Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:Ch. Matthew 27:1. The Second and formal Meeting of the Sanhedrin
St Mark 15:1; St Luke 22:66-71; not mentioned by St John
And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.2. The Delivery to Pontius Pilate
St Mark 15:1; St Luke 23:1; St John 18:28; “then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of Judgment (or Prætorium), and it was early.”
2. Pontius Pilate the governor] Pontius Pilate was the governor, or more accurately, the Procurator of Judæa, which after the banishment of Archelaus (see ch. Matthew 2:22) had been placed under the direct government of Rome, and attached as a dependency to Syria. Pilate filled this office during the last ten years of the reign of Tiberius, to whom as Procurator in an imperial province he was directly responsible. In the year a. d. 35 or 36, he was sent to Rome on a charge of cruelty to the Samaritans. The death of Tiberius probably deferred his trial, and according to Eusebius, “wearied with his misfortunes,” he put himself to death. In character Pilate appears to have been impolitic, cruel and weak. On three signal occasions he had trampled on the religious feelings of the Jews, and repressed their resistance with merciless severity. A further instance of cruelty, combined with profanation, is alluded to, St Luke 13:1 : “the Galilæans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” The name Pontius connects Pilate with the gens of the Pontii, to which the great Samnite General, C. Pontius Telesinus, belonged. (Read history of second and third Samnite wars, b. c. 327–290.) The cognomen Pilatus probably signifies “armed with a pilum” (javelin). Tacitus mentions Pontius Pilate in a well-known passage (Ann. xv. 44), Auctor nominis ejus Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat. “Christus, from whom the Christians are called, suffered death in the reign of Tiberius, under the procurator, P. Pilate.” Many traditions have gathered round the name of Pontius Pilate. According to one, he was banished to Vienne in the south of France; according to another, he ended a restless life by plunging into a deep and gloomy lake on Mount Pilatus, near Lucerne. The shallow pool, often dry in the summer months, sufficiently disproves this story. The usual residence of the Roman Procurator in Judæa was Cæsarea Stratonis (see map).
The wish of the Sanhedrin in delivering Jesus to Pilate was to have their sentence confirmed without enquiry, see ch. Matthew 26:66.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,3–10. The remorse of Judas. He returns the silver Shekels. The use made of them. Peculiar to St Matthew
3. when he saw that he was condemned] It has been argued from these words that Judas had not expected this result of his treachery. He had hoped that Jesus would by a mighty manifestation of His divine power usher in at once the Kingdom whose coming was too long delayed. The whole tenour of the narrative, however, contradicts such an inference.
repented himself] A different Greek word from that used, ch. Matthew 3:2; it implies no change of heart or life, but merely remorse or regret. See note ch. Matthew 21:29; Matthew 21:32.
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.4. I have sinned in that I have betrayed] Rather, I sinned in betraying.
the innocent blood] “the” should be omitted.
see thou (to that)] Lit., thou shalt see, it shall be thy concern. “Impii in facto consortes, post factum deserunt.” (Bengel.)
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.5. in the temple] Properly, “in the holy place,” which only the priests could enter.
went and hanged himself] A different account of the end of Judas is given Acts 1:18; either by St Peter, or by St Luke in a parenthetical insertion. It is there stated (1) that Judas, not the Priests, bought the field: (2) that “falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out;” (3) that the field was called Aceldama for that reason, not for the reason stated in this passage. The two accounts are not actually inconsistent, but the key to their concordance is lost. No entirely satisfactory solution of the discrepancy has been given.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.6. into the treasury] “Into the Corban” in the original. For the prohibition cp. Deuteronomy 23:18.
And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.7. the potter’s field] Tradition places Aceldama in the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem.
strangers] i. e. Jews of the dispersion, Hellenists and proselytes.
Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;9. that which was spoken by Jeremie the prophet] The citation is from Zechariah 11:13, but neither the Hebrew nor the LXX. version is followed exactly. The Hebrew literally translated is: “And Jehovah said to me, ‘Cast it unto the potter,’ a goodly price that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter in the house of Jehovah.” Zechariah, under the image of a shepherd, refuses any longer to lead the disobedient and divided flock, and asks for the price of his hire, which he then casts into the treasury. The discrepancy is probably due to the citation being made from memory. The ascription of the words to Jeremiah instead of to Zechariah may be assigned to the same cause, or explained, with Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. ad loc.), by supposing that Jeremiah, who begins the Book of the Prophets in the Hebrew Canon, is intended to indicate the whole of that division of the Scriptures.
And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.11. the governor] The Evangelist uses a general word instead of the more exact term “Procurator.”
Art thou the King of the Jews?] The answer of Jesus to this question, and His explanation to Pilate of the Kingdom of God are given at length, John 18:33-37; observe especially that the servants of the kingdom would fight, if they fought at all, not against Rome but against Israel who had rejected the Messiah: “If my Kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”
Thou sayest] See note ch. Matthew 26:25.
11–26. The Trial before Pontius Pilate
St Mark 15:2-15; St Luke 23:2-7; Luke 23:13-24; St John 18:29 to John 19:16St Luke states the threefold charge most clearly: “We found this [fellow] (1) perverting the nation; (2) and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar; (3) saying that he himself is Christ a King.”
Pilate, true to the Roman sense of justice, refused merely to confirm the sentence of the Sanhedrin. “He asked, what accusation bring ye against this man?” (John 18:29), being determined to try the case. This accusation amounted to a charge of treason—the greatest crime known to Roman law. Of the three points of accusation, (2) was utterly false; (1) and (3) though in a sense true, were not true in the sense intended. The answer or defence of Jesus is that He is a King, but that His “kingdom is not of this world,” therefore (it is inferred) the “perversion of the people” was not a rebellion that threatened the Roman government; see note Matthew 27:11. The defence was complete, as Pilate admits: “I find no fault in him.”
And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.15. the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner] The origin of this custom is quite unknown; St Mark says, “as he had ever done unto them,” as if the custom originated with Pilate; St Luke has, “of necessity he must release;” St John, “Ye have a custom.”
No trace of this custom is found in the Talmud. But the release of prisoners was usual at certain festivals at Rome, and at Athens during the Panathenaic festival prisoners enjoyed temporary liberty. It is not, therefore, improbable that Herod the Great, who certainly familiarised the Jews with other usages of Greece and Rome, introduced this custom, and that the Roman governor, finding the custom established and gratifying to the Jews, in accordance with Roman practice (see Introd. p. 22 (3)) retained the observance of it.
And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.16. Barabbas] = “Son of a father,” or perhaps, “Son of a Rabbi.” The reading, “Jesus Barabbas” (Matthew 27:17), which appears in some copies, is rightly rejected by the best editors. As Alford remarks, Matthew 27:20 is fatal to the insertion. St Mark and St Luke add that Barabbas had committed murder in the insurrection.
Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?17. Therefore when they were gathered together] In accordance, probably, with the custom named, Matthew 27:15, an appeal was made to the people, not to the Sanhedrin. Pilate was sitting on the tribunal to ascertain the popular decision; at this point he was interrupted by his wife’s messengers, and while he was engaged with them, the chief priests employed themselves in persuading the people to demand Barabbas rather than Christ.
For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.19. the judgment seat] = “the tribunal,” generally a raised platform in the Basilica or court where the judges sat; here a portable tribunal, from which the sentence was pronounced; it was placed on a tesselated pavement called Gabbatha (John 19:13).
his wife] Claudia Procula or Procla: traditions state that she was a proselyte of the gate, which is by no means unlikely, as many of the Jewish proselytes were women. By an imperial regulation provincial governors had been prohibited from taking their wives with them. But the rule gradually fell into disuse, and an attempt made in the Senate (a. d. 21) to revive it completely failed. Tac. Ann. iii. 33, 34. The dream of Pilate’s wife is recorded by St Matthew only.
But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.20. ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus] St Peter brings out the full meaning of this choice: “ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life” (Acts 3:14-15). They saved the murderer, and slew the Saviour.
The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.21. Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?] Once more the question is put to the people (see Matthew 27:17). His wife’s message had made Pilate anxious to acquit Jesus. But the very form of the question implied condemnation. Jesus was classed with Barabbas in the category of condemned prisoners.
Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.22. all say unto him, Let him be crucified] There is no further question even of a show of legality or justice: the traditional clemency is quite forgotten; the fanatical crowd, pressing round the doors of the Prætorium, which they cannot enter, join with excited gesticulation in one loud and furious cry for the blood of Jesus.
And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.24. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing] St Luke relates a further attempt on Pilate’s part to release Jesus, “I will chastise Him and let Him go” (Luke 23:22). Will not the cruel torture of a Roman scourging melt their hearts?
St John, at still greater length, narrates the struggle in Pilate’s mind between his sense of justice and his respect for Jesus on the one hand, and on the other his double fear of the Jews and of Cæsar. (1) He tried to stir their compassion by shewing Jesus to them crowned with thorns and mangled with the scourging; (2) hearing that Jesus called Himself the “Son of God,” he “was the more afraid;” (3) at length he even “sought to release Him,” but the chief priests conquered his scruples by a threat that moved his fears, “If thou let this man go thou art not Cæsar’s friend.” This was the charge of treason which Tacitus says (Ann. iii. 39) was “omnium accusationum complementum.” The vision of the implacable Tiberius in the background clenched the argument for Pilate. It is the curse of despotism that it makes fear stronger than justice.
took water, and washed his hands] Recorded by St Matthew only. In so doing Pilate followed a Jewish custom which all would understand. Deuteronomy 21:6; Psalm 26:6.
see ye (to it)] See note Matthew 27:4.
Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.25. His blood be on us, and on our children] Also peculiar to Matthew. St Peter finds as the sole excuse for his fellow countrymen, “I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). The prayer of Jesus on the cross for His murderers was meant for these as well as for the Roman soldiers.
Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.26. when he had scourged Jesus] Scourging usually preceded crucifixion. It was in itself a cruel and barbarous torture, under which the victim often perished.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.27. the common hall] i. e. “the Prætorium” (Mark), which meant originally (1) the general’s tent; (2) it was then used for the residence of the governor or prince, cp. Acts 23:35; (3) then for an official Roman villa or country house; (4) barracks especially for the Prætorian guard; (5) the Prætorian guard itself (Php 1:13). The second meaning (2) is to be preferred here.
band] Greek speira, the thirtieth part of a Roman legion consisting of two centuries.
27–30. Jesus is mocked by the Roman Soldiers
St Luke, who records the mockery of Herod’s soldiers, perhaps as St Paul’s companion in the Prætorium at Rome makes no mention of this stain on the Roman soldiery.
And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.28. a scarlet robe] A soldier’s scarf, Lat. chlamys: it was generally worn by superior officers, but its use was not confined to them. This may have been a worn-out scarf belonging to Pilate; it is different from “the gorgeous robe” (Luke 23:11), which Herod’s soldiers put on Jesus. Scarlet was the proper colour for the military chlamys. (See Dict. of Ant.) St Mark has the less definite “purple;” St John “a purple robe.” Purple, however, is used by Latin writers to denote any bright colour.
And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!29. a crown of thorns] It cannot be ascertained what especial kind of thorn was used. The soldiers, as Bp Ellicott remarks, would take what first came to hand, utterly careless whether it was likely to inflict pain or no.
King of the Jews] Cp. ch. Matthew 2:2, and Matthew 27:37.
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.31, 32. Jesus is led to Crucifixion
Mark 15:20-21; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:16-17St Luke has several particulars of what happened on the way to Golgotha, omitted in the other Gospels. The great company of people and of women who followed Him; the touching address of Jesus to the women; the last warning of the coming sorrows; the leading of two malefactors with Him.
And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.32. a man of Cyrene, Simon by name] (1) “coming out of the country” (Mark and Luke), (2) the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark).
(1) This has been thought to imply that Simon was returning from work, and hence that it cannot have been the actual day of the Feast. Simon was probably coming into the city for the Paschal sacrifice, the hour for which was close at hand. (2) Rufus is probably the Christian named Romans 16:13, who would be known to St Mark’s readers. May not Simon have been one of those “Men of Cyrene” who preached the Word to Greeks when others preached to the Jews only? (Acts 11:20.) (3) The inference that he was already an adherent of Christ is quite uncertain.
Cyrene] A city in north-eastern Africa, famous for the beauty of its position. A large colony of Jews had settled there, as in other African and Egyptian cities, to avoid the oppression of the Syrian kings.
compelled] See note ch. Matthew 5:41, where the same word is used, and the custom referred to of which this is an instance.
And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,33. a place called Golgotha] The site of Golgotha is unknown; it was outside the walls, but “nigh to the city” (John 19:20), probably near the public road where people passed by (Matthew 27:39), it contained a garden (John 19:41). The name, which = “place of a skull,” is generally thought to be derived from the shape and appearance of the hillock or mound on which the crosses were reared. This, however, is uncertain. Pictures often mislead by representing the crucifixion as taking place on a lofty hill at a considerable distance from the city.
The English “Calvary” comes from the Vulgate translation of Luke 23:33, “Et postquam venerunt in locum qui vocatur Calvariæ.” Calvaria=“a bare skull.”
33–50. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
Mark 15:22-37; Luke 23:33-46; John 19:18-30.
St Mark’s account differs little from St Matthew’s. St Luke names the mockery of the soldiers and the words of the robbers to one another and to Jesus. Three of the sayings on the cross are related by St Luke only: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do;”—“Verily, I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise;”—“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Among other particulars recorded by St John alone are the attempt to alter the superscription—the commendation of His mother to John—the breaking of the malefactors’ legs—the piercing of Jesus—three sayings from the cross: “Woman, behold thy son!” and to the disciple, “Behold thy mother!”—‘I thirst”—“It is finished.” St Matthew and St Mark alone record the cry of loneliness: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”
They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.34. vinegar … mingled with gall] “Wine mingled with myrrh” (Mark). Vinegar = “sour wine” (vinaigre), or posca, such as was ordinarily drunk by the Roman soldiers. The potion was a stupefying draught given to criminals to deaden the sense of pain. “Some of the wealthy ladies of Jerusalem charged themselves with this office of mercy.” (Lightfoot, ad loc.) Jesus refuses this alleviation of His sufferings.
And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.35. they crucified him] From the fact of the titulus or inscription being placed over the Saviour’s head, it is inferred that the cross on which He suffered was such as is usually shewn in pictures, the crux immissa (†) or Latin cross as distinguished from the crux commissa (T) or the crux decussata (×) the form of cross on which St Andrew is said to have suffered. The height was from 9 to 12 feet; at a short distance from the ground a projecting rest supported the sufferer’s feet, which, as well as the hands, were nailed to the cross.
According to St Mark (Mark 15:25) the Crucifixion took place at the third hour—nine o’clock. St John (John 19:14) says it was about the sixth hour when Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified.
This discrepancy has received no entirely satisfactory solution. It has however been suggested that St John, writing at a later period and in a different part of the world, may have followed a different mode of reckoning time.
parted his garments, casting lots] St John describes the division more accurately; they divided His himatia, or outer garments, but cast lots for the seamless chiton, or tunic. The latter is said to have been a dress peculiar to Galilæan peasants.
The Greek of the quotation from Psalm 22:18 (see below) does not convey the same distinction.
They parted my garments among them, &c.] Psalm 22:18. The same psalm is quoted Matthew 27:39; Matthew 27:43; Matthew 27:46. It is not a psalm of David, but was probably “composed by one of the exiles during the Babylonish captivity … who would cling to the thought that he suffered not only as an individual, but as one of the chosen of God. But it has more than an individual reference. It looks forward to Christ.” Canon Perowne on Psalms 22. The leading MSS. omit this quotation, which has probably been inserted from Mark.
And sitting down they watched him there;36. they watched him there] fearing lest a rescue should be attempted by the friends of Jesus.
And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.37. and set up over his head his accusation written] It was the Roman custom to place on the cross over the criminal’s head, a titulus, or placard, stating the crime for which he suffered. St John records Pilate’s refusal to alter the inscription, and mentions that the title was written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin.
King of the Jews. See ch. Matthew 2:2.
The inscription is given with slight variations by the four Evangelists. “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26). “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). This variation points to the independence of the different Gospels, and also indicates that a real though not a verbal accuracy should be looked for in the records of the Evangelists.
Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.38. two thieves] Rather, robbers; in all probability partners in the crime of Barabbas. The mountain robbers, or banditti, were always ready to take part in such desperate risings against the Roman power. In the eyes of the Jews they would be patriots.
Josephus tells of one leader of robbers who burnt the palaces in Jericho (B. J. ii. 6), and of another who for twenty years had wasted the country with fire and sword.
And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,39. See Psalm 22:7.
And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.40. Thou that destroyest the temple] This is the mockery of the Jewish populace, who have caught up the charges brought against Jesus before the Sanhedrin. The taunts of the soldiers are named by St Luke alone: “If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself” (Matthew 23:37).
Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,41. chief priests … scribes and elders] members of the Sanhedrin, the “rulers” of Luke 23:35.
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.42. He saved others; himself he cannot save] These words in the original would recall the “hosannas” in the Temple which had enraged the chief priests; see note ch. Matthew 21:9. They also connect themselves with the name of Jesus (“Saviour”).
the King of Israel] A title applied to Jesus only here and in the parallel passage of St Mark’s Gospel.
He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.43. He trusted in God] See Psalm 22:8. The chief priests unconsciously apply to the true Messiah the very words of a Messianic psalm.
The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.44. The thieves also … cast the same in his teeth] They would naturally catch at the thought that the deliverer failed to give deliverance. St Luke alone relates that “one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him … the other answering rebuked him.” It is by no means impossible that the penitent robber may have seen and heard Jesus in Galilee.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.45. from the sixth hour … unto the ninth hour] From 12 to 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the hours of the Paschal sacrifice.
there was darkness over all the land] Not the darkness of an eclipse, for it was the time of the Paschal full moon, but a miraculous darkness symbolic of that solemn hour and veiling the agonies of the Son of Man, when human soul and body alike were enduring the extremity of anguish and suffering for sin.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?46. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?] (Psalm 22:1). Eli is the Hebrew form. In Mark 15:34 the Aramaic words are preserved exactly as they were pronounced by Jesus. The repetition, “My God! My God!” gives a deeply pathetic force; cp. ch. Matthew 23:37. It is an expression of utter loneliness and desolation, the depth of which it is not for man to fathom. “It is going beyond Scripture to say that a sense of God’s wrath extorted that cry. For to the last breath He was the well-beloved of the Father, and the repeated ‘My God! My God!’ is a witness even then to His confidence in His Father’s Love” (Canon Perowne. Psalm 22:1).
This was probably the fourth word from the cross; the fifth “I thirst” (John); the sixth “It is finished” (John); the seventh “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke). It is thought by some that after these words the darkness, which had lasted to the ninth hour, rolled away; others think that it lasted till the death of Jesus.
Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.47. This man calleth for Elias] This was probably spoken in pure mockery, not in a real belief that Jesus expected the personal reappearance of Elijah.
And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.48. took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar] The soldiers’ sour wine (posca), the reed, or hyssop stalk (John), and the sponge, were kept in readiness to quench the sufferers’ thirst.
The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.49. Let be] We must understand this to mean either (1) leave him, do not assist him; or (2) leave it, do not give the draught to him; or (3) “Let be” in the Greek coalesces with the verb following, and = “let us see.” For the construction in the original cp. Luke 6:42. In Mark the words “Let alone; let us see” are put in the mouth of him who offered the wine to the Saviour. There “let alone” may = “let me alone.”
to save him] Here the Sinaitic and Vatican MSS. add, “and another took a spear and pierced his side, and there came out water and blood.”
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.50. when he had cried again with a loud voice] Perhaps an inarticulate cry is meant, or perhaps the sixth word from the cross, “It is finished.” John 19:30.
yielded up the ghost] St Luke preserves the exact words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;51. the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom] St Luke has “rent in the midst.” The veil meant is that which separated the holy of holies from the holy place. The rending of the veil signifies that henceforth there is free access for man to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Cp. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20). The incident would be observed and made known to the Church by the priests, of whom afterwards “a great company were obedient unto the faith” (Acts 6:7).
51–56. Events that followed the Crucifixion. (1) The Veil of the Temple rent; (2) the Earthquake; (3) the Saints arise; (4) the Centurion at the Cross; (5) the Watching of the Women
Of these, (2) and (3) are peculiar to St Matthew.
Mark 15:38-41; Luke 23:45; Luke 23:47-49, where the grief of the spectators is an additional fact. St John omits these incidents, but records the breaking of the malefactors’ legs and the piercing of Jesus’ side.
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.54. the centurion] in command of the guard of four soldiers who watched the crucifixion.
Truly this was the Son of God] “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke).
And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:
Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.56. St Mark (Mark 15:40) specifies the group as “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less (rather, the little) and of Joses, and Salome.”
Mary Magdalene] Mentioned here for the first time by St Matthew. She was probably named from Magdala (Mejdel), on the Lake of Gennesaret; see map, p. 49. She had been a victim of demoniacal possession, but was cured by Jesus (Luke 8:2), and then joined the company of faithful women who followed Him with the Twelve. Mary Magdalene is not named by St John among those who at an earlier period “stood by the cross of Jesus,” but even then we may believe she was watching far off, and early in the morning she was present at the sepulchre.
The great Italian painters have identified Mary Magdalene either with the “woman that was a sinner” who anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50), or with Mary the sister of Lazarus. But neither identification can be sustained on critical grounds.
Mary the mother of James and Joses] Perhaps the same Mary who was the wife of Cleophas, Clopas, or Alphæus (different forms of one name), mentioned John 19:25. If so, according to one interpretation of the passage in John, the sister of the Blessed Virgin.
the mother of Zebedee’s children] Salome. See ch. Matthew 20:20.
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:57. Arimathea] is generally identified with Ramathaim-zophim, on Mount Ephraim, the birth-place of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1), the site of which is undetermined. Many authorities place it much nearer to Jerusalem than the position indicated in the map, p. 28.
Joseph] From the other two Synoptic Gospels we learn that he was “an honourable (Mark) counsellor (Mark and Luke),” i. e. a member of the Sanhedrin. Like Nicodemus, he was a secret disciple of Jesus, and must undoubtedly have absented himself from the meetings of the Sanhedrin when Jesus was condemned. He “had not consented to the counsel and deed of them” (Luke).
An ancient but groundless legend has connected Joseph of Arimathæa with Glastonbury, where, it is said, he built of osier-twigs the first Christian Church in England.
57–66. The Entombment
Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42Matthew 27:62-66 are peculiar to St Matthew. St Mark notes the wonder of Pilate that Jesus was already dead, and the evidence of the centurion to the fact. St John mentions the co-operation of Nicodemus—like Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, who “consented not to the deed of them;” who brought “a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pound weight.”
He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.58. Pilate commanded the body to be delivered] after having ascertained from the centurion that Jesus was dead. Usually those who suffered crucifixion lingered for days upon the cross. By Roman law the corpse of a crucified person was not buried except by express permission of the Emperor. A concession was made in favour of the Jews, whose law did not suffer a man to hang all night upon a tree. Deuteronomy 21:23. (See Jahn, Bib. Ant., 296.) “The readiness of Pilate to grant Joseph’s request is quite in accordance with his anxiety to release Jesus and his displeasure against the Jews. If Joseph had not made this request, the body of Jesus would have been placed in one of the common burying-places appointed by the Council” (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. ad loc.).
And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,59. linen cloth] Sindon, or fine linen.
And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.60. laid it in his own new tomb] “His own” peculiar to St Matthew. St John mentions that the tomb was “in a garden in the place where he was crucified” (John 19:41). It was probably hewn out of the face of the rock near the ground (John 20:11), and the body of Jesus would lie horizontally in it.
rolled a great stone] assisted by Nicodemus. This stone was technically called golal.
And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.61. the other Mary] The mother of James the less and Joses (Mark 15:47).
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,62. the next day, that followed the day of the preparation] It was after sunset on Nisan 14. The preparation (paraskeué) was over, the Sabbath and the Paschal feast had commenced. This explanation of the somewhat unusual phrase accords with the view already taken of the Last Supper and the Passover.
While Christ’s enemies were busy this Sabbath day, His friends rested according to the commandment (Luke 23:56).
Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.63. said … After three days I will rise] Literally in the Greek, I rise. For this present cp. ch. Matthew 24:41, Matthew 26:2.
It appears from this that the priests and Pharisees understood the true import of Christ’s words, “Destroy this temple, and after three days I will raise it up,” which they wilfully misinterpreted to the people.
Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.64. by night] Omitted in the best MSS.
He is risen] Rather, He rose.
error] Better, deceit. The Greek word has the same root as deceiver, Matthew 27:63.
Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.65. Ye have a watch] The meaning is either (1) that Pilate refuses the request; “Ye have a watch of your own”—(a) the Levitical temple guard, or (b) a small body of soldiers whom Pilate may have already placed at their disposal—or (2) he grants it curtly and angrily, “Take a watch; begone.”
The latter view is generally adopted now. It seems quite clear from ch. Matthew 28:14 that the guard was of Roman soldiers.
So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.