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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

St.Luke, chapter 23-24, Archbishop Rosary


Vers. 1–4.—The trial before Pilate: First examination.
Ver. 1.—And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. The Sanhedrin had now formally condemned Jesus to death. They were, however, precluded by the Roman regulations then in force from carrying out their judgment. A capital sentence in Judæa could only be inflicted as the result of a decision by the Roman court. The Sanhedrin supposed, and as we shall see rightly, that the judgment they had pronounced would speedily be confirmed by the Roman judge. The Sanhedrin condemnation to death was, however, from the Jewish standpoint, illegal. In capital cases judgment could not be legally pronounced on the day of trial. But in the case of Jesus, the Accused was condemned without the legal interval which should have been left between the trial and the sentence. The Prisoner was then at once hurried before the Roman tribunal, in order that the Jewish sentence might be confirmed and carried out with all the additional horrors which accompanied Gentile public executions in such cases of treason. Dérenbourg (‘Histoire de la Palestine,’ p. 201) attributes the undue illegal precipitancy of the whole proceeding to the overwhelming influence exercised in the supreme council by Annas and Caiaphas with their friends who were Sadducees, a party notorious for their cruelty as well as for their unbelief. Had the Pharisees borne sway in the Sanhedrin at that juncture, such an illegality could never have taken place. This apology possesses certain weight, as it is based upon known historical facts; yet when the general bearing of the Pharisee party towards our Lord during the greater part of his public ministry is remembered, it can scarcely be supposed that the action of the Sadducee majority in the Sanhedrin was repugnant to, or even opposed by, the Pharisee element in the great assembly. Pilate. Pontius Pilate, a Roman knight, owed his high position as Procurator of Judæa to his friendship with Sejanus, the powerful minister of the Emperor Tiberius. He probably belonged by birth or adoption to the gens of the Pontii. When Judæa became formally subject to the empire on the deposition of Archelaus, Pontius Pilate, of whose previous career nothing is known, through the interest of Sejanus, was appointed to govern it, with the title of procurator, or collector of the revenue, invested with judicial power. This was in A.D. 26, and he held the post for ten years, when he was deposed from his office in disgrace. His government of Judæa seems to have been singularly unhappy. His great patron Sejanus hated the Jews, and Pilate seems faithfully to have imitated his powerful friend. Constantly the Roman governor appears to have wounded the susceptibilities of the strange, unhappy people he was placed over. Fierce disputes, mutual insults arising out of apparently purposeless acts of arbitrary power on his side, characterized the period of his rule. His behaviour in the one great event of his life, when Jesus was brought before his tribunal, will illustrate his character. He was superstitious and yet cruel; afraid of the people he affected to despise; faithless to the spirit of the authority with which he was lawfully invested. In the great crisis of his history, from the miserably selfish motive of securing his own petty interests, we watch him deliberately giving up a Man, whom he knew to be innocent, and felt to be noble and pure, to torture, shame, and death.
Ver. 2.—And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. To understand this scene perfectly we must read St. John’s account in his eighteenth chapter (ver. 28 and following). From the place of meeting of the Sanhedrin, Jesus was led to the palace of Pilate, the Prætorium. The Roman governor was evidently prepared for the case; for application must have been made to him the evening before for the guard which arrested Jesus in Gethsemane. St. John tells us that the delegates of the Sanhedrin entered not into the hall of judgment, “lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.” Pilate, who knew well from his past experience how fiercely these fanatics resented any slight offered to their religious feelings, wishing for his own purposes to conciliate them, went outside. These Jews, prior to eating the Passover, would not enter any dwelling from which all leaven had not been carefully removed; of course, this had not been the case in the palace of Pilate. The governor asks them, in St. John’s account, what was their accusation against the Man. They replied that they had three charges: (1) he had perverted the nation; (2) he had forbidden that tribute should be given to Cæsar; (3) he had asserted that he was Christ a King.
Ver. 3.—And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? Pilate then went again into his judgment-hall, where he had left Jesus, but before going back he could not resist addressing an ironical word to the accusing Jews: “Take ye him, and judge him according to your Law” (John 18:31), to which the Sanhedrists replied that they were not allowed to put any man to death, thus publicly confessing the state of comparative impotence to which they were now reduced, and also revealing their deadly purpose in the case of Jesus. Pilate, having gone into the judgment-hall again, proceeds to interrogate Jesus. The first two accusations he passes over, seeing clearly that they were baseless. The third, however, struck him. Art thou, poor, friendless, powerless Man, the King I have been hearing about? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. St. Luke gives only this bare summary of the examination, in which the prisoner Jesus simply replies “Yes,” he was the King. St. John (18:33–38) gives us a more full and detailed account. It is more than probable that John was present during the interrogatory. In the sublime answers of the Lord, his words explanatory of the nature of his kingdom, which “is not of this world,” struck Pilate and decided him to give the reply we find in the next verse.
Ver. 4.—Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this Man. The Roman was interested in the poor Prisoner; perhaps he grudgingly admired him. He was so different to the members of that hated nation he had been brought into such familar contact with; utterly unselfish, noble with a strange nobility, which was quite unknown to officials and politicians of the school of Pilate; but as regards Rome and its views quite harmless. The Roman evidently was strongly opposed to harsh measures being dealt out to this dreamy, unpractical, generous Enthusiast, as he deemed him.
Vers. 5–12.—Pilate sends Jesus to be tried by Herod.
Ver. 5.—And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this pace. On hearing the Roman governor’s declaration that in his opinion the Prisoner was innocent, the Sanhedrists became more vehement, repeating with increased violence their accusation that Jesus had been for a long time past a persistent stirrer-up of sedition, not only here in the city, but in the northern districts of Galilee.
Vers. 6, 7.—When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the Man were a Galilæan. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. Now, Pilate dreaded lest these Jews should make his clemency towards the Prisoner a ground of accusation against him at Rome. Pilate had enemies in the capital. His once powerful patron Sejanus had just fallen. His own past, too, he was well aware, would not bear examination; so, moved by his cowardly fears, he refrained from releasing Jesus in accordance with what his heart told him was just and right; and yet he could not bring himself to condemn One to whom he was drawn by an unknown feeling of reverence and respect. But hearing that Jesus was accused among other things of stirring up sedition in Galilee, he thought he would shift the responsibility of acquitting or condemning, on to the shoulders of Herod, in whose jurisdiction Galilee lay. Herod was in Jerusalem just then, because of the Passover Feast. His usual residence was Capernaum.
Ver. 8.—And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. This was Herod Antipas, the slayer of John the Baptist. He was at that time living in open incest with that princess Herodias concerning whom the Baptist had administered the public rebuke which had led to his arrest and subsequent execution. Godet graphically sums up the situation: “Jesus was to Herod Antipas what a juggler is to a sated court—an object of curiosity. But Jesus did not lend himself to such a part; he had neither words nor miracles for a man so disposed, in whom, besides, he saw with horror the munderer of John the Baptist. Before this personage, a monstrous mixture of bloody levity and sombre superstition, he maintained a silence which even the accusation of the Sanhedrin (ver. 10) could not lead him to break. Herod, wounded and humiliated, took vengeance on this conduct by contempt.”
Ver. 11.—And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. He treated him, not as a criminal, but as a mischievous religious Enthusiast, worthy only of contempt and scorn. The “gorgeous robe,” more accurately, “bright raiment,” was a white festal mantle such as Jewish kings and Roman nobles wore on great occasions. It was probably an old robe of white tissue of some kind, embroidered with silver. Dean Plumptre suggests that we might venture to trace in this outrage a vindictive retaliation for the words which the Teacher had once spoken—with evident allusion to Herod’s court—of those who were gorgeously apparelled (ch. 7:25). It was this Herod of whom the Lord had spoken so recently with for him a rare bitterness, “Go ye, and tell that fox [literally, ‘she-fox’] Herod” (ch. 13:32).
Ver. 12.—And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together. This union of two such bitter enemies in their enmity against Jesus evidently struck the early Church with sad wonderment. It is referred to in the first recorded hymn of the Church of Christ (Acts 4:27). How often has the strange sad scene been reproduced in the world’s story since! Worldly men apparently irreconcilable meet together in friendship when opportunity offers itself for wounding Christ!
Vers. 13–25.—The Lord is tried again before Pilate, who wishes to release him, but, over-persuaded by the Jews, delivers him to be crucified.
Vers. 13–16.—And Pilate … said unto them … behold I … have found no fault in this Man … No, nor yet Herod: … lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him; more accurately rendered, is done by him. This was the Roman’s deliberate judgment publicly delivered. The decision then announced, that, he would scourge him (ver. 16), was singularly unjust and cruel. Pilate positively subjected a Man whom he had pronounced innocent to the horrible punishment of scourging, just to satisfy the clamour of the Sanhedrists, because he dreaded what they might accuse him of at Rome, where he knew he had enemies! He thought, wrongly as it turned out, that the sight of Jesus after he had undergone this dreadful and disgraceful punishment would satisfy, perhaps melt to pity, the hearts of these restless enemies of his.
Ver. 17.—(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) Probably, however, before the scourging was inflicted, the attempt to liberate Jesus in accordance with a custom belonging to that feast was made by Pilate. We know it failed, and a condemned robber called Barabbas was preferred by the people. The more ancient authorities omit this verse (17). It probably was introduced at an early period into many manuscripts of St. Luke as a marginal gloss, as an explanatory statement based on the words of Matt. 27:15 or of Mark 15:6. As a Hebrew custom, it is never mentioned save in this place. Such a release was a common incident of a Latin Lectisternium, or feast in honour of the gods. The Greeks had a similar custom at the Thesmophoria. It was probably introduced at Jerusalem by the Roman power.
Vers. 18, 19.—And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this Man! and release unto us Barabbas: (who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison). Barabbas, whose release the people demanded at the instigation of the influential men of the Sanhedrin, was a notable leader in one of the late insurrectionary movements so common at this time. St. John styles him a robber; this well describes the character of the man; a bandit chief who carried on his lawless career under the veil of patriotism, and was supported and protected in consequence by many of the people. The meaning of his name Bar-Abbas is “Son of a (famous) father,” or possibly Bar-Rabbas, “Son of a (famous) rabbi.” A curious reading is alluded to by Origen, which inserts before Barabbas the word “Jesus.” It does not, however, appear in any of the older or more trustworthy authorities. Jesus was a common name at that period, and it is possible that “when Barabbas was led out, the Roman, with some scorn, asked the populace whom they preferred—Jesus Bar-Abbas or Jesus who is called Christ!” (Farrar). That this reading existed in very early times is indisputable, and Origen, who specially notices it, approves of its omission, not on critical, but on dogmatic grounds.
Ver. 23.—And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. The Roman governor now found that all his devices to liberate Jesus with the consent and approval of the Jews were fruitless. After the clamour which resulted in the release of Barabbas had ceased, the terrible cry, “Crucify him!” was raised among that fickle crowd. Pilate was determined to carry out his threat of scourging the Innocent. That might satisfy them, perhaps excite their pity. Something whispered to him that he would be wise if he refrained from staining his life with the blood of that strange quiet Prisoner.

St. Luke omits here the “scourging;” the mock-homage of the soldiers; the scarlet robe and the crown of thorns; the last appeal to pity when Pilate produced the pale, bleeding Sufferer with the words, “Ecce Homo!” the last solemn interview of Pilate and Jesus, related by St. John; the sustained clamour of the people for the blood of the Sinless. “Then he delivered Jesus to their will” (ver. 25). (See Matt. 27, Mark. 15, and John 19, for these details, omitted in St. Luke.)
Of the omitted details, the most important piece in connection with the “last things” is the recital by St. John of the examination of Jesus by Pilate in the Prætorium. None of the Sanhedrists or strict Jews, we have noticed, were present at these interrogatories. They, we read, entered not into the judgment-hall of Pilate, lest they might be defiled, and so be precluded from eating the Passover Feast.
St. John, however, who appears to have been the most fearless of the “eleven,” and who besides evidently had friends among the Sanhedrin officials, was clearly present at these examinations. He too, we are aware, had eaten his Passover the evening before, and therefore had no defilement to fear.
The first interrogatories have been already alluded to, in the course of which the question, “Art thou a King, then?” was put by Pilate, and the famous reflection by the Roman, “What is truth?” was made. Then followed the “sending to Herod;” the return of the Prisoner from Herod; the offer of release, which ended in the choice by the people of Barabbas. The scourging of the prisoner Jesus followed.
This was a horrible punishment. The condemned person was usually stripped and fastened to a pillar or stake, and then scourged with leather throngs tipped with leaden balls or sharp spikes.
The effects, described by Romans, and Christians in the ‘Martyrdoms,’ were, terrible. Not only the muscles of the back, but the breast, the face, the eyes, were torn; the very entrails were laid bare, the anatomy was exposed, and the sufferer, convulsed with torture, was often thrown down a bloody heap at the feet of the judge. In our Lord’s case this punishment, though not proceeding to the awful consequences described in some of the ‘Martyrologies,’ must have been very severe: this is evident from his sinking under the cross, and from the short time which elapsed before his death upon it. “Recent investigations at Jerusalem have disclosed what may have been the scene of the punishment. In a subterranean chamber, discovered by Captain Warren, on what Mr. Fergusson holds to be the site of Antonia—Pilate’s Prætorium—stands a truncated column, no part of the construction, for the chamber is vaulted above the pillar, but just such a pillar as criminals would be tied to to be scourged” (Dr. Westcott).
After the cruel scourging came the mocking by the Roman soldiers. They threw across the torn and mangled shoulders one of those scarlet cloaks worn by the soldiers themselves—a coarse mockery of the royal mantle worn by a victorious general. They pressed down on his temples a crown or wreath, imitating what they had probably seen the emperor wear in the form of laurel wreath—Tiberius’s wreath of laurel was seen upon his arms (Suctonius, ‘Tiberius,’ c. 17). The crown was made, as an old tradition represents it, of the Zizyphus Christi, the nubk of the Arabs, a plant which is found in all the warmer parts of Palestine and about Jerusalem. The thorns are numerous and sharp, and the flexible twigs well adapted for the purpose (Tristram, ‘Natural History of the Bible,’ p. 429). “The representations in the great pictures of the Italian painters probably come very near the truth” (‘Speaker’s Commentary’).
In his right hand they placed a reed to simulate a sceptre, and before this sad, woebegone Figure “they bowed the knee, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!”
Hase (‘Geschichte Jesu,’ p. 573) is even moved to say, “There is some comfort in the fact that, even in the midst of the mockery, the truth made itself felt. Herod recognizes his innocence by a white robe; the Roman soldiery his royalty by the sceptre and the crown of thorns, and that has become the highest of all crowns, as was fitting, being the most meritorious.”
It was then and thus that Pilate led Jesus out before the Sanhedrists and the people, as they shouted in their unreasoning fury, “Crucify him!” while the Roman, partly sadly, partly scornfully, partly pitifully, as he pointed to the silent Sufferer by his side, pronounced “Ecce Homo!”
But the enemies of Jesus were pitiless. They kept on crying, “Crucify him!” and when Pilate still demurred carrying out their bloody purpose, they added that “by their Law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
All through that morning’s exciting scenes had Pilate seen that something strange and mysterious belonged to that solitary Man accused before him. His demeanour, his words, his very look, had impressed the Roman with a singular awe. Then came his wife’s message, telling him of her dream, warning her husband to have nothing to do with that just Man. Everything seemed to whisper to him,” Do not let that strange, innocent Prisoner be done to death: he is not what he seems.” And now the fact, openly published by the furious Jews, that the poor Accused claimed a Divine origin, deepened the awe. Who, then, had he been scourging?
Once more Pilate returns to his judgment-hall, and he says to Jesus, again standing before him, “Whence art thou?”
The result of this last interrogatory St. John (19:12) briefly summarizes in the words, “From thenceforth Pilate sought to release him.”
The Sanhedrists, and their blind instruments, the fickle, wavering multitude, when they perceived the Roman governor’s intention to release their Victim, changed their tactics. They forbore any longer to press the old charges of blasphemy and of indefinite wrong-doing, and they appealed only to Pilate’s own dastardly fears. The Prisoner claimed to be a King. If the lieutenant of the emperor let such a traitor go free, why, that lieutenant emphatically was not Cæsar’s friend!
Such a plea for the Sanhedrin to use before a Roman tribunal, to ask for death to be inflicted on a Jew because he had injured the majesty of Rome, was a deep degradation; but the Sanhedrin well knew the temper of the Roman judge with whom they had to deal, and they rightly calculated that his fears for himself, if properly aroused, would turn the scale and secure the condemnation of Jesus. They were right.

Ver. 24.—And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. This sums up the result of the last charge of the Sanhedrin. Pilate’s selfish fears for himself overpowered all sense of reverence, awe, and justice. There was no further discussion. Bar-Abbas was released, and Jesus was delivered up to the will of his enemies.
Vers. 26–32.—On the way to Calvary. Simon the Cyrenian. The daughters of Jerusalem.
Ver. 26.—And as they led him away. Plutarch tells us that every criminal condemned to crucifixion carried his own cross. There was borne in front of him, or else hung round his own neck, a white tablet, on which the crime for which he suffered was inscribed. Possibly this was what was afterwards affixed to the cross itself. Simon, a Cyrenian. Cyrene was an important city in North Africa, with a large colony of resident Jews. These Cyrenian Jews had a synagogue of their own in Jerusalem. It is probable that Simon was a Passover pilgrim. St. Mark tells us he was the father of “Alexander and Rufus;” evidently, from his mention of them, these were notable persons in the early Christian Church. Very likely their connection with the followers of Jesus dated from this incident on the road to Calvary. Coming out of the country. He was probably one of the pilgrims lodged in a village near Jerusalem, and met the sad procession as he was entering the city on his way to the temple. On him they laid the cross. Our Lord was weakened by the trouble and agitation of the past sleepless night, and was, of course, faint and utterly exhausted from the effects of the terrible scourging. The cross used for this mode of execution was (1) either the Crux decussata , what is usually known as St. Andrew’s cross; or (2) the Crux commissa , St. Anthony’s cross; or (3) the ordinary Roman cross , Crux immissa. Our Lord suffered on the third description, the Roman cross. This consisted of two pieces, the one perpendicular (staticulum), the other horizontal (antenna). About the middle of the first was fastened a piece of wood (sedile), on which the condemned rested. This was necessary, else, during the long torture, the weight of the body would have torn the hands, and the body would have fallen. The cross was not very high, scarcely twice the height of an ordinary man. Strong nails were driven through the hands and feet. The victim usually lived about twelve hours, sometimes much longer. The agonies endured by the crucified have been thus summarized: “The fever which soon set in produced a burning thirst. The increasing inflammation of the wounds in the back, hands, and feet; the congestion of the blood in the head, lungs, and heart; the swelling of every vein, an indescribable oppression, racking pains in the head; the stiffness of the limbs, caused by the unnatural position of the body;—these all united to make the punishment, in the language of Cicero (‘In Verr.,’ v. 64), crudelissimum teterrimumque supplicium. From the beginning Jesus had foreseen that such would be the end of his life.”
Ver. 27.—And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. The great company was made up of the usual concourse of curious lookers-on, of disciples, and others who had heard him in past days, and now came, with much horror, to see the end. The women specially noticed consisted mostly, no doubt, of holy women of his own company, such as the “Maries,” together with some of those kindly Jerusalem ladies who were in the habit of soothing the last hours of these condemned ones—unhappily in those sad days so numerous—with narcotics and anodynes. These kindly offices were apparently not forbidden by the Roman authorities. This recital respecting the women is peculiar to St. Luke.
Ver. 28.—But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem. This address to them by the Lord indicates that the majority at least of this company of sympathizing women belonged to the holy city. Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. Again here, as on the cross, the utter unselfishness of the dying Master comes out. His thoughts in his darkest hour were never of himself. Here, apparently, for the first time since his last interrogation before Pilate does our Lord break silence. Stier beautifully calls this the first part of the Passion sermon of Christ. The second part consisted of the “seven words on the cross.” “Weep,” said our Lord here. It is noticeable that it is the only time in his public teaching that he is reported to have told his listeners to weep. “The same lips whose gracious breath had dried so many tears now cry on the way to the cross, ‘Weep for yourselves, and for your children.’ ”
Ver. 29.—Blessed are the barren. A strange beatitude to be spoken to the women of Israel, who, through all their checkered history, so passionately longed that this barrenness might not be their portion!
Ver. 30.—Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. The allusion, in the first place, was to the awful siege of Jerusalem and to the undreamed-of woes which would accompany it; and in the second place, to the centuries of misery and persecution to which the children of these “daughters of Jerusalem” would, as Jews, be subjected in all lands.
Ver. 31.—For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? Bleek and others interpret this saying here thus: The green wood represents Jesus condemned to crucifixion as a traitor in spite of his unvarying loyalty to Rome and all lawful Gentile power. The dry wood pictures the Jews, who, ever disloyal to Rome and all Gentile authority, will bring on themselves with much stronger reason the terrible vengeance of the great conquering empire. Theophylact, however, better explains the saying in his paraphrase, “If they do these things in me, fruitful, always green, undying through the Divinity, what will they do to you, fruitless, and deprived of all life-giving righteousness?” So Farrar, who well summarizes, “If they act thus to me, the Innocent and the Holy, what shall be the fate of these, the guilty and false?”
Ver. 32.—And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. Many commentators suppose that these were companions of that Bar-Abbas the robber who had just been released. They were not ordinary thieves, but belonged to those companies of brigands, or revolted Jews, which in those troublous times were so numerous in Palestine.
Vers. 33–49.—The Crucifixion.
Ver. 33.—And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary; literally, unto the place which is called the skull. The familiar name “Calvary” has its origin in the Vulgate translation, Calvarium, a skull. The name “Place of a skull,” Golgotha (properly Gulgoltha, an Aramaic word גלגלחא, corresponding to the Hebrew Gulgoleth, גלגלת, which in Judg. 9:53 and 2 Kings 9:35 is translated “skull”), does not come from the fact that the skulls of condemned persons remained lying there, but it is so called from being a bare rounded mound like a skull in form. Dean Plumptre suggests that the spot in question was chosen by the Jewish rulers as a deliberate insult to one of their own order, Joseph of Arima-thæa, whose garden, with its rock-sepulchre, lay hard by. A later legend derives the name from its being the burying-place of Adam, and that as the blood flowed from the sacred wounds on his skull, his soul was translated to Paradise. A tradition traceable to the fourth century has identified this spot with the building known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. St. Cyril of Jerusalem alludes to the spot repeatedly. In the time of Eusebius there; was no doubt as to the site. The Bordeaux Pilgrim (A.D. 333) writes thus: “On the left side (of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is the hillock (monticulus) Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. Thence about a stone-throw distance is the crypt where his body was deposited.” Recent research confirms this very ancient tradition, and scholars are generally now agreeing that the evidence in support of the traditional site is strong and seemingly conclusive. And the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. St. John adds, “and Jesus in the midst,” as holding the position of preeminence in that scene of uttermost shame. Even in suffering Christ appears as a King. Westcott thus comments on the next detail recorded by St. John (19:19), where the accurate rendering is, “And Pilate wrote a title also.” This title (see further, ver. 38) was drawn up by Pilate, who caused it to be placed on the cross. The words, “wrote a title also,” perhaps imply that the placing of the Lord in the midst was done by Pilate’s direction.
Ver. 34.—Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. These words are missing in some of the oldest authorities. They are found, however, in the majority of the most ancient manuscripts and in the most trustworthy of the old versions, and are undoubtedly genuine. These first of the seven words from the cross seem, from their position in the record, to have been spoken very early in the awful scene, probably while the nails were being driven into the hands and feet. Different from other holy dying men, he had no need to say, “Forgive me.” Then, as always, thinking of others, he utters this prayer, uttering it, too, as Stier well observes, with the same consciousness which had been formerly expressed, “Father, I know that thou hearest me always.” “His intercession has this for its ground, though in meekness it is not expressed: ‘Father, I will that thou forgive them.” In the same sublime consciousness who he was, he speaks shortly after to the penitent thief hanging by his side. These words of the crucified Jesus were heard by the poor sufferer close to him; they—with other things he had noticed in the One crucified in the midst—moved him to that piteous prayer which was answered at once so quickly and so royally. St. Bernard comments thus on this first word from the cross: “Judæi clamant, ‘Crucifige!’ Christus clamat, ‘Ignosce!’ Magna illorum iniquitas, sed major tua, O Domine, pietas!” And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. The rough soldiers were treating the Master as already dead, and were disposing of his raiment, of which they had stripped him before fastening him to the cross. He was hanging there naked, exposed to sun and wind. Part of this raiment was torn asunder part they drew lots for to see who was to wear it. The garments of the crucified became the property of the soldiers who carried out the sentence. Every cross was guarded by a guard of four soldiers. The coat, for which they cast lots, was, St. John tells us, without seam. “Chrysostom,” who may have written from personal knowledge, thinks that the detail is added to show “the poorness of the Lord’s garments, and that in dress, as in all other things, he followed a simple fashion.”
Ver. 35.—And the people stood beholding. A hush seems to have fallen over the scene. The crowd of by-standers were awed as they at first silently gazed on the dying form of the great Teacher. What memories must have surged up in the hearts of many of the gazers—memories of his parables, his mighty miracles, his words of love; memories of the raising of Lazarus, and of the day of palms! Such a silent awe-struck contemplation was dangerous, the rulers felt, so they hastened to commence their mockery—“to clear,” as Stier remarks, “the stifling air, and deafen the voice which was stirring even in themselves.” “Look now,” they would cry, “at the end of the Man who said he could do, and pretended to do, such strange, unheard-of things!” They seem soon to have induced many to join in their mocking cries and gestures, and so to break the awful silence.
Ver. 36.—And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar. Three times in the Crucifixion scene we find a mention of this vinegar, or the sour wine of the country, the common drink of the soldiers and others, being offered to the Sufferer. (1) Matt. 27:34. This was evidently a draught prepared with narcotics and stupefying drugs, no doubt by some of those compassionate women addressed by him on his way to the cross as “daughters of Jerusalem,” a common work of mercy at that time, and one apparently permitted by the guards. This, St. Matthew tells us, “he tasted of,” no doubt in courteous recognition of the kindly purpose of the act, but he refused to do more than taste of it. He would not dull the sense of pain, or cloud the clearness of his communion with his Father in that last awful hour. (2) The second, mentioned here by St. Luke, seems to imply that the soldiers mocked his agony of thirst—one of the tortures induced by crucifixion—by lifting up to his parched, fevered lips, vessels containing their sour wine, and then snatching them hastily away. (3) The third (John 19:28–30) relates that there the Lord, utterly exhausted, asked for and received this last refreshment, which revived, for a very brief space, his fast failing powers, and gave him strength for his last utterances. The soldiers, perhaps acting under the orders of the compassionate centurion in command, perhaps touched with awe by the brave patience and strange dignity of the dying Lord, did him this last kindly office.
Ver. 38.—And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. The older authorities omit “in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew,”but the fact is indisputable, for we read the same statement in John 19:20, where in the older authorities the order of the titles is, “in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.” Such multilingual inscriptions were common in the great provincial cities of the empire, where so many nationalities were wont to congregate. The four reports of the inscriptions slightly differ verbally, not substantially. Pilate probably (see note on ver. 33, on effect of accurate rendering of John 19:19, “and Pilate wrote a title also”) wrote a rough draft with his own hand, “Rex Judæorum hic est.” One of the officials translated freely into Hebrew and Greek the Roman governor’s Latin memorandum of what he desired to have written in black on the white gypsum-smeared board to be affixed to the upper arm of the cross.

ישו הנצרי מלך היהודים (John).
Ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων (Mark).
Rex Judæorum hic est (Luke).

Dr. Farrar suggets that the title over the cross was as above. St. Matthew’s is an accurate combination of the three, and was not improbably, as a combination of the three inscriptions, the common form reproduced in the first oral Gospel.
Vers. 39, 40.—And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God? In the first two synoptists we read how, shortly after they were nailed to their crosses, both thieves “reviled” Jesus. The Greek word, however, used by SS. Matthew and Mark is ὠνείδιζον (reproached). The word used by St. Luke in this place of the impenitent one is ἐβλασφήμει, “began to use injurious and insulting language”—a much stronger term. Farrar suggests that at first, during the early hours of the Crucifixion, in the madness of anguish and despair, they both probably joined in the reproaches levelled by all classes alike at One who might seem to them to have thrown away a great opportunity They, no doubt, knew something, possibly much, of Jesus’ career, and how he had deliberately prevented more than once the multitude from proclaiming him King. Watching him as he hung bravely patient on his cross, only breaking the dread silence with a low-muttered prayer for his murderers to his Father, one of these misguided men changed his opinion of his fellow-Sufferer, changed his opinion, too, of his own past career. There, dying with a prayer for others on his lips, was the Example of true heroism, of real patriotism. If thou be Christ. The more ancient authorities read, Art thou not the Christ? But the other. In the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus the names of the two are given as Dysmas and Gysmas, and these names appear still in Calvaries and stations in Roman Catholic lands. Seeing thou art in the same condemnation. His words might be paraphrased, “How canst thou, a dying man, join these mere lookers-on at our execution and agony? we are undergoing it ourselves. Dost thou not fear God? In a few hours we shall be before him. We have at all events deserved our doom; but not this Sufferer whom you revile. What has he done?”
Ver. 42.—And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. The majority of the older authorities omit “Lord.” The translation should run thus: And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom—in, not into. The penitent looked forward to the dying Jesus coming again in (arrayed in) his kingly dignity, surrounded with his power and glory. Very touching is this confidence of the dying in the Dying One who was hanging by his side, his last garment taken from him; very striking is this trust of the poor penitent, that the forsaken Lord will one day appear again as King in his glory. He, and he alone, on that dread day read aright the superscription which mocking Pilate had fixed above the cross, “This is the King of the Jews.” He read “with Divine clear sightedness in this deepest night” (Krummacher). He asks for no special place in that kingdom whose advent he sees clearly approaching; he only asks the King not to forget him then. On this knowledge of the thief concerning the second advent of Christ, Meyer well writes, “The thief must have become acquainted with the predictions of Jesus concerning his coming, which may very easily have been the case at Jerusalem, and does not directly presuppose any instructions on the part of Jesus; although he may also have heard him himself, and still remembered what he heard. The extraordinary character of his painful position in the very face of death produced as a consequence an extraordinary action of firm faith in those predictions.”
Ver. 43.—And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise. No strengthening angel could have been more welcome to the dying Redeemer than these words of intense penitence and strong faith. Very beautifully Stier suggests that the crucified King “cannot see these two criminals, cannot direct his glance to this last without adding to his own agony by movement upon the cross. But that he forgets, and turns with an impulse of joy as well as he can to the soul that speaks to him, thus making the nails more firm.” With those solemn words, “Verily I say unto thee,” with which he had so often in old days begun his sacred sayings, he replied to the sufferer by his side. One at least, St. John, of his disciples would have heard the well-known words from the well known voice. What memories must they not have recalled to that disciple whom Jesus loved, as he stood hard by the cross with the Mother of sorrows! The Lord’s answer was very striking. Remember him, who could call on him with such reverent faith at the moment of his deepest humiliation! Remember him! yes; but not in the far-off “coming,” but on that very day, before the sun then scorching their tortured bodies set; he would not be remembered by him only, but would be in closest companionship with him, not, as he prayed, in some far-off time in the midst of the awful tumult of the bloody and fiery dawn of the judgment advent, but almost directly in the fair garden, the quiet home of the blessed, the object of all Jewish hopes. There would he be remembered, and there, in company with his Lord, would the tortured condemned find himself in a few short hours. Are we right in thinking that there was no fulfilment of the words till death had released the spirit from its thraldom? May there not even then have been an ineffable joy, such as made the flames of the fiery furnace to be as a “moist, whistling wind” (Song of the Three Children, ver. 27), such as martyrs have in a thousand cases known, acting almost as a physical anæsthetic acts? (Dean Plumptre).

“Non parem Paulo veniam requiro,
Gratiam Petri neque posco, sed quam
In crucis ligno dederis latroni
Sedulus oro.”

This striking verse is engraved on the tomb of the great Copernicus, and alludes to this prayer and its answer. Paradise. This is the only instance we have of our Lord’s using this well-known word. In the ordinary language used by the Jews, of the unseen world, it signifies the “Garden of Eden,” or “Abraham’s bosom;” it represented the locality where the souls of the righteous would find a home, after death separated soul and body. The New Testament writers, Luke and Paul and John, use it (Acts 2:31; 1 Cor. 15:5; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7). To Luke and Paul, probably, this was a memory of the word spoken on the cross, which they alone record in their Gospel. It may have been told Luke by the Mother of sorrows herself. John, who uses it in his Revelation, doubtless heard it himself as he stood at the foot of the cross. Paradeisos is derived from the Persian word pardes, which signifies a park or garden.
Ver. 44.—The time of the Crucifixion. And it was about the sixth hour. We have before given (see note on ch. 22:47) the approximate hours of the several acts of the last night and day. This verse gives us the time of the duration of the “darkness”—from the sixth to the ninth hour; that is in our reckoning, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. With this date the other two synoptists agree (comp. Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33). Our Lord had then been on the cross three hours (see Mark 15:25, where it is stated that he was crucified in the third hour, i.e. 9 a.m.). But while the three synoptists are in perfect harmony, we are met with a grave difficulty in St. John’s account, for in ch. 19:14 of his Gospel we read how the final condemnation of our Lord by Pilate took place about the sixth hour. At first sight, to attempt here to harmonize St. John with the three synoptists would seem a hopeless task, as St. John apparently gives the hour of the final condemnation by Pilate, which the three give as the hour when the darkness began, i.e. when the Sufferer had already hung on the cross for three hours. Various explanations have been suggested; among these the most satisfying and probable is the supposition that, while the three synoptists followed the usual Jewish mode of reckoning time, St. John, writing some half a century later in quite another country, possibly twenty years after Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed, and the Jewish polity had disappeared, adopted another mode of reckoning the hours, thus following, probably, a practice of the province in which he was living, and for which he was especially writing. Dr. Westcott, in an additional note on John 19:14, examines the four occasions on which St. John mentions a definite hour of the day; and comes to the conclusion that the fourth evangelist generally reckoned his hours from midnight. The Romans reckoned their civil days from midnight, and there are also traces of reckoning the hours from midnight in Asia Minor. “About the sixth hour” would then be about six a.m. Before touching upon the strange darkness which at the sixth hour seems to have hung over the land like a black pall, we note that somewhere in the first three hours, possibly after the words spoken to the dying penitent, must be placed the incident of the entrusting the virgin mother to St. John (19:25, etc.). There is no doubt that on the surface of this, his third word from the cross, lay a loving desire to spare his mother the sight of his last awful suffering. Hence his command to John to watch over from henceforth the mother of his Lord. We may assume, then, that, in obedience to his Master’s word, John led Mary away before the sixth hour. So Bengel, who comments here, “Great is the faith of Mary to be present at the cross; great was her submission to go away before his death.” And there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. St. Matthew gives us additional particulars respecting this phenomenon. He says that besides this darkness there was also an earthquake, and that several graves were opened, and the dead during those hours of solemn gloom appeared to many in the holy city. Early Christian writers of high authority, such as Tertullian (‘Apol.,’ ch. 21) and Origin (‘Contra Cels.,’ ii. 33), appeal to this strange phenomenon as if attested by heathen writers. It was evidently no slight or imaginary portent, but one that was well known in the early Christian years. The narrative does not oblige us to think of anything more than an indescribable and oppressive darkness, which like a vast black pall hung over earth and sea. The effect on the scoffing multitude was quickly perceptible. We hear of no more cries of mocking and derision; only just at the end of the three dark hours is the silence broken by the mysterious and awful cry of the Sinless One related by SS. Matthew and Mark, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Godet’s comment is remarkable: “The darkness, the rending of the veil of the temple, the earthquake, and the opening of several graves, are explained by the profound connection existing on the one side between Christ and humanity, on the other between humanity and nature. Christ is the Soul of humanity, as humanity is the soul of the external world.” The darkness, he suggests, was perhaps connected with the earthquake with which it was accompanied, or it may have resulted from an atmospherical or cosmical cause. The phenomenon need not necessarily have extended over all the earth; it probably was confined to Palestine and the adjacent countries.
Ver. 45.—And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. This was the inner veil, which hung between the holy place and the holy of holies. It was rich with costly embroidery, and very heavy. Before the willing surrender of life told of in the next vers (46), our Lord spoke twice more. These fifth and sixth words from the cross are preserved by St. John (19:28, 30). The first of these, “I thirst”—an expression of bodily exhaustion, of physical suffering—was predicted as part of the agony of the Servant of God (Ps. 69:21). The second, “It is finished!” tells that “the earthly life had been carried to its issue. That every essential point in the prophetic portraiture of Messiah had been realized. The last suffering for sin had been endured. The end of all had been gained. Nothing was left undone or unborne” (Westcott).
Ver. 46.—And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said. This is better rendered, and Jesus cried with a loud voice and said. The cry with the loud voice is the solemn dismissal of his spirit when he commended it to his Father. The object of the receiving the refreshment of the vinegar—the sour wine (John 19:30)—was that his natural forces, weakened by the long suffering, should be restored sufficiently for him to render audible the last two sayings—the “It is finished!” of St. John, and the commending his soul to his Father, of St. Luke. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. St. John (19:30) has related now already Jesus had uttered the triumphal cry, Τετέλεσται! “It is finished!” This was his farewell to earth. St. Luke records the words which seem almost immediately to have followed the “It is finished!” This commending his spirit to his Father has been accurately termed his entrance greeting to heaven. This placing his spirit as a trust in the Father’s hands is, as Stier phrases it, an expression of the profoundest and most blessed repose after toil. “It is finished!” has already told us that the struggling and combat were sealed and closed for ever. Doctrinally it is a saying of vast importance; for it emphatically asserts that the soul will exist apart from the body in the hands of God. This at least is its proper home. The saying has been echoed on many a sainty death-bed. Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, in his great agony shows us the form of this blessed prayer we should properly use for ourselves at that supreme hour, when he asked the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit, and then fell asleep. Thus coming to the Son, we come through him to the Father. Huss, on his way to the stake, when his enemies were triumphantly giving over his soul to devils, said with no less theological accuracy than with sure, calm faith, “But I commit my spirit into thy hand, O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast redeemed it.” And having said thus, he gave up the ghost. This setting his spirit free was his own voluntary act. He had already told his disciples of his own independent power to lay down and take up his life (John 10:17, 18). The great teachers of the early Church evidently lay stress on this (see Tertullian, ‘Apol.,’ ch. 21). Augustine’s words are striking: “Quis ita dormit quando voluerit, sicut Jesus mortuus est quando voluit? Quis ita vestem ponit quando voluerit, sicut se carne exuit quando vult? Quis ita cum voluerit abit, quomodo ille cum voluit obiit?” and he ends with this practical conclusion: “Quanta speranda vel timenda potestas est judicantis, si apparuit tanta morientis?” “Under these circumstances,” writes Dr. Westcott, “it may not be fitting to speculate on the physical cause of the Lord’s death, but it has been argued that the symptoms agree with a rupture of the heart, such as might be produced by intense mental agony.”
Ver. 47.—Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man. This was the Roman officer who was in command of the detachment on guard at the three crosses. St. Paul—who, if he did not absolutely put together the Third Gospel and the Acts, had much to do with the compilation and arrangement of these writings—on his many journeys and frequent changes of residence in different parts of the empire, had many opportunities of judging the temper and spirit of the Roman army, and on several occasions speaks favourably of these officers (ch. 7:2; 23:47; Acts 10:1; 22:26; 27:43). Certainly this was a righteous Man. The noble generosity, the brave patience, and the strange majesty of the Sufferer; the awful portents which for three hours had accompanied this scene—portents which the centurion and many of the bystanders could not help associating with the crucifixion of him men called “the King of the Jews;” then the death, in which appeared no terror;—all this drew forth the exclamation of the Roman. In St. Matthew, the words of the centurion which are reported are “the Son of God.” Twice in those solemn hours had the centurion heard the Crucified pray to his Father. This may have suggested the words, “Son of God;” but this change in the later Gospel of St. Luke to “a righteous Man” seems to point to the sense in which the Roman used the lofty appellation.
Ver. 48.—And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. We must remember that the condemnation of the Christ was no spontaneous deed of the multitude. Their miserable share in the act was suggested to them by their rulers. In the multitude very quickly revulsion of feeling sets in, and they often regret the past with a bitter, useless regret. The wave of sorrow which seems to have swept across those wavering, unstable hearts, which induced them to smite their breasts in idle regret, was a dim and shadowy rehearsal of the mighty sorrow and true penitence which will one day, as their prophet told them, be the blessed lot of the once-loved people when “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son” (Zech. 12:10).
Ver. 49.—Stood afar off. Disciples open and secret, friends and acquaintances among the Jerusalem citizens and Galilæan pilgrims (with the exception of the little group of which Mary and John were the centre till the dying Lord bade them leave him), all alike lacked courage and devotion, all feared to stand by their Master and Friend at that awful season. He trod the winepress alone (see Isa. 63:3). None possessed the heroic faith which through the sombre cloud of seeming failure could see the true glory of the Sun of Righteousness, which so soon was to arise and shine.

Vers. 50–56.—The entombment. The sequence of events which immediately followed the death of Christ appears to have been as follows.
Our Lord expired apparently soon after 3 p.m. The “even” alluded to by St. Matthew and St. Mark began at 3 p.m. and lasted till sunset, about 6 p.m., when the sabbath commenced. Some time, then, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Joseph of Arimathæa went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. The governor was surprised, not at the request, but at hearing that Jesus was dead already (Mark 15:44), and, to assure himself of the fact, sent to inquire of the centurion on duty at the crosses. Somewhere about the same time, probably a little later in the “evening,” but still before 6 p.m., the Jews, i.e. the Sanhedrin leaders, came to Pilate with a request that the death of the three crucified might be hastened by their legs being broken, in order that their bodies hanging on the crosses might not pollute the very sacred day which followed. (It would be the sabbath, and the day of the Passover.)
This terrible, but perhaps merciful, end to the tortures of the cross seems not to have been uncommon in Jewish crucifixion inflicted by the Roman authority.
Crucifixion with this and all its attendant horrors was abolished by the first Christian emperor Constantine in the fourth century.
The two thieves apparently expired under this treatment. The soldiers, however, when they looked on the form hanging on the central cross, found the Crucified, as we know, dead already. To make sure of this, one of the executioners thrust his spear deeply into the side of the motionless body of Jesus, “and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:33, 34). Upon this, in accordance with the permission of the governor already obtained, the body of the Lord was delivered to Joseph of Arimathæa and his friends.

Vers. 50, 51.—And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathæa. This Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, a personage of high distinction in Jerusalem, and evidently of great wealth. It is especially mentioned that his vote in the supreme council was not given when the death of Jesus was determined on. Nicodemus and his costly offering of spices for the entombment is only mentioned by St. John (19:39). Arimathæa, the place whence this Joseph came, is famous in Jewish history, being identical with Ramathaim Zophim, the “Ramah of the watchers,” the native town of Samuel. Each evangelist speaks of Joseph in high terms, and each in his own way. “Luke styles him ‘a counsellor, good and just;’ he is the καλὸς κᾀγαθός, the Greek ideal. Mark calls him ‘an honourable counsellor,’ the Roman ideal. Matthew writes of him as ‘a rich man:’ is not this the Jewish ideal?” (Godet). And St. John, we might add, chooses another title for this loved man, “being a disciple of Jesus:” this was St. John’s ideal. In Joseph of Arimathæa and Nicodemus we have specimens of a class of earnest and devout Jews, perhaps not uncommon at that time—men who respected and admired our Lord as a Teacher, and half believed in him as the Messiah (the Christ), and yet from many mixed and various motives shrank from confessing him before men till after the cross had been endured. It was not only the Resurrection which so enormously increased the number and raised the character of the followers of Jesus. When he was gone, men reflected on the inimitable life, on the deep, heart-searching teaching, on the confirmatory works of power; and when the news of the Resurrection came, the little wavering, half-hearted band of followers and hearers became in a few months a great host, and in a few years they had spread over the then civilized world. There is a strange but interesting tradition which tells how this Joseph of Arimathæa came to Great Britain about A.D. 63, and settled in Glastonbury, and there erected a humble Christian oratory, the first in England. The miraculous thorn of Glastonbury, long supposed to bud and blossom every Christmas Day, was reported to have sprung from the staff which Joseph stuck in the ground as he stopped to rest himself on the hill-top.
Ver. 53.—And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen. The last sad rites of love seem all to have been performed by friendly hands. Joseph and Nicodemus, and those with them, reverently took down the pierced and bleeding body; then, after the usual ablution, the sacred head was covered with the napkin, the soudarion (St. John), and the holy body was wrapped tenderly and carefully in broad bands of the finest linen, covered with thick layers of the costly aromatic preparation of which Nicodemus had laid up such ample store (St. John). This was to preserve the loved remains of the Master from any corruption which might set in before they could proceed with the process of embalming, which was delayed necessarily until after the sabbath and Passover day were passed. St. John adds, “as the manner of the Jews is to bury,” probably marking the Jewish custom of embalming and thus preserving the body, as contrasted with burning, which was the Roman usage. And laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone. St. John tells us the sepulchre was in a garden. This seems not to have been an unusual practice with “the great” among the Jews. Josephus relates of Kings Uzziah and Manasseh that they were buried in their gardens (‘Ant.,’ ix. 10 and x. 3. 2). “He made his grave with the rich” (Isa. 53:9). Wherein never man before was laid. St. John styles it “a new sepulchre.” These details are given to show that the Lord’s sacred body was not brought into contact with corruption.
Ver. 54.—And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. It was the preparation for the sabbath, but more especially for the great Passover Feast. St. John, for this reason, calls the coming sabbath “a high day.” Drew on; literally began to dawn; although the sabbath began at sunset, the whole time of darkness was regarded as anticipatory of the dawn. The evening of Friday was sometimes even called “the daybreak.”
Vers. 55, 56—And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. The real process of embalming, the women who were of the company of Jesus—the Maries, Salome, and others—proposed to undertake as soon as the sabbath was passed, that is, on the first day of the coming week—the Sunday. How little even his nearest and dearest friends dreamed of a resurrection of the body! It seems probable that they expected, at least some of them, a glorious reappearance of Jesus, but when, but how, they had evidently formed no definite conception. None, however, seemed to have thought of the bodily resurrection which took place on the first day of the week—on that Sunday morning. St. Matthew (27:62–66) relates how, after the entombment, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and asked that the sepulchre might, “until the third day,” be made sure; and how the Roman governor bade them take such precautions as seemed good to them. These—his bitter opponents—were more clearsighted than his friends. They had some dim fears of something which might still follow, while his disciples, in their hopeless sorrow, thought all was over. And rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. “It was the last sabbath of the old covenant. It was scrupulously respected” (Godet).

Vers. 47–56.—Friday night until Sunday morning. “It is finished!” But there are witnesses to the solemnity of the moment and the significance of the word, whose testimony gives weight to the voice of conscience. The rumble and reel of the earthquake are felt. When “the loud voice” is uttered, the veil which separates the most holy from the holy place is torn in two; an ominous darkness covers the city; there is a crash as of rending rocks and opening tombs, and strange forms, as of those who were dead, flit before the vision. Three hours are marked by portents (vers. 44, 45), beneath whose impression even the officer in charge of the Roman soldiery exclaims (ver. 47), “Certainly this was a righteous Man. He must have been a Son of God.” And when, besides, the multitude, hushed and solemnized, gazes on the countenance now calm and still in the repose of death, and the recollection of the life so pure and noble becomes vivid in the mind, the reaction from intense excitement sets in, and (ver. 48) smiting on their breasts in unavailing sorrow, they steal away from the scene of death. Only two groups remain—the soldiers, who must watch until the crucified are dead, and their bodies are removed; and “the acquaintance of Jesus, and the women who had followed him from Galilee, far off, in speechless amazement beholding these things” (ver. 49). All that remains is the burial. He whose cross was erected between the malefactors is dead. The priests and scribes had begged that the closing act of the death by crucifixion, that called the crucifragium—the smiting or breaking of the legs—might be hastened and the corpses removed, so that no offence to decency might be felt on the high day, “the double sabbath,” at hand. Pilate had acceded to the request; and the forms of the two malefactors had been smitten. Not the form of Jesus. No spark of life, it was said, remained. Only, to make assurance sure, a spear is thrust into the side; the spear, it may be, pierced the pericardium of the heart, or that had already been ruptured; anyhow, a mixture of blood and water flows out. St. John is emphatic as to this, no doubt to silence the suggestion that Jesus had only seemed to die, or that the seeming death had been only a swoon. No, says the evangelist (John 19:35), “I saw it myself.” It is the symbolic meaning of that effusion which we set before us when we sing—

“Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure—
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”

Is the Lord buried in the sepulchre reserved for those who had been doomed to capital punishment? No. Here there comes into view the beautiful and striking incident recorded in vers. 50–53. And, in connection with it, we light on a word which is used at the hour when we should least have expected to find it. One of the Sanhedrists—a man universally esteemed for piety and prudence—Joseph of Arimathæa—had not consented to the counsel and deed of his colleagues. Hitherto he had never dared to avow the attraction which he felt. Why should he now risk his reputation, it may be his life, by an acknowledgment which he had withheld in his earlier days? Every dictate of worldly wisdom bade him be wholly silent. What do we read in Mark 15:43? It is the death of Christ that dispels the fear, that at last prompts to decision. He goes in boldly to Pilate, and craves the body of Jesus. And the demand of the senator is granted. And as he bears away the sacred frame, he is joined by another (John 19:39), the Nicodemus of whom we read at the beginning of the ministry (John 3), who brings with him a princely offering of myrrh and aloes. The reverent and loving hands thus joined together wrap the body (ver. 53) in linen, and hastily and partially embalm it, laying it in the tomb which Joseph had scooped out for himself as his own last resting-place. What happened between this time and the third, the appointed day? Let us ask, first, What, as it concerns our Lord? secondly, What, as it concerns the disciples? and, thirdly, What, as it concerns the world which crucified him?
I. WHAT HAPPENED AS IT CONCERNS OUR LORD? Two or three words give us some hints concerning our Lord after his death and before the Resurrection. First, his own assurance given to Mary on the resurrection-day (John 20:17), “I am not yet ascended to my Father.” The place and condition into which he passed, in dying, were intermediate between the life on earth and the life in glory. He was not then, as the Man Jesus, in the glory of the Father. And, as bearing on this, we further recall the promise to the dying malefactor (ver. 43). “Lord, remember me,” he had said, “when thou comest into thy kingdom.” “To-day,” was the reply, “shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Paradise, then, received the soul of Christ. Thither he bore with him the one who, in penitence and faith, had cast himself on his mercy. And Paradise meant the region in the under-world of the dead set apart for the faithful as their rest until the resurrection—a blessedness real, though incomplete; a garden with the tree of life in it, but not the full enjoyment of the beatific vision. This is the meaning of the clause in the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into hell,” i.e. into Hades, the state of the dead. It is true that this clause has not the antiquity which may be claimed for other clauses; but it expresses the belief of all times that our Lord submitted to the conditions of the holy dead—that he was truly and verily numbered among them. The soul was actually in Hades, or Sheôl. What part in the great redemptive work was fulfilled by this descent? Had he a ministry in this short but significant period? There is a passage in 1 Peter too obscure to allow of being pressed as an answer to this question, but suggestive of interesting lines of thought (1 Pet. 3:18–20). To many it has seemed that the preaching to the spirits in prison mentioned there was the work of the Hades-state; that he proclaimed his gospel to those who were kept in ward—not the righteous only, but those who were disobedient, e.g. the antediluvian generations to which Noah had preached in vain. And the inference drawn from this view of the passage has appeared “to throw light on one of the darkest enigmas of Divine justice—the cases where the final doom seems infinitely out of proportion to the lapse which has incurred it.” No argument can be built on a passage whose interpretation is doubtful; but the exposition hinted at falls in with convictions which have been cherished from the time of the apostles. We are, at all events, on solid Scripture ground when we suppose that, in the world of the dead, the triumph over him that had the power of death, i.e. the devil, was completed. The descent was the following of the enemy into his innermost citadel; it was the spoiling of the principalities and power of darkness; it was the opening of the way through death into life by him who has the keys of Hades. Is not Paradise all the sweeter that Christ has been there? Is not the inheritance all the surer that through death he went to the Father? Is not this the symbol of our faith and hope—that “the Lord has set his cross in the midst of Hades, which is the sign of victory that will remain to eternity”?
II. WHAT HAPPENED AS IT CONCERNS THE DISCIPLES. But what of those who weep and lament whilst the world is rejoicing—the sorrow-stricken, orphaned company of disciples? The last to leave the place where the body of Jesus was laid, as the first to hasten to the tomb when the sabbath is past, are the holy women (vers. 55, 56). We see them on Friday evening watching the tomb, and observing how the lifeless form was attended to, and then hastening into the city, that they may make ready the spices and ointments for embalming before the sabbath began. Their love is stronger than their faith. The heart’s yearning is sometimes more than the heart’s believing. A very dreary sabbath that was to all the disciples. “They rested according to the commandment” (ver. 56). A commandment—rest, and nothing more. What conflicts of thought and affection! What desolation of spirit! Peter—what a strange sabbath it must have been to him! Only one thing for all. The sense of relation to the crucified Jesus can never be effaced; but it has no glow of hope, it has only the darkness of a memory, the gloom of a despair. “They rested on the sabbath; but” (the first word of the twenty-fourth chapter should be “but” rather than “now”); but the running of the spirit, the movement of the love, is only towards the garden and its sepulchre. Is it not the type of Church, of Christian, wanting the power of the Holy Ghost? Work for Christ, loyal but cheerless, without sight of his glory, or waiting for his advent—this is suggested by the preparation of the spices and ointments, and the sabbath-keeping but without the true spiritual sabbath, the joy of the Lord; ordinances observed, but with no inner alacrity, only because of the commandment. This is suggested by the unrestful resting on that seventh day. Not yet is there the anointing of the Holy Ghost, the power of the Resurrection.
III. WHAT HAPPENED AS IT CONCERNS THE WORLD WHICH CRUCIFIED HIM. Is it not strange that what was absent from faith as a hope was present to unbelief as a fear? Those who had crucified the Lord have their memory wonderfully quickened. They recall (Matt. 27:62–64) some words which he uttered nearly three years before, about a temple which he would raise in three days, and their dread gives a force to these words. Sabbath though it be, the chief priests and Pharisees seek an audience of Pilate, and beg him to “make the sepulchre sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead: and so the last error be worse than the first.” They are told to go their way and do as they choose; and hence the sealing of the great stone and the setting of the watch. Is not all now secure? Have they not for ever dispelled the illusions as to the Deceiver? So thought the Jewish authorities; so men think still. They are always crying out that the Christian religion is effete, that the Christian’s Christ has been slain. “Are there any Christians still?” asked a notable sceptic some years ago. O purblind souls! What avail your watch and seal? He whom you call Deceiver is yet alive; and there are compunctions of heart, convictions of guilt and wrong-doing, and needs of spiritual restoration and inward rectitude, which will assert themselves against all your philosophies! Pentecost days are never far distant days when a mighty remorse rolls over the minds of men, and the cry which never can be silenced, because it is the cry of the human soul in its most solemn hours, and with reference to its deepest wants, bursts through lips which are quivering with a genuine earnestness, “What shall we do to be saved?” On that sabbath the world religious and irreligious holds its rest. It cannot altogether forget; but it holds its Paschal feasts, and complies with all the etiquette of these feasts, as if there were no Calvary, as if no Jesus had lived and died. And is not this the feature of all times? Do not men push their ambitious projects, scheme and toil, spend their strength, and hold their sabbaths without the living consciousness of the Christ who died for their sins? May not we ourselves say—

“I sin; and heaven and earth go round
As if no dreadful deed were done,
As if Christ’s blood had never flowed
To hinder sin or to atone”?

