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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. When the morning was come. The evangelist is silent with regard to what was transacted during the night, and of the multiplied cruelties and base indignities offered to our divine Redeemer during the whole of the night; for, after he has informed us of Peter's denial, he immediately proceeds to tell us what happened at break of day. S. Austin. — The chief priests, with the ancients and scribes, after they had wreaked their vengeance upon Jesus by the vilest treatment of his sacred person, took counsel how they might induce the governor to put him to death. In this Sanhedrim, or full council of seventy-two, they again put the question to hold a council. — Council. Caiphas, in the morning, called a full council of the Sanhedrim. They again put the question to Jesus, and commanded him to tell them if he were the Christ, and the Son of God? He owned he was. Luke xxii. 70. — Upon this they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate, the governor: lit. the president. This they did, 1. because being a festival day, they apprehended a tumult among the people. 2. To make him die a more infamous death on the cross; otherwise they might perhaps have stoned him to death, as they afterwards did S. Stephen. 3. The power of death being taken from them, they durst not well exercise it, at least, without permission from the Roman governor. Wi.
Ver. 2. In the council Jesus was free; but now all the council rising up, as appears from S. Luke, and binding him, (dhtanteV auton) as one certainly guilty of death, they conduct him to Pilate. All attend to repress by their authority the people, to engage Pilate to pronounce sooner the sentence, when he saw that he was condemned by the unanimous voice of the Sanhedrim, and to hinder any one from rising in his defence. They were the more anxious, 1. because about three years before, the power of life and death had been taken from them; 2. because they wished to throw the odium of the crime on another person; and lastly, because as both Jew and Gentile were equally to benefit of Christ's death, so both Jew and Gentile were to concur in inflicting it; and as all were to have salvation offered them through his blood, so none were to be freed from the guilt of shedding it. A.
Ver. 3. Then Judas, . . . repenting himself. A fruitless repentance, accompanied with a new sin of despair, says S. Leo. Wi. — Perceiving that Jesus was delivered up, and remembering what our divine Saviour had said concerning his resurrection, he repented of his atrocious wickedness. Perhaps Satan, who assisted and urged him on to betray his Master, deserted him, not that he had prevailed upon the unhappy miscreant to perpetrate what he had so passionately desired. But how could Judas see that Jesus was condemned? He certainly did not see it, but foreboded in his despairing mind what would be the event. But some are of opinion that this passage is referred to Judas himself, who then became sensible of his crime, and saw his condemnation impending over his head. Origen. — For the devil does not blind his agents in such a manner, as to leave them insensible of the crime they are about to commit, till it is perpetrated. S. Chrys. — Although Judas conceived a horror at his crime, and confessed it, and made satisfaction to a certain degree by restoring the money, still many essential conditions were wanting to his repentance: 1. faith in Christ, as God, as a redeemer, as the sole justifier from sin; 2. besides this, there was also wanting hopes of pardon, as in Cain, and a love of a much injured and much offended God. Hence his grief was unavailing, like that of the damned. If Judas, says an ancient Father, had had recourse to sincere repentance, and not to the halter, there was mercy in store even for the traitor. A.
Ver. 5. Hanged himself, and did not die of the quinsy, (a tumid inflammation in the throat) as some of late expound it. It is true the Greek word may sometimes signify a suffocation with grief; but it signifies also to be strangled with a rope, as Erasmus translated it. So it is in the ancient Syriac version; and the same Greek word is made use of in 2 K. xvii, as to Achitophel's death. Wi. — To his first repentance succeeded fell despair, which the devil pursued to his eternal destruction. If the unhappy man had sought true repentance, and observed due moderation in it, (by avoiding both extremes, presumption and despair) he might have heard a forgiving Master speaking to him these consoling words: I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may be converted and still live. Origen.
Ver. 6. Corbona. A place in the temple, where the people put in their gifts or offerings. Ch.
Ver. 7. Burying-place. This the Pharisees did, as a shew of their charity to strangers; but their intention, according to S. Jerom, was to disgrace Jesus; thus to keep alive in the minds of the people, that he was sold by one of his own disciples, and delivered up to a disgraceful death. Dion Carth.
Ver. 8. Haceldama is a Syriac word: it is not the Greek; and some conjecture, that it found its way hither from the first chapter of the Acts, v. 19. V.
Ver. 9. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias. Jeremy is now in all Latin copies, and the general reading of the Greek; whereas the passage is found Zachary xi. 12. Some judge it to have been in some writing of Jeremy, now lost; as S. Jerom says he found it in a writing of Jeremy, which was not canonical. Others conjecture, that Zachary had also the name of Jeremy. Others, that S. Matthew neither put Jeremy nor Zachary, but only of the prophet: and that the name of Jeremy had crept into the text. Jeremy is not in the Syrica; and S. Augustine says it was not in divers copies. — And they took the thirty pieces of silver; each of which was called an argenteus. The evangelist cites not the words, but the sense of the prophet, who was ordered to cast the pieces into the house of the Lord, and to cast them to the potter: which became true by the fact of Judas, who cast them into the temple: and with them was purchased the potter's field. The price of him that was prized. In the prophet we read, the handsome price, spoken ironically, as the Lord did appoint me; i.e. as he had decreed. Wi.
Ver. 11. Jesus stood before the governor. By comparing the four evangelists together Pilate condescended to come out to the priests, and asked them, what accusations they brought against this man? They replied first in general terms: (John xviii. 30.) If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee. Take him you, said Pilate, and judge him according to your law. They answered: It is not permitted us to put any one to death. After this they accused him of raising tumults, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar; (Luke xxiii. 2; a manifest falsehood; see Matt. xxii,) and that he said, he is Christ, the king. Upon this Pilate called him into the palace before him, and said: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus owned he was: but first asked Pilate, if he said this of himself, or by the suggestion of others; which was to insinuate, that this information of his being a king came from his malicious adversaries; and that Pilate, having been so long governor, could not but know that he had never set himself up for king, nor pretended to any kingly power. However, Pilate replied somewhat peevishly: Am I a Jew? Thy own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee up to me: what hast thou done? Jesus then told Pilate, that his kingdom was not of this world. This abundantly satisfied Pilate: who needed not trouble his head about any spiritual kingdom, or such as was not of this world. Jesus speaking of truth, Pilate asked him after a slight manner, what is truth? but perhaps, without waiting for any answer, went presently out, and told the Jews, that he found no cause nor crime in Jesus. Wi. — The Judge of every living creature was arraigned by permission of his heavenly Father, before the petty judge of Judea, and suffers himself to be interrogated by him, though every question proposed was either put out of ridicule, or some equally base motive. Origen. — Our divine Saviour confessed himself to be a king; but that he might give no umbrage either to Jew or Gentile, he at the same time declared, that his kingdom was not of this world. S. Chrys.
Ver. 14. The governor wondered exceedingly at Jesus's patience and silence: and he saw very well that it was envy that excited the Jewish priests against him. Matt. xxvii. 18. But they went on charging him, that he stirred up the people, even from Galilee to Jerusalem. Pilate hearing that he was of Galilee, laid hold on this occasion, and sent him to Herod Antipas, who was tetrarch of Galilee; and being a Jew was come up to Jerusalem at this great feast. Herod was glad to see Jesus brought to him, hoping to see him do some miracle in his presence: but finding him silent, and that he did not satisfy his curiosity, he contemned him, and ordered him to be clothed in such a garment as might make him laughed at for a fool, or a mock king; and in this dress, sent him back through the streets to Pilate. Wi. — The president admires the constancy and courage of his soul; and though, perhaps, he saw it was necessary to declare him guilty of the accusation; yet, beholding the heavenly wisdom and gravity that appeared in his countenance and the heavenly composure in which he stood, he could not conceal his admiration at his conduct. So that it seemed to him most miraculous, that a man brought to the bar, and tried for a capital crime, should stand without fear at the approach of death, which men commonly so much dread. Origen.
Ver. 15. Upon the solemn day of the paschal feast, (which began the evening before) it was a custom for the governor to pardon and release to the people any one criminal whose life they should petition for: and to induce them to beg for Jesus, he put in the balance with him one Barabbas a famous malefactor, a seditious murderer, says S. Mark; a robber, or thief, says S. John. Wi. — Pilate, wishing to release the innocent Jesus, that he might not give the Jews a possibility, as he thought, of refusing his offer, puts the murderer Barabbas in competition with the innocent Lamb of God. S. John. Chrys.
