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1. And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders.
[The chief priests and the scribes with the elders.] So it is in Mark 11:27: but in Matthew 21:23, it is the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the question is, who these elders should be, as they are distinguished from the chief priests and the scribes. The Sanhedrim consisted chiefly of priests, Levites, and Israelites, although the original precept was for the priests and Levites only. "The command is, that the priests and Levites should be of the great council; as it is said, Thou shalt go unto the priests and Levites: but if such be not to be found, although they were all Israelites, behold, it is allowed."
None will imagine that there ever was a Sanhedrim wherein there were Israelites only, and no priests or Levites; nor, on the other hand, that there ever was a Sanhedrim wherein there were only priests and Levites, and no Israelites. The scribes, therefore, seem in this place to denote either the Levites, or else, together with the Levites, those inferior ranks of priests who were not the chief priests: and then the elders, may be the Israelites, or those elders of the laity that were not of the Levitical tribe. Such a one was Gamaliel the present president of the Sanhedrim, and Simeon his son, of the tribe of Judah.
37. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
[He calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, &c.] "Why doth Moses say (Exo 32:13), Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? R. Abin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, 'I look for ten men from thee, as I looked for that number in Sodom: find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people.' Then said Moses, 'Behold, here am I, and Aaron, and Eleazar, and Ithamar, and Phineas, and Caleb, and Joshua.' 'But' saith God, 'these are but seven; where are the other three?' When Moses knew not what to do, he saith, 'O eternal God, do those live that are dead?' 'Yes,' saith God. Then saith Moses, 'If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.'"
42. And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
[The Lord said unto my Lord, &c.] Whereas St. Matthew tells us, That "no man was able to answer him a word" to that argument, whereby he asserted the divinity of the Messias, it is plain that those evasions were not yet thought of, by which the Jews have since endeavoured to shift off this place. For the Talmudists apply the psalm to Abraham; the Targumist (as it seems) to David; others (as Justin Martyr tells us) to Hezekiah; which yet I do not remember I have observed in the Jewish authors. His words are in his Dialogue with Tryphon: I am not ignorant, that you venture to explain this psalm (when he had recited the whole psalm) as if it were to be understood of king Hezekiah.
The Jewish authors have it thus: "Sem the Great said unto Eliezer [Abraham's servant], 'When the kings of the east and of the west came against you, what did you?' He answered and said, 'The Holy Blessed God took Abraham, and made him to sit on his right hand.'" And again: "The Holy Blessed God had purposed to have derived the priesthood from Shem; according as it is said, Thou art the priest of the most high God: but because he blessed Abraham before he blessed God, God derived the priesthood from Abraham. For so it is said, And he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abraham of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high God. Abraham saith unto him, Who useth to bless the servant before his Lord? Upon this God gave the priesthood to Abraham, according as it is said, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand. And afterward it is written, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever for the speaking of Melchizedek." Midras Tillin and others also, in the explication of this psalm, refer it to Abraham. Worshipful commentators indeed!
46. Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
[Which desire to walk in long robes.] In garments to the feet; in long robes: which their own Rabbins sufficiently testify. "R. Jochanan asked R. Banaah, What kind of garment is the inner garment of the disciple of the wise men? It is such a one, that the flesh may not be seen underneath him." The Gloss is, It is to reach to the very sole of the foot, that it may not be discerned when he goes barefoot. "What is the 'talith,' that the disciple of the wise wears? That the inner garment may not be seen below it to a handbreadth."
What is that, Luke 15:22, the first robe? [the best robe, AV]. Is it the former robe, that is, that which the prodigal had worn formerly? or the first, i.e. the chief and best robe? It may be queried, whether it may not be particularly understood the talith as what was in more esteem than the chaluk, and that which is the first garment in view to the beholders. "I saw amongst the spoils a Babylonish garment, Joshua 7. Rabh saith, A long garment called melotes." The Gloss is, "a 'talith' of purest wool."
