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At the request of the priests, Pilate sealed the door of the sepulcher with the Roman seal and placed a guard of sixteen Roman soldiers over it, lest “his disciples should steal away the body.” There, upon the last seventh day Sabbath of the world, the torn and weary body of the Lord lay at rest. The faithful and loving women, who had stood at the cross, had followed the body to its resting place, and “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Jesus, beheld where it was laid,” having observed it before the Roman guard was placed there. After the Sabbath was passed, they returned, early on the first day of the week, to embalm the body with sweet spices, a tribute not satisfactorily attended to amid the confusion of the hurried burial. They found no body in the tomb.
Farrar says with great force and justice: At the moment when Christ died, nothing could have seemed more abjectly weak, more pitifully hopeless, more absolutely doomed to scorn and extinction and despair, than the Church which he had founded. It numbered but a handful of weak followers. They were poor, they were ignorant, they were hopeless. They could not claim a single synagogue or a single sword. So feeble were they, and insignificant, that it would have looked like foolish partiality to prophesy for them the limited existence of a Galilean sect. How was it that these dull and ignorant men, with their cross of wood, triumphed over the deadly fascinations of sensual mythologies, conquered kings and their armies, and overcame the world? 294There is one, and one only, possible answer—the resurrection from the dead. All this vast revolution was due to the power of Christ's resurrection.
THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS.—There has been much discussion of the time that the Savior's body was in the grave. As he had spoken of it being three days and nights in the earth, some have insisted that he was crucified on Thursday, buried Thursday evening, and was in the tomb Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. If the passover had come that year on Thursday evening, there would be no inconsistency between this hypothesis and the facts, for Friday would have been an annual Sabbath. This view, which has been ably advocated by some learned writers, reconciles the four expressions that refer to the time of burial, (1) “On the third day,” (2) “After three days, (3) “In three days,” and (4) “After three days and three nights” as follows. It is said that “on the third day” may include a period beginning with the first minute of the first day and ending with the last minute of the third, embracing in all seventy-two hours. “After three days,” it is insisted, means the same as “three days and three nights,” while “in three days” may include the last minute of a period of seventy-two hours. It is, therefore, held that this is the exact period that the Savior's body was in the tomb, extending from the time of burial on Thursday evening until the time of resurrection on Sunday, three days and three nights being the measure by which we are to settle the duration of the indefinite expressions. While all this seems plausible it labors under the difficulty that it does not harmonize with the facts. These facts should be noted: 1. The Savior was buried on the day he was crucified. He was crucified and buried on “the day of preparation,” and “the next day that followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate” to ask a guard. According to Matthew, then, the first day of burial is the day of the crucifixion. Mark also says that Christ was buried on the evening of the day of preparation. Luke also says that he was buried on the day of preparation. John says the same thing. This, then, is the first day, in the evening. The Savior is buried near the close of the first, instead of the beginning. If it was Thursday, Friday would be the second day, Saturday the third, and Sunday, on which all admit that he rose, the fourth day. The theory named above would require that the burial take place the very beginning of the first and the rising at the very close of the third, whereas the very opposite is true. If he was buried on Thursday and rose on Sunday, he rose on the fourth day. This view, therefore, is to be rejected, and we are to understand the expression “three days and three nights,” not according to ours, but according to the Hebrew idiom. A day and a night was expressed by a single term meaning a day-night. Any part of the period was made to stand for the whole. The parts of Friday and Sunday that the Savior was in the tomb would stand for the Friday and Sunday “day-nights,” while the whole of Saturday is, of course, included. See 2 Chron. 10:5, 12, where the people sent away for three days returned on the third day. Also 1 Sam. 30:12, 13, where three days is the same period as three days and three nights. These two references show that the “third day.” “three days” and “three nights,” according to Hebrew usage, means the same period of time. 295
1. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early. The Sabbath ended at sunset, so that Jesus had been dead and buried Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning, beginning at the previous sunset, three days according to Jewish reckoning. See 1 Sam. 30:12, 13; 2 Chron. 10:5, 12. This visit John says was “early, while it was yet dark;” Mark says “very early in the morning;” Matthew says “As it began to dawn.” John names Mary Magdalene as the important one of these women who visited the tomb, but does not say she was alone. From the other evangelists we learn that Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and Salome were with her, and that they came with sweet spices to embalm the body of Jesus, expecting to secure aid to remove the stone. The fact that they came to embalm the body shows that they were not satisfied with the coarser, but loving treatment of Joseph and Nicodemus, and that they did not expect a resurrection. To their astonishment they found the stone rolled away.
2. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, etc. The reason that John mentions Mary Magdalene alone is shown in this statement. She was the one who ran and met Peter and himself. Her sad cry, “They have taken the Lord away out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him,” shows that others were with her at the sepulcher. Her only explanation was that the enemies had taken away the body. While Mary had gone to seek the disciples the other women entered the sepulcher and saw an angel there. See Matt. 28:6–7.
3, 4, Peter . . . came to the sepulcher. As soon as Peter and John heard the story of Mary Magdalene they at once hurried out of the city to the sepulcher. They were intensely excited by the startling story, and ran with their utmost speed to the sepulcher. John seems to have been the swifter of the two and reached it first. The circumstantial details he gives are those of an eye witness.
5, 6, 7. And he . . . saw the linen clothes lying. Though John reached the sepulcher first he was so awed that he did not enter in, but through the open 296door he saw the tomb to be empty, but linen clothes that Joseph and Nicodemus had used for burial garments (see John 19:40) lying within. Peter, more impulsive and bolder, as soon as he reached the tomb, went within and also noted the linen wrappings, carefully folded, and even the napkin that was about his head, placed in such a way as to show that the tomb had not been rudely robbed.
8, 9. Then went in that other disciple . . . and he saw and believed. When John entered in, saw the careful attention paid to the grave clothes, and knew that rude robbers could not have taken the body, it flashed upon his mind, for the first time, that the Lord had risen. So dull had they all been, according to his confession, notwithstanding the clear, Scripture statements and the teachings of the Lord, that they had not before understood that he should rise from the dead. This is the first gleam of faith in the Lord's resurrection. John was the first believer.
10. The disciples went away again to their own home. Probably to the house of John, which there is reason to believe was in Jerusalem. The tomb was empty; there was nothing more they could do but simply to await the developments that might come.
11. Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping. She had followed Peter and John more slowly, and when all the other disciples departed she remained to weep at the place where the Lord had lain. She also stooped and gazed through her tears into the sepulcher, but without hope, when suddenly she
12, 13. Seeth two angels, clothed in white. It is not certain that she at first knew them to be angels; she was stupefied almost with grief, and they had the appearance of men, as did the angel seen by the other women whom she had not met since she ran for Peter and John. They asked her, Why weepest thou? and her answer shows that the stone rolled away from the door of the sepulcher has not been lifted from her heart; “Because they have taken away my Lord and I know 297not where they have laid him.” To her, still, the broken tabernacle of clay laid in the tomb, is her Lord.
14. She turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing. As she spoke of her Lord her Lord was there, though she did not recognize him. Her failure to do so was due probably in part to her preoccupation and excitement of mind and to the dimness of the light. She saw a man, and paid little heed at first to his appearance, though it may be possible that her “eyes were holden,” as in the case of the disciples on the way to Emmaus.
15. Woman, why weepest thou? The same question is asked, first, by the Lord that had been by his angels in the tomb. Mary, still heedless of all but her sorrow, without looking, takes it for granted that it is the gardener who has charge of the garden in which the sepulchre was placed, for who else would be likely to be there so early? She at once asks him about the body. As yet her hope is dead.
16. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. . . . Rabboni. Before she had been listless, but when she heard her name in the accents she remembered so well, she at once beheld her Lord, and crying out, Rabboni, Master, she attempted to throw herself at his feet.
17. Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. She, in her gladness, sought to grasp her Lord about the feet. There has been much conjecture as to the reasons underlying the Savior's prohibition. It seems to me that the explanation is about as follows: She desired to fling herself upon the Lord and retain him, but it was needful that he come and go, during the time he showed himself to his disciples, until he “ascended to his Father.” Then would he come again by the Spirit to be with his disciples forever. Had he permitted her embrace he would have been compelled, in a moment, to escape from her, but since he has ascended to his Father he abides with the saints forever! Though Mary is not allowed to embrace him, there is assigned to her a higher privilege. She is told to go and tell the glad story to my brethren. He is still our Brother. I ascend to my Father. The time of the ascension is viewed as present. He has risen; he ascends; another step in his exaltation. The Father to whom he 298ascends is “your Father” also. The disciples are brethren of the Lord and children of his Father.
18. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord. The women were last at the cross; they followed the body to the tomb; they were first to see the open tomb; first to hear the story of the resurrection from an angel, and Mary was the first to see the Lord. Great is the faith and devotion of the sex; great is the honor with which the Lord has crowned the faith and devotion of women.
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