23.Then the soldiers. The other Evangelists also mention the parting of Christ’s garments among the soldiers, (Mat_27:35; Mar_15:24; Luk_23:34.) There were four soldiers who parted among themselves all his garments, except the coat, which, being without seam could not be divided, and therefore they cast lots on it. To fix our minds on the contemplation of the purpose of God, the Evangelists remind us that, in this occurrence also, there was a fulfillment of Scripture. It may be thought, however, that the passage, which they quote from Psa_22:19, is inappropriately applied to the subject in hand; for, though David complains in it that he was exposed as a prey to his enemies, he makes use of the word garments to denote metaphorically all his property; as if he had said, in a single word, that “he had been stripped naked and bare by wicked men;” and, when the Evangelists disregard the figure, they depart from the natural meaning of the passage. But we ought to remember, in the first place, that the psalm ought not to be restricted to David, as is evident from many parts of it, and especially from a clause in which it is written, I will proclaim thy name among the Gentiles, (Psa_22:22) which must be explained as referring to Christ. We need not wonder, therefore, if that which was faintly shadowed out in David is beheld in Christ with all that superior clearness which the truth ought to have, as compared with the figurative representation of it.
Let us also learn that. Christ was stripped of his garments, that he might clothe us with righteousness; that his naked body was exposed to the insults of men, that we may appear in glory before the judgment-seat of God. As to the allegorical meaning to which some men have tortured this passage, by making it mean, that heretics tear Scripture in pieces, it is too far-fetched; though I would not object to such a comparison as this, —that, as the garments of Christ were once divided by ungodly soldiers, so, in the present day, there are perverse men who, by foreign inventions, tear the whole of the Scripture, with which Christ is clothed, in order that he may be manifested to us. But the wickedness of the Papists, accompanied by shocking blasphemy against God, is intolerable. They tell us, that Scripture is torn to pieces by heretics, but that the coat — that is, the Church — remains entire; and thus they endeavor to prove that, without paying any attention to the authority of Scripture, the unity of faith consists in the mere title of the Church; as if the unity of the Church were itself founded on any thing else than the authority of Scripture. When, therefore, they separate faith from Scripture, so that it may continue to be attached to the Church alone, by such a divorce they not only strip Christ of his garments, but tear in pieces his body by shocking sacrilege. And though we should admit what they maintain, that the coat without seam is a figure of the Church, they will be very far from gaining their point: for it will still remain to be proved, that the Church is placed under their authority, of which they show no sign whatever.
Mat_27:35, Mar_15:24, and Luk_23:34 all mention that the soldiers took his garments (ἱμάτια), and divided them according to the ordinary custom followed at executions amongst themselves. These were the head-dress, the large outer robe with its girdle, the sandals, one taking one thing and another another, and each evangelist added that the soldiers cast lots upon the garments, as to who should take which. As these garments may have been of varied value, the lot may have been required; but John, in his narrative, throws fresh light upon this latter and humiliating act. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part. This shows that a quaternion of soldiers, and not the “whole band,” had been told off for the infernal deed. Pilate knew now that there was no need of an army to keep the people from popular insurrection. The rest of the garrison were not far off, should they be required; moreover, the servants of the high priest were ready to act on an emergency; but John adds, And also the coat (the χιτών, the שׁוֹבּלְ); the long vesture which clothed his whole person, reaching from the neck to the feet, and which, when removed, left the sacred body naked. This had probably not been removed by either tiered or Pilate before, and the cursed indignity thus reached its climax (Hengstenberg; cf. Job_24:7-10). Now the coat was without seam £ from the top—from the upper portions—woven throughout (δι ὅλου, an adverbial form)—woven, possibly, by the mother who loved him, and corresponding with the dress of the priests. Keim and Thorns see here “a symbolizing of Jesus as the High Priest” (see Holman Hunt’s celebrated picture the “Light of the World”). Certainly John saw the Lord in his glory with a garment of the kind (woven of radiant light, and reaching to the feet, Rev_1:1-20.). The unity of the Savior’s seamless vesture has been variously treated in patristic literature: as symbolic of the unity of natures in his Person, by the Monephysites; and by Cyprian (‘De Unitate Ecclesiae,’ § 7) in his conflict with Novatianists, as symbolic of the unity of the Church, and he actually builds on it his dictum, “He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ.” This garment could not be conveniently divided.
They said therefore to one another, Let us not rend it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be. How obviously we have the eye-witness again, and the observation of one whose whole heart was bleeding with unutterable anguish! Here is the true explanation of the “lot” referred to by the synoptists, and moreover a subsequent reflection of the evangelist, who saw once more a realization of the prophetic picture of the ideal Sufferer at his last extremity of reproach and humiliation. He quotes almost verbally from the LXX., That the Scripture might be fulfilled (which £ saith), They parted my garments among them (to themselves), and for my vesture (ἱματισμόν μου) they did cast lots. If John had quoted accurately from the Hebrew, he would have preserved more obviously the contrast between the מדִגָבְּ and the שׁוֹבּלְ,which yet was clearly in his mind. The χιτών was the portion of the ἱματισμός upon which the lots were cast. Lucke and De Wette (though not Meyer) regard it as certain that John took the ἱματισμός as identical with the χιτών. Strauss describes Psa_22:1-31. as the programme of the Crucifixion. He styles it thus for the purpose of undervaluing the historical character of the narrative, and of suggesting that it owed its origin to the prophetic picture rather than to the actual fact (so Thoma). There is another sense in which the statement is true. Unconsciously the various concomitants of the suffering of the Holy One of God were being one by one realized by the Divine Lord. The synoptists, without reference to the ancient oracle, record the fact imperfectly. John adds what came under his own eye, explains their inadequate representation of the “lot,” and discerns the veritable fulfillment of the prophecy. The reference in Matthew to this fulfillment of prophecy is expunged from the text by Tischendorf (8th edit.), Westcott and Herr, and R.T., on the authority of א, A, B, D, nine uncials and two hundred manuscripts, numerous versions and Fathers. Thus the fourth evangelist is the solitary authority for this fulfillment of the prophetic word, and he reveals a feature which is sometimes denied him by those who try to establish the Gentile origin of the Gospel. These things therefore the soldiers did. A graphic and historic touch, corresponding with the method in which Herodotus closed his account of the slaughter at Thermopylae. In John’s case more was suggested. While Pilate had announced to the world that Jesus of Nazareth was “King of the Jews,” and Caiaphas had declared that “it was expedient that one man should die for the people,” the Roman soldiers, without any knowledge of Hebrew oracles, had all unconsciously filled up the features of the suffering Messiah in literal harmony with the ancient prediction. In a commentary on John’s Gospel we cannot here discuss some of the other impressive features of the Crucifixion, upon which the fourth evangelist is silent. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all describe a revolting scene of brutal mockery which ridiculed the dying Lord with his helplessness, and charged him with hypocrisy, scoffed at his having boasted of his Divine Sonship, and of power to build the demolished temple in three days—an ominous charge, which he was so soon to meet. They did not see that they were destroying the temple of his body, and that he would verily paralyze all their power to crush his kingdom by building it up at the predestined hour. The great cry was, “Come down from the cross, and we will accept thy claims, and believe that thou art ‘ Son of God.’” This was even a greater provocative of his human soul than that which the devil had suggested in the wilderness, or which he had endured on the Mountain of Transfiguration (Godet’s ‘Biblical Studies of the New Testament’). He knew that he could at once have stepped upwards from the high mountain on the shining way, and left behind him a perfect and most gracious memorial dud ideal of the blessed life. But he had a “decease to accomplish,” and he came down to “give his life a ransom for many,” to take all our burden and all our care and all our sin upon him, to lay down his life that he might take it again (cf. Joh_10:17). But the question does arise—Has he not done enough to meet all the case? Has he not been offered up as certainly as Isaac was when Abraham bound his son upon the altar? Could he not, might he not, now come down from the cross, having perfectly consecrated himself? Would he not by this act make converts of the Sanhedrin? and would not tens of thousands at once turn their curses into jubilant hosannas? The chief priests join in the same taunt, and, according to Matthew and Mark, even the dying robbers cast the same reproaches in his teeth. The special taunt was, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” Sublimely true, the very hurricane of abuse, as it reaches him, is transformed into the sweetness and fragrance of the eternal love. He had power in the desert to make the kingdoms of the world his own, if he would have bowed down to the prince of this world. He had authority to vanish into the ethereal home with Moses and Elijah. He might have saved himself, but he could not. He must drink the cup to the final dregs. He must bear the death-penalty itself. If he had not done this, the sympathy with man had fallen infinitely below the demands of his own heart. Sin and death would still have been inseparably linked; the curse would not have been broken, nor the sacrifice been completed. As before Pilate, Herod, and the rest, he was silent. No murmur, no rebuke, broke from him. The breath of his mouth is as vet no two-edged sword. But the penitent brigand, overcome by his majestic patience, pleads for mercy, and, after the long hours have passed, the cry of the helpless sufferer at his side meets with immediate response, while all the cruel howling bigots around him could not prevail to draw from him one syllable of remonstrance! The “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise” is the royalist of all the words from the cross. According to the hypothesis of the Tübingen school, they ought unquestionably to have been selected for citation by the author of the Fourth Gospel. The assumption of the existence and reality of his kingdom, and the admission in the other world of his conscious Lordship over the souls of men, is the most explicit and unapproachable claim that he ever made to Divine prerogatives. John takes notice of another most impressive scene, in which himself had personal concern, and which affected the remainder of his own wonderful life. An incident this which the other evangelists did not presume to touch. It was the Divine expression of the true humanity of the Son of God.
25.Now there stood by the cross of Jesus. The Evangelist here mentions incidentally, that while Christ obeyed God the Father, he did not fail to perform the duty which he owed, as a son, towards his mother. True, he forgot himself, and he forgot every thing, so far as was necessary for the discharge of obedience to his Father, but, after having performed that duty, he did not neglect what he owed to his mother. Hence we learn in what manner we ought to discharge our duty towards God and towards men. It often happens that, when God calls us to the performance of any thing, our parents, or wife, or children, draw us in a contrary direction, so that we cannot give equal satisfaction to all. If we place men in the same rank with God, we judge amiss. We must, therefore, give the preference to the command, the worship, and the service of God; after which, as far as we are able, we must give to men what is their due.
And yet the commands of the first and second table of the Law never jar with each other, though at first sight they appear to do so; but we must begin with the worship of God, and afterwards assign to men an inferior place. Such is the import of the following statements:
He who loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me, (Mat_10:41;)
If any one hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, he cannot be my disciple, (Luk_14:26.)
We ought, therefore, to devote ourselves to the interests of men, so as not in any degree to interfere with the worship and obedience which we owe to God. When we have obeyed God, it will then be the proper time to think about parents, and wife, and children; as Christ attends to his mother, but it is after that he is on the cross, to which he has been called by his Father’s decree.
Yet, if we attend to the time and place when these things happened, Christ’s affection for his mother was worthy of admiration. I say nothing about the severe tortures of his body; I say nothing about the reproaches which he suffered; but, though horrible blasphemies against God filled his mind with inconceivable grief, and though he sustained a dreadful contest with eternal death and with the devil, still, none of these things prevent him from being anxious about his mother. We may also learn from this passage, what is the honor which God, by the Law, commands us to render to parents, (Exo_20:12.) Christ appoints the disciple to be his substitute, and charges him to support and take care of his mother; and hence it follows, that the honor which is due to parents consists, not in cold ceremony, but in the discharge of all necessary duties.
On the other hand, we ought to consider the faith of those holy women It is true that, in following Christ to the cross, they displayed more than ordinary affection; but, if they had not been supported by faith they could never have been present at this exhibition. As to John himself, we infer that, though his faith was choked for a short time, it was not wholly extinguished. How shameful will it be, if the dread of the cross deters us from following Christ, when the glory of his resurrection is placed before our eyes, whereas the women beheld in it nothing but disgrace and cursing!
Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. He calls her either the wife or the daughter of Cleophas; but I prefer the latter interpretation. He says, that she was the sister of the mother of Jesus, and, in saying so, he adopts the phraseology of the Hebrew language, which includes cousins, and other relatives, under the term brothers. We see that it was not in vain that Mary Magdalene was delivered from seven devils, (Mar_16:9; Luk_8:2;) since she showed hersclf, to the last, to be so faithful a disciple to Christ.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
25. Now there stood] Or, But there were standing. By two small particles (men in Joh_19:23 and de here), scarcely translatable in English, S. John indicates the contrast between the two groups. On the one hand, the four plundering soldiers with the centurion; on the other, the four ministering women with the beloved disciple.
his mother’s sister, Mary] The Greek, like the English, leaves us in doubt whether we here have two women or one, whether altogether there are four women or three. The former is much the more probable alternative. (1) It avoids the very improbable supposition of two sisters having the same name. (2) S. John is fond of parallel expressions; ‘His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene’ are two pairs set one against the other. (3) S. Mark (Mar_15:40) mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less, and Salome. Mary Magdalene is common to both narratives, ‘Mary the mother of James the Less’ is the same as ‘Mary of Clopas:’ the natural inference is that Salome is the same as ‘His mother’s sister.’ If this is correct, (4) S. John’s silence about the name of ‘His mother’s sister’ is explained: she was his own mother, and he is habitually reserved about all closely connected with himself. We have seen already that he never mentions either his own name, or his brother’s, or the Virgin’s. (5) The very ancient Peshito or Syriac Version adopts this view by inserting ‘and’ before ‘Mary the (wife) of Clopas.’
the wife of Cleophas] Rather, the wife of Clopas. The Greek is simply ‘the of Clopas,’ and ‘the daughter of Clopas’ may be right, or ‘the mother,’ or even ‘the sister:’ but ‘wife’ is more probably to be supplied. There is no reason for identifying Clopas here with Cleopas in Luk_24:18 : Clopas is Aramaic, Cleopas is Greek. The spelling Cleophas is a mistake derived from Latin MSS. All Greek authorities have Cleopas. If ‘wife’ is rightly inserted, and she is the mother of James the Less, Clopas is the same as Alphaeus (Mat_10:3; comp. Mat_27:56). It is said that Clopas and Alphaeus may be different forms of the same Aramaic name.
Mary Magdalene] Introduced, like the Twelve (Joh_6:67) and Pilate (Joh_18:29) abruptly and without explanation, as being quite familiar to the readers of the Gospel. See on Mat_27:56 and Luk_8:2.
But there were standing by the cross of Jesus. Matthew says that many women stood afar off beholding these things, and amongst them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (the less, i.e. the son of Alphaeus) and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children, expressly identified here as elsewhere with Salerno, “women who followed him from Galilee” (Luk_23:55), and ministered unto him. The παρὰ of this verse implies that, in the courage of their love and tenderness, they had drawn nearer to the cross, led on as it would seem by his mother herself, whom John with fuller knowledge mentions as the most important member of one group. John adds, and the sister of his mother, then (it must be admitted without any conjunctive καὶ) he adds, Mary the (wife) of Clopas, and Mary Magdalen. Κλωπᾶς is by almost all admitted to be identifiable with יפַלְחַ, Alphaeus, of Mat_10:3. Consequently, “the Mary (of Clopos)” is none other than the mother of James the less-known disciple, as well as of others. And this second Mary is identically the same as the Mary spoken of in Matthew and Mark by slightly different phraseology. The question arises—Does John here speak, then, of four women? or does he say that this Mary was the sister of the virgin Mary? If “Mary the wife of Clopas” be the sister of the virgin, then James the less, Joses, and others are cousins of our Lord. This hypothesis has been used by those who identify these men with the “brethren of the Lord;” but it is rendered improbable by the fact referred to twice over in the synoptists and John, that his “brethren did not believe in him,” and the growing certainty that “James the brother of our Lord” was not “James the less.” Moreover, it is improbable that two sisters should have the same name. The other supposition is that the third woman mentioned by the synoptists (namely, Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s sons) was the sister of the mother of Jesus. Against this is the non-appearance of the καί between the second and third names. This absence may be simply due to the fact that John mentions “two and two,” singling them out from “the many women,” according to his wont. Against it, Godet and others have urged that we have no other hint of the relationship; but of many similar facts throughout the Gospel we have only the slenderest indications—take, for instance, the identification of Judas (not Iscariot) with Lebbaeus and Thaddseus; Nathanael with Bartholomew—and there is much which makes the identification natural. It is after the manner of John to omit the name of Salerno, as he always does his own throughout the Gospel and Epistles. But the entire narrative from beginning to end is illumined by the fact that John was the near relative of Jesus. The ὅν ἠγάπα flashes into light and justification at once. Very much, both in the synoptic and Johannine narratives, receives a deeper meaning. The early friendship, the private ministry of our Lord, with John as his principal companion, the request of Salome, and the exquisite incident which now follows, all receive a richer meaning when it becomes clear that Salome was so nearly related to Jesus. In this conclusion Wieseler, Luthardt, Lange, Westcott, Sears, Moulton, Schaff, and others coincide, though Meyer and Hengstenberg take the other view. Hengstenberg thinks the tradition of three Marys is enough to counterbalance what he calls a learned device! Assuming, then, that John was so dear a friend, so near a relative, we understand better what follows.
26.Woman, behold thy son! As if he had said, “Henceforth I shall not be an inhabitant of the earth, so as to have it in my power to discharge to thee the duties of a son; and, therefore, I put this man in my room, that he may perform my office.” The same thing is meant, when he says to John,
Behold thy mother! For by these words he charges him to treat her as a mother, and to take as much care of her as if she had been his own mother.
In refraining from mentioning his mother’s name and in simply calling her Woman! some think that he did so, in order not to pierce her heart with a deeper wound. I do not object to this view; but there is another conjecture which is equally probable, that Christ intended to show that, after having completed the course of human life, he lays down the condition in which he had lived, and enters into the heavenly kingdom, where he will exercise dominion over angels and men; for we know that Christ was always accustomed to guard believers against looking at the flesh, and it was especially necessary that this should be done at his death.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
27. from that hour] Quite literally, as soon as all was over (Joh_19:30); or he may have led her away at once and then have returned (Joh_19:35).
unto his own home] Although the commendation was double, each being given to the other, yet (as was natural) S. John assumes the care of Mary rather than she of him. This shews the untenability of the view that not only S. John, but in him all the Apostles, were committed by Christ to the guardianship of Mary. We have had the Greek expression for ‘his own (home)’ twice already in this Gospel: see on Joh_1:11 and Joh_16:32. That S. John was known to the high-priest (Joh_18:15) and that his family had hired servants (Mar_1:20) would seem to imply that he was a man of some position and substance.
28.Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished. John purposely passes by many things which are related by the other three Evangelists. He now describes the last act, which was an event of the greatest importance.When John says that a vessel was placed there, he speaks of it as a thing that was customary. There has been much controversy on this subject; but I agree with those who think (and, indeed, the custom is proved by histories) that it was a kind of beverage usually administered for the purpose of accelerating the death of wretched malefactors, when they had undergone sufficient torture Now, it ought to be remarked, that Christ does not ask any thing to drink till all things have been accomplished; and thus he testified his infinite love towards us, and the inconceivable earnestness of his desire to promote our salvation. No words can fully express the bitterness of the sorrows which he endured; and yet he does not desire to be freed from them, till the justice of God has been satisfied, and till he has made a perfect atonement.
But how does he say, that all things were accomplished, while the most important part still remained to be performed, that is, his death? Besides, does not his resurrection contribute to the accomplishment of our salvation? I answer, John includes those things which were immediately to follow. Christ had not yet died: and had not yet risen again; but he saw that nothing now remained to hinder him from going forward to death and resurrection. In this manner he instructs us, by his own example, to render perfect obedience, that we may not think it hard to live according to his good pleasure, even though we must languish in the midst of the most excruciating pains.
That the Scripture might be fulfilled. From what is stated by the other Evangelists, (Mat_27:48; Mar_15:23; Luk_23:36,) it may readily be concluded that the passage referred to is Psa_69:21,
They gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
It is, undoubtedly, a metaphorical expression, and David means by it, not only that they refused to him the assistance which he needed, but that they cruelly aggravated his distresses. But there is no inconsistency in saying that what had been dimly shadowed out in David was more clearly exhibited in Christ: for thus we are enabled more fully to perceive the difference between truth and figures, when those things which David suffered, only in a figurative manner, are distinctly and perfectly manifested in Christ. To show that he was the person whom David represented, Christ chose to drink vinegar; and he did so for the purpose of strengthening our faith.
I thirst. Those who contrive a metaphorical meaning for the word thirst, as if he meant that, instead of a pleasant and agreeable beverage, they gave him bitterness, as if they intended to flay his throat, (178) are more desirous to be thought ingenious than to promote true edification; and, indeed, they are expressly refuted by the Evangelist, who says that Christ asked for vinegar when he was near death; from which it is evident that he did not desire any luxuries.
It does not come within the purpose of John to record the portents which attended the final scene—either the supernatural darkness on the one hand, or the rending of the veil of the temple on the other. He does not record the visions of the saints, nor the testimony of the centurion. He does not record the further quotation of Psa_22:1-31.; the cry, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” nor the misinterpretation of the multitudes; nor the jeer at his dying agonies. But he does record two of the words of the Lord, which they had omitted. He, moreover, implies that he had purposely left these omissions to be filled up from the synoptists, for he adds, After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had been (τετέλεσται) now finished, said, I thirst, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. John heard in this word the comprehensive cry which gathered up all the yearnings and agonies of his soul, which fulfilled its travail, which expressed the awful significance of his suffering, and strangely filled up the prophetic picture (Psa_69:21).
Cambridge Bible Plummer
29. Now … vinegar] Omit ‘now.’ S. John’s precise knowledge appears once more: the other three do not mention the vessel, but he had stood close to it. The ‘vinegar’ was probably the sour wine or posca in a large jar ‘set’ by the soldiers for their own use while on guard. Criminals sometimes lived for many hours, even a day or two, on the cross.
and they filled, &c.] The true text gives, having placed therefore a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop they put it to his mouth. The difference between the two verbs rendered ‘put’ is very graphic; the one expresses the placing of the sponge round the stalk (comp. Mat_21:33; Mat_27:28; Mat_27:48), the other the offering (Joh_16:2) and applying (Mar_10:13) it to his lips.
hyssop] The plant cannot be identified with certainty. The caper-plant, which is as likely as any, has stalks which run to two or three feet, and this would suffice. It is not probable that Christ’s feet were on a level with the spectators’ heads, as pictures represent: this would have involved needless trouble and expense. Moreover the mockery of the soldiers recorded by S. Luke (see on Luk_23:36) is more intelligible if we suppose that they could almost put a vessel to His lips. S. John alone mentions the hyssop; another mark of exact knowledge.
put it to his mouth] The actors and their motive are left doubtful. Probably soldiers, but possibly Jews, and probably in compassion rather than mockery; or perhaps in compassion under cover of mockery (comp. Mar_15:36).
30.It is finished. He repeats the same word which he had lately employed, Now this word, which Christ employs, well deserves our attention; for it shows that the whole accomplishment of our salvation, and all the parts of it, are contained in his death. We have already stated that his resurrection is not separated from his death, but Christ only intends to keep our faith fixed on himself alone, and not to allow it to turn aside in any direction whatever. The meaning, therefore, is, that every thing which contributes to the salvation of men is to be found in Christ, and ought not to be sought anywhere else; or — which amounts to the same thing — that the perfection of salvation is contained in him.
There is also an implied contrast; for Christ contrasts his death with the ancient sacrifices and with all the figures; as if he had said,” Of all that was practiced under the Law, there was nothing that had any power in itself to make atonement for sins, to appease the wrath of God, and to obtain justification; but now the true salvation is exhibited and manifested to the world.” On this doctrine depends the abolition of all the ceremonies of the Law; for it would be absurd to follow shadows, since we have the body in Christ.
If we give our assent to this word which Christ pronounced, we ought to be satisfied with his death alone for salvation, and we are not at liberty to apply for assistance in any other quarter; for he who was sent by the Heavenly Father to obtain for us a full acquittal, and to accomplish our redemption, knew well what belonged to his office, and did not fail in what he knew to be demanded of him. It was chiefly for the purpose of giving peace and tranquillity to our consciences that he pronounced this word, It is finished. Let us stop here, therefore, if we do not choose to be deprived of the salvation which he has procured for us.
But the whole religion of Popery tends to lead men to contrive for themselves innumerable methods of seeking salvation; and hence we infer, that it is full to overflowing with abominable sacrileges. More especially, this word of Christ condemns the abomination of the Mass. All the sacrifices of the Law must have ceased, for the salvation of men has been completed by the one sacrifice of the death of Christ. What right, then, have the Papists, or what plausible excuse can they assign for saying, that they are authorised to prepare a new sacrifice, to reconcile God to men? They reply that it is not a new sacrifice, but the very sacrifice which Christ offered. But this is easily refuted; for, in the first place, they have no command to offer it; and, secondly, Christ, having once accomplished, by a single oblation, all that was necessary to be done, declares, from the cross, that all is finished. They are worse than forgers, therefore, for they wickedly corrupt and falsify the testament sealed by the precious blood of the Son of God.
He yielded up his breath. All the Evangelists take great care to mention the death of Christ, and most properly; for we obtain from it our confident hope of life, and we likewise obtain from it a fearless triumph over death, because the Son of God has endured it in our room, and, in his contest with it, has been victorious. But we must attend to the phraseology which John employs, and which teaches us, that all believers, who die with Christ, peacefully commit their souls to the guardianship of God, who is faithful, and will not suffer to perish what he hath undertaken to preserve. The children of God, as well as the reprobate, die; but there is this difference between them, that the reprobate give up the soul, without knowing where it goes, or what becomes of it; while the children of God commit it, as a precious trust, to the protection of God, who will faithfully guard it till the day of the resurrection. The word breath is manifestly used here to denote the immortal soul.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
30. received] He had refused the stupefying draught (Mat_27:34; Mar_15:23), which would have clouded his faculties: He accepts what will revive them for the effort of a willing surrender of His life.
It is finished] Just as the thirst was there before he expressed it, so the consciousness that His work was finished was there (Joh_19:28) before He declared it. The Messiah’s work of redemption was accomplished; His Father’s commandment had been obeyed; types and prophecies had been fulfilled; His life had been lived, and His teaching completed; His last earthly tie had been severed (Joh_19:26-27); and the end had come. The final ‘wages of sin’ alone remained to be paid.
he bowed his head] Another detail peculiar to the Evangelist who witnessed it.
gave up the ghost] The two apostles mark with special clearness that the Messiah’s death was entirely voluntary. S. Matthew says, ‘He let go His spirit’ (Mat_27:50); S. John, ‘He gave up His spirit.’ None of the four says ‘He died.’ The other two have ‘He breathed out;’ and S. Luke shews clearly that the surrender of life was a willing one by giving the words of surrender ‘Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit.’—‘No one taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself’ It was the one thing which Christ claimed to do ‘of Himself’ (Joh_10:18). Contrast Joh_5:30, Joh_7:28, Joh_8:28; Joh_8:42.
On ‘the seven words from the cross’ see on Luk_23:34; Mar_15:34; Mat_27:46. Between the two words recorded in these verses (28–30) there is again a contrast. ‘I thirst’ is an expression of suffering; the only one during the Passion. ‘It is finished’ is a cry of triumph; and the ‘therefore’ in Joh_19:30 shews how the expression of suffering led on to the cry of triumph. S. John omits the ‘loud voice’ which all the Synoptists give as immediately preceding Christ’s death. It proved that His end was voluntary and not the necessary result of exhaustion.
(d) “It is finished!”—the great victory of completed sacrifice. When he had received the vinegar, he said (τετέλεσται), It is finished! and he bowed his head and delivered up his spirit. The other evangelists record yet another word of Divine and sublime submission, “Father, into thy hands,” etc. John simply adds the climax, and leaves the Divine, inscrutable, mysterious fact in its awful grandeur. The world’s debt was paid. The types and symbolism of the old covenant had been adequately fulfilled. The mighty work, undertaken by him who would realize the expectations of the oldest prophets and the unconscious prophecies of heathendom, was done. Every iota and tittle of the Law had been magnified. The reality of which the temple and the sabbath were shadows, the priesthood and the offerings innumerable were figures, had all been realized. Τετέλεσται! Consummatum est! From the ground of human nature, from the heart of the Man in whom all the wants, perils, sins, mysteries of the human race were gathered up, has gone the adequate admission of the righteous judgment of God against that nature in its present condition. Death itself becomes, not his shame, but his veritable glory. The sin of humanity is branded with an eternal curse, more deep than any previous manifestation of the Divine justice could have produced; and yet it loses its sting. God reconciles the world to himself by the death of his Son, by this curse thus falling upon his Only Begotten. The earthly judges are condemned by their victim. The great and last enemy is itself wounded unto death. The Seed of the woman bruises the serpent’s head when that Seed receives the bruise in its own heel. The Paschal Lamb is slain. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. The prince of this world is east out. The reader must turn to the synoptic narrative for the other portents of the Crucifixion—the earthquake, the supernatural darkness, the rending of the temple veil, and the testimony of the Roman centurion. The silence of the Fourth Gospel concerning these events, on the supposition of its late orion, or on the hypothesis of the glorifying myth, or upon the suggestion that this evangelist was a theologizing mystic of the second century, who was merely fashioning the narrative to establish the doctrinal thesis of the Divine incarnation of the Loges, becomes entirely unintelligible. But the hypothesis that this eye-witness was supplementing other well-known narratives with particulars which came forcibly under his own observation, and made a deep impression upon his own mind, is suggested by every line. Dr. Westcott places “the seven words from the cross” in the following order:—
(a) Before the darkness—
(1) “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luk_23:34).
(2) “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luk_23:43).
(3) “Woman, behold thy son:… behold thy mother!” (Joh_19:26).
(b) During the darkness—
(4) “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”.
(c) After the darkness—
(5) “I thirst” (Joh_19:28).
(6) “It is finished!” (Joh_19:30).
(7) “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luk_23:46).
It is a question whether the sixth or seventh word is the more triumphant.
38.Joseph of Arimathea besought Pilate. John now relates by whom, and in what place, and with what magnificence, Christ was buried. He mentions two persons who buried Christ; namely, Joseph and Nicodemus, the former of whom requested Pilate to give him the dead body, which otherwise would have been exposed to the lawless violence of the soldiers. Matthew (Mat_27:57) says, that he was a rich man, and Luke (Luk_23:50) says, that he was a counsellor; that is, he held the rank of a senator. As to Nicodemus, we have seen, in the Third Chapter of this Gospel, that he held an honorable rank among his own countrymen; and that he was also rich, may be easily inferred from the great expense which he laid out in procuring this mixture.
Till now, therefore, riches had prevented them from professing to be the disciples of Christ, and might afterwards have no less influence in keeping them from making a profession so much hated and abhorred. The Evangelist expressly says, that Joseph has formerly been kept back by this fear from venturing to declare openly that he was a disciple of Christ; and as to Nicodemus, he repeats what we have already seen, that he came to Jesus secretly, and by night, (Joh_3:2 and Joh_7:50.) Whence, therefore, do they derive such heroic magnanimity that, when affairs are at the lowest ebb, they fearlessly come forth to public view? I say nothing of the great and evident danger which they must have incurred; but the most important point is, that they did not scruple to place themselves in a state of perpetual warfare with their own nation. It is therefore certain that this was effected by a heavenly impulse, so that they who, through, fear, did not render the honor due to him while he was alive, now run to his dead body, as if they had become new men.
They bring their spices to embalm the body of Christ; but they would never have done so, if they had been perfumed with the sweet sayour of his death. This shows the truth of what Christ had said,
Unless a grain of corn die, it remaineth alone; but when it is dead, it bringeth forth much fruit, (Joh_12:24.)
For here we have a striking proof that his death was more quickening than his life; and so great was the efficacy of that sweet sayour which the death of Christ conveyed to the minds of those two men, that it quickly extinguished all the passions belonging to the flesh. So long as ambition and the love of money reigned in thenb the grace of Christ had no charms for them; but now they begin to disrelish the whole world.
Besides, let us learn that their example points out to us what we owe to Christ. Those two men, as a testimony of their faith, not only took down Christ from the cross with great hazard, but boldly carried him to the grave. Our slothfulness will be base and shameful if, now that he reigns in the heavenly glory, we withhold from him the confession of our faith. So much the less excusable is the wickedness of those who, though they now deny Christ by base hypocrisy, plead in his behalf the example of Nicodemus. In one thing, I admit, they resemble him, that they endeavor, as far as lies in their power, to bury Christ; but the time for burying is past, since he hath ascended to the right hand of the Father, that he may reign gloriously over angels and men, and that every tongue may proclaim his dominion, (Phi_2:9.)
Secretly, through fear of the Jews. As this fear is contrasted with the holy boldness which the Spirit of the Lord wrought in the heart of Joseph, there is reason to believe that it was not free from blame. Not that all fear, by which believers guard against tyrants and enemies of the Church, is faulty, but because the weakness of faith is manifested, whenever the confession of faith is withheld through fear. We ought always to consider what the Lord commands, and how far he bids us advance. He who stops in the middle of the course shows that he does not trust in God, and he who sets a higher value on his own life than on the command of God is without excuse.
Who was a disciple of Jesus. When we perceive that the Evangelist bestows on Joseph the honorable designation of a disciple, at a time when he was excessively timid, and did not venture to profess his faith before the world, we learn from it how graciously God acts towards his people, and with what fatherly kindness he forgives their offenses. And yet the false Nicodemites have no right to flatter themselves, who not only keep their faith concealed within their own breast, but, by pretending to give their consent to wicked superstitions, do all that is in their power to deny that they are disciples of Christ.
After these things—i.e., after all these transactions and impressions, after the crurifragium and the piercing and the proceedings of the soldiers with Pilate’s permission; after, that is, time was left to see the full issue of the previous act, and the awful fact was patent to all—Joseph, who is from Arimathaea. This “Joseph” is introduced with the article (Ὀ ), and a second before ἀπὸ, implying to the reader that he is now. by reason of thesynoptic narrative, a well-known person. This Arimathsea is probably the Ramathaim of 1Sa_1:1, the birthplace of Samuel, known now as the Nebi Samwil, about two leagues north-west of Jerusalem (Caspari, § 49). Hengstenberg thinks the site is Ramleh, eight hours from Jerusalem. The maps of the Palest. Explor. Fund place it about a league to the east of Bethlehem. He was a “rich man” (Mat_27:57)—a fact which the First Gospel recalls without quoting the remarkable oracle of Isa_53:9, that Messiah, Servant of Jehovah, was with the “rich in his death.” We may judge that Joseph had a residence in Jerusalem, even though he may still be known as belonging to and “from” Arimathaea, because he bad prepared, hard by the metropolis, a sepulcher which as yet had never been used. He was, moreover, a βουλευτής, a member of the Sanhedrin, of high character, “good and just … waiting for, expecting the kingdom of God’, “and by no means consentient to the counsel and deed of his colleagues” (adds Luke). The whole position is briefly put by John: Being a disciple of Jesus, but a hidden one (κεκρυμμένος), who had been concealed as such up to this crowning climax of his Lord’s humiliation, not daring to confess Christ, by reason of his fear of the Jews. Strange that he and Nicodemus should have cast away their fears at such a moment! Joseph asked of Pilate (ἠρώτησεν); a word that implies something of claim and confidence on his part. The synoptists all three use ἠτήσατο, which rather denotes the position of a suppliant for a favor. That he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. This is supposed by some, who are anxious to make difficulties where none exist, that Pilate had already given permission for the crurifragium, and yet was astonished that he was dead already. The statement of Mark is perfectly consistent with this and with the ἀρθω ͂σιν of verse 31. Joseph, when all the transactions were over, sought for himself the privilege of a friend to take the body and bury it. Roman law permitted this privilege to friends; as Luthardt says, “The Christian martyrs of Rome were often buried in the catacombs.” Not until death was obvious was it lawful to remove a body from the cross. The death had taken place; the Jews were prepared with Pilate’s authorization to remove the corpse to the valley of the Son of Hinnom. Joseph comes with a permission to take the corpse for honorable burial. He came therefore—by reason of the permission—and took the body (of Jesus).
A disciple of Jesus
Matthew calls him a rich man; Mark, an honorable counselor, i.e., a member of the Sanhedrim; and Luke, a counselor, good and just.
Better, as Rev., asked. See on Joh_11:22; see on Joh_16:23. Mark adds that he went in boldly, which is suggestive in view of John’s statement of his secret discipleship, a fact which is passed over by the Synoptists.
Gave him leave
According to Roman law. Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century, says: “The bodies of those who are capitally punished cannot be denied to their relatives. At this day, however, the bodies of those who are executed are buried only in case permission is asked and granted; and sometimes permission is not given, especially in the cases of those who are punished for high treason. The bodies of the executed are to be given for burial to any one who asks for them.” Avaricious governors sometimes sold this privilege. Cicero, in one of his orations against Verres, has a terribly graphic passage describing such extortions. After dwelling upon the tortures inflicted upon the condemned, he says: “Yet death is the end. It shall not be. Can cruelty go further? A way shall be found. For the bodies of the beheaded shall be thrown to the beasts. If this is grievous to parents, they may buy the liberty of burial” (v., 45). Compare Mat_14:12; Act_8:2.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
39. Nicodemus] Another coincidence. Nicodemus also was a member of the Sanhedrin (iii. 1), and his acquaintance with Joseph is thus explained. And it is S. Mark who tells us that Joseph was one of the Sanhedrin, S. John who brings him in contact with Nicodemus. It would seem as if Joseph’s unusual courage had inspired Nicodemus also. We are not told whether or no Nicodemus had ‘consented to the counsel and deed of them.’
at the first] Either the first time that he came to Jesus, in contrast to other occasions; or simply at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Comp. Joh_10:40).
myrrh and aloes] Myrrh-resin and pounded aloe-wood, both aromatic substances: ‘All thy garments are myrrh and aloes’ (Psa_45:8). Comp. Mat_2:11. Aloes are not mentioned elsewhere in N.T. For ‘mixture’ (migma) the two best MSS. read roll (eligma), and the purpose of this large quantity was probably to cover the Body entirely. Comp. 2Ch_16:14.
about an hundred pound] 1200 ounces. There is nothing incredible in the amount. It is a rich man’s proof of devotion, and possibly of remorse for a timidity in the past which now seemed irremediable: his courage had come too late.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
40. Then took they] They took therefore.
wound it, &c.] Or, bound it in linen cloths. The ‘cloths’ seem to refer to the bandages which kept the whole together rather than the large ‘linen sheet’ mentioned by the other Evangelists, which Joseph had bought on purpose (Mar_15:46). The word here used for ‘linen cloths’ occurs also in Luk_24:12 : see note there.
the manner of the Jews] As distinct from the manner of the Egyptians, whose three methods of embalming are elaborately described by Herodotus (ii. 86 ff.). The Egyptians in all cases removed part of the intestines and steeped the body in nitre.
to bury] The Greek verb is rare in Scripture; in N.T. only Mat_26:12. The cognate substantive occurs Joh_12:7; Mar_14:8. In Gen_50:2 it is used by the LXX. for the embalming of Jacob.
Now there was in the place where he was crucified, close at hand to the very cross, a garden, and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein as yet no man was laid (on site, see Joh_19:17, notes). John alone tells us of the “garden;” and he clearly saw the significance of the resemblance to the “garden” where Christ agonized unto death, and was betrayed with a kiss, and also to the garden where the first Adam fell from the high estate of posse non peccare. We are not told, however, by him that this sepulcher was Joseph’s own (Matthew gives this explanation), nor that it was cut out of a rock, nor the nature or quality of it. Matthew, Luke, and John remark that it was καίνον, not simply νέον, recently made, but new in the sense of being as yet unused, thus preventing the possibility of any confusion, or any subordinate miracle, such as happened at the grave of Elisha (2Ki_13:21), and so our Lord’s sacred body came into no contact with corruption. Thus from the hour of death, in which the love of God in Christ is seen at its most dazzling moral luster, and the glorification of Christ in his Passion reaches its climax, death itself beaus to put on new unexpected forms and charms:
(1) the symbolic effusion of water and blood;
(2) the costly unguent spices and honorable burial lavished on One who had been put under ban, and had died the doom of the slave;
(3) the garden and the watchers.
There, therefore, by reason of the preparation of the Jews, for the sepulcher was nigh at hand, they laid Jesus. John assigns the rapidity with which the process could be completed as a reason for entombment in this particular garden sepulcher, and the ground of the urgency was the “preparation” solemnities. Once more the critics divide into two groups as to the significance of this reference to the date of the Lord’s death. It is obvious that both the synoptists and John imply that it was a “Friday,” and that the next day was the sabbath. Why, for the third time in the space of a few lines, should this circumstance be noticed? On the first occasion, the morning of the day is said to be “the preparation of the Passover;” on the second it is called “preparation before the sabbath,” and John adds that that particular sabbath was a “high day,” which, as we have seen, is explained by remembering that its sanctity was doubled, seeing that on that particular year the weekly sabbath would coincide with the 15th of Nisan, which had a sabbatic value of its own. Now he says for the third time it was the “preparation of the Jews”—as we understand it, a day or a time when special preparations were being made by the Jews, and that before sunset, for the slaying of the Paschal lamb. Moreover, the sabbath was drawing on (ἐπέφωσκεν, Luk_23:54). This threefold statement implies that there was something more in the παρασκευή than the Friday of the Passover week. It is curious to observe the precisely contradictory conclusions drawn from this statement by two classes of interpreters. Godet has given an interesting sketch of the extraordinary idea of M. Lutteroth, that the Lord was crucified on the 10th of Nisan! that he rose from the dead three full days and nights afterwards, on the morning of the 14th. But why should John three times over thus designate the day? and why should the synoptists lay such emphasis on its being the “preparation,” if the day were really the first great day of the Passover Feast? It is remarkable that St. Paul, referring to the institution of the Eucharist, does not say “on the night of the Passover meal,” but on “the night in which he was betrayed” (1Co_11:23), and he speaks of Jesus as the (ἀπαρχή) “Firstfruits of the dead,” as though the resurrection morning coincided with the presentation of the firstfruits, which, on the idea that Jesus suffered on the 15th, would have been presented on the morning of the Jewish sabbath, while the reference in 1Co_5:7-9, written at the time of a Passover, is rather in favor of the slaying of the Paschal lamb coinciding with the death of Jesus than the institution of the Eucharist doing so. The most extraordinary reference to the Παρασκεύη is that which St. Mat_28:1-20 :62 introduces, when he actually refers to the sabbath when it had begun (on the evening of the 14th or 15th, whichever it was, i.e. after 6 p.m.) under the designation of “the day after the preparation.” Generally the more important day would receive its own proper name, and not be designated by the less signal day. Why did not St. Matthew say, “On the morrow, which was the Sabbath”? The one group of interpreters answer that he wished to discriminate the veritable sabbath as distinct from the half-sabbath of the previous day, made so by being also the great day of the feast! But it is more natural to suppose that “the day of preparation,” the death-day of the Lord, loomed so largely in the mind of the evangelist, that its morrow derived importance in this particular instance from itself. The only real difficulty in settling this wearisome controversy arises from one statement in the synoptists, which, if resolved in the rigid sense of limiting their expressions to the evening of the 14th and beginning of the 15th, involves us in grave difficulties when considering five or six distinct and independent statements of John’s Gospel. We have shown at each of these places the double method of exegetical treatment that has been attempted, and in each case honesty compels us to admit that John is here in apparent discord with the synoptists. If, however, our Lord anticipated by a few hours the celebration of the Paschal supper, seeing that his “hour was come,” not indeed deviating from the legal day (though, as Lord of the sabbath and greater than the temple, he was amply justified in doing so), but hurrying on the process between the 13th and 14th, when the water-bearers would be seen fetching their pure water for the purpose; and if he celebrated the Passover at the beginning rather than the end of the 14th of Nisan, then the apparent discord between John and the synoptists vanishes, and the terrible events of the trials and crucifixion of Jesus really took place at the time when the Jews (not Christ himself) were preparing for the Passover proper. On this hypothesis the two narratives would be no longer in hopeless antagonism. With this conclusion we are more satisfied, since, as we have seen in Joh_13:1 and elsewhere, the synoptists themselves afford numerous corroboratory evidences.