« السابقةمتابعة »
execution. But from the different accounts we are led to infer, that Pilate caused this part of the punishment to be inflicted on Jesus under the idea that it would appease the Jews. He brought the prisoner forth, bleeding under the recent tortures of the scourge, and called the attention of the mob to him, as if he hoped thereby to induce them to relent. Is not this precisely the course a weak man under such circumstances would adopt, as if by yielding he would not inflame and encourage the cruel passions of the people instead of subduing them? When Jesus, seeing that words were of no avail, and that the magistrate had no strength to withstand the priests, preserved a dignified silence, Pilate attempts to make him speak by reminding him of his power. “Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to release thee, and have power to crucify thee?” How palpable here is his cowardice, in the idle vaunt of a power existing, as he must have known in his own soul, only in name! He was awed too, as indeed a much stronger man might, and so weak a man must have been, by the look and bearing of the prisoner, connected with the rumour of his extraordinary career, which could not have failed to reach his ears; with the dream of his wife, whose imagination, no doubt, had been excited by reports of the words and works of the remarkable person arraigned before her husband, and with the declaration of the priests that Jesus had called himself the Son of God. And then again, the symbolical act of washing his hands before all the people, to which the numbers and uproar of the mob compelled Pilate to have
recourse, to signify that he had nothing to do with the death of Jesus, expressive though it was, was utterly vain. He could not throw off the responsibility of his office as he dashed the water from his hands; and only a weak-minded man could have found any satisfaction in such a device. When the Jews indirectly menace him with an accusation of a want of loyalty to the Roman Emperor, he is evidently alarmed and overborne. And he endeavours to conceal the effect of the threat under a ridicule, which he dwells upon so long, that we may well suspect it to be affected. “ No man," Dr. Johnson has somewhere observed, “thinks much of that which he despises.' Thus Pilate repeats the title of King in application to Jesus too often, to allow it to be believed that he really ridiculed and despised the charge which the Jews threatened to allege against him. “Behold your king !” he said to the Jews. And when they shouted, “ Away with him, crucify him," he replies “Shall I crucify your king ?” And the inscription which he caused to be affixed to the Cross in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek—“This is the King of the Jews," and which he refused to alter, was partly dictated, we may suppose, by this state of mind, and partly by the mean desire of ridiculing the Jews and so revenging himself upon them for the painful fears they had awakened in his breast. That a suspicion of his loyalty should have made such an impression upon Pilate, cannot surprise us when we bring into view his subsequent fate banishment upon a charge of treason,—and the distrustful character of the reigning Emperor, Tiberius. With this prince, as Tacitus
informs us, the charge of treason was the sum of all charges.
In the instance of Pilate, as in the other cases mentioned, how all-unconscious are the narrators of the consistency they have preserved! They have thought only of giving a simple relation of the things they had seen and heard. And the keeping, discernible between the details of their histories, is the natural result and accompaniment of real facts, a portion of that harmony pervading all real objects, all actual occurrences. In short, we behold here the presence of that Divinity that not only shapes our ends, but impresses and moulds all realities, abrupt, roughhewn, and disjointed as they may at first seem.
I cannot altogether omit a brief reference to the disciple John, as an example of that trait which we are now considering. From all the Gospels we gather that he was one of the three favourite friends of Jesus. Not much is told of him, but he speaks of himself as the especial object of the Master's love. But he shows no consciousness of the evidence he gives in support of this character when he tells us that he sat next to Jesus at the last supper and leaned upon his bosom.
How beautiful too is the correspondence between his intimacy with his venerated Friend, and the benign and spiritual tenour of his Epistles !
A similar consistency is maintained in the notices, not only of individuals, but also of whole classes of men. The Pharisees are represented as attaching the first importance to forms, to external rites, disregarding the moral requisitions of the Law, cherishing without restraint the most selfish and corrupt passions.
THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS.
92 Everything ascribed to them, accords with this representation. At one time they are on the watch to see whether Jesus would perform a cure on the Sabbath. Zealous for the sacredness of that day, they had no hearts for a work of mercy. At another, they pronounced him a Sabbath-breaker, because on that day he had not only given sight to a man born blind, but had done it in disregard of that tradition, which pronounced it a profanation of the Sabbath, to use any medicaments on that day, even so much as to put saliva on the eyes. Again they deem it a serious charge against the disciples of Jesus, that he did not require them to observe frequent fasts, and that, regardless of the danger of uncleanness, they did not scrupulously wash their hands before eating. When they carried Jesus before the Roman magistrate, thirsting for his blood, the Pharisees refused to enter the Gentile Hall of judgment, lest they should contract ceremonial pollution and be unfitted for the observance of the Passover. And once more, they could clamour for the blood of the innocent, but they could not endure that the bodies of the crucified should remain
crosses, exposed to public view, defiling the Sabbath and the Festival. All these things are related briefly and incidentally, without any effort to point out their agreement, nay, without any consciousness that this agreement is at all worthy of note.
So also the words and feelings attributed to that little band, the personal followers of Jesus, harmonize wonderfully, but most naturally, with one another, with all that we know of human nature, and with the probable circumstances of the case. They were
THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS,
93 evidently men possessing no small degree of ingenu
Their hearts were open to the spiritual power and beauty of the instructions and character of Jesus. He impressed and won their affections. Still they shared in the universal expectation of the times. And while they venerated and loved him, they still clung to him with mixed motives, in part with worldly views and hopes. At quite an early period, upon being interrogated by him as to what they supposed him to be, they avowed through Peter, that they believed him to be the Messiah. To have come so early to such a conclusion manifested great openness of mind. It showed how much they had been impressed by the moral wisdom he had uttered, the deeds of mercy he had wrought. By these they were convinced, although he had neither declared himself to be the Messiah, nor had he done anything conformably to their idea of that expected Deliverer, nor did his external appearance present anything of the magnificence which they had identified with that illustrious personage. Still they did not relinquish the darling hope of a splendid kingdom. They are continually betraying the tenacity with which they cling to it. Once they asked their master, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?”—a general question apparently. But when we observe that a little while before they were quarrelling among themselves, who among them should be the first in the approaching empire,—when we consider the reply of Jesus, who beckoned a little child to him, and told them they could never so much as enter the heavenly kingdom (a moral kingdom) until they gave up all their prepossessions and became as docile in his hands as that little