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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 Jesusand 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 there out blood and water, (the certain sign that death has actually taken place,) 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 Scriptures should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again, another Scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.”
It is the apostle John who writes of what he himself beheld, and thus he solemnly attests the truth of his testimony respecting the death of Jesus. What must have been his feelings as He stood upon the now silent mount of Calvary beside the cross, each long-past prophecy, and type of Christ, returning clear to his mind, as one by one He saw them all fulfilled, and that so naturally, so simply in the course of events, that we may say, it could not have been otherwise ; and thus God works, each circumstance producing another, and all foreseen and directed by Him. When Jesus was brought to the cross, his strength was already gone, His whole body so weakened by all the suffering, the watching, the weariness, the agony of mind, which He had undergone, that half the work of death was done before He was nailed upon the cross; and life forsook Him sooner than was usual with those that were crucified.
This was the natural consequence of what had gone before; yet it was of immense importance, and had been provided for and foreshewn in the type of the Paschal Lamb many hundred years before ; for as His sacred body was immediately to rise again, it must not be mutilated : “A bone of Him shall not be broken." Pure from sin, it did not need to be dissolved in the grave that it might be re-made a spiritual body. Of His own free-will He laid it down, and He had power to take it up again.* But lest any should say that the Saviour had fainted upon the cross, or that the soldiers had by private influence, or from any secret command, refrained from breaking His legs, so that when taken down He might be revived, and thus it might be possible to represent His resurrection as a pretence of His disciples, the providence of God had provided that the real death of His Son should be proved beyond a doubt. One of the soldiers, to make sure of the fact, caught up a spear, and with it violently pierced His side, so deeply that there came out of the wound blood and water. All who saw it done knew, that had Jesus still breathed, that stab must at once have produced His death. This deed therefore established the fact so clearly, that the Jews never attempted to deny the reality of the death of Christ.
Thus for a time remained upon the three crosses, the dead bodies of the Saviour and of the two thieves.
How solemn must have been that scene, when the sun, sinking low in the western sky, shone upon the dead Christ. The darkness was gone, for all was finished, and to merely mortal eyes it seemed that the end which had been gained, was the destruction of all hope,† that sin and death had triumphed. The dead Christ, and on each side a mangled body—one of a hardened, the other of a repentant sinner! Outwardly there is no difference. Who that looked upon that scene, could guess the joy, the triumph, that then filled the courts of heaven ; the despair that fell upon the kingdom of Satan, conquered in the very moment of his seeming victory! The body of Christ still hung upon the cross, but His spirit had departed to the kingdom of souls, there to claim the dominion, for He is Lord both of the living and of the dead; and He bore with Him the redeemed soul of the penitent sinner, the first proof of his Almighty power to save. We cannot follow them even in thought; for the wisdom of God has not seen fit to make known to us the solemn history of all that was done when Jesus descended into the region of souls; the Redeemer bringing redemption with Him. “We know but in part;" the veil of our flesh still hides that holy of holies from our eyes ; we must wait till death shall rend it," then shall we know, even as we are known.”
Luke xxiv. 20, 21.
* John X. 18.
Sunset is at hand, and the bodies must not remain, for the Sabbath draws near. The Jewish sabbath-at last it will bring round the fulfilment of that of which it was the type, the complete rest of Jesus in the grave.
The providence of God has provided for the honourable interment of His Son, of whose death and burial every particular had been foretold hundreds of years before by the prophet Isaiah.*
MATTHEW xxvii. 57. • When the even was come, there came a rich man, (LUKE xxiii. 50.) 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 Arimathæa, a city of the Jews ; who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. (John xix. 38.) Being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews; (Mark xxv. 43, -- 45.) And he went boldly unto Pilate and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead ;
* Isaiah liii. 8, 9.
and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him if he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave
the body to Joseph."
The prophet Isaiah had said that the Redeemer should “be with the rich in his death.” And this man, who had been afraid to confess the Lord Jesus during his life-time, for fear of his own fellow-countrymen, boldly made use of his influence now, to save the sacred body from further dishonour.* He knew not that he was the appointed instrument of God. Pilate, who had been unwilling to condemn Jesus to death, made no difficulty in granting the request of Joseph, when once he was assured that he was actually dead. How he had passed the hours since he had given up Jesus to the will of his enemies, we know not. He could not have been at rest in his mind; and we know that, in his house, his trouble must have been increased by the fears of his wife. To be assured that the sufferings of the innocent victim of his cowardice were ended, must have been a relief, and that he readily gave the body of Jesus that it might be honorably buried, to Joseph, "an honourable counsellor” who had protested in the council of the Jews against the unjust sentence which condemned Him to death, shews that though Pilate had yielded to the clamour of the people and the priests, he still kept his opinion that Christ had “no fault in Him.” Joseph, having gained the leave he desired, “bought fine linen," (then a most expensive article, never used but by the rich,) and hastening to Calvary “took down the body of Jesus from the cross. He was not alone, for
* The bodies of executed criminals were cast into Topheth in the valley of Hinnom, in which fires were continually kept burning to consume them and the filth of the city. We find all through Scripture, this place used as a type of hell. The cause of its being so set apart was, that there the Israelites of old, when they fell into idolatry, used to make their children pass through the fires they had kindled, as offerings to Moloch.—2 Kings xxiii. 10.
John xix. 39, 40. “ 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."
As Nicodemus received in his arms the dead body of the Lord, surely the words of Jesus must have come back to his mind, which Jesus had spoken three years before, on that night when he had gone to Him secretly for fear of the Jews. He then had said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Now he had seen these words fulfilled. The Son of Man had been lifted
; and in his own person, in his own change of feelings, those other words of Christ, which when spoken had so perplexed him, were beginning to be made plain : “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Once so timid and afraid, that he dared not go to Jesus but by night,-now so bold that he dared to acknowledge his love and respect for Him when crucified by those very rulers and priests of whom he had three years before stood in such fear, that only under cover of the night he dared to seek Him for instruction, he had become like a man new-born. Like a child, he had been full of fears; now he was becoming a new creature, and he was not ashamed of the cross of Christ. Yet at such a time it must have required much courage, in these two Jews, to have taken such a part. They could not have done it, had not "the love of Christ constrained them ; " but as yet their ideas were very confused ; they do not seem to have expected His immediate resurrection.
Verse 41. “Now in the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden: and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man laid.”