King of the Jews - A story of Christ's last days on Earth
by William T. Stead
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And the priests and the people cried, "Crucify him!"

"What," said Pilate, "shall I crucify your king?"

And the people cried, "We have no king but Caesar."

Pilate said, "I cannot condemn this man, for I find no fault in him. He has been sufficiently chastised; I will let him go free."

Then said the priests, "If thou let him go free thou art no friend of Caesar's."

Caiaphas added, "He has proclaimed himself king"; and the priests said, "Who proclaims himself king is a rebel against Caesar."

And Nathanael said, "And is this rebel still to remain unpunished, still to scatter abroad the seed of revolt?"

Then cried the people, "It is the duty of the governor to put him out of the way."

Caiaphas seeing that Pilate answered not, pressed more vehemently upon him, saying, "We have done our duty as subjects of Caesar and delivered this rebel to thee. If thou payest no attention to our accusation and the desire of the people, then are we free from guilt. Thou alone, O Governor, art responsible to Caesar for the consequences."

And Annas said, "If on account of this man universal disorder and revolt ensues, then we know who must bear this guilt, and," he added significantly, "Caesar shall know it also."

Then cried the people again, "The matter must be brought before Caesar."

Then Ezekiel said to Pilate, "They will be astonished when they hear at Rome that Caesar's viceroy has taken under his protection a traitor whose death the whole people desired."

And the crowd cried, "Thou must execute him, or otherwise there would be no peace in the land."

Then said Pilate, "Why, what evil hath he done? I cannot, I dare not, condemn the innocent to death."

Then said Caiaphas, "Permit me to ask one question. Why shouldst thou judge this man so carefully when quite recently thou hast allowed thy soldiers to massacre hundreds without judgment or sentence, merely on account of some rebellious outcries?"

As Pilate heard the question of Caiaphas he was dismayed, and the crowd shouted: "Thou canst not show favor to this man; if thou wilt be a faithful servant to Caesar."

Then Pilate's resolution forsook him, and turning to his servants he said, "Bring water."

Caiaphas said unto him, "The people will not go away from this place until thou hast pronounced sentence of death upon the enemy of Caesar."

"Yes," cried the multitude, "we will not go from this place until sentence is pronounced."

Then said Pilate sorrowfully, "Your violence compels me to yield to your desire. Take him hence and crucify him. But see," said he as he washed his hands in the basin which had been brought at his command. "I wash my hands; I am innocent of the blood of this just man. See ye to it."

Then arose from the excited multitude a great and awful cry, in which priests and people joined, speaking as with one voice, "We take it upon ourselves! His blood be upon us and upon our children!"

Then said Pilate, "Let Barabbas be set free at the demand of the people. Lead him outside the city gate and let him never tread this ground again." The soldiers then led Barabbas away.

The priests and people cried: "Now hast thou justly judged."

Pilate said unto them, "I have given way to your violent demands in order to avoid a great evil. But in the blood-guiltiness I will have no share. Let it fall upon you and your children as you have so loudly cried."

Then again the priests and people cried, "It is good; let it fall upon us and upon our children."

Annas said, "We and our children will bless this day and with thankful joy cry, 'Health and wealth to the governor!'"

"Long live our governor," cried the crowd. "Long live Pontius Pilate!"

Then said Pilate, "Bring hither the two murderers who are kept in gaol. Let the chief lictor give them over without delay to the guard. They have deserved death much more than the accused."

But the priests and people cried, "He has deserved death more than any."

Pilate said, "The sentence of death must be written out and will be read publicly before all the people."

The scribe began to write, and as he wrote, from the street were heard the voices of the soldiers who were bringing the thieves, driving them forward: "Will you not move on, you wretches? Have you not long ago deserved your fate? Thrust them on, these outcasts of mankind." When the thieves driven by the soldiers came to the foot of the balcony they were halted on the other side of the steps to that where Jesus stood.

Then said the rabbi, pointing to the thieves, "That is worthy company for the false Messiah on his last journey."

Pilate said to the thieves, "Of you and your misdeeds the earth shall today be free. You shall die upon the cross. Let the sentence of death be now read."

Then the scribe stood forward and read thus: "I, Pontius Pilate, viceroy in Judea of the mighty Caesar Claudius Tiberius, pronounce at the desire of the high priests and the Sanhedrin and the people of the Jews, the sentence of death upon a certain Jesus of Nazareth, who is accused of having stirred up the people to revolt, of having forbidden to pay tribute to Caesar, and of having proclaimed himself king of the Jews. The same shall be crucified outside the city between two malefactors who have been likewise condemned to death for many robberies and murders, and be brought from life to death. Given at Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover."

When the scribe had read the sentence Pilate broke a staff, flung it among the people, saying in tones of great bitterness, "Now take him hence and crucify him!" and went rapidly into the house, leaving Jesus in the hands of the Jews.

"Triumph!" cried Caiaphas in wild exultation. "The victory is ours! The enemy of the synagogue is destroyed!"

The priests and people shouted, "Away with him to Golgotha! Long live the synagogue! Long live the nation!"

Then said Annas, "Hasten, that we may come home in time to eat the Passover."

The priests and Pharisees said, "We will keep this Passover with joy, as did our fathers in Egypt."

"Now," said Caiaphas, "let our triumphal procession go through the midst of Jerusalem."

"Where," asked the rabbi, "are his disciples? They are invited to cry Hosanna!"

Then rushed the multitude away, crying, "Up and away off to Golgotha! Come and see him perish on the cross! O delightful day, the enemy of Moses is overthrown! Ha! now he has his reward! So be it done to everyone who despises the law! He deserves the death on the cross! O happy Passover! Now joy will return to Israel! There is an end of the Galilean!" And so crying, with wild and savage clamor, they swept back to the street of the Sanhedrin.

[Transcriber's note: A line seems to be missing from the book at this point. All that appears is a blank line followed by the single word:] "me?"



Ye pious souls rise up and go, With grateful penitence aglow With me to Golgotha, and see What shall be done your souls to free See how the Mediator dies The atoning death of sacrifice.

O, who can know the love that lives In this heart now laid bare, That kindness back for hatred gives And saves us from despair? Offer this love of His Your heart's best impulses, His cross before, For evermore.

Thus they took Jesus and led him away, and a great multitude followed him. And when Jesus, bearing the cross, with the thieves also bearing their cross, was entering the street of Annas, Mary, the mother of Jesus, with Mary Magdalene and John and Joseph of Arimathea, came down the street by Pilate's house.

And Mary said to John, "O beloved disciple, how will it have gone with Jesus since thou didst last see him in the house of Caiaphas?"

Then answered John, "If the priests could do as they wish, then sure enough he would be already among the dead. But they could not carry out the sentence without permission of the governor. But Pilate, I hope, will not condemn him, as he has never done anything bad, but only what is good."

Then prayed Mary Magdalene, "O Almighty God, incline the ruler's heart to justice, that he may protect the innocent against the wiles of the wicked."

Then said Mary, the mother of Jesus, "Whither shall we go, O friends, oh, whither, that I may but once more see my beloved son? I must see him, but where can I find him? Perhaps, O perhaps, he lies buried in the deepest dungeon."

