Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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tion also steps beyond the limits of history. With Jesus before
his death the work of the historian here closes.

There are circumstances recorded of the burial of Jesus which
are to he noticed as important parts of his histoiy.

There are two men who seem to have taken a profound in-
terest in the career of Jesus — one was Joseph. Of him we learn

that he was of Arimathsea: that he was an honor-
Joseph and Ni- . , .. . , . .
codemus counsellor, a rich, a good, and a just man;

that he was " waiting for the kingdom of God ; "
that he had not consented to the action of the Sanhedrim in the
case of Jesus, and, in fact, was a disciple of Jesus, hut secretly,
for fear of the Jews. The crucified Jesus drew from him a con-
fession of attachment which the living Teacher had never heen
able to elicit. The other Mas Nicodemus, the ruler who had
gone to Jesus by night, early in the career of the great Teacher,
and who seems never to have lost his interest in the young
prophet now come to an untimely and ignominious end. These
two men took charge of the interment. "While Joseph went
boldly unto Pilate to crave the body of Jesus, Nicodemus went
into the city to procure myrrh and aloes for his embalm-

The interest they took in Jesus shows how deeply he had
impressed them. Neither had dared profess their faith in him.
Perhaps that faith was not well defined. But
they believed him to be both great and good.
They had absented themselves from the Sanhedrim which had
been called together that morning by the high-priest. They
knew the question to be put to them. Each was probably
ignorant of the feelings of the other. But they could not vote to
execute Jesus, and they had not the courage to defend him. Now
they discover each the other's long regard for Jesus, and they


unite in showing delicate attentions to the remains of the cruci-
fied prophet. Pilate granted the body. Joseph brought a linen
shroud, and Nicodemus brought the spicery.

There is a pensive beauty in John's simple statement : " In the
place where he was crucified there was a garden ; and in the
garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man
yet laid." Matthew says that this sepulchre was
Joseph's "own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock."
The place was near, and these good men, with pious hands, bore
Jesus to it, and thus saved him from being flung into a com-
mon ditch with the malefactors who were crucified with him.
They seem to have had no helpers. The friends of Jesus had
fled. His enemies had returned to the city. Alone and solitary,
these honorable counsellors lifted and wrapped and earned and
interred the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Joseph rolled up a
great stone to the door of the tomb. It was "the Jews' prepara-
tion-day." He and Nicodemus left the garden to prepare for the

Two women had watched these great men in their humane and
godly work. Joseph and Nicodemus had not consociated with
L ' last viadl ^ GSVL3 anc ^ ms friends, but they were probably
known as men of wealth and distinction. It
must have been a wonder to these women what interest two
members of the senate which had condemned Jesus should have
in the proper preparation and entombment of his body. They
were too shy to address them, and probably the counsellors did
not notice the women ; but when the great men went away two
humble women were left to keep love's vigil at the gate of death,
Mary of Magdala and her friend Mary the mother of Joses.
And even they were so thoroughly Jew, that shortly they re-
turned to the city, and having "prepared further spices and
ointments, they rested the Sabbath-day, according to the com-

That Sabbath-day, April 8, a.d. 30, Jesus spent in Joseph's






It was a remarkable Sabbath. The crucified men had been
removed, Jesus had been buried, the Temple 'worship had been re-
sumed, going forward as it had gone for several
rj _ e * f centuries, and the church party would fain have

after crucifixion. .„..

had everything move on as if nothing had hap-
pened. But a great storm had swept the popular mind. Pilate must
have been moody and disturbed. The disciples of Jesus could
have had little heart for the Temple services. They loved the
buried Jesus, and although all their hopes of him and much of
their faith in bis sagacity must have disappeared, their hearts
were buried in the new sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathsea. The
priests had two things to trouble them. There was the rent veil
of the Temple. In the dying agony of Jesus had come a con-
vulsion which had torn that veil from top to bottom and laid the
Holiest of Holies open. That must have been an appalling sight.
His body might be removed from the sepulchre, and thus faith in
his resurrection be encouraged. That was an anxiety. More-
over, those politicians recollected what his disciples had forgot-
ten — his own prophecy of his resurrection. Their recollections of
his prophecies were accurate, and they supposed his disciples were
as cunning as themselves, and they knew what they would do
under similar circumstances. That was the second trouble.
"When the Sabbath was past, the chief priests and Pharisees


