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But he refusing to act singly in the affair, Christ was conducted to the palace of the high-priest Caiaphas, where he found the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes, assembled together.
The apostles, no doubt, were in great consternation when their Master was apprehended, as appears from their having forsaken him and fled. Some of them, however, recovering out of the panic that had seized them, followed the band at a distance, to see what the end would be. Of this number was Peter, and another disciple, whom John has mentioned without giving his name, and who is therefore supposed to have been John himself. This disciple, whoever he was, being acquainted at the high-priest's, got admittance, first for himself, then for Peter, who had come along with him. But the maid who kept the door, concluding that Peter was a disciple also, followed him, after a little while, to the fire, which was kindled in the midst of the hall; and, looking earnestly at him, charged him with being a disciple of Jesus. Her blunt attack threw Peter into such confusion, that he flatly denied having had any acquaintance with Jesus of Galilee. Thus the apostle, who had formerly acknowledged his Master to be Messiah, who was honoured with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and who had most confidently boasted that he would not forsake him in the greatest dangers, became guilty, in the hour of trial, of the most despicable cowardice. After having stood a little while longer at the fire, he went out into the porch, hoping, probably, to conceal his confusion, and there heard the cock crow for the first time. He had not long, however, remained in the porch, before he met with another servant, or servants, who again charging him with being a disciple, he replied, man, I am not. As Matthew and Mark both mention a maid as being the person who, on this second occasion, nonplussed Peter, it is probable, though the greek word translated man will apply to either sex, that both a male and a female servant attacked him on this present occasion. Torn by a variety of different passions, and finding that not even the porch would afford him concealment, he again returned to the fire, resolving, if possible, to wait the result. Here, however, he met with a kinsman of Malchus, who vehemently charged him with being a member of the Galilean faction. Being now filled with a greater panic than ever, he not only resolutely denied the fact, but, to give the better colour to the lie, he invoked the eternal God as a witness, and imprecated the most deadly curses on his head, if he had the slightest acquaintance with Jesus of Nazareth. This was, however, the utmost limit at which the wickedness of Peter was suffered to arrive; for he had no sooner denied his Master the third time, than the cock again crew; and, probably, either awakened in him the first convictions of his sin, or, at least, made him look to his Master, in order to sec if he was taking notice of what had happened: but at the same instant, Jesus, turning about, fixed his eyes on his cowardly disciple. The look pierced him; and, with the crowing of the cock, brought his Master's prediction afresh into his mind. stung with deep remorse; and being unable to contain himself, he covered his face with his garment, went out, and wept bitterly. The whole of this transaction brings. into our view the weakness of human resolutions, the danger of self-confidence, the forgiving mercy of Jesus, and the powerful influence of his love in subduing the most rebellious passions of the heart.
Luke here introduces the account of the "cruel mockings which our Lord Jesus endured in the palace of the high-priest, though it was not quite certain whether this took place before or after his examination. And the men that held Jesus mocked him and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, prophecy, i. e. inform us by thy pretended supernatural knowledge,
who is he that smote thec? And many other things blasphemously spake they against
At length, after a delay of several hours, occasioned, probably, by the absence of some members of the council, the court being duly constituted, and the prisoner placed at the bar, the trial began about break of day. The high-priest commenced his proceedings by inquiring concerning his disciples and his doctrine; why he had collected the one, and what were the peculiar characteristics of the other. All this was done to draw from him, if possible, an explicit declaration, whether or not he was the Messiah; that if he acknowledged he was not, he might be punished for accepting the honours that were due only to that illustrious character; and that if he laid claim to the title, he might be condemned as a blasphemer. Justly deeming that every attempt to make a prisoner condemn himself was unjust, our Lord called upon them to prove their accusation by witnesses, alleging that if it were well founded, this might easily be done, as he had constantly taught in the temple. An officer that stood by, hearing him give such an answer to the high-priest, smote him with the palm of the hand, as one that did not sufficiently reverence the sacerdotal dignity. Christ replied, if I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, by shewing wherein it consists; but if well, why smitest thou me?
