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do wtih Jesus, who is called Christ, and whom ye call the King of the Jews ? And they all cried out, Crucify him! Crucify him! And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chas. tise him, and let him go. But they cried out the more exceedingly, Let him be crucified! And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified: And the voices of them and of the chief Priests prevailed. And so Pilate, willing to content the people, gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder had been cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus unto their will.' (Matt. xxvii. 22, 23. Mark xv. 12-15. Luke xxiii. 20—25.
In the last Consideration, we have observed that the Lord Jesus was placed on the same footing with Barabbas, a rebel and murderer, and offered to the choice of people; who, by the instigation of the chief Priests, rejected Jesus, and demanded with a tumultuous clamour that the murderer should be released, In these words we have a further accouut of Pilate's fruitless endeayours to release the Lord Jesus. Hereini is mentioned,
First, Pilate's intention.
Secondly, His fruitless endeavours for putting his design in execution.
I. Pilate's intention is intimated by St. Luke'in these words: ‘Pilate therefore, willing to release Je. sus,' (Luke xxiii. 22.) It would have been more agreeable to Pilate, if the people by their own choice had declared for Jesus; for he was not only in his own mind convinced of our Saviour's innocence, but likewise had been warned by his wife to have nothing to do with that just man, nor offer the least injury to his person. But when, contrary to his expectation, and all probability, the repeated cry of the whole multitude was, “Away with this man, and release upto us
Barabbas,' he still, for a time, adhered to his first pur. pose of endeavouring to procure Jesus's discharge.
If he had been truly in earnest in his design, he would have proceeded according to the laws, and made use of his juridicial power; and by that means, according to all human appearance, would soon have accomplished his desire. For he afterwards boasts of his authority, when he says to Jesus, “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee, (John xix. 10.) But Pilate was wavering and irresolute. He was unwilling to condemn an innocent person ; but, at the same time, he was for keeping in with the accusers of this innocent man, that he might not draw their resentment on him. self. Thus his mind fluctuated, without immediately determining any thing ; so that he himself, as it were, stood in the way, and obstructed the execution of his own purpose. For he tranferred the ju. ridical power, which he had to acquit Jesus, into the hands of the people ; and so far betrayed the cause of innocence and justice, as to leave it to the option of the tumultuous populace, whether they would have the innocent Jesus released, or Barabbas, who was a rebel and murderer. Thus Pilate himself in a manner tied his own hands, and curtailed his power of administering justice.
Pilate, in this behaviour, is a true representative of those men, who have abundance of good intentions; but their wills are so ensnared by the allurements of sin, that they never can resolve to put them in execution. They design to leave off this and the other vice; they promise that for the future they will abstain from those mean vices of cursing, swearing, and lying; they will no longer talk obscenely; they will abstain from intemperate drinking; they will avoid bad company, and endeavour to amend in every respect. But alas! these good resolutions are never put in practice. For they will not make use of the proper means to effect their designs. They will not
avoid the occasions of sinning; they will not'engage in earnest supplications to God; they will not pray to him for a contrite and new heart; they will not do violence to their wicked inclinations and fleshly lusts; but they leave these things to come spontancously, without using their own endeavours. Thus, notwithstanding all their good intentions, they continue slaves to sin and satan. Nay, they have so little mo. desty, that they set themselves on a level with St. Paul in this particular, and say, in these words, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not,'(Rom. vii
. 18.) But they never think on another passage in that Apostle's writings, wherein he says, 'I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me,'(Phil. iv. 15.) When such irresolute sinners have thus gone on for a considerable time in forming good designs, in praying, now and then lamenting their wretched case, and making some faint struggles against sin, and do not meet with the desired success they will alter their tone, and
say, ' I fain would reform my life ; but I cannot compass it.' At last they proceed so far as to throw the blame of their impenitence on God, and to accuse their Creator; impiously alleging, that he will not assist their endeavours, and how willing soever they are to be converted, God will not vouchsafe to give them sufficient grace.
Let every one who reads this seriously examine himself, and see whether he has hitherto been of such a perverse disposition.
Jesus Christ was also to suffer by this wicked depravity of the human will, that he might also expiate this sin. Therefore whoever is conscious that he is guilty of it, let him sincerely repent, and humbly take refuge in the sufferings of Christ; and pray to God to give him a firm resolution of amendment, and assist him in the execution cf it: Otherwise, notwithstanding his good intentions, his portion will be with the workers of iniquity; and Solomon's words will be verified in him, "The desire of the slothful kili leth ; for his hands refuse to labour,' (Prov. xxi. 25.) Such was Pilate's intention for releasing the Lord Jesus.
II. In the next place, we are to consider his fruita less endeavours for putting his design in execution. In the above harmonised account we may observe the following particulars.
First, How Pilate opposed the Jews, and as it were contested with them about releasing Jesus.
Secondly, The instruments by which the Jews" got the better of Pilate.
Thirdly, How at length, after an ineffectual resista ance, he yielded to their will.
First, Pilate opposed the Jews, and as it were cortested with them about releasing the blessed Jesus. This was done by a two-fold question, which he put to the people.
As to the first question, we find that Pilate, in order to shew, his willingness to release Jesus, said again unto them, What will ye that I shall do with Jesus who is called Christ, and whom ye call the King of the Jews ?' He no longer troubled himself about Barabbas, having before referred it to the peo. ple's choice, whether they would have Barabbas or Jesus released ; so that he was now, as it were, entangled in his own toils. But what gave him most uneasiness at present was, how to dispose of Jesus of Nazareth, whom he was desirous also to discharge. He therefore asks the people, What they would have him do with this man? In this question Pilate shews both his artifice, and the wickedness of his heart.
His artifice or worldly cunning appears by his put. ting it in the power of the Jewish people to release Jesus also ; and thus he enlarges their privileges, which they so highly valued. For he seems not unwilling to perinit them to release two instead of one at the Passover, if they would but give him the least intimation of their assent. He imagined that the
Jews, who were so tenacious of their privileges, would have eagerly embraced this opportunity of enlarging them by interceding for the discharge of Jesus of Nazareth, who was more deserving of it than Barabbas. It was also a finesse in him, that, in his address to the Jews, he mentioned Jesus by such titles as tended to prejudice the minds of the people in his favour. He stiles him Christ, and King of the Jews. As if he had said, “ You have for a long time expected a Messiah. Noy as I understand, that this man is held to be that person by a great number of the Jews, ie would become you to shew him more love and es. teem. You accuse him of giving himself out to be the King of the Jews; and I am informed, that the other day, at his entry inio Jerusalem, you publicly proclaimed him to be a king. Consider therefore, that it will little redound to your honour to suffer your king to be crucified as a slave.” So far there was a great deal of artifice and cunning in this quese tion.
But this artifice was intermixed with wickedness and malice. For, in the first place, it ill becomes a judge to ask the people, what he shall do with a prisoner: He ought to be guided by the laws, according to which he should proceed in punishing criminals. In the next place, he redicules both our Saviour's prophetic office of Messiah, and his regal dignity; for he himself did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and King of the Jews, and yet he makes use of this as the means of promoting his release. Hence Pilate's meaning seems to be this: If you do not regard Jesus as an innocent man, yet you ought to shew a reward to your own honour and reputation ; for every one will be apt to think it strange, that you have consented to have this person crucified, whom by your acclamations you had so lately proclaimed King of Israel. Now reflect, what all people of any sense or honour will think of such an inconsistent conduct. But it appeared by the event what little VOL. II.