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He was utterly broken down. Tears of shame and deep repentance started to his eyes, and he did not check their flow. Those bitter tears were the blessed sign that he would rise again from his deep fall.
The Gospels tell us that at the third denial the cock crowed, and that Peter then remembered the Master's prediction. According to Mark the cock crowed once at the first denial and again at the third, which accords with the form in which the same Evangelist gives the prediction of Jesus. Luke, who represents Jesus as having spent the night hours under the charge of the guards and not before the Sanhedrim, says that he turned round and looked at his disciple when he had denied him for the third time. This pathetic touch, however, depends upon the special representations of the third Evangelist, on which we have said enough already. The disagreements of the Gospels in this matter are impossible to renove, but are of small importance. The fact of the denial itself, repeated as it naturally would be with ever-growing emphasis, is clear; but we should not dare even to insist upon the exact number of three denials.
Want of self-knowledge and too great confidence had brought the friend and disciple of Jesus to so deep a fall, and repentance and humility would raise him from it.
This scene unlocks the significance to that beautiful description of Jesus walking upon the sea and Peter coming out to him.
THE SENTENCE OF DEATH CONFIRMED.
MARK XV. 1-20 a.8
THE "HE first light of morning found the members of the
Council once again assembled. In their zeal for the service of the Lord they had almost completely robbed themselves of the sweet repose which should have followed the day of rejoicing! But there was need of haste. The whole matter must if possible be settled, and the Nazarene exe
i See pp. 419, 42, 428, 429.
2 See pp. 268, 269. 8 Matthew xxvii. 1, 2, 11-31a; Luke xxi. 1-25.
cuted before the people were about, for fear his disciples might make some attempt to rescue him.
Why this second meeting was necessary we cannot say. Perhaps it was needed for the observance of some form without which the sentence of death would not have legal force. It is possible, for instance, that the night meeting had not been attended by the requisite number of councillors, or that meetings must be called in some particular place, such as the temple court, or within certain hours, in order to give validity to their decisions. It has been supposed that the whole Sanhedrim was now summoned to hear a short summary of the results of the trial, and then confirm the provisional sentence passed by those who had been present, and so make it a formal decision. But the number of the members (no less than seventy) and the shortness of the notice make this conjecture very unlikely. The most probable supposition is that the morning sitting was simply convened to consider the best means of carrying out the sentence.
The Law prescribed stoning ; but to venture upon overstepping their real authority and infringing upon the jurisdiction of their Roman masters by proceeding to the execution would only have been safe if they could have calculated with absolute certainty upon the support of the people, who would have had to carry out the sentence. In this instance it would obviously be well to proceed in due course, and to request the governor to confirin the sentence of death; in which case the Nazarene would perish on the cross as a tumult maker, - for the Council perfectly understood that in laying the matter before the Roman authorities it would be necessary to lay chief stress upon the fact that Jesus had proclaimed himself the Messiah, the mighty king whom the Jews were expecting, and was therefore a dangerous character. What was really the head and front of his offence, namely, his attack upon the Jewish religion, would hardly be comprehensible to the heathen governor, and would probably seem unimportant to him. It might therefore be kept in the background. The charge of sedition, then, was carefully made out; and if a memorial was drawn up to present to the governor it doubtless insisted upon the prisoner's pretensions to the dignity of King of the Jews, which his own unequivocal confession, together with his conduct and that of his
1 Matthew xxvii. 1; Mark xv. 1. See also p. 429. 2 See p. 5; and Acts vii. 58. 8 See Acts xviii. 14-16, xxiii. 29.
followers, was said to substantiate. But most likely the accusation was made by word of mouth. In any case it was followed by a request that orders might be given to proceed at once to the execution of the sentence passed by the Sanhedrim on the grounds alleged.
Early in the morning, then, a deputation from this body waited upon the Roman, and took the prisoner, now bound and guarded, with them. They were doubtless supported by many other members of the Council who came out of interest in the proceedings, and held themselves in readiness to support their petition if needful. Pontius Pilate (of whom we have already had reason to form a very unfavorable opinion") had come with some troops from Cæsarea to keep order during the feast days, as usual, and had probably quartered himself in Herod's palace, in the northwestern portion of the upper city. This magnificent and enormous castle is extolled by Josephus even above the temple. W its two gigantic wings, its beautiful and stately colonnades, its luxurious park, its numerous outbuildings, and the well-turreted and lofty wall that ran all round it, it was at once a mighty fortress and an entrancing pleasure house. Here Pilate, after the Roman custom, was accessible after sunrise to give audiences and pronounce judgment. In accordance with the established rule of publicity in the administration of justice, the accusation and subsequent inquiry must have been made in the open air, on the far-stretching terrace in front of the central edifice. Here the governor would order his seat of judgment to be placed as soon as he heard the nature of the business, and here his assessors would sit beside him, while the accusers took the seats assigned to them, and the prisoner was stationed in front. Nothing is said of interpreters, though all the proceedings were certainly conducted in Greek. The members of the Sanhedrim would be able to understand and speak this language, and Jesus himself can hardly have been entirely ignorant of it; for the population of the district from which he came was of very mixed nationality, and included a certain number of Greeks.
If the councillors had flattered themselves that Pilate, who never seemed to think much of the life of a Jew, would grant their request at once, they were disappointed. He went into the matter. When he had ascertained the prisoner's name he asked him whether he admitted the charge brought against 1 See pp. 96, 97, 348.
2 See Map IV. No. 4. & See p. 358.
4 Compare Acts xxv. 16.
him : “Are you the king of the Jews?” The Gospels say that Jesus assented ; but this appears so extraordinary as to be almost incredible. For, in the first place, Jesus could not have made the admission truthfully; and, in the next place, it would have decided the whole matter, and made any further examination and accusation unnecessary, any further doubt or investigation impossible; and, lastly, the sequel seems to indicate that Jesus made no reply whatever: either to the accusations brought against him or to the question of the governor.?
It is certain, at any rate, that Pilate did not believe in the guilt of Jesus. And no wonder ; for he had never heard of any attempt at sedition on the part of this man, and did not think his appearance was that of an adventurer. As soon as the high priests saw that their accusation had failed to produce its effect, they began to work it out in more detail. Luke gives us some examples of the line they took : " We have (liscovered after careful investigation that this man is a se(lucer of the people, and forbids them to pay tribute to the Cæsar, saying that he himself is the Messialı, the king." “ He stirs up the people all through Judæa. He began in that turbulent land of Galilee, and now he has come here." And according to another edition of the third Gospel thev added, “He makes the women and children apostates, for ko would abolish the purifications prescribed to us." "He an nuls the Law and the prophets.'
We can easily see to what extent the councillors were justi fied, from their own point of view, in making these accusations. They certainly regarded Jesus as a destroyer of religion and a seducer of the people; and that saying of his about the tribute, when brought into connection with his claims to the Messianic dignity, might well be turned against him, for in the kingdom of God there would of course be no trace of the Roman supremacy. On the other hand, it is unfair to draw inferences from a man's words which he himself would emphatically reject; and of course it was only the grossest party spirit that could dictate these malicious accusations. On this ground we can understand why Jesus still observed a lofty silence when the opportunity was given bim of clearing himself. The misrepresentations of his conduct and his teaching were the result of obstinate blindness, and no attempt to remove them would avail. Silence was the
Matthew xxvii. 12, 14.
only ineans of preserving his dignity. But the governor, in very natural surprise, exclaimed: “ Have you no answer? You hear all their accusations?” In vain. Jesus would not reply ; and his silence, while increasing Pilate's surprise, deepened his conviction of the prisoner's innocence.
It is difficult to say what course the trial might now have taken had not a sudden turn been given to it at this moment. It is not quite clear how it was caused. The governor, we are told, was in the habit of gratifying the people at the Passover by releasing a prisoner whom they selected. This custom is entirely unknown to us except from the Gospels, and was probably introduced by Pilate himself, or one of his predecessors, to conciliate or appease the Jews. In any case the object of the custom was obviously to prevent seditions at the great feast of the nation's freedom. Sometimes the execution of rebels was deferred to the Passover, in order to serve as a terrible example; while the pardon of a popular favorite, on the other hand, might have the effect of propitiating the people. Thus two opposite ways were taken to reach the same goal.
Now while Pilate was sitting in judgment and the councillors were arguing their points against Jesus, the thin attendance of the public at this early hour was swelled by a considerable concourse of citizens, who came from various quarters up the hill and through the gates of the royal fortress to ask the governor to grant the usual pardon to a prisoner. Was this the morning fixed by usage; or were they drawn together by a chance report that the question of releasing the prisoner was now being dealt with, or was shortly coming on? At such a season it needed little to collect a growing crowd.
No doubt the high priests began to be anxious and uneasy when they saw the people streaming together. Pilate, on the other hand, saw a sudden chance of putting an end to the trial, which he hardly knew how to deal with, and releasing this extraordinary prisoner. He would get the people to demand his liberation, and then all would be settled; for he had clearly perceived that the Jewish authorities cherished a rancorous hatred against the Nazarene, but he did not suppose the people would share it. Perhaps he knew, or had just learned from the accusers, that this man had a following among the people. So the Roman rose from his seat, demanded silence with a gesture of command, and said : “]