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After some consultation they decide to dispose of it in buying a field which it appears was wanted for the purpose of a cemetery, wherein to bury those strangers who might die at Jerusalem and had no place of burial already belonging to them there. So what had been known hitherto as the Potter's Field went henceforth by another name, significant of this deed. Then that prophecy which Jeremiah originally uttered, and which Zechariah 1 afterwards recorded,2 had another and complete fulfilment. The Evangelist paraphrases, or gives us the substance of, the Prophet's words.
CHRIST BEFORE PILATE.
St. John xviii. 28–32.
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.
Christ suffered for both Jews and Gentiles, and He is rejected of both. See the hypocrisy of these men; their
1 Zech. xii. 13.
2 Jeremiah was regarded by the Jews as the Primus of the Prophets (St. Matt. xvi. 14). Whatever therefore was "written in the Prophets" (St. John vi. 45) might be said popularly to be "spoken by Jeremy the Prophet," seeing that it was contained in that "volume of the book" at the head of which stood his name, who thus gave his name to the whole. In
like manner we have "the Psalms of David," and "the Proverbs of Solomon," though others besides these were authors of portions of those works. St. Matthew (inspiration apart) could not have been ignorant, any more than we are, where the words are found. St. Matthew, it has been observed, never names Zechariah, though he three times quotes him.
scruple in a matter of ceremony, and their unscrupulousness in the case of crime. As if entering the court of a heathen judge was a greater defilement than the designing a piece of injustice from which that heathen recoiled. As if their present murderous purpose would not defile them infinitely more. Here we may see the difference between mere scruple,— which is quite consistent with a state of sin,—and the dictates of an enlightened conscience.' It was Paschal-tide. Our Lord and His Disciples had, we know, partaken of their Passover the evening before. Either these other kept their feast a day later, or this term Passover is applied generally to the whole period, the seven days of unleavened bread, during which they must keep themselves free from all ceremonial defilement.3 The Roman Pro-curator therefore, with a contemptuous deference to their scruples, goes to the door of the Prætorium or Court-house, and requires them to state the formal charge, to prefer the indictment, on which he might proceed legally to try their Prisoner. But law and justice was the last thing the Jews desired. The timid and temporizing character of Pilate seems to have been quickly discovered by the haughty inhabitants of the distant depen
1 In Sir T. F. Buxton's account of his visit to the prison at Civita Vecchia (Life, c. xxix.) may be found this curious illustration:-"It is odd enough that Gasparoni is very religious now he fasts not only on Friday, but adds a supererogatory Saturday But, curious as his theology now is, it is still more strange that, according to his own account, he was always a very religious man. I asked him whether he had fasted when he was a bandit? He said 'Yes.' 'Why did you fast?' said I. 'Perche sono della religione della Madonna.' Which did you think was worst, eating meat on a Friday or killing a man?' He answered without hesitation, 'In my case it was a crime not to fast; it was no crime to kill those who came to betray me.' With all his present religion, however, he told the Mayor of the town
dency he had been sent to govern. They answer in their insolent and overbearing way, intimating that having satisfied themselves of the guilt of their Prisoner, all they require of Pilate is to register their sentence. They will not have the tedious formality of a trial, but demand immediate judgment. They are to be the judges, he the executioner of their will. Pilate, disgusted doubtless, and not without a touch of bitter irony and contemptuous sarcasm, bids them take and judge Him according to their law. Here is a memorable instance of the Divine providence, and the fulfilment of another of the Lord's predictions. Had the Jews still possessed the power of inflicting capital punishment for such a crime as that alleged against Jesus, namely blasphemy, the manner of execution would have been by stoning. But now being subject to the Romans, and deprived of this prerogative, they procured the Roman manner of punishment, that is crucifixion; thus all unconsciously, but not the less wilfully and wickedly, fulfilling also in this particular the exact prophecies that went before.3
THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. John xviii. 33-38.
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?
We must bear in mind in reading this history, the position of Judæa with respect to Rome. It was a distant province, peopled by a bold and fanatical race, confessedly difficult to deal with; utterly alien, in laws, in religion, in national character, from their conquerors, who were few in number among them-a garrison here, and another there-while they were separated from their sympathies by an almost impassable barrier. This will explain why one governor after another, anxious to conciliate this un
Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 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. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.
At length they condescend to formulate their charge. They began to accuse Him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King." They speak as though this was their finding, the result of their examination, the verdict they had arrived at; whereas we know that no such question had been before them. They had condemned Him on the point of supposed blasphemy, not on the point of forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar. This latter charge was, we know also,2 directly in the face of fact. Though they had tried to tempt Him to this, that they might be able to prefer such a charge, He had exposed their hypocrisy, and had expressly said, "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's." This was therefore sheer falsewitness. But they knew that it was a charge which might prevail with Pilate, while he would make no account of the other. True it was that He claimed to be a King, but, as He presently proceeds to state, His kingdom was not of this world. Nevertheless this word King they knew would in a Roman's ear have a seditious sound. After this first encounter with the turbulent crowd without, the Governor returns into the judgment-hall, where the meek Saviour
1 St. Luke xxiii. 2.
3 V. 36 below. See also St. John vi. 15.
stood the while, and calling Him up before him, he proceeds to interrogate this strange Prisoner. Observe, Pilate does not ask if Jesus claimed to be, but if He were indeed the lawful King of the Jews, had they been yet a free people. It is his first and last act in connection with Jesus to refer to Him as such.1 Our Lord first answers Pilate's question by another. He inquires, in effect, Do you really desire and design to act justly? Is it only information you want? Or do you ask it as prompted by the Jews, prepared to be the instrument of their malice? Fearing now lest he might have made a false step, and compromised the dignity of his office or of his nation, Pilate seems by his second question to disclaim any personal or particular interest in putting the first. What after all is it to me? he seems here to ask. But forasmuch as the heads of Thine own nation 2 have brought Thee before me, I require to know what Thou hast done. Then the Lord proceeds to declare the nature of His kingdom. It is not of a worldly sort. It is not such as the Jews intended. It does not directly interfere with Cæsar. Had He designed to set up such a Kingdom, nothing would have been easier. Then, instead of forbidding His servants, visible or invisible, to fight,3 He would not have suffered Himself to be thus apprehended. Pilate's next question seems somewhat too sarcastic. Art Thou a King then? Thou, a prisoner, and rejected of Thine own people. Pilate in jest here spoke the truth. And the manner of our Lord's answer amounts in the Hebrew to a solemn affirmation of the same. So before Pontius Pilate He witnesses a good confession." Pilate probably partook of those philosophic doubts which, in their ignorance of a revelation, agitated the minds of men. To this state of mind our Lord here addresses Himself, announcing authoritatively that the truth. which men were in doubt about, was one, and that it must be revealed from Heaven; and that for this very purpose He
St. John xix. 14, 15, 19–22. 2 In vv. 35, 36, note the antithesis. Pilate says, "Thine own nation." Our Lord answers, "My Kingdom, my servants."
3 St. Matt. xxvi. 52, 53.
In the original the pronoun is emphatically expressed.
5 St Matt. xxvii. 11.
6 1 Tim. vi. 13.