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behold some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
Saying, Say ye, his disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept.
And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
So they took the money, and did as they were taught; and this saying is commonly reported amongst the Jews until this day.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
The pious women who had formed the design of embalming our LORD's body were very solicitous to execute it; therefore, as soon as the sabbath was over, they made farther preparations, and set out to go to the sepulchre early in the morning, even while it was yet dark, so that they arrived there by the time of sun-rising. Though the tomb had been sealed the evening before and a guard set, it does not appear that the women had heard of this circumstance; which would, in all probability, have intimidated them from pursuing their intention of entering into it. Knowing that the stone was large, they were apprehensive their united efforts would not be sufficient to remove it; and consulted among themselves who they should apply to for this purpose. While they were on the way, between the dawning of the day and the rising of the sun, a great earthquake happened on the spot where the sepulchre stood; and an ANGEL descended from heaven, who rolled away the stone, on which he seated himself, to the great amazement and terror of the guards. During the time of their conster
nation, our LORD (we may conclude) rose from the dead, but did not appear to the guards, as they were not proper witnesses of his resurrection. It is likely, that as soon as the spirits of the soldiers revived, they fled from the spot where they had heard and seen such wonderful things, and the angel disappeared. Immediately after their departure the women arrived, who found to their astonishment the stone rolled away. Not recollecting our LORD's repeated assurances that he should rise again, they apprehended the body to have been taken away by his enemies: and Mary Magdalene, who entertained the most grateful remembrance of the benefits formerly conferred on her by our SaVIOUR, in great agitation of mind at this disappointment, ran to acquaint two of the Apostles, and consult with them what was to be done: but some of the women who remained behind resolved to enter into the sepulchre, where the matter was explained to them by two angels, who shewed them the very place where the body had been laid, and recalled to their minds what our LORD himself had so frequently predicted; and then commanded them to go and carry this joyful news to his disciples. The women immediately departed, but their agitation was at first so great, that they did not relate what they had seen and heard to any whom they met by the way. Shortly after they were gone, Mary Magdalene arrived at the sepulchre, bringing with her Peter and John, who, as soon as they heard the body was missing, ran with all possible dispatch to the place, in order to examine into the circumstances of this alarming affair; which indicated, that the malice of our LORD's persecutors still remained in full force. Peter soon convinced himself that the body was actually gone, but knew not how to account for the order
in which the linen clothes and napkins were disposed. John, after having taken a view of them, though persuaded in his own mind that his LORD was risen from the dead, did not communicate his opinion to his com panion at that time, resolving to have still farther proofs of it; but returned with Peter, that they might confer in private on this wonderful event.
Mary, who was overwhelmed with sorrow that her pious purpose was defeated, and apprehensive that the body of her beloved LORD, instead of being embalmed with fragrant spices, would be treated by his enemies with the utmost indignity, and perhaps exposed as food for the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, stood weeping' without; but at length stooping down and casting an affectionate look towards the place where the body had lain, the angels again became visible, but veiled their heavenly lustre under an human form; and she beheld them sitting one at the head, the other at the feet, of the niche in which the sacred corpse had been deposited. The angels certainly had a power of becoming visible or invisible as occasion required, therefore were not seen by Peter and John. Whether Mary perceived them to be angels, or took them for young men, is uncertain; but it seems * "she was so immersed in grief at not being able to find the body of JESUS, that she took little or no notice of this extraordinary appearance, and answered the angels without any emotion, and without quitting the object upon which her mind was wholly fixed, till her attention was awakened by the well-known voice of her Master, calling her by her name." What must have been the transports of her soul at this instant? Whilst she was deploring his death, and grieving that his body was not to be found, JESUs stood before her,
• West on the Resurrection."
and kindly accosted her. At first she knew him not j but when she fixed her eyes on him, she was thoroughly convinced that it was CHRIST himself, and would have embraced his feet, but that he commanded her not to stay to do so at present; intimating, that she would have other opportunities, as he had not left the world; and he directed her to go immediately to his disciples, and carry a message from him: which would serve at once to convince them he entertained the same affectionate regard for them as ever, and revive their hopes, that the promises he had repeatedly made them would be fulfilled *.
We read, that other women were commanded by the heavenly messengers who appeared to them, to tell the Apostles that CHRIST was risen from the dead, &c. It is likely that they went a different way into the city: for they did not meet Mary Magdalene, Peter and John. After our LORD had dismissed Mary Magdalene he met the other women, whom he affectionately accosted, and also permitted them to pay their homage to him; during which time Mary proceeded on her way, and was ready to give her testimony concerning our LORD'S resurrection with them; which she could not have done, had she staid to indulge the effusions of her joy as she wished to do. It is likely, that all the Apostles, in consequence of the report made by Peter and John, were assembled together by the time the women arrived; but so thoroughly were their spirits dejected, and their hopes disappointed, by the untimely death of their LORD, that they were ready to impute what the women related to the power of imagination; and resolved to suspend their belief, till they had more convincing proofs of se
* Compare this message with our Lord's discourse to his disciples in Section xxvii.
important a fact, and were satisfied of the reality of it by the testimony of their own senses.
*While these things were transacting, some of the guards, a little recovered from their consternation, arrived in the city; and, in order to excuse themselves, made their report to the chief priests concerning the earthquake and the vision of the angel. This news must undoubtedly have thrown the Council into great confusion; but neither they nor the soldiers were converted, by what the one saw or the other heard. The High Priests were under a judicial blindness, as a pu. nishment from GoD for their obstinacy in rejecting the MESSIAH; and the soldiers being heathens, might think that JESUS was the son of some deity, the God of the Jews, with whom they had no concern, who brought him to life again.
The High Priests were in the utmost perplexity, what measures to pursue on this extraordinary occasion, and immediately assembled the Sanhedrim; who, after holding a consultation, could devise no method to prevent the people's belief of the resurrection, but bribing the guards to spread a false report, that "the disciples had come by night and stolen the body;" for had they accused the soldiers of neglect, they could not have proved it to the satisfaction of the Roman governor, whose conscienes being in some degree awakened by his own observations on JESUS during his trial, and the prodigies which happened at his death, he would most likely have acquitted them, and by this means confirmed the belief of the resurrection: the Council, therefore, gave the soldiers a considerable sum of money to keep the matter secret, promising to exert their interest with the governor
* Doddridge's Family Expositor.