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And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest, i. e. I am. See Matt. xxvi. 25.
The sacred writer, having finished the parenthesis which he had introduced, in order to make his reader acquainted with the conduct and fate of Judas, now returns to the history, which he resumes where he had left off, viz. at the arraignment of Jesus before the Roman governor. The chief priests and elders had delivered him up
to Pilate, with the general charge that he pretended to be the king of the Jews: this charge, if it could be established, would amount to the crime of high treason, a capital offence, and was much more likely to engage the attention of the Roman governor, than an accusation of blasphemy, upon which they had found him guilty in their own court. Pilate therefore asks Jesus, Whether he was, what he had heard, king of the Jews? To this he answered, by acknowledging that he was, but declaring, at the same time, as we leain from the other evangelists, that his kingdom was not of a temporal nature, and not likely therefore to interfere with any civil authority; consisting in nothing more than a propagation of the truth*.
12. And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing
They now opened more fully the charge which they had before delivered in general terms.
13. Then saith Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
14. And he answered him to never a word, insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
• This is that good confession which Paul tells Timothy, (1 Tim.
vi. 13.) Christ witnessed before Pontius Pilate.
Jesus, having satisfied the governor, if he were an equitable judge, by the answer which he made to his first question, with respect to his real character, and shown the Roman government to be in no danger from his pretensions, declines pleading any more, in answer to the accusations of his enemies: for that would have looked like wrangling and disputing, which was inconsistent with the dignity of his character, and unbecoining his present circumstances. This conduct was so very unlike that of other prisoners, whom he had observed to be generally eager to defend themselves, that he was much surprised.
15. Now at that feast the governor was wont, had used, to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would, which ever they desired.
The Roman government was so odious to the Jews, that the governors were obliged to have recourse to these extraordinary methods to gain the favour of the populace.
16. And they had then a notable prisoner called Barabbas :
17. Therefore, when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you; Barabbas, or Jesus, which is called Christ?
This man, as we learn from the other evangelists, was a robber, and was now committed to prison for being at the head of an insurrection, in which murder was committed. Pilate mentioned to them so infamous a character rather than any other prisoner, in order to save Jesus; imagining that they would not hesitate to prefer Jesus, who was, in every respect, the reverse of Barabbas.
18. For he knew that for envy they had delivered him, or rather from hatred.
This he inferred from what he knew of his past life, from the modesty of his present behaviour, and more especially, from their not being able to prove any crime against him: it is evident from the history of the persecutions of Jesus, that the Jews were actuated by a more violent passion than envy, even by malice. This was produced, no doubt, in a great degree by envy of his reputation, arising from his character, instructions and extraordinary miracles, as well as from the severity with which he reproved the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy and wickedness. This was one reason why Pilate wished to deliver Jesus ; in the next verse we have another.
19. When he was sat down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man : for I have suffered many things this day, in a dream, because of him.
When the Roman governor passed sentence upon a criminal, he was placed upon a high seat in the open air, in a place appropriated to this purpose, and paved with marble, (John xix. 13). Pilate had just seated himself here, when he received this message from his wife: by her account she had this dream in the day; but this language is easily understood, when we recollect that, according to the method of reckoning time in Judæa, the day commenced at six o'clock in the evening, and did not end till six o'clock the succeeding evening. The night therefore was included in that period of time which Pilate's wife calls this day; and it was then that she had her dream. What it was she appeared to herself to see or hear, we are not informed; but it was something which impressed upon her mind a persuasion of the excellence of Christ's character, and which she probably considered as of a supernatural and miraculous nature, and therefore sent to acquaint her husband with it, that he might not treat the person of Jesus with a severity which he did not deserve. However, as the powers possessed by Jesus were of a very extraordinary nature, and inust have been known to her by common fame, we may easily imagine that he might become the subject of a dream, without
divine interposition. 20. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus, i. e. desire that he might be destroyed.
As Judas apprehended Jesus in the night, during the absence of the people, and as it was still very early in the morning, some have supposed that the multitude here spoken of, were those who were employed in apprehending him, consisting of the servants and dependants of the high priests, and of such other persons as they had hired for the purpose: if this were the case, we can easily account for their asking so readily for the death of Jesus: whereas the cominon people were generally favourable to Jesus, and would not, we might expect, so soon change their opinion. However, if it were otherwise, we must account for this sudden change by the extreme veneration which the Jewish people felt for their chief priests and elders, whom they saw eager to have Jesus put to death,
21. The governor answered, and said unto them, or rather said unto them again, for they had yet made no reply to his former question, Whether of the twain, of the two, will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas *.
22. Pilate said unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus, which is called Christ?
Some ancient MSS. have, both here and in the 17th verse, the
word Jesus before Barabbas.
If the two persons had the common name of Jesus, it would be proper to denominate one of them by adding, he who is called Christ. But in case they had different names, the word Jesus would of itself be a sufficient mark of distinction : it is not probable that the term Christ, or Messiah, was so commonly applied to. Jesus as to be considered as a part of his name, although there were some that distinguished him by that appellation.
They all said unto him, Let him be crucified.
They not only express their wish that he might be put to death, but prescribe the manner in which it should be done, by the punishment of the cross; a punishment the most ignominious and painful: for it was inflicted only upon slaves and the persons of the vilest malefactors, for the crimes of treason, sedition, robbery and others of a like heinous nature: it was extremely painful, because nails were driven through the hands and the feet, in those parts where the nerves are the most sensible of pain.
23. And the governor said, Why! What evil hath he done, or rather what crime then hath he committed ?
After the explanation which Jesus had given of his pretensions to kingly power, Pilate was persuaded that the charge of treason was entirely without foundation, and therefore he saw no reason for putting him to death, much less for inflicting upon him so dreadful a punishment as crucifixion.
But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
24. When Pilate saw that he could