And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.
Verses 1-4. - The trial before Pilate: First examination. Verse 1. - And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. The Sanhedrin had now formally condemned Jesus to death. They were, however, precluded by the Roman regulations then in force from carrying out their judgment. A capital sentence in Judaea could only be inflicted as the result of a decision by the Roman court. The Sanhedrin supposed, and as we shall see rightly, that the judgment they had pronounced would speedily be confirmed by the Roman judge. The Sanhedrin condemnation to death was, however, from the Jewish standpoint, illegal. In capital cases judgment could not be legally pronounced on the day of trial. But in the case of Jesus, the Accused was condemned without the legal interval which should have been left between the trial and the sentence. The Prisoner was then at once hurried before the Roman tribunal, in order that the Jewish sentence might be confirmed and carried out with all the additional horrors which accompanied Gentile public executions in such cases of treason. Derenbourg ('Histoire de la Palestine,' p. 201) attributes the undue illegal precipitancy of the whole proceeding to the overwhelming influence exercised in the supreme council by Annas and Caiaphas with their friends who were Sadducees, a party notorious for their cruelty as well as for their unbelief. Had the Pharisees borne sway in the Sanhedrin at that juncture, such an illegality could never have taken place. This apology possesses certain weight, as it is based upon known historical facts; yet when the general bearing of the Pharisee party towards our Lord during the greater part of his public ministry is remembered, it can scarcely be supposed that the action of the Sadducee majority in the Sanhedrin was repugnant to, or even opposed by, the Pharisee element in the great assembly. Pilate, Pontius Pilate, a Roman knight, owed his high position as Procurator of Judea to his friendship with Sejanus, the powerful minister of the Emperor Tiberius, He probably belonged by birth or adoption to the gens of the Pontii. When Judaea became formally subject to the empire on the deposition of Archelaus, Pontius Pilate, of whose previous career nothing is known, through the interest of Sejanus, was appointed to govern it, with the title of procurator, or collector of the revenue, invested with judicial power. This was in A.D. , and he held the post for ten years, when he was deposed from his office in disgrace. His government of Judaea seems to have been singularly unhappy. His great patron Sejanus hated the Jews, and Pilate seems faithfully to have imitated his powerful friend. Constantly the Roman governor appears to have wounded the susceptibilities of the strange, unhappy people he was placed over. Fierce disputes, mutual insults arising out of apparently purposeless acts of arbitrary power on his side, characterized the period of his rule. His behaviour in the one great event of his life, when Jesus was brought before his tribunal, will illustrate his character. He was superstitious and yet cruel; afraid of the people he affected to despise; faithless to the spirit of the authority with which he was lawfully invested. In the great crisis of his history, flora the miserably selfish motive of securing his own petty interests, we watch him deliberately giving up a Man, whom he knew to be innocent, and felt to be noble and pure, to torture, shame, and death.
And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
Verse 2. - And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself Christ a King. To understand this scene perfectly we must read St. John's account in his eighteenth chapter (ver. 28 and following). From the place of meeting of the Sanhedrin, Jesus was led to the palace of Pilate, the Prsetorium. The Roman governor was evidently prepared for the case; for application must have been made to him the evening before for the guard which arrested Jesus in Gethsemane. St. John tells us that the delegates of the Sanhedrin entered not into the hall of judgment, "lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover." Pilate, who knew well from his past experience how fiercely these fanatics resented any slight offered to their religious feelings, wishing for his own purposes to conciliate them, went outside. These Jews, prior to eating the Passover, would not enter any dwelling from which all leaven had not been carefully removed; of course, this had not been the case in the palace of Pilate. The governor asks them, in St. John's account, what was their accusation against the Man. They replied that they had three charges:
(1) he had perverted the nation;
(2) he had forbidden that tribute should be given to Caesar;
(3) he had asserted that he was Christ a King.
And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.
Verse 3. - And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? Pilate then went again into his judgment-hall, where he had left Jesus, but before going back he could not resist addressing an ironical word to the accusing Jews: "Take ye him, and judge him according to your Law" (John 18:31), to which the Sanhedrists replied that they were not allowed to put any man to death, thus publicly confessing the state of comparative impotence to which they were now reduced, and also revealing their deadly purpose in the case of Jesus. Pilate, having gone into the judgment-hall again, proceeds to interrogate Jesus. The first two accusations he passes over, seeing clearly that they were baseless. The third, however, struck him. Art thou, poor, friendless, powerless Man, the King I have been hearing about? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. St. Luke gives only this bare summary of the examination, in which the prisoner Jesus simply replies "Yes," he was the King. St. John (John 18:33-38) gives us a more full and detailed account. It is more than probable that John was present during the interrogatory. In the sublime answers of the Lord, his words explanatory of the nature of his kingdom, which "is not of this world," struck Pilate and decided him to give the reply we find in the next verse.
Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.
Verse 4. - Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this Man. The Roman was interested in the poor Prisoner; perhaps he grudgingly admired him. He was so different to the members of that hated nation he had been brought into such familar contact with; utterly unselfish, noble with a strange nobility, which was quite unknown to officials and politicians of the school of Pilate; but as regards Rome and its views quite harm. less. The Roman evidently was strongly opposed to harsh measures being dealt out to this dreamy, unpractical, generous Enthusiast, as he deemed him.
And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.
Verses 5-12. - Pilate sends Jesus to be tried by Herod. Verse 5. - And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. On hearing the Roman governor's declaration that in his opinion the Prisoner was innocent, the Sanhedrists became more vehement, repeating with increased violence their accusation that Jesus had been for a long time past a persistent stirrer-up of sedition, not only here in the city, but in the northern districts of Galilee.
When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean.
Verses 6, 7. - When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the Man were a Galilaean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. Now, Pilate dreaded lest these Jews should make his clemency towards the Prisoner a ground of accusation against him at Rome. Pilate had enemies in the capital. His once powerful patron Sejanus had just fallen. His own past, too, he was well aware, would not bear examination; so, moved by his cowardly fears, he refrained from releasing Jesus in accordance with what his heart told him was just and right; and yet he could not bring himself to condemn One to whom he was drawn by an unknown feeling of reverence and respect. But hearing that Jesus was accused among other things of stirring up sedition in Galilee, he thought he would shift the responsibility of acquitting or condemning, on to the shoulders of Herod, in whose jurisdiction Galilee lay. Herod was in Jerusalem just then, because of the Passover Feast. His usual residence was Capernaum.
