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38. 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.
In relating this transaction, the evangelist Mark tells us that Pilate, being surprised to hear that Jesus was so soon dead, sent to inquire of the centurion who had the care of the execution whether it were as was reported, and, being assured by him of the fact, then complied with Joseph's request; a circumstance which renders the death of Jesus níore unquestionable, if possible, than before.
39. 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 pounds weight.
It appears from Josephus that the higher the honour intended for the dead, the greater was the quantity of spices employed; we know also that the body was not only embalmed, but likewise buried in spices, and that it was not unusual to burn a certain portion of them. We need not, therefore, be surprised at the quantity used on this occasion, when we learn from the same authority that eighty pounds of spices were expended in the burial of Gamaliel the elder, a Jewish Rabbi. This was a testimony of respect to Jesus worthy of the wealth and the attachment of Nicodemus *.
40. Then took they, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, the body of
• Harmer's Observations, Vol. ii. p. 156, 164.
Vol. i. p. 163. Bishop Pearce.
Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
From this passage, as well as from others which have occurred in the course of the history, it appears that John wrote his gospel for the instruction of strangers, or Gentiles; for Gentiles only could want to be informed in what manner it was usual for the Jews to bury. The reason for mentioning the linen clothes with which he was bound will be seen, when the evangelist comes to speak of his resurrection.
41. 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.
This garden belonged to Joseph, and the sepulchre had been hewn out of the rock, as a repository for himself or his family. It was natural to observe that it had never yet been used, as no one could then suspect that it was the body of some other person, and not of Jesus, which rose to life again.
42. There laid they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews' preparationday; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
The Jewish sabbath began at six o'clock of our Friday evening, and the preparation for it at three in the afternoon of the same day, at which time Jesus expired. As he remained some time upon the cross after he was dead, a considerable portion of the period of the preparation must now have elapsed. Had his friends, therefore, attempted to remove Jesus to any distance, the sabbath would have commenced before they could have accomplished their purpose. They chose, therefore, to bury him in a sepulchre which was pear at hand, rather than incur the hazard of violating the sabbath, by carrying him to one at a remote distance,
1. We may observe from this part of the history, how undeniable is the evidence of the death of Jesus. It satisfies his friends, who waited for the event with affectionate solicitude, to perform for him the last office of friendship. It satisfies his enemies, who never would have quitted him until they saw their malicious purposes completely executed. It satisfies the Roman soldiers, who were accustomed to executions and well acquainted with the symptoms of death, An event believed by so many persons of opposite wishes, upon the testimony of their senses, who had such strong motives to inquire into it, must be allowed to be true. There is nothing to excite suspicion or surmise. It has every mark of authority which we can desire. This consideration serves completely to justify the conduct of Providence in permitting Jesus to die in so painful and ignominious a manner. A public execution was necessary to ascertain his death beyond all contradiction, and consequently to prove his resurrection from the dead, which was dependent upon it. Had he died of a natural disease in private, his death could not have been so well known; a suspicion might have remained in the minds of many that his death was pretended and not real; but nothing of this kind can now be supposed. Here then lies the mystery of the cross, which men have endeavoured in so many ways to explain: it was necessary to establish the truth of Christ's resurrection; the most interesting and important event which ever took place in the world. A great evil, but of a temporary nature, is endured by an innocent individual, in order to produce a much greater good, the belief of a resurrection from the dead.
2. The conduct of Joseph and Nicodemus, in showing respect to the person of their master after death, the one by requesting his body of the Roman governor for interment, the other, by bringing a large quantity of spices to embalm him, is highly worthy of commendation. It was the generous dictate of friendship, which teaches to respect in the dead the person that was loved and esteemed while living. It was also intended as a public, though silent, testimony to his innocence and worth, in opposition to the calumnies and ill treatment of his enemies. Him whom the Jewish council had condemned as guilty of blasphemy, and the Roman governor as an enemy to Cæsar, these two men are resolved to honour, not only as a person of exemplary piety and unsullied purity, but as a distinguished prophet and favorite of Heaven: As far as in them lies, they will wipe away the stain which has been thrown upon his character.
Blessed are they who, to rescue injured and departed merit from reproach, can thus step forwards in the face of public opinion, and, at the hazard of their own reputation, if it be only by the silent language of actions; but more blessed are they who have the resolution to defend the innocent; and to oppose the counsels of the wicked, by their words. Verily they shall not lose their reward in this life. They shall find friends who will do for them what they have done for others; who, when they are laid in the grave, and are no longer able to defend themselves, will be ready to vindicate their memory from reproach; and to do justice to their merit; or, if not recompenced! here, they shall certainly be recompenced at the resurrection of the just.
'Johnxx: 1-18. In the last chapter we left Jesus in the tomb, being committed to that place by his friends, who saw that he was dead and never once entertained the thought of
his being restored to life. We are now called to witness the evidence of his being miraculously raised from the dead.
This account appears to vary in many particulars from that given by some other of the evangelists, But I have not thought it necessary to reconcile their different narratives, or to render them consistent. Such variations and oppositions in inconsiderable instances are frequently found in authentic histories, without destroying their authority. As John, however, was an eye-witness of many things, and wrote after the rest, I conceive that, where there is any opposition, his authority ought rather to be preferred.
1. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Being ignorant of what Nicodemus had done, she came with her companions to embalm the body with spices, as soon as the rest of the sabbath and the darkness of the night would permit.
2. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, that is, John, the evangelist, and saith unto them, They have taken away our master out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
She expected to learn something about this supposed transaction from them; but they were as ignorant of it and as much surprised as herself.
3. Peter, therefore, went forth and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.