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 Herod
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
HE IS REJECTED FOR BARABBAS.-THE SCOURGING AND CROWNING WITH THORNS.
PILATE, in his perplexity and fear, was ready for any excuse to rid himself of this most embarrassing trial. As soon, therefore, as he heard, among other accusations, that " He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place," he remembered that Herod, who was then present in the city, held jurisdiction over that province, and ought, consequently, to try the case which had been brought before him. "And when he understood that He was of Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him away to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem in those days." (Luke xxiii. 7,) This was not the Herod who had caused the murder of the Innocents, but his son, the same who had ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist. Moreover, he was not king of the whole Jewish country, but only of Galilee. For after their father's death, his three sons, Archelaus, Philip, and Herod, had divided the kingdom amongst themselves, and the latter obtained Galilee. He lived at Caesarea, not in Jerusalem ; but at Easter he came to the latter city to fulfil the law, and then dwelt in the beautiful marble palace erected by his father. To this adulterous and cruel king the King of heaven and earth was now sent for trial.
Jesus was therefore again dragged through the streets, and amid imprecations, insults, and blows, conducted to Herod. Seated amidst his licentious courtier., Herod received Our Lord with joy. Like other men, he had heard much of Jesus, and of the wondrous works wrought by Him; how He had opened the eyes of the blind, made the lame to walk, cured lepers, and raised the dead from their graves. He expected Him to satisfy his vulgar curiosity by performing one of those astounding miracles which had made all Judea ring with His praises. "And Herod seeing Jesus, was very glad; for he was desirous of a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things of Him, and he hoped to see some sign wrought by Him. And he questioned Him in many words. But He answered him nothing." (Luke xxiii. 8, 9.) His questions drew no response from the poor, despised Saviour, who stood before him a prisoner. An angry flush mounted to the face of Herod, as he felt he was set at naught by Jesus; and though the Jews stood by earnestly accusing Him, He did not deem their clamors worthy of notice. "And Herod with his army set Him at naught, and mocked Him, putting on Him a white garment, and sent Him back to Pilate." (Luke xxiii. 11.)
What were the reasons which induced Our Lord to remain silent in the presence of Herod? There is one very obvious reason, which will strike even the most thought-less. The inquiries of Herod were made simply to satisfy an idle curiosity, and his desire to see Our Lord was prompted by nothing higher than the craving for some new excitement. No fruit could be hoped for from one so disposed. Moreover, the holy Fathers see other reasons for this silence of Our Lord, which will not be with-out a warning lesson for us all. They observe that by Herod's adulterous marriage with his brother's wife he had been cut off from the communion of the Jewish religion, of which he made a nominal profession. His life was most licentious, and though warned by St. John the Baptist, he had rejected grace, and, in order to heal the wounded vanity of a wicked woman, had basely ordered the precursor of Christ to be murdered in his prison. Jesus, therefore, could find in a heart so corrupt no healthy spot wherein to cast the seed of His life-giving word.
As Jesus was silent with Herod, so is He also silent with those who, like him, live in uncleanness and in the habitual abuse of divine grace. At first He speaks to them both by His inspirations and by the voice of His ministers; but when, by oft-repeated sin, every particle of good soil has been burned up in their hearts, He desists from such fruitless labor. Oh, sad indeed the fate of him unto whose questioning Jesus will answer never a word !
Receiving no answer from Jesus, Herod vents his spite against Him by inciting his soldiers to mock Him. A long white garment, such as was usually worn in Eastern lands by poor idiots, was brought out and placed upon Christ. Herod, by this proceeding, wished to intimate to Pilate: "You see this fool, who plotted to make Himself king, and who, because His ignorant and thoughtless followers and the common people ran after Him, imagined Himself to be of vast importance. But before edu- cated people, such as myself and the chief priests, His wisdom is blown to the winds, His power is nowhere, and He is unable to answer a word. There He stands, silent and confused, like a stupid idiot." And has not this mockery of Jesus continued for eighteen hundred years? Unbelief, sensuality, neglect, and pride have been heaped ignominiously on Christ in His Church, by rejecting her principles, thwarting her progress, ridiculing her practices, and subjecting her ministers to the scoffs and jeers of the ungodly.
From the court of Herod Jesus was once more led back through the streets of the city, dressed in the garment of a fool, and greeted on every side by the derision of the fickle crowd, who but a few days before had welcomed Him as the long-expected Messias. How He must have been harassed by this dragging from one place to another from the Garden of Olives to Jerusalem, through the streets to the house of Annas, from Annas to Caiphas, from Caiphas to the morning session of the high-council, from the high-council to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate. Who can describe or even estimate the fatigue and bodily pain, and, above all, the mental anguish, the agony of soul endured by Jesus, exhausted as He was by the cruel treatment of the night? And yet He obeyed His tormentors without uttering one word or showing one sign of reluctance, complaint, or reprimand.
"And Herod and Pilate were .nade friends that same day : for before they were enemies one to another." (Luke xxiii. 12.) Disastrous friendship, formed by the rejection of Jesus! The pagan governor, having often offended the Jewish king by rashly intruding on his jurisdiction, avails himself of this opportunity to soothe the angry Herod, by flattering his vanity, pride, and curiosity, in turning Jesus over to him; and he now returns the compliment by sending Him back. And now, behold Him once more in the presence of Pilate. With unalterable meekness He awaits the sentence which the chief priests were urging the rabble to extort from the vacillating governor. Pilate dared not condemn a prisoner so manifestly free from guilt; but rather than take the straight path, and pursue it in spite of the insane clamors of a fanatical people, he again temporized. He recollected that it was a custom on the paschal solemnity to release, at the request of the people, some criminal for whom they might choose to petition. There happened at that time to be in custody a malefactor of the most vicious type, a man who was at once a robber, a rebel, and a murderer. Pilate, therefore, eagerly grasped at this last opportunity of saving the life of Our Lord. Coming forward and standing upon the platform above the heads of the surging throng, he put this question to them: "Whom will you that I release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ?" (Matt. xxvii. 17.) At once there Tose up a unanimous shout: "Not this man, but Barabbas!" (John xviii. 40.) Pilate was astonished at their injustice and vindictive cruelty. He said to them: "Why, what evil hath this man done?" (Luke xxiii. 22.)
He was answered by still more furious shouts for the release of the robber and murderer. " Pilate saith to them: What shall I do then with Jesus that is called Christ? They all say: Let Him be crucified. The governor said to them: Why, what evil hath He done? But they cried out the more, saying: Let Him be crucifned." (Matt. xxvii. 22, 23.) Maddened into a very paroxysm of fury by the delay Pilate had made in satisfying their thirst for blood, the Jews cried out: " If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend; for whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar." (John xix. 12.)
How awful was the insult offered to Jesus in being thus compared to a robber and a murderer! But what must have been the anguish of His heart when, on being compared with Barabbas, the deliberate preference was given to this outcast, this human beast of prey? Think of the agony of suffering Jesus endured, and learn from Him that sweet humility which keeps the rebellious heart quiet, and restrains an angry tongue, and holds back the storm of wrathful words by which you otherwise would resent injuries.
Examine also into the secrets of your heart; and see whether you have dared, like Pilate, to propose to your soul the choice between Jesus and mortal sin. See whether you have not, like the Jews, taken to yourself a Barabbas, and rejected Christ. If you preferred sin, you were guilty of as great an insult to Jesus Christ as the wretches who in their savage frenzy chose the robber and murderer in preference to the adorable Son of God.
Though Pilate saw that his efforts to save Jesus had thus far been unavailing, he did not give up all hope of ultimately delivering Him from the hands of His enemies. As soon, therefore, as he had released Barabbas to the Jews, he did not directly condemn Our Lord to death, but, having once again declared that he found no crime in Him worthy of death, he nevertheless pro-claimed that he was so far willing to enter into their views with respect to Him, as first to give Him a most severe correction, and then to set Him at liberty. Upon this, Jesus was led away from the presence of the Roman governor into the pretorium. There the soldiers stripped Him of His garments, and, having bound Him to a pillar, grasped in their cruel hands the scourge, in this case a whip of leathern thongs, each one of which was tipped with lead or iron. To be struck with it was looked upon as the lowest degradation, and none but the worst criminais were ever punished in this way. Jesus, tied fast to the pillar, the whole of the upper portion of His sacred person exposed to the cruel gaze of the mob, and so unmercifully lashed by scourges in the hands of six or eight soldiers, that His precious blood flows in warm streams to the earth, and skin and flesh become one undistinguishable mass, is the dread picture now before our thoughts. Forty stripes save one were all that the law sanctioned; but the revelations of the saints tell us that the soldiers struck till their hands grew weary. Then, and not till then, did they desist; and Jesus was left quivering with agony, fainting from the loss of blood, a spectacle at which the stoniest heart would have melted with pity. As we think of this scourging, our flesh creeps with horror, and the blood curdles in our veins. They struck Him with all the might which fury lends to a powerful arm; they struck Him till they tore His flesh from His bones; they struck Him so long and so heavily, that had He not been supported by His divine nature, He would have died. Yet no cry of pain escaped from the lips of that unresisting victim. Like the sheep which is led to slaughter, He opened not His mouth. What a spectacle for us to look upon! Torn, mangled, disfngured, quivering with the agonizing smart of the cruel thongs, He stands there, well-nigh fainting with the keenness of punishment such as mortal flesh has never felt before. Truly, "He was wounded for our iniquities, bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His bruises we are healed." (Is. lv. 5.)
O grievous wounds of the adorable person of my Redeemer! with reverence and loving sympathy I salute ye, and would fain bathe ye with my tears. O once beautiful features of my Saviour, how disfigured by the lash of the scourge! Eyes full of compassion for sinners, how swollen, how hidden in the blood that has poured from Thy temples! O truthful lips, how torn and deformed! O Father in heaven, look down upon Thy lacerated Son, see His writhing frame, and come to His relief! Remember that He is undergoing this dreadful scourging for no other purpose than that of making full atonement for my countless sins, especially my sins of the flesh, and to perform the penalties which I have so richly deserved. Therefore, O heavenly Father, I offer up to Thee this cruel scourging of Thy Son and my Saviour, together with all His anguish of mind and torture of body, and cry out to Thee with a breaking hearts Divine Father, accept this infinitely valuable sacrifice, and thus save my soul from eternal perdition!
Yes, it was for our sins that God suffered wicked men to strike the sinless flesh of His only-begotten Son till He became like unto a leper, disfigured with bloody wheals and gaping wounds, as the leper is with the loathsome corruption of his foul disease. Sin is a leprosy with which men disfigure their souls, and to atone for it our Lord and God thus suffered pain, shame, and degradation. He was publicly stripped of His clothing before a crowd of vile wretches, to atone for the immodesties that are committed in the world. He was publicly whipped Iike the worst criminal, in order to satisfy, by the agony of His lacerated flesh, for all those sinful delights where-by men defile their hearts, and change them from the temple of the living God into the abode of the devil.
Let it, therefore, be your aim, after reflecting on the torture Our Lord endured in His cruel scourging, to obtain, by means of humble, earnest, persevering prayer, a great love for modesty, a deeper and more determined resolution to preserve yourself from the stain of uncleanness. It was to wash away this stain, and to provide a healing balsam for our gaping wounds, that He suffered His sacred flesh to be torn open and His sacred blood to gush forth. But at the same time He wished us to bear Him company in His sufferings, and to share in them by mortifying our sinful flesh. If we have not the courage to smite ourselves with those scourges wherewith the love of God has armed the saints, we may at least strike ourselves with the whip of self-denial. If we cannot resist unto blood, we may at least endure the pain of turning away from what flesh and blood covet so eagerly, and sacrifice for the sake of Jesus some little of that ease which we do not deserve to enjoy, by reason of our many and oft-repeated transgressions.
The cruelty of the brutal soldiers who tortured Jesus suggested to them another means whereby they might add insult to the degrading injuries which they had already heaped upon Him. True, the executioners who did the scourging are quite exhausted, but who can count the numbers of those who are panting to supply their places, and to rival each other in venting their diabolical hatred against Jesus? Calling to mind that one of the accusations against Him was that He styled Himself King of the Jews, they said to one another: "If He is a king, He must be crowned."
