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Jesus before Pilate

23

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”

Jesus before Herod

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Jesus Sentenced to Death

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19(This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[

34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]]
And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Death of Jesus

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.


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Luke 22:51. And having touched his ear, he healed him. By his foolish zeal Peter had brought grievous reproach on his Master and his doctrine; and there can be no doubt, that this was a contrivance by which Satan attempted to involve the Gospel in eternal disgrace, as if Christ had kept company with assassins and seditious persons for revolutionary purposes. This, I think, was the reason why Christ healed the wound which Peter had inflicted. But a fearful and amazing stupidity must have seized his adversaries, who were not at all affected by having seen such a miracle. And yet there is the less reason to wonder that they did not see the power of Christ displayed in the person of another, when, after having themselves been laid prostrate by his voice, they still continued to rage, (John 18:6.) Such is the spirit of giddiness by which Satan maddens the reprobate, when the Lord has given them over to blindness. Above all, in the person himself who was healed, there is a striking instance of ingratitude; for neither did the divine power of Christ subdue him to repentance for his hardness, nor was he overcome by kindness so as to be changed from an enemy into a disciple. For it is a foolish imagination of the monks that he was also healed in his soul, that the work of Christ might not be left incomplete; as if the goodness of God were not every day poured out on those who are unworthy.

Luke 23:4. And Pilate said to the chief priests and scribes. As Christ was come to bear the punishment of our sins, it was proper that he should first be condemned by the mouth of his judge, that it might afterwards be evident that he was condemned for the sake of others, and not for his own. But as Pilate, from a dread of exciting a tumult, did not venture absolutely to acquit him, he willingly availed himself of the opportunity which presented itself, of submitting him to the jurisdiction of Herod. This Herod was he who bears the surname of Antipas to whom was left the tetrarchy of Galilee, when Archelaus was a prisoner at Vienna, and when Judea had been annexed to the province of Syria. Now though we shall shortly afterwards find Luke relating that this mark of respect pacified Herod, who had formerly been enraged against Pilate, still his design was not so much to obtain Herod’s favor, as to get quit of a disagreeable affair under an honorable excuse, and thus to avoid the necessity of condemning Christ.

8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad. Hence it is evident how greatly wicked men are intoxicated, or rather bewitched, by their own pride; for though Herod did not acknowledge Christ to be the Son of God, he at least reckoned him to be a prophet. It was therefore most unreasonable cruelty to take pleasure in seeing him treated with contempt and disdain. But as if an injury had been done to him, so long as he had not obtained a sight of Christ, when he now sees him placed in his power, he triumphs as if he had obtained a victory. We see also what kind of love is cherished by wicked and irreligious men for prophets, in whom the power of God shines brightly. Herod had long wished to see Christ. Why then did he not wish to hear him, that he might profit by his doctrine? It was because he chose rather to amuse himself in beholding the divine power, than to view it, as he ought to have done, with devout and humble reverence. And this is the disposition of the flesh, so to desire to see God in his works, as not to submit to his authority; so to desire to see his servants, as to refuse to hear him speaking by them. And even Herod, though he hoped that some miracle would be performed by Christ, chose to have him placed at his feet as a malefactor rather than to receive him as a teacher. We need not wonder, therefore, if God conceal his glory from wicked men, who wished that he should contribute to their amusement, like some stage-player.

11. And Herod despised him. It was impossible but that a haughty man, who valued himself on his luxuries and royal dignity and wealth, should despise Christ, who had at that time nothing but what was contemptible in his appearance. And yet the pride of Herod, which shut the door on the grace of God, admits of no excuse. Nor can it be doubted that God, in order to punish him for his former indifference, purposely hardened his heart by such a spectacle; for he was unworthy of beholding in Christ any ray of heavenly glory; since he had so long shut his eyes on the full brightness, by which his whole country had been illuminated and adorned Herod, with his attendants. Luke relates not only that Christ was despised by Herod, but that he was despised by the whole of his retinue; and this is intended to inform us, that the honor which is due to God is seldom rendered to him in the courts of kings. For almost all courtiers, being addicted to pompous display, have their senses pre-occupied by so great vanity, that they carelessly despise, or pass by with closed eyes, the spiritual favors of God. But by this contempt of Christ we have acquired new dignity, so that we are now held in estimation by God and by angels.

12. Pilate and Herod became friends. From the fact that Christ was the occasion of reconciling two wicked men, let us learn how much the children of God, and religion itself, are disdained by the world. It is probable that, in consequence of their own ambition by which both were actuated, some dispute arose about their jurisdiction. But whatever may have been the origin of the quarrel, neither of them would have yielded to the other the smallest portion of his own rights in worldly matters; yet because Christ is set at naught, Pilate easily gives him up to Herod, and Herod, in his turn, sends him back to Pilate. 255255     “Ne se souciant pas fort de le retenir;” — “without giving themselves much concdn about keeping him in their possession.” Thus in our own day we see, that when the judges enter into disputes with each other about robbers and other malefactors, the children of God are contemptuously thrown aside as if they were the merest refuse. 256256     “Ainsi aujourd’huy, comme ainsi soit que s’il est question de quelques brigans ou autres malfaiteurs, les juges avisent de pres à maintenir leur jurisdiction, et en debatent fort et ferme les uns contre les autres, les enfans de Dieu sont par eux jettez là avec desdain, en sorte qu’il semble qu’ils en jouent à triquoter entr’eux.” — “Thus in the present day, when a dispute happens to arise about some robbers or other malefacors, the judges are exceedingly attentive to maintain their jurisdiction, and debate about it keenly and warmly between themselves, while the children of God are thrown aside by them with disdain, so that they appear to amuse themselves with it by playing tricks on each other.” Hatred of religion often produces mutual harmony among wicked men, so that those who formerly had nothing in common unite together to extinguish the name of God. And yet when wicked men on both sides deliver up the children of God to death, it is not by what they consider to be a valuable price that they purchase mutual friendship, but what appears to them to be of no value whatever they not unwillingly surrender, just as if a person were to throw a crust of bread to a dog. But among us it is proper that Christ should produce a different kind of peace by putting an end to quarrels. Having first been reconciled to God, we ought to assist each other, by a devout and holy agreement, to follow righteousness, and to labor to discharge the duties of brotherly affection and of mutual humanity.

Luke 23:16. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. If any slight offense had been committed, which was not a capital crime, the Roman governors 262262     “Les Gouverneurs deputez de par l’Empereur de Rome;” — “the Governors appointed by the Emperor of Rome.” were wont to cause the offenders to be beaten with rods; and this kind of punishment was called, in the Latin language, coerctio Pilate, therefore, acts unjustly when, after pronouncing Christ to be free from all blame, he resolves to punish him, as if he had been guilty of an ordinary offense; for he not only declares that he has found in him no crime worthy of death, but asserts his innocence in the most unqualified manner. Why, then, does he beat him with rods? But earthly men, who are not confirmed by the Spirit of God in a constant wish to do what is right, even though they are desirous to maintain integrity, are accustomed, in this manner, to yield so far as to commit small injuries, when they are compelled. And not only do they reckon it a valid excuse, that they have not perpetrated a very heinous crime, but they even claim for themselves the praise of mildness, because they have, to some extent, spared the innocent. As to the Son of God, had he been dismissed in this manner, he would have carried with him the shame of having been scourged, without any advantage to our salvation; but on the cross, as in a magnificent chariot, he triumphed over his enemies and ours.

Would to God 263263     “Pleust à Dieu.” that the world were not now filled with many Pilates! But we see that what was begun in the head is accomplished in the members. The Popish clergy persecute his holy servants with the same cruelty with which the Jewish priests cried out, demanding that Christ should be put to death. Many of the judges, indeed, willingly offer themselves as executioners to follow out their rage; 264264     “Entre les juges, la plus grand’ part ne demandent pas mieux que de servir de bourreaux pour executer la rage des supposts de l’Antechrist.” — “Among the judges, the greater part ask nothing better than to act as hangmen to execute the rage of the supporters of Antichrist.” but when they shrink from shedding blood, so as to save innocent men from dying, they scourge Christ himself, who is the only righteousness of God. For when they compel the worshippers of God to deny the Gospel, for the purpose of saving their life, what else is it than to cause the name of Christ to undergo the disgrace of being beaten with rods? Yet in their defense they plead the violence of his enemies; as if this pretense were a sufficient cloak for their treacherous cowardice, which, if it was not excusable in Pilate, deserves to be viewed in them with the highest detestation. But though our three Evangelists pass by this circumstance, yet it is evident from the Evangelist John, (14:1,) that Christ was beaten with rods, while Pilate was still laboring to save his life, in order that so appalling a spectacle might appease the rage of the people. But John has also added, that it could not be appeased until the Author of life was put to death.

Luke 23:27. And there followed him. Although in public all the people, with one shout, had condemned Christ, yet we see that there were some who had not forgotten his doctrine and miracles; and thus, in the midst of that miserable dispersion, God reserved for himself a small remnant. And though the faith of those women was weak, yet it is probable that there was a hidden seed of piety, which afterwards in due time produced fruit. Yet their lamentation served to condemn the wicked and shocking cruelty of the men, who had conspired with the scribes and priests to put Christ to death But Luke’s design was different, namely, to inform us, that when the wickedness of men breaks out into unrestrained disorder, God does not indolently look on, to see what they are doing, but sits as a judge in heaven, to punish them soon for their unjust cruelty; and that we ought not to despise his vengeance, because he delays it till the proper time, but that we ought to dread it before he appears.

28. Weep not. Some have thought that the women are reproved, because foolishly and inconsiderately they poured out tears to no purpose. On the contrary, Christ does not simply reprove them, as if it were improperly and without a cause that they were weeping, but warns them that there will be far greater reason for weeping on account of the dreadful judgment of God which hangs over them; as if he had said, that his death was not the end, but the beginning, of evils to Jerusalem and to the whole nation; and in this way he intimates, that he was not abandoned to the wickedness of man in such a manner as not to be the object of Divine care. For, from the punishment which immediately followed, it was manifest that the life of Christ was dear to God the Father, at the time when all imagined that he had been wholly forsaken and cast off.

These words do indeed show plainly with what exalted fortitude Christ was endued; for he could not have spoken in this manner, if he had not advanced to death with a steady and firm step. But the principal object is to show, that under this mean and revolting aspect he is still under the eye of God, and that wicked men, who now proudly triumph, as if they had obtained a victory, will not long enjoy their foolish mirth, for it will quickly be followed by an astonishing change. This doctrine is even now of use to us, when we learn that Christ was not less dear to his Father, because for a moment he was deprived of his aid, but that he set so high a value on our salvation, that he did not even spare his only-begotten Son. He gave a remarkable proof of this, when he razed to the foundation, and destroyed, along with its inhabitants, the Holy City, in which he had chosen his only sanctuary. Let us learn from this to rise to meditation on the cause of the death of Christ; for since God revenged it with such severity, he would never have permitted his Son to endure it, unless he had intended that it should be an expiation for the sins of the world.

29 For, lo, the days will come. He threatens, that a calamity which is not usual, but fearful and unheard of, is at hand, in which will be perceived, at a glance, the vengeance of God. As if he had said, that this nation will not be carried away by a single or ordinary kind of destruction, but that it will perish under a mass of numerous and great calamities, so that it would be much more desirable that the mountains should fall upon them, and crush them, or that the earth should open and swallow them up, than that they should pine away amidst the cruel torments of a lingering destruction. Nor did those threatenings fall to the ground without effect, but this thunder of words was surpassed by the awful result, as is evident from Josephus. And as the wish to be crushed by the mountains, and the cursing of their children, were expressive of the lowest despair, Christ taught by these words that the Jews would at length feel that they had made war, not with a mortal man, but with God. Thus shall the enemies of God reap the just reward of their impious rage, when they who formerly dared even to attack heaven, shall in vain desire to employ the earth as a shield against his vengeance.

31. If they do these things in the green tree. By this sentence Christ confirms what he had stated, that his death will not remain unpunished, and that the Jews, whose iniquity is ripe, or rather half-rotten, will not remain long in their present condition; and by a familiar comparison, he proves it to be impossible but that the fire of the divine wrath shall immediately kindle and devour them. We know that dry wood is wont to be first thrown into the fire; but if what is moist and green be burnt, much less shall the dry be ultimately spared. The phrase, if they do, may be taken indefinitely for if it be done 266266     “Pour si on fait and the meaning will be: “If green wood is thrown into the fire before the time, what, think you, shall become of what is dry and old?” But some perhaps will prefer to view it as a comparison of men with God, as if Christ had said: “Wicked men, who resemble dry wood, when they have basely murdered the righteous, will find that their time is prepared by God. For how could they who are already devoted to destruction escape the hand of the heavenly Judge, who grants them so much liberty for a time against the good and innocent?”

Whether you choose to interpret it in the one or the other of these ways, the general meaning is, that the lamentation of the women is foolish, if they do not likewise expect and dread the awful judgment of God which hangs over the wicked. And whenever our distress of mind, arising from the bitterness of the cross, goes to excess, it is proper to soothe it by this consolation, that God, who now permits his own people to be unjustly oppressed, will not ultimately allow the wicked to escape punishment. If we were not sustained by this hope, we must unavoidably sink under our afflictions. Though it be the natural and more frequent practice to make a fire of dry wood rather than of green wood, yet God pursues a different order; for, while he allows tranquillity and ease to the reprobate, he trains his own people by a variety of afflictions, and therefore their condition is more wretched than that of others, if we judge of it from the present appearance. But this is an appropriate remedy, if we patiently look for the whole course of the judgment of God; for thus we shall perceive that the wicked gain nothing by a little delay; for when God shall have humbled his faithful servants by fatherly chastisements, he will rise with a drawn sword against those whose sins he appeared for a time not to observe.

Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them. By this expression Christ gave evidence that he was that mild and gentle lamb, which was to be led out to be sacrificed, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold, (53:7.) For not only does he abstain from revenge, but pleads with God the Father for the salvation of those by whom he is most cruelly tormented. It would have been a great matter not to think of rendering evil for evil, (1 Peter 3:9;) as Peter, when he exhorts us to patience by the example of Christ, says that he did not render curses for curses, and did not revenge the injuries done to him, but was fully satisfied with having God for his avenger (1 Peter 2:23.) But this is a far higher and more excellent virtue, to pray that God would forgive his enemies.

If any one think that this does not agree well with Peter’s sentiment, which I have just now quoted, the answer is easy. For when Christ was moved by a feeling of compassion to ask forgiveness from God for his persecutors, this did not hinder him from acquiescing in the righteous judgment of God, which he knew to be ordained for reprobate and obstinate men. Thus when Christ saw that both the Jewish people and the soldiers raged against him with blind fury, though their ignorance was not excusable, he had pity on them, and presented himself as their intercessor. Yet knowing that God would be an avenger, he left to him the exercise of judgment against the desperate. In this manner ought believers also to restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under the burden of the cross.

Of this moderation Luke now presents an instance in our Leader and Master; for though he might have denounced perdition against his persecutors, he not only abstained from cursing, but even prayed for their welfare. But it ought to be observed that, when the whole world rises against us, and all unite in striving to crush us, the best remedy for over-coming temptation is, to recall to our remembrance the blindness of those who fight against God in our persons. For the result will be, that the conspiracy of many persons against us, when solitary and deserted, will not distress us beyond measure; as, on the other hand, daily experience shows how powerfully it acts in shaking weak persons, when they see themselves attacked by a great multitude. And, therefore, if we learn to raise our minds to God, it will be easy for us to look down, as it were, from above, and despise the ignorance of unbelievers; for whatever may be their strength and resources, still they know not what they do.

It is probable, however, that Christ did not pray for all indiscriminately, but only for the wretched multitude, who were carried away by inconsiderate zeal, and not by premeditated wickedness. For since the scribes and priests were persons in regard to whom no ground was left for hope, it would have been in vain for him to pray for them. Nor can it be doubted that this prayer was heard by the heavenly Father, and that this was the cause why many of the people afterwards drank by faith the blood which they had shed.

Luke 23:39. And one of the malefactors. This reproach, which the Son of God endured from the robber, obtained for us among angels the very high honor of acknowledging us to be their brethren. But at the same time, an example of furious obstinacy is held out to us in this wretched man, since even in the midst of his torments he does not cease fiercely to foam out his blasphemies. Thus desperate men are wont to take obstinate revenge for the torments which they cannot avoid. 274274     “Voyans qu’ils ne peuvent eschapper les tormens, ils se vengent en s’obstinant et rongeant leur frein, comme on dit.” — “Perceiving that they cannot escape torments, they take revenge by obstinacy, and by champing the bit, as the saying is.” And although he upbraids Christ with not being able to save either himself or others, yet this objection is directed against God himself; just as wicked men, when they do not obtain what they wish, would willingly tear God from heaven. They ought, indeed, to be tamed to humility by strokes; but this shows that the wicked heart, which no punishments can bend, is hard like iron.

40. And the other answering. In this wicked man a striking mirror of the unexpected and incredible grace of God is held out to us, not only in his being suddenly changed into a new man, when he was near death, and drawn from hell itself to heaven, but likewise in having obtained in a moment the forgiveness of all the sins in which he had been plunged through his whole life, and in having been thus admitted to heaven before the apostles and first-fruits of the new Church. First, then, a remarkable instance of the grace of God shines in the conversion of that man. For it was not by the natural movement of the flesh that he laid aside his fierce cruelty and proud contempt of God, so as to repent immediately, but he was subdued by the hand of God; as the whole of Scripture shows that repentance is His work. And so much the more excellent is this grace, that it came beyond the expectation of all. For who would ever have thought that a robber, in the very article of death, would become not only a devout worshiper of God, but a distinguished teacher of faith and piety to the whole world, so that we too must receive from his mouth the rule of a true and proper confession? Now the first proof which he gave of his repentance was, that he severely reproved and restrained the wicked forwardness of his companion. He then added a second, by humbling himself in open acknowledgment of his crimes, and ascribing to Christ the praise due to his righteousness. Thirdly, he displayed astonishing faith by committing himself and his salvation to the protection of Christ, while he saw him hanging on the cross and near death.

Dost not thou fear God? Though these words are tortured in various ways by commentators, yet the natural meaning of them appears to me to be, What is the meaning of this, that even this condemnation does not compel thee to fear God? For the robber represents it as an additional proof of the hard-heartedness of his companion, that when reduced to the lowest straits, he does not even now begin to fear God. But to remove all ambiguity, it is proper to inform the reader that an impudent and detestable blasphemer, who thought that he might safely indulge in ridicule, is summoned to the judgment-seat of God; for though he had remained all his life unmoved, he ought to have trembled when he saw that the hand of God was armed against him, and that he must soon render an account of all his crimes; It was, therefore, a proof of desperate and diabolical obstinacy, that while God held him bound by the final judgment, he did not even then return to a sound mind; for if there had been the smallest particle of godliness in the heart of that man, he would at least have been constrained to yield to the fear of God. We now perceive the general meaning of his words, that those men, in whom even punishments do not produce amendment, are desperate, and totally destitute of the fear of God.

I interpret the words ἐν τῶ αὐτῷ κρίματι to mean not in the same condemnation, but during the condemnation itself; 275275     “Je les pren paur la condamnation presente, et laquelle ne menace point de loin, mais tient desja la personne, et se fait sentir.” — “I take them for the condemnation which is present, and which does not threaten at a distance, but already holds the person, and makes itself be felt.” as if the robber had said, Since thou art even now in the jaws of death, thou oughtest to be aroused to acknowledge God as thy Judge. Hence, too, we draw a useful doctrine, that those whom punishments do not train to humility do altogether resist God; for they who possess any fear of God must necessarily be overwhelmed with shame, and struck silent.

41. And we indeed justly. As the reproof founded on the condemnation might be thought to apply to Christ, the robber here draws a distinction between the condition of Christ and that of himself and his companion, or he acknowledges, that the punishment which was common to all the three was justly inflicted on him and his companion, but not on Christ, who had been dragged to the punishment of death, not by his own crime, but by the cruelty of enemies. But we ought to remember what I said a little ago, that the robber gave a proof of his repentance, such as God demands from all of us, when he acknowledged that he was now receiving the reward due to his actions. Above all, it ought to be observed, that the severity of the punishment did not hinder him from patiently submitting to dreadful tortures. And, therefore, if we truly repent of our crimes, let us learn to confess them willingly and without hypocrisy, whenever it is necessary, and not to refuse the disgrace which we have deserved. For the only method of burying our sins before God and before angels is, not to attempt to disguise them before men by vain excuses. Again, among the various coverings on which hypocrisy seizes, the most frequent of all is, that every one draws in others along with himself, that he may excuse himself by their example The robber, on the other hand, is not less eager to maintain the innocence of Christ, than he is frank and open in condemning himself and his companion.

42. Lord, remember me. I know not that, since the creation of the world, there ever was a more remarkable and striking example of faith; and so much the greater admiration is due to the grace of the Holy Spirit, of which it affords so magnificent a display. A robber, who not only had not been educated in the school of Christ, but, by giving himself up to execrable murders, had endeavored to extinguish all sense of what was right, suddenly rises higher than all the apostles and the other disciples whom the Lord himself had taken so much pains to instruct; and not only so, but he adores Christ as a King while on the gallows, celebrates his kingdom in the midst of shocking and worse than revolting abasement, and declares him, when dying, to be the Author of life. Even though he had formerly possessed right faith, and heard many things about the office of Christ, and had even been confirmed in it by his miracles, still that knowledge might have been overpowered by the thick darkness of so disgraceful a death. But that a person, ignorant and uneducated, and whose mind was altogether corrupted, should all at once, on receiving his earliest instructions, perceive salvation and heavenly glory in the accursed cross, was truly astonishing. For what marks or ornaments of royalty did he see in Christ, so as to raise his mind to his kingdom? And, certainly, this was, as it were, from the depth of hell to rise above the heavens. To the flesh it must have appeared to be fabulous and absurd, to ascribe to one who was rejected and despised, (Isaiah 53:3) whom the world could not endure, an earthly kingdom more exalted than all the empires of the world. Hence we infer how acute must have been the eyes of his mind, by which he beheld life in death, exaltation in ruin, glory in shame, victory in destruction, a kingdom in bondage.

Now if a robber, by his faith, elevated Christ—while hanging on the cross, and, as it were, overwhelmed with cursing—to a heavenly throne, woe to our sloth 276276     “Maudite soit nostre lacheté;” — “accursed be our sloth.” , if we do not behold him with reverence while sitting at the right hand of God; if we do not fix our hope of life on his resurrection; if our aim is not towards heaven where he has entered. Again, if we consider, on the other hand, the condition in which he was, when he implored the compassion of Christ, our admiration of his faith will be still heightened. With a mangled body, and almost dead, he is looking for the last stroke of the executioner and yet he relies on the grace of Christ alone. First, whence came his assurance of pardon, but because in the death of Christ, which all others look upon as detestable, he beholds a sacrifice of sweet savor, efficacious for expiating the sins of the world. 277277     “Ayant ceste efficace de purger et nettoyer tous les pechez du monde;” — “having that efficacy to cleanse and wash away all the sins of the world.” And when he courageously disregards his tortures, and is even so forgetful of himself, that he is carried away to the hope and desire of the hidden life, this goes far beyond the human faculties. From this teacher, therefore, whom the Lord has appointed over us to humble the pride of the flesh, let us not be ashamed to learn the mortification of the flesh, and patience, and elevation of faith, and steadiness of hope, and ardor of piety; for the more eagerly any man follows him, so much the more nearly will he approach to Christ.

43. Verily I tell thee. Though Christ had not yet made a public triumph over death, still he displays the efficacy and fruit of his death in the midst of his humiliation. And in this way he shows that he never was deprived of the power of his kingdom; for nothing more lofty or magnificent belongs to a divine King, 278278     “Au Roy celeste;” — “to the heavenly King.” than to restore life to the dead. So then, Christ, although, struck by the hand of God, he appeared to be a man utterly abandoned, yet as he did not cease to be the Savior of the world, he was always endued with heavenly power for fulfilling his office. And, first, we ought to observe his inconceivable readiness in so kindly receiving the robber without delay, and promising to make him a partaker 279279     “De le faire participant.” of a happy life. There is therefore no room to doubt that he is prepared to admit into his kingdom all, without exception, who shall apply to him. Hence we may conclude with certainty that we shall be saved, provided that he remember us; and it is impossible that he shall forget those who commit to him their salvation.

But if a robber found the entrance into heaven so easy, because, while he beheld on all sides ground for total despair, he relied on the grace of Christ; much more will Christ, who has now vanquished death, stretch out his hand to us from his throne, to admit us to be partakers of life. For since Christ has

nailed to his cross the handwriting which was opposed to us,
(Colossians 2:14,)

and has destroyed death and Satan, and in his resurrection has triumphed over the prince of the world, (John 12:31,) it would be unreasonable to suppose that the passage from death to life will be more laborious and difficult to us than to the robber. Whoever then in dying shall commit to Christ, in true faith, the keeping of his soul, will not be long detained or allowed to languish in suspense; but Christ will meet his prayer with the same kindness which he exercised towards the robber. Away, then, with that detestable contrivance of the Sophists about retaining the punishment when the guilt is removed; for we see how Christ, in acquitting him from condemnation, frees him also from punishment. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact, that the robber nevertheless endures to the very last the punishment which had been pronounced upon him; for we must not here imagine any compensation which serves the purpose of satisfaction for appeasing the judgment of God, (as the Sophists dream,) but the Lord merely trains his elect by corporal punishments to displeasure and hatred of sin. Thus, when the robber has been brought by fatherly discipline to self-denial Christ receives him, as it were, into his bosom, and does not send him away to the fire of purgatory.

We ought likewise to observe by what keys the gate of heaven was opened to the robber; for neither papal confession nor satisfactions are here taken into account, but Christ is satisfied with repentance and faith, so as to receive him willingly when he comes to him. And this confirms more fully what I formerly suggested, that if any man disdain to abide by the footsteps of the robber, and to follow in his path, he deserves everlasting destruction, because by wicked pride he shuts against himself the gate of heaven. And, certainly, as Christ has given to all of us, in the person of the robber, a general pledge of obtaining forgiveness, so, on the other hand, he has bestowed on this wretched man such distinguished honor, in order that, laying aside our own glory, we may glory in nothing but the mercy of God alone. If each of us shall truly and seriously examine the subject, we shall find abundant reason to be ashamed of the prodigious mass of our crimes, so that we shall not be offended at having for our guide and leader a poor wretch, who obtained salvation by free grace. Again, as the death of Christ at that time yielded its fruit, so we infer from it that souls, when they have departed from their bodies, continue to live; otherwise the promise of Christ, which he confirms even by an oath, would be a mockery.

Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. We ought not to enter into curious and subtle arguments about the place of paradise. Let us rest satisfied with knowing that those who are engrafted by faith into the body of Christ are partakers of that life, and thus enjoy after death a blessed and joyful rest, until the perfect glory of the heavenly life is fully manifested by the coming of Christ.

One point still remains. What is promised to the robber does not alleviate his present sufferings, nor make any abatement of his bodily punishment. This reminds us that we ought not to judge of the grace of God by the perception of the flesh; for it will often happen that those to whom God is reconciled are permitted by him to be severely afflicted. So then, if we are dreadfully tormented in body, we ought to be on our guard lest the severity of pain hinder us from tasting the goodness of God; but, on the contrary, all our afflictions ought to be mitigated and soothed by this single consolation, that as soon as God has received us into his favor, all the afflictions which we endure are aids to our salvation. This will cause our faith not only to rise victorious over all our distresses, but to enjoy calm repose amidst the endurance of sufferings.




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