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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 27

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Verse 1

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:

When the morning was come — They had broken their sleep the night before, and yet were up and at it early the next morning, so soon as the day peeped ( ως εγενετο ημερα ), Luke 22:66 . So sedulous are the devil’s servants. Esau began to bustle with Jacob even in the very womb, that no time might be lost.

Verse 2

And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

And when they had bound him — Bound he had been before this (to loose the cords of our iniquities): but likely they had loosed him again, to try if by fair means they could make him belie himself. So those martyrs were tempted, Hebrews 11:37 . ( επρισθησαν, επειρασθησαν .) And this was Julian’s way of persecuting the primitive Christians, as Nazianzen testifieth: persecutioni suae miscuit persuasionem; ideoque fuit superioribus nocentior, et perniciosior. So Bonner, after he had allowed William Hunter, martyr, a halfpenny a day in bread and drink in prison, persuaded with him, saying, If thou wilt recant, I will make thee a freeman in the city, and give thee forty pounds in good money, to set up thine occupation also; or I will make thee steward of mine house, and set thee in office. So, to reduce Dr Taylor, martyr, they promised him not only his pardon, but a bishopric.

Verse 3

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,

Then Judas, which had betrayed him — Might not Judas have sang care away, now that he had both the bag and the price of blood, but he must come and betray himself. While he played alone, he won all; but soon after, his own "wickedness corrected him, and his backslidings reproved him,"Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 2:19 . Sin will surely prove evil and bitter, when the bottom of the bag is once turned upward. A man may have the stone, who feels no fit of it. Conscience will work once; though for the time, one may feel no fit of accusation: Laban showed himself at parting. "Knowest thou not that there will be bitterness in the latter end?" 2 Samuel 2:26 . But the devil deals with men as the panther does with the beasts: he hides his deformed head, till his sweet scent have drawn them into his danger. Till we have sinned, Satan is a parasite; when we have sinned he is a tyrant. But it is good to consider that of Bernard. At the day of judgment a pure conscience shall better bestead one than a full purse. In die iudicii plus valebit conscientia pura quam marsupia plena.

When he saw that he was condemned — He hoped, belike, that Christ would, as at other times he did, have delivered himself by a miracle. Let no man flatter himself, as if there were no such hurt in sin; for like dirty dogs, it doth but defile us in fawning: and like a treacherous host, though it welcome us into the inn with smiling countenance, yet it will cut our throats in our beds. Judas was first nibbling upon the silver bait, after which the hook of conscience troubled him.

He repented — That is, he changed his mind ( μεταμεληθεις ), from thinking well of his former actions. So those miscreants in Malachi are said to "return and discern," …, Malachi 3:18 . So Rodolphus, Duke of Suabia, when, at the pope’s instigation, taking up arms against Henry the emperor, he had lost his right hand in the battle, he sent for his bishops and other his confederates, and said unto them: Lo, this is that hand wherewith I swore that allegiance to my sovereign, which by your means and motion I have violated. Videte an recta via me duxeritis, … Consider whether you have led me on in a right way or not. (Func. Chronol.)

" Hic fuit ille cui Papa coronam misit cum ista inscriptione,

Petra dedit Petro, Petrus diadema Rodulpho. "

And brought again the thirty pieces — So did James Abbes bring to the Bishop of Norwich his forty pence fastened upon him by the bishop; which when he had received (saith Mr Fox) and was gone from the bishop, who had prevailed with him to recant, his conscience began to throb, and inwardly to accuse this fact, how he had displeased the Lord by consenting to their beastly illusions. In which combat with himself, being piteously vexed, he went to the bishop again, and there threw him his money, and said, it repented him that he ever consented to their wicked persuasions in taking of his money. Hereupon the bishop with his chaplains laboured afresh to win him again, but he was better resolved, and crying out to God for pardon of his sin (which Judas did not) he obtained mercy, and suffered martyrdom.

Verse 4

Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that .

I have sinned, … — Here was contrition, confession, restitution (most men go not so far, that yet profess large hopes of heaven); there was wanting that transmentation, conversion, obedience of faith that should have completed his repentance. He died in the birth, as that foolish child Ephraim. He confessed to men, and not to God; and by his confession he sought no more than to ease his heart, as drunkards by vomiting rid their stomachs. So Latemus of Louvain confessed, inter horrendos mugitus, se contra conscientiam adversatum esse veritati, roaring and crying out, that against his conscience he had persecuted the truth of God. Melancth. in Chronic. In trouble of mind, all will out. Conscience, like Samson’s wife, conceals not the riddle: like Futvia, a whorish woman, who declared all the secrets of her foolish lover Cneius, a noble Roman. Sallust. in Bel. Catil.

What is that to us? See thou to that — Miserable comforters, physicians of no value. "To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend: but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty,"Job 6:14; Job 6:14 . The devil and his imps love to bring men into the briers, and there leave them; as familiar devils forsake their witches, when they have brought them once into fetters. Thus the old Bethelite, that had been at pains to fetch back the prophet, would not go back with him. Thus the Papists burnt Cranmer recanting, and the present prelates cast off their great anti-Sabbatarian, White, when they had served their turns on him. David, when he was hunted from Samuel the prophet, fled to Abimelech the priest, as one that knew that justice and compassion should dwell in those breasts that are consecrated to God. But Judas met with no such matter in the priests of his time. Those mischievous men left him, when they had led him to his bane.

Verse 5

And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

And he cast down the pieces of silver — That wage of wickedness burnt in his purse, in his conscience; neither could it secure him in the day of wrath. See Zephaniah 1:18 ; Ezekiel 7:19 ; Obadiah 1:4 James 4:1-2 . Omnia fui, et nihil mihi profitit, I had everything and it profited my nothing, said Severus the emperor, when he lay dying. Most of the emperors got nothing by their advancement to the empire, whereof they were so ambitious, but this, Ut citius interficerentur, that they were slain the sooner. All, or most of them, till Constantine, died unnatural deaths. Achan’s wedge of gold served but to cleave asunder his soul from his body; and the Babylonish garment but for a shroud.

And went and hanged himself — If you confess yourself to a priest, and not to God, said that martyr, you shall have the reward that Judas had. For he confessed himself to a priest, and yet went and hanged himself by-and-by. So did Porter, townclerk of London in Henry VIII’s time, who had before sworn a great oath, that if the king’s highness would set forth the Scripture in English, and let it be read of the people by his authority, rather than he would so long live, he would cut his own throat. But he brake promise: for shortly after he hanged himself. And about the same time, Foxford, chancellor to the bishop of London, a cruel persecutor and butcher of the saints, died suddenly in his chair, his belly being burst, and his guts falling out before him; as likewise Judas’ did, Cum quodam singulari crepitus fragore, as the word ελακησε imports, Acts 1:18 . Selneccerus makes mention of a covetous bishop of Misna in Germany, who had the devil for his death’s man. And Dr Morton, late bishop of Durham, reports a story of his own knowledge, of one Sir Booth, a Bachelor of Arts in St John’s College in Cambridge, who, being popishly affected, took the consecrated bread at the time of the communion; and forbearing to eat it, conveyed and kept it closely for a time, and afterwards threw it over the college wall. But a short time after, not enduring the torment of his guilty conscience, he threw himself headlong over the battlements of the chapel, and some few hours after ended his life. "The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity:" some shift or other a man may make to suffer whatsoever other calamities, "but a wounded spirit who can bear?"Proverbs 18:14; Proverbs 18:14: there is no fighting with a mighty fire, no bearing up sail against a storm. Job, when once wet to the skin, curseth the day of his birth, and thinketh it better to be strangled or hanged than longer to endure it, Job 7:15 . And yet God was but in jest, as it were, with Job, in comparison of Judas.

Verse 6

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.

It is not lawful, … — They would not suffer the price of blood to lie in a chest; but the blood itself they could well enough suffer to lie in their consciences. So our modern Pharisees (the Popish prelates) will not be present when the martyrs are condemned to death, but have a hypocritical form of interceding for them to the secular powers, whereas they themselves have delivered them up to the judges to be executed, Quos suis praeiudiciis damnarunt, as one speaketh, having first degraded, excommunicated, and adjudged them worthy of death.

Verse 7

And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.

To bury strangers in — Romans and others, with whom they would have nothing common, no, not so much as a burial place, Isaiah 65:4-5 . God complains of a people that "remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments; which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou," …; sick they were of a Noli me tangere, Do not touch me, strict in trifles, senseless of foul sins. There are those who tell us, that the nature of this potter’s field is such, as, if a stranger’s body be laid in it, it consumes it to the bone in twenty-four hours; which it doth not to the body of any Jew. This, if it be true, saith one, it seems God would have the earth thus marked to preserve the memory of the bloody money by which it was purchased; and therefore he gave it a virtue to consume strangers’ bodies ere they could corrupt, refusing the Jews; to show how they had lost their privilege to their own land, by crucifying their Lord, and strangers began to be possessed of it. Also, to teach us, that his hope is nearest incorruption, who is the greatest stranger from the sin of the Jews, that is, crucifying Christ.

Verse 8

Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

Was called the field of blood — Not the burial place for strangers, as they would have had it called (thinking thereby to have gotten themselves an eternal commendation, for their love and liberality to strangers), but "the field of blood" (so the Vulgate would needs call it, much against these masters’ minds), for a lasting monument of their detestable villany, which they thought to have carried so cleanly, that the world should have been never the wiser; and therefore they would not kill Christ themselves as they did Stephen; but, to decline the envy, delivered him up to Pilate to be put to death. It is hard if hypocrites be not, by one means or other, detected; how else should their names rot?

Verse 9

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;

Then was fulfilled — Those blind Pharisees not only observed not the sayings of the prophets which they daily read, but unwittingly also fulfilled them.

By Jeremiah the prophet — Indeed by Zechariah the prophet; but either Jeremiah had two diffferent names (as was ordinary among that people), or else what Jeremiah had preached Zechariah long after committed to writing, as did likewise Obadiah, …

The price of him that was valued — A goodly price set there upon God, for all his pastoral pains with that perverse people; and hereupon Christ (who is hereby proven to be God), for all his inestimable worth, and incomparable love to lost mankind. If we be at any time undervalued, as we are sure to be (for the world knows us not, 1 John 3:2 ), what so great a matter is it? Was not the Lord Christ infinitely underrated?

Verse 10

And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

And gave them for the potter’s field — To the potter (saith Zechariah), in the house of the Lord. What the prophet sets down in short, and more obscurely, the evangelist expounds, and applies to Christ the antitype. So true is that observation of divines, that the Old Testament is both explained and fulfilled in the New, by a happy harmony.

Verse 11

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.

And Jesus stood before the governor — The best therefore and most innocent may be brought before magistrates, and accused of high treason, which ever was, as Lipsius observeth out of Tacitus, Unicum crimen eorum qui crimine vacabant. Elijah was held the king’s enemy. Jeremiah laid by the heels for a traitor to the State. Paul styled a pest. Luther a trumpet of rebellion. Beza a seedsman of sedition, … Christ’s accusers here shamelessly appeal him of matters that were evidently untrue. This Pilate saw, and therefore sought so many ways to deliver him.

Verse 12

And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

He answered nothing — Here the nimble lawyer would have presently argued, as the pope’s legate did at the meeting of the princes at Smalcaldia in Germany. He brought letters from the pope to the elector of Saxony; and because the elector gave him not a present answer, he inferred, Qui tacet consentire videtur. Melancthon being by, made answer, Hoc est sophisticum; est regula iuris, sed non valet inconiecturalibus. Nam dicit, videtur, et argumentum videtur; solvitur per non videtur. Joh. Manl. loc. com. p. 406. Christ therefore answered nothing, because they alleged nothing but notorious lies, and such as he saw well the governor himself saw through, and therefore tried so many policies to set him free.

Verse 13

Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

Hearest thou not, … — Yes, well enough; but there is a time when a man should be as a "deaf man that heareth not, and as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth," Psalms 38:13 . Ego aurium Dominus, ut tu linguae, said he in Tacitus to his obstreperous adversary. If I cannot command thy tongue, yet I can command mine own ears. And the "prudent will keep silence in an evil time," saith Amos, Amos 5:13 . See Trapp on " Matthew 26:62 " Patience and silence were Isaac’s apology to Ishmael. Sile, et funestam dedisti plagam, saith Chrysostom.

Verse 14

And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.

The governor marvelled — That Christ should so betray his own cause, by an obstinate silence. But why marvelled he not as much at the impudence of the priests, pressing such palpable untruths against him? He did, no doubt; and yet against all equity yielded to their importunity. But should not magistrates be men of courage, coeur-de-lions? Solomon’s throne was supported by lions; to show what manner of men such should be as sit in places of judicature.

Verse 15

Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

The governor was wont — In remembrance, say some, of their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage. A custom it was, and therefore obtained; but an evil custom, and therefore should better have been abrogated. Custom without truth is but hoariness or mouldiness of error, saith one. And custom without righteousness is but antiquity of iniquity, saith another. A custom they have in Rome to this day, that if a cardinal meet a condemned person going to execution, and put his hat on the malefactor’s head, he is thereby set free. I see no sense for such a pardon. But the inhabitants of Berne in Germany gave a general pardon to most of their prisoners, and called home their banished that same day wherein the Reformation was received and established among them. Heidfeld And they gave this reason for it. Gravissimo hoc argumento usi. Scult. Annul. Should some confederate prince pass through our coasts, we should for his sake pardon our offenders, upon promise of amendment. Now shall the King of kings, the Son of God, and our dear Brother, who hath done and suffered so much for us, come graciously unto us; and we not honour him this way also? Saul, for joy of his victory over the Ammonites, would not suffer such to be put to death as had spoken treason against him; for "today," said he, "the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel," 1 Samuel 11:13 .

Verse 16

And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.

A notable prisoner, called Barabbas — That is, by interpretation, his father’s son, his white son, his darling, his tidling, A pampered or spoiled child; a darling, pet; a young, delicate, or puny child or animal, needing special care; a weakling, ‘dilling’. ŒD whom he had cockered and not crossed from his youth. Such children are often undone, as Absalom, Amnon, and Adonijah were by their parents’ indulgence. How many a Barabbas, brought to the gallows, blameth his fond father, and haply curseth him in hell!

Verse 17

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?

Whom will ye that I release? — Pilate hoped they would never be so grossly wicked as to prefer such a stigmatical varlet. A man or lad acting as an attendant or servant; a menial, a groom. ŒD But why did he give them the liberty of such a choice? Why did he not rather (as Job) "break the jaws of the wicked, and pluck the spoil out of their teeth?" Job 29:17 . Should not the standard be made of hardest metals? the chief post of the house be heart of oak? Was it not pusillanimity and popularity that misled Pilate, and so muzzled him, that he could not contradict the manyheaded multitude?

Verse 18

For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

For he knew that for envy — His sin was the greater for his knowledge,James 4:17; James 4:17 . Omne peccatum contra conscientiam aedificat ad gehennam, saith Gerson. When men imprison their light (that prophet from God), Romans 1:18 , and after conviction run away with the bit in their mouths, as it were, they run, without God’s greater mercy, upon their utter ruin and destruction. Tostatus truly observeth, that Solomon’s idolatry was a sin far more sinful than that of his wives, because against knowledge.

Verse 19

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.

His wife sent unto him — There are those who think that this woman’s dream was of the devil; thereby to have hindered the work of redemption by this composition. Satan and his agents, when they cannot conquer, would fain compound. Others will have it to be a divine dream, because it was sent, say they, for the better clearing of Christ’s innocence, even while he stood at the bar; yea, for the salvation of this woman’s soul, as Theophylact is of the opinion. Opus providentiae Dei; non ut solveretur Christus, sed ut servaretur uxor.

Verse 20

But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

The chief priests and elders persuaded — And prevailed. See then how needful it is that we pray for good governors; Jeroboam made Israel to sin; Peter compelled the Gentiles to Judaize, Galatians 2:14 . As the corruption of a fish begins at the head, and as in a beast the whole body follows the head, so are the people overruled by their rulers.

Verse 21

The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.

They said, Barabbas — This mad choice is every day made, while men prefer the lusts of their flesh before the lives of their souls. In the present instance we may see, as in a mirror, the inconstancy of the common sort (who erst cried Christ up for a prophet, and would have crowned him for a king) and the desperate madness of the priests, Qui citius diabolum ex inferno petivissent quam Iesum, as Pareus hath it, who would have desired the devil of hell, rather than Jesus. Sic neutrum modo mas modo vulgus.

Verse 22

Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

Let him be crucified — He whom erewhile they had little less than deifed. See how soon evil company and counsel had altered them, like as walnut tree roots embitter the roots of all the trees about them. Si quis obsequatur Calliae, statim reddet cum temulentum Callias; si Alcibiadi, iactatorem; si Crobylo, coquum, …, saith Aelian. A man easily conformeth to his company.

Verse 23

And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

Why? What evil hath he done? — Why? but if he have done no evil, wherefore doth not Pilate pronounce him innocent, contra gentes, facing the people, and not guilty him by proclamation? which because he did not, but the contrary, was he not therefore, by a just judgment of God upon him, kicked off the bench by the Emperor Tiberius? Judge Hales came to an evil end for crossing his conscience. And Judge Morgan, who gave the sentence of that peerless Lady Jane Grey’s death, presently fell mad; and in all his distracted fits, cried out continually, Take away the Lady Jane, take away the Lady Jane from me. It is reported of Nevessan, a better lawyer than an honest man, that he should say, He that will not venture his body, shall never be valiant; he that will not venture his soul, never rich.

Verse 24

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 .

He took water — Too weak an element to wash off guilt; which is not purged but by the blood of Christ, or fire of hell.

And washed his hands — An old ceremony, used in this case, both by Jews Deuteronomy 21:6-7 Acts 18:6 and Gentiles, as the scholiast upon Sophocles testifieth. And it was as much as to say, the guilt of innocent blood doth no more stick to my conscience than the filth now washed off doth to my fingers. Εθος ην τοις παλαιοις οιτε η φονον ανθρωπον η αλλας σφαγας εποιουν, υδατι απονιπτειν τας χειρας εις καθαρσιν του μιασματος . Sed quid hoc est, saith one: Manus abluit Pilatus, et cor polluit. "O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness," saith the prophet, Jeremiah 4:14 . God and nature begin at the heart. And cleanse your hands, ye sinners, but withal, "Purify your hearts, ye doubleminded," saith the apostle,James 4:8; James 4:8 . The very Turks before prayer wash both face and hands, sometimes the head and privates. But bodily exercise only profiteth little.

See ye to it — See thou to that, said they to Judas,Matthew 27:4; Matthew 27:4 . See ye to it, saith Pilate to them. "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again," Matthew 7:2 . They are paid in their own coin: their own very words, by a just judgment of God, are regested upon them.

Verse 25

Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

His blood be on us, and on, … — God said Amen to this woeful curse, which cleaves close to them and their posterity, as a girdle to their loins, soaking as oil into their bones to this very day, Psalms 109:18-19 . Thirty-eight years after this fearful imprecation, in the same place, and close by the same tribunal where they thus cried out, His blood be on us, …, historians tell us, that Herod, wanting money, demanded of the Jews so much out of their treasury as would pay for the making of a water course. But the Jews, supposing it a needless work, not only denied him, but gave many outrageous and spiteful speeches, tumultuously flocked about him, and with great clamours pressed upon him, even as he was in his seat. Whereupon to prevent mischief, he sent to his soldiers to apparel themselves like citizens, and under their gowns to bring with them a dagger or poniard, and mingle themselves among the multitude; which they did, observing who they were that made the greatest uproar. And when Herod gave the sign, they fell upon them, and slew a great multitude. Many also, for fear of loss or danger, killed themselves; besides others, which seeing this massacre, suspecting treason among themselves, fell one upon another. What a dispersed and despised people they have been ever since! exiled, as it were, out of the world, by the common consent of all nations, for their inexpiable guilt. And beware by their example of wishing evil to ourselves or others, as our desperate God-damn-me’s do at every third word almost, and God will undoubtedly take them at their words, as he did those wretches that wished they might die in the wilderness, Numbers 14:28 . As he did John Peters, the cruel keeper of Newgate in Queen Mary’s days; who commonly, when he would affirm anything, were it true or false, used to say, If it be not true, I pray God I rot ere I die; and he had his desire. So had Sir Gervase Ellowais, Lieutenant of the Tower, hanged in our remembrance on Tower Hill, for being accessory to the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury; who being upon the gallows, confessed it was just upon him, for that he had often in his playing of cards and dice wished that he might be hanged if it were not so and so. In the year 1551, the devil in a visible shape lifted up a cursing woman into the air in Germany; and therehence threw her down in the view of many people, and brake her neck. Another brought her daughter to Luther, entreating his prayers for her, for that she was possessed by the devil, upon her cursing of her. For when she had said in a rage against her daughter, Involet in te diabolus, The devil take thee, he took possession of her accordingly. The same author relateth a like sad story of a stubborn son, cursed by his father, who wished he might never stir alive from the place he stood in, and he stirred not for three years. Cursing men are cursed men. Alterius perditio tua fit cautio. Seest thou another suffer shipwreck, look to thy tackling.

Verse 26

Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And when he had scourged Jesus — So to satisfy their cruelty, and move them, if it might be, to pity. But though they relented not at the sight, it’s fit we should. Would it not grieve us at the heart, if we should see the king’s son basely whipped by our adversaries, only for our affairs? Christ was scourged when we had offended, that he might free us from the sting of conscience, and those scourges and scorpions of eternal torments, that he might make us a plaster of his own blessed blood, a for by his stripes we are healed, by the bloody weals made upon his back we are delivered. We hold it a thing almost beyond belief, that the applying of medicines to the sword that wounded a man shall make the wounds heal in a man. But here is a mystery that only Christian religion can tell of, and of which there never was precedent in nature, that the scourging and wounding of one man should cure another. See Trapp on " John 19:1 "

a Sanguis medici factus est medicina phrenetici.

Verse 27

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers .

Then the soldiers of the governor — "Barbarous and brutish men, skilful to destroy," Ezekiel 21:31 ; "Let the young men arise and play before us," said Abner,2 Samuel 2:14; 2 Samuel 2:14 . It is but a sport to soldiers to kill and put men to tormentful ends. At the taking of Tripolis in Barbary, the Turkish soldiers having in their hands one John de Chabos, a Frenchman born in Dauphine, they brought him into the town; and when they had cut off his hands and nose, they put him quick into the ground to the waist, and there, for their pleasure, shot at him with their arrows, and afterwards cut his throat. What insolencies and cruelties they exercised upon our Saviour for our sakes, even the whole band of them, we should read with regret for our sins, the weapons and instruments of all his sufferings; and see through his wounds the naked bowels, as it were, of his love to our poor souls.

Verse 28

And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

And they stripped him — That we might be clothed with the rich and royal raiment of his righteousness, that fleece of the Lamb of God, who taketh away, …

And put on him a scarlet robe — O’erworn and threadbare, no doubt; so to set him forth as a theatrical king, in contempt of him; but the kingdom of Christ came not by observation. He is an obscure king, as Melchisedec was, but yet a king, as he told Pilate; and this was that good confession witnessed by him, and celebrated by St Paul, 1 Timothy 6:13 .

Verse 29

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!

And when they had platted a crown, … — Christ, by wearing this crown of thorns, the firstfruits of the curse, took away the sin and curse of all his people; who must therefore, by their obedience, set a crown of gold on his head,Song of Solomon 3:11; Song of Solomon 3:11 , as Canutus in his superstitious way set his crown upon the crucifix. See Trapp on " John 19:2 "

And a reed in his right hand — So do all those still, that submit not to the sceptre of his kingdom, -that give him not full sovereignty over their souls.

Bowed the knee before him — With ludibrious devotion. So do hypocrites to this day. King Richard II, when he was to be deposed, was brought forth in royal array, whereof he was presently despoiled. Never was prince so gorgeous with less glory and more grief.

Verse 30

And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

And they spit upon him — So doth profaneness still cast dirt and drivel into Christ’s face. See Trapp on " Matthew 26:67 " Robert Smith, martyr, in his examination before Bonner, made one of his doctors to say, that his breaden god must needs enter into the belly, and so fall into the draught. To which he answered: What derogation was it to Christ, when the Jews spit in his face? Smith presently replied, If the Jews, being his enemies, did but spit in his face, and we, being his friends, throw him into the draught, which of us deserveth the greatest damnation?

And smote him on the head — Or, into the head, εις κεφαλην : drove the thorns into his holy head with bats and blows, as Basiliades, the Duke of Russia, nailed an ambassador’s hat to his head, upon some displeasure conceived against him. At the taking of Heidelberg, the Spaniards took Monsieur Mylius, an ancient minister and man of God, and having abused his daughter before his face, they tied a small cord about his head, which with truncheons they wreathed about, till they squeezed out his brains. The monks of Pignerol roasted the minister of St Germain, till his eyes dropped out. And the Spaniards suppose they show the innocent Indians great favour, when they do not, for their pleasure, whip them with cords, scratch them with thorns, and day by day drop their naked bodies with burning bacon. So very a devil is one man to another.

Verse 31

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 .

Put his own raiment on him — God’s hand was in this, that all men seeing him to suffer in his own habit, might acknowledge that it was very he, and not another that suffered in his stead. Mahomet in his Koran speaks very honourably of Christ, except only in two things: 1. He took up the Arian heresy, to deny his Deity. 2. He denied that he was crucified, but that some one was crucified for him. But what saith St Peter? "He his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," …,1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 2:24 .

They led him away — Quite out of the city, Ut vera piacularis victima et καθαρμα pro nobis fieret, Hebrews 13:12-13 . This was a mystery hardly understood by any of the faithful before Christ; neither could we well have told what to make of it, but that the apostle hath there opened it to us, by the instinct of the Holy Ghost. "Let us therefore" (as he adviseth) "go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach," accounting it our crown, as those apostles did that rejoiced in their new dignity of suffering shame for Christ’s name, Acts 5:41 ; "It was their grace to be so disgraced." Est et confusionis gloria, et gloriosa confusio. (Ambr.)

Verse 32

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

They found a man of Cyrene — A stranger, coming out of the field towards Jerusalem, meets with an unexpected cross, and follows Christ, which occasioned him to inquire into the cause, and got him renown among the saints. In like sort, the faithful Christian (a stranger upon earth) comes out of the field of this world, with his face set toward Sion, and meets with many crosses by the way. But all while he follows Christ, let him inquire into the cause, and the issue shall be glorious.

Him they compelled to bear his cross — Not so much to ease Christ, who fainted under the burden, as to hasten the execution, and to keep him alive till he came to it. See Trapp on " John 19:17 "

Verse 33

And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

A place of a skull — Here our thrice noble Conqueror would erect his trophies, to encourage us to suffer for him, if God call us thereto, in the most vile and loathsome places, as also to assure us that his death is life to the dead.

Verse 34

They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof , he would not drink.

They gave him vinegar, … — Cold comfort to a dying man; but they did it in derision, q.d. Thou art a King, and must have generous wines. Here’s for thee therefore. See Trapp on " John 19:29 " It were happy if this vinegar given our Saviour might melt our adamantine hearts into sorrow.

Verse 35

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.

Parted his garments — Let us likewise suffer with joy the spoiling of our goods, …, Hebrews 10:34 ; yea, the spoiling of our persons, to have our clothes also taken and torn from off our backs: Christ will say, "Bring forth the best robe, ring," … If a heathen could say, when he saw a sudden shipwreck of all his wealth, Well, fortune, I see thy intent, thou wouldst have me be a philosopher: should not a Christian conclude, Surely Christ would have me look after heavenly, that thus strips me of all earthly comforts?

Verse 36

And sitting down they watched him there;

They watched him there — Lest haply he should get away thence by a miracle. But his time of getting out of their hands was not yet come. Here hung for a while that golden censer, Christ’s body; which through the holes that were made in it, as through chinks or holes, fumed forth a sweet savour in the nestles of his heavenly Father,Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:2 , such as draweth all men to him, that have their "senses exercised to discern good and evil," John 12:32 ; Hebrews 5:14 .

Verse 37

And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

This is Jesus, the King of the Jews — Pilate (by a special providence of God), intending nothing less, gives Christ a testimonial, and would not alter it, though solicited thereto. He did it to be revenged on the Jews for their senseless importunity to have him condemn an innocent, and also, to put Christ to an open shame, as a crucified King. Like as that atheist Lucian blasphemously calls our Saviour the crucified deceiver, Ανεσκολοπισμενον σοφιστην , the modern Jews contemptuously call him (in reference to his cross), "The Woof and the Warp." Iudaei perpetuo obganniunt nihil esse stolidius Christianis, quod salutem ex homine crucifixo sibi polliceantur. Bucholcer. And, at the sack of Constantinople, the image of the crucifix was set up by the insolent Turks, and shot at with their arrows; and afterwards in great derision carried about the camp, as it had been in procession, those dead dogs railing and spitting at it, and calling it "The god of the Christians." Ten thousand martyrs were crucified on the Mount of Ararat under Adrian the emperor, crowned with thorns, and thrust into the sides with sharp darts, in contempt of Christ.

Verse 38

Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

Then were there two thieves — So he "was reckoned among the transgressors,"Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 53:12 ; a sinner, not by imputation only, for "he bare the sin of many" ( ib. ), but by reputation also, and therefore crucified in the midst (as the worst of the three, "chief of sinners," Quasi maleficiorum rex esset ), that we might have place in the midst of heavenly angels, in those walks of paradise, Zechariah 3:7 . The one of those two thieves went railing to hell (his crucifixion being but a typical hell to him, a trap door to eternal torment), the other went repenting forthright to heaven, living long in a little time, and by prayer making his cross a Jacob’s ladder, whereby angels descended to fetch up his soul. It is remarkable, and to our purpose suitable, that Rabus reporteth, that when Leonard Caesar suffered martyrdom at Rappa, a little town in Bavaria, a certain priest, that had by the law for some villanous act deserved death, being led forth with him towards the place of execution, cried out often, Ego ne quidem dignus sum, qui tibi in hac paena associer, iusto iniustus, I am not worthy to suffer with thee, the just with the unjust. At the death of George Eagles, martyr, in Queen Mary’s days, two thieves going to be executed with him, he exhorted them to embrace the truth, and to persevere therein. Whereupon one of them scoffingly said, Why should we doubt about going to heaven, seeing this holy man shall go before us, as our captain in the way? we shall certainly flee straight there, as soon as he hath made us the entry. But the other thief reproved him for it, and gave good heed to George Eagles’ exhortation, earnestly bewailing his own wickedness, and crying unto Christ for mercy. This penitent thief exhorted the people upon the ladder, to beware of sin by his example: and so commending his soul to Christ, ended his life quietly, and in a godly manner. The mocker when he came upon the ladder would have said something, but could not; his tongue did so fumble and falter in his head, that he could not repeat the Lord’s prayer, but became a singular instance of God’s just judgment upon so profane a person.

Verse 39

And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

Reviled him, wagging their heads — God took notice of Cain’s frowns,Genesis 4:6; Genesis 4:6 , Miriam’s mutterings, Numbers 12:2 , these men’s noddings, Rabshakeh’s lofty looks, Isaiah 37:23 , Laban’s lourings (scowling), Genesis 31:2 , and sets them upon record. He is jealous for Jerusalem with a great jealousy,Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 1:14 ; (and jealousy is very wakeful, hardly shall the sly paramour avoid the husband’s eye), if he see any indignity offered to his beloved spouse, he will arise and play Phineas’ part, as that martyr said. The virgin daughter of Zion, though she be but a virgin, hath a champion that will not see nor suffer her to be abused, Isaiah 37:22 . See how he revileth her revilers, Isaiah 57:3-4 "But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore. Against whom do ye sport yourselves against whom make yea wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood?" Yea, he giveth encouragement to his spouse, in a holy scorn to despise and deride her deriders, shaking her head at them, as they do at her, and saying, "Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?" … q.d. Dost thou know what thou hast done? … At Brightwell in Berkshire, one Lener said that he saw that evil favoured knave Latimer, when he was burned at Oxford; and that he had teeth like a horse. But the Lord suffered not this scorn and contempt of his servant to go unpunished. For that very day, and about the same hour that Lener spake those words, his son wickedly hanged himself.

Verse 40

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.

And saying, Thou that, … — Dogs will be barking at the moon (as these dead dogs do here at the Sun of righteousness), At peragit cursus surda Diana suos. Christ goes on with the work, nothing retarded by their jeers and buffooneries. Didicit ille maledicere et ego contemnere, said he in Tacitus, Non tantum habemus otii, P. C., said Augustus to the senate, when they informed him of what such and such had said against him, We are not at leisure to listen to every slight slander raised of us. And of Severus the emperor it is recorded, that his care was, what was to be done by him, not what was said or censured of him. Επιμελης ην των πρακτεων, αμελης των περι αυτου λεγομενων . Dio. "Do well and hear ill," is written upon heaven’s gates, said that martyr. Railers are to be reckoned kill-Christs: words may more afflict than blows, Psalms 42:3 ; Psalms 42:10 . As "with a murdering weapon in my bones," …

Verse 41

Likewise also the chief priests mocking him , with the scribes and elders, said,

Likewise also the chief priests — Sick of an επιχαιρεκακια , the devil’s disease, they petulantly insult over our dying Saviour with their satanical sarcasms; which he answereth with silence, and by a brave composedness sets himself above the flight of the injurious claw. Facile est in me dicere, cum non sim responsurus, saith one. It is as impossible to avoid, as necessary to contemn the lash of lewd tongues, bitter terms, and scurrilous invectives. Those ears that were wont to hear nothing but angelic hymns are here filled with them, and he replies not. Princes use not to chide when ambassadors offer them indecencies, but deny them audience.

Verse 42

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.

We will believe him — They would not; but rather have said, he had done it by the devil’s help; or have searched the devil’s skull to find out some other trick to elude the truth.

Verse 43

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

He trusted in God — These were cruel mockings, as those were called, Hebrews 11:36 . Nothing troubled David more than to be hit in the teeth with his God, to have his religion laid in his dish,Psalms 42:1-11; Psalms 42:1-11 ; Psalms 43:1-5 . And it went to Job’s heart to hear his friend Eliphaz (a godly man otherwise) scoff him for his religion, Job 4:6 . Is not thy fear (or thy religion) become thy folly? Zedekiah feared more to be mocked by the Jews than the Chaldees, Jeremiah 38:9 .

Let him deliver him now — But what if he do not deliver him now, is he therefore no Son? So they would seem to argue; and so Satan would fain persuade the saints when held awhile under the cross. But the apostle assures us otherwise, Hebrews 12:6-8 .

Verse 44

The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

The thieves also — Both of them railed at first, till one of them was converted by a miracle (for it was one of those seven miracles wherewith Christ would honour the ignominy of his cross). Then till either they both reviled our Saviour, or the better of them seemed, at least by his silence, for a season to consent to the other. In whose example we see that every fool hath a bolt to shoot at afflicted godliness. Every cur is ready to fall upon the dog that he seeth worried; and every passenger to pull a branch from a tree that is felled. But there is no small cruelty in composing comedies out of the tragedies of the church, and so to draw blood from that back which is yet blue from the hand of the Almighty. God threateneth Edom for but looking upon Jacob’s affliction in the day of their calamity, Obadiah 1:13 .

Verse 45

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

Darkness over all the land — The sun hid his head in a mantle of black, as ashamed to behold those base indignities done to the Son of righteousness by the sons of men Sol non fert aspectum illum miserandum, quem sine rubore et fronte Iudaei irrident. Aretius. This darkness some think was universal; not only over all the land of Judea, but over the whole earth (and so the text, επι πυσαν την γην , may be rendered). Tiberius, say they, was sensible of it at Rome; Dionysius writes to Polycarpus that they had it in Egypt. And another great astronomer, Ptolemy (if I mistake not), was so amazed at it that he pronounced either nature now determineth, or the God of nature suffereth.

Unto the ninth hour — In this three hours’ darkness he was set upon by all the powers of darkness with utmost might and malice. But he foiled and spoiled them all, and made an open show of them (as the Roman conquerors used to do), triumphing over them on his cross, as on his chariot of state,Colossians 2:15; Colossians 2:15 , attended by his vanquished enemies with their hands bound behind them, Ephesians 4:8 .

Verse 46

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?

Jesus cried with a loud voice — Therefore he laid down his life at his own pleasure; for by his loud outcry it appears that he could have lived longer if he had listed, for any decay of nature under those exquisite torments that he suffered in his body, but much greater in his soul. That which for the present seems to have expressed from him this doleful complaint, was the sense of his Father’s wrath in the darkening of the body of the sun over him; which though God causeth to shine upon the just and unjust for their comfort, yet was not suffered to shine upon him for those three sorrowful hours together. When Theodorus, the martyr, was racked and tortured by the command of Julian the Apostate, an angel, in the form of a young man, stood by him and comforted him, wiping off his sweat with a fine linen cloth, and pouring cold water on his vexed limbs. When Mr Saunders, martyr, was examined before Stephen Winchester, he felt a most pleasant refreshing issuing from every part of his body to his heart, and from thence ebbing and flowing to each part again. William Hunter, martyr, cried out at the stake, Son of God, shine upon me, and immediately the sun shone out of a dark cloud so full in his face that he was constrained to look another way; whereat the people mused, because it was so dark a little before. And I myself was an eyewitness of a like answer returned from heaven, to a like prayer made by a penitent malefactor executed at Evesham in Worcestershire, many years since. But our Lord Christ was forsaken of all these creature comforts; and (which was worse than all) of his Father’s favour, to his present apprehension; left forlorn and destitute for a time, that we might be received for ever. εγκατελιπες est plus quam κατελιπες , ut deserere quam derelinquere. Howbeit, perplexed though he were, yet not in despair; persecuted, yet not forsaken; cast down, yet not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 He could say My God, in the midst of all, by the force of his faith, which singles out God (as a father saith) and appropriateth him to a man’s self. η πιστις ιδιοποιειται τον θεον . And Hilary hath a good note, which here comes in not out of place. Habes conquerentem relictum se esse, quia homo est; habes eundem profitentem latroni in paradiso regnaturum, quia Deus est. As man, he cries out My God, my God, …, when, as God, he promiseth paradise to the penitent thief.

Verse 47

Some of them that stood there, when they heard that , said, This man calleth for Elias.

This man calleth for Elias — A malicious mistake, a devilish sarcasm. While darkness was upon them they were over awed and hushed; their mouths were haltered (as horses must be, saith the psalmist, Psalms 32:9 , as the sea was by our Saviour, Mark 4:39 , πεφιμωσο ), and held in with bit and bridle lest they come near unto thee. But no sooner was it light again but they are at their old trade again, deriding our Saviour and depraving his words, as if, forsaken of his hope in God, he had fled to Elias for help. So when Cranmer, standing at the stake, cried out often, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, a Spanish monk that heard him ran to a nobleman there present, and tells him that those were the words of one that died in great despair.

Verse 48

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.

And filled it with vinegar — Sorrow is dry, we say. This man of sorrows, more to fulfil the Scriptures than for his own satisfaction, though extreme dry no doubt (for now was the Paschal Lamb roasting in the fire of his Father’s wrath), he saith, I thirst, and had vinegar to drink, that we might drink of the water of life, and be sweetly inebriated in that torrent of pleasure that runs at God’s right hand for evermore, Psalms 16:11 . See Trapp on " John 19:29 "

Verse 49

The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

Let us see whether Elias, … — This mocking is the murder of the tongue, which therefore our Saviour suffered, ut nos illusori Satanae insultaremus, saith one. It is reported of Aretine, that by a long custom of libellous and contumelious speaking against men, he had gotten such a habit that at last he came to diminish and disesteem God himself. May not the same be made good of these malicious miscreants?

Verse 50

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

Yielded up the ghost — Or, let go his spirit, viz. to God that gave it, to whom also he recommended it,Luke 23:46; Luke 23:46 , teaching us what to do in like case. Our care herein may make even a centurion, a graceless person, to glorify God, saying, "Certainly this was a righteous man,"Luke 23:47; Luke 23:47 . When so great a clerk as Erasmus, dying with no better words in his mouth than Domine, fac finem, fac finem, Lord, make an end, make an end, is but hardly thought of. How much more that English Hubertus, a covetous oppressor, who dying made this wretched will: "I yield my goods to the king, my body to the grave, my soul to the devil."

Verse 51

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;

The veil of the temple was rent — To show that there was an end to the Levitical liturgy, and that now there was free and open access for all saints to the throne of God’s grace, for the veil was a figure of the spiritual covering which was before the eyes of the Church till Christ’s coming.

And the earth did quake — To work a heartquake in the obstinate Jews, as in some it did; others of them had contracted such a habitual hardness, such a hoof upon their hearts, as neither ministry, nor misery, nor miracle, nor mercy could possibly mollify.

And the rocks rent — So they do wherever Christ makes forcible entrance into any heart. "I will shake all nations, and then the desire of all nations shall come," Haggai 2:7 . A man will never truly desire Christ till soundly shaken. God’s shaking ends in settling; he rends us, not to ruin, but to refine us.

Verse 52

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

And the graves were opened — To show that death was now swallowed up in victory by life essential; like as the fire swallows up the fuel, and as Moses’ serpent swallowed up the enchanted serpents.

And many bodies of the saints — To show that the heart strings of death, which before bound them in their sepulchres, were now broken, and they enlarged to attend our Saviour’s resurrection.

Verse 53

And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

And appeared unto many — Not to converse again, as heretofore, with men, but to accompany Christ, that raised them, into heaven; and to be as so many visible demonstrations of Christ’s quickening power, whereby he shall also raise our vile bodies, and conform them to his glorious body, the standard, Philippians 3:21 .

Verse 54

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.

Truly this was the Son of Godi.e. A divine man, a demigod, as these heathens reputed those in whom they beheld and admired anything above the ordinary nature of men, and their expectation, υιος sine articulo, id est iustus heros. Beza. Natural conscience cannot but stoop and do homage to the image of God stamped upon his people; as being "afraid of that name of God whereby they are called," Deuteronomy 28:10 . There are those who think that these soldiers, our Saviour’s executioners, were truly converted by the miracles they had seen, according to what Christ had prayed for them, Luke 23:34 . And it may very well be; like as Paul was converted upon St Stephen’s prayer; as Justin Martyr and others were, by beholding the piety and patience of the primitive Christians, and as James Silvester, executioner at the martyrdom of Simon Laloe, at Dijon. He seeing the great faith and constancy of that heavenly martyr, was so compuncted with repentance (saith Mr Fox), and fell into such despair of himself, that they had much ado to fasten any comfort on him, with all the promises of the Gospel; till at length he recovered, repented, and with all his family moved to the Church of Geneva. Christians have showed as glorious power (and have as good success) in the faith of martyrdom, as in the faith of miracles; working wonders thereby upon those that have sought and sucked their blood.

Verse 55

And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

And many women were there — More hardy than the disciples, who all, save John, were fled and hidden. Oh stand (saith Dr Sutton), and behold a little, with those devout women, the body of thy Saviour, hanging upon the cross. See him afflicted from top to toe. See him wounded in the head, to heal our vain imaginations. See him wounded in the hands, to heal our evil actions. See him wounded in the heart, to cure our vain thoughts. See his eyes shut up, that did enlighten the world; see them shut, that thine might be turned from seeing of vanity. See that countenance so goodly to behold, spirted upon and buffeted, that thy face might shine glorious as the angels in heaven, … See Trapp on " John 19:25 "

Beholding afar off — Either out of womanly modesty, or weakness of faith; which, when it is in heart, is able by its native puissance to pull the very heart as it were out of hell, and with confidence and conquest to look even death and the devil in the face; as we see in Anne Askew, Alice Driver, and other brave women, that suffered stoutly for Christ.

Verse 56

Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

Among which was Mary Magdalen — Love is strong as death; good blood will never belie itself. Mary also the mother of Jesus was there, sitting with the sword through her heart, that old Simeon had fortold to her. See John 19:26-27 . See Trapp on " John 19:26 " See Trapp on " John 19:27 "

Verse 57

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

A rich man of Arimathea — Not many such; ‘tis well there are any. Joseph was a counsellor, a senator, one of the Sanhedrim or Seventy Seniors. Christ finds friends in the most tempestuous times and unlikely places; as in Ahab’s and Nero’s court. Some good Obadiah, or Onesiphorus, to seek out Paul the prisoner, and refresh his heart. Serena the Empress, wife to Dioclesian, that bloody persecutor, was a Christian, and a great friend to the true religion. So was the Lady Anne (wife to our King Richard II), a disciple of Wycliffe; whose books also she conveyed over into Bohemia her country, whereby a good foundation was laid for the ensuing Reformation. John of Gaunt showed himself a great favourer of Wycliffe. The like did the Elector of Saxony for Luther. George Marquis of Brandenburg, in a meeting of the Emperor and States at Augsburg, zealously professed that he would rather kneel down presently in the presence of them all, and yield his head to be struck off by the executioner, than deny Christ and his gospel. Scultet. Annul.

Verse 58

He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

He went to Pilate — It was time for him now or never to show himself, and to wax bold, Mark 15:43 . The Spaniards, they say, abhor dangers, never adventuring upon hard enterprises, but aiming to proceed securely. "Christ’s disciples must speak and do boldly in the Lord," Acts 14:3 , whatever come of it. Audendo Graeci pervenere Troiam. Alexander never attempted anything, but he conceived it might be done, and he did it. Historians ascribe most of his success to his courage; and tell us, that having a soldier of his own name in his army whom he knew to be a coward, he commanded him either to change his name, or show his valour. So saith Christ to all his Josephs and Nicodemuses, Either play the men, or pretend not to me.

Verse 59

And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

He wrapped it in a clean linen cloth — "Which he had bought new for the purpose," saith St Mark,Mark 15:46; Mark 15:46 , to his no small cost; for linen in those days was precious, so that a handkerchief among even the Roman rioters was a rich token, as appears out of the poet. Nam sudaria setaba ex Iberis miserunt mihi muneri Fabulus et Veranius. Catul. Neither did this rich man lose his money; for he is and shall be famous for it to the world’s end; though everybody be not at leisure to do as Paleottus, Archbishop of Bonony, did, who wrote a large book on the shadow of Christ’s body in Joseph’s new syndon; A piece of this fabric used for various purposes: As a shroud, spec. that in which the body of Christ was wrapped. ŒD which was also commented upon by the Professor of Divinity there.

Verse 60

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.

And laid it in his own new tomb — His own, which was now well warmed, sweetened, and sanctified by our Saviour’s body, against himself should be laid there; as afterwards he might and probably was, too. A new tomb it was, and fit it should be for that virgin body, or maiden corpse, as one calls it, untouched and untainted. Besides, else it might have been suspected, that not Christ but another arose; or if he, yet not by his own, but by another’s virtue: like him who revived at the touching of the bones of dead Elisha, 2 Kings 13:21 . Buried our Saviour was: 1. That none might doubt his death. 2. That our sins might be buried with him. 3. That our graves might be prepared and perfumed for us, as so many beds of roses, or delicious dormitories, Isaiah 57:2 . He was buried in Calvary, to note that he died for the condemned; and in a garden, to expiate that first sin committed in the garden; and in another man’s sepulchre, to note that he died for other men’s sins, as some will have it. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, bestowed great cost in repairing this sepulchre of our Saviour, which the heathens out of hatred to Christ had thrown down, and built a temple of Venus on the same ground. And Jerusalem, that poor ruinous city, being governed by one of the Turks, Sanzacks, is for nothing now more famous than for the sepulchre of our Saviour, again repaired, and much visited by the superstitious sort of Christians, and not unreverenced by the Turks themselves.

Which he had hewn out in the rock — For his own use. See the like, 1 Kings 13:30 . The Thebans had a law, that no man should make a house for himself to dwell in, but he should make first his grave. Charles V, emperor, five years before he died, even when he was employed in his greatest affairs, caused a sepulchre to be made, with all things appertaining to it, necessary for his burial, and that secretly, lest it might be taken for ostentation or hypocrisy: which things he had closely carried with him whithersoever he went five years together; some thinking there had been some great treasure in it; some other that there had been books of old stories: some thought one thing, some another. But the emperor smiling, said, that he carried it about him to remind him of his death.

And he rolled a great stone — Either for an inscription to the sepulchre, or for more safety to the body, or that the glory of the resurrection might be the greater, or all these together.

Verse 61

And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.

And there was Mary Magdalene — Carefully watching where they laid the Lord’s body, that they might not leave off their kindness to him living or dead, as she said of Boaz,Ruth 2:20; Ruth 2:20 . Heavy they were as heart could hold: yet not hindered thereby from doing their duty to Christ. So Daniel, though sick, yet did the king’s business. Even sorrow for sin, if it so exceed as to disable us for duty, is a sinful sorrow, and must be sorrowed for.

Verse 62

Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

Now the next day that followed — That is, on that high day, that double sabbath, they that had so often quarrelled with Christ for curing on the sabbath request a servile work to be done, of securing and sealing up the sepulchre. It is a common proverb, Mortui non mordent, Dead men bite not. But here Christ, though dead and buried, bites and beats hard upon these evil men’s consciences. They could not rest the whole night before, for fear he should get out of the grave some way, and so create them further trouble. Scipio appointed his sepulchre to be so placed, as his image standing upon it might look directly towards Africa, that being dead, he might still be a terror to the Carthaginians. And Cadwallo, an ancient king of this island, commanded his dead body to be embalmed, and put into a brazen image, and so set upon a brazen horse over Ludgate, for a terror to the Saxons. It is well known that Zisca, that brave Bohemian, charged his Taborites to flay his corpse, and cover a drum with his skin; the sound whereof as often as the enemies heard, they should be appalled and put to flight. And our Edward I adjured his son and nobles, that if he died in his journey into Scotland, they should carry his corpse about with them, and not suffer it to be interred till they had vanquished the usurper and subdued the country. Something like to this the prophet Isaiah foretelleth of our Saviour (and we see it here accomplished), when he saith, "In that day the root of Jesse shall stand up for an ensign to the people, and even his rest" (or, as some read it, his sepulchre) "shall be glorious," Isaiah 11:10 . There are those who think that these words, "The day that followed the day of the preparation," are put ironically, or rather by way of a facetious jesting, asteismos , against the hypocritical sabbatism of the high priests, who would so workday-like, beg the body, seal the sepulchre, and set the watch on that sabbath, for the which they seemed to prepare so devoutly before it came.

Verse 63

Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

Sir, we remember, … — They that had forgotten so many sweet and savoury sayings of our blessed Saviour, and written them all in the sand, could remember (but for no good purpose) that which his disciples could not so readily call to mind for their good and comfort; no, nor understand it when plainly told them, Mark 9:32 . The soul should be as a holy ark, the memory as the pot of manna, preserving holy truths for holy uses. But most men have memories like nets, that let go the clear water, catch nothing but sticks and refuse stuff; or like sieves, that retain the chaff, let go the good corn; like the creature Cervarius, that if he but look back, forgets the food he was eating, though never so hungry, and seeks for new; or Sabinus in Seneca, who never in all his life could get by heart those three names of Homer, Ulysses, and Achilles. Old songs, old wrongs, …, they can retain sufficiently; but in matters of God, their memories serve them not.

This deceiver said — "Men muse as they use." Quis tulerit Gracchos? Who could have tolerated the Gracchi brothers. Who can endure to hear the devil taxing God of envy, as he did to our first parents? or these deceitful workers calling "the faithful and true witness," πλανος , a deceiver, a cheater, one who doth profess an art of cozening men to their faces? for so the Greek word signifieth. We must look to hear all that nought is, either while alive, or when dead. Melancthon mortuus, tantum non ut blasphemus in Deum, cruci affigitur, saith Zanchy; and all because he pleased not, in all points, the peevish Lutherans. In like manner many lewd opinions were fathered upon John Wycliffe, after he was dead; yea, some that were monstrous and diabolical, as that men ought, yea, that God himself ought to obey the devil. (Speed.) And this famous doctor dying of a palsy, hath this charitable eulogy or epitaph bestowed upon him by a monk, The devil’s instrument, church’s enemy, people’s confusion, heretic’s idol, hypocrite’s mirror, schism’s broacher, hatred’s sower, lie’s forger, flattery’s sink; who at his death despaired like Cain, and stricken by the horrible judgment of God, breathed forth his wicked soul to the dark mansions of the black devil (Tho. Walsingham). The servant is not greater than his master. Him they called Beelzebub, Samaritan (that is, conjuror), traitor, and here deceiver. But what a mouth of blasphemy opened that pseudo-Christian, Emperor Frederick the Second, who was heard often to say that there had been three notorious impostors who had cheated the world, viz., Moses, Christ, and Mahomet! Oh base!

Verse 64

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.

Command therefore — How fain would the devil by his agents have kept Christ still in the grave, when there they had him. But all in vain; for his resurrection was to be the demonstration of his deity, Romans 1:4 , and the ground work of our safety, 1 Corinthians 15:14 . He turned therefore their counsel into foolishness, and in the sight of so many armed witnesses, rose the third day, in despite of them, breaking the bonds of death as easily as Samson did the green cords, Judges 16:7 .

Lest his disciples come by night — A most vain and yet a most vexing fear, such as was that of Herod after he had beheaded John Baptist: he thought he heard that holy head ever shouting and crying out against him, for his cruelty. "This is John Baptist," said he (when he heard the fame of Jesus), "whom I have beheaded." "I will send the hornet," saith God, "before thee," Exodus 23:28 . What was that hornet, but the misgiving fear of the Canaanites’ self-condemning consciences, that haunted them perpetually? So here.

Verse 65

Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.

Pilate said unto them — He was willing to please both sides; and therefore condescends both to Joseph of Arimathea for his burial, and to the priests for securing the sepulchre. Κοινοφιλης , erat utpote qui ab omnibus gratiam inire cupiebat; quales quidam per iocum placentas dixit. But if I yet please men, saith Paul, as once I did when I was a Pharisee, "I am no more the servant of Christ," Galatians 1:10 . He scorns that such base deceit should be found in his followers,Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:8 . Mordecai will not crouch or curry favour, to die for it. Micaiah will not budge, though sure to kiss the stocks for his stiffness.

Ye have a watch — Appointed for the use and service of the temple, a band of garrison soldiers who had their captain, Acts 4:1 , and are here set to watch that true temple, wherein "the Godhead dwelt bodily," i.e. personally.

Verse 66

So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

So they went and made the sepulchre sure — And now they seemed to dance upon Christ’s grave, as thinking themselves cock sure of him. So did those bloody tyrants of the primitive times (who proudly engraved upon pillars of marble, Nomine Christianorum deleto, qui Remp. evertebant ) I destroyed the name of Christians who turned the state upside down, make no other reckoning, but to raze out the name of Christ from under heaven. Therefore also they did not only constitute laws and proclamations against Christians, but did engrave the same laws in tables of brass, meaning to make all things firm for ever and a day. But he that sat in heaven, and said, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Sion," laughed at them; Jehovah had them in derision,Psalms 2:4; Psalms 2:4 ; Psalms 2:6 . Look how Daniel was innocently condemned, cast into the lions’ den, had the door sealed upon him, and, to see to, no hope or means of life was left him; and yet by God’s good providence, he came forth untouched, and was made a greater man than ever. So our blessed Saviour was innocently condemned, cast into the grave, sealed up among the dead, and to common judgment left as out of mind; yet early in the morning, at the time appointed by the power of his Deity, he raised himself from death, and gloriously triumphed over it and hell. Now "thanks be unto God which also causeth us to triumph in Christ," 2 Corinthians 2:14 , having as prisoners of hope, brought us "out of the pit by the blood of the covenant," Zechariah 9:11-12 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 27". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/matthew-27.html. 1865-1868.
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