And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.
Verse 8 - And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. This was Herod Antipas, the slayer of John the Baptist. He was at that time living in open incest with that princess Herodias concerning whom the Baptist had administered the public rebuke which had led to his arrest and subsequent execution. Godet graphically sums up the situation: "Jesus was to Herod Antipas what a juggler is to a sated court - an object of curiosity. But Jesus did not lend himself to such a part; he had neither words nor miracles for a man so disposed, in whom, besides, he saw with horror the murderer of John the Baptist. Before this personage, a monstrous mixture of bloody levity and sombre superstition, he maintained a silence which even the accusation of the Sanhedrin (ver. 10) could not lead him to break. Herod, wounded and humiliated, took vengeance on this conduct by contempt."
Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.
And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.
And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
Verse 11. - And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. He treated him, not as a criminal, but as a mischievous religious Enthusiast, worthy only of contempt and scorn. The "gorgeous robe," more accurately, "bright raiment," was a white festal mantle such as Jewish kings and Roman nobles wore on great occasions. It was probably an old robe of white tissue of some kind, embroidered with silver. Dean Plumptre suggests that we might venture to trace in this outrage a vindictive retaliation for the words which the Teacher had once spoken - with evident allusion to Herod's court - of those who were gorgeously apparelled (Luke 7:25). It was this Herod of whom the Lord had spoken so recently with for him a rare bitterness, "Go ye, and tell that fox [literally, 'she-fox'] Herod" (Luke 13:32).
And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.
Verse 12. - And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together. This union of two such bitter enemies in their enmity against Jesus evidently struck the early Church with sad wonderment. It is referred to in the first recorded hymn of the Church of Christ (Acts 4:27). How often has the strange sad scene been reproduced in the world's story since! Worldly men apparently irreconcilable meet together in friendship when opportunity offers itself for wounding Christ!
And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
Verses 13-25. - The Lord is tried again before Pilate, who wishes to release him, but, over-persuaded by the Jews, delivers him to be crucified. Verses 13-16. - And Pilate... said unto them.., behold I... have found no fault in this Man... No, nor yet Herod:... lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him; more accurately rendered, is done by him. This was the Roman's deliberate judgment publicly delivered. The decision then announced, that he would scourge him (ver. 16), was singularly unjust and cruel. Pilate positively subjected a Man whom he had pronounced innocent to the horrible punishment of scourging, just to satisfy the clamour of the Sanhedrists, because he dreaded what they might accuse him of at Rome, where he knew he had enemies! He thought, wrongly as it turned out, that the sight of Jesus after he had undergone this dreadful and disgraceful punishment would satisfy, perhaps melt to pity, the hearts of these restless enemies of his.
Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:
No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.
I will therefore chastise him, and release him.
(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)
Verse 17. - (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) Probably, however, before the scourging was inflicted, the attempt to liberate Jesus in accordance with a custom belonging to that feast was made by Pilate. We know it failed, and a condemned robber called Barabbas was preferred by the people. The more ancient authorities omit this verse (17). It probably was introduced at an early period into many manuscripts of St. Luke as a marginal. gloss, as an explanatory statement based on the words of Matthew 27:15 or of Mark 15:6. As a Hebrew custom, it is never mentioned save in this place. Such a release was a common incident of a Latin Lectisternium, or feast in honour of the gods. The Greeks had a similar custom at the Thesmophoria. It was probably introduced at Jerusalem by the Roman power.
And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:
Verses 18, 19. - And they cried out all atones, saying, Away with this Man! and release unto us Barabbas: (who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was east into prison). Barabbas, whose release the people demanded at the instigation of the influential men of the Sanhedrin, was a notable leader in one of the late insurrectionary movements so common at this time. St. John styles him a robber; this well describes the character of the man; a bandit chief who carried on his lawless career under the veil of patriotism, and was supported and protected in consequence by many of the people. The meaning of his name Bar-Abbas is "Son of a (famous) father," or possibly Bar-Rabbas, "Son of a (famous) rabbi." A curious reading is alluded to by Origen, which inserts before Barabbas the word "Jesus." It does not, however, appear in any of the older or more trustworthy authorities. Jesus was a common name at that period, and it is possible that "when Barabbas was led out, the Roman, with some scorn, asked the populace whom they preferred - Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ!" (Farrar.). That this reading existed in very early times is indisputable, and Origen, who specially notices it, approves of its omission, not on critical, but on dogmatic grounds.
(Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)
Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.
But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.
And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.
And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.
Verse 23. - And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. The Roman governor now found that all his devices to liberate Jesus with the consent and approval of the Jews were fruitless. After the clamour which resulted in the release of Barabbas had ceased, the terrible cry, "Crucify him!" was raised among that fickle crowd. Pilate was determined to carry out his threat of scourging the Innocent. That might satisfy them, perhaps excite their pity. Something whispered to him that he would be wise if he refrained from staining his life with the blood of that strange quiet Prisoner. St. Luke omits here the "scourging;" the mock-homage of the soldiers; the scarlet robe and the crown of thorns; the last appeal to pity when Pilate produced the pale, bleeding Sufferer with the words, "Ecce Homo!" the last solemn interview of Pilate and Jesus, related by St. John; the sustained clamour of the people for the blood of the Sinless. "Then he delivered Jesus to their will" (ver. 25). (See Matthew 27, Mark 15, and John 19, for these details, omitted in St. Luke.) Of the omitted details, the most important piece in connection with the "last things" is the recital by St. John of the examination of Jesus by Pilate in the Praetorium. None of the Sanhedrists or strict Jews, we have noticed, were present at these interrogatories. They, we read, entered not into the judgment-hall of Pilate, lest they might be defiled, and so be precluded from eating the Passover Feast. St. John, however, who appears to have been the most fearless of the "eleven," and who besides evidently had friends among the Sanhedrin officials, was clearly present at these examinations. He too, we are aware, had eaten his Passover the evening before, and therefore had no defilement to fear. The first interrogatories have been already alluded to, in the course of which the question, "Art thou a King, then?" was put by Pilate, and the famous reflection by the Roman, "What is truth?" was made. Then followed the "sending to Herod;" the return of the Prisoner from Herod; the offer of release, which ended in the choice by the people of Barabbas. The scourging of the prisoner Jesus followed. This was a horrible punishment. The condemned person was usually stripped and fastened to a pillar or stake, and then scourged with leather throngs tipped with leaden balls or sharp spikes. The effects, described by Romans, and Christians in the 'Martyrdoms,' were terrible. Not only the muscles of the back, but the breast, the face, the eyes, were torn; the very entrails were laid bare, the anatomy was exposed, and the sufferer, convulsed with torture, was often thrown down a bloody heap at the feet of the judge. In our Lord's case this punishment, though not proceeding to the awful consequences described in some of the 'Martyrologies,' must have been very severe: this is evident from his sinking under the cross, and from the short time which elapsed before his death upon it. "Recent investigations at Jerusalem have disclosed what may have been the scene of the punishment. In a subterranean chamber, discovered by Captain Warren, on what Mr. Fergusson holds to be the site of Antonia - Pilate's Praetorium - stands a truncated column, no part of the construction, for the chamber is vaulted above the pillar, but just such a pillar as criminals would be tied to to be scourged" (Dr. Westcott). After the cruel scourging came the mocking by the Roman soldiers. They threw across the torn and mangled shoulders one of those scarlet cloaks worn by the soldiers themselves - a coarse mockery of the royal mantle worn by a victorious general. They pressed down on his temples a crown or wreath, imitating what they had probably seen the emperor wear in the form of laurel wreath - Tiberius's wreath of laurel was seen upon his arms (Suetonius, 'Tiberius,' c. 17). The crown was made, as an old tradition represents it, of the Zizyphus Christi, the nubk of the Arabs, a plant which is found in all the warmer parts of Palestine and about Jerusalem. The thorns are numerous and sharp, and the flexible twigs well adapted for the purpose (Tristram, 'Natural History of the Bible,' p. 429). "The representations in the great pictures of the Italian painters probably come very near the truth" ('Speaker's Commentary'). In his right hand they placed a reed to simulate a sceptre, and before this sad, woebegone Figure "they bowed the knee, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!" Hase ('Geschichte Jesu,' p. 573) is even moved to say, "There is some comfort in the fact that, even in the midst of the mockery, the truth made itself felt. Herod recognizes his innocence by a white robe; the Roman soldiery his royalty by the sceptre and the crown of thorns, and that has become the highest of all crowns, as was fitting, being the most meritorious." It was then and thus that Pilate led Jesus out before the Sanhedrists and the people, as they shouted in their unreasoning fury, "Crucify him!" while the Roman, partly sadly, partly scornfully, partly pitifully, as he pointed to the silent Sufferer by his side, pronounced "Ecce Homo!" But the enemies of Jesus were pitiless. They kept on crying, "Crucify him!" and when Pilate still demurred carrying out their bloody purpose, they added that "by their Law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." All through that morning's exciting scenes had Pilate seen that something strange and mysterious belonged to that solitary Man accused before him. His demeanour, his words, his very look, had impressed the Roman with a singular awe. Then came his wife's message, telling him of her dream, warning her husband to have nothing to do with that just Man. Everything seemed to whisper to him," Do not let that strange, innocent Prisoner be done to death: he is not what he seems." And now the fact, openly published by the furious Jews, that the poor Accused claimed a Divine origin, deepened the awe. Who, then, had he been scourging? Once more Pilate returns to his judgment-hall, and he says to Jesus, again standing before him, "Whence art thou?" The result of this last interrogatory St. John (John 19:12)briefly summarizes in the words, "From thenceforth Pilate sought to release him." The Sanhedrists, and their blind instruments, the fickle, wavering multitude, when they perceived the Roman governor's intention to release their Victim, changed their tactics. They forbore any longer to press the old charges of blasphemy and of indefinite wrong-doing, and they appealed only to Pilate's own dastardly fears. The Prisoner claimed to be a King. If the lieutenant of the emperor let such a traitor go free, why, that lieutenant emphatically was not Caesar's friend! Such a plea for the Sanhedrin to use before a Roman tribunal, to ask for death to be inflicted on a Jew because he had injured the majesty of Rome, was a deep degradation; but the Sanhedrin well knew the temper of the Roman judge with whom they had to deal, and they rightly calculated that his fears for himself, if properly aroused, would turn the scale and secure the condemnation of Jesus. They were right.
And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.
Verse 24. - And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. This sums up the result of the last charge of the Sanhedrin. Pilate's selfish fears for himself overpowered all sense of reverence, awe, and justice. There was no further discussion. Bar-Abbas was released, and Jesus was delivered up to the will of his enemies.
And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.
Verses 26-32. - On the way to Calvary. Simon the Cyrenian. The daughters of Jerusalem. Verse 26. - And as they led him away. Plutarch tells us that every criminal condemned to crucifixion carried his own cross. There was borne in front of him, or else hung round his own neck, a white tablet, on which the crime for which he suffered was inscribed. Possibly this was what was afterwards affixed to the cross itself. Simon, a Cyrenian. Cyrene was an important city in North Africa, with a large colony of resident Jews. These Cyrenian Jews had a synagogue of their own in Jerusalem. It is probable that Simon was a Passover pilgrim. St. Mark tells us he was the father of "Alexander and Rufus;" evidently, from his mention of them, these were notable persons in the early Christian Church. Very likely their connection with the followers of Jesus dated from this incident on the road to Calvary. Coming out of the country. He was probably one of the pilgrims lodged in a village near Jerusalem, and met the sad procession as he was entering the city on his way to the temple. On him they laid the cross. Our Lord was weakened by the trouble and agitation of the past sleepless night, and was, of course, faint and utterly exhausted from the effects of the terrible scourging. The cross used for this mode of execution was (1)either the Cruz decussata X, what is usually known as St. Andrew's cross; or
(2) the Cruz commissa T, St. Anthony's cross; or
(3) the ordinary Roman cross †, Cruz immissa. Our Lord suffered on the third description, the Roman cross. This consisted of two pieces, the one perpendicular (staticulum), the other horizontal (antenna). About the middle of the first was fastened a piece of wood (sedile), on which the condemned rested. This was necessary, else, during the long torture, the weight of the body would have torn the hands, and the body would have fallen. The cross was not very high, scarcely twice the height of an ordinary man. Strong nails were driven through the hands and feet. The victim usually lived about twelve hours, sometimes much longer. The agonies endured by the crucified have been thus summarized: "The fever which soon set in produced a burning thirst. The increasing inflammation of the wounds in the back, hands, and feet; the congestion of the blood in the head, lungs, and heart; the swelling of every vein, an indescribable oppression, racking pains in the head; the stiffness of the limbs, caused by the unnatural position of the body; - these all united to make the punishment, in the language of Cicero ('In Verr.,' 5:64), crudelissimum teterrimumque supplicium. From the beginning Jesus had foreseen that such would be the end of his life."
And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
Verse 27. - And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. The great company was made up of the usual concourse of curious lookers-on, of disciples, and others who had heard him in past days, and now came, with much horror, to see the end. The women specially noticed consisted mostly, no doubt, of holy women of his own company, such as the "Maries," together with some of those kindly Jerusalem ladies who were in the habit of soothing the last hours of these condemned ones - unhappily in those sad days so numerous - with narcotics and anodynes. These kindly offices were apparently not forbidden by the Roman authorities. This recital respecting the women is peculiar to St. Luke.
But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
Verse 28. - But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem. This address to them by the Lord indicates that the majority at least of this company of sympathizing women belonged to the holy city. Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. Again here, as on the cross, the utter unselfishness of the dying Master comes out. His thoughts in his darkest hour were never of himself. Here, apparently, for the first time since his last interrogation before Pilate does our Lord break silence. Stier beautifully calls this the first part of the Passion sermon of Christ. The second part consisted of the "seven words on the cross." "Weep," said our Lord here It is noticeable that it is the only time in his public teaching that he is reported to have told his listeners to weep. "The same lips whose gracious breath had dried so many tears now cry on the way to the cross, 'Weep for yourselves, and for your children.'"
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
Verse 29. - Blessed are the barren. A strange beatitude to be spoken to the women of Israel, who, through all their checkered history, so passionately longed that this barrenness might not be their portion!
Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
Verse 30. - Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. The allusion, in the first place, was to the awful siege of Jerusalem and to the undreamed-of woes which would accompany it; and in the second place, to the centuries of misery and persecution to which the children of these "daughters of Jerusalem" would, as Jews, be subjected in all lands.
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
Verse 31. - For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? Bleek and others interpret this saying here thus: The green wood represents Jesus condemned to crucifixion as a traitor in spite of his unvarying loyalty to Rome and all lawful Gentile power. The dry wood pictures the Jews, who, ever disloyal to Rome and all Genesis the authority, will bring on themselves with much stronger reason the terrible vengeance of the great conquering empire. Theophylact, however, better explains the saying in his paraphrase, "If they do these things in me, fruitful, always green, undying through the Divinity, what will they do to you, fruitless, and deprived of all life-giving righteousness?" So Farrar, who well summarizes, "If they act thus to me, the Innocent and the Holy, what shall be the fate of these, the guilty and false?"
And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
Verse 32. - And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. Many commentators suppose that these, were companions of that Bar-Abbas the robber who had just been released. They were not ordinary thieves, but belonged to those companies of brigands, or revolted Jews, which in those troublous times were so numerous in Palestine.
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
Verses 33-49. - The Crucifixion. Verse 33. - And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary; literally, unto the place which is called the skull. The familiar name "Calvary" has its origin in the Vulgate translation, Calvarium, a skull. The name "Place of a skull," Golgotha (properly Gulgoltha, an Aramaic word נלגלתא, corresponding to the Hebrew Gulgoleth, גלגלת, which in Judges 9:53 and 2 Kings 9:35 is translated "skull"), does not come from the fact that the skulls of condemned persons remained lying there, but it is so called from being a bare rounded mound like a skull in form. Dean Plumptre suggests that the spot in question was chosen by the Jewish rulers as a deliberate insult to one of their own order, Joseph of Arima-thaea, whose garden, with its rock-sepulchre, lay hard by. A later legend derives the name from its being the burying-place of Adam, and that as the blood flowed from the sacred wounds on his skull, his soul was translated to Paradise. A tradition traceable to the fourth century has identified this spot with the building known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. St. Cyril of Jerusalem alludes to the spot repeatedly. In the time of Eusebius there was no doubt as to the site. The Bordeaux Pilgrim (A.D. 333) writes thus: "On the left side (of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is the hillock (monticulus) Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. Thence about a stone-throw distance is the crypt where his body was deposited." Recent research confirms this very ancient tradition, and scholars are generally now agreeing that the evidence in support of the traditional site is strong and seemingly conclusive. And the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. St. John adds, "and Jesus in the midst," as holding the position of preeminence in that scene of uttermost shame. Even in suffering Christ appears as a King. Westcott thus comments on the next detail recorded by St. John (John 19:19), where the accurate rendering is, "And Pilate wrote a title also." This title (see further, ver. 38) was drawn up by Pilate, who caused it to be placed on the cross. The words, "wrote a title also," perhaps imply that the placing of the Lord in the midst was done by Pilate's direction.
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Verse 34. - Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. These words are missing in some of the oldest authorities. They are found, however, in the majority of the most ancient manuscripts and in the most trustworthy of the old versions, and are undoubtedly genuine. These first of the seven words from the cross seem, from their position in the record, to have been spoken very early in the awful scene, probably while the nails were being driven into the hands and feet. Different from other holy dying men, he had no need to say, "Forgive me." Then, as always, thinking of others, he utters this prayer, uttering it, too, as Stier well observes, with the same consciousness which had been formerly expressed, "Father, I know that thou hearest me always." "His intercession has this for its ground, though in meekness it is not expressed: 'Father, I will that thou forgive them." In the same sublime consciousness who he was, he speaks shortly after to the penitent thief hanging by his side. These words of the crucified Jesus were heard by the poor sufferer close to him; they - with other things he had noticed in the One crucified in the midst - moved him to that piteous prayer which was answered at once so quickly and so royally. St. Bernard comments thus on this first word from the cross: "Judaei clamant, 'Crucifige! 'Christus clamat,' Ignosce!' Magna illorum iniquitas. seal major tun, O Domine, pietas!" And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. The rough soldiers were treating the Master as already dead, and were disposing of his raiment, of which they had stripped him before fastening him to the cross. He was hanging there naked, exposed to sun and wind. Part of this raiment was torn asunder, part they drew lots for to see who was to wear it. The garments of the crucified became the property of the soldiers who carried out the sentence. Every cross was guarded by a guard of four soldiers. The coat, for which they cast lots, was, St. John tells us, without seam. "Chrysostom," who may have written from personal knowledge, thinks that the detail is added to show "the poorness of the Lord's garments, and that in dress, as in all other things, he followed a simple fashion."
And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
Verse 35. - And the people stood beholding. A hush seems to have fallen over the scene. The crowd of by-standers were awed as they at first silently gazed on the dying form of the great Teacher. What memories must have surged up in the hearts of many of the gazers - memories of his parables, his mighty miracles, his words of love; memories of the raising of Lazarus, and of the day of palms! Such a silent awe-struck contemplation was dangerous, the rulers felt, so they hastened to commence their mockery - "to clear," as Stier remarks, "the stifling air, and deafen the voice which was stirring even in themselves." "Look now," they would cry, "at the end of the Man who said he could do, and pretended to do, such strange, unheard-of things!" They seem soon to have induced many to join in their mocking cries and gestures, and so to break the awful silence.
And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
Verse 36. - And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar. Three times in the Crucifixion scene we find a mention of this vinegar, or the sour wine of the country, the common drink of the soldiers and others, being offered to the Sufferer.
(1) Matthew 27:34. This was evidently a draught prepared with narcotics and stupefying drugs, no doubt by some of those compassionate women addressed by him on his way to the cross as "daughters of Jerusalem," a common work of mercy at that time, and one apparently permitted by the guards. This, St. Matthew tells us, "he tasted of," no doubt in courteous recognition of the kindly purpose of the act, but he refused to do more than taste of it. He would not dull the sense of pain, or cloud the clearness of his communion with his Father in that last awful hour.
(2) The second, mentioned here by St. Luke, seems to imply that the soldiers mocked his agony of thirst - one of the tortures induced by crucifixion - by lifting up to his parched, fevered lips, vessels containing their sour wine, and then snatching them hastily away.
(3) The third (John 19:28-30) relates that here the Lord, utterly exhausted, asked for and received this last refreshment, which revived, for a very brief space, his fast failing powers, and gave him strength for his last utterances. The soldiers, perhaps acting under the orders of the compassionate centurion in command, perhaps touched with awe by the brave patience and strange dignity of the dying Lord, did him this last kindly office.
And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Verse 38. - And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. The older authorities omit "in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew," but the fact is indisputable, for we read the same statement in John 19:20, where in the older authorities the order of the titles is, "in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek." Such multilingual inscriptions were common in the great provincial cities of the empire, where so many nationalities were wont to congregate. The four reports of the inscriptions slightly differ verbally, not substantially. Pilate probably (see note on ver. 33, on effect of accurate rendering of John 19:19, "and Pilate wrote a title also") wrote a rough draft with his own hand, "Rex Ju-daeorum hic est." One of the officials translated freely into Hebrew and Greek the Roman governor's Latin memorandum of what he desired to have written in black on the white gypsum-smeared board to be affixed to the upper arm of the cross. ישו הנצרי מלך היהודים (John).
Ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ιουδαίων (Mark).
Rex Judaeorum hic est (Luke). Dr. Farrar suggests that the title over the cross was as above. St. Matthew's is an accurate combination of the three, and was not improbably, as a combination of the three inscriptions, the common form reproduced in the first oral Gospel.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
Verses 39, 40. - And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God? In the first two synoptists we read how, shortly after they were nailed to their crosses, both thieves "reviled" Jesus. The Greek word, however, used by SS. Matthew and Mark is ὠνείδιζον (reproached). The word used by St, Luke in this place of the impenitent one is ἐβλασφήμει, "began to use injurious and insulting language" - a much stronger term. Farrar suggests that at first, during the early hours of the Crucifixion, in the madness of anguish and despair, they both probably joined in the reproaches levelled by all classes alike at One who might seem to them to have thrown away a great opportunity. They, no doubt, knew something, possibly much, of Jesus' career, and how he had deliberately prevented more than once the multitude from proclaiming him King. Watching him as he hung bravely patient on his cross, only breaking the dread silence with a low-muttered prayer for his murderers to his Father, one of these misguided men changed his opinion of his fellow-Sufferer, changed his opinion, too, of his own past career. There, dying with a prayer for others on his lips, was the Example of true heroism, of real patriotism. If thou be Christ. The more ancient authorities read, Art thou not the Christ? But the other. In the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus the names of the two are given as Dysmas and Gysmas, and these names appear still in Calvaries and stations in Roman Catholic lands. Seeing thou art in the same condemnation. His words might be paraphrased, "How canst thou, a dying man, join these mere lookers-on at our execution and agony? we are undergoing it ourselves. Dost thou net fear God? In a few hours we shall be before him. We have at all events deserved our doom; but not this Sufferer whom you revile. What has he done?"