Ver. 19. In a dream. We must remark, that these kind of dreams were not unusual among the Gentiles, being sent by God for some just and necessary reason; as on this occasion, that there might be a public testimony from the Gentiles, of the justice and innocence of Christ. S. Jerom.
Ver. 20. That they should ask Barabbas. All, therefore, that resemble the Jews in either theory or practice, desire to have Barabbas loosed to them; al,l therefore, that seek after iniquity, ask for Barabbas, and put Jesus away. But all who walk in the paths of virtue, ask for Jesus, and destroy Barabbas. Pilate wishing on this occasion to shew the Jews the enormity of their crime, again puts the question, which will you have of the two? And again, What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ? But, they being enraged that Pilate should declare Jesus to be the Christ, all in the frantic fury exclaimed, Let him be crucified. Origen.
Ver. 21. Which . . . of the two, said Pilate to them, will you have released? S. Mark tells us, that at the instigation of the priests, the people petitioned for Barabbas. It was no small disappointment to Pilate. What then, said he, shall I do with Jesus? They all answer, let him be crucified. In S. Luke, crucify him, crucify him. What evil hath he done? replied Pilate; and this he repeated thrice, according to S. Luke, xxiii. 22. — Here in order followed the cruel scourging of our blessed Saviour, which Pilate consented to, in hopes to move the people to compassion. This was executed with the utmost cruelty. For they assembled the whole band of soldiers, commonly about 600. And they made him one wound from head to foot. Then a scarlet or purple coat was thrown over his shoulders: and platting or wreathing a crown of thorns, i.e. twisting sharp thorns, with some resemblance of a crown, they violently pressed it down on his head; and struck him at their pleasure with a reed, or cane, which they had placed in his hand, instead of a sceptre; and kneeling in derision, said, Hail, king of the Jews. — When the soldiers had treated Jesus in this barbarous manner, Pilate himself presented him in this condition to the people saying, Behold the man. He imagined their fury would now be changed into pity: but they still cried out, Crucify him! crucify him! Take him you, said Pilate, and crucify him; for I find no crime in him. The Jews then answered: We have a law: and according to our law, he must die; because he hath made himself the Son of God. At this Pilate was more afraid, lest perhaps he should be of the progeny of the gods, as the Romans fancied their heroes to be. He returned back to the palace and asked Jesus again: whence art thou? Jesus gave him no direct answer, yet told him, he could have not power over him, unless it had been granted him from above. Pilate was still very desirous to set him at liberty, especially when his wife sent a message to him to have nothing to do with that just man, for that she had suffered much in a dream on his account. Matt. xxvii. 19. — The Jews perceived Pilate's great inclination to set Jesus at liberty: they therefore tell him in plain terms, that if he doth dismiss this man, he is no friend to Cæsar: for every one, say they, that pretends to be a king, contradicts Cæsar. This moved Pilate more than any thing whatsoever, and prevailed with him both against justice and his own conscience, to condemn Jesus. He feared lest some private information might be presented against him to Tiberius Cæsar. He presently mounted the judgment-seat in a public place, and said to the Jews: behold your king. They cry out, away with him, crucify him. Shall I crucify your king? said Pilate. They reply: we have no king but Cæsar; thus renouncing their Messias. At this Pilate yielded; and (v. 24,) washed his hands, and said: I am innocent of the blood of this just man: look you to it. Wi.
Ver. 24. Taken water. It was the custom of the ancients, when they wished to shew themselves innocent of any alleged crime, to take water and wash their hands in public. Remigius. — Because the element of water naturally signifies purity. See Virgil, Æneid xi. ver. 718.
Me bello è tanto digressum, et cæde recenti
Attractare nefas, donec me flumine vivo
Ver. 25. All the people answered: his blood be upon us, and upon our children which continues, saith S. Jerom, to this day. Then Pilate delivered to them Jesus to be crucified. Wi. — This blasphemous prayer continues to this day, and will continue a protracted curse upon the Jews, and upon their posterity. Origen. — Behold the insanity of the Jews! Their passion and pertinacious obstinacy will not suffer them to see and understand: they draw down curses upon themselves in these terrible imprecations: his blood be upon us and upon our children. Still the God of all mercies did not literally comply with their impious prayer. For, of these children he selected some for himself; amongst the rest even Paul, and many thousands who were converted at Jerusalem. S. Chrys.
Ver. 26. And having scourged Jesus. We must know that Pilate was a subject of the Roman empire; and by the Roman law it was ordained, that whoever was condemned to the cross, should previously suffer the punishment of scourging. S. Jerom. — He wished also by this apparent severity to soften the minds of the Jews, content their inveterate animosity, and this with hopes that they would in the end consent to the liberation of Jesus. V.
Ver. 27. A Roman cohort properly consisted of 625 men; but they were not always complete, nor all equally strong. V.
Ver. 28. A scarlet cloak. S. Mark and S. John call it purple. But these colours are frequently taken promiscuously by writers. Scarlet is a lighter, and crimson a deeper red colour. V.
Ver. 29. The crowning of thorns had preceded the time, when Jesus was made over by Pilate to the Jews. As the Jews have no preterpluperfect tense, we may conjecture that those words, circumdederunt, posuerunt, are Hebraisms; for circumdederant, posuerant, they had covered him with a cloak; they had placed a crown of thorns on his head, and a reed or cane in his hand. V.
Jesus carrieth his cross to Mount Calvary, where he is nailed to it. A great darkness.
Ver. 31. And led him away to crucify him. It was the custom for men condemned to die by crucifixion to carry their cross, which Jesus did through the city; but going out, or being gone out of the city, and, as it is probable, fainting under the weight of it, (his strength as man being exhausted) they forced a man of Cyrene, named Simon, perhaps a Gentile, or Cyrene, in Lybia, to carry the cross after him. S. Luke says, they laid the cross upon him to carry after Jesus; whether it were that they made Simon carry the whole cross, or whether he only bore it up behind, is not expressed. S. Luke tells us, a great crowd followed, and a number of women, who wept and lamented; to whom Christ said: weep not over me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children, on account of the punishments and miseries that will shortly happen. Wi.
Ver. 32. Cyrene was the capital of a province in Africa, near Lybia. See Acts ii. 10. Some are of opinion that this Simon was a Jew; his name favours that sentiment, and there were many Jews in that province. V. — S. John says that Christ went out carrying his own cross, while the other three evangelists state that they forced Simon of Cyrene to carry it for him. Both are true: for seeing Christ unequal to the weight, they compelled the other to take it up for him; not a part only, as some painters represent, but the whole, to Mount Calvary, as Jesus Christ had carried the whole before. S. Austin. — The evangelists would not have been so particular in this part, had they not wished to inculcate, that all who desire to follow Christ, must also take up their cross and follow him. S. Jerom and Jans. — The latter says, in his Commentaries on the Gospels; as no one liked to carry the ignominious cross, the insolence of the soldiery compelled a stranger to carry it. By this we learn, that the cross is not taken up by many except with compulsion; but, when once taken up, they carry it with willingness. Jans.
Ver. 33. Golgotha, i.e. the place of Calvary, of heads and skulls: perhaps, says S. Jerom, from the skulls of persons executed, and buried there. Several ancient writers would have it so called, from Adam's skull, whom they guess to have been buried there. Some also say that a part of this mountain was called Moria, the place where Abraham was ready to have sacrificed his son Isaac. Wi. — Isaac, carrying the wood on his shoulders for the sacrifice, was a figure of Jesus Christ carrying his cross. The mountain was situated to the north-west of Jerusalem.
Ver. 34. Wine . . mingled with gall. The Prot. from the ordinary Greek copies, translate vinegar; but other Greek copies have wine, which S. Jerom and S. Hilary follow. And in S. Mark all copies, without exception, have wine mixed with myrrh: perhaps myrrh, from its bitterness, is here called gall. It is also observed that wine, with a mixture of myrrh, was often given to those that were to die a violent death, to comfort them, or stupefy them. Our Saviour tasted it, but would not drink it. He refused not to taste the bitterness, but would not take what might lessen his torments. Wi. — S. Mark says, mingled with myrrh; perhaps it was mixed with both, to render it as bitter as possible. S. Austin. — What S. Mark relates, he took it not, is thus explained: he took it not, so as to drink it; which S. Mat. confirms, by saying: and when he had tasted, he would not drink; (Idem,) so as to receive the support and comfort which a strengthening draft might afford.
Ver. 35. They divided his garments. This was accounted with the ancients the greatest infamy. It was never done with any but the most vile and worthless wretches; with men who possessed nothing more then their garments. This they did to our blessed Saviour; a punishment they did not think the two thieves deserving of. S. Chrys.
Ver. 37. This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. S. Mark has only, this is the King of the Jews; as also S. Luke. S. John, Jesus, of Nazareth, King of the Jews, which might be the whole inscription. It was the custom of the Romans to put such inscriptions with the cause of their being crucified. S. Luke and S. John tell us, it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The Jews begged of Pilate that it might be changed, or only put; He said, I am the King of the Jews: but Pilate made them this short answer: what I have written, I have written. Wi. — This title was nailed over the head of our expiring Redeemer, by divine Providence; that the Jews might still be convinced, that with all their opposition, they must acknowledge him for their King, whom they had condemned to so cruel a death; and that so far from lessening his empire and regal power, they rather increased it. Remigius.
Ver. 38. Two robbers, or thieves, and Jesus in the midst; as if he had been the greatest malefactor of the three. Wi.
Ver. 39. They . . . blasphemed, reviled, and insulted him with words and gestures. Wi.
Ver. 40. If thou be the Son of God. Behold these children of Satan, how they imitate the language of their father. That wicked fiend, tempting our divine Saviour, exclaimed, "if thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down:" and these his children say, "if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross:" but, on the other hand, Jesus will not descend from the hard wood of the cross, because he is the Son of God; for, being God, he descended on earth, took upon himself human nature, to die thus for those who crucified him. S. John Chrys.
Ver. 42. If he be the king of Israel. Pilate having written on the inscription set upon the cross, that Christ was the king of Israel, the Jews endeavoured to persuade him to remove or alter it; but Pilate gave them for answer, according to S. John, "what I have written, I have written." The Jews, therefore, wishing to shew that he was not their king, said with insulting scorn, "if he be the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross," (S. Chrys.) "and we will believe him." Falsehood and deceit are stamped upon these words of the Jewish priests; for, whether is it more difficult to descend from his cross, being yet alive, or, being dead, to raise himself from the tomb? He rose again, and you did not believe; had he descended from the cross, you would have been equally incredulous. S. Jerom.
Ver. 43. If he will have him: lit. if he will him. In the style of the Scriptures, to will, is to love, or be pleased with any one; and so it is applied, Psalm xxi. 9, from whence these words are taken. See also 1 Kings xviii. 22. Wi.
Ver. 44. And the same thing the thieves also: i.e. one of them, the other being converted, as we find Luke xxiii. 39. Wi. — S. Ambrose, S. Chrysostom, S. Jerom, and Ven. Bede say, that at first both of the thieves blasphemed; but one of them seeing the wonderful things that happened, viz. that the sun was darkened, the rocks split asunder, &c. was terrified and converted, he believed in Jesus, and atoned for his former evil language, by praying to him as to his God. Dion. Carth.
Ver. 45. From the sixth hour. S. Mark says, it was the third hour, and they crucified him. S. John says, it was about the sixth hour, when Jesus was condemned. To reconcile these expressions, we may take notice, that the third greater hour lasted till the sixth hour; and so S. Mark calls it the third hour, because the third great hour (which contained three lesser hours) did not end till mid-day, when the sixth hour was beginning; so that the end of the third, and the beginning of the sixth, happened together. — Darkness, at mid-day, and at full moon. Some call it an eclipse of the sun. It was rather by an interposition of clouds, or by the substraction of the rays of the sun. — Over all the earth, until the ninth hour. It could be no miracle to be night in the opposite hemisphere; but whether it was in all those parts of the world where, of course, it should have been light, is doubted. Origen thinks this darkness was only in Palestine, and the neighbouring countries: for as to the words, over the whole earth, or over the whole land, we find one kingdom or empire, by a common way of speaking, called the whole earth, or the whole world. Here, in the history of Christ's passion, we should take notice of his seven last words, or sentences on the cross. 1. He prayed for his enemies, and those that put him to death, (Luke xxiii. 34.) Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. 2. His mercy called the good thief, This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise, Luke xxiii. 43. 3. He recommended his beloved disciple to his mother, saying: woman, behold thy son; and his mother to the same disciple, with, Behold thy mother. Jo. xix. 26. and 27. 4. Here (v. 46) he cried out with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani, i.e. my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? These words, out of Psalm xxi. 1, were to express his violent sufferings. The Arians objected them against the divinity of Christ; to whom the Fathers answer, that he spoke these words in the person of sinners, for whose sake he suffered, as they shew by the following words of the same Psalm: far from my salvation are the words of my sins: which cannot be applied to Christ, he being incapable of sinning. Besides, these words may be expounded as a prayer, by which he desires of his Father, not to be abandoned any longer, but that his sufferings may now have an end. In fine, that these words were uttered with an entire confidence, and an assurance in the presence and assistance of God, appears by what he presently added, recommending his spirit into the hands of his Father. The fifth sentence was, I thirst, to let us know the violent thirst of his exhausted body. S. John (xix. 28,) says it was that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Psalm lxviii. 22. And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. The sixth sentence was, It is consummated; (Jo. xix. 30) i.e. the work of man's redemption, and all the prophecies, and decrees of heaven, concerning me, the Saviour of the world, are now accomplished. The seventh and last sentence was, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and with these words, says S. Luke, (xxiii. 46.) pronounced with a loud voice, he expired. Wi. — The learned are divided on this passage: 1st, As to the cause of the obscuration of the sun; and, 2ndly, as to the extent of its darkness. Origen is inclined to think that the darkness was partial, and confined to Judea and the neighbouring countries, as the darkness of Egypt was only perceived in that country, and not in Gessen, where the children of Israel were. S. Jerom imagines that the obscurity was caused by the rays of the sun being suddenly withdrawn by divine power, as was the case in Egypt. These they give as conjectures only. But S. Dionysius, the Areopagite, speaks from his own observations, being, as he informs us in a letter to S. Polycarp, then at Heliopolis, a city of Egypt, for the purpose of astronomical observations. He noticed this miraculous eclipse. He saw the moon rise from the east, and placing itself directly under the sun, cause the above mentioned darkness. This made him cry out to his companion, in the greatest admiration. He observes in this eclipse, four things contrary to the ordinary course of nature: 1. The time, full moon, when there cannot be an eclipse of the sun; 2. the moon being under the sun at the sixth hour, returned to its place in the east for the evening; 3. the order in which the sun was obscured. In ordinary eclipses, the western limb of the sun is first obscured, on account of the motion of the moon in its orbit, being from west to east; whereas, in the present case, the moon having already passed the sun, and being removed from the sun the distance of a semicircle, returned from the east to the sun, and of course first eclipsed it on the eastern limb: 4. contrary to the manner of common eclipses, in which that part is first visible which was first obscured, that part of the sun first appeared which was last eclipsed, because the moon returned again to the east after the eclipse was full. To this may be added the observation of S. Chrys. and S. Jerom: that the duration of natural eclipses is very short, whilst this lasted the space of three whole hours. But this interposition of the moon, which suffers the greatest parallax, could not cause an universal eclipse; if, therefore, the text is to be understood literally of the whole earth, another cause must be supposed for this universal darkness. But it may be understood in a more limited sense, of the land of Judea. Dion. Carth.
The miracles at Christ's death. His burial.
Ver. 47. This man calleth for Elias. S. Jerom thinks these might be some of the Roman soldiers, who understood not Syriac, but who had heard of the prophet Elias. Wi. — But if we understand it of the Jews, who could not possibly be ignorant of this word, we must suppose it was merely a stratagem of theirs, who wishing still to shew the weakness of our Redeemer, said that he called Elias to his aid. S. Jer. — The soldiers thinking that he called for Elias, wished to hinder any one from offering vinegar, lest it should hasten his death, and prevent Elias from coming to assist him; which, from the darkness and other signs, they might think probable. S. Austin. — Wine and vinegar, on account of their penetrating quality, were thought to hasten death. We read in Plutarch, that wine was given to Mark Anthony, when he had stabbed himself, that he might die the sooner. Jans.
Ver. 50. With a loud voice. In this our Redeemer confirms what he had said to Pilate; I have the power to lay down my life, and I have the power to take it up again: for he cried with a loud voice, and at the very hour of the evening sacrifice, to shew that it was by the effect of his own will that he died. S. John Chrys. hom. lxxxix.
Ver. 51. The veil of the temple was rent. As there were in the temple two parts of the sanctuary, so there were two veils, or partition walls. The first sanctuary, called the holy, was separated by a veil from that part of the temple called the court of the Israelites. Into this outward sanctuary, called the holy, entered every day the priests that were in office. The second interior sanctuary, called the holy of holies, was also separated from the outward sanctuary by another veil. And into this holy of holies, no one was to enter except the high priest, and he but once a-year. Both these veils seem to have been rent at Christ's death: and by their being broken down, was signified first, that the ceremonies of the ancient law were to be abolished by the law of Christ; and also that heaven should be open to all. — The earth quaked. How far this earthquake was extended, is uncertain. — The rocks were rent, and the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints . . . arose. S. Jerom takes notice, that these saints did not rise with their bodies till after Christ was risen; and so it follows, that going out of the graves, after the resurrection, they came into the holy city, (i.e. into Jerusalem) and appeared to many. Wi. — This event was a prophecy of the fatal destruction that was shortly to fall upon the temple; and also, that it should henceforth give place to things more noble and sublime. It likewise shews that greatness of Christ's power. S. Chrys. hom. lxxxix.
Ver. 54. Indeed this was the Son of God. S. Mark says, that when they saw Jesus die in that manner, crying out with a loud voice, which could not be natural, and when they saw the other miracles, they were struck with fear. S. Luke says, (xxiii. 47.) that the centurion glorified God, &c. Wi. — It is said that this centurion, being afterwards confirmed in the faith, was honoured with the crown of martyrdom. S. Chrys. hom. lxxxix.
Ver. 55. Ministering unto him. It was customary with the Jews, for the women of that country to minister unto their teachers both food and raiment; but because this was liable to abuse, and to cause scandal to the Gentiles, S. Paul dispensed with their assistance. These women ministered to our Lord, hoping that he would bestow heavenly food to them, who offered earthly food to him: not that the Creator of all things stood in need of assistance: but he wished to shew his disciples an example of poverty in himself, and charity in these women. But let us see what sort of women these were that followed our Lord, among whom were Mary Magdalene, sister of Martha and Lazarus; Mary, the mother of James the less and Joseph, sister of the blessed Virgin Mary, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, otherwise called Salome, who were disciples of Jesus. S. Jerom, and M.
Ver. 57. When it was evening, &c. S. John tells us, (C. xix. 31.) that the day on which Jesus died, being the day of preparation, (lit. the parasceve) that is the Friday or eve of the great sabbath, to wit, of the sabbath-day, which happened in the week of the paschal solemnity, the Jews desired of Pilate that the bodies might not remain on the crosses on the sabbath-day, but that they might be taken away. Some soldiers were sent for this purpose, and broke the legs of the two others that were not quite dead; but perceiving that Jesus was dead, they broke not his legs, but one of them pierced and opened his side with a lance or spear; and with such a wound, as would have deprived him of life, had he not been already dead. The divine Providence permitted this, to make his death more certain and undoubted. — Joseph, a disciple in private, now encouraged by the miracles which had happened, went boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. S. Mark says, Pilate wondered, when he heard he was dead; and having been informed of the truth by the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Nicodemus also, who is called a prince of the Jews, (Jo. iii. 1.) came to bury our Saviour, bringing with him a mixture of myrrh and aloes, to embalm the body, as they did. Wi. — The evangelist does not call Joseph a rich man out of vanity, or to inform us that Jesus had persons of distinction among his followers, but to shew why Joseph in preference to any other went to beg the body; for being a nobleman, he could obtain easier access to the governor of Judea than any of the other disciples, who were chiefly poor illiterate fishermen. S. Jerom. — The town of Arimathea is placed on the maps about eighteen or twenty miles north-west of Jerusalem.
Ver. 58. The Roman laws forbade sepulture to be given to criminals, without an express permission from the judges. V. and M.
Ver. 59. Wrapt it up. Behold with admiration the courage and constancy of this disciple of Christ, who, through love for his crucified Saviour, willingly exposed himself not only to the enmity of his countrymen, but even to the danger of death, and dared in the presence of all to beg the body of Jesus, and to give it public interment. S. Chrys. hom. lxxxix.
