STORY OF JESUS 22
Condemned by Pilate
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When the Jews returned from Herod, bringing the Saviour again to Pilate,
he was very much displeased, and asked what they would have him do. He reminded
them that he had examined Jesus, and had found no fault in Him. He told them
that they had brought complaints against Him, but that they had not been able to
prove a single charge.
As stated in the preceding chapter, they had taken Him to Herod, who was
a Jew, like themselves, and he had found in Him nothing worthy of death. But to
pacify the accusers, Pilate said:
"I will therefore chastise Him, and release Him." Luke 23:16.
Here Pilate showed his weakness. He had acknowledged that Christ was
innocent; then why should he punish Him? It was a compromise with wrong. The
Jews never forgot this through all the trial. They had intimidated the Roman
governor, and now pressed their advantage until they secured the condemnation of
The multitude clamored more loudly for the life of the prisoner.
While Pilate was hesitating as to what he should do, there was brought to
him a letter from his wife, which read:
"Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered
many things this day in a dream because of Him." Matthew 27:19.
Pilate turned pale at this message; but the mob became more urgent as
they saw his indecision.
Pilate saw that something must be done. It was customary at the feast of
the Passover to set at liberty one prisoner, whom the people might choose. The
Roman soldiers had recently captured a noted robber, named Barabbas. He was a
degraded ruffian and a murderer. So Pilate turned to the crowd, and said with
"Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is
called Christ?" Matthew 27:17.
They replied, "Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas."
Pilate was dumb with surprise and disappointment. By yielding his own
judgment and appealing to the people, he had lost his dignity and the control of
the crowd. After that, he was only the tool of the mob. They swayed him at their
will. He then asked:
"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"
With one accord they cried, "Let Him be crucified.
"And the governor said, Why, what evil hath He done?
"But they cried out the more, saying, Let Him be crucified."
Matthew 27:22, 23.
Pilate's cheek paled as he heard the terrible cry, "Let Him be
crucified." He had not thought it would come to that. He had repeatedly
pronounced Jesus innocent, and yet the people were determined that He should
suffer this most terrible and dreaded death. Again he asked the question:
"Why, what evil hath He done?"
And again was set up the awful cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him."
Pilate made one last effort to touch their sympathies. Jesus was taken,
faint with weariness and covered with wounds, and scourged in the sight of His
"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." John 19:2, 3.
They spit upon Him, and some wicked hand snatched the reed that had been
placed in His hand, and struck the crown upon His brow, forcing the thorns into
His temples, and sending the blood trickling down His face and beard.
Satan led the cruel soldiery in their abuse of the Saviour. It was his
purpose to provoke Him to retaliation, if possible, or to drive Him to perform a
miracle to release Himself, and thus break up the plan of salvation. One stain
upon His human life, one failure of His humanity to bear the terrible test, and
the Lamb of God would have been an imperfect offering, and the redemption of man
But He who could command the heavenly host, and in an instant call to His
aid legions of holy angels, one of whom could have immediately overpowered that
cruel mob --He who could have stricken down His tormentors by the flashing forth
of His divine majesty--submitted with dignified composure to the coarsest insult
As the acts of His torturers degraded them below humanity, into the
likeness of Satan, so did the meekness and patience of Jesus exalt Him above
humanity, and prove His kinship to God.
Pilate was deeply moved by the uncomplaining patience of the Saviour. He
sent for Barabbas to be brought into the court; then he presented the two
prisoners side by side. Pointing to the Saviour, he said in a voice of solemn
entreaty, "Behold the man." "I bring Him forth to you, that ye
may know that I find no fault in Him." John 19:5, 4.
There stood the Son of God, wearing the robe of mockery and the crown of
thorns. Stripped to the waist, His back showed the long, cruel stripes from
which the blood flowed freely. His face was stained with blood, and bore the
marks of exhaustion and pain; but never had it appeared more beautiful. Every
feature expressed gentleness and resignation, and the tenderest pity for His
In striking contrast was the prisoner at His side. Every line of the
countenance of Barabbas showed him to be the hardened ruffian that he was.
Among the beholders there were some who sympathized with Jesus. Even the
priests and rulers were convicted that He was what He claimed to be. But they
would not yield. They had moved the mob to a mad fury, and again priests,
rulers, and people raised the cry:
"Crucify Him, crucify Him!"
At last, losing all patience with their unreasonable, vengeful cruelty,
Pilate said to them:
"Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him."
Pilate tried hard to release the Saviour; but the Jews cried out:
"If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever
maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar." John 19:12.
This was touching Pilate in a weak place. He was already under suspicion
by the Roman government, and he knew that a report of this kind would be his
"When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a
tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude,
"I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it."
In vain Pilate tried to free himself from the guilt of condemning Jesus.
Had he acted promptly and firmly at the first, carrying out his convictions of
right, his will would not have been overborne by the mob; they would not have
presumed to dictate to him.
His wavering and indecision proved his ruin. He saw that he could not
release Jesus, and yet retain his own position and honor.
Rather than lose his worldly power, he chose to sacrifice an innocent
life. Yielding to the demands of the mob, he again scourged Jesus, and delivered
Him to be crucified.
But in spite of his precautions, the very thing he dreaded afterward came
upon him. His honors were stripped from him, he was cast down from his high
office, and, stung by remorse and wounded pride, not long after the crucifixion
he ended his own life.
So all who compromise with sin will gain only sorrow and ruin.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the
ways of death." Proverbs 14:12.
When Pilate declared himself innocent of the blood of Christ, Caiaphas
answered defiantly, "His blood be on us, and on our children." Matthew
And the awful words were echoed by the priests, and re-echoed by the
It was a terrible sentence to pass upon themselves. It was an awful
heritage to hand down to their posterity.
Literally was this fulfilled upon themselves in the fearful scenes of the
destruction of Jerusalem, about forty years later.
Literally has it been fulfilled in the scattered, despised, and oppressed
condition of their descendants since that day.
Doubly literal will be the fulfillment when the final accounting shall
come. The scene will then be changed, and "this same Jesus" will come,
"in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God." Acts
1:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
Then they will pray to the rocks and mountains:
"Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the
throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is
come." Revelation 6:16, 17.