<< John XIX: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>
In this chapter we have a further account of Pilate's feeble effort to save Jesus, and of the Lord's crucifixion, after the cruelties which both the Jews and the Gentiles had heaped upon him. This account, while wanting many particulars related by Matthew, contains some which none of the other evangelists have recorded. What is peculiar to John we will consider at greater length, treating more briefly of that contained in the first gospel.
When we read of the cruelties which the Jews and the Gentiles inflicted on the meek and patient Son of Man, we may be ready to say, as the Jews themselves said of their sinful predecessors, " If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets." But Christians may be guilty of the blood of one greater than the prophets. Jesus was the impersonation of the eternal principles of righteousness and truth, which the prophets taught. Every sin which men commit against these principles is an act of violence done to the Son of Man. The principles of righteousness and truth, which the Lord so perfectly exemplified, he has perfectly revealed to us in his Holy Word; and just as men reverence or dishonour the written Word, they would reverence or dishonour the Incarnate Word, were he to appear in person amongst them. It is the knowledge of this fact that enables us to read of the Lord's sufferings and death in the right spirit and with real profit. Regarded as cruelties inflicted on the sacred person of the Saviour, they may produce a certain tenderness and humiliation of heart, which is not without its value and its use. But it is only when the treatment of the Lord's person is seen to have resulted from, and to represent, the treatment of his Word, or of the eternal principles which were manifested in the one and are revealed in the other, that the record has its true practical value for those of all time. It was no doubt for this reason that the Lord came among men, without anything but his own intrinsic worth to recommend him. If men could not love him for the purity and beauty of his character, they could not truly love him at all; yet it was this very moral beauty that caused the Jews to hate and persecute him. And so is it at this day. When, therefore, we read the sacred record of Ms life, and of his sufferings and death, we should learn from it to estimate how much our own character is represented in that which was exhibited towards him by men in the days of his flesh.
1-3. Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews ! and they smote him with their hands. The plaiting a crown of thorns and putting it on his head and clothing him with a purple robe, was in mockery of his calling himself a king. And as the Lord's royalty is expressive of his Divine Truth and its government in the hearts of men, this mockery represented the profaning of all that which the Lord's kingship expresses. When we pervert the truth of the Word for our own evil ends, we scourge the Son of Man; when to justify our evils we fabricate a system of ingenious error, and thus exalt our own wisdom above the wisdom of Jesus, we plait a crown of thorns and put it on his head; when we substitute our own righteousness for the righteousness of Christ, we clothe him with a purple robe; when we are inwardly worshippers of self and outwardly worshippers of the Lord, our worship of him is a mocking salutation of Hail, King of the Jews ! while every presumptuous sin we commit is a stroke inflicted on the Son of Man. When man had fallen, it was said of the ground, which had been cursed for his sake, " Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto you." The Son of Man was thus crowned with one of the most characteristic effects and marks of sin, when it first entered into the world. But the ground which was then cursed for man's sake was that of his own heart, when turned away from God; and the thorns it produced, and still produces, are the lusts that grow out of its corruptions. These thorns, which our sinfulness causes the corrupt and cursed soil to produce, are those which we still plait into a crown, and which we place in cruel derision upon the brow of the lowly Saviour. For, as we have seen, the contumelies we heap upon the Son of Man are those which we heap upon the truth which He himself is.
4, 5. After this mockery and cruelty, which took place in the governor's house, Pilate went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! This bringing of Jesus forth to the Jews with the mock insignia of royalty, bespeaks little reverence or sincerity in Pilate, seeing he is compelled to declare that he can find no fault in him. But when the heart is depraved the understanding is corrupted, and even when it judges right, it is easily induced to do wrong. Nevertheless the evil heart cannot entirely silence the understanding or prevent it from giving testimony in favour of the truth ; and this is sometimes the testimony of the Truth itself, for Jesus addresses himself to the Jews, and says, " Behold the man." This, in our version, is attributed to Pilate, but Pilate's name does not occur here, and the words appear to have been spoken by Jesus himself. But by whomsoever spoken, the phrase. "EcceHomo" expresses a great truth. The Lord is the man, because he alone is perfect man, as he is perfect God. One of the signs of degeneracy which rendered the Incarnation necessary is thus described : " I beheld, and there was no man " (Isa. xli 28); " Wherefore when I came was there no man?" (1. 2). All that was truly human had perished from among men. For what is humanity but God's image in man? All that is truly human is an image of the Divine. Whatever of humanity is in us finitely, is in God infinitely. God may be said to be Infinite Man; and we are finite men so far as we are likenesses of the Infinite. But man, or humanity,, is especially predicable of the Lord Jesus Christ, as God manifest in the flesh; for he is Man, not only in virtue of his having in his divinity all that originated created and finite man, but all that exists in created man as an inhabitant of either world. The Lord assumed human nature not only as it is in the created world, but as it exists in a fallen world. He indeed glorified the humanity he assumed, by putting off all finiteness, as well as all infirmity ; so that even as to Ms assumed humanity he is perfect man, and perfect man is God-man, or divine humanity. When therefore Jesus said, Behold the man! he drew the attention not only of those who then saw him, but of all men, in all ages, to himself, as the Man who is the pattern of humanity, the One from whom alone all that is truly human is possible to be derived, since he alone is Man in himself. As Man, the Lord is the true Object of faith and worship. We are no longer required to believe in and serve God as an infinite and incomprehensible essence, whom no man hath seen or can see, but we are privileged to know and worship him in the divine-human form in which he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, and to John after his ascension, when in the midst of the seven candlesticks he saw one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle: his head and his hairs white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes like a flame of fire and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters ; and his countenance as the sun shining in his strength. This is the same Being whom Pilate brought forth, bleeding from the soldiers' rods, clothed with a purple robe, crowned with thorns, and, exposed to the sneers and enmities of the ferocious multitude. Now in his glory, he is adored by all the host of heaven; henceforth to be worshipped by the ever increasing numbers of the faithful upon earth.
6. When the chief priests therefore and the officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him ! So is it ever with the evil, and especially with the corrupt members of the church; it is they that crucify the Lord afresh, and put him to an open shame. And their wrath against him is the greater, and their demand for his crucifixion is the louder, the more they have defaced in themselves the divine image, which alone makes them men, and worthy of the name. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him; for I find no fault in him. Again there is an appeal to the Jews on the ground of law and justice; he, whose prerogative it was to confirm or cancel the ecclesiastical sentence, declaring he found no fault in him. Yet Pilate did not, 'at least at this stage of the proceedings, show very much concern about the fate of Jesus, since he desired the Jews themselves to carry their unjust sentence into execution. Thus, while the Jews hated Jesus, the Gentiles showed no great love for him, none at least, sufficient to save him from an unjust punishment.
7. To Pilate's repeated declaration, I find no fault in him, the Jews answered, We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. Reference is here made to the law : " He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord; and that prophet or dreamer which shall say, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them ; shall be put to death " (Lev. xxiv. 16 ; Deut. xiii. 1, 5). The Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy, because, he being a man, made himself God (chap. x. 33); and they sought to kill him, because he said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God (chap. v. 18). But if they had understood their own Scriptures, they would have known that the Messiah could be no other than God manifest in the flesh, and that in serving him they served their God. But they wished to find in the Messiah an earthly king, the restorer to them of an earthly kingdom ; and they hated and persecuted one whose life and teaching both proclaimed that his kingdom was not of this, world. This same earthly desire lies at the foundation of all hatred of Jesus, or of the truth which reveals him. And this desire professes to have a law by which it judges; for passion, while it prejudges, frames or perverts the law to justify its proceedings, and attain its object. In the church, on divine and spiritual subjects, men find their law in the Scriptures themselves, which the evil pervert to their own purposes. The Jews, in our Lord's time, had made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; and so in regard to the Messiah. By what divine law ought Jesus to die, because he made himself the Son of God 1 Not by any, but by the perverted application of the law. As the devil used the truth to tempt Jesus, so do the evil employ the truth" to deny him.; but in both cases it is the truth wrested to their own, while they believe it is to his, destruction: for he who rejects the truth destroys his own soul.
8, 9. When Pilate therefore heard, that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment-hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou ? But Jesus gave him no answer. It is to be observed that the Jews had at first charged Jesus before Pilate with being guilty of sedition. But when they found that Pilate pronounced him innocent of the civil offence, they then accused him of the religious offence of having called himself the Son of God, for which, they declare, he was, according to their law, worthy of death. Thus, when they could not secure his condemnation by the Roman law, they sought to obtain it by the Mosaic law. When Pilate heard that Jesus was accused of some infraction of the Jewish law, he was the more afraid. It is observed, not we think without reason, that Pilate, convinced that Jesus was innocent of the political charge, and impressed with the dignity and meekness of his deportment under the brutal treatment and mockery of the soldiers, was startled by the new charge into a fear that, in condemning Jesus, he might be doing something more serious then consenting to the death of a suspected, obscure, political offender. He therefore went again into the judgment-hall and interrogated Jesus. His question, Whence art thou 1 does not relate to the Lord's country, but to his origin. This is a question which the sceptical are ever proposing. But it is one to which they receive no direct reply. " Jesus gave him. no answer." How striking and expressive is the Lord's silence ! a gentle but severe reproof, not oidy to the vacillating sceptic who demands, but to the wary debater and the ignorant zealot who offer, an answer to every question that may be proposed as to the origin of the truth! Truth reveals its own origin as well as its own nature, but it is to ingenuous minds: to them it reveals its heavenly origin, because they desire to know whence it is, that they may ascend with it and by it to him from whence it comes.
10, 11. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee ? Pilate's language supplies the reason of our Lord's silence. He claims to himself the power to crucify or to release. Every one has indeed the power to judge and to choose between truth and error, and between good and evil, but this power is not of man but of God. The answer of Jesus to Pilate is his answer to every man, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above. And this expresses a double truth. It teaches us that the faculties of rationality and liberty, by which we are able to judge and choose, are the constant gifts of God ; and that, as all good is of divine providence, all evil is of divine permission. By God permitting evil we are not to understand that he sanctions it, only that he does not absolutely prevent it, but restrains it within certain limits, permitting evil only so far as it can be made subservient to the cause of good, that cause including the existence of a less instead of a greater evil. The divine permission of evil, as it does not interfere with man's free-will, does not interfere with man's responsibility. Therefore, says our Lord, he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. The greatness of sin is proportioned to the extent of knowledge. The Jew had greater sin than the Gentile, because the Jew had a law to guide him which the Gentile had not.
12. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend : whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. Pilate's struggles for Jesus' release were like the struggles of a half-convinced understanding against the inclinations of a corrupt and stubborn heart. Pilate sought to release Jesus, but there were two powers which acted upon him, the Jews on one side and Caesar on the other. When spiritual and temporal motives unite, how difficult it is to stand ! The Jews who hated Jesus because he did not deliver them from Caesar's yoke, sought his condemnation on the ground of his being a rival king to Caesar ! They contended therefore for the b abjection, of the spiritual to the temporal, of the heavenly to the worldly. . Such at least do those whom the Jews represented—those in the church who pervert the truth, and invert divine order.
13. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. We have here another of the vacillations of the natural man, the too pliant subject of opposing influences. Pilate again brings forth Jesus, and places him before his enemies, while he himself sits down in the judgment-seat, in the place called the Pavement. This stone-paved place, as the word means, was without the praetorium: and here the judgment-seat was placed in the presence of the Jews. The sentence pronounced from this place ought to have been in accordance with the truth; but stone is the symbol of what is false as well as of what is true, and in this instance its symbolical meaning was too completely verified. The meaning of the Hebrew word for the pavement can only be conjectured: for it may mean either a surface or an elevation, according to the meaning of the two root words, from either of which it may have been derived. But the giving of the Hebrew name as well as the Greek is no doubt intended to teach us that the judgment pronounced upon the Son of man had its ground in the Jewish as well as in the Gentile mind—that the state, represented by the place from which the unjust judgment against the Holy One finally issued, was a state of opposition to the divine truth, both in the church and in the world. Pilate " sitting down " in the tribunal is expressive, too, of a more interior and permanent condition of the mind than hitherto, consisting well with the filial decision which was about to be made.
14. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour. The Jewish and the Christian passovers were thus simultaneously in preparation—a coincidence not of man but of God. " Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. v. 7); and the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world is to be slain by those hands by which the paschal lamb was killed, showing how much the world stood in need of something better than the blood of an unblemished animal for its deliverance from death. When Pilate sat down on the judgment-seat it was about the sixth hour. Mark says the third hour. This apparent discrepancy is probably reconcilable, and explanations of it are offered in the commentaries of those who devote their talents to the elucidation of the historical and literal senses. Regarded as containing a spiritual meaning, there is no contradiction, but only a variation, each statement being the basis of a distinct idea in harmony with the other. Three and six belong to the spiritual class of numbers, but six expresses greater fulness and perfection than three. The sixth is especially expressive of the last of the states of labour and trial which precede the Sabbath of rest, and therefore may be considered especially suitable to be mentioned in John's gospel, which describes higher states than those described in the other evangelists. It was at this hour, then, that Pilate made his last appeal to the Jews in behalf of Jesus, when he said unto them, Behold your King ! We may here remark that Jesus was presented to the Jews as a man and as a king— a man as the essential Goodness, and a king as the essential Truth: and under these two distinct characters he is presented to all, and to each of us individually.
15. But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. We may well stand appalled at this answer to Pilate's appeal. Yet it is less to be wondered at and condemned than the rejection of the Lord in his character of Saviour, as revealed in the gospel, where men have the opportunity of studying it in all its amplitude, whereas few of the Jews saw it except in some of its particular manifestations. Yet that denial of Jesus, which some are not ashamed to avow, is exceeded in criminality by those who, while they profess to accept the Word as divine, turn it against the divinity of Christ's nature and the perfect holiness of his character. But evil and falsehood may exist in connection with the soundest intellectual views of religion, and these may and do utter the cry, " Away with him, crucify Mm," for these are expressive of the hatred and repugnance to divine love and truth both by the will and understanding. And when, to Pilate's demand, " Shall I crucify your King," the chief priests answer, "We have no king but Caesar," we may see represented, not only the utter rejection of the Lord as the Truth, that should be the supreme ruler of the whole heart and mind, but also the adoption in its place of mere worldly power, originating in self-love and the love of the world. The Talmud says, " We have no king but God." The chief priests now say, " We have no king but Caesar." A temporizing race. Yet the change expresses the changed condition of the church, from the worship of 'God to the worship of man. But this is not a sin peculiar to the Jews j it extends to all who exalt the temporal above the spiritual.
16, 17. And now we have an account of the Lord's crucifixion, of which it may be only necessary to notice at length the particulars in which John, supplements the other evangelists. Then delivered he him to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he, bearing his cross, went forth into a place called, the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha. The spectacle here presented is indeed most affecting, and most humiliating. What can be more deeply affecting than the Lord of life being led away to crucifixion, bearing the cross on which he was to be fastened? and what can be more humiliating than to see men, before whom he had lived a life of the purest virtue and benevolence, leading him, like the worst and meanest criminal, to the most cruel and ignominious death, which the depraved ingenuity of man has been able to devise for inflicting prolonged torture on his fellow-creatures. Yet these were permitted for the wise and merciful ends of completing the work of human redemption; but, like all other evils, permitted in accordance with the immutable laws of Divine Providence, which ever act so as to overrule evil, as far as it can be overruled, for good. It is a law of Providence, as it is of creation, that all things, both natural and spiritual, be preserved in a state of equilibrium and consequent freedom of action. Free action is that which takes place under the influence of two equal forces, or when action and reaction are equal. An example of this occurs in the' revolution of the planets, our own for instance. The earth is preserved in its orbit by two opposing forces. A force is constantly drawing it towards the sun, and a force is constantly drawing it away from the sun. If either of these forces were to overpower the other, the earth would either be drawn into the body of the sun or carried beyond the boundaries of the solar system, and in either case would' be destroyed. Man, as a spiritual being, must, at the time of his creation, have been the subject of a corresponding equilibrium. Consciousness and reason were the two forces by the equilibrium of which man possessed the power of free choice and action. Reason, enlightened by revelation, told him that, as a created and finite being, he derived his life continually from God; while consciousness gave him no other impression than that his life was his own. Without this consciousness, no one of us could exist in a state of finite individuality. It constitutes our proprium, our self. Deprived of it we should be absorbed into the Deity, as the planet, deprived of its centrifugal force, would be drawn into the sun. On the other hand, were reason and revelation to lose their power, we should be carried away from God as the centre of our life, and wander into the regions of darkness and death. This was the condition into which man had come by the fall j and it was to bring him back into the orbit of order, and restore him to the enjoyment of life and light, that the Lord came into the world—that he left the ninety and nine and came to seek that which had gone astray. But the spiritual equilibrium which was lost by the fall, was lost not only to man individually, but to the race, and extended both to the natural and to the spiritual world. Those who had confirmed themselves in a life of evil upon earth, could not live in the kingdom of heaven, which derives the light of its wisdom and the warmth of its love from God, as the Sun of righteousness; they therefore gave existence to an opposite kingdom, which is the kingdom of darkness and death. Between these two opposite kingdoms, each, of which exercises an influence on mankind, there must be an equilibrium, otherwise evil would become more powerful than good, and men would be deprived of the power of doing good from choice. To some extent this had come to be the ease. And when the Lord came into the world, the restoration of the equilibrium between heaven and hell, as with as that which man had disturbed and indeed almost destroyed in himself, was one of the grand objects for which the Lord came into the world. In order to effect this there was no other way but for the Lord to become man. And all his work in the flesh was the means of restoring the order which evil had destroyed. The terrible sufferings and death he endured were permitted for the purpose of allowing the whole power of evil in both worlds to concentrate itself upon him, that the power of evil might be broken, and that the equilibrium between heaven and hell, and between good and evil, might be restored.
We will now briefly advert to some of the particulars related of the Lord, as the willing sacrifice for sin. Pilate delivered Jesus unto the Jews to be crucified. Not ill-disposed towards Jesus, and not unwilling to release him, Pilate yields to the clamour of the Jews, and delivers into their hands one in whom he confessed he found no fault. Considered personally, Pilate displays very strikingly the character of the natural man who is well-intentioned, but is guided by no fixed principles of justice and rectitude. Not a little of the evil in this world is done by persons who have a large share of natural goodness, but are deficient in the principle that is necessary to guide it to right and useful actions. They would not willingly do wrong, but are too ready, under persuasion and pressure, to sanction what is not right. Good without truth is not good. It is Gentile good, and may exist both among the Gentiles out of the church and those who are in a Gentile state within it. Pilate was a Gentile, and, in the gospel, represents the Gentiles. He, as a Gentile, did not desire to crucify Jesus, yet it was by his yielding to the clamour of the Jews that he was crucified. Both Jews and Gentiles were concerned in his death, though with different degrees of criminality j and as Jesus died by, so he died for, both Jews and Gentiles. He whom Pilate delivered, the Jews took, and led Mm away to be crucified. In these two expressions we see the union of the two corrupt principles under which the Jewish church acted against Jesus; for to take him expresses an act of the will, and to lead him away, an act of the understanding. " And he, bearing his cross, "went forth into a place which is called the place of a skull." The cross, on which malefactors were executed, was a sign of the evil which they were then considered to expiate. When the Jews compelled Jesus to bear his cross, they no doubt intended it as a sign of guilt. But as they knew him to be innocent, it was really a sign of their own guilt, and represented what they had done to his Word—laid upon it and compelled it to bear the burden of their own iniquity. Then the Lord bearing his cross, went forth unto " the place of a skull." The name of the place, like the act committed upon it, indicated that the Word had been deprived, so far as respected the Jews themselves, of its life, and that nothing remained to them but the dead letter, the form of truth without its power. The Hebrew name of the place is given, no doubt to express the idea, that in the death of the Lord every vital principle, not only of the Jewish, but of the Hebrew church, was destroyed. The Hebrew was a continuation of the ancient church. It was intermediate, in character as in time, between the church called Noah and that named Israel; and something of the ancient church passed through it into the Israelitish. Everything of the church, both internal and external, had therefore perished among the Jews, and the Jewish dispensation, as possessing the oracles of God, was a spiritual Golgotha.
18. It was here, therefore, where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. There were two kinds of capital punishment among the Jews, stoning and hanging. Some are of opinion that hanging was not inflicted on the living, but was only added to the real punishment, to mark the enormity of the crime; and hence the saying that " he that is hanged is accursed of God" (Deut. xxi. 23). There are instances, it is true, where this is distinctly related (as in Joshua x. 26), but there are others where it is mentioned alone (as Joshua viii. 29, Esther vii. 9). It is more probable that the two kinds of punishment were used both separately and combined. They represented two kinds of spiritual death, that produced by falsities, which is meant by stoning, and that produced by evil, which is meant by hanging upon a tree; stones being emblematical of falsities, and wood of evil. The Jews regarded crucifixion as answering to their punishment of hanging. Paul recognised in this more disgraceful punishment, and the cause attached to it, a type which found its fulfilment in Jesus. " Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us : for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree " (Gal. iii. 13). Those who take a purely natural view of the Scriptures understand this to mean, that Jesus took upon himself the curse of the law, and by his death removed the curse from us. What is the curse of the law? How did Jesus become a curse for us ? and how, by so doing, did he redeem us from the curse ? The curse which the law pronounces against the disobedient is death, but it is spiritual death, or the extinction in the heart of love to God and man, for this love is life, spiritual and eternal.
The curse under which all mankind lie by nature is not any divine malediction or sentence of death, but the unavoidable condition of creatures born in sin, and with so strong a hereditary tendency to sin, that they cannot naturally help sinning. Christ became a curse for us by taking upon himself our nature with its hereditary curse. And he redeemed us by undoing the curse, so far as regarded the humanity he assumed; and by this he provided for the undoing of the curse in tlio case of men. The crucifixion of Jesus, considered in its spiritual aspect, represented the total rejection of the Word as the divine truth, which had been revealed to them and their fathers. The Lord's crucifixion was a crime that could only be committed in a corrupt age ; and, effected as it was by the priesthood, could only be committed by a corrupt church. The Lord exemplified in his life and enforced in his teaching the principles of that Word which the Jews professed to believe and reverence. If they could hate and crucify one who presented the purest example of the life which their own law required, it could only be because they had crushed out of their hearts all sincere love for the holiness, which their law commanded. They treated the Lord, therefore, precisely as they had treated the Word, with this only difference, that the written law received outward homage, while the spoken and acted law was the object of open hatred and persecution, a persecution which was pursued even to the death of the cross; and to make the infliction of the punishment the greater indignity, they crucified two others with him, one on either side, and Jesus in the midst. In this, too, they exhibited a sign similar to that which our Lord himself presented of their state. These two, one of whom was the penitent thief, represented those who are in good and those who are in truth : in the case of the impenitent thief, those who are in truth alone ; but in the abstract sense, they represent the principles of good and truth themselves. These are on either side of Jesus, and he is in the midst, where they are conjoined.
19. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. It is remarkable that the title King of the Jews, on the only two occasions of its being applied to Jesus, is in both instances employed by Gentiles, the first time at his birth, the second time at his death. He was born King of the Jews, according to the wise men of the East; he was crucified King of the Jews, according to the governor of the West. It may be admitted that if the Gentiles thought of Jesus as a king, they, knowing he was to be born a Jew, would naturally think of him as King of the Jews ; and there can be no question that Pilate's accusation was derived from his Jewish enemies. But there is evidently something more in it than this, as may be inferred from its being so carefully recorded that the Jews complained to Pilate of the form of the inscription, and that he refused to alter it. Regarding the inscription itself, though substantially the same in all the gospels, it has particular differences in each, and John's has a part not contained in any of the others. Matthew says, " This is Jesus the King of the Jews;" Mark, " The King of the Jews;" Luke, " This is the King of the Jews;" John alone gives, " Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Those who believe that the sacred writers were influenced but not directed by the Spirit, or that they wrote from, enlightened reason but not from verbal inspiration, see in these, as in other variations, nothing more than characteristic differences in recording what they saw or heard. Those, on the other hand, who believe that there is a divine authorship in the least as in the greatest things of the Word, know that there is a divine meaning in them also. The inscription over the cross is given with greater fulness and precision by Matthew and John, most fully by John. The first and the last in every series are the most important, but the last more than the first, for in the last all prior things exist simultaneously and in fulness. In the two middle gospels the Lord is only the King of the Jews, in the first he is also Jesus, in the last he is Jesus of Nazareth. John, describing things as they appear to those who have reached the highest states of regeneration, and are thus of a celestial character, gives the superscription in its fulness, that it may express the glorified humanity of the Saviour, as known and acknowledged by those in the church who have realized the greatest height and depth of the Lord's saving love and wisdom. Jesus is that name of the Lord which is expressive of his love, and king is a title expressive of his wisdom; but when he is called Jesus of Nazareth he is described as Divine love in its fulness, and when he is called King of the Jews he is described as Divine wisdom in its power. Jesus is called a Nazarene in reference to the humanity he assumed in the world,, and which, glorified, is the divine natural ; and he is called the King of the Jews, and was represented by the kings of Judah, in respect to his divine wisdom, as displayed in the government of heaven and the church, especially in and over those who constitute his celestial kingdom. Looking at the superscription over the cross, as read by us and realized in our experience, Jesus of Nazareth is King of the Jews, when his love rules in our hearts and thence in our deeds, and when his wisdom rules in our understandings and thence in our words; or, when from his love by means of his wisdom Jesus is Lord of all that we are and have and do.
20. This title then read many of the Jews, for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city, and it was written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin. This title, written by a Gentile and read "by the Jews, foreshadowed the acknowledgment of Jesus by the Gentile world, and the knowledge of him, without belief in him, by the Jewish people. The superscription was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city. The crucifixion of Jesus took place outside the city, in fulfilment of a representative law regarding the Jewish sacrifice for sin, " for the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burnt without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate" (Heb. xiii. 11). Jesus, we have had occasion to remark, bore our sins in his own body (1 Pet. ii. 24), he having derived from his fallen mother all our hereditary tendencies to sin. The maternal humanity, thus frail and finite, was, however, to be put off, as the flesh of the sin-offering was rejected and carried without the camp (Lev. iv. 11). But the sin-offering must be considered in connection with others, especially the burnt-offering, before we can see its full meaning and right application. In the sin-offering the fat that covered the inwards and the two kidneys were burnt on the altar of the burnt-offering, at the bottom of which the blood, after some sprinklings with it, was poured; the body of the animal, with the legs and skin, being carried and burnt without the camp. In the burnt-offering the whole animal was laid upon the altar and entirely consumed. These two kinds of offerings represented two distinct acts, and two general stages, in the progress of man's regeneration and of the Lord's glorification. The sin-offering, in which the blood and the fat that covered the inwards were offered to God, was a typical description of the regeneration of the inward man, and the burnt-offering, in which the whole animal was consumed, represented the regeneration of the whole man, both inward and outward, of the mind and of the life. As the Lord's glorification was but a more exalted form of man's regeneration, the same sacrifices and offerings are typical descriptions of both. The glorification of the internal of the Lord's humanity was, therefore, represented by the sin-offering, and the glorification of his whole humanity, external as well as internal, was represented by the burnt-offering. But why should the sin-offering, in which only part of the animal was offered, be applicable to the Lord's crucifixion, when this was the last act by which his humanity was fully glorified, and was fully united to the divinity ? The Lord's crucifixion was the last act of his glorification, but not exclusive of his resurrection. By crucifixion he was a sin-offering; by resurrection he was a burnt-offering. By crucifixion he put off the maternal humanity, for then the son of Mary died ; by resurrection he put on the Divine Humanity, for then the Son of God arose. It was in his resurrection body that the Lord offered himself up a living sacrifice to God, without spot or blemish. It was then that the Humanity, wholly divine, became united to the essential Divinity, and that they became one Person for ever.-—But while the place where Jesus was crucified was without the city, it was nigh unto it. This nearness is mentioned to account for the circumstance that many of the Jews read the superscription. The result showed that they themselves were still in close connection with the corrupt principles by which they had sought and effected his condemnation. The superscription they read was in the three languages of the then civilized world, and which in the £Few Testament itself is sometimes spoken of as the world. The title being written in three languages may be understood as a sign of the wide dominion of the Son of man; as a prophetic declaration that he would sway his sceptre over all nations and languages; as further indicated on the day of Pentecost, when the apostles spake with new tongues, and were heard by every man among the numerous and diverse hearers in Ms own language (Acts ii. 6). The inscription being in three languages is mentioned only by Luke and John, as one that is realized by those who have attained to the more advanced states of regeneration, the only difference between the two records being,, that in John the Hebrew is placed first, as consistent with the character of his gospel, and with the states of spiritual order and life which he describes. The three languages in which the inscription was written are expressive of the three general characteristic differences which exist among men, by whom the Lord's title of .King of the Jews will be known and acknowledged; and also, in agreement with this, of the three elements that enter, either in the order given by Luke or by John, into all individual confession of the Lord as such. The Hebrew, the Greek, and the Latin, whether we, judge from the characteristic differences in the genius of the peoples, or of their language and literature, will be found to answer to will, intellect, and action, and thus, in a right condition of mind, to love, intelligence, and power.
21, 22. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not the King of the Jews, but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. The chief priests, instead of representing those who are in the love and worship of the Lord, represent those who are in the love and worship of self. Such cannot consent to the Lord being proclaimed the king of the Jews, even when written over his cross as an accusation against him. The priests propose to alter the accusation to his having said he was King of the Jews. Yet Jesus did not say so. lie affirmed that he was a king, but declared that his kingdom was not of this world. This, therefore, would have been a false charge, like that which the false witnesses testified against him, that he had declared he would destroy the temple and build it again in three days. But Pilate declined to listen to their proposal. It is certainly singular that a Gentile, who had not sufficient principle to save from an unjust punishment one whom he was not only empowered but bound to protect, should yet write over his cross the accusation that he was King of the Jews. It. can hardly have been regarded by him in any other light than as indicating Jesus' claim to the title. And as the Jews knew that the writing on the cross of a malefactor was a statement of the crime for which he suffered, the writing on the Lord's cross must have been understood to be what is called an "accusation." Yet the truth is sometimes spoken in derision, and most assuredly in this instance it was. Spoken, too, or written, as in this instance it was, by one who was a typical man, who represented the Gentile world, and those also within the church who are in a Gentile state, who may be, as Pilate most probably was, spoiled through vain philosophy, who are not of themselves hostile but rather favourable to the truth, so far as they know it, but who consent to judge and treat and condemn it from the report of its enemies. Pilate is the type of those who can see the truth when they judge of it by its own evidence, but who are easily turned aside by the testimony of others. Pilate, however, adhered to what he had voluntarily written. "What we have inscribed on the mind by a deliberate act remains.
23, 24. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat; now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. This is a more precise account than is given by Matthew and Mark, who say nothing of the coat, nor of its being disposed of by lot. Here again we may see the character of John's gospel. The deeper the view the more distinctly the parts are seen: the more minute the more comprehensive. In this historical circumstance of the soldiers dividing the Lord's garments there is a spiritual meaning interesting and instructive. The Lord, like the prophets who represented him, was a sign to the people Israel. "What he endured was indeed an awful reality, but it was the effect and the sign of what the Israelitish church had done to the Word. Regarded in his character of the Word, the Lord's inner and outer garments represented its inner and outer senses. In its inmost essence the Word is the very Divine Truth, such as it is above the highest heaven, and thus transcending the finite faculties of angels and men. To make itself apprehensible by creaturely minds, Divine Truth clothed itself with garments woven from the fibres of angelic and human thought, but by the will and wisdom of God, not of man. These garments are the spiritual and literal senses of the Word. The spiritual sense of the Word is the Divine Truth as it exists among the angels, and the literal sense is Divine Truth as it is among men, in the revelation which they possess in the sacred Scriptures. It is not, however, to be understood that the spiritual sense, though essentially for the angels, is wholly concealed from the eyes of men. As spiritual beings, men can have some perception of the spiritual sense, but they see it through the literal sense, thus indirectly and as through a glass darkly, while the angels see it without the intervention of that natural medium, and thus directly in the clear light of heaven. When we thus regard the Lord as the Word, and his inner and outer garments as representing the inner and. outer meanings of the Word, as accommodated to the apprehensions of angels and men, we can see the mysterious meaning contained in the circumstance of the soldiers dividing his raiment, and casting lots upon his Yes fare. Thus understood how significant the rending and dividing of his outer garment, and the preserving of his inner garment entire! The literal sense of the Word is rent and divided by heresiarchs, and each takes a part; but the spiritual sense is ever preserved entire. In the Jewish church, at the time of its end, the Word was torn to pieces by contending factions; and in the end of every- church it is the same. Each sect takes a separate portion of the Word? by taking from it what suits itself, and each establishes from these fragmentary parts tenets that are destructive of the truth as a whole. But what is to be lamented is, that different parties in the church, in thus dividing the Word, divide also what God in his Word has joined together—they divide charity and faith, piety and works. Not only is this done dogmatically, by maintaining the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, but by carrying that doctrine into every department of thought and life. This is meant by dividing the sacred garment of the Lord into four parts; for as the number four, like two, signifies charity and faith, piety and works united, division into four parts signifies their separation; and when this is effected, the unity of the Truth and of the Church is destroyed. So far as regards the Word, this can only be done with its literal sense. And at the end of the Church men generally know and acknowledge no other. It is of the Lord's providence that it is so. The literal sense, consisting principally of apparent truths, is capable of being interpreted variously, each interpreter obtaining a part of the truth, but none possessing the whole. But the spiritual sense consists of real truths, and does not admit of being diversely explained, so as to be bent into compliance with the diverse views of various interpreters. The literal sense of the Word introduces to a knowledge of the inner sense those who sincerely desire it; it hinders those who would profane the truth from entering, since they find at the threshold all that they desire to discover in the sanctuary. The literal sense of the Word is the flaming sword that turns every way, by which the cherubim, placed at the gate of Eden, guard the way to the tree of life. The spiritual sense of the Word is not, like its literal sense, capable of diverse interpretation, and thus of division. Like the Lord's coat it is woven in one entire and seamless vesture. It may be profaned but cannot be divided. The spirit of the Word teaches the unity of charity and faith so clearly, that no human ingenuity can turn its testimony on this great matter aside. In an evil age, therefore, ignorance is the only security against its profanation, this profanation being the sin against the Holy Spirit. It is to prevent this that it is withdrawn from the church at the time of its end. But although withdrawn, it is not lost, but is preserved for better times, " it is disposed of by lot." What men call chance angels call providence, and providence preserves this precious treasure inviolate, that it may be brought forth for use under a new and higher dispensation. " All this was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, they parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots." These words, which occur in the 22d Psalm, were uttered by David, without any seeming reference to the Messiah, which shows how completely the Lord's life in the world was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. David being a type of the Lord, all that is uttered by, and even all that is recorded of him, is descriptive of the Being whom the king and Psalmist represented. We cannot reasonably suppose that the whole use of the connection between the prediction and the event consists in its affording an evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus, but that it was designed to show the divinity and spirituality of the Word, and to convey a lesson worthy of that book, all whose inspirations are profitable for instruction in righteousness.
25-27. From the series of painful circumstances, we turn with a feeling of relief to one of a very different character. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. This beautiful incident is mentioned only by John, and is singularly in keeping with the character of his gospel. It breathes the very air of paradise restored, the tender sweetness of intense but chastened love. The three Christian graces, as we may call the three Marys, standing at the foot of the cross under the benign influence of their Saviour, who, even in his great sufferings, is to them as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land (Isa. xxxii. 2)! How deeply affecting to see the Lord, not only while he is suffering the pains of death, but the last and greatest of his temptations, acknowledging and caring for his mother Mary! Far be it from us to think that Jesus, as a man, was less human than those who are nothing more than men,—that he was less susceptible of the feelings of our common nature. An example in all things, he could not be wanting in filial tenderness towards her who bore him—a tenderness with more than all the intensity, but with none of the frailty, of mere human affection. It is true that the Gospel contains no instance of Jesus addressing or speaking of Mary as his mother; but it is not less true that the inspired record of his life calls her so. The Lord did not call Mary by that name, because by glorification he had so far ceased to be the son of a finite and sinful mother, and had so far become the Son of a divine and righteous Father, as to render the name of Mother inexpressive of the nature of his now highly perfected humanity. When the Lord on the cross assigned to the beloved disciple the place he himself once occupied in relation to Mary, saying, "Woman, behold thy son I" it was to teach all future generations, that love to him, and to the neighbour, of which John was the type, is Ms representative on earth, and is to be regarded by the church as her son; and when he said to the beloved disciple, "Behold thy mother!" and thus committed Mary to his affectionate care, it was to teach all men that love is to cherish and protect the church, as the mother of all living—and those only live whose life is love. When it is further recorded, as the fulfilment of this divine injunction, that "from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home," we are instructed that wherever there is love to the Lord, manifested in charity to men, there the church of the Lord is. If we look at this beautiful scene in a more personal and also in a more particular way, we may acquire additional instruction from it. Here are three women at the cross; and from the very terms in which they are mentioned we may regard them as representing woman in her three characters of mother, wife, and daughter, in all which she has ever been found, upheld by holy fortitude, at the foot of the cross,—sympathizing with and ministering to the suffering and sorrowing. In the purely spiritual sense, we see in these three women the three celestial affections, the affection of love to the Lord, the affection of mutual love, and the affection of use resulting from them. Mutual love in the celestial kingdom is analogous to neighbourly love in the spiritual kingdom. The difference between them is like the difference between friendship and sisterly affection. Neighbourly love is like love between friends, and mutual love is like the love between sisters : and therefore Mary the wife of Cleophas is called the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus.
28-30. Having expressed his last will, if we may so call it, by which the relation between John and Mary was established, and his church had found a home with the good of love and charity, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. This prediction and its fulfilment had a far higher than historical purpose. It is true that the connection between the prophets and evangelists is a testimony to their truth, and shows that the Scriptures were written by divine inspiration. But this was not all the purpose intended to be answered by the harmony. The events themselves, thus treasured up in the archives of divine wisdom, are representative of holy states and things, in which the children of God have a spiritual and eternal interest. Intolerable thirst was one of the natural results of crucifixion ; but he who endured without a murmur all the other pangs of this torturing death, could and would have borne this also, had there not been another cause for his seeking this last alleviation of his sufferings. His was a spiritual or divine thirst—an intense desire for the salvation of his sinful and perishing creatures. This was the thirst he felt, and which he expressed, that the Scripture might be fulfilled; for Scripture, from beginning to end, has for both its subject and its object the salvation of the human race, the accomplishment of which was the only purpose of the Incarnation. Jesus had been offered vinegar mingled with gall (Matt, xxvii. 34) or wine with myrrh (Mark xv. 23), but he would not drink; but he partook of the vinegar alone; which was to represent that, ardently as he desired the salvation of all men, yet those in whom error is mingled with. evil cannot find acceptance with him; while all who are in error without being in evil are received. Wilful evil, which is sin, alone excludes men from the kingdom of God; error, unconnected with presumptuous sin, presents no insurmountable barrier to admission. The reason of this is, that such error may be supported by the literal sense of the "Word, as the spunge with the vinegar was on a reed (Matt, xxvii. 48); at the same time the moral precepts of the Word may be used for purifying the life from evil, as the reed on which the spunge was placed was of hyssop : for a reed signifies the letter of the Word, and hyssop signifies purification. Errors in religion are generally the result of education; and in sincerely religious minds reside chiefly in the memory. And the memory may be full of errors, as the vessel set before the cross was full of vinegar and the thoughts may imbibe them from the memory, and raise them in worship to the Lord, as the spunge was filled with the vinegar and raised to the Saviour's lips; yet if this is done for the purpose of quenching his thirst—of satisfying the desire of his love for their salvation,—the confessional; prayer of the heart being that of the Psalmist, "Who can understand his errors ? cleanse thou me from secret faults," such worship will be accepted by Him; who looks not on the outward appearance, but on the heart. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished : and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." How much does this divine exclamation comprehend ? All was accomplished that divine love proposed by assuming the human nature. The passion of the cross was now over, the sufferings of the Son of man were ended. But now was finished the great work of human redemption, by the subjugation of the powers of darkness, through the last temptation in the passion of the cross. Now, too, was finished the glorification of the humanity, by which Jesus had become, in fulness and for ever, God with us. Now, also, was finished the dispensation of types and shadows, through which the faithful had looked forward to the Messiah, as the fulfilment and substance of them all. The great event, for which the Divine Providence had been preparing all things, both in the spiritual and in the natural world, was now accomplished. The seed of the woman had now bruised the serpent's head. In the great conflict, the serpent's seed had bruised his heel. The mortal which the Saviour had put on, as necessary to bring him. and allow his divine power to act, within the sphere of his redeeming operation, which was that of human nature, had fallen in the conflict; but only to rise again immortal; and, having immortality, Jesus has become the Author of eternal life to all who come to him through conflict, by which he has entered into his glory, and which he has made for ever possible and comparatively easy to all mankind. When Jesus had uttered the words, " It is finished, he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” The bowing of the Lord's head was, naturally considered, an effect and a sign of the failing powers of life, which immediately preceded his death; but his death was a voluntary act, and was synchronous with the laying down of the life of the frail humanity he inherited, as one born of a woman. Bowing his head, spiritually considered, was a sign of the complete humiliation of the humanity, by which we mean the extinction of all its hereditary life as the ground of temptation—the complete cessation of all the natural or hereditary life of his maternal, as opposed to that of his paternal, humanity. This was also indicated by his yielding up the spirit, with this difference, that bowing his head signified the extinction of the life of the will, and the yielding up the spirit signified the extinction of the life of the understanding, or of all the voluntary and intellectual life of the maternal humanity.
31-37. Having recorded the death of Jesus, John now relates two particulars respecting his dead body, which none of the other evangelists have noticed. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that Sabbath-day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. The use that is made of one at least of the incidents, and the almost universal recognition of its symbolical character, show how much we have gained by its having found a place in the inspired page. The Jews' scrupulous attention to ceremonials comes into painful contrast with the moral character of their proceedings in relation to Jesus. They had stained their conscience with the blood of Jesus, but scrupulously guarded the ceremonial sanctity of the sabbath. According to the law of Moses the body of any one hanged must not remain all night upon the tree, but must in any wise be buried that day, that the land be not defiled (Deut. xxi. 23). This strict, injunction was given to prevent what would have been a symbol of eternal death, which the remaining of the body all night upon the tree, and unburied, would have presented. It was, no doubt, of the divine Providence, as well as Jewish scrupulousness, that in the Lord's case the law should be observed, so that he who was the resurrection and the life, might not be subjected to what would have represented the opposite of resurrection and life eternal. This law is not mentioned as the reason of the Jews' request to Pilate, although it is understood to be included in it. They feared the desecration of the sabbath, especially that which occurred during the passover, and was therefore an high day. That the Lord's death should have taken place at the time of the passover, and that his body should not hang upon the cross but lie in a sepulchre on the sabbath-day, were circumstances that orginated in higher reasons than any which entered into the calculation of the Jews. The passover, which commemorated Israel's deliverance from Egypt, typified the Lord's Redemption, and the sabbath, as the rest which succeeded the six days of creation, represented the Lord's Glorification; and these two events, redemption and glorification, though distinct, were completed together. It was to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath that led to the incidental circumstances respecting the Lord's body, which John has so carefully recorded, as the fulfilment of two predictions. ; The first was, " that a bone of him should not be broken." As a verbal prophecy this is found in the Psalms: "He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken" (xxxiv. 20); but it is to be traced to the law respecting the paschal lamb: "neither shalt thou break a bone thereof" (Exod. xii. 46). This statement of John shows how clearly the gospel recognises the typical character of the Old Testament; for neither text has any seeming allusion to the Messiah. And yet, but for this, why should such a law have been enacted respecting the paschal lamb as, that no bone thereof should be broken ? But it is still more important to inquire, why a bone of the Lamb of God should not be broken. For we cannot suppose that the event had no other end than to verify the prediction. Both the prediction and the exceptional circumstance it represented, had a divine and spiritual meaning. It was permitted that Jesus should be scourged and crucified, and that his garments should be rent in pieces, but it was provided that a bone of him should not be broken. The Jews, we have seen, acted towards the Lord in a manner corresponding to that in which they had acted towards his Word. The request of the Jews, after they had crucified the Lord, that his legs might be broken, expressed, symbolically, the desire of the Jews, after they had destroyed all the higher principles of the Word, that they might break, and thus dissipate and destroy, all its ultimate principles also, these being represented by the legs and the bones. That the Jews, or the Jewish church, had destroyed these ultimate principles, as the foundation of religion, in themselves, is meant by the legs of the two who were crucified with Jesus being broken. Ultimate principles are those on which higher principles rest as on their foundation; and if the foundations are destroyed, righteousness has no power, nor can it continue even to exist.
It was to put on humanity in its ultimate degree that the Lord came into this world, where humanity exists in its most ultimate condition, as well as in its most degraded state; for by doing so, his assumed humanity included human nature as it exists in all other worlds, so that he can indeed save to the uttermost. In consequence of the bones representing the very ultimate principles of humanity, the Lord, after his resurrection, spoke of his bones, as one of the distinguishing marks of his actual and absolute humanity, when he said, " A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." It is for the same reason that the Lord himself is called a foundation and chief cornerstone ; for the humanity he assumed is the basis on which the spiritual universe rests. When heaven and the church are considered as constituting together the Grand Man, the church on earth, as compared with the church in heaven, is as the bones compared with the flesh ; and when the Lord spoke of his humanity as consisting of flesh and bones, or as having these two constituent parts of the human frame, he spoke of himself as being Man as man exists both in heaven and the church, and in the spiritual and natural worlds. While it was divinely provided, that, contrary to the usual custom, and exception in the present case, a bone of Jesus should not be broken, it was also provided, or permitted, that, contrary to the usual custom, his side should be pierced with a spear, and that thereout should come blood and water. In regard to the Jews, this act represented violence offered to, and rejection of, the Lord as the Word. The blood and water that flowed from the Lord's side denote divine truth spiritual and natural, thus the Word in its spiritual and natural truths ; and to pierce the Lord's side is to destroy both by falsities, of which a spear is emblematical. But, while these acts are evil in those who do them, in respect to the Lord himself they are good; for he turns evil into the means of good. The blood and the water that flowed from his crucified body, are the symbols of the spirit of goodness and truth that flow from his glorified body, for the purification and salvation of men; and which proceed from his divine love, meant by his breast. It is almost universally recognised among Christians that this part of the Lord's history is symbolical—-that the blood which he shed upon the cross was a sign of the shedding of blood without which there is no remission; but it is too often understood as a sign to us, that God regarded that blood as spilt to satisfy the demands of offended justice, and that sins are remitted through faith in the blood of the all-atoning sacrifice of the Son of Man. True it is that without the shedding of the Lord's blood there would have been no remission of sin; for without the passion of the cross, when the Lord's blood was shed, and which it means, there would have been no redemption or salvation, because no conquest of the powers of darkness, and no glorification of the Lord's Humanity; therefore, no reconciliation of man to God in the person of the Lord. But the blood which purifies from sin is that which the Lord's natural blood represented the divine truth which flows in a living stream from the bosom of infinite love, and makes men clean by being received into the heart and understanding, and washing them from wickedness, and by being made to flow from the heart into the life in acts of holy living. One statement which John makes respecting himself requires to be noticed. He assures us of the truth of what he relates, on the testimony of himself as an eye-witness. He saw and bare record, and he knoweth that he saith true. And in this the Spirit from which he wrote gives us this lesson, that if we would see spiritually what John saw naturally and came no doubt to see spiritually also, we must be in John's state of mind; we must see from love; for he was the apostle of love, and represented that highest of Christian graces. When we attain this state we also shall know from, perception the truths which these facts contain, and believe them with the heart.
38-40. And after this, Joseph of Arimathea, (being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews,) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, (which at the first came to Jesus by night,) and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. The circumstances related in these verses are recorded in all the gospels : the receiving of the Lord's body from Pilate and laying it in the tomb. The other three evangelists state that this was done by Joseph of Arimathea ; John mentions that Joseph was joined in the pious duty by Nicodemus—both secret disciples of the Lord. These represented the good and the faithful in the old church, who are instruments in the Lord's hands for preserving the truth from profanation, and for passing it to its resting-place, preparatory to its resurrection, and its reception and acknowledgment by the new church. Burial has two opposite significations. It always, indeed, signifies resurrection, but it may signify either resurrection unto life or resurrection unto condemnation. As the Lord's burial signified resurrection unto life in the most eminent sense, it was necessary for its representative character and spiritual meaning, that he should be buried by the pious hands of believing friends, and not by the impious hands of unbelieving enemies. It was suitable that his enemies should crucify him; it was necessary that his friends should bury him. John mentions that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight, with which the body was embalmed. These were analogous to the bitter herbs with which the paschal lamb was served. Spices are significant of affections and perceptions; sweet spices of joyful affections and grateful perceptions; bitter spices of that state of affection and perception which in the "Word is called bitterness of soul (1 Sam. i. 10); when divine truth is indeed the object of perception and affection, but there is yet bitterness of soul mingled with the gratefulness of perception and the tenderness of love, because the soul mourns over the want or loss of, or the violence that has been done to the truth. Bitterness in spices is like the fear that is in love, before perfect love has cast out fear. In the present case, bitter spices were used. These were very suitable to be used in embalming ; for here there is sorrow, even when death is viewed in its proper light, but not sorrow as of those who have no hope ; sorrow and hope are mingled —sorrow for our loss, hope for their gain. And these were provided in all fulness, for the spices were about an hundred pound weight. Joseph of Arimathea procured the body, and Nicodemus brought the spices. Joseph represented those who are principled in the good of love, and Nicodemus represented those who are principled in the truths of faith. Nicodemus was he who went to Jesus by night, and had, therefore, been instructed by the Lord himself in the truth, especially in that relating immediately to regeneration. While Joseph procured the body of Jesus, which is the divine goodness, Nicodemus buys the spices, which signify the perceptions of truth. In regard to the individual disciple, they represent the will and the understanding, and the good and truth which belong to them, by which the Lord is received. When the two disciples had made these preparations, " Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." The body of Jesus is the divine good of the Lord, deprived, by the members of the perverted church, of all the life of love; but received and cherished by the loving and faithful, who have been preserved in the corrupt church unknown to itself, for these were secret disciples. But those who receive the divine good of the Lord receive it in truth, with which they invest it. Good is from the Lord himself, truth is from the written Word. Good is from within, truth is from without. The linen clothes, which these pious disciples wound about the body of Jesus, represented the truth in which the faithful receive the good which the church has rejected or destroyed, so far as regards itself. Fine linen is the righteousness of saints (Rev. xix. 8). Righteousness is truth reduced to practice; and such is the truth into which the disciples receive the Lord's divine good, and preserve it, and prepare it for resurrection into new life in the heart. The two disciples, in embalming the body of Jesus, followed the custom of the Jews. The customary forms and ceremonies of the Jews in burying, "-represented the means of resurrection. In reference to the Lord's Humanity and its glorification, this act of the two earnest disciples has an important meaning. The funeral rites performed by these pious men were not peculiar, but were customary marks of affection offered by the living to the dead. Descending from them of old time, these rites were representative, unknown as this might be to those who used them. The preservation of the natural body by anointing and embalming, represented the preservation of the spiritual body, by means of the graces and virtues, of which the ointments and unguents were symbolical. All the rites of the Jewish church had reference to the Lord. Anointing and embalming were singularly suitable and highly significant in the case of him whose very-title was the Anointed, and of whom it was promised that he, as the Holy One, should not see corruption. It is not to be supposed that the hasty embalming of the Lord's body was the means of saving it from corruption; it was a natural sign, providentially supplied, of that embalming and anointing, which the Lord's Humanity received from his divinity. The ointment and the spices by which the Lord's body was really embalmed, were the divine love and wisdom, the communication "of them by the Divinity to the humanity having been that by which the humanity became divine. The spices with which the Lord's body was anointed were peculiarly appropriate in his case, for the glorification of his humanity, to the very ultimate, was on the eve of its completion, by his rising from the dead in a glorious body, and the myrrh and aloes were symbolical of the affections of good and truth which belonged to the sensuous and corporeal principles of his humanity, and which pertain to those in whose affections the Lord is embalmed, even when he is rejected and crucified by the world and the church. In reading of the embalming of the Lord's body by the two devoted disciples, we may connect it with that part of the forty-fifth Psalm, which is universally allowed to be prophetic of the Lord. "All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." Here, indeed, the Lord is described not in his humiliation but m his glory, not in his crucified but in his glorified body, not attended by two secret disciples, but by kings' daughters, while on his right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. But in this celebration of the union of the Lord with his church, his marriage garments smell of myrrh and aloes, but with the addition of cassia, which was not used in the embalming of his body. Cassia was the most precious of the spices, which entered into the composition of the holy ointment- with which the tabernacle with all its contents, and Aaron and his sons, were anointed (Exod xxx. 24) Representing inmost truth, which proceeds immediately from good, it enters into and exalts the low degrees of truth, which are meant by myrrh and aloes, and, combined with them, forms the inmost of that trinity of celestial, spiritual, and natural, which, as it exists infinitely in the Lord and his Word, exists finitely in heaven and the church.
41. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden: and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. Literally, the garden was not in, but near, the place where the Lord was crucified. But in a higher than the literal sense, the place of resurrection is not only near, but in, the place of crucifixion. This is the case at least with those who obtain the resurrection from the dead. To them death is the gate of life; it closes the senses of the body to the world, and opens the senses of the soul to heaven. To the righteous the death of the body is the last of a series of acts, by which the life of the natural man is laid down, and the life of the spiritual man is taken up. Yet let us remember that it is only those who follow the Lord who can make it so, because he has made it for them. He has opened up a passage from the cross to the kingdom, making the scene of suffering the scene of triumph. " In the place where he was crucified there was a garden." From the place of a skull, the ghastly emblem of death, where the cross was set up, to the garden, the bright emblem of life, where the sepulchre was hewn, and where the resurrection took place, there was but one step. In the garden, thus near to the cross, there was a new sepulchre, where was never man yet laid. How significant is this ! A sepulchre is emblematical of resurrection, and that in which the Lord was to .be laid was new, in which no man had been ever laid, to represent the great truth that the Lord was the first in whom humanity was made new. He was the first fruits of them that slept, not of them that slept the sleep of natural death, but of them that slept the sleep of spiritual death, from which death the Lord came to deliver mankind. He was the Resurrection and the Life. "No man hath ascended up into heaven save he which came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." The Lord was the first who ever obtained the resurrection from the death which sin had introduced, * which death was spiritual. Spiritual death had passed upon all men, for that all had sinned. The death of the body was not the result of the fall. Man was not created to live in this world for ever; nor was the body, when it has returned to its dust, designed to be restored to .life again. Natural death was originally designed to be the gate of life; and to unfallen man it was so. In those, happy times bodily dissolution was not, and could not, be regarded as death, but only as the falling down of the prison walls, or the dissolving of the tabernacle, of this body, that the soul, released from its earthly tenement, might find "an house not made with hands eternal in the heavens." It was only when men became earthly and sensual and loved this world in preference to heaven as their home, that they regarded the end of this present life as death. And this death of the natural body even Christians have come to regard as the curse of sin; deliverance from which they have come to regard as that which was purchased for them by the Lord's resurrection. The death from which the Lord came to deliver his people is spiritual and eternal death, or the death of sin. He alone can deliver from this death. :
42. There laid they Jesus therefore, became of the Jews' preparation-day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. The burial of the Lord was effected in haste. It was on account of the near approach of the Jews’ preparation-day that the two; pious disciples hurriedly conveyed the sacred body of the Lord, which they embalmed, to the nearest sepulchre. There is some resemblance in this to the haste in which the passover was to be eaten, and in which the Israelites were sent out of the land of Egypt (Exod. xii. 11, 33). Haste is expressive of affection for all haste arises from some affection being excited; and in the case of the Israelites, haste in eating the passover, and in leaving the land of their bondage, signified the affection of separation from those who infest. So the haste with which Joseph and Nicodemus removed the crucified body of Jesus, and laid it in the tomb, expressed the affection of removing and separating the divine Truth from those who had destroyed it in themselves, and had left it to be cast out as vile and accursed. By these disciples the body of Jesus was hastily buried, but with all the pious care and observances which the brief space of time at their disposal allowed. But this very haste, while in itself significative of the earnest desire of the pious to separate the Lord's holy Truth from the hands of the impious, was the occasion of providing for the Lord's body the new tomb in which it was laid : for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. The place where the Lord was crucified was the emblem of death; the place where he was buried was 'the emblem of life. Life is nigh unto death, and even heaven is nigh unto hell; and yet they are separated by a great gulf. The Lord was the first who passed that gulf, and made it possible for his creatures to pass from death unto life, and even from hell into heaven. This they can do while they are inhabitants of this preparatory world, not after they have passed into eternity, where, as the tree has fallen, so must it for ever lie. The day in which the Jews made their preparations for the celebration of the passover, was also the day in which another and higher preparation was being made for the resurrection of the Lord, as the Conqueror of death and the grave, and as the Author of eternal salvation to all who die unto sin and live unto righteousness. But between the burial and resurrection of the Lord were to intervene three days and nights, that prophetic period of the Lord's remaining in the heart of the earth. " The earth with her bars was about him (Jonah ii. 6); and to the disconsolate disciples it seemed as if it were to be " for ever." After this mysterious slumber, the Saviour was to arise in his strength. This they knew not yet. And now the two disciples having performed their pious work, have left the " Prince of Life " under the dominion of death. The night, which covered the darkest day that ever fell upon the world, was now closing around them; and they left the sepulchre as men who had performed the last duty of gratitude and love to One they expected to see no more, but whose end was involved in mystery, which they could not yet understand. The night with its darkness had fallen upon them; the new day, which was to shed its light upon all that now perplexed and oppressed them, had not yet dawned.
Author: William Bruce --1870
Pictures: James Tissot----Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum