Condemned by Pilate
the Jews returned from Herod, bringing the Saviour again to Pilate, he
was very much displeased, and asked what they would have him do. He
reminded them that he had examined Jesus, and had found no fault in Him.
He told them that they had brought complaints against Him, but that they
had not been able to prove a single charge.
As stated in the preceding chapter, they
had taken Him to Herod, who was a Jew, like themselves, and he had found
in Him nothing worthy of death. But to pacify the accusers, Pilate said:
"I will therefore chastise Him, and
release Him." Luke 23:16.
Here Pilate showed his weakness. He had
acknowledged that Christ was innocent; then why should he punish Him? It
was a compromise with wrong. The Jews never forgot this through all the
trial. They had intimidated the Roman governor, and now pressed their
advantage until they secured the condemnation of Jesus.
The multitude clamored more loudly for
the life of the prisoner.
While Pilate was hesitating as to what he
should do, there was brought to him a letter from his wife, which read:
"Have thou nothing to do with that just
man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of
Him." Matthew 27:19.
Pilate turned pale at this message; but
the mob became more urgent as they saw his indecision.
Pilate saw that something must be done.
It was customary at the feast of the Passover to set at liberty one
prisoner, whom the people might choose. The Roman soldiers had recently
captured a noted robber, named Barabbas. He was a degraded ruffian and a
murderer. So Pilate turned to the crowd, and said with great
"Whom will ye that I release unto you?
Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" Matthew 27:17.
They replied, "Away with this man, and
release unto us Barabbas." Luke 23:18.
Pilate was dumb with surprise and
disappointment. By yielding his own judgment and appealing to the
people, he had lost his dignity and the control of the crowd. After
that, he was only the tool of the mob. They swayed him at their will. He
"What shall I do then with Jesus which is
With one accord they cried, "Let Him be
"And the governor said, Why, what evil
hath He done?
"But they cried out the more, saying, Let
Him be crucified." Matthew 27:22,23.
Pilate's cheek paled as he heard the
terrible cry, "Let
Him be crucified." He had not thought it would come
to that. He had repeatedly pronounced Jesus innocent, and yet the people
were determined that He should suffer this most terrible and dreaded
death. Again he asked the question:
"Why, what evil hath He done?"
And again was set up the awful cry,
"Crucify Him, crucify Him."
Pilate made one last effort to touch
their sympathies. Jesus was taken, faint with weariness and covered with
wounds, and scourged in the sight of His accusers.
"And the soldiers platted a crown of
thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, and
said, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote Him with their hands." John
They spit upon Him, and some wicked hand
snatched the reed that had been placed in His hand, and struck the crown
upon His brow, forcing the thorns into His temples, and sending the
blood trickling down His face and beard.
Satan led the cruel soldiery in their
abuse of the Saviour. It was his purpose to provoke Him to retaliation,
if possible, or to drive Him to perform a miracle to release Himself,
and thus break up the plan of salvation. One stain upon His human life,
one failure of His humanity to bear the terrible test, and the Lamb of
God would have been an imperfect offering, and the redemption of man a
But He who could command the heavenly
host, and in an instant call to His aid legions of holy angels, one of
whom could have immediately overpowered that cruel mob --He who could
have stricken down His tormentors by the
flashing forth of His divine
majesty-- submitted with dignified composure to the coarsest insult and
As the acts of His torturers degraded
them below humanity, into the likeness of Satan, so did the meekness and
patience of Jesus exalt Him above humanity, and prove His kinship to
Pilate was deeply moved by the
uncomplaining patience of the Saviour. He sent for Barabbas to be
brought into the court; then he presented the two prisoners side by
side. Pointing to the Saviour, he said in a voice of solemn entreaty,
"Behold the man." "I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I
find no fault in Him." John 19:5,4.
There stood the Son of God, wearing the
robe of mockery and the crown of thorns. Stripped to the waist, His back
showed the long, cruel stripes from which the blood flowed freely. His
face was stained with blood, and bore the marks of exhaustion and pain;
but never had it appeared more beautiful. Every feature expressed
gentleness and resignation, and the tenderest pity for His cruel foes.
In striking contrast was the prisoner at
His side. Every line of the countenance of Barabbas showed him to be the
hardened ruffian that he was.
Among the beholders there were some who
sympathized with Jesus. Even the priests and rulers were convicted that
He was what He claimed to be. But they would not yield. They had moved
the mob to a mad fury, and again priests, rulers, and people raised the
"Crucify Him, crucify Him!"
At last, losing all patience with their
unreasonable, vengeful cruelty, Pilate said to them:
"Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find
no fault in Him." John 19:6.
Pilate tried hard to release the Saviour;
but the Jews cried out:
"If thou let this man go, thou art not
Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against
Caesar." John 19:12.
This was touching Pilate in a weak place.
He was already under suspicion by the Roman government, and he knew that
a report of this kind would be his ruin.
"When Pilate saw that he could prevail
nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed
his hands before the multitude, saying,
"I am innocent of the blood of this just
person: see ye to it." Matthew 27:24.
In vain Pilate tried to free himself from
the guilt of condemning Jesus. Had he acted promptly and firmly at the
first, carrying out his convictions of right, his will would not have
been overborne by the mob; they would not have presumed to dictate to
His wavering and indecision proved his
ruin. He saw that he could not release Jesus, and yet retain his own
position and honor.
Rather than lose his worldly power, he
chose to sacrifice an innocent life. Yielding to the demands of the mob,
he again scourged Jesus, and delivered Him to be crucified.
But in spite of his precautions, the very
thing he dreaded afterward came upon him. His honors were stripped from
him, he was cast down from his high office, and, stung by remorse and
wounded pride, not long after the crucifixion he ended his own life.
So all who compromise with sin will gain
only sorrow and ruin. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man,
but the end thereof are the ways of death." Proverbs 14:12.
When Pilate declared himself innocent of
the blood of Christ, Caiaphas answered defiantly, "His blood be on us,
and on our children." Matthew 27:25.
And the awful words were echoed by the
priests, and re-echoed by the people.
It was a terrible sentence to pass upon
themselves. It was an awful heritage to hand down to their posterity.
Literally was this fulfilled upon
themselves in the fearful scenes of the destruction of Jerusalem, about
forty years later.
Literally has it been fulfilled in the
scattered, despised, and oppressed condition of their descendants since
Doubly literal will be the fulfillment
when the final accounting shall come. The scene will then be changed,
and "this same Jesus" will come, "in flaming fire taking vengeance on
them that know not God." Acts 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
Then they will pray to the rocks and
"Fall on us, and hide us from the face of
Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the
great day of His wrath is come." Revelation 6:16,17.