clamouring for its privilege, Pilate thinks he may now turn this to account. To this custom then, sometimes undesirable and inconvenient enough, Pilate now refers, not without a touch of scorn. "Ye have a custom, that I should release one unto you at the Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?" He is a harmless person. You have already made Him your sport. You demand a prisoner. Take then this one. He thus depreciates Him that they may understand that they have no cause for envy. He resolves, if compatible with his own comfort, to release Him; for he is convinced of His innocence. It was not, he felt, because Jesus was criminal, but because the chief-priests were envious and had a grudge3 against Him, that He stood before the judgment-seat. Pilate indeed mentions another, "a notable prisoner," "a murderer;"" adding, "Whom will ye that I release unto you, Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" As though there could be no question between the two.



St. Matthew xxvii. 19-23.


When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man : for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

A singular interruption now occurs. A message to the Governor from his wife. She has been warned in a painful

1 St. John xviii. 39.

2 St. Luke xxiii. 11.

3 St. Luke xix. 14; xx. 13, 14; Acts vii. 9. Acts iii. 14.

4 St. Matt. xxvii. 16.

dream of the innocence and goodness of the accused. The Romans made much of dreams, especially those after midnight, or in the morning. During this lull in the proceedings, the chief-priests and elders are busily employed in going about among the people, canvassing the crowd as in a contested election. So that when Pilate returns after the short interruption, and again proposes his question,-instigated by their leaders, they are ready with the reply, "Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas." Thus they denied Him whom the Judge's wife, and the Judge himself, emphatically pronounced "just," and desired a murderer to be granted unto them. Thus are they unconsciously fulfilling their own Scriptures. Jesus was not to be the scapegoat, as Pilate had proposed, but that on which the Lord's lot fell. Pilate had proposed to dismiss Jesus after some chastisement and indignity, making Him the subject of festal clemency. This offer they had rejected, and preferred that a notorious criminal should rather be set free. He asks now, in despair at their unreasonableness, what it is they would have him do with Jesus. "What will ye then that I shall do unto Him whom ye call the King of the Jews?" It was in derision that they had called Him this. The royal robe in which Herod had arrayed Him in cruel jest, yet bare witness to the truth of that title. Jesus otherwise Christ. This alias is equally His. He is "Christ the King of Israel." Now is heard for the first time the ominous sound, "Crucify Him." It is too much even for a heathen's natural sense of justice. For the third time he remonstrates against their injustice. Again he proposes his plan of compromise. But "they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify Him." "They were instant with loud voices requiring that He might be crucified."10 They cannot answer Pilate's question, but they will terrify him into compliance.

1 See Hor. Sat. 1. x. 33; Ovid.

Epist. Heronis, 195.

St. Luke xxiii. 18.

3 St. Matt. xxvii. 19, 24.

Acts iii. 14.

Lev. xvi. 7-10.

St. Mark xv. 12.

7 St. Mark xv. 32; St. Luke xxiii. 35, 42.

St. Luke xxiii. 22. 9 St. Mark xv. 14.

10 St. Luke xxiii. 23.



St. Matthew xxvii. 24, 25. St. John xix. 1-3.

St. Matt. xxvii. 24, 25.-When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

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St. John xix. 1-3.—Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe. And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

Pilate now shows another sign of yielding. He feels he cannot prevail by reason. His words seem but to excite their rage. He now adopts a symbolic act, by which he would have them understand that if this innocent blood is eventually shed, he is as free from it as his newly-washen hands are free from stain. It was an action prescribed to the Jews in certain cases,' and Pilate, it might be, had heard of the practice. But his action is imperfect. This comparison will not fit the case. He cannot so divest himself of responsibility. He does not so wash his hands of participation in this judicial murder of one whom, echoing the warning words of his wife, he pronounces "just." In vain he tells them it is solely their affair, as they before had told the betrayer it was his. But how rashly they profess themselves ready to take the guilt of His blood on them and theirs! In vain do they afterwards seek to escape what they had thus imprecated on themselves.* The condition of the Jews ever after down to this day, is standing proof of this. Pilate makes yet another attempt to rescue this Prisoner from the extreme penalty. He releases.

Deut. xxi. 6, 7; Ps. xxvi. 6. See the allusion in Richard the Second (Act iv. Sc. i.): "Though some of you with Pilate wash your hands, &c."

2 St. Matt. xxvii. 19.

3 St. Matt. xxvii. 3.

4 Acts v. 28.



Barabbas, and having given orders to the soldiers to scourge Jesus (thereby fulfilling unconsciously what had been foretold2), he allows them to repeat the sorry jest in which Herod with his men of war had but now indulged, in the half hope that they might be content with this. But like every sinful concession, it proved a false step. They will not be satisfied with this sop he throws out to them. It is but as the taste of blood to the untamable tiger. They have made up their minds to His death; they are not to be put off with scourging. Pilate shall not thus baulk them of their prey. They know they have but to clamour a little longer, and a little louder, and the vacillating Governor will give way. In vain therefore these indignities which he wrongly did, or weakly permitted. In vain the scourging which he decreed himself, the mocking which he suffered the soldiers to do. They, trained to deeds of blood from their youth (for scarcely a savage could be more sanguinary than the Roman soldier of that day, and even a barbarian might shrink from their combats of gladiators and shows of blood); hating the Jews and having no compassion for Jesus; ignorant too of the language in which these proceedings were carried on ; idly looking on, ready for any mischief, delighted at an opportunity of showing their contempt for the unsociable race among whom they were quartered, seem to exceed the liberty allowed them by the Governor. Knowing that their Prisoner was charged with making Himself a King, they mockingly invest Him with ensigns of authority, weaving a torturing crown of thorns,5

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and placing in His right hand a reed' for a sceptre: and throwing over His shoulders, "bleeding from the Roman rods," a robe of purple," the imperial colour, they bowed the knee before Him,' saying-full many a true word is spoken even in contemptuous and cruel jest-"Hail, King of the Jews!" "And they spit upon Him, and took the reed" out of His hand, "and smote Him on the head."3 This took place not in the immediate presence of Pilate, but in their common hall, the quarters assigned to them in the Prætorium or Palace where the Governor resided. To such sport the guard call together their comrades. Little they think, while indulging their brutal passions, that they are fulfilling Jewish prophecies uttered some seven hundred years before."




St. John xix. 4–7.

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

After this interval Pilate proceeds to lead out the insulted Saviour, in the vain hope that the sight would either move

1 St. Matt. xxvii. 29.

2 The word in St. Matthew would point to a military cloak, on which there would be purple facings.

St. Matt. xxvii. 30. The "with their hands" of St. John xix. 3, is not in the original, any more than in

ch. xviii. 22.

St. Matt. xxvii. 27; St. Mark

xv. 16.

5 Is. 1. 6; liii. 3, 5. Philo (in Flaccum, 980) records a strikingly similar instance of insult. It is quoted in Dr. Macbride's Diatesseron, p. 661.

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