CHRIST BEFORE PILATE
 AT last the day came which we call Good
Friday, and early in the morning the officers
of the Sanhedrin took Jesus to deliver him to
They had already been to prayers in the
temple. They had bowed down before God,
asking him to bless them. They came from
the trial before Caiaphas on their way to the
trial before Pilate, and the service was a quiet
interval between. There they prayed before
the altar, while in the priest's house the Lord
of Life was being mocked and spat upon.
And they were not bad men: that, as I have
said, was the strangest part of it. They were
quite sure that they were doing right. They
said their prayers with as clear a conscience as
any inquisitor before he burned his neighbor
at the stake. They acted as they did, not
because their hearts were full of sin, but
because their minds were full of prejudice. They
 considered themselves good churchmen; they
stood for the old way of the church. And
he was not a good churchman: so they said.
That was the heart of the whole matter. That
is why they hated him and killed him. They
were afraid that the Son of God would do
harm to the church.
But there was an unpleasant interruption in
the midst of that early service. Suddenly, as
they were saying their prayers, a man came in
with a wild, excited voice, having his hands
full of silver pieces. "I have sinned," he cried,
"in that I have betrayed the innocent blood."
In he came out of a sleepless night, filled with
bitter remorse. Judas had done a deed which
has made his name despised and hated. He
had betrayed his friend. But there was good
in him, in spite of that. Nobody knows why
he did it. The little money that he got for it
seems an insufficient reason. Anyhow, he was
sorry for it. However full his heart may have
been of evil when Satan entered into him, it
was full now of the old love. He came to make
a desperate appeal. "Let him go," he asked.
 "He has done nothing amiss, I have betrayed
the innocent blood." "What is that to us?"
said the priests and elders, scowling at him.
"See thou to that!" Then Judas raised his
hands and flung the silver from him. Away
flew the thirty pieces, ringing and sliding over
the temple floor. And the traitor went and
The elders and scribes and the whole council
carried Jesus bound to Pilate. But Pilate
was a Roman and a heathen. When he
thought of God,—which was not very
often,—he thought of him as Jupiter,
not as Jehovah;
and when he said his prayers he sprinkled
grains of incense on burning coals before an
idol. The scribes felt that God would not like
them if they touched their feet to Pilate's floor.
So they stood calling for Pilate, with a crowd
gathering out of the neighboring streets, and
the news spreading about the town that the
Prophet had been seized at last; he had been
seized and had made no resistance. One cried,
"He said that he could bring down twelve
regiments of angels." "Yes," answered
an-  other, "but he did not do it." Thus the enthusiasm of
Sunday and Monday, such as it
was, passed away. Some there were who cared,
but not many, and they were mostly in hiding.
The crowd did not care.
Pilate heard their voices as he sat at breakfast,
and went out. "What accusation," said
he, "bring ye against this man?" They said,
"He claims to be the King, the King of the
Jews." That was, indeed, a serious accusation,
and a true one. They meant it for a charge
of treason. Cæsar at Rome was the King of
the Jews; the scribes wished Pilate to believe
that our Lord was the leader of a rebellion, that
he was planning a revolution against Rome.
It was easy to believe that. The Jews hated
to be under the rule of the Romans, and many
times rebelled, sometimes for a day in a single
city, sometimes in a fierce and wide revolt. At
that moment there was lying in Pilate's prison
a man named Barabbas, who had led a riot
in the streets of Jerusalem in which men had
lost their lives. The charge, then, was a likely
 But Pilate did not believe it. He already
knew something about Jesus. He knew that
the priests had delivered him for envy, because
they feared that he would influence the people
against them. He knew that the King of
the Jews had undertaken no quarrel against
Rome. So he took Jesus into his palace, leaving
the council and the crowd outside, and
said, "Art thou the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Why do you ask? Do you
say this of yourself, or did others tell it of
me?" Pilate replied, "Am I a Jew? Thine
own nation and the chief priests have delivered
thee unto me: what hast thou done?"
