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I.

THE ENTOMBMENT OF JESUS CHRIST.

sus.

That we may feel certain that our Lord really Death of Jedied, and therefore that there is a solid foundation for the story of His Resurrection, let us ponder the story of His death.

A Mosaic statute expressly forbade that the The Crucifracorpses of criminals should remain unburied after gium. sunset. Accordingly, as the day was fast ebbing John xix. 31–33. away, the Jews came to Pilate and begged permission to have the legs of the three convicts broken; the purpose being to hasten the death, and so the burial. Pilate complied with the sanctimonious entreaty. Accordingly, the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two robbers. But when they came to Jesus they found, to their surprise, that He was already dead, and therefore they brake not His legs: and so was fulfilled a Ex. xii. 46. Scripture fifteen hundred years old—“A bone of John xix. 36. Him shall not be broken.” When we remember the tremendous events which had occurred during the last twenty hours—the sorrowful Passover, the parting counsels, the sleepless night, the bloody sweat, the traitor's kiss, the shameful arrest, the

hurried trials before Annas and Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod and Pilate again, the desertion by His disciples, the denials by Peter, the brutal scourgings and mockings and tauntings, the onset of the powers of darkness, the agony of imputed sin, the apparent desertion by His Father-we need not wonder that Jesus died so soon after His suspension on the cross. In the strictest physiological as well as moral sense-physiological because moral—“He died of a broken heart."

Nevertheless, in order to make His death absolutely sure, one of the soldiers rudely thrust his spear into the sacred side, piercing the very heart, and forthwith flowed blood and water. So profound was the impression made by this phenomenon on the one faithful apostle that he adds his emphatic testimony thus: “He that saw it hath borne witness, and his testimony is true, and he knoweth that he saith the truth, that ye also may believe;” and again, “ This is He Who came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by the water only, but by the water and the blood : and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth: for there are three that bare witness, the Spirit and the Water and the Blood : and these three

The Pierced

Side. John xix. 34.

agree in one.” Yes, we are saved by the blood of Jesus. This is the one fountain that has been opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness.

John xix. 35.

1 John v. 6-8.

Zech. xiii. 1.

Toplady.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee:

Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side that flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

And now let us attend to a remarkable The Paradoxi

cal Prophecy. prophecy. Seven hundred years before the death of Jesus, the Evangelical Prophet, foretelling that death, also foretells His burial thus:

Isaiah liii. 9.

He made His grave with the wicked,
And with the rich in His death.

Observe particularly the two-fold and even self-contradictory character of this prediction: it declares that Messiah was to be buried dishonorably, and yet honorably.

His grave was appointed with the wicked,
And with the rich in His tomb.

Glance, now, at some of the hazards on which Ilazards of the the fulfilment of this paradoxical prophecy was

Prophecy. hinged.

Notice, first, that Judea was at this time a Roman province. Accordingly, the Roman criminal code would prevail, except in cases especially provided for. The Roman custom required that the bodies of malefactors should remain on the cross till they were consumed by ravens and jackals, or wasied by decomposition. Accordingly, a guard was usually stationed around the cross to prevent any pitying hand from taking down the body and giving it honorable burial. Had the ordinary Roman custom prevailed in the case of

Jesus, His body would never have been buried at all. But, in that case, how could Isaiah's prophecy concerning the character of Messiah's grave have been fulfilled ?

Notice, then, secondly, that the Jews had a law, ordained by Moses himself, which the Roman government allowed to stand in this case, which

required that the corpses of criminals should be Deut. xxi. 22, 23. buried on the same day they were executed. “If

a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him that day (for he that is hanged is accursed of God), that the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance be not defiled.” Accordingly, the Jews had a place of burial in the Valley of Hinnom for all who had suffered as malefactors: and to that burial-place they would now, goaded by hate, hasten with the body of Him Whom they had murdered.

Notice, thirdly, that there were special reasons why the Jews in this particular case would hasten to give the body of Jesus the shameful burial of the condemned. The first reason was that the next day was Saturday, or Jewish Sabbath; and the second reason was that this particular Sabbath was also the great Passover Sabbath, in some respects the most sacred day of the Hebrew year. We see then how all these circumstances conspired in prompting the Jews to hasten the ignominious burial of Jesus before sunset, at which hour their Sabbath began. And since He did not die till the

ninth hour, i.e., three o'clock in the afternoon, we see how extremely limited was the time in which measures could be taken to prevent the design of the Jews from being carried into effect, and, consequently, on how minute a pivot God balanced the fulfilment of a minute prediction uttered nearly a thousand years before.

Notice, fourthly, evidence is not wanting that the enemies of Jesus had already, as we have seen, actually begun their preparations for a speedy burial : for we are expressly told that "the Jews, John xix, 81. because it was the preparation, that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath was a high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” Pilate, as we have seen, complied with their request. But when the soldiers came to Jesus, they found it needless to break His legs, for He was dead already. But to make the matter absolutely sure, one of the sol. diers thrust his spear into the side so deeply that forthwith flowed blood and water, sign of a ruptured heart. And now, Jesus being actually dead, His body is ready for the malefactor's grave. Observe, let me repeat, the notation of time—after three P. M.: for the flight of every moment from now to sunset augments at a fearful rate the absolute impossibility of the fulfilment of Isaiah's prediction. Here the Jews are preparing to take down the body of Messiah, and bury Him with the robbers crucified with Him, thus in very fact appointing His grave with the wicked, and so fulfilling the first part of Isaiah's self-contradictory

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