Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

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come to his aid against the priests, he fell upon another expedient.
There lay in the prison at that moment a man named Barabbas,
whose general notoriety as a robber had culminated in an act of
sedition in the very metropolis, in which outbreak it Mas well
known that he had committed murder. As the ringleader of the
insurrectionists, who also lay bound with hi in, it was generally
supposed that on this day he would be crucified. He had
been tried and convicted for the very crime which had been
charged on Jesus, namely, sedition. No one doubted the guilt of
Barabbas, while no one could bring a particle of proof to fasten
the charge on Jesus. The contrast was striking. Agreeing to
observe the custom, he narrows the choice to a selection between
Jesus and Barabbas, not having apparently the shadow of a doubt
that the popular voice would at once release Jesus from his peril
and Pilate from his perplexity.

To his utter astonishment the people preferred Barabbas.
His trouble was increased at this moment by another circum-
stance. It had formerly been forbidden the governors of con-
quered provinces to cany their wives with them to
, the provincial capitals. This rule had been modi-

fied so as to allow the ladies to accompany their
lords, the governors being held responsible for any intrigues or


derelictions of their spouses. Pilate's wife, — whose name as Clau-
dia Procla, and whose fame as a woman of devout habits, leaning
kindly to the religion of the people whom her husband ruled, tra-
dition has preserved, — moved by a morning dream, sent a messengei
to her husband beseeching him to have nothing to do against Jesus,
who, she was persuaded, was a good man. The message came to
Pilate while he was on the judgment-seat, and while he was
endeavoring to solve the problem of saving Jesus and placating
the church party, bent on his ruin. Worldly man as he was, there
was doubtless a tinge of superstition in his heart. He may have
had no clear theological opinions, no fixed religious convictions,
but all the peoples among whom he had travelled believed in gods,
and there was something in this prisoner which strangely influ-
enced him ; perhaps lis was a god, and perhaps the gods gave warn
ing in dreams. It may have occurred to his recollection what had
been rife in Rome, that the night before the great Caesar was assas-
sinated, his wife Calphurnia dreamed that her husband's bloody
body fell across her knees. Thus his perplexity was increased.

He could scarcely persuade himself that the people had made
this choice. He was not much of a democrat. He could not have
believed that most monstrous falsehood, Voxpopu-

h vox Dei est. But a few days before, the multi- The unsfcable

lii • t people,

tude had come trooping into Jerusalem, shout-
ing preans to this extraordinarily popular pr< >phet. They certainly
could not now prefer Barabbas to him, for Barabbas had made
the highway dangerous and had been a common villain. More-
over, he had been condemned for that of which their leaders had
accused Jesus. It is this which had made Pilate all along sus-
picious f the churchmen: they preferreda political charge against
Jesus, while he knew that in their hearts they did not love the
Romau yoke. But Pilate was giving way. He had already
agreed to scourge an innocent man. They pushed him. They
ciicd out " all at once." It w:is the roar of what Burke calls the
Bellua Pqpulit8 } that wild beast the People. It was becoming
fright ful. " Not this man ! " " Away with this fellow | » « Release
Barabbas to us 1 " What is the governor to do in this case 1 Jesus
is charged with sedition, and the .lews arc proving their loyalty
to Rome by urging his destruction; hut they are proving their
disloyalty by demanding the release of a man convicted f leading
a seditious insurrection.


Standing on his judgment-seat, before the tessellated pavement,
Pilate demanded : " What shall I do, then, with Jesus, who is
called Christ, whom ye call King of the Jews?"
.. " Crucify him, crucify him," they exclaimed. A

third time the governor interposed : " What evil
has he done? Prove a capital crime. I have found no cause of
death in him. I will release him, after having scourged him."
But that proposition did not pacify them. They cried out the
more exceedingly, saying, with loud voices, " Let lrim be cru-
cified ! " When the populace united with the priests Pilate gavo
way. lie had shown a weakness of which the priests, who hated
him, took advantage. Perhaps he reasoned thus : Things have
reached such a pass that quiet can no more be restored without
bloodshed. To release Jesus will not save him from this furious
mob, who will tear him in pieces. An insurrection will be raised.
I shall be compelled to call out the troops. Then several will
perish. I shall have to give him up !

