Hard-heartedness and insult took their course, for His hour was come. Pilate took and scourged Jesus the Lord of glory; the soldiers treated their meek prisoner with the unfeeling scorn, natural in such towards One Who resisted not; yet we must look to the Jews for extreme and unrelenting hatred.
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged (Him). And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put (it) on His head, and clothed Him with a purple garment,340 and were coming to Him378 and saying, Hail, King of the Jews! and gave Him slaps on the face. And Pilate went out again and saith to them, Behold, I bring Him out to you, that ye may know that I find no fault (in Him). Jesus therefore came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment, and he saith to them, Behold the man!” (verses 1-5).341
The Roman saw through the baseness of the people, through the craft and deadly malice of the religious chiefs; and he seems to have resorted to the unjust policy of scourging the Lord, followed up by the allowed, if not prescribed, derision of the soldiers, as a means of satisfying the Jews and letting Jesus go. Contrary to truth and righteousness, he would humour their feelings against Jesus, but he would save an innocent man, if possible, without loss to himself. Such is man in authority here below-at least, where Christ is concerned, or even those that are Christ’s. It was the place of judgment, but wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, but iniquity was there. There was not one spark of conscience in the judge, any more than in the accusers, or the crowd now quite carried away. There was man deceived by Satan; and God was in none of their thoughts. Pilate probably hoped that the uncomplaining endurance of such cruel mockery and scourging in their sight might perchance move the multitude and its leaders to compassion, whilst the exposed futility of the royal claims of Jesus would naturally awaken their contempt, and so in both ways further his own desire to dismiss the captive, in Whom he avowedly saw no guilt whatever. But, no! all must come out in their true colours-priests and people, learned and unlearned, civilians and soldiers, judge and prisoner. It was their hour and the power of darkness. But if man and Satan were there, so was God morally judging them all by the One they misjudged.
Still in that blind and hardened throng the Roman, unjust as he was, shines in comparison with the Jews of all ranks, and as the difficulty grew of delivering the Guiltless from their will set on destruction, we see a man in spite of himself growingly impressed with the unaccountable dignity of Him Who appeared to be at his mercy. Elsewhere, indeed, we read of his wife’s dream sent to warn him on the judgment-seat; but here it is His Person, with His silence and His words alike, which increased the desire to extricate Him from unscrupulous and murderous adversaries, always despised in Pilate’s eyes, never so despicable as now.
Pilate’s effort, however, was vain. “Behold the man!” had for its effect neither the pity nor the contempt intended to divert the crowd from their fell purpose, but rather to whet their rage afresh in clamouring for the Lord’s death. In the ways of God He will not allow iniquity to prosper, least of all where Christ is in question. The unjust judge might abuse and insult the Lord, hoping to gratify the Jews thus far, and to turn them from an aim from which even his stern and callous mind revolted as useless crime. But God, Who abhorred the horrible iniquity of them all, lets Satan ensnare them all in the consequences of their utter unbelief, and their habitually evil state-deaf to every warning and blind to the fullest testimony of moral goodness, and Divine glory, and perfect grace in the holy Sufferer before them. As the judge acknowledged His innocence, yet would risk nothing on His behalf, so all commit and condemn themselves to their own ruin, stumbling over the precious Corner-stone and sure foundation as a stone disallowed by the builders. (Ps. 118:22.)
“When, then, the chief priests and the officials saw Him, they cried, Crucify, crucify!342 Pilate saith to them, Take ye him, and crucify; for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered, We have a law, and according to the379 law he ought to die, because he made himself Son of God.343 When Pilate, therefore, heard this word, he was the more afraid, and entered into the prætorium again, and saith to Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate saith to Him, Speakest thou not to me? Knowest thou not that I have authority to release thee, and I have authority to crucify thee? Jesus answered, Thou hadst380 no authority at all against Me except it were given thee from above: on this account he344 that delivered Me up to thee hath greater sin” (verses 6-11).
The charge failing against the Lord as hostile to the powers of the world, His accusers now betake themselves to the still more solemn cry, He ought to die, because He made Himself Son of God. And Pilate was the more afraid, but not more ready to fall in with their design, though he were a heathen and they the blasphemers of the Hope of Israel, the Holy One of God! Yes, He is going to die, but not for the lies some swore falsely against Him, but for the truth of God, the capital truth for man, the object of faith, and the one source of eternal life. Having emptied Himself, He humbled Himself; but Son of God He was and is, from all eternity to all eternity. Not more sure is it that man is a sinner dead to God than that Jesus is His Son; and eternal life is in Him only, yet for every soul to have that believes on Him. “He that believeth hath everlasting life.” Neither is there salvation in any but Jesus, nor another name under heaven which is given among men whereby we must be saved. But those who ought most to have welcomed Him, and most to have set forth His glory, were those who feared not to say, According to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself Son of God! Oh, how real, how darkening, the power of Satan, when Jews blasphemed Him boldly, and the heathen procurator “was afraid” before Him!
Fear, however, is not faith; and in Pilate it was not more than undefined dread of the mysterious Man on His trial, and a strong sense that the enmity to Him was without a cause, save in their ravenous will. So, entering his palace again, he inquires, Whence art thou? and, mortified at receiving no answer, he vaunts his authority to release or to crucify Him. The Lord did not answer the one query, which had no better motive than curiosity, apart from the fear of God or His love; but He replied to the second in terms worthy of His Person, in fulness of grace and truth. Truly the hour was come that the Son of man should be glorified, and God be glorified in Him. What was the authority of a Roman governor without the will of God to sanction it? His ways, His nature, must be made good; the words were now, for the deepest of purposes, just about to be accomplished to His own glory for ever; and Jesus bowed absolutely to all.
Nevertheless, the accomplishing of Divine counsels in Christ does not consecrate the will of man that cast Him out and slew Him; and God is righteous in judging the evil. “On this account he that delivered Me up to thee hath greater sin.” The Gentile was wicked, the Jew worse; if Pontius Pilate were inexcusably unrighteous, how much more awful the position of Caiaphas or Judas Iscariot and of all they represented that day? If God sent His Son in infinite grace, He did not fail to present adequate proofs of Who and what He is, to leave all inexcusable for not perceiving and receiving Him; not only those who had God’s outward authority in this world, but yet more those who had His living oracles that testified of His Son, Who was the centre and object of them all. Were they not witnesses of such works and words and ways as never had been known on earth, proportionately measuring the guilt of those who after such grace rejected One so glorious?
“From this (time) Pilate sought to release Him; but the Jews kept crying, saying, If thou wilt release this (man), thou art not a friend of Caesar: every one that maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. Pilate then, having heard these words, led Jesus out and sat down on (the) judgment-seat345 at a peace called Pavement,381 but in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was (the) preparation382 of the Passover; it was about sixth383 hour. And he saith to the Jews, Behold your King. They cried therefore, Away with (him), away with (him); crucify him. Pilate saith to them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar” (verses 12-15).346
It is singular, as showing the perplexity in minds of old as now, that Jerome says in his breviary on Ps. 77: “Sic scriptum est in Matthaeo et Ioanne quod Dominus noster hora sexta crucifixus sit. Rursus scriptum est in Marco: quid hora tertia crucifixus sit. Error scriptorum fuit; sed multi episemum Graecum g “putaverunt esse g g: sicut et ibi error fuit scrip. forum: ut pro Asaph, Isaiam scriberent” (Hier. Opp., vii., 1046, ed. Migne). Jerome’s remedy was thus to correct the text, not of John [as Wesley, into “third”], but of Mark-a correction of but one known cursive manuscript of the eleventh century, the margin of the later Syriac, and the Æth., on which last says Bode (Pseudocrit. Millio-Beng., 265): “ Habet omnino Æth. sexta hora, idque ex Io. 19, 14. Nimirum Interpres Ioanni contradicere noluit.” But it is the just retribution of these tamperings with Scripture that they do not satisfy the desired aim; for John connects his sixth hour with what was before-possibly hours before-the hours specified by Mark, be it sixth or even third. Thus the violence done to the surest authority in Mark would no more reconcile the statements than the similar violence offered to the witnesses of John 19:14; for Mark specifies the time when our Lord was crucified as the third hour, John speaks of the time when Pilate took his seat on the tribunal to give sentence as about the sixth hour. To change the latter to the third, or the former to the sixth, if admissible in the face of the gravest adverse evidence, would not clear the truth, but only give birth to fresh confusion. [Cf. Westcott and Hort’s “Select Readings,” p. 90.]
The true state of the readings also thoroughly overthrows the efforts of some eminent Greeks and Latins, who try to explain the earlier hour as applicable to the Jewish outcry for the crucifixion, the later hour as the actual moment when the soldiers carried it into effect. But this is only neglect of Scripture, for John predicates “about the sixth hour” of the outcry, Mark “the third hour” of the actual crucifixion.. As there is no sufficient reason to doubt the accuracy of the seemingly conflicting texts of the second and fourth Gospels (in itself no mean evidence that the apparent discrepancy exhibits the genuine readings of both), and as the very slight variation of readings is easily accounted for by the desire thus to reduce them to harmony, the natural solution is that John’s reckoning of time differs from that of the other Evangelists. It will be found by comparing the various hours named in John 1:39, 4:6, 52, that the hours of the civil day suit as well after all as those of the natural (the last occasion apparently better), so as to confirm the different computation of John throughout. John 11:9 in no way opposes this, as being a general way of describing a working day, whatever the mode of computation-as, for instance, we can say so, who follow the style of the civil day from midnight. [Cf. Edersheim, “The Temple,” etc., p. 245, and note appended below, No. 346.]
How powerless is the struggle to do right, where the world is loved, one’s sins are unjudged, and grace unknown! The Jews saw through Pilate as he through them. How wretched not to have Christ for eternal life! Pilate preferred the friendship of the world to the Son of God, as the Jews saw no beauty in Him that they should admire Him; and both played their part in crucifying Him. Pilate may seek to release Jesus, may go in and out, may speak to Jesus and pour scorn on the Jews. But the last word of apostate unbelief passes their lips and closes Pilate’s mouth, who will not be behind the Jews in allegiance to Caesar. All is over now. The prince of the world comes, and though he has nothing in Christ, Christ dies rejected of man, forsaken of God, the Righteous One for our sins; never such hatred and unrighteousness as on the world’s part toward Him; never such love and unrighteousness as on God’s part toward the world in virtue of Him.
The Christ-rejecting word was passed. Their allegiance to the Roman was a lie, their mad guilt manifest in getting rid of Messiah and God Himself and all their faith and hope. The Jews abhorred subjection to Caesar; they owned neither his right nor their own sin, which was the occasion of his supremacy. But they abhorred the Messiah more,384 not their idea, but the reality according to God. They had not a thought nor a feeling, not a word nor a way nor a purpose, in common with Jesus; and this because He brought God near to them in grace, because He manifested man in perfect dependence and obedience to God, and their will with a bad conscience rejected both. Hence the cross was to them most repulsive. “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever; and how sayest thou, the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” Yet was the law plain enough that the Messiah should be rejected by man, especially by the Jew, and die that death of curse, the terrible sin of man, yet God’s atoning sacrifice for sin. But will, governed by Satan to serve a present purpose in pursuance of man’s lusts and passions, blinded them to His word and to their own suicidal wickedness; as ere long they were about to prove their rebelliousness to Caesar, and have the Romans come and take away their place and nation, but not before they had filled Jerusalem with the spectacle of their own penalty till there was no room left for more crosses, and wood failed to make them: so Josephus.
Matt. 27:31 -50; Mark 15:20-37; Luke 23:26-46.
“Then, therefore, he delivered Him up to them that He might be crucified. They took then Jesus385 [and led (Him) away]; and bearing for Himself the cross, He went outer out348 unto the place called of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and with Him two others, on this side and on that, and Jesus in the middle. And also Pilate wrote a title and put (it) on the cross; and there was written, Jesus the Nazarean, the king of the Jews.349 This title, therefore, many of the Jews read, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, in Latin. Therefore said the high priest 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.”
Faith alone preserves from the power and wiles of the devil. Pilate and the Jews were wholly opposed in their thoughts and wishes; but God was not in the thoughts of the one more than of the others. They had each his own way, but all astray; and now they show themselves the open enemies of righteousness as well as of grace, incapable of discerning the clearest ways, marks, and proofs of God present in love to man, no matter how low He might come down. The cross of Christ makes all and every one manifest. Pilate under pressure of fear for his own worldly interests gave up Jesus to their malice, though knowing Him innocent; and He bearing His cross went forth to the place of a Skull, Golgotha, in Latin “Calvary.” There was He crucified with peculiar indignity, a robber also on either hand, as a robber had been preferred to Him. Yet God took care that even there a fitting testimony, from whatever motive in Pilate’s breast, should be rendered to Him in the inscription on the cross; the despised man of Nazareth was the Messiah. Where were the Jews if He was their King? The keenest adversaries of the true God, blindly fulfilling His terrible prophecies of their unbelief and wickedness under a self- complacent zeal for His name and law. There stood His title, read by many; for the place was near the city, written in the tongues not of the officials only, nor of the polite world, but of the Jews too; and all the efforts of their high priests but riveted it to the cross under the pertinacious and irritated and scornful spirit of the procurator.
But the lowest played their part at the cross as well as the highest, men used to arms no less than the ministers of the sanctuary; and every class, every man, showed out there what each was in selfish indifference to the grace and glory of the Son of God, Who suffered Himself to be numbered with the transgressors.
“The soldiers, therefore, when they crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and the vest; but the vest was seamless from the top, woven through the whole.350 They said therefore unto one another, Let us not rend it, but let us draw lots for it whose it shall be; that the Scripture might be fulfilled that saith, They parted My garments for themselves, and for My vesture they cast lots. The soldiers therefore did these things” (verses 23, 24). Little thought the soldiers who had charge of the execution beyond their poor perquisites. But God’s eye was now as ever on His Son, and He had taken care in His word to mark it. For in one of the most manifestly Messianic psalms (Ps. 22:18) stands written, a thousand years beforehand, the minute prediction of the soldiers’ appropriating the garments of the Saviour in a way unmistakably applicable to Him. He is the object of Scripture, though unbelief sees it not, and has a will against it, because His Person is as unknown as our own need of Divine mercy in the cross. With what interest the Holy Spirit contemplated, as we should, every detail of His suffering, and of man’s behaviour at that hour! God counted Him not less worthy because He was made the object of such indignities. To make them known beforehand was of all moment. The very minuteness of what is mentioned bears witness to the accurate reality of the prophecy. He is the demonstrated as well as rejected Messiah. His glory made it due to Him to name the particulars, which also bear witness to the depth of His grace in humiliation, that God and man might be fully shown out, and that the words of the Psalmist be proved His word in the face of every gainsayer.
But faith and love gathered near the dying Saviour some of very different mind. “Now by the cross of Jesus stood His mother, and the sister of His mother, Mary the (wife) of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.351 Jesus, therefore, seeing His mother and the disciple standing by whom He loved, saith to His mother, Woman, behold thy Son. Next He saith to the disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour the disciple took her unto his own (home)” (verses 25-27). These were among the women who had followed Him in His ministry and had ministered to Him in life. There they stood in His rejection by the cross, where the Lord shows how little asceticism rises to the truth. He had been absorbed in the work for which He was sent by the Father; no honey mingled with the offering, any more than leaven: salt was never absent, nor the unction of the Holy Ghost. All had been in the consecrating power of the word and Spirit of God, and to God. But perfect human affections were there, though the work undertaken in communion with the Father had filled heart and lips and hands with the higher object to the glory of God. Yet eternal interests, when thus taken up, do not efface or dishonour Nature or its relationships according to God; and the Lord here marks this by commending in the most solemn and touching way John to His mother as son, and Mary to John as mother: a loving trust honoured from that hour. How sweet for the loved disciple to remember and record! And how strong the contrast with superstition, no less than as we have seen with asceticism! And what a testimony in all to His own entire superiority to overwhelming circumstances!
“After this Jesus, knowing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be accomplished, saith, I thirst. (Ps. 69:21.) A vessel (therefore) was standing there full of vinegar; and they, having filled a sponge with vinegar and put hyssop round (it), put (it) up to His mouth. When, therefore, Jesus received the vinegar, He said, It is finished, and, bowing His head, delivered up His spirit.” It is not only that in human tenderness He provides for all left behind in that supreme moment, but He thinks of Scripture in spirit or in terms not yet fulfilled. No doubt there is the distressing physical effect expressed of all that mind and heart and body had endured till then; but His last request is here bound up, not with His want only, but with His undying zeal for the word if only a single thing lacked to make it honourable. Every word that proceeds through God’s mouth must be fulfilled; and had He not said of Messiah, “My tongue cleaveth to my jaws,” and “In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink”? Then, having drunk, the Saviour says, “It is finished,” with a Divine calm as perfect here as His expression is given elsewhere of His unfathomable suffering.
Of none but Jesus is it or could it be said that He gave up (
παρέδωκεν) the spirit, which is wholly distinct from the “expired” (
ἐξέπνευσεν) of Mark and Luke, confounded with the former by our translators. To expire could apply to anyone’s death, the blessed Lord being man as truly as any other; to give the spirit up, as said in John, expresses His Divine glory though a dying man, as the One Who had title to lay down His life no less than to take it again. So Matthew implies Who the dying Messiah was in “He dismissed the spirit” (
ἂφῆκε τὸ πν.). Nor can words be more characteristic of Luke than “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit,” nor of John than “It is finished.” He was man, though God; He was God though man; and both in one Person.
The reader will remark how perfectly the account of the Lord’s death suits the general character and special design of John’s Gospel and of no other. Here Jesus is the conscious Son, the Divine Person Who made all things, but became flesh that He might not only give eternal life, but die as a propitiation for our sins. And here, therefore, here only, He said, “It is finished, and bowing His head, delivered up His spirit.” There are witnesses, as we shall see, but they are of God, not of man or the creature, and they intimately flow from His own Person. No darkness is mentioned, no cry that His God had forsaken Him, no rending of the veil, no earthquake, no centurion’s confession; all of which meet to proclaim the rejected Messiah (Matt. 27). So substantially, save the earthquake, the Servant Son of God obedient to death in Mark 15. Luke 23 adds the testimony to His grace in the crucified robber, His firstfruits in Paradise, and the centurion’s witness to “Jesus Christ the righteous,” after He had committed His spirit into His Father’s hands. It was reserved for John to set forth His death Who was God not less surely than man, and as such. The Creator but man lifted up from the earth could say, in dying for sin to God’s glory, “It is finished.” The work, the infinite work, was done for the putting away of sin by His sacrifice. Thereon hangs not only the blessing of every soul that is to be justified by faith, but of new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. “It is finished,”
τετέλεσται: one word! yet what word ever contained so much?
But no heathen were more blinded and obdurate than God’s ancient people who take the lead against Jesus in an unbelieving religiousness without true fear of God, and who, consequently, saw not that they were but accomplishing His word in their guilty rejection of His and their Messiah.
“The Jews, therefore, since it was the preparation, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for the day of that Sabbath386 was great),352 asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and they be taken away. The soldiers, therefore, came and broke the legs of the first and of the other that was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they broke not His legs, but one of the soldiers with a spear thrust His side, and there came out immediately blood and water. And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true, and he knoweth353 that he saith true, that ye also387 may believe. For these things came to pass that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Not a bone of Him shall be crushed; and again another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him354 Whom they pierced.”
In the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets the Spirit of God had Christ before Him, and in the sufferings to come on Him, as well as in the glories that should follow. But the fleshly mind, as it shrinks from sufferings, is disposed to overlook and get rid of testimony; especially so if the sufferings be the effect and the proof of man’s evil estate, for this is of all things most unpalatable. Thus was the Jew dull to see what condemned himself and levelled him morally to the condition of any other sinner; and rejecting the fullest evidences and Christ’s own presence in Divine grace and truth and the Gospel at last, he was given over to judicial hardening when wrath came on them to the uttermost. Christ alone gives the key to the paschal lamb; Christ is the main object in the Psalms. No reasoning of sceptics, even if theologians, can efface the truth, though it exposes their own unbelief; and assuredly if the heart were made right by grace, it would desire that to be true which is the truth, instead of stumbling at the word being disobedient, or neglecting it because of indifference. In vain, then, do the Rosenmüllers and the like hesitate or avow their dislike of the type and the allusion. To faith it is food and strength and joy; for if God’s word is instinct with His delight in Christ giving Himself to die, He also expresses it in every sort of form beforehand that the very facts of His atoning death, the great stumbling-block, might render the most irrefragable testimony to its truth and His glory, when thus manifested here below in shame, to man’s shame and everlasting contempt.
How marvellously meet in Christ’s cross the proud enmity of the Jew, the lawless hand of the Gentiles, the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and this in perfect grace to the guiltiest of Jews and Gentiles! For out of Christ’s pierced side came forthwith blood and water.388 And John was not so preoccupied with the Saviour’s dying charge concerning Mary as not to mark the sight. In the strongest form he lets us know that what we saw and testified was no mere transient fact, but before the mind as present, of permanent interest and importance. In his First Epistle (1 John 5:6) he characterises the Lord accordingly. “This is He that came through (
διὰ) water and blood, Jesus Christ; not in (
ἐν) the power of water only, but in the power of water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” Moral purification, however needed and precious, is not enough; there must be expiation of sins also; and both are found by faith in the death of Christ, not otherwise nor elsewhere. As a fact, in the Gospel the order is blood and water; as applied to us in the Epistle it is the water and the blood, and the Spirit as One personally given follows.389 Nothing but death flows to man from Adam: Christ, the second Man Who died for sin and sinners, is the source alike of purification and of atonement to the believer, who needs both and is dead before God without both. For though the Son of God with life in Himself, He stands alone till He dies; dying He bears much fruit. He quickens, purifies, and expiates; and the Holy Ghost consequently given brings us into the import of His death as well as blessing resulting from it. For it is judgment pronounced and executed by God in His cross on the flesh, but in our favour, because in Him Who was a sin-offering.
No wonder, then, that John was inspired to record the fact, not more wondrous in itself than in its consequences now made known to the believer. The salvation must be suited to and worthy of the Saviour. If He was eternal, it was everlasting; if Divine judgment fell on such a Victim, it was that they believing Him should not come into judgment, but have life, being forgiven all their offences and made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Such is the declared standing of every true Christian, but it is in virtue of Christ, Who is all and in all. Creeds and theological systems enfeeble and hinder its enjoyment; but all this, and more than one could here develop, is clearly and plainly revealed to faith in Scripture, as it is, indeed, due to Christ’s glory in Person and work.
Hence the care with which the word of God is cited and shown to be punctually fulfilled. “For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Not a bone of Him shall be crushed; and, again, another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him Whom they pierced.”390 (Ex. 12:46, Zech. 12:10.) The natural circumstances of the Crucifixion, more especially on a Friday, and that Friday the eve of Sabbath in the paschal week, would have called for the breaking of the legs as a coup de grace. And, in fact, such was the portion of the two malefactors. But Jesus, as He had proved Himself in the preceding chapter the willing Captive, was now the willing Victim; and this was made manifest in His dying as and when He did die. For it surprised not only the Jews and the soldiers, but Pilate, as we learn elsewhere; and it superseded all need of the crurifragium in His case. But it marked the separated Lamb of God, the Righteous One, all Whose bones Jehovah keeps, not one of them broken.
Now there is really no serious doubt that the true reading is the latter (“to Me”), not the former (“to Him”), and that the best and most MSS. and versions are justified. It was in fact originally nothing but a marginal correction, due to the desire partly of eliminating so strong a testimony to the deity or Jehovah title of the Lord Jesus, partly of easing the flow of the context from the concurrence of “Me” and “Him.” Even the Targum and the Talmud, like the more ancient MSS., and all the Greek early versions, refute the idea. So even most of the better Jewish expositors, notwithstanding their controversy with Christians and in the course of it. De Rossi suggests that “to Him” may have entered by accident through the scribe having Psalm 34:6 in mind. Much better and wiser, therefore, would it have been to have adhered to ancient and good authority, spite of seeming difficulty, than to have adopted this Jewish keri like Newcome and Boothroyd, and so to help on such a humaniser as Ewald. Even R. Isaac, in his “Chizzuk Emunah,” when controverting those whom he calls the Narazines, admits the reading אלי, though he tries to weaken its force by interpreting אֵח אֲשֶׁד as “because of Him whom they pierced” and applying it to the war of Gog and Magog. Now it is true that אֵח אֲשֶׁד may and does sometimes mean “because” (and so the LXX took the words, probably also confounding דּקר with רקד which might originate
κατωρχήσαντο); but the meaning cannot possibly be “because of Him whom,” for this would leave the verb without an object contrary to invariable Hebrew idiom. Hence also Radak’s (or R. D. Kimchi’s) translation fails, “because they have pierced,” though less objectionable, perhaps, as not foisting in an expressly false object. But they both divert from the true object; and therefore Abarbanel, Aben Ezra, Alshech, etc., condemn it, and so far confirm our Authorised Version. Rashi (i.e. R. Solomon) is no bad proof of the perplexity the clause presents to the Jewish mind; for he inconsistently applies it to Messiah ben-Joseph in his comment on the Talmud, whereas in his “Commentary on the Bible” he gets rid of this, applying it to some of the Jews pierced and killed by the Gentiles. It is the more surprising in the face of all, that these exploded mistakes should be reproduced in modern Jewish versions; as when Dr. A. Benisch, like D. Kimchi, omits the object in his “School and Family Bible,” and Mr. J. Leeser, in his “Holy Scriptures.” supplies “every one,” to the manifest falsification of the sense like R. Isaac. There is really an emphatic object in the Hebrew text, which accounts for (if it does not require) the change of construction in the foregoing clause. The conclusion! then, is that the evangelist read no otherwise than we do in the ordinary Hebrew, and that the Holy Spirit in the Gospel and the Revelation does not cite but suppose that text, which is distinctly applied to the fact carefully recorded in the history, and doctrinally employed in John’s First Epistle.
Yet this very exemption led as a fact, doubtless, to the deed of the soldier, whose lance pierced, not the malefactors, but only the dead body of the Saviour, wholly ignorant that so it must be, for God had said it by His prophet. All was ordered and measured; even these minute differences were revealed beforehand; yet were men and Satan indulging freely their enmity against the Son of God. And in the face of such love and light men combine their ignorance391 with their learning to escape from the truth into the dark once more. But we need not here dwell on such things. It is the same spirit that surrounded the cross:
“Thy love, by man so sorely tried,
Proved stronger than the grave;
The very spear that pierced Thy side
Drew forth the blood to save.”
Matt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56.
“And after these things Joseph from Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus,354a but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave leave. He392 came, therefore, and took His body away. And there came also Nicodemus, that came at first to Him393 by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pound (weight). They took, therefore, the body of Jesus and bound it in linen swathes with the spices, as it is the Jews’ custom to prepare for burial.394 Now there was in the place where He was crucified a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one was ever yet laid.354b There, then, on account of the preparation of the Jews, because the tomb was near, they put Jesus.
God uses a perilous time to call forth His own hidden ones. Joseph of Arimathea can be a secret disciple no longer. He was a rich man (Matt. 27) and an honourable counsellor (Mark 15); but wealth and position make the confession of Christ only the harder. Fear of the Jews had hitherto prevailed. The death of Jesus, which caused others to fear, made Joseph bold. He had not consented, indeed, to the counsel and deed of the Jews. Now he goes to Pilate and besought the Lord’s body. Nor was he alone: Nicodemus, longer known, but with no happy reputation for moral courage at the first, though afterwards venturing a remonstrance to the haughty yet unjust Pharisees, joins in the last offices of love with an abundant offering of myrrh and aloes. The cross of Christ, so stumbling to unbelief, exercises and manifests his faith; and the twain waxing valiant by grace, fulfil the lack of service of the twelve. They take the body of Jesus and bind it in linen swathes with the spices, in the manner of the Jews to prepare for burial. Egypt had its custom of embalming; so in a measure had the Jews in hope of the resurrection of the just. No prophecy is cited here; but who can forget Isaiah’s words: “He made His grave with the wicked (men) and with the rich (man) in His death”? He was “appointed His grave with the lawless, and was with the rich man in His death)” (Isa. 53:9.)-that is, after being slain: a strange combination, yet verified in Him; and who could wonder, seeing that He had done no violence and no deceit was in His mouth? And now we see in Joseph’s garden, hard by the fatal scene, a new tomb which had never known an inmate. So had God provided, in honour for the body of His Son and in jealous wisdom for the truth, hewn out in the rock (as Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us). There the Lord was put meanwhile in view of more formal burial when the Sabbath should pass. So little did the disciples anticipate what the glory of the Father had at heart, though the Lord had so often plainly revealed it, till the Resurrection was a fact in its own predicted time.
377 [Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 561-563.]
378 Such is the reading of BLUX
ΛΠ, more than twenty cursives, and nearly all the ancient versions, followed by the chief editors. The clause [through homoeoteleuton] is omitted in Text. Rec., with most uncials and cursives.
Δ, most It. Vulg., etc., omit
ἡμῶν, which the rest give.
380 So in B
ΓΔ, and six more uncials, most cursives, etc. [most Edd.]. But
ἔχεις, “hast” [Tisch.], in ADsupplLXY
ΛΠ, a dozen cursives, etc.
381 In later Greek
τὸ λιθόστρωτον was said for tessellated work or mosaic used for the floors of buildings, public or domestic, and very particularly for the tribunal of a Roman in the execution of his office. So Julius Caesar, on his military expeditions, regularly carried such a mosaic with him, as Suetonius tells us (gap. 46). The word seems to be from a Herew root, < “to be high” (cf. Geba, Gibeah, Gibeon, etc.). The one apparently refers to the flooring, the other to the elevated platform unless Lightfoot’s idea be well founded, who derives G. from “a surface,” and hence regards the Greek and Hebrew words as equivalents.
382 No matter of fact in the Gospel has been debated more keenly or with wider differences among men of piety and learning than this of
παρασκευὴ τοῦ πάσχα in connection with John 18:28, which doubtless disposes a modern or Gentile reader at first sight to conceive that the Lord must have observed the Passover and instituted His own Supper on the day before the time followed by the Jews. On the other hand, it is no less plain that, according to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Lord partook of the Passover with the disciples at the regular season, 14th Nisan. Hence there have not been wanting those who have dared to reject the narrative of John, whilst a still greater number have fallen into the opposite error, and treated the earlier Evangelists as confounding the meal with the Passover. Not a few, like Dean Alford, give up the question in despair as to us insoluble. The truth is, that all these contending parties start with the error of forgetting the obvious and certain fact that the Jews reckon the day from evening to evening, and that hence it is all a mistake to suppose that the Lord took the Passover with the disciples on one day and suffered the next [Neander, Meyer, Godet, Weiss, Ellicott, Westcott, Sanday]. So it would be to our Western habit of thought, but not so according to the Jews, nurtured in the law. It was on our Thursday they ate, and on our Friday He suffered; but to the Jews it was one and the same day. Hence there was still time for such Jews as had been too much occupied with the mock trial and condemnation of our Lord to eat the Passover if they did not legally defile themselves meanwhile. The preparation of the Passover does not mean the 13th, but the 14th Nisan. It was the day before the Paschal Sabbath, which was, on this occasion, a double one, and so of peculiar sanctity. Hence Matthew, speaking of this Sabbath, says,
ἥτις ἐστὶν μετὰ τὴν παρασκευὴν, as Mark explains,
παρασκευὴ ὅ ἐστιν προσάββατον, or Sabbath eve. This seems conclusive in reconciling the statements of the fourth Gospel with those of the other three. The painful fact is the unbelief that exposed so many persons eminent for erudition and even for godliness to such hasty and careless discussion of Scripture. Had they held firmly the inspired character of the holy writings, they would at least have avoided error and irreverence if they could not clear up the difficulty.
383 It is well known that not Nonnus only in his poetical paraphrase of our Gospel gives “third” hour, but also five uncials and four cursives, either in the original text or in a correction, not to speak of less direct authorities. Still, the weight of witnesses is overwhelming for
ἕκτη, “sixth.” It would seem that our Evangelist adopted a different reckoning of hours, from midnight to noon, as we do. Certainly the Romans did for their civil day (see Plin., “N. Hist.,” ii. 79; Censorinus de “Die. Nat.,” xxiii; Aul. Gell., “N. Att.,” iii. 2; and Macrob., “Sat.,” i. 3). And it suits all the mentions of hours in the Gospel of John excellently, besides falling in with Mark’s third, sixth, and ninth hours of the natural day from the sun. This serves to explain the otherwise singular message of Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27:19), in which she spoke of suffering much “today in a dream because of Him.” To Procula, as a Roman, the day was reckoned from midnight, as the hours appear to be throughout our Gospel, but not in the Synoptists.
384 “Jesum negant usque eo ut omnino Christum regent.” Beng. Gn. in loco.
385 Thus end BLX, etc. [Edd. in general]. But most with DE, etc., add “and led.” [Blass brackets the words.] A, etc., support Text. Rec. supports the same sense in a peculiar form.
ἐκείνου Stephens, ABDsupplLXY, nine more uncials, the great bulk of cursives, etc.;
ἐκείνη Elz. with a late uncial (H) and a few cursives, Vulg., etc.
387 The oldest read
καὶ, which Text. Rec. [as Blass] omits, with seven uncials and most cursives.
388 Euthymius Zigabenus (Comm. in. quat. Evv. III. 619, ed. C. F. Matthaei) thus writes;
Ὑπερφυὲς τὸ πρᾶγμα, καὶ τρανῶς διδάσκον, ὅτι ὑπὲρ ἄνθρωπον ὁ νυγεὶς, ἐκ νεκροῦ γὰρ ἀνθρώπου, κἂν μυριάκις νύξῃ τίς, οὐκ ἐξελεύσεται αἷμα. “The fact was supernatural, and clearly teaches that He Who was pierced was more than man. For from a dead man, if one should pierce him ten thousand times, no blood would come out.” What follows is a poor effort to connect with it Genesis 2, or even false doctrine when he speaks of two baptisms: one by blood, martyrdom; the other by water, regeneration, by whose stream the stream of sin is overwhelmed. How constant is one’s disappointment in these Greek and Latin ecclesiastics! Like the Galatians, if they begin by the Spirit, how quickly they pass into a vain effort after perfection by flesh! Not one even of the ablest and most orthodox adheres simply and thoroughly to the delivering Gospel of God’s grace, though many of them loved the Lord and hated known error. But the full efficacy of redemption was unknown to anyone, so far as I can speak.
It is curious, by the way, that a modern work of reputation like Dr. Smith’s “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography” should continue to repeat that “the Greek original (? of this work on the four Gospels) has never been printed” (vol. ii. 125, col. 1). So one understands the writer. Matthaei’s work appeared at Leipzig in 1792, and is familiar to students.
389 [Cf. “Exposition of Epistles,” p. 62.]
390 Dr. Thomas Randolph, in his little work on the Prophecies and other texts cited in the New Testament and compared with the Hebrew Original and the Septuagint Version (4to., Oxford, 1782), remarks (p. 32) that “the evangelist here plainly reads אליו instead of אלי in the Hebrew; but so also read forty Hebrew MSS. And that this is the true reading appears by what follows-’and they shall mourn for Him.’ The Syriac renders it, ‘they shall look on Me through Him, whom they have pierced.’ The Sept. I cannot make sense of.”
391 It may be worth mentioning as a singular instance of the importance of knowing the original that Euthymius Zigabenus, in his comment on verse 37, speaks of the Scripture as probably got rid of by the Jews since the Gospel. “For nowhere is it found now; or he means another Scripture of the books called Apocryphal” (vol. iii., 621). This sounds strong with Zechariah 12:10 in view. How is it to be accounted for? This Greek monk read the prophet in the Septuagint, where the clause as to the piercing is miserably mistaken
, ἀνθ᾽ ὧν κατωρχήσαντο, ”because they insulted (Me),” while the later Jewish rendering of Aquila evades the truth by giving
σὺν ῳ up. Theodotion has rendered the passage rightly on the whole. Hence the Spirit of God (both in John’s Gospel and in the Revelation) does not cite the Septuagint, but alludes to it in terms which accurately represent the clause.
392 Tischendorf now [followed by Blass] adopts the plural “they” with pm, etc.; also
αὐτὸν, “him,” instead of
τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ as in corr. BLX
Λ, ten cursives, etc. [Treg., W. and H., Weiss], or
τ. σ. τοῦ Ἰ. with a dozen uncials and most cursives, etc., and in Text. Rec.; so in verse 39, the best give “to him,” the majority “to Jesus.”
394 The word is not
ἐνταφιάζειν, which is used for embalming, or at least preparing for burial as in the case before us.