PART VI. (A.)
CHAPTERS 18, 19
I. CHRIST IN THE HANDS OF HIS ENEMIES
1. His betrayal and apprehension (Joh ).
2. The informal examination before Annas and Caiaphas (Joh ).
3. Simon Peter's denial of the Lord (Joh ; Joh 18:25-27).
4. Christ before Pilate (the trial before the Sanhedrin is presupposed) (Joh ).
5. Pilate's interview with the Jews outside the Prtorium (Joh ).
6. Pilate within his judgment hall with Jesus: Christ's declaration of the spiritual nature of His kingdom (Joh ).
7. Pilate's declaration of the innocency of Jesus; he gives the Jews the choice of having Jesus or Barabbas released to them, but they choose Barabbas (Joh ).
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
Joh . Went forth.—From the part of the suburbs where the discourse from Joh 14:31 had been spoken, and the intercessory prayer offered. The brook Cedron ( τοῦ κεδρών, Kidron, Heb. קִדְרוֹן, the dark stream: 2Sa 15:23, etc.).—It was a winter torrent, χείμαῤῥος. The wady is dry after the winter and spring rains. It separates Jerusalem on the East from the Mount of Olives and Scopus, flows South-East by Mar-Saba, and enters the Dead Sea. A garden (see Mat 26:36, etc.).—Josephus mentions that such gardens were numerous in his time near Jerusalem. There is no reason for doubting that the site now pointed out as corresponding with Gethsemane is at or near it. The present enclosure has been held sacred since Constantine's time. It was called (Heb.) נַּת־שְׁמָנֵי (Gath-Shimanai) = an oil-press. It was an olive garden. In the garden of delights (Eden) the first Adam, through listening to the foe of God and man, and through disobedience to the divine will, brought misery on himself and all men. In Gethsemane the Second Adam, by His willing obedience to His Father, became perfected through sufferings, and conquered the subtle foe.
Joh . A band of soldiers and officers.—The band ( τὴν σπεῖραν)—i.e. part of the Roman garrison. Probably it was a detachment, but under one of the chief officers of the legion. The officers ( ὑπηρέται), members of the Jewish temple guard. Jews and Gentiles alike were gathered against the Lord and His Christ. But how impotent their endeavours to hinder the eternal purpose (Mat 26:53; Act 4:26-28)!
Joh . Knowing, etc.—Conscious of the purpose and end of His mission, which was even in these untoward events being accomplished. Whom seek ye?—Probably the officers did not recognise Jesus in the uncertain light; or both they and the soldiers were not sufficiently acquainted with His appearance to be certain. It was now most likely that Judas gave the preconcerted signal and betrayed His Master with a kiss (Mar 14:45).
Joh . That the saying, etc. (Joh 17:12).—This was one of many ways in which the prayer of our Lord was to be fulfilled in the experience of the disciples. The Lord guards His people in their temporal as in their spiritual life.
Joh . Then Simon Peter, etc.—Here we have a touch of the eye-witness. Not only does St. John know that it was Peter who thus rashly but boldly used his sword—one against many—to defend his Master, but also who was the temporary victim of his onslaught. The Synoptists, in regard to this part of the narrative, show their independence as historians. They seem to place the binding of Jesus before Peter's onslaught. But there is no contradiction. It would be the laying hold of, and beginning to bind Jesus that excited Peter to draw his sword. This onslaught deterred the civilian "soldiers"; and then the band and the high officer, who accompanied the soldiers, completed the operation.
Joh . To Annas first.—Although not the actual high priest, he had great power with the priestly party and Sanhedrin. He probably occupied part of the high priest's palace with his son-in-law Caiaphas, or at least a contiguous dwelling. John here mentions a preliminary investigation which took place apparently before both Annas and Caiaphas in the palace of the latter. This is not the trial before the Sanhedrin recorded by the Synoptists. The preliminary examination could effect nothing definite, but it might have led, Annas and Caiaphas to endeavour to formulate some definite accusation against Jesus before the Sanhedrin; for as yet they had nothing to lay to His charge. Moreover it seems from the high priest's question in Joh 18:19, about Christ's disciples, that they were endeavouring to find out how many of the chief rulers, etc. (Joh 12:42), believed in Jesus. In this they were disappointed by His silence on that point.
Joh . Another disciple.—St. John (see Joh 20:2; Mat 26:58). Known unto the high priest, etc.—What this connection was is not recorded. This is one of those incidental notes which show how John was perhaps best fitted to record the Judæan ministry of our Lord. The name John occurs among the names of the kindred of Annas, who in Act 4:6 is called high priest. But this proves little. It is thought by some that John's brother James is referred to. John calls himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (Joh 13:23; Joh 19:26). But John's proximity to the Lord all through the scene of the Crucifixion seems to indicate him as the disciple spoken of here. The other disciple (i.e. the well-known disciple) is another reading. Palace.—Courtyard: αὐλή, a paved enclosure, open to the sky. This explains why
Joh . A fire of coals was needed. The air of the spring nights at the altitude of Jerusalem is cold. ἀνθρακιάν, a charcoal fire, glowing in a brazier, such as is in use in Palestine at the present day. Peter evidently wished to pass as an unconcerned spectator among the soldiers and servants, and was even thus also denying his Lord.
Joh . I spake openly in the world, etc.—He was the Truth, and did not need to hide His thoughts. Nor did He speak to a select few—a school. He was no mere Rabbi; He came to declare those spiritual and moral truths which bring blessedness to men. Sometimes He had to speak in parables (Joh 13:10); but those who were of the truth would understand them. His teaching was ever before men.
Joh . Why askest? etc.—The Lord claims a just hearing before a just tribunal.
Joh . One of the officers, etc.—Was he one of those sent to entrap Jesus in his words (Joh 7:32; Joh 7:46)? And was he thus seeking to regain favour which had been lost (Joh 7:47)? If so, the greater his sin. These very "officers" should have testified in Christ's favour. It shows that a remnant of conscience was left them when they would not testify against Him, so that the judges had to suborn false witnesses.
Joh . Now Annas had sent, etc.—Rather Therefore Annas sent. This semi-official interrogation had taken place before both Annas and Caiaphas. But they evidently now agreed to lay the case before the council (Sanhedrin); therefore Jesus was officially delivered to Caiaphas to be brought before the Sanhedrin, the trial before which is that narrated by the Synoptists. The verb ἀπέστειλεν is an aorist, and should not be translated as a perfect.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Joh
Joh . Gethsemane.—When Jesus was in Jerusalem there was a spot retired from the city (yet not far from its walls) where He could retire for prayer and meditation, undisturbed by the city crowd. The owner of the place was probably friendly to our Lord and the disciples, so that they would have entry at all times. The spot called the Garden of Gethsemane, situated on the slope of Olivet, not far from the Kidron Wady, is a sacred place now to all Christian travellers. Under the ancient olive trees the reverent pilgrim can think over the sacred memories that haunt the spot, and recall the events which transpired at, or near, the place which is named Gethsemane to-day.
I. The reasons why John does not mention the conflict of Jesus in Gethsemane.—It seems strange that John should not mention the bitter anguish of our Lord as He prayed that the cup might pass from Him. Not that he knew not of it, for in Joh the words of Jesus imply it; not that he did not feel in his heart the awfulness of that struggle.
2. He may have shrunk from writing about this mysterious agony, but yet he writes of the humiliation of the cross.
3. The most likely cause is that men already knew from the other Evangelists the history of that agony. And John's purpose in his Gospel, guided by the Spirit, was to show how the eternal divine Logos manifested forth His glory. He therefore omitted the scenes already recorded by his fellow-Evangelists, and put down that which they had omitted (Joh ), showing his Lord calmly triumphant over all foes—ready to meet the "prince of this world" and wrestle with him, even to the death of the cross, for the redemption of humanity.
II. Gethsemane was a place consecrated to prayer and holy meditation.—
1. "Jesus oftentimes resorted thither with His disciples." Here, after the heat and turmoil of the city during the day, in the quiet eventide a restful solitude might be found, in which the body would be refreshed, and the mind strengthened and tranquillised, for future thought and labour.
2. There in peaceful intercourse with the Father He passed the moments, and in training His disciples for their future work. And many a similar hour did the disciples remember. But on this occasion there was something different. As they entered the moonbeam-flecked shade the presentiment of something awful impending, coupled with the words of Jesus about His going away, fell on their minds and hearts. And, as is the case with sorrow often, they fell asleep. Yet not so unbrokenly as not to hear snatches of that bitter cry, "If it be possible—if Thou be willing, let this cup pass from Me."
3. But now this was past. The Saviour came to them calm and resolved, arousing them with the announcement that "the betrayer was at hand."
III. The place of prayer becomes a place of conflict with evil.—
1. It is so even with the house of God on earth. Into our holiest hours come our heaviest temptations. When the thoughts are nearest God the efforts of the adversary will be redoubled.
2. So it was with Jesus in this hour in Gethsemane. It was the place chosen for the final trial of strength between the Second Adam and our cruel foe. In Eden the serpent had easily prevailed through his lies; but in Gethsemane he meets the Second Adam—the promised seed of the woman, who "strives and shall prevail." Fearful was the contest, as the sweat like great drops of blood fell to the ground. But in the Second Adam "the prince of darkness found nothing," and returned baffled from the fray, to send his evil tools to accomplish his work on the body of Jesus—not knowing clearly that the end would be the bruising of his head, his utter overthrow.
3. It was also a place of conflict for the disciples. But, unheeding the Saviour's warning to "watch and pray," they slept, and were confused and amazed when the traitor came to betray the Lord "with a kiss" to the band he had brought with him. But though Satan had desired to have one of them—nay, all—to sift them as wheat, yet Christ had prayed for them and Satan would not prevail.
IV. The place of prayer is near to heaven.—
1. To Jesus in His agony "an angel appeared strengthening Him" (Luk ). This too must have reminded the disciples of the nearness of God to His people, and that nothing could happen without His divine and loving purpose being fulfilled.