The weak ruler sent for a ewer of water, and standing in his
place he washed his hands before them all, and again declared
the innocence of Jesus, but by this symbolic act
hish , endeavored to throw all responsibility from him-

self, saying to the mob, " I am innocent of the
blood of this just person ! But see you to it ! " The infuriated
multitude answered : " His blood be on us and on our children ! "
Then, deceiving himself and drugging his conscience, Pilate con-
sented to their demand, and released Barabbas to them.

Then Pilate caused Jesus to be scourged. The Itoman scourg-
ing surpassed the Hebrew in all the particulars of severity. In
the latter only the shoulders were bared ; in the
former the whole person : in the latter the stripes
were limited to forty, save one ; in the former there was no limit.
It was the punishment given to a slave. The stripes of the lash
were loaded with bones or metallic fragments. The scourging
of those who were to be crucified was so frightful that the con-
demned frequently escaped the cross by dying under the thongs.
Then the soldiers of Pilate took Jesus away into the common
hall, called the Prsetorium, probably in the castle of Antonia,*
and gathered the whole company of the gnard,
which usually numbered about 400 men. They
stripped him again, and on his torn and bleeding shoulders put a



scarlet robe, probably some old military coat from tbe wardrobe
of the guard-room. Then they plaited a crown from the twigs
of some thorny growth. It may have been the Syrian acacia, the
thorns of which are as long as an ordinary finger. But we can-
not know what particular kind of thorns were used. It is enough
that they intended to mock him, and that they were not wanting
in cruelty. The more painful as well as humiliating the instru-
ment of their mockery, the more acceptable it would be. Then
they put a reed in his hand as a mock sceptre. Then they knelt
before him and ridiculed him and his nation, saying : "Hail!
King of the Jews." And they spat on him. He was bound.
The reed was laid in his hands, but lie did not hold it. He was
perfectly passive. It fell. Some of the guard seized it, and with
it drove the thorn-crown down upon his head. They smote and
mocked him, varying their indignities.

Pilate looked on this wild scene. We can conjecture Ins
thoughts from his actions. He must have regarded this whole

affair with mingled feelings of perplexity, awe,

, , . TT , i i Pilate in trouble,

and apprehension. He had never seen such a

sufferer. Most majestic amid ridicule, most serene amid tor-
tures, here was a man fit to be king anywhere. Yet he had not
sought to use his marvellous personal influence for personal ad-
vancement. There was Barabbas, coarse and brutal, being the
vilest kind of person and doing the very things which the priests
had charged upon Jesus. If being seditious was such a heinous
erime in their eyes, why should they not desire the destruction of
Barabbas, who had boon convicted of repaatcd acts under cir-
cumstances of great aggravation, and why should they desire the
destruction of Jesus, who was charged with sedition, hut against
whom there was proved no single seditious word or act ? It was
a great puzzle. Some other basis than loyalty to Rome lay under
this extraordinary zeal of the priests. Pilate determined to make
one more effort to save the life of this wonderful sufferer.

Taking Jesus, thorn-crowned, covered about with the old robe
that burlesqued royalty, faint, worn, haggard, as he must have
been after the night and morning of agony and

i , ," ! • , r "Ecce Homo."

torture, he placed the prisoner once more beiore
the people, reasserting his conviction of the innocence of Jesus.
He pointed to this weak and apparently helpless man. He
showed how lonely and Priet ad powerless he seemed.


658 Tin; last week.

Jerusalem should be too magnanimous, and Rome too lofty, to
crush out this poor peasant-prophet for fear lie should become
too strong for Church and State. lie said to them: " Eece
Homo! Behold the man." As if lie had said: " Can that be a
dangerous person?" It was a pathetic appeal. Even Pilate's
voice may have been unsteady in making this utterance. But
the church hate was not to be touched. Jesus was to be de-
stroyed. "Crucify him! Crucify him ! Give him the extreme
punishment >of a slave," they cried. Pilate said: "Take you
him and crucify him ; for I find no fault in him."

