John 18
Biblical Illustrator
Jesus... went forth with ms disciples over the brook Cedron.
I. HEIGHTS OF PRIVILEGE MAY BE THE DIRECT COURSE TO THE LOWEST FALL. Any light may be resisted. Sun-blindness is the most incurable. Privileges misused foster pride of power and personal conceit. Promotion may inspire self-respect and unselfish devotion, but there is no certainty that human nature will so respond. In rich soil and under favouring skies weeds will thrive quicker and stronger than good seed. A loving Providence may appoint us lowly station because only there should, we be safe from fatal temptation.

II. THE POWERLESSNESS OF BRUTE FORCE OR ANGRY PASSIONS TO STAY THE MARCH OF REDEMPTION. The beaten brand flames the more. Ocean steamers turn the fury of headwinds upon their furnace fires and speed their way with accelerated motion. Heaven's resources are always equal to any emergency of earth's weakness or perfidy. There are no surprises in its one campaign.

III. GOSPEL METHODS HAVE PRIMARILY TO DO WITH PERSUASION AND NOT WITH FORCE, They that take the sword shall perish by the sword if weapons of force are used when the situation calls only for the power of example and the urgency of self-sacrifice.

IV. THE TRAITOR'S KISS DID NOT CEASE ON THIS NIGHT OF BETRAYAL. In all the years malice and hostile schemes use the same device of friendly approach as a cover and blind.



VII. NO AMOUNT OF SIN OR DEPRAVITY CAN PERMANENTLY BLIND THE SOUL TO ITS GUILT AND PROPER SELF-CONDEMNATION. Our lesson were incomplete did we not forecast the ending of the betrayer's earthly career. He, like every man, carried within his bosom all the materials and instruments of righteous judgment. The lost sinner is an eternal suicide: and he needs no other accuser than himself.

(S. Lewis B. Speare.)

Jesus went "over the brook Cedron."

I. IN THE MIDNIGHT AND ALONE. The disciples were with Him; but He was none the less alone for that. They did not share His purpose, or understand it; He always trod the wine-press alone. Sooner or later, every one who helps this race of ours must cross a Cedron with a Gethsemane beyond it; and this he will probably have to do in the midnight and unattended, in the soberness of a secret unshared.

II. UNDER PRESSURE OF A PROFOUND AND INTELLIGENT CONVICTION, He once told His disciples: "I know whence I came, and whither I go." His life was fashioned on a purpose. This is always essential to great achievement. An aged captain once said:" Where I could not be honest, I was never valiant." No man can ever do a worthy deed, who has not a conviction bestowed by his God.

III. DIRECTLY AFTER IMFORTUNATE PRAYER. No supplication ever left human lips so intense as that final intercession. He was going to His Father. Through the garden, the judgment-hall, Calvary, the grave, the mountain, the sky, He kept going to His Father. And it was the prayer that lifted Him; and He kept praying, and He is praying now at the Father's right hand.

IV. IN AN UNWAVERING COURAGE AND AN UNFALTERING TRUST. Why should He fear after a self-surrender so complete? It was His Father's responsibility for an anxious hour of peril and pain; no longer His own any more. Not long after this midnight priests were frightened, Judas dead, Roman guards prostrate, Satan baffled, the grave rended, the earth trembling, the skies parted, heaven ringing with triumph because of the Prince returned to His Father's love, and shining with glory. Oh ye who pause frightened and irresolute upon the brink of your Cedron, think of this Lord of ours in His dauntless decision then! Via crucis, via lucia! The call of duty is unyielding; but the reward of duty is reached when He, who went "over the brook Cedron" that night, says to you and me, "Well done."

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

(Text and 2 Samuel 15:23): —

1. On the eastern side of Italy there is a pretty stream called the Rubicon, falling into the Adriatic. This insignificant river has acquired a name in history and a place among the proverbs of mankind. When Caesar came with his army to its bank, he hesitated and said to his officers, "We can even yet draw back; but if we cross that stream, all must be decided by the sword." The night was passed in anxious deliberation, and at daybreak the legend says, a majestic form appeared to him playing on a flute. As the soldiers drew near, the angel snatched from one of them a trumpet, blew the signal for advance, and then plunged into the river. "The die is cast!" With that exclamation, Caesar boldly passed over the stream followed by his army. That was the decisive act which led to victory and the dictatorship of the Republic.

2. But long ages before we read of an older Rubicon, the crossing of which led to results more momentous. On the morning of the fatal day when Absalom seized the kingdom David passed over Cedron. "Cedron" means blackness or sadness. Some human tragedy must have left its impress upon it. When David passed over it he became a different man. It marked the crisis of his life. He bade adieu for ever to light-heartedness. A broken-hearted, sorrow-stricken man, he went down to the grave. But his inner life became tenderer and more beautiful.

3. And what happened to David happened to David's Son more than one thousand years after. The decisive moment came to Jesus when He passed over Cedron. He was no longer the great Teacher, but the great Sacrifice.

4. In every human life there is a Rubicon to cross, a critical moment in which we have to pass from the old life to the new. It will come in the shape of temptation, sorrow or change, and the way in which this crowning trial will be met will be determined by the training previously received. The best preparation is wrestling with God in prayer like our Lord.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Homiletic Magazine.
The interest of our Saviour's life increases as we advance. With most men the reverse is the case. Interest is usually centred on the earlier period of a man's career when the greatest exploits are achieved and the highest fame reached. Afterwards they live on the reputation acquired. But as the sun looks greatest at its setting, so Christ is most majestic as He approaches death. Consider the spirit in which our Lord entered on His last sufferings.

I. IN A SPIRIT OF PRAYER. "When Jesus had spoken these words." If the words of a dying man are impressive how much more those of a dying Saviour. But as His agony was preceded by prayer, so He would encounter it in a place set apart for it (ver. 2). It becomes a soldier to die fighting, and a Christian to die praying. The garden of humiliation was at the foot of the Olivet of Ascension.

II. IN A SPIRIT OF VOLUNTARY SELF-DEVOTION TO THE INTERESTS OF THE CHURCH. "He went forth." It was reckoned an ill-omen when the victim struggled at the Altar, and a good omen when it came without reluctance. "Lo, I come," &c. To give the fullest proof that His sacrifice was voluntary, He put forth the energy of His power. This might have reminded them of the destruction of the captains of Ahaziah. But a greater than Elisha was here. Here we may learn that the word of Christ, however weak it may seem, is full o! terror to His adversaries. If it could do such things then, what will it accomplish at the Day of Judgment?

III. IN A SPIRIT OF TENDER LOVE TO HIS TERROR-STRICKEN DISCIPLES (ver. 8). He makes no stipulation for Himself, but only for them. This was not a request but a command. He submits as a Conqueror, dictating His own terms, and obtaining them. It was like Him to think of others even while enduring the most intense mental agony. Let us imitate Him. Conclusion: We must all cross Cedron: it will be well then for us to remember Him, and to imbibe His Spirit.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

Where was a garden.
I. SORROW EXPERIENCED. The agony and bloody sweat (Matthew 26:36; Luke 22:44).


1. The traitor's kiss (Matthew 26:49), and —

2. The soldiers' assault (vers. 3, 12).

III. MAJESTY DISPLAYED. Christ advances towards the bank (ver. 4), and announced Himself (ver. 5, 6).

IV. POWER EXERTED. The hurling of the band to the ground (ver. 6), and the restraining of them while the disciples escaped (ver. 8).

V. Love MANIFESTED. Christ's care for His own. Let these go their way (ver. 8).

VI. MERCY EXTENDED. The healing of the servant's ear (Luke 22:51).

VII. SUBMISSION RENDERED. The drinking of the Father's cup (ver. 11).

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

John records some most suggestive circumstances not recorded by the Synoptists, and omits some that they record. Fabricators of history would never have acted thus. Absolute uniformity would have implied collusion, and thus thrown a doubt upon the veracity of the evangelists, Many of the events of Christ's life occurred in connection with turbulent multitudes and immense excitement. Observers could not have detailed them in the same order. From the nature of the case each would have a standpoint peculiar to himself, would be struck with a circumstance which the other would not have an opportunity of observing, and be in a position to receive a deeper impression from some incident which the other, perhaps, would scarcely deem worthy of note. Note

I. — THE SCENE OF THE GATHERING. As it is in the reflective gospel only that the circumstance of Christ's crossing Cedron is mentioned, we can hardly doubt that to the Evangelist's own mind 2 Samuel 15:23 and 2 Kings 23:12 were present. Thus surrounded by such memorials and typical allusions, the Lord descends into the dust of humiliation and anguish. To this garden Jesus went forth with His disciples.

1. Whence (John 14:31)? From the room of feasting, discourse, prayer; from the city and the haunts of men.

2. Whither? Into the solemn grandeur and deep hush of nature. Some have supposed that this spot belonged to a friend, and was thus a favourite resort of Jesus and His disciples. Great souls often sigh for solitude, and all souls morally require it.

3. Wherefore? To commune with His Father; to realize His mission; to confront His doom. His going forth to this scene reveals —

(1)His sublime courage. Conscious virtue is always fearless.

(2)His social sympathy. As man He yearned for, and valued, the presence of His sympathetic friends in His great trials.

II. THE PERSONS IN THE GATHERING. In imagination enter this secluded spot. Though night it was not dark, the moon was at its full. The group is not large, but wondrously diverse in character, passion, purpose.

1. Christ and His disciples are there. He is the central figure, poor and sad in aspect, but divinely grand. Peter, James, and John are there. On them, in all probability, rests a heart-sinking impression, that something terrible is to happen to the one they love best.

2. Judas is there. In his case we find greed ("What will ye give me?") running into —

(1)Base ingratitude.

(2)Heartless cruelty.

(3)Atrocious treachery (Matthew 26:49).

3. Unprincipled hirelings are there (ver. 3) — a detachment of the Roman cohort on duty at the festival, for the purpose of maintaining order, and the officials of the ecclesiastical authorities, the captain of the Temple and armed Levites. These men, perhaps, had no hostile feeling, but were there to do their duty, i.e., the orders of their masters. In the sacred name of duty what crimes have been enacted! Soldiers rifle innocent homes, burn cities, shed oceans of blood, create millions of widows and orphans in the name of duty.

III. THE TRANSACTIONS AT THE GATHERING. Four classes of deeds were here enacted.

1. Those against a conviction of duty. Judas must have so acted. Well he knew that he was perpetrating an atrocious crime (Matthew 27:3, 4). To sin against conscience is to sin with aggravated heinousness.

2. Those without conviction of duty — "the band and the officers of the chief priests." These were like "dumb, driven cattle" — mere tools; men ready for anything at the bidding of their masters; with no will of their own, and no convictions concerning the right or wrong of their actions. How numerous are such in every age: wretched serfs on whom despots built their thrones.

3. Those by a right conviction of duty. Such were the deeds of Christ. Mark —(1) His intrepidity (ver. 4). He does not wait for their approach, nor does He ask for His own information. He questions them that they may confess their object, and to impress them with the fact that they could only attain their object by His voluntary submission.(2) His dauntless confession (ver. 5). "Here I am, not as victim but as Victor. Do your worst, My time has come."(3) The moral force of His expression (ver 6). They came with deadly weapons to seize His body; He by the moral majesty of His looks seized their souls, and they fell as Saul on his way to Damascus, and as the sentinels at the Tomb (Matthew 28:4).(4) His tender consideration (vers. 7, 8). They seem to have recovered from the shock, and were ready to lay hold of the disciples. Thus the "Shepherd seeth the wolf coming, and fleeth not because," &c. In all this our Lord acted by the conviction of right, i.e, that He was doing the will of His Father.

4. Those by a wrong conviction of duty (ver. 10). To which of these classes do our actions belong? Crucial question this!

(D. Thomas, D. D.)


1. To what place? Gethsemane, whither Christ had retired after leaving the city with His disciples.

2. At what time? Towards or after mid-night. The traitor had occupied the interval in mustering his regiment.

3. By whom attended? By a company of guardsmen with their chiliarch from the castle of Antonio, and a body of policemen from the Temple, the former with their swords, the latter with their batons, and both with lanterns and torches.

4. For what purpose? To apprehended Jesus. This "half army" to take a solitary prisoner from eleven men!

II. THE SURRENDER OF JESUS (vers. 4-11). That Christ was not forcibly taken, but self-delivered four things attest.

1. The impotence of His assailants. As if smitten by an invisible hand they recoiled. "Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all."

2. The submission of Himself (Matthew 26:53).

3. The command to Peter, which was meant to discourage all attempts at rescue.

4. The recognition of the Father's will.


1. A command issued. "Let these go their way." Not a wish but an order.

(1)Merciful with regard for the situation of His followers.

(2)Powerful, with an authority that Caesar's legions could not resist.


2. A prophecy fulfilled (ver. 12).Lessons:

1. The wickedness of the fallen heart exemplified in Judas.

2. The love of the Divine heart — pictured in Jesus.

3. The imperfection of the renewed heart — illustrated in Peter.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Jesus therefore, knowing all things
I. CHRIST'S CHALLENGE. An expression of outraged dignity, and wounded love. It must have filled the band with confusion and shame.

1. To save needless trouble.

2. To prove His willing surrender to God.

3. To provoke reflection.Christ's mission to men's thoughts — to test and put right. His anxiety not simply to be sought, but sought aright. To come thus! Was He not daily with them? His invitations are for all. The Czar Nicholas's desire for foreigners to visit St. Petersburg is remarked upon in Lord Bloomfield's Memoirs. He wished men to see the resources of His empire, and its advances in civilization. So with the King of Truth. The Christ in us challenges the world and our lower nature. And all professed Christians and would-be patrons of Christ are challenged as to their motives, spirit and manner of service.

II. ANSWERS IT MIGHT CALL FORTH They reply by a name, but without realization. This scene is enacted daily by Christ and the world.

1. "Him whom I hate."

2. "Him who disturbs My peace."

3. "Him who hinders and resists Me."


1. Inquiry as to our chief good.

2. Comparison of it with Christ.

3. Turning our whole nature and life toward Him.

4. This to become our one aim.A child had been lost in a crowd, and separated from her mother. Seeing her distress a man lifted her on his shoulder. What tearful, nervous, anxious eagerness in her eyes as she looked round on the sea of strange faces! What joy when at last her mother was descried and she was restored to her arms. So let us look for Christ until we find Him, and at Him until we know Him.

(St. J. A. Frere, M. A.)

Homiletic Magazine.
I. CHRIST'S DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE. Knowing all that should come He yet went forth. What deep aggravation and bitterness this would give to the whole course of His suffering life! Our trials are mostly unforeseen, hence there is room for the play of hope. This concealment of the future is merciful. The certainty of trouble would unnerve us, and the certainty of happiness intoxicate us. But Jesus knew all. What pathos in the phrase, "acquainted with grief."

II. HIS WILLING SELF-SURRENDER. This gave value to His sacrifice. He did not hide himself like Adam, flee like Jonah, shrink like the disciples, but openly avowed Himself ready to do or to bear what was necessary for the world's ransom. It was an evil omen when the victim struggled at the altar and a good one when he came willingly. Jesus was straitened until His baptism was accomplished.


1. There have been similar occurrences. Caius Marius, when reduced to the utmost misery was shut up in a private house in Minturnae, and an executioner was sent to kill him, but though old and unarmed, the man was so awed by his appearance, that "as if struck with blindness, he ran away astonished and trembling," on which the inhabitants released the great Roman and favoured his escape. But this is no parallel to the case of Christ. Remember it was trained Roman warriors and the trusted followers of the Sanhedrim who "went backward," &c. We cannot doubt that on this, as on other occasions, the glory of Christ's Divine nature shone out for great purposes, and was sufficient to effect them without the use of the secular sword which Peter drew.

2. Our Lord is at no loss for means to humble sinners at His footstool. Sometimes a clear view of the majesty and holiness of God will do it, as in Isaiah 6.; sometimes a vision of the glorified Christ, as in Revelation 1.; sometimes the still small voice of His pardoning mercy, as in the case of Saul of Tarsus; sometimes strange and stirring events in Providence.

IV. DIVINE UNPARALLED LOVE (ver. 8). Christ stipulated nothing for Himself, though His adversaries were at His mercy, only for His disciples' safety: so much dearer were their lives to Him than His own. It is remarkable that this injunction was complied with, especially as Peter must have given great provocation.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

This incident is narrated by John only, and well fits in with his purpose, viz., to supplement the other gospels with facts which set forth Christ's glory. Consider —

I. THE MOMENTARY MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST'S GLORY. "I am He." When they were doubly assured by the traitor's kiss and His own confession, why did they not arrest Him? Instead of that they fell in a huddled heap before Him.

1. Things of the same sort, though much less in degree, have been often enough seen when some innocent victim has paralyzed for a moment the hands of his captors, and made them feel "how awful goodness is." There must have been many who had heard Him, and others who had heard of Him, and suspected that they were laying hands on a prophet, and those whose conscience only needed a touch to be roused to action. And His calmness, dignity, and fearlessness would tend to deepen the strange thoughts which began to stir in their hearts.

2. But there was evidently something more here, viz., an emission of some flash of the brightness that always tabernacled within, and which shone so fully at the Transfiguration; and the incident is one of many in which Christ's glory is most conspicuously seen in moments of deepest humiliation.

3. We may well look on the incident as a prophecy of what shall be. What will He do coming to reign, when He did this going to die? What will be His manifestation as Judge when this was the effect of His manifestation going to be judged?

II. A MANIFESTATION OF THE VOLUNTARINESS OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING. When that terrified mob recoiled from Him, why did He stand there so patiently? The time was propitious for flight. It was not their power but His own pity which drew Him to the judgment hall.

1. The whole gospel story is conducted on the principle that our Lord's life and death was a voluntary surrender of Himself for man's sin. He willed to be born, and now He dies not because He must, but because He would. "I have power to lay down My life," &c. At that last moment, He was Lord and Master of death when He bowed His head to death.

2. If this be true, why was it that Christ would die? There are but two answers —

(1)"I must do the will of My Father."

(2)"I must save the world."

III. A SYMBOL, OF AN INSTANCE ON A SMALL SCALE OF CHRIST'S SELF-SACRIFICING CARE FOR US. "If ye seek Me," &c., sounds more like the command of a prince than the intercession of a prisoner.

1. It was a small matter that He secured. These men would have to die for Him some day, but they were not ready for it yet. So He casts the shield of His protection round them for a moment, in order that their weakness may have a little more time to grow strong. And though it was wrong and cowardly for them to forsake Him, yet the text more than half gave them permission.

2. John did not think that this small deliverance was all that Christ meant by ver. 9. He saw that this trifling case was ruled by the same principles which are at work in that higher region to which the words properly refer. Of course the words will not be fulfilled in the highest sense till all who have loved Christ are presented faultless before the Father. But the little incident is the result of the same cause as the final deliverance. A dew drop is shaped by the same laws which mould the mightiest of the planets.

3. Let us learn from such a use of such an event to look upon all common and transcient circumstances as ruled by the same loving hands, and working to the same ends, as the most purely spiritual. The redeeming love of Jesus is proclaimed by every mercy which perishes in the using, and all things should tell us of His self-sacrificing care.

4. Thus, then, we may here see an emblem of what He does for us in regard to our foes. He stands between us and them, receives their arrows into His own bosom, and says, "Let these go their way." God's law comes with its terrors and its penalties; the consciousness of sin threatens us; the weariness of the world, the "ills that flesh is heir to," and the last grim enemy, Death, ring you round. What are you going to do in order to escape them? I preach a Saviour who has endured all for us. As a mother might fling herself out of the sledge that her child might escape the wolves, here is One that comes and fronts all your foes, and says to them, "Let these go their way — take Me." "On Him was laid the iniquity of us all."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. THE MANNER IN WHICH HE WAS EMPLOYED WHEN THIS MULTITUDE CAME UPON HIM. St. John does not mention this. But all the other evangelists do.

1. Prayer was His last employment before His final sufferings began. Have we sufferings beginning? Our praying Master tells us here how to prepare for them. "Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray."

2. But our Lord was praying for that which was not granted Him. "If it be possible," &c. And what was His Father's answer? In that very moment He mingled that dreaded cup and sent it Him. We hear much of the omnipotence of prayer, but we are plainly taught here that there is a limit to its power; that we may pray and pray fervently, as Christ did, and yet have our request denied. Generally God causes our prayers to fall in with His plans, and then He puts honour on prayer by sending us the blessings He designs for us as answers to it; but when our petitions would thwart His plans, He will not grant them. "I besought the Lord thrice," says the suffering Paul, "that it might depart from me"; but it did not. His Master would take him up unasked into the third heaven, would do any thing that was good for His faithful servant, but He would not remove from Him the affliction He had prepared for Him.

II. THE FRAME OF MIND IN WHICH OUR LORD RECEIVED THESE MEN WHEN THEY CAME TO TAKE HIM. But a few minutes before He was in a state of great mental agitation. But look at Him now. The thing He dreaded is come on Him, and what a change! Not a trace is left of fear, or agitation, or weakness. He comes forth to meet this armed multitude as unappalled and calm as though they were there to do Him honour. How like ourselves! Through God's abounding goodness, some of us have borne, and borne with calmness, the very troubles that in the distance we trembled to look at. The strength within us has astonished us. And we may trace this generally to the power of prayer. Had we seen this multitude, we should have said, perhaps, "Those earnest supplications have been all in vain." "Not so," says God. "Earnest prayer from one I love is never lost. I could not keep from Him the cup He dreaded; but I have done something better for Him — I have given Him strength to drink it." So with us. We go to God imploring Him to save us from the coming sorrow, and because He does not save us and the sorrow comes, we wonder. But He gives us a better thing than that we ask for; not deliverance from trouble, but power to bear it, and grace to profit by it, and a heart to thank Him for it. And this shows us the chief value and use of prayer. It is not so much to alter God's purposes, as to reconcile us to those purposes. We expect it to regulate God's providence; but, instead of this, it unlocks the treasures of God's grace.

III. THE MARVELLOUS EFFECT PRODUCED BY OUR LORD ON THESE MEN. Officers of justice, and brave Roman soldiers, a simple sentence uttered by the man they came to apprehend, strikes them all to the ground. Now why this display of power? It is clear that there was nothing vindictive in it — the men were not injured. Neither was it intended for our Lord's rescue — there He stands waiting for them to rise.

1. It vindicated Christ's greatness. He had just feared and trembled as a man; but He was more than man: there was the infinite Godhead within Him, and for an instant He discovers it; He lets the majesty of it beam forth. It is a miracle of the same kind as that He wrought on the cross. There He brought a hardened malefactor to repentance, working on His mind none could see how; here He touches the minds of a whole multitude together, producing in them, not repentance indeed, but confusion and terror; thus plainly showing us in both instances, that He can do with the mind of man whatsoever He will. And nothing manifests His greatness more forcibly than this.

2. It provided for the safety of His disciples. The hour of His sufferings was come, but not of theirs. At present, therefore, He will not have one of them touched; and when Peter wounded one of them they did not retaliate. And just as weak before Him are all the enemies of His people.

3. It manifests the voluntariness of our Redeemer's sufferings. And whence did this willingness proceed? From the love and pity of His heart; His own free, abounding, wonderful love to a world of sinners.

IV. THE CONDUCT OF THIS BAND OF MEN TOWARDS OUR LORD AFTER THEY HAD FELT HIS POWER. In the seventh chapter these officers return without their prisoner. "We heard Him talk, and we could not take Him." They preferred braving the anger of their rulers, rather than commit so great an outrage. Here they are again sent on the same errand. Endeavouring to seize our Lord, they are struck down to the earth at His feet. Surely they will rather die than touch Him. But look — they bind with cords the very Man before whom a few minutes ago they shrunk away in terror. See here, then, the hardness, the amazing stupidity of the human heart. We talk of miracles. We think that were they wrought around us, unbelief would every where give way, all men must believe and be saved. But Christ was not only born among miracles and lived amongst them, He was despised and rejected amongst them, He was apprehended amongst them, He was crucified amongst them.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

I. THE MORAL MAJESTY OF RIGHT. This is seen in two particulars.

1. In the heroic manner in which Christ, single handed, met His enemies. Jesus, instead of fleeing, or manifesting the slightest purturbation, goes forth magnanimously to meet them.

2. In His tender consideration for His friends. "Touch not Mine anointed." The question comes up, What was it that made Jesus so calm and powerful in this terrible hour?

(1)It was not ignorance of His perilous position.

(2)It was not stoical insensibility.

(3)It was the consciousness of rectitude.

II. THE MORAL FORCE OF RIGHT. The incident is not necessarily miraculous, because —

1. Christ's miracles were, with one exception, miracles of mercy.

2. We never find Him elsewhere putting forth His hand to resist.

3. It is not necessary to account for this phenomenon, for —

(1)Violent and sudden emotions always tend to check the current of life.

(2)These men must have known that they were doing wrong, and this ever makes men timid. "Conscience doth make cowards of us all."

(3)They expected resistance, and so were taken aback. It was the force of right that struck them down. Learn then —(a) The supreme importance of being right. This gives value to everything else. Apart from this, wealth, social influence, life itself, are worthless. Our great want is a "right spirit within us."(b) The Divine method of promoting right. How are men to feel its power? Not by force, but by a calm display of itself.(c) The ultimate triumph of right. The incident prefigures this. Right is Divine might, and the wrong in science, literature, government, religion, must fall before it.(d) The folly of opposing the right. Priests' opinions may rise up against it, intrigue and violence may be employed to put it down; but the triumphal Car of Right must roll over the dust of the Herods, Neroes, &c., of the world.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

If "the Christian is the highest style of man," it is because he copies a perfect model.

1. Christ knew how to bear prosperity. He who quails not before the angry mob may be led astray by the huzzas of the cheering crowd. How did Jesus endure this supreme test? In the palmy days of His public ministry, when multitudes came to hear Him, He never swerved from uprightness. To great and small He declared the same message.

2. But under circumstances of an opposite character does the text present the Man Christ Jesus. The manliness of Christ.

I. NEGATIVELY. Does not consist —

1. In physical strength, nor arise from the consciousness thereof. When Peter used his sword Jesus disclaimed all responsibility for the act, and refused to call the legions of angels that stood ready to do His bidding. In His own strength as a man He certainly was not stronger than others: and in the devoted, but defenceless, eleven He had but a poor dependence. Nor did He expect the Divine power to be put forth in His behalf, nor to escape through a panic of His foes. It was in the utter abandonment of all these things as a ground of fearlessness that His true nobility as a man appeared. It may seem needless to assert this; but when such stress is laid on physical culture, and some popular helps to this are glorified as "manly sports," it may not be amiss to estimate physical strength at its true value as related to manhood. A man may be the Samson of his neighbourhood, and be nothing but a bully and a coward after all. Let health and strength be sought, not to be deified, but to serve a manly spirit that resides within the sound body.

2. In mere hardihood. Fearlessness does enter into true manliness; but, if it stands alone, it comes far short of it. Emerson's sentiment, "Always do what you are afraid to do," must be taken with some allowance. To accustom one's self to face danger, when circumstances demand it, is an advantage; but to court it is scarcely justifiable. The same false principle underlies what is called the "code of honour." It applauds recklessness of danger at the expense of all moral considerations. We condemn the man who trifles with his own life and that of others by sporting on the edge of a precipice. Wherein does it differ from this, except in greater wrongdoing and guilt, when two men deliberately place each other's lives in peril firing at one another? To no such useless sacrifice did Jesus lend the sanction of His example. How careful He was to secure the safety of His disciples!

II. POSITIVELY. The manliness of Christ appeared —

1. In fearless action for what was worth the risk. We might see a reason sufficient for His conduct in His desire to spare His disciples. Like the mother-bird drawing attention to herself in order to protect her brood, He took the brunt of the attack upon Himself and averted it from them. But there was a reason of greater weight: He had a work to do that was not yet finished. He had undertaken to redeem the world, and He could not do this but by paying the price of His own blood. And now His hour was come, and "for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the Cross, despising the shame." It is this, having an adequate reason for the risk we run, that raises freedom from fear into the region of true manliness. If, for the sake of truth, liberty or duty, we surrender life itself, we do well and nobly. "I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares do more is none." To do what conscience bids us do is always manly. And, though we may not be called to posts of peculiar danger, where gallantry may be conspicuous, we may each of us act bravely in our own sphere of labour and influence. "The every-day courage of doing your duty is the grandest courage of all." It is this that prepares one for the test of the day of special trial. Men do not spring suddenly into magnanimity. The act of Jesus, in this scene at the garden, was consistent with all that went before. It was life-long fearlessness, in behalf of the truth, that gained for John Knox, when he died, this encomium from his antagonist: "There lies one who never feared the face of man."

2. In His patient, single-handed endurance. He willingly trod the winepress alone. There was no sustaining excitement. Often the soldier gets credit for what is done in a spasm of enthusiasm that is out of all proportion to the actual courage exercised. The pilot at the helm of the burning ship, and falling headlong at the last; the French physician, recording the facts concerning the plague for the benefit of mankind, and then dying himself as its victim — as he expected to do — teach us the nobility of self-sacrifice. What we admire in them shines most conspicuous in the life and death of the Son of man.

(R. C. Ferguson.)

I am He
A great and significant expression, never without the most powerful effects. Spoken to His astonished disciples as He walked on the waves; and as at the sound, the raging storm instantly subsided, so a flood of peace and joy poured itself into their hearts (chap. John 6:20; Mark 6:50). Spoken to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well; and immediately she left her waterpot and became the first evangelist to the Samaritans (John 4:26-30). Spoken at the bar of the Sanhedrim; and the conviction that He was the Messiah smote His judges so powerfully that it was only by means of the stage trick of rending His clothes that the High Priest was able to save Himself from the most painful embarrassment (Mark 4:62). Spoken here, and the soldiers fall to the ground. Spoken to His terrified disciples after His resurrection, and the most blessed results followed (Luke 24:39). A word of unutterable comfort and joy to His friends, and alarm to His foes.

(W. H. Van Doren.)

As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward.
Great events develop man's true nature: this incident did Judas's in one direction, and Christ's in another. In this melancholy scene I behold five prominent pictures — some of them tinted with the hues of heaven, and others shaded with the blackness of hell.

I. A picture of THE SUBLIMEST SELF-POSSESSION. Christ did not retire into some deeper shade when the sanguinary band entered the garden. Guilt would have done so, but Innocence walked forth in conscious purity and power. Christ was the first to speak — He actually revealed Himself to the very men who were hired to shed His blood! What produced this holy calm?

1. Not ignorance of His true position.

2. Not weariness of life's scenes and labours.

3. But conscious innocence. Rectitude smiles at the storm, but there is no peace to the wicked. Guilt expects to confront a foe wherever it confronts a human being. Innocence is unsuspecting.

II. A picture of THE DIRECTEST SELF-CRIMINATION. "They went backward." Why?

1. Not because destitute of physical resources.

2. Not because they had seen a Being they did not seek. No apparition startled their nerves.

3. But because of conscious guilt. The ruffians saw themselves in contrast; they were embodied wrong, and Christ was embodied right. They felt the power of holiness as they had never felt it before, and realized the essential cowardice of guilt.

III. A picture of THE NOBLEST SELF-SACRIFICE. He, from whom these ruffians shrank, could have kept them prostrate.

1. Self-sacrifice is not retaliative. To Christ vengeance belongs — He had the power to avenge Himself, but forbore. Littleness demands measure for measure, but magnanimity promotes the right by patiently enduring the wrong.

2. Self-sacrifice is socially beneficent. Christ kindly said, "if therefore ye seek Me," &c. He sought no companionship in His suffering. He would tread the winepress alone! Fellowship might mitigate agony, but Christ would have no mitigation that occasioned pain in others.

IV. A picture of UNINTENTIONAL SELF-DEGRADATION. "Then Simon Peter," &c. Looking at this in the light of mere feeling we must pronounce it natural. Peter felt his obligations to the Being who was exposed to the most studied insult, and his soul burned with indignation against the degraded hirelings. Christ, however, gently rebuked him by healing the smitten foe. This may teach us —

1. That innocence has a sublimer defence than a sword. Innocence can do without the advocacy of steel. God is with the right, and to battle with Omnipotence is to be crushed into ruin.

2. That truth is not to be defended by physical weapons. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal." The throne of Truth is established on the immovable basis of eternal Right and infinite Love.

3. That innocence desires not the punishment of individuals. Christ was not gratified in seeing Malehus smitten. His kingdom was not extended because a foe was punished. Christ would destroy the errorist by curing the error, consume the sinner by taking away the sin of the world.

V. A picture of INTELLIGENT LOYALTY TO DIVINE PURPOSES. "The cup which My heavenly Father," &c. Learn —

1. That the Divine Being mingles bitter cups. We are not to accept prosperity alone as a proof of God's paternity; even adversity may be the best expression of His Fatherly care and wisdom. God leads into Gethsemane as well as into Eden.

2. That men must sometimes drink bitter cups for the good of society. Christ's drinking was substitutionary. He drank the cup of death that we might drink the water of life. In our little degree we, too, must drain bitter cups, that those around us may have opportunities of improvement.

3. Happy the man who can connect the cup he drinks with His Divine Parent. Christ did so. He did not regard Judas and his confederates as givers of this cup. Behind the ruffian God may stand. Our business, therefore, is to ascertain who is the giver of the cup, and whether it is the reward of our folly, or an element in the outworking of the Divine purposes.

4. There is one point most noteworthy, viz., that Judas had no power to capture Christ till He had explained His real position. "Shall I not drink it?" Then Judas, &c. (vers. 11, 12). Then Christ was taken — but up to that moment they had no power against Him.


1. That the holiest men may be placed in the most painful position.

2. That Innocence is the best defensive weapon.

3. That society escapes through the sacrifice of Jesus.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Family Churchman.

1. Going as a Lamb to the slaughter.

2. Hereafter to come as the Judge of the men for whom He was about to die. How marvellous the contrast.

II. WHY DID THESE MEN FALL BACK FROM HIM? Was there not a feeling of —

1. His personal holiness. How greatly will this be interrupted when He comes in His glory — the glory of His holiness.

2. His personal dignity. There was always, we may be sure, something in His look and mien of more than ordinary majesty. The great painter in His picture of Christ leaving the Pretorium has thrown a look of thrilling and unearthly dignity into the countenance of the sorrowful Redeemer. This is a great artist's conception. What was the reality?

3. His Divine Majesty. So great shall be the splendour of the Saviour that, "the heavens and the earth shall flee away," and even hide themselves from Him.

4. Terror of conscience. How shall we meet Him if loaded with guilt.


1. Judas. So shall all who have proved recreant to their faith when He says, "I am He," the long looked-for Comer to judgment.

2. Tools of others' wickedness (ver. 3).

3. But mark a difference, "Let these go their way," He said of the disciples. But more perfectly will He then fulfil the prophecy of ver. 9.

(Family Churchman.)

(see John 17:12). —

The captive Saviour freeing His people: —


1. A sure proof of the willingness of our Lord Jesus Christ to give Himself to suffer for our sins. Christ did not seek a hiding-place in Jerusalem, or Bethany. If He had chosen to wait until the day, the fickle multitude would have protected Him. Instead of this, Jesus boldly advanced to the spot where Judas had planned to betray Him, as calmly as though He had made an appointment to meet a friend there, and would not be behindhand when he arrived. He said twice, "Whom seek ye?" He had to reveal Himself, or the lanterns and the torches would not have discovered Him. He went willingly, for since a single word made the captors fall to the ground, another would have sent them into the tomb. There was no power on earth that could have bound Him had He been unwilling. He who said, "Let these go their way," could have said the same of Himself. There were invisible cords that bound Him; bonds of covenant engagements, of His love to us. Let us take care, then, that our service of Christ is a cheerful and a willing one. Let us never come up to the place of worship merely because of custom, &c. Let us never contribute to the Master's cause as though a tax-gatherer were wringing from us what we could ill afford. Let our duty be our delight. His willing sacrifice ought to ensure ours.

2. Our Lord's care for His people in the hours of His greatest disturbance of mind. That word was intended —(1) To be a preservation for His immediate attendants. It is singular that the Jews did not arrest that little band. If they had done so, where would have been the Christian Church? Why did not the soldiers capture John? He seems to have gone in and out of the palace without challenge. They were searching for witnesses, why did they not examine Peter under torture? The Jews did not lack will, for they were gratified when James was killed, and Peter was laid in prison — why were they suffered to go unharmed? Was it not because the Master had need of them?(2) A royal passport to all Christ's people in the way of providence. Fear not, thou servant of Christ, thou art immortal till thy work is done. When thou art fit to suffer, or to die, Christ will not screen thee from so high an honour. It is wonderful in the lives of some of God's ministers how strikingly they have been preserved from imminent peril. We cannot read the life of Calvin without being surprised that he should have been permitted to die peaceably, an honoured man. It is not less remarkable that Luther should seem as if he had carried a safe conduct which permitted him to go anywhere. So with John Wickliffe. Many times his life was not worth a week's purchase. When he was brought up for trial, it was a very singular circumstance that John of Gaunt should stand at his side fully armed, proudly covering the godly man with the prestige of his rank and power. I know not that Gaunt knew the truth, but vultures, when God has willed it, have protected doves, and eagles have covered with their wings children whom God would save.(3) Mystically understood the words have a far deeper meaning. The true seizure of Christ was not by Romans, but by our sins; and the true deliverance was not so much from Roman weapons as from the penalty of sin. The law of God comes out to seek us who have violated it, but Jesus puts Himself before the law, and He says, "Dost thou seek Me? Here I am; but let these, for whom I stood, go their way." But the text will have its grandest fulfilment at the last. When the destroying angel shall come, Christ shall stand forth in the front of all the blood-bought souls that came to trust in His mercy, and He will say to Justice, "Thou hast sought Me once, and thou hast found all thou canst ask of Me. Then let these go their way." Then shall the great manumission take place, because Christ was bound; then shall the deliverance come, because Christ slept in the prison-house of the tomb.

3. His saying concerning them.(1) Verbally understood, it could only relate to the souls of God's people; but here it is taken as though it related to their bodies. From which I gather that we are never wrong in understanding promises in the largest possible sense. It is a rule of law that if a man should get a privilege from the king, that privilege is to be understood in the widest sense; whereas a punishment, or penalty, is always to be understood in the narrowest sense. Now when the great King gives a promise, you may encompass everything within its range which can possibly come under the promise, and we may be sure that the Lord will not run back from His word. The grant of eternal life includes such providential protections and provisions as shall be necessary on the road to heaven. The house is secured for the sake of the tenant, and the body because of the soul.(2) It is not in the form of a promise at all. "Have I lost none." It relates to the past, but here it is used as a reason why none should be lost of the present. As Jesus has done in the past, so will He act in the future.


1. Many seek Jesus, but do not know who He is. So that Christ says to them, "Whom seek ye?" Some here this morning are seeking rest, but they do not know that Jesus is the rest.

2. Those who seek Christ will find Him, but only because He reveals Himself to them. These men sought Christ to kill Him, yet He came and said, "I am He." So He said to the Samaritan woman. Whoever seeks Jesus, Jesus will show Himself to them. They did not find Christ with lanterns and torches. And you may come with a great many of your own inventions, but you will not so find Him. How could you expect to find the sun with a lantern?

3. When Jesus is found, there is always much to be given up. "If ye seek Me, let these go their way." There are always many things that you will have to let go if you have Christ, and this is very often the testing point. Men would like to go to heaven, but they must let go evil occupations, worldly pleasures, self-righteousness, &c.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Let these go their way.
When Wishart, the Scotch preacher, was seized and imprisoned by Bothwell, John Knox desired to share his fortunes; but Wishart, who had seen how precious a mind and heart lay behind the rugged features of his follower, would not allow it. "Gang home to your bairns," said he; "one is sufficient for a sacrifice." He accompanied Bothwell alone, and later on gave his life for a testimony.

(H. O. Mackey.)

Then Simon Peter having a sword, drew it.
I. UNAVAILING. The Church's feeble instruments can do as little against the world's battalions as Peter's sword could have done against the guardsmen of Caesar.

II. UNNECESSARY He who Gould have commanded twelve legions of angels had no need of Peter's rapier; the cause which is supported by "all power in heaven and earth" requires not to be furthered by carnal weapons.

III. UNCHRISTIAN. Peter's action was in flagrant opposition to the precept that Master had taught (Matthew 5:39). For the Church to employ force is in total contradiction to the character of Christ's kingdom (ver. 36.)

IV. UNREASONABLE. Had Peter been able to rescue Christ, that would not have proved either that he was right or that Christ's assailants were wrong. "Force is no remedy," and "no argument." So Christ said (ver. 23). Instead of resorting to magisterial authority, the Church should labour to convince and convert its opponents.

V. UNWISE. Could Peter have delivered Christ, he would have hindered the Father's purpose. The Church, when she unsheathes the sword, retards rather than advances the triumph of truth.

VI. UNSAFE. Peter's sword practice led to his identification, and to the suspicions and cross-examinations that brought about his fall. So when the Church resorts to violence, she may anticipate danger to herself.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Three things worthy of notice —

I. AN IMPULSE MANIFESTLY GENEROUS, WRONGLY DIRECTED. Peter was prompted, not by greed, ambition, or revenge, but by sympathy with his Master; a generous desire to protect Him. But this impulse, good in itself, was improperly directed; and how much good feeling is so still.

1. There is parental affection. How generally is this employed to the advancement of a child's temporal good, rather than to his spiritual; to pamper his appetite rather than to discipline his heart; to make him independent of labour, rather than to train Him to habits of honest industry.

2. There is religious sympathy. How often is this directed not to making our own characters so great and childlike as to be witnesses for God wherever we go, but to formulate and promote theological dogmas, and to establish and nourish littlesects.

3. There is the philanthropic sentiment. This, instead of being directed in endeavours first to improve the moral heart of humanity, and then working from the heart to the whole outward life, and from the individual to the race, is directed to the creation and support of costly machinery for lopping off branches from the upas, supplying salves to the ulcers, and whitening the sepulchres of depravity. No, man can be improved only by first improving his heart; the fountain must be cleansed before the streams can be pure.

II. A VIOLENCE ENTIRELY DEFENSIVE DIVINELY CONDEMNED. Did Peter expect his Master to say "Well done?" If so, he was disappointed; for Christ had only strong words of disapproval (cf. Matthew 26:52). The words in Matthew may be taken as a prediction or as the law of humanity. If taken in the former sense, history supplies abundant fulfilment. Nations that have practised war have ultimately been ruined by war. If in the latter sense, we find instincts in the soul which lead to the revolt. Anger begets anger; love begets love; and "with what measure ye mete," &c. How could Christ approve of Peter's deed? It was contrary to the old law, "Thou shalt not kill; and to the new, that we should return good for evil.

III. A RESIGNATION ABSOLUTELY FREE, SUBLIMELY DISPLAYED. "The cup," &c. The sufferings of the good —

1. Are a "cup," not an ocean. Happiness is an immeasurable sea, while misery is an exhaustible and exhausting quantity.

2. Are a gift from the Father, and not a curse from the devil. "What Son is He whom the Father chasteneth not."

3. Are to be accepted with filial resignation.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The cup which My Father hath given Me.
In Peter's temerity, notice the difference between military valour and Christian fortitude. He that faltered and was blown down by the weak blast of a damsel's question has now the courage with a single sword to venture on a whole band of men. Military valour is boisterous, and depends upon the heat of blood and spirits, and is better for a sudden onset than a deliberate trial; but Christian fortitude depends on the strength of faith, and lies in a meek subjection to God, and will enable us to endure the greatest torments rather than encroach on the consciences of our duty to God. In the words note —

I. THE NOTION BY WHICH AFFLICTION IS EXPRESSED. In Scripture we read oral. A cup of consolation (Jeremiah 16:7), taken from the Jewish custom of sending it to mourners or condemned prisoners (Proverbs 31:6, 7; Amos 2:8).

2. The cup of salvation (Psalm 116:13) or of deliverance, used more solemnly in the Temple by the priests, or more privately in the family. Sometimes called the drink offering of praise, and to which the cup of blessing (1 Corinthians 10:16) has great respect.

3. The cup of tribulation (Psalm 11:6; Jeremiah 25:15; Psalm 75:8). It was to this that Christ referred here and in His agony.

II. GOD'S ORDERING OF IT. "Which My Father hath given Me." Christ mentioned not the malice of His enemies, but the will of God. His hand in Christ's sufferings is often asserted in Scripture (Isaiah 53:10; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28) God did not instigate those wicked wretches, yet it was predetermined by God for the salvation of mankind.

III. CHRIST'S SUBMISSION. "Shall I not drink it." If God puts a bitter cup into our hand, we must not refuse it; for we have here Christ's example. The meaning is: The bitter passion which the Father hath laid upon Me, shall I not suffer it patiently?


1. In all calamities we should look to God (Psalm 39:9; Isaiah 38:15).(1) Nothing falls out without God's particular providence (Lamentations 3:37, 38).(2) All cross issues and punishment, as well as benefits, come from God (Isaiah 45:7).

2. It is a great advantage to patience when we consider God, not as an angry Judge, but as a gracious Father (Hebrews 12:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 6:18).

3. It well becomes His people to endure willingly whatever God calls them to.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

1. It is but a cup; a small matter comparatively, be it what it will. It is not a sea, a Red Sea, a Dead Sea, for it is not hell; it is light, and but for a moment.

2. It is a cup that is given us. Sufferings are gifts (Philippians 1:29).

3. It is given to us by a Father, who has a father's authority, and does us no wrong — a father's affections, and means us no hurt.

We must pledge Christ in the cup that He drank of.

I.It is but A CUP — a small matter comparatively, be it what it will.

II.It is a cup that is GIVEN US.

III.It is a cup given us by OUR FATHER.

(M. Henry.)






(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

All these approaching agonies were simultaneously present to the Saviour's mind. To us sorrows come separately. We can bear, one by one, trials which, coming all at once, would be overwhelming. If we can anticipate a few, others are mercifully concealed from our wisest calculations or saddest forebodings. Looking backward, we wonder how we passed through such difficulties. One reason is that they did not, and could not, occur together. The path must have led us quite through the morass before it climbed the precipice; must have guided across the burning sand before it reached the roaring torrent. In His case all the distresses of the future were piled together to appal His soul. The water of the lake, which in its gradual descent by its torrent-outflow, rolls harmlessly along the well-guarded channels, will if bursting forth in sudden flood, strain to the utmost, or sweep away, the strongest barrier. No wonder that the human nature of Christ was in agony! Besides, our fear for the future is more or less mitigated by hope. What we dread most may not come to pass. Something may intervene to divert the peril. The dark cloud may disperse without breaking over us. Or the reality may prove far less injurious than the fear. But in the agony of our Lord all the foreboding was certain to be verified. His prescience was all comprehensive, distinct, and certain. Therefore His suffering was unexampled. "Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow."

(N. Hall, LL. B.)

In the case of this Sufferer, Divine purity was incarnated in a frail human body, which had come into close contact with sin. Absolute perfection was brought near to absolute depravity in its blackest phase — the approaching murder of the Just One, revealing intense hatred of goodness, cruel repulse of love, resolute rebellion against God. As a person in perfect health might be shocked when brought into a crowded fever or small-pox ward, when the habitual attendants, accustomed to the signs of sickness and the foetid air, might not suffer; as one coming out of the bright sunshine into a darkened room feels it to be blackness, while those dwelling there can see around them; as a virtuous woman would shrink with revulsion from the talk and the conduct of the utterly fallen and shameless — far more must the absolute Perfection of Divine holiness be in agony when brought face to face with deadliest depravity. Besides this, Divine love was brought into the presence of human misery. The holy God, hating sin, was the merciful God, loving the sinner; and therefore grieved .because of the evils sin was bringing on its victims.

(N. Hall, LL. B.)

Then the band... took Jesus and bound Him.
They bound Him only as to His hands, for they led — not carried, nor dragged — Him to the high priest. Those hands were the hands indeed of the Nazarene that had held the hammer and the chisel and the plane; but they were also the hands of the Christ that had been laid upon the sick to heal them; that had touched the bier on which the widow's son was being borne to his burial; that had taken hold upon the hand of Jairius's daughter and raised her to life; that had been laid upon the eyes of the blind to impart sight to them; that had touched the tongue of the dumb and restored to it its speech; that had blessed little children; that, but even now had been placed upon the wound of an enemy to heal it; that this very day should be nailed for their advantage to the bitter cross — hands full of mercy. Note —

I. CHRIST'S VOLUNTARY REPRESSION OF POSSESSED POWER. His enemies had often sought to take Him. They had even had Him in their hands — had been about to east Him over the brow of the hill; but with perfect ease He had passed through the midst of them and escaped. One word from His lips had just driven them back affrighted. One petition breathed in the ear of the Father would have brought to His aid "more than twelve legions of angels." These bound hands, then, teach the hollowness of the sentiment that "self-preservation is the first law of life." Self-renunciation is life's supreme law. Jesus saw before Him enemies. His law was, Love your enemies; and the law of His lips was the law of His life. He knew that hostility was conquerable, not by might, but by love. And so He offered no hindrance. Like the mighty Judge of Israel, He could without effort have snapped the cords that held Him. He would not. These His enemies were ignorantly the ministers of His to do His service, binding the sacrifice with cords, by whose death the world was to have life.


1. The triumph of the enemies of Christ seemed complete. Little thought this rabble, as they clamoured for the death of this prisoner, that when those hands should be unbound to be nailed to the cross, there would be an eternal unbinding of that truth which was to plunge the sword into the heart of Judaism. The binding of those hands was the accumulation of power within them. The bound Jesus was mightier than the unbound. Hearts that have not been touched by the words that He spoke, are broken to see Him led as a lamb to the slaughter.

2. Looking out upon the woful evils which ravage earth — physical, intellectual, moral; diseases, superstitions, sins — one can scarce forbear to cry: Are the hands to which all power in heaven and on earth is committed still bound? But ever cometh the answer, "What I do thou knowest not now," &c. And "we trust that, somehow, good will be the final goal of ill."

III. A MINORITY, WHILE SUBJECTED TO APPARENT DEFEAT, MAY CONTAIN THE PROMISE AND THE POTENCY OF VICTORY. The voice of a majority is not of necessity the voice of God. Mere might does not constitute right. There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, 1800 years since, stood One against a crowd — against the world. With Him there was one thing which was not with them: not merely the conviction — for doubtless they had their convictions, as have all majorities — but the absolute knowledge that He was in harmony with the will of God. They were clamorous for political expediency and for the rights of their religion; He was silent for love. Jesus proclaimed the truth throughout His public life, and stood to it there in the garden — One against many — that the basis, the only true basis of the social structure, is self-renouncing love. True, His was not an enviable position regarded humanwise. But one with God is not merely a majority, but victory; which is not measurable by immediate results, but by the fruitage of eternity.

(N. W. Wells.)

(text and vers. 19-24): —


1. The dignity pertaining to Him.

(1)An innocent man.

(2)A religious teacher.

(3)A philanthropic citizen.

(4)A patient sufferer.

(5)Incarnate God.

2. The indignity put upon Him.

(1)Seized by those He had befriended.

(2)Bound by those He desired to liberate.

(3)Led away as a criminal by those who were themselves transgressors.

(4)Placed at the bar of one who should have been His advocate rather than His judge.

II. THE JUDGE. Annas or Caiaphas.

1. Head of the State, the high priest ought to have protected the interests of Jesus, as a member thereof; and, above all, ought to have dispensed justice and right judgment.

2. Holder of a sacred office, he ought to have been incapable of violating the claims of either truth or right.

3. Vicegerent of Jehovah, he ought to have stood forth the champion of God's law.


1. Its character. Preliminary, followed by a second (ver. 24; Matthew 26:57; Mark 14:53) and a third (Luke 22:66). The first was the practical, the second the potential, the third the actual and formal decision that sentence of death should be passed judicially upon Him. That of Annas was the authoritative praejudicium; that of Caiaphas, the real determination; that of the entire Sanhedrim at daybreak, the final ratification.

2. Its object. To entrap Christ into admissions which might afterwards be used against Him.

3. Its course.

(1)The crafty question (ver. 19).

(2)The prudent answer (ver. 20).

(3)The undeserved blow (ver, 23).

(4)The gentle response (ver. 23).


1. Symbolized; by replacing the fetters, which had probably been removed during the trial.

2. Interpreted. Equivalent to an intimation that Annas regarded Jesus as a dangerous character, an uncomfortable person for unscrupulous schemers to bare in their path, and, therefore, as one who had better be removed. It was so understood by Caiaphas.

3. Pronounced. Afterwards to the court of Caiaphas, and again in a full meeting of the Sanhedrim. Lessons:

1. The unspeakable condescension of Christ.

2. The infinite meekness of Christ.

3. The unflinching boldness of Christ.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Why did the government of Judaea plot for Christ's destruction?

1. Was there anything in His genealogy to account for it? No! He was one of their own race, descended from the most illustrious Hebrews.

2. Was there anything in His appearance? Certainly there was nothing repulsive in the fairest of the children of men.

3. It was because He was the embodiment and Advocate of Right — right between man and man, and man and God. The government was wrong to its very core. The right flashed upon its corrupt heart as sunbeams on diseased eyes. Hence as with all corrupt government they would put an end to it.

I. BY THE EMPLOYMENT OF HIRELINGS (ver. 12). There are under all governments multitudes so dead to the sense of justice and the instincts of manhood, that they are ready at any hour to sell themselves to services the most disreputable. These are the ready tools of despots.

II. IS THE NAME OF LAW (ver. 13). The greatest crimes have been perpetrated under the sanction of justice, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die." Despots say that "law and order" must be respected. But no; if your law and order are built on moral falsehood, tread them in the dust. The progress of the world requires this. The heroes of unperishable renown have given themselves to this work. What is wrong in morals can never be right in government.

III. UNDER THE PRETEXT OF A MISERABLE EXPEDIENCY (ver. 14). In relation to that "counsel," note —

1. That it was apparently adapted to the end. Christ was alienating the people from the institutions of the country and shaking their faith in the authorities. The most effective plan for terminating the mischief seemed to be to put Him to death.

2. Though seemingly adapted to the end it was radically wrong in principle. The fitness of a measure to an end does not make it right. The only standard of right is God's will, and Christ had not contravened that.

3. Their policy being radically wrong, was ultimately ruinous. It hastened the flight of the Roman eagle. Eternal principle is the only pillar to guide short-sighted creatures. Let governments be warned by the policy of Caiaphas.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

That there should have been two high priests needs explanation. One of these was a famous man whose name was "Merciful." (Hebrews Chanan, here represented in a shortened form by the Gr. Annas). "Merciful" had once been the high priest according to Jewish law; but, more than twenty years before, Valerius Gratus, Pilate's predecessor, had put him out of office, and had put into it a nominee of his own. In the creed of every true Israelite this act was null. The law of God ordained that whoever was high priest was so for life; and a man could no more have two high priests at one time than he could have two fathers; therefore, "Merciful" was, in the sight of the orthodox, a great and sacred personage. More than this, we have reason to think that while his son-in-law held the post of high priest by the grace of the Emperor, he himself was by the same grace his sagan, or deputy; and this was an office so august that the person who held it might, on urgent occasions, go into "the Holy of Holies." He even received the appellation of high priest. So Luke uses the expression, "Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests;" the one being so de jure, the other de facto. It is easy to understand how the senior was virtually the primate, and how he would naturally keep his official residence in the high priest's palace, on one side of its vast quadrangle. " Merciful" was an old man of seventy. While the Jews regarded him as a potent force in their national affairs, he was also eminently acceptable to the Romans, for he was a priest who was touched with no inconvenient convictions; he was also a capitalist, willing to oblige a needy nobleman with a loan on fair terms; in him, too, they had a gentleman and a man of the world to deal with; he was cool, politic, and safe; altogether, in the judgment both of Jews and Gentiles, "Merciful" was just then, probably, the first man in all Jerusalem. Leaders of history know that persons who have most reverence for the priestly office have sometimes less than the least reverence for some particular priest. It was so here. "Merciful" was detested. In the popular opinion, his nature belied his name. "Call that man 'Merciful!'" it was thought, "you might as well speak of a merciful 'viper;'" and "viper" seems to have become his common cognomen. When he passed along the road in his palanquin, here and there a citizen might crouch down to the dust before him as if in speechless worship, but would be likely to mutter under his breath, "Viper!" Subtle, deadly, gliding, tortuous, noiseless as the snake slipping along through the evening grass, and sometimes able to wait with wicked patience for his prey — thus we picture this "Merciful." The first old priest who saw Jesus in this world said of Him, as He lay across His mother's arms, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace," &c. Now another old priest looks on Him, but with cold, steely eyes that glitter and stab. The meaning of "Caiaphas, the name of this younger and more active representative of the sacerdotal party, is uncertain; but there is no uncertainty as to what manner of man he was. As to his theology, he was doubtless considered to be "liberal," or "broad;" for he "believed in neither angel nor spirit," and smiled at the doctrine of "a resurrection." Ostensibly, he was first of the priests, yet he cared more to work out problems in political mathematics than to ponder "the things into which angels desire to look." Although in every respect of the same party as the other priest, he was altogether different from him in his natural calibre, He wore no mask, he simulated no gentleness; but looked like the man he was, hard, bold, and unscrupulous. He was an intense Jew, and was ever on the watch to cross the plans of Pilate, but was also ever on the watch to avoid whatever might disturb safe relations with the Roman government.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

Before this judge is brought, not to be judged but to be condemned, the Judge of quick and dead, by an ungrateful and passionate people. The faintest parallel to this may be found in the case of those mutinous rebels of India, who in their blind rage and unreasoning fury, in their reckless frenzy and fanaticism, arraigned before them in mock trial one of their own judges, one of the best and noblest of those who come from a better land to sojourn a while in that less favoured country; one who spent his strength in doing good, and was known as the friend of the native; and who moreover might have escaped, only that, hero that he was, he refused to quit the post of duty. And they took him, that great and good man, and hanged him, the upright judge, in front of his own house, whence he had so often dispensed justice and mercy. This was the return they made — the base and barbarous return — "him they slew, and hanged on a tree."

(G. J. Brown, M. A.)

For blind men to be fair critics of Turner, for bats to be fair critics of sunshine, for worms to be fair critics of the open air, would be more conceivable than the possibility of men like these being fair judges of Jesus! How could such sinners understand the Holy One of God? Besides their unfairness from natural unfitness, there was unfairness from the fact that they were desperate conspirators, plotting against His life.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

S. S. Times.
This expression used to be considered by commentators as proving that the Romans had made the high-priesthood an annual office: which we know to be contrary to the fact. In later years the true explanation has been hit upon which considers that "that year" denotes a memorable time, which distinguished the high-priesthood of Caiaphas among other terms held by other persons. That this is an old and an Oriental peculiarity of expression, and that the later explanation is the true one, appears from a parallel in the apocryphal book of Susanna (Sus. 1:5). These wicked elders were not judges of the people for that month only, but had been so for a long time: but they were the judges in the month which was signaled by the putting away of corruption, the vindication of Daniel as an upright and inspired judge, and by the rescue of the innocent from deadly calumny. So Caiaphas was the high-priest when that memorable year came round in which the one sacrifice for sin, for all time, was performed.

(S. S. Times.)

And Simon Peter followed Jesus.
I. FOREANNOUNCED (John 13:38). Three surprises.

1. The person concerned. Peter the man of rock, whose faith had appeared the brightest (John 6:68; Matthew 16:16). Whose zeal had seemed the greatest (John 13:37), and whose courage had been accounted the boldest (Matthew 14:28). Had it been Thomas the desponding (John 11:16), the wonder would have been less; had it been John the beloved, it could hardly have been more. Let it teach —(1) That no man knows himself or his fellows as Christ does.(2) That they who seem the least assailable are often the soonest overcome.(3) That no saint, however large his capacities or high his attainments, is beyond the possibility of a fall.

2. The time indicated. That might of the Paschal feast, &c., when Peter would have said that his faith was strongest and his love warmest. This too has lessons.(1) That times of highest spiritual excitement are often seasons of greatest danger.(2) That there are moments when Christ's followers need most to be on their guard.

3. The sin predicted. Desertion would have caused a shock: it staggers one to read of denial. It discloses.(1) How near the best of saints are to the abysses of sin.(2) How suddenly and swiftly one may be hurled from a pinnacle of moral goodness to the lowest deep of guilt and shame.(3) How close even in renewed hearts lie the extremes of godliness and wickedness.(4) How needful it is for him who thinketh he standeth, to take heed lest he fall.


1. The first denial (ver. 17).(1) The place — the court of the high priest, beside a fire.(2) The time — shortly after Peter had been admitted.(3) The questioner — the maid who kept the door.(4) The question — variously reported because variously given, first to Peter and then to the bystanders, but every time insisting on the fact that Peter was one of Christ's disciples.(5) The denial — spluttered forth in various forms, because of the uneasiness Peter felt, in all forms repudiating his discipleship, and telling a direct lie — "I am not"(6) The result — restless and unhappy: Peter with-drew from the fire, and sauntered out into the porch (Matthew 26:71; Mark 14:68). While there a cock crew. If Peter's ears heard, his conscience did not.

2. The second denial (ver. 25).(1) The place — first in the porch and afterwards by the fire.(2) The time — "after a while."(3) The questioner — in the porch the maid, who was perhaps joined by another female domestic; by the fire the maid and the officers.(4) The question — still insisting on the fact of His discipleship.(5) The denial — to the maids, with an oath he denies all knowledge of Christ, to the officers he curtly denies his discipleship.

3. The third denial (ver. 27).(1) The place — the court (probably).(2) The time — a little after, when Christ's trial before Caiaphas was drawing to a close.(3) The questioner — the bystanders, among whom was a kinsman of Malchus.(4) The question — first the bystanders remark that he speaks like a Galilean, and must be a disciple; then one in particular maintains this vehemently; finally Malchus's kinsman identifies him with one whom he had noticed in the garden.(5) The denial — with cursing and swearing. Oh! Peter, how are the mighty fallen!

III. EXPLAINED. By three things.

1. Peter's over-confidence in the upper room (John 13:3; Matthew 26:33). "Pride goeth before destruction" (Proverbs 16:18).

2. Peter's over-rashness in the garden (ver. 10). His lawlessness upon the sward made him timid in the palace. His foolish sword-practice wrought less damage to Malchus than to himself.

3. Peter's over-forgetfulness in the palace. If Peter forgot his own sin, he should not have forgotten Christ's Fords. A good memory would probably have averted his fall.

IV. BEWAILED (Matthew 26:75). Learn —

1. That Christ accurately gauges the characters and foresees the histories of His people.

2. That Divine foreknowledge destroys not human responsibility, while Divine foreannouncement increases it.

3. That overweening confidence in oneself is no mark of grace or stability, but rather of the opposite.

4. That it requires little to lead a good man, left to himself, into sin, and once started on the downward path none can predict when he will stop.

5. That Christ knows, if the world does not, when Christians deny Him, and that no greater indignity can be put upon Him than to be disowned by such as bear His name.

6. That if a child of God sins He must and will be brought to repentance, perhaps suddenly and painfully, but always with tears.

7. That those who have truly sorrowed for sin will sorrow on every remembrance of it; yet not so as to hinder, but rather increase, their joy in God and in His mercy and grace.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

A grievous sin. The disciple disowned his Master, the servant his Lord.


1. Falsehood.

2. Cowardice.

3. Profanity.

4. Persistence.


1. His close connection with Christ.

2. The repeated warnings.

3. Strong professions of devotion.

4. The imperative demands of the time and place.


1. Sudden.

2. Brief.

3. Never repeated.


1. Self-confidence.

2. Blindness to near danger.

3. Negligence of precautions.

4. Fear of derision.

(M. Braithwaite.)

Here is true courage —

I. NOBLY DISPLAYED (ver. 15). To follow One who was being dragged by Roman ruffians to undergo a mock trial, and who in a few hours would undergo a terrible crucifixion, revealed bravery of heart of no mean character.

II. TEMPORARILY FAILING (ver 16). It would seem that at this stage Peter's courage began to fail, for he halted at the door, so that John had to go and take him in. As he entered he was recognized by the portress (ver. 17).

1. Here is fear seeking to protect itself by falsehood (ver. 18). Fear had taken possession of Peter, and to protect himself he halted by the fire, mingling with the people who stood there, desiring, it may be, to be regarded as one of them. Fear, perhaps, is the most prolific parent of lies. Greed is one — it fills the market with its fallacies; vanity is another — it fills social circles with misrepresentations; malice is a third — it hatches the slanders that destroy reputations and break hearts; but fear is the most fruitful.

2. But this fear was only temporary; his failing courage was soon restored. The look of Christ rallied the drooping forces of his moral manhood, and ever after he appears as a hero among heroes.Conclusion: Learn —

1. The liability of good men to moral reactions.

2. Whatever the moral reactions, the good element will ultimately prevail.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Lie engenders lie. Once committed, the liar has to go on in his course of lying. It is the penalty of his transgression. To the habitual liar, bronzed and hardened in the custom, till the custom becomes second nature, the penalty may seem no terrible price to pay. To him, on the other hand, who, without deliberate intent, and against his innermost will, is overtaken with such a fault, the generative power of a first lie to beget others, the necessity of supporting the first by a second and a third, is a retribution keenly to be felt, while penitently owned to be most just. Dean Swift says: "He who tells a lie is not sensible how great a task he undertakes; for he must be forced to invent twenty more to maintain that one;" and F. W. Robertson: "One step necessitates many others. The soul gravitates downwards beneath its burden. It was profound knowledge which prophetically refused to limit Peter's sin to one." Mr. Froude shows us Queen Elizabeth stooping to "a deliberate lie." At times "she seemed to struggle with her ignominy, but it was only to flounder deeper into distraction and dishonour." Nobody ever did anything wrong without having to tell one or more falsehoods to begin with: the embryo murderer has to tell a lie about the pistol or dagger, the would-be suicide about the poison. "The ways down which the bad ship Wickedness slides to a shoreless ocean must be greased with lies."

(F. Jacox, B. A.)

Art not thou also one of this man's disciples?.
I. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY "YES" WHEN THEY OUGHT TO SAY "NO." This is hypocrisy. They who belong to this class are loud in their professions, are regular attendants at public worship, and push their way into Church offices. If there were no other day but the Sabbath, and no other place but the Church, such would pass without suspicion. But when you follow them into the world their "I am" becomes "I am not." Their life is cut into two halves, and each gives a denial to the other. Let not such point to Peter in vindication of themselves. He was a hypocrite to the world, and desired to pass himself off as a worse man than he was. But this wearing of the mask was not usual to him, and he wore it so clumsily that he was soon detected. And let not the hypocrite to the Church think that his mask is impenetrable. He cannot impose on God.

II. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY "NO," AND WITH TRUTH, This is avowed ungodliness; and when expostulated with, such persons, in extenuation, say, "But we don't profess to be Christians," and thus in their estimation the only sin is hypocrisy. "There is A, who makes a great profession, but is no better than others, go and speak to him." This is a very dangerous, because insidious, opinion. Of course, Judas was worse than Caiaphas, but that did not minimize the latter's guilt. Whatever a man's profession may be, it in no way absolves him from obligations which exist irrespective of his profession. That a man does not profess to be a Christian can no more relieve him from the guilt of rejecting Christ than the fact that a thief lays no claim to honesty can exonerate him. Suppose a prisoner accused of a violent assault were to admit it, and then were to plead in extenuation that he never pretended to be a peaceful citizen. At the bottom of this lies the sophism that it does not matter what a man is or what he believes if he be only sincere. How absurd this is! If a man be sincerely Christ's enemy, he is His enemy with this addition, that he frankly admits it. Away with such subterfuges i The man who says, "I am not Christ's disciple," is guilty of repudiating His Saviour and dishonouring God's Son.


1. There are some who say this to the world. To this class Peter belonged. The fear of man brings a snare, and discipleship is denied to save from ridicule, penury, or martyrdom. This is distinct from hypocrisy, for the hypocrite's falsehood is told deliberately, and is the habit of his life, whereas these occasional fits of timidity are only like the deflections of the needle which are caused by some local influence; the general bearing of the soul is as true to Christ as the needle to the north. Still, such anomalies are to be guarded against. Where is your faith? Don't be afraid of adversaries and difficulties. Remember that God is on your side How many fears have been imaginary. Peter, except for his assault on Malchus, was in no more danger than John.

2. There are those who say this to the Church. Who does not know some excellent people who fear to make this avowal lest they should bring reproach on Christ? There is much in the modesty, &c., of such to be admired, but in some sort this is being ashamed of Christ, and the shirking of responsibility is a serious matter, a man may be a very good soldier though he wear no uniform and belong to no regiment, but if all men were like him there could be no army. So a man may be a good Christian, and yet belong to no Church, but if all men were like him there would be no Church, Sunday schools, home missions, &c. If it had not been for aggressive believers, the gospel would not have come to you to-day. If you say that you are not qualified for Church membership, the reply is that men do not join the Church because they are perfect any more than children go to school because they are educated.

IV. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY "YES," AND TRULY. They belong to Christ, and are not ashamed to say so anywhere and every day.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The high priest asked Jesus of His disciples and His doctrine.

1. His officiousness. If he had been in possession of judicial power at this time, he had no right whatever to ask the prisoner concerning His disciples and doctrine. His business was with Christ's personal conduct? Was He guilty of crime? But in all probability Annas was not in possession of judicial authority, and so his officiousness was indecent and offensive.

2. Craftiness. The question was evidently designed to entrap Christ into statements that might be used against Him. Craftiness is despicable everywhere, but nowhere more than when it is most prominent, viz., in law courts. It is forsooth regarded as a qualification for judicial work.

3. Heartlessness. It might have been supposed that an old man brought up in the religion of the patriarchs, and long before Christ was born occupied the highest position, would have been touched at seeing this innocent and beneficent young man bound with chains. But no, his old heart is callous. The atmosphere of his high office had frozen all the fountains of humanity. Alas! Annas is not without successors. Quench love in the soul, and what is called justice becomes statutory rigourousness.

II. AN INSOLENT SYCOPHANT (ver. 22). Here is an act of —

1. Sycophancy. This man was one of those mean, craven souls who are ever ready to flatter superiors. He wished Annas to think that he saw in Christ's reply the want of respect due to so high a dignitary, and the miserable lacquey counted on the dignitary's approval. Such a spirit is —(1) Despicable, because it lacks all manly independence.(2) Pernicious, for it degrades the possessor, deceives others, and impedes progress.(3) Sadly prevalent. Parasites abound.

2. Insolence. He "struck Jesus," &c. — an innocent man who stood before him bound, and more than that, incarnate Divinity. The lowest natures are always the most insolent. The sycophant can have no self-respect, and consequently neither the desire nor qualification to respect others.


1. To the conventional judge (ver. 21). Note here(1) Manly independency. There is no bowing down before this venerable official. Christ pays no respect for mere office. Nowadays office of itself is thought to have a just claim to honour. This is a huge fallacy. Legislative, administrative, regal offices are contemptible if not occupied by morally worthy men. Ignorance and depravity are bad everywhere, especially in high places. Mere office is an abstraction; it is the man who makes it worthy or unworthy. Christ has no respect for this man as a man, and therefore none for him as a judge.(2) Conscious honesty (ver. 21). Christ's referring the question to His disciples shows that He had nothing to be ashamed of. "I am no conspirator; what I have said and done has been in the face of all the world." It was this that made Him fearless and invincible.(3) Faith in humanity. No one had such a sense of men's depravity, yet He was prepared to trust to their verdict. This is the effect of conscious honesty. Treat every man as a rogue till you find him honest is the world's maxim. Christ acted on the opposite. The greatest rogues are ever the most suspicious.

2. To the insolent sycophant (ver. 23). Though a base minion Christ treats him as a man, and if he had a soul the rebuke must have shaken every fibre. An unique prisoner this! In truth, the judge and the sycophant were the prisoners: He was the Judge.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I ever taught in the synagogue.
I. OUR LORD WAS A HABITUAL ATTENDANT UPON THE SERVICES OF THE SYNAGOGUE. There are fifteen distinct references to this.

1. Notice one or two of the laws of habit.(1) Youth is the period during which the habits of manhood ordinarily develop themselves into fixedness. Reading between the lines of Luke 4:16, he must be blind who cannot discern that one of the factors in the childhood training of our Lord is His attendance upon the place of public worship.(2) It is a law of habit that the peculiar custom should assert itself at all times and places. In the life of Jesus the habit of attendance upon the synagogue constantly asserts itself. Matthew corroborates the text (Matthew 4:23), and Mark and Luke confirm this testimony. Thus the being of Jesus, as He grew from a babe to a man, twined about the synagogue just as the growing vine twines about the support of its tendrils. His maturity centres about the synagogue just as the efforts of the workman centre about the tool with which he performs his task.

2. Humanly speaking, everything was against the formation of this habit. No reader of the Gospels will find it difficult to ascertain Christ's estimate of the synagogue services of His day. In those who gave alms at the door of the synagogue, and in those who loved to pray standing in the synagogue, He saw the hypocrite. In those who filled its chief seats He beheld the incarnations of wicked ambition, who taught for the doctrines of God the commandments of men. Indeed, the Sermon on the Mount was spoken to correct the errors which found a home there. He designated the great mass of those who crowded the synagogue by such titles as pretenders, children of hell, blind guides, whited sepulchres, serpents, generation of vipers. Yet it was the habit of Jesus to be one in such congregations. But He went to the synagogue not to be seen of men; His sole purpose was to meet God. He never permitted the abuse of an institution of God to interfere with His proper use of it. Can we, therefore, ignore that which was essential to the performance of the work of the Son of God in our behalf? When the minister notices the absence of the children of professing parents, he can but observe that the training which Joseph and Mary gave the child Jesus tells a different story, for they brought Him up to go to the synagogue. Besides, if the child Jesus was accustomed to church-going, how can parents bring up their children for God without training them in the church-going habit?

3. Our Lord was a stranger in many places during His earthly career, but we have read of no place in which He was a stranger to the synagogue. The history shows that wherever the Sabbath day found Him He found the synagogue, and doubtless He never neglected the Monday and Thursday services. So that our presence in the house of God in the community where we may spend our summer vacation, &c., is but an exhibition of the high example of Christ.

4. The synagogues which our Lord attended abounded in that, both in the way of preaching and practice, which merited His outspoken rebuke. If this, then, was no bar to His attendance, what right have we to allow what we do not like to interfere with ours? Grant that the preaching is as poor as that which fell on the ears of the Model Preacher; that our religious assemblies are as full of inconsistent church members, to stay away is to be unlike Christ. Francis Ridley Havergal was marking the example of Christ when she said, "An avoidable absence from the house of God is an infallible sign of spiritual decay. Disciples first follow Christ at a distance, and then, like Peter, do not know Him."


1. He did not disregard the Temple convocations, yet those were limited, to one locality, while the synagogue was found in every community. True, He did preach on the mountain, the lake, at the well, by the wayside, but other things being equal, He always chose the synagogue. And did He not fill the synagogue with the glory of His miracles?

2. So the work of our church buildings is to reproduce the facts of the synagogue history of our Lord. Indeed, they only do their work as they become such synagogues, for it is where two or three or more gather together (synagogue) in the name of Jesus that He manifests Himself to-day. The hymns of our religious assemblies must be an all hail to the power of His Name. Our prayers must find the reason of their presentation in His Name. Our preaching must have as its authority the seal of His Name. Our hearing must be with the attentive reverence which is due to His Name. And thus in our churches our Lord will preach the gospel to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, &c. The Son of God will manifest Himself to destroy the works of the devil. The Doer of Miracles will fill withered human nature with the power of God.

(G. W. F. Birch.)

One of the officers which stood by struck Jesus.
I. THE INCIDENT OF OUR TEXT: "One of the officers struck Jesus," Observe —

1. The circumstances.

2. All its aggravations.(1) The prisoner at the bar was struck — while yet only on trial, when no evidence had been found against him.(2) By one of the officers who were there to see that justice was done, an officer of the high priest, the highest minister of God.(3) In open court, in presence of the judge.(4) Without one word of rebuke from the high priest.(5) Merely because He refused to reply to ensnaring questions, and because with dignity and unanswerable argument He had appealed to the law which demanded that no man should be condemned except "at the mouth of two or three witnesses."

3. What followed. Trivial as the blow may have been, leaving no mark, — lightly as we might esteem it when compared with the agony of the garden or of the Cross, it was the only incident in His life of suffering that drew forth from Jesus one resentful word (ver. 23). He denied not that "He was made under the law," nor refused to be tried by the law. But He was not made under the priest nor the officer apart from the law, and would not be questioned by the one nor struck by the other contrary to the law. He could well have borne it; but, foreseeing that many of His people would afterwards be subjected to wrongs like this, He resented and rebuked it that they might know what His feelings were, and how they should act amid wanton outrage and gross injustice.


1. By a very touching example it teaches us that the human sympathy of Jesus is true and tender. We have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, &c. It is not enough to say that He was tried, He was "touched;" He felt under trials as we do. He then can enter into our feelings and sympathise with us. In this one indignant saying, we see the bosom of Jesus throbbing with feelings that are all our own.

III. HIS STRANGE FORBEARANCE TOWARDS THE TRANSGRESSOR. Twice in Scripture we find examples of insult and injury like this (Jeremiah 20:1-4; Acts 23:1-4). In both these cases, as in our text, these men of God resented the wanton outrage done to them. But while they resented the wrong, they denounced vengeance against the wrong-doers. But here, though the outrage was as great, and the dignity of the outraged far greater, He denounced no woe against the offender, He spared him if perchance he might repent and be converted. Perhaps that officer a few weeks later heard Peter on the day of Pentecost. How great was the forbearance of Christ! How assured is the hope of welcome still to each returning sinner!

1. The sin and shame of the man who strikes Jesus. Terrible was the sin of this man. But you say, "We have not been — we cannot be — guilty of sin like this." Yes we may be — most of us have been. How so?(1) At every blow we have struck at any of His disciples the Lord has said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"(2) Every wilful sin is an injury done to Him. Our sins put Him to open shame and make His wounds to bleed afresh.

(W. Grant.)

It is marvellous that any man could smite Jesus. Invested as He was with all power and authority, the daring audacity of the miscreant in smiting Jesus is most astounding.

1. It might have been thought that fear would have withheld man from smiting Him. He who had quelled the fierce tempest with the word of His mouth was not one to be smitten. He who had spoken to the very devils, causing them to rush terror-striken out of those whom they had possessed, exclaiming, "What have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us?" The worm fortifying himself against the Almighty! With one breath He could have hurled him into eternity.

2. It were reasonable to suppose that respect would have restrained him. This One received the obedience and homage of every creature. Was it not reasonable to expect that they should "respect the Son," though they had beaten some of the servants and cast stones at others, while they had killed some and shamefully handled others: disrespecting all? Verily, we would expect the Son should be respected. He was the meekest and gentlest that ever trod our earth. He could have gone amongst the young unicorns, not one would have butted Him; the most furious dogs would not have moved their tongues against Him. There was not a bear that would have put its paw on Him; nor a lion that would have put its claw on Him. He was the Second Adam with no more enmity in any creature against Him than there was against Adam before his fall. And no creature would have smitten Him except man.

3. It might have been expected that gratitude would have stayed the man from committing such an act. Here stood the greatest Benefactor the world ever beheld. He came here loaded with gifts. Are there not sufficient about to strike to-day? The Powers of Darkness will smite with all their force to-day. The Powers of Darkness will come out against Me this day; but that is not surprising. I also came out against them. Hell is going to strike the blow in its own defence. Its arm is raised against an enemy. But why dost thou smite Me? I am come forth in thy favour, defence, interest. I am thy Friend. The law is going to strike to-day. But I am about to stand in a position in which it cannot avoid smiting Me. Justice unsheaths (whets) its sword to strike to-day. But Justice is armed with authority to strike. Who gave to thee this authority. My Father is going to strike. It pleaseth the Lord to bruise Me. I am to be smitten of God and afflicted. But there are eternal benefits to result from this. I am to be stricken for the transgressions of men, and to be bruised for their iniquities. But myriads shall be healed with these stripes, and this chastisement will prove the peace of many. But why dost thou smite Me? Whilst many stand amazed at the cruelty of this man in smiting Christ in the court, there are thousands amongst us who treat Him in precisely the same manner.That doeth the backslider daily.