There is no word more solemn than that (Heb. 6:4–6) in which the sacred writer reminds us that if those who have tasted the Word of God and the powers of the world to come fall away, they pass from the fold of the Church into the ranks of Christ’s enemies, seeing “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Vers. 1–3.—The Divine kingdom. Deeply interesting is this interview between the Nazarene and the Roman, the Jewish Prisoner and the Roman judge; the one then brought forth as a malefactor and now seated on the throne of the world, the other then exalted on the seat of power and now sunk to the depth of universal pity if not of universal scorn. “Art thou a King?” asks the latter, in the tone of lofty superiority. “I am,” replies the former, in the tone of calm and profound assurance. What, then, was this kingdom of which he spoke? What was that kingdom of God, that kingdom of heaven, that “kingdom of the truth” (John 18:37) which he foretold, which he came to this world and which he laid down his life to establish? It was the sovereignty of God over all human souls. God’s claim—which is not founded on prescription, nor upon force, but upon righteousness—is his claim on the reverence, the affection, the obedience, of those whom he has created, preserved, enriched, who owe to him all that he demands of them. With us, who have revolted from his rule, this means nothing less than the restoration of our loyalty, and thus our return to his likeness and to his favour as well as to his sway. We look at—
I. THE ORIGINALITY OF THE CONCEPTION. We plume ourselves upon the originality of our ideas, upon our “creations.” But when did the mind of man launch on the sea of human thought such a conception as this kingdom of God? Men had entertained the idea of founding by force a widely extended empire which should command the outward homage and tribute of hundreds of thousands of men, and should last for many generations. But who ever designed a creation like this glorious “kingdom of heaven”—a world-wide sway embracing all living souls whatsoever, exercised by an unseen King, in which the service of the lip, and even that of the life, would be of no account at all without the homage of the heart and the willing subjection of the spirit, characterized by universal righteousness, and crowned by abounding peace and lasting joy?
II. THE IMMENSITY OF THE WORK TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. For what would be involved in the establishment of such a kingdom as this? Not only the formation and maintenance of a new religion that should hold up its head and keep its course amid surrounding faiths, but the utter intolerance and complete subversion of every other creed and cultus; the emptying of all the temples and all the synagogues in every land; the dissolution of all the venerable religious institutions which were rooted in the prejudice, fixed in the affections, wrought into the habits and the lives of men; it meant the establishment in the convictions and in the conscience of mankind of a faith which came into direct collision with all its intellectual pride, with all its social selfishness, with all its powerful passions.
III. ITS SUBLIMITY AS A PURPOSE AND A HOPE. Not merely to ameliorate the circumstances and conditions of a country, or of the world at large. That would have been a noble purpose; but that would have been slight and small in comparison with the aim of Jesus Christ. His view was to put away the source of all poverty and sorrow and death; to “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;” to found in the hearts and therefore in the lives of men a kingdom of holiness, and therefore of true and lasting blessedness; to restore to God his rightful heritage in the love of his children, and, at the same time, to restore to men everywhere their high and glorious portion in the favour and friendship, in the likeness and glory, of God. Was ever scheme, was ever hope like this—so divinely new, so magnificently great, so unapproachably sublime? 1. The way into this kingdom is by a humble, living faith. 2. The way on to its higher places is the service of sacrificial love. The path which takes us to the cross is the way to the throne.—C.
Vers. 4–12.—The majesty of meekness, etc. Beautiful in the last degree, as a moral spectacle, is the sight of the meek but mighty Saviour in the presence of the scornful human sovereign. But there are many lessons which we may gather on our way to that striking scene.
I. HOW PITIFUL HUMAN AUTHORITY MAY PROVE TO BE! Poor Pilate, occupying his high seat of authority and power, is “driven with the wind and tossed,” as if he were a leaf upon the ground. He “finds no fault in Jesus” (ver. 4), but he dares not acquit him; he is afraid of the men he is there to govern. He casts about for a way of escape; he at lasts hits upon the poor expedient of shifting the difficulty to other shoulders. He presents to us a very pitiable object as a man who sits in the chair of office, and dares not do his duty there. Authority divested of a manly courage and shaking with fear of consequences is a deplorable thing.
II. HOW FEEBLE IS MERE PASSIONATE VEHEMENCE! The people, led by the priests, were “the more fierce” (ver. 5), insisting that Pilate should not release the Prisoner of whose innocence he was convinced. We see them, with hatred flashing from their eyes, indulging in frantic gestures of deprecation and incitement, loudly clamouring for the condemnation of the Holy One. Their urgency did, indeed, prevail for the moment, as vehemence frequently does. But into what a dire and terrible mistake it led them! to what a crime were they hastening! what awful issues were to spring from their success! How truly were they sowing the wind of which they would reap the whirlwind! Earnestness is always admirable; enthusiasm is often a great power for good; but passionate vehemence is nothing better than a noisy feebleness. It is not the presence of real power; it is the absence of intelligence and self-control. It leads men to actions which have a momentary success, but which end in a lasting failure and in sad disgrace.
III. HOW UNFRUITFUL IS IDLE CURIOSITY. (Vers. 8, 9.) Herod congratulated himself too soon. He reckoned on having a keen curiosity fully gratified; he thought he had this Prophet in his power, and could command an exhibition of his peculiar faculty, whatever that might prove to be. But he did not want to arrive at truth, or to he better able to do his duty or serve his generation; and Jesus Christ declined to minister to his royal fancy. He was silent and passive, though urged to speech and action. Christ will speak to our hearts, and will work for our benefit and blessing when we approach him in a reverent and earnest spirit; but to a worldly and irreverent curiosity he has nothing to say. It must retire ungratified, and come again in another mood.
IV. HOW INCONSTANT IS UNSPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP! Herod had very little to thank Pilate for, on this occasion; he appears to have mistaken a cowardly attempt to evade duty for a mark of personal respect or a desire to effect a reconciliation (ver. 12). A friendship that had to be renewed, and that was patched up in so slight a way and on such mistaken ground, would not last long and was worth very little. Friendship that is not built on thorough knowledge and on mutual esteem is exceedingly fragile and of small account. It is only common attachment to the same great principles and to the one Divine Lord that binds together in indissoluble bonds. Sameness of occupation, similarity of taste, exposure to a common peril, or the possession of a common hope,—this is not the rock on which friendship will stand long; it rests on character, and on the character that is formed by close, personal intimacy with the one true Friend of man.
V. HOW WRONG AND EVEN WICKED IS UNENLIGHTENED SCORN! (Ver. 11.) Quite unimaginable is the uproarious laughter and the keen, low enjoyment with which the actors went through this wretched ribaldry, this (to us) most painful mockery. How little did they think that he whom they were so mercilessly insulting was the King he claimed to be, and was immeasurably higher than the highest of them all! Wrong and wicked is human scorn. Often since then has it mocked at truth and wisdom, and poured its poor ridicule on the head of holiness and true nobility! It is not only the “stranger” who may prove to be the “angel unawares entertained;” it is also the man whom we do not understand, whom we may think entirely in the wrong, whom we are tempted to despise. Many are the mockers who will be fain, one day, to receive a gracious pardon from the object of their derision.
VI. HOW MAJESTIC IS SPIRITUAL MEEKNESS! (Ver. 11.) We know well how our Lord bore this cruel trial. “A silent Man before his foes” was he. Able at any moment to bring them into utmost humiliation, to turn the mocking glance of triumph into the countenance blanched with unspeakable fear, and the brutal laugh of mockery into a cry for mercy, he stood without a blow, without a word on his own behalf, enduring as one that saw the invisible and the eternal. There is nothing more majestic than a calm endurance of wrong. To accept without return the strong buffeting of cruelty, to take without reply the more keen and piercing utterance of falsehood, because stillness or silence will advance the cause of truth and the kingdom of God,—this is to be very “near the throne” on which it is our highest ambition to be placed; it is to be carrying out, most acceptably, the commandment of the meek, majestic Saviour as he says to us, “Follow me!”—C.
Ver. 16.—Guilty compromise. Twice (see ver. 22) Pilate made this offer to the Jews. He would chastise Jesus and release him; he would thus gratify them by putting the Object of their hatred to pain and humiliation, and he would satisfy his own conscience by saving an innocent man from the last extremity. It was a poor and a guilty compromise he proposed as a solution. If Jesus were as guilty as they claimed that he was, he deserved to die, and Pilate was in duty bound to condemn him to death; if he were innocent, he certainly ought not to have been subjected to the exposure and agony of scourging. It was a cowardly and ignoble endeavour to save himself at the expense either of public or of individual justice. Compromises are of very different character. There are compromises which are—
I. JUST, AND THEREFORE HONOURABLE. Two men in business have claims one against the other, and one cannot convince the other by argument; the proposal is made to adjust their respective claims by a compromise, each man consenting to forego something, the concession of the one being taken as a fair equivalent to that of the other: this is honourable to both. It very probably results in each man getting what is his due, and it saves both from the misery and expense of litigation, and preserves good will and even friendship.
II. WISE, AND THEREFORE COMMENDABLE. A society—it may be of a distinctly religious character—is divided by its members holding opposite opinions. Some advocate one course, the others urge a different one. The idea is suggested that a third course be adopted, which includes some features of the two; there is no serious principle involved, it is only a matter of procedure, a question of expediency. Then it will probably be found to be the wisdom of that society to accept the proposed compromise. Every one present has the double advantage of securing something which he approves, and (what is really better, if it could but be realized) that of yielding something to the wishes or the convictions of other people.
III. GUILTY, AND THEREFORE CONDEMNABLE. Such was that of the text. Such have been innumerable others since then. All are guilty that are effected: 1. At the expense of truth. The teacher of Divine truth may bring his doctrine down to the level of his hearers’ understanding; he may make known the great verities of the faith “in many portions” (πολυμερῶς); but he may not, in order to “please men,” distort or withhold the living truth of God. If he does that he shows himself unworthy of his office, and he exposes himself to the severe condemnation of his Divine Master. 2. At the expense of justice. However anxious we may be to preserve outward harmony, we may not, for the sake of peace, do any one man a wrong; may not asperse his character, injure his prospects, wound his spirit. Rather than do that, we must face the storm, and guide our bark as best we can. 3. At the expense of self-respect. If Pilate had been less hardened than he probably was, less accustomed to the infliction of human pain and shame, he would have gone back to the interior of his house ashamed of himself, as he thought of the lacerating scene that immediately followed that mockery of a trial. If we cannot yield without inflicting on our own soul a real spiritual injury, without doing (or leaving undone) an action the remembrance of which will not only shame but weaken us, then we must not compromise the matter in dispute. We must tell our tale, whatever it may be; we must make our motion, whomsoever it may offend; we must walk straight on in the road of rectitude, in the path of humanity.—C.
Ver. 24.—The character of Pilate. It is true that Pilate’s opinion concerning Jesus of Nazareth was very different indeed from that of his accusers; but he little imagined that it would be to that poor suffering Prisoner that he would owe such immortality as he is to enjoy. Yet so it is; it is only because we are disciples of Jesus Christ that we care to ask who and what was Pilate. He is nothing but the gold upon the altar. In considering the elements of his character, we note—
I. THAT HE WAS POSSESSED OF ENERGY AND ENTERPRISE. He would hardly have reached the station he occupied, or held it as long as he did, if he had not had these two qualities in his character.
II. THAT HE WAS NOT DEVOID OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT. It is clear that he was much impressed by all that he saw of Jesus. The calmness, patience, and nobility of our Lord called forth from Pilate a sincere respect. There was genuine admiration in his heart as he led forth the Divine Sufferer and exclaimed, “Behold the Man!” He was affected, and even awed, by the moral greatness he was witnessing. He may also have been moved to pity.
III. THAT HIS WORLDLINESS HAD WORN OUT HIS FAITH. He had probably had his visions, in earlier days, of the sacredness and supremacy of truth; he had indulged his idea of what was morally good and sound, more to be desired than riches, more to be pursued than honour or authority. But a life of worldliness had done for him what it will do for any of its votaries—it had eaten away his early faith; it had caused his fairest views and noblest purposes to melt and to disappear; it had left his spirit “naked to his enemies,” without any assured belief in any one or in anything. “To bear witness to the truth.” “What is truth?” asks the poor sceptic, whose soul was empty of all sustaining trust, of all ennobling hope.
IV. THAT HE HAD COME TO SUBORDINATE RIGHTEOUSNESS TO POLICY. That Prisoner on his hands was innocent: of that he was well assured. He would not condemn him to a cruel death unless he was obliged to do so. But he must not push his preference for righteousness too far. He must not seriously endanger his own position; he must not put a handle into the power of his enemies. No; rather than that, this pure and holy One must be scourged, must even die the death. As the trial proceeds, it appears that he is exciting a very strong hostility to himself. Let the poor Man go, then, to his doom; one more act of injustice, however regrettable in itself, will not make much difference. “And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.”
APPLICATION. 1. Outward circumstances prove very little. It is the judge whom we pity now; it is the bound and buffeted, the maltreated and maligned Prisoner whom we now honour and emulate. 2. Real strength is in righteousness and in love. Unrighteousness and selfishness, in the person of Pilate, resorted to shifts and expedients, and vacillated again and again between obligation and self-interest. Flawless integrity and abounding love for man, in the person of Jesus Christ, wavered not for an instant, but pursued its holy and gracious purpose through pain and shame. Policy prevails for a very little while; it goes back to its palace, but its end is exile and suicide. Poverty and love go through the deep darkness of earth to the unshadowed glory of the skies.—C.
Ver. 26.—Compulsion and invitation; the human and the Divine methods. Here we have an illustration of—
I. HUMAN VIOLENCE. “They laid hold upon” one Simon, and “him they compelled” (Matt. 27:32) to bear his cross. What right had these Roman soldiers to impress this stranger into their service? What claim had they upon him? By what law of rectitude did they arrest him as he was entering the city, and insist on his bearing a burden, and going whither he would not? What justified them in laying hands upon him and violently enforcing this service? None whatever; nothing whatsoever. It was only another instance of the unscrupulousness of human power. Thus has it been everywhere and always. Let men but feel that they have the mastery, that theirs is the more powerful mind, the firmer will, the stronger hand, and they will ask no leave, consult no law, be restrained by no consideration of conscience. The history of man, where not under special Divine direction, has been the history of the assertion of strength over weakness; that has been the course of national, of tribal, of family, of individual life. The strong man, well armed, has “laid hold upon” the weak man, and laid some burden upon him to carry. He has virtually said, “I can command your labour, serve me; if you refuse to do so, you shall pay some penalty of my own choosing.” Human violence (1) is essentially unrighteous, for it is based on no claim that can be properly so called; (2) has been found to be shamelessly unmerciful; (3) has been gradually, though slowly, subjected to the great rule of Christ (Matt. 7:12); (4) is destined in time to make way for the rule of righteousness.
II. DIVINE PERSUASIVENESS. God does not compel us to serve him. He may, indeed, so wisely overrule all things as to make the life deliberately withheld from him or the action directed against him (e.g. the act of betrayal by Judas) contribute to the final issue; but he does not force the individual soul to serve him. Jesus Christ does not compel us to his service. It is true that his invitations have the authority of a command; but his commands have the sweetness of invitations. 1. He invites us to approach him and seek his favour. “Come unto me all ye that labour” is not a severe command; it is a most gracious invitation. “Whosoever believeth on me hath everlasting life” is not a peremptory injunction; it is a welcome and generous announcement. And while it is indeed true that Christ says, imperatively “Follow me!” it is also true that he does not force any one into his company; he makes his appeal to our conscience and conviction; he will not have any in his service who do not freely and whole-heartedly consent to come. 2. He graciously influences us, that we may see and follow the true light. Paul, indeed, does speak of Christ as “apprehending,” or laying hold of, him (Phil. 3:12). But this referred to the very exceptional manifestation of his Divine power, and the language is strongly figurative. The Spirit of God does illumine our understanding and affect our heart; but he does not compel us to decide without the consent of our own will. In the last resort we have to “choose life” or death. 3. He summons us to a full discipleship by following him as one that bore a cross (ch. 9:23; Matt. 16:24). He lets us know that we shall not meet with his full approval if we do not bear the cross after him, if we do not follow him in the path of sacrificial love. But there is truest kindness, both of substance and manner, in this his urgent challenge. 4. He promises us inward rest here, and a large reward hereafter, if we do hear his voice and do thus follow him. Between human compulsion and Divine invitation or Divine constraint, there is exceeding breadth: the one is an intolerable tyranny; the other is essential righteousness, and introduces to true liberty, to spiritual rest, to abiding joy.—C.
Vers. 27–31.—Sympathy and solicitude. Before reaching Calvary an interesting and instructive incident occurred. Among the tumultuous crowd that surged round the soldiers and their victims were many women. These were better away, we are disposed to think, from a scene so brutal and so harrowing as this. But we will believe that something better than curiosity, that gratitude, that affection, that womanly pity, drew them, spite of their natural shrinking, to this last sad ending. By whatever motives impelled, they were certainly moved to strong compassion as they saw the Prophet of Nazareth, the great Healer and Teacher, led forth to die. Their loud laments did not fall on the ear of One too occupied with his own impending doom to hear and heed them. Our Lord made to these weeping women the reply which is here recorded, longer and fuller than we should have supposed the circumstances would allow. It suggests to us—
I. THAT HUMAN DISTRESS NEVER FAILS TO REACH AND TOUCH HIM. If there were any moments in his life when he might have been preoccupied, and might not have noticed the sounds of sorrow, it was this hour of his agony, this hour when the weight of the world’s sin rested on his soul, when the great sacrifice was in the very act of being offered. Yet even then he heard and stopped to console the troubled. An appeal to Jesus Christ in circumstances of sorrow is never ill-timed.
II. THAT SUCH SYMPATHY WITH JESUS CHRIST IS ENTIRELY OUT OF PLACE. “Weep not for me.” Some men speak and act as if it were appropriate to express sympathy with the Saviour on account of his sufferings. It is, indeed, impossible to read the story of his last hours, and realize what it all meant, without having our sympathetic feeling very keenly quickened; but Jesus Christ does not ask that we should express to him, or to one another, our sympathy with him as One that then suffered. These sufferings are past; they have placed him upon the throne of the world; they have made brighter than ever his celestial crown, deeper than ever his heavenly joy. So far as we are concerned, and so far as they speak of our sin, they may well humble us; in so far as he is concerned, we rejoice with him that he “was perfected through suffering.”
III. THAT A HOLY SOLICITUDE FOR OURSELVES AND OURS IS OFTEN THE MOST APPROPRIATE SENTIMENT. “Weep for yourselves, and for your children.” We know well what reason these Jewish women had, both as patriots and as mothers, to be concerned for the fate that threatened their country and their homes. Our Lord certainly would not condemn, would not disparage, an unselfish sympathy. He who wept at Bethany, and whose law of love was the law that covered and inspired a gracious burden-bearing (Gal. 6:2), could not possibly do that. Indeed, we seldom stand nearer to his side than when we “weep with them that weep.” But there are many times when we are tempted to be troubled by our brother’s smaller difficulty instead of being concerned about our own much greater one. Do not be blind to the bodily pains or the circumstantial struggles of your neighbour; but look eagerly and earnestly to the rent which is opening in your own reputation, to the gap that is increasingly visible in your own consistency, to the fact that you are palpably descending the slope which leads down to spiritual ruin.
V. THAT SIN AND PUNISHMENT BECOME DEEPER AND NEARER AS TIME GOES ON. The green tree is exposed to the consuming fire; but the green tree in time becomes the dry, and how much more certain and more fierce then will be the devouring flame! The nation goes from bad to worse, from the worse to the worst; from dark to darker guilt, from condemnation to calamity. So does a human soul, unguided by heavenly truth and unguarded by holy principle. At any and every time in danger, its peril becomes continually greater as its guilt becomes constantly deeper. Go not one step further in the course of sin, in the way of worldliness, into the “far country” of forgetfulness. Each step is an approach to a precipice. Return on thy way without a moment’s lingering.—C.
Ver. 34.—Magnanimity an attainment. “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” When—at what particular point did he say that? It is commonly believed that he uttered this most gracious prayer just at the time of the actual crucifixion. Just when the nails were driven into those hands, the hands that had constantly been employed in some ministry of mercy; into those feet that had been continually carrying him on some errand of kindness; or just when the heavy cross, with its suffering Victim fastened upon it, had been driven into the ground with unpitying violence;—just then, at the moment of most excruciating pain and of intolerable shame, he opened his lips to pray for mercy on his executioners. We have here—
I. A RARE INSTANCE OF HUMAN MAGNANIMITY. 1. Conscious, not only of perfect innocence, but of the purest and even the loftiest aims, Jesus Christ found himself not only unrewarded and unappreciated, but misunderstood, ill treated, condemned on a totally false charge, sentenced to the most cruel and shameful death a man could die. What wonder if, under those conditions, all the kindliness of his nature had turned to sourness of spirit! 2. At this very moment he was the object of the most heartless cruelty man could inflict, and must have been suffering pain of body and of mind that was literally agonizing. 3. At such a time, and under such treatment, he forgets himself to remember the guilt of those who were so shamefully wronging him. 4. Instead of entertaining any feeling of resentment, he desired that they might be forgiven their wrong-doing. 5. He did not haughtily and contemptuously decline to condemn them; he did not hardly and reluctantly forgive them; he found for them a generous extenuation; he sincerely prayed his heavenly Father to forgive them. Human magnanimity could hardly go further than that.
II. A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF HIS OWN LOFTY DOCTRINE. When in his great sermon (Matt. 5–7) he said, “Love your enemies … pray for them which despitefully use and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven,” he urged upon us to cherish and to illustrate the loftiest virtue on the highest grounds. This he now beautifully, perfectly exemplified. He was literally and truly praying for those who were using him despitefully. As the greatest generals and captains have proudly and honourably claimed that they “never bade men do that which they were not willing to do themselves,” so this our glorious Leader, he who came to be the “Leader and Perfecter of the faith” (Heb. 12:2: Alford), never desired of us any virtue or grace which he did not possess and did not himself adorn. He could and did say to his disciples, not only, “Go thither in the way of righteousness,” but also, “Follow me in every path of purity and love.” We may well love our enemies, and pray for those who despitefully use us, that we may be the children of our Father in heaven, and that we may be followers of our patient, magnanimous Master. And it is here, truly, that we have—
III. A CHALLENGE TO A GREAT ATTAINMENT. 1. To pray sincerely for those who do us wrong is one of the very highest points, if not actually the very loftiest, of human magnanimity. To dismiss all vindictive purpose, all resentful thought; to look at our enemy’s procedure in a kindly light, and to take, as Christ did here, a generous view of it; to cherish a positive wish for his good; to put this wish into action, into prayer;—by these stages we reach the summit of nobility. 2. This is an attainment we should sedulously and devoutly pursue. There are those of noble nature, men and women whom God endows with a most “excellent spirit,” to whom this may be plain and easy; to them it is not a steep ascent to be laboriously climbed, but a gentle slope along which they can walk without difficulty. But to most men it is an attainment and not an endowment. It is an attainment which can only be secured by earnest and continued cultivation. But we have for this great end the most effectual means: (1) the realization of the near presence of God, and the knowledge of his Divine approval; (2) the sense that when we succeed we win the greatest of all victories; (3) the efficacy of prayer—its subjective influence, and the aid which it brings us from above; (4) the inspiration of our Lord’s example, and that of his most faithful followers (Acts 7:60; 2 Tim. 4:16).—C.
Ver. 34.—Sin greater than it seems. “They know not what they do.” There is more in our actions, and therefore in our life, than there seems to be to ourselves (see “The largeness of our life,” homily on ch. 10:16). There is more of good; more also of evil. These soldiers imagined that they were doing nothing more than executing a malefactor. They were murdering a Messiah; they were putting to death the Son of Man, the Saviour of mankind. They knew not what they did; they did not recognize the extreme seriousness, the actual awfulness, of the crime they were committing. Thus is it constantly. We suppose ourselves to be doing something of very little consequence; but he who knows the realities and the issues of all things sees in our action something far more serious than we see. We know not what we do when we err from the straight line of moral and spiritual rectitude. We do not know—
I. HOW WE HURT A HUMAN SPIRIT WHEN WE WOUND IT. Whether this be by something said or done, by a glance of the eye, by the withholding of the expected word or action, we often wound more deeply than we think. We suppose we have caused a momentary irritation. If we knew all, we should know that we have produced a soreness of feeling, a keenness of disappointment, or (it may be) a depth of distress, which it will take weeks or months to heal.
II. HOW WE WRONG OURSELVES WHEN WE SIN AGAINST OUR CONSCIENCE. It is, we assure ourselves, a very slight deviation from rectitude; it is a negligence for which we can easily make up a little further on. But, in truth, we have begun a slow, steady, spiritual descent, which will take us to the bottom. We know not what we do when we take the first step in moral laxity. We have started our soul on an evil course; we have done ourselves a wrong which we quite fail to measure.
III. HOW WE DAMAGE ANOTHER’S CHARACTER WHEN WE INJURE IT. We have only induced our neighbour to take a step which will open his eyes to that which he ought to know. So we say, and perhaps think. But, in fact, we have done much more than that. We have led him to do that which has injured his conscience, which has weakened his self-respect, which has enfeebled his character. He will be less strong, henceforth, in the evil hour of temptation; he will be more open to attack, less likely to resist and to conquer his adversary. When we lead into temptation and sin, we “know not what we do.”
IV. HOW WE GRIEVE OUR SAVIOUR WHEN WE DISOBEY OR DISHONOUR HIM. We do not know how much he expects of his disciples, especially of those who have such opportunities as we have of knowing and doing his will—how much attachment, how strong an affection, how quick an obedience, how full and patient a submission, he has a right to look for, and does wait to receive. And we do not know the fulness and intensity of his feeling of disappointment and sorrow when we fail him. The disciples did not know what they did, how grievously they failed, when they slept in that hour through which they should have watched. What depth of touching, tenderest pathos we hear in these words of gentle remonstrance: “Could ye not watch with me one hour?”
V. HOW WE HINDER THE CAUSE OF CHRIST when we discredit it. We think, perhaps, that the evil impression we have conveyed by our inconsistency will soon be forgotten, lost entirely in the current of human affairs. But more harm is done than we know or think. Some souls are shocked, scandalized, injured; their faith is lessened, perhaps pierced; they will not count for Christ what they would have counted. Springs of anti-Christian influence are started: who shall say whither they will flow?
VI. HOW WE SIN AGAINST GOD WHEN WE WITHHOLD FROM HIM OURSELVES AND OUR SERVICE. We may imagine that we are only delaying till a more suitable or convenient time the duty we intend to discharge. But we are really disobeying a Divine command; we are refusing a Divine invitation; we are continuing in open rebellion, in unfilial estrangement. We are seriously sinning against our heavenly Father, our merciful Saviour, our rightful and righteous Sovereign. 1. Our ignorance of “what we do” is in part a necessity of our finite nature; for we cannot possibly look down into the depth of things; nor can we look on to the final issues. This is beyond the compass of our powers. 2. But it is in part also the fault of our character. We do not think, we do “not consider” (Isa. 1:3), we do not inquire. We do not use as we might our spiritual faculties. More patient, prayerful consideration of “what we do” would save us from many errors, many wrongs, and also from many painful memories and much self-reproach.—C.
Ver. 35.—A sad spectacle and the supreme vision. “And the people stood beholding.” “Sitting down they watched him there” (Matt. 27:36). Shall we envy those spectators the scene they then witnessed? Shall we wish that we had lived when, with our mortal eyes, we could have seen the Saviour crucified on our behalf? I think not. With this distance of time and space between us, we have a better, truer standpoint where we are. No doubt we lose much by that distance; but we gain at least as much as we lose. To those who “stood beholding,” or who “sat and watched,” there was—
I. AN EXCEEDINGLY SAD SPECTACLE. They saw: 1. A human being suffering the last extremity of pain and shame. Some among that company could look upon that scene with positive enjoyment, some with stolid indifference; but those of whom we think, the disciples, would witness it with intense, heart-piercing sympathy, with utmost agitation of spirit. His suffering must, in a large degree, have been theirs also—theirs in proportion to the love they bore him. 2. A Prophet who had failed to be appreciated, and was now a martyr nobly dying in attestation of the truth. 3. A sacred cause losing its Chief and Champion; a cause being wounded and almost certainly slain in the person of its Founder and Exponent. For who could hope that there would be found amongst his disciples any that would take the standard from his hands, and bear it on to victory? For Christ to die was for Christianity to perish. Such was the spectacle on which his disciples looked as they gathered about his cross. The scene was more vivid, more impressive, more powerfully affecting, as thus enacted before their eyes; but we see in reality more than they did. We have before us—
II. THE SUPREME VISION on which we can gaze on earth. We see: 1. One who once suffered and died, but whose agony is over; whose pain and sorrow are not now to him sources of evil, but, on the other hand, the ground and the occasion of purest joy and highest honour (see homily on vers. 27–31). Had we been present then, we must have shrunk from the spectacle before us as too painful for sensitiveness to endure. Now we can bear to dwell on his dying and his death, because the element of overwhelming and blinding sympathy is happily withdrawn. 2. A grand spiritual victory. We do not see in the crucified prophet One that was defeated; we see One that told us all that he came to tell, communicating to us all the knowledge we need in order to live our higher life on earth, and to prepare for the heavenly life beyond; that was not prevented from delivering any part of his Divine message; that completed all he came to do; that was amply entitled to say, as he did before he died, “It is finished!” 3. A Divine Redeemer ensuring, by his death, the triumph of his cause. Had he not died as he did, had he saved himself as he was taunted and challenged to do, had he not gone on to that bitter end and drunk that bitter cup even to the dregs, then he would have failed. But because he suffered unto death, he triumphed gloriously, and became “the Author of eternal salvation to all them that believe.” This is the supreme vision of human souls. We do well to gaze on nobility as we see it illustrated in human lives around us. We do well to look long and lovingly on human virtue as manifested in the lives and deaths of the glorious army of martyrs. But there is no vision so well worthy of our view; of our frequent, our constant, our protracted and intense beholding, as that of the merciful and mighty Saviour dying for our sins, dying in wondrous love that he might draw us to himself and restore us to our Father and our home. Before our eyes Christ crucified is conspicuously set forth (Gal. 3:1); and if we would have forgiveness of sin, rest of soul, worthiness of spirit, nobility of life, hope in death, a blessed immortality, we must direct our eyes unto him who was once “lifted up” that he might be the Refuge, the Friend, the Lord, the Saviour of the world to the end of time. Better than the saddest spectacle man ever saw is that supreme vision which is the hope and the life of each looking and trusting human heart.—C.
Vers. 35–37.—Self-saving and self-sacrifice. We have two things here of which the latter is much the more worth looking at.
I. INHUMANITY AT ITS LOWEST. There are many degrees of inhumanity. 1. It is bad for men or women deliberately to shut themselves out of the society of the wrong and miserable, in order that, without distraction, they may minister to their own comfort or consult their own well-being. 2. It is worse to look on the wounded traveller as he lies within sight and reach of us, and to pass him coldly by “on the other side.” 3. It is worse still to regard the overthrow of human greatness or prosperity with positive satisfaction of spirit, to find a guilty enjoyment in the humiliation of another. 4. It is worst of all to do as did these men at the cross—to mock at human misery, to taunt it in the hour of its agony, to add another pang to the keen sufferings that already lacerate the soul. Alas! what may not men become! what positively awful possibilities of evil are wrapt up in every human soul! that tiny hand, so soft and delicate, so beautiful, so harmless, what blow may it not possibly strike, some day, against all that is most sacred and most precious! It makes all the difference whether, under Christian principles, we are steadily climbing up toward that which is holy and Divine; or whether, under the dominion of evil forces, we are slowly sliding down toward all that is wrong and base. What an argument for ranging ourselves, while yet young, under the guidance of Jesus Christ, the Righteous and the Gracious One!
II. MAGNANIMITY AT ITS HIGHEST. 1. The extremity of evil to which our Lord was then submitting; the most excruciating bodily pain; the most terrible and almost intolerable mental distress; the apprehension of approaching death. 2. The powerful temptation presented to him to deliver himself from it all. By one volition of his will he could have descended from the cross, thus releasing himself and confounding his enemies. He had (1) the strongest possible inducement to do this from the instincts of the nature he had assumed; (2) the strongest possible provocation to do this in the bitter and cruel taunts of his enemies. 3. His most magnanimous refusal to exert his power in his own favour. He heard those derisive cries, but he heeded them not. He let those revilers think that he was unable to save himself; he knew that if he did save himself he could not save others (Matt. 27:42). So he voluntarily continued to endure all that torture of body, to bear all that burden of shame and agony of spirit, to go on and down into the deepening shadow of death. Surely spiritual nobility could never strike a higher note than that, could never reach a loftier summit than that. How far can we follow our Lord along this upward path? There have been men who, at a certain point in their career, have clearly foreseen a dark and deathful ending, who have been entreated by their friends to go no further, to stand aside, to “save themselves” and think no more about the salvation of others (see Acts 21:12). And it is quite possible that, though we shall never be placed in a position just like that of our Master, we may have the choice offered us which was then offered him—we may have to choose between saving ourselves and leaving others to their fate on the one hand, or sacrificing ourselves and saving our fellows on the other hand. If that choice should be presented to us, what should we do? The answer depends very much on the measure of the spirit of unselfishness we are cherishing and practising continually. (1) Before us is a noble opportunity—that of teaching, enlightening, (instrumentally) redeeming men; but (2) we cannot use this opportunity to any extent without self-sacrifice. If we are determined to “save ourselves,” we shall do but very little in the work of saving others. (3) We must choose between the two: either we must resolve to spare ourselves expenditure and endurance, and let the work of human elevation go on without our help; or we must resolve not to spare ourselves, not to save time or money, or trouble, or health, not to spare ourselves uncongenial acts or unpleasant endurances, that men may learn what they know not, may see that to which they are yet blind, that they may be led out of exile into the kingdom of God. If we are keeping our Master well in view, especially if we are beholding him on the cross refusing to save himself though challenged with utmost bitterness to do so, we also shall make the nobler choice.—C.
Vers. 39–43.—True penitence. These verses narrate what we may call a standard fact of the gospel of Christ—a fact to which appeal will always be made, as it has always been made, in reference to a late repentance. We have to consider—
I. THE BREVITY WITH WHICH A GREAT SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION MAY BE WROUGHT IN A HUMAN MIND. Twelve hours before, this man was a hardened criminal, habituated to a life of rapacious and murderous violence; his counterpart is to be found to-day in the cells of a penal establishment. And now, after a short companionship with Jesus, after hearing him speak and seeing him suffer, his heart is purged and cleansed of its iniquity, he is another man, he is a child of God, an heir of heaven. There are great capacities in these human souls of ours, which do not come often into exercise, but which are actually within us. Powerful speech, imminent peril, great emergencies, sudden inspiration from God,—these and other things will call them forth; there is a brilliant flash of remembrance, or of emotion, or of realization, or of conviction and resolution. And then that which is ordinarily wrought in many days or months is accomplished in an hour. The movements of our mind are not subject to any time-table calculations whatsoever. No man can define the limit of possibility here. Great revolutions can be and have been wrought almost momentarily. Not slowly toiling upward step by step, but more swiftly than the uprising of the strongest bird upon fleetest wing, may the human soul ascend from the darkness of death into the radiant sunshine of hope and life.
II. THE THOROUGHNESS OF THIS MAN’S CHANGE AS EVIDENCED BY HIS WORDS. 1. He recognizes the existence and the power and the providence of God (ver. 40). 2. He has a sense of the turpitude of his own conduct, a due sense of sin (ver. 41). 3. He recognizes the innocence and excellence of Jesus Christ (ver. 41). 4. He believes in his real royalty, though it is so hidden from sight, and though circumstances are so terribly against it (ver. 42). 5. He believes in the pitifulness as well as the power of this kingly Sufferer, and he makes his humble but not unhopeful appeal to his remembrance. 6. He does the one thing for Christ he can do as he is dying on the cross—he remonstrates with his companion in crime, and seeks to silence his cruel taunts. Here is penitence, faith, service, all springing up and in earnest exercise in this brief hour.
III. A SUDDEN TRANSITION FROM THE LOWEST TO THE HIGHEST ESTATE. (Ver. 43.) “What a day to that dying man! How strange a contrast between its opening and its close, its morning and its night! Its morning saw him a culprit condemned before the bar of earthly judgment; before evening shadowed the hill of Zion he stood accepted at the bar of heaven. The morning saw him led out through an earthly city’s gates in company with One who was hooted at by the crowd that gathered round him; before night fell upon Jerusalem the gates of another city, even the heavenly, were lifted up, and he went through them in company with One around whom all the hosts of heaven were bowing down as he passed to take his place beside the Father on his everlasting throne” (Hanna). In view of this most interesting fact we gather two lessons. 1. One of hopefulness. It is never too late to repent; in other words, repentance, when real, is never ineffectual. None could be more undeniably impenitent until within a few hours of his death than this malefactor, and no man’s penitence could be more decisively availing than his. It was real and thorough, and therefore it was accepted. It is a great thing for those who speak for Christ to be warranted, as they are, in going to the dying and despairing, and telling these departing ones, that true penitence, however late, avails with God; that his ear is not closed against the sigh of the contrite, even at the last hour of the day; that up to the last there is mercy to be had by them who truly seek it. But there is another lesson to be learnt. 2. One of warning and of fear. There is every reason to hope that true though late repentance is always accepted; but there is grave reason to fear that late repentance is seldom real and true. How often does experience prove that men in apparently dying hours have believed themselves to be penitent when they have only been apprehensive of coming doom! The dread of approaching judgment is far from being the same thing as repentance unto life. Not the last hour, when a selfish dread may be so easily mistaken for spiritual conviction, but the day of health and strength, when conviction can pass into action and honest shame into faithful service, is the time to turn from sin and to seek the face and the favour of the living God. Let none despair, but let none presume.—C.
Ver. 44.—The shelter of the darkness. The darkness which fell upon Jerusalem at midday and enshrouded the scene of the Crucifixion was a phenomenon for which it is impossible to account physically, and which it is not easy to explain morally. It is a matter for reverent conjecture, for thoughtful and devout inference, for sacred and solemn imagination. We are on sure ground when we say that it came from the Divine Father, and came on behalf of his beloved Son. We do not venture much when we suggest that it came in response to that Son’s appeal in this dark “day of his flesh” (Heb. 5:7). We may do well to consider what was the probable impression it made on those who were concerned in that sad and sacred scene.
I. ON THE LEADERS OF THE PEOPLE. Surely they were smitten with consternation. One would suppose that, as these men witnessed the wonderful works of Christ, some doubts as to the rightness of their antagonism to him must have darted into their minds, and that beneath their confident and defiant attitude of enmity there must have lain some secret misgivings as to the course they were taking. Probably they were not without their fears that something would happen at the last to disappoint them. But as the day wore on, and Jesus actually hung upon the cross, and his strength was certainly going, and the people quietly acquiesced if they did not possibly “assist,” all seemed to be satisfactory, to be indeed triumphant. When, lo! a strange, unaccountable darkness, an impenetrable obscurity! The sun refuses to shine at midday. No man sees his fellow, or sees him only in the faintest light. The Crucified One is screened from view. The scoffs and shouts are silenced, and there is a terrible stillness and solemnity. What can that mean? God is speaking in his own chosen way, and is rebuking their guilty deed. There is a quaking at the proud Pharisee’s heart, a trembling in the soul of the scribe; there are no more taunts from their bitter lips; an unspeakable terror invades even their closed hearts which no casuistry can bar. Is it, then, the blood of their Messiah that they have been shedding?
II. ON THE MULTITUDE. How must they have been subdued with awe, if not agitated with wild alarm! How overwhelming to their less cultured minds must so astounding an event have been! “Whither,” we hear them say, “have our rulers led us? Surely there is something sacred and Divine in this Gali1æan Prophet! Heaven is pronouncing in his favour. Have we crucified our King? Will his blood be upon us?” and the daughters of Jerusalem already begin to weep for themselves and for their children, as they think that some great calamity impends.
III. ON THE ROMAN SOLDIER. Trained to face peril and to be calm even in the presence of overshadowing death, he probably remained quiet and firm, the least moved of all the throng. Nothing could be done, and he would lean on his spear, waiting the centurion’s command when light should break; though exceedingly astonished and awe-struck, he would stand to his post with unmoved purpose and well-mastered fear.
IV. ON THE DISCIPLES. To them it must have come as a relief, if not a promise. Believing in their Lord, wondering with great amazement at his capture and crucifixion, they would feel that any miraculous interposition was not unlikely, was quite probable. It raised their hopes a few degrees above despair; possibly many degrees. If God interposed thus far, he might restore everything. At the least, this welcome darkness screened themselves, who were too near the cross for security, though too far from their Master for service; perhaps it quieted their fear while it comforted their conscience.
V. ON THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF. To him we may be well assured that it was a most welcome succour. 1. It was a verdict from heaven attesting his innocency. It brought confusion to his enemies and confirmation to himself. It was “a sign from heaven” distinctly in his favour. The sun refused to shine on so guilty a crime as that then perpetrated; the darkness that wrapped them round was God’s attestation of the darkness of the deed then being enacted. 2. It effectually shut the mouth of ribaldry and reproach. “It stopped each wagging head, it silenced each gibing tongue.” We cannot tell how painful and how piercing to his sensitive spirit those cruel mockings were; nor can we, therefore, tell how much of a relief was the stillness that came with the darkness. 3. It screened him from shame. “Men would leave the Crucified exposed in shame and nakedness to die, but an unseen hand was stretched forth to draw the drapery of darkness round him and hide him from vulgar gaze.” 4. It gave him a desired privacy for sorrow and for prayer. Sorrow and prayer always seek solitude; they desire to be alone with God. We do not like any others, except it be one that is most beloved, to witness the deeper griefs, or the sadder and sterner wrestlings of our soul. We seek the shade of some Gethsemane for such sacred experiences as these. What awful sorrow now rested upon Christ, now agitated his soul to its very depths, we may never understand. But we know that the burden he bore for us was at its very heaviest, that the sorrow he endured for us was at its extremest point just at this time, for it culminated in that terrible cry of desolation (Matt. 27:45, 46) which we do not try to fathom, which silences all speech and subdues every spirit. Such sacred sorrow, accompanied, as it certainly was, with the most close communion and fervent prayer, was not for the curiosity of that heartless crowd. It needed the most perfect privacy. And so the Divine Father, in this supreme hour of his Son’s great work and of the redemption of mankind, “made darkness, and it was night;” shut the Saviour round with the merciful folds of thick darkness, that he might be alone with that Father in whose sole presence the great sacrifice was to be completed.—C.
Ver. 45.—The rent veil. At the time when Jesus died it is exceedingly probable that there would be priests in the “holy place.” It was now afternoon, it was drawing toward the time of evening sacrifice; they would be in attendance rendering the service of the sanctuary; they would certainly be aware of what was happening just outside Jerusalem, and would be powerfully affected by the fact. Suddenly, as if grasped and rent by unseen hands, that most sacred veil interposing between the antechamber and the reception-room of God himself, was torn in twain, “from the top to the bottom.” The incident was undeniably miraculous. No Jew would have dreamed of daring to do an act that would have been so impious in a man. A Divine hand must have been there, and when they entered into the mysterious darkness and felt the earthquake, must not these priests have asked themselves whether the rending of the veil did not signify a new epoch in the kingdom of God? May not the conversion of a “great company of the priests” (Acts 6:7) be partly accounted for by this striking and significant event? But what did it symbolize?
I. THAT GOD HAD ADOPTED A NEW METHOD OF ASSERTING HIS HOLINESS AND IMPRESSING IT ON THE MIND AND HEART OF THE WORLD. That veil was an essential part of a system of carefully graduated approach to God. It divided the “holy” from the “most holy” place, and beyond it none might pass but the high priest, and he only once a year. It was intended to teach the absolute holiness of God—that it was only as men were prepared, and as they were separated from sin that they could be admitted to his presence. It was not without effect on the Jewish mind; that nation had thus grasped the idea of the purity and perfection of God. But now his character was so revealed that all such symbolism was no longer needed. The death of Jesus Christ his Son, as the Sacrifice for the sin of the world, was an expression of Divine holiness incomparably superior to the symbolism of the temple and for ever superseding it. Henceforth, when men wanted to know what God felt about sin—how he hated it, what he thought it worth while to do and to suffer in order to expel it—they would look to that cross at Calvary, and there read his mind and know his will. Holy places were no longer needed.
II. THAT GOD HAD NOW PROVIDED ANOTHER AND BETTER WAY OF MERCY FOR MANKIND. Behind the veil was the innermost chamber; and of this chamber the furniture was the ark with the two tables of the Law, and the mercy-seat above it; we read of this compartment thus: “within the veil before the mercy-seat.” Mercy was thus resting on Law. Mercy always must be founded on holiness; for without holiness there can be no mercy worthy of the name. And on the great Day of Atonement the high priest entered this “holy of holies,” and sprinkled blood upon the mercy-seat for the cleansing of the sins of the nation. But the cross of Jesus Christ spoke of the Divine mercy as no temple furniture could do; there needed nothing to teach the supremacy of mercy above Law after the dying love of the Redeemer of mankind, and there needed no more sprinkling of blood upon a mercy-seat after this great Day of Atonement, when “by one sacrifice of himself for ever” the spotless Lamb of God presented “a Propitiation for the sins of the world.” The temple rites then became obsolete; its services were past; there need be no more guarding of one sacred place from another; let the sacred curtain be taken down or rent in twain.
III. THAT THE WAY TO THE HOLY ONE HIMSELF IS NOW OPEN TO ALL MANKIND. That veil was an instrument that not only secluded, but excluded; through it no eye might venture to glance, no intruding hand might reach, no presumptuous feet might stop. To pass that limit was to incur the heaviest penalty; “the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest.” But now “the good High Priest is come, supplying Aaron’s place,” and having offered up the one all-sufficient sacrifice, having obtained thereby “eternal redemption,” that excluding veil is rent in twain, that barrier is broken down; there are no more limitations, no more distinctions; there is access for every child of man to the mercy-seat of God—to the Holy One himself, to seek his grace and find his favour. Are we drawing nigh? Are we entering in? Are we availing ourselves of this priceless privilege, this glorious provision for our spirit’s need? In many words and ways God invites us to draw nigh to himself: he did so when his invisible hand rent in twain that separating veil. “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.”—C.
Ver. 46.—How to die and to live. Our text treats of the dying of our Lord. We may distinguish between death and dying. All men die, but all men have not a dying experience. Those who are killed instantaneously in war or by accident, those who are attacked by fatal apoplexy, those who die in their sleep, have no such experience. It is probable that we shall have to face the fact that we are passing away from life, that when a few more hours have come and gone we shall have entered the unseen world. It is therefore of no small value to us that our great Exemplar underwent not only death, but the conscious act of dying, and that in this respect also he “left us an example that we should follow his steps.” We look at—
I. THE DYING OF OUR LORD IN THE LIGHT OF THESE WORDS. The words he uttered just as his end drew near indicate: 1. Deep serenity of spirit. They show nothing of agitation or anxiety; they breathe a calm stillness of soul; they are fragrant of peace and tranquillity. They begin with that word, “Father,” which all along had been a name of strength and peace; he was evidently resting in the assurance of parental love. And the words that follow are in a strain of entire spiritual composure. 2. True and living faith. Jesus was resigning his spirit to God’s gracious charge, knowing that in his holy and mighty keeping it would be safe and blessed. Here was fullest confidence in God and in immortality. 3. Holy resignation. As a Son of man, Jesus felt still subject to the Divine Father of all; and as he came to do and bear his will, and had done and had borne it perfectly in every hour and act of life, so now in this last volition he yielded himself to God. Thus with a soul tranquil to its profoundest depths, realizing the unseen and eternal world, resigning his spirit to the Divine Father, he bowed his head in death.
II. OUR OWN DEPARTURE. Having found in the death of Jesus Christ that which is the ground of our pardon, our peace, our life before God; having lived in the love and in the service of a once crucified and now ever-living Saviour;—there is no reason to doubt that we shall die as he died, breathing the spirit he breathed, if we do not use the very language that was upon his lips. 1. Our departure will be tranquil. We shall not be terrified, alarmed, agitated; our spirit will look calmly forward to the moment of departure from this world and of entrance into another. We shall face the very near future with a smile. 2. For we shall be sustained by a living faith. (1) We shall feel that we are only going into the nearer presence of our own Father—of him before whom we have been living and in whom we have been rejoicing; only passing from one room to another in our Father’s house. (2) We shall have faith in Jesus Christ himself. That death upon the cross constitutes him a Divine Saviour, in whom we hide; and we shall die in the calm assurance that we shall be “found in him,” and accepted through him. We shall say, with deeper and fuller meaning than the psalmist could, “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth” (Ps. 31:5). (3) We shall yield ourselves to God in the spirit of consecration, assured that in that new and unknown realm which we are entering we may spend our time and our powers, liberated and enlarged, in his holy and blessed service: and the spirit of consecration is the spirit of confidence and hope. And while these words are particularly appropriate to dying lips, and very probably suggested the last utterance of the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:59), they need not be held in reserve for that occasion; they admirably express our true attitude in—
III. OUR DAILY LIFE. So David evidently felt (Ps. 31:5), and so we may feel. In faith and in self-surrender we should be continually commending our spirit to our heavenly Father’s charge: 1. When the day is done and we enter the nightly darkness and unconsciousness, during which we can take no charge of ourselves. 2. As we go forth each morning to duties, trials, temptations, opportunities, to which our own unaided strength is quite unequal. 3. If we feel that we are entering some dark cloud of adversity and trial in which we shall have peculiar need of Divine support. 4. When we are called to new spheres and weightier responsibilities, wherein other graces will be required than any that have yet been demanded of us. At all such times should we, in faith and consecration, commit the keeping of our souls to our heavenly Father, to be sheltered in his faithfulness, to be enriched by his love and his power.—C.
Ver. 48.—Sacred impressions. There was a considerable company of spectators at the Crucifixion. They were attracted not only by the spectacle of a triple execution, but, far more, by the fact that the Prophet whose fame had filled the land was to be led forth to die. It was not the riffraff of Jerusalem merely that “beheld the things that were done.” The sense of impropriety in attendance at such sanguinary and harrowing scenes is quite modern. It did not prevail there and then. Probably the leading citizens were present—the well-to-do, the educated, the refined—male and female. All classes and all characters were there—the devout and the profane, the rough and the gentle, the selfish and the sympathetic. And of that large company of people there would be present men and women very variously affected toward Jesus Christ. We may say, without hesitation, that the eleven were there; though it is more than likely that, for a time at any rate, they stood afar off, we cannot doubt that they were there, waiting and wondering; hoping with a faint hope, fearing with a terrible and mastering dread. Many true and loyal disciples were there, among whom, truest among the true, were the women who had followed him and “ministered to him” (Matt. 27:55). Besides these were the fickle, doubled-minded multitude, who cried, “Hosannah!” one day, and a few days later shouted, “Crucify him!” And beyond these in spiritual distance were his implacable and bitter enemies. What may we suppose to have been the effect of the Crucifixion on the minds of “the people that came together to that sight”?
I. IMMEDIATE EFFECTS PROBABLY PRODUCED. 1. There were physical elements sure to excite their wondering imagination. When an unnatural darkness brooded over the entire scene for three long dread hours, when the earth trembled, when the loud death-cry of the suffering Saviour pierced the air, there was a combination of strange marvels and unusual experiences which must have shaken their souls and filled them with a great awe. 2. And there were moral elements there fitted to touch their hearts. There was the presence of death—death, “the great reconciler,” that quenches strong animosities, that awakens an unwonted pity, that subdues the hardened soul to a surprising softness. There was the death of a Man still young, of a Man who had rendered undeniably great services to many hearts in many homes. There was death met with heroic fortitude, undergone with a calmness, a magnanimity, a moral greatness, such as their eyes had never seen before. These two elements together powerfully affected the people that drew to that sight; and with whatsoever thought in their mind they “came together,” it is certain that a very great majority of them went home astonished, if not ashamed and alarmed; they returned “smiting their breasts.” But what were—
II. THE ULTIMATE EFFECTS PRODUCED? 1. Some effects were permanently good. Surely it was partly, if not largely, the remembrance of what they had seen and done and felt on this great day that led to the “pricking of heart” they experienced when Peter spoke so faithfully, and led them to Christian baptism (Acts 2:22, 23, 37–41). Was not the “smiting of the breast” more than an antecedent in time to that being smitten in heart when they listened and responded? 2. Others, we may be sure, were evanescent and unfruitful. It would have been a very singular case if there were not many who felt much agitation that day, and the next, and, perhaps, the day after; but who soon allowed pressing cares or passing pleasures to drive convictions from the soul. They “smote their breasts, and returned;” but, instead of returning to God, they went back to the old routine and the old formalism and unspirituality. It is well to be affected by the facts of God’s providence, whether these be simple and ordinary, or whether unusual and startling. It is well indeed to be affected by the view of a Saviour’s death, however that death may be presented to our souls. But let no man rest contented with such emotion as was in the breast of the people who “came together to that sight.” It is wholly undecisive; if it lead not to something better than itself, it will bring forth no fruit of life. It must pass, and should pass quickly, into an intelligent conviction of sin, into a real and living faith in him who was then the Crucified One, and so into newness of life in him and unto him.—C.
Vers. 1–25.—Jesus vindicated by his enemies. We pass now from the ecclesiastical to the secular sphere. The charge brought forward in the Sanhedrin is blasphemy; before Pilate and Herod the charge must be sedition and treason. Yet amid his unscrupulous enemies unimpeachable testimony is forthcoming of his innocence.
I. THE TESTIMONY ELICITED BY PILATE. (Vers. 1–7.) The accusation made against Christ was twofold: (1) forbidding to pay tribute; (2) assuming royalty. Now, the first part of the accusation was totally false. Jesus, when asked about the tribute, had expressly advised the people to “render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s.” There could be no conflict of interests between the emperor and Christ so far as tribute was concerned. Doubtless upon this first point Pilate received ample assurance that it was groundless. When, again, he inquired about Christ’s royalty, he was told that his kingship was not earthly, but spiritual. Although Pilate could not grasp its exact meaning, he saw sufficient to assure him that it was on a different plane from that of Cæsar’s. Hence Pilate declared his innocence before his accusers. Upon this the chief priests and scribes were reduced to the complaint that he was stirring up the people from Galilee to Judæa. Strange complaint, that Jesus was rousing up his fellows! He was troubling Israel very much as Elias had done. Men are in desperate need of an accusation when they resort to this one, which merely means that the accused one is in downright earnest! As soon as Pilate hears of Christ’s earnestness in Galilee, he inquires if he belongs to Herod’s jurisdiction, and is happy to hand him over for trial to the Idumean.
II. THE TESTIMONY BORNE BY HEROD. (Vers. 8–12.) We have next to notice how Herod has unconsciously to testify to Christ’s innocence. The murderer of the Baptist thinks, now that Jesus is brought before him, that he has only to express a wish for a miracle, and it will be gratified. To his great surprise and humiliation he receives no answer to his numerous questions; nor do the fierce calumnies of the Jews elicit from the meek Messiah a single word in mitigation or defence. The treatment of Herod was that of silent contempt. The wicked king deserved no other fate. And his only revenge was to mock Christ and set him at naught. So they array him in a robe such as the high priests wore, white and brilliant, indicating at once what he pretended to be and how innocent he really was. Herod, in sending him back in this scornful fashion, conveyed to Pilate’s mind clearly that he had no more fault to find with him than the Roman governor had. This was the second testimony to the innocency of Jesus.
III. THE TESTIMONY IMPLIED BY THE DEMAND FOR BARABBAS. (Vers. 13–19.) In no clearer way could the chief priests have shown the utter groundlessness of their first charge than in demanding Barabbas in preference to Jesus. Here was a real rebel, who had committed murder in the insurrection, and he is made the idol of the Jewish populace. They show in this their sympathy with sedition. They show clearly to Pilate that Jesus must be thwarting in some way their seditious designs, else they would not clamour so eagerly for his blood. Instead of substantiating their accusation against Jesus, therefore, they really formulate an accusation of treason against themselves. They were guilty; he was innocent. They were the dangerous class; Jesus occupied a region altogether outside the interests of Cæsar.
IV. JESUS SACRIFICED TO POPULAR CLAMOUR. (Vers. 20–25.) There is no show of justice in condemning Christ. All accusation against him fails, and all which can be done is to shout him down. If Jesus be not crucified, Jerusalem will go into revolt. Will not an émeute be worse than the death of an individual? And so the worldly governor, charged by Rome to keep the peace in the province at all hazards, prefers to deliver the innocent to the will of the guilty than to brave their wrath. It is clamour that secures his condemnation. The judge, who should be the protector of the innocent, unites with the populace in doing him to death. Alas! that men should be so bent on peace as to be ready to sacrifice the innocent to secure it! And yet our Lord’s character never shone with so bright a lustre as when he submitted to such wrongs as these. He was truly meek and lowly in heart when he bore so quietly the wrath of the Jews and the time-serving policies of Pilate and Herod. This friendship of Herod and of Pilate, resting on a common indifference to Jesus, is the emblem of those worldly truces which men make who wish to enjoy immunity from trouble; but they do not wear well.—R. M. E.
Vers. 26–46.—The merciful Saviour on the cross. Delivered unto the will of the Jews by the indecision of Pilate, Jesus accepts the cross, and proceeds under its crushing weight towards Calvary. But seeing him fainting under it, they press Simon the Cyrenian into service, and he has the everlasting honour of carrying the end of the beam after Jesus. Thus is it in all life’s burdens—the weighty end of them is carried by the sympathetic Master, while the lighter end he allows his people to carry after him. And here we must notice—
I. HIS CONSIDERATION FOR JERUSALEM’S WEEPING DAUGHTERS. (Vers. 27–31.) The victim of Rome’s cruelty, he has enlisted the sympathy of many weeping women. They see in his death the departure of their best earthly Friend. It is the moment of their deepest sorrow. But Jesus tells them to reserve their tears for themselves. This death of his will lead inevitably to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the dire calamities of the nation. These will be much more lamentable than any sorrows through which he is now to pass. Why, then, does he call upon them to weep? Manifestly that their timely repentance may ensure their escaping the troubles which are so surely coming upon the earth. But the self-forgetful attitude of Jesus is surely most instructive. He thinks not of himself, but of their hard case, even though on his journey to the cross. It is the most perfect consideration for others’ welfare, and the most beautiful forgetfulness of one’s own, that he here exhibits.
II. HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS. (Vers. 32, 33.) There was something peculiarly contemptuous in the arrangement of Jesus between two notable criminals. They were robbers—perhaps had been associates of Barabbas. They had committed, most probably, murder in the insurrection, so that the cross was the rightful end of such careers. But to number Jesus, the innocent, with them, to make him one with the greatest criminals then available, was diabolical! And yet he does not protest. Nay, he is willing to be thus identified that he may save even one of his associates. And yet, is not this arrangement, which numbered him with the transgressors, simply the outward expression of the great fact which is the foundation of our salvation? If Jesus had not voluntarily taken up the position of substitute, and identified himself with sinners, we should never have been redeemed.
III. INTERCESSION FROM THE CROSS. (Ver. 34.) It was ignorance on the part of many which led to this great crime, but culpable ignorance. They should have known better. They needed forgiveness for it. They are the subjects of his intercession. He prays, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” There never had been such a forgiving spirit manifested since the world began. No wonder that the dying scenes took on ever after a new halo, and that martyrs were able, in spite of suffering, to forgive their murderers and intercede for their salvation! It was the glory of patience which was manifested upon the cross.
IV. THE CHARGE OF SELF-NEGLECT. (Vers. 35–38.) As they walk round the cross in their selfishness, the Jews charge Jesus with self-neglect. He had saved others, but now he does not try to save himself. If he would only show that he can take care of “number one,” they would believe on him. Assuredly we have here the self-revelation of the world. The world believes in the selfish, self-seeking leaders of men. A Napoleon or Cæsar, who is willing to sacrifice millions of men to gratify his ambition, is believed in—at all events for a time! But Jesus, who sacrifices himself, is derided. Yet in the end the kingship of the self-sacrificing Saviour is acknowledged. The true King of the Jews is he who could lay down his life for his subjects, and so redeem them.
V. THE FIRST RECOGNIZER OF CHRIST’S KINGSHIP. (Vers. 39–43.) One in the vast assemblage, however, sees below the surface, and recognizes the sovereignty of self-sacrifice. At first reviling Christ, he had come to see, beneath the meek exterior of the Saviour, the real regal spirit. Hence he changes sides, begins to rebuke the other malefactor who continues his unholy maledictions, and then quietly implores the Lord to remember him when he comes in his kingdom. The poor robber, who had perhaps fought under some false Messiah, and knew what Jewish hopes were, believes that this meek and suffering One upon the cross beside him will yet come to his kingdom. When that advent is to be he knows not. But even in the far-off time it will be well for him to be remembered by him. Thus he prays, and is answered. But “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise,” is the blessed hope set before him. Paradise is part of his kingdom, and the dying robber will be with Jesus in its peaceful bowers that very day. What a hope to be opened up to the dying man! What comfort it gave him, and should give to us!
VI. THE CONSUMMATION. (Vers. 44–46.) After these preliminaries are settled, the dealing of Jesus with the Father himself comes on. It was meet that a veil of darkness should surround the suffering Son and the righteous Father. The Priest and the Victim, who offered himself without spot to God, should in deep darkness pass through the act of unexampled worship. No wonder also that the veil of the temple was rent in the midst; for it was exactly this which his death secured—a way into the holiest through the rent veil of his flesh. And then, when the cry of desolation, that loud and bitter cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” had given place to quiet assurance, and amid returning light the last cry from the cross went up to heaven, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” it was meet that he should quietly surrender his life and give up the ghost. There is much to encourage and strengthen us in this consummation on the cross.—R. M. E.
Vers. 47–56.—The consequences of our Saviour’s death. Our Lord died in the light. The disappearance of the darkness before his decease was an outward symbol of the light and serenity which came across his spirit. His departure exercised a powerful influence upon all around the cross. Let us notice the consequences of the death, as detailed by Luke.
I. THE ROMAN CENTURION WAS CONVINCED OF CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND DIVINE SONSHIP. (Ver. 47.) In Matthew the exclamation of the centurion is given as, “Truly this was the Son of God;” while here in Luke it is, “Certainly this was a righteous Man.” The one conclusion had reference to the Roman trial. His death was so glorious and triumphant as to vindicate his character from every aspersion. He was no malefactor, but a benefactor of mankind. The other conclusion had reference to the Jewish trial, which was on the ground of his claim of Sonship. Now, his last cry was in the light of Sonship, and “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” was so tenderly and yet firmly uttered as to convince the centurion that the Lord’s claim was real. In the same way, should not our death as believers constitute some vindication of our character and claims? It should show that our righteousness and sonship were not pretences, but glorious realities.
II. THE PEOPLE WERE CONVINCED OF THEIR SIN IN HAVING CLAMOURED FOR HIS CRUCIFIXION. (Ver. 48.) The smiting on the breast was a sign of perplexity and penitence. They were evidently humiliated that they had so treated One who could so nobly die. If the conviction of the centurion was an earnest of the conversion of the pagan world, this was an earnest of the conversion of the Jewish (cf. Godet, in loc.). The meek and quiet spirit with which Christ died broke down their hard-heartedness more than any other course could have done; so that its effect was a manifest preparation for the triumphs of the Pentecost. And should not a Christian’s death strike alarm into the heart of unbelievers, suggesting to them the possibility of their being unable to meet death with becoming courage?
III. HIS ACQUAINTANCE AND THE WOMEN FROM GALILEE ARE PETRIFIED WITH ASTONISHMENT. (Ver. 49.) “They stood,” we are told, “afar off.” They were so unmanned that they could not venture nigh. To them the death was inexplicable. It was apparently the defeat of all their hopes. It was a crushing blow. No mystery in providence had ever appeared to them exactly like this. They were ready to say, with Jacob, “All these things are against us.” Is this not the position of God’s people often? They have entertained bright hopes about the Master and his cause, but have found them fading away like summer flowers, so that they stand perplexed and afar off before God’s providences. Is it not the dark hour before the dawn? Is it not the travail-hour before the jubilance of birth? The disciples experienced this, and so may we. Before apparent defeat, let us always exclaim by faith, “It is real victory.”
IV. JOSEPH OF ARIMATHÆA IS LED BY CHRIST’S DEATH TO REAL DECISION. (Vers. 50–52.) Joseph, a good and just man, had been for some time, we know not how long, a “secret disciple” of Jesus. Nicodemus and he seemed to be in the same category, and perhaps they were led into faith about the same time. In the Sanhedrin they had done all that timid men could to prevent the crime of the Crucifixion; but popular feeling was always too strong for them. They had not as yet taken the bold step of professing to belong to Christ. But, strange to say, the death of Jesus, the apparent defeat of his cause, determined them both to be professors. Joseph accordingly goes and boldly begs the body from Pilate, that he may lay it in his own new tomb, while Nicodemus goes off to procure the needful spices. And here have we what seems a law in God’s kingdom. Successors always appear to carry on his work. Christ’s death induces two at least to join his cause at once. As the apparently important pass away, it is only to be succeeded by others, and perhaps a larger number, to take up the fallen banner and prove their faithfulness. Apparent calamities are splendid tests of character—they call forth the brave!
V. CHRIST’S FUNERAL COULD ONLY BE A TEMPORARY INTERMENT. (Vers. 53–56.) It was necessary that the body should be put away before the sabbath began. Now, if he died a little after three o’clock, there were less than three hours to complete the interment. There could not be the customary embalmment. All that was possible was to wrap the dear remains in linen with spices, and then, if nothing prevented, to complete the embalmment on the first day of the week. It was a hurried burial, therefore, and by compulsion a temporary one. Yet “with the rich was his tomb.” It was in a virgin sepulchre, so to speak, he lay for a season, just as he had lain in the Virgin’s womb. It was so far private also that none apparently but the immediate friends and acquaintances followed the funeral. All the circumstances combined to make the funeral and interment most singular. It was well known where they laid him; it was known that they intended completing the embalmment on the first day of the week; his enemies had every opportunity, therefore, to prevent any imposture about a resurrection. All was above-board, like everything in our Lord’s life. Consequently there was in the burial of Jesus a noble foundation laid for that crowning hope of resurrection. We shall see that there was every advantage offered to those who wished to expose duplicity about his rising again. It was the most important burial and most hopeless, so far as the mourners were concerned. They above all others seemed oblivious of all promise of resurrection.—R. M. E.

