Sunday, May 28th, 2023
Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible Poole's Annotations
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 27". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ mpc/ matthew-27.html. 1685.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 27". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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MATTHEW CHAPTER 27
Matthew 27:1,Matthew 27:2 Christ is delivered bound to Pilate.
Matthew 27:3-10 Judas hangeth himself.
Matthew 27:11-14 Christ’s silence before Pilate.
Matthew 27:15-18 Pilate’s custom at the feast, and proposal to the people,
Matthew 27:19 his wife’s message.
Matthew 27:20-26 Being urged by the multitude, he washes his hands in his own justification, and releasing Barabbas delivereth Jesus to be crucified.
Matthew 27:27-32 Christ is mocked of the soldiers, crowned with thorns,
Matthew 27:33-38 crucified between two thieves,
Matthew 27:39-44 reviled,
Matthew 27:45-50 and calling upon God expires.
Matthew 27:51-56 The astonishing events which attended his death: the centurion’s confession.
Matthew 27:57-61 Joseph of Arimathea begs his body, and buries it.
Matthew 27:62-66 His sepulchre is sealed, and a watch set over it.
Mark saith, Mark 15:1, And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. Luke saith, Luke 23:1, And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him to Pilate. John saith, John 18:28, Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. If any ask why having condemned Christ, they did not put him to death. John tells us, John 18:31, it was not lawful for them to put any one to death. They had already out of their malice to Christ broken several of their own canons, or rules observed in ordinary capital causes, sitting in the night time, and upon a festival day. They must have notoriously broken another, if they had themselves on that day put him to death. It should seem by their stoning Stephen, Acts 7:59, they had a power in some cases to put persons to death; but Christ was to be crucified, and as to that kind of death they had no power:
See Poole on "John 18:31". Besides that, we must consider it was the passover day, and stoning any man to death required a concourse of people to throw stones, and they were afraid of tumults. The Roman governor had the militia in his power, and could better prevent and suppress tumults than they could do. Finally, Christ was by his death to give testimony to his kingly office; and the Jews, as we shall hear, had this to charge him with, That he made himself a King: this was a civil cause, and to be condemned by Pilate the Roman governor amongst them. In the morning, therefore, consulting how to put Christ to death, they delivered him to Pontius Pilate, having first bound him; for though he was bound upon his first apprehension, yet it is probable that they had loosed him when he came into the hall of the high priest, and now bind him a second time, when they carried him before Pilate. John tells us, that they would not themselves go into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover; which words have in them a difficulty, and also give us an account of a most unaccountable superstition. For the passover, they had eaten it the night before. But we must know, that not the paschal lamb only, but all the sacrifices offered any of the seven days, were also called the passover, Deuteronomy 16:1,Deuteronomy 16:2, &c. It was now the first day of unleavened bread, but there were to be offerings this day of which they were to eat, which in a large sense are called the passover. But how unaccountable was the superstition of these hypocrites! They made no conscience, when they had eaten the paschal lamb in the evening, to spend the whole night in consulting how to shed innocent blood, and condemning of Christ; but they pretend now conscience, that they will not go into a pagan’s house in the morning, for that was the defilement they feared, having nothing to do to sit in judgment with him.
Matthew (who alone reports this piece of history) interrupts his relation of our Saviour’s trial before Pilate, with an account of Judas’s end. We must not interpret Then strictly, so as to think Judas did this at the time when Christ was carried before Pilate, but some short time after; for they went immediately from the high priest’s hall to the judgment hall, and stayed there until Christ was condemned by Pilate, before they returned to come into the temple. But possibly it was that day, after Pilate had condemned him, or within some short time after that Judas (as it is said) repented himself; that is, began to be terrified in his conscience for what he had done. The consciences of the worst of men will not always digest mire and dirt, but sometimes throw it up, yea, though it hath first incurably poisoned them. Sin is sweet in the month, but bitter in the belly. All repentance is not saving. Nor doth all confession of sin obtain remission. Judas here repents, and confesseth he had sinned, and his particular sin, in betraying an innocent person; yet he findeth no mercy, he hath not a heart to beg forgiveness, nor to apply himself to Christ for remedy. But the answer of the chief priests and elders is very remarkable:
What is that to us? see thou to that. Wretched Judas! he had been the servant of these wicked men’s lusts, and for a poor wages served them in the highest act of villany. He falls into a distress of conscience for what he had done. What miserable comforters do they prove! Tempters never make good comforters. Those who are the devil’s instruments, to command, entice, or allure men to sin, will afford them no relief when they come to be troubled for what they have done: nor will it now satisfy the conscience of Judas, to remember that he had a warrant for apprehending Christ, and acted ministerially. The priests will not take the money, he throws it down in the temple, and goes and hangs himself. How great is the power of conscience, smiting for the guilt of sin! Judas could have no hope of a better life, so as all his happiness lay in the time of this present life; yet he is not able to allow himself that. The devil that entered into his heart to tempt him, now entereth again to persuade him to put an end to his misery in this life, by hastening himself to an eternal misery. Let all apostates, turning persecutors of innocent persons, read this, and tremble. There is a difficulty of reconciling this text to that of Luke, Acts 1:18, where it is said of him, that falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. That which is usually said is, that he fell from the place where he hanged himself, and with the fall burst himself. I know there are some others, who think that the word απηγξατο need not be translated, ‘he hanged himself’, but he was suffocated or strangled. Some think the devil strangled him, and threw him down a precipice. Others, that he was suffocated by some disease, which caused a rupture of his body. Others think (as we translate it) that he hanged himself, and swelling, his body brake, and his bowels gushed out. Concerning the manner of his death, we can determine nothing, but that he was strangled, and his bowels gushed out; both these the Scripture asserts, but how it was we cannot certainly tell.
God, Deuteronomy 23:18, had forbidden to bring the price of a whore, or a dog, into the temple; this they had interpreted of all filthy gain: upon which they thus determine, that it was not lawful for them to put the money they had given Judas, for so sordid a service as that of betraying his Master, into the chest, or place which they had, where they kept the monies given for the repairs of the temple; and in this they were right enough, perhaps, but in this they showed themselves stupidly blind hypocrites, that they saw not it was much less lawful for them, who had hired him to this sordid action, to be employed in the service of the temple, for, Isaiah 52:11, those that bear the vessels of the Lord ought to be holy. Thus, to justify our Saviour’s words, they strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
They at last resolve what to do with the money, which was no great sum, for, as we noted before, it exceeded not three pounds fifteen shillings. They would not turn it to their own private use, for (probably) it was before taken out of the treasury; neither would they again return it into the treasury, because it had been made use of as the hire of blood. They therefore agree to buy with it a piece of ground ordinarily known by the name, of
the potter’s field, probably because some potter had digged earth, and thrown the waste of his pot kilns there, so as it was of no great value. This field the vulgar, upon this purchase of it by the priests, called many years after, The field of blood. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet. The evangelists use this term fulfilled, as I have before noted, in very different senses.
1. Sometimes to express the accomplishment of a prophecy.
2. Sometimes to express the fulfilling of a type, or answering it by the antitype.
3. Sometimes to express an allusion to some other scripture, mentioning some matter of fact of a like nature.
For the text here quoted, we have no such text in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, which are upon sacred record. Jeremiah indeed did buy a field by order from God, Jeremiah 32:9, to declare his faith in God’s promises for the return of the Jews out of captivity, but he bought it of his uncle Hanameel, and for seventeen pieces of silver; and that he was a potter, or that the field was called by that name, we do not read. The nearest place in the prophets to this text is Zechariah 11:12,Zechariah 11:13, And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. It is a very hard text as it lies in the prophet to give a just account of. The prophet was one of them who prophesied after the captivity of Babylon, yet, Zechariah 11:6, he plainly prophesieth after God’s destruction of the Jews and of Jerusalem. Which destruction being after that of the Chaldeans, to what it should refer, but to the last destruction of the Jews by the Romans, I cannot understand. Zechariah 11:7, he saith, I will feed the flock of the slaughter, that is, the flock designed for the slaughter, or drawing near to the slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. Christ came in person to feed the church of the Jews, but they also abhorred him, so that he abhorred them, and resolved to cast them quite off; Zechariah 11:8,Zechariah 11:9. So he broke first his staff called Beauty, took away all the glory and beauty of that church. Then, as it were in indignation, he saith, If ye think good, give me my price. What requital will you give me for my labour amongst you? So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. Their selling of Christ to a traitor for so much, signified their high contempt of him. And the Lord said, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. The evangelist indeed doth not quote the very words of the prophet, but the substance of them. And for my part I think, that the evangelist here by fulfilling meaneth the accomplishment of the prophecy in Zechariah. For I know not what other tolerable sense to make of the prophecy, if we do not say the prophet spake in the person of Christ, foretelling his own coming amongst them, their rejection and contempt of him, and his utter rejection of them; and prophesying, as a piece of their contempt and rejection of him, their selling him to Judas for thirty pieces of silver, (a most contemptible price), and God so ordering it by his providence, that this money should again be brought them, and this potter’s field should be bought with it. So as I think that text was fulfilled here more than by allusion, or as it was typical to this act, and that this act was the very thing which there is prophesied, and here fulfilled. But how Matthew saith this was
spoken by Jeremy the prophet is a harder knot. It is observable that Zechariah hath many things found in Jeremiah, and it is not improbable that the very same thing was prophesied by Jeremiah, though afterward repeated by Zechariah, and only in the writings of Zechariah left upon sacred record. Matthew having now given us an account of the fate of Judas, returneth to our Saviour, carried (as we heard) before Pilate.
Mark hath the same, Mark 15:2; so hath Luke, Luke 23:3. John relates it more distinctly, John 18:29-32; Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.
The other evangelists seem to have given us the story of this our Saviour’s first appearance before Pilate summarily. John seems to have given us it more orderly and particularly. It is the course of all judicatures to require the accusers to speak first. Pilate therefore asketh what accusation they had brought against him. Their answer was very malapert, If he had not been a malefactor, &c. What was this to the purpose? Suppose him never so great a malefactor, must it not appear he is so before a judge condemns him? These accusers (as it seemeth) were of the same mind that the papists are, that the civil magistrate is to be executioner to the church; and when the ecclesiastical power hath condemned a man for heresy or blasphemy, the civil magistrate hath nothing to do, but without his own hearing the cause to put the person to death. But they met with a more equal judge, though he were a heathen. Say ye so, saith he, Take him, then, and judge him according to your law. This he either speaks as deriding them, and scorning what they would have put him upon; or else not thinking he had deserved any thing worthy of death, knowing they might without him scourge him, or inflict some lighter punishments. They reply, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. It is very questionable in what sense they spake this. Those that affirm that the power of judging and determining in capital causes was before this time taken from the Jews, must affirm that Stephen was put to death in a popular tumult, for he was after this stoned to death by the Jews, Acts 7:59; which is not probable, considering what we read of him, Acts 6:13,Acts 6:15, called before the council, and witnesses used against him, and have no record of any notice the civil magistrate took of the fact as a disorder. I therefore rather think their meaning was, This is with us a feast day, on which it is not lawful for us to put any to death without thy consent. Or, it is not lawful for us to put any to death for any civil cause, for saying he is our king; for it is manifest by the question which Pilate first put to him upon his second coming into the hall, mentioned John 18:33, in which all the other three evangelists agree, that they had charged him with saying, that he was the King of the Jews; to which all that he replied, which is recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, is, Thou sayest it. I am not bound to accuse myself; who witnesses this against me? But John saith that our Saviour said, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Our Saviour, by this answer to Pilate’s question, seems to vindicate his right not to be condemned without witness, which, if others had told Pilate this, they were bound to have produced. Pilate tells him, he had it not of himself, he was no Jew, but they were those of his own nation who had delivered him to him; and therefore asketh him what he had done. Then our Saviour openeth himself, not denying that he was the King of the Jews, but telling him he was no king of this world; his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, and he might know what King he was by his retinue, and those who took his part; for if he had laid claim to any secular kingdom, he should have had some appearing to take his part, and to fight for him to deliver him from his enemies, but he saw he had none. Pilate laying hold of his words, replies, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? Our Saviour still useth prudence, and keeps himself upon a close guard. It had been dangerous for him directly to have owned himself a king. He therefore only tells Pilate, that he said he was a king, and that he came into the world to bear testimony to the truth; and further adds, that every one who was of the truth did hear his voice. This poses Pilate, who had no notion of that truth which Christ spake of; he goes out as it were deriding him, saying, What is truth? Presently he goeth out to the Jews, Matthew 27:38, and tells them he found in him no fault at all, and offers to release him; but this we shall meet with in our evangelist by and by: the passages hereto mentioned are only related by John; excepting only the question,
Art thou the King of the Jews? and our Saviour’s answer,
Thou sayest it, which is reported by all.