2. This strengthened Jesus in His conflict; and this is reflected in His calm majestic mien as, in the history of St. John, we see Him coming forth to meet the traitor and his bands. The victory was won. "Jesus knowing all things," etc. (Joh ).
3. The forces of light and darkness are here once again arrayed. The prince of this world has retired baffled; now his chief instrument in this business of the pit, Judas, stealthily creeps in with his instruments, and Jesus is speedily led off to conquer for men through His deepest humiliation.
1. The need of a place of prayer and meditation apart from the bustle and hurry of life. Especially is this needed in these days of rush and hurry in our modern world, where too much is done without thought, and men thus are laid open to and rush into temptation.
2. Remember that the place of prayer will most likely become the place of spiritual conflict, so that we should give heed to the Lord's words to watch as well as pray.
3. But the place of prayer is also near to heaven. Heaven is near to it. It is the house of God, the gate of heaven (Gen ). And there God will strengthen to do and bear for Him.
Joh . Jesus in the hands of His enemies.—The Saviour's agony in Gethsemane was past, and He was now ready to drink the cup which the Father had given into His hand. The traitor and the bands of soldiers and others who were guided by him drew near. His care even in this hour of betrayal was for His disciples; and whilst He freely delivered up Himself to His enemies, He mercifully and lovingly said to His captors, of His disciples, "If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way." And in this we see a beautiful example of the Redeemer's self-sacrificing love. Notice here—
I. The power of Jesus in face of His enemies.—
1. The angel that appeared to strengthen Jesus (Luk ) in His agony had scarce gone when Satan drew near to carry out his final assault on the Saviour (Joh 18:3). Why such a crowd of officials was supposed to be necessary does not appear. They may have remembered the power of Jesus in healing, stilling the storm, etc.; or they might think that the eleven apostles would make a desperate resistance. If Jesus gave Himself up willingly one messenger would have sufficed. If He did not intend to do so, the armies of the world would not have been enough (Mat 26:53).
2. An evil conscience, the sense of their wrong-doing—for as officers of the chief priests and Pharisees they should have been protectors of the defenceless and innocent—led to the necessity of such a band. Judas especially would, in his dark heart, feel that he had need of all the protection which could be afforded. And thus the forces of light and darkness stood opposed to each other (Joh ).
3. Jesus was aware of the presence of these myrmidons of the prince of this world ere they appeared (Mat ), and had warned the disciples. And now He stepped in front and asked, "Whom seek ye?"—not that He needed to know, but that He might bring to their minds a clear consciousness of what they were about to do, and draw their attention mainly to Himself.
4. "Jesus of Nazareth," is their reply. They do not say "Thee." Either they did not know Him, or saw imperfectly in the dim light, and did not recognise Him; and Judas had not yet given his preconcerted sign. Perhaps now the traitor did so, and this, and Jesus' reply, "I am He," removed all doubt.
5. The result was unexpected. Some sudden flash of that glory which the disciples witnessed "on the holy mount" (2Pe ) radiated from Christ's person; and the band of men and officers went backward, startled as if by an apparition, "and fell to the ground" (Act 9:3-9). There was a divine purpose in this. It would bring home to those conscience-stricken men the fact that it was with Heaven they were warring; and it would show to them, to the disciples, and all men that the Redeemer voluntarily surrendered Himself into their power. They were compelled to do involuntarily what millions of believers will do voluntarily (Php 2:10), and to take the position His enemies at the last must assume (Act 2:33-36).
II. The Lord's care for His disciples.—
1. Our Lord showed He had power which His enemies must acknowledge. But after the flashing out of His divine majesty, He showed that He did not intend to resist their will. Beside Him, however, stood His disciples, and them He would protect.
2. Since, however, Jesus had declined to use His heavenly power to protect Himself, He would not use it, at least through physical means, to save the disciples. "Let these go," He said to the leaders of the band. He knew that He alone was their quarry; but in order to secure His disciples from attacks, which might be caused by any foolish movement on their part, He issued this order. And it was needful (Joh ). And doubtless, too, the power which they had felt resided in the Saviour would keep these men in mind of this limitation of their duty.
3. There were reasons also why the disciples should go unharmed. They could not, were not prepared to, follow Him through suffering to death, until He had suffered for them and redeemed them. They were not strong to follow Him, nor would be, until the Spirit quickened them to a higher life. Then they would be prepared for the divine purpose for which they were kept in the world (Joh ), to proclaim His gospel to the glory of God the Father and His own glory. But now He alone must drink the bitter cup.
4. Afterward they would be strengthened, some of them to follow Him in yielding up their lives for His kingdom. Now His word of promise in His intercessory prayer must receive in part its fulfilment (Joh ); and that other word would also come home to the hearts of the disciples in these hours of perplexity and sorrow, "I lay down My life for the sheep" (Joh 10:15).
5. Thus in the hour when "the prince of this world" had come to the Saviour, and the powers of darkness were mustering about the Son of man, "He stood unmoved by all their machinations, elevated above the passions of men, caring for His own, and giving blessings to those who would receive them."
III. Peter's rash act, and our Lord's disavowal of material force.—I. It would have been strange had Jesus' disciples, now that the hour so long foretold had come, stood by unmoved during this scene. Not long awakened from slumber, they would be surprised and confused for the moment. But as the shock passed they would anxiously ask in their hearts what could be done.
2. In the upper chamber our Lord had counselled the disciples to provide themselves with "swords," even to sell their garments to buy them. And on Peter stating they had two, Jesus said, "It is enough" (Luk ). Did He mean the disciples to defend Him and themselves? Yes; but not against a lawful authority like that presented by the captain of the band. Probably the swords were for the purpose of defending themselves against the robbers and lawless men who swarmed about the city and its environs at the passovertide.
3. But now in the garden they asked Jesus if they should use their weapons (Luk ). And, without waiting for a reply apparently, head-strong Peter smote wildly, and cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant.
4. It was a foolish act, contrary to the will of the Redeemer, to which Peter had not yet become wholly submissive. The disciple had not yet fully realised that Christ must suffer, etc. It was an action also that might have led to reprisals had not Jesus displayed His power and healed the stricken man. Thus the wrath of the band would be arrested (Luk ).
5. Then He taught the apostle by a word that not by the sword—by physical force—should His kingdom be extended, that all that was happening was in the line of a divine purpose (Mat ), and that this bitter experience was also a draught of that cup the Father had given Him to drink (Joh 18:11). Then Jesus was delivered to His enemies.
1. "Whom seek ye?" said Jesus to the myrmidons who came to take Him. The question is repeated in every age to every individual. Men are seeking many things, but under all is the desire for satisfaction and peace. And to all such seekers Christ answers, "I am He." He is the living water, the bread of life, etc. The men sent to take Him answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." That name is "The name of our salvation." Let us seek Him, not as they sought, and we shall find Him and in Him our all and in all.
2. "Let these go their way." Christ's care of His disciples is ever the same. If they seek His kingdom and righteousness, no hair of their head shall fall. Christ came to deliver men from the hatred of the prince of this world by conquering him on the cross. And now, when Satan still threatens to bring them into bondage, He can say with power for those who are His own, "Let these men go"; sin shall have no more dominion.
3. Christ's kingdom is not advanced by the sword. How often have men forgotten this! How has the Church defaced her annals by seeking to suppress by force, as the Jews in our Lord's day, what seemed contrary to her! The spiritual kingdom can only be propagated spiritually. Nor are men in the name of Christ's religion to resist duly constituted authority with the sword (1Pe ). Only against lawlessness and cruel injustice may Christ's people defend themselves.
Joh . "The sword in the garden."—
I. The circumstances which led to its use.—It is interesting to group together from the different Evangelists all that is told about this sword. Before they left the supper-room things which the Lord was saying as to the approaching crisis were misunderstood by the disciples, or at least by some of them. Strange to say, He was thinking and speaking more of what awaited them than of His own fate. He was telling them that in future they would have to face a hostile world in their apostolic work. It would not be as in the happy, peaceful disciple days. He had sent them forth in those days unarmed, peaceful missionaries, and they were kindly welcomed everywhere, and felt not the need of sword or scrip. But now, said the Master, speaking to them metaphorically and proverbially, "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." It was very natural that the disciples—that Peter, of all men, most—should think of some approaching personal struggle (nor was Peter so very far wrong), in which his beloved Lord would be in peril and need defence. And the strong and bold Galilean fisherman looked round him instinctively for a weapon. In a corner of the chamber stood, or there were hung from the wall, a pair of swords, just as might have been seen in any house in our country two hundred years ago (just, as now, might be seen in our houses umbrellas or walking-sticks). There were only the two swords. Peter girt himself with one, some other hand seized the other weapon; and when there was regret expressed by some of the disciples that there were but the two, one can imagine the smile of sad gravity with which the Lord, intimating that they had mistaken His meaning, said that the two swords were quite "enough."
II. The sword leaves the scabbard.—In the garden, when the band of the traitor, after the betrayal kiss was given, laid hands on Jesus and began to bind Him as a prisoner, it was more than Simon Peter could stand; and that sword of his left its scabbard, flashed a moment in the moonlight, and descended like lightning on the foremost assailant. A chance movement at the very moment saved the man's life; but his ear was all but shorn from his head. In the hurried and disturbing confusion of a night-fray like that, where men were struggling, lights glancing, swords flashing, voices raised excitedly, a man struck down and bleeding would in ordinary circumstances have been left lying. But think! In this case, who is it that takes the matter in hand? The Man around whom the whole struggle centred, the Man who might, indeed, be thought to have had enough of His own to think of. It is the bound Prisoner Himself who notices the wounded man and the severed bleeding ear; and in these simple words that are well worth treasuring in all our hearts, "Suffer ye thus far," He requests His stern, ruthless captors to let Him move His thong-bound hands so far as that His fingers may touch the wounded ear. The men heard the strange request. They "suffered Him thus far." He touched the ear (of Malchus), and it was whole!
III. Christ's kingdom comes not by the sword.—Then there were two little words spoken—for Peter, with his sword, and of course also for the other disciples. And we may be very sure these men—the apostles—to the latest day they served their Lord never forgot these words. The first was about the twelve legions of angels, which one word of His to His Father would have brought to earth to rescue Him. He needed not that His twelve earthly followers should arm themselves with earthly swords in His defence! The second word was for His apostles in their day, for His Church in all its days, for us all now, in all our Christian work. "Put up thy sword." They who try to use the sword in that work will find their work will not prosper, but perish thereby. Rivalry amongst Churches, bitterness of spirit, narrow sectarianism, Pharisaic exclusiveness, and all such things, are swords, daggers, pistols, and will harm and hinder true Church work. "The fruits of righteousness are sown in peace by those who make peace."—Rev. Thomas Hardy.
Joh . The cup given to the Saviour to drink.—Although St. John does not record the mysterious agony of the Son of man in Gethsemane, it is evident he implies it in his narrative by this mention of "the cup." Readers of the other Gospels could not fail to see the connection. But the beloved disciple's purpose is to show the incarnate Son triumphant, "manifesting forth His glory." Therefore, in this Gospel, we do not hear Jesus praying that the cup may pass, but firmly resolved to drink it, since it hath been given Him by the Father.
I. The cup was divinely appointed.—
1. Jesus even then might have availed Himself of the aid of the heavenly hosts, but He turned aside from all thought of self to carry out the divine plan.
2. But it was a bitter cup He had to drain. The cup had its appointed measure; but the ingredients of which it was composed were most bitter, and even loathsome.
3. For what were those ingredients? To understand their bitterness it will be necessary, for a moment, to consider Him who had to drink this cup.
(1) He was the Son of man—none more truly human—with human feelings, affections, etc., yet untainted with sin.
(2) He was also Emmanuel—God with us—the Prince of life, the Light of men, etc. And one of the most bitter ingredients of that cup was the sense of the burden of the world's sin, borne by Him who was holy, harmless, undefiled. He was to become the substitute for sinful man, and the shadow and burden of that mighty load were already felt by Him. Another ingredient was doubtless the conflict with the dark power of evil, abhorrent to the pure soul of the Saviour. And yet another was the near presence of death. Not that the Saviour feared, but He contemplated the dark foe with aversion and horror. He, the divine Son, the Prince of life, the Light of men, must submit to be for a time in the power of this enemy, and shut up in the darkness of the tomb!
4. But it was all divinely appointed. Although the ingredients of the cup were mixed by His foes, it was given by the Father for the redemption of men. Each bitter drop men should have drained; but Jesus drained them instead. "God spared not His own Son," "Christ hath redeemed us" (Rom ; Gal 3:13).
II. The resolve of the Saviour to drink the cup.—
1. Our Lord would not shrink from the awful experience which lay before Him. "He became obedient unto death." His will and the Father's for men's redemption were in complete concord.
2. Therefore, though with bruised heel—for even in the garden the conflict had begun—it was with firm resolve He went forth. "Lo, I come; in the volume of the book," etc. (Heb ). He was made perfect as the incarnate Son through suffering (Heb 2:10; Heb 5:9), and thus became "the author of eternal salvation to all them who obey Him," and an example that we should follow in His steps.
1. To Christian men as to the Saviour, for a divine purpose, oftentimes a bitter cup is given to drink. Let them not doubt the divine love, but be willingly submissive like the Saviour.
2. How shall believers praise the Reedeemer for all He endured? Let the old Adam be crucified; let them struggle against sin; consecrate themselves, body and soul, to the Lord's service; and rejoicing in hope of the divine glory, let them walk as God's redeemed children. So shall the Saviour see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.
Joh ; Joh 18:19-24. Jesus before Annas and Caiaphas.—Jesus had been taken. What the rulers of the Jews had long wished for had now been accomplished, by the help of the traitorous disciple. We can imagine the grim satisfaction with which the news was received in the palace of the high priest, but also the perplexity. For having now seized their victim, they had to consider what should be done with Him, and that speedily; for they had still a salutary fear "of the people," not knowing how many adhered to the Redeemer (Mat 26:5; Mar 14:2). Hence the necessity of this hurried midnight trial. They that do evil and walk in darkness, fear to come to the light (Joh 3:20). Hence Jesus was hurried away to the palace of the high priest and the head of the Sanhedrin, so that they might see whether He could be condemned on religious grounds. There are two chief points to be considered here.
I. The first declaration of Jesus in answer to the accusations brought against Him.—
1. The narrative tells us that Jesus was led away to Annas (Hanas or Ananias). He was not actually the high priest (Joh ); but he had held that office, and had been succeeded in it by his sons and sons-in-law, and no doubt exercised a prevailing influence in their counsels.
2. He himself also appears to have held high office at this time—most likely the presidency of the Sanhedrin. He was a most unscrupulous man, a great intriguer, and managed to keep much power in his own hands. By many he was still regarded as the high priest—at least he kept hold of the reins of power (Luk ; Act 4:6).
3. The houses of Annas and Caiaphas appear to have been contiguous. John only mentions the relationship between the two men, and thus explains why, although Caiaphas was legally high priest, Annas exercised so much influence.
4. Before Annas Jesus was first led, a concession to the position of the aged ex-high priest; but he preferred to act in concert with Caiaphas in the matter. Indeed these evil men, though they knew it not, would require all their skill in taking up arms "against the Lord's anointed" (Psa ). And the character of these judges is well sketched in one word regarding the principal agent in this unjust trial, though Annas and not he might be the inspiring spirit (Joh 18:14 : comp. Joh 11:49-52). Probably keeping the fear of the people in view, and thinking it would be better in case of any emeute to have the blame lie on Caiaphas' shoulders rather than his own, he left the latter to conduct the trial. But behind them both was a greater power than they imagined.
5. This first trial turned mainly on two points—the disciples of Jesus and His teaching. This was according to Jewish law. It was proper for the religious head and the religious council of the nation to make inquiry as to new teachers—their doctrines, disciples, and so forth. Then it was matter of common report that even in the council—the Sanhedrin—were His secret disciples. Thus this question would serve a double purpose. They would learn about Christ, and about those in their own ranks who were suspected of having a leaning toward Christ, and would know how to deal with them (Joh ).
6. The high priest was seeking to extract from Jesus such information as would lead the council to condemn Him as a sectary, and implicate those who held with Him. But Jesus did not answer this question regarding His disciples. The disciples were not there standing as accused. The question was beyond the province of His interrogators.
7. As to His doctrine He answered freely. They had a right to ask that question; and He, as "made under the law," would answer it. But the answer was virtually a condemnation of His accusers. Christ had not taught secretly, but openly. If they did not know what His teaching was, it argued culpable ignorance on their part; they should have known. The people who heard him, even their own messengers (Joh ), could tell them what He had said. And had there been anything that could have clearly been laid hold of, no doubt they would have made use of it to His harm long ago. It was an insincere question—one that needed formally to be put, as the Prisoner was nominally before a court of justice.
8. Jesus spoke not of His works. These His accusers did not speak of: the mere mention of them would have condemned their proceedings, and compelled them to ask rather whether He who wrought such mighty works was not in reality sent of God. And they could not deny the miracles (Joh, etc.). But there was no use in Jesus reminding them of His works; they were determined on His destruction, and any mention of those wonderful works would only have intensified their bitterness.
II. The beginning of the deeper humiliation of our Lord's passion.—
1. All the accessories of this trial, or examination, showed that it was merely a form to cover a foregone conclusion and a sentence already framed. The secret apprehension, the midnight meeting of the high functionaries, the insincere questions, were all in keeping with the intriguing character of those unscrupulous rulers, acting as tools of the "prince of this world."
2. If further proof were needed of the unjust nature of the whole proceeding, it was soon forthcoming. A servant of the high priest—one of his creatures—struck the Saviour with the palm of his hand (still used in the East in striking, in place of the fist, as with us), and said, "Answerest Thou the high priest so?" (Isa ).
3. It was a most unrighteous act. Here stood a Prisoner, uncondemned, in no way opposing Himself to the action of the religious tribunal before which He stood—nay rather, recognising its validity. And on His answering in His defence, one of the creatures of the judge smote Him, simply because He ventured to defend Himself.
4. There is no doubt the servants had heard, or knew sufficiently well, what had been determined on in the hearts of these unjust men, and knew that they could act thus with impunity, if not with a hope of actual favour. To the just men—Nicodemus, Gamaliel, and others—how must such actions, when they came to their knowledge, have come home to conscience, making them ashamed rather than proud of their high position. But fear seems to have restrained them (Joh ), and they participated, tacitly at least, in these events, which must afterward have caused them many a bitter thought (1Co 15:9; Gal 1:13). By St. John the more formal trial before the Sanhedrin is omitted. It was merely the registration of a foregone conclusion.
1. Shall men be able to stand as serenely before the righteous Judge as Jesus before the unrighteous? No, we are all sinful. And it needed that the Saviour should undergo all this humiliation ere we should be able to stand before the great white throne. For we must come before it trusting in His righteousness, which He wrought out for us.
2. By our unrighteous deeds we may lead men to "blaspheme that worthy name by the which we are called" (Jas ), and thus wound the Saviour more than the insolent servant of the unjust high priest. Let us beware lest we come under the same condemnation (Heb 6:6).
Joh ; Joh 18:25-27. Peter's fall.—The disciples forsook Jesus and fled, according to His word (Mat 26:31). Two of them, however, would not forsake Him even in that hour. John, who was known to the high priest, accompanied Jesus into the palace; but Peter, all his boldness gone, followed afar off, and stood at the gate, not being permitted entrance until John spoke with the gatekeeper. The disciple's heart was full of affection and sorrow. But with the rash and bold stroke of the sword in the garden all his boldness had fled. He was confused and dispirited. His hopes and aspirations had vanished like a beautiful dream, and the stern reality stared him in the face. Notice—
I. His forgetfulness of the warning of Jesus.—
1. He had boldly averred in the upper chamber his readiness to go with Jesus to death. But in all this turmoil the warning voice sounded no more in his ears, else he would not have ventured heedlessly into the place of danger.