1. It was the rashness of the high priest's servant, fired by his zeal for his master, which incited him to strike the blow. But the backslider smites Christ in cool blood, taking care to find the most tender spot; he smites Him "in the apple of His eye."

2. The high priest's servant smote Him but once. But many a man persists in striking blow after blow. The moment He is up he strikes again, keeping Him down continually: He is at this moment trampled under his feet!

3. This official struck the Lord in his ignorance. Had he known Him he would not have thus treated Him. The backslider can have no doubt respecting Him. Wilfully does he strike Him after receiving a knowledge of the truth.Being once enlightened he puts the Son of God to an open shame "Why dost thou smite Him?"

1. Has He not been sufficiently smitten? Dost thou wish to add to His wounds?

2. Do not smite Him more. Forbear, lest He be angry, lest His wrath be kindled but a little; for should He strike thou shalt perish from the way. No blow destroys a man until He smites.

3. Extend thy hand to Him. Tell Him thou art sorry, and that thou wilt never smite Him again. Do this, and He will forgive all thy former blows.

(David Roberts, D. D.)

The narrative shows —


1. With inveterate prejudice.

2. With licentious violence.

3. With hypocritical pretences.


1. With undaunted firmness.

2. With unruffled patience. From the whole learn —

(1)What to expect.

(2)How to act.

(C. Simeon.)

When Henry Martyn was at Shirez, in Persia, translating the New Testament, he seems to have been delighted with the following incident, which he notices in his journal (June 28, 1811): — "The poor boy while writing how one of the servants of the high priest struck the Lord in the face, stopped and said, 'Sir, did not his hand dry up?'"

King Croesus had a son who was dumb all his days until the siege of Sardis, when, seeing a Persian soldier rush to strike the king, this dumb son of his found his voice, and cried, "Man, kill not Croesus!" This burst of anguish broke the impediment, and he spoke for the first time in his life. As I enter into the spirit of the fact, and seem to see a contemptible slave strike the face of Jesus, a fiery sting strikes my own face, I feel my heart burst, and my brow burn; it seems to me that had I been dumb, and a witness of this deed, I should have spoken out! So any Christian is ready to say.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

Bryardine, a missionary to Grenoble, was enforcing the duty of forgiving our enemies, when he perceived that a large portion of his audience consisted of soldiers. Anxious to denounce duelling, and seeing that the military were strongly excited, he said, "Perhaps some high-spirited soldier burns to ask how a humble missionary can even conceive how a man of honour feels when he has been outraged by a blow? I am prepared to confess that I know not what those feelings are; and my knowledge is derived from a book that describes the worst of all insults with an indignation at least equal to what modern honour can inspire. I have been taught by my Bible how a blow may be felt, and how it should be resented. The Bible informs me that the Saviour of the world, without a murmur against His executioners, submitted to all that could embitter the agonies of death. It was not until He received a blow that He condescended to open His mouth. And what said He then? Let the Bible tell us, and let the duellist, if he can, surpass the example.

In the Christian combat, not the striker, as in the Olympian contest, but he who is struck, wins the crown. This is the law in the celestial theatre, where angels are the lookers-on.

( Chrysostom.)

Did not I see thee in the garden with Him?
I. A GREAT PRIVILEGE. To be with Christ.

1. In the garden of the heart, enjoying His love (John 14:23; Revelation 3:20).

2. In the garden of Gethsemane having fellowship with Him in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13).

3. In the garden of the Church, communing with Him in the ordinances of religion (Matthew 18:20; Solomon's Song of Solomon 1:4).


1. Upon the believer in this situation the world's eye rests with minute observation: it sees the individual in the garden (Acts 4:13).

2. Concerning the believer in this situation the world's mind cherishes enlarged expectations, it anticipates that a Christian will neither be ashamed of nor deny his Lord (John 13:35).

3. To the believer in this situation the world's tongue often puts troublesome questions: it asks him to give a reason for the hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15), and to tell the truth at all risks concerning himself and his Master.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

These words are fitted to remind us of —

I. THE STRONG CLAIMS WHICH JESUS HAS ON OUR LOVE AND SERVICE. The garden! what solemn and interesting associations does the word recall! The very mention of it brings before us the whole train of events on the night of the Redeemer's betrayal. Yet the mere severity of the suffering endured, however much it might awaken our pity, could not command our allegiance, if it were not for the fact that it was endured for us. It was sacrificial woe. Remorse could not have caused it, for He had done no sin. Neither could the fear of death, for to suppose that is to put the Master beneath the level of many of His own martyr followers. No! "The chastisement of our peace" was upon Him, and He was bearing those stripes by which we are to be healed. He was making His soul an offering for sin. Never does sin appear so sinful as it does in Gethsemane. When you are tempted, think of the garden. Will you repay Him with ingratitude, who suffered for you there and thus? Can sin ever seem to you again a trivial thing, when you know that its weight, when laid upon the Christ, wrung out of Him such tears and agonies?

II. THE PRIVILEGES WHICH WE HAVE ENJOYED FROM CHRIST. Peter must have been especially touched by it in this. He might not know the full significance of the Saviour's agony; but he could not fail to remember that he had been one of those who were chosen to accompany Him as far as man could go into the depths of His anguish, and that again would bring back the memory of those other occasions on which, with James and John by his side, he had stood with the Master. He had thus been favoured not merely with the privilege of a common disciple, but with special tokens of his Lord's regard. Ah! little wonder that, as these memories crowded upon him, he went out and wept. But have not we received privileges from Jesus almost as great as those which Peter enjoyed? Shall it then be said that He has chosen us out of the world and given us the blessings of salvation, and yet that we blush to acknowledge Him before our fellows? Ye that have been in the garden with the Lord, see to it that ye forget not the privileges He there conferred upon you, and, above all, beware of the guilt of him who turned his privilege into a curse, for "Judas also which betrayed Him knew the place."

III. THE PROTESTATIONS OF ATTACHMENT WHICH WE HAVE MADE TO CHRIST. Again and again Peter had declared, that though all men should deny the Lord, he would not, and in the garden itself he had shown his zeal in his Master's defence; but where are his love and courage now? Let him that is without sin in this respect cast the first stone at the fallen apostle. You have made declarations as sincere as Peter's, yet where were they, when you joined men in turning religion into ridicule? when before a slight temptation you fell back into your old sin? It is an easy thing to work up a sensational effervescence of feeling, and to sing ourselves into apparent enthusiasm about Jesus and His love, but mere emotion is only the prelude to a fall like Peter's. The divorce between religion and life is one of the deadliest heresies of our times. Men would lock up religion in the Sabbath and the Church; but so confined, she will pine away and die. It is better that you should never enter the garden with the Lord than that you should enter it to betray Him with a kiss.

IV. THAT EVEN THE UNGODLY EXPECT A CERTAIN CONDUCT FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN WITH JESUS IN THE GARDEN. The high priest's servant looked for something better than this fiat denial. So the unconverted expect that professing Christians should be better than themselves. They do the gospel the honour of believing that if men acted according to its principles they would be lofty in their aims, pure in their motives, and upright in their actions; and when a man professes to be a Christian, they look to see the proof in his character and conduct. The very charge of inconsistency which they so often bring against those who call themselves by the name of Christ is a tacit homage to the gospel.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

I. THE CHRISTIAN'S PRIVILEGE. The disciples were little aware of the greatness of the occasion when Christ went into the garden for the last time. He made that place henceforth sacred to sorrow, devotion and love.

1. Some opportunities come to us but once in life; if not improved they pass for ever. Noah was in the ark only once. The three Hebrews were in the furnace only once. Paul was but once caught up into the third heaven. So the disciples were called only once to witness such sorrow in Gethsemane.

2. Theirs was a very enviable distinction. It is delightful to be made the sharer of the joys of a friend, to partake with him in the bright honours of a triumph; but the truest proof of friendship is when you are selected to possess his confidence in the hour of adversity. Your ear alone receives the secret; your arm alone is sought for a support. Christ showed His disciples His need of them. Surely this was an enviable portion.

3. They showed themselves miserably unworthy. Christ had to rebuke those who were so highly favoured. Christians have now privileges which they fail to appreciate — the Word, the Spirit, Divine dealings. There are seasons which it requires grace to improve, as seasons of affliction. It is sad to lose a mercy, but worse to allow trial to pass unsanctified.


1. The worldly. The kinsman of Malchus had good reason for remembering Peter, and Peter had reason to dread the recognition. This accounts for Peter's efforts to clear himself. Worldly men are sometimes malicious observers, glad to see Christians go wrong; but often they like to see something better than they realise, and are disappointed when Christians go wrong. All society has a real interest in the elevation of the standard of morals. The world generally only despises what is despicable in character. It dislikes pretence, sanctimoniousness, narrowness, readiness to lengthen the creed and shorten the decalogue.

2. Fellow Christians. Other disciples knew what Peter did, and had to sorrow. The Church has a property in every member, and is always pained when any walk inconsistently.Conclusion:

1. We are answerable for the effect of our character and example upon those who walk around. We are to walk in wisdom towards them that are without. The spies discouraged others. Often Christians do the same now.

2. We should so live as to lead others to admire the results of being in the garden with Jesus. The Jews took knowledge of the disciples that they had been with Jesus.

3. Let us beware lest we bring upon us the rebuke of the world. Why should it say in scorn, "Did I not see thee," &c.

(R. Tuck, B. A.)

Straightway the cock crew.
The rail diverges but a little where the switches are turned, but before long the branch line is miles away from the main track. Backslide a little and you are on the way to utter apostasy. The mother of mischief is small as a midge's egg: hatch it, and you shall see an evil bird larger than an ostrich. The least wrong has in it an all but infinity of evil. You cannot say to sin, "Hitherto shelf thou go, and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." Like the sea when the dyke is broken, it stretches forth its hand to grasp all the surrounding country. The beginning of sin is like the beginning of strife, and that is said to be as the letting out of water: no man knows what a flood may come when once the banks are burst.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Then led they Jesus... to the Hall of Judgment.
I. COMMON. How many religionists are afraid to enter certain places lest they should receive a taint! Papists stand aloof from all Protestant scenes of worship; Protestants from Catholics; Anglicans from Nonconformists; Dissenters from Episcopal. Who are these men of spurious sanctity? Are they lawyers who never take advantage of their clients; merchants who never practise dishonesty on their customers; doctors who never impose on their patients; servants who never cheat their masters; aristocrats who are never haughty and licentious? I trow not. The chances are that they belong to those classes. For no order had Christ a profounder contempt, "Woe unto you," &c.

II. IRRATIONAL. It is founded on an absurd idea of —

1. Localities — it presupposes that some places are more holy than others. Is St. Peter's holier than St. Paul's? or St. Paul's than any other sanctuary? Nay, every spot is "holy ground" since God made it, and is prisent with it. True, the purpose for which a certain place has bee set apart may be good or bad, but the place is the same.

2. Human obligation. It supposes that a man is bound to be more holy in one place or time than in another, more holy in church, and on the Sabbath, than elsewhere on any other day — a preposterous fiction. Man, though of complex elements, is but one being and moral in all. "Whatever he does" is bound to be to "the glory of God."

3. Mind. It supposes that the mind is some passive substance that can be defiled by some outward element or agent irrespective of its own choice and effort — a piece of stone you can daub or wash. But it is not so. Nothing outward can effect the mind independently of itself. It can make itself filthy in scenes and services supposed to be the most holy; it can keep itself pure in places the most vile. The body when in a healthy state can appropriate everything that is necessary from nature and to expel what is pernicious. The soul has a power analogous to this. Let us use it as Noah did, who amidst a foul generation "walked with God," and fulfilled a noble destiny; as Paul used it at sceptical Athens or dissolute Corinth, and who proved that "all things work together for good," &c.


1. It is a positive injury to its subject. The religionist who moves about the world with the dread of having his soul defiled, is like a man who enters a sick room afraid of inbreathing disease. He is nervous, and loses his brightness and buoyancy. The spurious saint lacks naturalness and elasticity of soul. Afraid of being defiled, he shuns the scenes of innocent recreation, and trembles all over in the presence of schismatics and heretics.

2. It is a calumny on true religion. The religion of Christ is happiness, and these spurious saints are the greatest obstructions to the progress of Christianity.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. SCRUPLES. The Jewish hierarchs were afraid of —

1. Ceremonial defilement. Good! they had not otherwise been faithful Jews.

2. Exclusion from the feast. Good again! it was a mark of true religion to observe the ordinances.

II. NO SCRUPLES. The rulers were not afraid —

1. To send in Christ to Pilate's house. They could not risk contamination, but he might, if indeed He could be more defiled then he already was.

2. To plot the murder of the Son of God. Yet they were the leaders of religious society in their day! Heaven's favourites if any were. Lesson: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The sentence is an extraordinary example of the false scrupulosity of conscience which a wicked man may keep up, about forms and ceremonies and trifling externals in religion, at the very time he is deliberately committing some gross and enormous sin. The notorious fact that Italian bandits and murderers will make much of fasting, keeping Lent, confession, absolution, Virgin Mary worship, saint worship, and image worship, at the very time when they are arranging robberies and assassinations, is an accurate illustration of the same principle. The extent to which formality and wickedness can go side by side is frightful, and little known. The Jews were afraid of being defiled by going into a Gentile's house, at the very moment when they were doing the devil's work, and murdering the Prince of Life! Just so, many people in England will attach immense importance to fasting and keeping lent and attending saints'-day services, while they see no harm in going to races, operas, and balls, at other times! Persons who have very low notions about the Seventh Commandment, will actually tell you it is wrong to be married in Lent! The very same persons who totally disregard Sunday abroad will make much ado about saints'-days at home! Absurd strictness about Lent, and excess of riot and licentiousness in carnival, will often go together. Peele remarks, "Nothing is more common than for persons over zealous about rituals to be remiss about morals."

(Bp. Ryle.)

How much more particular men are to seem clean outside than to be clean inside. Very few men, or women, will go to church in their working dress, or with untidy garments of any sort; but a great many men and women will go to church without any mental or spiritual preparation for the services there. Ten times more attention is commonly paid on a Sunday morning to blacking boots, and to arranging hair, and to putting on one's best clothing in the showiest way, than to family prayers and to private devotions, in "getting ready for church." It is a very rare thing for a person to go to church without washing the face and hands in advance of the start from home. It is not as rare for one to go to church without an attempt to clean up — inside. Very often a mother will tell a teacher that her little boy or little girl doesn't come to Sunday school because of a lack of decent clothing. More rarely does a mother admit that her boy or girl is so viciously disposed as to endanger the morals of the other scholars in her child's class. Is there such a great difference, after all, in the spirit of our neighbours — not to include ourselves — nowadays, and the spirit of those Jews who would plan to crucify Jesus, but would shrink from going to their religious services with soiled hands and defiled garments?

(H. C. Trumbull.)

In Sir Fowell Buxton's account of his visit to the prison at Civita Vecchia (Life, c. 29.) may be found the following curious illustration: — "It is odd enough that Gasparoni is very religious now: he fasts not only on Friday, but adds a supererogatory Saturday... But, curious as his theology now is, it is still more strange that, according to his own account, he was always a very religious man. I asked him whether he had fasted when he was a bandit? He said, 'yes,' 'Why did you fast?' said I. 'Perche sono della religions della Madonna. 'Which did you think was the worst, eating meat on a Friday or killing a man?' He answered without hesitation, 'In my case it was a crime not to fast, it was no crime to kill those who came to betray me.' With all his present religion, however, he told the Mayor of the town the other day, that if he got loose, the first thing he would do would be to cut the throats of all the priests: and the Mayor said in this he perfectly believed him, and if he were now to break out, he would be ten times worse than ever. One fact, however, shows some degree of scrupulosity. The people of the country bear testimony that he never committed murder on a Friday!"

Pilate then went out.
is introduced without any further characterization as a well-known personage, the name Pontius Pilate showing that he was connected with the Geus Pontia, and that one of his ancestors or himself had received the cognomen Pilatus, adorned or furnished with a javelin (Virgil AEn. 12:121), on account of meritorious services. Called "the governor" (Matthew 27:2; Tacit. Ann.15:44), he was the fifth Roman procurator of Judaea, his predecessors having been Caponius, Marcus Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valereius Gratus. Pilate had held the office for ten years during the reign of Tiberius. His arbitrary conduct in introducing Caesar's ensigns into Jerusalem, and in bringing water into the city for which he paid with money belonging to the Temple, led to successive risings amongst his subjects (Jos. "Ant." and "Wars"). Philo accuses him of "bribery, violence, robbery, cruelty, insult, continual executions without semblance of justice, endless and unendurable atrocities." If this, perhaps, as the testimony of an enemy is too strong, it is certain that Pilate was a Roman governor of the regulation type, who acted without the slightest regard for the peculiarities (especially religious) of the provinces over which he ruled, and punished every opposition to his arbitrary conduct with the greatest severity. It would not be easy to find another man so well fitted to drive the Jewish nation to desperation. Accused before Vitellus, the preces of Syria, he was deposed, and sent to Rome to answer for his administration.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Pilate was a thorough and complete type of the later-Roman man of the world. Stern, but not relentless — shrewd and world-worn — prompt and practical — haughtily just — and yet, as the early writers correctly observed, self seeking and cowardly — able to perceive what was right, but without moral strength to follow it out — the Procurator of Judaea stands forth a sad and terrible instance of a man whom the fear of endangered self-interest drove not only to act against the deliberate convictions of his heart and conscience, but further to commit an act of cruelty and injustice, even after those convictions had been deepened by warnings and strengthened by presentiment.

(Bp. Ellicott.)


1. The place — the praetorium or palace of Pilate.

2. The time — Friday morning, after day-break.

3. The prisoner — Jesus sentenced and bound.

4. The prosecutors.

(1)Their personal dignity — the Jews, members of the Sanhedrim, through their servants and the soldiers.

(2)Their religious scruples.

(3)Their murderous zeal — hurrying before the governor with their victim at the first approach of dawn (Proverbs 1:16).

5. The judge — Pilate.

(1)His office — procurator or governor of Judaea.

(2)His character — unjust, tyrannical and cruel.


1. An indictment demanded (ver. 29). Pilate's motive may have been —

(1)Contempt of the Jews.

(2)Pity for Jesus, or —

(3)Respect for Roman law (cf. Acts 25:16).

2. An evasion attempted (ver. 30). A formal indict ment was —(1) Not convenient for the Jewish leaders. To have asserted that they had condemned Jesus as a blasphemer for calling Himself God's Son, to a heathen like Pilate, familiar with the notion of God's appearing on the earth, would probably have led to Jesus' liberation as a harmless fanatic, as well as to their expulsion from the judgment seat (Acts 18:16). Hence they urged that it was —(2) Not necessary for the governor. The circumstance that they had come to him was proof enough that Christ was no mere every-day offender.

3. A concession offered (ver. 31). Pilate was unwilling to accede to their illegality and to stoop before their insolence. If he was to be executioner he must also be the judge; if they were to be the judges they could be their own headsmen, and withdraw the case from Roman jurisdiction altogether, and finish it up at their own tribunals. Pilate saw that the Jewish hierarchs intended murder, for which he was not inclined, and with exquisite irony, knowing their impotence to inflict death, tells them to go as far as their law will allow.

4. An admission made (ver. 31). Brought to bay, the human sleuth hounds were obliged to divulge their secret, viz., that they intended to take the life of their victim, but could not do so without his assistance.


1. The purpose of Pilate fixed. He would not stir without an accusation.

2. The design of the Jews frustrated. They had purposed to cut their prisoner off without troubling the world with any explanation of His offences.

3. The counsel of God fulfilled (ver. 32).Lessons:

1. The debasement of conscience seen in the Jewish hierarchs.

2. The instincts of justice, operating even in a bad man — exemplified in Pilate.

3. The impossibility of defeating God's counsel — observed in the actions of both.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

THE FIRST APPEAL (ver. 29). What response was made (ver. 30)? Here we have —

1. Baseless calumny. "If He were not aa evil-doer — meaning that that was a well-attested fact. But what evil had He done? The calumny was implied rather than expressed, and thus it generally works. Assuming wrong in the character traduced, it expresses it in oblique innuendo, a nod of the head, a shrug of the shoulders," &c.

2. Arrogated superiority. "If he had not," &c., we could not have done such a thing — so vital is our sympathy with rectitude — we, oh no, not for the world. There is a good deal of social influence in arrogated superiority. Let a man assume that he is a great thinker, or scholar, or pre-eminently holy, and credulous fools will believe him. As a rule our contemporaries take us not for what we are, but for what we assume to be.

3. Crouching sychophancy. "To thee" — the great judge — deeming it an honour to Pilate. Corrupt men always work out their best designs by crawling servility to men in power.

II. THE SECOND APPEAL (ver. 31). The response showed that —

1. They were animated by a mortal malice — nothing but Christ's death would satisfy them.

2. Thus mortal malice was restrained by Providence.(1) Public law. They would have inflicted capital punishment had not the law taken away that power.(2) A Divine decree (ver. 32). Had it been left to the Jews, Christ would have been stoned. Sinners live under a grand system of restraints, otherwise the world would be a Pandemonium.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Then Pilate entered into the Judgment Hall again.
The text is connected with the strangest scene ever witnessed in a court of justice since the world began. Much has been said and written concerning Pilate's conduct on this occasion. He has been represented as weak, unjust, and vacillating. The condemnation of ages rests upon his memory. With all this we must concur. We cannot, however, less than perceive that he was anxious on the whole to do what was right; he would have been only too glad to set the prisoner free; in delivering Him to be crucified, he gave way to popular clamour against his own express convictions. Let us bear in mind that Christ submitted to be tried before Pilate of His own accord; it was His own voluntary act; there was no power in the universe that could have compelled Him to undergo such humiliation as this. Let us remember also what is even more important, that Christ is on His trial still; not as a culprit before Pilate, but as one who seeks admission to every human heart. Now, it has occurred to me, that the conduct of Pilate at this trial may serve to illustrate the conduct of many to whom the gospel is now preached.

I. THE QUESTION OF CHRIST. "Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?" Setting aside the immediate reference of this question, let us turn to ourselves; by so doing we may learn two important lessons.

1. The danger of relying upon others in matters affecting the soul's welfare. The voice of the gospel to every one who inquires after the way of salvation is this: "Sayest thou this thing of thyself?" And this implies the possibility of our making religion the subject of our investigations, without being thoroughly awakened to its unspeakable importance in connection with ourselves. Bat there is another and larger class of men who belong to neither of these classes — men who approach religion neither as men of the world nor as philosophers — men who conform to religious forms and observances simply because they are fashionable.

2. The necessity of acting upon our own convictions in these matters. Tills is suggested by the very tone of the question, "Sayest thou this thing of thyself?" We cannot serve God acceptably unless we obey the promptings of our own hearts, the dictates of our own consciences, the persuasions of our own minds. Though good works are beautiful in themselves, still, that which gives them their real value is the willingness, the heartiness, the thoroughness with which they are performed. We cannot help wondering in our serious moments that religion, which is confessedly of the highest importance to man, whether as a sojourner in this world or as a citizen of the world to come, should be made so little of in our daily life. All this shows how necessary it is that the question of our Saviour should be brought home to every one of us — "Sayest thou this thing of thyself?" As far as we are personally concerned, it matters not so much what others may think, or say, or do; our chief business is to search our own hearts. I believe that much of our inconsistency — that glaring discrepancy between profession and practice — may be traced to the lack of honest self-examination.


1. An unwarrantable assertion of superiority. "Am I a Jew?" These words sound very like an expression of scorn. To be thought a Jew would have been, in Pilate's estimation, little less than an insult. He was a Roman, a member of the race which then ruled the world, and therefore resented the very idea of being numbered among a despised and conquered people. You cannot have failed to observe the air of self-assurance with which some people nowadays speak of religion. They seem to take for granted, that to be religious is to be weak, ignorant, and superstitious. They consider their own godlessness to be an unmistakable proof of wisdom. From the vaunted pedestal upon which they stand, they look down upon those who endeavor to serve God, as the misguided victims of priestcraft and fanaticism. Their irreligiousness is their pride, their infidelity is their boast, their forgetfulness of God is their glory; to be influenced for a moment by purely religious motives they would regard as a disgrace. They are not "Jews" — not they! They are not religious — not they! but they are something better — they are philosophers, they are adepts in science, they are well-informed and accomplished men of the world! But how hollow such pretensions are, after all! The universal testimony of the best, the wisest, and most experienced of mankind is this: that religion alone is true wisdom; that they who fear God and keep His commandments occupy the most satisfactory position, both as regards time and eternity.

2. An unwarrantable assumption of indifference. "Am I a Jew?" Pilate seemed to argue, that since he was not a Jew, the question whether Christ was a king or not, was one which did not affect him. In claiming to be the Messiah, Christ made Himself King, not only of the Jews, but of the whole world. We frequently meet men who talk of religion as something which concerns everybody but themselves. They forsooth lead a kind of independent existence; being attached to no religious community — being interested in no religious faith. To every human being it is of infinite consequence whether the Christian religion be true or not. For if it be true, what hope can that man have who refuses to embrace it? And if it be false, what hope is there left for the restoration of our fallen race?

3. An unwarrantable renunciation of responsibility. "Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me," In these words, and indeed all through the trial, Pilate endeavours to cast upon others the whole of the responsibility connected with the condemnation of Christ.

(D. Rowlands, B. A.)


1. Its occasion. Pilate having demanded an accusation, the whole company began to accuse Christ of perverting the nation from its allegiance, forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He is a King (Luke 23:1). The Jewish leaders, surmising that Pilate would ask an indictment, had pro-arranged to say nothing about the blasphemy, but to trump up a charge of treason.

2. Its motive. Pilate wished to ascertain the truth.

3. Its reception. Instead of answering, Christ inquired who had prompted the question (ver. 34), so as to know how to reply. If Pilate had asked spontaneously, Christ would have understood that he meant king in a political sense; if the Jews had suggested the question then the word would probably have a theocratic import. On the former hypothesis, Christ's answer would be No! in the latter, Yes!

4. Its vindication. Pilate had not put the question of his own accord. He would never have dreamed of troubling about Christ or His pretensions. Christ's own people had placed Him at the bar (ver. 35) — constructive evidence that He had done something wrong.

5. Its repetition. If He had not committed treason, what other wickedness could have so roused the ire of His countrymen (ver. 35).


1. His kingdom (ver. 36). Setting forth

(1)Its origin — heavenly.

(2)Its nature — spiritual.

(3)Its character — peaceful.

(4)Its members — Christ's servants, sons of the truth (ver. 37).

2. His kingship. Announcing —

(1)His pre-temporal existence (cf John 6:28).

(2)His supernatural birth. He who had been before all time had been "born."

(3)His Divine mission — to bear witness to the truth.

(4)His loyal subjects.


1. Astonishment (ver. 37) —

(1)That one so abject should think himself a king.

(2)That one so forlorn should speak of servants.

(3)That one so defenceless should even entertain the idea of "fighting."

2. Scepticism. What is truth? (ver. 38). The language of —

(1)Insincere inquiry.

(2)Contemptuous indifference.

(3)Open infidelity. Truth, in Pilate's judgment, was a phantom.

3. Rejection. It was Pilate's day of grace; it passed and never returned.Learn —

1. The grace of our Lord who, though a King, stooped to be treated as a criminal.

2. His majesty, which in His lowest humiliation Pilate could not fail to recognise.

3. His Divinity.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

I. CHRIST'S REPLY TO PILATE'S ADDRESS (vers. 33-34): given to warn Pilate not to be prejudiced against Him on account of reckless charges. "Sayest thou this," &c., appeals —

1. To the infidel —(1) When he objects to the Divinity of the Bible. Does he cavil against its difficulties on hearsay, or because he has honestly investigated the subject for himself. Think for thyself.(2) When he objects to the doctrines of the Bible. Does he dilate on the absurdity of the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection after independent examination?

2. To preachers. When you hear men talk nonsense, and advocate, reprobation, &c., ask them this question.


1. A haughty scorn that is always contemptible. "Am I a Jew?" Do you suppose I belong to that despised race? There is a noble scorn for all that is mean and false; but to scorn birth is despicable. Albeit it is common, although men like Garfield have a moral splendour beside which that of aristocracy pales. Oh, Pilate with all thy disdain there were greater ones in Palestine than in Rome — Moses, David, Solomon, Paul!

2. A judicial procedure that is commendable. "Thine own nation," &c. With their miserable prejudices I do not concern myself; let me hear the truth from Thine own lips. Common sense and justice tell us that in all cases the prisoner ought to be thus treated. But to the disgrace of our law courts the mouth of the accused is closed.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

What hast Thou done?
It was a question perhaps partly of pity, partly of contempt. Soon he was asking another question, half in sadness, half in jest — "What is truth?" To neither question was the Roman to have an answer. Yet —

I. THERE WERE SOME WHO COULD HAVE TOLD PILATE "HE HATH DONE ALL THINGS WELL." Had he asked the question in the city streets, there would have come to him a woman, once the despised and insulted of her sex, and she would have told how her life had been one of disgrace and misery, and how He had given her new life, new hope, new aims. If he had asked his question in certain homes, the answer would have been, "Thanks be to God, He gave me my sight; whereas I was blind, now I see." If the question had been put in the home at Bethany, the answer would have been, "There was sadness and the shadow of death over our home; but Jesus came to us and turned our darkness into light, and called our brother back to us." Many a prodigal son would have borne witness that he had wandered from home, and come to want and misery and how Jesus had told him that he might arise, and go to his Father.

II. WE MAY ASK THAT QUESTION NOW AFTER NEARLY NINETEEN CENTURIES OF CHRISTIANITY. Christ has conquered the world by the power of His Cross, even as He said, "I, it I be lifted up," &c.

1. Lofty and lowly alike have been drawn to Him. Charles V., the mighty Emperor died saying, "Lord, I come." The poor cottager passes away with the murmured prayer, "Hold Thou Thy Cross before my closing eyes." Lately, a poor man, fatally injured on the Thames, said with his last breath, "Put me to sleep," strong in the faith of Him who said, "If he sleep he shall do well."

2. Jesus has made men, and women, and tender children strong by faith to suffer, to bear hardship, and loss, and insult, and death for His name's sake. It was this faith in Jesus which made one of our Arctic explorers — a godly old sailor — say, when asked about the dangers of his voyage, "The ice was strong, but the love of Christ was stronger."


1. Grasp the great truth — Jesus has died for me, to redeem me from my sins. How lightly some of us speak those awful words — Christ died for me! We have not felt all that they mean. There was a poor ignorant man who had heard something of the love of Jesus when a child, but as a man had lived without God in the world. The only thing he cared for was his dog, and by and by he was unable to pay the tax, and was told he must pay, or get rid of the dog; so he determined to drown his faithful companion. Arriving at the waterside, the man seized the dog, and in spite of its pleading looks cast it into the river, and held it down, even beating its head with a stone. Suddenly he over-balanced himself, and fell forwards into the deep water. There, as he sank helpless for the last time, he felt himself seized, and dragged towards the shore, and on reaching it he found it was his dog, with bleeding head and sad, loving eyes, which had saved his life. On the sick bed, from which he never rose, that rough, half-heathen man told the story of his rescue, and how the devotion of the dog had brought to his mind for the first time the love of Jesus in saving those who were His murderers.

2. And more than this, Jesus lives to make intercession for us, to grant us forgiveness, &c.

IV. WHAT HAST THOU DONE FOR HIM? Have you ever given anything to Jesus, who gives all to you? Have you brought of your gifts like the wise men, love, pure as gold, worship, fragrant as incense, self-sacrifice bitter as myrrh? Or, instead, have you tried to drag Jesus to Calvary? Every time we sin deliberately, we are trying to crucify the Lord Jesus afresh. Rembrandt painted his own portrait among the faces of those who were taking the Saviour down from the cross.

(H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)

My kingdom is not of this world.
I. ITS NATURE. "Not of this world," because —

1. It is spiritual. Utterly unlike those shifting, earthly sovereignties which are founded in arms, maintained by policy, and passed, by death, from one hand to another; or to that rude and turbulent anarchy, which has often cast down and destroyed nations. Throughout our Lord's ministrations, He never would employ force at all. From the first, He was careful to teach that the weapons of the Christian warfare are not carnal, that the wrath of man would never work the righteousness of God. "Not by might, nor by power," &c.

2. The setting up of this kingdom in any individual heart is related to the principle of an invisible administration, to the transference of service from one unseen master to another, so that our sinful bondage may be broken and a spiritual freedom gained, which the world indeed seeth not nor can see. "Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us," &c. Messiah has no born subjects, no hereditary followers; His servants are all the redeemed from a bondage which, until the day of His power came upon them, they have no power to throw off. The fact is important as showing that the affairs of the spiritual kingdom, though administered by an omnipotent hand, are yet administered only in harmony with the conditions of our moral liberty. Christ will not have forced subjects.

3. The influences which tend to its growth and establishment, come not of observation, can never be understood by the world, but do their work silently, secretly, making a sort of life within a life, A life hid with Christ in God.

4. In this world, even to the spiritual eye, the sight of its glorious realities cannot be shown. Visions of the King in His beauty are not for this earthly state: we must wait for the day of His appearing. "Now we see only through a glass darkly."


1. The means by which Christ's subjects are brought into this kingdom are not of this world. Christ uses no force, bribes or guile. He makes us so willing that on His drawing them they run after Him. What is the agency which works in the heart? It is the power of love; the remnants of a better nature appealed to to say whether such a Saviour should be slighted by anybody with a heart at all?

2. There are laws and statutes by which the spiritual government is carried on. These are not like those which belong to a kingdom of this world — confined to the outward life, to the loyalties of an external obedience, and the homage of the lip and knee. The empire of Christ is over the heart, and is satisfied with nothing but the casting down of heart pride, and the rooting out of heart sin, and the maintaining of heart-allegiance and duty. And Christ claims to have the ordering of our whole inner life; to give the law to conscience, the rule to the judgment, the choice to our wills, to direct the current of our affections, and to fashion the course of our lives. And He thus maintains His dominion over us.

3. Christ has chastisements for those who infringe the laws of His kingdom; but they are not like the chastisements of this world, nor are they administered after the same capricious and uncertain rule. "There is a 'needs be' for this chastening. Christ sees something in us which WE see not — something that hinders repentance, love, prayer."

4. The rewards are not of this world, by which we are urged to become His subjects. The world has no part in this; does not even understand it; the peace of God — the consolations of Christ — the fellowship of the Spirit — the justified and unburdened conscience — the tranquil delights of devotion — death and the great future contemplated without dismay. Our experience belonging to the kingdom of the invisible, "we look not," says the Apostle, "on the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen." Unseen triumphs, an unseen King; the unseen rewards of the righteous when they shall sit with Christ upon His throne.Conclusion:

1. In this world Christians are not unfrequently afflicted and poor people, esteemed lightly and uncared for. How comforting is the thought that there is a King to protect and bless and defend them.

2. As children of the kingdom, Christ has a special property in us. The name He has given to us — the blood He has shed for us — the victories He has won for us — the agencies He has set up for us in His Word and sacraments, are all so many pledges that He will never leave us.

3. Christ is a King, then, but He is a spiritual king. Whether we look at the individual or the collective triumphs of His kingdom, we cannot find out the law of success. We scatter the incorruptible seed, but we know not whether shall prosper, this or that. No account can be given why to this man the message is blessed, and to that man it should fail; why to this it should be a savour of life unto life; to that a savour of death unto death. All is spiritual, unseen. When the word prospers we see nothing but the fruits, and these are developed often secretly, slowly silently.

(D. Moore, M. A.)


1. Providential.

2. Mediatorial.

II. WHAT KIND OF A KINGDOM? It differs from worldly kingdoms —

1. In pomp and glory.

2. In its subjects.

3. Rule.

4. Homage.

5. Weapons.

6. Privileges.

7. Penalties.


1. All their business is transacted in the court of Christ.

2. They are free.

3. They have free trade with heaven.

4. Right to all the Saviour's ordinances.

5. His protection.

6. Will be victorious.


1. Because He would confound the wisdom of the world.

2. Because He delights to exercise the graces of His saints.

3. That His power and wisdom may appear more glorious.

(J. Burroughs.)

I. WHAT DOES CHRIST MEAN BY THE TERM "MY KINGDOM"? It means the empire Christ came to found on earth, or in other words, the Church which He purchased with His blood. Although our Lord came on earth as Man, and that a poor, sorrowful, despised one, yet did He come commissioned from heaven to found an empire which should outlast and outlive all powers and dominations then existing.

1. The empire of Christ consists of those who own allegiance to Him. It was once far otherwise with them; with the weapons of the rebel grasped tightly in their hands, and with hearts burning with hell's hatred, they blasphemously shouted, "We will not have this Man to reign over us."

2. The empire of Jesus consists of those in whose heart He reigns. In every human breast there is by nature some hideous hateful Dagon; some proud usurper of the Saviour's throne. But in the hearts of those who are included in the kingdom this Dagon has been hurled with ignominy to the ground. The ark of the Lord has entered, and before it the idol has fallen.

3. The kingdom of Jesus is, as we have already said, His Church.

4. One thought more, and I will close this first division of our subject. The kingdom of Christ shall last for ever. And when this world, with all its proud domains, shall have been consumed in the general fire, then transplanted into heaven, shall this kingdom shine, the only one that has outlived the general wreck of time.


1. Its institution was not of this world. Monarchs founded it not; princes formed it not; nor is it the creation of a state. It is in its origin most emphatically "not of this world." So far from the world aiding its institution, it has been set up in spite of the world's most bitter opposition. Had it been of the world, then the world would have loved its own, but as it came from above, it hated it.

2. Its subjects are not. There is not a single man, woman, or child, who is truly a subject of Christ and a member of His kingdom, concerning whom it may not be said, he or she is not of this world. All the members of Christ's Church have been "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." No man is born by nature a child of this kingdom; were it so the kingdom would at once be of this world, which it is not. Moreover, it is not in the power of man to introduce a subject into this kingdom; for, were it so, then again the kingdom would be of this world, which it is not.

3. Its defence is not. It requires no imperial legislation to maintain its existence, nor armies to subdue its foes. It thrives best when left alone, and grows the fastest when unaided by the world.

4. Its laws are not. The laws which are binding on the Church are only those which have been framed in heaven, and are transcribed into God's statute-book, the Bible, and we laugh all others to scorn.

5. Its commerce is not. No kingdom on the face of the whole earth has such a commerce, or rejoices in such a trade as the kingdom of our Lord. It traffics in the costliest and choicest things, and all its merchants are merchant princes. Its ships are never wrecked. Its bank — for it has but one — possesses wealth that is infinite, and therefore can never break. The Church's commerce is "not of this world." The port with which she trades is the port of heaven. Her vessels are her prayers, some larger and some smaller, yet all equally insured against shipwreck; the faintest sigh as well as the most eloquent petition reaches the ear of God. All come back laden with blessing, for never was praying breath spent in vain. The costly, precious wares she is constantly receiving consist of such treasures as pardon, peace, joy, contentment, and holiness, all of which are "precious things of heaven." Her export consists of thanksgiving, gratitude, love, devotion. But oh, did I not say very rightly that her trade is nearly all import? What poor returns we make for the mercies that are literally heaped upon us l How lightly laden are our ships of praise!

6. Its precepts are not. Herein does the Church's unworldliness shine transcendently. "Do to others as they do to you" is the maxim of the world. "Do to others as ye would that they should do to you" is the precept of this kingdom. "Pay him back in his own coin" is the precept of the world. "Pay him back in heaven's coinage" is the maxim of the Church.

7. Its pomp and splendour is not. We say not it has none, for it has. It is a kingdom of kings, and a nation of priests. Every subject is arrayed in royal robes, and the poorest is an "uncrowned monarch." The kingdom which is from above should be content with the glory that heaven gives it, and not seek to array itself with the importance and grandeur of a world which it professes to renounce.

8. Its weapons are not. This fact the verse seems to teach most clearly, for says our Lord, "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews." We are not allowed to pioneer the way for our religion by the spear, nor enforce its truths by the sword, as Mahomet did his lies.

(A. G. Brown.)

You tell your child that this pine-tree out here in the sandy field is one day going to be as large as that great sonorous pine that sings to every wind in the wood. The child, incredulous, determines to watch and see whether the field-pine really does grow and become as large as you say it will. So, the next morning, he goes out and takes a look at it, and comes back and says, "It has not grown a particle." At night he goes out and looks at it again, and comes back and says, "It has not grown a bit." The next week he goes out and looks at it again, and comes back and says, "It has not grown any yet. Father said it would be as large as the pine-tree in the wood, but I do not see any likelihood of its becoming so." How long did it take that pine-tree in the wood to grow? Two hundred years. The men who lived when it began to grow have been buried, and generations besides have come and gone since then. And do you suppose that God's kingdom is going to grow so that you can look at it and see that it has grown during any particular day? You cannot see it grow. All around you are things that are growing, but that you cannot see grow. And if it is so with trees and things that spring out of the ground, how much more is it so with the kingdom of God! That kingdom is advancing surely, though it advances slowly, and though it is invisible to us.

(H. W. Beecher.)

An attempt had been made to alarm the emperor by connecting the Christian hope of Christ's second coming with the intrigues of the Jews for the recovery of their independence. Domitian at once questioned the grandchildren of Jude (he had heard that they were the race of David) as to the nature of the glorious kingdom for which they were looking. He was only reassured by learning how poor they were, and by seeing their horny hands, which proved that these supposed rivals of Caesar were nothing more than simple labourers.

(E. de Pressense, D. D.)


1. Nothing arrests our attention more forcibly than the extraordinary claims our Lord asserted for Himself. Commingled with the most lowly humility, there was the quiet assumption of an authority more than regal. How would it have sounded had Aristotle said, "I am the light of the world"? had Socrates said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour"? &c.; had Plato said, "I am the resurrection and the life"? And yet these amazing declarations fall as naturally from the lips of Christ as dew falls upon the grateful flowers. To the Jewish people there was no greater name than that of Moses; but Christ put the crown on the head of Moses when He said, "He wrote of Me." David's memory was a heritage of glory; but Christ reminded the people that while David sat on a thone, He was His subject, and called Him Lord. Solomon was a synonym for all regal splendour; but Christ said, "A greater than Solomon is here." All these astounding claims find their justification in two incontestable facts — first, that they were true; and second, that it was necessary to assert them. Their truth was demonstrated by all subsequent events, and becomes increasingly manifest with the progress of the ages. Their proclamation was necessary to the accomplishment of the great purposes for which He became incarnate. To have withheld any essential fact about Himself would have been, not humility, but treason to the truth itself and hurtful to humanity. It was therefore perfectly in harmony with the great ends of His mission that, with nothing but a retinue of fishermen in His train, and that at the very moment when He was about to be betrayed by one of His own followers, He should have quietly said to them, "I appoint you a kingdom." And the strangest fact in the annals of government is this, that, after the lapse of near two thousand years, it numbers more subjects than ever acknowledged allegiance to any other sovereign.

2. The kingdom was His, too, by appointment and by purchase. He would not receive it from any hand but that of the Highest. When the god of this world offered Him all the kingdoms for a single act of homage, He rebuked the tempter. When the people wished to make Him a king, He resisted, for He had heard the declaration of the Father, "I have set My King upon the holy hill of Zion."

II. THIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD, and differs from all others —

1. In its origin. It was not the product of the historic forces then at work in the world, such as give rise to the kingdoms of men. There was nothing in the drift of the times to develop it. There was no existing philosophy, religion, or nation out of which such a kingdom could have emerged. If it could not have come from —(1) The Greek, worshipping physical and intellectual beauty, much less from —(2) The Roman, who had now entered upon the darkest period of his intellectual and moral history.(3) Nor was it the product of dormant forces in the Jewish nation; on the contrary, the principles of the kingdom and the spirit which animated them were diametrically opposed both to the principles and spirit of the Judaism of the time.

2. In its purpose. The design of an earthly kingdom is to secure the temporal interests of its subjects, and the kingdom of Christ incidentally cherishes the temporal interests of man; but its grand aim is to restore the lost image of God in the soul, to found a kingdom which will include what is best in all religions, being larger than any ecclesiastical organization.

3. In its character, as an inward and spiritual kingdom, in contradistinction to all that is outward and material. We invariably associate with the word kingdom the idea of territory; the idea of power, as expressed by fleets and armies; the idea of luxury and state, as displayed in palaces and ceremonies; the idea of a succession to the throne, elective or hereditary. But in the kingdom which is not of this world there are none of these accessories. It is limited by no boundaries; it is cumbered by no pomp or insignia of authority, &c. It is a kingdom in which the subjects do not elect their king, but one in which the King elects His subject. It is not a kingdom in which one king succeeds another, but in which one immortal King reigns through all generations. It is not a kingdom in which there are inequalities of hereditary rank. No coronet could add to the glory of that title, and no wealth could augment the riches of that joint-heir with Jesus Christ.

4. In its foundation, which is —(1) In the conscience, and so regulates all the movements of the life.(2) In the intellect. It so illumines the understanding, furnishes new ideas for the imagination, and fills the memory with sweet and sacred treasures.(3) In the heart, and purifies all of its emotions by the expulsive power of a new affection.(4) It sets up the kingdom of truth in the soul.

5. In its duration, which is everlasting.

III. But while this kingdom is spiritual and inward, it is not one of secret experiences only; it is one which KINDLES A NEW LIFE AND BECOMES A KINGDOM OF POWER. In the estimation of men of the world this kingdom is an airy, unreal thing. They can understand a kingdom that has a visible king in it, with a palace, &c.; but a spiritual citizenship is an empty, abstract ideal. Nevertheless, it is a kingdom of power, as is proved —

1. By its early triumphs. Its first triumphs were in the land where it originated: under a single sermon thousands of men entered upon a new life. It pervaded Judea, Asia Minor, Europe, that by becoming European it might become universal. It seized upon great cities — Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, Athens, Rome.

2. By the individual transformations it effects. The gospel of this kingdom declares its ability to regenerate men. This is a unique claim, setting it in sharp contrast with all other religions. If it can re-create men, then its Divine origin is demonstrated. It was the objection urged by Celsus, that it undertook impossible things, such as "making men over again." The Christian Fathers, in their reply, asserted that the illustrations of the power of Christianity to do this very thing were visible everywhere. Does any candid man believe that there was no radical difference between , Ignatius, , Clement, and , and the educated gentlemen of the pagan civilizations? What would he say of Fenelon contrasted with Mirabeau, Pascal with Voltaire, Henry Martyn with Thomas Paine?Conclusion: It is evident, from what has been said, that —

1. The gospel never loses its power — never grows old. The Cross of Christ is still the world's great magnet.

2. Though the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, that does not imply that we have no relations to any other government than His. The civil power is ordained of God, and we are commanded to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Every good citizen is under obligation to the government whose laws protect him and whose departments are so arranged as to minister to his convenience and advantage in numberless ways. It is greatly to be desired that the relations between the Church and the State should ever be those of mutual respect, goodwill, and confidence. The Church dishonours its own high calling and mistakes its true mission in the world when, by any ecclesiastical legislation, it attempts to interfere with the functions of civil government. And the State transcends its authority, and invades a province over which it has no jurisdiction, when it undertakes to control Church life and order.

3. Though this kingdom is not of this world, it is the kingdom the world most needs. Its restraining, conservative power is needed to secure its greatest temporal interests.

(M. D. Hoge, D. D.)

It will be necessary to guard this declaration from two misconstructions.

1. It does not imply indifference to the political government of this world.

2. It does not imply monastic seclusion from the engagements of this world. What, then, is the Saviour's meaning? I answer — Christ's kingdom is a purely spiritual constitution. He came not to found a physical empire, but to establish the sovereignty of great and holy principles. When may it be justly said that a man's kingdom is of this world? I answer —

I. WHEN MAN'S ENERGIES ARE EXCLUSIVELY DEVOTED TO THE ACCUMULATION OF EARTHLY TREASURES. There are men whose creed may be condensed into one word — Gold! They look at all nature and institutions through this medium — Gold. When they gaze upon the landscape, it is not to admire the undulation of hill and dale, the stately wood or swelling river, but to speculate upon its properties as a farm.

II. WHEN MAN FAILS TO EXERT ANY EFFORT FOR THE MORAL ELEVATION OF HIS RACE. Some men profess that their benefactions are known to none but God and the recipients. Others determine not to let the left hand know what the right hand doeth; and this is by no means an unwise policy where the right hand is doing nothing, and therefore has no tidings to communicate.

III. WHEN MAN DRAWS HIS HIGHEST JOYS FROM THE FASCINATIONS OF THIS LIFE. The carnal mind knows nothing of any joy but that which flows through earthly channels. His highest study is the promotion of self-comfort. When can it be truly affirmed that a man's kingdom is not of this world? I answer —

I. WHEN MAN REGARDS THE WORLD AS A MEANS RATHER THAN AN END. The watchword of the Christian is, "Here we have no continuing city." He uses this world as the builder uses scaffolding, merely for temporary purposes, or as a waiting-room in which he tarries till the chariot of death shall bear him home, or as a school in which he prosecutes his rudimentary studies, with a view to the engagements of a higher academy; he never looks upon this world as a final resting-place. If he has wealth, it is to him a means of usefulness; if he has influence, he employs it in the promotion of the highest good.


III. WHEN MAN CAN CHEERFULLY RELINQUISH HIS EARTHLY POSSESSIONS. It is hard work for a monarch to abandon his kingdom. Into whatever region he may pass he feels himself an exile; however far into distant realms he may travel, he can never find a throne; his kingdom is behind him, and must remain there for ever. Not so with the Christian. He has not entered upon his kingdom yet; he is born to it, but at present is journeying towards the land in which he shall reign as king and serve as son. Under these circumstances he cannot feel the strong attachment to the charms of this world which binds the hearts of those who are without hope as to the mysterious future. The man whose kingdom is of this world is sorely tried when death demands a separation. Young man! that which engages most of your affections is your kingdom.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

Christ is the only Founder of a religion in the history of mankind which is totally unconnected with all human policy and government, and, therefore, totally unconducive to any worldly purpose whatever; all others, Mohammed, Numa, and even Moses himself, blended their religious institutions with their civil, and by them obtained dominion over their respective peoples; but Christ neither aimed at nor would accept of any such power; He rejected every object which other men pursue, and made choice of all those which others fly from and are afraid of. He refused power, riches, honours, pleasure, and courted poverty, ignominy, tortures, and death. Many have been the enthusiasts and imposters who have endeavonred to impose on the world pretended revelations, and some of them from pride, obstinacy, or principle have gone so far as to lay down their lives rather than retract; but I defy history to show one who ever made his own sufferings and death a necessary part of his original plan, and essential to his mission.

(Soame Jenyns.)

Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king, then?
We are told by Paul, that our Lord before Pilate witnessed a good confession. It was a good confession —

1. As to the manner of it, for our Lord was truthful, gentle, prudent, and yet uncompromising, and courageous. His spirit was not cowed by Pilate's power, nor exasperated by his sneers.

2. As to the matter of it; for, though He said but little, that little was all that was needful. He claimed His own rights, and, at the same time, declared that His kingdom was not of this world, nor to be sustained by force. In our families, or among our business acquaintances, we may have to meet some petty Pilate; may we then also be true witnesses. Note —

I. That our Lord CLAIMED TO BE A KING. The question was but half earnest; the answer was altogether solemn.

1. Our Lord's claim was made without ostentation or desire to be advantaged. There were other times when, if He had said "I am a King," He might have been crowned amid general acclamations. He had no ambition for the gewgaws of human sovereignty. But now, when no good can come of it to Himself; when it will bring Him derision rather than honour; He speaks out plainly.

2. The clearness of His avowal; there was no mistaking it. When the time has come for the truth to be spoken, our Lord is not backward in declaring it. Truth has her times most meet for speech, and her seasons for silence.

3. Our Lord's claim must have sounded very singularly in Pilate's ear. Jesus was, doubtless, very much careworn, sad, and emaciated after recent experiences, and must have looked very unlike a king. Yet never earth saw truer King! None of the line of Pharaoh, or the race of the Caesars, was so intrinsically imperial. The carnal eye could not see this, but to the spiritual eye it is clear. The zeal Christ of to-day, among men, is unknown and unrecognized as much as He was among His own nation eighteen hundred years ago.

4. This claim shall be acknowledged one day by all mankind. To Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord!

II. Our Lord declared THIS KINGDOM TO BE HIS MAIN OBJECT IN LIFE. "To this end," &c.

1. He was always the Lord of all, but to be King through the power of truth, it was essential that He should be born in our nature.(1) Because it seems unnatural that a ruler should be alien in nature to the people over whom he rules.(2) That He might be able to save His people. Subjects are essential to a kingdom. But all men must have perished through sin, had not Christ come into the world and been born to save.(3) Moreover, truth never exerts such power as when it is embodied. Truth spoken may be defeated, but truth acted out in the life of a man is omnipotent, Now, Christ was truth.

2. He added, "For this cause came I into the world."(1) Out of the bosom of the Father that He might set up His kingdom, by unveiling the mysteries which were hid from the foundation of the world.(2) From the obscure retirement of Joseph's workshop. Since He was to he a King, He must leave seclusion, and come forth to do battle for His throne. He came not forth because He courted popularity; but that, the truth being published, He might set up His kingdom. It was needful that He should come out into the world and teach, or truth would not be known, and consequently could not operate.

III. Our Lord revealed THE NATURE OF HIS ROYAL POWER. We should have thought the text would have run to this end... "that I should establish My kingdom." But had our Lord said that He might have misled Pilate; but when He said that His kingdom was truth, and that its establishment was by bearing witness to the truth, then, though Pilate did not understand Him — for it was far above his comprehension — yet, at any rate, he was not misled.

1. Our Lord, in effect, tells us that truth is the pre-eminent characteristic of His kingdom, and that His royal power over men's hearts is through the truth. He dealt not with fiction, but with facts; not with trifles, but with infinite realities.

2. Jesus has power over His people because He testifies not to symbols, but to the very substance of truth. The priests lost their power over the people because they went no further than the shadow, and sooner or later all will do so who rest in the symbol. The Lord Jesus retains His power over His saints because He reveals the substance, for grace and truth are by Jesus Christ.

3. This power lies in the fact that He brings forth unalloyed truth, without mixture of error. His teaching is no combination of God's Word and man's inventions. Men taught of His Holy Spirit to love the truth, recognize this fact and surrender their souls to the royal sway of the Lord's truth, and it makes them free, and sanctifies them. Jesus taught —(1) That worship must be true, spiritual, and of the heart, or else it would be nothing worth.(2) That all false living was base and loathsome. He poured contempt on the phylacteries of hypocrites.

4. But our Lord came not only to teach us the truth, but a mysterious power goes forth from Him, which subdues chosen hearts to truthfulness, and then guides truthful hearts into fulness of peace and joy. Have you never felt when you have been with Jesus, that a sense of His purity has made you yearn to be purged of all hypocrisy and every false way?

IV. Our Lord disclosed THE METHOD OF HIS CONQUEST — "That I should bear witness for the truth."

1. Christ never yet set up His kingdom by force of arms. Mahomet drew the sword, falsehood requires the rack of the Inquisition, but truth needs not such unworthy aid; her own beauty, and the Spirit of God, are her strength. Moreover, Jesus used no arts of priestcraft, or tricks of superstition, None can say that He reigns over men by the glitter of pomp, or the fascination of sensuous ceremonies. No kingdom is worthy of the Lord Jesus but that which has its foundations laid in indisputable verities; Jesus would scorn to reign by the help of a lie. True Christianity was never promoted by policy or guile, by doing a wrong thing, or saying a false thing.

2. What truth did He witness to? Ah, what truth did He not witness to? Did He not mirror all truth in His life? In an age of shams, He was always sweeping away pretences and establishing truth.

3. This is the way in which Christ's kingdom is to be set up in the world. For this cause was the Church born, and for this end came she into the world, that she might set up Christ's kingdom by bearing witness to the truth. I long to see you all witness-bearers. You must do it personally and collectively. Never join any Church whose creed you do not entirely and unfeignedly believe. I would not retard Christian unity, but there is something before unity, and that is, "truth in the inward parts" and honesty before God. Let us bear witness to the truth, since there is a great need of doing so just now, for witnessing is in ill repute.

V. Our Lord described HIS SUBJECTS — "Every one that is of the truth," &c. Wherever the Holy Spirit has made a man a lover of truth, he always recognizes Christ's voice and yields himself to it. Those who love pure truth, and know what Christ is, will be sure to fall in love with Him and hear His voice.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

This entire conversation with the Roman governor will grow clearer, if, in every instance, we substitute "reality" or "genuineness" for "truth."


1. So He was "born." Pre-existence must certainly be suggested, or the expression sounds like tautology. Pilate felt the power of this one word; for afterwards when the Jews told him that Jesus had been proclaiming Himself the "Son of God," he recalled it (John 19:7-9).

2. He was born for one definite or supreme end; He was brought into the world to manifest truth to mankind. Let us discriminate —(1) Not ultimate truth, but available truth. Man wanted first and needed most what he could use for himself in life. Hence, Jesus Christ always preached religion, and not theology; He was practical, and not either abstruse or scientific.(2) Not speculative truth, but Divine truth. Christ never wasted time in mere imagination; what He preached was direct as if from heaven. That was why the people were astonished at His doctrine (John 3:31-33).(3) Not dogmatic truth, but experimental truth. Christ was the only religious leader who embodied His teaching in the living, breathing, moving form of a common man in the pursuit of every-day existence.(4) Not ethical truth, but spiritual truth. Very wisely once wrote Lord Bacon: "There are three parts in truth: first, the inquiry, which is the wooing of it; secondly, the knowledge, which is the presence of it; and thirdly, the belief, which is the enjoyment of it." A proper place, perhaps, into which our Lord's witness should be cast, is found in this last division. For it was no office of His to put forth a new code of morals for others to prove or acquire; He received His revelations from His Father, and what agitated His mind and heart was the wish to have men true enough to enjoy them. He set to others the will of His Father to obey; but He first showed them it was His will by Himself respecting it (Matthew 3:15).

II. JESUS CAME TO TEACH TRUTH TO THE WHOLE RACE. For this "cause" came He into the "world."

1. Look at this word "world"; what was it? Its three main divisions are indicated in the superscription on the cross (chap. John 19:19-22). All these people claimed to seek the truth.(1) The Greeks were seeking by philosophy, culture, debate and high art. In the time of Christ, these artists of Athens and Corinth pushed their inquiries into the minutest details. In architecture they were governed by rigid axioms as to proportion; their Parthenon would never have been a "true" building with one less of its curves. In the drama, they insisted on "the unities." They had "the line of beauty" for every feature of a statue, and "the tone of colour" for each shade of the painter's pictures. They even counted the digits, and called only the threes, sevens, and tens perfect. But when they came to conduct, they had no such thing as fixed conscientiousness: the juster Aristides became, the sooner they banished him; and the more moral Socrates' lectures grew, the nearer came the time for him to drink the hemlock.(2) The Latins were seeking truth by inexorable law. They were going to compel human beings to become true by correct drawing, just as they would triangles or trapeziums. But they had only very poor success; they got nothing in the end but a mere book of laws and a phalanx of soldiers to show the world what truth was. The populace grew rigid and machine-like; the higher classes reacted into vice and ingenious forms of immorality.(3) The Hebrews were seeking truth by ceremonial devotion. They had the Scriptures; but they exalted the letter above the spirit, and those glosses which tradition had added far above them both. Hence the people waxed false with the prismatic distortions of what was true. They claimed a supremacy over the rest of the world because of these "oracles of God" lodged in their hands; and they displayed the Word on their foreheads, but hid it not in their hearts — phylacteries instead of principles.

2. Look at this word "cause." What was the real cause for which Christ entered this wistful world of ours?(1) Fix attention upon the facts. He found the race crying out for the truth. Men wanted something they could trust. And just then there was heard a single voice in answer, "I am the Truth," &c.(2) This was Jesus' "cause;'' what did He get for it? They crucified Him! There may have been Greeks at the passover in Jerusalem; but this crucifixion was offensive. Most of the actors were Jews, and they shrieked for Barabbas instead of Jesus. And Pilate, the leader of the Latins, stood there washing his hypocritical hands! Plainly, Jesus Christ was a failure so far.


1. In despite of His rejection, He left behind Him a testimony for the true which has lifted into hope the wicked race that slew Him. "Whole centuries," says Schiller, "have shown philosophers as well as artists, busied in embodying truth and beauty in the depths of a vulgar humanity; the former appears often to sink at first; but the latter struggles up afterward, victorious in her own indestructible energy." Jesus' self-sacrifice was not lost upon the world, after all. Men are nobler, and women are happier, even little children are more blest, because the Truth went to Golgotha, and was slain upon the cross.

2. What Jesus declined when, in prosperity, He could now afford to accept, when, in a desperate suffering for truth's sake, God's providence gave it to Him. Pilate's title credited to the Son of man all that He ever claimed. Through pain and ignominy, He was now recognized as the world's monarch. Niebuhr writes: "I do not know what to do with a metaphysical God; I have often said that I want no other than the God of the Bible who is heart to heart with me." When Pilate said, "Ecce homo! it meant, Ecce rex!

3. The only hope of our race is found here in Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the kingdom of truth (1 John 5:19, 20).

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The whole fabric of the Christian religion rests on the monarchy of Christ. The Hebrew prisoner who stood before the Roman judge claimed to be the King of men: and eighteen centuries have only verified His claim.

1. On what title does this claim rest?(1) Had the Messiah founded His kingdom on force, He would simply have been a rival of the Caesars. This was all that Pilate meant at first by his question. As a Roman he had no other conception of rule. But the empire of strength was now passing away; for no kingdom founded on force is destined to permanence. "They that take the sword," &c. Before Pilate, Christ distinctly disclaimed this. "If My kingdom were of this world," &c.(2) The next conceivable basis is prescriptive authority. The scribes' and priests' conception. They claimed to rule on a title such as this — "It is written." But Christ spoke lightly of venerable institutions and contravened opinions which were grey with the hoar of ages. He taught, as the men of His day remarked, on an authority very different from that of the scribes. Not even on His own authority. "If I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?"(3) He might have claimed to rule on the ground of incontrovertible demonstration of His principles. This was the ground taken by every philosopher who was the founder of a sect. Apparently, after the failure of his first guess, Pilate thought that he was called to try some new pretender of a truth which was to dethrone its rival system. This seems to be implied in his bitter question. For in those days it was as in our own: the opinion of to-day dethroned by the opinion of to-morrow: the heterodoxy of this age reckoned the orthodoxy of the next. And Pilate, having lived to see failure after failure, smiled bitterly at the enthusiast who again asserted His claims to have discovered the undiscoverable. And indeed, had the Redeemer claimed this — to overthrow the doctrine of the Porch and of the Academy, and to enthrone Christianity upon their ruins, by mere argument, that sceptical cry would have been not ill-timed.

2. In these three ways have men attempted the propagation of the gospel.(1) By force, when the Church ruled by persecution.(2) By prescriptive authority, when she claimed infallibility in the popery of Rome or the popery of the pulpit.(3) By reasoning, in the age of "evidences," when she pledged herself to rule the world by the conviction of the understanding, and laid deep and broad the foundations of rationalism.

I. THE BASIS OF THE KINGLY RULE OF CHRIST. Christ is a King in virtue of His being a witness to the truth.

1. Truth is used here in a sense equivalent to reality. It would indeed fritter down the majesty of the Redeemer's life, to say that He was a witness for the truth of any number of theological dogmas. The realities of life, of the universe, to these His every act and word bore testimony. He was as much a witness to the truth of the purity of domestic life as to the truth of the doctrine of the Incarnation: to the truth of goodness being identical with greatness as much as to the doctrine of the Trinity — and more — His mind corresponded with reality as the dial with the sun.

2. In being a witness to reality, we are to understand something deeper than that He spoke truly. Veracity is a correspondence between words and thoughts: truthfulness a correspondence between thoughts and realities, To be veracious, it is only necessary that a man give utterance to his convictions: to be true, it is needful that his convictions have affinity with fact. Let us take some illustrations of this distinction.(1) The prophet tells of men who call good evil, and evil good; yet these were veracious men; for to them evil was good. There was a correspondence between their opinions and their words, but none between their opinions and eternal fact: this was untruthfulness. The Pharisees were men of veracity. They thought that Christ was an impostor, that to tithe mint, anise, and cummin was as acceptable to God as to be just, and merciful, and true: yet veracious as they were, the title perpetually affixed to them is, "Ye hypocrites." The life they led being a false life, is called, in the phraseology of the Apostle John, a lie.(2) If a man speak a careless slander against another, believing it, he has not sinned against veracity: but the carelessness which has led him into so grave an error, effectually bars his claim to clear truthfulness. Or a man may have taken up second-hand, indolently, religious views: may believe them: defend them vehemently, — Is he a man of truth?

3. It is implied that His very Being, here, manifested to the world Divine realities. Human nature is meant to be a witness to the Divine, and the difference between Christ and other men is this: they are imperfect reflections, He a perfect one of God. There are mirrors which are concave, which magnify the thing that they reflect: there are mirrors convex, which diminish it. And we in like manner, represent the Divine in a false, distorted way. In One alone has the Divine been so blended with the human, that, as the ocean mirrors every star and every tint of blue upon the sky, so was the earthly life of Christ the Life of God on earth.

4. As truly as it was said by Christ, may it be said by each of us, "To this end was I born," &c.(1) The architect is here to be a witness. He succeeds only so far as he is a witness, and a true one. The lines and curves, the acanthus on his column, the proportions, all are successful and beautiful, only so far as they are true: the report of an eye which has lain open to God's world. If he build his lighthouse to resist the storm, the law of imitation bids him build it after the shape of the spreading oak which has defied the tempest. If man construct the ship which is to cleave the waters, calculation or imitation builds it on the model upon which the Eternal Wisdom has already constructed the fish's form.(2) The artist is a witness to the truth; or he will never attain the beautiful.(3) So is the agriculturist; or he will never reap a harvest.(4) So is the statesman, building up a nation's polity on the principles which time has proved true, or else all his work crumbles down in revolution: for national revolution is only the Divine rejection stamped on the social falsehood.

5. Christ's kingdom formed itself upon this law: "Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice;" that eternal law which makes truth assimilate all that is congenial to itself. Truth is like life: whatever lives absorbs into itself all that is congenial. The Church grew round Christ as a centre, attracted by the truth: all that had in it harmony with His Divine life and words, grew to Him (by gradual accretions): clung to Him as the iron to the magnet. The truer you are, the humbler, the nobler, the more will you feel Christ to be your King. You may be very little able to prove the King's Divine genealogy, or to appreciate those claims to your allegiance which arise out of His eternal generation: but He will be your Sovereign and your Lord by that affinity of character which compels you to acknowledge His words and life to be Divine. "He that receiveth His testimony hath to set to his seal that God is true."


1. To be true: "He that is of the truth heareth My voice." Truth lies in character. Christ did not simply speak truth: He was Truth. For example. The friends of Job spoke words of truth. Scarcely a maxim which they uttered could be impugned: cold, hard, theological verities: but verities out of place, in that place cruel and untrue. Job spoke many hasty, impetuous, blundering words; but the whirlwind came, and, before the voice of God, the veracious falsehoods were swept into endless nothingness: the true man, wrong, perplexed, in verbal error, stood firm: he was true though his sentences were not.

2. Integrity — which means not simply sincerity or honesty, but entireness, wholeness, soundness: that which Christ means when He says, "If thine eye be single or sound, thy whole body shall be full of light." This integrity is found in small matters as well as great; for the allegiance of the soul to truth is tested by small things rather than by those which are more important. There is many a man who would lose his life rather than perjure himself in a court of justice, whose life is yet a tissue of small insincerities. We resent hypocrisy, and treachery, and calumny, not because they are untrue, but because they harm us. We hate the false calumny, but we are half pleased with the false praise. Now he is a man of integrity who hates untruth as untruth. To a moral, pure mind, the artifices in every department of life are painful: the stained wood which deceives the eye by seeming what it is not, marble: the gilding which is meant to pass for gold; and the glass which is worn to look like jewels. "These are trifles." Yes, but it is just these trifles which go to the formation of character. He that is habituated to deceptions and artificialities in trifles will try in vain to be true in matters of importance: for truth is a thing of habit rather than of will.

3. Doing the truth. Christianity joins two things inseparably: acting truly, and perceiving truly. If any man will do His will, &c.(l) It is a perilous thing to separate feeling from acting. The romance, the poem, and the sermon, teach us how to feel. But the danger is this; if feeling be suffered to awake without passing into duty, the character becomes untrue. "We pity wretchedness and shun the wretched." We utter sentiments, just, honourable, refined, lofty — but somehow, when a truth presents itself in the shape of a duty, we are unable to perform it. And so such characters become by degrees like the artificial pleasure-grounds of bad taste, in which the waterfall does not fall, and the grotto offers only the refreshment of an imaginary shade, and the green hill does not strike the skies, and the tree does not grow. Their lives are a sugared crust of sweetness trembling over black depths of hollowness: more truly still, "whited sepulchres" — fair without to look upon, "within full of all uncleanness."(2) It is perilous to separate thinking rightly from acting rightly. He is already half false who speculates on truth and does not do it. Truth is given, not to be contemplated, but to be done. Life is an action — not a thought. And the penalty paid by him who speculates on truth, is that by degrees the very truth he holds becomes to him a falsehood. There is no truthfulness, therefore, except in the witness borne to God by doing His will — to live the truths we hold, or else they will be no truths at all. It was thus that He witnessed to the truth. He lived it. Conclusion: The kingly character of truth is exhibited strikingly in the calmness of the bearing of the Son of Man before His judge. Veracity is not necessarily dignified. There is a vulgar effrontery-a spirit of defiance which taunts, and challenges condemnation. Again, the man of mere veracity is often violent, for what he says rests upon his own assertion: and vehemence of assertion is the only addition he can make to it.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)


1. Every monarch must have some sort of "Divine right"; what was the right that Jesus here asserted?(1) It might have been the right of possession. Christ could have said to him, "I am that Messiah who was predicted by their prophets to reign." But Pilate could have answered, "I do not recognize the right of even the Jew's Messiah to be a king."(2) It might have been the right of conquest. Jesus might have told him that He had subjected these people by His miracles, that He proved Divine authority by wielding Divine power. But to this Pilate had, for a ready reply, the woeful fact that it was the Jews who had already delivered this so-called Messiah into his hands.(3) It might have been the right of acceptance; for Christ, in sober earnest, could have appealed away from priests to populace, and reminded Pilate that once He had been obliged to withdraw Himself, lest they should make Him a king "by force;" and just now He rode in a royal triumph even into the gate of Jerusalem. But here, again, Pilate was at liberty to interrupt Him with a fine sarcasm, in the suggestion that He had better settle such matters with Herod, the regular heir.(4) What Jesus did assert, was the right of personal genuineness as a man, and hence as the King of men. The heathen governor, of course, did not dare dispute this; indeed, he hardly knew what it meant. "What is truth?"

2. What was the nature of His kingdom?(1) It was spiritual in every particular. It did not need any fleet or flag; it would not want either army or arsenal; it did not propose to collect customs or make treaties. This imperial officer saw clearly that Jesus offered no menace to Caesar.(2) And yet this kingdom was to be organic. It would have its laws, orders, rulers.It openly announced that it would lay its hand on men and money, lands and seas, in order that it might use them as means of advancement in raising the race to the image of God in purity, and holiness, and strength.


1. In the beginning, Christ united a few true men to Himself for the sake of the work they could do. It was not the coming together of a people, who, as soon as they began to feel the need of government, elected a king.

2. Then He joined these to each other by rendering them efficient in the instant conversion of souls. He chose Andrew, and at once managed it so that Andrew "found" Simon, &c. And in order to show the principle on which this extension of His spiritual sway must proceed, He took pains to say that Nathanael was accepted, because he was a genuine, true man, precisely what every one needed to be in a kingdom of truth.

3. Then a tremendous sifting of the entire community ensued (John 6:53-58, 66-71). The point which our Lord pressed was that of a supreme and vital union to Himself.

4. The next step, now become essential, was for our Lord to disappear from their sympathy and sight. There was springing up, naturally enough, a human regard, which was diverting His adherents from truth alone (John 16:5-71

5. Finally, Jesus went away, and the promised Comforter came to guide into all truth.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

At a missionary meeting on the island Rarotonga, one of the Hervey group in the Pacific Ocean, an old man, a candidate for church fellowship, said, "I have lived during the reign of four kings: in the first we were continually at war, and a fearful season it was, watching and hiding with fear were all our engagements. During the reign of the second we were overtaken with a severe famine, and all expected to perish; then we ate rats and grass, and this wood and that wood. During the third we were conquered, and became the peck and prey of the two other settlements of the island; then if a man went to fish he rarely ever returned, or if a woman Went any distance to fetch food she was rarely ever seen again. But during the reign of this third king we were visited by another King, a great King, a good King, a powerful King, a King of love, Jesus the Lord from heaven. He has gained the victory, He has conquered our hearts; therefore we now have peace and plenty in this world, and hope soon to dwell with Him in heaven."


1. In its profound essence, as a revelation of God.

2. In its highest power as the Gospel.

3. In its broadest extent, as the uniting bond of all life.

4. In its bodily appearance, as the Person of Christ.

II. THE KING OF THIS KINGDOM Christ is personal truth itself, as the light Centre of all life, thoroughly at one with itself, and therefore the Light of the World.

III. THE TITLE OF THE KING. Perfect agreement of His birth and office, His ideal and His historical vocation.


1. The faithful Witness with His testimony.

2. The Host-leader of all faithful witnesses.

V. THE INCREASE OF HIS KINGDOM The word received as His voice by all who are of the truth.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

To this end was I born.
Apparently, the end of society is still what it has always been — amusement, and nothing else. As years go on, the race after pleasure grows in severity and speed. New modes of enjoyment are invented, and fresh ingenuity is exhibited in combining as many of them as possible. There is absolutely no such thing as rest or pause. What space is there amid the thronging, surging crush, for those delicate sentiments which make the higher life of humanity to grow and prosper? Such as these want light and air: they have neither. Society, in a word, knows no other existence except that which is material, and gross, and selfish. It talks vaguely of duty. At heart it is disposed to be sceptical as to whether there exists any real sanction for the performance of duty; and smiling a smile, which is more like a sneer of despair, puts the question by. It is struggling to find a sure foothold. It has plunged into a quagmire, has bid adieu to the firm ground on one side, and has not reached the firm ground on the other. In the worst sense of the phrase, it is in a state of transition. It has defiantly shaken its head at, and turned its back on, the old ologies; it has still to find consolation in the new isms. Thomas Carlyle says, "To speak in the ancient dialect, 'we have forgotten God;' we have quietly closed our eyes to the eternal substance of things, and opened them only to the shows and shams of things." Its old ideals, its old faiths, its old standards of duty, of right and wrong, are dissolving or dissolved. It is unsettled, and it is aimless. What society wants is seriously to ask whither it is going, and on what principle it is acting.

(The Standard.)

Christ's life was unique, yet it was like ours in some features. We came from God and return to God. Christ had a definite purpose in life. God has a purpose for all human lives. That purpose set in motion the Reformation, and all revolutions by which society is moulded. This is the Christian view of life. Let us look at its influence as related to character —

I. IT IS AN INSPIRING FAITH. Want of purpose is a source of weakness.


III. A MOTIVE FOR MODESTY. Let us not measure ourselves among ourselves, but ask, "Am I doing God's will?"

IV. IT FOSTERS COURAGE. Difficulty cannot dishearten those conscious of fulfilling a Divine trust. Conclusion:

1. If you see yourself doing your own will, stop!

2. Remember that no question is of greater importance than the discovery of God's plan of your life.

(Prof. E. B. Coe.)


1. By the truth we are to understand — that of which Jesus Christ is said to have been "full" (John 1:14); and which, a will as grace, "came by Him" (John 1:17). That into which the "Spirit of truth" was promised to guide His disciples; which, "if they continued in His Word" (John 8:31, 32), they were to "know," and which was to "make them free." The "truth as in-Jesus" (Ephesians 4:21). It includes —(1) All the doctrines of the gospel, especially those that are of a primary importance, as those concerning the fall and recovery of man; the Divinity and atonement of Christ; the agency of the Holy Spirit.(2) The precepts, promises, and threatenings. It is that system of truth, the articles of which are linked together in a kind of chain; that analogy or "proportion of faith," according to which every one that prophesies or preaches is to conform his doctrine (Romans 12:6), that he may "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11).

2. Now the end for which Christ was born, was that He "might bear witness unto the truth." It is certain He came also for other important ends, but one principal end, without which the others would have been unavailing, was that here spoken of. The reasons of this are —(1) Because the truth is the only means of our illumination (Psalm 19:7, 8). If we are translated "out of darkness into marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9); if we, who "were sometime darkness, are now light in the Lord;" if we are "not of the night nor of darkness," but "children of the light, and children of the day" (1 Thessalonians 5:5); it is surely not by error and false doctrine, but by the truth. Hence the Holy Scriptures, which are "a light shining in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19), are said to be able to make us "wise unto salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15, 16); and we read of the "light of the glorious gospel" (2 Corinthians 4:4).(2) Because it is the chief means of quickening us, who are naturally "dead in sin," and begetting in us "repentance unto life" and living faith, which "comes by hearing" it (Romans 10:17); hence it is termed the "Word of Life" (Philippians 2:16), and said to be "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12); and Christ's words are said to be "spirit and life" (John 6:63).(3) Because it is the grand object, as well as means, of that faith whereby we are saved (Ephesians 1:17, 18); we are described as being "chosen to salvation through belief of the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Mark 16:16).(4) Because it is a principal means of our salvation. The original cause is the grace of God; the meritorious cause is Christ's atonement; the efficient cause is the Holy Ghost; but the instrumental cause is the "Word of truth" (John 15:8), and faith therein. Hence —

(a)The truth is the chief instrument of our regeneration (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; Psalm 19:7).

(b)By it we are made free (John 8:31-36; Romans 8:2).

(c)By it we are safely guided in the way to heaven (Psalm 19:11; 2 Peter 1:19).

(d)By it we are strengthened for duty, for suffering, and for all the conflicts of our spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 6:14-17).

(e)By the declarations and promises of it, we are comforted and supported amidst all present trials and troubles (Romans 15:4).

(f)By it we are "thoroughly furnished to every good work," and made useful among men, even "burning and shining lights" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

(g)By it we are at length fully sanctified and perfected in holiness (chap. John 17:17; Ephesians 4:11-16).

(h)By it we are finally saved (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2; Romans 1:16).


1. He did so by word, or by His doctrine, which revealed and explained the truth. Thus He personally, clearly, and fully bore witness to every part of it —(1) As to the unity and perfections of God (Mark 12:29; Matthew 5:48).(2) His spiritual nature (John 4:23, 24).(3) The nature, dignity, condescension, sufferings, death, and exaltation of the Son (John 13:14; John 8:58; John 17:5; Matthew 20:18, 19).(4) Our depraved state by nature (John 3:5, 6; Matthew 15:19).(5) Our redemption through Him (John 3:16).

(a)The nature and necessity of repentance towards God, of faith in himself, of regeneration, of sanctification (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 5:8. 48; 18:3; Luke 18:14; John 14:6).

(b)He revealed the immortality of the soul (Matthew 22:32); the resurrection of the body (John 5:25, 28, 29); a future judgment (Matthew 25:31, 32; Matthew 12:36); the joys of heaven (Matthew 25:21); the miseries of hell (Matthew 25:46; Luke 16:23).

2. By His astonishing miracles, and by prophecies afterwards fulfilled: e.g., the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24.; Luke 21.). Thus He afforded a rational ground whereon all men might believe, or be left without excuse (John 5:36; John 10:37, 38; John 15:24).

3. By His sufferings, death, and resurrection; for He laid down His life in attestation of the truth of His doctrine, and witnessed a good confession before Pontius Pilate. Thus He showed that the truth, which He had delivered, was no trivial matter, but of infinite importance, that mankind might lay it to heart, and maturely consider, and "give earnest heed to it (Hebrews 2:1).

4. By His Spirit, by whose enlightening and gracious influences we may understand the truth, experience its efficacy, and find it to be "the power of God unto salvation" (John 15:26; Acts 2:39; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).

5. By His example, directing and inciting to the practice of it; His precepts, commanding and enjoining it; His promises, alluring and inviting to it; His theatenings, deterring us from the neglect of it.

6. By His apostles, who were witnesses both to Him and the truth (Luke 24:48; John 15:27; Acts 1:8, 22; Acts 5:32); and, like their Master, bore testimony to it, by their doctrine, "declaring the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:20, 21, 27; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 1 Thessalonians 2:9, 11, 12); by their miracles (Romans 15:18, 19; 2 Corinthians 12:12), and prophecies fulfilled; by their example (2 Corinthians 6:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:10); by their sufferings; (1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 4:8-11; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-31; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Timothy 1:8-12; 2 Timothy 2:9-13).


1. They are "of the truth" —(1) Who are rescued from the influence of "the father of lies," and are no longer blinded and deceived by him, or by the word and the spirit of it (1 Corinthians 2:12), or by the flesh, through Satan's agency.(2) Who are no longer deprived of discernment and judgment, as to their understanding, or of feeling as to their conscience; who are not biassed as to the choice and intention of their will; nor entangled and occupied by the creature in their affections.(3) Who are sincerely desirous to know, receive and submit to the truth, however opposed to their preconceived opinions, and their accustomed and confirmed habits.(4) Who, for this purpose, are truly willing to part with any temporal honour, gratification, or profit, which appears inconsistent with the attainment of this object, and especially, whatever they find in themselves contrary to the Divine will, and are ready to submit to any loss, reproach, difficulty, or suffering, to which they may be exposed in the way of obedience.(5) Who, conscious how liable they are to be mistaken, deceived, and misled, in their inquiries after the truth, and endeavours to obey it, dare not lean to their own understanding, or trust in their own efforts, but apply to God in prayer and faith, to be "guided into all" sacred and Divine "truth."(6) Who "call no man master" on earth, but remember "one is their Master, even Christ" (Matthew 23:8), and therefore, "seek the law at His mouth."(7) Who comply with their duty, as far as they know it already, remembering Christ's words (John 7:17). Such persons will consider every part of Christ's doctrine as infallibly true and infinitely momentous, and will, therefore, desire and delight to hear, read, and meditate upon it, at all opportunities (1 John 4:5, 6).

2. In regard to the manner of "hearing Christ's voice," we should do it —

(1)With reverence.

(2)With humility.

(3)With seriousness.

(4)With attention.

(5)In a childlike and teachable spirit.

(6)With faith.

(7)With love.

(8)With meekness and patience.

(9)In a spirit of prayer.

(10)With an obedient mind.

(J. Benson.)

Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.
Does any one challenge the expression, "instinct of truth," and speak of an opposite tendency — that of falsehood — as the instinct of fallen humanity? There is much to support this. "David said in his haste, I say deliberately that 'all men are liars,'" exclaimed a famous statesman. The world is full of falsehood. The very framework of society rests upon semblances and false assumptions. Still this instinct has not superseded in fallen man the instinct of truth. Society could not exist if truth were not more probable than falsehood. There is falsehood enough to necessitate caution; there is still an overplus of truth sufficient to justify confidence.


1. It is in human nature to crave satisfaction of knowledge. We see this in very low examples. A trial which shocks every pure feeling finds ten thousand readers who have no motive but vulgar curiosity. This is the twist the Fall has given to the instinct of knowledge. It is the very snare by which man fell. But there is an instinct underlying this — not corrupt, but wholesome — the desire to know the highest truth, to be informed about God, His will, His love. The Fall did not destroy this. That sort of guessing which is the amount of nature's help towards this knowledge is felt to be unsatisfactory. Let me not think but know is the instinctive cry.

2. There are many counteracting influences to this desire.(1) Indolence taking refuge in the thing in hand — in the received opinion, traditions, &c.(2) Prejudice — never so strong as in matters the most important and mysterious, never so jealous as when there is most at stake and least in sight; never so sensitive as in a region in which change involves both effort and singularity.(3) Formalism. These influences have a tendency to dull without satisfying that natural thirst which God has implanted in us.

3. Every man in whom this instinct of truth is, will hear Christ's voice, i.e., will recognize in His gospel the satisfying responses, because —(1) He speaks with authority. His "verily, verily" has a ring of certainty. It is not every positive man who convinces; many rouse opposition, because positiveness sometimes is the mask of weakness, the stimulant of suspicion. It was not so with Christ. The people felt that there was a difference between Him and the scribes in this matter. How convincing is the voice of a man who thoroughly knows his subject. Contrast the lecture of a real master with that of a smatterer! Christ was at home in His subject. "We speak that we do know." A man eager for Divine knowledge will find satisfaction here because there is no traditional tentative doctrine, but the word of One who can say, "This is true."(2) Christ satisfies the instinct of truth by not only speaking it, but being it — "I am the Truth." Only in a Person can the instinct be satisfied. The knowledge of things, books, theology, &c., can never quench this thirst. The knowledge of a Person, in whom all truth centres and from whom it radiates with light and warmth to every point in the circumference of being, is provided by the gospel.


1. There are, indeed, men who dread truth. Some men prefer carrying about them the suspicion of some fatal malady to running the risk of making suspicion certainty by going to a physician. So in things spiritual.

2. This indisposition arises from —(1) Timidity. There is an impression that certain sins are unpardonable, concerning which we may as well be ignorant as desperate.(2) Procrastination. Anything which involves exertion is deferred till a more convenient season — a season always a little beyond.(3) The innate gambling spirit of human nature, which loves the excitement of chance. These powers are mighty, but they do not disprove the assertion that there is an instinct of being true — a desire in men to see themselves as they are!

3. How does Christ satisfy this.(1) By removing the question altogether from the province of innocence. His message is to the sinful. It is a question, then, only of degree, between one who comes to Him and another. He does not say, "I come to save such and such sinners," but all, even the worst. He encourages us to be entirely frank with ourselves and Him.(2) Christ says, "Be true," and interprets this to mean, "Walk in the light with a brave, resolute, consistency." There is a natural horror of hypocrisy. In treating this as the one detestable vice, Christ appealed to an instinct of truth which has survived the Fall. Then He drew to Himself all that is sound, honest, noble; and, in demanding truth as His one condition, proved also His own adaptation to the instinctive demands of those whom He came to save.

(Dean Vaughan.)

When a man knows he is telling you the truth everything about him corroborates his sincerity. Any accomplished cross-examining lawyer knows within a little whether a witness is genuine or a deceiver. Truth has her own air and manner, her own tone and emphasis. Yonder is a blundering, ignorant country fellow in the witness-box; the counsel tries to bamboozle and confuse him, but all the while he feels that he is an honest witness, and he says to himself, "I should like to shake this fellow's evidence, for it will greatly damage my case."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THEY ARE OF THE TRUTH (1 John 3:18, 19). This implies —

1. Uprightness and integrity of character.

2. A stedfast attachment to the doctrines and precepts of the gospel. The whole of Divine revelation is called the truth; but the gospel is so called by way of eminence. "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth" (2 Corinthians 13:8).

3. A stedfast attachment to Christ, the Truth itself, the essential Truth of God. He is the original of truth, and its brightest manifestation.

4. An intimate relation to God, as the God of truth. They are begotten by the Word of truth, and bear a resemblance to the Author of truth.

II. THEY HEAR THE SAVIOUR'S VOICE. Many heard His voice indeed, while He was on earth, who derived no real benefit. They gave Him the hearing, as many do His ministers, and that was all; but His chosen people both hear and receive the truth in love. "My sheep hear My voice," &c. Whether He speaks to them in His word, or by His ministers, or whether in a way of providence, they hear and approve, believe and obey. Such as truly hear His voice, hear it —

1. With seriousness and attention.

2. With judgment and understanding. He tells us that His sheep not only hear His voice, but they know it; they distinguish it from the voice of strangers.

3. With affection and delight. Those who have heard with understanding would be always hearing. They are ready to say, "It is the voice of my Beloved," &c.

4. As addressed to themselves, and as applicable to their own case. They do not hear for others. With Samuel, they say, "Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth."

5. With a humble resolution to believe and obey. Peter and Matthew heard the Saviour's voice, saying, "Follow Me;" and they instantly obeyed.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

Pilate saith unto Him, What Is truth?
In all deference to Lord Bacon, we cannot believe that this sentence was spoken in jest. In Pilate's whole conduct there is no trace of such a tone. It betrays much of uncertainty, nothing of lightness. He was cruelly tormented with the perplexity of efforts to save his prisoner. He risked his own reputation. He pronounced Him, almost with vehemence, to be innocent. He even felt awe, and was afraid of Him. In such a frame of mind, mockery was impossible. Sarcasm there was: but it was mournful, bitter sarcasm which hides inward unrest.


1. Indecision of character. He first throws the blame on the priests — and then acknowledges that all responsibility is his own: washes his hands. And then — "Knowest thou not that I have power," &c. He pronounces Jesus innocent; and then delivers Him to be scourged; yields Him up to be crucified, and then tries every underhand expedient to save Him. What could a mind, like a feather on the wind, know of truth, which remaineth like a rock amidst the changeful fashions of the minds of men? "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."

2. Falseness to his own convictions. Pilate had a conviction that Jesus was innocent. Instead of acting at once on that, he argued and debated till She practical force of the conviction was unsettled. I do not say that a man is never to re-examine a question. A young man of twenty-three, with such light as he has, forms his views: is he never to have more light? Is he never in manhood, with manhood's data and experience, to modify, or even reverse, what once seemed the very Truth itself? Nay, this were the weak pride of consistency, the cowardice which dares not say I have been wrong. The best and bravest have struggled from error into truth; they listened to their honest doubts, and tore up their old beliefs by the very roots. Distinguish however. A man may unsettle the verdict of his intellect; it is at his peril that he tampers with the convictions of his conscience. Every opinion and view must remain an open question, freely to be tried with fresh light. But there are eternal truths of right and wrong, upon which it is perilous to argue. Now Pilate was false to his conscience. Jesus' innocence was not a matter of probability, nor one in which fresh evidence was even expected. Every charge has fallen to the ground. When a man brings a clear and practised intellect to try questions, by the answer to which he does not mean to rule his conduct, let him not marvel if he feels, as life goes on, a sense of desolation; existence a burden, and all uncertain.

3. The taint of the worldly temper of his day. Pilate knew how many systems pretended to an exclusive possession of truth; and how the pretensions of each were overthrown by another. And his incredulity was but a specimen of the scepticism fashionable in his day. And his desire to save Jesus was precisely the liberalism current in our day as in his — an utter disbelief in the truths of a world unseen, but at the same time a half-benevolent, half-indolent unwillingness to molest the poor dreamers who chose to believe in such superstitions. This is the superficial liberalism which is contracted in public life; never going deep; satisfied with the brilliant flippancy which treats religious beliefs as phases of human delusion, seeing the hollowness of the characters around, and believing that all is hollow; and yet not without moments of superstition, as when Pilate was afraid hearing of a Son of God; not without moments of horrible insecurity, when the question, "What is truth?" is a sarcasm on themselves and human life, wrung out of the loneliest and darkest bewilderment that can agonize a human soul. To such a character Jesus would not explain His truth. God's truth is too sacred to be expounded to superficial worldliness in its transient fit of earnestness.

4. That priestly bigotry which forbids inquiry and makes doubt a crime.(1) The priests of that day had much to answer for. One — of whom they only knew that He was a man of unblemished life — came forward to proclaim the truth. But it was new; they had never sanctioned such; and so they settled that the thing was heresy. Then they proceeded to bind that decision upon others. A man was heard to say, "Why, what evil hath He done?" Small offence enough, but it savoured of a dangerous candour towards a suspected man; and in the priestly estimate, candour is the next step to heresy. They stifled Pilate's soul's rising convictions with threats and penalties — "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend."(2) The results of this priestcraft were twofold. The first was seen in the fanaticism of the people; the second in the scepticism of Pilate. And these are the two results which come from all claims to infallibility, and all prohibition of inquiry. They make bigots of the feeble-minded who cannot think; cowardly bigots, who at the bidding of their priests or ministers swell the ferocious cry for the persecution of some opinion which they fear and hate; turning private opinion into civil crime; and they make sceptics of the acute intellects which, like Pilate, see through their fallacies, and like Pilate too, dare not publish their misgivings. And it matters not in what form that claim to infallibility is made. These two things must follow — you make fanatics, and you make sceptics; believers you cannot make.


1. I am not about to be guilty of the presumption of answering the question which Jesus did not answer. The truth cannot be compressed into a sermon. Think you, that if Christ Himself could have answered that question in a certain number of sentences, He would have spent thirty years of life in witnessing to it! Some men would compress into the limits of one reply, or one discourse the truth which it took Christ thirty years to teach, and which He left unfinished for the Spirit to complete.

2. The truth is infinite as the firmament above you. In childhood, both seem near and measureable; but with years they grow and grow; and seem further off, and further and grander, and deeper and vaster, as God Himself; till you smile to remember how you thought you could touch the sky, and blush to recollect the proud and self-sufficient way in which you used to talk of knowing or preaching "the truth."

3. The truth is made up of principles; an inward life, not any mere formula of words. God's character; spiritual worship; the Divine life in the soul. How shall I put that into sentences ten or ten thousand? "The words which I speak unto you are life." How could Pilate's question be answered except by a life?

4. The appointed ways to teach this truth.(1) Independence. Independence is nothing more than a deep sense of personal responsibility; a determination to trust in God rather than in man to teach; in God and God's light in the soul. You choose a guide among precipices and glaciers; but you walk for yourself; you use your own strength; you rely on your own nerves. You select your own physician, deciding upon the respective claims of men, the most ignorant of whom knows more of the matter than you. You prudently hesitate at times to follow the advice of the one you trust most, yet that is only independence without a particle of presumption. And so precisely in matters of religious truth. No man cares for your health as you do; therefore you rely blindly upon none. No man has the keeping of your own soul, or cares for it as you do. For yourself therefore, you inquire and think, and you refuse to delegate that work to bishop, priest, or church.(2) Humbleness. There is no infallibility in man. We may err: that one thought is enough to keep a man humble. There are two kinds of temper contrary to this spirit.(a) A disputing, captious temper. Disagreement is refreshing when two men lovingly desire to compare their views to find out the truth. Controversy is wretched when it is an attempt to prove one another wrong. Therefore Christ would not argue with Pilate.(b) A hopeless spirit. Pilate's question breathed this. He felt that Jesus was unjustly condemned, but He thought Him in views as hopelessly wrong as the rest. In that despairing spirit no man gets at truth: "The meek will He guide in judgment"(3) Action. This was Christ's rule — "If any man will do His will" Here we are in a world of mystery, where all is difficult, and very much dark — where a hundred jarring creeds declare themselves to be the truth, and all are plausible. How shall a man decide? Let him do the right that lies before him. Whatever else may be wrong, it must be right to be pure — to be just and tender, and merciful and honest. It must be right to love, and to deny one's self. Let him do the will of God, and he shall know.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

(Text and John 19:5): —

1. As out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, so, out of the mouth of a witness as unconscious as they, God has ordained strength because of the enemy. It is said that in nature the stinging nettle is closely attended by the healing blade, so here the sceptic's question with its most appropriate answer. It may be worth while, for once, to get a sermon from the Procurator's chair.

2. Though the preacher is ancient, the subject is not, for the sceptical question which he answered so well is a question of the day. The truth doubted is the same which unbelief doubts now. For Pilate did not doubt his senses or his reason on the reality of the plain palpable facts of observation, but the truth which Christ had been speaking, the truth about God and eternity and duty and destiny. And his position was not one of denial, only of agnosticism. He asks the question and does not wait for the answer, a method of investigation which is by no means obsolete in the nineteenth century.

3. Now let us look at the answer; and as we think of it, we remember what Christ said the very day before: "I am the Truth." There is —

I. THE TRUTH ABOUT HUMANITY. What is man? What are we to think of human life? Come now, ye biologists, here is a life to study! Come, ye anthropologists, "Behold the man!" By all means study all kinds of men, the most degraded specimens you can find if you choose; but do not consider your induction complete till you have given as much attention at least to the noblest and the best. You know the common reference to the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. Surely you do not intend to reach a conclusion as to man's place in nature with THE MAN left out? Why should attention be fixed so exclusively on the facts which belong to the lower phases of life? So long as one keeps working mainly amongst molluscs or even among troglodytes, it is not difficult to think that all is only "living matter." But when we come to the higher ranges of life we cannot dispose of them in so easy a way. It is impossible to do it honestly in dealing only with ordinary men; the difficulty is greatly increased when we are confronted with great minds and noble souls; but when we look at the greatest of all, it becomes nothing less than an insult to reason to suggest it. It is impossible to believe that we are looking at a mere phase of the animal life flickering up for a moment and falling back again to be "cast as rubbish to the void." It becomes manifest that in Him there is life clear out of the range of protoplasm and its variations, infinitely higher than any conceivable mode of living matter. See how the life shines out in contrast with the poverty and meanness of its setting, a demonstration that spirit and not flesh is the ultimate truth of humanity. See Him before Pilate, His form scarred, to all appearance a common criminal. And then think of that great soul of His, see it in its awful and majestic loneliness; compare the magnificence of this spirit with the shame of the flesh; the glory of the life with the abjectness of the living matter; and then say, if you dare, that the real truth of that manhood is to be found in the paltry matter of it, and not in the magnificent, glorious Divine Spirit. Behold the man, and see that spirit lords it over matter, and life triumphs over death. And, accordingly, when we read a little further on of His resurrection from the dead, we cannot be surprised. It is the survival of the fittest. Is He not, of all men that ever lived, the very fittest to survive, and can we suppose that nothing in that noble soul survived after He bowed His head and gave up the ghost? It is not possible. The Apostle Peter was certainly right when he said it was not possible that He should be holden of death.

II. THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD. As we continue beholding the "Man" He grows upon us wonderfully, as He grew upon His first disciples who began by asking: "What manner of man is this?" and ended by seeing in Him "the glory of the Only Begotten," &c. We find that noble life reflecting all of the glory of God which it is possible and needful for us to see. Elsewhere in nature we can, as it were, touch the hem of His garment, but we cannot know Him till we look upon His face. The face is nature's mode of revelation and recognition. Your face is not yourself, it is only the outward expression or incarnation of your spirit; but if I refuse to look into your face and will not listen to your voice, I must remain unacquainted with you. In the same way, the Man Christ Jesus is the face of God to us. By looking at Him we become acquainted with our Father in heaven; not otherwise. "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Hence present day agnosticism. The agnostic is perfectly right in saying that God cannot be known by the pure intellect, but neither can we know one another in any such way. "Behold the man" is the gospel for the agnostic.

III. LIVING, SAVING TRUTH. It has a wondrous power on the beholder. As we look and listen we are brought to our knees, constrained to cry out for pardon and for purity. And as we watch Him through the shame and agony of that awful day — crucified for us — our hearts are won. Divorced from sin, the hatefulness of which is seen in the awful sacrifice as nowhere else; divorced from sin we are yielded unto God and have peace, and hope, and life. And as still we follow Him through the gates of death up to the throne on which He now is seated, we find as deep a meaning in the second word of Pilate as in the first — "Behold your King." And now we know Him as our life, for His Spirit takes the throne of our heart, and as we still continue beholding in the Man Christ Jesus, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory by the Lord, the Spirit; and thus there is developed in us true life, not the mere agitation or fluctuation of living matter for a few years; but life indeed.

(J. Monro Gibson, D. D.)

He who asked it was the only man to whom the Redeemer vouchsafed no reply. All other inquirers after truth received a prompt and full response. The reason must be looked for in the character of Pilate, in the spirit and temper in which the question was propounded. Pilate was an educated Roman, and the age in which he lived was one of almost universal scepticism among educated Romans. Christianity to such a man could be, of course, only a new sect of Judaism, and Jesus only the deluded founder of a new heresy. Pilate has ever had his successor, and there is a remarkable likeness between this age and his in the prevalence of scepticism among the educated classes. It is now fashion. able to be a disciple of Comte, of Herbert Spencer and of Darwin. The conflict thickens around us, and the very conflict itself creates a class of men who treat all religious beliefs as equally harmless delusions. To these Pilate-minded souls there comes no reply to the light, flippant cavillings concerning ethereal verities. Pilate's cry is in the air to-day. It is repeated on every side, in treatise, novel, poem, magazine, journal. What is God? What is Christ? What is man? What, then, is the spirit in which the question must be asked to obtain a reply?

I. IT MUST NOT BE IN PILATE'S SPIRIT — IN SCEPTICISM OR SCEPTICAL INDIFFERENCE. Such a spirit is wanting in the very first element to ensure success. It is like the act of a traveller, knocking at the gate of some deserted oracle of Isis or of Delphos, and demanding in derision a response from the dead divinity. In this light, what an absurdity — nay, what an insult — is the prayer-gauge of Professor Tyndall. In what does it differ from the wild experiment of Rousseau? He will cast a stone at a particular tree, and if it strikes the tree he will conclude that the Deity has accepted the test, has guided the universe, and that there is a God. If the stone misses the mark, he will conclude there is no God. He hurls the stone, which flies wide of the mark. There is no condescension to such a trifler. The cry of the flippant sceptic will never reach the heavens. "He that comes to God must believe that He is."

II. IN THE SPIRIT OF AN EARNEST SEEKER OF TRUTH. "Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice." Every one wishes to have truth on his side, but it is not every one who wishes sincerely to be on the side of truth. He that does shall most surely find the precious pearl. There is such a thing as honest doubt. There is the real perplexity of truth-loving minds grappling with some difficulty which they would fain remove. To such Jesus says, "If ye continue in My word ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." The history of Christianity abounds with illustrations of this. In the latter part of the last century, Lord Lyttleton and Gilbert West agreed to write something in favour of infidelity. For this purpose Lyttleton chose the conversion of St. Paul, and West the resurrection of Christ. They were honest doubters, and, being honest, their studies ended in conviction. Both took up their pens and became champions of Christianity; Lyttleton produced a treatise on the conversion of St. Paul, "to which," says Dr. Johnson, "infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer." West, a work on the resurrection of our Lord, of masterly power. How different the spirit of Strauss, Renan, Buckle, and Spencer!

III. IN A SPIRIT OF WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW IT, TO OBEY ITS VOICE, TO SUBMIT TO ITS GUIDANCE. Men, it is to be feared, are too often afraid to know the truth, lest it prove a hard master. They "love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Unbelief in religion has its seat in the heart, and not in the head; in the will, and not in the understanding. And it will ever be found that in those communities and nations where the greatest corruption in morals prevails, there infidelity abounds. It was only a degradation like that of France in the days preceding her first revolution that could have produced the monstrous unbelief of those days. But to earnest souls, to honest hearts, to men who are willing to do God's will, willing to be changed, to be made pure, here is an infallible test.

(Bp. Cummins.)

A question.

I. IMPORTANT. Nothing more necessary for the mind to know.

II. OLD. Men in all ages have been asking it.

III. INTRICATE. Not to ascertain what is truth relative and ephemeral, but what is truth absolute and eternal.

IV. ANSWERED. Jesus has replied to it for all time, "I am the Truth."

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Pilate received no answer, but, first, he did not wait for one, and therefore showed a disregard to its importance; and therefore, secondly, the Saviour saw that He was in a state of mind that would render an answer worse than useless. If a man asks the way to Zion with his face thitherward, direction will be thankfully received; but when a man abuses or neglects the light he has, more would only enhance his guilt and misery. So there are many inquirers who will succeed no better than Pilate.

1. The superficial inquirer. Truth is that which he is too frivolous to discover or comprehend.

2. The inattentive inquirer. He is too indolent to attain it. The promise of success is only to the diligent, "If thou criest after knowledge," &c.

3. The prejudiced inquirer. He never sincerely denies or impartially examines, and takes the Bible in his hand to raise objections rather than to sit at the Master's feet and become wise unto salvation.

4. The proud inquirer. Truth is too humbling for him to submit to. It is no easy thing to receive the kingdom of God as a little child.

5. The sensual inquirer. Truth is too holy for his lust, and he makes the Bible his enemy by his wickedness, and then hates it because it does not prophecy good.

6. The sincere inquirer. We will take the question from him rather than from Pilate.


1. Moral truth, truth between man and man, consists in the agreement between our thoughts and words. Religious truth is that which shows us things as they are in relation to God and our responsibility to Him. Truth shows us things also as they ought to be, God being judge. It is possible for truth to be made known, and it has been made known so far as is necessary: and if this be admitted then in the Bible alone is it to be found in purity and perfection. This Word is truth. Some wish that Christ had answered the question. What light He might bare thrown had He said, "This is truth." But He has answered it, and you have His reply in your hands. And that reply is sufficient, whatever some may say. If you come to this Book and ask how it was that sin was permitted to enter into this world, &c., you will read no answer; but if you ask, "What must I do to be saved?" the response is so plain that a wayfaring man though a fool need not err.

2. Viewing the gospel then as an answer to the inquiry, let us refer to its facts. Now the birth, miracles, death, resurrection of Christ, &c., are facts, or they are nothing. Take, e.g., the Resurrection. Everything depends upon that, and if that be incapable of proof there is no event that can be proved by any testimony whatever — for the apostles were eye, ear, and hand witnesses (1 John 1:1).

3. But have not controversies arisen about Scripture doctrines? Yes; but observe the following rules and you will not go far astray.(1) Pray for guidance to the Father of lights.(2) Acknowledge no human authority in Divine things.(3) Remember that Christians do not differ so much as some imagine — when they pray they are all one.(4) Do not be guided by any single phrase, but by the entire texture of revelation — its strain and tendency.(5) That is likely to be truth which agrees the most with the experience of those who give the best evidence of being "born again" and "led by the Spirit."


1. Depends on the value of the truth itself. The gospel is the one thing needful. All the suffering in the world has arisen from the loss or absence of truth. Satan fell because "he abode not in the truth." While Adam abode in the truth he was safe; but as soon as he believed the devil's lie he fell, and involved all his posterity in his ruin. Idolatry is a lie, so is Pharisaism and Popery. What a blessing if they could all be driven back to the place from whence they came.

2. Appears from the character and procedure of God Himself. He is "the God of truth," and His Spirit is "the Spirit of truth." Observe —(1) What God has done for the truth. He has magnified it above all His name. A thousand miracles have been wrought for it, and ages have been employed to accomplish it. A whole nation was separated to be its depositaries and witnesses. Prophets and apostles were inspired, and ministers have been raised up to preach it. Christ was born to be a witness to it.(2) What has been done by it? It has abolished human sacrifices and gladiatorial exhibitions; softened the horrors of war; made marriage honourable; raised the tone of public morals, &c. "What has it not done for our country, our families, ourselves?"

(a)By this truth we have been born again.

(b)It has been our comfort in affliction.

(c)It has fed our understanding.

(d)It has opened a thousand sources of pleasure.

(e)It prepares us for all the duties of life.

(f)It will be our great solace in death.


1. To seek to understand it. Let us explore the length and breadth of our heritage.

2. To apply it to the purposes for which it is given — not to gratify the curiosity, amuse, or furnish matter for controversy, but to believe in Jesus Christ and have life through His name.

3. To confess it. While we are to believe "with the heart" we are to confess "with the mouth." "Whosoever shall be ashamed," &c.

4. To defend it. "Earnestly contend for the faith," &c.

5. To diffuse it.

(W. Jay.)

Truth, the mother of Virtue, is painted in garments as white as snow. Her looks are serene, pleasant, courteous, cheerful, and yet modest: she is the pledge of all honesty, the bulwark of honour, the light and joy of human society. She is commonly accounted the daughter of Time or Saturn, because Truth is discovered in the course of time; but Democritus feigns that she lies hid in the bottom of a well.

(Andrew Tooke.)

Truth is the most glorious thing: the least filing of this gold is precious. Truth is ancient; its grey hairs may make it venerable; it comes from Him who is the Ancient of Days. Truth is unerring: it is the star which leads to Christ. Truth is pure (Psalm 119:140): it is compared to silver refined seven times (Psalm 12:6). There is not the least spot on truth's face: it breathes nothing but sanctity. Truth is triumphant: it is like a great conqueror; when all its enemies lie dead it keeps the field, and sets up its trophies of victory. Truth may be opposed, but never quite deposed. In the time of Diocletian things seemed desperate, truth ran low: soon after was the golden time of Constantius, and then truth did again lift up its head. When the water in the Thames is lowest, a high tide is ready to come in. God is on truth's side, and so long there is no fear but it will prevail. "The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved" (2 Peter 3:12), but not that truth which came from heaven (1 Peter 1:25).

(T. Watson.)

I. THE TRANSCENDENT IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH TO MAN. This might be proved, inasmuch as man is —

1. An intellectual being. The reason of man forms the link between man and his Gods and in as far as it is unperverted, seeks after truth. There was no feature in the mighty mind of Newton, who grasped the universe almost in his span, that was so remarkable as his childlike, simple love of truth. Truth in art, in science, in metaphysics, in morals, and in nature, ought to be the aim of the mind, but if truth in pursuits which have merely to do with things seen and temporal be of moment, how much more truth, even in an intellectual point of view, in reference to the reality of a world that never changes and that never passes away. If to know the glorious works of God be an exalted study, how much more to know the nature of that Great Architect who built and beautified the universe! If to measure the dimensions, and to understand the proportions of things visible be noble, how much more to explore and to investigate the nature, the proportion, and the dimensions of the wondrous things that are connected with the world to come!

2. A moral and responsible being. All within us and without us tell and testify that we have to do with the great unseen God. The ties which bind the creature to his Creator and his Preserver, must of all ties be the most intimate. There is a conscience in man that testifies, and a reason that responds to the testimony, that there is verily a God that judgeth in the earth. If it were not that man is a responsible being, why do we find among the savage as well as the sage a conscience exercising its power. If then man be a responsible being, how emphatically interesting to man to know that God with whom he has to do — how he may approve himself in the sight of his Heavenly Ruler, and how he may enjoy His favour.

3. An immortal being. Were man what the infidel represents him, it might be indeed of little moment what man knew, or of what he was ignorant. But if man be an immortal being, then that fact stamps upon man an infinite worth, and stamps, therefore, upon religious truth a worth that is infinite also.

4. A fallen being. The proofs of evil are as plain as the proofs of existence, and along with these there are proofs that that depravity is not accidental, but that it is the painful consequences of man's own fatal choice. There is a sense of guilt upon man that makes him dread to meet his God. If it were all well with man, if there were peace in his conscience, it might be, comparatively speaking, of little moment to ascertain truth. But, being guilty, man needs to know how he may be reconciled to God; how his guilt may be removed and his ruin remedied.

II. WHERE THEN IS TRUTH TO BE FOUND? "Thy Word is truth." Then how transcendent the importance of the Scriptures of truth to man.

1. As an intellectual being. Does man sigh for information respecting God, His character, the worship He requires? Let Him open the Scriptures of truth, and there he finds "shallows in which & lamb may wade, and depths in which an elephant may swim." There are those glorious heights — that sublime morality — those splendid discoveries which elevate and expand the intellect. Yea, the Word of God is the great foster-mother of all the arts and sciences of civilized life.

2. As a responsible being. He asks reason, but it can give him little information; conscience, but its rays are half quenched within him. But let him open the Word of God, and there you will see written, as in letters of light, all that his Father would have him to do, so plain, that "he who runs may read."

3. An immortal being. It does not point him to a Mahometan paradise, or tell him of a place of liquid fire, such as heathen poets have described, but in its simple sublimity tells us that "after death comes the judgment;" of "the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched;" of heaven, in the simple declarations of glory.

4. As a sinful being. If it simply told us how we might know God and ascertain His will and the dread sanctions of His law, it would but have enhanced our misery and increased our guilt. But it is as a revelation to lost man of the glad tidings of eternal life through the blood of the Lamb that the Book of God is of most transcendent interest to man.

(H. Stowell, M. A.)

Pilate saith unto them I find no fault in Him.
I. THE SECRET MOTIVE. A conviction of the innocence of Christ (ver. 28). A valuable testimony.

1. Directly to the blamelessness of Christ. Whatever violations of ecclesiastical law or social custom might be laid to Christ's charge, Pilate saw that He was no plotter of sedition.

2. Indirectly to the sinlessness of Christ. That the charge of treason was the strongest the Jews could prefer — the one they could most easily establish — may be assumed. If, therefore, this failed, it is more than likely that every other would have proved abortive.

II. THE OSTENSIBLE PRETEXT — a desire to honour Jewish customs (ver. 39).

1. The custom was dubious.(1) On the one hand it might be eulogized as a fitting mark of a festive season, and a reminder of the Divine clemency, of which the feast was a memorial.(2) But on the other its observance involved a crime (Proverbs 17:15), and the liberation of Barabbas was no boon to the people.

2. The pretext was bad. Christ required not to be liberated ez gratia, but as innocent.

III. THE FORMAL, PROPOSAL — to release Jesus (ver. 39). Pilate committed three mistakes.

1. In not immediately discharging Christ. Justice commanded, and conscience prompted to this. Had he done this he might have suffered, but he would have acted courageously and right. But he hesitated, and was lost.

2. In proposing to release Christ as a matter of grace instead of justice. There are times when compromises are permissible, but when one course alone is right and the other sinful, there is no room for compromise.

3. In putting Christ in competition with Barabbas. To do so was —

(1)A moral wrong — knowing as he did the character of both.

(2)A tactical mistake; for though intended in Christ's interest, believing that between the two the people would never hesitate, it had exactly the contrary result.

IV. THE UTTER DEFEAT — by the preference of Barabbas (ver. 40).

1. With unexpected eagerness. It must have startled the governor to hear the people's response, to see his hopes so quickly blighted. But the hope of the wicked is usually shortlived (Job 8:13; Job 5:13).

2. With prompt decision.

3. With deafening clamour.Learn —

1. The danger of trifling with conscience.

2. The doubtfulness of compromise.

3. The madness of sin.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)


1. This was a novel charge. For when He stood before Caiaphas nothing was said of any evil that He had done, but only of evil that He had spoken. This had broken down, and they did not venture upon it a second time, because they knew that Pilate did not care what the man had said. The Romans were a practical people, and so Pilate asked, "What hast Thou done?" For this reason the priests brought forward this newly-invented accusation, which might mean little or much, as the hearer chose to interpret it — malice is seldom specific in its charges.

2. It was a charge which they did not attempt to sustain. How craftily they evaded the task of supplying proof I Their suborned perjurers were left behind. "If He were not a malefactor," &c., "You must take it for granted that He is guilty, or we would not say so." This style of argument we hear now: we are expected to give up the faith because scientists condemn it, and they are such eminent persons that we ought to accept their dicta without further delay. I confess I am not prepared to accept their infallibility any more than that which hails from Rome. The Roman governor was not to be overridden by priests, neither are we to be led by the nose by prentendedly learned men.

3. They could not have sustained the charge, and so far they were wise in not attempting the impossible. They might be foolhardy enough to wrest His words, but they hesitated before the task of attacking His deeds. Before His awful holiness they were for the moment out of heart, and knew not what slander to invent.

4. This charge was never denied by Christ. It was useless to deny it before the priests. He had already challenged them to find fault with His life, saying, "I spake openly," &c. But there might have been some use, one would think, in His answering to Pilate, for Pilate was evidently very favourably impressed with his prisoner. But our Lord had come on earth on purpose to be "numbered with the transgressors." He says nothing because, though in Him is no sin, He has taken our sin upon Himself. Yet further, our Lord willed that by being counted as a transgressor by Pilate He might die the death appointed for malefactors by the Roman law. If the Jews had put our Lord to death for blasphemy, it would have been by stoning; but then, none of the prophecies predicted this. The death ordained for Him was crucifixion. Call Him not malefactor, but benefactor. What a benefactor must He be who in order to benefit us allows Himself to be branded as a "malefactor"! Should not this sweeten every title of reproach that can ever fall upon us?


1. This charge, in the sense in which they intended it, was utterly false, for when the multitude would have made Him a king, He hid Himself: and ever declined to usurp judicial functions.

2. This charge did not come from the governing power. When Pilate asked, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" the wise reply was, "Sayest thou this of thyself?" &c. As the governor of this nation you have to watch carefully, for the people are seditious; have you ever seen or heard anything of Me that looks like an attack upon your authority?

3. It was a frivolous charge on the very face of it. How could that harmless, forsaken Man be a peril to Caesar? Moreover, it would seem a strange thing that the Jewish people should bring before the Roman governor their own king. Is this the way that subjects treat their monarchs?

4. The Lord never denied this charge in the sense in which he chose to understand it.(1) He explained what He meant by being a king, and notice carefully that He did not explain it away.(2) Having explained His meaning, He confessed that He was a King.

III. THE ACQUITTAL WHICH PILATE GAVE TO JESUS. This verdict is that of all who have ever —

1. Examined Christ. Some have examined Him with an unfriendly eye, but in proportion as they have been candid, they have been struck with His life and spirit. No character like that of Jesus is to be seen in history, nay, not even in romance. If any one says the four Gospels are forgeries, let him try to write a fifth which shall be like the other four.

2. Associated with Christ. One disciple who was with Christ betrayed Him, but he spoke nothing against Him. Nay, his last witness is. "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." If there had been a fault in Jesus. the traitor would have spied it out; his unquiet conscience would have been glad enough to find therein a sedative. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" is the challenge of Jesus, to which there is no reply.

3. Lived with Christ spiritually. In the course of His providence He has brought some of us very low. What is the verdict? "I find no fault at all in Him." He is everything that is lovely. He is all my salvation and all my desire. Out of so many believers surely some one or other, when they came to die, would have told us if He is not all that He professes to be.

4. Of every one some day. If any of you reject Christ, when you shall stand at His judgment-seat, you shall then be obliged to say, "I find no fault at all in Him." There was no failure in His blood, the failure was in my want of faith; no failure in His Spirit — the failure was in my obstinate will. Conclusion:

1. Beware of an external religion, for the men who falsely accused Christ were very religious people, and would not go into Pilate's hall for fear of polluting themselves.

2. Shun all proud worldliness like that of Pilate.

3. Submit to Jesus the King.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Not this Man but Barabbas.
The name seems to tell a tale. Bar, signifies "son;" as, Barjonah, "son of John;" and Bartholomew, "son of Tolmai;" abbas was the Greek form of the Hebrew word for "father." It looks as if the name here had, years before, been given in fond endearment to this creature when young, and that it meant "father's own boy." Perhaps there was sadness in the unfolding of the young life, and by degrees the bud of promise burst into a flower of deadly nightshade. We know nothing with certainty; but on such a subject as this the imagination will work, and we think of the "father's boy" as ruined by unwise fondness; we see the natural history of such indulgence in the indulged child becoming the sorrow of his father and the shame of his race. Whatever was the process we here see the result. Are the officers of justice looking for the hand that accomplished the last bold robbery? or that applied the match that made the last explosion? or the hand that struck the last blow in the dark? or has there been a secret muster of dangerous force, and they want to find the "head centre" of the conspiracy, and the captain of the gang? I think that in many such searchings, Barabbas was the criminal wanted. On this occasion, he had been arrested as the leader of an insurrection, and under colour of political aspirations was a convicted robber and murderer. It has even been thought by critics who are not to be slighted that this adventurer professed to be the leader of a religious as well as a political revolt, and that he arrogated to himself the title of "Messiah." "Jesus," we are told by some authorities, was one of his names, and that Pilate's question took the form, "Do you wish that I should release to you Jesus who is called the Christ, or Jesus Barabbas?" There he stands! "Dangerous" is written on his face, — robber, plotter, desperado, murderer, caught red-handed; at the sight of him horror creeps over me, my heart beats hard throbs, and the muscles of my hand stand out like cords of iron. "Jews! Turn your eyes away from this type of demonized humanity, and look at Him against whom he has been set up as rival, Jesus, the wiser than the wisest, kinder than the kindest, purer than the purest, better than the best; what say you, will you release Him?" When this appeal is made, the cry comes back, "Not this Man, but Barabbas."

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

Not the only time that a robber has been preferred to Christ. It is a choice that is made by multitudes in Christian England, as it was by that infuriated rabble eighteen hundred years ago. Why should I mince matters? You are preferring something before Christ. Its name may not be Barabbas. The ban of society may not rest upon it. And yet for all that, it is a robber.

1. It robs you; it robs you of peace, happiness, Christ. Anything you choose before Him robs you of Him. He will take no second place in your heart.

2. It robs Christ of you. You belong to Him; He made you; He bought you with His blood. Many prefer —

I. THEIR SINS TO CHRIST. Jesus stands before you. Deity come down to humanity, humanity exalted into Deity. He says, "Come unto Me." But men refuse. Failing there, He stands, shall I say higher, or lower still? On Calvary; and thence His dying voice again says — "Come." But — will you believe it? — this call of a dying Redeemer dies away unheeded. "Not this Man, but" — but — oh! who or what is this rival, who blinds your eyes to the grace of that heavenly form? Sin is its name, that hideous, deformed, repulsive thing.

1. Sin is a robber. It robs you of —(1) Your peace of mind. The sinner is not a happy man. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."(2) Heaven. Remember, while you are imbibing its stolen draughts, and rolling its forbidden fruit as a sweet morsel under your tongue, that is not the end of it. You would not knowingly harbour a thief beneath your roof, and yet you scruple not to make a home for sin in your heart — that heart for which Jesus is asking and waiting in vain.

2. Sin, like Barabbas, is also a leader in sedition. What is it that disturbs the peace of nations, that snaps the bonds of fraternity, and breaks up the foundations of a people's prosperity, but sin?

3. Like Barabbas, sin is a murderer — it was a murderer from the beginning; it murders souls with an eternal dying.

II. EASE AND SELF-INDULGENCE. Here we come from the outer circle of the world into the inner circle of the Church. How many pay Christ the compliment of coming to church once a Sunday, and here their service begins and ends! There are men who name that name which is the synonym for all that is disinterested and unselfish, who think more of their champagne than they think of the Church, and who give more for their champagne than they give to their Saviour. If I were an author, ambitious of signalizing myself by writing the shortest volume ever known, I would come to some of the members of our genteel suburban churches, and ask their permission to write an account of what they are doing for Christ and for the world. Brief indeed would be the history! A solitary cipher would describe all that many are doing for the Lord that bought them, and for a perishing world! There is a passage that must be a precious solace to some so-called Christians — "We which have believed do enter into rest." But remember, that is the labourer's rest after toil, not the idler's rest from toil. But I have another passage to set over against this — "Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion!" Yes, woe, for this ease is a Barabbas, a robber.

1. It robs your fellow-mere There are multitudes of ignorant, hungry, afflicted, dying, to whom a Christian visit is like an angel's presence. Your selfishness robs them of that.

2. It robs Christ of the reward of His sufferings, of jewels to His crown. Who knows what little one might have been led to Jesus had you taken your place in the Sabbath-school?

3. It robs yourselves —(1) Of present happiness. It is the working Christian who is the happy Christian. While "he waters others, he is watered also himself."(2) Of the Divine approbation; it will deprive you of that encomium at the day of reckoning which it were well worth spending a thousand lives to hear — "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." You are loving your ease better than Christ. What if Christ had loved His ease better than you?

III. GAIN. All some men are living for is pounds, shillings, and pence, as though no Christ had ever lived and died. There was no room for Christ in the inn; there is no room for Him in the shop and in the counting-house, I fear. Now, this Barabbas is a robber. Ah! you think that you are growing rich; but instead of this, you are being daily robbed, and growing unutterably poor. You would soon be alert if you thought a thief was at your till. This Barabbas of mammon is robbing you —

1. Of your precious probation time here on earth.

2. Of your souls. Wealth is "the pearl of great price," that lies in the field of business, and men will sell all that they have to enable them to buy that field. They will sell their veracity, their honour, their principles, their manliness, and of necessity, in the end lose their souls. But "what shall it profit a man," &c.

(J. Halsey.)

I. THE SIN AS WE FIND IT IN THIS HISTORY. The sin will be more clearly seen if we remember that —

1. The Saviour had done no ill. No law, either of God or man, had He broken.

2. He had even conferred great temporal blessings upon them. Oh ravening multitude, has He not fed you when you were hungry? Did He not heal your sick?

3. Wherein did His teaching offend against morality or the best interests of man? What did He preach for? No selfish motive could have been urged. The true reason of their hate, no doubt, lay in the natural hatred of all men to perfect goodness. To be too holy in the judgment of men is a great crime, for it rebukes their sin.


1. When the apostles went forth to preach the gospel, and the truth had spread through many countries, there were severe edicts passed by the Roman Emperors. Against whom were these edicts framed? Against the foul offenders of that day. I find that they were borne with and scarcely mentioned with censure; but tortures of every kind, were used against the innocent, humble followers of Christ.

2. Then the world changed its tactics; it became nominally Christian. The Pope of Rome put on the triple crown, and called himself the Vicar of Christ; then came in the abomination of the worship of saints, angels, and images, the mass, &c., and every head bowed before the sovereign representative of Peter at Rome. The Church of Rome was equal in sin to Barabbas.

3. Since that day the world has changed its tactics yet again; in many parts of the earth Protestantism is openly acknowledged, and the gospel is preached, but what then? Then comes in the Barabbas of mere ceremonialism, orthodoxy, or morality.


1. What company did you like best? Was it not that of the frivolous, if not that of the profane? When you sat with God's people, their talk was very tedious.

2. When we had time for thinking, what were our favourite themes?

3. And what were our pleasures?

4. Some of us have to confess with shame that we were never more in our element than when conscience ceased to accuse us and we could plunge into sin with riot. What was our reading then? Any book sooner than the Bible.

4. What were our aspirations then? Self was what we lived for.

5. Where did we spend our best praise? Did we praise Christ? No; we praised cleverness, and when it was in association with sin, we praised it none the less. It would have been the same to-day with us, if almighty grace had not made the difference. It was mighty grace which made us to seek the Saviour.


1. Let me state your case. There are those who would have been followers of Christ but that they preferred —


(2)Some favourite lust.


(4)Acquaintances and friends.

2. Let me plead Christ's cause with you. Why is it that you reject Christ? Are you not conscious of the many good things which you receive from Him? You would have been in hell but for Him? Why will you prefer your own gain and self-indulgence to that blessed One to whom you owe so much?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Tremellius was a Jew from whose heart the veil had been taken away, and who had been led by the Holy Spirit to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews who condemned Christ had said "Not this man," &c. Tremellius, when near his end, glorying in Christ alone and renouncing whatever came in competition with Him said, "Not Barabbas but Jesus."


I. POPULAR. Popular election wrong for once! Vox populi non semper vox Dei.

II. FRENZIED. When passion rules judgment dies.

III. CRIMINAL. They desired a murderer and killed the Prince of Life (Acts 3:14).

IV. FOOLISH. They chose an enemy and rejected a Friend, and such a Friend l

V. FATAL. It sealed their destruction as a people.

VI. PREDICTED (Isaiah 53:3).

VII. OVERRULED. It brought salvation to the world, even to the Jews (cf. Psalm 76:10; Amos 5:8; Isaiah 40:4; Romans 8:8).

(T. Whitelaw D. D.)

Barabbas was a robber; but He was not a common thief. He was a political adventurer, as we gather from combining the narratives. The two "malefactors" were probably His comrades; and it is not hard to identify the section of the people to whom he belonged. They were "Zealots," men whose resentment of heathen usurpation was so profound and bitter that they would keep no truce with Rome. They would pay neither toll nor tax, and in their continual risings became mere brigands robbing and murdering to gratify personal passion as well as religious ends. Judas the Gaulonite (Acts 5:37) is mentioned by Josephus as the earliest distinguished leader of the party; and to his action the historian traces the downfall of the Jewish nation. Theudas was another of their leaders; Simon the Cananaean, one of Christ's disciples, had been originally of their numbers; and Paul was supposed (Acts 21:38) to be implicated in their proceedings. Jut]as is said to have risen up "in the days of the taxing" (cf. Luke 2:1). The movement, therefore, was about the age of Jesus. He found Himself surrounded by its influences, but He from the first distrusted and repelled it. His hostility to such methods of advancing the kingdom of God is shown in the temptation. Throughout His ministry He was beset by the temptation to aim at political influence for the advancement of God's kingdom, and to encourage political expectations to His followers. It was presented to Him by His friends and by His enemies, and by the people who were neither, but were ready to become either according as He should flatter or deny their hope of deliverance from Rome. A signal instance of the disappointment of the people is recorded in chap. John 6. When He declined the crown "many of His disciples went back," &c. Another incident occurred when the Pharisees and Sadducees came "tempting Him "to show them a sign from heaven, some portent which should prove His Messiahship by the overthrow of the powers of the world. He promised them no sign but that of Jonas — the minister of God's mercy to the Gentiles. Perceiving the impossibility of satisfying the people's requirements, and forecasting the issue, He set Himself to prepare the disciple's for it and "from that time forth to show how He must be rejected," &c. The incident of the tribute money brought the climax nearer. His recognition of Caesar was repressive of the people's hopes, and shut Him out from being their representative. And now they who a few months before had asked Him, "How long dost Thou make us to doubt?" declare that they are no longer in doubt. There had come to the Jews one of those critical hours which sometimes arrive for men and nations, when their hesitancy is determined; when they do an irrevocable deed, and in doing it reveal their deepest choice, what has been the actual bent of their purpose all the time of their apparent indecision. The Jews rejected Christ because His spirit and purpose were not theirs. Barabbas was their true representative, not Christ; henceforth Barabbas will be their leader; with Barabbas they will fall and be judged. The chief priests and elders have alienated the people finally from Jesus; but to do this they have betrayed their trust. They are no longer the people's leaders; they are drawn on in the current of the feeling they invoke. They have flattered the prejudices and aroused the passions of the crowd; in the great disasters which subsequently befell the nation they were either the unwilling instruments of popular prejudice, or the victims of the fury of the mob. To recognize the full significance of their action we must remember that up to this, they had been uncommitted to the violent procedure of men like Barabbas. The Zealots were popular heroes, but they had met with no favour from the heads of the nation: the priestly party objected both to their objects, and to their way of securing them; and elders from among the Pharisees, while partially sympathising with their spirit, absolutely disapproved their methods. But the malice of the rulers against Jesus was more potent than their convictions concerning the destiny and policy of their nation: they were ready to face any possibility rather than that Jesus should escape. The same self-abandonment which afterwards appeared in their cry, "We have no king but Caesar," is evident in their stirring up the multitude to ask for Barabbas. They are twice betrayers of their nation. They encourage the people in the way of insurrection; they invoke Caesar as their king. The final result of their action was seen when Jerusalem was compassed about with armies and torn by intestine strife. Barabbas holding garrison in the Temple, and Caesar thundering at the gates — "Whose was the anguish in that death hour?" The world contains no record of horrors like the seige of Jerusalem; and the most frightful feature of the narrative is the conduct of the Zealots. They had proved themselves men void of understanding, with neither ruth nor scruple; and yet the people could not cast off the habit of obeying them: there were no other leaders whom they could choose. The name "Zealots" was lost in their other name, "murderers" — Sicarii, or dagger-men. The whole city was given up to their government, and their conduct was such as to move the heart of Titus, who invoked God to witness that this was not his work. Such was the issue with which the incident before us was charged; such the portentous prophecy when, under the instigation of their chief priest and rulers, the Jews cried out, "Not this Man, but Barabbas."

(A. Mackennal, D. D.)

One of the most striking works of that true spiritual genius, George Tinworth, represents the release of Barabbas and the condemnation of Christ. Pilate is delineated as the centre of the group; he is standing washing his hands, thus emphasizing the innocence of Jesus, who, at his left, is seen bound and in custody, led away to be scourged and crucified. Barabbas is on Pilate's right; he is stooping down, free and light-hearted, to rejoin the people. Barabbas is styled in an inscription below his figure, "The world's choice." The inscription below Jesus is "The Good Shepherd." The levity of the call for Barabbas and the unerring Divine Judgment, are suggested by a reference to Ecclesiastes 8:12. The general lesson of the composition is one with which historians, moralists, poets have made us familiar —

"Truth for ever on the scaffold, Wrong for ever on the throne —

Yet that scaffold sways the Future, and behind the dim unknown

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own."Tinworth's genius appears in the extraordinary vividness with which he has conceived and expressed the fact that Barabbas was personally popular. While Jesus comes forward, sorrowful and solitary, followed by supercilious smiles or cold despite, those who have known Barabbas crowd around him to congratulate him; the very soldiers who have been his jailers clasp his hands, as if they were sorry to lose a boon companion. Intensity of moral purpose, elevation of spiritual thought, are hindrances to popularity; the absence of these is distinctly favourable to a superficial geniality, which may blind even to the heinousness of crime. Christ could never have been "the world's choice."

(A. Mackennal, D. D.).

The Biblical Illustrator, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bible Hub
John 17
Top of Page
Top of Page