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The Chapter opens with the relation of hurrying away the Lord Jesus to Pilate; from thence to Herod. Christ is examined; Barabbas, a robber and murderer, is preferred before him. He is led away to be crucified. The awful signs attending his death, He is laid in the Sepulchre.
"When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: (2) And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor."
It should seem pretty evident, that so intent were the Chief Priests and Elders, headed by Annas and Caiaphas, to destroy Christ, that they sat up all night in council: for Luke saith, that as soon as it was day, they were again assembled for this purpose. Luke 22:66 . I interrupt the history for a moment, to remind the Reader, what a sweet observation the Lord Jesus made upon this eagerness of his enemies to kill him, when in answer to what Pilate said of his authority: speakest thou not to me, said the poor proud worm, knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered: thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above. John 19:10-11 . Oh! how truly blessed is it always to keep in view Jehovah's hand, and ordination in the wonders of redemption! Blessedly also to this purport, is the word of the Lord's servants after attending to those of the Master. For in that prayer offered up by the whole college of Apostles, soon after the day of Pentecost, and which was answered by the Lord, in the place being shaken where they were assembled; we find those words, in making application of Psalms 2:0 : Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered against the Lord and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. But then it is added; For to do whatsoever thy hand, and thy counsel determined before to be done. Acts 4:25-28 .
"Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. (5) And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (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. (7) And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. (8) Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. (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; (10) And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me."
The awful termination of the life of the traitor, is very properly introduced here, as if to shew, that before the dreadful deed which was to follow his perfidy, in the death of his Master, had taken place; his own death, and that of the most horrible kind, in self-murder, at which, universally considered, nature, uninfluenced by the devil, must always shrink, should be accomplished. And as if abhorred, both of God and man; when having hanged himself, his very body shall have another mark of infamy, and his bowels shall gush out. Acts 1:18 .
I refer the Reader to the "Poor Man's Concordance, " respecting the field bought with the traitor's money. See Aceldama. And the repenting himself, as it was very properly named, is proper to notice, for there was no act of God's grace in it but simply an horror of soul, in the consciousness of the dreadful deed he had committed; an agony of mind, which from the fearful expectation of misery forever, compelled him to leap at once into hell, unable to bear the stings of a conscience worse than hell itself? The mistake as some have supposed, in applying to the Prophet Jeremiah what was delivered by Zechariah concerning the thirty pieces of silver, is easily rectified, by only supposing, what is most likely to have been the case, that Zechariah's prophecy on this subject, was gathered from some sermon of Jeremiah; or that, as hath been said, the four last Chapters of Zechariah had been written before Jeremiah. But in either case it doth not lessen the authority of the words themselves, or make the least alteration in their importance.
"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. (12) And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. (13) Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? (14) And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. (15) Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. (16) And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. (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? (18) For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. (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. (20) But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. (21) The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. (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. (23) And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. (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. (25) Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (26) Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified."
We here enter upon the wonderful scene of Christ's trial. And here stands the Lord of life and glory, the judge both of quick and dead, before the unjust judge Pilate, to witness a good confession. 1 Timothy 6:13 . Every incident is of the highest moment to be regarded, and may the Lord, the Holy Ghost, open to both Writer and Reader, the marvellous things which the Evangelist hath here recorded.
The court before which Jesus had stood the night before, was, or should have been, the Sanhedrim, that is, Seventy Elders of Israel; men in whom the spirit of God was, for so was the original appointment of this court. See Numbers 11:16-17 . But in the time when Jesus stood before it, it appears that this court, was composed of Scribes and Pharisees, whom our Lord (who knew the heart of men) declared to be hypocrites. At the head of this council now presided as High Priest, Caiaphas. A man who had little of the fear of God before his eyes, that in order to curry favor with the Romans, to whom Judæa was at this time under tribute, he very freely gave counsel, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people: lest the Romans should come and take away both the place and nation. So that this time-serving man, made no scruple to say, that the life of any individual was of no consequence, if by the sacrifice, the peace of the Romans could be obtained! And though we perfectly well know, that it was God the Holy Ghost prompted this High Priest, as High Priest, to utter these words in a way of prophecy, and in a very different sense from what the unfeeling speaker meant (and a most blessed prophecy it became, for the joy and comfort of the Church in all ages); yet they serve to shew at once the awfulness of his character. See John 11:47-53 . compared with Genesis 49:10 .
But the power of the Sanhedrim was now, and for a considerable time before had been, abridged, (Josephus, the Jewish historian, saith, that Herod in the beginning of his reign had taken it away,) they were obliged to have recourse to the judgment seat of Pilate, for sentence of death upon the Lord Jesus; for as they told Pilate, it was not lawful for them to put any man to death. John 18:31 . Pilate's conscience, as we perceive in the account here given by the Evangelist, was dreadfully alarmed, at this business. His wife also sent to tell him of her alarms. Luke in his relation of this history saith, that, in order to get rid of it, he sent Christ to Herod. Luke 23:6-7 . And when the Lord was brought back to him again, Pilate tried and tampered with the Chief Priests and Elders all he could, to gain their favor, and yet be spared from the murder of Christ. And when nothing would do, but he must consent to the deed; with all the marks of horror, unable to conceal what passed within, he took water to wash his hands, as if to shew that he bore no part in the cruel transaction: and in the very moment he passed sentence of death on Jesus, proclaimed his innocence. Was there ever an instance in history of such conduct?
It is time, however, to leave the unjust judge, and the awful Sanhedrim to themselves. Our meditation should be wholly directed to the Lord, in those solemn seasons here recorded. For in the history of Jesus, in every minute transaction of his life and death, for the salvation of his people, there is enough to employ our thoughts until we behold him coming in the clouds to judgment. Revelation 1:7 . But there is one thought which ariseth out of what is here said by the people, and which is so intimately connected with the view of Jesus, that I would beg the Reader's patience, while I detain him for offering it. When Pilate said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person, see ye to it: Then answered all the people and said: His blood be upon us and on our children. They said it, no doubt, in a way of defiance: but like the speech of Caiaphas, which the Lord over-ruled to a very different purpose; did not the Lord, here also, answer it in mercy? Are we not told that after the descent of the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, when Peter charged the men of Israel with having by wicked hands, crucified and slain him, whom God had made both Lord and Christ; they were pricked in the heart, and said unto Peter and unto the rest of the Apostles: men and brethren what shall we do? And do we not read, that a saving work of grace immediately passed upon some of them. And was not then the blood of Christ, though in a very different sense from what they meant, truly upon them? Yea, was not the very first prayer of Jesus on the cross to this purpose, when he said, Father! forgive them, for they know not what they do? And thus between the intercession of Christ and the gifts of God the Holy Ghost there is a beautiful and gracious correspondence. Reader! do not overlook these things. Even the Jerusalem sinners, who embrued their hands in the blood of Christ are made partakers in the blessedness of salvation in his blood. What a thought to encourage every poor conscious sinner. See those scriptures: John 6:37-64 ; Acts 2:22 to the end.
But while we look at the bright side of this cloud, it is proper to meditate a moment on the reverse. Is not the Jewish nation even at this hour, as a nation reeking under the awful imprecation: His blood be on us and on our children? Lord I would say! Look upon thine ancient people the Jews, and in mercy hasten that long promised day, when the Deliverer shall arise out of Zion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Romans 11:26 .
We ought not to overlook the patience and silence of Jesus, under the various provocations shewn to his sacred person, during the process of this part of the trial we have read. In the after circumstances of the Lord's sufferings, to which these were but the prelude, much shall we have to observe on this account, but for the present, it should not be passed by unnoticed, how the Lamb of God stood surrounded by those wolves of the night, waiting to suck his blood; and yet stood silent and answered nothing. It was predicted of him, that he was oppressed and he was afflicted; yet he opened not his mouth: he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. And what a correspondence between the prediction and the event? Isaiah 53:7 .
But let us prosecute the solemn account. The cloud becomes more and more gloomy. When Pilate had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. (28) And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. (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! (30) And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. (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."
The indignities and cruelties shewn the person of our Lord, as the prelude to his crucifixion, formed no small part in the portion of sorrow; and we are too much interested in the whole, to pass the smallest circumstance by. For besides attending to those things in the bodily and soul anguish of the Lord Jesus; our own personal interest in them demands our attention.
Pilate, before he delivered the sacred person of Jesus to the Roman soldiers, scourged Jesus himself; or caused him to be scourged, And after this, as John relates, the soldiers scourged him, as was the custom of the Romans. John 19:8 . But after this scourging, they stripped him of his raiment, and put on him a scarlet robe; thus adding mockery to pain. And had the crown they put upon his head, been merely designed for laughter, they would not have chosen thorns, which, when driven into his flesh, must have occasioned exquisite suffering. Their spitting on him was intended to manifest the highest indignation and contempt. Among the Jews it was the greatest indignity, imaginable. If a father spit in his daughter's face, so filthy was she considered thereby, that like the leper, the law enjoined the being shut out of the camp seven days. Numbers 12:14 .
