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CXXIX.

First Stage of the Roman Trial. Jesus Before Pilate for the First Time.

(Jerusalem. Early Friday Morning.)

A Matt. XXVII. 11–14; B Mark XV. 2–5; C Luke XXIII. 2–5; D John XVIII. 28–38.

d and they themselves entered not into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. [See p. 641.] 29 Pilate therefore went out unto them, and saith, What accusation bring ye against this man? 30 They answered and said unto him, If this man were not an evildoer, we should not have delivered him up unto thee. [The Jewish rulers first attempt to induce Pilate to accept their verdict and condemn Jesus upon it, and execute him without a trial. If they had succeeded in this, Jesus would have been put to death as a blasphemer. But as Pilate had insisted upon trying Jesus, and as blasphemy was not a capital offense under the Roman law, Jesus was condemned and executed as the King of the Jews.] 31 Pilate therefore said unto them, Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law. The Jews said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: 32 that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying by what manner 705of death he should die. [As the Jews insisted on their own verdict, Pilate bade them pronounce their own sentence, declining to mix jurisdictions by pronouncing a Roman sentence on a Sanhedrin verdict. But the Jews responded that it is not in their power to pronounce the sentence for which their verdict called, since they could not put to death. Jesus could only be sentenced to death by the Roman court, and crucifixion was the mode by which its death sentence was executed. Jesus had predicted all this in the simple statement that he should die by crucifixion (John xii. 33, 34), but he also gave the details of his trial—Matt. xx. 18, 19; Mark x. 33, 34.] c 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king. [The Jews now profess to change their verdict into a charge, they themselves becoming witnesses as to the truth of the matter charged. They say “We found,” thereby asserting that the things which they stated to Pilate were the things for which they had condemned Jesus. Their assertion was utterly false, for the three things which they now mentioned had formed no part whatever of the evidence against Jesus in their trial of him. The first charge, that Jesus was a perverter or seducer of the people, was extremely vague. The second, that he taught to withhold tribute from Cæsar, was a deliberate falsehood. See p. 599. The third, that he claimed to be king, was true, but this third charge, coupled with the other two, was intended to convey a sense which was maliciously false. Jesus was a spiritual King, and claimed to be such, and as such was no offender against the Roman government. But the rulers intended that Pilate should regard him as claiming to be a political king, which he had constantly refused to do—John vi. 15.] d 33 Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and called Jesus, a 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor [Jesus is called from the guards who have him in custody and stands alone before Pilate that the governor may investigate his case privately]: b 2 And Pilate a the governor 706asked him, d and said unto him, { a saying,} Art thou the King of the Jews? [The Gospels are unanimous in giving this question as the first words addressed by Pilate to Jesus. The question expresses surprise. There was nothing in the manner or attire of Jesus to suggest a royal claimant. The question was designed to draw Jesus out should he chance to be a fanatical or an unbalanced enthusiast.] And Jesus b answering saith { c answered him and said,} b unto him, Thou sayest. d Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee concerning me? [Using the Hebrew form of affirmative reply (see p. 698), Jesus admits that he is a king, but asks a question which forms the strongest negation that he is a king in the sense contained in the Jewish accusation. Had he been a king in that sense, Pilate would have been the one most likely to know it. The question also, by an indirect query as to the accuser, reveals to Pilate's mind that no Roman had accused him. He was accused of the Jews, and when he had that restless, rebellious people ever found fault with a man who sought to free them from the galling Roman yoke?] 35 Pilate answered,; Am I a Jew? [The strong, practical mind of the Roman at once caught the drift of Christ's question, and perceived that the title “King of the Jews” had in it a double meaning, so that it might be construed in some unpolitical sense. What this sense was he could not tell, for he was not a Jew. The mysteries of that nation were of no interest to him save where his office compelled him to understand them.] Thine own nation and the chief priests delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? [Pilate concedes that the accusation against Jesus comes from an unexpected and suspicious source, and he asks Jesus to tell him plainly by what means he had incurred the enmity of the leaders of his people.] 36 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 is my kingdom not from hence. [Jesus answers Pilate's question indirectly. He had done something to incur 707the enmity of the rulers, and that was to have authority with and exercise influence over the people (John xii. 19). They objected to his kingly claims (Matt. xxi. 15, 16; Luke xix. 38, 39), but Jesus shows Pilate that these kingly claims, however distasteful to the Jews, were no offense to or menace against the authority of Rome. Further than this, Jesus did not define his kingdom, for Pilate had no concern in it beyond this. It was sufficient to inform him that it made no use of physical power even for purposes of defense. Such a kingdom could cause no trouble to Rome, and the bare fact stated by Jesus proved that it was indeed such a kingdom.] 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. [See p. 698.] To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. [Jesus here enlightens Pilate as to the nature of his kingdom. He, the King, was the incarnation of truth, and all those who derive the inspiration of their life from truth were his subjects. For the purpose of thus bearing witness to and revealing truth Jesus had been born, thus entering a new state of being, and he had come into the world in this changed condition, thus entering a new sphere of action. The words clearly imply the pre-existence of Christ and no doubt aroused that state of uneasiness or fear which was increased by the words of the Jewish rulers—John xix. 7, 8 .] 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? [This question has been regarded as an earnest inquiry (Chrysostom), the inquiry of one who despaired (Olshausen), a scoffing question (Alford), etc. But it is evident that Pilate asked it intending to investigate the case of Jesus further, but, suddenly concluding that he already knew enough to answer his purpose as a judge, he stifles his curiosity as a human being and proceeds with the trial of Jesus, leaving the question unanswered.] And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, c unto the chief priests and the multitudes, I find no fault in this man. d no crime in 708him. [The pronoun “I” is emphatic; as if Pilate said, “You, prejudiced fanatics, demand his death, but I, the calm judge, pronounce him innocent.”] b 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. a 12 And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. [When Pilate left the Prætorium to speak with the Jewish rulers, it is evident that Jesus was led out with him, and so stood there in the presence of his accusers.] b 4 And a 13 Then b Pilate again asked him, { a saith unto him,} b saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they accuse thee of. a Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? b 5 But Jesus no more answered anything; a 14 And he gave him no answer, not even to one word: b insomuch that Pilate a the governor b marvelled. a greatly. [Pilate was irritated that Jesus did not speak in his own defense. He had already seen enough of our Lord's wisdom to assure him that it would be an easy matter for him to expose the malicious emptiness of these charges—charges which Pilate himself knew to be false, but about which he had to keep silent, for, being judge, he could not become our Lord's advocate. Our Lord's silence was a matter of prophecy (Isa. liii. 7). Jesus kept still because to have successfully defended himself would have been to frustrate the purpose for which he came into the world—John xii. 23–28.] c 5 But they were the more urgent, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judaea, and beginning from Galilee even unto this place. [The Jews cling to their general accusation of sedition, and seek to make the largeness of the territory where Jesus operated overshadow and conceal the smallness of their testimony as to what his operations were.] 709

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