Exercitations upon the Evangelist St. Luke
None will imagine that there ever was a Sanhedrim wherein there were Israelites only,
and no priests or Levites; nor, on the other hand, that there ever was a Sanhedrim wherein
there were only priests and Levites, and no Israelites. The scribes, therefore,
seem in this place to denote either the Levites, or else, together with the
Levites, those inferior ranks of priests who were not the chief priests: and then
the elders, may be the Israelites, or those elders of the laity that were
not of the Levitical tribe. Such a one was Gamaliel the present president of the
Sanhedrim, and Simeon his son, of the tribe of Judah.
The Jewish authors have it thus: "Sem the Great said unto Eliezer [Abraham's
servant], 'When the kings of the east and of the west came against you, what did you?' He
answered and said, 'The Holy Blessed God took Abraham, and made him to sit on his right
hand.'" And again: "The Holy Blessed God had purposed to have derived the
priesthood from Shem; according as it is said, Thou art the priest of the most high God:
but because he blessed Abraham before he blessed God, God derived the priesthood from
Abraham. For so it is said, And he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abraham of the most
high God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high God. Abraham saith
unto him, Who useth to bless the servant before his Lord? Upon this God gave the
priesthood to Abraham, according as it is said, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my
right hand. And afterward it is written, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a
priest for ever for the speaking of Melchizedek." Midras Tillin and
others also, in the explication of this psalm, refer it to Abraham. Worshipful
4. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he
might betray him unto them.
[And captains.] They are called, verse 52, captains of the Temple: and in
the singular number, the captain of the Temple, Acts 4:1: but who should this or
I. All know that there was a Roman garrison in the castle of Antonia, whose charge
especially was to suppress all tumults and seditions in the Temple: but was the tribune,
or the centurions of that garrison called by the name of the captains of the Temple?
Surely rather the captains of the castle of Antonia. And indeed it appears not that
the Roman captains had conspired against the life of Christ, that Judas should betake
himself to them to make a bargain for the betraying of him.
II. The conjecture might be more probable of those rulers in the Temple, concerning
whom we have this mention: "These are the rulers that were in the Temple: Jochanan
Ben Phineas, governor of the seals; Ahijah, set over the drink-offerings: Matthiah Ben
Samuel, that presided over the lots," &c. But to me it seems beyond all doubt
that the captains of the Temple were the captains of the several watches. "In
three places the priests kept watch and ward in the Temple, viz. in Beth Abtines, Beth
Nitsots, and Beth Mokad. The Levites also in one-and-twenty places more." Whereas,
therefore, these watches or guards consisted every one of several persons, there was one
single person set over each of them as their captain, or the head of that watch. And this
way looks that of Pilate, Matthew 27:65; ye have a watch of your own; let some of
them be sent to guard the sepulchre.
III. The captain of the Temple, therefore, distinctively and by way of eminence
so termed, I would suppose him, whom they called the ruler of the mountain of the house,
who was the chief of all the heads of those wards. "The ruler of the mountain of
the Temple takes his walks through every watch with torches lighted before him: and if
he found any upon the watch that might not be standing on his feet, he said, 'Peace be
with thee!' But if he found him sleeping, he struck him with a stick; and it was
warrantable for him to burn the garments of such a one. And when it was said by others,
'What is that noise in the court?' the answer was made, 'It is the noise of a Levite under
correction, and whose garments are burning, for that he slept upon the watch.' R. Eliezer
Ben Jacob said, 'They once found my mother's son asleep, and they burnt his
clothes.'" Compare this passage with Revelation 16:15: "Behold I come as a
thief; blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they
see his shame."
It is easy distinguishing this captain of the mountain of the Temple from the ruler
of the Temple or the sagan. The former presided only over the guards; the
latter over the whole service of the Temple. And so we have them distinguished, Acts 4:1:
there is the captain of the Temple, and Annas, who was the sagan.
19. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them,
saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
[This is my body.] The words of the institution of the holy eucharist throughout
the whole contain a reflection, partly by way of antithesis, partly by way of allusion.
I. This is my body. Upon the account of their present celebration of the
Passover, these words might very well have some reference to the body of the Paschal lamb:
the body (I say) of the Paschal lamb. For the Jews use this very phrase
concerning it: "They bring in a table spread, on which are bitter herbs, with other
herbs, unleavened bread, pottage, and the body of the Paschal Lamb." And a
little after: he eateth of the body of the Passover. From whence our Saviour's
meaning may be well enough discerned; viz. that by the same signification that the Paschal
lamb was my body hitherto, from henceforward let this bread be my body.
II. Which is given for you. But the apostle adds, "Which is broken
for you": which, indeed, doth not so well agree with the Paschal lamb as with the
lamb for the daily sacrifice. For as to the Paschal lamb, there was not a bone of it broken;
but that of the daily sacrifice was broken and cut into several parts; and yet they
are both of them the body of Christ in a figure. And although, besides the breaking
of it, there are these further instances wherein the Paschal lamb and that of the daily
sacrifice did differ, viz., 1. that the daily sacrifice was for all Israel, but the
Paschal for this or that family: 2. the daily sacrifice was for the atonement of sin; the
Passover not so: 3. the daily sacrifice was burnt, but the Passover eaten: yet in this
they agreed, that under both the body of our Saviour was figured and shadowed out, though
in a different notion.
III. This do in remembrance of me. As you kept the Passover in remembrance
of your going out of Egypt. "Thou shalt remember the day of thy going out of Egypt
all the days of thy life. Ben Zuma thus explains it; The days of thy life, that is, in the
day time: all the days of thy life, that is, in the night time too. But the wise men say,
The days of thy life, that is, in this age: all the days of thy life, that the days of the
Messiah may be included too." But whereas, in the days of the Messiah there was a
greater and more illustrious redemption and deliverance than that out of Egypt brought
about; with the Jews' good leave, it is highly requisite, that both the thing itself and
he that accomplished it should be remembered. We suspect in our notes upon 1 Corinthians
11, as if some of the Corinthians, in their very participation of the holy eucharist, did
so far Judaize, that what had been instituted for the commemoration of their redemption by
the death of Christ, they perverted to the commemoration of the going out of Egypt; and
that they did not at all 'discern the Lord's body' in the sacrament.
Under the law there were several eatings of holy things. The first was that which Siphra
mentions, when the priests eat of the sacrifice, and atonement is made for him that
brings it. There were other eatings, viz., of the festival sacrifices of the tenths,
thanksgiving-offerings, &c., which were to be eaten by those that brought them; but
these all now have their period: and now, Do ye this, and do it in remembrance
IV. This cup...which is shed for you. This seems to have reference to that cup
of wine that was every day poured out in the drink offerings with the daily sacrifice; for
that also was poured out for the remission of sins. So that the bread may have reference
to the body of the daily sacrifice, and the cup to the wine of the drink offering.
V. My blood of the new testament. So St. Matthew and St. Mark with reference to
"the blood of bulls and of goats," with which the old testament was confirmed,
Exodus 24; Hebrews 9:19.
VI. The new testament in my blood. So our evangelist and so the apostle, 1
Corinthians 11 with reference to the whole ministry of the altar, where blood was poured
out; nay, with respect to the whole Jewish religion, for here was the beginning or entry
of the new covenant. And indeed it seems that the design of that frequent communion of the
Lord's supper in the first ages of the church, among other things, was, that those who
were converted from Judaism might be sealed and confirmed against Judaism; the sacrament
itself being the mark of the cessation of the old testament and the beginning of the new.
21. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
[But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me, &c.] What can be desired
more as a demonstration that Judas was present at the eucharist? And whereas the contrary
is endeavoured to be proved out of John 13, nothing is made out of nothing: for there is
not only syllable throughout the whole chapter of the paschal supper, but of a supper
before the 'feast of the Passover.'
26. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him
be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
[As the younger.] The vulgar and interlinear, sicut junior. We, as the
younger, very well. For, as Beza hath it upon the place, it is properly to be
understood of age. I ask therefore,
I. Whether Peter was not the oldest of the whole company? What reason can any have to
deny this? It was necessary that some one of them should be the first both in number and
order; and it was as fit and equal that the oldest amongst them should be reckoned the
first. And who will you say was older than Peter? Hence was it that he had the first place
in the catalogue of the apostles, because he was the oldest. For this reason he sat at
table in the uppermost place next our Lord: for this reason did our Saviour so often
direct his discourse so immediately to him: and for this reason were his answers to Christ
taken in the name of all the rest, viz., because the oldest. Which brings to mind the
interpreter of the doctor in the school of the Rabbins, who was the interlocutor
between the master and the disciples, and for that reason the chief in the school, but
without any primacy. Whereas therefore St. Peter, after our Saviour's ascension into
heaven, was (to speak vulgarly) the prolocutor in that sacred college, what more
probable reason can be offered why he was so, than this seniority? Were not others as
capable as speaking as he? had they not equal authority, zeal, faith, knowledge with him,
&c.? but he indeed was the eldest man.
II. I cannot therefore but suspect from the proper signification of the word younger,
(to which the greater, respecting age, does answer) that some one amongst them had
been challenging some privilege and primacy to himself upon the account of seniority: and
unless any can make it out that there was somebody older than Peter, pardon me, if I think
that he was the chief in this contention, and that it was chiefly moved betwixt himself
and the two sons of Zebedee. For it seems unlikely that the other nine would have
contended for the primacy with Peter, James, and John; whom Christ had so peculiarly
distinguished in their presence with marks of his favour. So that the struggle seems to be
especially between these three and Peter the beginner of the strife: which appears, partly
in that our Saviour rebukes him by name, and partly in that he could not forget without
some grudge, that request of the two brothers, "Lord, let us sit one on thy right
hand the other on thy left."
31. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you,
that he may sift you as wheat.
[Simon, Simon.] Let us change the name and person: "Thomas, Thomas";
or "Philip, Philip, Satan hath desired, &c.; but I have prayed," &c. And
who would from hence have picked out an argument for the primacy of Thomas or Philip over
the rest of the apostles and the universal church? And yet this do the Romanists in the
behalf of Peter. Who would not have taken it rather as a severe chiding? As if he should
have said, "Thou, Thomas or Philip, art thou so hot in contending for the primacy,
while Satan is so hot against all of you? And whilst you are at strife amongst yourselves,
he is at strife against you all!" Under such a notion as this I doubt not our Saviour
did speak to Peter, and that in these words he found a severe reprimand rather than any
promotion to the primacy.
32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art
converted, strengthen thy brethren.
[That thy faith fail not.] There seems an emphasis in the word faith. As
to the other apostles, indeed, that Christian courage and magnanimity which they ought to
have exerted in that difficult time did fail them; but their faith was nothing so
near shipwreck as Peter's faith was. They indeed deserted their Master and fled, Mark
14:50: which they seem to have not done without some connivance from himself, John 18:8.
But when Peter renounced and abjured his Lord, how near was he becoming an apostate,
and his faith from suffering a total shipwreck? Certainly it was Peter's advantage that
Christ prayed for him; but it was not so much for his honour, that he, beyond all others,
should stand in need of such a prayer.
36. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it,
and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and
[Let him sell his garment, and buy a sword.] Doth our Saviour give them this
counsel in good earnest?
I. He uses the common dialect. For so also the Rabbins in other things: "He that
hath not wherewithal to eat, but upon mere alms, let him beg or sell his garments to buy
oil and candles for the feast of Dedication," &c.
II. He warns them of a danger that is very near; and in a common way of speech lets
them know that they had more need of providing swords for their defence against the common
enemy, than be any way quarrelling amongst themselves. No so much exhorting them to repel
force with force, as to give them such an apprehension of the common rage of their enemies
against them, that might suppress all private animosities amongst themselves.
37. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me,
And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
[For the things concerning me have an end.] That is, "My business is done,
yours is but beginning. While I was present, the children of the bridechamber had no
reason to weep; but when I am taken away, and numbered amongst the transgressors, think
what will be done to you, and what ought to be done by you; and then think if this be a
time for you to be contending with one another."
43. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
[An angel strengthening him.] I. In his temptations in the wilderness there was
no angel by him; for St. Matthew saith, chapter 4:11, "Then the devil leaveth him,
and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him": that is, not till the devil had
first left him. But in the midst of this trial there was an 'angel strengthening him': and
why so? By reason of his agony, you will say, and that very truly: but whence arose this
agony? and of what kind was it? It was occasioned (you will say) from a sense of divine
indignation and wrath. This dare not I say or imagine, that God was angry or conceived any
indignation against him at all. And if the anguish and agony of his mind was the result of
the divine wrath pressing in upon him, I do not see what kind of comfort an angel could
minister against the wrath of God. It is rather an argument God was not angry with him,
when he sent an angel to comfort him.
II. It is not to be doubted, but that Christ was now wrestling with a furious enraged
devil; yea, a devil loosed from his chain, and permitted, without any check or restraint
from divine providence, to exert all his force and rage against him: which was permitted
by God, not from any displeasure against his Son, but that even human nature might, by
this her combatant, get a conquest over this insulting enemy. For it had been a small
thing to have vanquished the devil by mere divine power.
III. However therefore it is not here related in express terms, yet could I easily
persuade myself, that the devil might at this time appear to our Saviour in some visible
shape. When he tempted him in the wilderness, he put on the disguise of some good angel,
or rather some kind of resemblance of the Holy Ghost. But in this last temptation he puts
on himself, and appears in his own colours; viz. in some direful formidable figure, on
purpose to terrify our Lord. And from thence it was that he began to be sore amazed,
and to be very heavy, Mark 14:33; and here to be in an agony. Nor do I rashly,
and without any ground, suppose this, but upon these reasons:
I. Whereas that old dragon assaulted the first Adam in a garden in a visible shape; it
is not absurd to imagine, he did so now to the second Adam, in a garden, in a visible
II. This our evangelist tells us concerning his temptation in the wilderness, that
"when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him, for a season."
Here he takes the season to return; and I see no reason why he should not at this
time, as well as in the wilderness, assume some visible shape. Then, indeed, he addressed
himself in a charming and grateful shape, to have enticed and deceived him; but now in a
frightful and horrid one, to have amazed and terrified him. He had already experienced how
vain a thing it was to go about to cheat and allure him: what remained therefore but to
shake his mind (if possible) with fright and terror?
III. For when he had no greater invention in his whole storehouse, by which he could
distress and shake the minds of mortals, than the horrid apparition of himself, none will
conceive he would neglect this engine, that if it could be, he might disturb his soul
through his eye. That, therefore, which the Jews feign or dream about Solomon, that he saw
the angel of death (that is, the devil) gnashing his teeth, and that a disciple of Rabbi
did so too, I suppose acted in good earnest here; namely, that Christ saw the devil, that
old dragon, gaping at him with all horror he could put on. And in this sense would I
understand that of the "messenger of Satan buffeting the apostle": viz. that the
devil did appear visibly to him in some frightful shape, to afflict and terrify him. And
perhaps that vehement desire he had to sift the disciples (v 31) respects this same thing,
namely, that he might be permitted to assault them with such kind of affrightments.
44. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were
great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
[His sweat was as it were great drops of blood.] Diodorus Siculus, speaking of a
country where Alexander the Great had to do with Porus, hath this passage; "There are
serpents there which, by their bites would occasion most bitter deaths: they are
horrible pains that afflict any that are struck by them, and an issue of sweat, like
blood, seizeth them." I would ascribe this bloody sweat of our Saviour to
the bite of that old serpent, rather than to the apprehension of divine wrath.
As to this treacherous contrivance of Judas, let us frame the most gentle opinion of it
that the matter can bear: for instance, that he might perhaps think with himself, that it
was not possible for Christ to be apprehended by the Jews, having already seen him working
such stupendous miracles, and more than once strangely delivering himself from them: and
grant further, that when he said to them, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is
he, lay hold of him," he said it scoffingly, as believing they could not be able to
lay hold on him: grant we, in a word, that when he saw him condemned, he repented himself,
having never suspected that matters would have gone so far, presuming that Christ would
easily have made his escape from them, and himself should have got thirty pieces of silver
by the bargain: let us grant, I say, that this was his contrivance, and colour it over
with as plausible excuses as we can; yet certainly was there never any thing so impiously
done by mortal man, than for him thus to play with the Holy of Holies, and endeavour to
make merchandise of the Son of God. However, I suspect much worse things hatched in the
breast of this traitor: viz. that Christ did really not please him; and, with the great
chiefs of that nation, though he supposed him the true Messiah, yet not such a one as
answered their carnal expectation.
2. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the
nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
[We found this fellow perverting the nation.] "A disciple corrupting his
food publicly, as did Jesus of Nazareth." 'To corrupt their food publicly,' is
a phrase amongst the Rabbins to denote a mingling of true doctrine with heresy, and the
true worship of God with idolatry. This was the accusation they framed against our Saviour
at this time, that he taught heterodox and destructive principles, such especially as
would tend to turn off and alienate the people from their obedience to the Romans. Aruch
recites this passage of the Talmud more cautiously; for instead of as Jesus of Nazareth
did, he hath it, as Jeroboam did.
7. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to
Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
[He sent him to Herod.] Did Pilate do this as yielding to Herod a jurisdiction
in capital matters within the city of Jerusalem upon those that were Galileans? Probably
he did it, either in flattery to the tyrant, or else that he might throw off from himself
both the trouble and the odium that might arise upon the occasion of condemning Jesus,
whom he judged to be an innocent man, and whom in some measure he pitied, looking upon him
as a sort of a delirant person, one not very well in his wits: which opinion also
Herod seems to have conceived of him, by putting upon him that fool's coat wherewith he
clothed him: which I should willingly enough render white and shining, but that I
observe our evangelist, when he hath occasion to mention such a garment, calls it a white
and shining robe expressly. Chapter 9:29, his garment was white and glistering:
Acts 1:10, two men in white apparel.
30. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills,
[Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, &c.] So they do say,
Revelation 6:6: from whence, among other arguments, it may be reasonably supposed, that
that chapter treats of the plagues and afflictions that should forerun the destruction of
Jerusalem, and, indeed, the destruction and overthrow itself. Weigh the place accurately;
and perhaps thou wilt be of the same mind too. Nay, I may further add, that perhaps this
observation might not a little help (if my eyes fail me not) in discovering the method of
the author of the Book of the Revelation.
31. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
[If they do these things in a green tree, &c.] Consult John Baptist's
expression, Matthew 3:10; "Now also the axe is laid to the root of the tree,"
viz., then when the Jewish nation was subdued to the government of the Romans, who
were about to destroy it. And if they deal thus with me, a green and flourishing tree,
what will they do with the whole nation, a dry and sapless trunk?
34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they
parted his raiment, and cast lots.
[They cast lots.] They cast lots for his seamless coat, John 19:23,24.
Moses is supposed to have ministered in such a garment: "In what kind of garment did
Moses attend the seven days of consecration? In a white vestment. Rabh Cahnah
saith, In a white vestment, wherein there was no seam." The Gloss is,
"The whole garment was made of one thread, and not as our clothes are, which have
their sleeves sewed to the body with a seam." But he gives a very senseless reason
why his coat was without a seam; viz., to avoid the suspicion lest Moses should at any
time hide any consecrated money within the seams of his coat.
36. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
[They brought him vinegar.] Vinegar was the common drink of the Roman
soldiers; and hence those to whom the custody of crucified persons was committed had it
always ready by them. "He commanded that no soldier should drink wine in their
expedition, but that every one should content himself with vinegar."
"The provision this man (viz. Misitheus) made in the commonwealth was such,
that there never was any great frontier-city which had not vinegar, bread-corn, and
bacon, and barley, and chaff, laid up for a whole year," &c. "Thou shalt
give us as much hay, chaff, vinegar, herbs, and grass, as may suffice us."
Hence it may become less difficult to reconcile the evangelist amongst themselves,
speaking of wine given him mixed with myrrh, and of vinegar too;
viz., a twofold cup: one, before he was nailed to the cross, i.e. of wine mingled with myrrh;
the other, of vinegar, while he hung there: the first, given by the Jews according
to their custom; the second, by the soldiers, in abuse and mockery. But if you will grant
a third cup, then all difficulty vanisheth indeed. Let the first be wine mingled with
myrrh; the second, vinegar mingled with gall; the third, mere vinegar:
which the soldiers gave to malefactors if they had desired drink, being that which they
drank themselves. Hence the vessel filled with vinegar, was always in readiness,
that the soldiers might drink when they had a mind, and persons also upon the cross, if
they stood in need of it.
42. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
[Lord, remember me.] Christ is now upon the cross, as of old Joseph was in the
prison, between two malefactors. There one of them was delivered, the other hanged; here
one obtains salvation, the other perisheth. The faith of this thief is admirable; and kept
even pace with that of the apostles, if, in some circumstances, it did not go beyond it.
The apostles acknowledged 'Jesus to be the Messiah'; and so doth he: with this addition,
which I question whether they did so clearly own and know or no, viz., that Christ should
reign and have his kingdom after his death. He seems to have a sounder judgment concerning
Christ's kingdom than the apostles themselves, as may be gathered from their question,
It pleased God, in this last article of time, to glorify the riches of his grace in a
singular and extraordinary manner, both in the conversion of a sinner and the forgiveness
of his sins: I say in such an article of time which the world had never before seen, nor
ever was like to see again; viz., in the very instant wherein the Messiah was finishing
his redemption. It was not unknown to either of the thieves that Jesus was therefore
condemned to die because he had professed himself 'the Christ'; hence that of the
impenitent malefactor, "If thou art Christ, save thyself and us." And if the
penitent thief did for a while join with the other in his petulant reproaches (which seems
intimated to us Matthew 27:44), yet was his heart touched at length, and, perhaps, upon
his observation of that miraculous darkness which at that time had covered the world.
43. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shall thou be with me in
[Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.] I. Let us here first consider the
phrase in paradise: in common Jewish speech, in the garden of Eden. In what
sense we may collect from these following passages: "The Rabbins have a tradition.
There are four that went into paradise: namely, Ben Azzai, Ben Zumah, Acher, and R.
Akibah. R. Akibah saith unto them, 'When you come to the stones of pure marble, do not ye
say Waters, waters [i.e. Alas! these waters will hinder us from going forward]; for
it is written, He that telleth lies shall not dwell in my presence [now, it would be a lie
to call white marble water].'" "Ben Azzai looked with some curiosity about
him, and died: of him the Scripture speaks, 'Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the
death of his saints.' Ben Zumah looked with some curiosity about him, and he was
disturbed in his intellectuals: of him the Scripture speaketh, 'Hast thou found honey?
eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.'"
Aruch, reciting these words, saith, "It is called paradise, under the
signification of the garden of Eden, which is reserved for the just. This place is in
the heavens, where the souls of the just are gathered together." And the
Talmudical Gloss hath it much to the same sense: "These four, by God's procurement, went
up into the firmament."
While we are reading these passages, that story may easily occur to mind of St. Paul's
being "caught up into paradise," 2 Corinthians 12; and perhaps the legend
before us is but the ape of that story. In the story it is observable, that paradise
and the 'third heaven' are one and the same thing: in the legend paradise and the highest
heavens. For so the doctors comment upon the word in Psalm 68:5: "There are seven
classes or degrees of just persons, who see the face of God, sit in the house of God,
ascend up unto the hill of God, &c. And to every class or degree there is allotted
their proper dwellingplace in paradise. There are also seven abiding places in
hell. Those that dwell in paradise, they shine like the shining of the firmament,
like the sun, like the moon, like the firmament, like the stars, like lightning, like the
lilies, like burning lamps."
II. Our Saviour, therefore, telling the penitent thief, This day shalt thou be with
me in paradise, he speaks in the common dialect, and to the capacity of the thief;
viz., that he should be in heaven with Christ, and with all just persons that had left
this world. Nor, indeed, would I fetch the explication of that article of our creed, He
descended into hell, from any passage in the Scripture sooner than this here: adding
this, that we must of necessity have recourse to the Greek tongue for the signification of
the word, which they generally use to denote the state of the dead, as well the
blessed as the miserable. Those who expound that passage in 1 Peter 3:19, of his going
down from the cross into hell to preach to the spirits in prison there, do very little
regard the scope of the apostle, and are absolute strangers to his meaning in it. For,
1. In that he shuts up the generation before the flood in an infernal prison, he falls
in with the received opinion of that nation, which was, that that generation had no part
in the world to come; and that they were condemned to boiling waters in hell.
2. He compares the present generation of the Jews with that generation before the
flood; that Christ did of old preach even to that generation, and so he hath done to this;
that that generation perished through its disobedience, and so will this. He runs much
upon the same parallel in his second Epistle, chapter 3:6, &c. We must observe, that
the apostle makes his transition from the crucifixion and resurrection of our Saviour
directly to the generation before the flood, passing over all those generations that came
between, on purpose that he might make the comparison betwixt that and the age he lived
53. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that
was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
[Wrapped it in linen.] "Mar Zutra saith, that out of the linen in which
they wrapped up books, when it grew old they made shrouds for the dead of the precept; for
this is to their disgrace." The Gloss adds, "That they do it of the linen
wherein they fold up the book of the Law." Him who had suffered death by the sentence
of the Sanhedrim, or magistrate, they were wont to call the dead of the precept,
because he was executed according to the precept: and such a one to them was our Jesus.
Now as to one that was condemned to death by the magistrate, they had an opinion that by
how much the more disgracefully they dealt with him, by so much the greater atonement was
made for him. Hence that expression, "They did not openly bewail him, that
that very setting him at nought" (no man lamenting him) "might redound to his
atonement." And from thence, perhaps, if the women at Jerusalem had bewailed any
other person as they bewailed our Saviour, that other person might have said, "Ye
daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, lest ye cut short my atonement": but Christ
speaks to them upon a far different account. And under this notion they wrapped one that
had been so executed, in some ragged, torn, old, dirty windingsheets; that this disgrace,
being thrown upon him, might augment his expiation. But this good Arimathean behaves
himself otherwise with Jesus, as having conceived quite another opinion concerning him.
54. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
[And the sabbath drew on.] The vulgar reads, the sabbath began to dawn:
not ill rendered. Beza reads, and the sabbath succeeded: not properly. One would
have thought it would have been more congruously said, it began to be dark towards the
sabbath: for the night before the sabbath was coming on: but,
I. The sabbatical candles that were lighted in honour of the sabbath were now set up.
"There are three things which it is necessary a man should warn those of his own
house of on the evening of the sabbath, when night is coming on: Have you paid your
tenths? Have you begun your Erubhick society? Light up your candle." "Men
and women are bound to light up a candle in their houses upon the sabbath day. If a man
hath not bread to eat, yet he must beg from door to door to get a little oil to set up his
light." These things being noted, the evangelist may not be improperly understood
thus, "The sabbath began to shine with the lights set up"; respect being had to
these sabbath candles. But I do not acquiesce here.
II. The evening of the sabbath was called amongst the Jews light. By the
light of the fourteenth day they make a search for leaven by the light of a candle. By the
light of the fourteenth day; that is, on the evening, or in the night that immediately
precedes that day. So Rambam upon the place, "the search for leaven is in the
night of the fourteenth day, although the eating of leavened bread is not forbidden
before the noon of the fourteenth day. But they instituted this because it is most
convenient searching in the night time by candlelight; and at that time also all persons
are at home."
"The woman that miscarries on the light [i.e. the evening] of the eighty-first
day, the Shammean school absolves her from any offering: but the school of Hillel doth
not." The Gloss hath it, on the light of the eighty-fist day, i.e. in the
night of the eighty-first day. The question disputed there is: "The woman that
had been brought to bed of a girl was bound to the purification of eighty days"; when
those days were at an end, then she was bound to offer, Leviticus 12:5,6. Now therefore
seeing the oblation was to be brought on the eighty-first day, the question is, What if
the woman should happen to miscarry within the very night that begins the eighty-first
day, must she the next day offer one or two sacrifices? one for the girl, and one for that
of which she hath miscarried? The Shammean school will have but one, but the school of
Hillel saith two.
Pesikta speaking concerning a vowed sacrifice, from Leviticus 7:17, hath this
passage: "Perhaps it may be eaten on the light [i.e. the evening] of the third day.
The text saith upon the third day; it is eaten until the third day. It is not
eaten on the light [i.e. the evening, or the night] of the third day": for
then the third day was actually begun. But now in this phrase they restrain the word
especially to the beginning of the night, though sometimes it is taken for the whole
night, as in that tradition newly quoted concerning the woman that miscarried: and so the
Gloss upon Pesachin. Maimonides discoursing about putting away the leaven which
ought to be on the light of the fourteenth day, i.e. on the night that begins the
fourteenth day, hath this passage; "By prescription of the scribes they search for,
and cast out their leaven in the night; namely, the beginning of that night that ushers
in the fourteenth day." Much to the same sense the Gemarist concerning the
light: "How comes twilight to be called light? From thence, because it is
written, In the twilight, in the evening, of the day," Proverbs 7:9. Rambam thinks it
so called by a rule of contraries; for so he in Pesachin: "The night is called
light, by the same rule that they call many other things by their contraries."
But the Gemarists upon the place affirm that the evening is not improperly called light,
and prove it from that expression, Psalm 148:3: Praise him all ye stars of light.
However unsuitably therefore it might sound in the ears of Greeks or Latins, when they
hear the evening or the beginning of the night expressed by the light of the sabbath,
yet with the Jews it was a way of expression very usual: and they could readily understand
the evangelist speaking in their own vulgar way, when he would tell us the night of the
sabbath drew on; but expresseth it by the light of the sabbath began to shine.
56. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day
according to the commandment.
[And rested the sabbath day.] If our Saviour was taken down from the cross about
sunset, as it was provided, Deuteronomy 21:23; Joshua 8:29, then had the women this
interim of time to buy their spices and despatch other business before the entry of the
I. Between the suns. So they called that space of time that was between the
setting of the sun and the appearance of any star.
II. Might they not have that space of time also that was between the first and second
star? We may judge something from this passage: "In the evening of the sabbath, if he
see one star and do any work, he is acquitted; but if he see two stars, let him bring his
III. Might they not have some farther allowance in the case of funerals? We may judge
from this passage: "they do all works necessary about the dead [on the sabbath
day]; they anoint him, they wash him, provided only that they do not stir a limb of
him," &c. It was not safe for those women to shew themselves too busy in
preparing for his interment; especially seeing Jesus died as a malefactor, and was odious
to the people: this might exasperate the people against them, and so much the more too, if
they should, in the least measure, violate the sabbath day. But further, besides the
honour they gave to the sabbath, it was not prudence in them to break it for a work which
they thought they might as well do when the sabbath was done and over.