Ver. 60. And Joseph laid it in his own new monument, . . . hewed or cut out in a rock, where no one had ever been laid: and rolled a great stone against the entrance, that no one might go in, or take away the body. But Mary Magdalene, and other women that had accompanied Jesus from Galilee, followed at a distance, to mark the place, having a design to come afterwards, and again embalm the body. Wi. — It was the custom of that country, to excavate a tomb from the hard rock, for all persons of great distinction. V. — From the unadorned tomb of a Man-God, we are taught to despise the grandeur of this perishable world, and fear the example of those who, even in their sepulchres, manifest to the world how grieved they were to leave their wealth, since they carried it with them to their tombs, ornamenting them with every costly decoration human ingenuity could devise. S. Jerom.
Ver. 61. Sitting over-against. Though S. Matthew makes mention of two women only, who were there, it is nevertheless certain from the other evangelists, that there were more, though these two are here particularized, because they perhaps shewed greater anxiety. They are said to be sitting, because they were afraid to join themselves with the two noblemen, Joseph, of Arimathea, and Nicodemus; and not able to leave their Lord, without knowing where he was placed, they sat down to see the end. Jans.
Ver. 62. The next day, which followed that of the parasceve, or preparation, (that is, on the great sabbath-day) the chief priests came to Pilate, to beg him to set a guard at the monument. Wi. — The day of the preparation. The eve of the sabbath; so called, because on that day they prepared all things necessary; not being allowed so much as to dress their meat on the sabbath-day. Ch.
Ver. 63. Sir, we have remembered, that that seducer, this impostor, this cheat; so they called our blessed Redeemer; from whence, says S. Augustine, Christians may learn to be patient under the greatest injuries. — Said: . . . after three days I will rise again. This, therefore, must have been well known among the Jews. Wi. — The chief motive, which influenced the high priest on this occasion, was probably the apprehension lest this prediction of Christ's resurrection should be verified. The wonderful prodigies which took place at his death, and especially the opening of the graves, (though none arose it is believed till after Christ's resurrection, since Christ is called the first-born from the dead, 1 Coloss. i. 18. and the first-fruits of them that sleep, 1 Cor. xv. 20.) might naturally appear as preludes to what he had so often foretold. It is true they had no idea but of a temporal passing resurrection , like that of Lazarus, which they had seen: yet they judged that such an event might be attended with the most serious consequences. Hence, it is probable, that they gave them most express injunctions to put Jesus to death by all means, and to secure the body in the monument: for, it is certain, they formed a similar design against the life of Lazarus, whose resurrection occasioned many to believe in Jesus. A. — They were not satisfied with taking his life; they must, moreover, deprived him of his good name. Menoch. —The chief priests could not yet be satisfied, after the horrid murder they had committed, unless they stirred up the minds of the people to a still greater height, by calumniating this innocent Lamb of God, and calling him an impostor, who was the most innocent of men, and spread abroad their poisonous doctrines in every sentence they uttered. S. Jerom.
Ver. 65. You have a guard; supposed to be a company of Roman soldiers, destined for the guard of the temple: (V.) or, may take a guard; go, and make it secure; which they did, sealing the stone, and placing guards at the monument. Providence ordered this, to make Christ's resurrection more certain and evident. Wi.
Ver. 66. They departing. See how beyond the possibility of contradiction these precautions prove the reality of Christ's resurrection, and how the inveterate enemies of Christ become unwilling witnesses of it; for, since the sepulchre was guarded, there was an impossibility of any deceit on the part of the disciples. Now, if the least deceit was utterly impracticable, then indeed Christ our Lord was infallibly risen; and to remove every, the least possibility of deceit, Pilate would not permit the soldiers alone to seal up the monument. S. Thos. Aquin. — The high priests made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone at the entrance of the monument with the public seal, sfragizanteV ton liqon, proof against all fraud, either of corrupt guards or of designing followers, as Darius did, (Daniel vi. 17.) that no violence might be offered him. All this diligence, on the part of the enemies of the Christian faith, was permitted by divine Providence, that our faith in Christ's resurrection might be more certain, his glory greater, and the minds of the people better disposed to believe. Jans.