Jesus said, "I am indeed a king, but not of
an earthly kingdom. In my kingdom there is
neither crown nor army. I was born and came
into the world that I should bear witness to
the truth. The kingdom of God which I
preach is the kingdom of the truth." Pilate
did not understand. "What is truth?" he
said. But it was plain that here was no cause
for the interference of a Roman governor.
He went out to the multitude before the
pal-  ace door, and said, "I find no fault in him
Then was the whole council filled with
anger and great dread. They had delivered
Jesus to Pilate, and Pilate was about to set
him free. Thus the end would be worse than
the beginning. They cried out with loud
voices, making all manner of charges against
him. One said, "He forbids the people to pay
taxes;" and another, "He has set the whole
land in commotion, from Galilee to Judea."
"If he is a Galilean," said the governor," he
belongs to Herod,"—the Herod who had
beheaded John the Baptist. Pilate tried, accordingly,
to transfer the case to Herod, but in
vain. Still the crowd, continuously increasing,
besieged the door.
JESUS BEFORE PILATE
Pilate then thought of Barabbas. "Here," he
said to the people, "is another man under a like
accusation. He, too, has taken part in an
insurrection, an evil part. You have your choice,
now, for I will follow the old custom and release
a prisoner at the Passover. Which will
you choose, Jesus or Barabbas?" It seemed
 for a moment that the multitude would ask
for the release of Jesus. Why should they
not? He had gone about among them doing
good, healing the sick, bringing cheer to the
poor, making himself one of the people, and
never seeking his own gain. And the people
had heard him gladly. But the city is different
from the country, and a crowd is different
from the men who comprise it. A crowd will
do what hardly a man in it would be willing
to do alone. Moreover, the priests and the
scribes, the influential people, persuaded the
crowd. What was Reuben to say, coming from
the farm, or Levi, from the fishing fleet, in
answer to these great men.
So the crowd obeyed the rulers, and when
Pilate said, "Shall it be Jesus or Barabbas?"
they cried with a great voice, "Barabbas!"
Pilate said, "What will ye then that I shall
do unto him whom ye call the King of the
Jews?" And they cried out again, "Crucify
him." Then said Pilate unto them, "Why,
what evil hath he done?" But they had no
other answer. They cried out the more
exceed-  ingly, "Crucify him." And with the other
voices some were heard which said, "If thou
let this man go thou art not Cæsar's friend;
whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh
against Cæsar." And that word nettled Pilate's
mind. He was himself in peril, then. They
would carry a report to Rome, and there were
enemies who were ready to make the most of it.
Even as he sat, however, on the judgment
seat, ready to deliver to the death of the cross
a man whom he knew to be guiltless of any
wrong, his wife sent him a message. "Do
nothing," she said, "against that just man. All
night I dreamed about him, dreadful dreams."
But it was too late. Pilate did indeed take a
basin of water, and wash his hands before the
multitude saying, "I am innocent of the blood
of this just person: see ye to it." But the crowd
answered, "His blood be on us and on our
children." And Barabbas was released.
Jesus was then given over to the soldiers,
as was the way with a condemned prisoner,
that they might scourge him. And the soldiers
took him into the common hall, and
gath-  ered the whole band together, and they took
off his own clothes, and put a purple robe
upon him, some ragged and tarnished cast-off
finery; and they made a crown of thorns and
put it on his head, and into his tied hands
they thrust a reed for a sceptre, and they
pretended to do homage to him as a king,
bowing down on their knees before him each in
order, saluting him, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
then spitting in his face, and striking him
with the reed.
Even after this scourging and mocking,
Pilate made one more effort to release his
prisoner. He appealed to the pity of the multitude.
The king was led before his people,
with the mock crown on his head and the
mock sceptre in his hand, and the ragged robe
of royal purple over his shoulders; and Pilate
said, "Behold, I bring him forth to you, that
ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Look at him. Behold the man!" But when
they saw him there was no pity in their hearts.
They cried the same fierce cry, "Crucify him,
crucify him." "What!" said Pilate, "shall I
 crucify your king?" And they all answered,
"We have no king but Cæsar." Thus the
last word was spoken. Our Lord's own clothes
were put again upon him, and he was led away
to be crucified.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics