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me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
11. Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above : therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
Pilate naturally presumes upon his power over Jesus, as over any accused person who might be brought before him. But here Jesus corrects his
Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above. This I have shown sufficiently, by the way in which I have hitherto preserved myself, and by the “ miracles and signs and wonders” by which I have been“ approved of God” amongst the people. He who hath delivered me unto thee has seen these proofs that I am the Son of God : and they who have treated with him that he should thus deliver me up, have seen the same : therefore both he and they have the greater sin. Greater, not in comparison with the sin of Pilate, but greater than they would have had if they had not hardened their hearts and blinded their eyes against the truth. As had been said formerly, “ If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.”
This remark is not without its effect upon the governor.
12. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him : but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar. 1 Acts ïi. 22.
2 ch. xv. 24.
13. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
14. And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour ; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your king!
15. But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Casar.
16. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
The character of Pilate is a far more common character than men are willing to suppose. Many act very much as he did, though in circumstances
And it is instructive to observe the manner in which two opposite principles contended within him : on the one hand, natural conscience and a sense of right; and on the other, love of the world.
Pilate had manifestly strong compunctious feelings. The calmness of the prisoner who stood before him ; his refusal to propitiate his judge; his resignation under torture, and indifference concerning life or death ; and doubtless, the indescribable sublimity of deportment which belonged to hiin under all circumstances, the grace and truth which never could forsake him ;—all these affected Pilate in a manner to which he was not accustomed. Whence art thou ? he inquires. Speakest thou not unto me? “ Hearest thou not how many things these witness against thee ?” “ And he answered him to never a word ; insomuch that the gover
nor marvelled greatly.' And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him.
These feelings of his own, were much aided by another circumstance. For “ when he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
Pilate was now in that state of mind which is the state of multitudes in a country like ours. What he felt in regard to Jesus, they feel in regard to the religion of Jesus. They perceive that it is not of man, but of God. Its doctrines show this; so does the power which it exercises in the world. Perhaps many of their friends and relations have received it : are governed by its laws, and supported by its promises : they are themselves at times uneasy whilst they remain in a careless, undecided state ; and they would be very unwilling to appear the enemies of Christ or the Christian cause.
Why do they stand aloof? Why continue only " almost Christians ?”
For the same reason, for a reason of the same sort as that which affected Pilate.
Whilst hewas hesitating between conscience and duty on the one side, and the demands of the people on the other; the Jews seized the interval of suspense, and cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend ; whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Cæsar. 3 Matt. xxvii. 14.
4 Matt. xxvii. 19.
Now Pilate was a governor : and like other governors was anxious to approve himself to his superior, and probably to obtain some higher step, some better appointment. Not to be Cæsar's friend, was to be Cæsar's enemy.
And therefore when Pilate heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth: and, after one more struggle— delivered him unto them to be crucified.
Thus the world gained the victory. Conscience, reason, inclination fell before it. For a while the scale vibrated and seemed to hang doubtful : and if there had been no strong bias on the other side, conscience would have prevailed: but when it became clear that if conscience was to be obeyed and duty done, the world must be abandoned :the things of the world risked, perhaps lost :there was no farther question in Pilate's mind, and the world carried every other consideration down before it.
Now the same case frequently occurs in regard to Christian faith. There are many in the state which I was describing ; convinced, but not conquered ; silenced, but not subdued ; not denying, not doubting ; nay, in their inward mind and judgment, believing.
believing. Soon, however, a trial comes, which must bring the matter to an issue. They must show, whether the faith of Christ has dominion over them or not. This never can long remain uncertain. No man can serve God and mammon: and it must always be soon evident which he is serving. In every rank and station of life temptations exist, and circumstances occur which put it to the proof. And when the trying time arrives in which it must be shown, whether a man is a disciple of Christ or of the world, too often the case of Pilate is acted over again. If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend. So said the Jews; and in like manner will the world say, If such and such is thy line of conduct, thou art not our friend. " Art thou also of Galilee ?” Art thou also “ this man's disciple ?"
Such sayings, or the fear of such sayings, the fear of some worldly risk, the love of some worldly gain, are the immediate cause of ruin to many souls. They lead to compliances, omissions, and transgressions which grieve and quench the Spirit of God. What is wanting to them, is what was wanting to Pilate; such faith in " things not seen” and eternal, as shall overcome the influence of “ things seen” and temporal.
And yet we can easily imagine a case which would have overcome the world in Pilate, and made him resolute instead of wavering. Suppose, for example, the appearance of Jesus, who was now standing as a criminal before Pilate, had been suddenly changed, and he had been seen by him as he was seen by the three apostles on Mount Tabor, when he was “ transfigured before them, and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. Pilate would have no longer doubted : he would have decided at once, to offend the people, and defy Cæsar. 5 Matt. xvii. 2.