Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

own sheep, goeth before them, and they follow. This is true to the letter. They are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility. He leads them forth from the fold, or from their houses in the villages, just where he pleases. As there are many flocks in such a place as this, each one takes a different path, and it is his business to find pasture for them. It is necessary, therefore, that they should be taught to follow, and not to stray away into the unfenced fields of corn which lie so temptingly on either side. Any one that thus wanders is sure to get into trouble. The shepherd calls sharply from time to time to remind them of his presence. They know his voice, and follow on; but, if a stranger call, they stop short, lift up their heads in alarm, and, if it is repeated, they turn and flee, because they know not the voice of a stranger. This is not the fanciful costume of a parable; it is simple fact. I have made the experiment repeatedly. The shepherd goes before, not merely to point out the way, but to see that it is practicable and safe. Some sheep always keep near the shepherd, and are his special favourites. Each of them has a name, to which it answers joyfully; and the kind shepherd is ever distributing to such choice portions which he gathers for that purpose.”——(Thomson.)

“Behold, thy king cometh,” cried Zechariah (ix. 9) as he pointed the men of his day to the purpose of God in the manifestation of the Messiah. Here the same Spirit who spoke by the prophet, fitted the people "that were come to the feast” for welcoming Jesus as the royal one. “They took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna : Blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (xii. 13). The “ branches” named were the long feathery leaves of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), which has been specially noticed under Exod. xv. 27.

This incident might at first seem to imply, that the date palm was much more plentiful in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem at that time than it is now. But both the climate, its position among the hills, and the character of its soil, make it little likely that the date palm was ever very abundant there. Attempts to make out that this tree must have once abounded near the Holy City, leave out of view the fact, that multitudes who came up to the feast may have carried with them the palm-branches from localities in which they flourished luxuriantly. It was thus that in olden times the British pilgrim to Palestine obtained the name of Palmer from the palm-leaves which he brought back with him from Judea, as proofs that he had visited that renowned land. Shaw says-—“At Jerusalem, Sichem, and other places to the northward, I rarely saw above two or three palms together: aud even these, as their fruit rarely or ever comes to maturity, are of no further service than (like the palm-tree of Deborah) to shade the retreats or sanctuaries of their sheikhs, as they might formerly have been sufficient to supply the solemn processions with branches. From the present condition and quality therefore of the palm-trees, it is very probable that they could never be either numerous or fruitful” (vol. ii. 152). The scarcity of these trees, in a land in whose history so many references to them occur, strikes travellers still. Many passages might be quoted from recent works regarding the solitary palm-tree which is occasionally met with in the land. The Jews who visited Jerusalem at this feast-time were gathered from great distances, and knowing the scarcity of this symbol of joy and victory in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, they would be sure to carry the branches with them to the city of the great King. The list preserved in Acts ii. 9-11, indicates that they came from localities in which the date-tree flourished luxuriantly and abundantly. They were “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians.”

Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved” (xiii

. 23). “Leaning:” this is the same verb as is rendered “sat at meat” (Mark ii. 15), “as they sat” (Mark xiv. 18), and “lay” (Mark i. 38). It strictly means "reclining,” in allusion to the eastern posture at meals. See Plate XLI.

The necessity of vital union with Christ in order to a life for him in the midst of the world's sorrows, temptations, and persecutions, and to cherishing the good hope of heaven, is set down in the parable of the vine and its branches (xv. 1-10). A distinction is drawn between two kinds of branches—those really in the vine, and those only apparently

The former represent all whose profession is the fruit of indwelling spiritual life enjoyed in Christ; the latter, all whose profession results from the imitation of Christians, and not from the life of Christ. The theme is set in yet more significant aspects in the next two chapters.

Jesus “ bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha; where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title

[ocr errors]

then read many of the Jews; for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city; and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin" (xix. 17–20). Death by the “cross” was a Roman mode of capital punishment. It was formally abolished by Constantine.

The cross was originally a broad stake, to which the murderer or the thief was bound. It came, however, to assume different forms, as, for example, that in which two beams of equal length crossed each other in the middle, each having its lower end fixed in the ground. This was the crux decussata of ancient authors. The crux commissa, again, consisted of an upright stake with a cross beam or transom fastened on the top. The crux immissa was the form on which our blessed Lord was crucified. It consisted, like the last named, of a strong upright stake, with the transom so fastened that a considerable part of the stake rose above it. This is the typical Latin cross. On the projecting part of the upright beam the “ title” or “accusation" was written, containing the name, address, and crime of the culprit. This fact, taken into account with the

very earliest figures of the cross on coins and over the dead, has led to the conclusion that the cross raised on Calvary was of this shape. See Plate XL., fig. 1.

Reference has already been made to myrrh and aloes (xix. 39). The former spice has been identified under Psalm xlv. 8; and the aloes noticed in the Old Testament scriptures has been considered under the same passage, and also under Numbers xxiv. 6. The purpose for which the produce of the aloe-tree is used here, is suggestive of another plant than that referred to in these passages, as the “eaglewood-tree,” Aquilaria agallochum of botanists, a native of Southern Asia. But while this is so, it is most likely both kinds were present here. Indeed, such is known to have been the case in “the Jews' manner of burial.” Both

may be more fully noticed in illustration of this verse. The Egyptians used aloes in the process of embalming. This was an exudation from the Socotrine aloe (Aloe Socotrina), so named from Socotra, an island in the Red Sea. It belongs to the natural order Liliacece. It grows five or six feet high, with leaves of a bright green colour, and flowers of scarlet, white, and green. The bitter aloes of commerce is the produce of several species obtained in different parts of the world. The Jewish manner of burial was to lay the dead body in spices, without, however, cutting it in any way, as was done by the Egyptians in embalming. Thus Asa (2 Chron. xvi. 14) was laid in a “bed of spices" when he was buried “in the sepulchre which he had made for himself in the city of David.” So here with our Lord's body—"it was wound

[merged small][graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »