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John 19:12-16

12. From that time Pilate sought to release him; but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend: whoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. 13. When Pilate, therefore, had heard this saying, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment-seat, in a place which is called the Stone-pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14. And it was the preparation of the passover, about the sixth hour; and he saith to the Jews, Behold your King! 163163     Judge of the falsehood of your accusation, by the description of the man who, you say, has aspired to Royalty What do you find in so mean a person that breathes of tyranny or usurpation? Has he soldiers, or money, or birth? And what can you gain by putting to death a man who is incapable of doing the smallest injury? — Theophylact on the passage. 15. But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith to them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. 16. Then, therefore, he delivered him to them to be crucified; and they took Jesus, and led him away.

 

12. From that time Pilate sought to release him. Though Pilate does not conduct himself conscientiously, and is actuated more by ambition than by a regard to justice, and, on that account, is wretchedly irresolute, yet his modesty is commendable on this ground, that, when he is severely reproved by Christ, he does not fly into a passion, but, on the contrary, is still more disposed to release him. He is a judge, and yet he meekly permits the accused person to be his reprover; and, indeed, scarcely one person in a hundred will be found, who so mildly suffers a reproof, even from one who is his equal.

Thou art not Caesar’s friend. By threats they prevail on Pilate to condemn Christ; for they could do nothing that was more hateful, or more fitted to produce terror, than to hold him suspected of disloyalty to Caesar. “Thou showest,” say they, “that thou dost not care about Caesar’s authority, if thou acquit him who has endeavored to throw every thing into confusion.” This wickedness at length broke down the resolution of Pilate, who, till now, had only been shaken by their furious clamours. Nor is it without a good reason that the Evangelist so laboriously examines and details those circumstances; for it is of great importance to us to know, that Pilate did not condemn Christ, before he had several times acquitted him with his own mouth, in order that we may learn from it, that it was for our sins that he was condemned, and not on his own account. We may also learn from it, how voluntarily he offered himself to die, when he disdained to avail himself of the favorable disposition of the judge towards him; and, indeed, it was this obedience that caused his death to be a sacrifice of sweet savour, (Ephesians 5:2,) for blotting out all sins.

13. And sat down on the judgment-seat. Hence we see what conflicting opinions passed through the mind of Pilate, as if he had been a stage-player who was acting two characters. He ascends the judgment-seat, in order to pronounce sentence of death on Christ solemnly, and in the customary form; 164164     “Solennellement a la facon accoustumee.” and yet he declares openly, that he does so reluctantly and against his conscience. When he calls Christ king, he speaks ironically, meaning that it was a trivial charge which the Jews brought against him; or rather, for the purpose of allaying their fury, he warns them, that it would bring disgrace on the whole nation, if a report were spread abroad, that a person of that nation had been condemned to die for aspiring to kingly power.

In the place which is called the Stone-pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. When the Evangelist says, that גבתא (Gabbatha) was the name of the place in Hebrew he means the Chaldaic or Syriac language, which was then in common use; for in Hebrew, גבה(Gabach) means to be lofty. It was proper, therefore, that Christ should be condemned from a lofty place, that he, coming from heaven as the supreme Judge, may acquit us at the last day.

14. About the sixth hour. The Evangelists appear to differ, and even to contradict each other, in the computation of time. The other three Evangelists say that the darkness came on about the sixth hour, while Christ was hanging on the cross, (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44.) Mark, too says expressly that it was the third hour when the sentence was pronounced on him, (Mark 15:25.) But this may be easily explained. It is plain enough from other passages that the day was at that time divided into four parts, as the night also contained four watches; in consequence of which, the Evangelists sometimes allot not more than four hours to each day, and extend each hour to three, and, at the same time, reckon the space of an hour, which was drawing to a close, as belonging to the next part. According to this calculation, John relates that Christ was condemned about the sixth hour, because the time of the day was drawing towards the sixth hour, or towards the second part of the day. Hence we infer that Christ was crucified at or about the sixth hour; for, as the Evangelist afterwards mentions, (John 19:20,) the place was near to the city. The darkness began between the sixth and ninth hour, and lasted till the ninth hour, at which time Christ died.

15. We have no king but Caesar. This is a display of shocking madness, that the priests, who ought to have been well acquainted with the Law, reject Christ, in whom the salvation of the people was wholly contained, on whom all the promises depended, and on whom the whole of their religion was founded; and, indeed, by rejecting Christ, they deprive themselves of the grace of God and of every blessing. We see, then, what insanity had seized them. Let us suppose that Jesus Christ was not the Christ; 165165     “Que Jesus Christ ne fust point le Christ.” still they have no excuse for acknowledging no other king but Caesar. For, first, they revolt from the spiritual kingdom of God; and, secondly, they prefer the tyranny of the Roman Empire, which they greatly abhorred, to a just government, such as God had promised to them. Thus wicked men, in order to fly from Christ, not only deprive themselves of eternal life, but draw down on their heads every kind of miseries. On the other hand, the sole happiness of the godly is, to be subject to the royal authority of Christ, whether, according to the flesh, they are placed under a just and lawful government, under the oppression of tyrants.

16. Then, therefore, he delivered him to them to be crucified. Pilate was, no doubt constrained by their importunity to deliver Christ; and yet this was not done in a tumultuous manner, but he was solemnly condemned in the ordinary form, because there were also two robbers who, after having been tried, were at the same time condemned to be crucified. But John employs this expression, in order to make it more fully evident that Christ, though he had not been convicted of any crime, was given up to the insatiable cruelty of the people.


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