John 19:1-16 . JESUS BEFORE PILATE--SCOURGED--TREATED WITH OTHER SEVERITIES AND INSULTS--DELIVERED UP, AND LED AWAY TO BE CRUCIFIED.
1-3. Pilate took Jesus and scourged him--in hope of appeasing them. (See Mark 15:15 ). "And the soldiers led Him away into the palace, and they call the whole band" ( Mark 15:16 )--the body of the military cohort stationed there--to take part in the mock coronation now to be enacted.
2. the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head--in mockery of a regal crown.
and they put on him a purple robe--in mockery of the imperial purple; first "stripping him" ( Matthew 27:28 ) of His own outer garment. The robe may have been the "gorgeous" one in which Herod arrayed and sent Him back to Pilate ( Luke 23:11 ). "And they put a reed into His right hand" ( Matthew 27:29 )--in mockery of the regal scepter. "And they bowed the knee before Him" ( Matthew 27:29 ).
3. And said, Hail, King of the Jews!--doing Him derisive homage, in the form used on approaching the emperors. "And they spit upon Him, and took the reed and smote Him on the head" ( Matthew 27:30 ). The best comment on these affecting details is to cover the face.
4, 5. Pilate . . . went forth again, and saith . . . Behold, I bring him forth to you--am bringing, that is, going to bring him forth to you.
that ye may know I find no fault in him--and, by scourging Him and allowing the soldiers to make sport of Him, have gone as far to meet your exasperation as can be expected from a judge.
5. Then Jesus came forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!--There is no reason to think that contempt dictated this speech. There was clearly a struggle in the breast of this wretched man. Not only was he reluctant to surrender to mere clamor an innocent man, but a feeling of anxiety about His mysterious claims, as is plain from what follows, was beginning to rack his breast, and the object of his exclamation seems to have been to move their pity. But, be his meaning what it may, those three words have been eagerly appropriated by all Christendom, and enshrined for ever in its heart as a sublime expression of its calm, rapt admiration of its suffering Lord.
6, 7. When the chief priests . . . saw him, they cried out--their fiendish rage kindling afresh at the sight of Him.
Crucify him, crucify him--(See Mark 15:14 ).
Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him; for I find no fault in him--as if this would relieve him of the responsibility of the deed, who, by surrendering Him, incurred it all!
7. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by oar law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God--Their criminal charges having come to nothing, they give up that point, and as Pilate was throwing the whole responsibility upon them, they retreat into their own Jewish law, by which, as claiming equality with God (see John 5:18 and John 8:59 ), He ought to die; insinuating that it was Pilate's duty, even as civil governor, to protect their law from such insult.
8-11. When Pilate . . . heard this saying, he was the more afraid--the name "SON OF GOD," the lofty sense evidently attached to it by His Jewish accusers, the dialogue he had already held with Him, and the dream of his wife ( Matthew 27:19 ), all working together in the breast of the wretched man.
9. and went again into the judgment hall, and saith to Jesus, Whence art thou?--beyond all doubt a question relating not to His mission but to His personal origin.
Jesus gave him no answer--He had said enough; the time for answering such a question was past; the weak and wavering governor is already on the point of giving way.
10. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not to me?--The "me" is the emphatic word in the question. He falls back upon the pride of office, which doubtless tended to blunt the workings of his conscience.
knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?--said to work upon Him at once by fear and by hope.
11. Thou couldest--rather, "shouldst."
have no power at all against me--neither to crucify nor to release, nor to do anything whatever against Me [BENGEL].
except it were--"unless it had been."
given thee from above--that is, "Thou thinkest too much of thy power, Pilate: against Me that power is none, save what is meted out to thee by special divine appointment, for a special end."
therefore he that delivered me unto thee--Caiaphas, too wit--but he only as representing the Jewish authorities as a body.
hath the greater sin--as having better opportunities and more knowledge of such matters.
12-16. And from thenceforth--particularly this speech, which seems to have filled him with awe, and redoubled his anxiety.
Pilate sought to release him--that is, to gain their consent to it, for he could have done it at once on his authority.
but the Jews cried--seeing their advantage, and not slow to profit by it. If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend, &c.--"This was equivalent to a threat of impeachment, which we know was much dreaded by such officers as the procurators, especially of the character of Pilate or Felix. It also consummates the treachery and disgrace of the Jewish rulers, who were willing, for the purpose of destroying Jesus, to affect a zeal for the supremacy of a foreign prince" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. (See John 19:15 ).
When Pilate . . . heard that, . . . he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in--"upon"
the judgment seat--that he might pronounce sentence against the Prisoner, on this charge, the more solemnly.
in a place called the Pavement--a tesselated pavement, much used by the Romans.
in the Hebrew, Gabbatha--from its being raised.
14. It was the preparation--that is, the day before the Jewish sabbath.
and about the sixth hour--The true reading here is probably, "the third hour"--or nine A.M.--which agrees best with the whole series of events, as well as with the other Evangelists.
he saith to the Jews, Behold your King!--Having now made up his mind to yield to them, he takes a sort of quiet revenge on them by this irony, which he knew would sting them. This only reawakens their cry to despatch Him.
15. crucify your King? . . . We have no king but Cæsar--"Some of those who thus cried died miserably in rebellion against Cæsar forty years afterwards. But it suited their present purpose" [ALFORD].
16. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified, &c.--(See Mark 15:15 ).
John 19:17-30 . CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS.
17. And he bearing his
went forth--Compare Hebrews 13:11-13 , "without the camp"; "without the gate." On arriving at the place, "they gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall [wine mingled with myrrh, Mark 15:23 ], and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink" ( Matthew 27:34 ). This potion was stupefying, and given to criminals just before execution, to deaden the sense of pain.
| Fill high the bowl, and spice it well, and pour |
The dews oblivious: for the Cross is sharp,
The Cross is sharp, and He
Is tenderer than a lamb.
But our Lord would die with every faculty clear, and in full sensibility to all His sufferings.
| Thou wilt feel all, that Thou may'st pity all; |
And rather would'st Thou wrestle with strong pain
Than overcloud Thy soul,
So clear in agony,
Or lose one glimpse of Heaven before the time,
O most entire and perfect Sacrifice,
Renewed in every pulse.
18. they crucified him, and two others with him--"malefactors" ( Luke 23:33 ), "thieves" (rather "robbers," Matthew 27:38 , 15:27 ).
on either side one and Jesus in the midst--a hellish expedient, to hold Him up as the worst of the three. But in this, as in many other of their doings, "the scripture was fulfilled, which saith ( Isaiah 53:12 ), And he was numbered with the transgressors"--( Mark 15:28 )--though the prediction reaches deeper. "Then said Jesus"--["probably while being nailed to the CROSS,"] [OLSHAUSEN], "FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO" ( Luke 23:34 )--and again the Scripture was fulfilled which said, "And He made intercession for the transgressors" ( Isaiah 53:12 ), though this also reaches deeper. (See Acts 3:17 , 13:27 ; and compare 1 Timothy 1:13 ). Often have we occasion to observe how our Lord is the first to fulfil His own precepts--thus furnishing the right interpretation and the perfect Model of them. How quickly was it seen in "His martyr Stephen," that though He had left the earth in Person, His Spirit remained behind, and Himself could, in some of His brightest lineaments, be reproduced in His disciples! ( Acts 7:60 ). And what does the world in every age owe to these few words, spoken where and as they were spoken!
19-22. Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross . . . Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews . . . and it was written in Hebrew--or Syro-Chaldaic, the language of the country.
and Greek--the current language.
and Latin--the official language. These were the chief languages of the earth, and this secured that all spectators should be able to read it. Stung by this, the Jewish ecclesiastics entreat that it may be so altered as to express, not His real dignity, but His false claim to it. But Pilate thought he had yielded quite enough to them; and having intended expressly to spite and insult them by this title, for having got him to act against his own sense of justice, he peremptorily refused them. And thus, amidst the conflicting passions of men, was proclaimed, in the chief tongues of mankind, from the Cross itself and in circumstances which threw upon it a lurid yet grand light, the truth which drew the Magi to His manger, and will yet be owned by all the world!