Vers. 1–49.—THE RESURRECTION. All the four evangelists give an account of the Resurrection. None of the four, however, attempt to give a history of it simply from a human point of sight. Each Gospel probably reproduces the special points dwelt on in certain great centres of Christian teaching, in what we should now term different schools of thought. (Attempts have been made by theological scholars to classify these as Jewish, Gentile, Greek, Roman; but only with indifferent success).
The teaching which St. Matthew’s Gospel represents, evidently in the Resurrection preaching dwelt with peculiar insistence on the great Galilæan appearance of the Risen. St. Luke confines himself exclusively to the appearance, in Judæa. St. John chooses for his Resurrection instruction scenes which had for their theatre both Galilee and Judæa. St. John, as his central or most detailed piece of teaching, dwells on a fishing scene on Gennesaret, the actors being the well-known inner circle of the apostles. While St. Luke chooses for his detailed Resurrection narrative a high-road in a Jerusalem suburb; and for actors, two devoted, but historically unknown, disciples.
Then there is no question of discrepancies in this portion of the great history. It is not easy to frame a perfectly satisfactory harmony of all the events related by the four, after the Lord had risen; for, in fact, we possess no detailed account or history of what took place in that eventful period in presence of the disciples. We simply have memoranda of eye-witnesses of certain incidents connected with the Resurrection selected by the great first teachers as specially adapted to their own preaching and instruction.
The events of the first Easter Day have been tabulated by Professor Westcott, in what he terms a provisional arrangement, as follows:—
Approx. time.

Very early on Sunday
The Resurrection, followed by the earthquake, the descent of the angel, the opening of the tomb (Matt. 28:2–4).
5 a.m.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the [mother] of James and Salome, probably with others, start for the sepulchre in the twilight. Mary Magdalene goes before the others, and returns at once to Peter and John (John 20:1, etc.).
5.30 a.m.
Her companions reach the sepulchre when the sun had risen (Mark 16:2).
A vision of an angel. Message to the disciples (Matt. 28:5, etc.; Mark 16:5, etc.).
6 a.m.
Another party, among whom is Joanna, come a little later, but still in the early morning (ch. 24:1, etc.; comp. Mark 16:1, note).
A vision of “two young men.” Words of comfort and instruction (ch. 24:4, etc.).
6.30 a.m.
The visit of Peter and John (John 20:3–10).
A vision of two angels to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11–13).
About the same time the company of women carry their tidings to the apostles (ch. 24:10, etc.).
7 a.m.
The Lord reveals himself to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14–18; Mark 16:9).
Not long after he reveals himself, as it appears, to the company of women who are returning to the sepulchre. Charge to the brethren to go to Galilee (Matt. 28:9, etc.).
4–6 p.m.
The appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (ch. 24:13, etc.; Mark 16:12).
After 4 p.m.
An appearance to St. Peter (ch. 24:34; comp. 1 Cor. 15:5).
8 p m.
The appearance to the eleven and others (ch. 24:36, etc.: Mark 16:14; John 20:19, etc.).

In the above table one point must be specially noticed: two companies or separate groups of women are mentioned as going to the sepulchre with the same pious object of assisting in the final embalming of the sacred body.
If this be assumed to be the fact, there will be nothing improbable in the supposition that both these groups of women, all doubtless intimate friends belonging to the little company of the Master, but living probably some distance apart in Jerusalem, came together some time on the sabbath day, and then arranged to meet early on the first day at the sepulchre. Probably the spices purchased in some haste just before the sabbath commenced were judged inadequate.
(1) For in ch. 23:56 we read of a company of women, most probably including all, i.e. both groups, of holy women, who, after beholding the sepulchre, “returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day.”
(2) In Mark 16:1 we read, “When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought [not ‘had bought] sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.” This company (alluded to in Mark 16:1) arrives the first at the sepulchre, and sees the vision of one angel (Mark 16:5). The other company (alluded to in ch. 24:1) arrives not long after at the sepulchre, and sees the vision of two angels (ch. 24:4).
In considering the accounts of the Resurrection, the following memoranda will be found suggestive:—
(1) The holy women are the principal actors in all the four accounts of the circumstances connected with the tomb. But their assertions were not believed by the disciples until their statements were confirmed by the Lord’s personal appearance.
(2) When St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:5–8) sums up the great appearances of our Lord, the basis of our faith, he makes no reference to his appearance to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14, etc.; Mark 16:9) or to the women (two Maries mentioned Matt. 28:9, 10).
(3) No evangelist describes the Resurrection—no earthly being having been present. St. Matthew is the evangelist who, in his narrative, goes furthest back. He mentions the shock of the earthquake, the awful presence of the angel, the benumbing terror which seized the guards who were watching. Most probably these signs accompanied the Resurrection.
(4) The risen Lord appeared only to his own.
(5) That no future doubt should be thrown on the reality of the appearances of the Risen, he showed himself not only to solitary individuals, but to companies, i.e. to two, to the eleven (repeatedly), and to above five hundred brethren at once. And these manifestations took place (a) at different hours of the day; (b) in different localities—in Judæa, in Galilee, in rooms of houses, in the open air.

