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John 18:28-32

28. Then they lead Jesus from Caiaphas into the hall of the governor; 144144     “In Praetorium;” — “au Pretoire;” — “into the Pretorium.” and it was early in the morning; and they themselves did not enter into the hall, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover 145145     “L’agneau de pasque;” — “the paschal lamb.” 29. Pilate therefore went out to them, and said, What accusation do you bring against this man? 30. They answered and said to him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him to thee. 31. Pilate therefore said to them, Take you him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said to him, We are not allowed to put any man to death: 32. That the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he had spoken, signifying by what death he should die.


28. Then they lead Jesus. That trial, which the Evangelist mentions, took place before daybreak; and yet there can be no doubt, that they had their bellows at work throughout the whole of the city to inflame the people. Thus the rage of the people was suddenly kindled, as if all, with one consent, demanded that Christ should be put to death, Now, the trial was conducted by the priests, not that they had it in their power to pronounce a sentence, but that, after having excited a prejudice against him by their previous decislon, they might deliver him to the governor, as if he had already been fully tried. 146146     “Mals a fin de livrer au juge, etant desja charge, et comme suffisamentconveincu par leur premiere cognoissance et les interrogatoires qu’ils luy avoient faites;” — “but to deliver him to the judge as a person already accused, and as having been sufficiently convicted by their previous trial, and by the questions which they had put to him.” The Romans gave the name Praetorium both to the governor’s house or palace, 147147     “La maison ou palais du gouverneur.” and to the judgment-seat, where he was wont to decide causes.

That they might not be defiled. In abstaining from all defilement, that, being purified according to the injunction of the Law, they may eat the Lord’s Passover, their religion, in this respect, deserves commendation. But there are two faults, and both of them are very heinous. The first is, 148148     “La premiere fkute est.” they do not consider that they carry more pollution within their hearts, than they can contract by entering any place however profane; and the second is, they carry to excess their care about smaller matters, and neglect what is of the highest importance.

To the defiled and to unbelievers, says Paul, nothing is pure;
because their minds are polluted,
(Titus 1:15.)

But these hypocrites, though they are so full of malice, ambition, fraud, cruelty, and avarice, that they almost infect heaven and earth with their abominable smell, are only afraid of external pollutions. So then it is an intolerable mockery, that they expect to please God, provided that they do not contract defilement by touching some unclean thing, though they have disregarded true purity.

Another fault connected with hypocrisy is, that, while it is careful in performing ceremonies, it makes no scruple of neglecting matters of the highest importance; for God enjoined on the Jews those ceremonies which are contained in the Law, for no other reason, than that they might be habituated to the love and practice of true holiness. Besides, no part of the Law forbade them to enter into the house of a Gentile, but it was a precaution derived from the traditions of the fathers, that no person might, through oversight, contract any pollution from an unclean house. But those venerable expounders of the Law, while they carefully strain at a gnat, swallow the camel 149149     See Harmony of the Evangelists, vol. 3 page 93. without any hesitation, (Matthew 23:24;) and it is usual with hypocrites to reckon it a greater crime to kill a flea than to kill a man. This fault is closely allied to the other, of greatly preferring the traditions of men to the holy commandments of God. In order that they may eat the passover in a proper manner, they wish to keep themselves pure; but they suppose uncleanness to be confined within the wails of the governor’s house, and yet they do not hesitate, while heaven and earth are witnesses, to pursue an innocent person to death. In short, they observe the shadow of the passover with a false and pretended reverence, and yet not only do they violate the true passover by sacrilegious hands, but endeavor, as far as lies in their power, to bury it in eternal oblivion, 150150     “De la ruiner et en abolir la memoire a jamais.”

29. Pilate therefore went out to them. This heathen is not unwilling to encourage a superstition, which he ridicules and despises; but in the main point of the cause, he performs the duty of a good judge, when he orders them, if they have any accusation, to bring it forward. The priests, on the other hand, not having sufficient authority to condemn him whom they pronounce to be guilty, make no other reply, than that he ought to abide by their previous decision.

30. If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him to thee. They indirectly complain of Pilate, that he has not a proper reliance on their integrity. “Why do you not, without further concerns” say they, “hold it to be certain, that the person whom we prosecute deserves to die?” Such is the manner in which wicked men, whom God has raised to a high degree of honor, blinded as it were by their own greatness, allow themselves to do whatever they choose. Such, too, is the intoxicating nature of pride. 151151     “Voyla aussi comme orgueil remplit les gens d’une yvrognerle, et les met hors du sens.” — “See, too, how pride fills people with a sort of drunkenness, and puts them out of their senses.” They wish that Christ should be reckoned a malefactor, and for no other reason 152152     “Et non pour autre raison.” but because they accuse him. But if we come to the truth of the matter, what deeds of a malefactor shall we find in him, except that he has cured every kind of diseases, has driven the devils out of men, has made the paralytics and the lame to walk, has restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead? Such were the real facts, and those men knew them well; but, as I said a little ago, when men are intoxicated with pride, nothing is more difficult than to arouse them to form a sound and correct judgment.

31. According to your law. Pilate, offended by their barbarous and violent proceedings, undoubtedly reproaches them by stating that this form of condemnation, which they were eager to carry into effcct, was at variance with the common law of all nations and with the feelings of mankind; and, at the same time he censures them for boasting that they had a law given to them by God.

Take you him. He says this ironically; for he would not have allowed them to pronounce on a man a sentence of capital punishment; but it is as if he had said, “Were he in your power, he would instantly be executed, without being heard in his own defense; and, is this the equity of your Law, to condemn a man without any crime?” Thus do wicked men, falsely assuming the name of God as an excuse for their conduct, expose his holy doctrine to the reproaches of enemies, and the world eagerly seizes on it as an occasion of slander.

We are not allowed. Those who think that the Jews refuse an offer, which Pilate had made to them, are mistaken; but rather, knowing that he had said to them in mockery, Take you him, they reply, “You would not allow it; and since you are the judge, execute your office.”

32. That the word of Jesus might be fulfilled. Finally, the Evangelist adds, that it was necessary that this should be done, in order that the prediction which Christ had uttered

might be fulfilled, The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles,
(Matthew 20:19.)

And, indeed, if we wish to read with advantage the history of Christ’s death, the chief point is, to consider the eternal purpose of God. The Son of God is placed before the tribunal of a mortal man. If we suppose that this is done by the caprice of men, and do not raise our eyes to God, our faith must necessarily be confounded and put to shame. But when we perceive that by the condemnation of Christ, our condemnation before God is blotted out, because it pleased the Heavenly Father to take this method of reconciling mankind to himself, raised on high by this single consideration, we boldly, and without shame, glory even in Christ’s ignominy. Let us therefore learn, in each part of this narrative, to turn our eyes to God as the Author of our redemption.

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