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To this sepulchre, with the help of Nicodemus, Joseph carried the lifeless body of their Lord, for
MATTHEW xxvii. 60. “it was his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock.
John xix. 42. “ There laid they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
MARK xv. 47. “ And Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Joses, beheld where he was laid.”
LUKE xxiii. 55. “And the women also which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid."
MATTHEW xxvii. 60.“ And (Joseph) rolled a great stone to the mouth of the sepulchre, and departed.”
The mother of Jesus and the beloved Apostle John are not mentioned in this group of faithful friends.
It is but natural to suppose that John, knowing that Joseph of Arimathæa and Nicodemus had taken charge of the lifeless body of the Lord, turned all his thoughts for the present to the care of His afflicted mother, solemnly given to his charge from the very cross, by the dying words of Jesus. To carry her to his home, to watch over and soothe the agonies of her grief, were his first and most sacred duties, and no doubt it was because of them, that he was not at hand to lay his Lord in the tomb.
The sun set at last upon that fearful day : and Calvary was still. Of all the crowds that bad covered it but a few days before, there remained but two, and they were women.
MATTHEW xxvii. 61. “And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulchre.”
LUKE xxiii. 54–56. “The Sabbath drew on. And the women which came with Jesus from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned (to Jerusalem,) and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath-day, according to the commandment.”
We plainly see that not one of the followers of Jesus had the least expectation that he was to rise again ; for they were preparing to embalm his body after the Eastern fashion with spices, for wbich Nicodemus had made great provision, besides that which the women busied themselves in preparing.
LUKE xxiii. 56. “And they rested the sabbath-day according to the commandment."
The work of the Redeemer is finished, and the body which he had taken upon bimself for man's redemption rests in the grave. When by him God made the world,* He had rested on the seventh day, and commanded that it should be kept holy. Surely, not that he needed rest, but that he foreknew all the wants of his creatures.
He has laboured now to bring about the new and spiritual creation which was to restore the world to its lost place in the family of God; and now his labour done, the man Jesus rests in the grave, taking from it the horrors of being, as it was, the prison-house of sin, and changing it for evermore into a “bed of rest for the weary," and its repose into the first Sabbath of the world, wherein man rests from all bis labours, preparing for the new and better Sabbath of the Resurrection-morn, that day which we keep holy. Thanks be unto God, (who in His Son) gives unto us the victory.
Though the body of Jesus is laid in the tomb, and his friends rest because it is the Sabbath day : his enemies rest not. They are still full of fears, for the conscience of the guilty never suffers them to rest. They remember what his disciples have forgotten.
* Hebrews i, 2.
MATTHEW xxvii. 62-66. "Now on the next day, that followed the preparation, (therefore, on the Jewish sabbath, which is our Saturday,) the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead; so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch : go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."
Pilate readily agreed to their proposal to make the sepulcbre
His own peace was concerned in preventing any fraud which could give rise to the report that Jesus had arisen from the grave. His conscience told him that he had committed a crime, and his best hope was to be able to forget it. Vain hope! “There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked.”
To the chief priests he entrusted the charge of making sure the tomb, telling them to take from the guard of Roman soldiers who were at their orders for the peace of the city and the safety of the temple,* a sufficient number of men to guard the tomb from any attempt of the friends of Jesus. No plan could be better. Joseph had laid the body in a perfectly new tomb hewn in the solid rock, and rolled against the door of the only entrance a great stone, which now his enemies sealed, no doubt with the high priest's seal of office. Who would dare to break it? While the chief priests by these means thought to shut up the body of Jesus till decay should make all idea of resurrection impossible, they did but provide witnesses to the
Always stationed in the fortress of Antonia, which was joined to the temple, both by a flight of stairs, and by a subterranean passage.
wonderful event which was to usher in the rising of the Lord of life.
It was on the Sabbath-day that the watch was set, and the sun again went down.
On Friday the Saviour had been crucified. He had yielded up his spirit some hours before sun-set had marked the beginning of a new day.
All Saturday (the Jewish sabbath) he had lain in the grave;and now at the setting of the second Sun, the third day, which is our Sunday, had begun. The hours of darkness passed on, and the Roman soldiers watched in silence. No man approached. Hark! there is a terrible sound! and oh! what sight is that ?
MATTHEW Xxviii. 2—4. “Behold, there was a great earthquake : for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow : And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.”
The Roman soldiers, though fierce and cruel, were brave and true. They would have defended the tomb to the last drop of their blood against all mortal men ; but the angel of the Lord! who could stand before the lightning of his countenance ? He rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulchre. He entered not therein. No word is said of the rising of the Lord of life. Not even the angel witnessed that solemn act which for evermore broke the powers of hell, and conquered death. Jesus rose, but none beheld Him rise.
The Sabbath is past, and the heart-broken women venture from the city, before any one is astir, to seek the tomb of their buried Lord. The first was Mary Magdalene. She loved Him with the love of one who had felt His power to save, and who owed Him all her peace. * It is written that
John xx. 1, 2. “ The first day of the week (when the Sabbath was past,) cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him."
Do we not seem to see her rush in breathless with her tidings ? There was nothing of hope in her thoughts or words—no re membrance of the promised rising again-only a new misfortune, “ They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, andwe know not where they have laid him.” Who could she have suspected ? Perhaps there had been some rumour of the Chief Priests having gone to Pilate; and a fear may have darted into her mind that they had possessed themselves of the sacred body, of their victim, grudging Him the honours of His tomb.
While she had been hurrying back to Jerusalam, two others, “as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week,”
MARK xvi. 1-4. “Mary the mother of James, and Sa
Luke viii, 2.