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which was outside the gate of the court, and just above the judgment-seat. From this all the people could see Him. But Pilate entered it first alone, and addressing the multitude to secure their attention,
John xix. 4, 5. “Pilate saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth unto you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!”
The stern Roman who had grown up amidst the din of battle, who from his youth had been familiar with deeds of violence and cruelty,* was so moved by the sight of heavenly dignity in deepest humiliation, Jesus in His crown of thorns, that his feelings could find no vent but in those few words, “Behold the man!” but those whose lives had been spent among holy things, whose learning had been all employed in explaining those very prophecies which should have taught them to fall down and worship their thorn-crowucd King, when they beheld him, “ a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” the blood trickling from His sacred brows, so that his visage was so marred more than any man:
and His form “ bruised and wounded more than the sons of men,” filled with mad fury they shouted out aloud,
Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” O God ! how great ! how fearful! is the danger of religious privileges unimproved, of scriptural knowledge misapplied, and how readily may we fall into it, in this Christian land, where the Bible is in every house, and the language of religion ever sounding around us ! Grant unto us the teaching of Thy Holy Spirit, by which only we can truly learn.
Verse 6.“ When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out saying, Crucify him, crucify him. (Pilate in deep disgust replied,) Take ye him and crucify
him; for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid ;
The depths of Pilate's mind had already been disturbed, and the cries of the Jews that by their law Jesus had committed a crime worthy of death, in that he had made himself the Son of God, filled him with fear that he might indeed be so. Pilate could not have governed Israel for so long a time, dwelling near the Temple, and engaged as he had been in a perpetual struggle with the chiefs of the nation on the very subject of the respect due to the awful name of Israel's God, who claimed to be the God of the whole earth,* without comprehending that it was no light matter for Jesus to make himself the Son of Israel's God. “Therefore when he heard it, he was the more afraid.” This was perhaps the cause why he had felt so deeply moved by the presence of Jesus ! Once more he would speak with this awful prisoner alone, and with him he withdrew. Verse 9.
And went again into the judgment-hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou ? But Jesus gave him no answer.”
How solemn 'must this silence have appeared! It was to Pilate an alarming answer, for he already knew that according to the notions of men, Jesus was from Galilee ; his question therefore had a deeper meaning, and shewed that his mind had travelled on far beyond its state of feeling at the time so lately passed, when, having heard that he was a Galilæan, he had sent him to Herod. Why
Why was the Saviour silent ? The few words he afterwards spoke seem to tell us that he pitied the struggle of the amazed and anxious Roman; and that he felt for him, knowing all his thoughts.
See Josephus. VOL. IV.
The heart of Pilate was open before Him. He saw his weak
He saw that the fear of man, and the love of power and place—all that is meant by “the world,” was so strong within him that he would not yield to his awakening conscience, therefore He would not add to his guilt by deepening the impression already made upon him. Yet had Pilate, heathen as he was, followed the ray of light that struggled to pierce the darkness of his mind, we cannot doubt but that more would have been given him; but the bonds of worldliness held bim fast, therefore to his question-Whence art thou ?—Jesus gave no reply.
He tried then to oblige him to answer, by reminding him of the power
he had over him. Verses 10, 11. " Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldst 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 spoke of his power, and is taught by his prisoner that he could have no power at all against him, unless the great God above, whom he knew not, had so willed it. How full of pitying mercy the observation, which must afterwards have been remembered by the unhappy Pilate," therefore he that delivered me unto thee," the traitor Judas, the proud-hearted High Priests, each Elder and Priest who had conspired against the holy one of God, —"hath the greater sin;" for each of them well knew God's holy word, and could find in it no warrant for their doings. Thus with calm majesty, the bleeding, thorncrowned Messiah speaks to Pilate, as his judge, and seems to hold out to him a hope of pardon.
It is clear that the Roman Governor felt more than he could himself understand; for reckless of human life as from the history of the times we know him to have been, he yet could not yield this prisoner's life to those who thirsted for his blood, without one struggle more. It is written
Verse 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.”
These fatal words reduced Pilate to despair. Well he knew that the whole scene would be reported to the Emperor, and that with him these words would be enough. Tiberius, the then Emperor of Rome, was a cruel and unjust tyrant, and Pilate felt that not only his fortunes, but his life was in danger if any man could say of him that he was unfaithful to the Emperor, and had pardoned one who spoke against him, and rebelled against him. This was a much more dangerous accusation than any that had gone before. Pilate did not believe it, but he seems to have been for a moment, as it were, stunned by
Verses 13, 14. “ When Pilate therefore heard that say. ing, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgmentseat 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 :" Here was indeed the Paschal Lamb prepared !
* The Romans delighted in ornamented pavements, inlaid with different coloured marbles. Many of their Governors and Generals carried large pieces of such pavements from place to place with them, to be laid down before their tribunals. Perhaps, when Pilate seated himself in the judgment-seat, in that particular place which was called Gabbatha-or the Pavement-it was a sign that he was at last about to pass sentence.
From time to time the remains of such pavements are discovered in this country ; reminding us of the long-past time when the Romans ruled over this country also.
Verse 15. “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."
This was enough, the struggle was ended; but Pilate following the customs of the East, by a significant sign, made in presence of all the people, a public protest, that the sentence against Christ was wrung from him against his will,—that he, His judge, did not believe Him guilty, and that he only yielded to the popular cry because they had (though falsely) set up Jesus as in opposition to the Emperor, and forced him as it were to choose between Him and his Sovereign.
MATTHEW xxvii. 24, 25. 6. 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 said all the people, His blood be on us, and on our children.” Unhappy Pilate! miserable Jews !
What water could clear thee of thy guilt, thou unjust judge, who doomed to a death of shame Him whose innocence thou didst to the last maintain ? Never shall the thought of Him leave thee more—vainly hast thou sacrificed thy sense of right, and stifled the cry of thine awakened conscience. That which thou fearest shall come upon thee. Ruined, disgraced, and banished, thou shalt spend thy latest hour in pondering over thine own questions to the Lord of heaven and earth, once a prisoner in thy hands.* Happy shall it be for thee if His
* That Pilate was some time after this disgraced, and banished by the Roman Emperor, is well known from history; and tradition declares that he spent the remainder of his days bewailing his crime. By some accounts, he gave himself