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II. The dead body was laid in the tomb of Joseph, "a rich man," "a good man and just," "an honorable counsellor," by himself and Nicodemus, another rich man and counsellor, not open friends of the Saviour. His own disciples had no hand in his pious act of rendering the last honors to the body of the Redeemer. But though he died with the wicked, with the rich was his burial.
III. This was a new tomb, hewn out of solid rock, and in which no other body had been deposited.
This is a matter that requires more prominence than is commonly given to it. There could be no collusion-no substitution of any other body.
John employs two negatives in speaking on this point; literally, "in which no man had never been laid." But Luke asserts still stronger by three; one of which denies of the fact, another of the time, and the third of the person-" where had not been laid, at no time, no person "—all of which in Greek strengthen the negatives.
The latter witness seems to have known and felt that much. depended on this.
Tombs of this kind remain at this day about Jerusalem cut out of the solid rock.
IV. This tomb was closed up by a door of solid rock, sealed up by authority, and a guard of Roman soldiers detailed to watch it.
These precautions were taken at the instance of the Chief Priests and Pharisees, to prevent any pretence of a Resurrection: "they made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch." And of course they knew that the body, about which they had so much concern, was in the tomb. And their words and actions prove that they knew that the whole matter at issue between him and them was now to be decided.
But as Providence directed, these precautions authenticated and established the Resurrection: for on the third day, according to the time before appointed, the body was missing. There was no access to it any other way than by the door, which was closed by a rock, sealed by the governor, and watched by some say sixty soldiers.
But, to the confusion of those who had compassed his death, body was gone Sabbath morning. All parties testify to this fact. The women who hastened to the tomb very early in the morning. The disciples who also went. The soldiers on guard reported the body missing, and how can its absence be accounted for? There are only four suppositions possible.
1. That the soldiers of the guard removed it. not charged with this gross disregard of duty.
But they are
motive for it. They were Romans-placed there by the highest authority in the Province. They saw the seal, and if they broke it they must suffer death; military discipline was very severe. They had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, and they could not be guilty of such an act. They would incur the enmity of the great body of the Jews and of the Roman government.
2. That the Chief Priests and Pharisees caused its withdrawal. But they had caused his death, and in case of any pretence of a Resurrection it was their interest to show the dead body where it was laid. They would not and could not do the very thing that they took so much pains to prevent; and there was no place so safe to keep it as this tomb.
3. That the disciples removed it. But first, they had not courage to encounter a whole company of soldiers. When he was arrested, "they all forsook him and fled."
Secondly. They did not expect his Resurrection, and had no motive to remove the body. When Christ predicted his own death and Resurrection, "they understood not that saying,' being still blinded by their views of a temporal kingdom, which continued till the day of his ascension. And on another occasion, when he had spoken of rising from the dead, "they questioned one with another what that could mean."
Thirdly. When the two Marys had been to the tomb, and had seen the angel who told them of the Resurrection, the Apostles did not believe their report. "Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." And Thomas, who was not present at first, was so incredulous that it required the strongest kind of proof to convince him.
Fourthly. The state in which the grave clothes were found shows that the body was not stolen. They were wrapped up in order, as by one perfectly quiet and without indecent haste.
Fifthly. The body was honorably buried by a friend, in a new tomb, and abundant preparations made-a hundred pounds of myrrh and spices for embalming it-and there was no conceivable motive to remove it except to fulfill prophecy; and "as yet they knew not the Scripture that he must rise again from the dead."
4. No other supposition remains but that the body was removed without hands. He, by his own power, burst the gates of the grave, and took up that life that he had laid down. This would be the necessary consequence had no one seen him afterwards-had he immediately, on that Sabbath morning, ascended to Heaven without manifesting himself to men. But the angels that appeared to the women declared that he was risen." Mary Magdalen first saw him. Two other disciples, as they walked and went into the country, saw him next, "in another form," with a different dress or a changed countenance. Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and "did eat before them.'
On another occasion, at the Sea of Galilee, "he showed himself unto them." Paul informs us that he was seen by above five hundred brethren at once, which was probably on the mountain in Galilee, where he had appointed to meet them.
And so, after eating and drinking and familiarly conversing with his disciples for forty days, and appearing to none else, he ascended to Heaven in the sight of them all. After his ascension he appeared, first,
To the Martyr Stephen, "standing at the right hand of God." He appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus, "as to one born out of due time," who refers often to this fact as important "that he had seen the Lord" after his Resurrection. Christ told him that he appeared to him for this purpose-to make him a witness. John had a sublime vision of his person in the first chapter of Revelations. It is believed by many that Pontius Pilate sent an account of the death and Resurrection of Christ to Tiberius, the Emperor; and this is in itself highly probable.
We have the experience of numerous saints who have felt and borne their testimony to the power of his Resurrection; who know that they have not believed a cunningly devised fable. They have trusted in him as a living Saviour, and have not been put to shame. This inward persuasion cometh not from faith in à falsehood, but by belief of the truth. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself."
And though other persons saw the Saviour repeatedly after his Resurrection, the eleven disciples were the chosen witnesses to testify concerning it to the world through all ages. And as so much is depending on their testimony, we may examine a little into their character. We may say that a competent witness must. have three qualifications: 1. Capacity. 2. Opportunity. 3. Integrity.
1. Then, the disciples were capable of observing and judging of facts. Though "ignorant and unlearned men" in some things, yet their being men of plain common sense does not militate against their testimony, or disqualify them for witnesses. There was no defect alleged in respect to their bodily senses or mental faculties. And that they were not too credulous, we see in the case of Thomas' unwillingness to believe in the Resurrection of Christ without ocular demonstration, and in their slowness to admit the report of the women, that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead. Though warned beforehand, they do not catch at the tidings as something they were just waiting to hear. They were probably as much amazed to hear of his Resurrection. as the Scribes and Pharisees. And when Christ appeared to them, he "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart; because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen."
2. They had abundant opportunity to witness that about which they were to bear testimony. It was not done in a corner; it was not some ghost-an illusion of the senses-something seen only once, and in the dimness of twilight, or in the darkness of midnight. They had been in familiar intimacy with their Master for three years, constituting his family, witnessing his actions in various circumstances. They were the very ones best qualified to prove his identity, "who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead"-who saw the scars of the nails in his hands and feet, and touched his wounded side; who declare "what they have heard, what they have seen with their eyes,* what they have looked upon, and their hands have handled;" who lay great stress on the fact that they had personal knowledge,
1. By sense of hearing. 2. By sense of sight.
3. By sense of touch.
Just as Christ directed them-" Behold my hands and my feet that it is I, myself; handle me and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." And then to give them full confirmation, took a fish and honey comb and ate before them. "To whom he showed himself alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days," proving to them that he had a real body of flesh and bones, by his eating, drinking, walking and conversing with them; and not the shadow, or appearance of one, as the Docetæ afterwards taught. His body had not undergone its final transformation into its glorified form, as seen by the beloved disciple in the first chapter of Revelation. And when the Apostles supplied the place of Judas, the great qualification to fill the office was that the person was one who had been in their company all the time that the Lord went in and out among them, "unto that same day that he was taken up from them," and who had had an opportunity to see all that had occurred in that time. The Apostles made this the great point of their preaching-that God had raised up Christ and exalted him to be a prince and a Saviour; the great object for which Christ had called and trained them, to be his witnesses to all nations.
And if it be objected, as it is by infidels, that he did not show himself openly to all the people-to his foes, as well as to his friends-to those who put him to death, as well as to his disciples-it may be said, first, that he had done enough to satisfy the unbelieving Scribes and Pharisees, and it was useless to give them further proof. They, as a nation, had rejected him. They
"The Greek terms are Luke i. 2, avroяTaι and 2 Peter i, 16, TOTTаι, eye-witnesses. To see with the eyes" is not pleonastic, but "intimates the certainty of the perception."- Winer's Idioms, Sec. 67.
knew of the fact of his Resurrection in various ways: from the report of the guard, and from the declarations of other witnesses, and from the circumstances of the case. He had before given them the sign of Jonas, the Prophet. And if he had appeared openly, they would have sought his death again, just as they did Lazurus': hence, he appointed a public meeting for his disciples in Galilee. And, besides, if he had, how would they all know? It would depend at last on the testimony of the disciples to prove his personal identity; so that he took the wisest course-to qualify twelve men to stand before the world as his witnesses, and to rest the whole burden upon them, with the aid of the Holy Spirit and his promised presence; and if it be said that a delusion was practised on the senses of the whole number, twelve, and all the others who saw him, both the women and the five hundred whom Paul mentions, to some of whom he appeals as still alive twenty years after, then no one can credit his senses, and there is an end of human testimony. But
"He showed himself alive to chosen witnesses,
Matthias having been in the company of Christ and the Apos tles all the time of his public ministry, was specially prepared beforehand for a witness, and was as much an original witness as any of the others. (Acts i. 21, 22.) And it is worthy of remark here that twelve is the number adopted for jurymen throughout the civilized world.
3. They related faithfully what they had witnessed; we can put confidence in their integrity.
1. They gave their testimony there on the spot, and when the transactions were recent, and where they could easily be convicted of falsehood, if guilty of it, and by those strongly interested to do so; why was it not done?
2. Every motive of a temporal nature operated upon them to favor the Jews. Christ forewarned them to expect persecutions in his service. They were poor, destitute of human aid, and friendless; while against them was power, civil, military and ecclesiastical. And yet they adhered to their testimony, in opposition to priests, philosophers and rulers.
3. They attested their sincerity by enduring the greatest sufferings; "starving their gain, and martyrdom their price." Death, and worse than death. No perils could deter, no danger daunt them. The death and the Resurrection of Christ was their first and their last message in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Philippi, in Corinth, in Athens and Rome.
They might often be on every side oppressed, but not distressed; perplexed, but not dispirited; persecuted, but not