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suspicion that there was something strange about the whole matter-and not least strange that the Sanhedrim, who were not enthusiastic supporters of Rome, should all at once display such loyalty-to make him wish to have the prisoner by himself, and try to fathom the business. With Roman directness he went straight to the point: Art Thou the King of the Jews, as they have been saying?' There is emphasis on "Thou'the emphasis which a practical Roman official would be likely to put as he looked at the weak, wearied, evidently poor and helpless man bound before him. There is almost a touch of pity in the question, and certainly the beginning of the conviction that this was not a very formidable rival to Cæsar.
The answer to be given depended on the sense in which Pilate asked the question, to bring out which is the object of Christ's question in reply. If Pilate was asking of himself, then what he meant by 'a king' was one of earth's monarchs after the emperor's pattern, and the answer would be No. If he was repeating a Jewish charge, then,'a king' might mean the prophetic King of Israel, who was no rival of earthly monarchs, and the answer would be "Yes,' but that “Yes' would give Pilate no more reason to crucify Him than the 'No'would have given.
Pilate is getting tired of fencing, and impatiently answers, with true Roman contempt for subject-people's thoughts as well as their weapons. 'I... a Jew?' is said with a curl of the firm lips. He points to his informants, 'Thine own nation and the chief priests,' and does not say that their surrender of a would-be leader in a war of independence struck him as suspicious. But he brushes aside the cobwebs which he felt were being spun round him, and comes to the point, 'What
hast Thou done?' He is supremely indifferent to ideas and vagaries of enthusiasts. This poor man before him may call Himself anything He chooses, but his only concern is with overt acts. Strange to ask the Prisoner what He had done! It had been well for Pilate if he had held fast by that question, and based his judgment resolutely on its answer! He kept asking it all through the case, he never succeeded in getting an answer; he was convinced that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death, and yet fear, and a wish to curry favour with the rulers, drove him to stain the judge's robe with innocent blood, from which he vainly sought to cleanse his hands.
Our Lord's double answer claims a kingdom, but first shows what it is not, and then what it is. It is not of this world, though it is in this world, being established and developed here, but having nothing in common with earthly dominions, nor being advanced by their weapons or methods. Pilate could convince himself that this kingdom' bore no menace to Rome, from the fact that no resistance had been offered to Christ's capture. But the principle involved in these great words goes far beyond their immediate application. It forbids Christ's servants' to assimilate His kingdom to the world, or to use worldly powers as the means for the kingdom's advancement. The history of the Church has sadly proved how hard it is for Christian men to learn the lesson, and how fatal to the energy and purity of the Church the forgetfulness of it has been. The temptation to such assimilation besets all organised Christianity, and is as strong to-day as when Constantine gave the Church the paralysing gift of 'establishing' it as a kingdom of this world.' Pilate did pick out of this saying an increased VOL. III.
certainty that he had nothing to fear from this strange 'King'; and half-amused contempt for a dreamer, and half-pitying wonder at such lofty claims from such a helpless enthusiast, prompted his question, 'Art Thou a king then?' One can fancy the scornful emphasis on that “Thou,' and can understand how grotesquely absurd the notion of his prisoner's being a king must have seemed.
Having made clear part of the sense in which the avowal was to be taken, our Lord answered plainly “Yes.' Thus before the high-priest, He declared Himself to be the Son of God, and before Pilate He claimed to be King, at each tribunal putting forward the claim which each was competent to examine-and, alas! at each meeting similar levity and refusal to inquire seriously into the validity of the claim. The solemn revelation to Pilate of the true nature of His kingdom and of Himself the King fell on careless ears. A deeper mystery than Pilate dreamed of lay beneath the double designation of His origin; for He not only had been .born' like other men, but had come into the world,' having 'come forth from the Father,' and having been before He was born. It was scarcely possible that Pilate should apprehend the meaning of that duplication, but some vague impression of a mysterious personality might reach him, and Jesus would not have fully expressed His own consciousness if He had simply said, 'I was born.' Let us see that we keep firm hold of all which that utterance implies and declares.
The end of the Incarnation is to bear witness to the truth.' That witness is the one weapon by which Christ's kingdom is established. That witness is not given by words only, precious as these are, but by deeds which are more than words. These witnessing deeds
are not complete till Calvary and the empty grave and Olivet have witnessed at once to the perfect incarnation of divine love, to the perfect Sacrifice for the world's sin, to the Victor over death, and to the opening of heaven to all believers. Jesus is the faithful and true Witness,' as John calls Him, not without reminiscences of this passage, just because He is 'the First-begotten of the dead.' As here He told Pilate that He was a 'king, because a 'witness,' so John, in the passage referred to, bases His being Prince of the kings of the earth' on the same fact.
How little Pilate knew that he was standing at tbe very crisis of his fate! A yielding to the impression that was slightly touching his heart and conscience, and he, too, might have 'heard’ Christ's voice. But he was not of the truth,' though he might have been if he had willed, and so the words were wind to him, and he brushed aside all the mist, as he thought it, with the light question, which summed up a Roman man of the world's indifference to ideas, and belief in solid facts like legions and swords. What is truth?' may be the cry of a seeking soul, or the sneer of a confirmed sceptic, or the shrug of indifference of the practical man.'
It was the last in Pilate's case, as is shown by his not waiting for an answer, but ending the conversation with it as a last shot. It meant, too, that he felt quite certain that this man, with his high-strained, unpractical talk about a kingdom resting on such a filmy nothing, was absolutely harmless. Therefore the only just thing for him to have done was to have gone out to the impatient crowd and said so, and flatly refused to do the dirty work of the priests for them, by killing an innocent man. But he was too cowardly
for that, and, no doubt, thought that the murder of one poor Jew was a small price to pay for popularity with his troublesome subjects. Still, like all weak men, he was not easy in his conscience, and made a futile attempt to get the right thing done, and yet not to suffer for doing it. The rejection of Barabbas is touched very lightly by John, and must be left unnoticed here. The great contribution to our knowledge which John makes is this private interview between the King who reigns by the truth, and the representative of earthly rule, based on arms and worldly forces.
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate baith unto them, Behold the Man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art Thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me? knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee! Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin, And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this Man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King ! But they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him! Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Cæsar. Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.'-JOHN xix. 1.16. The struggle between the vacillation of Pilate and the fixed malignity of the rulers is the principal theme of this fragment of Christ's judicial trial. He Himself is