went to Pilate and said, " Sir, we remember that that deceiver
said, while he was yet alive, 'After three days I will rise again.'
Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made
secure until the third day, lest his disciples come The se P mchr «


by night and steal him away, and say nnto the
people that he is risen from the dead, and so the last deceit be
worse than the first." Pilate could have been in no sweet mood,
but there was no reason why he should not grant their request
He had been forced by them to consent to the death of the young
teacher: he might as well yield this also. lie cared nothing for
the result, and could have taken no interest in the predictions of
a man whom he regarded as a harmless and unfortunate fanatic.
He was cross. Yes, they shall have a guard, these mad priests
who are frightened by a dead peasant! If it gratifies them to
make fools of themselves they may do so : he will not hinder ! lie
said to them, "Ye shall have a watch: go your way, make it as
sure as you can." So they went and made the tomb secure, roll-
ing up a stone to its mouth, and sealing it.

The Roman guard took possession of the sepulchre.

In the mean time Mary of Magdala and other women, knowing
that the burial of Jesus by Joseph and Nicodemus had been hur-
ried, although decent, had gone out on Saturday
evening, the Sabbath being past, and had pro- Reparations for

' . . ° A . . . , ' embalming.

cured sweet spices, and were waiting anxiously tor
the morning which should follow the Sabbath, that they might go
and anoint the precious body, performing love's last offices before
Jesus should be left, as they supposed, to lie forever in that grave.
They knew nothing of the government seal on the tomb, and
nothing of the Roman guard. They knew that there was a great
stone at the mouth of the sepulchre. As, at earliest dawn, they
approached the garden they questioned how they should remove
the stone so as to proceed with the embalming. Then they felt a
preternatural shaking of the ground beneath their feet. Then, as
they looked towards the sepulchre, there was a preternatural light.
There had been an earthquake. The Btone had been thrown down.
An apparition as of an angel sat on the stone. His appearance
had so frightened the Roman guard that they had fallen like dead

men. .lesus had disappeared from the tomb. The guard had not

Been him. The great stone had not detained him. His earliest
biographers give no intimation of the hour of the resurrection.


He was abroad at daylight. They represent him as having had
frequent intercourse with them for forty days, in which he gives
them no intimation of the hour of his resurrection. It was bc-
twecn Friday's sunset and. Sunday's sunrise. When lie rose he did
not show himself to the guard: the first fright they had was from
the angel, lie did not show himself to any one until after the
women had visited the sepulchre.

There is almost no twilight in Palestine. It is dark; a glim-
mer comes in the eastern skies; then the sun bounds forth. It
was yet dark as the women came near enough to
The devoted t ^ Q sepu i c i lre to see t ] iat the stone was gone from

worn 611.

its mouth. A terrible suspicion flashed on the
mind of the devoted Mary of Magdala, that the beloved body had
been stolen by the malignant enemies of Jesus, and she could not
conjecture what outrages might have been committed on it. In
her grief and indignation she rushed back to communicate the
horrible news to John, with whom Peter then happened to be.

The other women — Mary, Salome, and Joanna — entered. They
do not seem to have noticed the angel until they had ascertained

the absence of Jesus. They were sorely per-
vision in e p] excc i # Perhaps they had gone into an inner

sepulchre. x r j o

chamber of the tomb, and returned, after finding

that the corpse was missing, when the angel revealed himself to
them. Luke says there were two angels, or rather, "two men in
long shining garments." The women were afraid. They bowed
their heads. The angel said, "Do not be afraid, for I know that
you seek Jesus who was crucified. Win- do you seek the living
among the dead ? lie is not here. He is risen, as he said. Come
and see the place where they laid him." He showed them the spot,
and the grave-clothes lying in order, and then said, " Ilemember
how he spoke to you when he was yet in Galilee, saying that the
Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and
be crucified, and the third day rise again." The women then dis-
tinctly recalled that prediction.

The angel added, "Go your way quickly, and tell his disciples,
even Peter, that he is risen from the dead, and goes before you

into Galilee. There you shall see him, as he said
A message to f( ( » T]iQ WQmen startc J () ff t( )W . W 1 S the city,

Peter. " J

full of mingled fear and joy. They seem to have

missed another party now approaching the sepulchre.


When Mary of Magdala had reached the city she flew to the

house of John, with whom Peter was, and rushing in breathlessly

exclaimed, " They have taken away the Lord out

„ ,, iii i i .i John and Peter,

or the sepulchre, and we know not where tney

have laid him." This was startling news. Both the men rose and
went out to the sepulchre. Peter had not yet learned that a special
message had been sent to him. lie had behaved so basely that he
did not feel as if he were of the number of the disciples. But he
had repented, and he loved the brotherhood of the disciples, and
he loved his dead Master, and he would gladly make amends for
his denials by devotion to the corpse of Jesus. Still the burden of
the bad memory was on him. He did not go as fleetly as John.
Both ran ; but John reached the sepulchre flrst. There a reverent
awe checked him. He kneeled down and looked at the grave-
clothes. Peter followed, and went right in. There lay the shroud
wrapped up, and the napkin, which perhaps Mary of Magdala had
wound about his mangled head. Everything was orderly. Ho
had been taken away by neither friends nor foes. The former
would have had no care for the clothes, or have not removed them ;
the latter would have torn them away carelessly. It looked as if
Jesus had risen and carefully folded and laid away the garments
of the grave, wherewith the hands of respect and love had
wrapped him.

Peter induced John to follow him. Peter was puzzled. In
John there began to spring up some faith. " He saw and be-
lieved ; " for as yet, according to John's own testimony, " they
did not know the scripture, that he must rise again from the
dead." Then they left the sepulchre and went home.

But Mary of Magdala stood without at the sepulchre, weeping.
The men might go, but she lingered about the spot where she had
last seen the body of him whom she loved with
all her heart and soul. She was alone. Hers
was an absorbing love and an absorbing grief. She gazed through
her tears down into the sepulchre where the dear Jesus had been
laid. She was flooded with sorrow. She saw the two angels in
white, but she had no attention to give to even angels. Nothing
in heaven or earth could interest her but Jesus. They said to her,
" Woman, why are you weeping?" She could not be astonished
or frightened even by so brilliant an apparition as two angels ; but
Bhe was ready to burst forth when the subject of her love was


touched. She sobbed out, " Because they have taken away my

Lord, aud I know not where they have laid him ! "

What marvellous beauty of loving is here ! " My Lord ! " It

was the emphasis of appropriating affection. lie was hers more

than he was any other's. She loved him more
Her love. ,, ,, l i 1 •

than any other woman or any man loved him.

And he had done everything for her. She did not ask the angels
for any consolation ; she was inconsolable. She turned to go, and
through her tears she saw a man standing in the garden. She
scarcely looked at him. One man filled her heart and brain and
eyes, and he was dead, and his dear body was stolen. When the
stranger asked her, " Why do you weep '( whom do you seek ? " she
thought it was the gardener, and that he must know all about it.
Her reply was, " Sir, if you have borne him hence, tell me where
you have laid him, and I will take him away ! "

What marvellous beauty of loving is here ! " Him " — as if every-
body must know Mary's "him ! " If it were not considered meet
for his corpse to be in that garden because he had
died as a malefactor — although she felt that that
body, if laid down on God's throne, would sweeten all heaven —
she would take it away to some place where, without interruption,
he might sleep the sleep of death, and she might weep the tears
of the dying. She had not turned to gaze full on the speaker.
It was Jesus, and she did not know it. He said to her, " Mary ! "
In his lifetime it is probable that he had never called the other
Marys with the tone in which he was accustomed to pronounce
her name, the poor dear friend whom he had brought out of the
darkness of insanity with the marvellous light of his love. The
syllables in the familiar tone thrilled her. She turned. She saw
him. She knew it was Jesus. She sprang towards him saying,
" Rabboni." It seems that she would have embraced him, but
Jesus checked her. He said, " Touch me not, for I am not yet
ascended to my Father : but go to my brethren and say unto them
that I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and
your God."

Mary left him. Her love was obedient. The brilliant moment
was past. She might not see him again, but he was alive. He
was to meet the brethren in Galilee. He was not
the Comforter ; he had not yot come in that cha-
racter, as he had promised his disciples, because he had not yet


aseended to the Father. So Mary of Magdala, lovingest of women,

out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils, and into whom seven

angels had come, sad Mary, glad Mary, left her Lord and went

about the errand on which he sent her.

The interview was exceedingly brief. Before the other women

could reach the city, Jesus was with them. He met them. He

Baluted them with "All hail!" Combining the

accounts given by Mark and Matthew, a very natu- The ofcher wo *

. mi men.

ral history seems to me to be this : The women

had entered the sepulchre and seen where Jesus lay ; then they
had the vision of the angels; then they went out " quickly" and
fled from the sepulchre, for they trembled and were amazed, " and
departed with fear and great joy." Leaving the sepulchre in great
agitation, they may have wandered off from the city quite as
naturally as towards it ; but recalling the message of the angel to
the disciples, their joy predominated ; their mental equipoise began
to return. To make up the lost time, they began to run, and thus
they met Jesus. They knew him at once. As soon as he saluted
them they fell at his feet, clasping them and rendering him hom-
age, lie permitted in them what he had forbidden in Mary of
Magdala. Their worship and their feelings were quite different
from those of the loving Mary. Jesus soothed them, saying, " Bo
not afraid ; go tell the brethren that I go into Galilee, and there
shall they see me."

As the women went to bear this message to the disciples, some
of the watch went to report to the Pharisees, and to consult for
their own safety. The Sanhedrim assembled. The
soldiers probably told the facts as they occurred.
The council was driven to desperation. They had hoped that the
money given Judas should end the matter. Now there must be
more bribery. They gave the soldiers " large money," as our
common version has it; "sufficient silver pieces" it is in the ori-
ginal. They instructed them what to say; it was this: "His dis-
ciples came by night and stole him away while we slept." They .pledged themselves to stand between them and Pilate, if a
report of the affair should reach the governor's ears.

AVe can readily account for the mental and moral temper of the

majority of the Sanhedrim. A course of crime _ ...

i 'i , i i , • .,-,.. -r, i The Sanhedrim,

had blunted their sensibilities. It was natural

that they should offer money to the soldiers. It was natural thai


the soldiers should accept it. Their case was this : having dis-
charged their duty faithfully, they were in such circumstances
that if tried by a military court they would be executed. Caesar
would take no "angel" for an excuse. They had suffered the
government seal to be violated. They had committed a military
crime. If brought to trial their doom was sealed. They would
better make all out of their circumstances that could be made.
They took the money, and took the pledge of the priests, and went
off and awaited events.

But there is no evidence that these soldiers ever told to a mili-
tary tribunal what the Sanhedrim put into their mouths. They
could not be worse men than the priests, and not
such fools as to tell a lie that would convict them.
It is quite probable that they repeated the stupid falsehood to
6ome of the populace, in the presence of some of the priests, to make
good their bargain. The priests would use it among the vulgar
people, and thus the report would gain currency among the Jews.
But the soldiers would not have said so if arrested. " We slept : "
that was a crime for which death would be inflicted, according to
imperial law. " They stole : " how could men tell what was done,
or who did it, while they were asleep ? But it is quite easy to see
why the soldiers did as they were taught : there was in that direc
tion some possibility of escape, but none in any other.

That the body of Jesus could not have been stolen by any one,
a very slight inspection of the facts must show. If stolen, it was by

friends or by foes, by the Jewish authorities or by
The Body not . , . . i mi j. i i i i •

Btolen the disciples, ihe former could not nave taken it ;

for if they had, they would have made an exhibi-
tion of the corpse after three days, and thus secured a complete
demolition of the claims of Jesus. The disciples could not have
done so. The presence of the dead body would be a perpetual
reminder of the death of their hopes. There would be no stimu-
lus in that. They had no conceivable reason for stealing the body.
If they had, they could not have accomplished it. They were too
few to overpower the guard. If they had made the attack some
would have been at least wounded, and perhaps killed, and the
uproar would have aroused the city. But this is not charged. It
is unreasonable to suppose that all the guard were asleep at once,
and that at that juncture the disciples stole the body. That would
have involved the breaking of the government seal on a night


whe.i the moon was at its full, and the city was crowded, and the
populace was excited. If that had occurred the disciples would
have been prosecuted. But they never were prosecuted. The
testimony of the soldiers would then have been called into court,
and that would have acquitted the disciples and covered the San-
hedrim with shame.

There were in the Sanhedrim a few who believed in Jesus, and
to them — to such men as Joseph and Nieodemus, for instance —
the early historians must have been indebted for a narrative oi
what had passed in the Sanhedrim, including their infamous and
stupid proposition to the soldiers.

When the women returned and made their report the disciples
did not believe ; but what the women said seemed to them like
" crazy talk."

That afternoon two disciples left Jerusalem to walk to Em-
maus, a village seven miles distant. The name of one is preserved.
It was Cleopas ; but we know not who he was.
They started probably about half-past three Emmaus
o'clock, after the evening sacrifice. They had
heard the reports which seemed to have been circulated among
the friends of Jesus, that the sepulchre was empty. As they walked
they conversed upon the subject nearest to all their hopes and
fears and interests, the dead Jesus, and what had happened in
the three eventful days. They were perplexed. They " reasoned.''
They were piobably striving to reconcile the apparently conflicting
facts, the claims of Jesus and his manifest power, with the igno-
minious death which he had suffered. Jesus drew T near and
walked with them ; but they were so absorbed that they did not
notice him.

He spoke to them respectfully in such away as not to be offen-
sive even in a stranger. " What are these words that ye exchange
one with another as ye walk ? " Luke says that
"they stood with sorrowful countenances." They strano . er
looked at Jesus, but did not recognize him. The
same historian says, "their eyes were holden that they should not
know him." Mark says that Jesus "appeared in another form
nnto them." It is to be noticed that some change must have passed
in the appearance of his person. None of his friends recognized
him immediately on first sight ; but none failed to recognize him
afterwards. Who can tell what that change was? It was his


own body. They all saw, and some touched him. Was the cross-
ness of the material body disappearing, and the fineness of the
spiritual body coming forth ? But we are to record only what are
the facts in the case.

"When Jesus asked his question the two disciples looked at him.
There was nothing in the appearance of this stranger to make him

seem a suspicious person, to be avoided, and the
Grief of the dis- , - , . , P ■, .

. , tone and manner or Ins respectful inquiry com-

mended him to the confidence which these simple-
hearted men gave him. Cleopas replied : " Are you the only so-
journer in Jerusalem who has not known these things that have
come to pass there in these days ? " It was a polite reflection on
his apparent ignorance. " What things ? " asked the stranger, to
draw him out. One of them answered, " Concerning Jesus the
Nazarenc, wlio was a man, a prophet mighty in act and speech
before God and all the people ; and how the chief priests and our
rulers delivered him to be condemned to death and have crucified
him." And then, running out into confidential lamentations to
the attentive and sympathizing stranger, the speaker continued :
" But we hoped that it had been he who was about to redeem
Israel ; yet, for all these hopes, this is the third day since these
things were done. Besides, certain women of our company
astounded us, who were early at the tomb, and not having found
his body they returned, saying that they had seen a vision of
angels, who say that he is living. And certain of those with u?.
went to the tomb and found it thus, according also as the women
had said : but him they saw not ! "

The stranger had completely won their confidence and tested
the genuineness of their grief, their faith, their love, and their
fears. They had even confessed themselves disciples of the pro-
phet who had seemed to have failed, whose ignominious execution
had blasted their hopes but not their affection. They even ad-
mitted him to a knowledge of what was passing in the inner circle
of the friends of the crucified Jesus. These simple-hearted pea-

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 69 of 77)