Jesus is brought before Pilate, examined, and accused, but makes no answer, 1-5. The multitude clamour for the release of Barabbas, and the crucifixion of Christ, 6-14. Pilate consents, and he is led away, mocked, insulted, and nailed to the cross, 15-26. Two thieves are crucified with him, 27,28. While hanging on the cross, he is mocked and insulted, 29-32. The miraculous darkness and our Lord's death, 33-37. The rending of the veil, and the confession of the centurion, 38,39. Several women attend and behold his death, 40,41. Joseph of Arimathea begs the body from Pilate, and buries it, 42-46. Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joses, note the place of his burial, 47.
Notes on Chapter 15
In the morning
See Matthew 27:1,
The multitude crying aloud
αναβοησας. The word itself strongly marks the vociferations, or, to come nearer the original word, the bellowing of the multitude. It signifies, properly, a loud and long cry, such as Christ emitted on the cross. See the whole history of these proceedings against our Lord treated at large, on Matt. 27. Matthew 27:1-26,
And platted a crown of thorns
In the note on Matthew 27:29, I have ventured to express a doubt whether our Lord was crowned with thorns, in our sense of the word; this crown being designed as an instrument of torture. I am still of the same opinion, having considered the subject more closely since writing that note. As there I have referred to Bishop Pearce, a man whose merit as a commentator is far beyond my praise, and who, it is to be regretted, did not complete his work on the New Testament, I think it right to insert the whole of his note here.
"The word ακανθων may as well be the plural genitive case of the word ακανθος as of ακανθη: if of the latter, it is rightly translated, of thorns; but the former would signify what we call bear's-foot, and the French, branche ursine. This is not of the thorny kind of plants, but is soft and smooth. Virgil calls it mollis acanthus, Ecl. iii. 45, Geor. iv. 137. So does Pliny, sec. Epist. ver. 6. And Pliny the elder, in his Nat. Hist. xxii. 22, p. 277, edit. Hard., says that it is laevis, smooth; and that it is one of those plants that are cultivated in gardens. I have somewhere read, but cannot at present recollect where, that this soft and smooth herb was very common in and about Jerusalem. I find nothing in the New Testament said concerning this crown, which Pilate's soldiers put on the head of Jesus, to incline one to think that it was of thorns, and intended, as is usually supposed, to put him to pain. The reed put into his hand, and the scarlet robe on his back, were only meant as marks of mockery and contempt. One may also reasonably judge, by the soldiers being said to plat this crown, that it was not composed of such twigs and leaves as were of a thorny nature. I do not find that it is mentioned by any of the primitive Christian writers as an instance of the cruelty used towards our Saviour, before he was led to his crucifixion, till the time of Tertullian, who lived after Jesus's death at the distance of above 160 years. He indeed seems to have understood ακανθων in the sense of thorns, and says, De Corona Militar. sect. xiv. edit. Pamel. Franck. 1597, Quale, oro te, Jesus Christus sertum pro utroque sexu subiit? Ex spinis, opinor, et tribulis. The total silence of Polycarp, Barnabas, Clem. Romanus, and all the other Christian writers whose works are now extant, and who wrote before Tertullian, in particular, will give some weight to incline one to think that this crown was not platted with thorns. But as this is a point on which we have not sufficient evidence, I leave it almost in the same state of uncertainty in which I found it. The reader may see a satisfactory account of acanthus, bear's-foot, in Quincy's English Dispensatory, part ii. sect. 3, edit. 8,1742."
This is the whole of the learned and judicious prelate's note; on which I have only to observed that the species of acanthus described by Virgil and the two Plinys, as mollis and laevis, soft and smooth, is, no doubt, the same as that formerly used in medicine, and described by Quincy and other pharmacopaeists; but there are other species of the same plant that are prickly, and particularly those called the acanthus spinosus, and the ilicifolius, the latter of which is common in both the Indies: this has leaves something like our common holly, the jagged edges of which are armed with prickles; but I do not conceive that this kind was used, nor indeed any other plant of a thorny nature, as the Roman soldiers who platted the crown could have no interest in adding to our Lord's sufferings; though they smote him with the rod, yet their chief object was to render him ridiculous, for pretending, as they imagined, to regal authority. The common wild acanthas or bear's-foot, which I have often met in the dry turf bogs in Ireland, though it have the appearance of being prickly, yet is not, in fact, so. Several shoots grow from one root, about four or five inches long, and about as thick as a little finger. A parcel of such branches, platted by their roots in a string, night be made to look even ornamental, tied about the temples and round the head. It would finely imitate a crown or diadem. But I know not if this plant be a native of Judea.
One of Cyrene, a celebrated city in the Pentapolis of Libya.
The father of Alexander and Rufus
It appears that these two persons were well known among the first disciples of our Lord. It is not unlikely that this is the same Alexander who is mentioned, Acts 19:33, and that the other is the Rufus spoken of by St. Paul, Romans 16:13.
The third hour
It has been before observed, that the Jews divided their night into four watches, of three hours each. They also divided the day into four general parts. The first began at sunrise. The second three hours after. The third at mid-day. The fourth three hours after, and continued till sunset. Christ having been nailed to the cross a little after mid-day, John 19:14-16,17, and having expired about three o'clock, Mark 15:33, the whole business of the crucifixion was finished within the space of this third division of the day, which Mark calls here the third hour. Commentators and critics have found it very difficult to reconcile this third hour of Mark, with the sixth hour of John, John 19:14. It is supposed that the true reading, in John 19:14, should be τριτη, the third, instead of εκτη the sixth; a mistake which might have readily taken place in ancient times, when the character γ gamma, which was put for τριτη, three, might have been mistaken for Γρεεκ episema, or sigma tau, which signifies six. And τριτη, the third, instead of εκτη, the sixth, is the reading of some very eminent MSS. in the place in question, John 19:14. See Bengel, Newcome, Macknight, Lightfoot, Rosenmuller, this perplexing point.
A copy of the Itala tells their names: One on the right hand-named Zoathon; and one on the left hand-named Chammatha.
The scripture was fulfilled
All this verse is wanting in many MSS., some versions, and several of the fathers.
In him is added by DFGHPBHV, and upwards of sixty others; as also the Armenian, Slavonic, and four Itala.
My God, my God, See Clarke on Matthew 27:46.
Gave up the ghost.
This was about three o'clock, or what was termed by the Jews the ninth hour; about the time that the paschal lamb was usually sacrificed. The darkness mentioned here must have endured about two hours and a half. Concerning this eclipse, See Clarke on Matthew 27:45.
Some MSS. and versions read Joset, others Joseph. See Clarke on Matthew 27:56.
The day before the Sabbath
What we would call Friday evening. As the law of Moses had ordered that no criminal should continue hanging on a tree or gibbet till the setting of the sun, Joseph, fearing that the body of our Lord might be taken down, and thrown into the common grave with the two robbers, came and earnestly entreated Pilate to deliver it to him, that he might bury it in his own new tomb. See Clarke on "Mt 27:56; "Mt 27:60".
Went in boldly unto Pilate
He who was a coward before now acts a more open, fearless part, than any of the disciples of our Lord! This the Holy Spirit has thought worthy of especial notice. It needed no small measure of courage to declare now for Jesus, who had been a few hours ago condemned as a blasphemer by the Jews, and as a seditious person by the Romans; and this was the more remarkable in Joseph, because hitherto, for fear of the Jews, he had been only a secret disciple of our Lord. See John 19:38.
The apostle says, We have BOLDNESS to enter into the holiest through his blood. Strange as it may appear, the death of Jesus is the grand cause of confidence and courage to a believing soul.
Beheld where he was laid.
The courage and affection of these holy women cannot be too much admired. The strength of the Lord is perfected in weakness; for here a timid man, and a few weak women, acknowledge Jesus in death, when the strong and the mighty utterly forsook him.
HUMAN strength and human weakness are only names in religion. The mightiest MAN, in the hour of trial, can do nothing without the strength of God; and the weakest WOMAN can do all things, if Christ strengthen her. These truths are sufficiently exemplified in the case of Peter and all his brother disciples on the one hand; and Joseph of Arimathea and the two Marys on the other. And all this is recorded, equally to prevent both presumption and despair. Reader, let not these examples be produced before thee in vain.