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of heaven against men: for ye neither yourselves, nor suffer ye them that are entering, to go in.” Whereby he plainly declares to them, that the Messiah was come, and his kingdom begun; but that they refused to believe in him themselves, and did all they could to hinder others from believing in him, as is manifest throughout the New Testament; the history whereof sufficiently explains what is meant here by “ the kingdom of heaven," which the Scribes and Pharisees would neither go into themselves, nor suffer others to enter into. And they could not choose but understand him, though he named not himself in the case.
Provoked anew by his rebukes, they get presently to council, Matt. xxvi. 3, 4. “ Then assembled together the Chief Priests, and the Scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the High Priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast-day, lest there should be an uproar among the people. For they feared the people,” says Luke, chap. xxii. 2.
Having in the night got Jesus into their hands, by the treachery of Judas, they presently led him away bound to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Annas, probably, having examined him, and getting nothing out of him for his purpose, sends him away to Caiaphas, John xviii. 24, where the Chief Priests, the Scribes, and the elders were assembled, Matt. xxvi. 57. John xviii. 13, 19. “ The High Priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world : I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort, and in secret have I said nothing." A proof that he had not in private, to his disciples, declared himself in express words to be the Messiah, the Prince. But he goes on : “Why askest thou me?” Ask Judas, who has been always with me.
« Ask them who heard me, what I have said unto them; behold, they know what I said.” Our Saviour, we see here, warily declines, for the reasons above-mentioned, all discourse of his doctrine. The Sanhedrim, Matt. xxvi. 59, "sought false witness against him :” but when “ they
found none that were sufficient,” or came up to the point they desired, which was to have something against him to take away his life, (for so, I think, the words irai and lon mean, Mark xiv. 56, 59,) they try again what they can get out of him himself, concerning his being the Messiah ; which if he owned in express words, they thought they should have enough against him at the tribunal of the Roman governor, to make him “læsæ majestatis reum,” and so take away his life. They therefore say to him, Luke xxii. 67, “ If thou be the Messiah, tell us.” Nay, as St. Matthew hath it, the High Priest adjures him by the living God, to tell him whether he were the Messiah. To which our Saviour replies, “ If I tell you, ye will not believe ; and if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.” If I tell you, and prove to you, by the testimony given me from Heaven, and by the works that I have done among you, you will not believe in me, that I am the Messiah. Or if I should ask where the Messiah is to be born, and what state he should come in ; how he should appear, and other things that you think in me are not reconcileable with the Messiah; you will not answer me, nor let me go, as one that has no pretence to be the Messiah, and you are not afraid should be received for such. But yet I tell you, “ Hereafter shall the Son
, of man sit on the right hand of the power of God,” ver.
, 70. “ Then say they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.” By which discourse with them, related at large here by St. Luke, it is plain, that the answer of our Saviour, set down by St. Matthew, chap. xxvi. 64, in these words, “ Thou hast said ;” and by St. Mark, chap. xiv. 62, in these, “ I am ;” is an answer only to this question, “ Art thou then the Son of God ?" And not to that other, “ Art thou the Messiah ?” which preceded, and he had answered to before; though Matthew and Mark, contracting the story, set them down together, as if making but one question, omitting all the intervening discourse; whereas it is plain out of St. Luke, that they were two distinct questions, to which Jesus gave two distinct answers. In the first whereof he, according to his usual caution, declined saying in plain
express words, that he was the Messiah ; though in the latter he owned himself to be “the Son of God." Which, though they, being Jews, understood to signify the Messiah, yet he knew could be no legal or weighty accusation against him, before a heathen; and so it proved. For upon his answering to their question, * Art thou then the Son of God? Ye say that I am ;" they cry out, Luke xxii. 71, “What need we any further witness ? For we ourselves have heard out of his own mouth. And so, thinking they had enough against him, they hurry him away to Pilate. Pilate asking them, John xviii. 29–32," “ What accusation bring you against this man? They answered and said, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.” Then said Pilate unto them, “ Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.” But this would not serve their turn, who aimed at his life, and would be satisfied with nothing else. “The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” And this was also, “That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die." Pursuing therefore their design of making him appear, to Pontius Pilate, guilty of treason against Cæsar, Luke xxiii. 2, “ They began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar; saying, that he himself is the Messiah, the King;" all which were inferences of theirs, from his saying, he was “the Son of God;" which Pontius Pilate finding, (for it is consonant that he examined them to the precise words he had said) their accusation had no weight with him. However, the name of king being suggested against Jesus, he thought himself concerned to search it to the bottom, John xviii. 33–37. “Then Pilate entered again into the judgment-hall, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews, Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the Chief Priests have delivered thee unto me: What hast thou done? Jésus answered, My kingdom is not of this world : if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. For this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth : every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." In this dialogue between our Saviour and Pilate, we may observe, 1. That being asked, Whether he were
“The King of the Jews ?” he answered so, that though he deny it not, yet he avoids giving the least umbrage, that he had any design upon the government. For, though he allows himself to be a king, yet, to obviate any suspicion, he tells Pilate, “ his kingdom is not of this world;" and evidences it by this, that if he had pretended to any title to that country, his followers, which were not a few, and were forward enough to believe him their king, would have fought for him ; if he had had a mind to set himself up by force, or his kingdom were so to be erected. “ But my kingdom," says he, “is not from hence,” is not of this fashion, or of this place.
2. Pilate being, by his words and circumstances, satisfied that he laid no claim to his province, or meant any disturbance of the government; was yet a little surprised to hear a man in that poor garb, without retinue, or so much as a servant, or a friend, own himself to be a king; and therefore asks him, with some kind of
: wonder, “ Art thou a king then?”
3. That our Saviour declares, that his great business in the world was, to testify and make good this great truth, that he was a king ; i. e. in other words, that he was the Messiah.
4. That whoever were followers of truth, and got into the way of truth and happiness, received this doctrine concerning him, viz. That he was the Messiah, their King
Pilate being thus satisfied, that he neither meant, nor could there arise, any harm from his pretence, what
ever it was, to be a king; tells the Jews, vér. 31, « I find no fault in this man.” But the Jews were the more fierce, Luke xxiii. 5, saying, “ He stirreth up the people to sedition, by his preaching through all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.” And then Pilate, learning that he was of Galilee, Herod's jurisdiction, sent him to Herod ; to whom also “the Chief Priests and Scribes," ver. 10, “ vehemently ac
, cused him.” Herod, finding all their accusations either false or frivolous, thought our Saviour a bare ob
. ject of contempt; and so, turning him only into ridicule, sent him back to Pilate : who, calling unto him the Chief Priests, and the rulers, and the people, ver. 14, “ Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and behold, I having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man, touching these things whereof ye accuse him ; no, nor yet Herod; for I sent you to him: and lo, nothing worthy of death is done by him.” And therefore he would have released him: “ For he knew the Chief Priests had delivered him through envy, Mark xv. 10. And when they demanded Barabbas to be released, but as for Jesus, cried, “ Crucify him ;' Luke xxiii. 22, “ Pilate said unto them the third time, Why? What evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him; I will, therefore, chastise him, and
let him go."
We may observe, in all this whole prosecution of the Jews, that they would fain have got it out of Jesus's own mouth, in express words, that he was the Messiah : which not being able to do, with all their art and endeavour ; all the rest that they could allege against him not amounting to a proof before Pilate, that he claimed to be king of the Jews; or that he had caused or done any thing towards a mutiny or insurrection among the people (for upon these two, as we see, their whole charge turned); Pilate again and again pronounced him innocent: for so he did a fourth, and a fifth time; bringing him out to them, after he had whipped him, John xix. 4, 6. And after all, " When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult