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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
John 19

 

 

Verse 1

1. Scourged him—The punishment of personal scourging with whips, rods, or cords, disused by modern civilization, is of high antiquity. The monuments show that it was a custom in ancient Egypt. It was legalized by Moses, but humanely limited to forty lashes, which the modern Jews, to avoid even an accidental overstepping of the law, limited to thirty-nine. Though not among the Jews a disgraceful punishment, it was held by the Roman law unworthy to be inflicted on a Roman citizen. The victim was bound to a low pillar, in order that, stooping forward, he might curve his bare back to receive the full fair stroke. It was customarily inflicted before crucifixion, and no limit was fixed by Roman law to the number of the blows. It has been questioned whether Pilate intended this to be the scourging preceding crucifixion, or whether it was intended as a sole punishment; whether as a compromise, according to Luke 23:16, or whether he hoped, by presenting Jesus under the cruel effects of the scourge before their eyes, he might melt them to pity. But it appears by Luke 23:25 that, at the close of the affair by their choice of Barabbas, he delivered Jesus to their will; so that this is probably the scourging preparatory to crucifixion. The presenting Jesus therefore so scourged, to induce their pity, was doubtless an afterthought.


Verses 1-16

§ 138.PILATE SCOURGES JESUS, MAKES HIS THIRD ATTEMPT TO RELEASE HIM, AND DELIVERS HIM FOR CRUCIFIXION, John 19:1-16.

Matthew 27:24-31; Mark 15:15-20; Luke 23:23-25.


Verse 4

4. Went forth again—After Jesus returned from Herod, Pilate again took him into the inner apartments where the scourging took place, and the multitudes still stood in the front court of the palace. Pilate now brings forth Jesus in his most piteous plight, and, probably, mounting the gallery or balustrade slightly projecting over the court, presents him in an elevated position to their view.


Verse 5

5. Behold the manEcce Homo! This solemn presentation of Jesus before the world, preceding his final delivery to death, has produced the most solemn impression upon the minds of the Church of all Christian ages. The pencils of the great masters of Christian art have selected it as a choice subject. Pre-eminently he stands forth the Man, the representative of the race, the memento of our sin, the exhibition of our misery.


Verse 6

6. They cried… Crucify him—As Jesus stands the representative of suffering for sin, so these are the representative sinners. All our sins have cried, in the words of these men, “Crucify him, crucify him.”

Take ye him—Crucify him then yourselves, Pilate in effect says, for I cannot perpetrate the deed. There is a tone of impatience in the words that shows how indignantly the Roman felt their exacting and obstinate cruelty.


Verse 7

7. We have a law—As much as to say, If you, as a Roman, do not feel his execution to be legal and just, we have plenty of law to sustain the infliction of death.

Made himself the Son of God—To make himself the Son of God, and thereby equal with God, was blasphemy, for which the sentence was death by stoning. But now an unexpected result followed their utterance of the phrase Son of God. There can be no doubt that the personal demeanour of Jesus had an impressive effect upon Pilate. He appeared to the Roman a strangely supernatural being. The warning dream of his wife hung gloomily upon his feelings. Sceptics are often superstitious. Genuine religious feeling often being suppressed in their hearts, abnormal spiritual notions take their place. He puts to himself the startling query: May there not be something supernatural in this remarkable specimen among this half supernatural race?


Verse 8

8. The more afraid—That is, this expression so increased the awe of his former impression as to induce the following action, that he takes Jesus into the judgment hall for examination on this specific point.


Verse 9

9. Whence art thou?—A most significant question. The sceptical and inquiring world has been asking it ever since. O most supernatural man, reveal thy origin! “Who shall declare his generation?” Isaiah 53:8.

No answer—Alas! to none but the true inquirer comes there any response but absolute silence. No explanation proper for Jesus to give could the mind of Pilate have properly received. Wounded pride now mingles with his fear. He will test this superhuman personage with a threat.


Verse 10

10. Power to crucify… power to release—Roman power may dare if not defy even the supernatural and divine. There is something supreme in her Jupiter Stator, a proud might in her imperial genius, that may venture to threaten even the supernaturals in other parts of the earth.


Verse 11

11. No power at all—But here is a majesty above the majesty of Rome. The prisoner of Pilate is truly greater than Pilate himself. Again he asserts, what he asserted at his arrest, (Matthew 26:53,) that his surrender was perfectly voluntary, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Only because it was accepted as a foreknown fact in the divine plan, and predicted in Scripture, does Jesus consent to Pilate’s power. Pilate would have no power but that it was given from above.

Therefore—Because I am that Divine Being above all human power.

He that delivered me unto thee— The word delivered is the same in Greek as the usual word for betrayed. The reference therefore is, primarily, to Judas; for we have already noted that the words just used are parallel with his words used at his arrest.

Greater sin—The more divine the victim, the greater the sin of his betrayal and delivery.


Verse 12

12. From thenceforth—Rather from that reason. That is, because he felt the impress of Jesus’s supernatural character. Nothing now, apparently, would have prevented Pilate from releasing Jesus by a peremptory exertion of power; but the Jews, with surprising art, had reserved their master-stroke for this final period. Spare this man and you are yourself an undone man.

Not Cesar’s friend—The present Cesar, or Emperor of Rome, was the jealous, capricious, cruel Tiberius. Let him for a moment be made to suspect that a viceroy of his tolerates even the shadow of a rebel king, and that viceroy is a dead man. As we have elsewhere noted, Pilate in fact, three years after, committed suicide to escape punishment under charge of maladministration.


Verse 13

13. Heard that saying—Jesus, again, must die that another may not die. A just man though he is, Pilate will shed his blood for his own safety. The Jew conquers the Roman; the subject rules the ruler. The Gentile is compelled by the Jew to be the executioner of the Saviour of mankind.

He brought Jesus forth—Though the examination might be in part in private, yet the sentence must be pronounced in public. Jesus, therefore, is led into the fore court, and Pilate takes his place upon the judgment seat.

Called the Pavement—This was a platform of Mosaic, ornamented and tessellated, on which the judgment throne was made to stand.

Gabbatha—Signifies an elevation. John gives the Hebrew as well as the Greek name of the platform, to indicate that Pilate pronounced judgment solemnly, not from a level, but from the high judicial seat. So truly official a matter was this pavement that we are told by Seutonius, in his life of Cesar, that that general, wherever he marched, had the fitted marble conveyed with him, in order to lay the platform, whenever he encamped, at his pretorium or headquarters.


Verse 14

14. It was the preparation—The day before the Jewish (Saturday) Sabbath, that is, Friday, the day of crucifixion. As the Jewish Sabbath commenced on the evening of the preceding Friday, so the latter part of Friday was originally devoted to a preparation for the Sabbath. But, gradually, the time of preparation was extended, and, finally, the whole day became the preparation.

Of the passover—That is, it was the Sabbath-preparation in the Passover week.

About the sixth hour—That is, toward noon. But Mark 15:25, says it was the third hour when they crucified him. Attempts have been made to show this to be a contradiction. The third hour would be nine o’clock. But Mark does not say precisely that he was crucified at nine o’clock. He truly says that the preceding events brought it to nine o’clock, and after that they crucified him. The process resulting in his crucifixion commenced about nine o’clock, and John says the crucifixion took place not exactly at twelve, but about that time. Precise measurement of time, brought about by modern science and accurate timepieces, was unknown to antiquity.

Behold your King!—One of the sarcastic expressions of the indignant Pilate against the Jews.


Verse 15

15. We have no king but Cesar—Thus, to repudiate the Messiahship of Jesus, they not only lay firm claim to the domination of the Romans, but reject Jehovah himself as the king of Israel.


Verse 17

§ 140.LEADING FORTH AND CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS, John 19:17.

Matthew 27:32-34; Mark 15:21-23; Luke 23:26-33. See notes on the parallel sections.


Verses 18-30

§ 141.JESUS ON THE CROSS, John 19:18-30.

Matthew 27:35-50; Mark 15:24-37; Luke 23:33-46. See notes on parallel sections.


Verse 19

19. Pilate wrote a title—Pilate (doubtless by the hand of a writer) prepared this title, with the careful purpose of another and final sarcasm upon the Jews. It was probably borne upon the person of Jesus while going to execution, and then fastened upon the cross.


Verse 20

20. Read many of the Jews—The nearness to the city, mentioned in the next words, and the variety of languages in which it was written, gave a wide notoriety to the inscription. Jerusalem and Judea are told that their king hangs upon the cross. They had threatened to make his unpunished claim of kingship a charge against Pilate before Cesar; Pilate retorts by making that kingship an insult upon them before the world. He can now report to Cesar that he has hung a king for them.


Verse 21

21. Said the chief priests… Write not—This betrayal of their feeling of the odiousness of the superscription affords Pilate the completeness of his triumph.

He said—This would make his crime consist in making a treasonable claim. Pilate would have it, as in truth it was, that Jesus was their king.


Verse 22

22. I have written—In the true style of an imperious Roman. He at once displays his arbitrary authority, maintains an immovable record, and attains a complete triumph over these Jews. And in his declaration there is the force of a prophecy. Christ is King, and no earthly power can obliterate the truth of his eternal royalty.

The parting of his garments, and the lot, 23, 24. Compare Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33.


Verse 23

23. Of the parting of garments John, as an eye-witness and as an expositor of the prophetic fulfilment, gives the fullest statement. By the Roman law the garments of the executed malefactor went as perquisites to the executioner. And thus here a Roman custom strangely comes in to fulfil an ancient Hebrew prediction.

Between this full statement of John and the briefer one of Mark there is variation, but no contradiction. Mark says: “They parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.” Here the garments are viewed in mass as being “parted,” and a “casting lots upon them” is affirmed; whether the cast lots affected the whole, or only a part, is not said. Still less is there a contradiction of Matthew, who says they “parted his garments, casting lots.” This only affirms that there was a casting lots, more or less, in the process of the division. These two statements are indefinite, but John’s precise.

Four parts—Hence, but four soldiers (commanded, perhaps, by a centurion) were required to crucify, numerous as was the band that first apprehended him.

Coat—At this they arrived last, as being the under tunic or shirt. It was commonly worn by the priests, and consisted of two oblong pieces of cloth, fastened at the upper ends upon the shoulder with a clasp or buckle, and hanging down, before and behind to the feet.


Verse 24

24. They said therefore—Amid the most solemn scene of human history, the unconscious actors sit down to gamble.

ScripturePsalms 22:18. This is one of the seven psalms which, as prefiguring the Messiah, are commonly called the Messianic Psalms. In this psalm David utters, as of his own person, sufferings he never endured, and glories too great for himself or any other merely human being. He undergoes the most terrible assaults from the most wicked and brutal of men, and through his deliverance brings about the conversion of the Gentiles to Jehovah. Hence the Jewish Church, as well as Christ and his apostles, held the psalm as describing the suffering Messiah. The fact that the Saviour’s tunic was a single woven piece, produced one of those literal fulfilments of the very words of prophecy by which its object is designated too plainly for the dullest mind to fail of seeing. Thereby the application of the more figurative parts is more decisively fixed.

Cast lots—Each man’s name, token, or lot was placed in some receiver, an urn or perhaps a helmet, and either the receiver was so shaken as to throw out a lot, or the lot was fortuitously drawn from the receiver.


Verse 25

Jesus commits his mother to the care of John, John 19:25-27.

25. Stood by the cross—The same feeling of safety which induced John to enter the high priest’s palace, seems to have emboldened him at the head of his female company to make the nearest approach to the cross. No danger was to be apprehended from the Roman authorities, who so reluctantly surrendered even Jesus to death. The only harm could arise from the malice of the multitude. It was probably just as the shades of the supernatural darkness were dense enough to obscure their approaching figures, that they came within listening distance of the dying Saviour. Abruptly, and avoiding (perhaps for her safety) addressing her as mother, Jesus utters his last words to her.

His mother’s sister—We suppose this clause to be in opposition with the clause following, and that his mother’s sister was Mary, wife of Cleopas; so that there are but three women here mentioned.

Cleopas—Rather Clopas. See note on Luke 24:18.


Verse 26

26. Woman—The same respectful but not affectionate title addressed by Jesus to his mother at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. But for this repetition of the title, we should certainly infer that it was here used to avoid exposing his mother to the notice of the multitude. Why, then, did he not address her in this moment of sorrow by the endearing title of mother? We cannot but conclude that the title used indicates that officially he was a son no longer. Her maternity is transferred to another. And yet, in this moment of overwhelming suffering, the mind of Jesus takes care to remember the obligations due to the ties of nature. His garments, his last property, his foes have parted among themselves. His mother alone remaining, he places her as a precious deposit, not with her sons but with his best beloved disciple. See note on Matthew 13:55.


Verse 27

27. Unto his own home—Doubtless to his own immediate residence in Jerusalem; next, to his home in Galilee; and finally, perhaps, to Ephesus, his last abode in Asia Minor. See our note on Matthew 1:18. That John had a home at Jerusalem is implied by the phrase from that hour, as he remained some time in Jerusalem.

The writers of the Romish Church, assuming that John was committed to the protection of Mary, use this passage as an argument in support of Mariolatry. John is made to represent the Church, which is bound to solicit the guardianship of this “Mother of God.” All this is precisely the reverse of the fact. Mary was committed to the protection of John, not John to the protection of Mary.


Verse 28

The thirst and death of Jesus, John 19:28-30.

28. After this—That is, subsequent not merely to the event last narrated, but to all the events narrated. The last preceding event was the cry of Jesus, “Eloi, Eloi;” and the present furnishing of drink is parallel with Matthew 27:48.

All things… accomplished—All his sufferings up to the now closing point.

Scripture… fulfilled—Some commentators refer this clause to what precedes; and the sense would then be that all things were accomplished in order to the fulfilment of Scripture. Stier more properly refers it to what follows; and the sense would then be that Jesus, in order to the fulfilment of Scripture, said, “I thirst.” We would, however, so extend as to include 29, 30. In order to the fulfilment of Scripture, Jesus, after the satisfaction of his predicted thirst, uttered the final “It is finished,” and expired.

I thirst—The briefest but not least significant of the Lord’s utterances upon the cross. The reference may be to Psalms 22:15, or rather to Psalms 69:21 : “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” It must not be conceived that our Lord, in a servile way, directed his mind to the interpretation of Scripture in these agonizing moments; yet, in a full, calm, glorious consciousness, he trod the path foreknown of God. He acts in the full spirit of Psalms 40:7 : “Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God.” Hitherto in the great agonies of his soul there had been little thought for the pains of the body. His utterance, as Lange well says, “is like the words of a hero, to whose consciousness it now first occurs that his wounds are bleeding, and that he needs some invigoration after the heat of the conflict has been sustained.” And thirst is a deeper suffering than hunger. After the bloody sweat of Gethsemane, the sleepless night of his trial, the scourgings, the loss of blood, and the unknown mental agonies, the fluids of his system became exhausted, and the glorious sufferer has not, perhaps, strength to utter his cry of final triumph. Meekly, like a lamb bleating to its slaughterers, he utters the feeble expression of his need. He consents to receive the aid of his murderers. Invigorated in body by the natural supply, he hastens in spirit, with brief, rapid utterances, to the consummation.


Verse 29

29. Hyssop—It is not well known what plant is here specified. But a sort of hyssop is described with a seedy stalk about a foot and a half long. Such a stalk would have been long enough to reach the mouth of a crucified person, inasmuch as the cross was not usually very elevated.


Verse 30

30. Vinegar—The poscha or acid drink sufficiently stimulant to quench thirst, used by the common soldiery.

It is finished—That is, the great work of suffering is finished. Primarily it thus has a reference to the past. Yet all the great results which that past suffering embodies are secured and accomplished. The great reparation for the fall of man is achieved, and in that achievement a glorious eternity for the human race, conditioned upon faith, is purchased. Through suffering and death Christ has acquired the right to bestow salvation upon all who believe. It is true, death has not yet been quite completely passed at this utterance. Yet it is by anticipation held as past, inasmuch as the yielding moment has now arrived. See opening note to chap. 17. Jesus is like a mighty swimmer, who, before leaping into the deep waters, exclaims, “The bottom is touched.”

Bowed his head With visible submission to death. The Evangelist describes like an eye-witness, which he claims to be. His brief, vivid words paint to the eye of the Church of all ages the pale, placid face and reclining head of Jesus reposing in death.

Gave up the ghost—With words of voluntary surrender, furnished by Luke in the parallel passage.


Verse 31

§ 142.THE TRANSACTIONS OF JESUS’S DEATH AND ENTOMBMENT, John 19:31-42.

31. Bodies should not remain—By the more barbarous Roman custom the bodies of the malefactors could remain upon the cross until disintegrated by corruption or devoured by birds. But by the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 21:23) they must be removed and buried before nightfall. The Jewish rulers doubtless desired that the corpse of Jesus should be as soon as possible removed from public sight.

A high day—The Jewish Saturday-Sabbath after the crucifixion-Friday, being both the sabbath and a Passover day, was a great day.

Legs might be broken—The crucifragium or leg-breaking was a Roman custom in cases of crucifixion, performed upon the malefactor before he was taken from the cross. The fracture was inflicted with an iron mallet upon the instep or ankle. This would leave the weight of the body to be sustained by the hands and upper parts, and cause exquisite agony to the victim not already beyond the reach of pain.


Verse 32

32. Came the soldiers—At a little after three o’clock the soldiers, either the four who had watched the crucifixion, or a special number sent by Pilate, came to the two thieves first and to Jesus last, as being in the middle.


Verse 33

33. Jesus… dead already—Our Lord had been upon the cross but some six hours, and malefactors have been known to endure the pains of crucifixion for two or three days. But the extraordinary sufferings of Jesus had speedily wrought their work upon his delicate though healthy frame. The question raised by modern sceptics, whether Jesus really died, or whether his present state was a swoon from which he may have recovered, was unknown to the ancient Church. That age as little doubted the reality of his death as those soldiers, who now examined and pronounced him dead already.


Verse 34

34. One of the soldiers—As if to make assurance doubly sure.

Blood and water—It has been well known in all ages that the blood of a dead man forthwith coagulates and will not flow. So that the ancient Greek commentator, Euthymius, says: “From the body of a dead man, though it should be pierced ten thousand times, no blood would issue.” Hence the early Church held this blood-and-water stream from the side of Jesus to be miraculous. In our own day, also, Mr. Andrews, in his Life of our Lord, holds that as the body of Jesus miraculously suffered no corruption, so the live blood could follow the spear as from the body of a living man. So by divine provision the sacred body of Jesus must be preserved from being marred by stoning to death, according to Jewish law, or by the crucifragium, according to Roman custom. His body must attain its resurrection unviolated, save by those blood wounds without which there could be no remission. The furnishing a natural solution has greatly perplexed anatomists. In the opinion of Tholuck, Ebrard has brought the question to a satisfactory result. Ebrard professes to show that in certain cases of violent contortion the blood might be decomposed into two parts, might become unnaturally collected, be pierced by the spear, and both water and blood flow forth. Of all natural solutions, perhaps that of Stroud is best. He maintains that JESUS DIED OF A BROKEN HEART and in such a case blood would escape into the region around the heart and there be separated into red clot and watery fluid; thence it would escape through the wound made by the spear. It is a wonderful thought that the mighty heart of Jesus broke under its crushing weight of woe; and it is a striking idea that the apostle’s simple observation should furnish the phenomenon from which modern science verifies such a result.


Verse 35

35. He that saw—The apostle, speaking of himself in the third person, and solemnly asseverating his own truth and accuracy. But what is the point which the Evangelist here designs so strongly to attest? Plainly the double fact by which the predictions in John 19:36-37 are fulfilled: namely, the fact that no bone was broken, but that the side was pierced.


Verse 36

36. A bone… not be broken—John quotes these words with but slight verbal variation from Exodus 12:46, and Numbers 9:12. In those passages it is the Passover lamb to which the words apply. In John’s view, therefore, Christ himself is the paschal victim, so that the words must be true of him. In other words, the Passover lamb is a predictive emblem of the Redeemer. So Paul affirms (1 Corinthians 5:7) Christ, our Passover, (or paschal victim,) is slain for us. That it was a substitutive victim is plain from the facts of the original institution of the Passover. Israel was as true a sinner as Egypt; but for Israel the paschal victim died instead. And as, when the destroying angel saw the paschal blood he passed over unharming, so when divine justice beholds in our behalf the atoning blood, it spares our souls. As the paschal victim by its blood redeemed Israel from Egypt and transmitted them to Canaan, so Christ’s atoning blood delivers us from the bonds of sin and furnishes our passport to the heavenly land. And this paschal lamb was to be without blemish, was to be eaten entire, without the breaking of a single bone. And this is the physical symbol of that perfectness, completeness, and sacredness belonging to the Redeemer’s person. So in our Saxon-English dialect the word holiness is but a different form of the word wholeness. Corporeally, our Saviour’s person was so divinely guarded, that except those scourgings and wounds prefigured by the slaughter of the emblematic victims of sacrifice, no harm could mar him. In his body must therefore be fulfilled the requirement laid upon the paschal lamb; not a bone of him shall be broken.

This bodily inviolable wholeness, belonging both to the emblematic and real victims, must, moreover, be taken with all the momentous import it contains. Christ’s whole nature is perfect before God and man; hence is he acceptable to God completely and perfectly; and hence should he be accepted by man in all the same completeness and perfectness. Thereby we aspire to the same perfection; and thereby, becoming the very body of Christ, we finally attain its own perfectness, and become acceptable once and forever before God the Father Almighty.


Verse 37

37. Whom they pierced—The quotation is from Zechariah 12:10, with which compare Psalms 22:16 : They pierced my hands and my feet. According to the prophet, God should pour upon the house of David (who in the Psalm quoted personates the pierced Messiah) the spirit of penitence, by which they should look with weeping upon the pierced One, and mourn as for an only Son, by them slaughtered. In this bodily piercing John sees a physical fulfilment of the prophetic physical image. It impressed his senses as he gazed. It was by inspired after-thought that he fully realized the Scripture verification. The visible image here too embodies its world of import. John saw the soldier look upon him whom his spear had pierced.

So every penitent Jew of John’s time looked upon the pierced and crucified Messiah and repented. In the fulness of time all Israel shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and repent; and all men whose sins have been the spear that pierced his side, have just reason to look upon him and repentantly mourn, as over a son their sins have murdered.

This leaving his bones unbroken, yet piercing his side, exhibited to John both the divine preservation and the sacrificial execution of the Lamb of God. Had Jesus been executed by Hebrew law his body must have been mutilated and crushed by stoning; so that, strange to say, the old Hebrew prophecy had to wait for the Roman to come, and in a mode his laws had prescribed, to sacrifice the Son of David according to the Scriptures. No wonder that John asseverates so solemnly that he saw it with his own marvelling bodily eyes.


Verse 38

The friends of Jesus, and his entombment, John 19:38-42.

38. After this Joseph of Arimathea—The foes have gone into the background, and Jesus is now with his friends for evermore. No apostle appears present at the embalmment or entombment; but one whose name is hitherto unmentioned, and would be forever unmentioned, but for this act, steps forward. So for the just man Providence ever raises new friends. And so may the weakest faith grow strong and take its proper post at the required hour. See note on Matthew 27:57-61.


Verse 39

39. Also Nicodemus—Mentioned by John alone. See notes on John 3:1-21, and John 7:50-53.

Myrrh—This myrrh is a gum exuding from a tree found in Arabia and more plentifully in Abyssinia. It was a very ancient article of commerce among Egyptians, Jews, Greeks, and Romans. It is first mentioned in Exodus 30:23. It was celebrated in ancient times as a perfume, and burned for an agreeable fumigation; it was esteemed as a medicine. It was an ingredient in the ancient Egyptian embalmment. In the middle ages of Europe it was held that it would render a man’s body immortal, if there were any method of completely imbuing the system with it.

Aloes—The article here mentioned is not to be identified with the drug which bears that name in the modern Materia Medica, which is a very bitter and somewhat stimulant stomachic purgative; on the contrary, the article here named is an odoriferous wood, celebrated for its agreeable qualities in ancient literature. Thus in Psalms 45:8 : “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.” The Hebrew word ahil became identified, both in the Greek and modern languages, with the word aloes simply from the verbal resemblance. It is curious that the Malay name of the article is agila; which, besides bearing a strong resemblance to the Hebrew word, has also a resemblance to the word eagle; and hence the same article has received the name of eagle-wood. A hundred pounds—Probably in the form of a ground or pulverized grain. Sceptical critics have raised a great outcry at the enormous amount of embalmment here mentioned. Its weight is almost equal to that of the body to be embalmed. But it is probable that St. John knew quite as well as any modern caviller whether this amount was incredibly large. Certain it is that the amount of spices bestowed was anciently considered an honour to the person entombed. Thus, when Rabbi Gamaliel, senior, died, it is said that there was burned by one proselyte more than eighty pounds of Oppo balsam. Might not Nicodemus esteem this “Teacher sent from God” above all rabbis, priests, or prophets? Might he not have dealt his spices in proportion to his estimation? Do we know that all this material was used in the first enwrapment of the body? (See note on Matthew 27:59.) Might not a large amount have been reserved for a fragrant fumigation of the apartments of the sepulchre? Besides, we have already intimated, that probably this great amount of embalming material may have been furnished under some vague idea that the body of Jesus was to be preserved from corruption, and that human means might contribute to that effect. And when we note that the women also prepared spices on Friday evening, (Luke 23:56,) and others brought spices on Sunday morning, (Mark 16:1,) we plainly see that each, without regard to the others’ contributions, was anxious to furnish a share as a tribute of love. To the cavils of Strauss the reply of Ebrard is both beautiful and conclusive: “As if when flowers were to be strewn on the grave of a dear departed friend any one would now ask the question, How many were required? so that there might be just enough! If a friend sent unexpectedly a bunch of flowers, would the mourner, glad to save his money, say, Now there are sufficient flowers; I do not need to buy any more?”


Verse 40

40. Then took they—In the last two verses John has mentioned Joseph and Nicodemus each in the singular, and then adds the part which each performed: the former secured the body, the latter furnished the embalmment for it. Now in the plural they both cooperate in the same work. Heretofore they may have been strangers; ever after doubtless they were brethren.


Verse 41

41. In the garden a new sepulchre—John’s account here, had we no other, would appear not a little mysterious. By what right do the friends of this supposed malefactor take possession of the nearest new sepulchre? But from Matthew we learn (Matthew 27:60) that it is Joseph’s own new tomb. We have thus one of those happy but undesigned coincidences which show that truth is the basis of the account. As the next verse shows, the time required haste, and the body was deposited in this sepulchre temporarily, in order, after the sabbath was passed, to give it an honourable tomb in the proper burial ground.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-19.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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