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you with it.
his reviving, was undeniable. The so fresh resuscitation of that dead body, after four days' dissolution, was a manifestation of Omnipotence. How do ye vainly wish that he could deceive you in the fore-reporting of his own resurrection ! Without a divine power, he could have raised neither Lazarus nor himself; with and by it he could as well raise himself as Lazarus. And now what must be done? The sepulchre must be secured, and
A huge stone, a strong guard, must do the deed; and that stone must be sealed, that guard of your own designing. Methinks I hear the soldiers and busy officers, how they boasted of their valour and vigilance, and said they would make him safe from either rising or stealing. Oh! the madness of impotent men, that think by either wile or force to frustrate the will and designs of the Almighty !
All this while the devout Marys keep close, and silently spend their Sabbath in a mixture of grief and hope. How did they wear out those sad hours in bemoaning themselves each to other; in mutual relations of the patient sufferings, of the happy expiration, of their Saviour, - of the wonderful events, both in the heavens and earth, that accompanied his crucifixion,- of his frequent and clear predictions of his resurrection!
After the crucifixion of our Lord, follows the account of his burial by Joseph of Arimathea, who went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus ; and having obtained it, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out of the rock ; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. On this I shall make no other observation than that it was the exact fulfilment of a prophecy in Isaiah, where, speaking of the promised Messiah, or Christ, it is said, “ He shall make his grave with the rich” (Isai. liii. 9): and accordingly Joseph, we are told, was a rich man and an honourable counsellor.
We see that the chief priests used every possible precaution to prevent a fraud; for this purpose they went to Pilate to beg for a guard, immediately after our Lord was buried. It is indeed here said, that they went the next day that followed the day of Preparation, the day on which Jesus was crucified. This looks, at the first view, as if the sepulchre had remained one whole night without a guard; but this was not so. The chief priests went to Pilate as soon as the sun was set on Friday, the day of the Preparation and crucifixion, — for then began the following day, or Saturday, as the Jews always began to reckon their day from the preceding evening. They had a guard therefore as soon as they possibly could, after the body was deposited in the sepulchre: and one cannot help admiring the wisdom of Providence in so disposing events, that the extreme anxiety of these men to prevent collusion should be the means of adding the testimony of sixty unexceptionable witnesses, the number of the Roman soldiers on guard, to the truth of the resurrection, and of establishing the reality of it beyond all power of contradiction. It is only necessary to add on this head, that the circumstance of sealing the stone was a precaution of which several instances occur in ancient times, particularly in the prophecy of Daniel, where we read, that when Daniel was thrown into the den of lions, a stone was brought and laid upon the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords, that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate, begged the body of Jesus, and
wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. The Jews, as well as the Egyptians, added spices to keep the body from putrefaction, and the linen was wrapped about every part to keep the aromatics in contact with the flesh. From John xix. 39, 40, we learn that a mixture of myrrh and aloes of one hundred pounds' weight had been applied to the body of Jesus when he was buried : and that a second embalmment was intended, we learn from Luke xxiii. 56 ; xxiv. 1, as the hurry to get the body interred before the sabbath did not permit them to complete the embalming in the first instance.
He laid it in his own new tomb. To all human appearance, the body of Christ must have had the same burial-place with those of the two robbers, as he was numbered with the transgressors, and, according to a prophecy delivered nearly seven hundred years before that time, he is to have the burying-place of a rich man (see Isai. liii. 9-11). Had our Lord been buried in the common burial-ground of the malefactors, his resurrection could not have been so distinctly remarked, as the chief priests would never have thought of sealing the stone there, or setting a watch; but now that the body is got into the hands of a friend, they judge it necessary to make use of these precautions, in order, as they said, to prevent imposture; and, from this very circumstance the resurrection of Christ had its fullest evidence, and was put beyond the power of successful contradiction. What a number of objections would not human prudence have made to Joseph's conduct, had he consulted it on this occasion! It would have represented to him, that “this was to expose himself,—to bring himself into trouble,— to render himself suspected, - to put himself out of all capacity of doing good, — to ruin himself irrevocably; and, now, it could do no good to his teacher, he is now dead, and needs no longer any office of kindness from men.” There is sometimes in our whole life but one opportunity in which God designs signally to employ us; and, through our general backwardness to every good work, we are for reserving ourselves to opportunities, in which God neither requires nor will accept our services.
They (the priests) made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch. The guard was to take care that the disciples should not steal him away; and the seal, which was probably the seal of the governor, was to prevent the guards from being corrupted so as to permit the theft. So everything was done which human policy and prudence could, to prevent a resurrection, a resurrection which these very precautions had the most direct tendency to authenticate and establish. How wonderful are the wisdom and goodness of God! -- and how true is it, that there is neither might nor counsel against Him!
DR. ADAM CLARKE.
How can the ancient predictions be fulfilled ? Where shall “ he make his grave,—with the wicked or with the rich, in his death” (Isai. liii. 1,) of crucifixion ? By the providence of Him who did foretel it, it shall be fulfilled. To rescue the body of our blessed Saviour from the malicious hands of those who caused his crucifixion, “ there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who went in boldly unto Pilate, and besought him that he might take away the body of Jesus.” Beside, “there came also Nicodemus, a man of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” Thus was the burial of the Son of God performed according to the custom of the people of God.
As for fulfilling the custom of the Jews as to the preparation in respect of his body, we find the spices and the linen clothes. When “there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and she broke the box, and poured it on his head,” Christ made this interpretation of that action : “ She is come beforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” — Mark xiv. 3-8. When Christ was risen,“ Mary Magdalene and the other Mary brought the spices which they had prepared, that they might come and anoint him.—Mark xvi. 1—Luke xxiv. Î. Thus was there an interpreted and an intended unction of our Saviour, but really and actually he was interred with the spices which Nicodemus brought. The custom of wrapping in the clothes we see in Lazarus rising from the grave; for “ he came forth bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin.”—John xi. 44. In the same manner, when our Saviour was risen,“ Simon Peter went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.” xx. 6, 7. Thus, according to the custom of the Jews, was the body of Christ bound in several linen clothes with an aromatical composition, and so prepared for the sepulchre.
As for the preparation of the sepulchre to receive the body of our Saviour, the custom of the Jews was also punctually observed in that. Joseph of Arimathea had prepared a place of burial for himself, and the manner of it is expressed : for “ in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein never man was laid, which Joseph had hewn out of a rock for his own tomb: there laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre," and so Christ was buried after the manner of the Jews, in a vault made by the excavation of the rocky firm part of the earth, and that vault secured from external injury by a great massy stone rolled to the mouth or door thereof. After which stone was once rolled thither, the whole funeral action was performed, and the sepulture completed : so that it was not lawful by the custom of the Jews any more to open the sepulchre, or disturb the interred body.
Two eminent persons did concur unto the burial of our Saviour, a ruler and a counsellor, men of those orders among the Jews as were of the greatest authority with the people, Joseph of Arimathæa, rich and honourable, and inferior to Nicodemus, one of the great Council of the Sanhedrim: these two, though fearful while he lived to acknowledge him, are brought by the hand of Providence to inter him; that so the prediction might be fulfilled which was delivered by Isaiah to this purpose. The counsel of his enemies, the design of the Jews, “ made his grave with the wicked," that he might be buried with them which were crucified with him : but “ because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit within his mouth ;” because he was no ways guilty of those crimes for which they justly suffered ; that there might be a difference after their death, though there appeared little distinction in it; the counsel of the Father, the design of Heaven, put him “ with the rich in his death,” and caused a counsellor and a ruler of the Jews to bury him !
Behold the restless and implacable malice of Christ's enemies, which pursued him even to his tomb, and there endeavoured to blast his memory by fixing upon him the character of an impostor. They demanded and procured a guard for his sepulchre. And here also we have a repeated instance of God's taking the wise in their own craftiness.—Job v. 13. Some have conjectured that they might also cement it with lead, or bind it with iron, but the sabbath would hardly have allowed this. The guard would prevent violence, and the seal would be a security against any fraud of theirs in confederacy with the disciples, if that could possibly have been suspected. This precaution might prevent any attempt, not only to remove the body, but to embalm it. For it is to be considered, that they had great reason to believe that, when two such eminent persons as Joseph and Nicodemus had already paid such a public honour to the corpse, they would desire also to embalm it; which accordingly they did really design. This would be such an additional reflection on the proceedings of the sanhedrim, as they would certainly desire to prevent. A mandate from Pilate for this purpose they could not be sure of obtaining, had they asked .it; nor would an act of their own court have been free from uncertainty and inconvenience. This method of sealing the stone was, therefore, the most artful expedient that could be imagined ; which would effectually prevent it, without letting it be publicly known that they had the least suspicion of any such design. Probably their design was on the fourth day to have opened the sepulchre, and have exposed the corpse to public view; which, had it been in their power, had been the most prudent step they could have taken. But they do not seem to have been mad enough to think, that if Jesus rose from the dead, it must be just when they thought fit to attend.
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell ; neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.—Psal. xvi. 10.
It was a part of the covenant of grace, and promised by the mouth of God's prophets, that after the death of the Messiah, his animal frame, WOJ, NEPHESH, should not continue, like those of other men, in the grave, S18w, sheol, nor should corruption be permitted to seize on the body, by which all others were to be raised to incorruption and immortality. As members of Christ, this same promise and assurance is so far ours, that although our mortal part must see corruption, yet it shall not be finally left under the power of the enemy, but shall be raised again, and reunited to its old companion the soul, which exists, meanwhile, in secret and undiscerned regions, there waiting for the day when its Redeemer shall triumph over corruption, in his mystical, as he hath already done in his natural, body.
“ Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and he was buried.”— 1. Cor. xv. 3, 4. Who begged his body for interment? It was Joseph and Nicodemus. And, here we cannot help remarking these petitioners themselves. “ Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called,”—but these men were of distinguished rank and condition in life. A few of these there have been in every age of the church: sufficient—to show, not that the cause of God depends upon them, but to redeem religion from the prejudice, that it suits the vulgar only, and also to prove the power of Divine grace, in counteracting temptation. Yet down to this period, Joseph and Nicodemus had not been persons of much promise: so far from it, they were ashamed and afraid to have their regard to our Lord known, when his disciples were professing their resolution to follow him to prison and to death. Behold the change !
Who attended as mourners ? “ The women, also, who came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.” With us, some days elapse before interment; but here, only two hours were allowed between his execution and his burial. If, indeed, his body had not been implored by Joseph and Nicodemus, it would have been interred at Golgotha—thrown into a hole, dug under the cross !
Who carried the sacred corpse, we know not; but they had not far to bear it, “ for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” This was not a grave
of earth, but of stone, and hewn out of a rock. Thus there was only one avenue leading to it; no one, therefore, could approach it from the sides, or behind; and the entrance was watched, guarded, and sealed. It was also a new tomb, in which never man was laid. And here, again, we see the hand of God: for had there been other bodies, some would have pretended collusion, and the evidence could not have been so simple and complete as it now was, when the body lay alone there. Finally; it was not his own.
His followers are mad after the honours and riches of the world; but, living and dying, he had not where to lay his head. He was born in another man's house, and buried in another man's grave !
But why was he buried at all? First.—His burial was an additional confirmation of his death, upon which everything depended. An examination was made while he was upon the cross; and finding him dead already, they brake not his legs; but a soldier pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water. But now his mouth, and nostrils, and ears were all filled with the odours and spices—and who can question