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THE BURIAL OF JESUS.
awful circumstances of his death, by the darkness and the earthquake and the rending of rocks and the opening of tombs and the sight of the dead, and then you will see how impressively it accords with the perturbed state of men's imaginations, that there should have been visions, and stories and rumours of ghosts and apparitions. Observe, the historian does not say that he himself, or any of the disciples, saw the dead who awoke, but that they were seen by many.” It is not merely to meet the difficulty which serious and well-disposed minds have found in this portion of the history, that I suggest this view of the case. It goes infinitely farther. It reveals a world of truth, nature and evidence. It not only furnishes the strongest presumption of the truth of the great central facts, the death and resurrection of Jesus, but it also reveals the tremendous depth of the impression which his life and death had made. It discloses undesignedly the existence of precisely such a state of feeling as must have been produced by the events previously narrated, if these events really took place. In a word, it is in beautiful and unconscious accordance with the nature of the human mind, and I cannot express the strength of conviction which it adds to my faith.
It shows what an interest Jesus had awakened, that persons so eminent as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, members of the Jewish Sanhedrim, should have been solicitous to see him decently interred. They went to the Roman Governor and obtained permission to bury Jesus. The body was taken down from the cross about sunset on Friday, and laid in a new
THE EFFECT OF HIS DEATH ON HIS FRIENDS.
tomb belonging to Joseph, near the place of execution. The female friends of Jesus, whose affection was less alloyed than that of the other disciples by selfish ambition, were still faithful to him. They watched the body while it remained on the cross, and took care to see, when it was removed, where it was deposited, that they might pay to the precious remains every possible office of respect. His other followers evidently regarded his death as the utter ruin of those high hopes he had inspired. If it be doubted whether he actually predicted his own death and resurrection, then it must be admitted that his disciples had no expectation of these events. Or, if we credit the history, as I think we must, when it informs us that Jesus told his followers that he was to be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day, then also the reason is manifest why the prediction made no impression on their minds, and retained no place in their memories. They believed him to be the Messiah, that magnificent Prince. The idea of his dying the death of a common malefactor was of all things the most shocking to their minds. They must have rejected it with an instinctive horror. A great deal of his language sounded very enigmatical on account of their strong prejudices. And it is highly probable that when he spake of his death, they supposed he was speaking figuratively, and that his words had some other than their obvious meaning. * That they had no disHIS DISCIPLES FILLED WITH DISMAY. 261 tinct idea of what was to happen, appears from the circumstance that only a few hours before he was seized by his enemies, while he was observing the Passover with them, they disputed which should take precedence in that temporal kingdom, whose establishment they fondly expected. When at last he was hung upon the cross, when he expired there, they were overwhelmed by the terrible fact. They cared not to recur to his words for comfort and light, for they felt that all was over. The hopes he had built up were shaken to their centre.
* It deserves attention for various reasons that his predictions of his death and resurrection appear always to have been uttered upon those occasions when the earthly hopes of his disciples must have been most strongly excited. See Matt. xvi. 21, Mark x. 32, and Luke ix. 43. The passage in Luke is particularly remarkable. “And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples, Let these sayings sink down into your ears, for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not ; and they feared to ask him of that saying.”
The near approach of the Sabbath caused the
1. Through no weakness did he ever lose sight of his awful fate. While all around him were magnifying him, filled with amazement at his extraordinary power, the tumultuous feeling that heaved in all hearts shook not him. Not for an instant was he blinded to his true and fearful destiny.
2. We see here why was that his personal disciples failed to comprehend at the time what he meant, when he spake of his sufferings and death. How strange and inexplicable must bis language have appeared to those who were confidently expecting him to assume a princely state and authority, and never more confidently than after he had wrought some mighty work !
3. The utterance of such language under such circumstances, even though it was not rightly understood at the moment, was strikingly fitted to make an ineffaceable impression on the minds of the disciples, and the words of Jesus must have recurred to them afterwards, when subsequent events began to interpret their meaning, with a distinct and overwhelming force.
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS.
burial of Jesus to be brief and hurried. The Jewish priests and elders, holding him to be an impostor, and therefore not having the same difficulty in understanding his predictions, which his disciples had, recollected that he had said he would rise again from the dead on the third day. They caught eagerly at his prophecy, in its literal sense, and trusted to disprove it. Accordingly they procured a guard of soldiers to be stationed at the place where the body of Jesus was laid, and thus they expected by the event to destroy his credit for ever.
The account which I shall here insert, of the circumstances which took place on the third day after the death of Jesus, is, with considerable additions, the same that originally appeared in the Christian Examiner, (Jan. 1834.) As some, whose judgment I respect greatly, were pleased to characterize it then as more ingenious than true, I have been led to review it more than once with particular care. The only consequence has been an increased conviction of the substantial truth of the following explanation of this portion of the history. The reader will perhaps think this result natural enough. Still I may be allowed to say that my respect for the opinion of those, who are unable to assent to my representation of this memorable event, is so great that I cannot but think I should have relinquished the peculiar views I have suggested, or at least looked upon them with diminished interest, if they did not rest upon grounds of no ordinary strength. I solicit attention to one or two preliminary considerations.
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS.
I will first, however, for the convenience of the reader, insert here those portions of the four Gospels, which relate to the subject.
Matth. xxviii. 1-11. “ In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And, 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. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye ; for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead : and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him : lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run and bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them saying, All hail. And they came, and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid : go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done."
Mark xvi. 148.“ And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre, at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre ? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side clothed in a long white garment, and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified: he is risen : he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter, that he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly,