صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
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curiosity of a tyrant, nor so much as answer one of his questions, though he proposed many to him. Herod, finding himself thas disappointed, ordered Christ to be clothed with an old robe, in colour like those which kings used to wear, and permitted his attendants to insult him, and to ridicule his pretensions to the dignity of Messiah. He would not, however, condemn him, being, perhaps, unwilling to increase the remorse which he already felt on account of the murder of the Baptist. And the same day Herod and Pilate were made friends together; for before this they were at enmity between themselves.

As at former passovers, the governor had obliged the people by releasing any one prisoner whom they pleased from confinement, the crowd which was gathered together began now to desire that they might again experience this favour. There was then in custody a notorious villain, whose name was Barabbas, one who had excited a sedition, in the course of which he had committed murder. Pilate, glad of this opportunity, told the multitude that he was ready to comply with the established custom, and would therefore release either Jesus or Barabbas; but as the former had not had even the charge of murder brought against him, he wished rather that he might be the object of mercy. Pilate is said to have done this, because he had been informed by some of the friends of our Lord that the chief priests had delivered him from motives of envy. While these things were doing, the governor received a message from his wife, who happened to be with him in Jerusalem, and who had had a dream that morning about Jesus, which gave her so great uneasiness, that she could have no rest till she sent an account of it to her husband. The people had not yet said whether they would have Jesus or Barabbas released to them. Therefore, when Pilate received his wife's message, he called the chief priests and the rulers together and, in the hearing of the multitude, made a speech to them, wherein he gave an account of the examination which Jesus had undergone at his tribunal, and at Herod's; and declared that, in both courts, the trial had turned out honourably to his character. Wherefore, he proposed to them that he should be the object of the peoples' favour, after having received some chastisement, which might save his prosecutors from the disgrace of having conducted a frivolous and vexatious suit. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. And they cried out all at once, saying, away with this man, lead him to immediate crucifixion, and release unto us Barabbas. Pilate having again pressed them to prefer Jesus to sc abandoned a villain, they began to cry out the more exceedingly, crucify him, crucify him. Finding it, therefore, in vain to struggle with them any longer, he called for a bason of water, and washed his hands before the multitude, crying out at the same time, that the prisoner was a just man, and that he was innocent of his blood. Whether this was done in conformity to Jewish or heathen customs, it was a striking appeal both to the senses and consciences of the multitude; and they acknowledged it to be such, by replying, his blood be upon us and on our children-an imprecation, the weight of which lies heavy on the Jewish nation to this day, and has been awfully fulfilled in a long succession of dreadful calamities. The governor, finding by the sound of the cry that it was general, and that the people were fixed in their determination, passed the sentence which they desired.

The Romans usually scourged the criminals whom they condemned to be crucified; with this custom Pilate complied, and his orders were executed with rigour, and probably in the presence of the Jews.

The soldiers having received orders to crucify Jesus, carried him into the prætorium after they had scourged him. Here they added the shame of disgrace to the bitterness of his punishment; for, sore as he was, by reason of the stripes they had laid on him.