2. But Satan had desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat (Luk ). The prince of this world found nothing in the Master he could lay hold of, but he found much in the disciple.
3. Peter entering timorously, striving probably to keep up an appearance of unconcern, was warned even at the very door that the time of sifting was near. "The maid that kept the door," seeing that he was befriended by John, and probably knowing that John was a disciple, said, "Art thou not also of this man's disciples?" What would he answer? he who had declared he was willing to go to the death even with Jesus? he who said, "Though I should die with Thee," etc. (Mat )?
II. Peter's timorous denials and shameful fall.—
1. All his asseverations were forgotten, and to the "damsel" who questioned him as to his connexion with the Lord he denied his discipleship, and then accusing conscience made him stammer out, "I know not what thou sayest."
2. But in place of being warned by this incident and fleeing in shame from the place of his denial, tortured between love for his Master and fear for himself, he joined the company of guards and servants gathered round the fire in the courtyard in the chillness of the night, to hear, probably, what was designed against his Master. He evidently wished to pass himself off as one of the company. But what did he among that rude and mocking crew? He had placed himself in the very place where temptation was likely to meet him. Another of the bystanders, and again another, charged him with discipleship; and again he weakly denied.
3. John does not tell the full story with its abrupt termination, as, after denying the Lord with rude oaths (Mar ), Peter was startled at hearing the divinely given sign; and, at the reproachful, pitying look of Jesus, went out to weep bitterly, overwhelmed with shame and sorrow.
4. For was it not he who had been loudest in his asseverations that though all should be offended yet would he not be (Mar )? Was it not he who had confessed, as spokesman of the rest, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God? Had he not seen His glory, experienced His love? And this was how he had requited his dear Lord! The sifting was accomplished—the chaff was rudely driven away. Peter now saw himself in a true light; henceforth he renounced trust in self, and learned to warn others, so that they might be kept from falling as he fell (1Pe 5:7-9).
1. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. Remember the Lord's injunction: "Watch and pray," etc. (Mat ).
2. Do not rush needlessly into temptation; but when it does assail meet it bravely in the divine strength (Jas ). The evil one will be permitted only to drive away the chaff.
Joh . Christ and His foes in Gethsemane.—On the one hand we see the little band coming from the city in deep silence, and passing into the olive garden, where the tremulous shadows of the leaves somewhat obscured the paschal moon; and, on the other, we see the armed soldiers of the Roman garrison and the temple police, headed by Judas, and carrying useless swords which had no power against Jesus, and superfluous "lanterns and torches" which were absurd in that clear moonlight. The contrast of the two groups is striking as they pass through the silent midnight to meet between the olives. One starts from heaven, the other from hell, and they touch there. Infinite love and the mystery of divine endurance for man stream from the one, like the encircling moonbeams; diabolic hate and treachery flame in the other, like the smoky torches with which they affronted the moon. How many opposing paths met in that meeting! John has no record of the solemn scene in the depths of the garden. He takes the readers' knowledge of it for granted; but he fixes our attention on these two groups, and wishes us to feel the impressiveness of the contrast, as well as the voluntary surrender of Jesus to His captors, implied in His choice of the place.—Dr. A. Maclaren.
Joh . Lowliness and glory in Gethsemane.—We need not ask if this was a miracle. However produced, a strange awe and terror smote the rude soldiers. His calm dignity impressed them, as that of virgin martyrs and grey-headed confessors has often done. But that will not explain the fact, which seems most worthily attributed to a momentary shining forth of Christ's indwelling divinity, somewhat like that which shone through His corporeal frame at the transfiguration. It may not have been the work of His will at all; but the elevation of spirit attendant on the solemn scene in Gethsemane may have transfigured for a moment His lowly manhood, and let some beams of His glory through. But however that may be, we can scarcely fail to see here a revelation of His majesty, which is all the more eloquent as coming at the hour of deepest humiliation. John delights to bring into juxtaposition instances of both, as indeed do all the Evangelists. The interweaving of lowliness and glory makes the very differentia of the character pourtrayed by them all. He is a weak infant, but angels hover round the manger, and a star leads worshippers to it. He bows His head to John's baptism, but heaven opens and the dove descends. He falls asleep in the boat, but wakes to still the storm with a word. He weeps by a grave, but He raises its tenant. He all but faints in His agony in the garden, but angels strengthen Him. The same union of opposites is in this incident. He is to be led, bound by rude hands, before an unjust judge. But as He passes into their power, one flash of brightness "above that of the noonday sun" tells of the hidden glory. "What will He do when He shall come as judge, if He did this when giving Himself up as a prisoner?" (Augustine).—Dr. A. Maclaren.
Joh . Christ's enemies must acknowledge His power.—I here call to mind a well-known learned man of Saxony, who, after having all his life long attacked Jesus and His gospel with all the weapons of sophistry, was in his old age partially deprived of his reason, chiefly through the fear of death, and frequently fell into religious paroxysms of a peculiar nature. He was almost daily observed conversing with himself whilst pacing to and fro in his chamber, on one of the walls of which, between other pictures, hung one of the Saviour. Repeatedly he halted before the latter and said to it, in a horrifying tone of voice, "After all, Thou wast only a man!" Then, after a short pause, he would continue, "What wast Thou more than a man? Ought I to worship Thee? No, I will not worship Thee; for Thou art only Rabbi Jesus, Joseph's son of Nazareth." Uttering these words, he would turn his back upon the picture; but immediately afterwards he would return with a deeply affected countenance, and exclaim, "What dost Thou say? that Thou comest from above? How terribly Thou eyest me! Oh, Thou art dreadful! But—Thou art only a man after all." Then he would again rush away, but soon return with faltering step, crying out, "What, art Thou in reality the Son of God?" In this way the same scenes were daily renewed till the unhappy man, struck by paralysis, dropped down dead, and then really stood before his Judge, who, even in his picture, had so strikingly and overpoweringly judged him.—F. W. Krummacher, "Suffering Saviour."
Joh ; Joh 18:19-24. Christ's patience.—Do you not marvel at the loftiness of character of your incomparable Lord? Have you ever heard of a meekness and patience like His? of a peace so tranquil which bore with one of the sorts of bodily indignity which causes most resentment, an open insult; which mildly punished the servant and his chief who permitted the insult; and at the same time so earnestly sought to awaken their consciences in so majestically protesting its innocence? Behold, so does He act toward you; His patience toward you is day by day unspeakably great. You can never prove that He hath spoken evil, for all His words are righteousness and truth, words of eternal life. And yet you have often stricken Him with your unbelief and insincerity. Still less can you prove that He has ever done evil toward you, for all His acts and dealings toward you are mercy and love; and yet you have often stricken Him with your discontent and murmuring. And He ever bears with you, and will forgive all when in faith and repentance you come to His feet and return from your crooked ways to Him. Come, then, and seek Him and remain with Him, and then follow and learn of Him, because He is meek and lowly of heart. Not as though you should seek to make yourself well pleasing to your foes and the world. No; do as Jesus did. What you can say and do for your justification that say and do. You owe that not only to the truth and to love, you owe it also to your fellow-man. For many vexations and insults in the world arise from a misunderstanding, and may frequently through quiet and simple explanations be removed and adjusted. To remain silent in all circumstances, to agree to everything, not to consider it worth one's while to open one's mouth to defend one's self before the world, is more the result of pride and arrogance, which are an abomination to the Lord. If, however, you have justified yourself quietly and with dignity, then proceed no further; leave the rest to the Lord, who says, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay." Say not an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Do not repay the evildoer with evil, but overcome evil with good. Learn from your Lord, as good learners in the school of His passion, meekness, placability, and Christian forgiveness. Learn of Him to bear bonds, indignity, smiting, for His glory. Thus the apostles copied their Lord. "Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it" (1Co 4:12). They have said and have themselves followed the precepts they gave to others for similar circumstances: "Be always ready to give an answer," etc. (1Pe 3:15-18). Do as did that negro lad whose master would not permit him to go to hear the missionary preach. His tyrannical master threatened to whip him to death if he did not give up going; but the lad went in spite of this. He came back and received three times twenty-five lashes, which the barbarian accompanied with the mocking question, "What can your Jesus do for you now?" "He strengthens me to bear all this," answered the poor lad the first time; "He helps me to believe in a future reward," the second time. And when he was beaten the third time and was nigh expiring, and the mocking question must yet once more be heard by him, he said with his last breath, "Jesus helps me to pray for you." What was possible to a negro lad, a beginner in the Christian life, were possible, should be more possible, to you grown-up Christians! You can attain to it if, like David, you do not look to the man who injures you, but to the Lord who has permitted him to do it (2Sa 16:10).—Translated from F. Arndt.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
Joh . Then led they Jesus, etc.—The Evangelist presupposes the trial before the Sanhedrin, and its issue. Jesus had been condemned to death. But the Jews had no power to carry out a death sentence. They must prevail on the Roman governor, by fair means or foul, to do this for them. Hall of judgment.—Palace ( πραιτώριον, prætorium), i.e. the Roman governor's house, supposed to have been a palace built by Herod. They themselves, etc.—See Homiletic Note to Joh 13:1. How true this is to our Lord's description of these men as "whited sepulchres" (Mat 23:27). They made clean the outside of cup and platter. Here they were afraid of an outward defilement which might pervent them participating in the passover feast. They recked nothing of the inward defilement of heart and conscience, which was evident in all these scenes. Justice, truth, righteousness, mercifulness, the weightier matters of the law, were to them as nothing.
Joh . Pilate then went out, etc.—In all this narrative of St. John the Synoptic account is presupposed. Pilate went out of his own palace to some convenient place where he might hold a colloquy with the Jews. He condescended so far to their prejudices. He demanded what accusation they brought against this man which would bring Him under the penalty of Roman law. For Pilate, like Gallio, would care nothing for merely religious questions (Act 18:12-17).
Joh . They answered … malefactor.—And this after His deeds of beneficence and His holy life! How far had these men yielded themselves to the power of evil!