24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
[Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.] "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled": and what then? in what sense is this word until to be understood? Let every one have his conjecture, and let me be allowed mine. I am well assured our Saviour is discoursing about the fall and overthrow of Jerusalem; but I doubt, whether he touches upon the restoration of it: nor can I see any great reason to affirm, that the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled before the end of the world itself. But as to this controversy, I shall not at present meddle with it. And yet, in the mean time, I cannot but wonder that the disciples, having so plainly heard these things from the mouth of their master, what concerned the destruction both of the place and nation, should be so quickly asking, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Nor do I less wonder to find the learned Beza expounding the very following verse after this manner: "Then shall there be the signs in the sun, &c.; that is, after those times are fulfilled, which were allotted for the salvation of the Gentiles, and vengeance upon the Jews, concerning which St. Paul discourses copiously." Romans 11:25, &c: when, indeed, nothing could be said clearer for the confutation of that exposition, than that of verse 32; "Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled." It is strange this should be no more observed, as it ought to have been, by himself and divers others, when, in truth, these very words are as a gnomon to the whole chapter. All the other passages of the chapter fall in with Matthew 24 and Mark 13, where we have placed those notes that were proper; and shall repeat nothing here. Which method I have taken in several places in this evangelist, where he relates passages that have been related before, and which I have had occasion to handle as I met with them.
4. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.
[And captains.] They are called, verse 52, captains of the Temple: and in the singular number, the captain of the Temple, Acts 4:1: but who should this or these be?
I. All know that there was a Roman garrison in the castle of Antonia, whose charge especially was to suppress all tumults and seditions in the Temple: but was the tribune, or the centurions of that garrison called by the name of the captains of the Temple? Surely rather the captains of the castle of Antonia. And indeed it appears not that the Roman captains had conspired against the life of Christ, that Judas should betake himself to them to make a bargain for the betraying of him.
II. The conjecture might be more probable of those rulers in the Temple, concerning whom we have this mention: "These are the rulers that were in the Temple: Jochanan Ben Phineas, governor of the seals; Ahijah, set over the drink-offerings: Matthiah Ben Samuel, that presided over the lots," &c. But to me it seems beyond all doubt that the captains of the Temple were the captains of the several watches. "In three places the priests kept watch and ward in the Temple, viz. in Beth Abtines, Beth Nitsots, and Beth Mokad. The Levites also in one-and-twenty places more." Whereas, therefore, these watches or guards consisted every one of several persons, there was one single person set over each of them as their captain, or the head of that watch. And this way looks that of Pilate, Matthew 27:65; ye have a watch of your own; let some of them be sent to guard the sepulchre.
III. The captain of the Temple, therefore, distinctively and by way of eminence so termed, I would suppose him, whom they called the ruler of the mountain of the house, who was the chief of all the heads of those wards. "The ruler of the mountain of the Temple takes his walks through every watch with torches lighted before him: and if he found any upon the watch that might not be standing on his feet, he said, 'Peace be with thee!' But if he found him sleeping, he struck him with a stick; and it was warrantable for him to burn the garments of such a one. And when it was said by others, 'What is that noise in the court?' the answer was made, 'It is the noise of a Levite under correction, and whose garments are burning, for that he slept upon the watch.' R. Eliezer Ben Jacob said, 'They once found my mother's son asleep, and they burnt his clothes.'" Compare this passage with Revelation 16:15: "Behold I come as a thief; blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
It is easy distinguishing this captain of the mountain of the Temple from the ruler of the Temple or the sagan. The former presided only over the guards; the latter over the whole service of the Temple. And so we have them distinguished, Acts 4:1: there is the captain of the Temple, and Annas, who was the sagan.
19. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
[This is my body.] The words of the institution of the holy eucharist throughout the whole contain a reflection, partly by way of antithesis, partly by way of allusion.
I. This is my body. Upon the account of their present celebration of the Passover, these words might very well have some reference to the body of the Paschal lamb: the body (I say) of the Paschal lamb. For the Jews use this very phrase concerning it: "They bring in a table spread, on which are bitter herbs, with other herbs, unleavened bread, pottage, and the body of the Paschal Lamb." And a little after: he eateth of the body of the Passover. From whence our Saviour's meaning may be well enough discerned; viz. that by the same signification that the Paschal lamb was my body hitherto, from henceforward let this bread be my body.
II. Which is given for you. But the apostle adds, "Which is broken for you": which, indeed, doth not so well agree with the Paschal lamb as with the lamb for the daily sacrifice. For as to the Paschal lamb, there was not a bone of it broken; but that of the daily sacrifice was broken and cut into several parts; and yet they are both of them the body of Christ in a figure. And although, besides the breaking of it, there are these further instances wherein the Paschal lamb and that of the daily sacrifice did differ, viz., 1. that the daily sacrifice was for all Israel, but the Paschal for this or that family: 2. the daily sacrifice was for the atonement of sin; the Passover not so: 3. the daily sacrifice was burnt, but the Passover eaten: yet in this they agreed, that under both the body of our Saviour was figured and shadowed out, though in a different notion.
III. This do in remembrance of me. As you kept the Passover in remembrance of your going out of Egypt. "Thou shalt remember the day of thy going out of Egypt all the days of thy life. Ben Zuma thus explains it; The days of thy life, that is, in the day time: all the days of thy life, that is, in the night time too. But the wise men say, The days of thy life, that is, in this age: all the days of thy life, that the days of the Messiah may be included too." But whereas, in the days of the Messiah there was a greater and more illustrious redemption and deliverance than that out of Egypt brought about; with the Jews' good leave, it is highly requisite, that both the thing itself and he that accomplished it should be remembered. We suspect in our notes upon 1 Corinthians 11, as if some of the Corinthians, in their very participation of the holy eucharist, did so far Judaize, that what had been instituted for the commemoration of their redemption by the death of Christ, they perverted to the commemoration of the going out of Egypt; and that they did not at all 'discern the Lord's body' in the sacrament.
Under the law there were several eatings of holy things. The first was that which Siphra mentions, when the priests eat of the sacrifice, and atonement is made for him that brings it. There were other eatings, viz., of the festival sacrifices of the tenths, thanksgiving-offerings, &c., which were to be eaten by those that brought them; but these all now have their period: and now, Do ye this, and do it in remembrance of me.
IV. This cup...which is shed for you. This seems to have reference to that cup of wine that was every day poured out in the drink offerings with the daily sacrifice; for that also was poured out for the remission of sins. So that the bread may have reference to the body of the daily sacrifice, and the cup to the wine of the drink offering.
VI. The new testament in my blood. So our evangelist and so the apostle, 1 Corinthians 11 with reference to the whole ministry of the altar, where blood was poured out; nay, with respect to the whole Jewish religion, for here was the beginning or entry of the new covenant. And indeed it seems that the design of that frequent communion of the Lord's supper in the first ages of the church, among other things, was, that those who were converted from Judaism might be sealed and confirmed against Judaism; the sacrament itself being the mark of the cessation of the old testament and the beginning of the new.
21. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
[But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me, &c.] What can be desired more as a demonstration that Judas was present at the eucharist? And whereas the contrary is endeavoured to be proved out of John 13, nothing is made out of nothing: for there is not only syllable throughout the whole chapter of the paschal supper, but of a supper before the 'feast of the Passover.'
26. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
[As the younger.] The vulgar and interlinear, sicut junior. We, as the younger, very well. For, as Beza hath it upon the place, it is properly to be understood of age. I ask therefore,
I. Whether Peter was not the oldest of the whole company? What reason can any have to deny this? It was necessary that some one of them should be the first both in number and order; and it was as fit and equal that the oldest amongst them should be reckoned the first. And who will you say was older than Peter? Hence was it that he had the first place in the catalogue of the apostles, because he was the oldest. For this reason he sat at table in the uppermost place next our Lord: for this reason did our Saviour so often direct his discourse so immediately to him: and for this reason were his answers to Christ taken in the name of all the rest, viz., because the oldest. Which brings to mind the interpreter of the doctor in the school of the Rabbins, who was the interlocutor between the master and the disciples, and for that reason the chief in the school, but without any primacy. Whereas therefore St. Peter, after our Saviour's ascension into heaven, was (to speak vulgarly) the prolocutor in that sacred college, what more probable reason can be offered why he was so, than this seniority? Were not others as capable as speaking as he? had they not equal authority, zeal, faith, knowledge with him, &c.? but he indeed was the eldest man.
II. I cannot therefore but suspect from the proper signification of the word younger, (to which the greater, respecting age, does answer) that some one amongst them had been challenging some privilege and primacy to himself upon the account of seniority: and unless any can make it out that there was somebody older than Peter, pardon me, if I think that he was the chief in this contention, and that it was chiefly moved betwixt himself and the two sons of Zebedee. For it seems unlikely that the other nine would have contended for the primacy with Peter, James, and John; whom Christ had so peculiarly distinguished in their presence with marks of his favour. So that the struggle seems to be especially between these three and Peter the beginner of the strife: which appears, partly in that our Saviour rebukes him by name, and partly in that he could not forget without some grudge, that request of the two brothers, "Lord, let us sit one on thy right hand the other on thy left."
31. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
[Simon, Simon.] Let us change the name and person: "Thomas, Thomas"; or "Philip, Philip, Satan hath desired, &c.; but I have prayed," &c. And who would from hence have picked out an argument for the primacy of Thomas or Philip over the rest of the apostles and the universal church? And yet this do the Romanists in the behalf of Peter. Who would not have taken it rather as a severe chiding? As if he should have said, "Thou, Thomas or Philip, art thou so hot in contending for the primacy, while Satan is so hot against all of you? And whilst you are at strife amongst yourselves, he is at strife against you all!" Under such a notion as this I doubt not our Saviour did speak to Peter, and that in these words he found a severe reprimand rather than any promotion to the primacy.
32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
[That thy faith fail not.] There seems an emphasis in the word faith. As to the other apostles, indeed, that Christian courage and magnanimity which they ought to have exerted in that difficult time did fail them; but their faith was nothing so near shipwreck as Peter's faith was. They indeed deserted their Master and fled, Mark 14:50: which they seem to have not done without some connivance from himself, John 18:8. But when Peter renounced and abjured his Lord, how near was he becoming an apostate, and his faith from suffering a total shipwreck? Certainly it was Peter's advantage that Christ prayed for him; but it was not so much for his honour, that he, beyond all others, should stand in need of such a prayer.
36. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
[Let him sell his garment, and buy a sword.] Doth our Saviour give them this counsel in good earnest?
I. He uses the common dialect. For so also the Rabbins in other things: "He that hath not wherewithal to eat, but upon mere alms, let him beg or sell his garments to buy oil and candles for the feast of Dedication," &c.
II. He warns them of a danger that is very near; and in a common way of speech lets them know that they had more need of providing swords for their defence against the common enemy, than be any way quarrelling amongst themselves. No so much exhorting them to repel force with force, as to give them such an apprehension of the common rage of their enemies against them, that might suppress all private animosities amongst themselves.
37. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
[For the things concerning me have an end.] That is, "My business is done, yours is but beginning. While I was present, the children of the bridechamber had no reason to weep; but when I am taken away, and numbered amongst the transgressors, think what will be done to you, and what ought to be done by you; and then think if this be a time for you to be contending with one another."
43. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
[An angel strengthening him.] I. In his temptations in the wilderness there was no angel by him; for St. Matthew saith, chapter 4:11, "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him": that is, not till the devil had first left him. But in the midst of this trial there was an 'angel strengthening him': and why so? By reason of his agony, you will say, and that very truly: but whence arose this agony? and of what kind was it? It was occasioned (you will say) from a sense of divine indignation and wrath. This dare not I say or imagine, that God was angry or conceived any indignation against him at all. And if the anguish and agony of his mind was the result of the divine wrath pressing in upon him, I do not see what kind of comfort an angel could minister against the wrath of God. It is rather an argument God was not angry with him, when he sent an angel to comfort him.
II. It is not to be doubted, but that Christ was now wrestling with a furious enraged devil; yea, a devil loosed from his chain, and permitted, without any check or restraint from divine providence, to exert all his force and rage against him: which was permitted by God, not from any displeasure against his Son, but that even human nature might, by this her combatant, get a conquest over this insulting enemy. For it had been a small thing to have vanquished the devil by mere divine power.
III. However therefore it is not here related in express terms, yet could I easily persuade myself, that the devil might at this time appear to our Saviour in some visible shape. When he tempted him in the wilderness, he put on the disguise of some good angel, or rather some kind of resemblance of the Holy Ghost. But in this last temptation he puts on himself, and appears in his own colours; viz. in some direful formidable figure, on purpose to terrify our Lord. And from thence it was that he began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy, Mark 14:33; and here to be in an agony. Nor do I rashly, and without any ground, suppose this, but upon these reasons:
I. Whereas that old dragon assaulted the first Adam in a garden in a visible shape; it is not absurd to imagine, he did so now to the second Adam, in a garden, in a visible shape.
II. This our evangelist tells us concerning his temptation in the wilderness, that "when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him, for a season." Here he takes the season to return; and I see no reason why he should not at this time, as well as in the wilderness, assume some visible shape. Then, indeed, he addressed himself in a charming and grateful shape, to have enticed and deceived him; but now in a frightful and horrid one, to have amazed and terrified him. He had already experienced how vain a thing it was to go about to cheat and allure him: what remained therefore but to shake his mind (if possible) with fright and terror?
III. For when he had no greater invention in his whole storehouse, by which he could distress and shake the minds of mortals, than the horrid apparition of himself, none will conceive he would neglect this engine, that if it could be, he might disturb his soul through his eye. That, therefore, which the Jews feign or dream about Solomon, that he saw the angel of death (that is, the devil) gnashing his teeth, and that a disciple of Rabbi did so too, I suppose acted in good earnest here; namely, that Christ saw the devil, that old dragon, gaping at him with all horror he could put on. And in this sense would I understand that of the "messenger of Satan buffeting the apostle": viz. that the devil did appear visibly to him in some frightful shape, to afflict and terrify him. And perhaps that vehement desire he had to sift the disciples (v 31) respects this same thing, namely, that he might be permitted to assault them with such kind of affrightments.
44. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
[His sweat was as it were great drops of blood.] Diodorus Siculus, speaking of a country where Alexander the Great had to do with Porus, hath this passage; "There are serpents there which, by their bites would occasion most bitter deaths: they are horrible pains that afflict any that are struck by them, and an issue of sweat, like blood, seizeth them." I would ascribe this bloody sweat of our Saviour to the bite of that old serpent, rather than to the apprehension of divine wrath.
[For more info, please see Appendix VII: Heart Rupture: A Possible Cause of the Lord's Death? by Arthur C. Custance.]
47. And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
[To kiss him.] Our Saviour had to do with a frightful and terrifying devil; but this traitor seems possessed with a tame and gentle one. He converses with the apostles, and there is no token of a devil dwelling in him. He is present at the Passover, at the eucharist, and the very lips of Christ, and still no sign of Satan being his inmate. But when once the devil hath done his work by thee, then, Judas, take heed of thy devil.
As to this treacherous contrivance of Judas, let us frame the most gentle opinion of it that the matter can bear: for instance, that he might perhaps think with himself, that it was not possible for Christ to be apprehended by the Jews, having already seen him working such stupendous miracles, and more than once strangely delivering himself from them: and grant further, that when he said to them, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, lay hold of him," he said it scoffingly, as believing they could not be able to lay hold on him: grant we, in a word, that when he saw him condemned, he repented himself, having never suspected that matters would have gone so far, presuming that Christ would easily have made his escape from them, and himself should have got thirty pieces of silver by the bargain: let us grant, I say, that this was his contrivance, and colour it over with as plausible excuses as we can; yet certainly was there never any thing so impiously done by mortal man, than for him thus to play with the Holy of Holies, and endeavour to make merchandise of the Son of God. However, I suspect much worse things hatched in the breast of this traitor: viz. that Christ did really not please him; and, with the great chiefs of that nation, though he supposed him the true Messiah, yet not such a one as answered their carnal expectation.
The Rabbins distinguish between lawful kisses and kisses of folly; saying, that "all kisses are kisses of folly excepting three": which they there reckon up. But what kind of kiss was this? a kiss of folly? Alas! it is too low and dwarfish a term for this gigantic monster.
53. When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
[This is your hour, and the power of darkness.] The serpent himself is now come in Judas; and the seed of the serpent was that rout that came with him, to whom it was fatal to bruise the heel of the Messiah; and now was the hour for that wickedness. It was anciently foretold and predetermined, both as to the thing itself and the instruments; and now all fences lie open, and you may do what you please. The chains of the devil himself are now loosed; and it is permitted to him, without the least check or restraint of Divine Providence, to exert all his furies at pleasure; for now is the power of darkness.
Darkness, is the devil among the allegorists. "It is said, On the first day of the creation, the angel of death [i.e. the devil] was created, according as it is written, There was darkness upon the face of the deep; that is, the angel of death, who darkeneth the eyes of men."
2. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
[We found this fellow perverting the nation.] "A disciple corrupting his food publicly, as did Jesus of Nazareth." 'To corrupt their food publicly,' is a phrase amongst the Rabbins to denote a mingling of true doctrine with heresy, and the true worship of God with idolatry. This was the accusation they framed against our Saviour at this time, that he taught heterodox and destructive principles, such especially as would tend to turn off and alienate the people from their obedience to the Romans. Aruch recites this passage of the Talmud more cautiously; for instead of as Jesus of Nazareth did, he hath it, as Jeroboam did.
7. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
[He sent him to Herod.] Did Pilate do this as yielding to Herod a jurisdiction in capital matters within the city of Jerusalem upon those that were Galileans? Probably he did it, either in flattery to the tyrant, or else that he might throw off from himself both the trouble and the odium that might arise upon the occasion of condemning Jesus, whom he judged to be an innocent man, and whom in some measure he pitied, looking upon him as a sort of a delirant person, one not very well in his wits: which opinion also Herod seems to have conceived of him, by putting upon him that fool's coat wherewith he clothed him: which I should willingly enough render white and shining, but that I observe our evangelist, when he hath occasion to mention such a garment, calls it a white and shining robe expressly. Chapter 9:29, his garment was white and glistering: Acts 1:10, two men in white apparel.
30. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
[Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, &c.] So they do say, Revelation 6:6: from whence, among other arguments, it may be reasonably supposed, that that chapter treats of the plagues and afflictions that should forerun the destruction of Jerusalem, and, indeed, the destruction and overthrow itself. Weigh the place accurately; and perhaps thou wilt be of the same mind too. Nay, I may further add, that perhaps this observation might not a little help (if my eyes fail me not) in discovering the method of the author of the Book of the Revelation.
31. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
[If they do these things in a green tree, &c.] Consult John Baptist's expression, Matthew 3:10; "Now also the axe is laid to the root of the tree," viz., then when the Jewish nation was subdued to the government of the Romans, who were about to destroy it. And if they deal thus with me, a green and flourishing tree, what will they do with the whole nation, a dry and sapless trunk?
34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
[They cast lots.] They cast lots for his seamless coat, John 19:23,24. Moses is supposed to have ministered in such a garment: "In what kind of garment did Moses attend the seven days of consecration? In a white vestment. Rabh Cahnah saith, In a white vestment, wherein there was no seam." The Gloss is, "The whole garment was made of one thread, and not as our clothes are, which have their sleeves sewed to the body with a seam." But he gives a very senseless reason why his coat was without a seam; viz., to avoid the suspicion lest Moses should at any time hide any consecrated money within the seams of his coat.
36. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
[They brought him vinegar.] Vinegar was the common drink of the Roman soldiers; and hence those to whom the custody of crucified persons was committed had it always ready by them. "He commanded that no soldier should drink wine in their expedition, but that every one should content himself with vinegar."
"The provision this man (viz. Misitheus) made in the commonwealth was such, that there never was any great frontier-city which had not vinegar, bread-corn, and bacon, and barley, and chaff, laid up for a whole year," &c. "Thou shalt give us as much hay, chaff, vinegar, herbs, and grass, as may suffice us."
Hence it may become less difficult to reconcile the evangelist amongst themselves, speaking of wine given him mixed with myrrh, and of vinegar too; viz., a twofold cup: one, before he was nailed to the cross, i.e. of wine mingled with myrrh; the other, of vinegar, while he hung there: the first, given by the Jews according to their custom; the second, by the soldiers, in abuse and mockery. But if you will grant a third cup, then all difficulty vanisheth indeed. Let the first be wine mingled with myrrh; the second, vinegar mingled with gall; the third, mere vinegar: which the soldiers gave to malefactors if they had desired drink, being that which they drank themselves. Hence the vessel filled with vinegar, was always in readiness, that the soldiers might drink when they had a mind, and persons also upon the cross, if they stood in need of it.
42. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
[Lord, remember me.] Christ is now upon the cross, as of old Joseph was in the prison, between two malefactors. There one of them was delivered, the other hanged; here one obtains salvation, the other perisheth. The faith of this thief is admirable; and kept even pace with that of the apostles, if, in some circumstances, it did not go beyond it. The apostles acknowledged 'Jesus to be the Messiah'; and so doth he: with this addition, which I question whether they did so clearly own and know or no, viz., that Christ should reign and have his kingdom after his death. He seems to have a sounder judgment concerning Christ's kingdom than the apostles themselves, as may be gathered from their question, Acts 1:6.
It pleased God, in this last article of time, to glorify the riches of his grace in a singular and extraordinary manner, both in the conversion of a sinner and the forgiveness of his sins: I say in such an article of time which the world had never before seen, nor ever was like to see again; viz., in the very instant wherein the Messiah was finishing his redemption. It was not unknown to either of the thieves that Jesus was therefore condemned to die because he had professed himself 'the Christ'; hence that of the impenitent malefactor, "If thou art Christ, save thyself and us." And if the penitent thief did for a while join with the other in his petulant reproaches (which seems intimated to us Matthew 27:44), yet was his heart touched at length, and, perhaps, upon his observation of that miraculous darkness which at that time had covered the world.
43. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shall thou be with me in paradise.
[Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.] I. Let us here first consider the phrase in paradise: in common Jewish speech, in the garden of Eden. In what sense we may collect from these following passages: "The Rabbins have a tradition. There are four that went into paradise: namely, Ben Azzai, Ben Zumah, Acher, and R. Akibah. R. Akibah saith unto them, 'When you come to the stones of pure marble, do not ye say Waters, waters [i.e. Alas! these waters will hinder us from going forward]; for it is written, He that telleth lies shall not dwell in my presence [now, it would be a lie to call white marble water].'" "Ben Azzai looked with some curiosity about him, and died: of him the Scripture speaks, 'Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.' Ben Zumah looked with some curiosity about him, and he was disturbed in his intellectuals: of him the Scripture speaketh, 'Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.'"
Aruch, reciting these words, saith, "It is called paradise, under the signification of the garden of Eden, which is reserved for the just. This place is in the heavens, where the souls of the just are gathered together." And the Talmudical Gloss hath it much to the same sense: "These four, by God's procurement, went up into the firmament."
While we are reading these passages, that story may easily occur to mind of St. Paul's being "caught up into paradise," 2 Corinthians 12; and perhaps the legend before us is but the ape of that story. In the story it is observable, that paradise and the 'third heaven' are one and the same thing: in the legend paradise and the highest heavens. For so the doctors comment upon the word in Psalm 68:5: "There are seven classes or degrees of just persons, who see the face of God, sit in the house of God, ascend up unto the hill of God, &c. And to every class or degree there is allotted their proper dwellingplace in paradise. There are also seven abiding places in hell. Those that dwell in paradise, they shine like the shining of the firmament, like the sun, like the moon, like the firmament, like the stars, like lightning, like the lilies, like burning lamps."
II. Our Saviour, therefore, telling the penitent thief, This day shalt thou be with me in paradise, he speaks in the common dialect, and to the capacity of the thief; viz., that he should be in heaven with Christ, and with all just persons that had left this world. Nor, indeed, would I fetch the explication of that article of our creed, He descended into hell, from any passage in the Scripture sooner than this here: adding this, that we must of necessity have recourse to the Greek tongue for the signification of the word, which they generally use to denote the state of the dead, as well the blessed as the miserable. Those who expound that passage in 1 Peter 3:19, of his going down from the cross into hell to preach to the spirits in prison there, do very little regard the scope of the apostle, and are absolute strangers to his meaning in it. For,
1. In that he shuts up the generation before the flood in an infernal prison, he falls in with the received opinion of that nation, which was, that that generation had no part in the world to come; and that they were condemned to boiling waters in hell.
2. He compares the present generation of the Jews with that generation before the flood; that Christ did of old preach even to that generation, and so he hath done to this; that that generation perished through its disobedience, and so will this. He runs much upon the same parallel in his second Epistle, chapter 3:6, &c. We must observe, that the apostle makes his transition from the crucifixion and resurrection of our Saviour directly to the generation before the flood, passing over all those generations that came between, on purpose that he might make the comparison betwixt that and the age he lived in.
53. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
[Wrapped it in linen.] "Mar Zutra saith, that out of the linen in which they wrapped up books, when it grew old they made shrouds for the dead of the precept; for this is to their disgrace." The Gloss adds, "That they do it of the linen wherein they fold up the book of the Law." Him who had suffered death by the sentence of the Sanhedrim, or magistrate, they were wont to call the dead of the precept, because he was executed according to the precept: and such a one to them was our Jesus. Now as to one that was condemned to death by the magistrate, they had an opinion that by how much the more disgracefully they dealt with him, by so much the greater atonement was made for him. Hence that expression, "They did not openly bewail him, that that very setting him at nought" (no man lamenting him) "might redound to his atonement." And from thence, perhaps, if the women at Jerusalem had bewailed any other person as they bewailed our Saviour, that other person might have said, "Ye daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, lest ye cut short my atonement": but Christ speaks to them upon a far different account. And under this notion they wrapped one that had been so executed, in some ragged, torn, old, dirty windingsheets; that this disgrace, being thrown upon him, might augment his expiation. But this good Arimathean behaves himself otherwise with Jesus, as having conceived quite another opinion concerning him.
54. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
[And the sabbath drew on.] The vulgar reads, the sabbath began to dawn: not ill rendered. Beza reads, and the sabbath succeeded: not properly. One would have thought it would have been more congruously said, it began to be dark towards the sabbath: for the night before the sabbath was coming on: but,
I. The sabbatical candles that were lighted in honour of the sabbath were now set up. "There are three things which it is necessary a man should warn those of his own house of on the evening of the sabbath, when night is coming on: Have you paid your tenths? Have you begun your Erubhick society? Light up your candle." "Men and women are bound to light up a candle in their houses upon the sabbath day. If a man hath not bread to eat, yet he must beg from door to door to get a little oil to set up his light." These things being noted, the evangelist may not be improperly understood thus, "The sabbath began to shine with the lights set up"; respect being had to these sabbath candles. But I do not acquiesce here.
II. The evening of the sabbath was called amongst the Jews light. By the light of the fourteenth day they make a search for leaven by the light of a candle. By the light of the fourteenth day; that is, on the evening, or in the night that immediately precedes that day. So Rambam upon the place, "the search for leaven is in the night of the fourteenth day, although the eating of leavened bread is not forbidden before the noon of the fourteenth day. But they instituted this because it is most convenient searching in the night time by candlelight; and at that time also all persons are at home."
"The woman that miscarries on the light [i.e. the evening] of the eighty-first day, the Shammean school absolves her from any offering: but the school of Hillel doth not." The Gloss hath it, on the light of the eighty-fist day, i.e. in the night of the eighty-first day. The question disputed there is: "The woman that had been brought to bed of a girl was bound to the purification of eighty days"; when those days were at an end, then she was bound to offer, Leviticus 12:5,6. Now therefore seeing the oblation was to be brought on the eighty-first day, the question is, What if the woman should happen to miscarry within the very night that begins the eighty-first day, must she the next day offer one or two sacrifices? one for the girl, and one for that of which she hath miscarried? The Shammean school will have but one, but the school of Hillel saith two.
Pesikta speaking concerning a vowed sacrifice, from Leviticus 7:17, hath this passage: "Perhaps it may be eaten on the light [i.e. the evening] of the third day. The text saith upon the third day; it is eaten until the third day. It is not eaten on the light [i.e. the evening, or the night] of the third day": for then the third day was actually begun. But now in this phrase they restrain the word especially to the beginning of the night, though sometimes it is taken for the whole night, as in that tradition newly quoted concerning the woman that miscarried: and so the Gloss upon Pesachin. Maimonides discoursing about putting away the leaven which ought to be on the light of the fourteenth day, i.e. on the night that begins the fourteenth day, hath this passage; "By prescription of the scribes they search for, and cast out their leaven in the night; namely, the beginning of that night that ushers in the fourteenth day." Much to the same sense the Gemarist concerning the light: "How comes twilight to be called light? From thence, because it is written, In the twilight, in the evening, of the day," Proverbs 7:9. Rambam thinks it so called by a rule of contraries; for so he in Pesachin: "The night is called light, by the same rule that they call many other things by their contraries."
But the Gemarists upon the place affirm that the evening is not improperly called light, and prove it from that expression, Psalm 148:3: Praise him all ye stars of light. However unsuitably therefore it might sound in the ears of Greeks or Latins, when they hear the evening or the beginning of the night expressed by the light of the sabbath, yet with the Jews it was a way of expression very usual: and they could readily understand the evangelist speaking in their own vulgar way, when he would tell us the night of the sabbath drew on; but expresseth it by the light of the sabbath began to shine.
56. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
[And rested the sabbath day.] If our Saviour was taken down from the cross about sunset, as it was provided, Deuteronomy 21:23; Joshua 8:29, then had the women this interim of time to buy their spices and despatch other business before the entry of the sabbath day.
I. Between the suns. So they called that space of time that was between the setting of the sun and the appearance of any star.
II. Might they not have that space of time also that was between the first and second star? We may judge something from this passage: "In the evening of the sabbath, if he see one star and do any work, he is acquitted; but if he see two stars, let him bring his trespass-offering."
III. Might they not have some farther allowance in the case of funerals? We may judge from this passage: "they do all works necessary about the dead [on the sabbath day]; they anoint him, they wash him, provided only that they do not stir a limb of him," &c. It was not safe for those women to shew themselves too busy in preparing for his interment; especially seeing Jesus died as a malefactor, and was odious to the people: this might exasperate the people against them, and so much the more too, if they should, in the least measure, violate the sabbath day. But further, besides the honour they gave to the sabbath, it was not prudence in them to break it for a work which they thought they might as well do when the sabbath was done and over.
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