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LUKE xxiii. 6. “And when Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him unto Herod, who himself was at Jerusalem at that time."
We must now in thought follow the holy Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem, surrounded by soldiers, and followed by His persevering enemies, the Chief Priests and Scribes. Were there none, as he passed along, who remembered His words and deeds of love? It was the hour of the power of darkness. Sinful men were left to the fierceness of their own will; cowardice was left to its own weakness, and unbelief to its own mocking licentious spirit. Herod, to whom Jesus was sent, was a Sadducee, As such he believed in no spiritual kingdom. He had often heard of Jesus, and having overcome the first whisper of his alarmed conscience that He was John the Baptist, whom he had put to death in prison, raised from the dead, and therefore able to perform wonderful works, he looked upon Him, it must be supposed from what follows, rather as a sorcerer, than as one sent of God. It is written,
Verse 8. "And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad, for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned with him in many words, but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him."
Herod found that he was not even to hear the voice of this wonderful personage of whom he had heard so many things; far less could he hope to "see some miracle done by Him," since Jesus would not even speak, to defend Himself against the false accusations of the Jews. Provoked and disappointed, he strove to turn Him and his pretensions into ridicule.
Verse 11. "And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate."
Herod, by arraying Jesus in this gorgeous robe, intended to show to Pilate, that he looked upon his title as King of the Jews, only as a subject of ridicule, and not one that could have any effect upon the state.
Verse 12. "And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves." *
The Roman and the Jewish governor, though both serving the same master, had looked upon each other with jealousy and dislike; but this seeming compliment which the Roman had paid to the Jew, in passing Jesus from His own judgment-seat, to Herod's, because He belonged to Galilee, appears to have been looked upon by Herod as a reason for being reconciled to Pilate; and both no doubt thought that their power was strengthened by their being made friends. Alas! they knew not that, from that hour, their power was gone.
"Who dares with God contend?
Or who that tries the unequal strife
Shall prosper in the end?"
In this passage of the history of our Lord, we have a very striking picture of what man is when acting in his own nature without the help of God's Holy Spirit. Pilate the heathen, by the light of nature, saw what was just and right; but self-interest and the weakness that comes from the fear of consequences, held him back from nobly acting according to his conscience.
* It has been thought that the cause of the quarrel between them, had been Pilate's severity, in putting to death "those Galileans, subjects of Herod, whose blood he had (as it were) mingled with their sacrifices; and that for this reason, the plan of sending Jesus to have his fate decided by Herod, was the more gladly adopted by Pilate, as it was a sort of making peace between them.
Herod the Jew, knew the word of God, but believed it not, and in the insolence of his unbelief he made a mock of the Holy One of God. The chief priests and the scribes were well versed in the Scriptures, and they believed them; but they wrested their meaning to suit their own purposes, and they raged furiously against the Messiah, because He was not such a one as suited the pride of their hearts. Oh merciful God, how many among ourselves do Pilate, Herod, and the chief priests represent?
'From envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness; from pride, vain-glory and hypocrisy, from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word and commandments,
Apparently the crowd had for a time dispersed. Indeed, when we consider how many sacred duties and solemn rites had to be performed during this time, which was the very height of the passover, we are at a loss to know how the chief priests and elders of the people could on this day follow out the trial of Jesus. It was expressly contrary to their law at such a time to sit in judgment on a criminal; but they had begun the day at its earliest dawn by condemning the Saviour, and each hour of its course was marked by new acts of violence. They little thought how fast was fulfilling all that the types of their service and their law had pictured to them for so many years. This was the day in which the Lamb of the passover should be slain, and its blood sprinkled upon the door-posts of each dwelling in Jerusalem. The Lambs destined for this sacrifice, "with
out blemish and without spot," had been chosen long ago, and now the day was come when their blood must be shed. Lord Jesus had three years before been pointed out by John the Baptist as "the Lamb of God;" he had just been declared by Pilate to be without fault. Still more publicly should He be shown to the people as spotless and pure from blame; then His blood should be shed; and all the types and shadows of the Jewish church, fulfilled in Him, should for ever pass away. Neither friend nor foe thought of this, but Jesus knew it, and calmly waited the appointed hour. Pilate, restless and unhappy, sought for means to deliver Him, but he had not the manly courage at once to set Him free, he would try what some concession would do. Once more he leaves his palace,
LUKE Xxiii. 13-16. "And when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in him touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo! nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.”
Pilate hoped thus to save his prisoner's life, and yet to please and satisfy both priests and people. Herod, their own countryman, as Ruler of Galilee, from whence it was said Jesus came, was even more strictly bound than himself to put down the pretensions of one who would make himself out to be a king, which would have been high treason against the emperor, and rebellion against his own authority; but even he had found no plea for condemning Jesus; he had therefore, only insulted him, treating with mockery the very notion of his being a king; Pilate proposes to follow the same line of conduct-to chastise or scourge him, as he would have done a slave, and having thus publicly disgraced him, to let him go. The reason why
Pilate hoped this middle course would be successful, seems to be given by St. Mark.
"For he knew that for envy the chief priests had delivered him."
And surely their envy would be appeased, if only in compliance with a custom, he were released, beaten, and disgraced.
There was yet another reason why it was likely this middle course should succeed. It did not in any way affront the chief priests and scribes, nor set the Roman power in opposition to the Jewish law, which they declared required the condemnation of Jesus. That question might remain unsettled, and yet the prisoner might be set free, for as Pilate went on to say,
JOHN Xviii. 39. "Ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?"
LUKE Xxiii. 17. "For of necessity he must release unto then one prisoner."
(But it must also be) "whomsoever they desired."
Thus the choice was given them, and they rejected their Lord and Saviour, for, as the prophet had foretold above seven hundred years before "He was despised and rejected of men."
MARK XV. 7, 8. "And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude (reminded thus by the governor of their rights) crying aloud, began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them."
Matthew xxvii. 17. "Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ ?"
We can picture to ourselves this scene in the front of the Roman governor's palace, Pilate with the Roman legionaries