Vers. 1–12.—The Resurrection. At the sepulchre.
Ver. 1.—Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. In the foregoing general note on the Resurrection, the probability has been discussed of the holy women having been divided into two companies who separately came to the sepulchre. St. Luke’s notice here refers to the party who arrived the second at the tomb.
Ver. 2.—And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. The tomb in which the body of the “King’s Son” was laid was in a garden close by the scene of the Crucifixion. It had been recently hewn out of a rock, the low ridge opposite the slight ascent of Calvary. “In front of a tomb belonging to a rich family there was generally a vestibule open to the air, then a low entrance sometimes, as in this case, on the side of a rock, leading into a square chamber of moderate dimensions, on one side of which was a place for the body, either cut some seven feet into the rock, or lengthways, three feet deep, with a low arch over it.… The tomb had been lately made, and the door which closed the entrance, the only aperture into the tomb, was a large stone” (‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ on Matt. 27:60). Recent investigations in Jerusalem serve to confirm the accuracy of the original traditional sites. (comp. Williams, ‘Holy City,’ ii. 240; Professor Willis, ‘Treatise on the Holy Sepulchre,’ etc.). We find the following passage in the Bordeaux Pilgrim (A.D. 333): “On the left side (of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is the hillock Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. Thence about a stone-throw distance is the crypt where his body was deposited.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem makes several references to the spot. In the days of Eusebius (first half of the fourth century) there was no doubt as to the site.
Ver. 4.—And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. To one company of women one angel appeared; to another, two. Mary Magdalene, a little later, saw two angels in white sitting, as it were keeping watch and ward over the sepulchre for a short time after the sacred form had left it. The words which these beings from another sphere spoke to the mourning women were slightly different, but the teaching was the same in each case: “He is not here, but is risen. Do you not remember what he told you when he was yet with you?” Van Oosterzee and Farrar repeat a beautiful passage from Lessing on this: “Cold discrepancy-mongers, do you not, then, see that the evangelists do not count the angels?… There were not only two angels—there were millions of them. They appeared not always one and the same, not always the same two; sometimes this one appeared, sometimes that; sometimes on this place, sometimes on that; sometimes alone, sometimes in company; sometimes they said this, sometimes they said that.”
Vers. 6, 7.—He is not here, but is risen. These words were repeated in each of the angelic communications at the sepulchre. Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. The angels here call to the women’s memory the Master’s former promises of the Resurrection. In SS. Matthew and Mark the angel bids them tell the disciples not to forget the appointed place of meeting in Galilee, referring to the Lord’s words on the way from the “Last Supper” to Gethsemane (Matt. 26:32; Mark 14:28).
Ver. 9.—And told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. The account of the scenes at the sepulchre in St. Luke are the least vivid and detailed of the four evangelists. It must be remembered that Matthew, Mark (the amanuensis of Peter), and John relate their own memories here, as well as what they had heard from the holy women. Peter and John, we know, were present themselves at the sepulchre. St. Luke received his less detailed and more summarized account of that early morning, years after, most probably from the lips of one of the holy women who had formed part of one of the “two companies” who carried spices for the embalming.
Ver. 11.—And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. The utter incredulity of the friends of Jesus when these reports of his resurrection were brought to them is remarkable when contrasted with the evident dread of the Sanhedrin that something of grave moment would happen after three days had elapsed. The disciples were evidently amazed at their Master’s rising from the dead. The chief priests and Jewish leaders would apparently have been surprised if something startling had not happened (see Matt. 27:63, etc., where an account is given of the measures these able but unprincipled men took, in their short-sighted wisdom, to counteract any fulfilment of the Crucified One’s word—a fulfilment they evidently looked forward to as to no improbable contingency). The utter surprise of the disciples at the Resurrection, which in their Gospels they truthfully acknowledge, is no small side-proof of the genuineness of these records of the event.
Ver. 12.—Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. This verse is omitted in some of the ancient authorities. It is, however, no doubt genuine, and is, in fact, a condensed report (omitting all mention of John) of the narrative given at length in St. John’s Gospel (20:3–10).
Vers. 13–35.—The meeting with the risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus.
Ver. 13.—And, behold, two of them. This long piece, which relates in a singularly vivid and picturesque manner one of the earliest appearances of the Risen, is peculiar to St. Luke. St. Mark (16:12, 13) mentions it, but as it were only in passing. This Gospel, written probably after the Gospels of SS. Matthew and Mark, holds a middle place between the earliest apostolic memoirs represented by the first two Gospels and the last memoir, that of St. John, which was probably put out in its present form by the apostle “whom Jesus loved” some time in the last fifteen years of the first century. Writers of varied schools unite in expressions of admiration for this singularly beautiful “memory of the Lord.” Godet styles it one of the most admirable pieces in St. Luke’s Gospel. Renan, belonging to another, perhaps the most cheerless of all schools of religious thought, writes thus: “L’épisode des disciples d’Emmaus est un des récits les plus fins, les plus nuancés qu’il y ait dans aucune langue” (‘Les Evangiles,’ p. 282). Dean Plumptre speaks of “the long and singularly interesting narrative peculiar to St. Luke.” He says, “It must be looked upon as among the ‘gleaning of the grapes,’ which rewarded his researches even after the full vintage had apparently been gathered in by others” (i.e. SS. Matthew and Mark). The “two of them,” although doubtless well known in the apostolic age, seem to have held no distinguished place in early Christian history (see note on ver. 18, where Cleopas is mentioned). That same day. The first day of the week—the first Easter Day. The events of the early morning of the Resurrection have been already commented upon. To a village called Emmaus. This Emmaus, the narrative tells us, was about sixty furlongs—some six miles and a half—from the holy city. It was situated east-south-east from Jerusalem. The name is connected with the modern Arabic term Hammám (a bath), and indicates probably, like the Latin Aquæ, or the French Aix, and the English “Bath,” or “Wells,” the presence of medicinal springs; and this may possibly account for St. Luke the physician’s attention having in the first instance been drawn to the spot. This Emmaus is now called Kulonieh. A curious Talmudical reference, quoted by Godet, belongs to this place Emmaus, now Kulonieh: “At Maûza they go to gather the green boughs for the Feast of Tabernacles” (Talmud, ‘Succa,’ iv. 5). Elsewhere it is said that “Maûza is Kulonieh.”
Ver. 15.—While they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. One, if not the first, fulfilment of the comforting promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Compare also the words of Malachi, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it” (3:16).
Ver. 16.—But their eyes were holden, that they should not know him. So Mary Magdalene looked on and failed to recognize at first the Person of her adored Master (John 20:15). So by the lake-shore, as he stood and spoke to the tired fishermen, they who had been so long with him knew him not. Some mysterious change had been wrought in the Person of the Lord. Between the Resurrection and the Ascension, men and women now looked on him without a gleam of recognition, now gazed on him knowing well that it was the Lord. “It is vain,” writes Dr. Westcott, “to give any simply natural explanation of the failure of the disciples to recognize Christ. After the Resurrection he was known as he pleased, and not necessarily at once.… Till they who gazed on him were placed in something of spiritual harmony with the Lord, they could not recognize him.” The two on their walk to Emmaus, and Mary Magdalene in the garden, were preoccupied with their sorrow. The fisher-disciples on the lake were preoccupied with their work, so that the vision of the Divine was obscured. The risen Christ will surely fulfil his own words, “The pure in heart, they shall see God”—but only the pure in heart.
Ver. 17.—What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? The older authorities make the question stop at “as ye walk,” and then add, “and they stood still, looking sad.” This change is, of course, of no great importance, but it considerably adds to the vividness of the picture.
Ver. 18.—And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas. This name is a Greek contraction of Cleopatros, and points to Alexandrian antecedents. Dean Plumptre suggests that this may in part, perhaps, account for this Cleopas, not improbably a Jew of Alexandria, imparting to St. Luke what had not found its way into the current oral teaching of the Hebrew Church at Jerusalem, as embodied in the narratives of SS. Matthew and Mark. Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem? better translated, dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem, and not know, etc.? That is to say, “Art thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know about the wonderful events which have just taken place in the holy city?”
Ver. 19.—And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. To the Stranger’s question, “What things have so lately excited Jerusalem?” they both probably burst out with “the Name,” then doubtless on all lips in the holy city, “Jesus of Nazareth,” the hated and adored Name. And then they went on with a further explanation to One who seemed a stranger just arrived: they explained who this Jesus was supposed to have been. “He was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” which Lange happily paraphrases “equally great in secret contemplative holiness and in public acts of beneficence.” But then the “two” explained, “This he was; for he is no more. Our chief priests and rulers have done him to death. They have crucified him.”
Ver. 21.—But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. And we who were his friends and followers, we thought we had found in him the Redeemer of Israel, King Messiah! Think! the Redeemer crucified! Although the Redeemer, in the sense they probably understood the word, was something very different to the sense we give to it, the idea was still something very lofty and sublime. It included, no doubt, much of earthly glory and dominion for Israel, but in some definite sense the Gentile world, too, would share in the blessings of Messiah. And to think of the shameful cross putting an end to all these hopes! And beside all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done. But yet terrible and despairing as was the story of Cleopas and his friend, their tone was not quite hopeless; for they went on, “And now we have come to the third day since they crucified him.” No doubt they dwelt a short space on the expression, “third day,” telling the Stranger how their dead Master, when alive, had bade his friends watch for the third day from his death. The third day, he had told them, would be the day of his triumphant return to them; and, strangely enough, on the early morning of this third day, something did happen which had stirred, excited, and perplexed them. Certain women of their company, who had been early to the grave of the Master, meaning to embalm the corpse, found the sepulchre empty, and they came back reporting how they had seen a vision of angels there, who told them their Master lived. What did it all mean?
Ver. 24.—And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Tholuck writes, “Does not their word sound as the language of those in whose heart the smoking flax yet glimmers, though nigh to extinction?”
Ver. 25.—Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! better translated, O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! The Stranger now replies to the confused story of sorrow and baffled hopes just lit up with one faint ray of hope, with a calm reference to that holy book so well known to, so deeply treasured by every Jew. “See,” he seems to say, “in the pages of our prophets all this, over which you now so bitterly mourn, is plainly predicted: yon must be blind and deaf not to have seen and heard this story of agony and patient suffering in those well-known, well-loved pages! When those great prophets spoke of the coming of Messiah, how came it about that you missed seeing that they pointed to days of suffering and death to be endured by him before his time of sovereignty and triumph could be entered on?”
Ver. 26.—Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? better translated, ought not the Christ, etc.? “St. Luke dwells on the Resurrection as a spiritual necessity; St. Mark, as a great fact; St. Matthew, as a glorious and majestic manifestation, and St. John, in its effects on the members of the Church.… If this suffering and death were a necessity (οὐχ ἔδει), if it was in accordance with the will of God that the Christ should suffer, and so enter into his glory, and if we can be enabled to see this necessity, and see also the noble issues which flow from it, then we can understand how the same necessity must in due measure be laid upon his brethren” (Westcott). And so we obtain a key to some of the darkest problems of humanity. Thus the Stranger led the “two” to see the true meaning of the “prophets,” whose burning words they had so often read and heard without grasping their real deep signification. Thus he led them to see that the Christ must be a suffering before he could be a triumphing Messiah; that the crucifixion of Jesus, over which they wailed with so bitter a wailing, was in fact an essential part of the counsels of God. Then he went on to show that, as his suffering is now fulfilled—for the Crucifixion and death were past—nothing remains of that which is written in the prophets, but the entering into his glory.
Ver. 27.—And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. The three divisions, the Pentateuch (Moses), the prophets, and all the Scriptures, cover the whole Old Testament received then in the same words as we possess them now. The Lord’s proofs of what he asserted he drew from the whole series of writings, rapidly glancing over the long many-coloured roll called the Old Testament. “Jesus had before him a grand field, from the Protevangelium, the first great Gospel of Genesis, down to Malachi. In studying the Scriptures for himself, he had found himself in them everywhere (John 5:39, 40)” (Godet). The things concerning himself. The Scriptures which the Lord probably referred to specially were the promise to Eve (Gen. 3:15); the promise to Abraham (Gen. 22:18); the Paschal lamb (Exod. 12.); the scapegoat (Lev. 16:1–34); the brazen serpent (Numb. 21:9); the greater Prophet (Deut. 18:15); the star and sceptre (Numb. 24:17); the smitten rock (Numb. 20:11; 1 Cor. 10:4), etc.; Immanuel (Isa. 7:14); “Unto us a Child is born,” etc. (Isa. 9:6, 7); the good Shepherd (Isa. 40:10, 11); the meek Sufferer (Isa. 50:6); he who bore our griefs (Isa. 53:4, 5); the Branch (Jer. 23:5; 33:14, 15); the Heir of David (Ezek. 34:23); the Ruler from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); the Branch (Zech. 6:12); the lowly King (Zech. 9:9); the pierced Victim (Zech. 12:10); the smitten Shepherd (Zech. 13:7); the messenger of the covenant (Mal. 3:1); the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2); and no doubt many other passages. Dr. Davison, in his book on prophecy, pp. 266–287, shows that there is not one of the prophets without some distinct reference to Christ, except Nahum, Jonah (who was himself a type and prophetic sign), and Habakkuk, who, however, uses the memorable words quoted in Rom. 1:17. To these we must add references to several of the psalms, notably to the sixteenth and twenty-second, where sufferings and death are spoken of as belonging to the perfect picture of the Servant of the Lord and the ideal King. His hearers would know well how strangely the agony of Calvary was foreshadowed in those vivid word-pictures he called before their memories in the course of that six-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Ver. 28.—And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. This was no feint or deception. The Lord would have left them then to themselves had they not prayed him with real earnestness to abide with them. “How many are there,” says Stier, “to whom he has drawn near, but with whom he has not tarried, because they have suffered him to ‘go away again,’ in his living and heart-moving words! How comparatively rare is it for men to reach the full blessing they might receive (see, for example, the striking historical instance, 2 Kings 13:14, 19)!” But these were not content to let the unknown Teacher pass on, and see no more of him, and hear no more of his strange powerful teaching. It is the words of, and the thought contained in, this verse which suggested the idea of the well-known hymn—“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.”
Ver. 29.—And he went in to tarry with them. Some have supposed that one at least of the two had a dwelling at Emmaus; but the position which the strange Teacher assumed as “Master of the household,” in the solemn act recorded in ver. 30, seems to indicate that it was an inn where they sojourned.
Ver. 30.—And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. There was a deep significance in the concluding act of this memorable appearance of the risen Lord. This taking the bread, and blessing it, and breaking it, and then giving it to them, was no ordinary act of courtesy, or welcome, or friendship, which, from a master or teacher might be shown to his disciples. It resembles too closely the great sacramental act in the upper room, when Jesus was alone with his apostles, for us to mistake its solemn sacramental character. The great teachers of the Church in different ages have generally so understood it. So Chrysostom in the Eastern, and Augustine in the Western Church; so Theophylact, and later Beza the Reformer all affirm that this meal was the sacrament. It taught men generally, even more plainly than did the first sacred institution teach the twelve, that in this solemn breaking of bread the Church would recognize their Master’s presence. So generally, in fact, has this Emmaus “breaking of bread” been recognized by the Catholic Church as the sacrament, that later Romanist divines have even pressed it as a scriptural demonstration for the abuse which administered the elements under one form (compare, for instance, the “Refutation of the Confession of Augsberg,” quoted by Stier, in his comment on this passage of Luke, ‘Words of the Lord Jesus’). How unnecessary and forced such a construction is, Bishop Wordsworth points out in his note on ch. 24:30, “It may be remembered that bread (ἄρτος) was to the Jews a general name for food, including drink as well as meat.… Thus bread became spiritually an expressive term for all the blessings received from communion in Christ’s body and blood, and the κλάσις ἄρτου, or ‘breaking of bread,’ was suggestive of the source from which these blessings flow, (viz.) Christ’s body (κλώμενον) broken (1 Cor. 11:24); hence κλάσις ἄρτου in Acts 2:42 is a general term for the Holy Eucharist.”
Ver. 31.—He vanished out of their sight. Not here, not now, can we hope to understand the nature of the resurrection-body of the Lord; it is and must remain to us, in our present condition, a mystery. Certain facts have, however, been revealed to us: (1) The Resurrection was a reality, not an appearance; for on more than one occasion the Lord permitted the test of touch. He also ate before his disciples of their ordinary food. (2) Yet there was a manifest exemption from the common conditions of bodily (corporeal) existence; for he comes through a closed door; he could withdraw himself when he would from touch as well as from sight; he could vanish in a moment from those looking on him; he could, as men gazed on him, rise by the exertion of his own will into the clouds of heaven. (3) He was known just as he pleased and when he pleased; for at times during the “forty days” men and women looked on him without a gleam of recognition, at times they gazed at him, knowing well that it was the Lord. On the words, “he vanished out of their sight,” Godet writes, “It must be remembered that Jesus, strictly speaking, was already no more with them (ver. 44), and that the miracle consisted rather in his appearing than in his disappearing.” Dr. Westcott expresses the same truth in different language, “What was natural to him before was now miraculous, what was before miraculous is now natural.”
Ver. 32.—And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way? better rendered, was not our heart burning within us, while, etc.?
Vers. 33, 34.—And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem. “They fear no longer the night-journey from which they had dissuaded their unknown Companion” (Bengel). And found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. Late that evening Cleopas and his friend arrived from Emmaus at Jerusalem. Hastening to the accustomed meeting-place of the disciples of Jesus, to tell their wondrous story of the meeting with the risen Master, they find the eleven together full of joy. Peter had seen and had no doubt conversed with his Master. What a meeting must that have been! The once eager and devoted apostle had probably not gazed on that form in life since he caught the sorrowful look bent on him in the courtyard, when Jesus, bound, passed through and heard his servant denying him with oaths and curses. This appearance to Peter is not recorded in the Gospels. It is, however, placed first of all by St. Paul in his records of the manifestation of the Risen (1 Cor. 15:4–8).
Ver. 35.—And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. The two travellers now relate to the eleven their wondrous story. The words used by Cleopas and his friend in their narration, ἐν τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου, which should be rendered, “in the breaking of the bread,” are significant. It is an expression which, at the time when St. Luke wrote his Gospel, had acquired a definite meaning in the language of the Christian Church, and was applied to breaking bread in the “Supper of the Lord” (see Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor. 10:16). While they were speaking together, the personal appearance of the Lord was vouchsafed to them; for, of a sudden, he stood in the midst and spoke to them!
Vers. 36–49.—The Lord appears to the apostles as they were gathered together on the evening of the first Easter Day.
Ver. 36.—And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them. St. John, who also gives an account of this appearance of the Risen, adds the detail, “when the doors were shut.” The eleven and their friends were gathered together for counsel, probably too in hope that something more would happen after what had already taken place that Easter Day—the report of the holy women of the repeated vision of angels, their own verification of the empty sepulchre, and above all the testimony of Peter that he had seen the Lord. Into this anxious, waiting assembly the two “Emmaus” disciples enter with their wondrous story. In the act of their mentally comparing notes, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them. This sudden presence there is evidently supernatural. He “stood in the midst of them,” though the doors were carefully closed and barred “for fear of the Jews.” Rumours of the Resurrection, no doubt, had already spread through the city, and it was uncertain whether such rumours might not be followed by the arrest of the chief followers of the Crucified. Peace be unto you. This was the ordinary Jewish greeting, but on this occasion, spoken by the Lord, possessed more than the ordinary meaning. This “peace” was his solemn, comforting greeting to his own, just as “his peace” which he left with them on the sad Thursday eve was his solemn farewell to the eleven, spoken, perhaps, in the same “upper room” just before he went out to the garden of the agony.
Ver. 37.—But they were terrified and affrighted. They spoke one to another of the Master; they discussed the empty sepulchre, the angelic vision, the recital by Peter of his interview with the Risen, and were listening to the details of the quiet Emmaus meeting, all hoping for something more; but this sudden, mysterious appearance of their crucified Master in their midst was not, after all, what they had looked for. It terrified them. And supposed that they had seen a spirit. How else could they explain his presence in their midst, when the doors were shut? The evangelists make no attempt to explain his sudden appearance. He was simply there as they spoke of him. It is clear that his presence could be accounted for in no ordinary, natural way. His disciples felt that; hence their supposition that they were looking on a spirit. We can, with our present limited knowledge, form no adequate conception of this resurrection-body of the Lord. It was a reality, no phantasm or appearance; of that the scene about to be described gives us ample evidence. Still, it is clear that his resurrection-body was not bound by the present conditions of material existence of which we are conscious. Epiphanius ascribes to the body of the risen Lord λεπτότης πνευματική, “a spiritual subtilty.” Euthymius uses similar language when he speaks of “his body being now subtile, thin, and unmixed.” He could come into a closed, barred room. He could be visible or invisible, known or unknown, as he pleased and when he pleased.
Ver. 38.—And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? He had just given them his peace. He. proceeds further to allay their fears. Before showing them his pierced hands and feet and side, before eating in their presence, he addresses these comforting words to them: “See,” he seems to say, “I give you my peace. why are ye troubled? why do you allow perplexing, harassing thoughts to arise in your hearts? The past is forgiven and forgotten.” “I come not,” as Stier beautifully sugests, “as a wrathful Judge to reckon with you for your unbelief and unfaithfulness. I bring to you (and all the world) from my sepulchre something very different from up braidings.”
Ver. 39.—Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. “See,” he says, inviting the terror-stricken disciples to a calm, unaffrighted contemplation—“see my hands and my feet pierced with the nails which fastened them to the cross; it is I myself.” Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. The first words quietly told the awe-struck ones to look closely at him, and to ascertain from the dread marks he bore that what they looked upon was Jesus their Master. Then he proceeded to bid them touch him, handle him, and so assure themselves that it was no phantom, no bodiless spirit, that stood before them. These words of the Lord, and the invitation, “handle me, and see,” made the deepest impression on the hearers. These, then, were proofs of the Resurrection that admitted of no shadow of doubt. These words, this sight, changed their lives. What cared they afterwards for men and men’s threatenings? Death, life, to them were all one. They had seen the Lord, they had handled with their hands “that which was from the beginning” (see 1 John 1:1). Browning forcibly puts this thought which so influenced the first great teachers. The dying St. John is dwelling on the thought that when he is gone there will be none left with men who saw and touched the Lord.

“If I live yet, it is for good, more love
Through me to men: be nought but ashes here
That keep awhile my semblance, who was John.
Still, when they scatter, there is left on earth
No one alive who knew (consider this!),
Saw with his eyes, and handled with his hands,
That which was from the first, the Word of life.
How will it be when none more saith, ‘I saw’?”
(‘A Death in the Desert.’)

Ver. 40.—Some (but not the majority) of the older authorities omit this verse. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. It has been suggested that the Risen simply pointed to those parts of his body which were not covered with clothing, and invited the disciples to touch these, and so to assure themselves that he had actually flesh and bone. Von Gerlach has an interesting suggestion that the feet were especially referred to “because there was in the feet something more convincing and touching than even in the hands, on account of the wonder that One who had been so grievously wounded could move.” The real reason, however, of the Lord calling attention to the hands and feet comes out from St. John’s account of this appearance of the Risen, for he adds that Jesus also showed them his side. Thus he pointed to the wounded members of his blessed body to show that in the resurrection-body he retained these marks of his wounds. That he retained them now and for ever we know from the glorious vision of the Revelation, where the wounded humanity of the Lord appears throned and adored in the highest heaven: “Lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts [living creatures], and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). Our Master and God retains these as the glorious tokens of his victory and atonement. Augustine very strikingly deduces from this that perhaps we shall see the same with respect to the wounds of the martyrs (‘De Civ. Dei,’ lib. xxii. cap. 19).
Vers. 41, 42.—And while they yet believed not for joy. The awful joy of the disciples now was something too deep for words, even for calm belief. St. John records it, too, with simple pathos. “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” This was the fulfilment of his promise to them, when, full of sadness, they were listening to him that last solemn Passover evening in the upper room. “Ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). In after-days, as John preached and taught in his old age, how the remembrance of that hour must have stirred in his heart when he thus wrote of it! Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. The Master would not permit this state of wondering ecstasy to continue; so he changes the current of their thoughts by thus descending into the region of everyday life, at the same time powerfully demonstrating by this further proof that, though changed, his resurrection-body was no mere Docetic semblance, no phantom, but that he could eat if he chose. The next sentence (ver. 43) tells simply how he took the food, and ate before them. The fish and honeycomb which they gave him no doubt formed the staple of their evening meal. Fish was part of the common food of the disciples—we see this from the miracles of the five thousand and the four thousand, and also from the narrative of John 21:9. Honey, we know, in Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey, was common enough to enter into the diet of the poor (compare, among many passages, Exod. 3:8, 17; Deut. 26:9, 15; Jer. 11:5; Isa. 7:15, 22; Matt. 3:4).

Vers. 44–49.—A summary of some of the Lord’s last words. The next six verses do not record sayings uttered the same first Easter evening. They are, in fact, a very brief summary of instructions given by the Master on different occasions during the forty days which elapsed between the Resurrection and the Ascension. In considering the reasons of the omission of any special reference to the Galilæan appearances of the risen Lord, two points must be borne in mind.
(1) Neither Luke nor Paul had any personal reminiscences, like Matthew, or Mark (who wrote down, we believe, St. Peter’s memories), or St. John. Luke was dependent on other sources altogether.
(2) Luke, when he wrote the Gospel bearing his name, probably proposed to complete his recital of the close of the earthly ministry of the Lord in his second work, the Acts of the Apostles. His knowledge of what took place after the Resurrection was evidently derived from a source unfamiliar with the Galilæan manifestations of the risen Lord.
St. Luke’s knowledge of the Ascension seems to have been most precise. He evidently lays great stress upon the importance of this last scene, both as a piece of evidence and as a theme of teaching; for he not only concludes his Gospel with it, but commences his book of the Acts with the same recital, accompanied with further details.

Ver. 44.—And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. The words, “while I was yet with you,” plainly show that, in the Master’s mind, the period of his sojourn with men was, in the human sense of the expression, past. His abode now was elsewhere. This and the next verse (45) probably refer to what the Master said that first Easterevening to the assembled disciples, but the exact fixing the time in the forty days (the time specially mentioned by St. Luke in the Acts as elapsing between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Acts 1:3) is of comparatively small importance. What is, however, of real moment is the weight Jesus showed that he attached to Old Testament words and types and prophecies by this repeated mention. The remarks of Meyer and Van Oosterzee on this subject are well worthy of being quoted: “If the exegete should read the Old Testament Scriptures without knowing to whom and to what they everywhere point, the New Testament clearly directs his understanding, and places him under an obligation, if he would be a sound Christian teacher, to acknowledge its authority and interpret accordingly. Doubt as to the validity of our Lord and of his apostles’ method of expounding, involves necessarily a renunciation of Christianity” (Meyer). “They who consult the teaching of Jesus and his apostles with respect to the prophecies concerning the Messiah, need not grope in uncertainty, but should, nevertheless, remember that the Lord probably directed the attention of the disciples, on this occasion (he is referring to the walk to Emmaus), less to isolated Scriptures than to the whole tenor of the Old Testament in its typical and symbolical character” (Van Oosterzee).
Ver. 45.—Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. Assuming (as is most probably the case) that vers. 44 and 45 refer to words spoken by Jesus on the first Easter evening to the eleven and to Cleopas and his friend, then the way in which he opened their understanding is described by St. John (20:22) thus: “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Among the new powers bestowed on them by this Divine gift, St. Luke especially dwells on the spiritual insight henceforth possessed by these men into the Scriptures of the Old Testament, hitherto only partly understood. This power was doubtless one of the great instruments of their success as preachers.

In the next four verses (46–49) St. Luke evidently briefly summarizes the Master’s great sayings, some probably spoken in the course of the walk to Emmaus, some on that first Easter evening, some on other occasions during the forty days which elapsed between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The introductory words, “and said unto them” (ver. 46), seem the commencement of this summary.

Ver. 46.—Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. The majority of the older authorities omit the words, “and thus it behoved.” The verse should be read thus: “Thus it is written that Christ should suffer,” etc. These words probably were spoken on that first Easter evening. They were apparently repeated on several occasions during the forty days. The Old Testament—they would see now with the new light cast upon it—showed the necessity of an atoning Redeemer, from the sin which it everywhere reveals, and of a dying Redeemer, from the death which it proclaims as the consequence. While the same Scriptures no less authoritatively proclaim that through this suffering the Redeemer-Messiah should attain to his glorification.
Ver. 47.—And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his Name among all nations. This is more definitely expressed in Matt. 28:19 and Mark 16:15, where the universality of his message, here summarized, is found in the form of a definite command. Beginning at Jerusalem. St. Luke enlarges the thought contained in these words in his Acts (1:8). Ps. 110:2, contains the prophecy that from Zion should first proceed the proclamation.
Ver. 48.—Ye are witnesses of these things. This personal witness of the first preachers of Christianity was the secret of their great power over men’s hearts. What Dr. Westcott wrote of St. John was true of the rest of the eleven. “We have seen, and do testify. He (John) had no laboured process to go through; he saw. He had no constructive proof to develop; he bore witness. His source of knowledge was direct, and his mode of bringing conviction was to affirm.”
Ver. 49.—And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you. Promised on the last Passover evening (John 14–16; see especially John 14:16–26; 15:26, 27; 16:7, etc.), and fulfilled partly on the first Easter evening, when he breathed on them (John 20:22), and completely on the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1, etc.). But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. These words apparently were spoken on the day of his ascension (see Acts 1:4).

Vers. 50–53.—THE ASCENSION. In considering the questions which suggest themselves in connection with the ascension of our blessed Lord, we are met on the threshold with the fact that only St. Luke, in his Gospel in this place, and in the Acts (1), has given us a detailed account of the scene. But the fact is referred to plainly by St. John (3:13; 6:62; 20:17) and by St. Paul (Eph. 4:9, 10; 1 Tim. 3:16). A vast number of passages besides, in the Epistles of SS. Paul, Peter, and James, and in the Revelation of St. John, presuppose the Ascension, when they describe the heavenly glory of Jesus and of his session at the right hand of God.
St. John’s triple mention of the Ascension (see above) is exactly in accordance with his constant practice in his Gospel; he avoids rewriting a formal narrative of things which, when he wrote, were well known in the Churches; yet he alludes to these things in clear and unmistakable language, and draws from them his lessons and conclusions.
Notably this is the case in the Fourth Gospel with regard to the sacraments. “It contains,” says Dr. Westcott, “no formal narrative of the institution of sacraments, and yet it presents most fully the idea of sacraments.”
Neander writes with great force on this apparent omission of the Ascension: “We make the same remark upon the ascension of Christ as was before made upon his miraculous conception. In regard to neither is prominence given to the special and actual fact in the apostolic writings; in regard to both, such a fact is presupposed in the general conviction of the apostles, and in the connection of Christian consciousness. Thus the end of Christ’s appearance on earth corresponds with its beginning. Christianity rests upon supernatural facts—stands or falls with them. By faith in them has the Divine life been generated from the beginning. Were this faith gone, there might indeed remain many of the effects of what Christianity has been; but as for Christianity in the true sense, as for a Christian Church, there could be none.”

Ver. 50.—And he led them out as far as to Bethany; more accurately, and he led them out until they were over against Bethany. The scene of the Ascension could scarcely have been the central summit of the Mount of Olives (Jebel-el-Tur), according to ancient tradition; but it is more likely that it took place on one of the remoter uplands which lie above the village. “On the wild uplands which immediately overhang the village, he finally withdrew from the eyes of his disciples, in a seclusion which, perhaps, could nowhere else be found so near the stir of a mighty city; the long ridge of Olivet screening those hills, and those hills the village beneath them, from all sound or sight of the city behind; the view opening only on the wide waste of desert-rocks and everdescending valleys, into the depths of the distant Jordan and its mysterious lake” (Dean Stanley, “Sinai and Palestine,” ch. 3). He lifted up his hands, and blessed them. In Acts 1:4 we read how Jesus, having assembled (συναλιζόμενος) the apostles, gave them some last commands before he left them. It is not expressly stated that only the eleven were present on this occasion. When he had finished speaking, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.” There is now no laying on of hands. “Jam non imposuit manus,” comments Bengel. Those hands, as they were lifted up, were already separated from them, the space between the Risen and those he was blessing grew greater every moment.
Ver. 51.—And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven; more accurately rendered, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. The last clause, “was carried up into heaven,” is absent from some, but not from the majority of the older authorities. The Acts (1:9) describe the act of ascension thus: “As they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” The eleven and those chosen to witness the last earthly scene of the Lord’s ministry came together, in obedience probably to some command of their Master, to some meeting-place in Jerusalem, possibly the well-known upper room. Thence he led them forth from the sacred city, past the scene of the agony and the scene of the weeping, on to some quiet spot hard by loved Bethany, talking to them as they went; and as he spoke, suddenly he lifted up his pierced hands and blessed them; and in the very act of performing this deed of love, he rose, they still gazing on him—rose, as it appears, by the exercise of his own will into the air, and, while they still gazed, a cloud came and veiled him from their sight. He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. Among the appearances of the Risen to his followers during the forty days (ten of these distinct appearances are related in the Gospels and Epistles), this last notably differs from all that preceded it. As at other times when he showed himself to his friends during these forty days, so on the “Ascension” day Jesus apparently came forth suddenly from the invisible world; but not, as on former occasions, did he suddenly vanish from sight, as if he might shortly return as he had done before. But on this fortieth day he withdrew in a different way; as they gazed he rose up into the air, and so he parted from them, thus solemnly suggesting to them that not only was he “no more with them” (ver. 44), but that even those occasional and supernatural appearances vouchsafed to them since the Resurrection were now at an end. Nor were they grieved at this final parting; for we read—
Ver. 52.—And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. This “great joy,” on first thoughts, is singular till we read between the lines, and see how perfectly they now grasped the new mode of the Lord’s connection with his own. They knew that henceforth, not for a little time as before the cross, not fitfully as since the Resurrection, but that for ever, though their eyes might not see him, would they feel his blessed presence near (see John 14:28; 16:7). One question more connected with the Ascension presses for an answer. Much modern criticism regards this last scene simply as one of the ordinary disappearances of the forty days, and declines to admit any external, visible fact in which the Ascension was manifested. But St. Luke’s description, both in his Gospel and in the Acts, is plainly too circumstantial to admit of any hypothesis which limits the Ascension to a purely spiritual elevation. At the end of his earthly ministry, the evening before the cross, Jesus asked back his glory: “Now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). The Ascension and consequent session at the right hand was the answer to the prayer of Christ. It was necessary for the training of the first teachers of Christianity that the great fact should be represented in some outward and visible form. “The physical elevation,” writes Dr. Westcott, “was a speaking parable, an eloquent symbol, but not the truth to which it pointed, or the reality which it foreshadowed. The change which Christ revealed by the Ascension was not a change of place, but a change of state; not local, but spiritual. Still, from the necessities of our human condition, the spiritual change was represented sacramentally, so to speak, in an outward form.… He passed beyond the sphere of man’s sensible existence to the open presence of God” (‘The Revelation of the Risen Lord’). The session at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19) cannot designate any particular place. The ascension, then, of Jesus is not the exchange of one locality, earth, merely for another we term heaven. It is a change of state; it is a passing from all confinement within the limits of space to omnipresence.
Ver. 53.—And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. These last words of the Gospel just alluded to the life of the first teachers, which is dwelt upon with considerable detail in the Acts. In the early days which succeeded the Ascension, the temple and its courts were the principal resort of the teachers of the new “way.” We know that in an extraordinarily short time the numbers of adherents to the crucified and risen Jesus, in Jerusalem only, were counted by thousands. The temple and its vast courts, from its storied past, from its having been the scene of much of the Master’s last teaching, was the natural centre for these leaders of the new “way.” When Luke wrote the words,“were continually in the temple,” it is almost certain that he proposed continuing his great narrative in the book we know as the Acts of the Apostles, in which, guided by the Divine Spirit, he relates to us how the Lord Jesus continued to work on earth—in and by his Church—from his glory-throne in heaven. The early chapters of the Acts take up the thread of the gospel story, and describe the life and work of the friends of Jesus in the great Jerusalem temple, the dangers they had to encounter, and the splendid success which rewarded their brave, faithful toil. These same Acts, in the first lines of their thrilling story, take up again the Ascension scene, which is described with fresh and vivid details. From these details we learn how, when the disciples’ eyes were fixed on that cloud which veiled their ascending Master, they became aware of two stranger-forms with them, clad in white and glistening garments. They knew these belonged to no earthly company. They were two among the thousands of thousands of angels, possibly the angels of the Resurrection, who sat in the empty garden-tomb. These angels tell the awe-struck friends of the ascended Jesus that their adored Master will one day (Acts 1:2) come back to earth in like manner as they had seen him go to heaven. “O earth, thou grain of sand on the shore of the great ocean of the universe of God, thou Bethlehem among the princes of the regions of heaven, thou art and thou ever wilt be, among ten thousand times ten thousand suns and worlds, the loved one, the elect of the Lord; thee will he visit again; thou shalt provide him a throne, even as thou gavest him a manger; thou shalt rejoice in the splendour of his glory, even as thou drankest his blood and his tears, and mournedst at his death. On thee he hath a great work yet to accomplish” (Häfeli, quoted by Stier).