Mark saith much the same, Mark 15:3-5. These things were before Pilate went out to the people, and told them that he found no fault in him at all, and offered to release Barabbas unto them. Then seemeth to me to follow in order what we have in Luke 23:5-17, in these words: And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. The constant charge which, we shall observe, was laid upon all the ministers of the gospel from Christ’s time. Tertullus the Roman advocate thus charged Paul, &c. When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. After the death of Herod the Great, who died soon after our Saviour was born, (as we heard before), the sceptre departed from Judah, there were no more kings. The government of Jewry was turned into a tetrarchy, divided into four provinces, each of which had a governor, who was called the tetrarch of that province. You have the division and the names of the tetrarchs, Luke 3:1, where you will find that Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. Our Saviour being taken within the jurisdiction of Pilate, it seemeth not to have been necessary for Pilate to have sent him to Herod, but a compliment to satisfy his curiosity. For, saith Luke, when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves. This is now all historical, and hath in it nothing difficult. Christ had spent most of his time in Galilee, (which was Herod’s tetrarchy), though Herod had not seen him, yet he had heard much of him, and had the curiosity to desire to see him, hoping that our Saviour would have wrought some miracle before him. But he failed in his expectation. He propounds several questions to him. Our Saviour being not before a proper judge, answereth him nothing. So as there was nothing done, only the chief priests and scribes followed him with incessant clamours. Herod and his guard vilify and mock him, put him on a gorgeous robe, and send him back to Pilate. All the effect of this was, Herod was pleased with Pilate’s compliment, and from that day was reconciled to Pilate, though there had been a former enmity betwixt them; only, as we shall hear hereafter, Herod decreeing nothing against Christ, Pilate made some use of it, in his endeavours to have delivered our Saviour.
Mark saith, Mark 15:6-11, Now at that feast he released unto them, one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
Luke hath this passage of the history more fully, Luke 23:13-18; And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him. No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)
John saith, John 18:38-40, that when he went out he told them he found no fault in him at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews. Then cried they all again, saying, not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
The history is plain: Pilate discerned, upon his before mentioned examination of Christ, that our Saviour had done nothing amiss, but was only loaded with the malice and envy of the chief priests and scribes; this made him resolve to do what in him lay to deliver him. He first tells them that they had brought him before him, accused him of many things, but had proved against him nothing criminal; that he had sent him to Herod, in whose jurisdiction he had lived, but neither did Herod find any fault in him. Now there was a custom, that ever at the passover the governor released a prisoner at the request of the people. The people desired he would keep their old custom in this particular. Pilate propounds to them to release the King of the Jews. The chief priests influence the people to declare their dissatisfaction at that, and to name one Barabbas, a prisoner who was a robber, and had been guilty of an insurrection, and of murder committed in the insurrection: accordingly the people cry out, Not this man, but Barabbas. This makes him again to return to the judgment seat.
Matthew only mentions this passage of Pilate’s wife; whether it was when Pilate sat upon the judgment seat the second time, (the story of which we have heard), or afterward, is uncertain; nor is it material. She doubtless refers to some late dream, which possibly she might have after her husband was gone from her, for he was called early. Whether this dream was caused by God for a further testimony of Christ’s innocency, or were merely natural, cannot be determined. But still the cry holdeth, Not him, but Barabbas. So much influence had the wicked priests upon the people.
Mark hath the same, Mark 15:12-14. So also Luke saith, Luke 23:20-23, Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.
John, John 19:1-12, hath yet more circumstances relating to the latter part of this trial, which follow: Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. I have not given the reader at one view what all the evangelists say, as thinking it scarce possible from them all to set down the order how things passed at this trial; but only, that I might take notice of what was remarkable in it, related from one or other of them. The reason of our reading so often of Pilate’s going out, and then again coming on to the judgment seat, seemeth to be because, as we heard before, the Jews would not come into Pilate’s house, but stood at the door; and, on the other side, I conceive that he could not proceed judicially but sitting upon the tribunal, or seat of judgment. So as, though he could proceed in judgment within the house, with the attendance of his own servants, soldiers, and officers; yet, when he had any thing to propound to the Jews, he went out. We cannot think that the evangelists report all the things the Jews objected against our Saviour, nor all the questions by Pontius Pilate propounded to him. For the evangelists tell us, summarily, that they accused him of many things, and Pilate saith, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? There was, it seems, but one thing that they most insisted upon, that was, his making himself a king, as to which we heard before how our Lord cleared himself. In the whole process of this trial these things are remarkable:
1. Our Saviour’s silence.
2. Pilate’s equity.
3. The rage and madness of the chief priests, scribes, and people.
Our Saviour’s silence confirms to us that piece of the law of nature, that no man is bound to accuse himself. Pilate’s equity appears in many things: He would not condemn him without a particular hearing of his cause himself, he would not force him to accuse himself; he accepts our Saviour’s vindication of himself, as to the great thing wherewith he was charged; he twice declares that he found no fault in him; he studies expedients to deliver an innocent person from their rage; he sends him to Herod, and obtains his concurrent suffrage to his innocency; he offereth to release him according to a custom they had at the passover to deliver one, whomsoever they desired; when this would not do, he caused him to be scourged, then brings him out to them again, hoping to have moved them to compassion by that lighter punishment of him.
The rage and madness of the Jews, principally of the chief priests and scribes, appeared in their urging to have had our Saviour condemned without hearing; their excessive clamours against him; their preferring one before him who was a robber, a murderer, one that had made a public insurrection; their insisting so much upon the kind of death that he should die, viz. by crucifying him, though in that they did both fulfil the counsel of God, who had determined that he should be made a curse for us, and it was written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree, Galatians 3:13, and what himself had prophesied, that he should be delivered to the Gentiles, and they should mock, and scourge, and crucify him, Matthew 20:19. But that which is most remarkable is, the providence of God, for the evidencing of our Saviour’s innocency. Pilate’s wife calls him a just man. Pilate twice tells them that he found no fault in him. They are able to say nothing when Pilate asks them, What evil hath he done? Herod objects nothing against him. He is merely condemned upon the brutish clamour and rage of the rabble, incensed and set on fire by the chief priests and Pharisees. The art of these his adversaries is also observable, because it is the same which the enemies of the gospel, deriving from this first pattern, have ever since observed in the execution of their malice against the preachers aud faithful professors of the gospel. They durst not insist upon the doctrine which our Saviour preached, which was the true cause of their malice against him, but bring him under a charge of treason and sedition, as if he had gone about to make himself a king in opposition to the Roman emperor; though there was not the least pretence for any such thing, and if there had, none who considereth that they were a conquered people, and how zealous they upon all occasions showed themselves for their civil liberties, can imagine they had any great kindness for Caesar. It is very observable, that malice against religion and godliness, and a desire of the extirpation of it, and the professors of it, is the predominant lust in the hearts of wicked men. To serve this, they not only deny their own reason, and principles of common justice, but deny themselves likewise in some other lusts. And herein they show themselves the true seed of the serpent, and the children of the devil, whose works they do; who, though he be the proudest spirit, yet, to destroy a soul, will abate his pride, truckle to a poor witch, and go upon her errands.
Mark saith, Mark 15:15, So Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him to be crucified.
Luke saith, Luke 23:24,Luke 23:25, And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
John saith, John 19:13, When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the Judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. Here are three accounts given of Pilate’s coming over to the Jews’ desire to condemn Christ, contrary to the conviction of his own conscience, for he had twice declared that he found no fault in him. Matthew saith, he saw he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made.
Mark saith, he did it to content the people. John saith, it was upon the hearing of that saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. His fear of being accused to the emperor Tiberius, as favouring one who made himself a king, especially if his opposing the Jews in their desire of his death should have caused a tumult, was questionless the great thing that moved him to give judgment in this case contrary to his own conscience; and this is the meaning of his contenting the people, mentioned by Mark. It is plain by the whole story he had no mind to gratify or gain favour with them, but considering how jealous and suspicious a prince Tiberius was, it was Pilate’s interest to quiet them, and to give them no occasion of accusing him unto the emperor.
He took water, and washed his hands before the multitude. It was the law of God in manslaughter, where he that slew the man was not known, the priests and elders of the city that (upon measure) should be found nearest to the dead body, should take a heifer, and bring it to a rough valley, and strike off its head, and wash their hands over the head of the beheaded heifer, and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it, Deuteronomy 21:1-7. Some think that Pilate, living amongst the Jews, had learned this rite from them; but others think that it was a rite used in protestations of innocency amongst other people, as well as the Jews. But it was a great fondness in Pilate, to think this excused him, and freed him from the guilt of our Saviour’s death. For there was such an inseparable guilt clave to the act, as nothing could expiate but that blood which he spilt. Those who take upon them the trust of executing laws, had need to take heed what they do, for the law will not excuse them in the court of heaven, unless it be found according to the law of God. What Pilate did he did but ministerially, the law condemned, not he: but if it be understood of the law of God about blasphemy, to which the Jews undoubtedly referred, John 10:33,John 10:36, it was misapplied. If it were a Roman law, Pilate ought to have considered the equity and justice of it, and whether the fact was proved or not. Pilate had twice owned there was no fault in him. His washing his hands could not purge him of the murder, whereof he was guilty in his condemnation; he did but protest against what he immediately was about to do.
Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children: his blood, that is, the guilt of his blood, be upon us, &c. A most sad imprecation, the effect of which hath been upon that miserable people now more than sixteen hundred years.
Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, &c. The scourging was before this, and so recorded by St. John, for we cannot imagine that he was twice scourged.
He delivered him to be crucified; not to the Jews, but to his own officers, for it was a civil crime that he was accused of before Pilate, and crucifying was a Roman punishment.
Mark hath the same, Mark 15:17-20, only he saith they put upon him a purple robe. John seemeth to mention this a little out of order, John 19:1-3, as done before his condemnation; for though some think that Matthew and Mark rather mention these things out of their due order, yet the abuses seem more likely to be done to a person who was condemned, and so dead in law, than while he was upon his trial. Writers tell us that none might be crucified before he was scourged, and that not with rods, (which was the Jewish manner), but with whips (far more cruelly); but whether it was before or after condemnation we are not certain. He was condemned upon that article, that he should say, he was the King of the Jews. To mock him, therefore, they set a crown on his head, but of thorns; they put a sceptre into his hand, but it was of a reed; they bowed the knee before him, as was wont to princes; they put on him a robe of purple, or scarlet, both which were used by princes; in short they put upon him all the indignities and marks of scorn imaginable. When they had thus glutted themselves, they restore his own garment to him, and lead him away to the place of execution. Who can read these things with a believing heart and dry eyes, if he remembers, that our sins platted the crown of thorns set upon our Saviour’s head, and made the whips with which he was scourged? Our stomachs (when we read these things) are ready to rise against the pagan soldiers; but how little did they do in comparison of what Christ suffered for our sins! Who can read these things, and not be fortified against temptations from suffering if we will own the gospel and cause of Christ? Our sufferings will come much short of what Christ hath suffered for us.
Mark saith, Mark 15:21-23, And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
Luke is larger in his account of the passages between his condemnation and crucifixion, Luke 23:26-32. And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
John 19:17, saith no more than, And he bearing his cross went forth unto a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha. Matthew, and Mark, and Luke say, that a countryman, one Simon a Cyrenian, (compelled to it by the soldiers), carried the cross after Christ. John saith, that he himself bare it. Both were doubtless true. Some say that Christ himself did carry it through the city, and when he was out of the city this Simon carried it. Others think, that Christ being wearied, Simon took it. But reason will tell us, that the cross was too heavy a piece of timber for one to bear, and therefore Simon was compelled to bear the hinder part; therefore Luke saith, he bare it after Jesus. The dispute whether this Simon was a native Jew, though an inhabitant of Cyrene, or a proselyted Cyrenian, or as yet a pagan, and whether this Cyrene was one of the ten cities comprehended in the name Decapolis, is not worth spending any words about. All the evangelists agree, that he was crucified at
Golgotha; Luke calls it Calvary; they are both names of the same signification,
the place of a skull; the one is the Hebrew term, the other Latin.
They gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall. Mark saith, wine mingled with myrrh. There is so great a cognation between wine and vinegar, that it is no wonder if one evangelist calls it vinegar, another wine, which, if it be acid, is vinegar. The word translated gall signifies all bitterness, whether it be caused from gall or myrrh. Some think that some good people gave him wine, and the soldiers added myrrh to it. But this is a great uncertainty. Certain it is, that it was an ordinary favour they showed to dying persons, to give them some intoxicating potion, to make them less sensible of their pain. It is probable it was something of this nature; but our Saviour was not afraid to die, and so had no need of such an antidote against the pain of it; he refused it. We shall find they afterward gave him something to drink also.
Luke tells us that great multitudes followed him to the place of execution, (which is still very ordinary), lamenting him, to whom our Saviour saith, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children; and then prophesieth the miseries that should follow his death, to that degree, that the barren should bless themselves; and they all should say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. He bids the women weep only for themselves and for their children; for how much better is it for persons of any tenderness to have no children, than to have children, and to see them dashed against the stones, as was threatened to Babylon, Psalms 137:9; or to kill them for the parents’ sustenance, as it happened in Ahab’s time; or to see them slain before the parents’ faces, as it happened to Zedekiah, when the enemy took Jerusalem! Jeremiah 52:10. The people also, he saith, should (as it was of old prophesied of those of Samaria, Hosea 10:8) cry to the mountains to cover them, and to the hills to fall on them: a proverbial expression, to signify their wishing themselves dead and under ground; or expounded by Isaiah 2:19, And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. See the like expressions, Revelation 6:16; Revelation 9:6. In those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? It is another proverbial expression, which may be understood impersonally: If they do, that is, if it be thus done to. If God suffers them thus to do to me, who am his Son, what shall be done to you, who are but as dry sticks, and so fitter for the fire? If judgment begin at the house of God, where shall the wicked and ungodly appear? 1 Peter 4:17,1 Peter 4:18.
Mark saith, Mark 15:24-28, When they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the superscription of his accusation was written over, The King of the Jews. And with him they crucified two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Luke saith, Luke 23:33,Luke 23:34, And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
John telleth us some further circumstances, John 19:18-24 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. And they crucified him; that is, four soldiers, as we learn from John’s narration of this matter of fact; it seemeth this business was assigned to four more especially.
This crucifying was a bitter and shameful kind of death, not in use amongst the Jews, but amongst the Romans. The manner of it is not particularly known to us: but, as it is described by writers, a piece of wood was erected which was crossed with a bar upon the top. The body of the person being fastened to the main piece of wood, his arms were extended, and nailed to the cross bar, or piece of timber, and his hands and feet were nailed. Mark saith, it was the third hour, which with us was about nine of the clock: so hasty they were in destroying this just person, that between midnight and nine of the clock in the morning, they apprehended him, tried and condemned him in the sanhedrim, or at least in a court of high priests and elders, and then before Pilate the Roman governor, and led him to be crucified, and nailed him to his cross. The evangelists tell us, he was crucified in the middle between two thieves, of whom we shall read more afterward. Several scriptures of the Old Testament were fulfilled in this crucifixion of Christ. They pierced my hands and my feet, Psalms 22:16, was fulfilled in his nailing to the cross. In his being crucified betwixt two thieves was fulfilled that, Isaiah 53:12, He was numbered with the transgressors. That of the psalmist, Psalms 22:18, They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture, was fulfilled in the soldiers’ parting of our Saviour’s garments, as their fee. But how could they part them, and yet not rend them? Possibly they parted his other garments, and only did cast lots for his coat, or upper garment. Or, it may be, they valued it, and agreed each man’s share, and then cast lots for the whole. I see no ground for their assertion, who say, that in such cases they only stripped the condemned person of his upper garment. John’s relation seemeth to oppose it; he saith, and also his coat. Matthew, Mark, and John all agree in the inscription which Pilate drew to be put upon his cross, signifying the crime for which he died; only John puts in those words, of Nazareth. Thus Christ died in the attestation of his kingly office. This inscription angered the Jews; they solicit Pilate to alter it, and that it might be, Who said he was the King of the Jews. But Pilate refused, saying, What I have written I have written. There was nothing more pleasing to Pilate than this, (as he thought), to deride the Jews, as having such a despicable person (as he judged him) their King. In the mean time the counsels of God have their effect; Christ in his death is declared to be the King of the Jews. Luke saith, that Christ said, Father, forgive them; for they know what they do. Whether these words were spoken when our Lord was first nailed to the cross, or afterward, is not much material. Luke relates them before the soldiers’ parting his garments. Our Saviour by them declares himself a true Pastor and Shepherd of souls, teaching his disciples no more than he himself did practise. Matthew 5:44, he had taught his disciples to pray for them who despitefully used and persecuted them. Himself here practises it. The malice of men ought not to quench in Christians the grace of God. Let us now consider the passage that happened from the time he was nailed to the cross until the time of his expiration, which was more than three entire hours.
Mark relates this part of the history with no material circumstance differing from Matthew, Matthew 15:29-32. Luke saith, Luke 23:39-43, And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? and we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
John saith, John 19:25-30. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished. Matthew and Mark relate more particularly what abuses our Saviour suffered while he hung dying upon the cross:
1. From passengers.
2. From the chief priests, scribes, and elders.
Nothing is more inhuman than to mock such as are in the most extreme and utmost misery, and it is what we seldom hear from the worst of men; but for the chief priests and elders, the magistrates and rulers of the Jews, to be guilty of such a barbarous behaviour, is amazing. That not the ordinary priests only, but the chief priests, that is, either such as had been in the office of high priest, or else some of the most ancient and grave men of the priests; that, not the hot headed young men amongst the Jews, but the elders of Israel, should be so rude, as not only to behave themselves indecently to a man in the most extreme misery, whom they ought to have pitied, and for whom they ought at this time to have been praying, but also forgetting all reverence to God, to say,
He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him; jeering all faith and trusting in God, and as it were defying God’s power, and saying with Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 3:15, Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? This is justly surprising, and lets us see to what a height of wickedness the Jews were come, and confirms us in this, that if those who serve the Lord in public places, especially in holy things, be not the best of men, they are the worst. Having more knowledge of the will of God than others, if they have once mastered their consciences, they become the vilest of men, and the most prodigious patterns of atheism and all wickedness. It lets us also see to what a degree malice and covetousness will debauch souls, and teach us to fear sinning against our light and convictions. All this was foretold by the prophet David, Psalms 22:8, and so must be. But the necessity of the event by no means excused the sinfulness of the act, nor made God the author of these men’s sins. Matthew saith,
The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
Luke saith, only one of them did so. Some think that at the first they both reviled him, but the heart of one of them was changed while he hung upon the cross; but it is no unusual thing in Scripture to use the plural number for the singular; and the number may be understood not so much to refer to the persons as their qualities, they were both thieves, though but one of them reviled our Saviour. Or what hinders, but that they both might desire Christ to put forth his power to deliver them, though one of them further reviled him, by words which the evangelists have not set down. Luke tells us, that one of these thieves rebuked his fellow, and cleared Christ’s innocency. Thus God had that honour from a thief which was denied him by the chief priests and elders. He can of stones raise up children to Abraham. He begs of Christ to remember him when he came into his kingdom; discovering an eminent faith in Christ, he is rewarded, by Christ telling him, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise: a plain text to prove that souls neither sleep nor die with the body, but immediately pass into their eternal mansions. John addeth, that there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and her sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene, and mentions our Saviour’s recommending his mother to the care of his beloved disciple, and tells us of John’s care of her; the other three evangelists mention their being there, but standing afar off; which might both be true, they being nearer the cross at first, then removing themselves further from it. John further mentions their giving our Saviour (upon his saying, I thirst) vinegar to drink. It is very probable this was but a kindness they did usually show to malefactors, dying that kind of death, when they were so long a time dying; but the evangelist tells us that in our Saviour’s case there was a scripture to be fulfilled, Psalms 69:21, In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink: whether David there spake in the person of Christ, or what was at that time primarily fulfilled in David, was at that time fulfilled in Christ as his antitype, is not much material for us to know; that the text related to Christ, and was fulfilled in him, we are assured by the evangelist. This giving of Christ to drink was distinct from that we meet with before, as may appear by the many different circumstances. That he refused; this he received, and said, It is finished: my passion is finished, or upon the finishing.
Mark hath the same, Mark 15:33-38. Luke saith, Luke 23:44, that it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. John saith no more, John 19:30, but that—he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. It is said, John 19:14, it was about the sixth hour when Pilate brought forth Christ to the Jews; how then could he be crucified at the third hour, and the darkness begin at the sixth? The different ways the Jews and the Romans had of counting hours, make us to be at a loss sometimes as to circumstances of time to reconcile some scriptures. But as to the present difficulty, it is said that the Jews, as they divided the night into four watches, so they also divided the day into four parts, each part having its denomination from the succeeding part, by which name all the intermediate time was called. Thus when the third hour (which with us is nine of the clock) was past, they called all the sixth hour till past twelve. Thus Pilate condemned Christ in the beginning of the sixth hour, and the darkness began at the end of it, that is, after twelve, for dividing the day into quadrants, the hours had their denomination from them. John also saith no more than about the sixth hour, which is true if it were some small time after.
There was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. That this darkness was caused by the eclipse of the sun at that time of the day is plain enough, but that this was no eclipse in the ordinary course of nature is evident; for;
1. Whereas all eclipses use to be in the time of the new moon, this was when the moon was at the full, the fifteenth day of the month Nisan.
2. This eclipse was not seen in one part or in another, but over all the earth that was under the same hemisphere.
3. No eclipse in a natural course can last three hours.
So that plainly this was a miraculous eclipse, not caused by the interposition of the moon, (as other eclipses), but by the mighty and extraordinary power of God, which made a heathen philosopher at a great distance cry out, Either the Divine Being now suffereth, or sympathizes with one that suffereth: he is said to have seen this eclipse in Egypt.
And about the ninth hour (that is, about three of the clock, as we reckon the hours) Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, or Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? The words are Hebrew, though Mark reports them according to the Syriac corruption of the dialect. They are David’s words, Psalms 22:1. David was a type of Christ. He that was the Son of David useth David’s words, possibly spoken by David in the person of Christ. God’s forsaking any person or place, must be understood with reference not to his essential presence, for so he filleth all places, and is present with all persons; but with reference to the manifestations of his providence for our good: thus when God withholds his good providence to us, either with respect to our outward or inward man, he is said to forsake us. A total forsaking either of our bodies, or of our souls, is not consistent with the being of our outward man, or the spiritual being or life of our inward man. All forsakings therefore in this life are gradual and partial. The forsaking which Christ therefore here complains of, was not the total withdrawing of Divine favour and assistance from him; that was impossible, and incompetent with the first words testifying his relation to God, and assistance in him; but it must be understood with respect to God’s consolatory manifestations, and that is testified by his other words, related by Luke, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Which words having said, he gave up the ghost, say Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John addeth, that he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost: words added, to confirm what he elsewhere said, that he laid down his life, none took it from him. His crying twice at this instant with a loud voice, argued his spirits not so spent, but he might have lived a few minutes longer, but he freely laid down his life. The people saying, He calleth for Elias, when he said Eli, Eli, spake them to be Jews, who to this day dream of an Elias to come and restore all things. That they no better distinguished between Eli and Elias, must be attributed either to the corruption of their dialect, he saying Eloi, Eloi, (according to the Syriac corruption of the term), or their too great distance from him. Their mocking him upon it was but consonant to their former behaviour toward him, while he was upon the cross. Their giving him the spunge with vinegar and hyssop we before gave an account of.
Mark, Mark 15:38, mentions only the rending of the veil. No more doth Luke, Luke 23:45. John mentions none of these things. It pleased God to give a testimony against this prodigious piece of wickedness by prodigious signs, both in the heavens and on the earth. In the heavens the sun, as we heard before, suffered an unusual, preternatural eclipse, which lasted three hours. In the earth, there was an earthquake, to that degree, that the rocks were rent by it. Earthquakes were sometimes no more than indications of God’s power and majesty, Psalms 68:8; Joel 2:10; and some think, that by this earthquake Christ declared his Divine power. It is certain that the centurion concluded from it, this was the Son of God, Matthew 27:54. But earthquakes were sometimes not only the indications of the Divine majesty and power, but also of his wrath, Psalms 18:7,Psalms 18:8; Joel 3:16; Nahum 1:6. And such doubtless was this; to show that the earth abhorred what these men had done. Besides these,
the veil of the temple was rent: three of the evangelists mention it. It is not much material whether this were the outward veil, or the inward veil, or hangings, which parted the most holy place from the other part of the temple, though probably it was the inner veil. By this rending of the veil God testified his wrath against the Jews, and that he was leaving his temple amongst them. The veil also was a type of Christ’s flesh, Hebrews 10:20; the antitype being rent, it was reasonable that the type should also be so. By this also was showed, that the temple service was now at an end, and to continue no longer, and the partition wall between Jews and Gentiles was pulled down. For what Matthew speaks, Matthew 27:52,Matthew 27:53, of the graves opening, and the bodies of the saints arising, &c., probably it was not till Christ’s resurrection; only Matthew puts it in here, reckoning up together all the prodigious things that happened, for Matthew himself saith, Matthew 27:53, they
came out of the graves after his resurrection, and it is not likely that the graves opened any considerable time before they came out of their graves. These now were the prodigies which attended the death of our Saviour.
Mark saith, Mark 15:39-41, And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (who also when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him); and many other women which came up with him to Jerusalem.
Luke saith, Luke 23:47-49, Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.
We heard before, Matthew 27:36, that the soldiers sat down and watched Christ. The centurion here mentioned was the captain of this watch; he seeing the earthquake, and all the other things that were done, saith Matthew. Mark saith, When he saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost. He glorified God, saith Luke. Matthew and Mark tell us how he said. Truly this man was the Son of God. Luke saith he said, Certainly this was a righteous man: he glorified God by a confession of the truth, to the glory of God, saying, he was a righteous man, and such a righteous man as was also the Son of God. It seems very probable that this captain, living amongst the Jews, had learned from them their expectation of a Messiah, and speaketh this with reference to that, and acknowledgeth that Christ was he. Luke addeth, that all the people that came to see that sight returned, smiting their breasts, being convinced of the great wickedness committed by their high priests, and chief priests and elders, and fearing that vengeance which followed in less than forty years.
And many women were there: these women had followed Christ out of Galilee: two only are named here,
Mary Magdalene, who probably had her name from Magdala a city in Galilee,
and Mary the mother of James and Joses, ( James the less, saith Mark, to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee),
and the mother of Zebedee’s children: these stood afar off, these three evangelists say. John told us, John 19:25, that two of these were so near the cross, with the mother of our Lord, that he spake to them. Here we read nothing of the mother of our Lord, probably she was gone with John, to whom Christ had commended her, and the rest withdrew and stood farther off from the cross at this time. Matthew goeth on now, describing the coming of Joseph of Arimathea to beg the dead body of Christ; so doth Mark and Luke.
John interposes something tending to complete the history, John 19:31-37; The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
The day upon which he was crucified was the fifteenth day of the month Nisan, upon the Friday, as we call it; this appeareth from this text, which saith it was the preparation to the Jewish sabbath; and that sabbath, the evangelist saith, was a high day, not because, as some think, the Jews put off their passover to that day, but because it was the second day of the feast of unleavened bread. It is true, John 19:14, it is called the preparation of the passover; but we must remember, that all the seven days of unleavened bread were so called, as I before noted. This day was indeed the preparation to the sabbath in the paschal week, for otherwise we must say that Christ did not eat the passover the same day that the Jews did, which involves us in many inextricable difficulties, and could not be if the paschal lamb was to be killed by the priests, for they would not have killed it the day before. It is therefore most probable, that John 19:14 must be expounded by John 19:31, and the preparation of the passover, John 19:14; was the preparation to the sabbath, which falling within the compass of the seven days of unleavened bread, was a great day with them, especially being the day following the eating of the paschal lamb. By the law, Deuteronomy 21:23, the body of none that was hanged was to abide all night upon the tree. It was between three and four of the clock in the afternoon before that Christ died; they used to set some hours apart for preparation to the sabbath, which that night began as soon as the sun was set; this therefore makes them go to Pilate, and desire that the legs of them that suffered might be broken. Pilate grants their request. The soldiers brake the legs of the two thieves, but when they came to Christ, they found him dead, and brake not his legs, but a soldier with a spear pierced his side. The evangelist takes notice of these minute things, (and assures us he saw them, that we might believe), that he might show us how in every point the things of old spoken of Christ were fulfilled in him. Christ was the true paschal Lamb, as to which the law was, That a bone of it should not be broken, Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; or else the evangelist refers to Psalms 34:20, where it is said of a righteous man, He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken. Our Saviour’s side was pierced, and that also is recorded, to let us know the fulfilling of that scripture, Zechariah 12:10, They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.
Mark hath it, Mark 15:42-47, And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. And he bought fine linen and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.
Luke hath it, Luke 23:50-54, thus: And behold there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them); he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
John reports it with some additions, John 19:38-42; And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day: for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
All four evangelists (as we see) repeat this history, one supplying what is wanting in another towards the completeness of it. Nor must we think it is for nothing so punctually related; much depended upon the world’s satisfaction in the truth and certainty of his death, burial, and resurrection, they are three great articles of our faith. We have therefore here punctually described his burial, with all the circumstances of it. As it is with us, so it seems it was with them.
The bodies of those who died as malefactors were taken to be in the power of the magistrates, to dispose of as they pleased, though they were ordinarily granted upon petition to their friends and relations. The person who begged the body of our Saviour is described to us by his name, Joseph; by his city, Arimathea (there it seems he was born, or had his mansion house, though he resided in Jerusalem); by his quality, both his more exterior quality, and his more interior qualification. As for his outward quality, Matthew saith he was a rich man. Mark saith he was an honourable counsellor. Luke also calls him a counsellor, but had not consented to the counsel and deed of them, that is, of them who had examined and condemned Christ: whether he was a member of the Jewish sanhedrim, or of Pilate’s council, (though the last be not probable), or had been a counsellor formerly, but now was not so, is hard to determine; but his quality doubtless made his access more free to Pilate. He went in boldly to him, saith Mark; his quality in the city, and his love to Christ, both contributed to this boldness. For his more inward qualifications, Matthew and John both tell us he was a disciple, one that had learned of Christ, though John tells us, it was secretly for fear of the Jews. Among the chief rulers many believed on him, John 12:42.
As bad as that set of rulers was which now ruled the Jewish affairs, (and a worse could not be), Christ had some disciples amongst them, as well as afterward in Nero’s court: these, for fear of the Jews casting them out of the synagogues, durst not openly own Christ, but secretly loved him. Joseph and Nicodemus were two of them. And to let us know what the disciples of Christ are, and should be, this Joseph is described by Luke to be a good and a just man; by Mark, to be one who waited for the kingdom of God; a believer, one who, believing what Christ had said, both concerning his kingdom of grace and glory, lived in the expectation of it. This man begs of the governor the body of Christ. Pilate wondered that he should be so soon dead, but inquiring of the centurion, and hearing that he was dead, he commands that his body should be delivered unto Joseph.
The manner of the Jews was, neither to have gardens nor burying places within the city, but without the wall; it should appear that this Joseph had a garden place without the city, and near to the place where Christ was crucified, and in that garden he had cut out of some great stone a sepulchre for himself. Matthew calls it his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock. The other evangelists do not call it his own new tomb, only Luke and John observe it was a sepulchre in which none ever before was laid. So as when they found him risen from the dead, they could not say it was some other body, for there was no other body in the tomb. But before they laid in the body, both Matthew and Mark observe, that Joseph wrapped it in fine linen, and John further addeth, that they embalmed the body; to which purpose it was that Nicodemus (that ruler who came to Jesus by night, of which we have the story, John 3:1-36, with whom our Saviour had a discourse about regeneration) brought the mixture of myrrh and aloes, of about an hundred pound weight; John adds, as the manner of the Jews is to bury, not ordinarily, but persons of greater note, whose estates were such as they could bear such an expense. This was the beginning of honour done unto Christ, after that he had passed through his lowest degree of humiliation.
Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, that is, the wife of Cleophas, of whom we heard before, stayed to see where he was laid, and took their seats over against the sepulchre. Luke saith, Luke 23:55,Luke 23:56, The women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day, according to the commandment. It seems they sat but a little while (as Matthew saith) right over against the sepulchre, but went home, and prepared spices and ointments to embalm him, but would not do it on the sabbath, which was now beginning, thinking that it would be time enough upon the first day of the week. Matthew saith, that Joseph rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
This part of the history is recorded by no other evangelist: the recording it by Matthew contributes yet further to evidence the truth of Christ’s resurrection; for here was all imaginable care taken to prevent a cheat in the case.
The next day, that followed the day of the preparation, must be the sabbath day, Mark 15:42. These superstitious hypocrites, that quarrelled with our Saviour for his disciples (being hungry) plucking ears of corn on the sabbath day, and for his healing him that had a withered hand, Matthew 12:13, can now themselves go to Pilate, to set him on work to command that the sepulchre should be made fast to the third day. They allege that Christ, whom they impiously call that deceiver, said, while he was alive, that he would rise again the third day, to answer the type of the prophet Jonas, Matthew 12:39,Matthew 12:40. They were doubtless jealous that there was more truth in those words than they were willing to believe. They pretend also a fear lest his disciples should come privately by night, and steal his body away, and then say he was risen. But was this a probable thing, that a government should be afraid of a few poor, unarmed men? They were doubtless convicted in their own consciences that he would rise again from the dead, and to prevent his coming out of the sepulchre, they would have Pilate command that the sepulchre should be made sure. Pilate tells them, that they had a watch, a band of soldiers, which he had commanded at this time to attend them, either for the guard of the temple, or other things about which they would employ them; they might make the sepulchre as sure as they could.
So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. Vain men! As if the same power that was necessary to raise and quicken the dead could not also remove the stone, and break through the watch which they had set. But by this their excessive care and diligence, instead of preventing Christ’s resurrection, as they intended, they have confirmed the truth and belief of it to all the world. So doth God take the wise in their own craftiness, and turn their wisdom into foolishness, that he may set his King upon his holy hill of Zion.