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went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead : and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 16 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.
i Matt. xxvii. 59, 60; Luke xxiii. 53; John xix. 40. We are here attending the funeral of our Lord Jesus—a solemn, mournful funeral. O that we may by grace be planted in the likeness of it! Observe,
How the body of Christ was begged. It was, as the dead bodies of malefactors are, at the disposal of the government. Those that hurried him to the cross, designed that he should make his grave with the wicked; but God designed he should make it with the rich (Isa. liii. 9), and so he did. We are here told when the body of Christ was begged, in order to its being buried, and why such haste was made with the funeral, — The even was come, and it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath. Ver. 42. The Jews were more strict in the observation of the Sabbath than of any other feast ; and therefore, though this day was itself a feast-day, yet they observed it religiously as the eve of the Sabbath, when they prepared their houses and tables for the splendid and joyful solemnizing of the Sabbath-day. The day before the sabbath should be a day of preparation for the Sabbath, not of our houses and tables, but of our hearts, which, as much as possible, should be freed from the cares and business of the world, and fixed and put in frame for the service and enjoyment of God. Such work is to be done, and such advantages are to be gained, on the Sabbath-day, that it is requisite we should get ready for it a day before; nay, the whole week should be divided between the improvement of the foregoing Sabbath and the preparation for the following Sabbath.
We are told who it was that begged the body, and took care for the decent interment of it; it was Joseph of Arimathea, who is here called an honourable counsellor (ver. 43), a person of character and distinction, and in an office of public trust; some think in the State, and that he was one of Pilate's privy council ; his post rather seems to have been in the Church—he was one of the great sanhedrim of the Jews, or one of the high priest's council. He was a counsellor that conducted himself in his place as did become him. Those are truly honourable, and those only, in places of power
and trust, who make conscience of their duty, and whose deportment is agreeable to their preferment. But here is a more shining character put upon him; he was one that waited for the kingdom of God, the kingdom of grace on earth and of glory in heaven, the kingdom of the Messiah. Those who wait for the kingdom of God, and hope for an interest in the privileges of it, must show it by their forwardness to own Christ's cause and interest, even then when it seems to be crushed and run down,—even among the honourable counsellors there were some, there was one at least, that waited for the kingdom of God, whose faith will condemn the unbelief of all the rest. This man God raised
for this necessary service, when none of Christ's disciples could, or durst, undertake it, having neither purse, nor interest, nor courage for it. Joseph went in boldly to Pilate ; though he knew how much it would affront the chief priests, who had loaded him with so much reproach, to see any honour done to him, yet he put on courage; perhaps, at first, he was a little afraid, but, taking heart on it, he determined to show this respect to the remains of the Lord Jesus, let the worst come to the worst.
It was a matter of surprise to Pilate, to hear that he was dead (Pilate, perhaps, expecting that he would have saved himself, and come down from the cross), especially that he was already deadthat one who seemed to have more than ordinary vigour, should so soon yield to death. Every circumstance of Christ's dying was marvellous ; for from first to last his name was called Wonderful. Pilate doubted (so some understand it) whether he was yet dead or no, fearing lest he should be imposed upon, and the body should be taken down alive, and recovered, whereas the sentence was, as with us, to hang till the body be dead. He therefore called the centurion, officer, and asked him, Whether he had been any while dead (ver. 44), whether it was so long since they perceived any sign of life in him, any breath or motion, that they might conclude he was dead past recall. The centurion could assure him of this, for he had particularly observed how he gave up the ghost. Ver. 39. There was a special providence in it, that Pilate should be so strict in examining this, that there might be no pretence to say that he was buried
alive, and so take away the truth of his resurrection ; and so cully was this determined, that that objection was never started. Thus the truth of Christ gains confirmation, sometimes, even from its enemies.
We have farther to observe how the body of Christ was buried. Pilate gave Joseph leave to take down the body, and do what he pleased with it. It was a wonder the chief priests were not too quick for him, and had not first begged the body from Pilate, to expose it and drag it about the streets, but that remainder of their wrath did God restrain, and gave that invaluable prize to Josepb, who knew how to value it; and the hearts of the priests were so influenced, that they did not oppose it.
Joseph bought fine linen to wrap the body in, though in such a case old linen that had been worn might have been thought sufficient. In paying respects to Christ, it becomes us to be rous, and to serve him with the best that can be got, not with that which can be got at the best hand. He took down the body, mangled and macerated as it was, and wrapt it in the linen, as a treasure of great worth. Our Lord Jesus hath commanded himself to be delivered to us sacramentally in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, which we should receive in such a manner as may best express our love to him who loved us, and died for us. He laid it in a sepulchre of his own, in a private place. We sometimes find it spoken of in the story of the kings of Judah, as a slur upon the wicked kings, that they were not buried in the sepulchres of the kings; our Lord Jesus, though he did no evil but much good, and to him was given the throne of his father David, yet was buried in the graves of the common people, for it was not in this world, but in the other, that his rest was glorious. This sepulchre belonged to Joseph, Abraham when he had no other possession in the land of Canaan, yet had a burying-place, but Christ had not so much as that. This sepulchre was hewn out of a rock, for Christ died to make the grave a refuge and shelter to the saints, and being hewn out of a rock, it is a strong refuge. Othat thou wouldest hide me in the grave! Christ himself is a hiding-place to his people, that is, as the shadow of a great rock. Ile rolled a stone to the door of the sepulchre, for so the manner of the Jews was to bury. When Daniel was put into the lion's den, a stone was laid to the mouth of it, to keep him in, as here to the door of Christ's sepulchre; but neither of them could keep off the angels' visits to the prisoners.
Some of the good women attended the funeral, and beheld where he was laid, that they might come after the sabbath to anoint the dead body, because they had no time to do it now. When Moses, the mediator and lawgiver of the Jewish Church, was buried, care was taken that no man should know of his sepulchre (Deut. xxxiv. 6), because the respects of the people towards his person were to die with him; but when our great Mediator and Lawgiver was buried, special notice was taken of his sepulchre, because he was to rise again ; and the care taken of his body, bespeaks the care which he himself will take concerning his body, the Church. Even when it seems to be a dead body, and as a valley full of dry bones, it shall be preserved, in order to a resurrection; as shall also the dead bodies of the saints, with whose dust there is a covenant in force which shall not be forgotten. Our meditations on Christ's burial should lead us to think of our own, and should help to make the grave familiar to us, and so to render that bed easy which we must shortly make in darkness. Frequent thoughts of it would not only take off the dread and terror of it, but quicken us, since the graves are always ready for us, to get ready for the grave. Job xvii. 1.
4 An angel declareth the resurrection of Christ to three women. 9. Christ himself appeareth
to Mary Magdalene: 12 to two going into the country: 14 then to the apostles. 15 whom he sendeth forth to preach the gospel : 19 and ascendeth into heaven.
of James, and Salome, "had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 °And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre ? 4 And when they looked, they
c Luke xxiv, 1; John xx, I.
a Matt, xxviii. 1; Luke xxiv. 1 ; John xx. 1.
b Luke xxiii. 56.
saw that the stone was rolled away : for it was very great. 5 d And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6° And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted : Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen ; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee : there shall ye see him, 'as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed : Sneither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
d Luke xxiv. 3; John xx. Il, 12.
e Matt. xxviii. 5-7. f Matt. xxvi. 32 ; chap. xiv. 28.
Luke xxiv. 9.
& See Matt. xxviii. 8;
Never was there such a Sabbath since the Sabbath was first instituted as this was, which the first words of this chapter tell us was now past. During all this Sabbath our Lord Jesus lay in the yrave. It was to him a Sabbath of rest, but a silent Sabbath ; it was to his disciples a melancholy Sabbath, spent in tears and fears. Never were the Sabbath services in the temple such an abomination to God, though they had been often so, as they were now, when the chief priests, who presided in them, had their hands full of blood—the blood of Christ. Well, this Sabbath is over, and the first day of the week is the first day of a new world.
Let us observe the affectionate visit which the good women that had attended Christ now made to his sepulchre—not a superstitious one, but a pious one. They set out from their lodgings very early in the morning, at break of day, or sooner ; but either they had a long walk, or they met with some hindrance, so that it was sun-rising by the time they got to the sepulchre.
They had bought sweet spices, too, and came not only to bedew the dead body with their tears (for nothing could more renew their grief than this), but to perfume it with their spices.
They were concerned about the rolling away of the stone, but that concern was now allayed (ver. 3, 4);
They said among themselves as they were coming along, and now drew near the sepulchre, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? For it was very great, more than they with their united strength could move. They should have thought of this before they came out, and then discretion would have bid them not go, unless they had those to go with them who could do it. And there was another difficulty much greater than this, to be got over, which they knew nothing of, to wit, a guard of soldiers set to keep the sepulchre; who, had they come before they were frightened away, would have scared them. But their gracious love to Christ carried them to the sepulchre; and see how, by the time they came thither, both these difficulties were removed. They who are carried by a holy zeal, to seek Christ diligently, will find the difficulties that lie in their way strangely to vanish, and themselves helped over them beyond their expectation.
Assurance was given them by an angel, that the Lord Jesus was risen from the dead, and had taken leave of his sepulchre, and had left him there to tell those so who came thither to inquire after him.
They entered into the sepulchre, at least a little way in, and saw that the body of Jesus was not there where they had left it the other night. He, who by his death undertook to pay our debt, in his resurrection took out our acquittance, for it was his discharge out of prison, and it was a fair and legal discharge, by which it appeared that his satisfaction was accepted for all the purposes for which it was intended, and the matter in dispute was determined by an incontestible evidence that he was the Son of God.
They saw a young man sitting on the right side of the sepulchre. The angel appeared in the likeness of a man, of a young man ; for angels, though created in the beginning, grow not old, but are always in the same perfection of beauty and strength; and so shall glorified saints be, when they are as the angels. This angel was sitting on the right hand as they went into the sepulchre, clothed with a long white garment, a garment down to the feet, such as great men were arrayed with. The sight of him might justly have encouraged them, but they were affrighted. Thus many times that which should be matter of comfort to us, through our own mistakes and misapprehensions proves a terror to us.
Ile silences their fears by assuring them that here was cause enough for triumph, but none for trembling (ver. 6); He saith to them, Be not affrighted.--As angels rejoice in the con
version of sinners, so they do also in the consolation of saints. Be not affrighted, fur, 1. Ye are faithful lovers of Jesus Christ, and therefore, instead of being confounded, ought to be comforted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified. The inquiries of believing souls after Christ, have a particular regard to him as crucified (1 Cor. ii. 2), that they may know him, and the fellowship of his sufferings. His being lifted up from the earth, is that which draws all men unto him. Christ's cross is the ensign to which the Gentiles seek. Observe, he speaks of Jesus as one that was crucified. The thing is past, that scene is over, ye must not dwell so much upon the sad circumstances of his crucifixion as to be unapt to believe the joyful news of his resurrection. Ile was crucified in weakness, yet that doth not hinder but that he may be raised in power, and therefore ye that seek him, be not afraid at missing of him. He was crucified, but he is glorified; and the slame of his suffering is so far from lessening the glory of his exaltation, that that glory perfectly wipes away all the reproach of his sufferings. And therefore, after his entrance upon his glory, he never drew any veil over his sufferings, nor was shy of having his cross spoken of. The angel here that proclaims his resurrection, calls him Jesus that was crucified. lle hiinself owns (Rev. i. 18), “ I am be that liveth, and was dead;" and he appears in the midst of the praises of the heavenly host as a Lamb that had been slain. Rev. v. 5, 6. 2. It will therefore be good news to you, to hear that, instead of anointing him dead, you may rejoice in him living. He is risen, he is not here—not dead, but alive again. We cannot as yet show you him, but hereafter you will see him, and you may here see the place where they laid him. You see he is gone hence, not stolen, either by his enemies or by his friends, but risen.
He orders them to give speedy notice of this to his disciples. Thus they were made the apostles of the apostles, which was a recompense of their affection and fidelity to him, in attending him on the cross, to the grave, and in the grave. They first came, and were first served ; no other of the disciples durst come near his sepulchre, or inquire after him ; so little danger was there of their coming by night to steal him away, that none came near him but a few women, who were not able so much as to roll away the stone.
They must tell the disciples that he is risen. It is a dismal time with them ; their dear Master is dead, and all their hopes and joys are buried in his grave; they look upon their ciuse as sunk, and themselves ready to fall an easy prey into the hands of their enemies, so that there remains no more spirit in them, they are perfectly at their wit's end, and every one is contriving how to shift for himself. Oh! go quickly to them, saith the angel, tell them that their Niaster is risen ; this will put some life and spirit into them, and keep them from sinking into despair. Christ is not ashamed to own his poor disciples, no, not now that he is in his exalted state ; his preferment doth not make him shy of them, for he took early care to have it notified to them. Christ is not extreme to mark what they do amiss, whose hearts are upright with him. The disciples had very unkindly deserted him, and yet he testified this concern for them. Seasonable comforts shall be sent to those that are lamenting after the Lord Jesus, and he will find a time to manifest himself to them.
They must be sure to tell Peter. If it were told the disciples, it would be told Peter, for, as a token of his repentance for disowning his Master, he still associated with his disciples ; yet he is particularly named. Tell Peter for, 1. It will be good news to him, more welcome to him than to any of them ; for he is in sorrow for sin, and no tidings can be more welcome to true penitents than to hear of the resurrection of Christ ; because he rose again for their justification. 2. He will be afraid, lest the joy of this good news do not belong to him. Had the angel said only, Go, tell his disciples, poor Peter would have been ready to sigh, and say, “ But I doubt I cannot look upon myself as one of them, for I disowned him, and deserve to be disowned of him;" to obviate that, go to Peter by name, and tell him he shall be as welcome as any of the rest to see him in Galilee. A sight of Christ will be very welcome to a true penitent, and a true penitent shall be very welcome to a sight of Christ ; for there is joy in heaven concerning him.
They must appoint them all, and Peter by name, to give him the meeting in Galilee, as he said unto you. Matt. xxvi. 32. In their journey down into Galilee they would have time to recollect themselves, and call to mind what he had often said to them there that he should suffer and die
, and the third day be raised again ; whereas while they were at Jerusalem, among strangers and enemies, they could not recover themselves from the fright they had been in, nor compose themselves to the due entertainment of better tidings. 1. All the meetings between Christ and his disciples are of his own appointing. 2. Christ never forgets his appointment, but will be sure to meet his people with the promised blessing in every place where he records his name. 3. In all meetings between Christ and his disciples, he is the most forward. He goes before you.
The account which the women did bring of this to the disciples (ver. 8); They went out quickly and ran from the sepulchre, to make all the haste they could to the disciples, trembling and amazed. See how much we are enemies to ourselves and our own comfort, in not considering and mixing
faith with what Christ hath said to us. Christ had often told them, that the third day he would rise again ; had they given that its due notice and credit, they would have come to the sepulchre, expecting to have found him risen, and would have received the news of it with a joyful assurance, and not with all this terror and amazement. But, being ordered to tell the disciples, because they were to tell it to all the world, they would not tell it to any one else, they showed not any thing of it to any man that they met by the way; for they were afraid, afraid it was too good news to be true. Our disquieting fears often hinder us from doing that service to Christ and to the souls of men, which, if faith and the joy of faith were strong, we might do. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, "he ap
peared first to Mary Magdalene, 'out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 k And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 'And they, when they had lieard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form "unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue : neither believed they them.
h John xx. 14.
i Luke viii. 2.
k Luke xxiv. 10; John xx. 18.
I Luke xxiv. 11.
m Luke xxiv. 13.
We have here a very short account of two of Christ's appearances, and the little credit which the report of them gained with the disciples.
He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to her first in the garden, which we have a particular narrative of. John xxi. 14. It was she out of whom he had cast seven devils; much was forgiven her, and much was given her, and done for her, and she loved much ; and this honour Christ did her, that she was the first that saw him after his resurrection. The closer we cleave to Christ, the sooner we may expect to see him, and the more to see of him.
She brings notice of what she had seen to the disciples; not only to the eleven, but to the rest that followed him, as they mourned and wept. Ver. 10. Now was the time of which Christ had told them, that they should mourn and lament. John xvi. 20. And it was an evidence of their great love to Christ, and the deep sense they had of their loss of him. But when their weeping had endured a night or two, comfort returned, as Christ had promised them ; “I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice.” Better news cannot be brought to disciples in tears, than to tell them of Christ's resurrection. And we should study to be comforters to disciples that are mourners, by communicating to them our experiences, and what we have seen of Christ.
They could not give credit to the report she brought them. They heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her. The story was plausible enough, and yet they believed not. They would not say that she made the story herself, or designed to deceive them ; but they fear that she is imposed upon, and that it was but a fancy that she saw him. Had they believed the frequent predictions of it from his own mouth, they would not have been now so incredulous of the report of it.
He appeared also to two of the disciples, as they went into the country. Ver. 12. This refers, no doubt, to that which is largely related (Luke xxiv. 13, &c.) of what passed between Christ and the two disciples going to Emmaus. He is here said to have appeared to them in another form, in another dress than what he usually wore, in the form of a traveller, as, in the garden, in such a dress, that Mary Magdalene took him for the gardener ; but that he had really his own countenance, appears by this, that their eyes were holden, that they should not know him; and when that restraint on their eyes was taken off, immediately they knew him. Luke xxiv. 16–31.
These two witnesses gave in their testimony to this proof of Christ's resurrection,— They went and told it to the residue. Ver. 13. Being satisfied themselves, they were desirous to give their brethren the satisfaction they had, that they might be comforted as they were.
This did not gain credit with all, -Neither believed they them. They suspected that their also deceived them. Now there was a wise providence in it, that the proofs of Christ's resurrection were given in thus gradually, and admitted thus cautiously, that so the assurance with which the apostles preached this doctrine afterward, when they ventured their all upon it, might be the more satisfying. We have the more reason to believe those who did themselves believe so slowly. Had they swallowed it presently, they might have been thought credulous, and their testimony the less to be regarded; but their disbelieving at first, shows that they did not believe it afterward but upon a full conviction.