Pisidian Antioch, Paul's Sermon & the Reaction, Part 1, Section J
by John Lowe
Because they knew him not
“Because they knew him not,” that is, though some in Jerusalem were ignorant of the fact, yet there were others that knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and rejected him anyhow; but the apostle chose to not mention them, because he did not want to irritate and provoke the Jews at Jerusalem; but rather he spoke to his listeners, who were really ignorant of Christ: or else this may be understood as referring to the Gospel, the word of salvation, which the Jews knew nothing about.
This verse is designed, not to reprimand the Jews at Jerusalem, but to introduce the fact that Jesus had died, and had risen again. With great wisdom and tenderness, Paul speaks of the murderers of the Saviour in such a manner as not to infuriate, but, as far as possible, to diminish their crime. There was sufficient guilt in the murder of the Son of God to fill the nation with alarm, even after all that could be said to tone down the deed—"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:36-37).When Paul says, "They knew him not," he means that they did not know He was the Messiah—“None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8); they were ignorant of the true meaning of the prophecies of the Old Testament; they regarded him as an impostor—“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders” (Acts 3:17).
Nor yet the voices of the prophets
“Nor the voices of the prophets” is better; "nor the writings (or, their prophecies concerning the Messiah) of the prophets,” is even better. They expected a prince and a conqueror, but did not expect a Messiah that was poor and despised; that was a man of sorrows and that was to die on a cross.
Which are read every sabbath day
The Apostle appeals to the synagogue ritual from which the discourse started, which in itself bears witness, not to the popular notions of a conquering Messiah, but to the true idea of Christ as the chief of sufferers, which had been realized in Jesus. “Which are read every Sabbath” in the synagogues, is better. But though the Scriptures were read constantly, yet they were ignorant of their true meaning. They were blinded by pride, and prejudice, and preconceived opinions. People may read the Bible most of their lives and never understand it.
They have fulfilled them in condemning him
All things came to pass in Christ, which the Prophets foretold concerning the Messiah: so that by this also it appears that He is the true and only Savior: and yet, those who refused to receive Him, and went on to persecute Him most cruelly, and eventually murder Him, even though he was innocent—they are not to be excused. The prophets told of the place where he would suffer, and the method of His suffering and death.By putting him to death they have accomplished what was foretold. Compare:
• Acts 4:28: “But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will.”God's decrees are from eternity; there is nothing that comes to pass, except what he has determined beforehand should be done, either by Him causing it to happen, or doing it through others, or allowing it to be done. Whatever was done to Christ, either by Jews or Gentiles, by Herod or Pontius Pilate, was according to the secret will of God, and the covenant He made with Christ,
• Luke 24:25, 26: “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"
28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
And though they found no cause of death in him
“And though they found no cause of death in Him,” that is, no crime that deserved death; they tried to find one, but could find none; they bribed false witnesses, who brought charges against Him, but could not support them; therefore, Pilate, His judge, declared His innocence several times, and wanted to let Him go. Technically, the Sanhedrin had condemned our Lord on the charge of blasphemy—“What think you? They answered and said, He is guilty of death” (Matthew 26:66); but they had been unable to prove the charge by providing adequate evidence (Matthew 26:60), but finally they condemned Him by extorting words from His own lips. When they came before Pilate they shrank at first from promoting that accusation, and contented themselves with stating in general terms that they had condemned Him as a malefactoriii (John 18:30).
After all their efforts; after the treason of Judas; after their employing false witnesses; still He was not charged with a crime. The Sanhedrin condemned him for blasphemy; and yet they knew that they could not substantiate the charge before Pilate, and therefore, they endeavored to obtain his condemnation on the ground of sedition—“Then said they all, Are you then the Son of God? And he said to them, You say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth” (Luke 22:70-71).He was a Lamb without blemish; neither had he offended the rabble that was so slanderous against him, unless by such vast goodness and kindness towards them he associated them with ingratitude.
Yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain
“Yet asked they of Pilate that he should be slain” is better. When the governor appeared to be wavering, they became more persistent in demanding the Lord’s death, and attempted to terrify him, saying that by their law He ought to die because He made Himself the Son of God (John 19:7), and that by making Himself a king He spoke against the emperor (John 19:12). The power of life and death was, at that time, in the hands of the Romans; and in this case, the power of putting him to death rested with Pilate, and not in them: and therefore they were pressuring him to order His execution, in spite of his innocence—“Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place” (Luke 23:4-5).
The narrative of this verse is exactly the same as Luke 23:4, 5, 14-23.
29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him
“When they had fulfilled all that was written of him”— Paul had studied in the same school of prophetic interpretation as the writers of the Gospels, and saw as they did, in all the details of the Crucifixion, the fulfillment of that which had been written beforehand.
When they had vilified and reproached Him in the most contemptuous and degrading manner; struck and scourged Him, and pierced His hands and His feet, by nailing Him to a rough wooden cross; when they had given Him vinegar to drink—“They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21);when they had crucified Him between two thieves, and parted His clothing and cast lots on His robe; when they had pierced His side; the various prophecies which received their fulfilment in the betrayal, harsh treatment, and the other circumstances that followed the death of Jesus. When they had pierced His side, and it was sufficiently evident that His life had left Him; all that had been written of Him in the Psalms and Prophets was fulfilled.
They took him down from the tree
“The tree” was the cross, on which He was crucified. Those who “took him down from the tree,” were not the same persons that pressured Pilate to have Him crucified, but others; and though they were some of the rulers; Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, who were Jews and secret disciples of Jesus, they did not give their consent for His death—“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds” (John 19:38-39).
And laid him in a sepulcher
“And laid him in a sepulcher,” in a new one, in which never man lay; a sepulcher which Joseph had hewed out of a rock for himself, and which was both sealed and guarded. Though the burial of Christ was an act of honor and love to Him by the disciples to whom the body was committed, yet, His enemies obtained a guard of soldiers to keep watch over it in order to prevent someone stealing the Savior’s body, which they believed was a possibility. The apostle regards this as the last manifestation on their part of hate for the Saviour, but God laughed at all their precautions by "raising Him from the dead." “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; HE HAS RISEN, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay’” (Matthew 28:5, 6).