SUMMARY.--Christ Delivered to Pilate. Judas Hangs Himself. Jesus Before Pilate. Barabbas and Christ. Pilate's Wife's Intercession. Pilate Acquits Jesus, but Yields to the Clamor. Jesus Scourged, Mocked, Taken to Golgotha, Crucified. Mocked on the Cross. Reviled by the Thieves. It Is Finished. The Veil of the Temple Rent. The Centurion's Confession. Pilate Yields the Body of Jesus to Joseph. Buried in the New Tomb. The Tomb Sealed and Guarded.
1. When the morning was come. Jesus had already been condemned, but another meeting of the Sanhedrim after daylight was necessary to give its legal effect, as condemnations to death could not be made in the night. That was the object of this meeting. For a fuller account of it, see Luke 22:66-71. For account of Christ before Pilate and the crucifixion, compare Mark 15:1-47; Luke 23:1-56; John 18:1-38.
2. Delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. The first mention of the Roman procurator by that name. He was both military and civil commander, usually dwelt at Cæsarea, but came up to Jerusalem at the passover feasts to preserve order. The Sanhedrim could not put Jesus to death, as the Roman rulers demanded that all cases of capital punishment be referred to them.
3. Then Judas . . . saw that he was condemned. The annals of men record no sadder history than that of Judas, impelled by avarice and resentment to betray his Master for money, and only to awake to the nature of his awful crime when it was too late. The language here suggests that Judas had hoped that the betrayed Jesus would deliver himself from his enemies. Repented himself. Not, in the Greek, the word used for "repent" in Acts 2:38, and elsewhere, but one that means, rather, remorse. The first means "to change the mind or purpose;" the other "to carry a burden of sorrow over the past." One promises a change in the future; the other is born of despair; Peter repented; Judas regretted.
4. I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood. The Jewish law demanded that if new testimony was offered after condemnation the case should again be heard. Perhaps Judas thought his testimony to the innocence of Christ might, under the circumstances, be heard. What is that to us? No words could more emphatically declare the utter disregard of the Jewish rulers to justice. They concerned themselves not in the slightest concerning the innocence or guilt of Christ; they cared only to procure his death.
5. Cast down the pieces of silver in the temple. Where he had this interview with the Sanhedrim. Went and hanged himself. So have done, since, thousands of criminals when the blackness of their crime had revealed itself to them. How often a man after the committal of a murder shoots himself!
6. It is not lawful to put it in the treasury. These men were not too scrupulous to send the innocent to death, to shed the blood of the innocent, but were too scrupulous to put blood money into the treasury. They could pay blood money, but could not take it back.
7. Bought the potter's field. A field that had been used for the purpose of making pottery until it was worthless for other purposes and could be bought cheap. Potters' fields are still found in the Kedron Valley south of the city. To bury strangers in. A burial place for the poor. The Jews usually provided their own tombs. Peter, in Acts 1:18, says that Judas fell down headlong and his bowels gushed out. The common explanation is that he hung himself on a tree overlooking the valley of Hinnom, that the rope gave way, and that he fell headlong upon the rocks below, a distance of forty to sixty feet.
9. Then was fulfilled. The prophecy is found in Zech. 11:12. Albert Barnes shows that a change of a single letter in the original would transform Zechariah into Jeremiah, and it is supposed that some early copyist made the mistake. Another explanation is that Jeremiah, in the Jewish arrangement of the prophets, stood first, and that his name was given to the whole book of prophecy.
11. Now Jesus stood before the governor. In the judgment hall (John 18:28), which the Sanhedrim did not enter for fear of defilement. It was probably about seven A.M. that they presented themselves to Pilate, hoping that he would order their condemned prisoner to death without inquiry, but on his demand for charges they accuse Jesus of seeking to make himself King of the Jews. This charge causes Pilate to ask: Art thou the King of the Jews? They had condemned Jesus for blasphemy, but now make a political charge, and Pilate's question is whether Jesus is claiming a temporal kingdom. Thou sayest. Jesus was King, not of the Jews only, but men, and he admits the charge. He was King, however, in a spiritual sense, as he explained to Pilate (John 18:36).
12. He answered nothing. He made no defence, just as he had done when before Caiaphas.
13, 14. He gave no answer. To their charges of seeking to establish a worldly kingdom and of stirring up sedition he returned not a word. His impressive silence moved Pilate deeply.
15. At that feast. The passover. How the custom of releasing a prisoner at the passover arose is unknown, but such customs are common under arbitrary rule.
16. A notable prisoner. A leader in an insurrection in which he had committed murder (Mark and Luke). Barabbas. The word means "son of a father." Some have made him a type of the guilty human race which is released from punishment by the substitution of the innocent Christ.
17. When therefore they were gathered. After the first examination, Pilate, finding that Jesus was from Galilee, sent him to Herod, tetrarch of Galilee, then in Jerusalem, to be tried by him as belonging to his jurisdiction. Herod, however, after trying to induce him to work a miracle and mocking him, sent him back (Luke 23:6-11). Now they had gathered after his return. Barabbas, or Christ? Pilate, desirous of releasing an innocent man, afraid to oppose the Sanhedrim, adopted this expedient in the hope that the increasing multitude of people would demand Christ rather than a blood-stained robber.
19. While he was sitting on the judgment seat. Probably while the people were deciding for which one to ask. The judgment seat was a kind of lofty official throne, placed on the pavement (John 19:13). His wife sent to him. On this sad day the voice of a Gentile woman was the only one that interceded for Christ. That she should speak of Jesus as a "righteous man," shows that she knew much of him and that he had already made a wide and deep impression. A dream. It may have been entirely natural. She was probably already deeply interested in Jesus and knew that he was to be seized in the night. Her waking thoughts would be reflected in her sleep.
20. Persuaded the multitudes. To call for the release of Barabbas, instead of Christ. It is likely that few of the Galileans, so favorable to him, yet knew of his arrest. "The multitudes" were such as the authorities would summon at this early hour.
21. They said, Barabbas. Pilate's artifice had failed. The Jewish nation had not only rejected its Messiah, but chosen a robber instead.
22. Let him be crucified. This is the decision of the Jewish people. He shall suffer the fate which was due the crime of Barabbas who had been released in his stead.
23. What evil hath he done? Pilate's struggle between his desire to be just and to please a body demanding a crime at his hands is pitiable. He repeats the question three times and offers to appease their rage by chastising the innocent (Luke 23:22). He had, however, lost his power when he began to parley with a mob. They, utterly unreasonable, only demand the move vehemently that Jesus be crucified.
24. When Pilate saw that . . . a tumult was arising. It was a dangerous time for a tumult, with more than a million Jews in Jerusalem, and probably not a thousand Roman soldiers in the castle. If one occurred, it would be reported to Rome, and he could hardly make a plausible defence to the emperor. He therefore yielded, and gave his sanction to confessed wrong, rather than endanger himself. Washed his hands. A symbolic act, meaning that the responsibility of the sin was upon the Jewish authorities and people instead of himself.
25. His blood be on us. That is, let us have the responsibility and suffer the punishment. A fearful legacy, and awfully inherited. The history of the Jews from that day on has been the darkest recorded in human annals.
26. Jesus he scourged. Scourging usually preceded crucifixion. It was an awful punishment, inflicted by brutal soldiers, and continued until the victim was fainting under the torture.
27. Then the soldiers . . . took Jesus into the palace. After the scourging which was inflicted in the court (Mark 15:16). Josephus says that Pilate stayed, while in Jerusalem, in Herod's palace, on the northern brow of Zion, near the Jaffa gate. The whole band. The cohort (from 400 to 600 men) on duty at the palace. They gathered to mock the doomed prisoner.
28. They stripped him. His clothing, stripped off at the scourging, had been replaced, but was now removed to wrap him in a mock royal mantle. Scarlet or purple were the royal colors.
29. A crown of thorns. Both in mockery and for torture. And a reed in his right hand. For a sceptre. Having thus arrayed him, in royal robe, crown of thorns, and mock sceptre, they kneel before him and deride him.
30. They spat on him. In order to show still greater contempt. Brutal as these heathen soldiers were, they were no more so than the Jewish Sanhedrim had been.
31. When they had mocked him. Pilate presented the bleeding prisoner once more to the people, evidently to secure their pity, and made one more effort to release him, but in vain (John 19:5). Then Jesus was led away to the cross.
32. As they came out. Of the city. Jesus was crucified "without the gate" (Heb. 13:12). A company of soldiers, led by a centurion, had charge. A man of Cyrene. Simon by name, the father of two well-known Christians (Mark 15:21). Cyrene was in North Africa, and was the home of many Jews. That he might bear the cross. At first Jesus bore his own cross, but exhausted by scourging, sank under the weight (John 19:17). Luke 23:26 seems to show that Simon only bore the "after" part of the cross, the lighter end, which had been dragging on the ground.
33. When they were come unto a place called 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 name was due, either to a rounded rock like a skull, or to the fact that it was a place of execution and that skulls were lying there. The locality is not certainly known.
34. They gave him wine to drink mingled with gall. A stupefying drink, intended to lessen suffering. He would not drink. The "tasting" implied a recognition of the kindly purpose of the act, but a recognition only. In the refusal to do more than taste, we trace the resolute purpose to drink the cup which his Father had given him to the last drop.
35. They crucified him. This was the most dreadful, terrible and shameful death known to antiquity. The Jews never crucified Jews, nor the Romans, Romans. That the Jews should demand of the Romans to inflict it on Jesus shows the intensity of their hate. And parted his garments. From John 19:23 we learn that there were four soldiers at the cross, and the garments were the 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).
36. And sitting down they watched him there. It was their duty to remain by the cross until the execution was ended by death.
37. This is Jesus the King of the Jews. It was the Roman custom to place on the cross over the criminal's head, a titulus, or placard, stating the crime for which he suffered. Luke (23:38) says that the title was written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, the chief languages then spoken, and all spectators would be able to read it.
38. Then were there two robbers crucified with him. In all probability, partners in the crime of Barabbas. The mountain robbers, or banditti, were always ready to take part in such desperate risings against the Roman power.
39. They that passed by reviled him. The people going in and out of the city, on the thoroughfare near the place of crucifixion. Wagging their heads. Derisively and insultingly. Compare 2 Kings 19:21; Job 16:4; Psalm 109:25.
40. Thou that destroyest the temple. It is very remarkable that now, while this was receiving its real fulfillment, it should be made more public and more impressive by the insulting proclamation of his enemies. Hence the importance attached to it after the resurrection (John 2:22).
41, 42. He saved others. This may be ironical, but if Christ had saved himself he could not have saved others. If he be the King of Israel. The language is that of taunt, and refers to the inscription upon the cross.
43. He said, I am the Son of God. It was because he said this that the Sanhedrim condemned him to death. In that he hung, seemingly helpless, on the cross, the chief priests, the very persons who voted his death, considered it demonstrated that he was not the Son of God.
44. The robbers also cast upon him the same reproach. Luke only (23:39-43) tells of the penitence of one. Doubtless, both at first reviled him, but one was converted in three hours that they hung side by side.
45. From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land. Darkness from twelve until three o'clock. "Over all the land" means, not the whole earth, but Judea. Early Christian writers speak of this, and appeal to heathen testimony in support of the fact. The period of outward darkness, no doubt, coincided with that of Christ's mental agony and sense of desertion. The darkness was not total, but probably a deep gloom, such as every one remembers to have experienced in his life-time.
46. About the ninth hour. Three o'clock, after the Lord had been six hours on the cross. The cry that follows is from the 22d Psalm. Why hast thou forsaken me? These words can only express the idea that he was treading the wine-press alone. As he hung on the cross, "made sin for us," he was left to struggle without a sense of his Father's presence. Still, the cry, My God, my God! shows that he still clung to the Father as his own.
47. Some . . . said, He calleth of Elias. The resemblance between the word "Eli" and the name Elijah is very close in the original. There is an allusion to the belief that Elijah would come before the Messiah.
48. One ran and filled a sponge. This was occasioned by our Lord's cry, "I thirst" (John 19:28), the fifth word from the cross. 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.
49. Let be, let us see, etc. This was spoken in the way of interruption of him who was furnishing the draught of vinegar. According to Mark, he replied, and asked to be let alone.
50. When he had cried again with a loud voice. "It is finished" (John 19:30), the sixth word from the cross. The three evangelists all dwell upon the loudness of the cry, as if it had been the triumphant note of the conqueror. The last words from the cross were those recorded in Luke 23:46, "Father, into thy hands," etc. The first "word" is the prayer for his enemies (Luke 23:34). Yielded up his spirit. He voluntarily gave up his life for his sheep, and took it back again (John 10:17).
51. The veil of the temple was rent. The curtain before the Holy of Holies separating it from the Holy Place.It took place about the time of the evening sacrifice and showed by symbol that the real atonement, of which the yearly atonement was only a type, had been offered and that the true High Priest had entered into the true Holy of Holies. And the earth did quake. A common event at Jerusalem, but now significant of the sympathy of nature with the great tragedy.
52. The tombs were opened. The convulsions of the earth would naturally roll the stones from the doors of the sepulchers. The saints . . . were raised. Who is not stated, or whether their bodies returned to the grave again. Their rising was a testimony that the death of Christ is life to the saints.
54. The centurion. The Roman officer in charge of the execution. Truly this was the Son of God. Rather, "a son of a god." He was a heathen soldier, believing in many gods, and the scenes of the cross had convinced him that Jesus was more than man.
55, 56. Many women. The devoted women were still faithful, when the disciples had fled. Of the apostles we only know that John was near. Mary Magdalene. Mentioned first here, also in Luke 8:2, before the resurrection. She had been healed by the Lord. Mary the mother of James and Joses. She was the wife of Clopas or Alphæus (John 19:25). The mother of the sons of Zebedee. Salome. John (John 19:25) mentions "his (Jesus') mother's sister," but does not name Salome, his own mother. Hence it is inferred that Salome was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also at the cross (John 19:25).
57. There came a rich man. On the burial, compare Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42. Of Arimathæa. Its location is unknown. Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrim, who had not consented to the murder of Jesus (Luke 23:50-51; Mark 15:43). Jesus' disciple. But "secretly for fear of the Jews" (John 19:38). The death of Christ made him braver.
58. Asked for the body of Jesus. Usually, the Romans suffered the crucified to remain unburied, but Joseph, to prevent this, or any abuse of the sacred body, begged it of Pilate. The latter consented readily, probably anxious for respect for the body of him whom he vainly sought to save from death.
59. Joseph took the body. Carefully down from the cross. Wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. A winding sheet. Another Sanhedrist, Nicodemus, aided him (John 19:39), and they enclosed spices in the winding sheet.
60. Laid it in his own new tomb. A rock-hewn sepulcher, cut horizontally into the cliff. Rolled a great stone to the door. The usual method of closing the rock-hewn tombs. Thus Christ "was buried, according to the Scriptures" in a rich man's tomb, was "with the rich in his death" (Isa. 53:9).
61. The other Mary. The mother of James and Joses. These women saw where he was laid and returned there after the Sabbath with spices.
62. The morrow. The Sabbath. After the day of preparation. "That is, the day before the sabbath" (Mark 15:42).
63. Sir, we remember. These dignitaries had not forgotten the predictions of Christ that he would rise on the third day, even if his own disciples had.
64. Until the third day. That is, until Sunday morning. Friday would be the first day.
65. Ye have a guard. That is, ye can have a guard. He granted them a guard of Roman soldiers.
66. Sealing the stone. A cord was stretched across the stone door and sealed at each end with wax. The seal would have to be broken to remove the stone.