I HAVE followed this Gospel in its order, down to the close of John 17, having distributed it so far into three principal sections: the first, introducing our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Stranger from heaven, and giving us His action and reception in the world the second, exhibiting Him in His intercourses and controversies with Israel; the third, giving Him to us in the bosom of His elect, instructing them in the mysteries of the heavenly priesthood, and in their standing as the children of the Father. And now, we have to consider the fourth and closing section, which gives us what attended on His death and resurrection. May the entrance of the Lord's words still give light, and bear with them to our souls a savour of that blessed One of Whom they speak!
But while, in labours like these, beloved, we seek to discover the order of the divine Word, and are led to wonder at its depths, or admire its beauty, we should remember that it is its truth we must chiefly consider. It is when the Word comes with "much assurance," that it works effectually in us. It will not profit if not mixed with faith. Its power to gladden and to purify will depend on its being received as truth; and as we trace out, and present to one another, the beauties, the depths, and the wonders of the Word, we should ofttimes pause, and say to our souls, as the angel said to the overwhelmed apostle who had seen the lovely visions and heard the marvellous revelations, "These are the true sayings of God."
The place in our Gospel to which I have now arrived, presents our Lord Jesus Christ in His sufferings. But I may notice that it is not His sufferings that occupy Him in this Gospel. Throughout it He appears to stand above the reproaches of the people, and the world's rejection of Him. So that, when the last passover was approaching, though in the other Gospels we see Him with His mind full upon His being the Lamb that was chosen for it, and hear Him saying to His disciples, "Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified," yet in our Gospel it is not so. He goes up to Jerusalem at the time; but it is to seat Himself in the midst of an elect household. John 12: 1. And so afterwards. When He is alone with His disciples, He stands above His sorrows and the world still--He does not tell them of the Jews betraying Him to the Gentiles, and of the Gentiles crucifying Him--He does not speak of His being mocked, and scourged, and spit upon, as in the other Gospels. All this is passed by. The many things which the Son of man was to suffer at the hands of sinful men lie untold here. But, on the other hand, He assumes the hour of the power of darkness to be past; and as soon as we find Him alone with His elect, He takes His place beyond that hour. Chapter 13: 1. Gethsemane and Calvary are behind Him, and He apprehends Himself as having reached the hour, not of the garden, or of the cross, but of the Mount of Olives, the hour of His ascension our evangelist saying, "Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father:" these words showing us plainly that His mind was not upon His suffering, but on the heaven of the Father that was beyond it. He spreads before them, not the memorials of His death here, but of His life in heaven, as we have seen; for He washes their feet after supper. And all His discourse with His beloved ones afterwards (John 14 - 16) savoured of this. It all assumed that His sorrow was past--that He had finished His course--that He had stood against the prince of this world, and had conquered--that He continued in the Father's love, and that all was ripe for His being glorified. His words to them assumed this; and, on the around of this, He strengthened them to conquer, as He had conquered. Instead of telling them of His sorrows, His object is to comfort them in theirs. He gave them peace and the promise of the Comforter, and of the glory that was to follow. And when, for a moment, as urged by their state of mind, He speaks of their all leaving Him alone in the coming hour, it was not without this assurance--"And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." And, in like manner, when He was separating Judas from the rest, we read that "He was troubled in spirit;" but, as soon as the traitor was gone, He rises to His own proper elevation, and says, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." Thus, if His soul pass through a groan or trouble, it is but for a moment, and just to lead Him into a fuller view of the glory that was beyond it all.
It is just the same as He descends into the deepest shades of His lonely way. Even here it is still strength that accompanies Him throughout, and glory that appears before Him throughout. And thus, whether in labour, in testimony, or in suffering, He is still, in this Gospel, in His elevation as Son of God. He walks on in the consciousness of His dignity; He takes the cup as from the Father's hand, and lays down His life of Himself.
John 18, 19.--We may remember that, in John 17, we saw our Lord as the Advocate in the heavenly temple, making His requests. From that place He now comes down to meet the hour of the power of darkness. In that chapter His heart and His eye had been full of His Father's glory, of His own glory, and that of the Church; and forth from all this, thus in spirit set before Him, He comes out to endure the cross.
In the other Gospels, He meets the cross after the strengthening that He had received from the angel in Gethsemane - but we have nothing of that scene here; for that was the passage of the Son of man through the anticipation of His agony, His soul being exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, with the strength of God by an angel ministered to Him. But here it is the Son of God descending as from heaven to meet the cross; and His passage through the whole of the hour of the power of darkness is taken in the strength of the Son of God. He seeks no companionship. In the other Gospels, we see Him leading aside Peter, James, and John, if haply He might engage their sympathy to watch with Him for an hour. But here there is none of this. He passes all alone through the sorrow. The disciples, it is true, go with Him into the garden, but He knows them there only as needing His protection, and not as yielding Him any desired sympathy. "If . . . ye seek Me, let these go their way." As the angel does not strengthen Him in the garden, neither do His disciples stand with Him there for any cause of His. He comes down as the Son of God from His own place on high; to walk (as far as man was concerned) alone to Calvary. Though His present path lay to the cross, it was still a path of none less than the Son of God. The loneliness of the Stranger from heaven is marked here, as it had been all through this Gospel.
And let me add (a reflection that has occurred to me with much comfort), that there is a greatness in God, in the sense of which we should much exercise our hearts. There is no straitness in Him. The psalmist appears to give himself to this thought in Psalm 36. All that he there sees in God, he sees in its proper divine greatness and excellency. His mercy is in the heavens; His faithfulness unto the clouds; His righteousness is like the great mountains, and His judgments are like the deep; His preserving care is so perfect that the beasts as well as men are the objects of it; His loving-kindness so excellent, that the children of men hide themselves as under the shadow of His wings; His house is so stored with all good, that His people are abundantly satisfied with its fatness; and His pleasures for them are so full, that they drink of them as of a river. All this is the greatness and magnificence of God, not only in Himself, but in His ways and dealings with us. And, beloved, this is blessed truth to us. For our sins should be judged in the sense of this greatness. It is true, indeed, that sin is exceeding sinful. The least soil or stain upon God's fair workmanship is full of horrid shapes, in the eye of faith that calculates duly on God's glory. A little hole dug in the wall is enough to show a prophet great abominations. But when brought to stand, side by side, with the greatness of the grace that is in God our Saviour, how does it appear? Where was the crimson sin of the adulteress? where the sins that had, as it were, grown old in the Samaritan woman? They may be searched for, but they cannot be found. They disappear in the presence of the grace that was brought to shine beside them. The abounding grace rolled away the reproach for ever. God Who taketh up the isles as a very little thing, and measures the waters in the hollow of His hand, takes away our sins far off "to a land of separation." Lev. 16: 22.
"I hear the accuser roar Of ills that I have done - I know them well, and thousands more - Jehovah findeth none."
With these thoughts we may well encourage our hearts. Our God would have us know Him in His own greatness. Set sin alone, and the least speck of it is a monster. Set it beside His grace, and it vanishes. And all this expression of divine greatness breaks forth in Jesus throughout this Gospel. There is everywhere the tone and bearing of the Son of God in Him and about Him, though we see Him even in toil or in suffering.
But this only by the way. We have now followed our Lord over the brook Cedron; and the spot must have been one of sacred and affecting recollections to Him. For here it was that David had once stopped with Ittai his friend, and with Zadok and the ark, as he went forth from Jerusalem in the fear of Absalom. Over this very brook, and up this very ascent of Mount Olivet, the king of Israel had then gone weeping, his head covered and his feet bare, while Ahithophel, who had once been his counsellor, was betraying him to his enemies. 2 Sam. 15. Jesus, we read, ofttimes resorted thither; no doubt with these recollections. But it is the Son of God we have here at the present time, rather than the Son of David. The brook is passed and the garden is entered, not with tears, and without the ark; but more than the ark in all its glory and strength are to be displayed now. The Lord comes forth to the band of cruel officers and soldiers, as they were, with this word, "Whom seek ye?"--thus addressing them, as in the repose of heaven, which was His. And He comes forth in the power of heaven, as well as in its repose--for on His afterwards saying to them, "I am He," they go backward, and fall to the ground. No man could take His life from Him. He has even to show them their prey; for all their torches and lanterns would not otherwise have discovered Him to them Every stage in the way was His own. He laid down His life of Himself. They that would eat up His flesh must stumble and fall. They that desired His hurt must be turned back, and put to confusion. The fire was ready to consume this captain and his fifty. See 2 Kings 1. Had the Son of God pleased, there, on the ground, the enemy would still have lain. He had come, however, not to destroy men's lives, but to save; and therefore He would lay down His own. It was just seen that the glory that might have confounded all the power of the adversary lay hid within the pitcher; but He was fain to hide it still.
And now it was that, in spirit, He sang the twenty-seventh Psalm. The Lord was His light and His salvation, whom should He fear? He had just seen God's glory in the sanctuary (as we saw in John 17), and, according to this Psalm, His longing was to dwell in that house of the Lord for ever. It was a time of trouble, it is true; but, in spirit, His head was lifted up above His enemies; and He was soon to offer in the tabernacle sacrifices of joy, and sing His praises unto the Lord. Psalm 27: 1-6.
Thus, as Son of God, He stood in this hour, and could have stood against hosts of them; but He would take the cup from His Father's hand, and give His life for the Church. Those who were with Him become now, in their wilfulness, an offence to Him. His kingdom was not as yet of this world; and therefore His servants might not fight. Peter draws his sword, and would have changed the scene into a mere trial of human strength. But this must not be. It is true, the Son of God could have stood. He might again have been the ark of God, with the power of the enemy falling before it; but how then should the Scripture be fulfilled? He rather leaves Himself in the hands of enemies. "Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him."
Thus was it, so far, with the Lord. And as we still follow Him, we still trace the way of the Son of God, the Lord from heaven. Whether we listen to Him with the officers, or with the high priest, or before Pilate, it is still in the same tone of holy distance from all that was around Him They may do to Him whatsoever they list--He is as a stranger to it. He is not careful to answer them in their matters. He would pass through all in loneliness. The daughters of Jerusalem do not here either yield Him their sympathy, or receive His; nor does a dying thief share that hour with Him. He is the lonely One all through that dreary way. Peter is found in the way of the ungodly, warming himself among them, as one who had only the resources which they had. Another (perhaps John himself) takes his place as the acquaintance of the high priest, and gets his advantage as such. But all this was a sinking down into mere nature, and leaving the Son of God alone--as He had said to them "Ye . . . shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me."
And His path, I need not say, is without a stain. "Let God be true, but every man a liar." So Jesus is without fault, though all beside fail. He was "justified in the Spirit." He has no step to retrace, no word to recall. He could righteously vindicate Himself in every thing, and even reprove His accuser, and say, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?" But even Paul, in such a case, had to recall his word, and to say, "I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest."
From the hand of the high priest the Lord passes into the hand of the Roman governor. And here a scene opens full of solemn warning to us all, beloved, as well as preserving before us still the full character of our Gospel.
It is very evident that, throughout this scene, Pilate was desirous to quiet the people, and deliver Jesus from the malice of the Jews. It appears, from the very first, that he was sensible of something peculiar in this Prisoner of theirs. His silence had such a character in it, that, as we read, "the governor marvelled greatly." And what divine attractions (we may observe) must every little passage of His life, every path that He took among men, have had about it! And what must the condition of the eye and the ear and the heart of man have been, not to discern and allow all this! The governor's first impression was strengthened by every thing that happened as the scene proceeded; his wife's dream, the evident malice of the Jews, and, above all, this righteous, guiltless Prisoner (though thus in shame and suffering) still persisting that He was the Son of God, all assailed his conscience. But the world in Pilate's heart was too strong for these convictions in his conscience. They made a noise within him, it is true, but the voice of the world prevailed; and he went the way of the world, though thus convicted. Could he, however, have preserved the world for himself, he would willingly have preserved Jesus. He let the Jews fully understand that he was in no fear of Jesus; that He was not such a One as could create with him any alarm about the interests of his master, the emperor. But they still insisted that Jesus had been making Himself a king, and that if Pilate let this Man go, he could not be Caesar's friend. And this prevailed.
How does all this lead us to see, that there is no security for the soul but in the possession of that faith which overcomes the world! Pilate had no desire for the blood of Jesus, as the Jews had; but the friendship of Caesar must not be hazarded. The rulers of Israel had once feared that, if they let this Man alone, the Romans would come and take away both their place and nation (John 11: 48); and Pilate now fears to lose the friendship of the same world in the person of the Roman emperor. And thus did the world bind him and the Jews together in the act of crucifying the Lord of glory! As it is written, "For of a truth, against Thy holy Child Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together."
Still, as I have observed, Pilate would have saved Jesus, could he, at the same time, have saved his own reputation as Caesar's friend; and therefore it was that he now entered the judgment-hall, and put this inquiry to Jesus, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" For, as the Jews had committed the Lord to him, upon a charge of having made Himself a king (Luke 23: 2), if he could but lead the Lord to retract His kingly claims, he might both save Him, and keep himself unharmed. With the design of doing so, he seems at this time to enter the judgment-hall. But the world in Pilate's heart knew not Jesus; as it is written, "The world knew Him not." John 1: 10; 1 John 3: 1. Pilate was now to find that the god of this world had nothing in the Lord. "Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?" Our Lord by this would learn from Pilate himself where the source of the accusation against Him lay; whether His claim to be Kin. of the Jews was challenged by Pilate as protector of the emperor's rights in Judea, or merely upon a charge of the Jews.
Upon this, I may say, hung every thing in the present juncture; and the wisdom and purpose of the Lord in giving the inquiry this direction is manifest. Should Pilate say that he had become apprehensive of Roman interests, the Lord could at once have referred him to the whole course of His life and ministry, to prove that, touching the king, innocency had been found in Him. He had taught the rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. He had withdrawn Himself, departing into a mountain alone, when He perceived that the multitude would have taken Him by force to make Him a king. His controversy was not with Rome. When He came, He found Caesar in Judea, and He never questioned his title to be there; He rather, at all times, allowed his title, and took the place of the nation, which, because of disobedience, had the image and the superscription of Caesar engraven, as it were, on their very land. It is true, that it was despite of the majesty of Jehovah that had made way for the Gentiles to enter Jerusalem; but Jerusalem was, for the present, the Gentiles' place, and the Lord had no controversy with them because of this. Nothing but the restored faith and allegiance of Israel to God could rightfully cancel this title of the Gentiles. The Lord's controversy was, therefore, not with Rome; and Pilate would have had his answer according to all this, had the challenge proceeded from himself as representative of the Roman power. But it did not. Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?"
Now, this answer of Pilate conveyed the full proof of the guilt of Israel. In the mouth of him who represented the power of the world at that time the thing was established, that Israel had disclaimed their King, and sold themselves into the hand of another. This, for the present, was every thing with Jesus. This at once carried Him beyond the earth, and out of the world. Israel had rejected Him; and His kingdom was, therefore, not from hence; for Zion is the appointed place for the King of the whole earth to sit and rule; and the unbelief of the daughter of Zion must keep the King of the earth away.
The Lord, then, as this rejected King, listening to this testimony from the lips of the Roman, could only recognize the present loss of His throne, "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence." He had no weapons for war, if Israel refused Him. There was no threshing for His floor now, for Israel is His instrument to thresh the mountains (Isa. 41: 15; Micah 4: 13; Jer. 51: 20), and Israel was refusing Him. The house of Judah, and that only, is Messiah to make "His goodly horse in the battle" (Zech. 10: 3); and, therefore, in this unbelief of Judah, He had nothing wherewith to break the arrows of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the battle. Ps. 76. His kingdom could not be of this world - "it could not be from hence;" He had no servants who could fight, that He should not be delivered to His enemies.
This present loss of His kingdom, however, does not annul His title to it; for the Lord, while allowing His present loss of it, yet allows this in such terms as fully express His title to it, and led Pilate at once to say, "Art Thou a king, then?" And to this His good confession is witnessed. For Pilate would have had no cause to dread either the displeasure of his master or the tumult of the people; he might have fearlessly followed his will, and delivered his Prisoner, if the blessed Confessor would now alter the word that had gone out of His lips, and withdraw His claim to be a king. But Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a king." From this, His claim, there could be no retiring. Here was His good confession before Pontius Pilate. 1 Tim. 6: 13. Though His own received Him not, yet He was theirs; though the world knew Him not, yet it was made by Him. Though the husbandmen were casting Him out, yet He was the Heir of the vineyard. He was anointed to the throne in Zion, though His citizens were saying they would not have Him to reign over them; and He must by His "good confession" fully verify His claim to it, and stand to that claim before all the power of the world. It might arm all that power against Him, but it must be made. Herod, and all Jerusalem, had once been moved at hearing that He was born Who was King of the Jews, and Herod had sought to slay the Child; but let the whole world be now moved, and arm its power against Him, yet He must declare God's decree, "Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion." Ps. 2. His right must be witnessed, though in the presence of the usurper, and in the very hour of his power.
But now we are led into other and further revelations. This "good confession" being thus witnessed, the Lord was prepared to unfold other parts of the divine counsels. When He had distinctly verified His title to the kingdom in the face of the world, He was prepared to testify His present character and ministry. "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth; every one that is of the truth heareth My voice." His possession of the kingdom was for a time hindered by the unbelief of His nation; but He shows that there had been no failure of the purpose of God by this, for He had come into the world for other present work than to take His throne in Zion. He had come to bear witness unto the truth; and our Gospel is especially the instrument for presenting the Lord in that ministry. As it is said of Him at the opening of it, "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." He had come into the world that He might say, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." He had come that He might give us an understanding to know Him that is true. 1 John 5: 20. He had been manifesting the Father's name to those who had been given Him out of the world, and this was the same as bearing witness to the truth. John 8: 26, 27. Every one that was of the truth, as He here speaks to Pilate, had been hearing His voice. His sheep had heard it, while others had believed not, because they were not His sheep. He that was of God had heard it, while others had heard it not, because they were not of God. John 8: 47.
Such was the Lord's present ministry, while Israel was in unbelief. Though King of the Jews, and, as such, King of the whole earth, He could not as yet take His kingdom, for His title had been denied by His nation. He must take up other ministry, and the character of that ministry He here reveals to Pilate, and had been presenting all through our Gospel.
Thus, this good confession before Pontius Pilate, recorded in this Gospel, still leads the Lord's thoughts quite in the current of this Gospel. While standing to it, consenting for a while to answer for Himself, He still knows Himself in highest and holiest ministry; yea, I may say, His divine ministry, a ministry which none but the Only Begotten of the Father, none but He Who is in the bosom of the Father, and Who was full of grace and truth, could have fulfilled.
This is still striking; and as we follow Him on to the cross, we have the Son of God still. We see His title to the kingdom verified with all authority. The enemy would have had it blotted out, but he cannot prevail. Pilate, who before had despised the claims of Jesus, saying to the Jews, "Behold your King," will now have them published in the chief languages of the earth, and it is not in the power of the Jews to change his mind now, as before. The cross shall be the Lord's standard, and Jehovah will emblazon it with inscriptions of His royal dignity, be the earth never so angry.
But this is the only Gospel that gives us this conversation between Pilate and the Jews about the inscription on the cross; for it savoured of the glory of Jesus. And so it is only our evangelist who notices the woven coat, which was something that the soldiers would not rend--a little circumstance in itself, but helping still to keep in view (in full harmony with this Gospel generally) the holy dignity of Him Who was passing through this hour of darkness.
Here it is, also, that our Lord lays aside His human affections. He sees His mother and His beloved disciple near the cross; but it is only to commend them the one to the other; and thus to separate Himself from the place which He had once filled among them. Sweet indeed it is to see how faithfully He owned the affection up to the latest moment that He could listen to it. No sorrow of His own (though that was bitter enough, as we know) could make Him forget it, But He was not always to know it. The children of the resurrection neither marry, nor are given in marriage. They were not, henceforth, to know Him "after the flesh." He must now form their knowledge of Him by other thoughts, for they are henceforth to be joined to Him as "one spirit;" for such are His blessed ways. If He take His distance from us, as not knowing us in "the flesh," it is only that we may be united to Him in nearer affections and closer interests.
And, to look deeper than the circumstances of this hour, if we mark the Lord's spirit on the cross, we shall still discern the Son of God. He thirsted--He tasted death, it is true--He knew the drought of that land where the living God was not. But His sense of this is still expressed in His own tone. It does not come forth in the cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" That is given us in its proper place. But here there is no such cry recorded; there is no amazement of spirit, nor horror of great darkness for three hours; neither is there a commending of Himself to the Father; but it is simply, "I thirst;" and when He had entered and passed through that thirst, He verifies the full accomplishment of all things, saying "It is finished." He does not commend His work to the approval of God, but seals it with His own seal, attesting it as complete, and giving it the sufficient sanction of His own approval. And when He could thus sanction all as finished, He delivers up His life Himself.
These were strong touches of the mind in which He was passing through these hours; and these hours now end. The Son of God was now made perfect as the Author of eternal salvation to all that obey Him; and the fountain for sin and for uncleanness is opened. The water and the blood came forth to bear witness that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 1 John 5: 8-12. We have not here the centurion's confession, "Truly this was the Son of God;" we have not Pilate's wife, nor the convicted lip's of Judas, bearing Him witness. Jesus does not here receive witness from men, but from God. The water and the blood are god's witnesses to His Son, and to the life that sinners may find in Him. It was sin that pierced Him. The action of the soldier was a sample of man's enmity. It was as the sullen shot of the defeated foe after the battle; the more loudly telling out the deep-seated hatred that there is in man's heart to God and His Christ. But it only sets off the riches of that grace that met it, and abounded over it; for it was answered by the love of God. The point of the soldier's spear was touched by the blood. The crimson flood came forth to roll away the crimson sin. The blood and the water issue through the wounded side of the Son of God. Now was the day of atonement fully come; and the water of separation, the ashes of the red heifer, were now sprinkled. This was the Lamb which Abel had offered. This was the blood which Noah had shed, and which gave free course to the unmingled grace of God's heart towards sinners. Gen. 8: 21. This was the ram of Mount Moriah. And this was the blood which daily flowed round the brazen altar in the temple. This was the blood which is the only ransom of the unnumbered thousands before the throne of God.
But though pierced, thus to be the fountain of the blood and the water, the Lord's body may not be broken. The paschal Lamb may be killed, but not a bone of it is to be broken. It shall do all the purpose of divine love in sheltering the first-born--but beyond that it is sacred; no rude hand may touch it. Jesus was to say, "All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto Thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him." And the Church is His body. He is the Head, and we are the members; and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, and not a bone of that mystic body is to be wanting: all must come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. For all, from of old, have been written in God's book, and are to be fashioned and curiously wrought together, even every one of them Ps. 139: 16.
Thus was it with our Lord in our Gospel, while He was yet on the cross. In every feature we see the Son of God. And as we follow Him thence to the grave, it is the Son of God still. We do not there see Him numbered with the transgressors, and with the wicked in His death; but we do see His grave with the rich. Two honoured sons of Israel come to own Him, and charge themselves with His body, to spend their perfumes and their labour upon it.
But in all this we have again something to notice.
When the Lord's body was pierced, it not only, as I have observed, allowed God's witnesses--the blood and the water--to be heard, but it gives occasion to that which was written, "They shall look on Him Whom they pierced." And this word, which tells of Israel's repentance in the latter day, introduces the action of Joseph and Nicodemus, and makes them the representatives of repentant Israel. They come last in the order of faith. They had been afraid of their unbelieving nation, afraid of the thunder of the synagogue, and had not continued with the Lord in His temptations, but were only secretly His disciples. They were slow of heart; nevertheless, in the end, they do own the Lord, and are brought to look on Him whom they pierced. They take the body from the cross, fresh with the piercing of the soldier's spear; and, as they lowered it from the tree, surely they must have looked, and looked well, upon the hands, and feet, and wounded side. And they must have mourned as they looked, for their hearts had been already softened to take impression from the crucified One. And so will it be with Israel. They come last in the order of faith, and are slow of heart; but in the end, they will look on Him Whom they have pierced, and mourn as one mourneth for his only son.
It is thus with Joseph and Nicodemus now, and thus will it be, by-and-by, with the inhabitants of Jerusalem. These two Israelites, as true children of Abraham, claim the body of the Lord, and consecrate it, as with the faith of the patriarch (Gen. 1. 2, 26); and, as true subjects of the King of Israel, they also honour it with the honours of a son of David. 2 Chr. 16: 14. They spend large and costly perfumes upon it, and lay it up in the garden, in a new, untainted tomb, on which the smell of death had never yet passed.
Here all closes for the present; here, in the second garden, as I may call it, the Second Man is now laid in death. In the first, the first man had walked with access to the tree of life; but he had chosen death, in the error of his way. Here, in the second garden, death, the penalty, is met. Jesus, without having touched the tree of knowledge, suffers the death. In the first garden all manner of trees good for food and pleasant to the eyes were seen. But here, nothing appears but the tomb of Jesus. This was what man's sin ended in, as far as man was concerned. But let us wait a little. By all this, the Son of God is soon to become the death of death, and hell's destruction, to bring life and immortality to light, and to plant again in the garden, for man, the tree of life. Let but the third morning arise, and this garden, which now witnesses only Jesus in death, shall see the Son of God in resurrection and victory--in victorious life for sinners.