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speaketh against Cæsar. 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. And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! 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 Cæsar !--John xix. 12-15.
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person : see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children !- Matt. xxvii. 24, 25.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE.
Jesus being now in the possession of his enemies, they that had laid hold on him led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. Their object was, to put Jesus to death ; and for this purpose they sought out for false witnesses, to charge him with a capital crime. To condemn any one to death, their own law required two witnesses;
and it was also necessary for them to produce evidence sufficient to induce the Roman governor to ratify their sentence, without which it was of no avail. There was no difficulty in finding out and suborning false witnesses, disposed to conform to their wishes ; but for a long time none whose evidence could prove against Jesus a capital offence. But at length
came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” Now to speak disrespectfully, or to prophesy against the temple, was considered by the Jews as blasphemy, and, of course, a capital offence. His answer to the Jews was not as the witnesses stated it, “ I am able to destroy this temple;" but it was, “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”—John ii. 19.
The high priest, sensible perhaps that even this evidence would not completely answer his purpose, proceeds to interrogate our Saviour, hoping that he might be drawn by artful questions to condemn himself. He arose, therefore, and said unto Jesus, “ Answerest thou nothing ? What is it that these witness against thee ?” Is it true, or is it false ? — and what have you to say in your own defence? But Jesus held his peace. He disdained to make any answer to such unfounded and contemptible accusations. He saw that his judges were predetermined; that everything he could say would be of no avail; and that the only proper part for him to take was, to observe a dignified silence. The high priest, perceiving this, had recourse to a measure which he knew must compel our Lord to speak : “I adjure thee,” says he, “ by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ the Son of God.” This calling upon a man to swear by the living God, was called the oath of adjuration, and was the Jewish mode of administering an oath either to a witness or a criminal; and, when so adjured, they were obliged to answer. Jesus now, therefore, conceived himself bound in conscience to break his silence, and said to the high priest, 6. Thou hast said;" that is, thou hast said what is true, — I am the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. But as our Lord's situation and appearance did but ill accord with a character of such high dignity, he proceeds to assure his judges that they should in due time have the fullest proof of it : for, says he, “ hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Sitting at the right hand of power, means sitting at the right hand of God; and coming in the clouds of heaven was, with the Jews, a characteristic mark of the Messiah. “ Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” Then did they spit in his face, and buffetted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, “ Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee !"
Judas, when he saw that he was condemned, repented, &c. There is much of the wisdom and goodness of God to be seen in this part of Judas's conduct. Had our Lord been condemned to death on the evidence of one of his own disciples, it would have furnished infidels with a strong argument against Christ and the Christian religion. But the traitor, being stung with remorse, came and acknowledged his crime, and solemnly declared the innocence of his master, threw back the money which they gave him to induce him to do this villanous act; and, to establish the evidence which he now gave against them and himself, in behalf of the innocence of Christ, hanged
himself, or died through excessive grief and contrition. Thus the character of Christ was rescued from all reproach ; infidelity deprived of the
cry “ Imposture !" and the Jewish rulers overwhelmed with eternal infamy. If it should ever be said, “ One who knew him best delivered him up as an impostor," — to this it may be immediately answered, “ The same person, struck with remorse, came and declared his own guilt and Christ's innocence ; accused and convicted the Jewish rulers, in the open council, of having hired him to do this iniquitous action, threw them back the bribe they had given him, and then hanged himself through distress and despair, concluding his iniquity in this business was too great to be forgiven." Let him who chooses, after this plenary evidence of the innocence of Christ, continue the objection, and cry out Imposture! take heed that he go not and do LIKEWISE: Caiaphas, Pilate, and Judas, have done so already. God is a jealous God, and highly resents everything that is done and said against that eternal truth that came to man through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
DR. A. CLARKE.
What eyes can but run over, to see the Lord of life dragged through the streets to the house of Annas, thence to the house of Caiaphas, from him to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, from Herod back again to Pilate, from Pilate to his Calvary; while the rabble run after him with shouts and scorns ? The priests and scribes and elders are the first in this bloody scene : they have paid for this head, and now long to see what they shall have for their thirty silverlings. Two witnesses say, “ This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and build it again in three days." Perjured wretches ! he said, “ Destroy ye:" ye say, “ I am able to destroy." He said, “ This temple” of his body: ye say, “ The temple of God.” He said, “ I will make up this temple” of my body in three days: ye say, “ I am able in three days to build this” material - temple of God.”
Caiaphas was not more malicious than crafty: what an accusation could not effect, an adjuration shall ; “ I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” He that hath charged us to confess him, cannot but confess himself: “ Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said.” Caiaphas, thou shalt hear more than thou demandest: “ Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Insolent high priest ! that Son of Man whom thou seest, is the Son of God whom thou canst not see: that Son of Man, that Son of God, that God and Man whom thou now seest standing before thy consistorial seat, shalt thou see majestically sitting on the throne of heaven, attended with thousand thousands of angels ! Go now, hypocrite, and rend thy garments, while thou art worthy to have thy soul rent for thy spiteful blasphemy against the Son of God! Thy pretence cannot but receive applause from thy compacted crew;
" What need nave we of witnesses ? Behold now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? And they answered and said, He is guilty of death.”
“ And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that he himself is Christ and King.” O impudent suggestion! What marvel is it, O Saviour, if thine honest servants be loaded with slander ? shameless traducers, and swear that truth is guilty of all falsehood; and that the sun is the only cause of darkness! Now Pilate startles at the charge. The least whisper of a usurpation is entertained with a jealous
“ Art thou then the King of the Jews ?” He felt his own freehold now touched: it was time for him to stir. Daniel's weeks were now famously known to be near expiring. Perhaps Pilate supposed some conspiracies on foot, and therefore asks curiously, “ Art thou the King of the Jews ?” Pilate shall know him such a King as all kings ought to acknowledge and adore : “ My kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate's tongue says, “ I find in him no fault at all:" the Jew's tongue in Pilate's mouth says,
6 Let him be crucified.” Conscience and justice being ready to sway Pilate's distracted heart to a just admission, I hear the Jews cry out, “ If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend.” There is the word that strikes it dead. In vain
shall we hope that a carnal heart shall prefer God to Cæsar. Pilate hastes into the judgment-hall: he sentences,
66 Let him be crucified !" Yet how foul soever his soul shall be, his hands shall be clean ; “ He took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person : see ye to it.” This is expiation enough! Protest thou art innocent, and thou canst not be guilty! Vain hypocrite ! Is the guilt of the blood of the Son of God to be wiped off with such ease ? What poor shifts do foolish sinners make to beguile themselves !
“ Who shall declare his generation ?" His manner of life who would declare? My learned friend, Dr. Kennicott, has communicated to me the following passages from the Mishna, and the Gemara of Babylon, as leading to a satisfactory explication of this difficult place. It is said in the former, that, before any one was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before the prisoner by the public crier in these words : “ Whosoever knows anything concerning his innocence, let him come and declare it concerning him.” On which passage the Gemara of Babylon adds, that, “ before the death of Jesus, this proclamation was made for forty days; but no defence could be found.” On which words Lardner observes, “ It is truly surprising to see such falsities, contrary to well-known facts. The report is certainly false; but this false report is founded on the supposition that there was such a custom, and so far confirms the account above given from th
Mishna. The Mishna was composed in the middle of the second century, according to Prideaux.
Now it is plain from the history of the four Evangelists, that in the trial and condemnation of Jesus no such rule was observed (though, according to the account of the Mishna, it must have been in practice at that time); no proclamation was made for any person to bear witness to the innocence and character of Jesus ; nor did any one voluntarily step forth to give his attestation to it. And our Saviour seems to refer to such a custom, and to claim the benefit of it, by his answer to the high priest, when he asked him of his disciples, and of his doctrine: “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me ? — ask them which heard me what I have said unto them : behold, they know what I said.”—John xviii. 20, 21. This, therefore, was one remarkable instance of hardship and injustice, among others, predicted by the prophet, which our Saviour underwent in his trial and sufferings.
Paul likewise, in similar circumstances, standing before the judgmentseat of Festus, seems to complain of the same unjust treatment,—that no one was called, or would appear to vindicate his character. My manner of life, from my youth, which was at the first among my own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify; that after the straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee." -Acts xxvi. 4, 5.
During these transactions, Pilate received a message from his wife, then with him at Jerusalem, and who had that morning been informed of something in a dream which gave her great uneasiness. Perhaps it presaged the vengeance of the Almighty pursuing her husband and family on account of the injustice he was going to commit. But, whatever the dream was, it had so great an effect on this Roman lady, that she could not rest till she had sent an account of it to her husband, who was then sitting on the tribunal in the Pavement, and begged him to have no hand in the death of the righteous person who was then brought to his bar.
As the people had not yet determined whether they should have Jesus or Barabbas released to them, Pilate therefore, when he received the message from his wife, called the chief priests and rulers together, and, in the hearing of the multitude, made a speech to them, in which he gave them an account of the examination which Jesus had undergone both at his own and Herod’s tribunal, declaring that in both courts it had turned out honourably to his character; for which reason he proposed to them that he should be the object of the people's favour and be acquitted. They cried out all at once, “ Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas." Finding it therefore in vain to struggle with their prejudices, Pilate called for water, and washed his hands before the multitude, crying out at the same time, that the prisoner had no fault, and that he himself was not accessary to his death: complying with the institutions of Moses, which orders, in case of an unknown murder, the elders of the nearest city to wash their hands publicly, and say, 66 Our hands have not shed this blood.” Pilate therefore made this most solemn and public declaration of the innocence of our dear Redeemer. But the Jews continued inflexible, and cried out with one voice, “ His blood be on us, and on our children." Dreadful imprecation !
Pilate released unto them Barabbas: and the soldiers having scourged the blessed Jesus, carried him into the Pretorium, where they dressed him in a purple robe, in derision of his being the King of the Jews. Having dressed him, they put a reed in his hand instead of a sceptre, and a wreath of thorns they put on his head for a crown, so forcing it down that his face was besmeared with his most precious blood. To the Son of God, in this condition, the rude soldiers bowed the knee, giving him severe blows on the head, and then spit on him to express their highest contempt.
Jesus now appeared on the Pavement, with his hair, his face, his shoulders, all clotted with blood, and the purple robe bedaubed with spittle; and that the sight of Jesus in this distress might make the greater impression on the people, Pilate cried out, “ Behold the man!” As if he had said, Will nothing make you relent? Have lost all the feelings of humanity and bowels of compassion for an innocent son of Abraham thus injured ? The priests, whose malice had extinguished the sentiments of justice and feelings of piety, and also that love which countrymen bear to each other, no sooner saw Jesus than, fearing the fickle populace might relent, laying decency aside, they led the way to the multitude, crying out with all their might,“ Crucify him ! crucify him! Release not this man, but Barabbas !"