Matthew 26:30-46; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:39-46;John 18:1. “Jesus speaking these things, went out with His disciples beyond the brook Kidron, where was a garden, into which He and His disciples went.” This is the Garden of Gethsemane, which means “oil- press,” as evidently it had some celebrity for the manufacture of olive-oil, corroborative of which the olive-trees there still abound. They look very venerable. Since the olive-tree ordinarily lives five hundred to a thousand years, there is a degree of plausibility in the tradition that the identical trees under which Jesus and His disciples frequently sat still survive, as several trunks from the same root are still green and flourishing, some looking old and others young, favoring the conclusion that as the old die, others grow up, thus perpetuating the tree from the same root. “Garden,” in the Old World, is: frequently synonymous with “park” in this country; e. g., “the Garden of Eden.”
Matthew 26:30; Matthew 26:36-37. “And having sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus comes with them into a place called Gethsemane, and says to His disciples, Sit here, until, having gone, I shall pray yonder. And taking Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to give way to sorrow and dejection.” You see how He compliments Peter, James, and John by taking them with Him to the exclusion of the rest. He did the same on the Mount of Transfiguration, and also at the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter — evidencing a deeper insight into spiritual things on the part of the apostolic trio. The unfallen humanity of Jesus, never callused by sin, is intensely emotional, feeling infinitely more acutely than we are likely to apprehend.
Luke 22:41-44. “And He departed from them about a stone’s cast, and putting down His knees, continued to pray, saying, Father, if this cup wishes to pass from Me.” This was spoken proleptically, implying a desire on the part of His humanity to retreat from the terrible ordeals of blood, insult, treason, abuse, and death which His Divinity saw in diabolical panorama moving before His eyes. “Moreover, not My will, but Thine be done.” Here you see He prefers the Divine will to his own human will, giving us an exceedingly profitable example. The human will of Jesus recoiled from the horrific tragedy coming to meet Him. So will ours under all circumstances. Hence we are to sink away into the Divine will, always keeping the human meekly acquiescent.
“And an angel appeared unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” While there was no retreat from the appalling and horrific maelstrom which opened its in hellish malice, yet the loving Father sends awful crisis. Hence you see the pertinency of prayer amid all of our temptations and trials; not that we will always be delivered from them, but that our Heavenly Father will send an angel to strengthen us, giving us the needed patience, resignation, forbearance, and perseverance adequate to the conflict. “And being in agony, He continued to pray the more fervently. And His perspiration was like drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” All efforts to explain this agony of His human soul are utterly vain. Millions of martyrs have gone singing to the burning stake, and shouted triumphantly amid the wreathing flames. Then why did Jesus agonize so intensely in contemplation of His martyrdom? You must remember that all comparison is really impertinent and utterly out of place as to any attempted exegesis, from the simple fact that none of the martyrs atoned for the sins of the world. The Divinity could neither suffer nor die, but only served as the altar on which the humanity was immolated to atone for the sins of a guilty world. Hence the innocent Man Jesus carried upon His spotless soul all the mountains of sin committed by the guilty; race in all ages, from Adam to the latest generation. Consequently, we are utterly incompetent to know or to realize the agony which He endured in the garden. There the battle was fought between the human and the Divine will, the latter triumphing. Gethsemane was the consecration and Calvary the sanctification. In the case of the latter, we see Him nailed to the cross, and pouring out His blood, and hear nothing of humanity’s recoil from the appalling tragedy, the battle having been fought and the victory won in Gethsemane. Hence the soul seeking sanctification must first pass the Gethsemane of consecration, where the human utterly and eternally submits to the Divine will. Then you are prepared cheerfully to let the Holy Ghost nail Adam the First to the cross, and let him bleed and die. The followers of Jesus must all pass through Gethsemane on their way to Calvary. This bloody sweat is unparalleled in all the history of human suffering, illustrative of the fact that the world has never seen but the one Savior, who actually carried upon His spotless soul all of its guilt and crime.
Mark 14:38-39. “And He comes and finds them sleeping, and says to Peter, Simon , do you sleep? Were you not able to watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest ye may enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They had been constantly on foot and their attention engaged so long that drowsiness and nervous relaxation proved irresistible. “And again having gone away; He prayed, speaking the same word. And returning, He found them again sleeping; for their eyes were heavy, and they knew not what they respond to Him.”