Vers. 1–12.—The Resurrection-morning. Who are the witnesses to the Resurrection? What is the evidence on which it was believed by the first disciples?—on which it is received by all Christians still?
I. THE WITNESSES ARE THE HOLY WOMEN AND THE APOSTLES. It is (ver. 1) the very early morning: “while it was yet dark,” says St. John; “as the day began to dawn,” says St. Matthew; “at the rising of the sun,” says St. Mark. Then the women hasten towards the sepulchre. How many formed the company, or, as seems to be implied, the two companies, of women we know not. The names of five are given, and the rest are grouped under the phrases, the “others that were with them,” and “the others from Galilee.” They quickly pass through the silent streets. Jerusalem is still asleep; neither memory of what had happened, nor fear of what might happen, has disturbed its repose. They have only one care (ver. 1)—the complete embalming of the body which had been hastily laid in the rock-hewn sepulchre of Joseph. There is no idea beyond this; there is no hope even against hope that, on this the third day, he would rise again. With the eagerness characteristic of woman’s nature, they proceed, the question never suggesting itself until they near the tomb, “Who shall roll away the stone from the mouth of the cave?” It would seem that they did not know of the guard which had been commanded to watch or of the sealing of the stone, for that had been done on the sabbath morning; but some of them had observed the setting of the stone—a block three or four feet in height, and two or three in breadth, requiring several men to move it. “How shall it be moved? how shall we find an entrance?” is the question before them as they press towards the holy place. Now, what are the facts? In the dawn, half-clear and half-dark, as the east begins to lighten, Mary of Magdala, the foremost of the company, sees the cave standing wide open—the stone having been rolled aside. Horror-struck, she turns to her companions, and, yielding to the moment’s impulse, she speeds back to the city to communicate her fears to Peter and John (John 20:1, 2). In the mean time, her companions venture forward. Timidly they enter the tomb, or the vestibule of the tomb, to search for the body. Lo, there (Matt. 28:2, 3), on the stone which had been pushed into a corner, sits one “whose countenance is like lightning, and his raiment white as snow,” and prostrate on the ground are the Roman sentries. The women start, but the assuring word, “Fear not ye,” is spoken, and the invitation (Matt. 28:6) is given to “come and see the place where the Lord lay.” Yes, guardians, and only guardians, are these—one where the head, another where the feet, of Jesus had been—token of the complete, protecting care of his Father. And these guardians ask (vers. 5–7), “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”and repeat the testimony, “He is not here: he is risen,” bidding them remember his own words, and bear the news of the Resurrection to the sorrowing company. It is with fear and great joy that they depart, running to bring the disciples word. They encounter scepticism. Their hot, eager sentences (ver. 11) seem to the apostles “as idle tales, and they believe them not.” Peter and John, however, have already obeyed the importunate pleading of Mary. And there, to be sure, as they reach the sepulchre, is the open door. John, who is first, looks in without entering; Peter, coming up, enters at once. “John,” observes Matthew Henry, “could outrun Peter, but Peter could out-dare John.” Undoubtedly the tomb is empty. Examining it, they discover (ver. 12) the linen clothes laid by themselves; and the napkin which had surrounded the head laid by itself. There had been no haste. Not thus would any have acted who had borne away the sacred form. Peter, after minute examination of the surroundings, “departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.” John, with the quick intuition of love, not only wondered, but believed—felt sure that these grave-clothes were the sign of a victory. Such is the account of that ever-memorable morning. The arrangement of its events may not be absolutely accurate; in the ignorance of all that occurred, it is impossible to supply every link in the chain of narrative. The evangelists are so filled with the one reality, “He is risen,” that they are not careful as to the minutiæ of the circumstances. On the Resurrection, as personal, as real, the structure of Christian life and doctine is reared. By the effect of the Resurrection the apostles were transformed. The foolish and slow-hearted fishermen of the past became the princes of a new and heavenly kingdom. “With great power they gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
II. But WITHOUT FURTHER DWELLING ON THE EVIDENCES OF THE RESURRECTION AS AN HISTORICAL FACT, CONSIDER IT AS A MIGHTY SPIRITUAL FORCE. Consider what the apostle calls “the power of the Resurrection.” What is the central truth of the forty days between the Resurrection and Ascension? Study the brief account of these forty days, and you see at once a change in the manner and conditions of the revelation of Christ. He shows himself only to chosen witnesses. St. Mark says that he appeared to the disciples “in another form.” The eyes of the disciples are declared to be so held (ver. 16) that they do not know him. It is the same Jesus, but much is altered. “He came and he went as he pleased; material substances such as the fastened doors were no impediment to his coming; when he was present his disciples did not, as a matter of course, know him.” These forty days were what the sunrise is to the day; they were the beginning of the relation in which he stands to his Church now. All his self-revelations are pictures of the way and truth of his presence as we are called to realize it. Men had seen him without knowing him; now they know him without seeing him. We behold him, as Newman has finely said, “passing from his hiding-place of sight without knowledge to that of knowledge without sight.” As a transition-time, giving us intimations of the glory in which he is abiding and of the grace in which he is dealing with us, regard the period that was ushered in by the early morning of the first day of the week. It was a great day. Four appearances are noted. The first (John 20), to Mary of Magdala, followed or preceded, perhaps, by an appearance to the other women (Matt. 23); the second (vers. 13–35), to the two brethren journeying to Emmaus; the third, to Simon Peter (ver. 35); and the fourth (John 20:19–23), to the disciples assembled at night when the doors were shut for fear of the Jews. Each of these appearances is significant. St. Luke relates the second. One remark only as to Mary of Magdala. Renan has asserted that the glory of the Resurrection belongs to her; that, “after Jesus, it is Mary who has done the most to the founding of Christianity.” There can be nothing more contrary to the explicit statements of the evangelists than much that is contained in the brilliant Frenchman’s statement. But the message of Mary is indeed the basis of the faith of the Church, the basis of the faith of humanity. “If Christ is not risen, our hope is vain; we are yet in our sins.” And the commandment which sent her to the disciples is the inspiration of all Christian hearts. “Go, tell my brethren.” Tell the message of the risen Lord in the light with which the countenance is irradiated; tell it in the glad obedience by which the life is sanctified; tell it through all that you do and are; tell—let your teaching cease only with your breathing—that Christ has risen, that the imprisoning stone has been rolled away, and the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers, its gates being closed neither by day nor by night, for there is no night there.
Vers. 13–35.—Emmaus. (For a beautiful paraphrase of this Scripture, see the passage in Cowper’s poem ‘Conversation,’ beginning, “It happened on a solemn eventide.” The incident is presented by him as an illustration of converse “such as it behoves man to maintain, and such as God approves.” And it is impossible to resist the appropriateness of the lesson which is enforced.) The time of the memorable appearance is the afternoon, probably between four and six; and its prominent persons are two disciples, not apostles, whom it is impossible to identify. The one is called Klopas or Cleophas, supposed by many to be Alphæus, the brother of Joseph of Nazareth, and father of James; but the name being a contraction of Cleopatrus, the supposition is scarcely admissible. The other is not mentioned by name, and many conjectures concerning him have been framed. A worthy German pastor once said, “The learned cannot come to any agreement who the other was, and I will give you this good counsel—let each of you take his place.” Look at these two men as they journey. “The sun of the Resurrection was enveloped in thick clouds of despondency and sorrow, scarcely penetrated by a ray of light” It would seem that they had left the gathering of disciples before Mary had brought her tale. What they dwell on is, “True, the body was not in the tomb; but then he was not seen;” and one risen from the dead was a thought which they could scarcely credit. They are not sure even that the women really saw angels; it was, perhaps, only a vision of angels, and, having the notions of their time as to ghosts and apparitions, they incline to the belief that there was no reality in the presence of whom the Maries and Salome and others had spoken. No; he is dead, and the third day has come and gone, and he has not been seen. Let this state of mind be noted. There was no predisposition in Christ’s followers to accept the Resurrection. Far from this, the evidence made way against doubtings, against scepticisms, we might say, of the most obstinate nature. These foolish and slow-hearted men were almost the last people likely to credit the tale. How was it that this temperament, incredulous, despondent, so quickly gave way to one full of worship and great joy? How was it that such men gave up all, travelled hither and thither with the one message ever on their lips, many of them suffering death because they would maintain that the Christ who was crucified did rise, had been seen by them, and is alive for evermore? I can find only one answer to the question—They witnessed to truth. “The Lord is risen indeed.” But regard the incident in the light of the thought that the forty days in which Christ showed himself alive after his Passion were intended as a time of preparation for that new form of his presence which began when the day of Pentecost was fully come. Studying the forty-days’ period, we can find many hints and suggestions as to the manner of Christ’s intercourse with us, of his coming to us in the Comforter whom he promised until the end of the age. The special teaching of this journey to Emmaus, and all that befell the two, may be gathered under three points: (1) Christ with us, but unrevealed; (2) Christ teaching, but personally unrecognized; (3) Christ revealed and recognized. I. CHRIST WITH US, BUT UNREVEALED. A Stranger asks the cause of the dejection of the two travellers, and, by his sympathy and courtesy, draws out their confidence. Two reasons for not discerning him are given. The one is (Mark 16:12), that “he appeared in another form” than that with which they were familiar. Not the form of the Shepherd going before them, but that of the Companion in walking and working clothes travelling by their side. But there is the other reason (ver. 16)—“Their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” They were not at that time in spiritual light; their vision was narrowed by their great sorrow. Are not these still the reasons why so often we do not see the Christ who is with us as we travel along the thoroughfares of life? He is not in the form in which we expect him. Sometimes he hides himself, that he may get the more fully into our hearts. He is with us, wanting the halo, wanting all that would at once declare him, that he may be more intimately our Friend, “familiar, patient, condescending, free.” And we miss or mistake him, because we cannot see beneath the form, because our minds ate self-occupied, or, when intent on higher things, are wanting in the elevation, in the pure sweet light, of the spiritual mind. Only when the spiritual eyes are opened do we know who has been and is with us. But he is with us as we toil on our toilsome way, bearing the heat and burden of the afternoon. It is he who is touching the springs of our thought and action. It is he who is speaking to us. Fear not, thou weary and heart-sore disciple; when thy comforts seem to be gone, be, the Comforter, is close to thee. Thy tears are falling; he is nigh with his “Why weepest thou?” Thou art seeking thy God, but thy soul is unresting, because it cannot find the Rock; he is nigh with his “Whom seekest thou?” Thou hast left the city’s din behind thee, and art alone with thyself; he is nigh, assuring thee that the fairest vineyards are those which are received from the valley of troubling. Thou art in communion with some kindred spirit, exchanging the fears and joys of the mind that turns to heaven; he is nigh, rejoicing to add himself to the two or three. The story of Emmaus is indeed a figure of the life-pilgrimage. Bear from it the pledge that whosoever is true to the light, is, though halting and uncertain may be his steps, the neighbour to Jesus Christ—Jesus himself near and in fellowship with all communing and reasoning.
II. And how? TEACHING, ALTHOUGH PERSONALLY UNRECOGNIZED. What Christ was in his dealing with the two, he has been in his dealing with his Church. During the past centuries he has been “teaching and expounding the things concerning him self.” Did he not promise that the Holy Ghost would be the Guide into all truth, through the glorifying of him, the receiving of his and showing it to his own? What is the witness for the fulfilment of this office? It is the history of the past eighteen centuries. The text from which the Holy Ghost has been preaching is that which Jesus sounded (ver. 26); and the way of the sermon is the very way of Christ (ver. 27). Moses and the prophets, apprehended in New Testament light, have, for these centuries, been read, opened up, as the treasury of the things of Christ. Thought and culture, devotion and obedience, stand to-day where they stood yesterday—before the mighty “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” Is there not progressiveness in the teaching of the Holy Ghost? There is development in Christianity. It has its permanent, but it has its progressive, element also. It is only by little and little that the higher truth of the kingdom enters the hearts of men. Precept mast be on precept, line on line, until the dispensation of the opening, when the Church, gathered fully into the house of the Lord, will receive from the pierced hand the bread of the eternal life. So in personal history and experience. There is One teaching us, even when we do not recognize who he is. Life is the school in which the Holy Ghost is the Instructor. Christ and Christ’s love, and the meaning of our existence as interpreted in Christ’s cross, is the lesson in which we are taught. We pass from standard up to standard, the book which regulates all the teaching being the Scriptures. Many are the forms which the Holy Ghost, the Teacher, assumes; many are the agencies through which he draws near. But if, with receptive minds, we are yielded to him, he is taking us step by step along the path of the manifold education meant for the disciple of Jesus; expounding as we are able to bear, stooping to our immaturities and weaknesses; a presence in us rather than external to us, stimulatting thought and desire, enkindling into fuller flame the smoking flax; so that by-and-by we are able to say, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (ver. 32).
III. Behold CHRIST REVEALED AND RECOGNIZED. The village is reached. Must the delightful companionship end? Courteously saluting them, the Stranger apparently is going on. Nay, the son is about to set; they entreat him not to leave them (ver. 29). He would have gone on if there had been no prayer. The personal desire is essential to the tarrying. But that desire never pleads in vain. How many never plead for the tarrying—indeed, do not want it! For the drawing near and journeying with us, no desire from us is needed. Christ does that of his own will. But the tarrying is another matter. He cannot force an entrance; he will be forced. “They constrained him” He receives sinners for salvation; their reception of him is salvation (Rev. 3:20). At meat with them he is revealed. What it was that disclosed him we cannot exactly say. The whole manner is solemn and striking. At once he takes the head of the table. The Master’s place is conceded to him. And that always prepares for revelation. When the heart is truly yielded to Christ, the moment of the showing of himself is near. He takes the bread; he blesses; he breaks, and gives it to the two. And their eyes are opened, and they know him. There is the voice, the blessing, and I think, the sight of the pierced hands—the sight that I expect to have in glory. The meal may not have been a full sacrament. But Christ’s presence and blessing made, the meal sacramental; for that presence and that blessing elevate whatever is ordinary. And the action before us is a consecration of ordinance as well as Word as the means of revelation. The Word prepares for the ordinance; in the ordinance Christ is revealed. Is not this a forecast of the future? Is it not Christ’s will to make himself known to those who sit at meat with him—they having first constrained him and being thus spiritually susceptible—in the breaking of bread? Observe the signs of the revelation. A new sight (ver. 31); a new energy (ver. 33); a new sympathy (vers. 33, 34); a new eloquence (ver. 35). Joy, joy to the disciples who have seen the Lord. But he has vanished out of their sight. He must not hinder, by his bodily presence, the lifting of the consciousness into the region of the spiritual presence. That on which afterwards they dwell is, not the glimpse they have had of face and hand, but the power of his Spirit, the life-giving force of his Word (ver. 32). The clouds were dispelled by the rising of the Day-star in the heart. That is the sign of Christ with us here. By that we know that it is he who has been talking with us. One day, but not in this present time, we shall see him as he is; he will bless and break and give to us himself, the Bread of life. And then he will not vanish out of our sight.

“Oh, then shall the veil be removed,
And round me thy brightness be poured;
I shall meet him whom absent I loved,
I shall see whom unseen I adored.’

Vers. 36–43.—Christ and his Church. I. THE CHURCH. It is found in miniature in the upper room—“The eleven, and them that were with them.” 1. Its separation. It is isolated from the outer world. A new bond, a new manner, of union is already realized. It is not of the world, as Christ himself was not. There is a door shut between the little flock and the Jews. A supreme attraction to him whom the world sees not, an affiance of soul of which the world knows not, unites the company, and, in thus uniting, separates it. It has a secret with which the world does not intermeddle. 2. Its unity. (1) That stands in Christ, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). The Church is not a mere voluntary association; it is a spiritual organism rooted and grounded in the Man Christ Jesus—in what he is and has done, in his Divine-human Person, and the offices which he executes as Redeemer. (2) It is realized through continuance in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship. “The eleven, and those with them.” Christ had looked through the ages down to the end of the time, and thus had spoken: “I pray for those who shall believe on me through the word of the men whom thou didst give me.” Here the eleven form the centre of the company. There is a definite word on which the Church is built. It has not a mere collection of “memoranda;” it is not an institution of “hazy outlines.” It has a distinct testimony—that of the apostles and prophets. And there is a social life, a fellowship, by which it “makes increase to self-edifying in love”—the fellowship which continues that which is witnessed to in the assembly of the eleven and those with them. Remember, it is fellowship, all holding themselves to be fellows in Christ, exchanging their experiences, imparting the gift which each has received, that it may tend to quicken the faith and love of all. “As they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst” (ver. 36).
II. CHRIST. He had promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Behold the fulfilment and the way of the fulfilment of this promise. Behold him present in his Church. 1. The sovereignty of the presence. On a sudden he stands in the midst. They are not expecting him. He comes through barred doors. It is the day of his power. Christ prescribes means; he ordains channels of grace; and, where there is the obedience of faith in the use of the means, there is blessing. “Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them.” But in all that speaks of spiritual life, there is the witness for a spiritual sovereignty, for reserves of power in the hands of the Lord himself. The new birth is a secret and a surprise (John 3:7, 8). 2. It is the personal Jesus who is present to bless—“Jesus himself.” (Ver. 36.) Above and beyond the mere teaching and fellowship, there is the Lord. Christianity is Christ. The full blessing, that which wholly fills the soul, is himself in felt relation with each self. “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). 3. The announcement of the presence is peace. (Ver. 36.) One of the last words before he suffered was “peace.” It was the legacy of the dying Saviour. The salutation of the risen Saviour is, “Peace to you!”—the customary salutation transformed and glorified. His immanence in the Church is evidenced by the breathing of peace over human souls. “Peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ;” “The peace of God which passeth all understanding.” 4. The complete benediction of the presence. (1) Fears and doubts are scattered. The disciples are terrified and affrighted (ver. 37). They are afraid at his tokens. Scepticisms reassert themselves. A Church, a Christian, wanting in spiritual enthusiasm, with a low spiritual temperature, is subject to the fogs of doubt. Its action is crippled by a subtle scepticism. When he is realized as truly in the midst, the fogs are dispelled. There is a counteracting why (ver. 38). In the psalms (Ps. 42) the soul, dark and doubtful, asks, “Why hast thou forgotten me?” Its questioning is dispelled through another why: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” The blessed Jesus-question to poor confused humanity is, “Why art thou troubled? and why do thoughts arise in thy heart?” As the Sun of Righteousness shines into the soul, the melancholy, perplexing thoughts scatter, the clouds whose banks lie so low on the heart’s horizon flee away. (2) The evidence of the sacrifice establishes the faith. (Vers. 39, 40.) He shows the pierced hands and feet—the wounds whence comes the healing, the death whence has come the life. And, even in the glory into which he has entered, the print of the nails is seen. The gaze of the redeemed who share that glory is ever towards the Lamb that was slain. “Worthy is the Lamb!” (3) The full revelation is the Divine humanity. (Vers. 41–43.) While they believe, and yet can scarcely believe, for the joy seems too great and too wonderful, he eats the fish and honeycomb before them. It is no ghost who is in that room; it is very man of very man. And this is the abiding consciousness and strength of the Church. It presents the true humanity. It has the true humanitarianism. The Christ is he “who liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore.” And in him humanity is fulfilled, represented, and redeemed. This is the truth of the social life of the Church. The Church is not a mere institute for instruction and worship; it is a social state built up in the ever-abiding humanity of Jesus Christ. Thus, in the upper room at Jerusalem, on the first Easter night, there is an apocalypse of the great mystery, Christ and the Church.
Vers. 44–49.—The instruction of the apostles. The words contained in these verses are a summary of the instruction given by the risen Lord during the forty days in which he showed himself alive after his Passion. They are not to be regarded as the outline of only one discourse, following the appearance to the eleven recorded in the previous verses; they are rather the heads of the teaching which was imparted in the great period between the Resurrection and the Ascension. “We must suppose the evangelist to be hurrying to a close in this portion of his history, and to be giving us a brief sketch of the words and actions of our Lord which are summed up in the expression in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, “Jesus had given commandment unto the apostles.” Note the points in this instruction.
I. THE SWORD WHICH HIS CHURCH IS TO WIELD. (Vers. 44, 45.) As St. Paul afterwards said, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” The Lord gives the treasury from which the Church is to draw—the Law, the prophets, the psalms, the Scriptures; but these writings, with the key to their inner meaning, to their saving force—“all things in them concerning me.” The great word spelt through all the books—each book, as De Quincey put it, forming as it were a letter of the word—is “Christ” And not only so; these Scriptures are to be expounded and enforced in the light and through the skill of the opened understanding. This is the secret of the effect; it is this that makes them the sword. Only when they are thus the weapon of the Spirit, illuminating the mind of the teacher, as well as acting on the conscience of the hearer, are they quick and powerful. The opening of the understanding is spoken of as a definite action at a definite time. “Then opened he their understanding.” What a new light is then shed on the sacred page! What a blessed “Eureka!” is then realized! The foolish and slow in heart go forth with the sword of the Spirit, “conquering and to conquer.”
II. THE MESSAGE WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO DELIVER. (Ver. 46.) The message is: the Christ whom God has sent, and the world needs—the historical Christ, incarnate, suffering, crucified, risen; and this Christ presented as the fulfilment of all Scripture, the consummation of Divine thought and purpose, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” the Prophet, Priest, and King, by whom man is redeemed, in whom the nature and want, the hope and desire, of all nations are interpreted. The Church is called to teach that “thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” Wide is the environment of truth, and the Church must sweep this environment in its vision; but this is the centre of all the circle.
III. THE CONDITIONS OF FELLOWSHIP IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD WHICH IT IS TO DECLARE. (Ver. 47.) The beginning of the gospel preached by Christ was the word “repent” (Matt. 4:17). Now he solemnly and emphatically urges that repentance is to be the great fact in New Testament preaching. The end to be ever before the Church is “to open the eyes, and turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” And with this repentance is to be associated the blessing of the kingdom, “remission of sins;” i.e. the sending of the guilt and power of sin away from between the soul and God, and thus making the inner vision clear, inspiring with the consciousness of the spirit of adoption and the spirit of brotherhood, confirming in the liberty wherewith Christ makes free. In the name of Christ, all nations are to be summoned to repent, and receive this remission; the voice lifted up with strength, “There is none other Name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved.”
IV. THE WITNESS WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO REALIZE. (Ver. 48.) 1. Its range. “Among all nations.” The universality and catholicity of the Christian word, of the Christian Church, are asserted, with regal authority, at the conference on the mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:18–20). 2. Its course. “Beginning at Jerusalem.” There, where the Lord of glory was crucified, the first call to repentance is to be sounded, the first offer of the Christ for the remission of sins is to be made. So it was (Acts 2). But, from Jerusalem, the course of the witness is ever outward—“to Judæa, Samaria, the uttermost parts of the earth.” We are first to find our own; but the love which begins, is never to stop, at home. 3. Its power. (Ver. 49.) Not in the witnessing man or woman; not in the things witnessed to; not in word, ordinance, ministry; no, the power is from on high. Christ reasserts what he taught in the last discourse before he suffered. The great consolation then was the promise of the Father—that in which his Fatherly love and will are expressed, his great promise to his Son—the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost who testifies of him. He is not the accompaniment of the Church; the Church is his accompaniment. “He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness” (John 15:26, 27). Now, in the forty days’ instruction, he repeats this word. He reminds us that the power of witnessing is a descent from on high, the anointing of the man by the Holy Spirit. Two things are said—the one, the declaration that the promise is imminent, “I am sending it;” and the other, the injunction to wait in the city, to attempt nothing, until the promise is made good, and they are endued with the power. Let the Church, let every Christian, remember the injunction; let eternal thanksgiving arise because the promise of the Father has been sent, and the Holy Spirit now dwells with the Church.
Vers. 50–53.—The farewell and the Ascension. Once more the old relation is resumed. The Shepherd of Israel goes before his little flock. They see him, as in the former time, at their head. The well-known route is taken, the well-known place is reached. And the crowning memory of Bethany is imprinted on their hearts. It is the scene of the last adieu, of the Ascension (ver. 50). In the earlier history of Israel (2 Kings 2) there was a day when the sons of the prophets, referring to Elijah, said to Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to-day?” And his answer was, “Yea, I know it; gold ye your peace.” There were no sons of prophets thus speaking to the eleven. But whispers, no doubt, in their hearts raised shadows of some coming event. Something like the old amazement and fear (Mark 10:32) would be felt as, in silence, they followed their Leader. He is to he taken from their head; but better far than the mantle thrown on Elisha from the vanishing prophet is to be their portion. Observe Christ as he is revealed in the concluding verses of the Gospel; observe those whom he is to leave behind.
I. OBSERVE CHRIST AS HE IS HERE REVEALED. See: 1. The action of the Lord towards them. “He lifted up his hands” (ver. 50). Before he suffered he had lifted up his eyes to heaven, and the voice of intercession had been raised for them (John 17). As the high-priestly prayer closed, the voice had passed from the tones of earnest but humble pleading into those of the Sovereign expressing his will: “I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Now the Priest, about to ascend to his throne, extends those hands in which is the print of the nails. It is the first time in which we are introduced to this attitude in the Gospels. The uplifted hands are the sign of the accepted sacrifice ever potent to cleanse. They are the sign of the righteousness ever ample to clothe. They are the sign of the protection ever sufficient to overshadow his Church. The uplifted hands constituted the last recollection of the Christ whom the disciples had seen; they mark the abiding truth of the Christ whom the eye sees not. And, as the hands are lifted, the lips are opened to bless. What were the words of the blessing? Perhaps the benediction (Numb. 4:24) which the sons of Aaron were commanded to pronounce was included in it. But who can measure all that it comprehended—all the wealth of grace and truth with which it was charged? Let us say rather, with which it is charged for the Church until the end of the age. “Lo, I am with you alway, blessing and keeping, my face shining on you, my will gracious to you, the light of my countenance lifted on you, my peace possessing you.” 2. The ascending Lord. “While blessing” (ver. 51). While the accents of his tenderness are flowing over the soul, lo! he moves from the soil on which he and his have been standing. Upward, ever upward, he is borne; they gaze in wonder as the form in which they have beheld him is sublimated and passes whither their ad raring vision can no longer follow. The apostle who was “born out of due time” completes, as far as thought of mortal can, the account of the evangelist (Eph. 1:20–23), when he describes the ascent “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come;” all things put under the feet of the glorified Man, “Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” He is “parted from them;” but only to be more nearly and entirely with them; only to bear with him the humanity through which Highest God is in touch with the whole life of man; only that, in the unchangeable Priesthood, he may ever live to make intercession; only to make good the word as to the promise of the Father. When ten more days have passed, the gates which had opened that the King of glory might enter, shall open again, and the Paraclete, Christ’s other self, shall descend from the heaven into which he has gone, to fill the little company with his presence. And in that day they shall know that he is in the Father, and they in him, and he in them.
II. OBSERVE THE DISCIPLES. 1. The new worship. They had followed him, and had called him Master. His appearances during the forty days had prepared them for something higher still. Now, in deepest reverence, they kneel before the Lord. Thomas learns the whole reality of his answer, “My Lord and my God.” Mary learns that which is higher and holier than the touch with which, on the resurrection-morning, she had sought to detain him. John learns the word which afterwards he wrote, “This is the true God, and the Eternal Life.” Peter learns that which moves him to interpret the consciousness of faith, “Whom having not seen ye love.” Then first sounds the music which burst forth, in later years, in the sublimest hymn of the Church: “We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.… Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.” And this worship is the true life of the Church. It is the outcome of the faith in the Resurrection. “Christ died, yea rather, is risen again, and is even at the right hand of God, making intercession for us.” Wanting this, there maybe such an apostrophe as that with which Renan concludes his ‘Life of Jesus;’ but worship full and adoring there cannot be. It is this worship which is the spring of all energy, the pledge of all victory, the bond of union between heaven and earth. “Salvation to our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” 2. The new joy. “They returned to Jerusalem” (ver. 25). But what a difference! They had left it dispirited, weighed down by many thoughts. Now “they come again rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.” “Parted from them!” Might they not feel as sheep without a Shepherd? Nay; for they know that their Shepherd is with them. Their hope had been sealed and confirmed, and they are flushed with “a great joy.” Should not this joy thrill the Church? Enthusiasm is essential to its vitality. To be strong, it must be sanguine, triumphant. Times of worshipful faith are always times of great joy. “We triumph in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we received the reconciliation.” 3. The new life. “They were continually in the temple” (ver. 53). But the temple had a new meaning to them. Rite and offering, house of prayer and songs of praise, were all clothed with a new character. It was their Father’s house, and he had given a new song to their lips. Continually are they “praising and blessing God.” This is the life; for they are sitting in the heavenly places, and partaking of the heavenly things. “Day by day we magnify thee.” Beautiful as the first days of summer is this picture of the waiting Church. Would that the impression of this life of praise and blessing, were more evident in the Church, witnessing, working, and still waiting. May the Church be “found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ”!

