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and judge him according to your own law: plainly insinuating, that in his opinion, the crime they laid to the prisoner's charge was not of a capital nature; and that such punishments as they were permitted by Cæsar to inflict, were adequate to any misdemeanor that Jesus was charged with. But this proposal of the Roman governor was absolutely refused by the Jewish priests and elders, because it condemned their whole proceed. ing, and therefore they answered, We have no power to put any one to death, as this man certainly deserves, who has attempted not only to make innovations in our religion, but also set up himself for a king. This eagerness of the Jews to get Jesus condemned by the Roman governor, who often sentenced malefactors to be crucified, tended to fulfil the sayings of our great Redeemer, who during the course of his ministry, has often mentioned what kind of death he was appointed to die by the pre-determination of the Omnipresent God.
As Pilate now found it impossible to prevent a tumult, unless he proceeded to try Jesus, he therefore ascended again the judgment-seat, and commanded his accusers to produce their charges against him. Accordingly they accused him of seditious practices, affirming that he had used every method in his power to dissuade the people from paying taxes to Cæsar, pretending that he himself was the Messiah, the great king of the Jews, so long expected ; but they brought no proof of this assertion. They only insinuated that they had already convicted him of this crime ; which was absolutely false. Pilate, however, asked him, Is it true, what these men lay to thy charge, that thou hast in: deed attempted to set up thyself as king of the Jews? To which Jesus replied, hast thou ever during thy stay in this province, heard any thing of me that gave thee any reason to suspect me guilty of secret practices and seditious designs against the government ? Or dost thou found thy question only on the present clamour and tumult that is raised against me? If this be the
case, be very careful lest thou be imposed on merely by the ambiguity of a word; for, to be King of the Jews, is not to erect a temporal throne in opposition to that of Cæsar, but something very different from it ; the kingdom of the Messiah is of a spiritual nature.
Pilate replied, am I a Jew? Can I tell what their expectations are, and in what superstitious sense they understand these words? The rulers and chiefs of their own people, we are the most proper judges of these particulars, have brought thee before me, as a riotous and seditious person; if this be not the truth, let me know what is, and the crime thou hast been guilty of, and what they lay to thy charge.
To which Jesus answered, I have indeed a kingdom, and this kingdom I have professed to establish; but then it is not of this world, nor have my endeavours to establish it any tendency to cause disturbances in the government : for, had that been the case, my servants would have fought for me, and not suffered me to have fallen into the hands of the Jews: but I tell thee plainly, my kingdom is wholy spiritual, consisting only in the obedience of the wills and affections of men to the laws of God.
Pilate said, thou acknowledgest then in general, that thou hast pretended to be a king? To which the blessed Jesus replied, In the sense I have told thee, I have declared and do now declare myself to be a king: for this very end I was born, and for this purpose I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth; and whosoever sincerely loves, and is always ready to embrace the truth, will hear my testimony and be convinced by it. Pilate said, What is truth? and imme, diately went out to the Jews, and said unto them, I have again examined this man, but can find him guilty of no fault, which, according to the Roman law, deserves to have the punishment of death inflicted for it.
Though the governor made this generous declaration of the innocence of our blessed Saviour, it had no effect on the superstitious and bigoted Jews : they even persisted in their accusations with more vehemence than before, affirming that he had attempted to raise a sedition in Galilee : He stirred up, said they, the people, beginning from Galilee, to this place. Jesus, however, made no answer at all to this heavy charge; nay, he continued silent, notwithstanding the governor himself expressly required him to speak in his own defence. A conduct so extraordinary, in such circumstances, astonished Pilate exceedinglyfor he had great reason to be persuaded of the innocence of our dear Redeemer. The truth is, he was altogether ignorant of the divine council by which the whole affair was directed, and the end proposed by it.
Many reasons induced the blessed JEsus not to make a public defence. He came into the world purely to redeem lost and undone mankind, by offering uphimself a sacrifice to appease the wrath of his Almighty Father : but had he pleaded with his usual force, the people had, in all probability; been induced to ask his re. lease, and consequently his death had been prevented : besides, the gross falsehood of the accusation known to all the inhabitants of Galilee, rendered any reply absolutely unnecessary.
The chief priests continued, in the mean time, to accuse him with great noise and tumult: the meek and humble Jesus still continuing mute, Pilate spake again to him, saying, Wilt thou continue to make no defence? Dost thou not hear how vehemently these men accuse thee? But Pilate recollecting what the chief priests had said with regard to a sedition in Galilee, asked if Jesus came out of that country; and on being informed he did, he immediately ordered him to be carried to Herod, who then resided at Jerusalem; for the governor supposed that Herod, in whose dominions the sedition was said to have been raised;
must be a better judge of the affair than himself: besides, his being a Jew rendered him more expert in the religion of his own country, and gave him greater influence over the chief priests and elders : he therefore considered him as the most proper person to prevail on the Jewish council to desist from their cruel prosecution : but if, contrary to all human probability he should, at their solicitation, condemn Jesus, Pilate hoped to escape the guilt and infamy of putting an innocent person to death. He might also propose by this action to regain Herod's friendship, which he had lost by encroaching, in all probability, on the privileges he was invested with.
Whatever might be the motive that induced Pilate to send our great Redeemer to Herod, the latter greatly rejoiced at this opportunity of seeing Jesus, hoping to have the pleasure of beholding him perform some great miracle. In this he was however mistaken: for as Herod had apostatized from the doctrine of John the Baptist, to which he was once a convert, and had even put this teacher to death, the blessed Jesus, however liberal of his miracles to the sons and daughters of affliction, would not work them to gratify the cutiosity of a tyrant, nor even answer one of the many questions he proposed.
Finding himself thus disappointed, Herod ordered our blessed Saviour to be clothed with an old robe, resembling in colour, those worn by kings, and permitted Kis attendants to insult him ; perhaps to pro. voke him to work some miracle, though it should prove of a hurtful kind. From Herod's dressing him in this manner, it evidently appears, that the chief priests and elders had accused him of nothing, but his having assumed the character of the Messiah ; for the affront put upon him was plainly in derision of thar pretension,
The other head of accusation, namely, his having
attempted to raise a sedition in Galilee, on account of the tribute paid to Cæsar, they did not dare to mention, as Herod could not fail of knowing it to be a gross and malicious falsehood ; and no crime worthy of death being laid to his charge, Herod sent him again to Pilate. It seems, that though he was displeased with the great Redeemer of mankind for refusing to work a miracle before him, yet he did not think proper to be unjust to him. Perhaps he was restrained by the remorse he felt on account of the death of John the Baptist, and therefore declined bringing a greater weight upon his conscience.