It is about midnight. The apostles were stout, muscular men who, in case of nervous collapse, found drowsiness irresistible. “He comes the third time, and says to them, Do you sleep on and take your rest. It is over: the hour has come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going; behold; the one having betrayed Me draweth nigh.” Jesus having seen all the maneuvers of His enemies, who, under the escort of Judas, have tracked them — making inquiry of the people on the streets
— from the upper room where they had taken the supper on Mount Zion, through the long way of the city to the east wall, and out across the Valley of Jehoshaphat and the brook Kidron to this garden, where Jesus had so often resorted with His disciples while Judas was with them, and who consequently kept His track, leading the mob, and also having seen all the hurry and bustle of His enemies, parading the temple guards and hiring the street rabble to accompany them, now, that they are coming right into the park, and knowing they are going to arrest Him, He commands the Eleven all to wake up, and goes to meet them.
Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53;John 18:2-12. “And Judas, the one betraying Him, knew the place, because frequently, Jesus, with His disciples, had resorted thither. Then Judas, taking a band and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, comes thither with lanterns, torches, and arms.” The lantern was a closed- up light of some kind, fortified against the wind, while the torches were large, blazing flambeaux. Though the moon was very bright, as she was nearly full, it was exceedingly important to have plenty of light as a fortification against the liability of mistaking the wrong person, as they surmised that an effort would be made on the part of the disciples to elude them in that way; their great confidence, however, being in Judas, who was so intimately acquainted with Him. Thus they had taken every precaution to make sure that they arrested the One whom they had been pursuing these three years, and who had baffled them so frequently by rendering Himself invisible, and in various ways eluding their grasp till His work was done.
Mark 14:43 : “And immediately, He speaking, Judas, being one of the twelve, comes, and a great multitude with him, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, scribes, and elders.” A huge club, four or five feet long, is an exceedingly common weapon in that country now. I saw persons incessantly thus armed — quite a formidable weapon in the hands of a stalwart man.
John 18:4-9. “Then Jesus, knowing all things which are coming upon Him, having gone out, said to them, Whom do you seek? They responded to Him, Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus says to them, I am He?” Never did the world see another such a man as Jesus. When they came to crown Him King, He fled away; but when they came to kill Him, He went out to meet them. “Judas, the one betraying Him, also stood with them. Then, when He said to them, I am He, they went back, and fell upon the ground.” This is His last miracle, except healing the amputated ear, which speedily followed. Though He boldly comes out from the dense shade of those great olive-trees into the clear light of the moon, shining so brightly from that cloudless, Palestinian sky, and also into the strong light of a hundred flambeaux, so that it was as bright as day, and there was no trouble about recognition, yet, lo! an awful panic strikes them, so they retreat back and fall upon the ground like dead men. How easily He could have utterly baffled and defeated them, striking them all with the paralysis of incorrigible terror! But the time has come for Him to meet the bloody avalanche from the bottomless pit, and lay down His life for a lost world.
“Then again He asked them, Whom do you seek? And they said, Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus responded, I said to you that I am He. If then you seek Me, let these retire in order that the word which He spoke may be fulfilled, That I lost none of them whom Thou hast given Me.” They did not consider His disciples sufficiently important to deserve their attention at that time, as they were satisfied if they could only get the One who had given them so much trouble, and whose life they had so long been seeking in vain. Really, all their energies, aspirations, and wits were laid under contribution to secure the arrest and execution of Jesus.
Matthew 26:48-50. “And the one having betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, Whom I shall kiss is He; hold Him fast. And immediately coming to Jesus, he said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him copiously. Jesus said to him, Comrade, for what do you come? Then they, coming, laid hands on Jesus, and bound Him.” John 18:12. “Then the band, the chiliarch, and the officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound Him.” Such was their fear, solicitude, and anxiety for success that they all united in arresting and binding Him. John 18:10 : “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the servant of the high-priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name to that servant was Malchus.” Matthew 26:52 :
“Then Jesus said to Peter, Put up thy sword into its place; for all taking the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Genesis 9:6.) Of course, those who use the sword are all liable to perish in that way. Luke 22:51 : “Jesus said, Hold on a little, and touching his ear He healed it.” The moment Peter smote Malchus, Jesus ordered him to put up his sword, stepped instantly to the wounded soldier, touched his ear and healed it, thus in His last miracle manifesting His loving kindness even to His enemies, who had that moment arrested Him, and He knew they were going to take His life. You see in the assault Peter made on the enemies of Jesus a brilliant manifestation of his native heroism. He feared the face of no man, but was brave enough to fight that whole army. It is a great mistake to conclude that he was deficient in natural courage because in the subsequent events of that awful night he displayed so signal cowardice. All this was because Jesus would not let him fight, and consequently he felt he was at the mercy of His enemies, who knew no mercy.
Matthew 26:53-56. “Do you not think that I am able now to call on My Father, and He will send Me more than twelve legions of angels? How then can the Scriptures be fulfilled, because it behooveth it thus to be?” Those angels were ready, hovering around, and eager for the opportunity to snatch Him away from the cruel manacles of the bloodthirsty rabble and bear Him on pinions of light to the home of the glorified. Right there at Jerusalem a solitary angel had slain a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers in one night. Doubtless the same angels who ministered to Him when tempted in the wilderness were hovering round. “At that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, You have come out as against a thief with swords and clubs to take Me. I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you laid not hands on Me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. Then all of His disciples, leaving Him, fled.” When the mob first came they surrounded them altogether. Now that they have secured the only One they wanted, they break ranks, leaving an opening for the others all to run away, as they did not want to be encumbered with them at that time. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, thus creating a great popular sensation and weakening the hands of His enemies, they would have arrested and executed every one of His apostles, except Judas, as accomplices in the criminality in which they had falsely implicated Jesus. Now the apostles see that He is arrested and bound, completely in the hands of His enemies; hence, yielding to desperation and affright, they flee away.
Luke 22:53. “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” His enemies had repeatedly tried to arrest Him, stone Him, and destroy Him in any way they could; but invariably suffered utter defeat till now, when He is turned over to the powers of earth and hell to execute their vilest venom against His innocent person, and He thus becomes the vicarious substitute for every guilty sinner.
Mark 14:51-52. “And one certain young man follows Him, clothed with a linen cloth on his naked body. The young men arrest him; but he, leaving the linen cloth fled from them in a state of nudity.” It is believed that this young man was none other than the Apostle John and it is said that he fled away to the house of Rabbi Amos in the city, and there procured the robe of a Jewish priest, invested in which he returned, and remained with the Savior in all of His troubles, walking by His side to the tribunal of Annas, thence to the judgment-hall; of Caiaphas, thence to Pilate’s bar and to Herod’s tribunal, then back to Pilate, and on His way to Calvary. Standing by His side when He hung bleeding on the cross all this time hoping that He would revive, exercise His wonderful power, and extricate Himself from the hands of His enemies, till the Roman soldier came along and plunged the spear into His side, thus tearing His heart to pieces. It is said that when this cruel deed was done, all hope of His reviving taking its flight, John, yielding to despair, fainted. Let this be as it may, we see here that John was with Him after the flight of the other ten.
ARRAIGNMENT OF JESUS AND DENIAL OF PETER
Matthew 26:57-75; Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-62;John 18:13-27. “And they led Him first to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.” It is said that there was a controversy between the Jews and Romans in reference to the high-priesthood, the latter favoring Annas and the former Caiaphas. I visited the house of Caiaphas and the judgment-hall during both my tours in Jerusalem. The presumption is, the tribunal of Annas was in the same house, as it is very large. N.B. — All the houses in Jerusalem are stone.
Hence their durability.
“And Caiaphas was the one counseling the Jews that it is profitable for one man to die for the people.” This is an example in which God, at least momentarily, imparted the gift of prophecy to an unconverted man, his official position giving him a prominence highly conducive to the efficacy of his prophecy.
“And Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. And that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the judgment-hall of the high priest.” You see here, John is speaking of himself, as he never calls his own name. Gnostos, “known,” is claimed also to convey the idea of kinship. From considerations, doubtless, of this character, Caiaphas permitted him to go along with them by the side of Jesus, the soldiers mistaking him for a Jewish priest, because of the robe with which it is said he was invested, having procured it at the house of Rabbi Amos, a friend of Jesus. Such was the affright of the other nine that they kept hidden away at a distance, Peter leaving them, and venturing to follow along with the crowd after Jesus; while, as you see, John remained with him unmolested, and of course not recognized except by Caiaphas, or he would have gotten into the same trouble which overtook Peter.
“And Peter stood at the door without. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came out, and spoke to the porter, and led in Peter. And the servants and officers having made a fire because it was cold, were standing round it, and warming themselves.” They have no chimneys to the houses in Jerusalem; but as this was April 13th, about 2 A.M., it was quite chilly, and they built a fire in the open court of the great quadrangular building, and were warming round it, while Jesus stood at the tribunal of Caiaphas in the judgment-hall.
“And Peter was standing with them warming. Then the damsel porter says to Peter, Art thou not one of the disciples of this Man? He says, I am not. And Simon Peter was standing warming; then they said, Art thou not of His disciples? He denied, and said, I am not.” Mark 14:68-70 : “And he went out into the portico, and the cock crew. And the damsel seeing him again, began to speak to those standing by, This man is one of them. And he denied it.” John 18:26-27 : “One of the servants of the chief priest, being a kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, says, Did I not see thee with Him in the garden? Then Peter again denied, and immediately the cock crew.” Now, see that you get this whole matter clear in reference to Peter’s denial. Remember, the building is a large quadrangular, with an open court in the center, roofless. Here, while Peter is warming by the fire, the damsel doorkeeper identifies and interrogates him. He positively denies that he is one of the disciples of the Man then on trial in the contiguous judgment- hall. Then Peter goes away from the fire, and is standing in the portico leading from the open court into the judgment-hall. There the same damsel porter again recognizes and interviews him, certifying that he is one of that Man’s disciples. Again Peter denies, with an oath (doubtless of affirmation). Now, after a few minutes, while Peter is still in the portico, the kinsman of Malchus, whose ear Peter had cut off with a sword, accuses him, very positively identifying him obviously.
Matthew 26:74. “Then he began to anathematize and swear, I know not the Man. And immediately the cock crew.” The E. V. “curse and swear” is very likely to mislead the reader into the conclusion that Peter indulged in blasphemy and profanity, which is unwarranted in the original, which simply conveys the idea that he anathematized; i.e., confirmed his statement by invoking an anathema on himself, and used an oath of affirmation. The idea that he cursed and swore, after the manner of wicked people, indulging in blasphemy and profanity, is not sustained by the Greek. You must remember, however, that Jesus condemns all sorts of swearing, except the oath of affirmation administered by persons in authority, as you see He Himself responded when under oath administered by Caiaphas. Of course, Peter was guilty of falsification in a very aggravated form, augmenting it by the invocation of an anathema and by the oath of affirmation, in all probability using some trivial oath, like swearing by the temple. The solution of the matter is, Peter felt that his life was in danger, more especially when accused the third time by the kinsman of a man whose ear he had cut off. Peter’s courage was all right till Jesus made Him put up the sword and let His enemies alone; then a reaction took place, intensified by these accusations, so that he gave way to fear, and acted foolishly and wickedly, denying his Lord and confirming his denial by an oath.
Luke 22:60-62. “And immediately, he still speaking, the cock crew.” And the Lord, turning, looked on Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He said to him, Before the cock crows, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And having gone out, he wept bitterly.” Mark 14:72 : “And having gone out, he continued to weep.” The third denial was there in the portico, where the people were standing aside a little, when Jesus, turning His head, looked on him so impressively as to remind him of everything He had told him about the three denials, simultaneously breaking his heart, and inundating him with gushing penitential tears, so that he rushes out of the crowd, and, as Mark says, “continued to weep,” Mark and Luke adding their testimony that he wept bitterly. Precipitation was Peter’s great and prominent infirmity, and when manipulated by Satan a terrible stumbling- block as in the above case, when, giving way to fear, he denied his Lord; not, as E. V. would lead you to infer, indulging in blasphemous oaths, horrific to think of and especially on the part of an apostle, yet not only certifying that he knew Him not, but even confirming his repudiation by solemn imprecations and an oath of affirmation. But when sanctified by the Holy Ghost, this thunderbolt impetuosity became a mighty enginery, pre- eminently qualifying him for the apostolical seniority and leadership with which the Holy Spirit honored him on the day of Pentecost as well as subsequently. We may recognize this fact, somewhat in his favor, that he followed on, manifesting a desire to help his Lord if possible, while the other nine fled away, seeking places of safety. We are no apologists for Peter’s cowardly repudiation of his Lord, even under these trying circumstances; yet we do believe that the popular verdict against him, as a rule, is more condemnatory than he deserves. His unworthy conduct, however, demonstrates the crying necessity of the second work of grace. After his Pentecostal baptism, we see him serving as apostolical speaker, facing the combined authorities of Church and State, preaching all day, and spending the ensuing night in jail. From that notable hour, on Sunday morning, when the Holy Ghost and fire descended on them from heaven, till he was nailed to the cross on the Campus Martius in Rome, he was never known to flicker an iota, amid the combined antagonism of earth and hell. He truly lived a hero and died a martyr.
JESUS CONDEMNED BY THE SANHEDRIN
Matthew 26:59-68; Mark 14:55-65; Luke 22:63-71;John 18:19-24. “Then the high priest asked Jesus concerning His disciples and teaching. Jesus responded to Him, I spoke boldly to the world. I always taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; behold, they know the things which I said. He, speaking these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, Do you thus answer the high priest? Jesus responded to him, If I spoke wickedly, testify concerning the wickedness; but if truly, why do you smite Me? Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” Evidently, Annas and Caiaphas had their tribunals in the same great quadrangular building standing on Mount Zion, and now visited by the thirty thousand pilgrims annually going to Jerusalem. Having first been arraigned at the tribunal of Annas, He is now, about day-dawn, led bound to the tribunal of Caiaphas. You see how the high priest endeavored to make Him confess, hoping to utilize His own testimony against Himself, as they had no witnesses to amount to anything, and thus condescended to a very cowardly stratagem, which even if he had succeeded, the law pronounces the weakest of all evidence. It was awfully barbaric for that officer to smite a prisoner in bonds. You see, Jesus vindicates Himself reminding the man of the criminal impropriety of this uncouth assault upon a defenseless prisoner illustrating the right of all His followers to vindicate themselves from false accusation, violence, and tyranny, and refuting the idea somewhat prevalent that we are never to advocate our rights and vindicate ourselves against the oppression of the wicked.
Luke 22:66. “And when it was day, the eldership of the people, the chief priests, and the scribes were assembled, and led Him into the Sanhedrin.” As they had been on His track, like bloodhounds, three years, eager to take, His life (but restrained by the fear of the people; and well they might be, because a bloody civil war would have broken out immediately), such is their fear of the people that they attack Him at midnight, aiming to secure the death-warrant and kill Him before day. In this they are disappointed and woefully disconcerted, being unable to convene the Sanhedrin till day dawn, though keeping couriers running at race-horse speed all night, (notifying and urging them up. The Sanhedrin was the highest court of the politico-ecclesiasticism, the successor of the eldership organized by Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, during their wilderness peregrinations.
Mark 14:55-59. “And the high priest and all the Sanhedrin continued to seek testimony against Jesus to put him to death, and they found none.” Matthew says “false testimony.” Of course, they preferred true testimony if they could get it; but as there was none, they were anxious to take any kind they could get. “For many continued to testify falsely against Him, and their testimonies were not equal,” i. e., they contradicted one another, which in law invalidates both, so that they are thrown out of court. “And certain ones, rising up, falsely testified against Him, saying, We heard Him saying, That I will destroy this temple, made with hands, and in three days I will build another, made without hands. Indeed their testimony was not equal;” i. e., they contradicted one another. Perhaps some of the witnesses gave it correctly; but you have only to look at John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and I will build it in three days,” to see that the above witnesses were false, as they testified that He said, “I will destroy this temple, made with hands, and build another, made without hands.” By comparison, you see that these witnesses did not quote Him correctly, as their testimony would make it mean that great stone edifice standing on Mount Moriah; while He did not mean that at all, but the temple of His body. Why did He not correct them when so grossly misrepresenting Him? Because it would have done no good, as Satan was in them, and they were thirsting for His blood.
Matthew 26:62-66. “The high priest, standing up, said to Him, Do You answer nothing? What are they witnessing against Thee? And Jesus was silent.” Under temptation, the better policy is, like Jesus, to keep silent. You should never speak while under severe provocation. “The high priest, responding, said to Him, I assure Thee by the living God, that Thou mayest tell us if Thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus says to him, Thou sayest it.” That is an Oriental form of affirmation. Here, you see, Jesus answers while under oath of affirmation, administered by the high priest. Hence you see His indirect approval appertaining to the civil oath of affirmation. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:23) administers a solemn oath to the Thessalonian saints to read his letter to all the members of the Church.
“Moreover I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.” The first clause of this wonderful prophecy of our Lord was fulfilled when they saw Him rise from the dead and ascend up to heaven from Mount Olivet; while the second clause, “coming in the clouds of heaven,” will be fulfilled when Jesus shall ride down on a cloud and receive all the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 7:9-14) and reign forever. In this wonderful sentence there is not so much as a comma, yet those two clauses are separated by many centuries, the former being verified in a few days, and the latter still pending.
“Then the high priest tore His robes, saying, That He blasphemed; what need of testimony have we yet? Behold, now , you have heard His blasphemy. What seems good to you? And they, responding, said, He is worthy of death.” Mark says this verdict was unanimous, So here you see the issue of His prosecution before the Sanhedrin They unanimously condemned Him to die for blasphemy, according to the law of Moses. (Leviticus 24:16.) Thus you see, good and just laws become vehicles of tyranny and persecution when in the hands of bad men, and are no guarantee of fight and justice when the devil is in the administrators. Jesus died under the verdict of Divine law, and so did all the martyrs, there being no trouble about the law; but Satan was in the preachers and ruling elders. So it is this day. Some of the brightest saints that walk beneath the skies, have been excommunicated, while drunkards, libertines, blasphemers, and thieves have been retained without impeachment. Such was the case in the days of Luther and Wesley, and always will be so when Diabolus gets into the clergy and official laity.
