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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Mark 15

 

 

Verses 1-20

Chapter 15

CHAPTER 15:1-20 (Mark 15:1-20)

PILATE

"And straightway in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, and bound Jesus, and carried Him away, and delivered Him up to Pilate."

". . . And they lead Him out to crucify Him." Mark 15:1-20 (R.V.)

WITH morning came the formal assembly, which St. Mark dismisses in a single verse. It was indeed a disgraceful mockery. Before the trial began its members had prejudged the case, passed sentence by anticipation, and abandoned Jesus, as one condemned, to the brutality of their servants. And now the spectacle of a prisoner outraged and maltreated moves no indignation in their hearts.

Let us, for whom His sufferings were endured, reflect upon the strain and anguish of all these repeated examinations, these foregone conclusions gravely adopted in the name of justice, these exhibitions of greed for blood. Among the "unknown sufferings" by which the Eastern Church invokes her Lord, surely not the least was His outraged moral sense.

As the issue of it all, they led Him away to Pilate, meaning, by the weight of such an accusing array, to overpower any possible scruples of the governor, but in fact fulfilling His words, "they shall deliver Him unto the Gentiles." And the first question recorded by St. Mark expresses the intense surprise of Pilate. "Thou," so meek, so unlike the numberless conspirators that I have tried, -- or perhaps, "Thou," Whom no sympathizing multitude sustains, and for Whose death the disloyal priesthood thirsts, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" We know how carefully Jesus disentangled His claim from the political associations which the high priests intended that it should suggest, how the King of Truth would not exaggerate any more than understate the case, and explained that His kingdom was not of this world, that His servants did not fight, that His royal function was to uphold the truth, not to expel conquerors. The eyes of a practiced Roman governor saw through the accusation very clearly. Before him, Jesus was accused of sedition, but that was a transparent pretext; Jews did not hate Him for enmity to Rome: He was a rival teacher and a successful one, and for envy they had delivered Him. So far all was well. Pilate investigated the charge, arrived at the correct judgment, and it only remained that he should release the innocent man. In reaching this conclusion Jesus had given him the most prudent and skillful help, but as soon as the facts became clear, He resumed His impressive and mysterious silence. Thus, before each of His judges in turn, Jesus avowed Himself the Messiah and then held His peace. It was an awful silence, which would not give that which was holy to the dogs, nor profane the truth by unavailing protests or controversies. It was, however, a silence only possible to an exalted nature full of self-control, since the words actually spoken redeem it from any suspicion or stain of sullenness. It is the conscience of Pilate which must henceforth speak. The Romans were the lawgivers of the ancient world, and a few years earlier their greatest poet had boasted that their mission was to spare the helpless and to crush the proud. In no man was an act of deliberate injustice, or complaisance to the powerful at the cost of the good, more unpardonable than in a leader of that splendid race, whose laws are still the favorite study of those who frame and administer our own. And the conscience of Pilate struggled hard, aided by superstitious fear. The very silence of Jesus amid many charges, by none of which His accusers would stand or fall, excited the wonder of His judge. His wife's dream aided the effect. And he was still more afraid when he heard that this strange and elevated Personage, so unlike any other prisoner whom he had ever tried, laid claim to be Divine. Thus even in his desire to save Jesus, his motive was not pure, it was rather an instinct of self-preservation than a sense of justice. But there was danger on the other side as well; since he had already incurred the imperial censure, he could not without grave apprehensions contemplate a fresh complaint, and would certainly be ruined if he were accused of releasing a conspirator against Caesar. And accordingly he stooped to mean and crooked ways, he lost hold of the only clue in the perplexing labyrinth of expediencies, which is principle, and his name in the creed of Christendom is spoken with a shudder --: crucified under Pontius Pilate!"

It was the time for him to release a prisoner to them, according to an obscure custom, which some suppose to have sprung from the release of one of the two sacrificial goats, and others from the fact that they now celebrated their own deliverance from Egypt. At this moment the people began to demand their usual indulgence, and an evil hope arose in the heart of Pilate. They would surely welcome One who was in danger as a patriot: he would himself make the offer; and he would put it in this tempting form, "Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?" Thus would the enmity of the priests be gratified, since Jesus would henceforth be a condemned culprit, and owe His life to their intercession with the foreigner. But the proposal was a surrender. The life of Jesus had not been forfeited; and when it was placed at their discretion, it was already lawlessly taken away. Moreover, when the offer was rejected, Jesus was in the place of a culprit who would not be released. To the priests, nevertheless, it was a dangerous proposal, and they needed to stir up the people, or perhaps Barabbas would not have been preferred.