Joh . Then said Pilate, etc.—I.e. they wished to judge, and merely permit Pilate to carry their judgment into effect. Not so, is Pilate's answer. If this Man is judged by your tribunal, you can sentence Him according to your law and carry out the sentence. Very galling must it have been to those proud rulers thus to be reminded of the limitations of their power. But Pilate's reply brought out their malice and envy in all its hatefulness. They had to shift their accusation from a religious to a political ground, and hypocritically to pretend that they were concerned for the majesty of the conquering Roman power (Luk 23:2).
Joh . That the saying of Jesus, etc.—He had prophesied this before it came to pass (Mar 10:33; Mat 26:2). Crucifixion was a Roman punishment. These wicked rulers thought that Jesus would thus be made a reproach both to Jews and Gentiles.
Joh . Art Thou the King of the Jews?—Pilate saw that there was something strange in this accusation. These rulers of the Jews would never have delivered up a popular leader who sought to free them from the Roman yoke; and the governor was to learn more of this King and His kingdom ere the trial was over. He saw that this charge of the Jewish Sanhedrin was a trumped-up one.
Joh . Pilate … went out again to the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in Him no fault.—This is a striking, testimony. It shows us Pilate at his best, as the Roman judge and governor, set to rule and administer justice impartially. It shows also the character of our Lord's enemies. They knew well that there was no actual fault in Christ (Mat 26:60). It was their hatred of the truth, and the fear of losing position and influence, that made them cast aside all thought of righteousness, etc., in their treatment of Jesus. Jesus was innocent; His foes and judges admitted this. His death was not an expiation of any wrong in His life—it was an expiation for the sins of the world.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Joh
Chap. Joh to Joh 19:22. Pilate.—Of all the strange and moving incidents in the scenes immediately preceding our Lord's crucifixion, there is none perhaps more striking than that during which Pontius Pilate uttered these memorable words: "Behold the man!"
I. Pilate's sincerity.—
1. They were not words of mockery or scorn; rather they were spoken with a sincere desire to influence men's pity, and thus bring about the release of Jesus.
2. We must recognise the fact that all through those scenes of patient suffering of our Lord, Pilate was endeavouring to appease the blood-thirsty crowds, while at the same time keeping Jesus out of their grasp.
3. It is not because he was the guiltiest in this terrible transaction that his name has been handed down to execration in the creeds of Christendom. This was done merely as a record of the time of our Lord's crucifixion.
II. His unrighteous, vacillating action.—
1. Yet with all allowance for human frailty, and remembering our Lord's words to Pilate, "He that hath delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin" (the Sanhedrin judged Christ on religious grounds, and they should have known better), still Pilate cannot be exonerated from complicity in this great crime. He acted the part of an unjust judge; for he declared Jesus to be innocent of any crime, and yet ordered His soldiers, at the cry of a furious mob, to lead the innocent to the basest malefactor's death.
2. Pilate was an opportunist, a time-server; he was chained by the bonds of his own evil life and wicked deeds; so that when the hour of tria1 came he was not free to act on the side of right and truth. He had been an unjust and a cruel governor of Juda, had made many enemies, and had already been accused of maladministration at the Imperial Court. There were continued revolts against his authority, especially as he had seriously offended the religious prejudices of the people. He knew many enemies were watching for some slip in his administration, so that they might procure his recall and punishment. Hence his vacillating conduct all through this trial.
3. He saw through the motives of Christ's enemies, and rightly treated their quibbling accusation against Christ, about His claiming to be a king, with scorn. He eagerly seized the chance which the mention of Galilee in the Jews' accusation gave him of getting rid of the whole matter (Luk ). But when Herod in mockery sent back Jesus to him clothed in the white robe of a candidate for office, he was compelled to make up his mind one way or another.
4. His conscience was up in arms; the meek and patient bearing of Jesus, of whom he had no doubt heard, together with his hatred of the Jews, and distaste of being compelled to carry out their wishes, made him determined to release Christ. He promised to accede to the people so far; he would scourge Jesus, so as to disgrace Him and discredit any claims He might make. When this proposal was rejected, another was made—that Jesus should be delivered, or freed from custody, according to a custom prevailing then at the time of the passover. But the Jews, as if to show plainly to all men their malice, cried out for the release of one Barabbas, who had been condemned for that very crime of sedition of which they falsely accused Jesus.
5. The Jews saw their power; they knew that Pilate feared them, and his vacillating conduct at the beginning made them confident that they would prevail.
III. His great crime.—
1. Pilate therefore took his place on the judgment seat, on the tesselated pavement raised above the rest of the courtyard of the palace, or prtorium, and gave orders to the soldiers to scourge Jesus, as this was also a preliminary to crucifixion.
2. After the cruel mocking and scourging, Jesus was led forth to an elevated spot where all might see Him, and Pilate said, "Behold the man!" The governor hoped to save Jesus from crucifixion even yet. As he sat on the judgment seat, his wife, moved by a dream, sent to him, saying, "Have thou nothing to do with that just man" (Mat ). Still more did he fear when the Jews accused Jesus of claiming to be the Son of God, and when Jesus Himself admitted the claim.
3. But the Jews had one more argument that proved too powerful for time-serving Pilate: "If thou let this man go, thou art not Csar's friend." The Roman sense of justice, hatred of the Jews, the clamourings of conscience, were swept away by the rising tide of self-interest. Pilate did what he called on others to do; he "beheld the man." Pity, justice, the voice of God, all were in vain to keep the sin-shackled time-server from this great crime. Self in the other scale made the balance kick the beam.
IV. His miserable end.—
1. But even this great crime did not save him from the fate he dreaded. He was shortly after this accused of a cruel and unprovoked attack on the peaceful Samaritans, summoned to Rome, tried and exiled, and, like Judas, was finally laid in a suicide's grave.
2. Want of true principle and a time-serving spirit will lead men to the commission of the greatest crimes, in the name and for the sake of policy. "What is truth?" said Pilate, meaning perhaps, What has that to do with acts of government or policy? Much every way, O unhappy Pilate! For righteousness and truth are eternal; and though the time-server may seem for the moment to prevail, yet it shall only serve to discover more fully in the end his utter confusion. Thou didst imagine that it was better, in order to prevent a riot, to offer up as a victim to popular hatred, uncondemned, nay, pronounced by thyself innocent, that poor, bleeding, thorn-crowned form. But thou wert in reality the victim—victim of thine own evil deeds and of abject fear of the people.
3. The seeming victim became the conqueror—the unjust judge became a despised exile; and the people who invoked on their heads the awful curse, "His blood be on us and on our children," still wander homeless on earth, until they behold Christ as "the Lamb of God who beareth away the sin of the world."
Joh . The true nature of Christ's kingdom.—As the King of the kingdom of truth is from above, so is His kingdom. Although it extends to this world, and men here on earth may become members of it, yet it is not "of the earth, earthy." Christ did not come to set up an empire which would extend itself by conquest, and usurp the government of secular kingdoms, although He sought to influence these indirectly by the establishment of His kingdom. His dominion is first inward, in order that it may at last be outward, and that finally "the kingdoms of the world" may become "the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ." That Christ's kingdom is not of this world is seen—
I. In the means used for its extension.—
1. As the Redeemer said to the vacillating Roman judge, "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight." Earthly kingdoms are extended mostly by conquest. The means used for their advancement are material. Armies and navies, secular and social laws, courts of justice, officers of justice, penalties and prisons, are among the many means employed for the external and internal order and safety of the kingdoms of earth.
2. And these in their place are not to be contemned or set aside. Righteous political and social government is to be hailed with joy. But none of these means in themselves can raise men nearer God. Rome had a wonderful code of laws, a noble political system, a far-reaching and powerful dominion. But these things made her corruption only more conspicuous and her fall more terrible.
3. Christ's kingdom rests on principles of eternal truth. The aim and end of His dominion is not earthly glory, conquest, power; but the advance of spiritual and moral ends. And it must have been surprising to those among whom Jesus moved, and whose idea of kingdom and dominion did not rise above the empires and governments of time, to hear Christ's claim, and then to look around for the means by which He sought to support it. It was this that alienated the Jews, who longed for conquest and earthly glory. It was this that staggered Pilate when the Saviour acknowledged that He was a king. Christ's kingdom also is not of this world—
II. In the scope of its government.—
1. It is not restricted to earth and time, like the kingdoms of this world. Its laws do not fluctuate or change with changing times. They are ever the same—unalterable—as the expressions of truth and righteousness. It can and does exist alongside of various forms of earthly government; its spirit and principles may, indeed, enter into, inspire, and purify them all.
2. And that is so because it is the kingdom of the truth. It is set up in the hearts of men, putting an end to the reign of the spirit of lies, triumphing over the evil, evoking humility, faith, love, hope, purity, and every spiritual grace; in short, making men new creatures, in spirit and mind like to the King.
3. And thus the subjects of this kingdom are not bound to it by any merely external tie, which might at any time be broken, as in the case of subjects of an earthly kingdom. They are not forced against their will to serve this King, as are enslaved subjects of an earthly tyrant and of the prince of the power of the air. No; for in this kingdom truth prevails, and he who rebels against truth knows that he rebels against his higher nature. And the true subjects of this unworldly kingdom are willingly and joyfully submissive to its laws and rules, because its King rules in their hearts and lives. His love is their constraint, His service their joy. That Christ's kingdom is not of this world is seen in the fact of—
III. Its universality and perpetuity.—
1. Less and less as the years pass is any earthly monarch likely to achieve universal dominion. And even when great empires have been builded up by mighty conquerors they have speedily been broken in pieces and have perished. The race of to-day treads on the ruins of the past. Beneath our feet are the ruined homes, shrines, palaces, of great peoples and kingdoms. It seemed in their day as if they were founded for ever, and now only their sculptured stones remain to show their glory and power. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and many another rise up in memory to tell us that their power and glory are in the dust.
2. And why could they not remain? They were not founded on truth, on eternal reality. The nation and government founded on righteousness alone can stand. And when nations and governments forget God, when peoples make their laws and conduct their negotiations without Him, when they decree that nations and governments have nothing to do with the maintenance and advancement of the kingdom of truth, then their end is near (Isa ).
3. For Christ's kingdom alone and those who subject themselves to Him are enduring. His kingdom alone will advance through all generations, and shall endure throughout eternity. And the Churches and kingdoms who submit to and honour its King shall also endure. Individual governments and ecclesiastical communities may rise and pass away. But amid all turmoil and change this all-embracing kingdom shall advance, gathering to itself faithful peoples and communities in its progress, until the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
Joh . The King of the spiritual kingdom.—When Jesus stood before Pilate, the governor, seeking to elicit the facts as to the charge laid against our Lord by the Jews, sought especially to arrive at the truth regarding His alleged claim to be a king. This especially touched the honour of the Roman, and the peace of his government. Was this one of those numerous pretenders to religious and temporal leadership of the Jewish people who were ever and anon rising up and leading men after them? Had our Lord replied directly by "yes" or "no" to the Roman governor's question, He would have left a false impression. Had He said simply, "Yes, I am a king," Pilate would have considered the charge of the Jews justified. Had he said "No," He would have left Pilate with a false idea as to His true nature and position. Therefore He replied that He was truly a king, but that His kingdom was not of this world.
I. Christ is truly a king by nature and descent.—
1. "Unto this end have I been born," etc.; "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world" (Joh ; also Joh 10:36). His birth in time was a coming forth to fulfil an eternal divine purpose, and the fulfilment of this purpose rested on His essential nature as the Son of God. He was on earth in lowly guise as the Son of man; but He came into the world, because He existed before all worlds with the Father.
2. Nor did He come to the world to assume this dominion on His own authority. It was in complete accordance with the Father's will that He came, so that it is also said that the Father sent Him. The sending and the coming are indeed, viewed from the heavenly standpoint, one divine act. But for this end, that the kingdom of heaven might be established, Christ became obedient to the Father. By this very obedience He put Himself into the true position from which He could conquer and reign over men, bringing them back to loyalty and obedience to the Father.
3. And because of this He hath been highly exalted (Php ; Heb 5:8-9; Psa 2:6-8); and to Him has been given an everlasting dominion, a kingdom that shall know no end.
II. Christ is King of the spiritual kingdom because by His knowledge, wisdom, and power He is fitted to govern.—
1. Not even the wisest and best of men have been able to save the human race from evil and bring them back to allegiance to eternal Truth. We have only to look back on the history of our race to see how true this is. The race has wandered ever further from the truth. Wise kings have reigned, wise leaders have risen, even divinely inspired leaders. The divinely given law of Moses itself was but a preparatory and imperfect system, which was to pass away. How much more imperfect then the systems of a Zarathushtra, a Kong-fu-tze, a Plato! None had the knowledge, the wisdom, the power, to bring men under the dominion of Truth.
2. But Christ had all these. The eternal manifestation of eternal Truth, He knew what men needed. He alone could fully declare the mind of God, and reveal to men heavenly realities; testify to truth already revealed in law and prophecy; and, above all, manifest the reality of the Father's love in His own person and work.
3. And He is King not only because He bore witness to the truth. His authority consisted not alone in the teaching of certain truths concerning man and God and eternal things, but because of His power to attract men to Himself, to transform them into His likeness, and thus make them true subjects of His eternal kingdom.
III. Christ's kingship is a fact of history and experience.—
1. To Him is given universal dominion over all who are of the truth. We see before our eyes the ancient prophecies being daily fulfilled. From every land and nation, all peoples and tongues, they come to subject themselves to His kingly sway. All whose hearts are moved by the Spirit, who are attracted toward the truth, who seek truly to know and love God—all such hear Christ's voice, and submit themselves to His mild and gracious authority.
2. And how rapid, comparatively speaking, has been the spread of His kingship when we remember that He is the King of truth, and that men by nature are opposed to Him. So all along the course there has been opposition from without and error from within to hinder His government. And He has conquered first, not the dreamy and superstitious races of the East, but the highest type of humanity in the West. And now His authority as the King of truth is not confined to a little band of disciples, but is more or less faithfully submitted to by more than one quarter of the population of the globe. And every day more and more men are bowing the knee in His name and confessing that He is Lord.
3. And individual experience confesses the blessed power of His reign. When He comes the darkness passes with the works of darkness; and love, peace, joy abound. The love of truth leads to freedom from error and sin. "He draws all men unto Him." An invisible bond of fellowship unites to Him men of every clime and time, as joyful fellow-subjects of that King "whose kingdom ruleth over all."
Joh . The King.—How does Jesus forward His kingdom?
I. Not by material force.—
1. Look at the history of those who have ruled in this way: the Csars, a Scylla, a Marius, a Tiberius, whose tenure of power was distinguished by the frightful turmoil of human passion, the flowing of rivers of blood, etc. There was nothing new or strange in all this. It is an epitome of the history of mankind.
2. It was not thus that God wished to forward His kingdom among men. He gave in a strange and unexpected manner His method in the form of a criminal nailed to a cross, conquering thus for Himself an empire of which no Csar ever dreamed.
3. At the foot of that cross men learned that there is in the world something more powerful than material force—it is mind; and something even more powerful than intellect—it is love. "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (Joh ).
II. Not by force of cleverness.—
1. The kings of material force must be put on one side. Christ is not among them. We look higher. Above force there is skill. You have seen the genius of cleverness contriving its fabrications in the shade, and preparing for a successful issue. With what patience it creates its resources. With what assurance it bids audacity supply what is lacking, diverting the imaginations of men until the hour when it feels itself strong enough to unveil its pretensions.
2. People admire this success. But on a nearer view some disquieting circumstances are brought to light. How many calculations, how many ruses and deceits are involved! Ask a clever man of the world what he thinks of one who would endeavour to succeed, whilst attending to the dictates of morality, in following the line of duty to the end without deviating, and you will see with what scorn he will dismiss this nave innocence into the region of chimeras,
3. And yet Christ has founded a greater empire than all those who have used only their cleverness and skill; and when we examine His life no trace of this cleverness is found in it. This word is indeed incompatible with Christ's character. When a critic, attempting to explain the marvellous dominion which Jesus exercised over His own, attributed to Him calculation, dissimulation, etc., the public conscience arose in dissent and gave an immense protest.
4. If any one wanted to proclaim a new doctrine, and gain the adherence of the intelligent people to it, he would not shut himself up in an obscure province like Galilee, or come with the most sublime teaching to the most ignorant, who did not comprehend the full beauty of it. At the beginning of His ministry a chief ruler of the sect of the Pharisees came to Jesus. Had He been desirous of gaining adherents, He would have endeavoured to treat him with caution, so that He might gain the Pharisees to His side. But we know how Jesus received Nicodemus. And to the people who came to Him with their Messianic dreams (Joh ), and sought to make Him a king, He spoke in such fashion that they went back from Him, leaving only the twelve (Joh 6:66). Was this cleverness? But those disciples—did He not promise them speedy victory, thrones and kingdoms, etc.? Nay, He rather announced persecutions and trials awaiting them, etc. Was this cleverness? He spoke the truth to the people and to the Pharisees, denouncing the latter for their sins, etc. Was this cleverness? No; from the point of view of policy, all this was folly. It was not, then, by skill and cleverness that Christ attained to His dominion.
III. Not by intellectual force.—
1. This realm also has its kings, kings in poetry, philosophy, art, science—a Homer or Plato, a Raphael or Newton. Shall we place Christ in their ranks?
2. There are three classes of rulers in this domain, corresponding to the beautiful, the good, the true. To the desire of the beautiful the domain of art corresponds; to the desire of the true the domain of science; to the desire of the good the domain of morality. Each domain has its kings. In which shall we seek for Jesus?
3. Is it on the heights of Art? No, although Jesus has brought a new ideal to the imagination, and has revealed new beauty which had till then been unnoticed; and certainly art owes to Christianity some of its grandest inspirations. When the repentant sinner beats on his breast, when the Saviour of the world dies on the cross, is it the imagination only that is moved, or are you taken into another region—the region of holiness and love? Yes.
4. Is it in the field of science and its brilliant discoveries and researches, etc., that we shall place the Redeemer? Again, no. His teaching, it is true, is in accordance with the highest laws of the mind. And it is in Christian lands that science has advanced most. But here Christ did not seek to reign (Mat ). His Gospel was not addressed especially to the wise men of this world. The force by which He draws men is not connected with human logic. He did not speak in syllogisms, or like a master of the schools. This has been made a reproach against Christianity by such philosophers as Lucian, Celsus, Porphyry. And supposing Christ had reigned in the realm of intelligence alone, would the wise have come around Him? And then what of the poor and unlearned? To the poor the Gospel was preached (Luk 4:18).
5. Above the intellectual is the moral. There is nothing higher. The moral order is the will of God. It is in this supreme order that Jesus is King—King by holiness, King by love, for these are the two poles of that world. Thus He said to Pilate, "I am a king; for this end was I born." And He is not King here simply because He revealed to men a new ideal. Certainly He did this: all will accord that He gave new ideas concerning love to God and man. But this is not all. Nor did He merely enunciate some great moral verities. He was not merely the prophet of truth, but He was the Truth Himself—the incarnation of moral truth.
6. What Jesus desires is the dominion in men's souls—a spiritual dominion, the most real and absolute. And it is He who lives and reigns from age to age. By His words and actions, His miracles, He showed His right to this authority which He claimed, and the love which He desired should be accorded to Him universally by His followers. And the beauty of His character, the power of His love displayed in His saving work, has drawn men to Him in the bonds of an affection which is more and more becoming worldwide.—Abridged from Eug. Bersier.
Joh . The scepticism of Pilate.—The lesson which we are to draw from this verse must depend upon the view we take of the spirit in which the words were spoken. Some of the best commentators conceive them to have been words of mockery, and such is the great Lord Bacon's view. "‘What is truth?' said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer." In all deference to such authority, we cannot believe that this sentence was spoken in jest. In Pilate's whole conduct there is no trace of such a tone. It betrays throughout much of uncertainty, nothing of lightness. He was cruelly tormented with the perplexity of efforts to save his prisoner. He risked his own reputation. He pronounced Him, almost with vehemence, to be innocent. He even felt awe, and was afraid of Him. In such a frame of mind mockery was impossible. Let us try to comprehend the character of the man who asked this question. His character will help us to judge the tone in which he asked. And his character, the character of his mind and life, are clear enough from the few things recorded of him. He first hears what the people have to say; then asks the opinion of the priests—then comes back to Jesus—goes again to the priests and people—lends his ear—listens to the ferocity on the one hand, and feels the beauty on the other, balancing between them; and then he becomes bewildered, as a man of the world is apt to do who has had no groundwork of religious education, and hears superficial discussions on religious matters, and superficial charges, and superficial slanders, till he knows not what to think. What could come out of such procedure? Nothing but that cheerlessness of soul to which certainty respecting anything and everything here on earth seems unattainable. This is the exact mental state which we call scepticism. Out of that mood, when he heard the enthusiast before him speak of a kingdom of the truth, there broke a sad, bitter, sarcastic, "What is truth?" Who knows anything about it? Another discoverer of the undiscoverable? Jesting Pilate! With Pilate the matter was beyond a jest.
1. The causes of Pilate's scepticism.—
1. Indecision of character.—Here is a man knowing the right and doing the wrong, not willing to do an act of manifest injustice if he can avoid it, but hesitating to prevent it, for fear of a charge against himself—pitiably vacillating because his hands were tied by the consciousness of past guilt and personal danger. How could such a man be certain about anything?
2. Falseness to his own convictions.—Pilate had a conviction that Jesus was innocent. Instead of acting at once on that, he went and parleyed. He argued and debated till the practical force of the conviction was unsettled. Pilate was false to his conscience.
3. The taint of the worldly temper of his day.—Pilate had been a public man. He knew life, had mixed much with the world's business and the world's politics, had come across a multiplicity of opinions, and gained a smattering of them all. He knew how many philosophies and religions pretended to an exclusive possession of truth, and how the pretensions of each were overthrown by another. And his incredulity was but a specimen of the scepticism fashionable in his day. To such a character Jesus would not explain His truth. He gave no reply; He held His peace. God's truth is too sacred to be expounded to superficial worldliness in its transient fit of earnestness.
4. That priestly bigotry which forbids inquiry and makes doubt a crime.—The priests of that day had much to answer for. The results of their priestcraft were twofold. The first result was seen in the fanaticism of the people who cried for blood; the second in the scepticism of Pilate.
II. The way appointed for discovering "what is truth."—
1. I am not about to be guilty of the presumption of answering the question which Jesus did not answer. Some persons hearing the text might think it to be the duty of any man who took it as a text to preach upon to lay down what truth is.
2. The truth cannot be compressed into a sermon. The reply to Pilate's question cannot be contained in any verbal form.
3. The truth is infinite as the firmament above you. In childhood both seem near and measurable; but with years they grow and grow, and seem further off, and further and grander, and deeper and vaster, as God Himself, till you smile to remember how you thought you could touch the sky, and blush to recollect the proud and self-sufficient way in which you used to talk of knowing or preaching "the truth."
4. The truth is made up of principles: an inward life, not any mere formula of words. God's character: spiritual worship; the divine life in the soul. How shall I put that into sentences ten or ten thousand? "The words which I speak unto you, they are truth, and they are life."
5. The appointed ways to teach this truth. They are three:
(1) Independence. Let no man start as if independence savoured of presumption. No man cares for your health as you do; therefore you rely blindly upon none. No man has the keeping of your own soul, or cares for it as you do. For yourself, therefore, you inquire and think, and you refuse to delegate that work to bishop, priest, or Church. Call they that presumption?
(2) Humbleness. There are two kinds of temper contrary to this spirit. The first is a disputing, captious temper. The next is a hopeless spirit.
(3) Action. This was Christ's rule: "If any man will do His will," etc. A blessed rule; a plain and simple rule. Here we are in a world of mystery, where all is difficult and very much dark—where a hundred jarring creeds declare themselves to be the truth, and all are plausible. How shall a man decide? Let him do the right that lies before him: much is uncertain—some things at least are clear. Whatever else may be wrong, it must be right to be pure—to be just and tender, and merciful and honest. It must be right to love, and to deny oneself. Let him do the will of God, and he shall know.—F. W. Robertson.
Joh . Jesus rejected for Barabbas.—The sad scenes of this history follow each other with great rapidity. The apostle summarises the various incidents in these scenes with masterly force in his bold sermon to those Jews, after he and John in the name of Jesus had healed the lame man in the temple. It was the same, yet not the same Peter who had acted such an ignoble part in those very scenes. They delivered up Jesus, whom God had glorified; they denied the holy and just One before Pilate, who was more just than they (Joh 19:11), for he declared that Jesus was innocent and should be freed. But worse than all, they desired that a murderer should be granted unto them in place of the Holy One and the Just (Acts 3.). Here we consider their awful choice.
I. Pilate's plan for the release of Jesus.—
1. The Roman governor was sore perplexed. Conscience, superstition, hatred of the Jews, a strange drawing toward this silent, dignified prisoner, made him long to wash his hands of the whole matter.
2. He had sent Jesus to Herod, thus thinking to get rid of the trouble; but now Jesus is returned for his judgment, and he must decide. He had almost made up his mind to brave those men who desired the death of Jesus for no fault, but to gratify their own envy and malignity.
3. But the governor bethought him of an expedient which should succeed. At this passover feast it was the custom to deliver up to the multitude one of the offenders against law whom they desired to see liberated. It was a symbolic reminder to the people of their own deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Pilate grasped at this expedient. He would offer the mob the choice between this meek, innocent, spotless man, and the greatest criminal who deservedly lay in a dungeon, one Jesus Barabbas (Mar ). Surely, although the leaders might do otherwise, the body of the crowd would choose Jesus.
II. The Jews' choice of Barabbas.—
1. Pilate was to learn that opportunism is neither the pleasantest nor safest policy. It is a two-edged weapon, and often wounds the hand that wields it.
2. He had made sure of the issue of his expedient, which would save him the trouble and unpopularity of having to refuse the request of those turbulent leaders of the people. But he was to learn how far they would descend in their hatred to this innocent sufferer, who had spoken the truth which so enraged those rulers. Thus his expedient failed, and the case was still laid on his conscience for decision.
3. But his attempt brought out the true feelings of those godless men. The chief priests moved the people that they should rather ask Barabbas (Mar ). It may thus be gathered that had the people been left to themselves they would never have made this awful choice. But they were more subservient to their leaders than anxious for justice and truth. The worst kind of slavery this.
4. Well had Jesus told those leaders and their too subservient followers their origin and descent (Joh ). And now they openly proved it before all the world by choosing one who had hitherto been one of the most conspicuous children of their evil father.
Lesson.—Let us not, however, too harshly condemn those men thus hurried away by passion. Peter did not when he said, "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it," etc. (Act ). Do not men sometimes choose the evil? Before knowing Christ, did not even Christians perhaps company with those who were His enemies and children of the wicked one? Did they not delight more in them than in His service and the company of His people? And do not such who have now chosen Christ look back, with feelings of mingled sorrow and shame, to think that they so long rejected the Holy One and the Just, and companied so long with those who were children and servants of the prince of this world?
Joh . The true use of this life determined by its connexion with that to come.—You will never make a proper use of the life that now is until you regard it in connexion with that which is to come. Standing at the Saviour's cross you will be able to take a right view of both worlds. You will see earth in all its littleness and tumult, and heaven in all its magnitude and peacefulness; and while rendering to the one the attention which its transient importance demands, you will reserve the fulness of your energy for the momentous claims of the other. I make no apology for asking whether you are making a kingdom of your politics, and whether you have begun at the true source of all genuine and permanent reformation. My firm conviction being that Christianity will adjust the relationships of individuals and consolidate the liberty of empires, my life is consecrated to its explanation and enforcement. When the heart is right with God, there will be little difficulty in arranging political details; but while the heart is swollen with passion, while selfishness holds out her greedy hand and party spirit rends the air with the clamorous cry, while pride looks disdainfully on the poor and rank draws its invidious boundaries, while capital is regardless of the true interests of labour and merit must give place to patronage, there can be no lasting reformation. We must strike the upas at its roots. If you, as political reformers, can amputate any of the deadly branches, you will indeed earn the gratitude of your race. Far be it from me to question the utility of your labour; but again I tell you, we must strike the upas at its root! Church of the living God, this is your business! It is for you to lift the axe and smite the deadly tree! You have a tremendous power which you can bring to bear, not only on the spiritual, but on the civil interests of man: every prayer you breathe may exert influence on the political destiny of the nation! I call upon you, therefore, to do your utmost in the propagation of the Christian faith; in the name of God, I forbid you to relax any spiritual effort. Toil on, and in due time there shall be but one kingdom and one King; He shall come, whose right is to reign—on His head shall the crown flourish. Freedom and peace shall unfurl their banners; brotherhood and charity shall wake their sweetest music; then shall a cry be heard, loud as the roar of the thunder, the rush of the whirlwind, and the anthem of the sea, Alleluia! The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.—Dr. Joseph Parker.
Joh . The majesty and sanctity of living for the invisible.—Oh that I could pour in upon the young the majesty and sanctity of living for the invisible—that is to say, for honour, and truth, and fidelity! Oh that I could make you feel how essentially brittle, how friable, how perishable, are all material sources of strength! God is the centre of life, and spiritual realities are the only things that will endure. Stone and iron, and silver and gold, and timber, and cities, and nations, and outward things are but pictures, painted soon to fade away; while truth and love, and fidelity, and purity shall last for ever and for ever.—H. W. Beecher.
Joh . Christ the promised spiritual king.—In the sublime vision of the prophet Daniel (chap. 7) a grand and striking prophetic picture is given of the conquering might and the glorious establishment of Christ's kingdom. And it was because of their misunderstanding the spiritual drift and meaning of such prophecies, because they translated with gross literality those grand prophetic promises, that the Jewish people as a whole failed to realise the true greatness of the Saviour and rejected Him as their king. But with kingly dignity our Lord referred all those majestic prophetic visions to Himself and His kingdom. He claimed to be the king of a great spiritual dominion—a gathering-place for all the nations, to which they should come from north, south, east, and west. It was to be unlike the kingdoms of the world, represented as those are in the vision of the prophet by fierce beasts, which war with and destroy each other, which are therefore passing and temporary. His great and universal dominion has its origin in another sphere than that of earth. When the need of earth was greatest, when the groaning of enslaved humanity rose loud and woeful, then God came to judgment on the kingdoms of the world. And then, behold, one like the Son of man came on the clouds of heaven; and to Him from the Ancient of Days was given dominion and glory, and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him, etc. (Dan 7:14.) Such is the dominion Christ claims as His. It is not of this world. It is advanced by no material force. And its king come to men not in the guise of a conqueror, in regal, warlike splendour, but meek and lowly as the Son of man.
Joh . "For to me to live is Christ" the motto of Christ's subjects.—You have seen a young man whose spirit yearns for the salvation of his race; he is educated and mentally strong; his home is a scene of happiness, parents and relatives hold him in highest regard; were he to employ his talents in his fatherland, they might ensure him competence, and perhaps renown; but he is determined to realise his convictions of duty; he is ready to sever the strong attachments which bind him to the land of his birth, and brave the innumerable perils which may beset his enterprise—forasmuch as his kingdom is not of this world. You find in such a youth an illustration of a principle already enunciated; he is not destitute of interest in the political progress of his nation, far less is he wanting in affection to those who gave him life—but he cannot make a kingdom of such considerations; he renders to them the attention due to their respective merits, but in his estimation there are claims whose importance is infinitely greater. His life-cry is, "For to me to live is Christ; everything must subordinate itself to Christ. Christ is the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely; he redeemed me with His blood, and shall be served with undivided energy, for in serving Him I am most effectually promoting the well-being of all the objects of my love."—Dr. Joseph Parker.
Joh . The future is Christ's.—Think, then. Who in the past has been loved more than Jesus Christ? His disciples left all for Him—they had to choose; on the one side His love and the most terrible sacrifices, on the other earthly happiness and the most legitimate affections. Jesus has won them! Explain by what miracle this love has been enkindled after them among millions of men who have never seen Jesus Christ; for, do not deceive yourselves, this is the feeling which inspired in the Church of the first centuries that heroic devotion, that love, which was not extinguished by the most savage and atrocious persecution. And if you pass over those eighteen centuries, who to-day is loved more than Jesus Christ? who occupies in the affections of men so great a place? And for us who love Him, is Jesus simply an individual of the past, a beautiful and touching figure, of which history has preserved the remembrance for us? Is He not, on the contrary, the Being whom we consider the most living and present? Is the love of which He is the object an abstraction? and has it not, like the most loving affections, its sorrows and trials, its anguish in our falls, its joys in our rising again? Are we the objects of a fantastic hallucination when we feel His invisible presence, when the view of His holiness fills us with trouble in the midst of our wicked pleasures, when repentant and ashamed we go to weep upon His breast, when repulsed by the world we experience His consolations filling our souls? And if we were alone in the experience of this love! But have you thought on the matter? This love has shined to all parts of the world. We see ourselves in the presence of an inexplicable problem if He is not divine. We see, as I have said, men who have received from their likes an idolatrous attachment. Every people has its heroes. But He whom we have not seen is a man who in every country, at all times, and among races the most diverse, has been able to awaken in the depths of men's hearts the same emotions and the same love. Is it not certain that the heroes of one race have often no renown among other races, because each of them possesses the exclusive type of his nationality? and gains his influence just from that cause that limits it at the same time? Endeavour to get men among our European races to admire the heroes, the demigods which the East adores, and even were it a possibility that their religion could be established, endeavour to make men love them. But Christ alone has had this marvellous power of making Himself beloved everywhere across time and space even. Every tongue raises to Him a song of love and adoration. Those divine emotions that fill my soul in listening to Him were felt by Origen and Augustine fifteen hundred years ago under an African sky; and to-day in his distant hut an Esquimaux of the polar regions, or a poor negro, shall experience them as I do. At this moment, on this Sabbath day, wherever the Church is gathered together, millions of hearts are moved at the name of Christ by the same feelings as you have; and if all those voices could make themselves heard, you would know in a measure the extent of His kingdom.… Gather together in thought all those whom this love has saved, ignorant and wise, great and small, of the world; children in whose innocent souls has been felt a mysterious attraction toward Jesus, and who in dying have gone to His arms—sinners who have fallen to the depth of the abyss, souls sorrowful and groaning. Behold athwart the centuries this cortege of worshippers who are increasing day by day, and, before this universal testimony of hearts who love Him, recognise Him for whom all hearts have been made. He said, "I am a King"; and see a redeemed humanity who reply to Him by proclaiming His kingdom. What royalty, what a domination, what an empire! To be loved in all the centuries, loved everywhere, loved even to the death, loved ever more deeply: behold the kingdom of Christ. And people ask us yet why we believe in His divinity! Oh, wise men of this world, who believe that His reign is ended, and who see in Him nothing but a master of the past who has been superseded—you who think that the criticism of the schools will do that which eighteen centuries of attack have not been able to do, and reduce the Gospel to powder! you know not how much Christ is loved, you know not what place He occupies in the heart of the world. Yes; in the Church of to-day, so feeble, so faithless and worldly, however, you do not know all that is seen to shine forth of devotion and heroism on the day when for confessing Jesus Christ all must be left behind, even life itself. I do not know what the future has in store for us. I do not know what those doctrines which this generation tolerates with a soft complaisance will bring forth, this materialism which denies freedom in God and responsibility in man, this insulting disdain of the unseen world, this proud confidence in the forces of humanity, this fanatic atheism which regards as hypocrisy or imbecility faith, prayer, the supernatural.… I know not if the Church will be called to go through a new baptism of suffering and persecution. At all events, it is not on the simple progress of toleration, nor on the native goodness of man, that I count to make such excesses impossible. I remember that no epoch, more so than the last century, preached the goodness of man and toleration; and I recall the fact also as to the way in which the century ended. But if the storm must come, let it come, let it come. For if it will remove from the Church all the unreal homage, all the false regard, which a generation who laughs in secret at the faith lavishes upon it, what will it matter? In this inevitable defection the world will learn at least how much Christ is loved; it will see all this that draws to Him faith, devotion, and hope; it will see that He is yet the King of souls, and that, to snatch Him from the love of the Church, it would be necessary to snatch away the heart of humanity. Lord, the future is Thine. The kingdom has been given to Thee, and Thy kingdom will come. But how shall it serve us to proclaim Thy kingdom if Thou hast not first triumphed in our hearts? Ah! let us submit them—these hearts worldly and rebellious—break down our resistance, our pride, our egoism; and reign at least over those whom Thou hast gained, who are waiting for those days in which we believe Thou wilt reign over a world at peace, and when all men shall bow the knee before Thee.—Translated from Eug. Bersier.
Joh . None are by nature "of the truth."—The expression "every one that is of the truth" betokens an inward preparation for conversion which no one, however, experiences without the operation of "preventing grace." No one is by nature of the truth; but all men, as the Scriptures say, are liars, since they love darkness rather than light, because the light reproves them for their sins and disturbs their repose; and because they press error to their bosoms and shut themselves up against the entrance of truth, which menaces their sensual pleasures with danger and urges them to a life of self-denial. Thus, as St. Paul once expressed it, they "hold the truth in unrighteousness." But as soon as the Spirit, which, like the wind, bloweth where it listeth, gains room, the love of delusion gives way to the ardent desire to be freed from it, and studious self-deception to the willingness to "prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good." Before the honest, serious inquiry after truth and peace the visionary forms of these false ideas vanish to which the poor soul had been previously attached. But when, by the operation of the Spirit of God, we have attained to this simplicity of heart, we become joined to those who are of the truth. Then, if the divine Teacher utters His voice, how does our inmost soul echo to the sound of His light and life-giving words! If He then says, "Come unto Me, ye that are weary and heavy laden," how gladly do we accept the gracious invitation! If He then unveils His glory and beauty, how do our longing souls rush into His arms rejoicing! If He then displays the standard of His cross, how do we not hasten to it, to build tabernacles under its peaceful shadow!—F. W. Krummacher, "Suffering Saviour."
Joh . Satan's children.—Whence sprang the weeds in the history of our Lord's passion? Whence the thistles even among the weeping willows and olive trees of Gethsemane? Whence the thorns on Golgotha? That the enemy had done. When the members of the Sanhedrin set up false witnesses, and made them assert that Jesus had arrogantly said He would destroy and build up the temple again; when on the declaration of Jesus that He was the Son of God and the judge of the world, they answered in hypocritical anger, "Now we have heard His blasphemy," etc. (Mat 26:65); when they, the guardians of the law and the protectors of religion, were given a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, and when asked, Which of these two will ye have? urged the people to demand the release of the murderer and to slay the Lamb; when out of the poisoned spring of envy they drew the resolve to storm the vacillating governor with the cry, "Crucify, crucify!" and determined on the murder of the Righteous, invoking a mad curse upon their own heads.… "His blood be on us and on our children," … were those who did this of the viper's brood, Satan's children, descendants of Cain?—their lips were lying, their hands were murderous.—Translated from Dr. R. Kögel.
The old saying that the voice of the people is the voice of God receives an instructive commentary in the vote for Barabbas and against Jesus. That was what a plebiscite for the discovery of the people's favourite came to. What a reliable method of finding the best man universal suffrage, manipulated by wire-pullers like these priests, is! and how wise the people are who let it guide their judgments, or, still wiser, who fret their lives out in angling for its approval! Better be condemned with Jesus than adopted with Barabbas.—Dr. A. Maclaren.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on John 18". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent