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29. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?
30. They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.
The question proposed by Pilate was a very proper one for a judge; but the chief priests and other members of the Sanhedrim, instead of producing specific charges against Jesus, refer to their own authority for proof of his guilt. “We think him guilty of a great crime, let that satisfy thee.” It is probable, however, that they did afterwards mention some of the charges which they had to alledge against him: for something of this kind seems to be referred to in Pilate's answer.
31. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him and judge him according to your law.
The charges which you bring against him are not of a civil nature, nor such as I can take cognizance of, but relate to questions about your law: take him, therefore, and punish him according to that law.
The Jews, therefore, said unto him, it is not lawful for us to put any man to death;
32. That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.
Christ had signified what death he should die, when he said, John xii. 32. “ And I if,” or when, “I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me.'
What made this prediction remarkable, and the fulfilment of it worthy of being noticed by the evangelist, was that he should have been able to foretel that he should die by crucifixion, a Roman punishment, and not by a natural death or in a tumult, either of which appeared more probable*. From the Jews'saying that it was not lawful for them to put any man to death, it appears that the power of life and death was in the hands of the Romans, and that the Jews at this time had lost their political independence; a state of subjection to which they had never before been reduced in their own country, and fully verifying the celebrated prediction of Jacoh, The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come. The high priest, indeed, with the assistance of the council, was allowed to try men for less offences, and to inflict such punishment as their laws enjoined; but in cases where the life of the offender was concerned, the cause must have a hearing before the Roman governor, who alone could pronounce sentence of death. This was the reason of their bringing Jesus to him, after having pronounced him worthy of death, in their own court.
33. Then Pilate entered into the prætorium again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the king of the Jews ?
It was one of the charges brought against him by his enemies, that he said he was Christ, a king. Pilate, therefore, asks him this question, to know whether he really claimed that character: for he should then have some plea for condemning and punishing him.
34. Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?
• Lardner's Works, Vol. i. p. 49.
By this question Jesus intended to set Pilate upon his guard : a Roman governor, jealous of the rights of his master, could not fail to hear of a claim to supreme power, if any such had been advanced by an inhabitant of Judæa; but if he had never claimed it till this time, and the information came from his enemies, it was not likely to be true and deserved very little attention.
35. Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Tbine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee to me. What hast thou done?
That is, canst thou suppose that I am acquainted with thy character and pretensions from my own knowledge, who am not a native of the country, and know nothing of thee but what I learn from thy countrymen, and those the principal men in the nation? By what means hast thou so grievously offended them?
36. Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world.
My kingdom is of a spiritual and not of a civil nature, and cannot, therefore, interfere with the Roman government.
If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, " then would my servants have contended,” that I should not be delivered to the Jews; so that my kingdom is not from hence.
Had my: kingdom been of a civil nature, my disciples would have had instructions to support it, in the same way in which other kingdoms are supported, by force of arms; but I have been followed by multitudes of persons, for the most part unarmed, and when I was apprehended, those who were inclined to
defend me by force were forbidden to do it; it is plain, therefore, that my kingdom is not of a temporal nature.
37. Pilate, therefore, said unto him, Thou art a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king, i.e. thou sayest truly. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
For this purpose I was brought into being and appeared in public as a divine messenger, to bear testimony to the truth, or to the true religion.
Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Every friend to truth attends to my instructions.
38. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? . That is, What is truth to me? Speculative points of debate are no concern of mine as a judge. "That this is the meaning of his question, is evident from his not waiting for an answer, which he would have done if he had asked for information.
And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and said unto them, I find in him no fault at all.
This he said because he had discovered that the kingly power which Jesus claimed was wholly of a spiritual nature, and as to truth, he gave himself no concern about it.
39. But ye have a custom that I release unto you one at the passover;
will ye, therefore, that I release unto you the king of the Jews ?
This custom probably originated with the Roman government, in order to render themselves popular; for we read nothing of it in the law of Moses.
40. Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
In the other evangelists he is called a murderer; he might be both.
I. We may observe how consistent à scrupulous exactness in the observance of religious ceremonies is with the perpetration of the greatest crimes. These chief priests, Pharisees and scribes were so anxious to keep themselves from the mere possibility of defile. ment, and to be in a constant state of preparation for religious services, that they will not so much as come under the roof of a heathen: yet at the same time they were persecuting to death, with relentless malice, an innocent and exalted character and an eminent prophet, who was guilty of no other crime than that of being better than themselves, and of exposing their faults with freedom and severity. Thus they showed that superstition and cruelty may be united in the same person, and that all the forms of religion may be strictly observed, where there is no portion of its spirit. Merciless and detestable hypocrites! Justly did Jesus say of you that ye paid tithe of mint and cummin, while ye neglected the weightier matters of the law, judgment, truth and mercy; that ye strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel; that ye were whited sepul.