Life Of Christ:
Jesus Before Annas
Jesus Before Caiphas
Jesus Before Pilate
Jesus Before Herod
Jesus Is Condemned To Death
Way Of The Cross
Crucifixion Of Jesus
Seven Last Words Of Jesus
Miraculous Events At Our Lord's Death
Side Of Jesus Pierced With A Lance
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Jesus Before Pilate
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE DESPAIR OF JUDAS
AFTER a long night of the most outrageous treatment, Jesus was summoned, very early in the morning, before a full assembly of the Jewish high court, where sentence of death was passed upon Him. But as the Jews no longer possessed the power to inflict capital punishment, it was necessary that Jesus should be handed over to the Romans. "And the whole multitude of them rising up, led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying: We have found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He is Christ the king. And Pilate asked Him, saying: Art Thou the King of the Jews? But He answering, said: Thou sayest it. And Pilate said to the chief priests and to the multitudes: I find no cause in this man." (Luke xxiii. 1-4.)
Behold Our Lord, the almighty and all-holy, dragged through the streets of Jerusalem to the palace of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. As He went along, the people and strangers who had come for the feast of the Passover were told that this man, whose fame had gone throughout Judea, had been discovered at last to be nothing better than a cunning impostor who had gained for Himself the reputation of a prophet and 'worker of miracles. He was therefore insulted, derided, and reviled as He passed along the crowded streets. On arriving at the governor's palace, Jesus was sent into the hall, probably with some soldiers or Temple guards; for the priests feared to incur ceremonial uncleanness by entering the house of a gentile. Pilate, in order not to offend the prejudices of this fanatical people, came down to them as they stood without. The accusations brought by these hypocrites against Jesus were "that He was a man of seditious character, whose aim was to overthrow the Roman power; that He persuaded the people not to pay tribute to Caesar, and set Himself up as King of the Jews." The clear-headed Roman saw at a glance how matters stood. He had heard enough to know that the charges of these vindictive priests against Christ were the outcome of their jealousy and wounded pride; and he was convinced that if the accusations had been true, these men would have been the first to join any one who opposed the Roman dominion. After listening to their story with ill-concealed scorn* he left the accusers to question the accused.
Endeavor to learn something for your own edification from the sin of the Jewish priests. They were incited to murder Jesus through envy; for His holy, austere, and laborious life was a reproach to their effeminate indolence; the light of His wisdom threw all their knowledge into the shade, and His miraculous power gained Him the credit and the reverence of the people. Hence their continuous opposition to His teaching, and their rage when He silenced and humbled them in presence of those before whom they wished to pass as the guides and teachers of Israel. Now, as envy led them into the frightful crime of seeking the death of the Son of God, it may likewise cause you to commit many grievous sins. Carefully guard your heart against this detestable vice, and instead of inflicting injury upon your own soul by grieving at the success of others, share in all their good works by rejoicing with them and giving God thanks for their success.
After hearing the accusers of Jesus, Pilate left them, and, entering the hall, stood face to face with Our Lord. Looking upon Him standing there pale and weary, with the marks of the preceding night's ill-treatment still on Hirn, he began with the chief accusation against Him, and asked: "Art Thou the king of the Jews?" His tone, half pity, half of incredulous surprise, made Jesus answer: " My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now My kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said to Him: Art Thou a king? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth : every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. Pilate saith to Him : What is truth? And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews and saith to them: I find no cause in Hirn." (John xviii. 36-38.)
From this conversation Pilate judged Our Lord to be a harmless visionary; and going forth to the eagerly expectant multitude, told them very plainly that he found no cause for condemnation in Him. This announcement was received with loud clamors, and fresh accusations and wilder cries for His blood rose from the people, as the priests went about industriously among them instigating them to clamor for His death. Had Pilate been a man of firm decision, he would have ordered out a company of soldiers and cleared the place of these shrieking fanatics; but, fearing to offend them whose accusations at Rome might rouse the susceptibilities of his imperial master, he hesitated and took refuge in a temporizing policy, which only staves off a difficulty for a time, but does not remove it.
Observe, too, the question of Pilate: " What is truth?" As if, unbelieving heathen that he was, he would have said: "Why trouble yourself to find out the truth? Why bring upon yourself so many perils, so much hatred and opposition, in endeavoring to make known the truth to men? What is truth? Where is it to be found? No-where on earth, for here below all is doubt, error, and fiction. The truly wise man is he who does not bother himself about truth, who enjoys life, who gives himself up without restraint to the gratification of every momentary pleasure." What a sad and miserable avowal! Paganism makes use of Pilate's lips to acknowledge its own impotency to learn or to hold the truth. It confesses that all the efforts of its greatest, wisest, and most learned philosophers have led mankind to nothing but falsehood. It acknowledges itself unable to solve the awfully important problem concerning the soul of man. " What is truth ?" Observe, too, that paganism makes this declaration of its own ineffnciency and insufficiency on the very day on which mankind is to be restored to the truth and renewed in grace by the atoning sacrifice of the cross.
Form for yourself a habit of mind different from that which guided the conduct of Pilate. Accustom yourself, on all occasions when there is question of right or wrong, first of all to discover, if possible, what is right, and then to follow it, cost what it may. In this way you will accustom yourself to fear nobody but God, and to dread nothing but evil. This will make you a good, honest man, faithful to your conscience and loyal to your God, and you will never condemn Jesus Christ in order to win the favor of His enemies.
After the apprehension of Jesus, the traitor Judas probably mingled with the crowd, in order to escape observation. Curiosity impelled him to follow the concourse to the city, to see how matters would end. He heard, from the remarks of those who had been present at the preliminary trial, of the vile treatment to which his Master had been subjected by His captors, and also that the general impression was that He would most certainly be put to death. He had, in all probability, never calculated upon this; but thought that Jesus would find means to escape from their hands unharmed, as He had escaped often-times before. But now that He seemed to be wholly in their power, Judas knew full well how little hope of es-cape there was for Him. The wretched traitor began to see, in all its appalling magnitude, the atrocity of the crime of which he had been guilty. Remorse tore his heart. The calm, pale, sorrowful face of Jesus, whom he had given over to death, haunted him like a spectre. All the numberless acts of love He had shown to him, in trying to soften and change his heart, now rose up before his mind like so many avenging furies. In order not to interrupt, later, the history of Our Lord's sufferings, we mention the fate of the traitor Judas here.
"Then Judas, who betrayed Him, seeing that He was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said: What is that to us? Look thou to it. And casting down the pieces of silver in the Temple, he departed, and hanged himself with an halter. But the chief priests having taken the pieces of silver, said: It is not lawful to put them into the corbona : because it is the price of blood. And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potter's field, to be a burying-place for strangers." (Matt. xxvii. 3-7.)
Peter and Judas both sinned against their Lord and Master, but their subsequent conduct and fate were as far different as heaven from earth. Peter turns his eyes to his Redeemer, and encounters a compassionate look of forgiveness. Judas bends his steps to the enemies of Christ, the high-priests, and meets with heartless indifference. Peter recognizes the enormity of his crime, but, as his faith is still alive, he understands, to his consolation, that the mercy of his Redeemer is infinitely greater. Judas, on the contrary, is confirmed in his wickedness; he turns away from repentance; he settles down to dark despair, and, going out, hangs himself.
When Judas first presented himself before the high-priests to make that vile compact which ended in the betrayal of Our Lord, they received him eagerly, and showed him marked attention. They encouraged him to do what he proposed; they employed him as a tool to serve their wicked purpose. When they had accomplished this, they withdrew from him in disdain. He had betrayed innocent blood! They thought nothing of it. They laughed at his misery, and sneeringly told him that it mattered not to them what might happen to him. " Look you to it."
So it is also with those who would lead you to sin. Before and while they are tempting you, they pretend the greatest friendship and love for you; but afterward they hate and despise you. There can be no true esteem, no true friendship, no real love, which is cemented by sin. You can expect no lasting regard from any one who urges you to sin. It is himself he loves, not you. And when such wretches have gained their end, they laugh heartlessly at the misery they have created.
Another lesson which the sad end of Judas teaches us is this: Sin, even in the present life, is always followed by punishment; if not by temporal chastisements, by that inner torment of soul which is called remorse. It is the voice of conscience upbraiding men with their wickedness, and neither dissipation, nor pleasures, nor whirl of excitement is able to effectually stifle it. Once the evil deed is done, the tempter transforms himself into a judge, who proclaims to your remorseful heart: "There is no longer any mercy for you; the measure of grace al-lotted to you has been exhausted. All penance will be in vain; your sentence is pronounced; you are already lost far all eternity." Christian soul, if you would es-cape misery such as this, resist, in its first inception, the attempt of the devil to induce you to be faithless to your Saviour, to your Church, to your duty.