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fident in any. Peter's modest expression of Silvanus is a pattern for us ; "Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose.” 1 Pet. 5:12. The time shall come, saith Christ, that "brother shall betray brother to death.” Matt. 10:21. Charity for others may be your duty, but too great confidence may be your snare. Fear what others may do, but fear thyself more.
SECOND AND TIRD PREPARATIVES FOR CHRIST'S DEATH.
IIS ILLEGAL TRIAL AND CONDEMNATION.
And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he migrt be
crucified. And the voices of them and of the chicf priesls prevailed. And Pilale gave sentence thai it should be as they required." Lule, 23 : 23, 24.
Judas has made good his promise to the high priest, and delivered Jesus a prisoner into their hands. These wolves of the evening no sooner seize the Lamb of God, but they thirst after his precious innocent blood; their revenge and malice admit no delay, as fearing a rescue by the people.
When Herod had taken Peter, he committed him to prison, "intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Acts, 12 :4. But these men cannot sleep till they have Jesus' blood, and therefore the preparation of the passover being come, they resolve in all haste to destroy him; yet lest it should look like a downright murder, they would have it formalized with a trial. This his trial and condemnation are the two last acts by which they prepared for his death, and are both contained in this context; in which we may observe, the
indictment, and the sentence to which the judge proceeded.
In the indictment drawn up against Christ, they accise him of many things, but can prove nothing. However, what is wanting in evidence must be supplied with clamor and importunity. For " they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified; and their voices prevailed :" when they can neither prove the sedition and blasphemy they charged him with, then "Crucify him, crucify him” must serve the turn, instead of all witnesses and proofs.
The sentence pronounced upon him by Pilate was that it should be as they required : from which we may observe these two conclusions: 1. The trial of Christ was conducted most maliciously and
illegally by his unrighteous judges. 2. Though nothing could be proved against him worthy
of death, or of bonds; yet he was condemned to the death of the cross.
Reader, here thou mayest see the Judge of all the world standing himself to be judged; he that shall judge the world in righteousness, judged most unrighteously; he that shall one day come to the throne of judgment, attended with thousands and ten thousands of angels and saints, standing as a prisoner at man's bar, and there denied the common right which a thief or murderer might claim, and is commonly given them.
To manifest the illegality of Christ's trial, let the following particulars be carefully weighed:
1. That he was inhumanly abused, both in words and actions, before the court met, or any examination was made; for as soon as they had taken him, they forthwith bound him, and led him away to the high priest's house. Luke, 22: 54. And there they that held him, mocked him, smote him, blindfolded him, struck him on the face, and bid him prophesy who smote him; and
many other things blasphemously spake they against him. Ver. 63-65. How illegal and barbarous a thing was this? When they were but binding Paul with thongs, he thought himself abused contrary to law, and asked the centurion that stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned ?" Is this legal? What! punish a man first, and judge him afterwards ! But Christ was not only bound, but shame. fully ill-treated by them all that night, dealing with him as the lords of the Philistines did with Samson, to whom it was sport to abuse him. No rest had Jesus that night; Oh it was a sad night to him: and this under Caiaphas' own roof.
2. He was examined and judged by a court that had no authority to try him: "As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, and the chief priests, and the scribes came together and led him into their council.” Luke, 22: 66. This was the ecclesiastical court, the great sanhedrim, which, according to its first constitution, should consist of seventy grave, honorable, and learned men; to whom were to be referred all doubtful matters too hard for inferior courts to decide. And these were to judge impartially and uprightly for God, as men in whom was the Spirit of God. Numb. 11:16, &c. In this court the righteous and innocent might expect relief and protection. But now, contrary to the first constitution, it consisted of malicious scribes and pharisees, men full of revenge, malice, and all unrighteousness : and over these Caiaphas (a head fit for such a body) at this time presided. Still, though there remained the form of a court among them, their power was so abridged by the Romans that they could not hear and determine, judge and condemn in capital cases, as formerly. For as Josephus, their own historian, informs us, Herod in the beginning of his reign took away this power from them, (Antiq. lib. 14, cap. 205 ;) and they
said truly, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” John, 18:31. In these circumstances they bring him to Pilate's bar. But Pilate understanding that he was a Galilean, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and at that time in Jerusalem, Pilate sent him to Herod, and by him he was sent back again to Pilate.
3. As he was at first heard and judged by a court that had no authority to judge him ; so when he stood at Pilate's bar, he was accused of perverting the nation, and denying tribute to Cesar, than which nothing was more notoriously false. For as all his doctrine was pure and heavenly, and malice itself could not find a flaw in it; so he was always observant of the laws under which he lived, and scrupulous of giving the least just offence to the civil powers. Yea, he not only paid the tribute himself, though he might have pleaded exemption, but charged it upon others as their duty, "Give unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's.” Matt. 22: 21.
4. To compass their malicious designs, they industriously labor to suborn false witnesses to take away his life, employing the grossest perjury and most manifest injustice that they might destroy him. So you read, "Now the chief priests and elders, and all the council, sought false witnesses against Jesus to put him to death.” Matt. 26 : 59. Abominable wickedness! for such men, and so many, to join to shed the blood of the innocent, by known and studied perjury! What will not malice against Christ induce men to do.
5. Moreover, the conduct of the court was most insolent and base towards him during the trial; whilst he stood before them as a prisoner, yet uncondemned, sometimes they are angry at him for his silence ; and when he speaks, and that properly and to the point, they smite him on the mouth for speaking, and scoff at what
To some of their light, frivolous, and insnaring que
tions he makes no reply, not for want of an answer, but because he heard nothing worthy of one; and to fulfil what the prophet Isaiah had long before predicted of him, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth : he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth;" Isa. 53:7; as also to leave us an example when to speak, and when to be si. lent, if we for his name's sake shall be brought before governors. Then they are ready to condemn him for his silence. "Answerest thou nothing? (saith the highpriest,) what is it that these witness against thee?" Matt. 26 : 62. "Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?” saith Pilate. Matt. 27: 13.
And when he makes his defence in words of truth and soberness, they smite him for speaking: "When he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by, struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high-priest so ?" John, 18:22. And what had he spoken to exasperate them? What he said, when they would have had him insnare himself with his own lips, was but this, " I spake openly to the world, I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort, and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me ? Ask them that heard me, behold, they know what I said.” Oh who but himself could have so patiently borne such abuses ! Under all this he stands in perfect innocency and patience, making no other return to the wretch that smote him, but this, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?”
6. Not to dwell on other particulars, he is condemned to die by that very mouth which had once and again professed he found no fault in him. He had heard all that could be alleged against him, and saw it was a perfect piece of malice and envy. When they urge Pilate