they dressed him as a fool in an old purple robe, in derision of his being king of. the Jews. Then they put a reed into his hand instead of a sceptre; and, having made a wreath of thorns, they put it on his head for a crown, forcing it down in such a rude manner, that his temples were torn, and his face besmeared with blood. To the Son of God, in this condition, the rude soldiers bowed the knee, pretending respect; but, at the same time, gave him severe blows, which drove the prickles of the wreath afresh into his temples, then spit upon him, to express the highest contempt of him. The sight of the sufferings of Jesus so far excited the compassion of Pilate, that he determined to make another effort to procure his liberation. With this view, therefore, he resolved to carry him out, a spectacle which might have softened the most envenomed, obdurate, curaged enemies. And that the impression might be the stronger, he went out himself and spake to them. [John xix. 4.] Pilate, therefore, went forth again, and saith unto them, behold, I bring him forth to you that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Though I have sentenced him to die, and have scourged him that is to be crucified, I bring him forth to you this once, that L may testify to you again how fully I am persuaded of his innocence; and that ye may yet have an opportunity to save his life. Upon this, Jesus appeared upon the pavement, having his face, hair, and shoulders, all covered with blood, and the purple robe bedawbed with spittle. But that the sight of Jesus in this distress might make the greater impression upon the multitude, Pilate, while he was coming forward, cried, Behold the man! as if he said, will nothing make you relent? have you no bowels, no feelings of pity? can you bear to see the innocent thus injured? Perhaps, also, the soldiers were allowed to mock and buffet him anew on the pavement before the multitude for though the Jews would not take pity on Jesus as a person urjustly condemned, yet, when they saw one of their countrymen insulted by heathens, it was natural for the governor to think, that their national pride being provoked, they would have demanded his release out of spite. But all was to no purpose. The priests, whose rage and malice had extinguished, not only the sentiments of justice and feelings of pity natural to the human heart, but that love which countrymen bear to one another, no sooner saw Jesus, than they began to fear the fickle populace might relent. And, therefore, laying decency aside, they led the way to the mob, crying out with all their night, crucify him! crucify him! The governor, vexed to find the grandees thus obstinately bent on the destruction of an innocent person, fell into a passion, and told them plainly, that if they would have him crucified, they must do it themselves, because he would not suffer his people to murder a man who was guilty of no crime. But they refused this also, thinking it dishonourable to receive permission to punish one whom his judge considered as undeservedly condemned; and perhaps, thinking that Pilate might afterwards accuse them of sedition, for executing a sentence themselves which they had extorted from the governor by the vehemence of their clamour. Wherefore, they told him, that as Jesus had spoken blasphemy a calling himself the Son of God, they had a law handed down to them by their ancestors, and originally received from God, by which such offenders were adjudged

to death.

When Pilate heard that Jesus called himself the Son of God, he was more perplexed than ever, beginning to apprehend, from the comparison of this declaration with the reports he had frequently received, that he might really be some demigod, or some deity in human shape, such as his religion taught him had, in many instances, appeared. He therefore resolved to proceed cautiously; and, going again into the judgment hall, saith unto Jesus, whence art thou? art thou a mortal man, or the offspring of the immortal gods? But Jesus gave him no answer, lest Pilate should

reverse his sentence, and thus frustrate the great end of his incarnation. Then Pilate saith 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 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. Being sensible that you are Cæsar's servant, and accountable to him for your management, I forgive you any injury which, contrary to your inclination, the popular fury constrains you to do unto me. Thou hast thy power from above, from the emperor.; for which cause, the Jewish high-priest, who hath delivered me into thy hands, and by pretending that I am Cæsar's enemy, obliged thee to condemn me; or, if thou refusest, will accuse thee as negligent of the emperor's interest; he is more to blame than thou. This sweet and modest answer made such an impression on Pilate, that he went out to the people, and declared his resolution of releasing Jesus, whether they would or no. Finding the governor's determination, they told him, with a threatening air, that by thus releasing one who had endeavoured to excite rebeliion, he would shew himself unfaithful to the interests of Cæsar, and therefore give them an opportunity of accusing him at Rome. This argument was weighty, and shook the resolution of Pilate to the ground. He was terrified at the very thought of being accused to Tiberias, who, in matters of government, always suspected the worst, and was ready to punish every default with death. Being thus constrained to yield, he was angry with the priests for agitating the people, and resolved to affront them. He, therefore, brought forth Jesus a second time unto the pavement, wearing the purple robe and crown of thorns; and, pointing to him. said, Behold your king! either in ridicule of the national expectation, or to shew how vain the fears were which they pretended to entertain about the emperor's authority in Judea; the person who was the occasion of them being wholly unambitious, aud suffering with the greatest resignation. 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; thus renouncing their allegiance to God, giving up their hope of the Messiah, excluding themselves from every peculiar claim to divine protection, and bringing down upon their heads those awful judgments which have pursued them from that time to the present.

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The unwillingness of the governor to pass sentence upon Jesus has something in it very remarkable, as being totally opposite to his general character. To what then could it be owing, that so wicked a man thus steadily adhered to the cause of justice, and defended Christ with an uncommon bravery, till he was vanquished by the threatenings of the grandees? And when he did yield, taking from our Lord his life, how came he to leave him his innocence? Certainly this can be attributed to no meaner cause than the direction of the providence of God, who intended that, while his Son was condemned and executed as a malefactor, his innocence should be announced in the most public manner, and vindicated by the most authentic evidence..

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The governor, having now laid aside all thoughts of saving Jesus, gave him up to. the will of his enemies, and commanded the soldiers to prepare for his execution. The soldiers obeyed, and led Jesus away, after they had clothed him in his own garments. It is not said that they took the crown of thorns off his head; probably, he died wearing it, that the title which was written over him might be the better understood. According to custom, Jesus walked to the place of execution bearing his cross, that is, the transverse beam to which he was to be nailed, the other being at the place already. But the fatigue of the preceding night spent without sleep, the sufferings he had undergone in the garden, his having been hurried from place to place, and obliged to stand the whole time of his trials, the want of food, and loss of blood which he had sus

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tained, and not his want of courage on this occasion, concurred to make him so faint, that he was not long able to hear his cross. The soldiers, therefore, laid it on one Simon, a native of Cyrene in Egypt, the father of Alexander and Rufus, two noted men among the first Christians at the time Mark wrote his gospel, and forced him to bear it after Jesus. This they did, however, not out of compassion to Jesus, but for fear he had died with fatigue, and by that means have eluded his punish


As Jesus went along, he was followed by a great crowd, particularly of women, who sighed, shed tears, beat their breasts, and bitterly lamented the severity of his lot. Jesus, who ever felt the woes of others more than he did his own, forgetting his distress at the very time that it lay heaviest upon him, turned about, and, with a benevolence and tenderness truly divine, said to them, daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never Dare, and the paps that never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, full on us; and to the hills, cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If the Romans are permitted by heaven to inflict such heavy punishments on me, who am innocent, how dreadful must the vengeance be which they shall inflict on the nation whose sins cry aloud to heaven, hastening the pace of the divine judgments, and rendering the perpetrators as fit for punishment as dry wood is for burning.

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And there were also two other malefactors, or rather, "two others, who were malefactors, were" led with him to be put to death. [Mat. xxvii. 33.] And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, the place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall, (Mark, they gave him wine mingled with myrrh,) and when he had tasted thereof he would not drink. When Jesus refused the potion, the soldiers, according to custom, stripped him quite naked, and, in that condition, began to fasten him to the tree. But while they were piercing his hands and his feet with the nails, instead of crying out through the acuteness of his pain, he calmly, though fervently, prayed for them, and for all who had any hand in his death, beseeching God to forgive them, and excusing them by the only circumstance that could alleviate their guilt.... their ignorance. This was infinite meekness and goodness, truly worthy of God's only begotten Son; an example of forgiveness, which, though it never can be equalled by any, is fit to be imitated by all. Thus was the only begotten Son of God, who came down to save the world, crucified by his own creatures. Hear, O heavens! O earth, earth, earth, hear! The Lord hath nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against him.

As usual, the governor put up a title, or writing, on the cross, signifying the crime for which Jesus was condemned. This writing was in black characters on a whitened board; and in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, that foreigners, as well as natives, might be able to read it. All the evangelists have given an account of the title; but the words of it are different in each, which may seem strange, considering that it is an inscription they have undertaken to relate, the propriety whereof lieth in the precise words. But the difference may easily have arisen from the languages in which the title was wrote; for one of the evangelists may have transcribed the words of the Greek inscription; a second might translate the Hebrew; a third, the Latin; and a fourth may have given a different translation of the Hebrew or Latin. Thus the inscription of the title they be exactly given by each of the evangelists, though the words they have mentioned be different, especially as they all the meaning of it: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. When the


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