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the deliberations, for we find them afterwards acting in concert on a prearranged plan.
The chief sects or factions then existing in Jerusalem were the Herodians, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Scribes.
1. The Herodians were rather a political faction than a religious sect. They were the partisans of the Herods, and as the Herods were the creatures of Rome, put into authority by the Romans, the Herodians were men that Romanised. They approved of the tribute paid to Cæsar, and generally favoured Roman interests, and were by no means zealous for Jewish law. Herod the Great was not a Jew, and if he built the Temple to the true God in Jerusalem, he built another to the heathen gods in Cæsarea.
2. The Pharisees began by believing and teaching that Moses had received from God, in addition to the written law contained in the Pentateuch, a certain amount of oral teaching which was to be venerated as tradition. In course of time, this code of tradition, now become greatly enlarged, was in their eyes more sacred than the Divine precepts. They professed to lead a severe life, but from the action of our Lord when they accused the sinful woman (St. John viii.), and from many other passages in the Gospel, it would seem that their strictness inclined more to outward observances of their own inventions than to the weightier things of the law (St. Matt. xxiii. 23).
Though the resurrection of the dead was not expressly taught in the Pentateuch, yet they found it the teaching of the Prophets, and therefore believed this dogma; and, so far from disbelieving miracles, they seemed rather to think that they had a right to expect miracles at every turn.
3. The Sadducees were the most opposed to the Pharisees. They were the forerunners of Martin Luther in his enmity to all traditions. They were for the Pentateuch, and the Pentateuch only. Because they could not find the resurrection of the dead explicitly taught in the writings of Moses, they would not accept that doctrine. To the writings of the Prophets they did not give the same credence which they yielded to Moses.
For all the traditions of the Pharisees they had nothing hut scorn. From pharisaic severity of life they were equally abhorrent. Their disbelief in the resurrection naturally inclined them to make the best of the present life, so that they were looked upon as worldly and sensual men. They were inclined to explain away all miracles and interpositions of God's providence, and professed that men by their industry and intellect and free. will could rule the course of events. For a short time, at one period, they had been supreme in Jerusalem; but ordinarily they had not the influence of the Scribes and Pharisees.
4. The Scribes were in the beginning good men who made a study of the law, and strove to maintain its observances among the people. Thus Esdras, who led the people back from the Captivity, is described as a man who had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do and to teach in Israel the commandments and judgment (1 Esdras vii.). And we find him called Esdras the Priest, the Scribe instructed in the words and coinmandments of the Lord, and the ceremonies in Israel. Hence Artaxerxes commences the charter granted to him for the 'rebuilding of Jerusalem in this way: Artaxerxes King of kings to Esdras the Priest, the most learned Scribe of the law of the God of Heaven, greeting. Therefore, had the Scribes remained faithful, they would have been the theologians, the commentators, the canonists and moralists of the Jewish Church.
Gradually they fell away from a true and genuine study of the law; sacrificing the spirit for that exaggerated idolatry of the letter against which St. Paul so strongly inveighs. They abounded in traditions and glosses as much as the Pharisees did, and hence were for a time more akin to them than to the Sadducees, who, if they could have had their will, would have swept away all the commentaries of the Scribes, and adhered to the Bible of Moses, and nothing but that Bible. At the time of our Saviour the Scribes and Pharisees were antagonistic and rivals to each other. With the people oftentimes the Scribes carried more weight on account of their supposed learning, and very commonly the President of the Sanhedrin was a Scribe.
It is thought by some that the Scribes were less hostile to our Saviour, and did not join in the sentence passed upon Him. We shall see one instance in which they side with Him against the Sadducees, but in many other passages we find our Blessed Lord denouncing them as strongly as He denounced the Pharisees.
A. Contemplate the dismal and melancholy scene in this Council of blinded, weak, and helpless men, raging, and meditating most foolish things against the Lord and against His Christ (Psalm ii.). They accept greedily every suggestion offered to them by the fallen angel, their murderous enemy; suggestions which Satan himself knows to be most insane and stupid lies, and yet good enough for foolish men blinded by pride, whom he contemns as much as he hates them.
B. In this Council, out of their own mouths they condemn themselves. They are unanimous that till now they have nothing to lay before the Roman Governor
worthy of death. They must begin all over again on a new plan to collect evidence. All their shrewdest and most able disputants must attack Him one after another, to see if they can ensnare Him in His speech, and find something that shall look like treason against Cæsar. Full of this new scheme they return to the portico of the Temple.
" Blessed be God for His mercy.” I have not sat with the Council of Vanity, neither will I go in with the doers of unjust things. I have hated the assembly of the malignant, and with the wicked I will not sit (Psalm xxv. 4, 5).
TUESDAY IN HOLY
THE PORTICO OF THE TEMPLE.
QUESTIONS TO ENSNARE JESUS. And being on the watch they sent spies who should feign
themselves just, that they might take hold of Him in His words, that they might deliver Him up to the authority and power of the Governor (St. Luke xx. 20).
A. Contemplate these spies, these proud, self-sufficient men, glad to be picked out as clever and skilful in argument, each confident that he will conquer Jesus. Holy Job was more wise.
He said: Man cannot be justified compared with God. If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one for a thousand. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who hath resisted Him and hath had peace? (c. ix.).
“ Lord Jesus, show forth Thy wonderful mercies. From them that resist Thy right hand keep me as the apple of Thy eye" (Psalm xvi.).
B. Observe, too, how already their plan is fixed that He is to be delivered to the authority and power of the Roman Governor. For they are resolved on His death, but to us it is not allowed to kill any one (St. John xviii.); and they are resolved, moreover, that He must die by the terrible Roman punishment of crucifixion. Our Saviour's prophecy must be fulfilled: The Son of Man shall be betrayed to the Chief Priests and Scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death and deliver Him up to the Gentiles to be inocked and scourged and crucified (St. Matt. xx.). His own Apostle shall betray Him to the Priests and Scribes; and His own priests shall deliver Him up to the heathen strangers. Observe, how His own, when once corrupted, are His worst enemies.
C. Contemplate, then, these hypocritical spies coming up one after another to ensnare Him with captious questions, while the Priests and Pharisees look on, watching with a malicious eagerness which they cannot disguise. Hear their first champions.
THE PHARISEES AND HERODIANS. The Pharisees sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians,
saying: Master, we know that Thou speakest and teachest rightly, and Thou dost not respect any person, but teachest the way of God in truth. Tell us therefore what dost Thou think : is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar or not? (St. Matt. xxii. 16, 17; St. Luke xx.).
A. The Herodians and Pharisees were not friends; but all coalesce against Christ. So now, too, all sects combine against His Church. All who are worldly, no matter what their sect, combine against Jesus Christ. Let us lie in wait for the Fust (Wisdom ii.).
B. Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar or not? This they hope will prove a murderous question. It is framed with a diabolic skill, like some of those questions prepared in our country by the Crown lawyers bent on shedding the blood of Blessed Thomas More, Blessed Bishop Fisher, and the rest. Among the Jews there was a strong feeling against paying tribute to Cæsar : but the Herodians, because Herod had been made King by the Romans, favoured this tribute. If our Lord says “No," they will report Him to Pilate and have Him crucified. Yes,” they will tell the
people that He is a friend to the Romans and a traitor to them.
C. If men can be so crafty, so malicious, so unscrupulous, so bloodthirsty, what must Satan be? And yet we perpetually trust him rather than our Lord, and look to him for friendly counsel. With reason our Lord, Who knows thoroughly the intensity of Satan's cruel malice against us, says to us so earnestly: Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. What wonder He wishes us to say always in our familiar prayer, never tiring : Lead us not into temptation?
JESUS ANSWERS. But He, considering their guile, said to them : Why tempt
you Me ? (St. Luke xx. 23). By the mouth of His Prophet Jeremias God says : The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it? And then He immediately answers His own question: I am the Lord, Who search the heart, and prove the reins : Who give to every one according to his way and according to the fruit of his devices (c. xvii.).
These clever men little dream that our Blessed Saviour saw them in the Council-Chamber, heard every word, and read all their unuttered thoughts.
“ Give me grace, O Lord, to live in Thy presence, to remember always that I am under Thy all-seeing eye.”
Show me a penny. Whose image and inscription hath it??
They answering said to Him : Cæsar's. And He said to them : Render therefore to Cesar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's (vv. 24, 25).
A. Contemplate this most unequal contest between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God; the facility with which our Saviour baffles their schemes. Who is as the Lord our God Who dwelleth on high ? (Psalm cxii.). Thou