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have sinned,” says he, in an agony of grief; “I have sinned, and have betrayed the innocent blood.” This testimony of Judas is invaluable, because it is the testimony of an unwilling witness; the testimony not of a friend, but of an enemy; the testimony, not of one desirous to favour and to befriend the accused, but of one who had actually betrayed him. After such an evidence as this, it seems impossible for any ingenious mind either to question the reality of our Saviour's miracles, or the divinity to which he laid claim ; because, as Judas declared him innocent (which he could not be, had he in any respect deceived his disciples,) he must have been, what he assumed to be, the Son of God, and his religion, the word of God. . After this account of Judas Iscariot, the evangelist proceeds in the history. “And Jesus stood before the governor.” Little did that governor imagine who it was that then stood before him. Little did he suspect that he must himself one day
stand before the tribunal of that very X 3 person
person whom he was then going to judge as a criminal It appears from the parallel place in St. Luke (and from what was stated in the preceding Lecture) that the charge brought against Jesus before Pilate was not what it had been before the chief priests, blasphemy, but sedition and treason. “They began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying, that he himself is Christ a king *.” These were great crimes against the state, as affecting both the revenue and the sovereignty of the Roman emperor, both of which it was the duty of the governor to support and maintain. “Pilate therefore asked him, Art thou the king of the Jews 2 And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.” That is, I am what thou sayest. “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things those witness against - thee P * Luke, xxiii. 2.
thee: And he answered him never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.” Our Lord's conduct on this occasion was truly dignified. When he was called upon to acknowledge what was really true, he gave a direct answer both to the chief priests and to Pilate. He acknowledged that he was the Christ, the Son of God, the King of the Jews; but false and frivolous, and unjust accusations, he treated as they deserved, with profound
and contemptuous silence. It appears, however, from St. John, that although Jesus declared he was the King of the Jews, yet he explained to Pilate the nature of his kingdom, which he assured him was not of this world. And Pilate, satisfied with this explanation, and seeing clearly that the whole accusation was malicious and groundless, made several efforts to save Jesus. He repeatedly declared to his accusers, that having examined him, he could find no fault in him. This, however, instead of disarming their fury, only inflamed and increased it. They were X 4 the the more fierce, as St. Luke tells us, saying, “ He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee, to this place “.” The mention of Galilee suggested an idea to Pilate, which he flattered himself might save him the pain of condemning an innocent man. “When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean ; and as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod+.” That tyrant, who was delighted to see Jesus, and was probably very well disposed to treat him as he did his precursor, John the Baptist, yet could bring no guilt home to him. He therefore sent him back to Pilate, insulted and derided, but uncondemned. Pilate, not yet discouraged, had recourse to another expedient, which he hoped might still preserve a plainly guiltless man. It was the custom, at the great Feast of the Passover, for the Roman Governor to gratify the Jewish people, by pardoning and releasing to
them any prisoner whom they chose to select out of those that were condemned to death. Now there happened to be at that time a notorious criminal in prison, named Barabbas, who had been guilty of exciting an insurrection, and committing murder in it. Pilate, thinking it impossible that the people could carry their malignant rage againt Jesus so far as to desire the pardon of a murderer rather than of him, said unto them, “Whom will ye that I release unto you, Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ P” Had the people been left to their own unbiassed feeling, one would think that they could not have hesitated one moment in their choice. But they were under the influence of leaders (as they generally are) more wicked than themselves. For we are told, that “the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas and destroy Jesus *.” While this was passing, an extraordinary incident took place, which must needs - - have
* Matt. xxvii. 20.