Mary Magdalene said, "Alas! the most loving of teachers in prison!"

Joseph answered, "There is one to be seen from whom we can inquire."

John said, "The best thing will be to go to Nicodemus; he surely knows what is happening to our dear Master."

"Yes, let us go," said Mary. "Every moment increases my grief in this uncertainty about the fate of my son."

"Be strong in faith, dear mother," said John. "Whatever happens it is God's will." Suddenly a horrible noise of confused voices and tramping feet was heard in the distance. From the tumult could be heard the words: "On, on with him!" Mary started and they all stood listening while the noise came nearer and nearer.

"What terrible noise is that?" said Joseph. Then stood they all still listening to hear what it might signify.

Salome said, "As if of a thousand voices. What can it be?"

As they listened the procession to Golgotha was already half way down the street of Annas. In front marched the centurion holding in one hand the staff of authority, followed by Jesus, staggering painfully under the burden of his cross. Around Jesus stood four executioners who brutally goaded him forward. Behind Jesus came the thieves, each bearing his own cross. Behind them came soldiers carrying spears, in the midst of whom on a white horse rode a horseman carrying the Roman banner on which were the letters S. P. Q. R. By the side of the soldiery walked Annas and Caiaphas followed by all the council of the Sanhedrin. All around crowded a numerous multitude, whose shouts were heard almost without intermission. "Let him die!" they cried, "and all who hold with him." Jesus, who had already fallen under the cross, walked slowly and with difficulty.

One of the executioners said unto him, "Is the burden already too heavy?" and the people shouted, "Drive him with violence, that we may get to Golgotha."

The second executioner cried, "Take care, or he will be down."

The progress was so slow that not even the head of the procession could be seen from where the two Marys and John were standing, wondering what the noise might mean.

Joseph said, "What shall we do? In this commotion we cannot venture into the city."

But Mary said, "What may this noise signify? Surely it does not concern my son."

As the noise waxed ever louder, Joseph said, "It seems as if an insurrection had broken out."

Then said John, "We had better stop here till the storm passes over."

While they stood waiting and wondering Simon of Cyrene came hastily into the street that lay between those of Pilate and Annas. He carried a basket, and looking anxiously around him, said, "I must hasten in order to get into the city. The eve of the feast is coming, and I have only a short time left in which to make my purchases and get everything ready, so that I may get home in time." Hardly had he said this than he heard the sound of a great outcry, and amidst which he could only distinguish the words, "Let him not rest! Urge him on with blows!"

Said Simon, "I hear a tumult—an outcry of a crowd—what has happened in the city? I will keep quiet a little—perhaps my ears have deceived me." Jesus had fallen faint and had staggered against the house of Ahasverus and was there endeavoring to support himself.

The third executioner said to him roughly, "It is no use thy fainting. Thou must keep on to Golgotha."

Then Ahasverus came out of his house and said, "Be off from my house; here is no place for resting." Simon, who was listening without being able to see the cause of the commotion, said, "The noise waxes louder. I must hasten to see what it is. What comes there? Ah, I cannot get in here. I will wait and see what happens."

Then, as the procession turned the corner of Annas' street, Joseph of Arimathea, listening, said, "I think the crowd is coming out of the city gates," and John, seeing the cross said, "It appears that someone is being led out to Golgotha for execution."

Mary, the mother of Jesus, saw him and cried out with a piercing wail, "It is he. Oh God! it is my son."

Jesus meanwhile staggered under the cross, but was forced forward by the executioners grumbling as they did so, "He will drop on the road."

The centurion, seeing that Jesus from sheer exhaustion had again fallen, reached him a bottle, saying, "Here, strengthen thyself." Jesus took it, but did not drink of it.

Mary cried, weeping, "Ah, there, I see him led to death even as a malefactor!"

Then said John, as he tenderly supported her, "Mother, it is the hour of which he has told us before. Such is the will of the Father."

Then said the centurion to Jesus, "Wilt thou not drink? Then you must go on!"

Then one of the executioners shook him, saying, "Rouse thyself, lazy king of the Jews!"

Another of the executioners said, "Forward! Pull thyself together!" The third said, "Do not act thus weakly; we must get on."

Then Mary cried as she looked on the scene, "Oh where is any sorrow like unto my sorrow?"

The third executioner, seeing that all the efforts to compel Jesus to move forward had failed, said, "He is too much exhausted; someone must help him, otherwise—"

Then the rabbi, seeing Simon of Cyrene, pointed him out, saying, "Here, this stranger—"

The Pharisees said, "Just seize him!"

Then said the centurion, "Come hither, thou hast broad shoulders that can carry something."

Simon, protesting, said, "I must—"

"Truly you must," said one of the executioners, "otherwise there will be blows."

Simon began again, "I do not know," but the centurion interrupted him, saying, "You will find out soon enough—do not refuse."

"Flog him if he refuses to go!" said the Pharisee.

Simon struggled crying, "Indeed I am innocent; I have committed no crime."

"Silence!" said the centurion.

Simon replied, "Only not by force like this," and then beholding Christ he said, "What is this I see? This is the holy man from Nazareth."

"Place thy shoulders here," said an executioner.

Then said Simon, "For the love of thee I will carry it. O, could I thereby make myself useful to thee."

Christ, who stood exhausted on one side, looked upon Simon and said, "God's blessing be upon thee and thine!"

"Now, forward," said the centurion; "follow thou with the beam of the cross!"

The first priest advancing, said, "Thou canst come quickly enough now."

The third executioner, seeing that Jesus still stood unable to move, seized him by the neck and shook him saying, "See with what consideration we treat thee; even the cross has been taken from thee."

"Dost thou need anything else?" said another of the men.

"Let him be," said the centurion. "We will now halt a little that he may recover before we ascend the hill."

While the procession halted Veronica and the women of Jerusalem approached. Caiaphas meanwhile, chafing with vexation at the delay, exclaimed, "What! Still another stoppage! When shall we come to Calvary?"

Veronica, coming up to Christ, kneeled before him, and offering him her handkerchief, said, "O Lord, how is thy face covered with blood and sweat. Wilt thou not wipe it off?"

Jesus took the handkerchief and wiped his face and gave it back to her, saying, "Compassionate soul, the Father will reward thee for this."

Then spoke the women of Jerusalem, who drew near to the Lord with their little ones, "Thou good teacher; never to be forgotten benefactor; noblest friend of men, thus art thou rewarded. How we pity thee!" Then they wept.

Christ looking upon them in their tears said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and your children. For behold the days are coming in which they shall say 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bare, and the paps that never gave suck.' Then shall they call to the mountains, fall on us and to the hills, cover us. For if they do these things in the green tree, what will be done in the dry?"

The women answered, "Alas, how will it be in the future for us and our children?"

By this time the patience of the centurion was exhausted, and he cried out, "Clear out now, these womenfolk."

The third executioner, pushing them roughly away, said, "What use are your women's tears? Back!" While the other executioners cried as they pushed Jesus forward, "On with thee to the hill of death!"

The crowd took up the cry and said, "Quick; forward to Calvary!"

"Are we really going forward again?" said the rabbi, and Nathanael said, shrugging his shoulders, "The centurion is far too mild."

"Do not spare him so much," said a priest.

The long procession was once more in motion when there appeared a servant from Pilate. The man cried, "Halt!" and the procession stopped. "By command of the governor the centurion must appear before him as quickly as possible and receive further orders."

Caiaphas exclaimed, "What does this mean? What new orders are required? The death sentence is pronounced and must be carried out without delay."

Then said the centurion bluntly, "No, this will not happen until I have received the further orders of my lord." Then turning to the soldiers he said, "Keep watch meanwhile and go with the condemned to Golgotha. Then dismiss this man (Simon) and await my arrival." The centurion then went with the servant to Pilate and the procession set forth again.

The people cried wildly, "Up to Golgotha, to the cross with him. Hail to Israel. The enemy is vanquished. We are free. Long live the Sanhedrin."

Jesus looked upon his mother as the procession passed the corner of Annas' street, but spoke not.

Then said John, when the dolorous procession had passed, "Mother, shall we not go back to Bethany? Thou wilt not be able to bear the sight?"

But Mary answered, "How can a mother leave her child in the last and bitterest need?"

Cleophas objected, "But evil might befall thee, if they recognized thee as his mother."

Mary replied, "I will suffer with him, bear scorn and shame with him; die with him."

"Only," said John, "if the strength of thy body does not give way."

"Fear not," said Mary. "I have asked strength of God and he has heard me. Let us go after them."

All answered, "Best of mothers, we follow thee," and they slowly followed the procession to Calvary.

* * * * * *

And when they reached Golgotha, which is by interpretation the place of a skull, they crucified him there. But first they hanged the two thieves on the crosses, the one on the left, the other on the right. Their arms were tied over the cross at the wrists, and their feet were tied with cord to the beam. But Jesus was nailed to the central cross while it yet lay with the head slightly raised upon the ground. One nail was driven through the palms of each hand, and one through the two feet, which were placed the one above the other. Jesus lay silent without moving. On his head was the crown of thorns, from which a little blood trickled over his brow. His hands and his feet bled a little, but the rest of his body was pale and colorless, a light cloth only being cast around his loins.

The centurion who had returned from Pilate, stood on the right of the cross giving orders. The lictor, mounted on a white horse, stood near the soldiers, who held on high the Roman standard with the letters S. P. Q. R. Caiaphas, Annas and all the members of the Sanhedrin stood on the left exulting. A great crowd of sightseers thronged the place. Among them, coming from behind the centurion, were the holy women from Bethany, with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John, and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Then said the executioners to the centurion, "We have finished with these," pointing to the thieves, "Now must the king of Jews be exalted upon his throne."

Which, hearing, the priests cried angrily, "Not king! Deceiver, traitor!"

The centurion, who held in his hand a scroll or escutcheon, said, "First, by command of the governor, this writing must be fastened to the cross. Faustus," he added, turning to one of the hangmen named Faustus, "make fast this title over the cross." Faustus took the scroll from the centurion, and going to the cross, nailed it with one hammer stroke over the head of Jesus, saying, "Ah, an escutcheon displayed; this is right royal!" When this was done according to the command of the governor, the centurion said to the executioners, "Now, up with the cross! Not carelessly, but lay hold firmly." Then two hangmen, taking the cross by the arms, lifted it up so that its foot fell into the hole prepared for it. But as the cross bearing the body of Jesus was heavy, the third hangman placed his back under it near to the feet of Jesus, saying, "Come, now, all together," and so helping raised it on high. The fourth then filled in the hole at the foot saying when he finished, "All right, the cross stands firm."

Then said the centurion, addressing the chief priests, "The execution is accomplished."

"Quite admirably so," said Caiaphas with a radiant face. "Thanks and applause from us all!" "Yea, thanks, and applause from us all," echoed the Pharisees, looking up at the cross.

Caiaphas then declared, "This shall be a feast day forever."

And the Pharisees said, "Yes, for all time to come it shall be kept every year with grateful jubilation."

"And now," said the aged Annas, "now gladly will I go down to my fathers since I have lived to have the joy of seeing this wretch on the cross." And as he gazed long as if exultingly drinking in the pleasure of satisfied vengeance, he saw for the first time the writing on the cross, but his old eyes could not decipher the words. Turning to Caiaphas he said, "The superscription seems to be very short." Then the Jews drew nearer to see what was written. The hangmen seated themselves on the ground at the foot of the cross and looked up at Jesus.

Then the rabbi, reading the words written by Pilate exclaimed, "That is an insult, an outrage upon the people and the Sanhedrin!"

Caiaphas, hearing him, asked, "What is written?"

Annas, who had also looked at the inscription, said, "The rabbi is right. The Sanhedrin cannot allow this to pass."

Then said the rabbi, "It is written, 'Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews!'"

Caiaphas as if incredulous, approached the cross and reading it himself, started back with indignation. "Verily," he cried, "that is an affront upon the honor of our nation."

"Down with it at once," cried the priest.

But Caiaphas said, "We dare not touch it ourselves, but do you two," addressing the rabbi and Saras, "hasten at once to the governor to demand from him, in the name of the Sanhedrin and the assembled people that the superscription shall be altered. Say to him, 'Write not the king of the Jews, but that he said, I am king of the Jews?'"

"We are off at once," said the rabbi and Saras.

"Stay," said Caiaphas, "also request from the governor that he may order the bones of the crucified to be broken and their bodies taken down from the cross before the eve of the Passover."

When the rabbi and Saras departed on their mission, the hangmen, who had been sitting at the foot of the cross, bethought themselves, and the first, who was named Agrippa, standing up, said, "Now, comrades, let us divide our share." Taking the mantle of Jesus, they seized each one corner, and then pulling all together, rent it into four parts. The coat remained. Agrippa held it up, "The mantle has made just four pieces; shall we rip up the coat also? See, it is without seam."

"No," said Faustus, who had fastened the superscription over the head of Jesus, "it would be better to cast lots for it."

"Look," said Agrippa, as he went to the foot of the cross and took up the basket, "see, here are dice." Then the four hangmen, standing at the feet of Jesus threw the dice, Agrippa threw them first, saying, "I will try my luck first. Alas, that is too little," he added, as he counted up the result of his throw, "I have lost."

Catiline, the third hangman, as he rattled the dice in his hand, looked up at Jesus and said, "Hi! you up there, if you can still work miracles on the cross, give me good luck." The others shrugged their shoulders and said, "What does he care about us?" Catiline's throw was not high.

Then Nero said, "I ought to have had better luck," and throwing the dice he counted fifteen. "Nearly enough; now, Faustus, it is your turn."

Faustus threw the dice, saying, "I ought to get it." They all bent over to see the result.

"Eighteen!" cried Catiline; "that is the best yet."

Then said Agrippa, "Take it," handing him the mantle, "it is thine; take it away."

And Nero consoled himself by saying, "You are not to be envied."

Faustus gathered up the coat, and folding it up put it away.

By this time the rabbi and Saras returned from Pilate, and coming back to Caiaphas they said, "Our mission was in vain. The governor would not listen to us."

Caiaphas indignantly asked, while the priests and Pharisees crowded around, "Did he give you no answer at all?"

"This only," said the rabbi. "What I have written I have written."

"Intolerable," said Annas.

Caiaphas also was much perturbed. But collecting himself he asked, "What did he order about the breaking of the bones?"

"About this matter he said he would give his orders to the centurion," answered the rabbi.

Then seeing that no more could be done, the Jews began to revile Jesus, going up to the cross and wagging their heads and scoffing at him. Josue, the priest, went up first and said, "So then it remains written, king of the Jews. Behold, if thou art king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." And all the Jews laughed together.

Then said Eliezer, "Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it again in three days, save thyself!"

And Caiaphas said, "Ha! thou that savest others, thyself thou canst not save."

"Come down," cried one of the witnesses, "Art thou not the Son of God?"

And Annas said, "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him."

Then cried the hangmen, "What! Don't you hear? Show thy power, mighty king of the Jews," and so the sport went on.

Then Jesus, who all this time had hung motionless and silent, raised slowly and with pain, his head, which had been bowed down, and said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!"

Hearing Jesus speak, the thief who was crucified on his left said unto him, "Hearest thou? If thou be Christ save thyself and us."

But the other thief who was crucified on the right, answered and said, "Dost thou not fear God, seeing that thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss." Then turning to Jesus he said, "Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom?"

Then Jesus looked upon him and said, "Verily, I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise."

"Listen to that," said Caiaphas scornfully, "he speaks as if he had power over the gates of Paradise."

"What," said the rabbi. "Have not his pride and presumption deserted him even as he hangs helpless on the cross?" And they were wroth with Jesus.

During all this time Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John had been slowly approaching the cross, and now they stood immediately below Jesus, Mary on the right, John on the left. Then Jesus beholding them, said to Mary, "Mother, behold thy son." And slowly and with difficulty turning his head to see John, Jesus added, "Son, behold thy mother."

Then Mary cried in ecstacy of love and adoration, "Even in dying thou carest still for thy mother."

And John tenderly supporting Mary, but looking above to Jesus, exclaimed, "Thy last request is sacred to me."

And then to Mary he said, "Thou my mother, I thy son."

Then Jesus in a hollow voice, cried hoarsely, "I thirst."

The centurion hearing him said, "He thirsts and calls for drink."

"Then," said Faustus, "I will reach him some at once." Then taking the reed with the sponge, he filled it with vinegar and passed it to the centurion, who, taking a small phial from his dress, poured hyssop on the sponge. Faustus then reached the sponge up to the lips of Jesus. But Jesus turned away his head and would not drink. "Here, drink," said Faustus. "What, wilt thou not?" and seeing that Jesus would not touch the sponge he took it away.

Then Jesus cried in agony, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!"

But those hearing him did not understand, but imagined he cried for Elias.

"Hark!" said they. "He cried for Elias."

Then Caiaphas laughed and said, "Let be; let us see whether Elias will come to save him."

Then Jesus raising his head with a great effort to heaven, and breathing heavily cried with a loud voice and said, "It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!" And as Jesus spoke these words his head fell forward on his breast and he gave up the ghost. Then suddenly the earth rocked and shook violently—thunder pealed—fierce lightnings flashed—darkness fell like a pall over the scene—the people stood trembling with fear.

The priests and the people cried out in terror, saying: "What a dreadful earthquake! Do you hear the crash of falling rocks? Woe, woe be to us!"

But the centurion said, "Certainly, this was a righteous man."

Another soldier replied, "God himself bears witness by these convulsions of nature."

The centurion said, "Oh, his patience in the worst agony, his noble calm, this last loud cry to heaven at the moment before death, all betoken his divine origin. Verily, he is a Son of God!"

"Come neighbors," said Oziel, "I will remain no longer in this terrible place."

"Yes," cried Helen, "let us go home and may God have mercy on us."

And others smiting their breasts cried, "Almighty God, we have sinned! Forgive us."

And so it came to pass that no one remained round the cross but the holy women and John, and the friends of Jesus with the hangmen.

The chief priests and the rulers still stood together marveling near the cross of the repentant thief, when suddenly a temple servant came rushing into their midst, breathless with haste.

"High priests and assembled council!" he exclaimed, "a fearful thing has occurred in the holy place. I tremble in every limb."

"What is it?" cried Caiaphas in alarm. "Not the temple?"

"Has it fallen?" said Annas.

"No," said the servant, "not that, but the veil of the temple has been rent in twain from the top to the bottom. I hastened hither with staggering feet, and feared the whole world was bursting asunder with the shock!"

"Dreadful!" exclaimed the priests and Pharisees, throwing up their hands.

But Caiaphas said, "It is that wretch who has done this by his magic arts. What a blessing it is that he is out of the world! Otherwise he would bring all the elements into disorder."

Then all the priests and Pharisees raised up their voices and cried, shaking their fists against Jesus, "Cursed be the ally of Beelzebub!"

"Now," said Caiaphas, "let us hurry home and see what has happened; then we will come back at once. For I cannot rest until I have seen this fellow's bones broken and the corpse flung into the grave of the transgressors."

When Caiaphas and Annas and all the rulers of the Jews had departed, Nicodemus said to Joseph of Arimathea, having overheard the parting word-of Caiaphas, "Shall the holy body of the Son of God be delivered over to such dishonor as to be flung into the grave of the evil-doers?"

"Listen, friends," said Joseph, "what I have decided to do. I will go straightway to Pilate, and will implore him to give me the body of Jesus. He can hardly refuse me this favor."

"Do so, by all means," said Nicodemus. "Hasten hither, and I will bring the spices for him." They having departed, the holy women tremblingly drew round the cross.

"Fear not, good women," said the centurion, "no harm shall happen to you."

Then Mary Magdalene clasped the cross with both her arms, pressed it to her breast and cried through her tears as she looked up at the silent and lifeless form above, "O dearest Master, my heart hangs with thee on the cross!"

Then entered a servant of Pilate, and addressing the centurion, said unto him, "This is the command of my lord: Break the legs of the crucified and take down their bodies. Everything must be over before the eve of the Passover begins."

The centurion said: "It shall be done at once. Men, first break the legs of these two."

Catiline said, "Come, let us put this business through without more delay." Then all the hangmen took ladders and placed them against the crosses of the thieves. Catiline, seizing a strong club, then mounted the ladder against the cross on the right hand.

"Strike," said Faustus, "so as to kill him." Then Catiline smote the penitent thief heavily over each of the thighs and then across the shoulder bone. As the blow fell the man's head fell forward and he gave up the ghost.

"There," said Catiline, "he wakes no more."

In like manner did Nero to the thief on the left hand, saying, "I will hasten the other out of the world."

When the blows were falling upon the body of the thief, Mary, the mother of Jesus, who had watched with terror the blows of the hangman, cried out, shuddering, "O my Son, they will surely not deal so cruelly with thy holy body!"

Nero called out to the thief, "Movest thou no more? No, thou hast had enough. I have given thee thy wages." Then coming down from the ladder they made ready to break the legs of Jesus.

But as the hangman approached the foot of the cross with the ladder and the club, Mary Magdalene sprang before him, and thrusting him back with her slender arm, cried piteously, "Oh, spare him, spare him!"

Then Catiline looking up at Jesus said, "Behold, he is already dead. There is no need therefore to break his legs."

"But," said Faustus, "in order to make sure, I will pierce his heart with a spear." Then grasping a lance he thrust it into the right side of Jesus, and forthwith there spurted out blood and water. John, who was looking up at the holy women, shuddered as the spear entered the side of Jesus.

Mary Magdalene turning to Mary said, "Oh, mother, that thrust hast pierced thy own heart also."

Then said the centurion, "Now, take down the bodies from the cross."

"Where," said one of the hangmen, "shall we put them?"

The centurion replied, "As ordered, into the grave of the malefactor."

Then said Mary, with a terrible sob: "What a word; it pierces my heart anew."

"Ladders here," said the hangmen, "we shall soon have them down." Then the hangmen unfastened the cords which bound the thieves to their crosses, and mounting the ladder received their bodies in their arms and bore them away.

While they were busy Mary Magdalene went out to the centurion and said to him: "May we not even pay the last honors to our friend?"

"Alas," said the centurion, "it is not within my power to permit this."

Then came back Caiaphas and Annas and all the rulers of the Sanhedrin from the temple to Golgotha. Caiaphas, speaking as they approached, said, "It will be all the more delightful to see the body of this evil-doer cast into the pit of shame, because we have witnessed the destruction he has brought to pass within the temple."

Annas answered, "What joy it would be if my eyes could see him torn limb from limb by wild beasts."

"Ha," said Caiaphas, as they saw the hangman bearing off the bodies of the thieves, "they are already being taken down. Now we shall soon see our ardent desires fulfilled."

Hardly had Caiaphas and the priests approached the cross when from the other side there came Joseph of Arimathea and with him a servant of Pilate. The servant said to the centurion, "The governor has sent me to inquire of thee whether it can really be true that Jesus of Nazareth is already dead as this man has informed me."

"It is so, indeed," replied the centurion, pointing to the cross. "Look for yourself. Besides, for a complete certainty, his heart has been thrust through with a lance."

Then said the servant, "I have orders to inform you that the body is to be delivered over to this man as a gift from Pilate." And having said this he departed.

"Oh, blessed tidings!" cried the holy women still gathered together around the foot of the cross.

But the Jews hearing the message, waxed furious and the rabbi, speaking of Jesus, said to the other priests and rulers, "The traitor of the synagogue, he has fooled us again."

"And spoiled our triumph," said Annas.

But Caiaphas would not submit and said haughtily, "We shall not tolerate it that his body be laid anywhere else than in the grave of the transgressors."

The centurion replied, "As the body is given to this man, it is obvious that he can bury it where and how he will. There is no disputing that."

Then he said to the soldiers and executioners, "Men, our work is done. We will return."

Then the hangmen gathered up their basket and their cord, their dice and the fragments of Christ's mantle and departed. With them went the centurion and his band, leaving Caiaphas and the Jews face to face with the holy women and their friends at the foot of the cross. The Jews were exceedingly wroth and raged amongst themselves at the centurion.

Annas cried out to Joseph of Arimathea, "Dost thou still persist in thy headstrong obstinacy? Art thou not ashamed to do honor to the very corpse of an executed malefactor?"

Joseph replied, "I indeed honor this noblest of men, the teacher sent from God, whom being innocent you have murdered."

And Nicodemus added, "Envy and pride were the motives of his condemnation. The judge himself was forced to bear witness to his innocence, and swore he would have no part in his death."

Then said Caiaphas furiously, "The curse of our law will destroy you, ye enemies of our fathers."

The rabbi said, "Do not excite thyself about them, O, high priest; they are smitten with blindness."

But Caiaphas, refusing to be silenced, cried, "Cursed are ye by the holy council. Deprived of all your honors, never more shall ye dare to take your seats in our midst."

"Neither do we desire to do so," said Nicodemus.

Then said Annas, "As the body is now in the hands of his friends, we must be on our guard, for this deceiver, while he was yet alive said that in three days he would rise again."

The rabbi said, "They could easily practice a new deception on the people and make fresh trouble for us. His disciples might take his body away secretly and then give out that he had risen from the dead."

"In that case," said Caiaphas, "the last error would be worse than the first. Let us therefore go at once to Pilate and ask him for a guard of soldiers to keep watch over the grave until the third day."

"A prudent thought," cried Annas, and the rabbi added, "Thus their schemes will be foiled." Then they departed to go to Pilate.

His enemies having left his friends alone around the cross, Nicodemus and Joseph set about taking down the body of Jesus. Bringing the ladders Joseph mounted on the shorter one that was placed in front, while Nicodemus ascended the longer one behind. Joseph had with him a roll of linen so long that after putting it around the body of Jesus, the ends hanging over the cross reached to the ground, where they were held by Simon of Bethany and Lazarus. Then, after taking off the crown of thorns Nicodemus took the pincers and began to pull out the nails from the hands of Jesus and bent the stiffening arms lovingly away from the cross. While they were thus engaged the Magdalen and Mary talked together. "At last," said Mary Magdalene, "the madmen have departed. Be comforted, beloved mother, now we are alone with our friends; the mockery and blasphemy are past and a holy evening stillness surrounds us."

Mary said, "O, my friends! What my Jesus suffered this mother's heart suffered with him. Now he has finished his work and entered into the rest of his Father. Peace also and trust from Heaven fills my soul."

Mary Magdalene comforted her, saying, "He is not taken from us forever; that he promised."

"O, noble men," said Mary to Joseph and Nicodemus, "make haste and bring me the body of my beloved son."

The Magdalene said, "Mother, wilt thou not rest a little here, while we prepare his resting place?" Then seating herself on a stone a little to the right of the cross, Mary waited while her friends made ready to receive the body of Jesus.

"Come, my companions," said Salome, "and help me to prepare the winding sheet to receive the body." They spread the linen on the ground at Mary's feet, placing one end upon her lap.

By this time Nicodemus had extracted the second nail which was in his left hand, and Joseph had taken the nail from the feet of Jesus. Then Simon and Lazarus, holding the ends of the linen roll, slowly lowered the body into the arms of Joseph of Arimathea.

"O, come," said Joseph, "thou sweet and holy burden; let me take thee upon my shoulders." Then with the body of Jesus resting upon his shoulders Joseph began to descend the ladder.

Nicodemus had already come down and awaited him at the foot of the cross. Spreading out his arms to receive the body of Jesus, he said, "Come thou holy body of my only friend, let me embrace thee." Then they carried the body of Jesus and placed it on the linen winding sheet that was prepared for it on his mother's lap. Nicodemus, looking at his wounds sighed, "How the rage of thy enemies hath torn thy flesh."

"Now," said John, "the best of sons rests once more on the bosom of the best of mothers."

Mary looked down upon the pale, blood-spotted face of Jesus, and then sighing heavily she said, "O, my Son, how is thy body covered with wounds!"