The crafty priests, determined, if possible, to make Pilate a

tool in their hands by inducing him to acknowledge their verdict,

making him thus not a judge in a court of ori-

. cinal jurisdiction, but a mere recorder of their

weak. o J _ / , _ .

authoritative decisions, said to Pilate : " We have
a law, and according to the law he ought to die, because he made
himself the Son of God." What definite idea this last phrase
conveyed to the mind of pagan Pilate we cannot tell, but the
whole statement made his soul afraid, lie was growing weaker
and more superstitious. He went back into the judgment-hall
and sent for Jesus and said to him : " Whence are you ? " The
wonderful prisoner, who had uttered no complaint, and showed
no nervousness, and seemed to take less interest in the whole
tragedy than any spectator, held his peace. "What!" said Pi-
late, " do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have
power to crucify you, and power to release you?" Jesus an-
swered : "You could have no power against me, unless it were
given you from above ; on this account he who has delivered me
to you has the greater sin." In the judgment of Jesus, Caiaphas
is worse than Pilate.

All this increased in Pilate a desire to release Jesus. The pris-
oner was guilty of no crime, was apparently capable of no dis-
turbance, had no marks of wickedness in his
Seeks to release ■> . , , . 1 i i 1

history or Ins manners, had been very popular

with the masses in the rural districts, had dis-
played the most extraordinary composure during a period of
extraordinary peril, had the reputation of a miracle-worker, had
excited the dreams of Claudia Procla, had called himself the Son
of God, and was manifestly the object of intense hatred on the
part of the priesthood. Again Pilate sought to release Jesus


I Jut the churchmen had kept their strongest form of argument for
their last. They return to the political aspect of the affair, and
put it before Pilate thus : " If you release this man you are not Cae-
sar's friend : whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar."
The phrase " Caesar's friend," Amicus Ccesaris, had not only
the ordinary signification of the words, but was a title of honor

which the Emperors were accustomed to bestow

,1 . , ,. v i • l i Caesar's friend,

upon their representatives ruling over subjugated

peoples. It was a most ingenious way of putting the case. It
struck Pilate on his weakest side. lie was a lover of place, an
office-seeker, who considered the loss of his political position the
greatest misfortune, as is shown in the fact that when that did
befall him he retired to Gaul and committed suicide. The priests
knew their man, and Pilate knew how insecurely already he held
his seat, and that such an accusation, if pressed with show of evi-
dence, would be his ruin at Home. Tiberius was suspicious.
Pilate had been closeted with Jesus. The trial had been infor-
mal. They now had much to show. If he had only taken the
strong and dignified position which became an Imperial Procura-
tor, and released Jesus as soon as he was convinced that he was
innocent, and began to feel perhaps that he was divine, Pilate
would have saved himself; but he had vacillated so long and
grown so weak that this last push toppled him from all his intel-
lectual and moral proprieties. lie fell.

Jesus was brought forth and placed in the judgment-seat, in
what was called the Pavement, from the tessellated pavement in
front of the judge, and in Hebrew Gabbatha, the
etym< ►logy of which is not quite clear. The for- Fo ™ al trial "*

, . , c . , , eumed.

mal ceremonials or a trial were now resumed.

Pilate was going to condemn Jesus ; but, enraged at the defeat of
his efforts to release him, he called the attention of the Jewish
leaders to the pale and poor prisoner at the bar, and said in de-
rision, "Behold your king!" But they called out, "Away,
away, crucify him !" Still taunting them, knowing that by pro-
nouncing the sentence he should be secure at Pome, and venting
his rage on them he said, " Shall I crucify your king ? " They
answered, " We have no king but. Caesar ! "

It was the shriek of a dying nationality. Their earliest ances-
tors had lived under a theocracy whose king had held court in a
pillar of flame and on the top of rocking Sinai. They had had


no king but Jehovah. Their descendants had had such Icings as
the great David and the super-splendid Solomon. This very gen-
eration of men, who were howling around a pagan

. ,-.^ mS court-house to secure the condemnation of Jesus,

tionality. ,

had had hopes of a theocratic Messiah. But

their thirst for innocent blood was uncontrollable. They throw
up all hopes of the future as they did all traditions of the past.
They lifted the casket that contained the treasure of their nation-
ality and flung it into the maelstrom of the Roman dominion.
" We have no king but Caesar." The nationality of Abraham and
David and Solomon and the Maccabees was surrendered in spirit,
as it had been captured in form, to an imperialism whose repre-
sentative was the dark, suspicious, cruel, and debased Tiberius.
" We have no king but Caesar ! " Judaism's "loyalty" was Ju-
daism's doom. So perishes every church and people and man
that will " have no king but Caesar."

Then Pilate sealed their fate and his own by delivering Jesus

to be crucified. What the precise form of sen-
The sentence. , ■, . i mi

tence was m this case we cannot now know. Ihe

usual formula was, " Ibis ad crucem," " Go to the cross."

Section 8. — The Last of Judas.

I think it is most probable that this is the point at which Judas

reappears. The condemnation by the Sanhedrim would not have

aroused him, on any theory of his motives. If
His hopes and •, , ■> T •,. -, ■,

. he expected Jesus to display superhuman power

and deliver himself it was not reasonable to sup-
pose that this would occur until he was placed in extremis, after
his condemnation by the Roman authorities. The verdict of the
ecclesiastical council could have little terror for any disciple of
Jesus, and every Jew knew that it could not issue in capital pun-
ishment without the sanction of the procurator. But Judas, who
seems to have been with Peter in the palace of the high-priest,
most probably watched every movement of all the parties, and as
Pilate or the priest had seemed to have the better of the argument
the hopes or fears of Judas had risen or fallen.

But now, when he plainly saw that Jesus had received the con-
demnation of the church, and the sentence had been ratified by
the State, and that " the Master" did not pass out of their midst,
but had submitted to scourging and mockery and insult, and was


apparently not going to put forth any effort for his own rescue
Judas felt the whole ground give way under him. The one huge
dark fact fell on his whole superstructure of rea-
sonings and it fell. lie was smitten with re- . groun
morse, lie had expected no such issue or Ins
conduct. As by a flash of lightning in a tempestuous midnight a
precipice is discovered by the traveller to be at his very feet, so
Judas now suddenly saw the abysses of horrible meanings which
were in the words that Jesus had spoken at the Supper concern-
ing his betrayer. The whole of the beautiful, beneficent life of
Jesus rose up before him. lie reviewed all the personal kindness
and forbearance he had received from the Galilsean prophet.
There was nothing in the whole character or life of Jesus which
Judas could recollect as being any mitigation of the offence of
betraying him. If Jesus had ever done a wrong, or spoken a
word which could warrant the suspicion that he might in some
way be injurious to the people, Judas would have employed it as
an argument to justify himself to himself. But the life of Jesus
was faultless, even Judas being judge. lie probably felt that
tins death was to be a martyrdom so conspicuous that it would be
seen by far-off generations, and that his own name would be
taught to the children of men from age to age as the synonym of
treadic ry.

It was too much for him. lie had had two days and nights of
intensest anxiety. He gave way under it all. He rushed into

the midst of the cruel churchmen, now ready to
■■.,,.•, , ■ ,i , ,i He returns to

despise their base instrument, seeing that thev ..

1 ' ° the priests.

had gained their end. They were probably ar-
ranging for the crucifixion in the same chamber in which he had
first met them, when the plan for designating and arresting Jesus
was concocted. How gladly they received a recreant disciple of
Jesus in the time of their political perplexity, and how courteous
they were to him s long as they hoped to get anything out of
him. and how glumly they met him when he came back corroded
with remorse! He acknowledged bis guilt, hoping somehow
vaguely that it would cover the case and avert the fate of Jesus.
lie shrieked in their hearing, " I have sinned, in that I have be-
traved innocent blood ! " lie seemed to think that his confession
might convince them that the whole proceeding was wrong, and
that they would probably take measures to secure a reversal of


the sentence, which he perceived Pilate would be most ready to

grant. But he did not understand the men in whose service he

had enlisted. Their cold reply was, " What is that to us 2 Do

yon see to it." It was couched in curter words than the English

can well put it : " What to us % You see ! "

They were not seeking justice and judgment: he was a fool if

he thought so. They wanted to kill a man who

eyregai 1m ^ vas jj^^ tlieir \vay : tliat w'as all : his being innocent
a fool. , . ,

or guilty was nothing. They had needed Judas

as a tool ; that was all : they had used him, and now flung him


His guilty solitude was thus manifested to Judas. God and

man, Church and State, seemed turning against him. He went

into the Temple, which was now deserted. The priests were

away, and the worshippers. The fate of the Galilsean prophet

kept all Jerusalem intent and absorbed. His dread loneliness

came down on the betrayer like a crushing despair. He walked

into the holy place, where none but the priests should go. He

was alone with the great God, but lost to all distinctions between

sacred and profane. He was desolate, darkened, and doomed.

The bag with the thirty pieces of silver was in his hand. He

flung it down in the sanctuary ; flung away the remembrancer of

his guilty error ; flung down, for the priests to

fraze upon, the proof of the utter ungodliness of

money away. ...

prescriptive churchism. Then he rushed out to

some desert place, and, all shattered, the wretched man met a

clouded fate, the record of which by the biographers of Jesus only

serves to confound our speculations as to the precise mode of his

death. His life went out in a tumultuous, nameless anguish and


In the gallery of the Apostolic portraits a rumpled black cloth
falls down over the face of Judas.

When the ecclesiastics learned that the money was in the Tem-
ple, the scrupulous murderers were sorely perplexed. The killing
of Jesus was not so much matter for their consciences ; but here
was a question for careful ritualists to study. Here was money
which it would not be correct to waste, and which by certain
interpretations of the law could not be put directly to the pur-
poses of the sanctuary. They devised a method. There was a
piece of ground — of little importance, having been spoiled for


cultivation by the potteries — adjoining the Hill of Evil Counsel,

on which Caiaphas had a country-seat, in which it is said that the

death of Jesus had been resolved upon. This _ . . , _. .,

l Potter's Field.

they bought with the money Judas returned,
and named it Aceldama, and dedicated it to the interment of
strangers, that is, of such pagans as became proselytes to Judaism,
for they were too scrupulous to mingle the dust of believers who
were only converts with that of the sons of Abraham.

Section 9. — Going to Calvary.

After other mockings they took the robe from Jesus, and re-
placed his own garments, and led him away to crucify him. It

, was a part of the punishment that the convicted

i t i -i i • T Bearing' the cross,

person should bear his own cross. Jesus was no

exception. The cross was not that huge combination of timber
usually imagined and put into pictures. A man of ordinary
strength would have little difficulty in carrying it ; but Jesus
had passed through so much anguish of mind and torture of body
that his strength failed him. He does not appear to have been a
person of prodigious powers of endurance, but rather a man of
delicate organization. When he fell under the cross the proces-
sion met a man coming from the country. It was odd that he
should be moving in a contrary way when all the people had been
profoundly interested in this tragic affair, and were pouring along
the streets to see what might be its issue. He happened at the
juncture needed. Roman and Jew equally were too proud to do
this menial and degrading service.

This man, whose name was Simon, came from Gyrene, in Afri-
can Libya, where many Jews resided, who supported a synagogue
in Jerusalem. Whether he had come to Jerusa-
lem to the festival, or had lately resided there, we e ;jrreman -
cannot tell. Tt is not probable that he was a disciple of Jesus;
but it is not improbable that, coming suddenly upon this procession,
and seeing three men bearing their own crosses, and one — paler
and more delicate than the others — lying prone beneath a load he
had not strength to cany, Simon should have uttered some excla-
mation of natural pity. It was enough to suggest and warrant a
military impressment. They made him bear the cross of Jesus.

The artists have generally misled us as to the appearance of one


Grucificd and the structure of the cross. It is not known how
early the mode of capital punishment by crucifixion was adopt-
ed. Traces of the cross have heen found among

the Scythians, Persians, Egyptians, Carthagini-
crosa. J 7 5 &j i r>

ans, Greeks, and Romans. It was not a Hebrew
mode. The corpse of a criminal who had been executed might
be hung upon a tree, but even then it was not permitted to re-
main all night (Deut. xxi. 22, 23). Jesus suffered the extreme
punishment dealt by Homans to slaves who had been convicted of
a capital offence. There were three kinds of crosses : the crux
decussata, X ; the crux commissa, T > ail d the crux immissa, -p.
The cross on which Jesus died is represented by tradition to have
been the crux immissa. The upright piece was made just long
enough to hold the body a few inches from the ground, and to be
sufficiently in the ground to support itself and its burden. There
was no support for the feet, as the painters now make in the pic-
tures, but on the upright part was a projection, or seat, on which
the weight of the body rested. It would have torn the hands and
feet fearfully if the whole weight of the body had depended, as
Jeremy Taylor says, " on four great wounds."

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 66 of 77)