Luke 22:63-65. “And the men who had charge of Jesus began to mock Him, beating Him; and covering Him, continued to strike His face, and ask Him, saying, Prophesy, who is the one smiting thee? And blaspheming Him as to many other things, they continued to speak against Him.” The truth of it is, Jesus had no trial, it was a mockery; to their infinite shame, barbarically abusing Him while a prisoner in chains, which is revolting to the very idea of civil, not to say ecclesiastical administration. Nicodemus certifies that Jewish law never condemned a man till he met his accusers face to face, and had a fair and impartial trial. Festus, the Roman proconsul, makes the same statement in reference to imperial law. Hence, Jesus was mobbed and outlawed. But did He not come into the world to die? Most assuredly; and He would have died to redeem the world from sin, death, and hell if neither Judas nor Caiphas had ever been born. Yet that is no apology for the diabolical treason, perfidy, and murder which they committed, overtly, without excuse.
JESUS AT PILATE’S BAR
Matthew 27:1-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38. “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the judgment-hall.”
When I was in Jerusalem last November and December, I went directly from the Sanhedrin hall, on Mount Zion in the west, to Pilate’s judgment- hall, north-east wall, on the intervening slope between Mount Moriah and Bezetha. “And it was morning.” Thus Jesus has been up all night, dragged hither and thither, abused and afflicted by His enemies, and must be awfully fatigued and exhausted. “And they did not go into the judgment- hall, in order that they may not be polluted, but may eat the Passover.” This illustrates the nonsense into which Satan runs religious people when they give him a chance. Here they are so fearful of contracting ceremonial defilement that they will not so much as enter the Gentile judgment-hall; while they are already guilty of the blackest murder ever concocted in the bottomless pit. You must not think that these things are peculiar to the ancient times. The world is full of them now.
“Then Pilate came out to them, and said, What accusation do you bring against this Man? They responded and said, If He were not an evildoer, we had not delivered Him to thee. Then Pilate said to them, You indeed take Him, and judge Him according to your law. Then the Jews said to him, It is not lawful for us to kill any one, in order that the word of Jesus may be fulfilled, which He spoke, signifying by what death He was about to die.” Very early in our Lord’s ministry (John 3:14), in the case of the brazen serpent, He predicted the manner of His death by crucifixion. This was a Roman punishment, the Jews having no such a law. Consequently He was delivered by the Jews to the Romans for execution. You see here the dilemma in which the Jews were involved.
a. Having condemned Him to die for blasphemy, they now wake up to the fact that Judea is no longer free, but a Roman province, the prerogative of capital punishment having already passed out of the hands of the Jews and become the sole right of the Romans. Consequently they have to take Him to Pilate, the Roman proconsul.
b. By the time they arrive at Pilate’s judgment-hall, they have awakened to the fact that the Romans have no law against blasphemy, for which they have condemned Jesus to die. Consequently they see that it will be utterly unavailable to bring this charge against Him before a Roman court. Therefore they have no bill of charges to present to Pilate justifying the commitment of a prisoner to his adjudication.
c. Now they find themselves in a serious puzzle, as the overwhelming probability favors the conclusion that if they present to Pilate the prisoner charged with nothing but blasphemy, on which Roman legislation is utterly Silent, Pilate will simply throw the case out of court, refuse to adjudicate, and drive them all away from his tribunal, as Gallio did at Corinth (Acts 18) when Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, brought Paul to him for condemnation, having no charge against him except matters pertaining to their own religion, which the proconsul looked upon as superstition, and consequently, threw it out of court, driving the Jews away from his tribunal, when the Gentile multitude became so disgusted with the foolish persecutions of the Jews against an innocent man that they took Sosthenes and gave him a good thrashing, which seems to have proved a blessing to him, as we only hear of him once more (1 Corinthians 1), when he is associated with Paul in the evangelistic work at Ephesus, having been converted and turned missionary.
d. The final result of all this tergiversation is, that they drop the charge of blasphemy altogether, and take up a new one, on which there had been no action, committing Him to Pilate under the accusation of high treason, claiming to be King of the Jews, and consequently a rival of the Roman emperor.
Luke 23:2. “And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found Him revolutionizing the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is, Christ a King.” You see how adroitly they manipulated the matter. As the Scriptures denominate Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, they construe Him as claiming to be King, and consequently a rival of Caesar.
John 18:33-38. “Then Pilate went again into the judgment-hall, and spoke to Jesus, and said to Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews? Jesus responded to him, Do you speak this of yourself, or did others tell you concerning Me? Pilate responded, Whether am I a Jew? Thy nation and the chief priests delivered Thee to me; what hast Thou done Jesus responded, My kingdom is not from this world , If My kingdom were from this world, My servants would fight for Me, in order that I may not be delivered to the Jews. But now My kingdom is not from thence.” This statement of our Savior in reference to His kingdom is frequently quoted as an argument against the coming Millennial Theocracy; but a moment’s reflection reveals the utter impertinency of such an application. Of course, God’s kingdom is not of this world, but of heaven; but that is no reason why, it should, not bear rule over this world. The kingdom of God is here now; yet it is not of this world. The kingdom of Satan is here; not of this world, but of hell, and a usurpation on the earth. When Satan is east out and imprisoned in hell (Revelation 20), thus all obstructions to the heavenly kingdom being removed, the latter, will, so wonderfully prevail on the earth as to receive a boundless, new impetus, not eliminating grace, but adding to it glory, when
“He shall have dominion over river, sea, and shore, Far as the eagle’s pinion or dove’s light wing can soar.”
“Then Pilate said to Him, Art Thou not then a King? Jesus responded, Thou sayest that I am.” N.B. — This is an Oriental form of positive affirmation, Jesus admitting to Pilate that He is King. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, that I may witness to the truth.” His is significantly a kingdom of truth, in contradistinction to Satan’s kingdom of falsehood and error. “Every one being of the truth heareth My voice.” Poor Pilate was not of the truth. He was a corrupt thieving politician, therefore he did not hear the voice of Jesus, but came to a miserable end, dying a suicide in lonely exile, having been degraded and banished by Caligula, the Roman emperor.
“Pilate says to Him, What is truth?” Pilate took up the idea that He was a dreamy, visionary philosopher, gone wild with hard study, imagining that He was a King, and that He had found out the truth, as so many Greek sages claimed to have done; meanwhile he had no confidence in His claims to have discovered the truth. Consequently, when he asked the question, he goes right away, not waiting for an answer.
“Saying this again, he went out to the Jews, and tells them, I find nothing criminal in Him.” The Roman Empire had conquered all the world, and was at that time ruling all nations. The very idea that a poor prisoner in bonds, without an army to defend Him, should claim to be King of the Jews was, in Pilate’s judgment, sheer nonsense. Consequently he looks upon the royal claims of his prisoner as simply a matter of ridicule. Believing Him to be a harmless fanatic, dreaming that He is King of the Jews, therefore he makes short work of the judgment by bringing in a verdict of innocence.
Matthew 27:12-14. “And while He was being accused by the high priests and elders, He responded nothing. Then Pilate says to Him, Do You not hear how many things they witness against You? And He responded to him not a word, so that the governor was astonished exceedingly.” Will you not follow the example of Jesus, when people falsely accuse you, and keep silent? Let them tell; ever so many scandals on you, give them no attention whatever; and they will soon get ashamed and let you alone, and in all probability make a specialty of showing you kindness.
Luke 23:4-5. “Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, I find nothing criminal in this Man. And they continued to become more and more uproarious, saying that He revolutionizes the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee even unto this place.” The sun having risen about five is rapidly climbing the Oriental skies, and pouring down, the day from the summit of great Mount Olivet. His enemies, having worked hard all night to get Him condemned and killed before day, lest the people rally and fight, for Him, are now in an awful dilemma. They have Him on hand and are determined to kill Him; meanwhile the people are pouring in from all directions, and they awfully fear an outbreak, in which they will very likely be killed.
PILATE SEEKS TO RELEASE HIM IN LIEU OF BARABBAS
Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; John 18:39-40; Luke 23:13-25. “And Pilate, having called together the high priests, rulers, and the people, said to them, You have brought to me this Man as revolutionizing the people; and, behold, I, having judged Him in your presence, found nothing in this Man criminal of those things which you accuse against Him; neither did Herod; for I sent you to him, and, behold, nothing worthy of death has been done by Him. Therefore, having scourged Him, I will release Him.” The cruelty of the Roman punishments actually beggars all description. This scourging which Pilate mentions was horrific in the extreme. Previously to the crucifixion of a man, they beat his naked body with thongs of rawhide, having in them steel points, which lacerated his flesh most excruciatingly, so that it was nothing uncommon for the poor victim to die during the scourging. Pilate, however, lights upon this as a dernier ressort to save the life of Jesus, thinking that a punishment so awful administered to an innocent man would certainly produce a reaction on the part of His enemies, constraining them to relax their apparently implacable animosity toward Him, so that they would consent to His release. Pilate, though a corrupt heathen ruler, in this matter underestimated the diabolical malice and hellish venom which was at that time the controlling principle of the big preachers and ruling elders, who were determined to have Him put to death. When the devil gets possession of religious people, they have in all ages proved more demoniacal than the wicked people of the world.