23, 24. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts; to every soldier--the four who nailed Him to the cross, and whose perquisite they were.
a part, and also his coat--the Roman tunic, or close-fitting vest.
without seam, woven from the top throughout--"perhaps denoting considerable skill and labor as necessary to produce such a garment, the work probably of one or more of the women who ministered in such things unto Him, Luke 8:3 " [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
24. Let us not rend it, but cast lots . . . whose it shall be, that the scripture might be fulfilled which saith, They parted my raiment among them; and for my vesture they did cast lots--( Psalms 22:18 ). That a prediction so exceedingly specific--distinguishing one piece of dress from others, and announcing that while those should be parted amongst several, that should be given by lot to one person--that such a prediction should not only be fulfilled to the letter, but by a party of heathen military, without interference from either the friends of the enemies of the Crucified One, is surely worthy to be ranked among the wonders of this all-wonderful scene. Now come the mockeries, and from four different quarters:--(1) "And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads" in ridicule ( Psalms 22:7 , 109:25 ; compare Jeremiah 18:16 , Lamentations 2:15 ). "Ah!"--"Ha," an exclamation here of derision. "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself and come down from the cross" ( Matthew 27:39 Matthew 27:40 , Mark 15:29 Mark 15:30 ). "It is evident that our Lord's saying, or rather this perversion of it (for He claimed not to destroy, but to rebuild the temple destroyed by them) had greatly exasperated the feeling which the priests and Pharisees had contrived to excite against Him. It is referred to as the principal fact brought out in evidence against Him on the trial (compare Acts 6:13 Acts 6:14 ), as an offense for which He deserved to suffer. And it is very remarkable that now while it was receiving its real fulfilment, it should be made more public and more impressive by the insulting proclamation of His enemies. Hence the importance attached to it after the resurrection, John 2:22 " [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. (2) "Likewise also the chief priests, mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others, Himself He cannot save" ( Matthew 27:41 Matthew 27:42 ). There was a deep truth in this, as in other taunts; for both He could not do, having "come to give His life a ransom for many" ( Matthew 20:28 , 10:45 ). No doubt this added an unknown sting to the reproach. "If He be the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him" ( Matthew 27:42 ). No, they would not; for those who resisted the evidence from the resurrection of Lazarus, and from His own resurrection, were beyond the reach of any amount of merely external evidence. "He trusted in God that He would deliver him; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him [or 'delight in Him,' compare Psalms 18:19 , Deuteronomy 21:14 ]; for He said, I am the Son of God" ( Matthew 27:41-43 ). We thank you, O ye chief priests, scribes, and elders, for this triple testimony, unconsciously borne by you, to our Christ: first to His habitual trust in God, as a feature in His character so marked and palpable that even ye found upon it your impotent taunt; next, to His identity with the Sufferer of the twenty-second Psalm, whose very words ( Psalms 22:8 ) ye unwittingly appropriate, thus serving yourselves heirs to the dark office and impotent malignity of Messiah's enemies; and again, to the true sense of that august title which He took to Himself, "THE SON OF GOD," which He rightly interpreted at the very first (see John 5:18 ) as a claim to that oneness of nature with Him, and dearness to Him, which a son has to his father. (3) "And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save Thyself" ( Luke 23:36 Luke 23:37 ). They insultingly offer to share with Him their own vinegar, or sour wine, the usual drink of Roman soldiers, it being about the time of their midday meal. In the taunt of the soldiers we have one of those undesigned coincidences which so strikingly verify these historical records. While the ecclesiastics deride Him for calling Himself, "the Christ, the King of Israel, the Chosen, the Son of God," the soldiers, to whom all such phraseology was mere Jewish jargon, make sport of Him as a pretender to royalty ("KING of the Jews"), an office and dignity which it belonged to them to comprehend. "The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth" ( Matthew 27:44 , 15:32 ). Not both of them, however, as some commentators unnaturally think we must understand these words; as if some sudden change came over the penitent one, which turned him from an unfeeling railer into a trembling petitioner. The plural "thieves" need not denote more than the quarter or class whence came this last and cruelest taunt--that is, "Not only did scoffs proceed from the passers-by, the ecclesiastics, the soldiery, but even from His fellow-sufferers," a mode of speaking which no one would think necessarily meant both of them. Compare Matthew 2:20 , "They are dead which sought the child's life," meaning Herod; and Mark 9:1 , "There be some standing here," where it is next to certain that only John, the youngest and last survivor of the apostles, is meant. And is it conceivable that this penitent thief should have first himself reviled the Saviour, and then, on his views of Christ suddenly changing, he should have turned upon his fellow sufferer and fellow reviler, and rebuked him not only with dignified sharpness, but in the language of astonishment that he should be capable of such conduct? Besides, there is a deep calmness in all that he utters, extremely unlike what we should expect from one who was the subject of a mental revolution so sudden and total. On the scene itself,
25-27. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary, wife of Cleophas--This should be read, as in the Margin, "Clopas," the same as "Alpheus" ( Matthew 10:3 ). The "Cleopas" of Luke 24:18 was a different person.
26, 27. When Jesus . . . saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved, standing by, he saith to his mother, WOMAN, BEHOLD THY SON! Then saith he to the disciple, BEHOLD THY MOTHER!--What forgetfulness of self, what filial love, and to the "mother" and "son" what parting words!
from that hour . . . took her to his own home--or, home with him; for his father Zebedee and his mother Salome were both alive, and the latter here present ( Mark 15:40 ). the supernatural darkness, recorded by all the other Evangelists, but not here. "Now from the sixth hour (twelve o'clock, noon) there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour" ( Matthew 27:45 ). No ordinary eclipse of the sun could have occurred at this time, it being then full moon, and this obscuration lasted about twelve times the length of any ordinary eclipse. (Compare Exodus 10:21 Exodus 10:23 ). Beyond doubt, the divine intention of the portent was to invest this darkest of all tragedies with a gloom expressive of its real character. "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried, ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI . . . My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" ( Matthew 27:46 ). As the darkness commenced at the sixth hour, the second of the Jewish hours of prayer, so it continued till the ninth hour, the hour of the evening sacrifice, increasing probably in depth, and reaching its deepest gloom at the moment of this mysterious cry, when the flame of the one great "Evening Sacrifice" was burning fiercest. The words were made to His hand. They are the opening words of a Psalm ( Psalms 22:1 ) full of the last "sufferings of Christ and the following glories" ( 1 Peter 1:11 ). "FATHER," was the cry in the first prayer which He uttered on the cross, for matters had not then come to the worst. "Father" was the cry of His last prayer, for matters had then passed their worst. But at this crisis of His sufferings, "Father" does not issue from His lips, for the light of a Father's countenance was then mysteriously eclipsed. He falls back, however, on a title expressive of His official relation, which, though lower and more distant in itself, yet when grasped in pure and naked faith was mighty in its claims, and rich in psalmodic associations. And what deep earnestness is conveyed by the redoubling of this title! But as for the cry itself, it will never be fully comprehended. An absolute desertion is not indeed to be thought of; but a total eclipse of the felt sense of God's presence it certainly expresses. It expre'sses surprise, as under the experience of something not only never before known, but inexplicable on the footing which had till then subsisted between Him and God. It is a question which the lost cannot utter. They are forsaken, but they know why. Jesus is forsaken, but does not know and demands to know why. It is thus the cry of conscious innocence, but of innocence unavailing to draw down, at that moment, the least token of approval from the unseen Judge--innocence whose only recognition at that moment lay in the thick surrounding gloom which but reflected the horror of great darkness that invested His own spirit. There was indeed a cause for it, and He knew it too--the "why" must not be pressed so far as to exclude this. He must taste this bitterest of the wages of sin "who did no sin" ( 1 Peter 2:22 ). But that is not the point now. In Him there was no cause at all ( John 14:30 ) and He takes refuge in the glorious fact. When no ray from above shines in upon Him, He strikes a light out of His own breast. If God will not own Him, He shall own Himself. On the rock of His unsullied allegiance to Heaven He will stand, till the light of Heaven returns to His spirit. And it is near to come. While He is yet speaking, the fierceness of the flame is beginning to abate. One incident and insult more, and the experience of one other predicted element of suffering, and the victory is His. The incident, and the insult springing out of it, is the misunderstanding of the cry, for we can hardly suppose that it was anything else. "Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias" ( Matthew 27:47 ).
28-30. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished--that is, the moment for the fulfilment of the last of them; for there was one other small particular, and the time was come for that too, in consequence of the burning thirst which the fevered state of His frame occasioned ( Psalms 22:15 ).
that the scripture--( Psalms 69:21 ).
might be fulfilled saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar--on the offer of the soldiers' vinegar,
and they--"one of them," ( Matthew 27:48 ).
29. filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon--a stalk of
hyssop, and put it to his mouth--Though a stalk of this plant does not exceed eighteen inches in length, it would suffice, as the feet of crucified persons were not raised high. "The rest said, Let be"--[that is, as would seem, 'Stop that officious service'] "let us see whether Elias will come to save Him" ( Matthew 27:49 ). This was the last cruelty He was to suffer, but it was one of the most unfeeling. "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice" ( Luke 23:46 ). This "loud voice," noticed by three of the Evangelists, does not imply, as some able interpreters contend, that our Lord's strength was so far from being exhausted that He needed not to die then, and surrendered up His life sooner than Nature required, merely because it was the appointed time. It was indeed the appointed time, but time that He should be "crucified through weakness" ( 1 Corinthians 13:4 ), and Nature was now reaching its utmost exhaustion. But just as even His own dying saints, particularly the martyrs of Jesus, have sometimes had such gleams of coming glory immediately before breathing their last, as to impart to them a strength to utter their feelings which has amazed the by-standers, so this mighty voice of the expiring Redeemer was nothing else but the exultant spirit of the Dying Victor, receiving the fruit of His travail just about to be embraced, and nerving the organs of utterance to an ecstatic expression of its sublime feelings (not so much in the immediately following words of tranquil surrender, in Luke, as in the final shout, recorded only by John): "FATHER, INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT!" ( Luke 23:46 ). Yes, the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. His soul has emerged from its mysterious horrors; "My God" is heard no more, but in unclouded light He yields sublime into His Father's hands the infinitely precious spirit--using here also the words of those matchless Psalms ( Psalms 31:5 ) which were ever on His lips. "As the Father receives the spirit of Jesus, so Jesus receives those of the faithful" ( Acts 7:59 ) [BENGEL]. And now comes the expiring mighty shout.
30. It is finished! and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost--What is finished? The Law is fulfilled as never before, nor since, in His "obedience unto death, even the death of the cross"; Messianic prophecy is accomplished; Redemption is completed; "He hath finished the transgression, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness, and sealed up the vision and prophecy, and anointed a holy of holies"; He has inaugurated the kingdom of God and given birth to a new world.
John 19:31-42 . BURIAL OF CHRIST.
31-37. the preparation--sabbath eve.
that the bodies should not remain--over night, against the Mosaic law ( Deuteronomy 21:22 Deuteronomy 21:23 ).
on the sabbath day, for that sabbath day was an high day--or "great" day--the first day of unleavened bread, and, as concurring with an ordinary sabbath, the most solemn season of the ecclesiastical year. Hence their peculiar jealousy lest the law should be infringed.
besought Pilate that their legs might be broken--to hasten their death, which was done in such cases with clubs.
33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already--there being in His case elements of suffering, unknown to the malefactors, which might naturally hasten His death, lingering though it always was in such cases, not to speak of His previous sufferings.
they brake not his legs--a fact of vast importance, as showing that the reality of His death was visible to those whose business it was to see to it. The other divine purpose served by it will appear presently.
34. But one of the soldiers--to make assurance of the fact doubly sure.
with a spear pierced his side--making a wound deep and wide, as indeed is plain from John 20:27 John 20:29 . Had life still remained, it must have fled now.
and forthwith came thereout blood and water--"It is now well known that the effect of long-continued and intense agony is frequently to produce a secretion of a colorless lymph within the pericardium (the membrane enveloping the heart), amounting in many cases to a very considerable quantity" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
35. And he that saw it bare record--hath borne witness.
and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe--This solemn way of referring to his own testimony in this matter has no reference to what he says in his Epistle about Christ's "coming by water and blood" intended to call attention both to the fulfilment of Scripture in these particulars, and to the undeniable evidence he was thus furnishing of the reality of Christ's death, and consequently of His resurrection; perhaps also to meet the growing tendency, in the Asiatic churches, to deny the reality of our Lord's body, or that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" ( 1 John 4:1-3 ).
36. that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken--The reference is to the paschal lamb, as to which this ordinance was stringent ( Exodus 12:46 , Numbers 9:12 . Compare 1 Corinthians 5:7 ). But though we are to see here the fulfilment of a very definite typical ordinance, we shall, on searching deeper, see in it a remarkable divine interposition to protect the sacred body of Christ from the last indignity after He had finished the work given Him to do. Every imaginable indignity had been permitted before that, up to the moment of His death. But no sooner is that over than an Unseen hand is found to have provided against the clubs of the rude soldiers coming in contact with that temple of the Godhead. Very different from such violence was that spear-thrust, for which not only doubting Thomas would thank the soldier, but intelligent believers in every age, to whom the certainty of their Lord's death and resurrection is the life of their whole Christianity.
37. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced--The quotation is from Zechariah 12:10 ; not taken as usual from the Septuagint (the current Greek version), which here is all wrong, but direct from the Hebrew. And there is a remarkable nicety in the choice of the words employed both by the prophet and the Evangelist for "piercing." The word in Zechariah means to thrust through with spear, javelin, sword, or any such weapon. In that sense it is used in all the ten places, besides this, where it is found. How suitable this was to express the action of the Roman soldier, is manifest; and our Evangelist uses the exactly corresponding word, which the Septuagint certainly does not. Very different is the other word for "pierce" in Psalms 22:16 , "They pierced my hands and my feet." The word there used is one signifying to bore as with an awl or hammer. How striking are these small niceties!
38-40. Joseph of Arimathea--"a rich man" ( Matthew 27:57 ), thus fulfilling Isaiah 53:9 ; "an honorable counsellor," a member of the Sanhedrim, and of good condition, "which also waited for the kingdom of God" ( Mark 15:43 ), a devout expectant of Messiah's kingdom; "a good man and a just, the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them" ( Luke 23:50 Luke 23:51 --he had gone the length, perhaps, of dissenting and protesting in open council against the condemnation of our Lord); "who also himself was Jesus' disciple," ( Matthew 27:57 ).
being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews--"He went in boldly unto Pilate" ( Mark 15:43 )--literally, "having taken courage went in," or "had the boldness to go in." Mark alone, as his manner is, notices the boldness which this required. The act would without doubt identify him for the first time with the disciples of Christ. Marvellous it certainly is, that one who while Jesus was yet alive merely refrained from condemning Him, not having the courage to espouse His cause by one positive act, should, now that He was dead, and His cause apparently dead with Him, summon up courage to go in personally to the Roman governor and ask permission to take down and inter the body. But if this be the first instance, it is not the last, that a seemingly dead Christ has wakened a sympathy which a living one had failed to evoke. The heroism of faith is usually kindled by desperate circumstances, and is not seldom displayed by those who before were the most timid, and scarce known as disciples at all. "And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead" ( Mark 15:44 )--rather "wondered that he was already dead." "And calling the centurion, he asked him whether He had been any while dead" ( Mark 15:44 )--Pilate could hardly credit what Joseph had told him, that He had been dead "some time," and, before giving up the body to His friends, would learn how the fact stood from the centurion, whose business it was to oversee the execution. "And when he knew it of the centurion" ( Mark 15:45 ), that it was as Joseph had said, "he gave"--rather "made a gift of"--"the body to Joseph"; struck, possibly, with the rank of the petitioner and the dignified boldness of the petition, in contrast with the spirit of the other party and the low rank to which he had been led to believe all the followers of Christ belonged. Nor would he be unwilling to Show that he was not going to carry this black affair any farther. But, whatever were Pilate's motives, two most blessed objects were thus secured: (1) The reality of our Lords death was attested by the party of all others most competent to decide on it, and certainly free from all bias--the officer in attendance--in full reliance on whose testimony Pilate surrendered the body: (2) The dead Redeemer, thus delivered out of the hands of His enemies, and committed by the supreme political authority to the care of His friends, was thereby protected from all further indignities; a thing most befitting indeed, now that His work was done, but impossible, so far as we can see, if His enemies had been at liberty to do with Him as they pleased. How wonderful are even the minutest features of this matchless History!
39. also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night--"This remark corresponds to the secrecy of Joseph's discipleship, just noticed, and calls attention to the similarity of their previous character and conduct, and the remarkable change which had now taken place" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
brought . . . myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pounds weight--an immense quantity, betokening the greatness of their love, but part of it probably intended as a layer for the spot on which the body was to lie. (See 2 Chronicles 16:14 ) [MEYER].
40. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury--the mixed and pulverized myrrh and aloes shaken into the folds, and the entire body, thus swathed, wrapt in an outer covering of "clean linen cloth" ( Matthew 27:59 ). Had the Lord's own friends had the least reason to think that the spark of life was still in Him, would they have done this? But even if one could conceive them mistaken, could anyone have lain thus enveloped for the period during which He was in the grave, and life still remained? Impossible. When, therefore, He walked forth from the tomb, we can say with the most absolute certainty, "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept" ( 1 Corinthians 15:20 ). No wonder that the learned and the barbarians alike were prepared to die for the name of the Lord Jesus; for such evidence was to the unsophisticated resistless. (No mention is made of anointing in this operation. No doubt it was a hurried proceeding, for fear of interruption, and because it was close on the sabbath, the women seem to have set this as their proper task "as soon as the sabbath should be past" [ Mark 16:1 ]. But as the Lord graciously held it as undesignedly anticipated by Mary at Bethany [ Mark 14:8 ], so this was probably all the anointing, in the strict sense of it, which He received.)
41, 42. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre--The choice of this tomb was, on their part, dictated by the double circumstance that it was so near at hand, and by its belonging to a friend of the Lord; and as there was need of haste, even they would be struck with the providence which thus supplied it. "There laid they Jesus therefore, because of the Jew's preparation day, for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." But there was one recommendation of it which probably would not strike them; but God had it in view. Not its being "hewn out of a rock" ( Mark 15:46 ), accessible only at the entrance, which doubtless would impress them with its security and suitableness. But it was "a new sepulchre" ( John 19:41 ), "wherein never man before was laid" ( Luke 23:53 ): and Matthew ( Matthew 27:60 ) says that Joseph laid Him "in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock"--doubtless for his own use, though the Lord had higher use for it. Thus as He rode into Jerusalem on an ass "whereon never man before had sat" ( Mark 11:2 ), so now He shall lie in a tomb wherein never man before had lain, that from these specimens it may be seen that in all things He was "SEPARATE FROM SINNERS" ( Hebrews 7:26 ).