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Christ Crucified and Buried.

17. He went forth bearing his cross. It was customary to make the condemned carry the timbers of the cross to the place of execution. The cross was laid on Christ, but from weakness, perhaps caused by the scourging and abuse to which he had been subjected, he sinks under the burden. Simon, a Cyrenian who was met in the way, was then compelled by the soldiers to bear the cross. Called the place of a skull . . . Golgotha. A Hebrew word, meaning a skull. From its Latin equivalent, calvaria, comes our English word Calvary, which occurs in the English New Testament only in Luke 23:33, where it should be translated “a skull.” The significance of the name is uncertain. Some suppose that it was the common place of execution, and that the skulls of those who were executed lay about; others that it was a bare rounded knoll, in form like a skull.—Abbott. It was, (1) apparently a well-known spot; (2) outside the gate (compare Heb. 13:12); but (3) near the city (John 19:20); (4) on a thoroughfare leading into the country (Luke 23:26); and (5) contained a “garden” or “orchard” (John 19:41). (Joh 19:18)

18. Where they crucified him. The cross was an upright pole or beam, intersected by a transverse one at right angles, generally in the shape of a T. In this case, from the “title” being placed over the head, the upright beam probably projected above the horizontal one, as usually represented. To this cross, the criminal, being stripped of his clothes, was fixed by nails driven through the hands, and not always, nor perhaps generally, though certainly not seldom, through the feet, separate or united. The body was not supported by the nails, but by a piece of wood which passed between the legs. A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds—all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. And two other with him. These two are called “thieves” and “malefactors” elsewhere. They may have been zealots who believed in a coming Judean kingdom, made their patriotism a cover for robbery and murder, and had finally been arrested and condemned. It is a reasonable hypothesis that they belonged to the band of which Barabbas was the chief. See Mark 15:7. (Joh 19:19)

19. Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. It was the Roman custom to place on the cross over the criminal's head, a placard, stating the crime for which he suffered. Luke (23:38) says that the title was written in Greek, Latin 284and Hebrew, the chief languages then spoken, and all spectators would be able to read it. The superscription is given differently by each evangelist. This is Jesus the King of the Jews (Matt. 27:37). The King of the Jews (Mark 15:26). This is the King of the Jews (Luke 23:38). Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews (John 19:19). Although no serious and sensible writer would dream of talking about “a discrepancy” here, it is very probable that the differences arise from the different forms assumed by the title in the three languages. (Joh 19:20)

20. It was written in Hebrew, and Greek and Latin. The Greek was the universal language of literature; the Latin was the language of the Roman Empire; the Hebrew was spoken vernacularly by the Jews. The rabbins say there are three most powerful languages: The Roman for battle, the Greek for conversation, the Hebrew for prayers. (Joh 19:21) (Joh 19:22)

21, 22. Write not, The King of the Jews. This was the crime of which our Savior had been guilty they said. Pilate intended that the inscription should have a sting in it for the chief priests and elders and scribes. He had been frustrated and galled; and he took his revenge by flashing the idea before the public mind, that it was a crime, in the estimation of at least the chief priests and scribes and elders, to seek to have a Jewish king. Pilate's shaft did not miss his mark. The chief priests wished him to amend the description thus: “He said, I am King of the Jews;” but he silenced them with the answer, “What I have written, I have written.” Thus the cross proclaimed the Kingship of Jesus. (Joh 19:23)

23. Then the soldiers . . . . took his garments, and made four parts. There were four soldiers at the cross and the garments were a perquisite of the soldiers. The outer garments were divided into four parts, one to each, but the coat, rather the “tunic,” an inner garment, was seamless, woven in one piece, probably of wool. As it would have been spoiled by dividing it, the soldiers decided to cast lots for it, thus fulfilling another prophecy (Psalm 22:18). This has given occasion to the remark that Christians have, in their party divisions, paid less respect to their Master than the heathen soldiers did. 285 (Joh 19:24)

24. Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it. Romans did not gamble with cards, but dice. Gamblers will ply their trade even in the shadow of the cross, and in the presence of death. The 22d Psalm, from whence a quotation was made, has been universally regarded by Christian critics as referring to the Messiah. (Joh 19:25)

25. There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, etc. While the apostles mostly were afar off, the women were near the cross. Some have held that there were only three, “his mother's sister” being “Mary the wife of Cleophas,” but the best Bible students think otherwise and suppose that Salome, the mother of James and John, is the sister meant. Matthew names among the women, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.” The last, Salome, is supposed to have been the sister of the mother of Jesus (Matt. 27:56). (Joh 19:26) (Joh 19:27)

26, 27. Woman, behold thy son! Agonizing as the sight was, it was the part of a mother to press as near her great suffering son as possible, and she, with other saintly women, were near the foot of the cross. Jesus, in that awful hour, thought of others rather than himself, and looking at John, the nephew of Mary if Salome was her sister, he said to his mother, “Behold thy son!” No doubt a widow, and now bereft of her son, he commends her to the watch-care of John, an example of filial affection most wonderful when we consider the agonies of the cross. The original is more graphic than our English Version. The Savior's words are: “Woman, look! thy son I” and “Look! thy mother!” words brief, ejaculatory, in perfect harmony with his state of mortal agony. From that hour, or time, John took Mary to his own home, and she, doubtless, remained there till her death. (Joh 19:28)

28. After this, Jesus . . . . saith, I thirst. All things were now accomplished, the end was at hand, and in order that the predictions of the, Old Testament Scriptures might be fulfilled by his death, he comes to the last moment 286saying, “I thirst.” I hold this to be the meaning, as there is no prediction that he should utter these words. (Joh 19:29)

29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar. This was the sour wine used by the soldiers; not mixed with myrrh, as in the case of the stupefying draught Jesus had refused before crucifixion (Mark 15:23). The sponge had probably served instead of a cork to the jar in which the soldiers had brought the drink that was to refresh them in their long day's work. Some one, probably a soldier, heard the cry, “I thirst,” and, prompted by a rough pity, stretched out a cane or stalk of hyssop (John 19:29), with the sponge that had been dipped in the wine upon it, and bore it to the parched lips of the Sufferer. It was not now refused. (Joh 19:30)

30. He said, It is finished. This is a cry of triumph. He had won the victory and had reached the end of his cruel pathway. It betokens a deep sensation of relief, relief from a crushing burden, rest after agonizing toil. The work of redemption was wrought. He had said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” His baptism of suffering was now over. It is interesting to study all the words uttered by Jesus on the cross. By a comparison of all the Evangelists this will be found to be his sixth utterance. The three Evangelists all dwell upon the loudness of the cry, as if it had been the triumphant note of a conqueror. The last words from the cross were those recorded in Luke 23:46, “Father, into thy hands,” etc. This cry of Jesus teaches us that his death does not proceed from the decay of his strength, but from the excess of his love; that his life is not taken from him by violence, but that he gives it up by his power. It is, on the part of the Jews, a Deicide and a sacrilege; but on his own it is a holy and voluntary sacrifice. He bowed his head and gave up the ghost. “Gave up his spirit” (Revision). The record does not say that he died. He, voluntarily, of his own act, surrendered up his spirit. He had declared, “I lay down my life to take it up again.” He died by his own act; he was raised by his own power. If he died by his own surrender of his spirit, his death was not due to the effect of the cross. The two malefactors outlived him, and were put to death by other means in the evening in order that they might not be upon the cross upon the passover sabbath (see verses 31–33), but Jesus was already dead. The physical cause of Christ's death has been thought by many to have been rupture of the heart. (1) Crucifixion was generally a very lingering death; the victim lived seldom less than twenty-four hours, often three or four days. (2) Usually the victim died of sheer exhaustion; but Christ was not exhausted, as he cried with a loud voice. (3) John records that blood and water flowed from Christ's side when pierced by the spear. This could only occur if the heart had been ruptured, and the blood, before death, had flowed out into the cavity which surrounds the heart. Christ then literally died of a broken heart. This theory draws our hearts away from the mere bodily 287tortures which Christ endured, to the mysterious woe that pressed upon him on account of imputed sin. For a full discussion of this question, see Hanna's Life of Christ, vol. 3, in which the views of the most eminent British physicians are given. Dr. Simpson, whose reputation is world wide, declares that the cross could not have caused the death so soon, and the thrust of the spear was a rude post mortem examination, revealing the blood and water, which could only result from a rupture of the heart. For further information on this subject we refer the reader to Dr. Stroud's Physical Cause of the Death of Christ, chap. iv., and also to McClintock & Strong's Cyclopedia, art. on Crucifixion. Gave up the ghost. More correctly, gave up the spirit. The word rendered ghost (pneuma) occurs in the New Testament 393 times, is applied to the spirit of God 288 times, to evil spirits some 30 times, and to the human spirit 40 times, while it is applied to the disposition 17 times. “God is a spirit,” and he created man in his own image, that is, gave him a spirit also. When death occurs the spirit, or deathless portion of our being “returns to God who gave it.” Stephen said: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;” the Lord said: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit;” John says of the Lord's death, “He gave up the spirit.” We have a body, soul and spirit, and Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, prays God to preserve “their whole spirit, soul and body, blameless unto the coming of the Lord.” The body perishes, the soul dies, but the spirit departs. The soul (psuchee) is never commended by the dying saint to God, but the never-dying spirit (pneuma). Nowhere in the divine volume is the spirit said to be destroyed, to die or cease to exist. Mortality belongs to the mortal portion of our being, but is never predicated of a spirit. The words applied here to the Savior's death are those that apply to his death as a member of our race. (Joh 19:31)

31. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation. Some urge that this refers to the preparation for the Sabbath day, but John explains the meaning in which he uses the word “preparation,” in verse 14, where he says distinctly “it was the preparation of the passover.” It is true that the next day was the Sabbath and “that Sabbath was an high day.” It was more than an ordinary Sabbath. The annual Sabbath of the passover, “the first day of unleavened bread,” which was set apart as a Sabbath by the law, coincided with the weekly Sabbath, making that Sabbath of unusual solemnity. That the bodies should not remain upon the cross. It was the Roman custom, as well as that of other Gentile lands, to leave the body on the cross to putrefy and be devoured by carrion eating birds and beasts, but this was forbidden by the Jewish law which, partly as a sanitary measure and partly as a ceremonial obligation, required immediate burial (Deut. 21:23). Hence, in Judea, out of deference to Jewish prejudices the Romans yielded their custom. These Jews, who had no scruples about sending an innocent man 288to death on trumped-up charges, and who resorted to the most unscrupulous methods to defeat justice, were such sticklers for these ceremonials that they would have considered it an awful profanation of sacred things if the body of one whom they had murdered had remained on the cross over the Sabbath day! Their legs might be broken. Breaking the legs was a barbarous method adopted to hasten death, probably instituted as much to add horror as to terminate sufferings. The legs were crushed with a hammer somewhat like a sledge, and the shock would bring speedy death. The Jewish authorities simply request Pilate that he shall order the coup de grace to be administered in order that the bodies may be taken down from the cross. (Joh 19:32) (Joh 19:33)

32, 33. Then came the soldiers. At the orders of Pilate the soldiers, beginning with the two outside sufferers, broke their legs in succession, but when they came to Jesus, the central figure, they found him already dead, and, hence, “broke not his legs.” Thus as the paschal lambs, slain at that very hour, and eaten that evening, were preserved with bones unbroken, so “the Lord our passover” descended from the cross, pierced and mangled, but not a bone was broken. (Joh 19:34)

34. One of the soldiers . . . pierced his side. The object of this thrust is apparent. When they came to him to break his bones he was lifeless. It occurred to the soldiers that he might have swooned away, and to put his death beyond a doubt, he thrust his spear into his left side, the side of the heart. There came out blood and water. The blood and water that followed the withdrawal of the spear shows that the heart was pierced. The soldier, no doubt, aimed at the heart. The water, with clots of blood, can only be accounted for naturally by the previous rupture of the heart and the flow of blood into the pericardium, or outer sac of the heart, where it would be liable to separate very rapidly into water and clots of blood. Hence, as already stated, the Savior died of a broken heart. (Joh 19:35)

35. He that saw it bear record. The writer here identifies himself as an eye-witness, as one standing near the cross, as in fact, John the apostle. The reader cannot but note the emphasis that he places upon what he has just recorded concerning the spear thrust and the blood and water. Already in the days of John there was prevalent an agnostic skeptical theory that Jesus did not really, but only seemed to, die; and John proposed to set this matter at rest. What he saw proves the death of the Lord beyond a doubt. His testimony equally sets at rest the suggestions of modern skepticism 289that Christ merely fainted from exhaustion and was taken down from the cross, and subsequently restored by his disciples. There has been much spiritualizing of the blood and water by a class of mythical commentators who see in everything a deep, mysterious, hidden meaning. The fact that in 1 John 5:8, it is stated that three bear witness, the Spirit, the water and the blood, furnishes some warrant for allowing a special emphasis upon the blood and the water, but not for some of the curious interpretations. If we seek aid from the epistle we find that there John declares that Christ came by “water and by blood;” that is, his work was inaugurated by his baptism and the great tragedy was ended when he shed his blood. Then he adds that the three bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood. It must be kept in mind that John is citing these as witnesses to Christ, and to understand him we must seek how they bear witness. 1. We have already ascertained, in the discussion of the Comforter, how the Spirit bears witness and to this discussion I refer the reader. 2. Taking up the blood, it is also clear how it bears witness. The Lord himself appointed an institution, in which a chosen symbol represents his blood, and he has said, “As oft as ye do this (use this symbol in the appointed way) you do show forth my death.” As the passover bore witness to the first passover in Egypt, so every celebration of the Lord's Supper, a memorial institution appointed at the foot of the cross, bears witness to his death, and the “blood of the New Testament, shed for many for the remission of sins,” to his blood shed on the cross. 3. It thus becomes clear that the water must refer to the other great positive institution established by our Lord. Every baptismal rite bears witness also. The burial in the water is emblematical of the Lord's death and burial, and “we are buried by baptism into death,” while the uplifting from the watery grave is “in the likeness of his resurrection.” Hence, the water of the baptismal rite bears witness to the Lord's death, burial and resurrection, or to the three great facts of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1–4). If, therefore, John attaches any deep meaning to “the water and the blood” it is because they symbolize the two great positive institutions established by our Lord, and which are two of the “three witnesses” which testify to the vital facts of his life, death, burial and resurrection. (Joh 19:36) (Joh 19:37)

36, 37. For these things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled. The prophetic Scriptures alluded to are Exodus 12:46, and Zech. 12:10. The paschal lamb, the bones of which were not to be broken, was regarded by the Jews, and is spoken of both in the Old and New Testaments, as a type of the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” As the writers of the Gospels were Jews and had in mind, to a great extent, while writing, a Jewish class of readers, they pay great attention to the fulfillment of prophecy in Christ. We find the same thing in the speeches of Peter and 290Paul to Jewish audiences, of which a report is given Acts. Nothing conveyed conviction quicker to a Jew than to see that, even in the minutest particulars, Jesus corresponded, not only with the predictions of the prophets, but the types of the law. (Joh 19:38)

38. After this Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea is not named except in connection with the burial of Christ, and we know nothing of him save what is related in that connection. We learn by a comparison of statements that he belonged to Arimathea, a place now unknown, that he was a member of the Sanhedrim like Nicodemus, both of whom were absent or overawed during the trial of Christ, that he was a rich man, was a disciple “secretly for fear of the Jews,” and in this respect, like Nicodemus, and that he had a new sepulcher “wherein no man had been laid” near where the Lord was crucified. The death of Christ seems to have given new courage to both him and Nicodemus. Coward before, be now boldly asks Pilate for the body, and the secret disciples do not hesitate to take the body from the cross and to bury it lovingly in the new-made, rock-hewn sepulcher. Pilate gave him leave. We learn from Mark that Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was so soon dead, and that he sent to ascertain whether it was really true. As soon as he learned, he gave assent. As the Savior died at 3 o'clock, the burial took place between that hour and sunset. (Joh 19:39)

39. There came also Nicodemus. This is the third mention of Nicodemus, the first in 3:1, the second 7:50, where he enters a protest against the injustice of the Sanhedrim, and here he come to assist in the burial of Christ, bringing along an hundred weight of myrrh and aloes. The Sanhedrim had condemned Christ to death, but two Sanhedrists gave him a costly burial. Myrrh and aloes. These were fragrant materials, and placed, in a pulverized condition, in the linen grave-clothes with which the body was wrapped. They not only gave off a pleasant fragrance but delayed decomposition. The great quantity used shows that his very couch was formed of spices. (Joh 19:40) (Joh 19:41)

40. As the manner of the Jews is to bury. The Jews did not embalm as did the Egyptians, though in the case of King Asa there seems to be a hint of it, but it was the custom to wash the body, anoint it, and then wrap it in fine linen with spices and ointments enveloped in the folds. It is probable that the approach of the Sabbath hurried the preparation of the body, and it seems from the return of the women after the Sabbath that they did not 291consider the burial rites fully completed. Comparing the four accounts we learn that the body was wrapped in fine linen clothes with spices, and laid in a new rock-hewn sepulcher in a garden near the place of crucifixion, and that the sepulcher had never before been used. It was common in Palestine to cut vaults for the burial of the dead in the sides of the rocky cliffs and to close them with stones. It is probable that Joseph had built this for the sepulcher for himself and family. Thus is fulfilled the prediction of Isaiah (chap. 53), that though Christ was “numbered with the transgressors,” “he was with the rich in his death.” (Joh 19:42)

42. There then because of the Jew's preparation . . . and they laid Jesus. This probably is mentioned to explain that the burial was hurried and not fully completed, a fact that seems to be indicated in the Gospels. How much pathos in the words, “there they laid Jesus!” In the tomb of Jesus the Jews supposed his works to be buried forever. In it were buried the hopes of his disciples who had “trusted that he would restore the kingdom to Israel.” In it, had he not risen, would have been buried the Gospel, Christian civilization, and the hopes of the world. The future of the world was sleeping in his tomb.

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