Mark 15:6-12. “But during the feast he was accustomed to release unto them one prisoner, whom they demanded. There was one called Barabbas, having been bound along with the insurrectionists, who had committed murder in the insurrection. The rabble, roaring, began to ask as he was always accused to do unto them. Pilate responded to them, saying, Do you wish that I shall release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the high priests had delivered Him through envy.” It is said that Joseph’s brethren sold him to the Ishmaelites through envy. He was a beautiful type of Christ, sold for money, and suffered seven years in the loathsome State prison, thus vividly symbolizing Jesus, in His first coming, to suffer and to die. Finally, when promoted to the throne of Egypt, the ruling kingdom of the world, invested in royal robes, riding in a golden chariot, fifty couriers running before him, shouting, “Bow the knee for the king cometh,” how vividly does he emblematize our glorious King Jesus in His second advent, accompanied by the mighty angels, and crowned King of kings and Lord of Lords! Pilate is so anxious to release Jesus that he restricts their choice to the two — Jesus and Barabbas. Then, coming before them, he seeks to forestall their verdict by shouting aloud, “Shall I release unto you the King of the Jews?”
Matthew 27:19. “He, sitting upon his tribunal, his wife sent to him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that Righteous One; for I suffered many things this day in a dream on account of Him.” In common parlance, the day includes the night. Of course, the woman had the dream during the night. Tradition has given us the character of this dream. It is said that when the courier arrived from their suburban home at Bethany, bringing a letter from Lucia Metella, the governor’s wife, in the midst of this momentously exciting trial, Pilate took it hurriedly, and aiming to read inaudibly, was so excited that his tremulous utterances were overheard. “My Dear Husband, — Be sure that you have nothing to do with that Righteous One; for this very day I saw Him, in a vision seated on high Olympus, and all the gods and goddesses hurling their crowns at His feet! I tell you, my husband, He is one of the gods.” Of course, she and Pilate were Romans, believing in the many gods of the Roman Empire.
Luke 23:8-23. “And the whole: multitude cried out saying, Take Him away; but release unto us Barabbas, who , on account of a certain insurrection and murder in the city, had been cast into prison,” and Barabbas was a formidable robber chief, who had given them awful trouble, the Roman guards with difficulty having finally succeeded in arresting him, and thus breaking up his robber band. “Then Pilate again called to them, wishing to release Jesus. And they continued to cry out, saying, Crucify Him! crucify Him! And the third time he said to them, For what evil has He done? I have found nothing worthy of death in Him; therefore, having scourged Him, I will release Him.” You see Pilate’s plan was to move their sympathies and mitigate their cruel wrath by scourging Him, thinking they would then consent to His release.
“And they continued to lie on, with great voices demanding that He should be crucified; and the voices of them and the high priests continued to wax stronger and stronger.” As they were disappointed in their plan of killing Him in the night, and it is now eight o’clock, the news flying on the wings of the wind, and all who hear of it rushing to the scene of action, crowding the streets and alleys and the flat roofs of the houses all around Pilate’s judgment-hall, the high priests, Sanhedrin, and ruling elders feel that the crisis is on them, and if some-thing is not done quickly, the mob will rise and take Him out of their hands. Hence they roar and roar as if they would split their throats, demanding of the governor His crucifixion.
Matthew 27:24-26. “And Pilate, seeing that he profits nothing, but the more is the uproar, taking water, washed his hands in presence of the multitude, saying, I am innocent, from the blood of this Just One; you shall see to it. And all the people, responding, said, His blood be upon us and our children. Then he released unto them Barabbas.”
Luke 23:24-25. “And Pilate decided that the request should be granted, and he released unto them the one who on account of sedition and murder had been cast into prison, and he delivered Jesus according to their choice.” Contemporary history says that Pilate had but few soldiers in Jerusalem at that time comparatively with the ordinary force which he kept on hand, having recently been under the necessity of sending away a large detachment to quell an insurrection in Syria. He was therefore apprehensive of a bloody revolution, surging like the waves of the stormy sea, and every moment threatening to break out, deluge the judgment-hall in blood, blockade the streets with the slain, and wrap Jerusalem in a terrible civil war. Consequently, resorting to a principle long rulable, especially in Oriental despotisms, that one innocent man would better die than for many to lose their lives, and having repeatedly pronounced Jesus innocent, he signs His death-warrant as a mere peace measure, in order to prevent a bloody conflict, in which many would certainly perish.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 18". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany