Jesus Commends His Mother to John

While hanging upon the cross, the multitudes, Matt, xxvii. 39-44. as they passed by, reviled and derided Him. In Mark Xv. 29-32. this mockery the high priests and scribes and elders, Luke xxiii. 35-43. and even the two malefactors, joined. From the cross, beholding His mother standing near by with John xix. 25-27. John, He commends him to her as her son, and her to him as his mother; and John takes her to his own house. Darkness now overspreads the land Matt, xxvii. 45-56. from the sixth to the ninth hour, and during this Mark Xv. 33-41. period He suffers in silence. Afterward drink is Luke xxiii. 44-49. given Him, and after He had drunk He commends John xix. 28-30. His spirit to God, and dies. At this moment the veil of the temple is rent, the earth shakes, the rocks are rent, and graves opened. The centurion bears witness that He was the Son of God, and women of Galilee go home smiting their breasts.

The place of crucifixion being near the city, and great multitudes being gathered at the feast, it was natural that many should come to look upon Him, whom all knew by reputation, and most in person. From the time of the crucifixion to the time when the darkness began, sufficient time elapsed to allow His enemies, who hastened to the spot, to behold Him upon the cross. Matthew (xxvii. 39-44) divides those who reviled Him into three classes: the rabble, or passers by ; the chief priests, elders, and scribes; and the malefactors. (So Mark xv. 29-32.) Luke says, that " the rulers with the people derided Him," which implies that the rulers began the mockery. He adds, that the soldiers also " mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar." Some, as Stier, would identify this with the offer to Him of the mixed wine as He was about to be nailed to the cross; some, as Lichtenstein, to the giving of vinegar just before His death. Most probably, however, it is to be distinguished from these, and refers to something done a little before the darkness began ; perhaps, as the soldiers were eating their dinner near the cross.1 The vinegar was doubtless the sour wine, or posca, which they usually drank. Their offers were in derision, no wine being actually given.

It is not certain whether both of the malefactors reviled Him, or but one. Matthew and Mark speak of both; Luke of but one. According to some, both joined at first in the general derision; but, beholding the godlike patience and forbearance of Jesus, and knowing on what grounds He was condemned, one repents, and begins to reprove his more wicked companion.2 The obvious objection, however, to this is, that the first* act of one so converted could scarcely be to reprove in another what he had but a few moments before been guilty of himself.

* Greswell, Alford. a So, early, many; recently, Lange.

This, perhaps, is more plausible than sound. Most, after Augustine, suppose that Matthew and Mark speak in general terms of them as a class of persons that joined in deriding Jesus, but without meaning to say that both actually derided Him.1 At what time the words were spoken by the Lord to the penitent thief, we are not .told. Most place them before His words to His mother and to John, (Johnxix. 25-27.)2 They were thus the second words spoken from the cross.

We cannot determine whether the mother of Jesus, or any of the women that followed Him from Galilee, or any of the apostles, were present at the time He was nailed to the cross; but if not there, some of them soon after came, doubtless hoping to comfort Him by their presence. For a time, they would naturally stand at a distance, till the first outbreaks of anger and mockery were past, and His chief enemies, satiated with the spectacle, had withdrawn. The statement of the Synoptists, (Matt, xxvii. 55, 56 ; Mark xv. 40, 41; Luke xxiii. 49,) that His acquaintance and the women that followed Him from Galilee stood afar off, seems to refer to a later period, and after the darkness; perhaps, to the moment of His death. The incident narrated by John may thus have been a little before the darkness began; and after this the disciples, terrified by it and the signs that attended His death, did not dare approach the cross. Krafft, however, (150,) supposes that it was after the darkness that His mother and John, with the other women, approached Him, and that the Synoptists refer to an earlier period.

According to many, John at once took Mary to his home, or the house he was occupying during the feast; for it does not appear otherwise that he had any house in Jerusalem of his own.3 A confirmation of this is found in the fact that the Synoptists do not mention her name among th<jse that beheld afar off at the hour of His death.

1 Ebrard, Da Costa, Liechtenstein. Meyer finds two traditions; and Alford, that Matthew and Mark report more generally and less accurately than Luke. For a statement of opinions, see Bynaeus, iii. 367.

2 Ebrard, Stier, Da Costa, Greswell. 8 Townson, Greswell, Stier, Meyer.

It has, therefore, been inferred that Jesus, in his compassion, would spare her the pain of seeing His dying agonies, and so provides that she be taken away.1 But it may be questioned whether the words, " And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own house," mean any more than that ever after this she was a member of John's household, and was treated by him as a mother.8 But it John then led Mary away from the place of crucifixion, he must afterward have returned, as he declares himself to have been an eye-witness of the piercing of the side, and the flowing out of the blood and water, (xix. 35.) Whether he was the only apostle present at the Lord's death, is matter of conjecture. This is supposed by Stier ; but there is no good reason why others, if not daring to approach near, should not have looked on from a distance.

That the darkness was no natural darkening of the sun, but a supernatural event, is recognized by all who do not wholly deny the supernatural element in the Gospel narratives. The attempt to bring it into connection with the eclipse mentioned by Phlegon of Tralles, has been already mentioned; and that it could have been caused in such a way is disproved by the fact that it was then full moon. The attempt of Seyffarth to show that the Jews might then have kept the Passover on the 25th March, finds no defenders.3 Some, however, would connect it with the earthquake, and explain it as the deep gloom that not unfrequently precedes such convulsions of nature.4 But this supposes that the earthquake was a mere natural event, whereas this also was plainly extraordinary.

1 Bengel. 2 Luthardt, ii. 421; Lichtenstein, 448.

3 See Winer, ii. 482. 4 Paulus, Handbuch, iii. 764.

The darkness began at the sixth hour, or twelve A. M., and continued till the ninth, or three p. M. The forms of expression, " over all the land," iraaav T7]i> yrjv, (Matthew,) " over the whole land," okrjv -r]v yrjv* (Mark and Luke,) do not determine how far the darkness extended. Many would confine it to the land of Judea, as our version does, except in Luke, where it is rendered, " over all the earth." 1 If, however, it extended beyond Judea, the phrase " whole earth " need not be taken in its most literal sense, but is to be regarded as a general expression, embracing the countries adjacent.3 Some, however, would extend it over all that part of the earth on which the sun was then shining.3

That during this period of* darkness many of the bystanders should have left the place of crucifixion and returned to the city, is probable, though not stated. Stier, however, affirms, " No man dares to go away, all are laid under a spell; others, rather, are attracted to the place." But when we consider that the Lord's enemies would naturally construe this darkness as a sign of God's anger against Him, if they gave it any supernatural character, any such fear can scai'ce be attributed to them; nor does it appear in their subsequent conduct. That some of the spectators remained, appears from Matthew's words, (xxvii. 47,) that there were some standing there when He called for Elias. (See also Luke xxiii. 48.) It is probable, though not explicitly stated, that the darkness dispersed a few moments before the Lord's death, and that the returning light emboldened His enemies to renew their mockeries.*

The cry of Jesus, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? " was about the ninth hour ; either a little before the cessation of the darkness,5 or just after its cessation.6 So far as appears, during the three hours of gloom, the Lord was silent, and doubtless all were silent around Him.

1 So Ebrard, Olshausen, A. Clarke; Norton, who renders it, " over the whole country."

2 Meyer, Lange.

3 So Alford, who makes the fact of the darkness at Jerusalem all that the Evangelists testify to as within their personal knowledge.

4 Stier, Lichtenstein. 6 Stier, Ellicott. 6 Greswel*

But by whom were His words understood, as a call for Elias ? From the similarity of sound, the Roman soldiers might have so misunderstood Him; but it is not probable that they knew much of the current Jewish expectations respecting Elias as the forerunner of the Messiah. Lightfoot explains it, that the word " Eli " is not properly Syriac, and thus was strange to the Syrian ear, and deceived the standers by. But such a misunderstanding on the part of the Jews, whether they were from Judea or from other lands, is not easily credible. Some, however, affirm that the Jews, terrified by the darkness, now began to fear that the day of God's judgment was actually at hand; and, in their superstitious terror, naturally inters preted Christ's words as a call for him, the prophet, whose coming was closely connected in their minds with the great day of God.1 But this is not consistent with what follows. The general view, therefore, seems to be the right one, that they wilfully perverted His meaning, and made the cry of distress an occasion of new insult and ridicule.2

In immediate connection with the words of the bystanders, " this man calleth for Elias," one of them is said by Matthew and Mark to run and, taking a sponge and filling it with vinegar, to give Him to drink. This act, which in those Evangelists seems unexplained, may have followed from His words, which are recorded only by John, (xix. 28,) " I thirst." We may thus arrange the events: Immediately after His exclamation, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me ? " He adds, " I thirst." One of those present, perhaps a soldier, perhaps a spectator, moved by a sudden feeling of compassion, prepares the vinegar, which was at hand, and makes ready to give Him to drink.

1 Olshausen, Lange, Jones.

3 Meyer, Alexander, Alford, Friedlieb, Ellicott.

Whilst doing this, the others call upon him to wait a little, that they might see whether Elias would come to save Him, (Matt, xxvii. 49.) He, however, gives Jesus the drink, and then, having satisfied his compassionate impulse, mockingly adds, u Let alone, now we will wait for Elias," (Mark xr. 36.) Thus the words of Matthew will be those of the spectators ; those of Mark, the words of the giver of the drink. John (xix. 29) omits this mockery, and merely says, in general terms, " they filled a sponge with vinegar," &c. Luke (xxiii. 36) may be referred to earlier mockeries.1

After Jesus had received the vinegar, He cried out with a loud voice, " It is finished." The Evangelist adds, " And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost," (John xix. 30.) Luke (xxiii. 46) narrates that " When He had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost." Matthew and Mark both mention that He cried with a loud voice, but do not relate what He said. There can be little doubt that His words given by John, " It is finished," were spoken before those given by Luke, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."8 Having taken the vinegar, which gave Him a momentary relief from His thirst, He says, feeling that the end was at hand, " It is finished." He now turns to God, and, addressing to Him His dying prayer, bows His head and dies.

The order of the words spoken by our Lord from the cross may be thus given:—Before the darkness: 1st. His prayer for His enemies. 2d. His promise to the penitent thief. 3d. His charge to His mother and to John. During the darkness : 4th. His cry of distress to God. After the darkness : 5th. His exclamation, " I thirst."

1 See Stier, viii. 14-18; Alexander in loco. As to the kind of drink given Him, and the motive with which it was given, see various suppositions in Bynaeus, iii. 423. As to the hyssop branch on which the sponge was put, see Royle, Jour. Sac. Lit., Oct. 1849.

3 Meyer, Stier, Da Costa, Alford.

6th. His declaration, that " It is finished." 7th. The final commendation of His spirit to God.1 Ebrard would thus arrange the first three: 1st. His prayer for His enemies. 2d. His charge to His mother and John. 3d. His promise to the penitent thief. Krafft's order is as follows: 1st. His prayer for His enemies. 2d. His promise to the penitent thief. 3d. His cry of distress to God. 4th. His charge to His mother and John. 5th. His exclamation, " I thirst." 6th. " It is finished." 7th. Commendation of His spirit to God.

The quaking of the earth, and the rending of the veil of the temple and of the rocks, appear from Matthew and Mark to have been at the same instant as His death. Luke, (xxiii. 45,) who mentions only the rending of the veil, speaks as if it took place when the sun was darkened; but his language is general. Meyer's interpretation of the statement that "there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour," as denoting only a partial obscuration of the sun, but that at the ninth hour it " was darkened" and wholly disappeared from sight; and that at the same moment the veil of the temple was rent, has little substantial in its favor. Darkness, in which the sun was still visible, could scarcely be so called. The first statement, v. 44, is the effect; the second, v. 45, the cause.2 Perhaps the darkness may have deepened in intensity to its close. That the rending of the veil could not be ascribed to an earthquake, however violent, is apparent. There were two veils, one before the holy and one before the most holy place, (Exod. xxvi. 3136.) It is generally agreed that the latter is here meant.

The account given by Matthew only (xxvii. 52, 53) of the opening of the graves and appearing of many bodies of the saints, some, as Norton, have rejected as an interpolation. There is, however, no doubt as to the genuineness of the text.

1 Stier, Greswell, and many. * Oosterzee in loco.

The graves seem to have been those in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem. That those who arose are called " saints," ayioi, does not determine who are meant; whether some who had died recently, perhaps since Christ began His ministry, or some who died long before, and had been buried there, perhaps patriarchs and prophets. From the fact that they appeared to many, the presumption is, that they had not long been dead, and thus were recognized by those to whom they appeared. That their resurrection was after Christ's resurrection, although the opening of their tombs was at His death, best harmonizes with the scope of the narrative. This, however, is questioned by Meyer, who supposes the Evangelists to say that they came out of the graves at His death, but did not enter the holy city till after His resurrection.1 After He had arisen, they appeared openly, their resurrection thus giving force and meaning to His. But it was the Lord's resurrection, not death, that opened the gates of Hades. Dying, the rocks were rent and the doors of the sepulchres were opened; but, rising, He gave life to the dead.2 Da Costa (429) places, however, the opening of the graves also subsequent to the resurrection. Whether those thus raised were raised in the immortal and incorruptible body, and soon ascended to heaven; or whether, like others, they died again, we have no means of determining. In favor of the former is the language, they " appeared unto many," evetpavKrOyio-av Ttowols ; which implies that they, like the Lord Himself, after His resurrection, were not seen by all, but only by those to whom they wished to manifest themselves.3

The impression made upon the centurion by all the wonderful events accompanying the Lord's death, was such that he openly testified his conviction, as given by Matthew and Mark, that Jesus was " the (a) Son of God;" as given by Luke, " Certainly, this was a righteous man." The latter words are explained by Alford thus : " Truly, this man was truthful;" that is, He had asserted Himself to be, and He was, the Son of God. Thus the expressions of the Evangelists are made identical. More probably He uttered at different times both expressions.

1 So Bynaeus.

i Calvin, Lightfoot, Whitby, A. Clarke, Calmet, Greswell, Krafft, Ebrard, Bengel, Alford.

3 For early opinions, see Calmet, translated in Journal Sac. Lit. 1848, vol. i. See also Lardner, ix. 328; Sepp, vi. 401.