such a horrible way to die and death came so gradually, that there was a strong likelihood that loved ones would have taken them down, if they were left unattended. Therefore, this precautionary guard was set before and after they expired.

In the light of other scriptures, there seems to have been more than average concern in posting the guards. This concern seems to have come from the fact that Jesus had predicted He would live again. Certain officials of the Jews were afraid that His disciples would steal His body and claim that He had risen again. Pilate reminded them of the guards that watched and encouraged them to make it as secure as possible (Matthew 27:62-66).

The guards having been posted, there was little danger of the disciples taking the body of Jesus or of the crowd changing their minds and attempting to undo their wrong. After all they had changed their minds before. Once they had said, "Hosanna to the Son of David" and then later the tide of public opinion changed as they cried, "Crucify Him, Crucify him". What was to keep the people from changing their minds again? The Roman guards assured the officials that nothing could be done to undo the act of crucifixion.

While the Roman guards had the assigned duty of watching Jesus on the cross, there were many others who did the same. Perhaps some of the great multitude that witnessed this horrendous event, were there out of curiosity. After all, this Jesus had possessed miraculous powers. It was rumored that He had fed multitudes with small quantities of food, walked on the water, healed the sick, and even raised the dead. Might not He now free Himself from the cross and gain even greater acclaim? The seekers of curiosity would certainly want to witness such an event. Joining such people were those who hated Jesus and wanted to be sure and certain that He died. But in that great crowd which had gathered, there were also those who loved Jesus and their eyes were filled with tears as they sat and watched Him there.

Third, we must make an effort to examine what this crowd of such diverse interest saw as they watched Jesus on the cross. Many of the Jews thought they were watching a blasphemer for their leaders said, "He bath spoken blasphemy" (Matthew 26:65); but there was no blasphemy, for He was God (John 1:1). Some of the people thought they were watching a glutton and wine bibber, but wisdom was justified (Matthew 11:19). Others had even accused Him of working with satan saying, "This fellow doth cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils" (Matthew 12:24), when He invaded satan's domain and set free a captive held by him. They were all mistaken, how little they really knew! They saw Him only as they wanted to, but not as He really was and is.

While there were probably many others in that gathering who did not recognize or understand the real identity of the One upon whom they gazed. Yet, there were those, who by God's grace did perceive Him as the Son of God. There were those whose heart had been informed and whose mind had been enlightened by the Holy Ghost. They were blessed to echo the adament declaration of Peter and the other disciples, saying, "We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:69). At least some of the soldiers who crucified Him and watched Him were enabled to recognize Him as God's Son. Probably before and during the crucifixion, they believed that their job was to rid society of one more dissenter, a troublemaker who was hated even by His own nation of people. But while they watched Him, they must surely have witnessed the events which followed His death. They felt the earth tremble beneath their feet as the rocks about them were rent and graves were opened. No wonder the glorious declaration was made by the centurion and his band of soldiers, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54). They were blessed to see Him in a way they had not previously considered and we are made to rejoice at the strange and marvelous workings of God.

Even though many stood in the lingering crowd, gazing up as they watched Him; there were also those who gazed down from heaven. They too recognized the true identity of the Lord. Remember that the angel who appeared to Mary prior to His birth, confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. He said, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee shall be called th Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Surely all the angelic hosts of heaven looked down upon the awful scenes of that crucifixion as God was working out the salvation of His elect family. I believe the angels watched Him there and recognized His eternal being.

There is yet another who watched from above that day. God the heavenly Father saw His only begotten Son bleeding and dying for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). At the baptism of Jesus the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Most surely the Father was pleased as Jesus accomplished that which He was sent to do. As He looked down, the Father viewed His Son Jesus, as He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Even though Jesus had no sins of His own, yet He took our sins in His own body, bearing the weight and penalty of them, as He hung upon the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Yes, the Father did see His beloved Son and saw the love of His Son that moved Him to die for our sinners (1 John 3:16). Above all, the Father knew the true identity of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, having considered some of the many who watched Jesus there upon the cross, having examined their perceptions of Him and having tried to consider what they saw; we must personally answer a question of great magnitude; What should we see, as we view Him on the cross? For us to answer this question, we must turn back again to the dark scenes of that day, a time when three men were dying as they agonized in great pain. Those who watched Jesus heard the moans and groans of the thieves, as well as the weeping of the disciples of our Lord. There were also the cruel mocking shouts of those who said, "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. 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" (Matthew 27:40-42). Yet mingled among all those sounds were the unforgettable words of Jesus which have since become known as The Seven Saying Of Christ On The Cross. As He spoke those blessed words, He shed the precious blood of our atonement. Suddenly, a curtain of darkness draped the earth. The final three hours before our Lord died, men could not see Him any more. How remarkable the darkness, for began at high noon. Our heavenly Father would no longer allow the gazing eyes of men, to see His Son die upon that cross. Yes, Jesus was and is the Son of God; though men question it now, as they did back then. What Jesus accomplished that day, can never be seen by natural sight nor understood by natural minds. Only the regenerate soul in man, can recognizes the eternal value of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Beneath a canopy of darkness the Son of God paid the sin debt for all God's elect and He did so freely by His grace. That is what we should see, as by faith we sit and watch Jesus upon the cross.

Yet there is more that we should see by faith. Hopefully, we now see Him not only as the Son of God but also our Saviour and Lord. It means that I personally believe He died for me and my sins! Do you believe He is your Saviour too? If we can see Him as Saviour, then surely we will echo the words of the Song of Solomon, He is “the chiefest among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:10), the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of our valleys (Song of Solomon. 2:1). Then we shall gladly confess that "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons" (Song of Solomon 2:3). Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last (Revelation 1:11), our all in all (Colossians 3:11). He is all this, and so much more than we have yet understood. The half has never yet been told, for Jesus is more blessed and beautiful than our minds can imagine or our hearts embrace. While we cannot see Him in all His glory with the Father, we can by faith view Him, there upon the cross. That is what the saved should see.

We come now to the fifth and final point of this lesson and endeavor to answer the question, "What effects should watching Jesus have upon us?" Have you ever wondered what effects those scenes and sounds had upon those who watch Jesus there? Some passed by in antipathy, while others stood by in sympathy. The text informs us that there were those who sitting down watched Him there. Sitting (inactive) down (in their sin) they watched (gazed upon) him there (upon the cross). As far as we can tell they were untouched and unmoved. Perhaps they had before witnessed or participated in such sufferings and death. At any rate, some were evidently unaffected as they watched Jesus suffer and die. Probably none of us can understand how they could have been so calloused, after all it was the Son of God, our Saviour, they were watching. Before we become too critical of them, let us carefully examine our own hearts and explore our feelings. How long has it been since your heart was stirred under the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you ever shed a tear in reading the Biblical account of His death? As we read together this passage at the beginning of this study, was your heart stirred or did you just sit there and watch Him through the window of the word of God. Those of you who profess to love Him, what effect has it had upon your soul today? If our hearts are not now stirred, then we should not be too critical of those who sat there so long ago. Are we less responsible, because we were not present that day? I think not! After all, He died for our sins; yours and mine.

By faith, we have the privilege of sitting and watching Him as He hung on the cross and we are to be affected by that which our soul perceives, so that we rise up to worship Christ Jesus. It is true that there are times when we need to imitate Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus to listen as His words speak to our hearts (Luke 10:39). Sitting down we learn, rising up we live what we have learned. We also need to pause from time to time, so that we may watch and pray and overcome temptation through the strength of God's Holy Spirit (Matthew 26:41). Yet it is equally important for us to rise up and busy ourselves in the service of our Saviour. We are not to remain idle all our lives, we are to work, for the night is coming during which no man can work (John 9:4). The night of death is approaching, when our hands shall be folded in death and our lips be silent in the grave. Let us now busy ourselves with those good works which glorify our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:16). I am confident that while we watch for the coming of our Saviour, we are not to be sitting idle, watching for Him; but we are to work tirelessly, stirred up by His suffering death. As we look by faith upon our Lord on the cross and see His shed blood, saints should no longer be content to sit and watch. How can the saved remain unaffected, unstirred and unmoved? Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). It seems that Paul was declaring his gratitude for the love of Jesus and the life which Jesus laid down. Paul then became willing to live a life of faith that pleased his Lord. If we can become so deeply moved and stirred by the crucifixion and death of Jesus, then we too will desire to yield our lives to His perfect will. We will cease to live our lives capsuled in selfish interest and temporal concerns, but instead we will want to live for Jesus and promote His spiritual kingdom, which is even now in this world. If we have no such concerns, then perhaps we are just sitting down and watching Him there.

Hopefully, the more we read the accounts of His sacrificial death, the more deeply our souls will be stirred with a love for Jesus. The more our hearts are filled with a love for Jesus, the more broken our hearts will become over sin in our personal lives. How can we help hating the sins that were responsible for the death of Him, whom our soul loves so much. Whether or not you have recognized this fact, it is evident in life; the more we love sin, the less we will love the Lord and the more we love Him, the less we want to sin. When loving saints sits down to watch Him there, they willingly rises to live a better life and endeavors to become a better person. This is done, not for personal glory; but for His glory.

If we want our minds and hearts to become stirred enough to move our mouth to praise, our hands to service and our feet to walk in His ways; then make it a point to read this passage and others like it often. Take time to go back in your mind and sit at the foot of the cross and watch Him there. I believe that it will awaken your heart, rekindle love and bring about greater devotion to Him. Sitting and watching; then rising to work. He gave so very much and we have given so little. Have you been able to watch Him today? Has it stirred your heart to ask the question "Lord what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). If so then think about the question, for it begins with an acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Lord. You are not likely to obey His commands until you truly recognize and confess Him as Lord.

We should acknowledge that God made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). Then confess that He is Lord of your life. We do this not by word of mouth alone, but more importantly by living our life as He dictates. If we call Him Lord, we are to do the things He commands, it is that simple (Luke 6:46). When you live so all may know that Jesus Christ is truly your Lord, then your sitting down and watching Him will have manifested a proper and profitable effect upon you. These should be some of the effects of sitting down and watching Jesus there, on the cross.

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This page last updated on June 7, 2014