"Mother," said John, "from these wounds flowed salvation and blessing for mankind."

"See, mother," said the Magdalene, who stood on her right hand, "how the peace of heaven rests in death upon his face."

Then said Nicodemus who had brought some ointment, "Let us anoint him and then wrap him in this new linen." He then poured the ointment into all the wounds on the body of Jesus.

"He shall be laid," said Joseph of Arimathea, "in my new grave which I have prepared in the rock in my garden."

But before they could wrap him in the winding sheets, Salome came near, and kneeling, raised to her lips the pierced left hand of Jesus saying, "O, best of Masters! One more loving tear upon thy lifeless body."

Then came the Magdalene on the right hand, and kneeling down, stooped low and kissed the right hand, saying, "O, let me once more kiss the hand which has so often blessed me."

Then said John, "We shall see him again."

"Help me," said Joseph to Nicodemus, "to bear him into the garden."

"Blessed am I," said Nicodemus, "that I may lay to rest the remains of him who was sent from God." Then taking up the body they bore it away.

Then said John to Mary and the other woman, "Let us follow the dear, the divine friend."

"It is the last honor," said Mary, "that I can do my Jesus."

* * * * * *

On the morning of the third day since Jesus had been crucified, before the sun had arisen, the four soldiers who were appointed to watch the grave sat outside the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid. One of them awaking, cried, "Brothers, is not the night nearly over?" Then said Titus, "The sky is already reddening in the east; a beautiful spring day is beginning to dawn."

Hardly had he said these words when there was a great earthquake. Pedius springing up exclaimed, "Immortal Gods! What a fearful shock!" "The earth is splitting," cried Rufus. Then there was a peal of thunder. Titus called out, "Away from the rock; it is tottering; it is falling!" and the stone which had been rolled up into the mouth of the sepulcher fell down with a crash.

Jesus arose. For a moment he appeared at the mouth of the sepulchre, radiant in white apparel, while the watch fell on their faces to the ground crying out, "Ye gods, what do we see? A fire from heaven is blinding our eyes!"

Jesus then passed out through the door of the sepulchre and went down into the garden and out of sight.

After awhile the soldiers, who were lying prostrate on the ground said to each other, "Brother, what has happened to us?" Then said one of the soldiers, "I will not stop here another moment."

But Titus looking up said, "The apparition is vanished," and grasping his spear he rose to his feet saying, "Brothers, take heart; we have nothing to fear, as we have done no wrong." They then stood up and saw the open door of the sepulchre from which the stone had fallen. Then said Titus, "The stone is rolled away from the grave. The grave is open."

"Yes," said another, "and the garden door is bolted." Then they went with fear and trembling to the door of the sepulchre, and one looking in, said, "I do not see the corpse."

Then another going farther inside said, "Here is the linen cloth lying in which the body was wrapped. He has gone out of the grave."

Titus said, "He must have risen again, as no one came into the garden."

Then said the third soldier, "It has happened thus as the priests feared."

And Titus answered, "He has fulfilled his word!" "Now, what shall we do?" said the soldiers.

"There is nothing else to be done," said one, "excepting to hasten to the Pharisees and tell them what has happened."

All replied at once, "That we will," and they hastened away.




Written by Mr. Stead at Ober-Ammergau the night after witnessing the performance of the Passion Play.

This is the story that transformed the world!

This is the story that transformed the world!

Yes, and will yet transform it!

Yes, thank God, so the answer comes; and will yet transform it until the kingdom comes!

This is the story that transformed the world. I awoke shortly after midnight, after seeing the Passion Play at Ober-Ammergau, with these words floating backward and forward in my head like a peal of bells from some distant spire. Backward and forward they went and came, and came and went.

This is the story that transformed the world!

This is the story that transformed the world. And then in the midst of the reiterated monotone of this insistent message came the glad response from I know not where, "Yes, and will yet transform it!" And then the two met and mingled, strophe and anti-strophe, one answering the other, "This is the story that transformed the world. Yes, and will yet transform the world!"

I tried to sleep, but could not. It was as if church bells were pealing their sweet but imperious music within my brain. So I got up and wrote.

All is silent save the ticking of the watch by my bedside; silent as the stars which gleam down from the blue sky above the cross-crowned crag, which stands like some giant sentinel keeping watch over the village, at its foot. Herod, our host, sleeps soundly, and Johannes, wearied by his double service of waiter at the hotel and his role in the sacred play, is oblivious of all. The crowded thousands who watched for hours yesterday the unfolding of the passion of Christ Jesus of Galilee have disappeared, and I am alone.

But not alone. For as real and as vivid as that same crowd of yesterday seem to me the thronging memories of other days, of the centuries that rise between the time when Jesus really lived on earth, and today. Nineteen hundred years have gone since all that we saw represented yesterday was no mere mimic show but deadly tragic fact; nineteen hundred years during which the shaping power of the world has been that story. The old, old, story never before so vividly realized in all its human significance and its Divine import.

Its human significance, for thank God, we have at last seen Jesus as a man among men, a human being with no halo round his brow, no radiance not of this world marking him off apart from the rest of his fellow-men, but simply Jesus, the Galilean, gibbeted on the gallows of his time, side by side with the scum of mankind.

And it was this story that transformed the world. "Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean!" Over how many tribes and nations and kindreds of men?

Oh, the wonder of it all, the miracle of miracles surely is this. That this story should have transformed the world. For after all, what was the passion? Looked at as we looked at it yesterday, not from the standpoint of those who see the sacred story through the vista of centuries that have risen in splendor and set in the glory of the cross, but from the standpoint which the actors on the stage assumed yesterday, what was the passion? It was merely a passing episode in the unceasing martyrdom of man. Think you that of the thirty thousand Jews whom the humane Titus by a mere stroke of his stylus condemned to be crucified round the walls of Jerusalem forty years after that scene on Calvary, none suffered like this! For them, also, was reared the horrid cross, nor were they spared the mockings and the scourgings, the cruel thirst, and the slow-drawn agony of days of death. And among all that unnamed multitude how few were there but had some distracted mother to mourn for him, some agonized mother to swoon at the news of his death? Jews they were, as was he. Hero souls, no doubt faithful unto death, and now, let us hope, wearing a crown of life; patriots who knew how to die in the service of the land which their fathers had received from God, and of the temple in which was preserved his holy law. But their self-sacrifice availed not even to save their names from oblivion. Their martyrdom was as powerless to avert the doom of the chosen people as the bursting of the foam-flakes on the sand is to arrest the rush of the returning tide.

Why, then, should the death of one Jew have transformed the world, while the death of these uncounted thousands failed even to save the synagogue?

