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frightful outrage of begging the life of a Barabbas, in order to condemn Christ! How often are even the frivolous children of the world seized with compassion, when they see how inexorably the hierarchical judges of heresy persecute their victims; yet how often do they preach to them in vain the laws of humanity, even as Pilate in vain exclaimed to the Jews, Behold, what a man! And even the last desperate effort of the Sanhedrists to make Pilate an assessor of their spiritual tribunal, by occasioning him to institute a judicial examination regarding the fact, that Jesus had made Himself the Son of God, repeats itself in many spiritual processes. In this way the hierarchical spirit has come at length, more than once, solemnly to renounce all its spiritual hopes and rights before the forum of the State, in order merely to attain its fanatical ends. It throws down its Messianic hope at the feet of Cæsar, in order to nail to the cross a Messianic life, which it hates.
The life-picture of this hierarchy is, however, at the same time the life.picture of hypocrisy.
But as the character of a degenerate, Christ-hating hierarchy is here described in all its peculiar features, so not less, in its most essential characteristics, is the conduct of Christ towards the same, viewed in its universal and historical significance.
On the one hand, indeed, the denial of Peter repeats itself in all ages, but, on the other hand also, the faithful confession of Christ. And so also do its individual features return anew : the appeal to the known publicity of Christianity, and to its public witnesses in all the world ; the protest entered against illegal tribunals; the putting to shame of raging fanatics by calm superiority of spirit; the unveiling of fraudulent ambiguity in the accusations of enemies; the directing of attention to their hostile character ; the forewarning of the infatuated State; the repelling, within the limits of their competence, of those unwarranted to pass judgment on theological questions ; holy silence and holy speech according to the standard of the most delicately drawn line of right; above all, however, the perfect divine composure, unconstrainedness of spirit, inward peace and resignation, and the collectedness of mind, strength, and dignity therewith connected, which ever anew secure the victory.
In still more definite outline, however, are we presented with
a richly developed life-picture of the worldly State, and its policy, in the conduct of Pilate.
In the first place, we recognise in the image of Pilate the political pliability, the judicial strictness in adherence to form, the dignity, and the power of the worldly-minded State; but likewise, also, its want of insight into the deeper problems of life, its stranger-like demeanour in matters of faith, connected as it is with indifference and even with unbelief, and showing itself in a hasty, shy passing over of the most important elements, the most precious opportunities to get a better insight. Then follow the traces of the unholy policy which begins to drive a bargain between right and wrong, which permits itself to treat the innocent as guilty in order to rescue him. We see no doubt, also, the nobler features of the life of the worldly State again appear: on the one hand, the powerful stirrings of humanity; on the other hand, the strong manifestations of a deeply felt natural piety, even should it be beclouded by superstitious prejudices. Soon, however, are these better impulses damped by the State now beginning to interfere authoritatively in spiritual matters, and in the end they are wholly suppressed by its boastful reliance on external power; which, however, is straightway followed by faintheartedness through fear of manfear of Cæsar in the upward direction, fear of popular commotion beneath. Just then, however, when the moral position of the worldly State is most compromised, it assumes the most lordly demeanour. It now, for the first time, truly sets itself on its high throne, whilst in reality inwardly it is dragged along at will by the multitude. It gives itself the air of despising the people, whilst it panders to their domineering passions; and at last seeks to regain the honour of its firmness in trivial formalities, whilst it has parted with it in the greatest matters. Its deepest fall, however, consists in giving over the life of Christ into the hand of fanatical enemies, and turning itself into an unwilling executioner of the sentences of spiritual heresy tribunals and persecutors of the truth.
This symbolism of the worldly-minded State in its fall, is at the same time the symbolism generally of the worldly mind in superior station, of a worldly unbelieving culture, nay, also of the individual worldly man."
| That the examination of Jesus before Pilate, and especially the picture
Everywhere, however, the Spirit of Christ presents the same features of contrast to this spirit of worldly culture. Everywhere it exhibits the same ascendancy of spiritual insight. It teaches the worldling to distinguish between worldly and spiritual ideas, in order thus to free him from his prejudices. With holy earnestness it opens to him a glimpse into the mysterious background of the fleeting phenomena of this earthly life, into the kingdom of truth, of the real life which is not of this world, and conveys to him the impression of other and higher dignities than the legal and the symbolical, which belong to earth. It overawes him in his levity by the invincibility of its patient trust in God, by the glory it throws around the ignominy of the crown of thorns and the purple robe, and especially also by the clear spiritual insight with which it points him out in the false use of his power as an involuntary instrument in a twofold sense-as a blind instrument of human passions, and as an unsuspecting instrument of the holy and righteous administration of God; finally, by the dignified boldness and gentleness with which it holds up to his view his sins.
The most appalling symbol, however, in the condemnation of Jesus, lies in the illustration of the fact, that the hierarchy and the worldly State, after the most violent contests regarding their competence in reference to the treatment of questions pertaining to the spiritual life, after the most unequivocal mutual inroads by the one power into the province of the other, become of one mind in condemning Christ to the cross; and that to these two powers is added a third—the will of the people in a state of commotion, the revolution.
In this fact, however, the life of Christ becomes also manifest in its highest glory. We see how those three great powers of the world are put to shame before His image, how they judge themselves, and, without surmising it, must therefore glorify Him as the true High Priest who delivers the Church, as the true Prophet who delivers the people, as the true King who delivers the State, as the unfettered though thorn-crowned Prince—the King of the Jews, who lays the foundations of a glorious new kingdom in the abyss of holy ignominy and of Pilate himself, in this examination, as unfolded in the narrative of John, are wonderfully true to life, has been misunderstood by few so entirely as by Weisse, ii. 298 ff.
shame, which the old world has assigned Him as His portion.
Every feature of His conduct, from the commencement of His sufferings to His last exclamation on the cross, “It is finished !' is a special ray from His spiritual kingly crown, by whose brightness His crown of thorns is encircled with light, and is at the same time a special symbol of the manifestation of His glorious life in the world.
Therefore also the mockery of the world must unconsciously bear witness to His honour, by designating Him, in the three most important languages of the world, as the King of the Jews. And thereby the victory of God in Christ over the world's mockery is declared.
And so must the blindest instruments in the world help to fulfil the counsels of God concerning Him, as these have been recorded in the Old Testament. There thus arises a threefold illumination. The world in all its doings appears under a divine vassalage to render holy service to the theocracy. The Old Testament appears in the full glory of its New Testament relationships. The life of Jesus appears in the light of its eternally pre-ordained purpose, as already announced in the Old Testament.
More especially, He is represented as the fulfilment of all Old Testament types, as the true Paschal Lamb.
The holy body of Jesus also exhibits the prototype of the transition from death into a glorified condition, as a token that mankind through Him shall be introduced into the possession of a new life.
How His love, in the midst of His mortal sufferings, brings hesitating disciples to decision; how His cross subdues the spirits, wins the rich with their possessions, and conquers the world; and how, generally, just in the times of heaviest tribulalation for the life of Christ, the hearts of the susceptible are most easily freed from the fear of man and the world's attractions, and make the greatest sacrifices for His sake: this triumph of the life of Christ in its mortal anguish appears in visible manifestation at His burial. In the act of faith performed by Joseph and Nicodemus, we see the passion-flower bloom over the grave of Jesus; and since that time it everywhere unfolds its blossoms in the gardens of the Church, whenever suffering to the death is prepared for the life of Christ in His own people.
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST; OR, THE DECISIVE TRIUMPH
OF LIGHT OVER DARKNESS. THE ANNOUNCEMENTS OF CHRIST, AND THE EXTINCTION OF THE REMAINS OF THE OLD DARKNESS IN THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.
The disciples of the Lord receive the first intimation of His resurrection from the dead in the fact that the stone is rolled away, and that the sepulchre is empty.
After all that had been done to prepare them for believing in the resurrection of Christ, this proof should have been sufficient to bring their faith to full maturity. For was it not a sign that the seal with which the servants of darkness had sealed the grave of Jesus was annihilated, and that Jesus no longer lay in the tomb? But we are made to see how very gradually, under the influence of this token, a true belief in the resurrection begins to awaken in their minds. The Easter morning has dawned, but the darkness of its early twilight still envelopes them.
To these shadows of the night, that still rest on the world of discipleship, the journey of the most select of their number to the grave of Jesus bears testimony.
On the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth that the stone is taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.'
Mary did not go alone to the grave, but in company with others. Along with these she found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. On this discovery, they all of them together precipitately drew the conclusion that the body of Jesus must have been robbed, or at least carried away to some other place. A proof that they were still wanting in maturity of faith.