« PreviousContinue »
resignation to the whole will, and all the appointments of the Father.
Christ did not suffer as he did, because he could not save himself; but for great and valuable ends, the glory of God, the interests of truth, and the welfare of men, he submitted and acquiesced.
5. What follows is the actual apprehending of Jesus.
In St. John: "Then the band, and the captain, and the officers of the Jews, took Jesus, and bound him," John xviii. 12. In St. Matthew: "In that same hour said Jesus unto the multitudes: Are ye come out as against a thief, with swords and staves, to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him and fled," Matt. xxvi. 55, 56. Compare Mark xiv. 48-50. In St. Luke thus: "Then Jesus said unto the chief priests and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him: Be ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness," Luke xxii. 52, 53.
In this occurrence, I apprehend, we discern the sensibility of our Lord's frame, and that he was affected with this great indignity; that he was sought for, and taken up in the night as a thief, or ordinary offender against the peace of society. But though he is affected, he does not faint, or sink under the vile abuse. He teaches the men present the iniquity of their proceeding, and of the designs of those from whom they came. He also satisfies and composes himself, and likewise obviates their triumph on account of their seeming success in getting him into their hands, saying: "But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."You could not seize me before; nor until I had fully taught the will of God, and finished the work, which the Father had given 'me to do. But now is come the time when Divine Provi'dence, for wise reasons and great ends and purposes, per'mits your wicked counsels to take place. And though the circumstances in which I now am, are indeed, as to outward appearance, dishonourable and disgraceful, I acquiesce, and yield myself to you, and even submit to be bound; though you have no reason to think that I should ' attempt to make an escape. It is not your power to which I am subject, and by which I am overcome. But it is the will of God to which I submit, and resign myself.' It is not easy to proceed, without observing the sad
instances which appear here of the hardness of men's hearts, and of an obstinate disposition of mind.
One instance is that of Judas, whom Jesus had kindly and solemnly warned more than once, intimating beforehand, that "one of the twelve would betray him," and saying: "Woe be to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed.' Yet this wicked disciple proceeded to execute the base pur pose which he had conceived in his mind.
Another is that of the Jewish servants and officers; who, notwithstanding the knowledge which they must before have had of the character of Jesus, and notwithstanding what they now heard from him, and saw in him, performed the orders which they had received, and laid hands on Jesus, and bound him, to carry him to the priests and elders. Some such officers, having formerly received a like order, returned without obeying it; and when asked, "Why they had not brought him," answered: "Never man spake like this man," John vii. 46. So might these have alleged this reason for not bringing him: "Never was there any man so great and excellent as he."
May we be always preserved from such hardness of heart. Let us not neglect the remonstrances of conscience. Let us submit to admonition. If we enter into wrong designs, let us not persist in them. Let us quit and forsake them when we find that they are disapproved of God, and contrary to reason.a
They who had apprehended our Lord, first had him to Annas, who sent him to Caiaphas, at that time high priest. Which is a particular related by St. John only: "Then the band and captain and officers took Jesus, and bound him, and led him away to Annas first. For he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was the high priest that yearAnnas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest," John xviii. 12, 13, 24.
6. What we are therefore next to take notice of in the sixth place, is, what first happened at the house of Caiaphas the high priest. "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," John xviii. 19, 20. That is, I have taken all proper opportunities of speaking in the most public places. And if at any time I have taught my disciples privately, there is no reason to think that any thing a If any should find the first part of this sermon too long to be read at once, here may be a proper pause.
'was then said by me different from the tenour of the doctrine taught by me in places of the most general resort.' Why askest thou me? Ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them. Behold, they know what I have said," ver. 21.
Every one must be sensible of the propriety of this answer. It was not a time for our Lord to rehearse the doctrine which he had taught, or to apologize for it, and demonstrate the innocence of it, or that it had no bad tendency. The high priest's question was improper and unseasonable. And our Lord justly exposed it by his answer.
Nevertheless, as it follows in St. John: "When he had thus spoken, one of the officers, who stood by, struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying: Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him: If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me," 22, 23. Which certainly shows full composure of mind, and great meekness. He does not exert his power for punishing so heinous an indignity; but calmly shows the iniquity of the treatment just given him: his answer to the high priest having been very just, implying the consciousness of his innocence, and the impropriety of the question put by the high priest to a person brought before him as upon trial.
7. In the next place, seventhly, we are to observe the farther proceedings before the high priest, which are rather more regular, though altogether unrighteous, they by whom they endeavoured to convict Jesus being false witnesses. "Now the chief priests and elders and all the council sought false witness against Jesus to put him to death; but found none. Yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said : This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him: Answerest thou nothing? What is it that these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace," Matt. xxvi. 59-62. St. Mark also relating this transaction, says, "But he held his peace, and answered nothing, ch. xiv. 60.
The silence of our Lord upon this occasion deserves notice, as highly becoming a person of a distinguished character, and known innocence; especially when men, sitting in judgment as magistrates, show themselves destitute of a regard to justice and equity, and betray a malicious design to put a man to death, though they have no evidence against him, and the witnesses that appear, at their procurement, are
inconsistent, and do not agree together. We shall have occasion, as we proceed, to observe more than once this proof of our Lord's greatness; I mean his silence.
However it follows in St. Matthew: "And the high priest answered and said unto him: I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God? Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said," Matt. xxvi. 63-66; that is, it is as thou hast said. You have rightly expressed the character which I claim. "Nevertheless I
say unto you:" notwithstanding the meanness of my present appearance; and though at this present time I say and do nothing beside what has been manifested in my past life for justifying this claim and character, I do assure you: "Hereafter ye will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and said: He has spoken blasphemy. What further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered, and said: He is guilty of death;" or deserves to be put to death.
Here again we see our Lord's excellent behaviour. Though he had been silent hitherto, yet being adjured in the name of God, he answers readily and distinctly; even though he could not but very well know the perverse use which the council would make of it, and that they would charge him with blasphemy, as if the claim was without ground.
Here therefore we perceive the truth, and the courage of our Lord. In the time of his public preaching he proved himself to be the Christ, or the Messiah, by his discourses and his works. But he seldom said expressly, that he was the Messiah, for avoiding ostentation, and for preventing the abuse, which some might have made of such a declaration, and the bad consequences that might have ensued, considering how many supposed a temporal power and kingdom to be annexed to that character. But now, when the declaration could be attended with no bad consequences to others, he freely makes it: though it would soon expose him to a charge of blasphemy, which would be deemed worthy of death.
In this profession, now made, there is much majesty, unspeakable goodness, and admirable wisdom and discretion. The majesty is evident. There is also goodness, in foretelling the glory and power to which he should be advanced, and in which he should come to punish the determined and implacable enemies of truth and virtue. It was, I say, great goodness to warn and admonish those who had given such
proofs of hardness of heart, of the guilt they would contract, and the miseries they would be in danger of, if they should proceed to condemn him. And the discretion is admirable, in delivering that kind and compassionate instruction and warning, without any diminution of his greatness.
8. Eighthly, the next thing which offers itself to us, is the behaviour of Peter, whose repeated denial happened at this season, whilst our Saviour was in the house of Caiaphas.
There is no need that I should insert here any of the accounts of this matter, in any of the Evangelists; it being well known to every one, that this disciple, partly out of curiosity, partly out of esteem and affection for Jesus, had followed him into the high priest's hall. At this time, when Jesus was before the high priest and elders and the council of the Jews, Peter at some small distance, in the lower part of the hall, as a stranger, and among persons chiefly of lower rank, being challenged as a disciple of Jesus, thrice denied it, or that he had any knowledge of him, and endeavoured to corroborate what he said with oaths and imprecations, the more effectually to secure his own safety.
This must have been very affecting to our Lord; that a disciple of his, and one of the chief, and most favoured, should act so unsuitably to his obligations and solemn professions. But behold the complete composure of our Lord's mind. He is not so offended at the bad conduct of his disciple, nor so concerned about the malicious and artful proceedings of the council, before whom he stood, but he takes care of Peter: “ He turned and looked upon Peter," Luke xxii. 61, with earnestness and tenderness. And by that piercing and gracious look, he recovered this fallen disciple, who then, not being longer able to bear company, and wanting a place of retirement to bemoan his own falsehood and inconstancy, "went out and wept bitterly," ver. 62, and Matt. xxvi. 75.
9. In the ninth place we will observe the history of our Lord's first appearance before Pilate. "When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor," Matt. xxvii. 1, 2. "And Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked him, saying: Art thou the king of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him: Thou sayest," ver. 11; that is, it is as thou say❤ est. You have rightly expressed my character. I acknowledge myself to be the King of the Jews. Thus our Lord here professes again plainly the same thing which he had