The Crucifixion.
Subdivision D.

Jesus Found to Be Dead. His Body

Buried and Guarded in the Tomb.

^A Matt. XXVII.57-66; ^B Mark XV.42-47; ^C Luke XXIII.50-56; ^D John XIX.31-42.

^d 31 The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the sabbath (for the day of that sabbath was a high day ), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. [According to rabbinical writing a few hours before the Sabbath were called the Preparation; but afterwards the term was applied to the entire day preceding the Sabbath. The Romans left the bodies of criminals hanging upon the cross until beasts and birds of prey, or putrefaction, removed them. But the Jewish law forbade that a body should hang over night; for a dead body was accursed, and so the day following might be polluted by the curse which attached to it (Deut. xxi.23; Josh. viii.29; x.26; Jos. Wars iv.5.2). The context suggests that the Jews had grown lax with regard to this law on account of the trouble of obtaining the consent from the Romans required to carry it out. But as the Sabbath in this instance was that of the passover week, and as they were ready enough to do anything to show that Jesus was an extraordinary criminal, they asked Pilate that their law might be observed. Instead of killing the criminals, they broke their legs, which rendered recovery impossible, since putrefaction almost immediately set it.] 32 The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him: 33 but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34 howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side [to insure death in case they might be mistaken], and straightway there came out blood and water.35 And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe. [Many able men have argued learnedly that this flow of blood and water was evidence that Jesus died of a ruptured, or literally broken, heart; but they confess themselves involved in difficulties, for it is hard to reconcile the idea that Jesus died a voluntary death with the idea that he died of any natural cause whatever. Can anything be at once natural and supernatural? However, John's asservation that he was an eye-witness of this shows that he attached importance to it. To him the body of Jesus gave evidence that it differed from other dead bodies. We enter with hesitancy the realm of symbolism, knowing how flagrantly it is abused, but we offer this as a suggestion. Jesus died for our sins, and his death was therefore to provide a means for the cleansing of sin. But, under the terms of his gospel, sins are visibly and physically washed away by water, and invisibly and spiritually by blood (Heb. x.22). Now, since both these means were seen by a faithful witness to issue from the side of our crucified Lord, contrary to the ordinary law and course of nature, we have additional reason to believe that things out of the course of nature, namely, the cleansing of sin, etc., were accomplished by his crucifixion.] 36 For these things came to pass, that the scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. [ Ps. xxxiv.20.] 37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. [Zech. xii.10. Even after his death divine power went on fulfilling the prophecies concerning Jesus. He hangs upon the cross as one of a group of three, yet, in the twinkling of an eye, he is separated from the other two by the fulfillment of a brace of prophecies which point him out as the chosen of God.] 38 And after these things ^b when even was now come, because it was the Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, ^c behold, ^a there came a rich man from Arimathaea, ^c a city of the Jews, ^a named Joseph, ^b of Arimathaea, ^c who was a councillor, ^b of honorable estate, ^c a good and righteous man 51 (he had not consented to their counsel and deed), ^b who also himself was looking for the kingdom of God; ^a who also himself was Jesus' disciple: { ^d being a disciple of Jesus,} but secretly for fear of the Jews [John xii.42, 43], ^a 58 this man ^b boldly went in unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. ^d asked of Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus [Joseph's town has been variously identified with Ramleh in Dan, Ramathaim in Ephraim (I. Sam. i.1), and Ramah in Benjamin (Matt. ii.18). It was a fulfillment of prophecy that the one who buried Jesus should be rich (Isa. liii.9). It is strange that those who were not afraid to be disciples were afraid to ask for our Lord's body, yet he who was afraid to be a disciple feared not to do this thing]: ^b 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead [instances are cited where men lived one whole week upon the cross, and men rarely died the first day]: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.45 And when he learned it of the centurion, ^a Then Pilate ^b granted the corpse to Joseph. ^a commanded it to be given up. ^d and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took away his body.39 And there came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to him by night [John iii.2], bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. [Myrrh was a resin and the aloe was pulverized wood. Both were aromatic -- Ps. xlv.8.] ^a 59 And Joseph ^b bought a linen cloth [a sindon -- see p.693], ^c 53 And he took ^a the body, ^c down, ^b and taking him down, wound him in the linen cloth, { ^a and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,} ^d 40 So they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. [As to the swathing of dead bodies, see p.526, also Acts v.6. The spices were wrapped between the folds of the linen in order to partially embalm the body. Thus two members of the Sanhedrin unite to bury Jesus, each showing his reverence in his own way: Joseph by buying a sindon instead of cheaper cloth, and Nicodemus by a wonderful wealth of spices -- twelve hundred ounces. Possibly the heart of Nicodemus smote him for his tardiness in honoring Christ, and he desired to appease his conscience by giving the Lord a royal burial -- II. Chron. xvi.14.] 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden [belonging to Joseph]; and in the garden a { ^a his own} new tomb which he had { ^c that was ^b which had been} ^c hewn in stone, ^b out of a { ^a the} rock: ^d wherein was never man yet laid. { ^c where never man had yet lain.} [To the sindon Joseph adds the honor of a burial in his own tomb. The unused state of the tomb is mentioned to show that there is no shadow of doubt as to whose resurrection opened it.] 54 And it was the day of the Preparation, and the sabbath drew on. ^d 42 There then because of the Jews' Preparation (for the tomb was nigh at hand) they laid Jesus. ^a and he rolled a great stone to { ^b against} the door of the tomb. ^a and departed. ^c 55 And the women, who had come with him out of Galilee, followed after, and beheld the tomb, and how his body was laid. ^a 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, ^b the mother of Joses ^a sitting over against the sepulchre. ^c and beheld the tomb, ^b where ^c and how his body was laid.56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. And on the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. [As Jesus died about three o'clock in the afternoon, and as all work had to stop at sunset, which was the beginning of the Sabbath, Joseph was much hurried in his efforts to bury Jesus. The context, therefore, shows that our Lord was not completely embalmed by him. The body of Jesus might have been kept elsewhere until after the Sabbath; but because the tomb was near it appears to have been used temporarily, and the preparation of spices by the women shows that even that part of the burial was not, in their estimation, completed. This unfinished burial led the women back to the tomb early on the first day of the week, and thus brought to the disciples the glad news of the resurrection without any needless delay.] ^a 62 Now on the morrow, which is the day after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together unto Pilate [This was not the whole Sanhedrin, but members of it. When did they come to Pilate? Meyer, Cook, etc., say that the Greek word translated "morrow" precludes any other idea than it was after daylight Saturday morning, but Michaelis, Paulus, Kuinoel, etc., say that they came Friday night, and we think their view is correct. The word translated "morrow" also means "the next day." As the Jewish day began at sunset, we know of no other Greek adverb by which Matthew could have expressed the beginning of a day. Had it been the Sabbath morning there is no reason why Matthew should not have said so. By mentioning, instead, the Preparation, he draws the mind back to what we would call Friday night. It is highly improbable that the Jews would leave the tomb of Jesus unguarded for one whole night. Their gathering thus to Pilate in the shades of evening presents a gruesome picture], 63 saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I rise again. [For this saying, see John ii.19; Matt. xii.39, 40.] 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day [Had the phrase "after three days" meant three full days to them, they would have said "until the fourth day." For the Jewish method of counting days see p.306], lest haply his disciples come and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: and the last error will be worse than the first. [The marvelous signs accompanying the death of Jesus appealed to men's fear rather than to their love, and were, therefore, calculated to make a far deeper impression upon his enemies than upon his friends. We find, therefore, these Jewish rulers full of active interest in the dead Christ while his apostles and friends are listless in despair. They, of course, did not think it possible that Jesus could indeed rise, but, seeing the profound impression which the portents attending the crucifixion had made upon the multitude (Luke xxiii.48), and judging the disciples of Jesus by themselves -- full of all subtlety and cunning -- they grasped at once the idea that the disciples could make a great stir among the people by stealing the body and proclaiming the predicted resurrection. The apostles, on the other hand, when the actual resurrection had taken place, did not learn for fifty days what use to make of it, thus showing they could not have planned a pretended resurrection.] 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a guard [The Greek here may be the indicative or the imperative; it is clearly the latter. If the Jews had possessed a guard, they would not have asked for one. Pilate consents to their request by saying, "Have ye a guard:" thereby fully sanctioning their idea]: go, make it as sure as ye can.66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, the guard being with them. [They sealed the stone by drawing a string or tape across it and fastening the ends with wax or clay to the surface of the rock on either side. If either seals were broken, that fact would show that the tomb was entered from without.]

cxxxiii the crucifixion 3
Top of Page
Top of Page