Reader! let us for a moment pause over this awful scene, and behold the expediency and needs be of the whole. The Prophet had said, that it is with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 . And hence Jesus must be scourged. The Lord himself had said by the spirit of prophecy, that he gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: and that he hid not his face from shame and spitting. Isaiah 50:6 . And here we behold the accomplishment most compleatly. I pray the Reader to attend to what the Lord Jesus said by the spirit of prophecy concerning those things, and mark the sorrow of his soul. Psalms 22:0 and Psalms 69:0 .
"And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. (33) And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, (34) They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. (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. (36) And sitting down they watched him there; (37) And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (38) Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. (39) And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, (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. (41) Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, (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. (43) He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. (44) The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. (45) Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. (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? (47) Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. (48) And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. (49) The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him."
Let us follow Jesus to the cross; and as Jesus suffered without the gate, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood; let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. Hebrews 13:12-13 . The first circumstance which strikes us in the hurrying away the Lord of Life and Glory to his execution, is the taking hold of a man of Cyrene, which they found in the way, whom they compelled to bear his cross. John saith, that Jesus bearing his cross went forth. John 19:17 . And Matthew, Mark, and Luke, observe, that this man of Cyrene, Simon by name, they compelled to bear it, And both accounts no doubt are correct. For Jesus fainting beneath the cross, as probably he might, could go no further: and therefore this stranger is compelled to the office. There was no mercy intended to Jesus by this act; for had he died before they arrived at Calvary, as through suffering they feared he might, their triumph in his crucifixion would have been lost.
The views of the cross, in every direction and in every way, are too many to compress within a little compass: and as all the Evangelists call us to take our stand at the foot of the cross, and them behold the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world; we shall, again and again, find occasion to meditate upon the endless subject. I shall for the present, therefore, request the Reader to take into his observation some of the first and most obvious sights which present themselves to our meditation of Christ crucified, which, while to the Jews it is a stumbling, block, and to the Gentiles foolishness; it is to them which are called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 .
And, First: it is very plain that the death of the cross was a shameful death, The malefactors were naked, who suffered this death. None but slaves could suffer it. No Roman was allowed by the laws to fal1 under it, be his crime what it might. Hence Paul speaking of it saith; He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8 . But as Adam had made himself naked by sin, so Christ, in removing the curse, condescends to this shame, and to do away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26 .
Secondly. The place where this was done, at Golgotha, a place of the unburied sculls of criminals. As if to intimate the very remains of those who died, or rather were put to death, in a spot of such infamy, their carcases might be exposed as dung upon the earth, abhorred both of God and men. Hence the Prophet speaking of one cursed of God, said concerning him, that they should not lament for him, saying, Ah! Lord: or ah! his glory: but he should be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 22:18-19 . When Jesus therefore came to redeem from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; he put himself in every situation into which our nature must everlastingly have fallen, but for his interposition and as the law declared everyone cursed which hanged on a tree; Jesus will take that curse to redeem his people from it. But as the prophecies concerning Christ declared by a strange and seeming contradiction, that though he was cut off out of the land of the living as a malefactor, and for the transgression of the people should be stricken; yet at the same time he should make his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death: the Lord over-ruled those wonderful contrarieties, that though Christ was crucified at Golgotha, he should be buried in a garden, yea, and in a new sepulchre, wherein never man had lain. See Galatians 3:13 ; Isaiah 53:8-9 ; Luke 23:50-53 , See Golgotha, Poor Man's Concordance.
Thirdly. The infamy attending the crucifixion of Christ was increased, in that he was crucified between two thieves; yea, he himself, put in the middle of them, as if the most worthless of the three: thus fulfilling the prophecy of being numbered with the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 . All that took place in the great events of Christ's death, was to fulfil the types and prophecies of him; and therefore this among the many, became most important to be attended to; and yet, but for the Lord's watching over it, nothing seemed more unlikely to have been accomplished.
Fourthly. The death of the cross was of all deaths the most painful. It was slow and lingering, violent and universally excruciating to the whole body. In the method used, the victim was placed upon the cross while on the ground, and the hands and feet stretched out as far as they might be made to extend, and nailed through the nervous parts to the timber. Then the cross with the wretched victim fastened to it, was raised up in an erect posture, and fixed into a hole prepared for the foot of it in the earth, which of consequence by the sudden jerk given to it could not fail to occasion the most dreadful pains. In this posture the unhappy sufferer remained suspended, the arms keeping up the whole weight of the body, until relieved by death. Sometimes, as in the case of the two thieves crucified with Christ, whether to aggravate their sufferings, or to put them the sooner out of misery, the soldiers brake their bones with blows. But the earlier death of Jesus prevented this last act of the Roman soldiers, we are told; for they brake not his legs: but one of them with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. Hereby leading to a double prophecy: a bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith: they shall look on him whom they pierced; Exodus 12:46 ; Zechariah 12:10 ; John 19:33-37 .
And here let us pause over the solemn subject; and again look up by faith, and behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world! Methinks we may, as we look up and behold that wonderous sight, contemplate Jesus as thus with arms extended, inviting his redeemed to come to him, as his arms are stretched forth to embrace them. And while his arms are thus open to receive, his feet are waiting for their coming. And with his head reclining, he looks down with his eyes of love, as welcoming their approach. And Reader! what a thought is it for every true believer in Christ to cherish, and never to lose sight of: Jesus in all this, hung on the cross not as a private person, but as the public head of his body the Church. For as certain as that you and I, were both in the loins of Adam, when he transgressed in the garden, and were alike implicated in his guilt and punishment; so equally are all the seed of Christ crucified with Christ, and interested in his salvation. For so the charter both of justice and of grace runs: In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory. Isaiah 45:25 . For the further contemplation of the many wonderful events connected with the subject of Christ crucified, I refer the Reader to the other Evangelists. Mark 15:0 ; Luke 23:0 ; John 19:0 .
"Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. (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; (52) And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, (53) And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (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. (55) And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:"
There is somewhat very striking in this loud voice of Jesus. Not like one exhausted; not as one dispirited; but as a conqueror in the field of battle, retreating with his spoils. Jesus cried aloud, that all on earth, and all in heaven, and all in hell, might hear. It is finished. What is finished? Redemption work is finished. And from that moment the empire of sin, death, hell, and the grave, were vanquished. The most glorious views of that life and immortality, which Christ first brought to light by his gospel, were seen from the hill of Calvary, brighter than Moses saw on the heights of Pisgah, of the promised land. And that song was sung in heaven, which the beloved Apostle heard in vision: thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. Revelation 5:9 .
The prodigies which attended this hour were all as if Christ had said, Ye are my witnesses. Significantly was the veil of the temple rent in twain, from the top to the bottom; for the Lord Jesus had now opened a new and living way to the heaven of heavens, by his blood. Hebrews 10:19-25; Hebrews 10:19-25 . The earthquake and the rending of the rocks, were celebrations also of the glorious event. And the yawning of graves, and the coming forth from their tombs, the bodies of the saints, were no less memorable: what wonders were included in the redemption, by the death of Christ! Neither was the conviction of the Centurion less splendid. Compelled by what he saw and felt, he acknowledged the Godhead of Christ. And compelled shall be the confession of all who deny that glorious truth now, in the day of race, when the tremendous earthquakes and cataracts shall force the same from their pale and convulsed lips, in the great day of wrath.
"Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children. (57) When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: (58) He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. (59) And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, (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. (61) And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre."
The conduct and intention of those godly women; and of Joseph of Arimathea, the honorable counsellor, in embalming the body of Christ, will be noticed when we come to this part of the history, as related by the other Evangelists. See Mark 15:43 .
"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, (63) Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. (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. (65) Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. (66) So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."
As Matthew is the only Evangelist, which hath noticed this conversation which took place between Pilate and the Chief Priests and Pharisees; it will be proper to propose the observations which I beg to offer upon it here. And I venture, to persuade, myself, that, if the several circumstances, connected with the relation, are duly attended to, this plan proposed by the confederacy, of securing the body of Christ, tended to confirm the very truth, they meant to bring into question; and is in itself, if there were no other, a most decided testimony, in proof to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
For, first: by their application to Pilate for a watch, to guard the body of Christ, they prove that Jesus was truly dead, and laid in this new sepulchre. This is of no small consequence, in aid to all the other evidences we have of Christ's death and burial. And, secondly; they no less prove, by what passed, as related in the following Chapter, that the body of Jesus did not remain in the sepulchre, notwithstanding a guard of soldiers were purposely placed there to secure it. See Matthew 28:1 .
Here is a precious testimony, and from the mouth of Christ's enemies also, in confirmation of the resurrection which followed. And with respect to the story of the disciples taking away the body, it is in itself too childish and ridiculous to deserve even the relation of it. That a few poor timid disciples, who during their Lord's trial, and before any danger to themselves had even appeared, had all forsook Jesus and fled, should project such a scheme, as to come by surprise on a guard of Roman soldiers, who were placed at the sepulchre for no purpose but to watch the body of Jesus; and whose military discipline was the strictest in the world; and should actually take away the body, is one of the most extravagant suppositions, which ever entered the human mind.
And to heighten the representation still more, it is added, that this was done while the soldiers were asleep. Soldiers and centinels asleep! And so it seems, that the evidence these soldiers gave of this transaction, of what had happened, was while they were asleep. A new way of giving testimony!
Moreover, it is time to enquire, what possible motive these poor fishermen of Galilee could have to take away a dead body? Nothing can be more plain and evident than that the disciples of Jesus, at the time this transaction of Christ's death took place, knew not anymore than their enemies, what the resurrection from the dead should mean. They had no other notions of Christ, notwithstanding all that Jesus had said to them, than that of a temporal prince; and when by his death, the hopes they had conceived of this kingdom were over, they would in a few days have returned to their former occupation again. In fact they did so.
Besides, where could they have put the body? Was it stolen, and yet intended to be concealed? And if so what could be then accomplished by it? And can it be supposed for a moment, that when the soldiers all of them awaked from their sleep and found the body gone, and taken away by disciples; would the Roman soldiers, aided by the whole Jewish Sanhedrim, have suffered this handful of poor fishermen of Galilee to have remained a single hour, without giving up their plunder, and bringing them to immediate punishment.
I have not dwelt so circumstantially on this subject from any apprehension of its necessity, for my Reader's confirmation of the faith once delivered to the saints; but for the preciousness of anything, and everything connected with the resurrection of Jesus. Oh! the blessedness of knowing, and from divine teaching too; the certainty of that glorious truth, Christ is risen from the dead. And oh! when the conviction of that glorious truth is secured in the soul, by a testimony founded in the faithfulness of Jehovah; then in Christ's resurrection, the sure resurrection of his redeemed is included. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power. Revelation 20:6 .
Reader! if there be an interesting moment in the life of Jesus while upon earth, to call forth the tenderest sympathy of his redeemed, in one instance more than another, surely it is here. Who indeed can, dry eyed, or without a weeping heart, follow the Redeemer from the hall of Pilate, to the Mount of Calvary, and behold the Lamb of God in those unequalled hours of suffering, offering his soul an offering for sin? Yea, who that from being enabled by the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, to enter into the suitable apprehension of the mysterious subject, and stands convinced, that all which Jesus suffered, was the sinner's due, and must have been his sufferings to all eternity but for Jesus's interposition, can, unmoved, behold such scenes of sorrow? Reader! let you and I behold the Lamb of God, in this light! Let us listen to the declaration of Jehovah on this point, and while we look up at the cross of Christ, behold what but for his sufferings must have been our own; and then we shall rightly prize the voice of God, when he saith, speaking of Christ; He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken!
Under these impressions, let us behold the Lord Jesus, the sinner's surety, taken from prison and from judgment. I see him bearing my sins, and my curse due to them; and hurried away to execution. An armed band seizing upon him; he is bound hand and foot as the sacrifice to the altar, The Scribes and Pharisees, like the bulls of Bashan, beset him around. He is made naked to his shame, publicly scourged, and his body torn with thorns, until the blood streamed in every direction. While the shouts of the unfeeling rabble, and the blows of the cruel soldiers, worry the Lamb of God to death. His cries on the cross loudly manifest what were the feelings of his soul; and above all, the frowns of Heaven when he hung upon the accursed tree, made the cup of trembling bitter indeed. Who that hears the words of Jesus, can enter into their full extent of sorrow. Reproach hath broken my heart: I am full of heaviness. I looked for some to take pity, but there was none: and for comforters, but I found none!
And must all this have been my case, had not Jesus been my surety? Yes! all, and every portion of it, and that forever. For if the holy, and harmless, and undefiled Lamb of God, was made both sin and a curse for his people; certainly but for his taking both upon him, the sinner of every description must have borne the whole for himself And when at death, the unregenerated sinner had received the awful sentence and is hurried away to punishment, that curse will light upon him, and remain upon him undone away to all eternity. Oh! the unspeakable felicity of being found in Christ, and having him as our surety, both now, in this day of grace, and thereafter in the day of judgment. Reader! may the Lord give us the faith of thus looking to the cross of Christ, and there behold Jesus as our surety! Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come, and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 27". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany