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Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch, go your way, make it as sure as you can. ti i
So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
It was the custom of the Romans to expose on the cross the bodies of those who were crucified, till the fowls of the air consumed them, or till they were destroyed by the injury of the weather: and it was usual to set a guard to prevent the friends of those who had been executed from stealing the bodies to bury them. On the contrary, the Jewish law ordained, that whoever was sentenced to die, should be interred on the very day of their exe. sution. The Jews were particularly solicitous to observe this injunction in respect to our LORD, and the malefactors who were executed with him, that the sabbath day might not be profaned; especially as this sabbath was a solemn festival, being the day following the Passover, and also the second day of the Feast of unleavened Bread. They therefore besought Pilate, that the legs of those who had been crucified might be broken, in order to effectually dispatch them, and that their dead bodies might be taken away. The governor, knowing their customs, complied with their request, which the soldiers proceeded to execute; but impressed, as it seems, with awe by the prodigies which had lately hap pened, they passed by the cross of JESUS, and broke the legs of both the thieves before they presumed to VOL. VI. K.
approach it; and finding that he was actually dead, they forbore to lay their hands on him : but as it was requi site for them to ascertain his death, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear so deeply, that, according to the nature of the human frame, he could not have survived the wound had it been given him in perfect health. The incision was followed by a remarkable effu. sion of water and blood; which are understood by many to be significant of the happy effects of his death, which at once purifies from sin the souls of those who believe and trust in him, and satisfies the injured justice of GOD. This will be understood better from the writings of the Apostles.
As it is absolutely necessary for every Christian to believe that CHRIST actually died, the Evangelist John, who gave the account we have been reading of the means used to prove that he was dead, before he was taken from the cross, added his solemn attestation, that he was himself an eye-witness of what he related, and therefore could not be deceived. He also added, that these things were done, that the scripture might be fulfilled; which they were in so remarkable a manner, as must surely carry conviction to the mind of every person who compares the Prophecies with the History of our LORD.
As JESUS expired sooner than was usual for people suffering crucifixion, Pilate made strict enquiry, to satisfy himself that he was really dead; and when he found that there was no reason to suppose there was the least life remaining in him, he granted his sacred body to Joseph of Arimathea,, one of the members of the Sanhedrim, a wise and honourable man, who, with a noble courage which testified his sincere affection, requested it might be delivered to him. Nicodemus also ventured, in defiance of the hatred and resentment of his brethren,
to give an open proof of his attachment to our LORD.
Time would not admit of their embalming the body immediately, as the sabbath, which began at six on Friday evening, was just at hand: they therefore wrapped it in a great many folds of linen, and either intermixed the spices, or placed them near the corpse to preserve it from corruption, and then deposited it in a new tomb, in which no
man had ever been laid. The pious women who attended our LORD's crucifixion followed them, wishing to perform the last friendly offices for him themselves; and observing that he was not embalmed, they resolved to pay this honour to his precious te. mains as soon as the sabbath-day was past : for which purpose they provided a quantity of the necessary ingredients.
Though the enemies of the blessed Jesus beheld hina a lifeless corpse covered with wounds and bruises, their malice was not satisfied. They remembered his pre. diction that he should rise again, and were determined, if possible, to prove to the world that he was an impostor: therefore, instead of fixing their thoughts on devotional exercises upon the sabbath-day, they studied how to effect
, . their wishes : and as soon as evening came, repaired to Pilate, and obtained his permission to make the sepulchre secure, and place a guard over it, under a pretence that his disciples would steal away the body, and report that he was risen from the dead, with the view.of persuading the people to embrace his doctrine.
There is no doubt but that the Jews took care to satisfy themselves, before they sealed the stone which closed the sepulchre, that the body of our Lord was actually in it; and as the tomb was hewn out of the solid rock, it was not possible to carry it off any other way. Thus was our LORD's sacrod body deposite in the K2
grave in an honourable manner by his friends, and guarded by his enemies so strictly, as to cut off every means of deception. The former, we may conclude, retired to weep and lament, while the latter exulted in his apparent destruction.
· Joseph and Nicodemus must certainly have been fully. convinced that JESUS was worthy of their highest veneration, or they would not have ventured to shew such honour to his corpse; and it is probable that they believed he would rise from the dead, or they would scarcely have hazarded the reproaches their brethren would have cast on them, had it proved otherwise.
From the example of these two illustrious men we are instructed, let our circumstances in life be ever so great, not to despise the Cross of CHRIST, but to think of a crucified Redeemer with the utmost reverence: and by our LORD's burial we are reconciled to the grave.
Let us now enquire after the traitor Judas.
JUDAS ISCARIOT REPENTETH, RETURNETH THE MONEY TO THE HIGH PRIEST, AND HANGETH HIMSELF.
From Matt. Chap. xxvii.—Acts, i.
WHEN Judas, who had betrayed his LORD, saw that he was condemned, he repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. .. And falling headlong he burst asunder, and all his bowels gushed out.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
(Then was fulfilled that which was spoken' by * the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value, And
gave them for the potter's. field, as the LORD appointed me.)
We read in a former section, in what manner Judas betrayed his Master to the Jewish council, willingly yielding his mind to the suggestions of Satan, unmoved by the endearing behaviour of Jesus, which, one would have thought, must have melted the most obdurate heart.
As soon as he had performed the treacherous act, and received the reward of his iniquity, the devil abandoned him to the terrors of his own conscience, which im.
* The word Jeremy is omitted, as the prediction alluded to is not to be found in the book of Jeremiah, but in that of Zechariab. Com. mentators have various ways of accounting for this circumstance, which some impute, and I think with great plausibility, to the error of a transcriber, which might, it seems, easily happen from the similarity of different letters in the Gréok alphabets