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The Cross Of Christ
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 Is Condemned To Death

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

WHEN the soldiers conducted the lacerated, bleeding, and thorn-crowned Saviour into Pilate's presence, he was shocked and frightened at the result of his orders, and thinking it would not be possible for the Jews to remain unmoved at the deplorable appearance of their victim, he accompanied Jesus to the balcony, and showed Him to the crowd. " Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith to them: Behold I bring Him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in Him. (Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment.) And he saith to them, Behold the Man." (John xix. 4, 5.)

" Behold the Man!" These words, few and simple as they seem, have in them a depth of meaning which we must try to fathom. Coming from the lips of the Roman governor, they were meant to convey to the people some such ideas as these : " Here is the Man who called Him-self your king; who made Himself equal to God; who threatened to overthrow your temple and in three days to build it up again. For these offences, frivolous as I deem them to be, I have punished Him with the utmost rigor in order to satisfy you. Look at Him! Behold the Man! He is clothed in His royal purple; His body is torn with numberless wounds ; His face is swollen with blows and defiled with spittle; His eyes are full of blood, His head is crowned with thorns; He is bound like a criminal; He has been degraded and punished severely. Be satisfied, therefore, with the punishment I have inflicted upon Him; for He has suffered enough to atone for His folly and His offences."

" Behold the Man!" My soul, look attentively at Him as He stands before thee, His hands manacled, His whole body lacerated, gashed, and streaming with blood, disfigured, helpless, friendless. Oh, turn not aside thy eyes look at Him, behold the Man, and remember that it was thou yes, thou thyself who by thy sins didst reduce thy Saviour to this suffering and degradation, as it is written in the Book of Isaias the prophet: "He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins." (Is. iii. 5.) Look well upon Him, and examine every line, every expression of His sacred countenance ; look long and carefully, so that this image may become indelibly imprinted on thy mind; for on the judgment-day thou shalt see Him again. On that day angels will cry out to every quarter of the globe : " Behold the Man who loved thee so tenderly and truly, who surrendered Him-self to the most dreadful pain for thy sake. Behold the Man who in the height of His torture sighed only for thee, wept only for thee, and for thee poured forth His precious blood in torrents from His gaping wounds." O careless soul, how will it fare with thee then, if thou hast despised such mercy and turned a deaf ear to the call of thy loving Lord! " Behold the Man !" Now, while thou hast time and opportunity, enter into judgment against thyself. Throw thyself into the bleeding arms of thy Saviour, and by penance and amendment of life turn to a good account for thyself His passion and death.

The pitiful spectacle of the thorn-crowned Jesus moved not the stony hearts of the cruel Jews. The words of the governor were received with one long and piercing cry for His life. "When the chief priests therefore and the servants had seen Him, they cried out, saying: Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith to them : Take Him you and, crucify Him : for I find no cause in Him. The Jews answered him : We have a law, and according to the law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." (John xix. 4-7.) "And Pilate saith to them: Why, what evil hath He done? But they cried out the more : Crucify Him. And so Pilate, being willing to satisfy the people, released to them Barabbas, and delivered up Jesus." (Mark xv. 14, 15.)

The Roman governor at length began to see that all his efforts to deliver Jesus were in vain. He was startled by the wild rage of the populace, and fearful of the consequences if he attempted to resist their wishes any longer. Though he had repeatedly pronounced Jesus free from all guilt, he nevertheless weakly gives way before the clamor of an excited mob, and delivers Him up to their pleasure. "And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, taking water, washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just Man: look you to it. And the whole people answered: Let His blood be upon us and upon our children." (Matt. xxviii. 24, 25.)

And now the judicial sentence has been pronounced, and Jesus is sentenced to death like a common malefactor. O ever-memorable sentence, in which the most hideous depths of human malice and the loftiest mysteries of divine mercy meet and mingle, and are made manifest! The inconstancy of the Jewish people, the avarice of the traitor Judas, the craft of the Pharisees, the blind incredulity of the scribes, the bloodthirsty hatred of the chief priests, and the cowardly selfishness and political cunning of the pagan governor-all these culminated in the judicial sentence of Pilate. But, inconceivable miracle ! at the same moment eternal mercy speaks by the tongue of this same Pilate. For the Lord had placed on His well-beloved Son all our iniquities. Now, in order that the sentence of everlasting death under which mankind had fallen by the sin of their first father, Adam, might be repealed and annulled, the second Adam, and the first father of a spiritual humanity, permits the awful sentence of Pilate to come upon His divine head.

Pilate would rather not have pronounced this sentence, and was anxious to set Jesus at liberty. With this view he had publicly and solemnly declared that he could discover no guilt in the prisoner accused. With the same intent, too, he had placed the criminal Barabbas side by side with Jesus, hoping that in choosing between two such different persons the Jewish people would certainly decide in favor of the innocent man. With the same view he had presented Jesus to them immediately after the dreadful scourging, and endeavored to excite their sympathy by calling their attention to the lacerated per-son of their victim. With the same object in view, he had, by washing his hands publicly, expressed his disapprobation of the proceeding. But all these feeble and indecisive efforts do not exculpate him, or even mitigate the iniquity of his sentence. And though his sin, as Our Lord Himself declared, was less than the crime of the chief priests who had delivered Him up, yet the name of Pontius Pilate, like that of Caiphas and of Judas, will stand branded with execration during all ages.

Pilate was fully convinced of Christ's innocence, and as he had full power as the representative of the Roman emperor to liberate Him, he was strongly inclined through his hatred of the Pharisees to save the life of Jesus. But, nevertheless, with cunning political adroitness, he sends this just Man to Herod, delivers Him up to the cruel scourging, and finally yields to the sanguinary demands of the chief priests, and permits Him to be crucified. Alas, Pilate is one of those unhappy beings who, under pretence of honesty, of philanthropy, and rational compliance, sacrifice to their own selfish ends the noblest and holiest principles. How many warnings he had received! The wonderful majesty of Christ's presence filled him with involuntary reverence. His own conscience told him that this was a just man. His wife, Claudia Procula, warned him not to pronounce the unjust sentence, basing her admonition on a dream she had, to which circumstance the pagan Romans paid the greatest attention, considering such dreams to be the expression of a divine oracle. Even the very charge made by the chief priests, that Christ made Himself the Son of God, awoke a momentary warning in his heart. Yet the unhappy governor rejected all these salutary admonitions, and for no other motive than the fear of losing the good-will of the emperor. Strange and unheard-of spectacle! Here is a judge who repeatedly declares before the assembled multitude that the prisoner on trial is a man whose conduct has ever been free from blame. He knows full well that the accusers are actuated by malice. The witnesses, too, are lamentably at variance with each other, and give contradictory evidence. Yet he has not manhood enough to stem the tide of public prejudice and to pronounce in favor of justice. He weakly yields; and while proclaiming Jesus to be innocent, basely condemns Him to death. Nevertheless, he would save his conscience by an empty ceremony; he would wash away the murderous stain from his hands with a little water!

Pilate is the type of a great many Christians. They know perfectly well the justice and goodness of God's ordinances. They have for them even a sort of admiration, as for something which, in the abstract, is good and beautiful. But when they are forced to confront their fierce, tumultuous passions, they shrink from the labor' and difficulty of subduing them; and rather than undertake so arduous a task, they trample under foot all the sacred claims of truth and justice.

If we imitate this wretched example, that curse will fall upon us which fell both upon the Jewish people and upon him who weakly yielded to their fanatical rage.

The blood of Jesus will be upon us for our destruction, and its crimson stain will mark us for punishment. But let us not incur so wretched a fate. Let us strive rather to make the blood of Jesus fall upon us for our eternal welfare. That precious stream has flowed upon us and over us in the holy sacraments. Let us bear in mind that God sealed us with it in Baptism; that we swore allegiance to Him and became His soldiers in Confirmation; that with it He feeds us in the Holy Eucharist; with it washes us from the filth of our sins in Penance; that by it He procures teachers and ministers for us in Holy Orders; and in the Sacrament of Matrimony infuses with that same blood strength to those that. receive it to be faithful to each other and to fulfil the obligations of their state of life.

To the Jews, their cry, " His blood be upon us and upon our children," brought a horrible inheritance, a lasting curse. To us, that same blood has brought inestimable blessings. May it continue to fall upon our hearts like a fertilizing rain, cleansing and purifying them, and making them bring forth fruit unto everlasting life.

O my beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who wast clothed in derision with the purple garment, and crowned with a wreath of thorns, grant that the sacred purple robe of charity may clothe my soul, that I, while on earth, may by wearing willingly the thorny crown of penance and mortification prepare for myself a share in the crown of Thy glory.

O beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who so patiently didst bear in Thy right hand, instead of the royal sceptre, the reed of mockery, extend that blessed right hand of Thine to me in my helplessness; grant that it may plant in my soul the kingdom of truth and grace.

O beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who didst submit to mocking reverence, and didst suffer Thyself to be derisively termed king, grant that I may at all times adore Thee in spirit and in truth, and acknowledge Thee to be the only true King of heaven and earth.

O beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who wast sentenced to the death of the cross by the unjust judge Pilate, grant that I may judge myself according to the holiness of Thy law, and bear with humility and docility the judgments of my fellow-men.

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