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
Verse 42. - And he said unto Jesus. Lord, remember me when thou oomest into thy kingdom. The majority of the older authorities omit "Lord." The translation should run thus: And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom - in, not into. The penitent looked forward to the dying Jesus coming again in (arrayed in) his kingly dignity, surrounded with his power and glory. Very touching is this confidence of the dying in the Dying One who was hanging by his side, his last garment taken from him; very striking is this trust of the poor penitent, that the forsaken Lord will one day appear again as King in his glory. He, and he alone, on that dread day read aright the superscription which mocking Pilate had fixed above the cross, "This is the King of the Jews." He read "with Divine clearsightedness in this deepest night" (Krum-reacher). He asks for no special place in that kingdom whose advent he sees clearly approaching; he only asks the King not to forget him then. On this knowledge of the thief concerning the second advent of Christ, Meyer well writes, "The thief must have become acquainted with the predictions of Jesus concerning his coming, which may very easily have been the case at Jerusalem, and does not directly presuppose any instructions on the part of Jesus; although he may also have heard him himself, and still remembered what he heard. The extraordinary character of his painful position in the very face of death produced as a consequence an extraordinary action of firm faith in those predictions."
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Verse 43. - And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise. No strengthening angel could have been more welcome to the dying Redeemer than these words of intense penitence and strong faith. Very beautifully Stier suggests that the crucified King "cannot see these two criminals, cannot direct his glance to this last without adding to his own agony by movement upon the cross. But that he forgets, and turns with an impulse of joy as well as he can to the soul that speaks to him, thus making the nails more firm." With those solemn words, "Verily I say unto thee," with which he had so often in old days begun his sacred sayings, he replied to the sufferer by his side. One at least, St. John, of his disciples would have heard the well-known words from the well-known voice. What memories must they not have recalled to that disciple whom Jesus loved, as he stood hard by the cross with the Mother of sorrows! The Lord's answer was very striking, Remember him, who could call on him with such reverent faith at the moment of his deepest humiliation! Remember him! yes; but not in the far-off "coming," but on that very day, before the sun then scorching their tortured bodies set; he would not be remembered by him only, but would be in closest companionship with him, not, as he prayed, in some far-off time in the midst of the awful tumult of the bloody and fiery dawn of the judgment advent, but almost directly in the fair garden, the quiet home of the blessed, the object of all Jewish hopes. There would he be remembered, and there, in company with his Lord, would the tortured condemned find himself in a few short hours. Are we right in thinking that there was no fulfilment of the words till death had released the spirit from its thraldom? May there not even then have been an ineffable joy, such as made the flames of the fiery furnace to be as a "moist, whistling wind" (Song of the Three Children, ver. 27), such as martyrs have in a thousand cases known, acting almost as a physical anaesthetic acts? (Dean Plumptre).
"Non parem Paulo veniam require,
Gratiam Petri neque posco, sed quam
In crucis ligno dederis latroni
Sedulus oro." This striking verse is engraved on the tomb of the great Copernicus, and alludes to this prayer and its answer. Paradise. This is the only instance we have of our Lord's using this well-known word. In the ordinary language used by the Jews, of the unseen world, it signifies the" Garden of Eden," or "Abraham's bosom;" it represented the locality where the souls of the righteous would find a home, after death separated soul and body. The New Testament writers, Luke and Paul and John, use it (Acts 2:31; 1 Corinthians 15:5; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7). To Luke and Paul, probably, this was a memory of the word spoken on the cross, which they alone record in their Gospel. It may have been told Luke by the Mother of sorrows herself. John, who uses it in his Revelation, doubtless heard it himself as he stood at the foot of the cross. Paradeisos is derived from the Persian word pardes, which signifies a park or garden.
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
Verse 44. - The time of the Crucifixion. And it was about the sixth hour. We have before given (see note on Luke 22:47) the approximate hours of the several acts of the last night and day. This verse gives us the time of the duration of the "darkness" - from the sixth to the ninth hour; that is in our reckoning, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. With this date the other two synoptists agree (comp. Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33). Our Lord had then been on the cross three hours (see Mark 15:25, where it is stated that he was crucified in the third hour, i.e. 9 a.m.). But while the three synoptists are in perfect harmony, we are met with a grave difficulty in St. John's account, for in John 19:14: of his Gospel we read how the final condemnation of our Lord by Pilate took place about the sixth hour. At first sight, to attempt here to harmonize St. John with the three synoptists would seem a hopeless task, as St. John apparently gives the hour of the final condemnation by Pilate, which the three give as the hour when the darkness began, i.e. when the Sufferer had already hung on the cross for three hours. Various explanations have been suggested; among these the most satisfying and probable is the supposition that, while the three synop-tists followed the usual Jewish mode of reckoning time, St. John, writing some half a century later in quite another country, possibly twenty years after Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed, and the Jewish polity had disappeared, adopted another mode of reckoning the hours, thus following, probably, a practice of the province in which he was living, and for which he was especially writing. Dr. Westcott, in an additional note on John 19:14, examines the four occasions on which St. John mentions a definite hour of the day; and comes to the conclusion that the fourth evangelist generally reckoned his hours from midnight. The Romans reckoned their civil days from midnight, and there are also traces of reckoning the hours kern midnight in Asia Minor. "About the sixth hour" would then be about six a.m. Before touching upon the strange darkness which at the sixth hour seems to have hung over the land like a black pall, we note that somewhere in the first three hours, possibly after the words spoken to the dying penitent, must be placed the incident of the entrusting the virgin-mother to St. John (John 19:25, etc.). There is no doubt that on the surface of this, his third word from the cross, lay a loving desire to spare his mother the sight of his last awful suffering. Hence his command to John to watch over from henceforth the mother of his Lord. We may assume, then, that, in obedience to his Master's word, John led Mary away before the sixth hour. So Bengel, who comments here, "Great is the faith of Mary to be present at the cross; great was her submission to go away before his death." And there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. St. Matthew gives us additional particulars respecting this phenomenon. He says that besides this darkness there was also an earthquake, and that several graves were opened, and the dead during those hours of solemn gloom appeared to many in the holy city. Early Christian writers of high authority, such as Tertullian ('Apol.,' ch. 21) and Origen ('Contra Cels.,' 2:33), appeal to this strange phenomenon as if attested by heathen writers. It was evidently no slight or imaginary portent, but one that was well known in the early Christian years. The narrative does not oblige us to think of anything more than an indescribable and oppressive darkness, which like a vast black pall hung over earth and sea. The effect on the scoffing multitude was quickly perceptible. We hear of no more cries of mocking and derision; only just at the end of the three dark hours is the silence broken by the mysterious and awful cry of the Sinless One related by SS. Matthew and Mark, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Godet's comment is remarkable: "The darkness, the rending of the veil of the temple, the earthquake, and the opening of several graves, are explained by the profound connection existing on the one side between Christ and humanity, on the other between humanity and nature. Christ is the Soul of humanity, as humanity is the soul of the external world." The darkness, he suggests, was perhaps connected with the earthquake with which it was accompanied, or it may have resulted from an atmospherical or cosmical cause. The phenomenon need not necessarily have extended over all the earth: it probably was confined to Palestine and the adjacent countries.
And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
Verse 45. - And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. This was the inner veil, which hung between the holy place and the holy of holies. It was rich with costly embroidery, and very heavy. Before the willing surrender of life told of in the next versa (46), our Lord spoke twice more. These fifth and sixth words from the cross are preserved by St. John (John 19:28, 30). The first of these, "I thirst " - an expression of bodily exhaustion, of physical suffering - was predicted as part of the agony of the Servant of God (Psalm 69:21). The second, "It is finished!" tells that "the earthly life had been carried to its issue. That every essential point in the prophetic portraiture of Messiah had been realized. The last suffering for sin had been endured. The end of all had been gained. Nothing was left undone or unborne" (Westcott).
And when Jesus 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.
Verse 46. - And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said. This is better rendered, and Jesus cried with a loud voice and said. The cry with the loud voice is the solemn dismissal of his spirit when he commended it to his Father. The object of the receiving the refreshment of the vinegar - the sour wine (John 19:30) - was that his natural forces, weakened by the long suffering, should be restored sufficiently for him to render audible the last two sayings - the "It is finished!" of St. John, and the commending his soul to his Father, of St. Luke. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. St. John (John 19:30) has related now already Jesus had uttered the triumphal cry, Τετέλεσται! "It is finished!" This was his farewell to earth. St. Luke records the words which seem almost immediately to have followed the "It is finished!" This commending his spirit to his Father has been accurately termed his entrance greeting to heaven. This placing his spirit as a trust in the Father's hands is, as Stier phrases it, an expression of the profoundest and most blessed repose after toil. "It is finished!" has already told us that the struggling and combat were sealed and closed for ever. Doctrinally it is a saying of vast importance; for it emphatically asserts that the soul will exist apart from the body in the hands of God. This at least is its proper home. The saying has been echoed on many a saintly death-bed. Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, in his great agony shows us the form of this blessed prayer we should properly use for ourselves at that supreme hour, when he asked the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit, and then fell asleep. Thus coming to the Son, we come through him to the Father. Huss, on his way to the stake, when his enemies were triumphantly giving over his soul to devils, said with no less theological accuracy than with sure, calm faith, "But I commit my spirit into thy hand, O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast redeemed it." And having said thus, he gave up the ghost. This setting his spirit free was his own voluntary act. He already told his disciples of his own independent power to lay down and take up his life (John 10:17, 18). The great teachers of the early Church evidently lay stress on; his (see Tertullian, 'Apol.,' ch. 21). Augustine's words are striking: "Quis ita dormit quando voluerit, sicut Jesus mortuus est quando voluit? Quis ita vestem ponit quando voluerit, sieur se came exuit quando writ? Quis ita cum voluerit abit, quomodo the cure voluit obiit?" and he ends with this practical conclusion: "Quanta spe-randa vel timenda potestas est judicantis, si apparuit tanta morientis?" "Under these circumstances," writes Dr. Westeott, "it may not be fitting to speculate on the physical cause of the Lord's death, but it h,s been argued that the symptoms agree with a rupture of the heart, such as might i.e. produced by intense mental agony."
Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.
Verse 47. - Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man. This was the Roman officer who was in command of the detachment on guard at the three crosses. St. Paul - who, if he did not absolutely put together the Third Gospel and the Acts, had much to do with the compilation and arrangement of these writings - on his many journeys and frequent changes of residence in different parts of the empire, had many opportunities of judging the temper and spirit of the Roman army, and on several occasions speaks favourably of these officers (Luke 7:2; Luke 23:47; Acts 10:1; Acts 22:26; Acts 27:43). Certainly this was a righteous Man. The noble generosity, the brave patience, and the strange majesty of the Sufferer; the awful portents which for three hours had accompanied this scene - portents which the centurion and many of the bystanders could not help associating with the crucifixion of him men called "the King of the Jews;" then the death, in which appeared no terror; - all this drew forth the exclamation of the Roman. In St. Matthew, the words of the centurion which are reported are "the Son of God." Twice in those solemn hours had the centurion heard the Crucified pray to his Father. This may have suggested the words, "Son of God;" but this change in the later Gospel of St. Luke to "a righteous Man" seems to point to the sense in which the Roman used the lofty appellation.
And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
Verse 48. - And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. We must remember that the condemnation of the Christ was no spontaneous deed of the multitude. Their miserable share in the act was suggested to them by their rulers. In the multitude very quickly revulsion of feeling sets in, and they often regret the past with a bitter, useless regret. The wave of sorrow which seems to have swept across those wavering, unstable hearts, which induced them to smite their breasts in idle regret, was a dim and shadowy rehearsal of the mighty sorrow and true penitence which will one day, as their prophet told them, be the blessed lot of the once-loved people when "they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son" (Zechariah 12:10).
And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.
Verse 49. - Stood afar off. Disciples open and secret, friends and acquaintances among the Jerusalem citizens and Galihaean pil-trims (with the exception of the little group of which Mary and John were the centre till the dying Lord bade them leave him), all alike lacked courage and devotion, all feared to stand by their Master and Friend at that awful season. He trod the winepress alone (see Isaiah 63:3). None possessed the heroic faith which through the sombre cloud of seeming failure could see the true glory of the Sun of Righteousness, which so soon was to arise and shine.
And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counseller; and he was a good man, and a just:
Verses 50-56. - The entombment. The sequence of events which immediately followed the death of Christ appears to have been as follows. Our Lord expired apparently soon after 3 p.m. The "even" alluded to by St. Matthew and St. Mark began at 3 p.m. and lasted till sunset, about 6 p.m., when the sabbath commenced. Some time, then, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Joseph of Arima-thaea went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. The governor was surprised, not at the request, but at hearing that Jesus was dead already (Mark 15:44), and, to assure himself of the fact, sent to inquire of the centurion on duty at the crosses. Some. where about the same time, probably a little later in the "evening," but still before 6 p.m., the Jews, i.e. the Sanhedrin leaders, came to Pilate with a request that the death of the three crucified might be hastened by their legs being broken, in order that their bodies hanging on the crosses might not pollute the very sacred day which followed. (It would be the sabbath, and the day of the Passover.) This terrible, but perhaps merciful, end to the tortures of the cross seems not to have been uncommon in Jewish crucifixion inflicted by the Roman authority. Crucifixion with this and all its attendant hinters was abolished by the first Christian emperor Constantine in the fourth century. The two thieves apparently expired under this treatment. The soldiers, however, when they looked on the form hanging on the central cross, found the Crucified, as we know, dead already. To make sure of this, one of the executioners thrust his spear deeply into the side of the motionless body of Jesus, "and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:33, 35). Upon this, in accordance with the permission of the governor already obtained, the body of the Lord was delivered to Joseph of Arimathaea and his friends. Verses 50, 51. - And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them; ) he was of Arimathaea. This Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, a personage of high distinction in Jerusalem, and evidently of great wealth. It is especially mentioned that his vote in the supreme council was not given when the death of Jesus was determined on. Nicodemus and his costly offering of spices for the entombment is only mentioned by St. John (John 19:39). Arimathaea, the place whence this Joseph came, is famous in Jewish history, being identical with Ramathaim Zophim, the "Ramah of the watchers," the native town of Samuel. Each evangelist speaks of Joseph in high terms, and each in his own way. "Luke styles him 'a counsellor, good and just;' he is the καλὸς κὰγαθός, the Greek ideal. Marl; calls him 'an honourable counsellor,' the Roman ideal. Matthew writes of him as 'a rich man:' is not this the Jewish ideal?" (Godet). And St. John, we might add, chooses another title for this loved man, "being a disciple of Jesus:" this was St. John's ideal. In Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus we have specimens of a class of earnest and devout Jews, perhaps not uncommon at that time - men who respected and admired our Lord as a Teacher, and half believed in him as the Messiah (the Christ), arid yet from many mixed and various motives shrank from confessing him before men till after the cross had been endured. It was not only the Resurrection which so enormously increased the number and raised the character of the followers of Jesus. When he was gone, men reflected on the inimitable life, on the deep, heart-searching teaching, on the confirmatory works of power; and when the news of the Resurrection came, the little wavering, half-hearted band of follower's and hearers became in a few months a great host, and in a few years they had spread over the then civilized world. There is a strange but interesting tradition which tells how this Joseph of Arimathaea came to Great Britain about A.D. , and settled in Glastonbury, and there erected a humble Christian oratory, the first in England. The miraculous thorn of Glastonbury, long supposed to bud and blossom every Christmas Day, was reported to have sprung from the staff which Joseph stuck in the groined as he stopped to rest himself on the hill-top.
(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.
This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
Verse 53. - And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen. The last sad rites of love seem all to have been performed by friendly hands. Joseph and Nicodemus, and those with them, reverently took down the pierced and bleeding body; then, after the usual ablution, the sacred head was covered with the napkin, the soudarion (St. John), and the holy body was wrapped tenderly and carefully in broad bands of the finest linen, covered with thick layers of the costly aromatic preparation of which Nicodemus had laid up such ample store (St. John). This was to preserve the loved remains of the Master from any corruption which might set in before they could proceed with the process of embalming, which was delayed necessarily until after the sabbath and Passover day were passed. St. John adds, "as the manner of the Jews is to bury," probably marking the Jewish custom of embalming and thus preserving the body, as contrasted with burning, which was the Roman usage. And laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone. St. John tells us the sepulchre was in a garden. This seems not to have been an unusual practice with "the great" among the Jews. Josephus relates of Kings Uzziah and Manasseh that they were buried in their gardens ('Ant.,' 9:10 and John 10:3. 2). "He made his grave with the rich" (Isaiah 53:9). Wherein never man before was laid. St. John styles it "a new sepulchre." These details are given to show that the Lord's sacred body was not brought into contact with corruption.
And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
Verse 54. - And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. It was the preparation for the sabbath, but more especially for the great Passover Feast. St. John, for this reason, calls the coming sabbath "a high day." Drew on; literally began to dawn; although the sabbath began at sunset, the whole time of darkness was regarded as anticipatory of the dawn. The evening of Friday was sometimes even called "the daybreak."
And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.
Verses 55. 56. - And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. The real process of embalming, the women who were of the company of Jesus - the Maries, Salome, and others - proposed to undertake as soon as the sabbath was passed, that is, on the first day of the coming week - the Sunday. How little even his nearest and dearest friends dreamed of a resurrection of the body! It seems probable that they expected, at least some of them, a glorious reappearance of Jesus, but when, but how, they had evidently formed no definite conception. None, however, seemed to have thought of the bodily resurrection which took place on the first day of the week- on that Sunday morning. St. Matthew (Matthew 27:62-66) relates how, after the entombment, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and asked that the sepulchre might, "until the third day," be made sure; and how the Roman governor bade them take such precautions as seemed good to them. These - his bitter opponents - were more clearsighted than his friends. They had some dim fears of something which might still follow, while his disciples, in their hopeless sorrow, thought nil was over. And rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. "It was the last sabbath of the old covenant. It was scrupulously respected" (Godet).
And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.