In the vicinity of Jerusalem there grows a species of thorny shrub, whose thorns are hard, sharp, and about two inches in length. They are called to this day Spina Christió" Christ's thorn." Of these the inhuman creatures platted a crown, and pressed it forcibly upon the head, brow, and temples of Jesus, striking it down with clubs, so that the sharp thorns penetrated to the bone of His skull. What an unheard-of cruelty! Never had the like of it been done, never been known in the history of inhumanity until that hour. Then they brought forth an old, tattered, purple cloak, and threw it over His bruised and bleeding shoulders, put a reed into His hands for a sceptre, and the derisive coronation was complete. Now began that scene of insult and mockery which was so full of diabolical cruelty that, were it not recorded in the Sacred Scripture, we should deem it the invention of fancy rather than the sober statement of truth.
"And the soldiers led Him away into the court of the palace, and they call together the whole band: and they clothe Him with purple, and platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon Him. And they began to salute Him: Hail, king of the Jews. And they struck His head with a reed, and they spit upon Him, and bowing their knees, they adored Him." (Mark xv. 16-19.) Each insult was received with shouts of laughter, and every clumsy joke made at His expense, and every piece of coarse buffoonery played upon Him, excited still more their rude hilarity, and their cruel desire to plague and ridicule Him. Oh, how hard must have been the hearts of those men who could look into the face of that unresisting victim, and thus smite and flout Him! His eyes were filled with blood, His face pale with the intense agony of the thorny crown, His whole body seamed and torn with the thongs of the scourges; yet, in spite of this, they ceased not to add to His sufferings and to insult Him with vile words and vulgar jests, till they wearied of their sport.
And why was this new species of suffering undergone by Our Lord? The prediction of the Canticle had to be verified: "Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see King Solomon in the diadem, wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals." (Cant. iii. 11.) or Christ is the real Solomon, divine Wisdom itself. On the day when He signed and sealed His eternal covenant with the human race His faithless mother, the Jewish synagogue, crowned Him with a crown of thorns. And again, why this strange manner of suffering? Alas, for the sins of the intellect! The head is supposed to be the seat of reason and of the other intellectual faculties. There it is that the soul brings to life and indulges in all those thoughts and imaginings whereby God is so often and so grievously offended. The eternal Father therefore deemed it fitting to lay upon the Redeemer's head all their crushing weight. As the sharp points of the thorns pierced through His flesh, rending and tearing His sacred temples, He thought of those who, being filled with immoderate self-esteem, look down upon and contemn others. He thought of the countless millions who revel in pride, and rob God of the glory which is His due. He thought of those who pine away with envy and jealousy of their neighbor's good. He thought of those who brood over some petty wrong or fancied slight, hatching thoughts of revenge. But most of all He thought, with shuddering horror, of those who admit into their heads and cherish in their hearts wicked thoughts, thus turning the temple of God into an abode of the devil. Ah, look at Him as He sits there, exposed to the insults and rude laughter of these pitiless, cruel executioners, so gentle, so patient, so uncomplaining, and then reflect upon the share you have had in these atrocities. Through the mist of blood which is darkening His eyes, He gazes wistfully at you and asks for compassion, or at least for one tear of sorrow for your share in striking down upon His head that crown which so cruelly pierces His brow. Think upon the thoughts of your soul, and if they have ever been such as to torture your Lord, weep over them. Kneel before Jesus, not to deride, not to mock, not to strike nor spurn Him, but to tell Him the sorrow of your heart, and your determination not to offend Him again.
O thorn-crowned brow of my King and Master! I bow down before Thee, down to the very earth, and adore Thee. Woe to me if I should be an unworthy, wavering, self-seeking member of the body whose Head has thus cruelly suffered! Honored crown of thorns, more precious than all the crowns of kings and emperors of the world, favored instrument in the atoning for my pride and my many wicked thoughts I revere thee, I embrace thee, I press thee to my brow, while I implore the Lord who wore thee upon His head for grace so patiently to wear my own thorny crown of tribulation here below, as to be worthy, in the life to come, of a crown of everlasting bliss. Thee, too, O purple robe, dyed with the blood of Jesus, I venerate and love. He chose to be mocked, not only in the white garment of derision, but also in the purple robe of a king, in order to teach us that not only the robe of innocence, but also the vesture of repentance and satisfaction can render us pleasing in His eyes. O Jesus, I beseech Thee, by the merciful love which Thou didst exhibit in permitting Thyself to be clad in a purple garment and thus to be ridiculed by a brutal soldiery, permit not that I should dishonor, by slavery to sin and passion, the sacred and kingly dignity to which Thou vast pleased to exalt me in the Sacrament of Baptism !