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him. May we be now so wise as to kiss the Son in token of our humble allegiance to him, lest he be then justly angry with us: yea, lest we immediately perish from the way, when his wrath is but beginning to. be kindled!
Jesus is brought before Pilate : The Jews demand judgment against him, and
Pilate examines him. Matt. xxvii, 1, 2, 11-14. MARK Xv.1-5. LUKE xxiii. 1-4. JOHN xviii. 28-38.
AND as soon as morning was come, all the chief-priests consulted A with the elders of the people, and the scribes, and the whole sanhedrim, against Jesus, how they might put him to death. And when they had bound him, the whole multitude of them arose and led him away to the Prætorium, or judgment-hall in which the Roa man magistrate used to sit, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.--And it was yet early. And they themselves went not into the judgment-hall (being in the house of a Gentile) lest they should be polluted, and so prevented from eating the passover. Pilate therefore, complying with their religious scruples, came out to them, and said, What accusation do you bring against this man? They answercd and said to him, If this man were not a notorious offender we would not have delivered him to thee. Then Pilate said to them, Take ye him back, and judge him according to your law. Then the Jews said to him, it is not lawful for us to put any man to death*. And they began to accuse him of crimes which might render him most obnoxious to the Roman power; saying, We have found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay tribute to Cæsar, and saying that he himself is Messiah, a king. (This accusation of theirs to the Roman gova crnor] was wisely over-ruled by providence, that the saying of Jesus. might be fulfilled which he spake, signifying what kind of death he should die; namely that of crucifixiont.
And when he was thus accused by the chief priests and elders of these and many other things, he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, Dost thou answer nothing? Behold how many things they witness against thee. Hearest thou not? But still Jesus did not ana swer him to any one word. So that Pilate the governor was greatly astonished, and having a favourable opinion of him, was willing to discourse with him more privately. Pilate therefore entered again into the Prætorium, and called Jesus in ;-and as Jesus stood before him o Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou indeed the king of the Jews ? Jesus answered him, Dost thou say this of thyself, or have others told it thee concerning me? Pilate replied, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation, and the chif-priests have delivered thee to me under a charge
* The Jews being now a conquered people, and not having the power of life and death, they could not execute Jesus without a warrant from the Romans.
+ See John iii. 14. xii. 32, 33. Matt. xx. 19. According to the Jewish law, Lev. xxiv. 16. he would have been stoned, as a blasphemer, as Stephen afterwards was.
of reason. Tell me therefore, what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world ; nor is it my design to establish any claim which should interfere with that of Cæsar. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have fought that I might not have been delivered to the Jews.* But now (you may be assured] my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said to him, Art thou then a King ? Jesus answered him o Thou sayest right, I am a King. For this purpose was I born, and for this end I came into the world, that I might bear witness to the Truth. Every person who is of the Truth heareth my voice. Pilate says to him, What is Truth? And when he had said this, not waiting for an answer, he went out again to the Jews, and said to the chief-priests and the people, I find no fault at all in this man.
REFLECTIONS. How much exactness in the ceremonials of religion may be found in those who have even the most outrageous contempt for its vital principles and cssential duties! Yea, how much of that exactness may be made subservient to the most mischievous and diabolical purposes ! These wolves in sheep's clothing would not enter into the house of a heathen, lest they should be polluted, and become unfit to eat the passover; yet they contrive and urge an impious murder, which that very heathen, though he had much less evidence of Christ's innocence than they, could not be brought to permit without strong reluctance, and a solemn, though vain, transferring of the guilt from himself to them. Justly might our Lord say, in the words of David, They laid to my charge things which I knew not. But what can defend the most innocent and excellent against malicious slanders and defamations ! Or who can expect, or even wish, wholly to escape, when such accusations are brought against Christ, even by the rulers of his nation, who should have been men of distinguished generosity and honour! But instead of this they were all an assembly of murderers, and lay in wait for their. prey, like so many devouring lions.
Pilate would renew the examination of the cause ; and so far he acted a cautious and an honourable part. Yet, alas, how many that set out on such maxims, want courage and resolution to pursue them ! But the courage of Christ never failed. He wiinessed before Pontius Pilate the good confession we have now been reading; and owned himself a king, though at the same time he declared (what it were to be wished all his followers had duly regarded) that his kingdom is not of this world. Greatly do we debase it, if we imagine it is; and most unworthy is it of those that call themselves the ministers of his kingdom to act as if they thought it was. Yet such is the wickedness of some, and such the blindness of others, in the Roman church, that, though of all the churches in the worid, it is manifestly the most secular kingdom, it arrogates to
* Though the number of Christ's followers, had they all been armed, may be thought to have been no match for the Jewish and Roman power, it is to be refnembereel that the populace appeared zealously on his side, but a few days before, and that the reason of their turning against himza was, his not assuming a temporal kingdom, as they expectech
itself the name not only of a part, but of the whole, of Christ's kingdom here below.
Christ came to bear witness to the truth; and a careful attendance to his testimony will be the best proof we can give that we love the truth, and the best method we can take to make ourselres acquainteil with it. And of so great importance is the truth, that it surely deserves the attentive inquiry and the zealous patronage of the greatest and the busiest of mankind. Let us not therefore, when we begin to ask, What it is, like Pilate, hurry on to some other care before we can receive a satisfactory answer; but joyfully open our minds to the first dawnings of that celestial day, till it shine more and more to irradiate and adorn all our souls. On the whole, imperfect as the character of this unhappy governor was, let us learn from him candidly to confess the truth, so far as we have discovered it; let its learn more steadily than he, to vindicate the innocent and worthy, and on no terms permit ourselves, in any degree, to do harm to those in whom, on a strict and impartial inquiry, we can find no fault.
Pilate having sent Jesus to Herod, who treated him with great contempt,
would persuade the Jews to consent to his rclease, who prefer Barabbas, and demand his crucifixion. MATT.xxvii. 15--18, 20-23. MARK XV:6 14. LUKE xxiii. 5--23. JOHN Xvič.39, &c.
D UT, though Pilate declared to the chief pricsts and people that he
D found no fault in Jesus, they were more violent, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching sedition, throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, even to this place. And when Pilate heard them speak of Galilee, he inquired if the man were a Galilean. And finding that he was of Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him away to Herod, who being himself a Jew, was also at Jerusalem in those days of the passover.And when Herod saw Jesus, he rejoiced exceedingly; for he had a long time been desirous to see him, because he had heard much concerning him in Galilee* ; and he now hoped to see some miracle done by him. And he examined him in many words, but he made him no answer. And the chief priests and scribes stood eagerly accusing him. And Herod, with his soldiers, treated him in a contemptuous manner; and having derided him for pretending to be a King, clothed him with a splendid robe, and sent bim back to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod became friends to each other, for before this they were at enmity between themselves. And Pilate having called together the chief priests, and the rulers and the people, said unto them, You have brought me this man as one that has perverted the people, and behold I have examined him in your presence, and have found no crime in this man as to the things that you have charged him with ; nor yet has Herod; for I sent you to him with the prisoner, and behold nothing worthy of death has been done by him. Therefore when I have chastised him I will let him go.
*Luke ix.7, 9. $77, and Matt. xiv. 2. .
Now it was usual at the feast of the passover, and through custom, necessary, for the Roman governor to release to the people any one prisoner whom they desired. And there was then a noted prisoner, whose name was Barabbas; that lay bound with some others, who had made an insurrection in the city with him, and who had committed murder in the insurrection : he was also known to be a robber on the high-ways. And the people therefore, when they were gathered together, began with great clamour, to demand of Pilate that he would do as he had always done to them on the like occasions. And Pilate answered them, saying, You have indeed a custom that I should release to you one at the passover: Whom will ye therefore that I release unto you; Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ, the king of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him up out of envy, and therefore was willing to save his life. But the chief priests and elders excited and persuaded the mob to r ask that he would rather release Barabbas to them, and that thus they might destroy Jesus. Then when the governor put the question to them again and said, Which of the two do you desire I should release unto you? They all cried out again with one consent, saying, Not tliis man but Barabbas : Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas And Pilate again answered and said unto them, What therefore would ye have me do with Jesus who is called Christ, whom you call the king of the Jews? And they all cried out again and said to him, Crucify him : let him be crucified. Pilate therefire, desirous to release Jesus, spake to thein again, urging them to consider what they did ; but they cried out again, saying, Crucify, crucify him. And Pilate said to them the third time, Why? What evil hath he done? I harc found no capital crime in him : I will therefore chastise him and let him go. But they were urgent, with loud voices, and cried out the more abundantly, demanding that he might be crucified. And their voices, and those of the chief priests prevailed.
REFLECTIONS. Behold, how all imaginable circumstances seem to conspire to increase the infamy thrown on that sacred head, which now most worthily wears a crown of eternal glory! Of a truth, O Lord, against thy holy Child Jesus, both Herod and Poniius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the chief priests, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whai. soever thy hand and thy counsel had determined b«fore to be done. The wisest person on earth was, by Herod and his soldiers, derided as a fool; the most deserving was condemned by the chief priests; and the most innocent was treated as a criminal by Pilate, and furiously deinanded as a public victim by the Jews. All the proofs of his innocence are overborne by a loud and a seneless cry; and those hosannahs with which the streets and temple were so lately echoins, are exchanged into Crucify him, crucify him. So uncertain is human applause, and so unrighteous may human judgments be!
But in the midst of all, the blessed Jesus sinds collected in himself. Firm as a rock le bears the violence of the s ini, and is not movce by all the furious waves that beat upon him ; and when he saw a roba VOL. I.
ber and a murderer preferred before him, and a sentence of the most cruel death clamorously called for and demanded against him, he silently commits himself to him that judgeth righteously, who ere long brought forth his righteousness as brightness, and his salvation as a lamp that burneth. Lord, if thou callest us out to share in thy sufferings, may the Spirit of God and of glory thus rest on us ! And may neither the scorn nor the rage of our enemies separate us from thee, who didst so courageously bear all this for us ; nor may they ever sink us into any weakness of behaviour unworthy of those who have the honour to call themselves thy followers !
Pilate, having renewed his efforts to persuade the Jews to consent that Jesús
should be released, at length yielits to their importunity. MATT. xxvij. 19, 24—31. MARK xv. 15—20. LUKE xxiii. 24, 25. JOHN xix. 1-16.
THEN Pilate took Jesus and scourged him, to appease the rage of
1 the populace ; but in vain. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus and led him away into the common-hall, called the Prætorium, and gathered to him the whole band. And having stripped him of the garment which Herod had put on him, they clothed him in purple.* that he might have a mock resemblance of a prince. And the soldiers having plaited a crown of thorns, put it upon his head, and put a reedt into his right-hand, to represent a sceptre. And then they began in a ludicrous manner, to pay their salutations to him, and bowing the knee before him, they did him reverence, and mocked him, saying, Hail, king of the Jews! And they smote him with their hands, and spit upon him; and at last took the reed out of his hand and struck him quith it on the head, so as to drive the thorns into his flesh. In the mean time Pilate was trying some other prisoners; and while he was sitting on the tribunal, his wife sent a messenger to him, saying, Have nothing to do with that righteous one; for I have suffered many things to-daył on his account in a dream.
Pilate therefore came out again to the Jews, and said to them, Behold I am bringing him out to you again, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then Jesus came out, wearing the thorny crown and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, Behold the man ! see what he has suffered, and let that content you. When therefore the chief priests and their officers saw him, they again cried out, saying, crucify him, crucify him. Pilate said to them, Take ye him and crucify him yourselves, for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by this our law he ought to die, because he made him
* Matt.“ They put on him a scarlet robe.” There is no proof, nor any probability, that these terms denote two different garments. See Matt. xxvii. 31. and the author's note there.
† “ Or Cane.” D. “A Rod." C.
I That morning, after Pilate rose. The heathens imagined those dreams most significant which came about break of day. [The next whole paragraphs is from John alone.)