Instigated by their natural guides, their religious teachers, these Jews made the tremendous choice, which has ever since been heavy on their heads and on their children's. Yet if ever an error could be excused by the plea of authority, and the duty of submission to constituted leaders, it was this error. They followed men who sat in Moses' seat, and who were thus entitled, according to Jesus Himself, to be obeyed. Yet that authority has not relieved the Hebrew nation from the wrath which came upon them to the uttermost. The salvation they desire was not moral elevation or spiritual life, and so Jesus had nothing to bestow upon them; they refused the Holy One and the Just. What they wanted was the world, the place which Rome held, and which they fondly hoped was yet to be their own. Even to have failed in the pursuit of this was better than to have the words of everlasting life, and so the name of Barabbas was enough to secure the rejection of Christ. It would almost seem that Pilate was ready to release both, if that would satisfy them, for he asks, in hesitation and perplexity, "What shall I do then with Him Whom ye call the King of the Jews?" Surely in their excitement for an insurgent, that title, given by themselves, will awake their pity. But again and again, like the howl of wolves, resounds their ferocious cry, Crucify Him, crucify Him.

The irony of Providence is known to every student of history, but it never was so manifest as here. Under the pressure of circumstances upon men whom principle has not made firm, we find a Roman governor striving to kindle every disloyal passion of his subjects, on behalf of the King of the Jews, -- appealing to men whom he hated and despised, and whose charges have proved empty as chaff, to say, What evil has He done? and even to tell him, on his judgment throne, what he shall do with their King; we find the men who accused Jesus of stirring up the people to sedition, now shamelessly agitating for the release of a red-handed insurgent; forced moreover to accept the responsibility which they would fain have devolved on Pilate, and themselves to pronounce the hateful sentence of crucifixion, unknown to their law, but for which they had secretly intrigued; and we find the multitude fiercely clamoring for a defeated champion of brute force, whose weapon has snapped in his hands, who has led his followers to the cross, and from whom there is no more to hope. What satire upon their hope of a temporal Messiah could be more bitter than their own cry, "We have no king but Caesar"? And what satire upon this profession more destructive than their choice of Barabbas and refusal of Christ? And all the while, Jesus looks on in silence, carrying out His mournful but effectual plan, the true Master of the movements which design to crush Him, and which He has foretold. As He ever receives gifts for the rebellious, and is the Savior of all men, though especially of them that believe, so now His passion, which retrieved the erring soul of Peter, and won the penitent thief, rescues Barabbas from the cross. His suffering was made visibly vicarious.

One is tempted to pity the feeble judge, the only person who is known to have attempted to rescue Jesus, beset by his old faults, which will make an impeachment fatal, wishing better than he dares to act, hesitating, sinking inch by inch, and like a bird with broken wing. No accomplice in this frightful crime is so suggestive of warning to hearts not entirely hardened.

But pity is lost in sterner emotion as we remember that this wicked governor, having borne witness to the perfect innocence of Jesus, was content, in order to save himself from danger, to watch the Blessed One enduring all the horrors of a Roman scourging, and then to yield Him up to die.

It is now the unmitigated cruelty of ancient paganism which has closed its hand upon our Lord. When the soldiers led Him away within the court, He was lost to His nation, which had renounced Him. It is upon this utter alienation, even more than the locality where the cross was fixed, that the Epistle to the Hebrews turns our attention, when it reminds us that "the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without the gate." The physical exclusion, the material parallel points to something deeper, for the inference is that of estrangement. Those who serve the tabernacle cannot eat of our altar. Let us go forth unto Him, bearing His reproach. (Hebrews 12:10-13).

Renounced by Israel, and about to become a curse under the law, He has now to suffer the cruelty of wantonness, as He has already endured the cruelty of hatred and fear. Now, more than ever perhaps, He looks for pity and there is no man. None responded to the deep appeal of the eyes which had never seen misery without relieving it. The contempt of the strong for the weak and suffering, of coarse natures for sensitive ones, of Romans for Jews, all these were blended with bitter scorn of the Jewish expectation that some day Rome shall bow before a Hebrew conqueror, in the mockery which Jesus now underwent, when they clad Him in such cast-off purple as the Palace yielded, thrust a reed into His pinioned hand, crowned Him with thorns, beat these into His holy head with the scepter they had offered Him, and then proceeded to render the homage of their nation to the Messiah of Jewish hopes. It may have been this mockery which suggested to Pilate the inscription for the cross. But where is the mockery now? In crowning Him King of sufferings, and Royal among those who weep, they secured to Him the adherence of all hearts. Christ was made perfect by the things which He suffered; and it was not only in spite of insult and anguish but by means of them that He drew all men unto Him.


Verses 21-32

CHAPTER 15:21-32 (Mark 15:21-32)

CHRIST CRUCIFIED

"And they compel one passing by, Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to go with them, that he might bear His cross. And they bring Him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they offered Him wine mingled with myrrh: but He received it not. And they crucify Him, and part His garments among them, casting lots upon them, what each should take. And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the superscription of His accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. And with Him they crucify two robbers; one on His right hand, and one on His left. And they that passed by railed on Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ha! Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself, and come down from the cross. In like manner also the chief priests mocking Him among themselves with the scribes said, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with Him reproached Him." Mark 15:21-32 (R.V.)

AT last the preparations were complete and the interval of mental agony was over. They led Him away to crucify Him. And upon the road an event of mournful interest took place. It was the custom to lay the two arms of the cross upon the doomed man, fastening them together at such an angle as to pass behind his neck, while his hands were bound to the ends in front. And thus it was that Jesus went forth bearing His cross. Did He think of this when He bade us take His yoke upon us? Did He wait for events to explain the words, by making it visibly one and the same to take His yoke and to take up our cross and follow Him?

On the road, however, they forced a reluctant stranger to go with them that he might bear the cross. The traditional reason is that our Redeemer's strength gave way, and it became physically impossible for Him to proceed; but this is challenged upon the ground that to fail would have been unworthy of our Lord, and would mar the perfection of His example. How so, when the failure was a real one? Is there no fitness in the belief that He who was tempted in all points like as we are, endured this hardness also, of struggling with the impossible demands of human cruelty, the spirit indeed willing but the flesh weak? It is not easy to believe that any other reason than manifest inability, would have induced His persecutors to spare Him one drop of bitterness, one throb of pain. The noblest and most delicately balanced frame, like all other exquisite machines, is not capable of the rudest strain; and we know that Jesus had once sat wearied by the well, while the hardy fishers went into the town, and returned with bread. And this night our gentle Master had endured what no common victim knew. Long before the scourging, or even the buffeting began, His spiritual exhaustion had needed that an angel from heaven should strengthen Him. And the utmost possibility of exertion was now reached: the spot where they met Simon of Cyrene marks this melancholy limit; and suffering henceforth must be purely passive.

We cannot assert with confidence that Simon and his family were saved by this event. The coercion put upon him, the fact that he was seized and "impressed" into the service, already seems to indicate sympathy with Jesus. And we are fain to believe that he who received the honor, so strange and sad and sacred, the unique privilege of lifting some little of the crushing burden of the Savior, was not utterly ignorant of what he did. We know at least that the names of his children, Alexander and Rufus, were familiar in the Church for which St. Mark was writing, and that in Rome a Rufus was chosen in the Lord, and his mother was like a mother to St. Paul (Romans 16:13). With what feelings may they have recalled the story, "him they compelled to bear His cross."

They led Him to a place where the rounded summit of a knoll had its grim name from some resemblance to a human skull, and prepared the crosses there.

It was the custom of the daughters of Jerusalem, who lamented Him as He went, to provide a stupefying draught for the sufferers of this atrocious cruelty. "And they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He received it not," although that dreadful thirst, which was part of the suffering of crucifixion, had already begun, for He only refused when He had tasted it.

In so doing He rebuked all who seek to drown sorrows or benumb the soul in wine, all who degrade and dull their sensibilities by physical excess or indulgence, all who would rather blind their intelligence than pay the sharp cost of its exercise. He did not condemn the use of anodynes, but the abuse of them. It is one thing to suspend the senses during an operation, and quite another thing by one's own choice to pass into eternity without consciousness enough to commit the soul into its Father's hands.

"And they crucify Him." Let the words remain as the Evangelist left them, to tell their own story of human sin, and of Divine love which many waters could not quench, neither could the depths drown it.

Only let us think in silence of all that those words convey.

In the first sharpness of mortal anguish, Jesus saw His executioners sit down at ease, all unconscious of the dread meaning of what was passing by their side, to part His garments among them, and cast lots for the raiment which they had stripped from His sacred form. The Gospels are content thus to abandon those relics about which so many legends have been woven. But indeed all through these four wonderful narratives the self-restraint is perfect. When the Epistles touch upon the subject of the crucifixion they kindle into flame. When St. Peter soon afterwards referred to it, his indignation is beyond question, and Stephen called the rulers betrayers and murderers (Acts 2:23-24; Acts 3:13-14; Acts 7:51-53) but not one single syllable of complaint or comment mingles with the clear flow of narrative in the four Gospels.

The truth is that the subject was too great, too fresh and vivid in their minds, to be adorned or enlarged upon. What comment of St. Mark, what mortal comment, could add to the weight of the words "they crucify Him"? Men use no figures of speech when telling how their own beloved one died. But it was differently that the next age wrote about the crucifixion; and perhaps the lofty self-restraint of the Evangelists has never been attained again.

St. Mark tells us that He was crucified at the third hour, whereas we read in St. John that it was "about the sixth hour" when Pilate ascended the seat of judgment (John 19:14). It seems likely that St. John used the Roman reckoning, and his computation does not pretend to be exact; while we must remember that mental agitation conspired with the darkening of the sky, to render such an estimate as he offers even more than usually vague.

It has been supposed that St. Mark's "third hour" goes back to the scourging, which, as being a regular part of Roman crucifixion, he includes, although inflicted in this case before the sentence. But it will prove quite as hard to reconcile this distribution of time with "the sixth hour" in St. John, while it is at variance with the context in which St. Mark asserts it.

The small and bitter heart of Pilate keenly resented his defeat and the victory of the priests. Perhaps it was when his soldiers offered the scornful homage of Rome to Israel and her monarch, that he saw the way to a petty revenge. And all Jerusalem was scandalized by reading the inscription over a crucified malefactor's head, The King of the Jews.

It needs some reflection to perceive how sharp the taunt was. A few years ago they had a king, but the scepter had departed from Judah; Rome had abolished him. It was their hope that soon a native king would forever sweep away the foreigner from their fields. But here the Roman exhibited the fate of such a claim, and professed to inflict its horrors not upon one whom they disavowed, but upon their king indeed. We know how angrily and vainly they protested; and again we seem to recognize the solemn irony of Providence. For this was their true King, and they, who resented the superscription, had fixed their Anointed there.

All the more they would disconnect themselves from Him, and wreak their passion upon the helpless One whom they hated. The populace mocked Him openly: the chief priests, too cultivated to insult avowedly a dying man, mocked Him "among themselves," speaking bitter words for Him to hear. The multitude repeated the false charge which had probably done much to inspire their sudden preference for Barabbas, "Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it again in three days, save Thyself and come down from the cross."

They little suspected that they were recalling words of consolation to His memory, reminding Him that all this suffering was foreseen, and how it was all to end. The chief priests spoke also a truth full of consolation, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save," although it was no physical bar which forbade Him to accept their challenge. And when they flung at Him His favorite demand for faith, saying "Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, that we may see and believe" surely they reminded Him of the great multitude who should not see, and yet should believe, when He came back through the gates of death.

Thus the words they spoke could not afflict Him. But what horror to the pure soul to behold these yawning abysses of malignity, these gulfs of pitiless hate. The affronts hurled at suffering and defeat by prosperous and exultant malice are especially Satanic. Many diseases inflict more physical pain than torturers ever invented, but they do not excite the same horror, because gentle ministries are there to charm away the despair which human hate and execration conjure up.

To add to the insult of His disgraceful death, the Romans had crucified two robbers, doubtless from the band of Barabbas, one upon each side of Jesus. We know how this outrage led to the salvation of one of them, and refreshed the heavy laden soul of Jesus, oppressed by so much guilt and vileness, with the visible firstfruit of His passion, giving Him to see of the travail of His soul, by which He shall yet be satisfied.

But in their first agony and despair, when all voices were unanimous against the Blessed One, and they too must needs find some outlet for their frenzy, they both reproached Him. Thus the circle of human wrong was rounded.

The traitor, the deserters, the forsworn apostle, the perjured witnesses, the hypocritical pontiff professing horror at blasphemy while himself abjuring his national hope, the accomplices in a sham trial, the murderer of the Baptist and his men of war, the abject ruler who declared Him innocent yet gave Him up to die, the servile throng who waited on the priests, the soldiers of Herod and of Pilate, the pitiless crowd which clamored for His blood, and they who mocked Him in His agony, -- not one of them whom Jesus did not compassionate, whose cruelty had not power to wring His heart. Disciple and foeman, Roman and Jew, priest and soldier and judge, all had lifted up their voice against Him. And when the comrades of His passion joined the cry, the last ingredient of human cruelty was infused into the cup which James and John had once proposed to drink with Him.


Verses 33-41

CHAPTER 15:33-41 (Mark 15:33-41)

THE DEATH OF JESUS

"And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, He calleth Elijah. And one ran, and filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink, saying, Let be; let us see whether Elijah cometh to take Him down. And Jesus uttered a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood by over against Him, saw that He so gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. And there were also women beholding from afar: among whom were both Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; who, when He was in Galilee, followed Him, and ministered unto Him; and many other women which came up with Him unto Jerusalem." Mark 15:33-41 (R.V.)

THREE hours of raging human passion, endured with Godlike patience, were succeeded by three hours of darkness, hushing mortal hatred into silence, and perhaps contributing to the penitence of the reviler at His side. It was a supernatural gloom, which an eclipse of the sun was impossible during the full moon of Passover. Shall we say that, as it shall be in the last days, nature sympathized with humanity, and the angel of the sun hid his face from his suffering Lord?

Or was it the shadow of a still more dreadful eclipse, for now the eternal Father veiled His countenance from the Son in whom He was well pleased?

In some true sense God forsook Him. And we have to seek for a meaning of this awful statement -- inadequate no doubt, for all our thoughts must come short of such a reality, but free from pervarication and evasion.

It is wholly unsatisfactory to regard the verse as merely the heading of a Psalm, (Psalms 22:1-31) cheerful for the most part, which Jesus inaudibly recited. Why was only this verse uttered aloud? How false an impression must have been produced upon the multitude, upon St. John, upon the penitent thief, if Jesus were suffering less than the extreme of spiritual anguish. Nay, we feel that never before can the verse have attained its fullest meaning, a meaning which no experience of David could more than dimly shadow forth, since we ask in our sorrows, Why have we forsaken God? but Jesus said, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?

And this unconsciousness of any reason for desertion disproves the old notion that He felt Himself a sinner, and "suffered infinite remorse, as being the chief sinner in the universe, all the sins of mankind being His." One who felt thus could neither have addressed God as "My God," nor asked why He was forsaken.

Still less does it allow us to believe that the Father perfectly identified Jesus with sin, so as to be "wroth" with Him, and even "to hate Him to the uttermost." Such notions, the offspring of theories carried to a wild and irreverent extreme, when carefully examined impute to the Deity confusion of thought, a mistaking of the Holy One for a sinner, or rather for the aggregate of sinners. But it is very different when we pass from the Divine consciousness to the hearing of God toward Christ our representative, to the outshining or eclipse of His favor. That this was overcast is manifest from the fact that Jesus everywhere else addresses Him as My Father, here only as My God. Even in the garden it was Abba Father, and the change indicates not indeed estrangement of heart, but certainly remoteness. Thus we have the sense of desertion, combined with the assurance which once breathed in the words, O God, Thou art my God.

Thus also it came to pass that He who never forfeited the most intimate communion and sunny smile of heaven, should yet give us an example at the last of that utmost struggle and sternest effort of the soul, which trusts without experience, without emotion, in the dark, because God is God, not because I am happy.

But they who would empty the death of Jesus of its sacrificial import, and leave only the attraction and inspiration of a sublime life and death, must answer the hard questions, How came God to forsake the Perfect One? Or, how came He to charge God with such desertion? His follower, twice using this very word, could boast that he was cast down yet not forsaken, and that at his first trial all men forsook him, yet the Lord stood by him (2 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:16-17). How came the disciple to be above his Master?

The only explanation is in His own word, that His life is a ransom in exchange for many (Mark 10:45). The chastisement of our peace, not the remorse of our guiltiness, was upon Him. No wonder that St. Mark, who turns aside from his narrative for no comment, no exposition, was yet careful to preserve this alone among the dying words of Christ.

And the Father heard His Son. At that cry the mysterious darkness passed away, and the soul of Jesus was relieved from its burden, so that He became conscious of physical suffering; and the mockery of the multitude was converted into awe. It seemed to them that His Eloi might indeed bring Elias, and the great and notable day, and they were willing to relieve the thirst which no stoical hardness forbade that gentlest of all sufferers to confess. Thereupon the anguish that redeemed the world was over; a loud voice told that exhaustion was not complete; and Jesus "gave up the ghost." (9)

Through the veil, that is to say His flesh, we have boldness to enter into the holy place; and now that He had opened the way, the veil of the temple was rent asunder by no mortal hand, but downward from the top. The way into the holiest was visibly thrown open, when sin was expiated, which had forfeited our right of access.

And the centurion, seeing that His death itself was abnormal and miraculous, and accompanied with miraculous signs, said, Truly this was a righteous man. But such a confession could not rest there: if He was this, He was all He claimed to be; and the mockery of His enemies had betrayed the secret of their hate; He was the Son of God.

"When the centurion saw" . . . "There were also many women beholding." Who can overlook the connection? Their gentle hearts were not to be utterly overwhelmed: as the centurion saw and drew his inference, so they beheld, and felt, however dimly, amid sorrows that benumb the mind, that still, even in such wreck and misery, God was not far from Jesus.

When the Lord said, It is finished, there was not only an end of conscious anguish, but also of contempt and insult. His body was not to see corruption, nor was a bone to be broken, nor should it remain in hostile hands.

Respect for Jewish prejudice prevented the Romans from leaving Jesus' body to molder on the cross, and the approaching Sabbath was not one to be polluted. And knowing this, Joseph of Arimathea boldly went in to Pilate and asked for it. It was only secretly and in fear that he had been a disciple, but the deadly crisis had developed what was hidden, he had opposed the crime of his nation in their council, and in the hour of seeming overthrow he chose the good part. Boldly the timid one "went in," braving the scowls of the priesthood, defiling himself moreover, and forfeiting his share in the sacred feast, in hope to win the further defilement of contact with the dead.

Pilate was careful to verify so rapid a death; but when he was certain of the fact, "he granted the corpse to Joseph," as a worthless thing. His frivolity is expressed alike in the unusual verb (10) and substantive: he "freely bestowed," he "gave away" not "the body" as when Joseph spoke of it, but "the corpse," the fallen thing, like a prostrated and uprooted tree that shall revive no more. Wonderful it is to reflect that God had entered into eternal union with what was thus given away to the only man of rank who cared to ask for it. Wonderful to think what opportunities of eternal gain men are content to lose; what priceless treasures are given away, or thrown away as worthless. Wonderful to imagine the feelings of Joseph in heaven today, as he gazes with gratitude and love upon the glorious Body which once, for a little, was consigned to his reverent care.

St. John tells us that Nicodemus brought a hundred pound weight of myrrh and aloes, and they together wrapped Him in these, in the linen which had been provided; and Joseph laid Him in his own new tomb, undesecrated by mortality.

And there Jesus rested. His friends had no such hope as would prevent them from closing the door with a great stone. His enemies set a watch, and sealed the stone. The broad moon of Passover made the night as clear as the day, and the multitude of strangers, who thronged the city and its suburbs, rendered any attempt at robbery even more hopeless than at another season.

What indeed could the trembling disciples of an executed pretender do with such an object as a dead body? What could they hope from the possession of it? But if they did not steal it, if the moral glories of Christianity are not sprung from deliberate mendacity, why was the body not produced, to abash the wild dreams of their fanaticism? It was fearfully easy to identify. The scourging, the cross, and the spear, left no slight evidence behind, and the broken bones of the malefactors completed the absolute isolation of the sacred body of the Lord.

The providence of God left no precaution unsupplied to satisfy honest and candid inquiry. It remained to be seen, would He leave Christ's soul in Hades, or suffer His Holy One (such is the epithet applied to the body of Jesus) to see corruption?

Meantime, through what is called three days and nights -- a space which touched, but only touched, the confines of a first and third day, as well as the Saturday which intervened, Jesus shared the humiliation of common men, the divorce of soul and body. He slept as sleep the dead, but His soul was where He promised that the penitent should come, refreshed in Paradise.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Mark 15:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/mark-15.html.

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