When the council found that Jesus would not thus furnish them with an opportunity to condemu him, they sought false witness against him, that they might put him to death. For a long time they were unsuccessful, as the testimonies of those who came forward would not agree with each other. At length, there came two false witnesses, who asserted that this fellow, as they vilely denominated our Lord, said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, this temple that is made with hands, and to build in three days another temple made without hands. They did not exactly agree even in this testimony; but the judges before whom they spoke gladly accepted their evidence, being before determined to crucify the Lord of Glory. The accusation which was now preferred was a mis-statement and misinterpretation of what Christ said when he had purged the temple at the first passover. Destroy this temple, pointing, probably, to his body, and I will raise it up in three days. The variations in the statement were principally these two, that Christ never said that he would destroy this temple, but that when the Jews destroyed it, he would rebuild it in three days; and that he spoke concerning the temple of his body, and not the temple of Jerusalem. To this accusation our Lord, when called upon by the high-priest, made no reply, upon which the council desired him to tell them plainly whether he was the Christ. He answered, if I tell you ye will not believe, and if I also ask you, i. e. propose the proofs of my mission, and require you to give your opinion of them, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. The high-priest, therefore, to cut the trial short, and ensnare Jesus, obliged him, upon oath, to tell whether or no he was the Christ. And Jesus, who could no longer refuse to answer, said, I am. Nevertheless, or as it ought rather to be rendered, moreover, I say unto you, though I have here appeared clothed in the weakness of humanity, hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven to judge the nations of the earth. Then said they all, a number of them crying out together, as in great astonishment at his blasphemy, art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, ye say that I am, which, in the Jewish mode of speaking, was a strong affirmation. When the highpriest heard our Lord's second reply, he solemnly rent his clothes, which he was not allowed to do in cases of common grief, crying out that he had spoken blasphemy, and appealing to the council that they needed no further witness. With this the coun cil fully agreed, and immediately condemned him as deserving of death.
Then did Christ suffer a severe and cruel buffetting, similar to, if not the same as, that which we have already described. Thus, as it is excellently observed, was the judge of the world placed at the bar of his own creatures, falsely accused by the witnesses, unjustly condemned by his judges, and barbarously insulted by all. Yet because it was agreeable to the end of his coming, he patiently submitted, though ho could, with a frown, have made his judges, his accusers, and those who had him in custody, all to drop down dead in a moment, or shrivel into nothing.
The priests and elders having thus condemned Jesus, consulted together again, and resolved to carry him before the governor loaded with chains, that he, likewise, might give sentence upon him. It happened very conveniently for their purpose that the governor was now at Jerusalem, on account of the concourse of people that assembled at the feast, as otherwise they must have gone to Cesarea with him, as it was there the chief magistrate usually resided; and they had not the power themselves of executing any sentence which concerned life and death. It was now early in the morning, and they themselves did not enter into the judgment hall, lest they should receive any pollution that might disqualify them for eating the passover.
In the mean time, Judas Iscariot, finding his project turn out quite otherwise than he expected, was pierced with the deepest remorse on account of what he had done: Therefore, to make some reparation for the injury, he came and confessed his sin openly before the chief priests, scribes, and elders; and, as the most decisive testimony he could give of his Master's innocence, and of his own repentance, desired them to take back the wages of his iniquity. They would not, however, either reverse their sentence, or receive the money; so that, stung with the most bitter recollection of his guilt, he cast down the thirty pieces of silver, and went and hauged himself. Comparing the account of the evangelist Matthew with that of the apostle Peter, in the first chapter of Acts, it is highly probable, that he chose for his desperate purpose a tree which grew on the brink of a precipice; and that either the branch of the tree, or the rope with which he was suspended, giving way, he fell down, and, with the violence of the fall, burst asunder, and his bowels gushed out. Thus perished Judas Iscariot, a miserable example of the fatal influence of covetousness, and a standing monument of the divine vengeance; fit to deter succeeding generations from acting contrary to conscience through the love of the world, for which this wretch betrayed his Master, and cast away his soul. The thirty pieces of silver were appropriated, by the priests, to buy the potters' field, as a place of interment for strangers. place of interment for strangers. This transaction fulfilled a prophecy which is found in Zechariah, (though by an easy mistake of a transcriber, in consequence of their contracted manner of writing proper names in greck, it is said to be spoken by Jeremy,) saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value, and gave them for the potters' field, as the Lord appointed me." The historiaus mentioning the purchase of the potters' field with the money for which Judas betrayed his Master, being a public appeal to a very public transaction, puts the truth of this part of the history beyond all manner of exception.
Jesus being carried into the palace, and the priests, with the multitude, having taken their station without, Pilate began by asking them what accusation they had to offer against the prisoner. They, either wishing to extol their own regard to justice, and their extreme unwillingness to punish any of their countrymen, or else to insinuate that the governor had conceived an improper partiality for him, answered, if he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, take ye him, and judge him according to your law, since it is not likely that he has committed any greater crime than the laws of Cæsar permit you to punish.
But the priests peremptorily refused this proposal, because it condemned the whole of their procedure; and told him that it was not lawful for them to put any man to death; by which they insinuated that the prisoner was guilty of a capital crime, that he deserved the highest punishment, and that none but the governor himself could give judgment in the cause. The evangelist observes, that the Jews were directed thus to speak and act, that there might be an accomplishment of the divine counsels concerning the manner of our Lord's death, of which counsels Jesus himself had given frequent intimations in the course of his ministry.
Pilate being obliged to proceed to the trial, the Jews began, and accused Jesus of perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, resting their accusation upon this, that he gave himself out to be Christ, a king. himself out to be Christ, a king. Then Pilate entered the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and enquired of him whether this charge was just. Jesus answered him, dost thou ask this question of thy own accord, because thou thinkest that I have affected regal power? or dost thou ask it according to the information of the priests, who affirm that I have acknowledged myself to be a king? Pilate answered, am I a Jew? and consequently acquainted with your opinions and practices? Thine own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee unto me as a seditious person; what hast thou done to merit this charge? Jesus answered, my kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now it is evident that my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate, therefore, said unto him, art thou a king then? Jesus answered, in the Hebrew style of affirmation, thou sayest that I am a king; and though I am now pleading at the peril of my life, I will not deny the charge; for to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. My disciples are instructed in the like doctrine; for every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. This is what Paul calls the good confession which he tells Timothy Jesus witnessed before Pontius Pilate. Christ's assuming the title of king does not appear, when thus explained, to have offended Pilate, who, probably, compared him to the wise man represented by the Stoics as having arrived at the royal dignity by the complete government of his passions and desires; he therefore only asked, what is this truth you profess to teach? and, without waiting for an answer, went out again to the Jews, and saith unto them, I do not find the least fault in the man you have thus bitterly accused; he appears to me, on the contrary, to be a very harmless and unoffending character.
Neither disconcerted nor abashed by this declaration of Pilate, the priests persisted in their accusations with more vehemence than before, affirming that he had attempted to raise a sedition in Galilee. They artfully mentioned Galilee to inflame Pilate, who, they knew, was prejudiced against the people of that country. To this heavy charge Jesus made no answer at all. Nay, he continued mute, notwithstanding the governor expressly required him to speak in his own defence. A conduct so extraordinary in such circumstances astonished Pilate exceedingly; for he was ignorant of the divine counsels, which were then hastening to an accomplishment.
In the mean time, desirous to get rid of the affair, wishing to conciliate the respect of Herod, and believing that prince to be the best judge concerning an affair which is said to have happened within his province, he sent Jesus to him immediately, as he happened then to be at Jerusalem. The king, who had for a long time desired to see Jesus, rejoiced at this opportunity; for he hoped to have had the pleasure of seeing him work some miracle or other. Nevertheless, because Herod had apostatized from the doctrine of John the Baptist, and had put his teacher to death, Jesus, liberal as he was of his miracles to the poor and afflicted, would not work them to gratify the