Why? That is the question that the Passion Play forces home—a question which never even comes to the mind of those who are accustomed from childhood to regard this Jew as mysteriously Divine, not so much man as God, cut off from us and our daily littleness by the immeasurable abyss that yawns between the finite and the infinite. This greatest of all the miracles, the coming of Christendom into being, has become so much a matter of course that we marvel as little at it as we do at the sunrise—which also in its way is a wonder worthy enough. Think for a moment of the many myriads of fierce heathen, worshipping all manner of proud ancestral gods, that have gone down before the might of that pale form. Civilizations and empires have gone down into the void; darkness covers them over and oblivion is fast erasing the very inscriptions which history has traced on their tombs. But the kingdom which this man founded knoweth no end. The voice that echoed from the hills of Galilee is echoing today from hills the Romans never trod, and the story of that life is rendered in tongues unknown at Pentecost. The more you look at it from the standpoint of the contemporaries of the carpenter of Nazareth the more incredibly marvelous it appears.

And this is the great gain of the Passion Play. It takes us clear back across the ages to the standpoint of those who saw Jesus, the Galilean, as merely a man among men. It compels us to see him without the aureole of Divinity, as he appeared to those who knew him from his boyhood, and who said, "Are not his brethren still with us?" It is true that it is still not real enough. The dresses are too beautiful—everything is conventional. We have here not the real Christ, the Jew, the outcast and the vagabond. For him we must wait till Vereschagin or some other realist painter may bring us reality. But even behind all the despisers of conventional Christian art, we have at least a sufficiently human figure to elicit sympathy, compassion and love. We get near enough to Christ to hear the blows that fall upon his face, to appreciate the superior respectability of the high priests, and to understand the contempt of Herod for the "king of fools." Not until we start low enough do we understand the heights to which the crucified has risen. It is only after realizing the depths of his humiliation we can even begin to understand the miracle of the transformation that he has wrought.

Nor is that all. It is the greatest thing, but it does not stand alone. For besides enabling us to realize the story which transformed the world, it enables us to understand the agency by which that story effected its beneficent revolution.

I learned more of the inner secret of the Catholic church in Ober-Ammergau than ever I learnt in Rome. Yet there is nothing distinctively Roman about the Passion Play. With the exception of the legend of St. Veronica with which Gabriel Maxs' picture has familiarized every Protestant who looks into a photograph shop and sees the strange face on the handkerchief, whose eyes reveal themselves beneath your gaze, there is nothing from first to last to which the Protestant Alliance could take exception. And yet it is all there. There, condensed into eight hours or less, is the whole stock-in-trade of the Christian church. It was in its effort to impress that story upon the heart of man that there came into being all that is distinctively Roman. To teach truth by symbols, to speak through the eye as much as the ear, to leave no gate of approach unsummoned by the bearer of the glad tidings of great joy, and above all in so doing to use every human element of pathos, of tragedy, and of awe that can touch the heart or impress the imagination—that was the mission of the church; and as it got further and further afield and had to deal with rude and ruder barbarians the tendency grew to print in still larger capitals. The Catholic church, in short, did for religion what the new journalism has done for the press. It has sensationalized in order to get a hearing among the masses.

Protestantism that confines its gaze solely to the sublime central figure of the gospel story walks with averted face past the beautiful group of the holy women. Because others have ignorantly worshiped, therefore we must not even contemplate. But plant a competent Protestant dramatic critic in the theater of Ober-Ammergau, let him look with dry eyes if he can upon the leave-taking at Bethany, and then as the universal sob rises from thousands of gazers, he will realize perhaps for the first time how intense is the passion of sympathy which they have sealed up, how powerful the emotion to which they are forbidden to appeal. The most pathetic figure in the Passion Play is not Christ, but his mother. There is in him also sublimity. She is purely pathetic. And after Mary the mother comes Mary Magdalene. Protestantism will have much leeway to make up before it can find any influence so potent for softening the hearts and inspiring the imagination of men. Even in spite of all the obloquy of centuries of superstition, and of the consequent centuries of angry reaction against this abuse, these two women stand out against the gloom of the past radiant as the angels of God, and yet the true ideals of the womanhood of the world.

Yes, this was the story that transformed the world! This and no other. This it was which to make visible, men carved it in stone and built it in the cathedral, and then, lest even the light of heaven should come to the eye of man without bearing with it the story of the cross, they filled their church windows with stained glass, so that the sun should not shine without throwing into brighter relief the leading features of the wonder-working epoch of his life and death. Wherever you go in Christendom you come upon endless reproductions of the scenes which yesterday we saw presented with all the vividness of the drama. The cross, the nails, the lance, have been built into the architecture of the world, often by the descendants of the men who crucified their Redeemer—not knowing what they did. For centuries art was but an endless repetition in color or in stone of the scenes we witnessed yesterday, or of incidents in lives which had been transformed by these scenes. The more utterly we strip the story of the Passion of all supernatural significance the more irresistibly comes back upon the mind the overwhelming significance of the transformation which it has affected in the world.

Why?—I keep asking why? If there were no divine and therefore natural law behind all that, why should that trivial incident, the crucifixion of one among the unnumbered host of vagabonds executed every year in the reign of Tiberius and the Caesars that followed him, how comes it that we are here today? Why are railways built and special trains organized and six thousand people gathered in curiosity or in awe to see the representation of this simple tale? How comes it if there were no dynamo at the other end of that long coil of centuries, that the light should still be shining at our end today? Shining alas! not so brightly as could be wished, but to shine at all, is that in itself not miraculous?

Through all the ages it has shone with varying luster. And still it shines. The dawn of a new day as I write is breaking upon this mountain valley. The cocks are crowing in the village, recalling the apostle who in the midst of the threatening soldiery denied his Lord. And even as Peter went out and wept bitterly, and ever after became the stoutest and bravest disciple of the Master, may it not yet be with those of this generation who also have denied their Redeemer?

Who knows? The transformation would be far less startling than that which converted the Coliseum from the shambles of imperial Rome into the gigantic monument of triumphant martyrdom, far less violent than that which made the German forbears of these good Ammergauers into Christian folk.

But if the transformation is to be effected, and the light and warmth of a new day of faith, and hope, and love, are to irradiate the world, then may it not be confidently asserted that in the old, old story of the cross lies the secret of the only power which can save mankind?


Wherein does it modify orthodox opinions? Chiefly in humanizing them, in making the gospel story "palpitate with actuality" to quote the French phrase which Matthew Arnold loved to use. These people on the stage at Ober-Ammergau are not lay figures, mere abstract representations of the virtues or the opposite. They live, breathe and act just as if they were actors in a French or Russian novel. That is the great difference. These poor players have brought our Lord to life again. In their hands he is no mere influence of abstraction, no infinite and almighty ruler of the universe. He may be and no doubt every one of the Ober-Ammergauers would shrink with horror from the suggestion that he was any other than the second person of the trinity. But they have done more than repeat the Athanasian creed. They have shown how it came to be believable. If that poor carpenter's son by getting himself crucified as one part fool and three parts seditious adventurer could revolutionize the world, then the inference seemed irresistible that he must have been divine. If the illegitimate son of a Bengalese peasant hanged by order of our lieutenant-governor in the northwest provinces because of the mischief he was making among the Moslems of Lahore were to establish his faith on the ruins of Westminster Abbey, and install the successor of his leading disciple on the throne of the British empire, we should not wonder at his apotheosis. To do so much, with so little material, compels the inference that there is the infinite behind. Nothing but a God could control such a machine. It needed a fulcrum in eternity to make such a change in the things of time with so weak a lever as the life of this Galilean.

But it is not only Christ himself who becomes real to us, but what is almost as important, we see his contemporaries as they saw themselves, or as he saw them. Caiaphas—who that has seen Burgomaster Lang in that leading role can feel anything but admiration and sympathy for the worthy chief of the Sanhedrin? He had everything on his side to justify him. Law, respectability, patriotism, religious expediency, common sense. Against him there was only this poor vagabond from Nazareth—and the Invisible. But Caiaphas, like other men, does not see the Invisible and he acts, according to his lights, as he was bound to act. He is the great prototype of the domineering and intolerant ecclesiastic all the world over. Since the crucifixion he has often changed his clothes. But at heart he is the same. He has worn the three-crowned hat of the successor of Peter; he has paraded in a bishop's miter; he has often worn the gown and bands of Presbyterian Geneva. Caiaphas is eternal. He produces himself in every church and in every village, because there is a latent Caiaphas in every heart.

Perhaps the character who comes out best is Pilate. He is a noble Roman, whose impartiality and rectitude, coupled with an anxious desire to take the line of least resistance and find out some practical middle course, is worthy of that imperial race to whose vices, as well as to many of their virtues, we English have succeeded. Pilate did his best to save Jesus up to a point—beyond that point he did not go, and according to the accepted ethics of men in his position, it would have been madness to have gone. Why should he, Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, risk his career and endanger the tranquillity of Jerusalem merely to save a poor wretch like that Galilean? What Englishman who has ever ruled a province in India, where religious ferment was rife, who would not have felt tempted to act as Pilate acted—nay, would not have acted as he acted without even the hesitation he showed, if the life of some poor devil of a wandering fakir stood between him and the peace of the empire? Would to God that British magistrates, even at home in our own land, would give the despised and unpopular poor man the same number of chances Pilate gave to Jesus. With Downing street eager for the conviction of a socialist agitator, and the whole of society and the mob savage against him, a man would be a fool who would not appeal from Bow street or old Bailey to so just a judge as Pilate. To the last Pilate never made himself the willing instrument of popular frenzy. He argued against it, he denounced it, he resorted to every subterfuge by which he could save the prisoner's life, and it was only when the Sanhedrin threatened to denounce him to Caesar as an enemy of the emperor that he unwillingly gave way. Here and there no doubt there are among our latter day magistrates and judges fanatical believers in abstract right, who would have risked the empire rather than let a hair of Christ's head be touched; but the average English or American magistrate—especially if the accused was "only a nigger"—would shrug his shoulders at such Quixotism as folly and worse. It is better, they would say, that one man should die, even unjustly, than that everything should be upset.

Another person who comes out better than might be expected is Judas. The conception of his character is very fine and very human. Judas, as the treasurer of the little band, naturally felt indignant at the apparent wanton extravagance which led Mary Magdalene to pour ointment worth 300 pence upon the head of her master. There is real human nature and sound practical common sense in his reply to those who told him not to worry about the money, when he retorted, "Who is there to take care about it if I don't?" Judas never really from first to last meditates betraying his master to death. The salves which he lays to his conscience when consenting to identify Jesus at night are very ingenious. Judas was a smart man who calculated he stood to win in any event. He got the indispensable cash; all that he did was to indicate what could perfectly well have been discovered without his aid; if Jesus were what he believed him to be he could easily have baffled his enemies; if he were not, well, then, he had deceived them. But the moment Judas learns that he has really endangered his master's life, his whole demeanor changes. He flings back the blood money at the feet of those who had given it to him, and in the madness of despair he hangs himself. So far from Judas being callous to Christ's fate, his suicide was a proof that his penitence was far more agonizing than that of Peter.

Simon Peter also comes in for a share in the general rehabilitation. It was impossible not to feel sympathy for the hasty old man, hustled from side to side by a pack of violent soldiery. Knowing moreover that he had cut off one of their ears but a few hours before, and that if they recognized him his own ears would have been cropped, even if he didn't share the fate of the crucified, his denial is so natural under the circumstances that you cease to marvel that even the cock crow on the roof failed to remind him of his master's warning.

The Passion Play has at least done this—it sets us discussing the conduct of Caiaphas and Pilate and Judas, as if they were our contemporaries, as if they were statesmen at Westminster or at Washington or administrators in India or Canada. And this, no doubt, is no small service, for these men are types of human character who are eternally re-embodied among us.


The story of the Passion Play has ever been real to me in another than a Catholic sense. It has been the perpetual re-incarnation of the divine story in the history of our own times that has absorbed my attention. These ancient figures on the stage of New Testament history were but of importance in so far as they lived again in our own life. Of their mystical theological significance I am, of course, not speaking. This is a thing apart. But the perpetual re-incarnation of God's Messiah in the great causes of justice, freedom and humanity, it is that which has made the gospel story ever new to me.

Leaving Ober-Ammergau I returned by Switzerland to London. At Lucerne while waiting for the train, I turned over the book in the waiting-room that describes the construction of the Gotthard railway. About one thousand tons of dynamite, it is said, had sufficed to pierce the tunnels through the mountain barrier that separated Italy from Switzerland. Blasting powder could never have done the work. That helped to level the military roads for the legions of Suwarrow. It needed dynamite to tunnel the St. Gotthard—dynamite directed by science—and as I read this I fell a-thinking. The old story, that mediaeval Christ in magenta and pearl gray, with his disciples in artistic symphonies of harmonious and contrasted color, no doubt transformed the world. But a new world has arisen which sorely needs transforming again, and is it not possible that the conventional Christ, who no doubt did mighty things in the past, may have become as obsolete as blasting powder. May we not hope that if the conventional Christ did so much, the real Christ may do much more; that the realization of the Christ as he actually lived and died among us may be as much superior in its transforming efficacy as the dynamite of the modern engineer is to the powder sack of the soldiers who marched under old Suwarrow? Of one thing we may at least be certain, and that is, if everyone of those who call themselves by the Christian name would but say one Christ-like word, and do one Christ-like deed between every sunrise and sunset, it would lift a very Alpine mass of sorrow and anxiety from the weary heart of the world. What then might not be done if in very truth, and with all sincerity, we, each of us, tried to be a real Christ in his or her sphere, the sent of God in the midst of those with whom we pass our lives?

One more word and I have done. The actors play different parts as they grow old. They begin with being children in the tableaux and they pass in turn from one role to another. The Judas of 1890 was the apostle John in 1880. When the Christ was selected in 1870, he was chosen out of four competitors. One of the unsuccessful today plays King Herod, the other Pontius Pilate. So it is ever in real life. Few, indeed, are those who are always Christs. When Christians ceased to be martyrs they martyred their enemies. The church came from the catacombs to establish the inquisition. In our own lives we may be Christs today and atheists tomorrow. Power and authority destroy more Christs than the dungeon and the stake. And perhaps one reason why the Ober-Ammergauers have been able to give us the Christ we see this year is because in their secluded valley they have remained poor and humble in spirit, and have never ceased to remember the story that transformed the world.


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