Vers. 1–12.—Side-lights from the Resurrection. The simple, unpretending story of the Resurrection, as here narrated, brings into view other truths than that great and supreme fact of the rising of our Lord. We have our attention called to—
I. THE CONSTANCY AND THE EAGERNESS OF TRUE AFFECTION. (Ver. 1.) No thought had these women of deserting him whom they loved but whom the world hated and had now slain. On the contrary, the enmity of those that maligned and murdered him made their affection to cleave all the more firmly to him. It attended him right up to the very last; it followed him to the grave; it came to bestow those final ministries which only devoted affection would have cared to render. And it showed itself as eager as it was constant. “Very early in the morning they came unto the sepulchre.” True love to our Lord will stand these tests. It will survive the enmities and oppositions of an indifferent or a hostile society; it will be unaffected by these except, indeed, to be strengthened and deepened by them; moreover, it will show its loyalty and its fervour by the eagerness of its service, not waiting for the last hour of necessity, but availing itself of the first hour of opportunity.
II. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF DIFFICULTIES AS WE GO ON OUR WAY OF FAITHFUL SERVICE. We know from Mark (16:3) that these women were full of apprehension lest they should be unable to get the stone rolled away from the door. But they went on their way to do their sacred office; and when they reached the spot they found their difficulty vanished (ver. 2). This is the common experience of the seeker after God in Christ, of the man desirous of discharging his duty in the fear of God, of the Christian worker. “Who will roll away that intervening stone?” we ask timidly and apprehensively. “How shall we get over that insurmountable barrier? How will our weakness prevail against such solid obstacles?” Let us go on our way of faith, of duty, of loving service, and we shall find that, if some angel has not been on the scene, the hindrance has disappeared, the way is open, the goal within our reach, the service within the compass of our powers.
III. THE SURPRISES THAT AWAIT US AS WE PROCEED. These women found an empty grave, visitants from the unseen world, a most unexpected though most welcome message; instead of a mournful satisfaction, they found a new hope, far too good and far too great to be held all at once within their heart (vers. 4–7). Peter, too, found himself the subject of a great astonishment (ver. 12). God has his merciful surprises for us as we proceed on our Christian path. He may surprise us with a sudden fear or a sudden sorrow; but he also surprises us with an unanticipated peace; with an unlooked-for joy; with a new, strange hope; before long he will introduce us to the blessed surprise of the heavenly realities.
IV. THE NEARNESS OF THE HEAVENLY TO THE EARTHLY SPHERE. (Ver. 4.) Angels were always at hand to render service in the great redemptive work. Why should we think of heaven as “beyond the stars”? Why should we not think of it as encompassing us on every side, only separated from us by a thin veil, through which our mortal senses cannot pass to its glorious spectacles and its blessed harmonies?
V. THAT GOD HAS MUCH BETTER THINGS IN STORE FOR US THAN WE THINK POSSIBLE. Neither the wondering women nor the incredulous apostles could believe in such a happy issue as they were assured of, though they had been carefully prepared to expect it (ver. 11). In the feebleness of our faith we say to ourselves, “Surely God is not going to give me that, to place me there, to bestow on me such a heritage as this!” But why not? For him to make all grace, all power, all life, to abound, is for him to do what he has promised, and what he has been doing since he first opened his hand to create and to bestow.—C.
Vers. 5, 6.—The Resurrection and the Life. No smallest touch of censure can we trace in the words of these angels. On their errand of faithful love these women would not be greeted thus. It was but a strong, awakening appeal, calling them to consider that, while they had come in the right spirit, they had come on a superfluous mission, and were looking in the wrong place for their Lord. Not there in the tomb among the dead, but breathing the air of a life that would never be laid down, was he whom they sought. The words attest—
I. THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD. This was: 1. Here attested by the angels. It was, at the same time, indicated by the empty tomb. The latter, of course, would not of itself prove such a fact; but it strongly sustained the word of the heavenly visitants. But beyond this, weightier than this, was: 2. The repeated and unmistakable evidence of the apostles and the women. Ten several times, at least, the risen Saviour was seen by those who knew him best. These were so thoroughly assured of the fact of his rising again, that they not only testified it, but risked and even sacrificed their lives to propagate a faith of which it was the corner-stone. And they not only undoubtedly believed it themselves, but they spoke as men who could be and who were credited by those who heard them. Then we have here: 3. The twofold buttress of a Divine promise and of human incredulity. Jesus “spoke, saying, … the third day he should rise again.” This was the fulfilment of the promise of One who gave such convincing proof that he could do what he willed. Moreover, it was believed in spite of the strongest incredulity. The apostles ought to have expected it, but they did not; we might almost say that it was the last thing they were looking for. They had given up their Lord and their cause as utterly lost; and when the tidings came, they refused to believe (ver. 11). So far from the Resurrection being the figment of a diseased expectation, it was a fact forced upon minds strongly predisposed to discredit it. The second clause of the angels’ sentence was as true as the first: he was not there; he had risen. He had kept his word; he who had commanded the winds and the waves, and who showed himself Master of the elements of nature, now proved that the keys of death were in his royal hand, and proved himself to be the Son of God, the Lord of life. And with his “glorious resurrection” Comes the fact of—
II. OUR OWN IMMORTALITY. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the sure sign, proof, forerunner, of our own life beyond the grave. Without that supreme and crowning fact, we could have had no certain hope, no assurance; without that he could not have been to us “the Resurrection and the Life.” With that he can be and is. Now we have in him a living Lord, who can carry out his kindest promises and be to us all that, during his ministry, he undertook to be. Wherefore let us: 1. Seek and find spiritual life in the once-crucified and ever-living Saviour. “He that believeth in him, though he were [spiritually] dead, yet shall he live,” live in very deed and truth, i.e. live before God, unto God, and in God—partake of the life which is spiritual and Divine. 2. Be assured, then, of a blessed immortality; for “whoso liveth [in him] and believeth in him shall never die.” His outward, bodily dissolution will be a mere incident in his career; so far from its being a termination of it, it will prove to be the starting-point of another and nobler life than the present, one nearer to God and far fuller of power, of usefulness, of blessedness. 3. Realize this truth concerning the departed. We may go to the grave and weep there like the sorrowing sisters of Bethany; we may tend their tomb with the carefulness which is the simple prompting of pure and deep affection; but let us learn to dissociate our thoughts of our departed friends from the grave. They are not there; let us not be seeking the living among the dead. There rest their mortal remains, but they themselves are with God, with the Saviour whose presence and friendship are exceeding gladness, with the holy and the true who have passed into the skies. They are in the light and the love and the joy of home. Let us dwell on this, and comfort ourselves and comfort one another with these thoughts.—C.
Vers. 13–32.—Privilege; unconscious companionship; incredulity. In this most interesting narrative, beside a very pleasing and attractive picture, we have a variety of lessons. We may gather instruction respecting—
I. OUR LORD’S ELECTIVE LOVE. It was a very great favour be granted to these two men. Why, we ask, was it rendered to them? Of one we do not even know his name, and of the other nothing but his name. Why was so rare and high a privilege accorded to these obscure disciples, and not rather to those more prominent and active? In truth, we find ourselves quite unable to decide who are the fittest to receive special favours from the hand of God, or on what grounds he wills to manifest his presence and his power. His selections, we are sure, cannot be arbitrary or irrational. God must have not only a reason, but the best reason, for everything he does. But into the reasons for his choice we often may not enter; they lie beyond our reach. It is not to the acknowledged leaders of the Church that God often chooses to manifest especial privilege, but to those who are simple, unexpectant, unknown. He grants illuminations of his Spirit, peculiar joy and gladness of heart in him, remarkable success in the utterance of his truth, anticipatory glimpses of heavenly glory, to whom he will. And these are quite likely to be found amongst the humbler members of his Church. If there is any law which will guide our judgment it is this—that it is to the “pure in heart,” to those who have most perfectly conquered the fleshly passions and are most freed from worldly ambitions and anxieties, who have the simplest and purest hope in him and desire toward him, that he vouchsafes his presence and grants the teaching and inspiration of his Spirit. But Christ’s elective love is fully as much of a fact as it is of a doctrine.
II. UNCONSCIOUS COMPANIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. These two men were walking and talking with Christ, receiving his truth and responding to his appeal, their hearts “burning within them” as they held sweet and sacred intercourse with him; yet they did not recognize him; they had no idea that they were having fellowship with the Lord. There is much unconscious companionship with Jesus Christ now. Men are led into belief of the truth, are impressed with the sovereign claims of God upon their service, and of Jesus Christ upon their love; they ask, they inquire, they come to the feet of Christ to learn of him; they come to the cross of Christ to trust in him; they shun what they believe to be offensive, and pursue what they think is right and pleasing in his sight; and yet they are not at rest. They think they may be in a good way or in a fair way to find life; but they do not realize that they are in the right way. The fact is off times that they are walking in the path of life with Christ, but “their eyes are holden that they do not know him.” A Divine One has joined himself to them, as familiarly and unpretendingly as to these two disciples, ingratiating himself into their favour, wooing and winning their trust and their love; but because there has been no period of well-recognized revolution, no sudden remarkable convulsion, they have failed to perceive that the work wrought within them has been that of his own kind and holy hand. Such souls need to learn that oftenest it is not in the wind, or in the earthquake, or in the fire, but in the still small voice of familiar truth and gracious influence, that Christ comes to the soul in renewing power. If it is in Christ we are trusting, if it is in his service we are most willing to live, if it is his will we are most concerned to do, then it is he himself by whose side we are walking day by day.
III. THE STRANGE INCREDULITY OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP. Our Master, who was so gentle and so considerate, here employs a very strong expression (ver. 25). This is the language of serious reproach; it is a weighty rebuke. The disciples of Christ ought to have read their Scriptures better, and they ought to have heeded the reiterated warning and promise he had himself given them of his death and his rising again. But while we wonder at what seems to us their slowness to learn and to believe, are we not as obtuse and as incredulous as they were? Do we not fail to grasp the promises of God as they are written in his Word, as they were spoken by his Son our Saviour? When those things happen which we should expect to happen in connection with the teaching of Divine truth; when the Spirit of God works mightily and mercifully in the souls of men; when hard hearts are broken and stubborn wills are subdued to the obedience of Christ; when wrong and shameful lives are changed into pure and holy ones; when the kingdom of God comes amongst us;—are we not surprised, incredulous? Are we not tempted to ascribe these issues to other than heavenly sources? And yet ought not this very result to happen? Is it not precisely what we should have been looking for, and wondering that it did not occur? We shall probably find abundant illustrations of Christian incredulity to match anything of which we read in our New Testament. “Slow of heart” are we to believe all that the Master has said of the presence and the power and the promises of God.—C.
Vers. 13–32.—Further lessons by the way. Other lessons beside those already gleaned (see preceding homily) await our hand in this instructive story.
I. THE THREAD OF TRIAL WHICH RUNS THROUGH THE FABRIC OF OUR LIFE. On one occasion our Lord asked a question of one of his disciples, and of that question it is said, “This he said to prove him” (John 6:6). There were other occasions, e.g. that of the blind beggars by the wayside, and that of the Syro-phœnician woman, when Jesus said things to prove or to try those who came to him. We have the same thing here. He drew near to these two disciples in the guise of a stranger; he chose to remain unknown to them; he drew them out as if he were one unacquainted with the events which were filling their minds and hearts; he induced them to discover themselves freely and fully both to his own eyes and to theirs; moreover, he was in the act of passing on, and would have gone beyond Emmaus if they had not availed themselves of the opportunity of persuading him to remain. And thus he tried them. The “trial of our faith,” and of our love and loyalty, forms a great part of our Master’s dealing with ourselves. It explains many otherwise inexplicable things in our life. God appears to us other than the kind, gracious, pitiful, considerate Father that he is; Christ seems to be other than the present, strong, faith-rewarding Master that he is. Why does God let such things happen to us? Why does not Christ bring to pass that for which we labour and pray so earnestly? It may be that, in these cases, he is trying us; proving the sincerity and deepening the roots of our faith and love and zeal. We shall be the stronger, and our lives will be the more fruitful, for his action or his lingering, a little further on.
II. THE TRUE WAY TO MAKE THE SABBATH A DELIGHT. It was fitting that on the first sabbath of the Christian era there should be recorded an instance in which the day was spent as Christ would have it be. What a pleasant picture this of communion with Christ, of searching the Scriptures, of sitting down at the same table with him! We have here: 1. Communion with our Lord. About one-fourth of the whole day these favoured men were conversing with Christ, opening their minds and outpouring their hearts to him, telling him their hopes and their fears, and receiving kind and illuminating responses from his lips. So should our “fellowship be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” on the “day of the Lord.” And as we may be sure that the way to Emmaus was marvellously shortened that afternoon, and the village houses showed themselves long before they were looked for, so will earnest and loving communion with our living Lord, so will our walking with Christ, make the hours go swiftly by on the wings of holy and elevated joy, and we shall “call the sabbath a delight.” 2. Sacred study. (Vers. 27, 32.) How wonderful these Scriptures which contain the record of Divine revelation! So short as to be capable of being committed to the memory, and yet so full as to contain all that is needful for our enlightenment and enrichment, for guidance to God and heaven; so dull to the unquickened conscience, and so delightful to the awakened and renewed; holding mysteries insoluble to human learning, and yet intelligible and instructive from Genesis to Revelation to the earnest inquirer after truth and life; valueless in the market, and yet precious beyond all price to all who want to know how to live and how to die. As Christ and the two learners walked and talked, new light shone on the old passages, and the way was too short and the time too soon gone for their interest and their eagerness to be expended. 3. Meeting the living Lord at his table. (Ver. 30.) This was not, strictly speaking, a “sacramental” meal to which they sat down. It was not the “Lord’s Supper” of which they partook. But there was about it so much of reverence, of religious earnestness, of holy communion, of sacred joy, that it may well suggest to us that most excellent way of spending some part of “the Lord’s day.”
III. THE WORTH OF ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN LABOUR. Possibly those who teach may sometimes ask themselves whether it is worth their while to conduct so small a class, to preach to so poor a congregation. Here is the answer to that questioning. If the risen Lord of glory thought it worth his while to walk seven miles and spend two hours in enlightening the minds and comforting the hearts of two humble and obscure disciples; if he was content to spend a good part of his first sabbath in taking a class of two, and pouring from the rich treasury of his truth into their minds, we may not think it unworthy of us to spend time in enlightening or comforting one human heart that craves the succour it is in our power to give. The disciple is not above his Master.
IV. THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL INTEREST. Do we devoutly wish that we knew more of that sacred gladness of which these disciples were so happily conscious as he “talked with them by the way, and opened to them the Scriptures” (ver. 32)? Then: 1. Let us see that we are, as they were, earnestly desirous of knowing more of Jesus Christ. Let us go to our Bible and go up to the house of the Lord with that end distinctly and prominently in view. 2. Let us seek and gain the same Divine illumination. It is still to be had, though that voice is not now heard in our ear. The “Spirit of truth” is with us still, waiting to illumine and to enlarge our hearts; if we seek his aid and open our minds to his entrance, he will “guide us into all the truth” (John 16:13).—C.
Ver. 29.—The exigency of old age. The disciples “constrained” our Lord to abide with them; for, they said, “It is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” This act of theirs and their words taken together are suggestive of the truth that those whose life is fast waning—with whom it is “toward evening,” whose day is “far spent”—have urgent need that Jesus Christ should “abide with” them. We have before us the special spiritual necessities of old age. It has—
I. ITS SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY. We look to advanced religious experience to set us a particularly blameless example, to show us most clearly the spirit and the complexion of a distinctly Christian life, to lead us in the direction of spirituality and purity. For this high service the near presence of the Saviour is needed, and the constant exercise of his gracious power.
II. ITS SPECIAL TEMPTATION. The temptation of age is to querulousness, to an illiberal criticism of the present and to an undue and partial preference of the past, to an unjust and unwise severity in judging the eccentricities and irregularities of the young, to a dissatisfaction with the comparative obscurity to which it is itself descending. To prevail against this temptation, and to preserve equanimity, sweetness, cheerfulness of spirit and hopefulness of heart, age has urgent need of a constant renewal from above.
III. ITS SPECIAL PRIVATIONS. There are a few who live to a “good old age” without any or without much consciousness of loss. But these are only a few. With old age usually comes privation. In respect of sight, of hearing, of power of locomotion, of facility in speaking, of memory, of intellectual grasp, the aged are painfully conscious that “they are not what they were; they speak with diminished fire, they act with a lessened force.” Their life is lower, is narrowed; they are less to their contemporaries than they used to be. They need comfort under the sense of loss; they need another source of satisfaction and of joy. In whom, in what, shall they find it, but in the Person and the presence of the Divine Friend and Saviour?
IV. ITS SPECIAL LONELINESS. Age is often lonely. It misses the companions of its youth and its prime. Most of these, perhaps nearly all, have fallen, and they are as the last leaf upon the wintry bough. “They are all gone, the old familiar faces,” is the plaintive strain of their discourse; and some who still live have drifted away from them in space or in spirit. There is no one left who can go back with them in thought and sympathy to the old times, the memory of which is so pleasant, and which they would fain revisit with the friends of youth and childhood. Age is apt to be very lonely, and it has great need of a Divine Companion who does not pass away, who “abides,” who is “the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”
V. ITS SPECIAL LIMITATION. We all know that there may not be many days left in which we can bear witness for our Lord and his gospel. But the aged know that there can not be many more left to them. So much the more, therefore, as they see the night approaching when they can work no more for their Master, may they well desire to be and to do all that still lies in their power. Every hour is golden to him to whom but few remain. And because the opportunities of serving men here on earth are narrowing perceptibly day by day, the aged may earnestly entreat their Lord to be near to them, and to let his grace rest upon them, that their last days may be full of fruitfulness as well as of peace and hope.
VI. ITS NEARNESS TO DEATH. We wish not only to “live unto the Lord,” but also to “die unto the Lord;” to honour him in the manner of our death as well as by the spirit of our life. They who feel that the evening shadows are gathering, and that the night of death is near, may well wish for the near presence of the upholding Saviour, with whom they will go tranquilly and hopefully through the last darkness. “Abide with us,” they say; “be with us as we take the last steps of our earthly journey, go down with us into the deep waters, attend us till we reach the heavenly shore.”

“Oh, meet us in the valley,
When heart and flesh shall fail,
And softly, safely, lead us on,
Until within the veil;
When faith shall turn to gladness,
To find ourselves with thee,
And trembling Hope shall realize
Her full felicity.”

Vers. 33–43.—Sense and spirit: the Resurrection. The story of the Resurrection in its relation to the disciples of our Lord suggests to us thoughts concerning—
I. THE TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT OVER THE FLESH. These two disciples who had walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and who persuaded the mysterious Stranger to remain because the day was far gone, and subsequently spent some time in earnest converse with him, now hastened back to Jerusalem (ver. 33). This was quite contrary to their intention when they set out from the city; it was not in the natural order of things to start out again on a long two-hours’ walk after the fatigues of that eventful day. But their minds were so enlarged, their hearts so filled with joy, their souls so stirred with animating and vivifying hope, that they could not remain where they were; they must impart the transporting and transforming tidings to the crushed and sorrowing brethren they had left behind them that afternoon. It was late and dark, and (when they thought of it) they were tired. But what were these considerations? They were things not to be entertained for a moment, they were a mere feather’s weight in the scale; and we may be certain that they set off to Jerusalem with a much lighter step in the evening, and far more alacrity of spirit, than they left that city in the afternoon of the day. In one sense “we are but dust and ashes,” but “animated clay;” our soul is subject to certain limitations from its close connection with the body. Yet can the spirit triumph nobly over the flesh. Let but the kindling truth come down from heaven, let the Divine hand but touch the secret springs of the soul, and all our bodily sensations and our lower instincts go down and disappear. Fatigue, loss, danger, death itself, is nothing to a soul alight with the celestial fire. A new hope, a new faith, a new purpose, can carry the weary frame along the dusty road of duty, or up the steep ascent of arduous or dangerous achievement, better than angels’ wings. Our true self is not the tabernacle of the flesh, but the indwelling and victorious spirit.
II. THE ESSENTIAL SERVICE WHICH THE FLESH RENDERS TO THE SPIRIT. Christianity is essentially spiritual. It makes its appeal to the spiritual nature; its aim is spiritual; and the weapons of its warfare are also spiritual—the efforts of the spirit of man and the energies of the Spirit of God. But it rests largely on a basis of facts attested by our senses—the fact of the Incarnation, “God manifested in the flesh,” the “Word made flesh;” the fact of the miracles of Christ, miracles wrought before the eyes of men, and assured by their sensible observation of them; the fact of a blameless life lived in the bodily presence of eye-witnesses; the fact of the death at Calvary, borne witness to by those who actually beheld it; and the great crowning fact of the Resurrection, the return of Jesus Christ in the flesh to his disciples. The entire fabric of our religion rests upon the history of the Man Christ Jesus; and the acceptance of him as a Divine Teacher, whose word can be trusted and whose character can be honoured, stands or falls with the truth of the Resurrection. For if he did not rise again, he certainly was not the One he claimed to be. Of what service to us, then, these physical facts here recorded—his eating with the two at Emmaus; the sound of the familiar voice in many words of intercourse; the sight of his hands and feet with the imprint of the cruel nails; the sight and feeling of the “flesh and bones,” which a spirit has not but which they found he had; and the act of sitting down at the table and eating of the fish and honeycomb before their eyes? The sight of his face, the sound of his voice, the style of his speech, the handling of his limbs (“handle me, and see,” ver. 39), supplemented by his eating and drinking before them,—all this at length convinced their incredulity that it was indeed the risen Lord himself, returned according to his word. And all this accumulated evidence of all the senses is as good for us as it was for them. We are thankful for this multiplication of the material evidence, for, taken with other considerations, it substantiates the great fact of facts, and gives to us not only a marvellously original Thinker, but an unmistaken and faultless Exemplar, a Divine Lord and Master. The human senses never rendered to the human soul so great a service as when they attested the supreme fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But they still do render very valuable service in every Christian life. 1. The control and regulation of our senses for Christ’s sake and in obedience to his word is a continual tribute to the power of his truth. 2. Our feet can carry us forth on errands of Christian charity. 3. Our hands can be put daily to deeds of righteousness, of justice, of excellency. 4. Our lips can sing the praises of our Lord, and can speak words of kindness to the young, of sympathy to the suffering and sorrowing, of hope to the dying. 5. Our eye can read, our ears can hear, the truths which impart or which sustain the inner life of the spirit. Through our bodily senses God’s own living truth, and with his truth himself also, comes continually into our soul; and through these same senses there go forth from us all healing, all helpful, all saving influences to the world; and thus we enrich and are enriched.—C.
Ver. 36.—The peace of Christ. It is true that these words, “Peace be unto you!” were the ordinary Jewish salutation. But remembering that our Lord used these words a second time in this interview (see John 20:21), and having in mind the way in which he made these words his own, and gave to them not merely a formal but a profound significance (John 14:27), we may find much meaning in them. We recognize the fact that they were—
I. SPECIALLY APPROPRIATE TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES. The minds of his apostles had passed through the deepest distress. They had lost their Lord and their Friend; and with him they had lost, as they thought, their cause and their hopes; they were, therefore, afflicted with an overwhelming grief. And now they were filled with the liveliest agitation. They were in a mental state in which blighted hopes were struggling with darkest fears; their soul was stirred to its very depths; and what, above all things, they needed was One that could come and say, “Peace be unto you!” It was the very word that was wanted to be breathed into their ear, to be spoken to their heart.
II. ADMIRABLY DESCRIPTIVE OF HIS ABIDING MISSION. It is true that Jesus once said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” But it will be found, on referring, that then he simply meant to say that division and strife would be an inevitable incident of the course of his gospel; he did not mean that this was its deep purpose or its long and last resuit. It was the back-water, and not the main current, of the truth he preached. Christ came to give peace to a world profoundly disturbed and disquieted by sin. “Come unto me,” he said, “and I will give you rest.” Not as the world gives rest or peace does he give. (1) Not mere comfort or gratification that is very short-lived; (2) nor satisfaction that is based on ignorance of ourselves, and must before long be exposed; (3) nor the quiet of indifference or unbelief that must soon be broken up. Not of this order is the peace of Christ. It is: 1. Rest to the burdened conscience. He shows us our sin and makes us ashamed of it; he fills our heart with a true and righteous sorrow for it; he awakes within us a just and honourable concern for the consequences of it. And then he offers himself as the One who bore the burden upon himself, through whom we may find forgiveness and acceptance. And “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2. Abiding gladness to the hungering heart. “In the world” is unsatisfiedness of soul, emptiness and heart-ache; a sense of disappointment. But in him is a true and lasting satisfaction. “How happily the days in his blest service fly!” To live heartily and wholly unto him who loved us and gave himself for us, to expend our powers in his praise and in his service,—this is the secret of lifelong peace. All the lower springs will fail, but this never. To “lose our life” unto him is to “find it” and to keep it for ever. 3. Comfort to the troubled spirit. When darkness falls upon the path, when losses come, when bereavement makes a gap in the home and in the heart, when some heavy disappointment blights the prospect,—then the felt presence, the realized sympathy, and the unfailing succour of that Divine Friend give a peace which is deeper than our disturbance, a thrice-blessed calm to the tempest-tossed soul. 4. Peace in death. For many centuries the dying have departed in peace because they have hoped for everything through the Divine Saviour; they have calmly “slept in Jesus;” and those who now look forward to death as a passage through which they will be passing can find no better wish or prayer than that “the music of his Name” may “refresh their soul in death.”—C.
Ver. 45.—The Divine Spirit and the human understanding. It may be that we do not sufficiently recognize the very intimate connection between our human intelligence and the action of the Spirit of God. We may be seriously in danger of coming short in gratitude for all that God has wrought for us in this respect, and in prayer for his continued and especial help in the future.
I. THE DIVINE ENDOWMENT WITH WHICH HE STARTS US ON OUR COURSE. We receive from his creative hand a kind and a measure of intellectual power which may be said to vary with each individual of the human race. To one he giveth five talents, to another two, to another one. And it is not only difference in measure, but also in kind. The human spirit has many faculties, and one man has a large share of one and another a goodly share of another, “as it pleaseth him.” Most happily for us, there is every possible variety of human understanding resulting from the different capacities and dispositions with which our Creator endows us.
II. THE BENEFICENT LAW OF EXPANSION HE HAS ORDAINED FOR US. The law under which we live, and under which our understanding grows, is this—“to him that hath is given.” We observe, we hear and read, we reflect, we reason, we construct and produce; and as we do this, we grow—our intelligence is opened and enlarged. Thus by the operation of one of his wise and kind laws God is “opening our understanding” every day, but more particularly in the earlier days of curiosity and of study. Youth has but to do its rightful and proper work, and God will do his gracious, enlarging work; and thus he will “build up” a mind, well stored with knowledge and wisdom, capable of great and noble service.
III. THE SPECIAL ILLUMINATIONS HE HAS GRANTED AND IS WILLING TO IMPART. 1. God has given to members of our race illumination or expansion of mind which we pronounce miraculous, i.e. not in accordance with known laws. Such was the inspiration he gave to Moses when he inspired him to write his books; or that he gave to Samuel, to Elijah, to Isaiah, to Zechariah, when he moved these prophets to remonstrate with or to exhort their contemporaries, or to write words that should live for all time on the sacred page; or that he gave to these two disciples when he opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures as they had never understood them before; or that he gave to the Apostles Peter and Paul and John when he prompted them to speak as they spoke and to write as they wrote. Here was an altogether unusual and supernatural enlightenment and enlargement of mind granted for the special purpose of making known his mind and will to the race of man. 2. God still imparts special illumination to us according to our need and in response to our prayer. The “age of miracles” may be past, but assuredly the age of Divine illumination is not passed. God remains, and will remain, in constant communication with his human children; he has, and ever will have, access to their understanding; he can touch and quicken us, can enlarge and equip our minds for special service in his Name and cause, can make clear to our minds those things which have been obscure, whether in his Word or in his providence, so that we can “understand the Scriptures,” and also interpret his dealing with ourselves and his fashioning of our lives. Three things become us. (1) A sense of our own insufficiency—insufficiency both for comprehending what we are called upon both to consider and (as far as may be) to understand, and for doing the work of explanation and enforcement which is required of us. (2) Faith in God—in his observation of us; in his interest in our humble endeavours to take our part and do our work; in his power over us to “open our understanding” as well as to “open our heart” (Acts 16:14; see Eph. 1:18; 2 Tim. 2:7). (3) Prayer for Divine illumination. Lacking wisdom, let us ask of God, “who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (Jas. 1:5; see Col. 1:9; Eph. 1:16, 17). Whenever we read the Scriptures that we may learn the “mind of Christ,” whenever we stand up to speak in his Name, whenever we set ourselves to any effort that requires spiritual wisdom, we do well to pray in the spirit, if not in the language, of our great poet—

“Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me; for thou know’st: … What in me is dark,
Illumine! What is low, raise and support!”

Ver. 47.—The solemn charge. It is an allowable curiosity to wonder how the apostles of our Lord received this “their solemn charge.” 1. They must have been greatly impressed by its extreme seriousness; they were to preach repentance and remission of sin “among all nations.” And although they did not know as we do what that meant, and how wide was the range of the Saviour’s purpose, they could realize as we cannot how deep and bitter would be the enmity which a gospel of the crucified Nazarene would encounter, more especially in Jerusalem. 2. But they may have been powerfully sustained by the presence of the Lord himself. The “power of his resurrection” was then upon their souls; they were to go forth in his Name, who had just triumphed over man’s last and greatest enemy—death. What could they not do through him? If we ask what was the message, in its fulness, which they were charged to deliver, we reply—
I. REPENTANCE AS CHRIST HAD PREACHED IT. They were to preach repentance in his Name. Therefore of the kind which he demanded. And this was no mere outward amendment; it was not found in the external habits of devotion; no amount of almsgiving, fasting, prayers, would constitute it. It meant: 1. Self-condemnation. Not necessarily the exhibition of overwhelming emotion, but the decided and deep conviction of our own unworthiness, and real regret for wrong done and for service withheld in the past. 2. The return of the heart to God. The coming back from the far country of estrangement, or forgetfulness, or denial and open enmity, and the seeking anew the Father’s face and favour. 3. The outcasting from the soul of all tolerance of evil, so that sin is not only shunned but hated. 4. The pursuit of all moral excellency; to be attained by the study and the love of the great Exemplar himself. And this repentance, real and thorough, was to be immediate. There was to be no guilty and dangerous postponement; as soon as the soul recognized its duty it was to start on the true and right course.
II. REMISSION AS CHRIST OFFERED IT. And this was: 1. Full. It was a forgiveness without reserve. The son (of the parable, ch. 15) was not relegated to the servants’ hall, though he had thought of asking for no more than that. He was admitted to the full honour of sonship; he was to wear the best robe and the ring, and he was to sit down to the table which was loaded in his honour. The mercy we receive through Christ, and which is to be offered “in his Name,” is no imperfect thing; it is full, entire, complete. All past transgressions are absolutely forgiven, so that they will never be alleged against us or stand between us and the love of God. We ourselves are taken into the gracious favour of our heavenly Father, admitted to his family, counted among his own children, constituted his heirs, having freest access to his presence, welcome to call him by the most endearing name. 2. Immediate. There is no probation or apprenticeship to be served; we have not to wait to approve ourselves; we are not sentenced to any form of expiation by menial service before we gain our childhood. At once, so soon as we return in spirit unto God, that moment we are welcomed to the side and to the home of our Father. 3. In faith. We are to seek and to find forgiveness “in Christ’s Name,” i.e. in the exercise of a simple but living faith in him as in our Divine Saviour. So the apostles evidently understood their Master (see Acts 10:43; 13:38, 39; 1 Pet. 1:8, 9; 1 John 2:12). Thus the ascended Saviour instructed the “abortive-born apostle” (Acts 26:18), and thus that faithful witness continually taught (see Acts 20:21). Those who speak for Christ are to invite all sinful men to put their trust in him, the Saviour of mankind, the “Propitiation for the sins of the world,” and, accepting him as such, to take the full, free mercy of God unto eternal life.
Such was the message which the apostles were solemnly charged to deliver. There was in this great instruction: 1. One charge which they were more particularly to observe—they were to begin at Jerusalem. It was right they should begin there, for it was there that all “these things” (ver. 48) were known and could be attested; and, beginning there, the grace and the magnanimity of the Crucified One would be more abundantly manifested. 2. Another, which more particularly affects ourselves—this message of mercy is to be carried to “all nations.” It is “the common salvation,” needed by all and fitted for all, to work out and send forth which the Lord Jesus lived and died.—C.
Ver. 48.—Bearing witness. These brief words, “Ye are witnesses,” being among the very last which Jesus spoke to his apostles, must have lingered in their ear for the rest of their life. In moments of doubt, or of depression, or of danger, the remembrance that their Lord and Leader had charged them to be his witnesses may well have stirred and strengthened them to fresh courage and to renewed activity. They are words that may well stimulate us also to duty and self-sacrifice.
I. THE UNIQUE SERVICE RENDERED BY THE APOSTLES. They were witnesses of “those things,” the greatest things that were ever seen and ever attested in the history of mankind; things they were on the full and true statement of which, on the cordial and practical acceptance of which, depended the life and the hope of the world. They could face all with whom they came in contact, and declare that they saw with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, witnessed in their own persons: 1. A perfectly beautiful, a spotless human life, in which, though they saw it under all possible circumstances and when under least constraint or reserve, they could find no flaw at all (1 Pet. 2:22). 2. Works of power, which were invariably works of pity and of kindness, of such a nature that there was no possibility of mistake. 3. Words of truth and grace such as mortal lips had never spoken, and such as met the deepest wants of man’s hungering heart, of his yearning and aspiring soul. 4. Sufferings and sorrows beyond what others knew, borne with a patience that was sublime. 5. A death undergone in shame and pain, amid natural wonders and with more than human nobility. 6. A glorious resurrection from the grave. 7. A message of mercy and hope to be delivered to all mankind in the name of this great Teacher, Healer, Sufferer, Conqueror.
II. THE VALUABLE SERVICE WHICH IS OPEN TO US ALL. 1. We also can testify, in word, to “these things.” We leave, and are content to leave, some mysteries which belong to the Christian faith; we do not try, as we need not try, either to explain or to understand them. But “these things,” which the world needs to know for its inward peace and its true prosperity, we can speak. We are familiar with the holy and beautiful life of Jesus Christ. We know the thought, we “have the mind of Christ” on all the deepest and highest subjects with which our character and our destiny are bound up. We are conversant with the sufferings and the sorrows of the Saviour; for the story of his Passion is better known by us than any other history whatsoever—it is not only in our memory, it is in our heart. We can speak of his death and of his triumph over the grave. We know well what is the message of truth and grace he desires to be declared to the whole world. We can speak of him and for him. 2. And we can find an audience. There are many who will not listen to us, but there are those who will. The young, who have a spirit of docility and inquiry; the sick and the sad, to whom “the consolation which is in Christ” is the one thing that heals and calms; the poor, to whom the pearl of great price is welcome, and who are willing to be made “rich toward God;” the disappointed and the weary, who are glad to know of One who can give “rest unto the soul;”—these will receive our testimony. 3. We can bear the best and truest witness of the life. What men want to be convinced of is that Christianity is a living power; that it not only has Very fine sentiments to teach—these can be found elsewhere—but that it is a moral and spiritual power that can save the lost, can cleanse the foul, can soften the hard-hearted, can humble the proud, can arouse the indifferent and obtuse, can infuse cheerfulness and joy into the heart of the poor and lowly, can give rest of spirit to those who are encompassed by the cares of time, can fill the soul with tender sympathy and prompt to generous and self-denying succour, can substitute a forgiving for a vindictive spirit in the wronged, can enable its possessors to gain a victory over themselves and over the world and to crown a victorious life by a death of calm tranquillity and joyful hope. Here is scope for witness-bearing; and, as every Christian man has the truth of Christ on which to feed, the example of Christ to follow, and the Holy Spirit of Christ to whom to look for his indwelling power, it is open to every disciple to be a witness, whose testimony shall be valuable on earth and acceptable in heaven.—C.
Ver. 49.—The secret of spiritual strength. How came it to pass that the apostles of our Lord became such strong men and did such noble work for their Master and for mankind so soon after they manifested such weakness as they did? We consider—
I. THEIR INSUFFICIENCY UP TO THE TIME OF THE ASCENSION. They had been receiving for many months the inestimable advantage of Christ’s own teaching for their mental enlightenment, and his own influence for their spiritual ennoblement. And this teaching and training cannot have been—we may confidently say was not—without very great value throughout their subsequent course. Yet they undoubtedly lacked something which would complete them for the great task before them. They showed but scant determination (Matt. 26:41, 43), but feeble courage (Matt. 26:56), but little understanding of their Master’s aim (Acts 1:6); and this, too, at the very close of his ministry, when their great and special privilege was expiring. Something more they sadly needed to prepare them for their work.
II. THE PROMISED POWER. 1. Its announcement and its confirmation. It was first predicted by the prophets who preceded our Lord (Isa. 44:3); and more particularly Joel (2:28, 29). It was renewed and confirmed, at first more indefinitely, and here more definitely, by our Lord (John 14:16, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:7; text). 2. Its historical fulfilment (Acts 2:1–11). 3. Its permanent results. These men, whose character and whose fitness for their grand and lofty mission left much to be desired, “endued with power from on high,” became wonderfully equipped for and admirably adapted to the noble mission to which Christ appointed them. They became strong (1) to stand in the evil hour of temptation, defying the authority of Jewish council and the sword of Roman ruler; they became strong (2) to suffer, rejoicing that they were “counted worthy to suffer shame” for the Master’s sake and Name; they became strong (3) to testify, “with great power” giving witness to the Resurrection, and great grace being on them all; they became strong (4) to grasp the great central and saving truths of the gospel, making known to their own compeers by their speech, and to all time by their letters, the “mystery which was hidden from the generations,” the great and gracious purpose of God to the whole race of men; they became strong (5) to build and work, to lay the foundation-stone of the gospel of Christ (Eph. 2:20), of that Church of the future which has already endured for eighteen centuries, and is more than ever bent on the conversion and conquest of the world. We know what made these weak men strong, these failing men to triumph. It was the power of the Holy Ghost resting upon them, opening their eyes that they might see, quickening their souls that they might feel, nerving their hearts that they might stand, strengthening their hands that they might labour and achieve.
III. ITS LASTING LESSON. It is this which, if anything does, will make us strong also. What the Christian workman wants is the power which comes immediately from God, the inspiration of the Divine Spirit; in truth, the same bestowal as that which the apostles were now promised and afterwards received. The miraculous endowments which accompanied the gift of the Holy Ghost were but the accidents of the bestowal. The power to heal without failure or to speak without error was nothing to the power to testify without fear and to live without reproach.

“Though on our heads no tongues of fire
Their wondrous powers impart,”

we need, as much as they did then, the illuminating, sanctifying, empowering influences of Heaven—“God’s Spirit in our heart.” Without that, our most heroic efforts will fail; with it, our humblest endeavours will succeed. To gain that we must have (1) purity of heart and aim; (2) earnest and believing prayer.—C.
Ver. 50.—The Ascension. Many thoughts offer themselves to us as we think upon this last scene.
I. THE FITNESS OF THE PLACE WHENCE JESUS ASCENDED. Not, indeed, that Jerusalem could claim to be worthy of such an honour—Jerusalem that had but lately dyed its hands in the blood of its Messiah. But as the ancient dwelling-place of God, as the seat and source of heavenly truth, as the metropolis of religion upon the earth, as the place that furnishes the name and type of the city of our hope, as the joyous gathering-place of the good,—it was well that, from without its walls, he whose presence makes the home and the joy and the glory of his people should pass to his throne. For from that moment “Jerusalem” meant another thing to mankind. Christ took up its meaning as he rose. All the associations of love and hope, of grandeur and gladness, which had belonged to the earthly are transferred to the heavenly city, where he dwells in glory, where he reigns in power. There is a transference, not formal but actual, of the centre and metropolis of religious thought from the Jerusalem below to the Jerusalem above.
II. THE NATURE OF THE LAST SCENE. “They climb the hillside; they cross its summit; they are approaching Bethany. He stops; they gather round. He looks upon them; he lifts his hands; he begins to bless them. What love unutterable in that parting look! What untold riches in that blessing! His hands are uplifted, his lips engaged in blessing, when slowly he begins to rise. Earth has lost her power to keep him; the waiting up-drawing heavens claim him as their own. He rises, but still, as he floats upward through the yielding air, his eyes are bent on those uplooking men; his arms are stretched over them in the attitude of benediction, his voice is heard dying away in blessings as he ascends. Awe-struck, in silence they follow him with straining eyes as his body lessens to sight, till the commissioned cloud enfolds, cuts off all further vision, and closes the earthly and sensible communion between Jesus and his disciples” (Dr. Hanna).
III. THE RECEPTION THE SAVIOUR HAD IN HEAVEN. There have been “triumphant entries” in this little world of ours, and in the history of our human race, the pouring forth in loud acclaim of the pride and joy of many thousands of hearts. But to what a vanishing point do they sink when placed by the side of this entry of the conquering Saviour into heaven! Though unable to form any conception that can approach the glorious reality, yet we may well love to linger in imagination over that blessed scene. His struggle over, his sorrows borne, his temptations met and mastered, his work finished, his great battle fought and his victory won,—the victorious Lord passes through all the ranks of the angelic host, amid their reverent worship and adoring acclamations, to his throne of power and glory.

“Look, ye saints! the sight is glorious:
See the Man of sorrows now
From the fight returned victorious;
Every knee to him shall bow.”

IV. THE EFFECT IMMEDIATELY PRODUCED ON THE MINDS OF THE DISCIPLES. Blank dismay, inconsolable sorrow, should we think? So thinking, we should be wrong. They “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Yet their Master was gone from them to return no more till that uncertain and distant day of which the angels spoke (Acts 1:11). How do we account for this? The explanation is found here—they were now perfectly assured of the Divine mission of Jesus Christ. His death had cast a dark shadow of doubt and dread over their hearts. His resurrection had revived their confidence and their hope. But this final manifestation, this “sign in the heavens,” this act of being taken up, like Elijah, into heaven, swept away the last fragment of doubt that may have been left behind; they were now absolutely sure, without any reserve or qualification whatever, that the Master they had loved and served was indeed their true Messiah, the Sent of God, worthy of their deepest veneration and their strongest attachment; so they “worshipped him” reverently, and went back to Jerusalem with the joy of faith and love filling their souls. There is no misery so unendurable as doubt, and there is no blessedness so sweet as rest of heart after spiritual disquietude.
V. ITS PERMANENT EFFECT ON THE APOSTLES’ MINDS. This was unreservedly good. It was “expedient for them that he should go away.” His bodily absence changed the complexion of their dependence upon him. It had been that of childhood; it was now to be that of manhood. With him by their side, as he had been, they would not have become the “men in him” they did become after he left them. The deeper and fuller knowledge of him they gained by his departure led to an enlargement of faith and to a deepening of love, and also to that fulness of attachment and consecration we recognize and rejoice in during their later life. They came to know him and love him and serve him as the Divine Saviour of mankind, and this made them worthier men and truer servants of their Lord. All earthly ambitions respecting the right and left hand of the throne were transformed into a noble consecration to the invisible Lord.
VI. ITS PRICELESS VALUE TO OURSELVES. 1. Christ is accessible to us all. Had he lived and reigned at Jerusalem, or some other sacred metropolis, he would only have been accessible to those who dwelt or journeyed there. But now he is “with us all.” For heaven is everywhere; the throne of grace is within the reach of the faintest whisper that comes from every burdened heart, from every seeking soul, wheresoever it may be breathed. A living faith can now realize the constant nearness of its living Lord; it has not to take even a sabbath day’s journey to find itself in his presence and to make known its request. 2. He is seated on the throne of power. To him who has passed into the heavens we can realize that “all power is given” (Matt. 28:18). We can well believe that our Master in heaven can do for us what we ask of him; that his arm is one of glorious might; that his hand has plenteousness of bounty and of blessing. And in all our time of need we can go to him, with holy confidence, to ask of him the help, the guidance, the blessing, we require. 3. He has all rightful authority. If he still dwelt on earth, we might be dubious of this; but to the heavenly Saviour we unanimously and cordially ascribe all headship; to him we yield our willing and unquestioning obedience; and we rejoice to believe that he is ruling and governing the affairs of his Church, and reigning in the interests of the whole human race; that it is his hand that is at the helm, and that will safely guide the tempest-ridden vessel to the harbour. 4. He is our constant and ever-living Lord. With all that is earthly we associate change and death; with the heavenly we connect the thought of continuance and life. Of our heavenly Lord we can think, and we delight to think, that whoever changes he is evermore the same, “yesterday, and to-day, and for ever;” that while human ministers “are not suffered to continue by reason of death,” he hath “an unchangeable priesthood,” and is able to save evermore (“to the uttermost”) all those “that come unto God by him.” And as we look forward to the future, and realize our own mortality, we cherish the joyous thought that, if we do but “abide in him” until the evening shadows gather and “life’s long day” passes into the darkness of death, we shall, in heaven’s eternal morning, open our eyes to see the “King in his beauty,” to “behold his glory,” and shall “sit down with him on his throne,” sharing for ever his own and his saints’ everlasting rest.—C.
Vers. 1–12.—The Resurrection discovered. When the women and the other mourners left the Lord’s tomb on the evening of the Crucifixion, it was with the intention, after the sabbath was past, of completing the embalmment. This office of love seems to have been left largely to the women; for it is they who make their way, in the early morning of the first day of the week, to the sepulchre. They seem to have had no knowledge, for they bad no apprehension, of the Roman guard, which was manifestly placed at the sepulchre on the Jewish sabbath, when the disciples and the women were keeping the sad day in strictest privacy. Their one apprehension was how to roll away the stone; but, like so many apprehended difficulties, it was found to vanish away—some hands stronger than women’s bad been before them and had rolled away the stone, and left them no difficulty in discovering an empty tomb. The narrative of John about Mary Magdalene’s visit is quite consistent with Luke’s narrative; for, as Gilbert West has pointed out in his admirable analysis of the Resurrection-history, Mary rushes off alone to tell the disciples, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him”—implying that others had been with her at the tomb. Without any misgivings, therefore, about the reliable character of the history, let us point out the instructive steps in the discovery of our Lord’s resurrection.
I. THE WOMEN WITH THE SPICES DISCOVER AN EMPTY TOMB. (Vers. 1–3.) They had employed the evening after the sabbath was past in preparing all that was needful for embalming thoroughly and finally the Saviour’s body. It was with this fragrant burden they made their way in the twilight towards the tomb, to find their fears groundless and the stone already removed. But a new fear now laid hold on them. There is no body in the tomb; it is empty. They do not appear to have taken in the significance of the grave-clothes carefully put aside because never to be needed more, as John did at his subsequent visit; their whole anxiety was about what had become of the dear body which they had come to embalm. The empty tomb was a discovery. The first impression, as indicated by Mary’s message (John 20:2), was that their enemies had seized the body and disposed of it to defeat all their ideas of embalming. One thing is certain from the history, that neither the women nor the disciples could have been parties to the removal of the body.
II. THE WOMEN THAT WAITED GOT EXPLANATIONS FROM THE ANGELS. (Vers. 4–7.) Mary Magdalene, acting on impulse, seems to have hurried off to tell Peter and John about the discovery of the empty tomb, while her companions wait longer to get some explanation, if possible, regarding it. And the waiting women are not disappointed. Angels appear in shining garments, and, as the women sink before them in terror, they proceed to reassure them with the glad tidings, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the bands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” It was the angels that reminded them of the promise of resurrection, and how it was now fulfilled. This is the second stage, therefore, in the discovery of the Resurrection. The fear of the women had been that the Jews had got the body. But there could have been no such plot carried out, for the very simple reason that, if they had got the body and it had not risen, they could have produced such evidence at the Pentecost as would have overturned the apostolic testimony, and prevented the inauguration of the Christian society. The angelic explanation, based as it was on our Lord’s previous promises, was the only satisfactory one. The Resurrection was the fulfilment of Christ’s deliberate plan.
III. THE REPORT OF THE WOMEN TO THE ELEVEN AND THE REST. (Vers. 8–11.) It is quite reasonable to suppose that Mary Magdalene was the forerunner of the rest, and through her report induced Peter and John to start at once for the sepulchre, while the main body of the women, consisting of Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others, returned more leisurely to make their report. At all events, the narrative of Luke implies all that is given by Matthew and by John. For the disciples who went to Emmaus distinctly say that certain of the disciples “went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said; but him they saw not” (ver. 24)—implying that the women, in their report, had spoken of having seen the Master. The testimony of the women was based upon a threefold foundation—first, the assurance of the angels; secondly, the promise of resurrection given in Galilee by the Lord; thirdly, according to Matthew’s account, an interview with the risen Lord himself (Matt. 28:9, 10). It was a remarkable testimony certainly, but at the same time it had ample warrant.
IV. THE BEST-ATTESTED FACTS MAY SEEM, TO DAZED MINDS, THE IDLEST FANCIES. (Ver. 11.) The poor disciples are, however, so overpowered with grief and disappointment that they are utterly unprepared for the announcement of the Resurrection. Here the suppler mind of woman is revealed in contrast to the more plodding, sifting, logic-demanding mind of man. The women enjoy the consolations of the Resurrection much sooner than the men. They take in the evidence at a glance. They do not question. They simply accept. But the disciples will not believe in a hurry. And so the messengers of the best tidings ever related unto men are at first in the position of the Master himself, and constrained to cry, “Who hath believed our report?” And the unbelieving criticism of to-day is more unreasonable than the disciples were before the women. Because the resurrection of Christ may break in upon the ideas of nature’s absolute uniformity which the critics have adopted, the whole evidence of resurrection—power continued through the ages is to be treated as an idle tale! Minds may be so dazed with grief or with success on certain lines as to discredit the completest evidence ever offered to the world. Before prejudice, the strongest facts get resolved into the idlest fancies. We should earnestly seek an impartial mind.
V. PETER’S FIRST ATTEMPT TO DEAL WITH THE EVIDENCE OF THE RESURRECTION. (Ver. 12.) Peter, as we learn from John’s account, accompanied by John, rushes off to see the sepulchre. He reaches it after John, but pushes past him, and goes into the sepulchre. There he sees the linen clothes laid by themselves, yet departs without reaching anything but perplexity. To John’s keener intellect the grave-clothes, so neatly deposited and the napkin laid in a place by itself, show that Jesus had risen, and laid aside his sleeping-clothes, as we do our night-dresses in the morning, because he had entered on the day of resurrection. John becomes a believer in the Resurrection on circumstantial evidence. Peter, it would seem, cannot make it out, and has to get a personal interview somewhat later on that day (cf. ver. 34), before he can take it in. It thus appears that one mind may handle the Resurrection evidence successfully, while another may only stumble through it into deeper perplexity. But when a soul like Peter is in earnest, the Lord will not leave him in the darkness, but will grant such further light as will dispel the gloom and dissipate all perplexity. Meanwhile the discovery of Christ’s resurrection is but the interesting first stage in the remarkable evidence to part of which we have yet to proceed.—R. M. E.
Vers. 13–35.—The risen Christ the best Escort on the pilgrimage of life. We left Peter in perplexity, but he and John must have returned to the rest of the disciples, and reported the emptiness of the sepulchre, but that they had not seen the Risen One (ver. 24). John does not seem to have communicated his own convictions unto the others. Most likely he is turning the matter over in his mind, as contemplative and deep-thinking men will do before giving a public pronouncement. Meanwhile there is a dispersion of some of the disciples that very afternoon. Thomas seems to have gone away, and to have remained away that night. And two of them proceed seven or eight miles into the country to Emmaus, where their home seems to have been. It is these two pilgrims that we are now to follow. They leave the city, and their conversation is sad. They are discussing the bright hopes which have been so lately quenched by the crucifixion of their Lord. It is while so sad that Jesus joins them, for he who had been the “Man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief” is ever breaking in upon men’s troubles to relieve them. His treatment of these “unwilling sceptics,” as they have been lately called, is most instructive. He probes their sorrow, gets an insight into its cause, gets them to state their hopes, their disappointments, and the rumours they had heard of his resurrection. On this basis, although apparently an unknown Stranger, he proceeds to show them their error and slowness in not believing all that the prophets have spoken about Messiah. Beginning, therefore, at Moses, he expounds to them from all the prophets that Messiah must first suffer, and then enter into his glory. The exposition was so brilliant and interesting, that they felt their hearts burning within them during the process. Then, under compulsion, he enters their lodging at Emmaus, sits down as Guest, then proceeds as Host to distribute the food as at the sacramental meal. Not till then did they recognize their risen Lord in the devout Being who graced their board. Once recognized, and thus dispelling all their doubt, he vanishes into the invisible. Such experience could not be quietly kept at Emmaus. They resolve to return that very night to Jerusalem, to report their interview, and how blessed an Escort Jesus had been in their pilgrimage. They are in time for the manifestation of the Risen One to the assembled disciples. We may learn from the narrative such lessons as these.
I. JESUS MAKES HIS ADVENT TO US WHEN OUR SOULS ARE SAD. This is the very spirit of the dispensation. Thus he cried, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And as the risen Saviour he prefers, we may well believe, the house of mourning to the house of mirth. Not only so, but when souls are in sad perplexity, when they are “unwilling sceptics,” it is his delight to come and be their Escort along life’s way, and lead them out of gloom and difficulty into real peace and joy. Now, when we know how accessible he is through prayer, we should never undertake any pilgrimage without securing the companionship of Jesus.
II. WE LEARN THAT JESUS IS OFTEN WITH US WHILE WE KNOW IT NOT. Here was he with these two pilgrims, taking step by step with them to Emmaus, and yet their eyes were so holden that they did not know him. He was near them, but they did not know him. Is not this the case with all of us? He is at our side, he takes every step with us, but we are so blinded with care and preoccupation that we fail to see him or enjoy his society as we should. The omnipresence of Jesus should be the believer’s constant consolation.
III. JESUS IS HIMSELF AT ONCE THE GREAT SUBJECT AND THE GREAT EXPOSITOR OF SCRIPTURE. Here we find him, after listening so sympathetically to all the difficulties of the disciples, proceeding to expound to them, “in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself.” “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” And here it is well to notice what is the substance of the whole revelation. It is put in these words of the risen Saviour, “Ought not Messiah to have suffered these things, and to have entered (εἰσελθεῖν) into his glory?” The Authorized and Revised Versions have alike failed to give the proper rendering here. Our Lord declares that he has entered already into his glory, just as he has already passed through his sufferings. We believe it can be made out from this and other passages that our Lord ascended—of course invisibly—without disciples as spectators, to heaven, and reported himself on high immediately after telling Mary, “I ascend [not ‘will ascend’] unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17; cf. also Bush on ‘The Resurrection’.) This supposition of an ascension on the very day of the Resurrection enables us to understand his movements during the rest of the day, and his bestowal of the Spirit, which was conditioned on his glorification, in the evening (John 20:22; cf. John 7:39). It also enables us to regard heaven as his head-quarters during the forty days before his visible ascension from Olivet. Upon this interesting subject we cannot now dwell, however; but we content ourselves by pointing it out, and emphasizing the fact of Jesus as the suffering and glorified Messiah being the Hero, the Substance, and the great Expositor of revelation. It is when we look for him in the Word that it becomes luminous and delightful.
IV. THE ENTERTAINMENT OF JESUS IS SURE TO LEAD TO SPECIAL BLESSING. These two men insisted on Jesus sojourning with them, because it was towards evening and the day was far spent. And as he sojourned, he was transmuted from Guest to Host, and gave them a sacramental instead of common feast. It is when devoutly asking a blessing on the bread that he is recognized, only, however, to vanish like a vision from their sight. Now we may pass through an analogous experience. Is not this what is meant by the Master when he says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20)? If we are open-hearted, and welcome Jesus, he will enter our hearts and sup with us, taking whatever we have to give him, and delighting in it, and enable us to sup with him. He will change into a Host from being our Guest. It was thus he acted at the marriage of Cana; it was thus be acted at Emmaus; it was that he acted on the shore of the Galilæan lake. He may be Guest, but he will soon show himself to be our Host, and give us a feast of fat things.
V. LIFE IS LARGELY A LIVING UPON HAPPY MEMORIES. As soon as the Risen One had vanished, they began to compare notes about the burning heart, and all the happy memories of their journey from Jerusalem. And as they plodded in that night through the dark to report their great discovery, they lived upon the happy memory. But, had they only known it, the risen Jesus was in some way making that return journey to Jerusalem too, making for the same upper room, to reveal himself to the disciples, and their fellowship with him might have been repeated. At all events, we need not live on happy memories, but may enjoy Christ’s spiritual presence and his escort all through the pilgrimage of life. It is this which will make the present life a heaven, not by anticipation merely, but in actual enjoyment; for fellowship with Christ, even though he be unseen, is the chief element of heaven. May we have the great Escort with us all the way!—R. M. E.
Vers. 36–53.—Infallible proofs and inevitable partings. The Emmaus pilgrims have hardly entered the upper room and reported their interview with Jesus, receiving the intelligence that perplexed Peter has got his perplexity resolved, when, notwithstanding that the doors are barred for fear of the Jews, the Risen One appears in the midst of them, and says, “Peace be unto you!” They are at first terrified at such an advent, seeing that it sets aside the ordinary laws of matter, and shows all precaution unavailing when Jesus is determined to get in. But he soon disabuses their minds and dismisses their troubles. Although he can get through barred doors, he is not a disembodied spirit, but a Person with flesh and bones. This he proceeds to demonstrate to their sense-perceptions. Having given them infallible proofs, he next proceeds to expound the Scriptures in detail to them, just as he had done on the way to Emmaus. On these sure foundations he bases their faith, and sends them forth, commissioned to preach repentance and remission of sins. He concludes his interview with the promise of the Father, for which they were to wait at Jerusalem after his visible ascension. And so he is carried up to heaven from Bethany, and the disciples return to wait at Jerusalem in joy until they receive power from on high. And here we have to notice—
I. THE MESSAGE OF THE RISEN SAVIOUR TO DISTRACTED SOULS IS PEACE. The salutation of the East received new depth and meaning when employed by the risen Saviour, when for the first time he appeared among his assembled disciples. He only could pacify them. He is the same “Peacemaker” still. It is his advent which drives away distractions, and secures a peace which passeth all understanding.
II. THE RISEN JESUS SUPPLIES INFALLIBLE PROOFS OF HIS RESURRECTION TO THE PACIFIED DISCIPLES. When pacified by him, they were then fitted for judgment. To place the proofs before worldly, distracted souls would have been throwing pearls before swine. It is before the disciples whose fears have been dispelled that he places the proofs. He urges calm investigation. Here are his hands and feet and side. Handle him, use sense-perception to the utmost. Make out that he has a body, and the same one which was crucified. Their joy at the proofs overpowered them for the moment, so that they could hardly credit it. Then he asked them for meat, and was content to eat before them a piece of a broiled fish. The honeycomb addition is not supported by the best manuscripts, and has been omitted in the Revised Version. The last doubt must depart before such proofs. It is the same Saviour who had been crucified, and he is among them in a body, able to partake of food, and perform all the functions assigned to a body dominated by a healthy spirit. Now, although we cannot see or handle the Risen one, we have yet the evidence of his Resurrection so set before us that only criminal partiality can resist it. Dr. Arnold, so accomplished an historian, declares that there is no fact of history sustained by better evidence.31 If we made sure of impartial and fearful minds to begin with, the infallible proofs would be recognized in their full power.
III. THE RISEN SAVIOUR HELPS HIS SERVANTS TO UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES. We learn from John’s account that “he breathed on them,” and so conveyed to them the Holy Ghost. Along with the outward exposition, therefore, of the Scripture references to himself, there is given the inward inspiration. It is this which made these men such masters of the sacred oracles so far as they indicate Christ’s mission. With opened understandings, with inspired hearts, the once sealed book became an open secret, and the fountain-head of missionary enterprise. And the witnesses need similar enlightenment still. By waiting on the Master prayerfully and studiously we shall obtain the key to interpretation, and have the fairy palaces unlocked for us.
IV. A GOSPEL OF REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS OF A UNIVERSAL CHARACTER IS TO BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME. For Christ comes to make men sorry for their sins, while at the same time they enjoy the sense of their pardon. As risen Saviour, he is the outward Guarantee of our justification from all things from which we could not be justified by the Law of Moses. He was “delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). And to these benefits all nations are to have access. The proofs of resurrection, the understanding of the Scriptures, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, were with a view to a practical issue in the publication of glad tidings to all nations.
V. POWER IS GUARANTEED IF THEY WAIT PRAYERFULLY AT JERUSALEM. They had got the Spirit as zephyr-breath. They had still to get him in Pentecostal and fiery power. Hence they are encouraged by the Lord to wait for this at Jerusalem, for work without spiritual power would be useless. And they waited, and were made world—conquerors by the gift of power. So ought the Lord’s people to wait for power Still.
VI. THE ASCENSION WAS THE NECESSARY COMPLEMENT OF RESURRECTION, AND THE GUARANTEE OF ULTIMATE VICTORY. We have already seen reason for believing that, on the day of resurrection, Jesus privately ascended to the Father, reported himself there, and made heaven his head-quarters during “the great forty days.” But a public ascension before the assembled disciples was necessary to establish their faith and joy. And so they were permitted to see their beloved Lord ascending, in spite of gravitation, up into the blue heavens, and speeding towards the centre of the universe at the right hand of God. Yet the inevitable separation did not prevent them from returning to Jerusalem with great joy, and continuing there until the Pentecost. They divided their time between the upper room and the temple. They waited in joyful anticipation of the promised power, and they got it in due season. And the Ascension ought to be to all believers a matter of definite experience. It is to this St. Paul refers when he speaks, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, of being “raised up together with Christ, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” There is an ascension—experience as well as a resurrection-experience—an experience in which we feel that we have risen superior to all earthly attractions, and that we, setting our affections, indeed, on things above, are sitting by faith among them with our Lord. It is this ecstatic state which heralds the advent of spiritual power. May it belong to all of us!—R. M. E.




The Barren Fig Tree, 7
The Question and the Answer, 9
The Composure and the Emotion of Jesus, 11
The Significance of Suffering, 13
Fatal Fruitlessness, 14
The Opportunity of Love, 14
Suggestions from the Synagogue, 15
The Growth of the Kingdom of God, 16
The Peaceableness and Diffusiveness of Christian Truth, 17
Vain Inquiry and Spiritual Strenuousness, 18
First and Last, 19
Divine Emotion, etc., 19
The Grace and Progress of God’s Kingdom, 20
Christ’s Farewell Words to the Theocracy, 22

The Great Supper, 29
Christ’s word on Modesty, 31
Moderation; Disinterestedness; Patience, 32
Excusing Ourselves, 32
Spiritual Breadth, 33
The Time and the Room for Calculation in Religion, 34
Christ and Kindred, 35
Ourselves as Salt, 36
Table-Talk of Jesus, 37
The Cost of Discipleship, 38

The Parable of the Prodigal Son, 45
A Bitter Charge the Highest Tribute, 49
The Parable of the Lost Sheep, 50
The Joy of the Angels, 51
The Father’s Home, 52
Departure; the Far Country, 53
Life in the Far Country, 53
The Soul’s Return, 54
The Welcome Home, 55
Ungrateful Recipiency and Ample Heritage, 56
Murmurs on Earth, and Joy in Heaven, 57
“From Home, and Back”, 58

The Unjust Steward, 70
The Rich Man and Lazarus, 72
Cleverness and Sagacity, 75
Our Indebtedness to our Lord, 76
The Wisdom of Fidelity, 76
The True Riches, 77
The Dividing-Line, 78
The Explanation of False Judgment, 78
Divine and Human Judgment, 79
The Sin and Doom of Selfish Worldliness, 80
Poverty at the Gate of Wealth, 81
A Dangerous Delusion, 82
Money as a Means of Grace, 83
The Misuse of Money, 84

The Addition Besought, 91
The Ten Lepers, 93
The Kingdom and the Day of the Son of Man, 95
Spiritual Resistance, 96
Our Duty when wronged, 97
Effective Faith, 98
The Spirit of Christian Service, 99
The Commonness of Ingratitude, etc., 100
Radical Mistakes respecting the Kingdom of God, 101
The Brief Day of Opportunity, 102
The Unlearnt Lesson, 103
Accidents, 103
Graces stimulated and strengthened, 104
The Advent of the Kingdom and the King, 105

The Importunate Widow, 115
The Pharisee and the Publican, 116, 122
The Ruler who refused the Crown, 118
Bartimæus, 119
Continuance in Prayer: Divine Delay, 121
Our Unbelief, 121
Christ and the Children: a Sermon to Children, 123
The Child of Man and the Kingdom of God, 124
The Golden Chance: a Sermon to the Young, 125
Wealth and Piety, 126
Christ’s Estimate of a Christian Life, 127
God’s Concealing Kindness, etc., 129
Present but Passing Opportunity, 130
What we want of Christ, 131
Lessons in Prayer, 131
The Children of the Kingdom, 132
Blindness, Mental and Physical, 134

Zacchæus, 140
The Parable of the Pounds, 142
From Jericho to Jerusalem, 144
Passion Week, 145
Zacchæus; the Triumph of Earnestness, 147
Forfeiture and Recovery, 148
The Great Purpose of Christ, 148
Saving the Lost, 149
Probation and Award, 150
Life a Sacred Opportunity, 151
The Law of Spiritual Increase, 152
Christ’s Royalty, 153
Eagerness in the Upward Path, 154
Suppression and Expression, 155
The Tears of Christ, 156
Judæa and England, 157
The Time of Visitation, 158
The House of Prayer, 158
Desecration, 159
Christ’s Popularity, 160
A Son of Abraham found in Zacchæus the Publican, 161
The Law of Capital in Christ’s Kingdom, 163
The Advent of the Humble King, 164

The Last Working Day, 171
The Great Teacher’s Silence, 173
Deprecation and Doom, 173
The Rejection and Exaltation of Christ, 174
Contact and Conflict with Christ, 175
The Sacred and the Secular, 176
Foundations of Christian Hope, 177
The Lowliness and the Greatness of Jesus Christ, 177
Character and Precept, etc., 178
Christ’s Collision with the Sanhedrin, 179
Christ Supreme in Debate, 180
Vindications and Judgments, 181

Worth in the Estimate of Wisdom, 187
The Destructible and the Indestructible, 188
Afterwards, 189
Inevitable Trial and Unfailing Resources, 190
The Second Redemption, 191
The Immortality of Christian Truth, 191
Christian and Unchristian Carefulness, 192
Standing before Christ, 193
Preliminaries of the Second Advent, 194

Wednesday and Thursday of Passion Week, 208
The Special Word to Simon, 210
Gethsemane, 211, 223, 232
Thursday Night to Friday Evening, 213
Piety, Pedantry, and Formalism, 214
The Deepest Wound, etc., 215
The Passion, from Two Standpoints, 216
The Lord’s Supper, 217
Jesus and Judas; our Lord and ourselves, 217
Greatness after Christ, 218
Fidelity and its Reward, 219
The Worth of Man, 220
The Privilege of Spiritual Maturity, 221
The Apostle’s Fall, 222
Misunderstanding Christ, 223
Self-Surrender, 224
Christianity and Violence, 225
The Power of Spiritual Darkness, 226
Distant Discipleship, 227
The Look of our Lord, 228
The Patience of Christ, 228
The Last Passover of our Lord, 229
The Proper Christian Spirit, 230
Christ’s Trials in the High Priest’s Palace, 233

Friday Night until Sunday Morning. “It is Finished!”, 246
The Divine Kingdom, 249
The Majesty of Meekness, etc., 249
Guilty Compromise, 251
The Character of Pilate, 251
Compulsion and Invitation; the Human and the Divine Methods, 252
Sympathy and Solicitude, 253
Magnanimity an Attainment, 254
Sin Greater than it seems, 255
A Sad Spectacle and the Supreme Vision, 256
Self-Saving and Self-Sacrifice, 257
True Penitence, 258
The Shelter of the Darkness, 259
The Rent Veil, 260
How to die and to live, 261
Sacred Impressions, 262
Jesus vindicated by his Enemies, 263
The Merciful Saviour on the Cross, 264
The Consequences of our Saviour’s Death, 265

The Resurrection-Morning, 278
Emmaus, 280
Christ and his Church, 282
The Instruction of the Apostles, 283
The Farewell and the Ascension, 284
Side-Lights from the Resurrection, 286
The Resurrection and the Life, 287
Privilege; Unconscious Companionship; Incredulity, 288
Further Lessons by the Way, 289
The Exigency of Old Age, 290
Sense and Spirit: the Resurrection, 291
The Peace of Christ, 292
The Divine Spirit and the Human Understanding, 293
The Solemn Charge, 294
Bearing Witness, 295
The Secret of Spiritual Strength, 296
The Ascension, 297
The Resurrection discovered, 298
The Risen Christ the Best Escort on the Pilgrimage of Life, 300
Infallible Proofs and Inevitable Partings, 302
Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.). (1909). St Luke (Bd. 2, S. 234–303). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.Archbishop S.E.Uwe Rosenkranz


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