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Love to the Uttermost - Expositions of John XIII.-XXI.
by F. B. Meyer
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In that solemn consecration of the head all the members were included. The King stood for His kingdom; the Shepherd for His flock. Any who refuse to be consecrated contravene and contradict that momentous decision.

When Christ approached His death, in these words He renewed His act of consecration, and again implicated those who belong to Him; bearing us with Him, He went to the cross, involving us by His actions, He yielded Himself up to death. In His holy purpose we were quickened together with Him, and raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places; and by the same emphasis that we declare ourselves to be His, we confess that we are amongst those who are bound to a life of consecration. We are pledged to it by union with our Lord. We cannot draw back from the doorpost to which He was nailed without proving that we are deficient in appreciating the purpose which brought Him to our world, the surrender that withheld not His face from spitting, His soul from the shadow of death.

IV. OUR DUTY.—"Yield yourselves unto God." When Abraham Lincoln dedicated, for the purposes of a graveyard, the field of Gettysburg, where so many brave soldiers had lost their lives, he said: "We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men who struggled here have consecrated it far beyond our power to add or detract. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; and that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

These noble words, when we have made the needful alterations and adaptations, are most applicable to our present point. Let us dedicate ourselves to the great task before us, and to which Jesus has pledged us. Let us devote ourselves to this great cause for which Jesus died. Let us highly resolve that He shall not have died in vain. Let us offer and present ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto God, that His will might be done through us, as it is done in heaven.

"My Master, lead me to Thy door; Pierce this now willing ear once more; Thy bonds are freedom, let me stay With Thee, to toil, endure, obey.

"Yes; ear and hand, and thought and will! Use all in Thy dear slavery still! Self's weary liberties I cast Beneath Thy feet; there keep them fast."



XXII

The Lord's Prayer for His People's Oneness

"That they may all be one. . . . One in us. . . . That they may be one, even as we are one. . . . Perfect in one."—JOHN xvii. 21-23.

Thus our High Priest pleaded, and thus He pleads. In all the power of His endless life, He ever liveth to bear this great petition on His heart: and as the weight of the jewelled breast-plate lay heavy on the heart of the high priests of old, so does it press on Him, as the ages slowly pass by in their never-ceasing progress toward the consummation of all things. Listen to that voice, sweet and full as the distant rush of many waters, as it pleads in the midst of eternity that those which believe in Him may be one.

Nor is it true that this prayer awaits an answer indefinitely future. There seems good reason to believe, as we shall see, that in these words our Lord was making a request, which began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost: and is being fulfilled continually, although the oneness which is being realized is still, like His kingdom, in mystery, and is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. Then, as the gauzy mists of time part before the breath of God, the accomplished oneness of the Church shall stand revealed.

I. THE ONENESS OF BELIEVERS IS A SPIRITUAL ONENESS.—Can there be any reasonable doubt of this when our Master asks so clearly that we may be one, as the Father and He are one? The model for Christian unity is evidently the unity between the Father and Son by the Holy Spirit; and since that unity, the unity of the blessed God, is not corporeal, nor physical, nor substantial to the eye of the flesh, may we not infer—nay, are we not compelled to infer—that the oneness of believers is to be after the same fashion, and to consist in so close an identity of nature, so absolute an interfusion of spirit, as that they shall be one in aim, and thought, and life, and spirit, spiritually one with each other, because spiritually one with Him?

The Church of Rome, which has ever travestied in gross material forms the most spiritual conceptions of God, sought to prove herself the true Church by achieving a oneness of her own. It was an outward and visible oneness. In the apostate church every one must utter the same formularies, worship in the same postures, and belong to the same ecclesiastical system. And its leaders did their best to realize their dream. They endeavored to exterminate heresy by fire, and sword, and torture. They spread their network through the world. And just before the dawn of the Reformation they seemed to have succeeded. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Europe reposed in the monotony of almost universal uniformity, beneath the almost universal supremacy of the Papacy. Rome might indeed have adopted the insolent language of the Assyrian of prophecy: "As one gathereth eggs, so have I gathered all the earth, and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped." And what was the result? What but the deep sleep of spiritual death? And herein lay the most crushing condemnation of the Roman Catholic conception of the unity of the Church.

Many modern notions of Christian unity seem to proceed on the same line. The assent to a certain credal basis, the meeting in great Catholic conventions, the exchange of pulpits—these seem to exhaust the conceptions of large numbers, and to satisfy their ideal. But surely there is a bond of union deeper, holier, more vital and more blessed than any of these, which shyly reveals itself, now and again, in one or more of them, but is independent of all, and when all of them are wanting, still constitutes us one. And what is that bond of union but the possession of a common spiritual life, like that which unites the Father and the Son, and which pervades us also, making us one with each other, because we are already one with God?

You may not care to admit it; you may even be ignorant of the full meaning of this marvellous fact; you may live an exclusive life, never going beyond the walls of some small conventicle, or the barriers of some strict ecclesiastical system; you may bear yourself impatiently and brusquely toward those who differ from you; you may even brand them with your anathema: but if they are one with God, by His gracious indwelling Spirit of Life, and if you are also one with Him, you positively cannot help being one with them. Your creed may differ, or your mode of worship, or your views about the Church; but you cannot be otherwise than one with those who are one with God, in a union which is not material but spiritual.

II. THIS ONENESS ALSO ADMITS OF GREAT VARIETY.—"One, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee." Now, of course, we all admit the unity of the Godhead. The first article of the Jew is also the first article of the Christian, that the Lord our God is one God, one in essence, one in purpose, one in action. The Son does nothing of Himself; the Father does nothing apart from the Son; the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son. We cannot, as yet, understand this mystery; but with reverence we accept it as the primary basis of our faith.

But though God is One, there is evidently a variety of function in the ever-blessed Trinity. The Father decrees, the Son executes. The Father sends, the Son is sent. The Father works in Creation, the Son in Redemption and Judgment. And the functions of both Father and Son differ from those of the Holy Spirit.

If, then, the unity of the Church is to resemble the unity of the Godhead, according to our Lord's request, we may expect that it will not be physical, nor mechanical, nor a uniformity; but it will be a variety in unity—a unity of Spirit and purpose, and yet a unity which admits of very diverse functions and operations. Diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. Differences of administrations, but the same Lord. Diversities of operations, but the same God which worketh all in all.

(1) The very conception of unity involves variety.—You take me out into a piece of waste land, and pointing to a heap of bricks say, "There is a unity." I at once rebut your assertion; there is uniformity undoubtedly, but not unity. Unity requires that a variety of different things should be combined to form one structure and carry out one idea. A collection of bricks is not a unity, but a house is. A pole is not a unity, but a hop-plant is. A snow atom is not a unity, but a snow crystal is. And when our Lord spoke of His disciples as one, He not only expected that there would be varieties amongst them, in character, mind, and ecclesiastical preference; but by the very choice of His words He meant us to infer that it would be so. The unity on which He set His heart was not a uniformity.

(2) But with variety there may be the truest unity.—There is variety in the human body—from eyelash to foot, from heart to blood-disc, from brain to quivering nerve-fibre; yet, in all this variety, each one is conscious of an indivisible unity. There is variety in the tree: the giant arms that wrestle with the storm, the far-spreading roots that moor it to the soil, the myriad leaves in which the wind makes music, the cones or nuts which it flings upon the forest floor; yet for all this it is one. There is a variety in the Bible: variety of authorship—king, prophet, priest, herdsman, and fisherman, scholar, sage, and saint; variety of style—prose, poetry, psalmody, argument, appeal; variety of age—from the days of Moses to those of John, the beloved apostle, writing amid the persecutions of the empire; yet for all this there is a oneness in the Bible which no mere binding could give. So with the Church of Christ: there may be, there must be infinite varieties and shades of thought and work. Some will prefer the methods of Wesley, others the freedom of Congregationalism. Some will pray most naturally through the venerable words of a Liturgy, others in the deep silence of a Friends' Meeting. Some will thrive best beneath the crozier of the Bishop, others in the plain barracks of the Salvation Army; but, notwithstanding all this variety, there may be a deep spiritual unity. Many folds, but one flock; many regiments, but one army; many stones, but one breast-plate. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

III. THE BASIS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY IS THE UNION OF EACH BELIEVER TO CHRIST.—"I in them, that they may be made perfect in one." However much true believers in Christ differ, there are two points in which they agree.

(1) Each believer is in Christ: in Christ's heart, loved with an everlasting love, the beloved name engraven on its secret tables; in Christ's book, enrolled on those pages which are sealed so fast that He alone can break the seven-fold seal; in Christ's hand, which holds the ocean as a drop upon its palm, and which was pierced on Calvary, from which no power shall ever pluck the trembling soul; in Christ's grace, rooted as a tree in luxuriant soil, or a house in a foundation of rock; but above all in Christ's Person, for He is the Head, "from whom the whole body is fitly framed and knit together by that which every joint supplieth." There are innumerable texts which speak of the Church as the Body of Christ (Eph. i. 23; Col. i. 24); and directly a man believes in Christ, he becomes a member of that mystical body. "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." You may be a very obscure member, or even a paralyzed member; but be sure of this, if you are a Christian you are in Christ, as the eye is in the eye-socket, the arm in the shoulder-joint, and the finger in the hand.

(2) Christ is in each believer.—The texts that teach Christ's real presence in the believer are as numerous as spring flowers. "Christ liveth in me." "Know ye not that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" "Ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." The Lord Jesus is in the heart which makes Him welcome, as the steam is in the piston, as the sap is in the branch, as the blood is in the heart, as the life is in the body. It would be impossible for words to describe a more intense spiritual Oneness than that which is here presented to us. The Saviour is in each of us, as the Father is in Him, and we are in Him, and He in God. "Our life is hid with Christ in God." Therefore we are not only one with Jesus Christ, but through Him we are one with God. "I in them, Thou in Me." The very life of God is pouring its glorious tides through us, and would do so more largely if only we were more receptive and obedient. He pours water out of the mouth of the Congo at the rate of 1,000,000 tons per second; and is willing to do marvels as mighty through each believer. And as this life permeates us all alike, it makes us not only one with the blessed God, but one with all who believe, as the blood makes all the members of the body one, and the sap the branches of the tree.

IV. THE MEANS OF THIS SPIRITUAL UNITY ARE THE INFLUENCES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.—Influence means inflow. It was by the Holy Spirit that our Lord's human nature was made one with His Father's. And this same Holy Spirit He has bequeathed to us, that He may be the same bond of spiritual life between us and our Lord as He was between our Lord and His Father. May not this be the meaning of His words: "The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them, that they may be one as we are one"? May not that glory have consisted in the oneness of His human nature with God the Father, by the Holy Spirit? And if so, it may be shared by us. The more that believers receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the more clearly will they appreciate this great mystery, and the more closely will they be drawn to all other believers, hushing jealous thoughts and uncharitable words, and "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

It is abundantly clear, then, that this unity cannot be broken unless we break away from Christ. Men have used that word schism with terrible effect. If a man has broken away from some visible church, they have pointed to him as a schismatic. But what is schism? It is a breaking away from the Body of Christ. But what is the Body of Christ? The Roman Catholic will tell you that it is the Church of Rome; the Anglican will tell you that it is the Church of England; the High Churchman will tell you that it is the collection of churches which hold the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. What vestige of Scriptural proof is there for these assertions? What an absurdity it is to be told that we must submit to an outward rite, or we cannot belong to the Body of Christ! What then would become of all the saints and martyrs who died without membership with one of these visible organizations? No, the Body of Christ, as Scripture plainly teaches, is that great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, and sects, and eras, who are united by faith with the Saviour. The Church of Christ is not conterminous with any earthly or visible organization; it is long as the ages, wide as the poles, broad as the charity of God; it includes all in heaven and on earth who hold the Head. The only condition of membership in that Church is simple faith in Christ. And the only method of severance from that Church is through the severance of the soul's trust in Christ. He only is a schismatic who ceases to be Christ's.

The Papal Legate told Savonarola that he cut him off from the Church Militant and from the Church Triumphant. "From the Church Militant you may," was the martyr's reply; "but from the Church Triumphant, never." It was well spoken; but Savonarola might have gone further, and defied the scarlet-coated functionary even to cut him off from the Church Militant—nothing could do that but apostasy. A man may be excommunicated from our church systems, or he may never have belonged to one of them; but so long as he believes in Christ, he is a member of the Holy Catholic Church. And schism is more likely to be charged against those who violate the spirit of Christian charity in making harsh and false statements against their fellow-members in the Body of Christ. Let us not retaliate, lest we also commit that sin. We can afford to wait. Five minutes in heaven, or less, will settle it all.

The object for which Christ prayed is already being partially accomplished. The world may not be as yet surrendering to the claims of Jesus Christ, but it is becoming increasingly impressed with His Divine mission: "that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." And in proportion as the Holy Spirit pervades and fills the hearts of the children of God, the manifestation of the Life of God in them, and through them, will have an ever-increasing effect, and will do what church systems and even the preachings of her thousand pulpits cannot effect in convincing and saving men.

Let us remember that Christ's own conception of the unity of His Church is that which is the result of the indwelling of the one Spirit. Such unity is already a fact in the eye of God, though undiscerned as yet in all its fullness by men. Let us thank God that this marvellous request has been already so largely realized, and let us dare to hold fellowship as Christians with all those who are indwelt by the Spirit of the Life, which is also in Christ Jesus.



XXIII

The Love that Bound Christ to the Cross

"Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?"—JOHN xviii. 4.

The Cedron was never more than a mountain brook, and it is now dry. Its stony bed alone shows where it used to flow through the valley that separated Mount Zion from the Mount of Olives. The main road which led from the city gate, over the Mount of Olives to Bethany and Jericho, crossed it by an ancient bridge, from which, on this especial night, a fair scene must have presented itself.

Above, the Passover moon was shining in full-orbed splendor turning night into day. Beneath, the little stream was brawling down the valley, catching the moonlight on its wavelets. On the one slope dark, thick woods, above which rose the ancient walls and gates of the city, on the other, the swelling slopes of Olivet. Presently the Lord emerged out of the shadow, engaged in earnest converse with the apostles; crossed the bridge, but, instead of pursuing the path as it wound upward toward Bethany and Bethphage, they all turned into a large enclosure, well-known as the garden of the oil-press, and which we know best as Gethsemane. Somewhere, no doubt, within its enclosure stood the rock-hewn trough in which the rich juicy olives were trodden by naked feet. "When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into which He entered, and His disciples."

The sequel was so fully narrated by the other evangelists that there was no need for the writer of this narrative to tell of the awful anguish, the broken cries, the bloody sweat, the running to and fro of the disciples, the sleep of the chosen three, the strengthening angel. He confines himself almost entirely to the circumstances of the Lord's arrest.

Two hours only had passed since Judas left the supper-table; but that had given him all the time needed for the completion of his plan. Hastening to the authorities, he had told them that the favorable moment had arrived for his Master's arrest; that he knew the lonely spot to which He was wont to resort for meditation and prayer; and that he had need of an armed band to overpower all possible resistance on the part of Himself or His followers. This they were able to supply from the guards and custodians of the Temple. They were going against One who was deserted and defenceless; yet the soldiers were armed with sticks and staves. They were about to arrest One who would make no attempt at flight or concealment, and the moon was full; yet, lest He should make His escape to some limestone grotto, or amid the deep shadows, they carried torches and lanterns.

The Lord had just awoke His disciples for the third and last time, when probably His ear detected the tread of hurrying feet, the muffled clank of swords, the stifled murmur of an advancing crowd; perhaps He saw also the glancing lights, as they advanced through the garden shrubs, and began to encircle the place where He had prayed. By such signs, and especially by the inner intimation of the Holy Spirit, He knew all things that should come upon Him, and without waiting for His enemies to reach Him, with calm and dignified composure He went forth to meet the rabble band, stepping out into the moonlight and saluting them with the inquiry, "Whom seek ye?"

There are some deep and memorable suggestions here as to the

VOLUNTARINESS OF CHRIST'S DEATH.

In order to His death having any value it must be free. If it could be shown that He had no choice than to die, because His own purpose was overmastered by the irresistible force of circumstances, His death could not have met the claims of a broken law, or inaugurated a new code of morals to His Church. But there are several points in this narrative which make it clear that He laid down His life of Himself, that none took it from Him, that He had power to lay it down, and power to take it again.

(1) When Jesus asked them the question, "Whom seek ye?" there were, no doubt, many in the band who knew Him well enough, and that He was the object of their midnight raid; but not one of them had the courage to answer, "Thee." A paralyzing awe had already commenced to cast its spell over their spirits. Those who knew Him shrank from identifying Him, and were content to answer generally, "Jesus of Nazareth." But when He answered, "I am He," what was it that so suddenly affected them? Did some stray beams of concealed glory burst forth from their confinement to indicate His majesty? Did they dread the putting-forth of that power which had been so often exerted to save and bless? Or, was there a direct miracle of Divine power, which secured their discomfiture? We cannot tell. But, whatever the cause, the crowd suddenly fell back in confusion, and were flung to the ground.

Here, for a moment, the would-be captors lay, as though pinioned to the dust by some unseen hand. The spell was soon withdrawn, and they were again on their feet, cursing themselves for their needless panic. But—and this is the point—the power that sent that rough hireling band reeling backward to the ground could easily have held them there, or plunged them as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, into living graves. "One flash came forth to tell of the sleeping lightning which He would not use"; and then, having revealed the might, which could have delivered Him from their puny arms, He returned to His attitude of willing self-surrender. Who, then, shall say that our Saviour's death was not His own act and deed?

(2) When that rabble crew were again on their feet, confronting Jesus, He asked them a second time, Whom seek ye? Again they replied, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I have told you that I am He; if, therefore, ye seek me, let these go their way." And, forthwith, He put forth such a power over His own as secured their freedom from arrest.

It is evident that it was no part of His foes' purpose beforehand to let them go; for, on their way back they arrested a young man, probably Mark himself, whom curiosity had drawn from his bed, and whom they took for one of His disciples. He escaped with great difficulty from their hands. It is hardly doubtful that if some special power had not been exerted over them, they would have treated the whole of the followers of Jesus as they sought to treat Him. Is it not evident, then, that the power which secured the safety of His disciples could have secured that of the Master Himself; or that He might have passed away through the midst of them, as He did through the infuriated crowd which proposed to cast Him headlong over the precipice near Nazareth at the commencement of His ministry? Every arm might have been struck nerveless, every foot paralyzed with lameness. Who, then, shall deny that Christ's death was His own act?

(3) But again, when Jesus had spoken thus there seemed some wavering among His captors, perhaps a hesitation as to who should first lay hand on Him. At this juncture, when the whole enterprise threatened to miscarry, Judas felt that he must, at all hazards, show how safe it was to touch the person of his Master; so, though the bold challenge of Jesus had made the preconcerted signal needless, he resolved still to give it, that the spell of that presence might be broken. The traitor, therefore, stepped up and kissed the Lord.

Encouraged by this sacrilegious act, His myrmidons now laid hands on Jesus, grasping His sacred person as they might have done Barabbas, or some other member of his gang. They then proceeded to bind Him after the merciless Roman fashion. Peter could not bear to see this. He sprang forth from the covert of the shadow, drew his sword, and cut at the nearest assailant's head. But the blade, glancing off the helmet, cut off the ear.

It was an unwelcome interference with the behavior of the meek and gentle Lord, whose hand was already bound. It could not be permitted. "Suffer ye thus far," He said to the rude soldier who was binding Him, and with His own finger touched the ear, stanched the flowing blood, and healed it. It has been remarked that this was the only act of healing wrought on one for whom it was neither asked of Him, and who had no faith in His beneficent power. But, surely, the hand that could work that miracle could have broken from the bonds that held it as easily as Samson from the two new cords which burned as flax in the flame. The power with which Jesus saved others might have saved Himself. Who, then, shall say that His death was not His own free act? Listen, moreover, to His own words. Then said Jesus unto Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels; but how then shall the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be?"

As, then, we view the death of the Cross we must ever remember the voluntariness of that supreme act, which is all the more conspicuous as the agony of the Garden reminds us how greatly the Lord's spirit dreaded the awful pressure of the world's sin, which made Him cry: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" How greatly He must have loved us! It was love, and only love, that kept Him standing at the bar of Pilate, bending beneath the scourge of the soldiers, hanging in apparent helplessness on the cross. Not the iron hand of relentless fate; not the overpowering numbers or closely-woven plots of His foes; not the nails that pierced His quivering flesh. No, it was none of these. It was not even the compulsion of the Divine purpose. It was His own choice, because of a love that would bear all things if only it might achieve redemption for those whom He loved more than Himself. "He loved me, and gave Himself for me."

Surely we may trust that love. If it moved Him to endure the Cross and despise the shame, is there anything that it will withhold, anything that it will not do? His love is stronger than death, and mightier than the grave. Strong waters cannot quench it, floods cannot drown it. It silences all praise, and beggars all recompense. To believe and accept it is eternal life. To dwell within its embrace is the foretaste of everlasting joy. To be filled by it is to be transfigured into the image of God Himself.



XXIV

Drinking the Cup

"The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?"—JOHN xviii. 1-14.

In our Master's arrest the one feature which stands out in unique splendor is its voluntariness. He went into the garden "knowing all things that should come upon Him." Even at the last moment He might have evaded the kiss of the traitor, and the binding thong with which Malchus sought to manacle His gracious hands. The spell of His intrinsic nobleness and glory, which had flung His captors to the ground, might have held them there; the power that could heal the wounded ear might have destroyed with equal ease the entire band.

The reason for all this hardly needs explaining. His life and death were not merely a sacrifice, but a self-sacrifice. He freely gave Himself up for us all. Each believer may dare to appropriate the words of the apostle: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." It was through the Eternal Spirit that He offered Himself without spot to God. It was from His own invincible love that He gave Himself for the Church, His Bride. "From beginning to end the moving spring of all His actions was deliberate self-devotedness to the good of men, and the fulfillment of God's will, for these are equivalents. And His death as the crowning act of this career was to be conspicuously a death embodying and exhibiting the spirit of self-sacrifice." Let us learn:

I. THE SUPREME NOBILITY OF SURRENDER TO THE EVITABLE.—It is, of course, most noble, when the martyr goes to his death without a murmur of complaint; allowing his enemies to wreak their vengeance without recrimination or threatening; bowing the meek head to the block; extending the hand to the hungry flame. He has no alternative but to die; there are no legions waiting under arms to obey his summons; no John of Gaunt to stand beside him, as beside Wycliffe, to see him fairly tried and insist on his acquittal. Then, there is nothing for it but to evince the patience and gentleness of Christ in being led as a lamb to the slaughter.

But though this spectacle stirs the hearts of men, there is one still more illustrious—when the sufferer bends to a fate which he might easily avoid, but confronts for the sake of others. The former is submission to the inevitable, this to the evitable. That is bearing a yoke which is imposed by superior authority; this taking a yoke which might be evaded without blame, as judged by the tribunal of public opinion. And this is the sublimest spectacle on which the eye of man or angel can rest; for thus the sacrifice of Christ finds its noblest counterpart and fulfillment.

When a missionary, with ample means and loving friends, deliberately spends among squalid and repulsive conditions, the precious years which might have been passed among congenial society and luxurious comfort in the homeland; chooses a lot from which nature inevitably shrinks instead of that to which every conclusion but one points, and stays at his post, though his return, so far from being resented, would actually be favored by all whose opinion is of weight—this is a voluntary submission to the evitable.

When a home pastor stays by his poor flock because they need him so sorely, and sets his face toward grinding poverty and irksome toil when the city church invites him to a larger stipend and wealthier surroundings—this again is a voluntary surrender to the evitable.

When a wealthy bachelor is willing to forego the ease and quiet of his beautiful home in order to welcome the orphans of his deceased brother, who might have been sent to some charitable institution or cast on strangers, that they may be beneath his personal supervision, and have a better chance in life—this again is voluntary submission to the evitable.

In each such case, it is not inevitable that the cross should be borne, and the hands yielded to the binding thong. The tongue of scandal could hardly find cause for criticism if the easier path were chosen. Perhaps the soul hardly realizes the kindredness of its resolve with the loftiest that this world has seen. But it is superlatively beautiful, nevertheless. And let it never be forgotten, that nothing short of this will satisfy the standard of Christ. No Christian has a right to use all his rights. None can claim immunity from the duty of seeking the supreme good of others, though it involve the supreme cost to himself.

II. THE RECOGNITION OF GOD'S WILL IN HIS PERMISSIONS.—In the bitter anguish which had immediately preceded the arrest, our Lord had repeatedly referred to His cup. "If this cup," He said, "may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." The cup evidently referred to all the anguish caused to His holy nature in being numbered among the transgressors, and having to bear the sin of the world. Whether it was the anguish of the body, beneath which He feared He would succumb, as some think; or the dread of being made a sin-offering, a scape-goat laden with sin, as others, or the chill of the approaching eclipse, which extorted the cry of forsakenness, as seems to me the more likely—is not pertinent to our present consideration. It is enough to know that, whilst there was much that cried, "Back!" there was more that cried, "On!"—and that He chose from the profoundest depths of His nature, to do the Father's will, to execute His part in the compact into which they had entered before the worlds were made, and to drink to the dregs the cup which His Father had placed in His hands.

But here we note that to all appearances the cup was mingled, prepared, and presented by the malignity and hate of man. The High Priests had long resolved to put Him to death, because His success with the people, His fresh and living comments on the law, His opposition to their hypocrisies and pretensions had exasperated them to madness. Judas also seemed to have had a conspicuous share in his discovery and arrest. Had we been left to our unaided reasonings we might have supposed that the most bitter ingredients of His cup had been supplied by the ingratitude of His own, the implacable rancor of the priests, and the treachery of Judas; but, see, He recognizes none but the Father—it is always the Father, always the cup which the Father had given.

There had been times in our lives when we may have been tempted to distinguish between God's appointments and permissions, and to speak of the former as being manifestly His will for us, whilst we suspended our judgment about the latter, and questioned if we were authorized in accounting them as being equally from Heaven. But such distinctions are fatal to peace. Our souls were kept in constant perturbation, as we accounted ourselves the shuttlecock of rival powers, now God's, now man's. And we ended in ruling God out of more than half our life, and regarding ourselves as the hapless prey of strong and malicious forces to which we were sold, as Joseph to the Ishmaelites.

A deeper reading of Scripture has led us to a truer conclusion. There is no such distinction there. What God permits is as equally His will as what He appoints. Joseph tells his brethren that it was not they who sent him to Egypt, but God. David listens meekly to Shimei's shameful words, because he felt that God allowed them to be spoken. And here Jesus refuses to see the hand of His foes in His sufferings, but passes beyond the hand which bore the cup to His lips to the Father who was permitting it to be presented, and reposed absolutely in the choice of Him of One who loved Him with a love that was before the foundation of the world.

Oh, sufferer! whether by those strokes, which, like sickness or bereavement, seem to come direct from heaven, or by those which, like malicious speeches or oppressive acts, seem to emanate from man, look up into the face of God, and say, "My Father, this is Thy will for me; Thine angels would have delivered me had it been best. But since they have not interposed, I read Thy choice for Thy child, and I am satisfied. It is sweet to drink the cup which Thy hands have prepared."

III. THE DEEP LAW OF SUBSTITUTION.—Some of the rabble crowd had probably shown signs of a disposition to arrest some of Christ's followers. He, therefore, interfered, and reminded them of their own admission, that He was the object to their midnight raid, and bade them allow these to go their way. Is it surprising that the evangelist generalizes this act, finding in it an illustration of His Master's ceaseless interposition on behalf of His own—that of those whom the Father had given Him He should lose none.

In brief, this scene affords a conspicuous and striking illustration of the great doctrine of substitution. As the Good Shepherd steps to the front and sheathes the swords of His foes in His own breast, while He demands the release of the cowering flock, He is doing on a small scale what He did once and forever on Calvary; when, exposing Himself to the penalty due to sin, and braving the concentrated antagonism of a broken law, the drawn sword of inviolable justice, the sharpness of death, the shame of the cross, and the humiliation of the grave, He said, "If ye seek Me, let these go their way."

Christ sheltered us without reckoning the cost to Himself. He stood to the front, and bore the extreme brunt of all that was to be borne. He substituted His suffering for ours, His wounds for our pain, His death for our sins. If you are fearing the just recompense of your sins, like a band of arresting soldiers lurking in the dark shadows and threatening to drag you forth to pay the uttermost farthing, take heart; Jesus has met, and will meet, them for you. Listen to His majestic voice, saying, "Take Me, but let this soul, who clings to the skirts of My robe, go his way." He is arrested, and led away; thou art free—that in thy freedom thou shouldest give thyself to be His very slave.



XXV

The Hall of Annas

"They led Him away to Annas first, for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year."—JOHN xviii. 13.

The band that had arrested Jesus led Him back across the Kedron bridge, up the steep ascent, and through the ancient gateway, which at this season of the year stood always open, even at night.

The passage of the armed men through the quiet streets must have aroused from their slumbers many sleepers, who hurried to the windows to see them pass below in the clear moonlight. But no one guessed who was being taken into custody, and most of them probably thought that the soldiers had captured some more of the Barabbas gang, who, at that season of the year, would make a rare harvest by plundering pilgrims to the feast.

Their destination, in the first place, was the mansion of Annas, the head of the reigning priestly family, who was father-in-law of the actual high priest. He was now an old man; wealthy, aristocratic, and laden with all the honors his nation could give. For many years he had worn the high priest's robes, and though he had now nominally retired from that exalted office, he still kept his hand upon the reins of government. Caiaphas, at the time of which we speak, had held the priesthood for seventeen years under his tutelage; and he retained it for five years after. It is easy therefore to understand why Annas is described as the high priest. He was still the most powerful living bearer of that title. The whole family partook of his character, and was notorious for unwearied plotting. The gliding, deadly, snake-like smoothness with which Annas and his sons seized their prey is said to have won them the name of hissing vipers.

Annas and Caiaphas probably shared the same cluster of buildings, which was presumably the official residence of the high priestly family. In the East the houses of the great are frequently a group of buildings of unequal height standing near each other and surrounded by the same court, but with passages between, independent entrances, and separate roofs. Sometimes they would form a square or quadrangle with porticos and corridors around it, plants and fountains in the midst, and a slight awning overhead to protect the open courtyard from the sun or rain, the communication with the street being through a smaller courtyard and archway, called in the Gospels "a porch." In some such cluster of splendid buildings Annas and Caiaphas and others of their family would live, and the whole would be called the high priest's palace.

In one of the large reception halls Annas waited, impatient and feverish, to know the result of the midnight expedition. He had a nervous dread of what Jesus might do when driven to bay; and dreaded lest the secret should leak out, and the Galilean pilgrims rise in defence of their favorite Prophet, whom four days before they had escorted into the city with shouts. What if Judas should not prove true? All these disquieting thoughts chased each other like pursuing phantoms through his mind, and it was an immense relief when the clank of weapons in the court assured him of the safe return of Malchus' party, and answering voices told him that Jesus was at last safe within his power.

The prisoner was at once brought before the old man, who eagerly scrutinized his features in the flickering light of lanterns and flambeaux, casting shadows which a Rembrandt would have loved to paint. One or two intimates may have stood around Him; but the main inquiry was left to Himself, as He put the Master through a preliminary and informal examination, in the hope of extracting from His replies materials on which the court, which was hastily summoned for an early hour in the morning, might proceed.

On the surface the inquiry seemed fair and innocent enough. The high priest, we learn from verse 19, asked Jesus of His disciples and His doctrine. But the lamb-skin hid a wolf. For the questions were so worded as to entangle, and to provide material on which to found the subsequent charge, which was even then being framed, that Jesus was a disturber of the public peace, and a teacher of revolutionary doctrine.

First, then, about His disciples.—Annas would like to be informed what this association of men meant. Why were they formed into a society? By what bond were they united? What secret instructions had they received? What hidden objects had they in view? If Jesus refused to answer these questions, might it not be made to appear that an attempt was on foot to organize a confederation throughout the entire country? If so, it would be easy to awaken the jealousy of the Roman authorities, and lead them to feel that they must take immediate steps to stamp out the plot by executing the ringleader.

And, next, as to His doctrine.—Had not Jesus repeatedly spoken about the Kingdom of Heaven? What did this mean? Was He contemplating the setting up of a kingdom? Did He intend it to be understood that He was the expected Messiah, and that He meditated revolt against Rome? Was the manifestation of force, which had accompanied His recent entrance into the city, at His instigation?

Our Lord at once penetrated the design of His crafty interrogator. And in His answer He took care not to mention His disciples, speaking only of Himself. He affirmed that He had nothing to say which He had not already said a hundred times in the synagogues and the Temple, before friends and foes. He had no secret doctrines for the initiated, but had declared all that was in His heart. Between His disciples and Himself there had been no connection other than was obvious on the surface. No meetings under cover of night; no discussions of revolutionary topics; nothing that could not bear the fullest scrutiny. "I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret [that is, in the sense in which you use the word] I have said nothing. Why askest thou Me? Ask them which heard Me what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I have said."

Our Lord's reference to those who had heard Him is probably an allusion to the armies of spies whom Annas had set on His track, watching His actions, reporting His words. Was not this examination of the prisoner a confession that the close scrutiny to which He had been subjected for so long had failed to elicit aught on which a criminal charge could be based? Jesus knew that His most secret words had been tortured in vain to yield an accusation against Him. How great then was the hypocrisy which could feign ignorance! How evident it was that Annas was only intent on inveigling his prisoner to say something on which to base his after-accusation.

All this was implied in our Lord's noble and transparent words. We shall see that He adopted another tone when He was properly arraigned before the assembled Sanhedrim; but in this more private, injudicial, inquisitorial interview, with one scathing rebuke He tore away the cloak of assumed ignorance with which this crafty man veiled his sinister purpose, and laid His secret thoughts open to the gaze of all.

For the time Annas was silenced. He had made small headway in the informal examination of his prisoner, and he now gave it up. Whatever resentment he may have felt at our Lord's answer he carefully concealed, biding the hour when he might vent the vials of his hate without stint.

We must not suppose there was any anger in that long-suffering heart toward this judge. He was even then about to die for Him, and to bear the guilt of the very sin He so pitilessly exposed. But surely it was the part of love to show Annas what he was, and to utter words of rebuke in which, as in a mirror, his secret thoughts might be revealed. But if, in the moment of His humiliation, Jesus could thus search and reveal a man, what will He not do when He is no longer prisoner, but Judge? Oh, those awful eyes, which are as a flame of fire! Oh, those awful words, which pierce to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow, and discern the thoughts and intents of the heart! What wonder that men shall at last call on the rocks to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb! Kiss the Son, lest ye perish from His presence, when His wrath is kindled but a little! Blessed are they who can stand before Him without blame!

Then followed one of the grossest indignities to which our Lord was at this time subjected. On speaking thus, one of the officers, in the spirit of that despicable flunkeyism which will sacrifice all nobility and self-respect to curry the flavor of a superior, smote our Lord with a rod, saying, "Answerest thou the high priest so?"

When afterward they came around Him to mock and smite, He answered nothing; but when this first stroke was inflicted the Master said quietly, "If I have spoken what is false or unbecoming, prove that I have done so; but if you cannot, why do you strike Me? No one has the right to take the law into his own hands, much less a servant of the court."

It is impossible not to recall the mighty utterances against the resistance of wrong, spoken from the Mount, in the Messiah's manifesto: "I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Clearly our Lord did not literally do so in this instance, because He saw an opportunity of revealing to this man His true condition, and of bringing him to a better mind. Our bearing of wrong must always be determined by the state of mind of those who ill-use us. In the case of some we may best arrest them by the dignity of an unutterable patience, which will bear to the utmost without retaliation—this is to turn the other cheek. In the case of others we may best serve them by leading them calmly and quietly to take the true measure of their crime. In all cases our prime consideration should be, not what we may be suffering, nor the utter injustice which is meted out to us; but how best to save the evil-doer, who is injuring his own soul more fatally than he can possibly injure us, and who is sowing seeds of harvest of incredible torture to his own conscience, in the long future which lies behind the veil of sense.

If only we could drink in the pure love of Jesus, and view all wrong and wrong-doers, not in the light of our personal interest, but of their awful condition and certain penalty; if only we could grieve over the infinite horror of a warped and devil-possessed soul, drifting like a ship on fire before the breeze, straight to the rocks; if only we could see the wrong done to our Father God and His sorrow, we should understand Chrysostom's beautiful comment on this scene: "Think on Him who said these words; on him to whom they were said; and on the reason why they were said; and, with Divine power, they will cast down all wrath that may arise within thy soul."



XXVI

How it fared with Peter

"Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter."—John xviii. 16.

Remember that this very circumstantial account was given by one who was an eyewitness of the whole scene; and who, withal, was then and in after years the warm friend and companion of Peter. But his love did not lead him to conceal his brother's sins. Peter himself would not have wished him to do so, because where sin had abounded, grace had had the greater opportunity to super-abound.

At the moment of the Lord's arrest, all the disciples forsook Him and fled. "The Shepherd was smitten and the flock scattered." Two of them, however, speedily recovered their self-possession, and followed at a distance, eager to see what would befall. When the procession reached the palace gate John seems to have entered with the rest of the crowd, and the ponderous, massive doors closed behind him. On looking round for Peter he missed him, and concluding that he had been shut out and was still standing without, he went to the maid that kept the wicket-gate, opening in the main entrance doors for the admission of individuals, and asked her to admit his friend. She recognized him as being well known to the high priest, and readily assented to his request.

A fire of wood had been hastily lighted in the open courtyard, and cast its rays on the chilly April night; so that whilst Jesus was being examined by Annas the men who had taken part in the night adventure were grouped around the fire, discussing the exciting incident, with its moment of panic, the case of the arrest, the hurt and healing of the ear of Malchus, the seizure of the rich Eastern dress from the young man whom they had encountered on their homeward march. Peter did not wish to be recognized, and thought that the best way of preserving his incognito was to put on a bold face and take his place among the rest as though he, too, had been one of the capturing band, and had as much right to be there as any other of that mixed company. So he stood with them, and warmed himself.

Meanwhile, the doorkeeper, leaving her post, came to the fire, and in its kindling ray her eye fell upon Peter's face. She was surprised to see him there, feigning to be one of themselves. If, like John, he had gone quietly into some recess of the court, and waited unobtrusively in the shadow, she could have said nothing. In her kind-heartedness she would have respected them both; for she knew that they sympathized with the arrested Nazarene. But to find him there talking and acting as though he had no personal interest in the matter was so unseemly and unfit that she was provoked to expose him. She looked at him earnestly—as another evangelist tells us—to be quite sure that she was not mistaken; and feeling quite certain in her identification, said abruptly, "Art thou not one of this man's disciples?"

Peter was taken off his guard. If he had been arrested, and taken for trial, he would no doubt have played the hero—he had braced himself up for that; but he had not expected that the supreme trial of his life could come in the question of a servant-maid. It is so often thus. We lock and bolt the main door, and the thief breaks in at a tiny window which we had not thought of. We would burn at the stake; but in an hour of social intercourse with our friends, or a trivial business transaction, we say the word which fills our life with regret. Confused at the sudden pause in the conversation, and the turning of all eyes toward himself, Peter's first impulse was to allay suspicion, and he said bluntly, "I am not." Such was his first denial.

After this, as Matthew and Mark tell us, he went out into the outer porch or gateway, perhaps to avoid the glare of the light and the scrutiny of those prying eyes. He remembered afterward that, at the same moment, a cock was heralding the dawn—the dawn of the blackest, saddest day that ever broke upon Jerusalem, or the world. But its warning notes were just then lost on him; for there another maid, speaking to some male acquaintances, pointed him out as one of the Nazarene's friends. "This man also was with Jesus the Nazarene." Probably no harm was meant, but the words alarmed Peter greatly, and he denied, as Matthew says, with an oath, "I know not the man." This was the second denial.

An hour passed; Peter, as we learn from the twenty-fifth verse, was again at the fire, and it was hardly possible for him to talk in a large company without unconsciously, and by force of character, coming to the front and taking the lead. His perturbed spirit was perhaps the more vehement to drown conscience. But now he is challenged by many at once. They say unto him, "Art not thou also one of His disciples?" And another saith, "Of a truth, thou wast with Him"; and another, a kinsman to Malchus, and therefore specially likely to remember his relative's assailant, saith, "Did I not see thee in the garden with Him?" Beset and badgered thus, Peter begins to curse and to swear, saying, "I know not the man of whom ye speak." When men lose their temper, they drop naturally into their native speech; and so, as Peter's fear and passion vented themselves in the guttural patois of Galilee, he gave a final clue to his identification. "Thou art a Galilean, thy speech betrayeth thee." And again he denied with an oath, "I know not the man." This was his third denial. And immediately the cock crew.

It may have happened that, at this moment, Jesus was passing from Annas to Caiaphas, and cast on Peter that marvellous look of mingled sorrow and pity, of suffering more for His sake than his own, and of tender allusion to the scene and words of the previous evening, which broke Peter's heart, and sent him forth to weep bitterly.

The light was breaking over the hills of Moab, flushing with roseate hues the marble pinnacles of the temple, whilst the city and surrounding valleys were still shrouded in the grey gloom, as Peter went forth alone from the high priest's palace. Only those whose last words to the beloved dead were rude and thoughtless—not expecting that there would be no opportunity to unsay them and ask forgiveness, but that, ere they met again, death would have sealed in silence the only lips that could speak words of relief and peace—can realize just what Peter felt. Did he know Him? Of course he did, and ever since that memorable hour, when Andrew first brought him into His presence, he had been growing to a more perfect knowledge. Did he love Him? Of course he did; and Jesus, who knew all things, knew it too. But why had he acted thus? Ah, the reasons were not far to seek. He had boasted of his superiority to all his brethren; had relied on his own braggart resolutions; had counted himself strong because he could speak strongly and loudly when danger was not near; had thought that he could cope with Satan, though arrayed in no stronger armor than that which his red-hot impulse forged. He thought his resolutions wheat and his Master's cautions light as chaff; he had to learn his weakness and see his confidence winnowed away as clouds of chaff while Satan sifted him.

The resolutions of the evening are not strong enough to carry us victoriously through the morning conflict. We must learn to watch and pray, to lie low in humility and self-distrust, and to be strong in the grace which awaits all tempted ones in God.

And where could Peter go to weep his bitter tears but to Gethsemane! He would surely seek out the spot where his Master's form was still outlined in the crushed grass, and his tears would fall where the bloody sweat had fallen but a few hours before. But how different the cause of sorrow! The anguish of the blessed Lord had none of the ingredients that filled the cup of Peter to the brim! And all the while the memory of that sorrow, of those broken cries, of that coming and going for sympathy, of those remonstrances against his senseless sleep, and of that last tender, yearning, pitiful look of love, came back on him to arouse successive surges of grief. Contrast Christ's love with your ingratitude, Christ's constancy with your fickle devotion, Christ's meekness to take the yoke of His Father's will, and your unwillingness to bear His cross of shame, and ask if you, too, have no cause for tears like those that Peter shed.

It is remarkable that Peter should have fallen here. His open, ingenuous nature was not given to lying, his impetuous character was not prone to cowardice. Accustomed from boyhood to meet death in the wrestle with nature for daily sustenance, he was not subject to the apprehensions of a nervous dread. None of his fellow-disciples would have expected the rock-man to show that he was clay or sand after all. But this was permitted that we might learn that our noblest natural qualities as much need to be dealt with by the grace of God as our vices and defects. Many a fortress has been taken from a side which was deemed impregnable. No one expected that Wolfe would assail Quebec from the Heights of Abraham.

How often we have fallen into the same trap! We have, perhaps, been thrown into a company where it was fashionable to sneer at evangelical religion, and we have held our peace; where the ready sneer was passed on those who dared still to believe in miracle and inspiration, and we have been silent, where condemnation has been freely passed on some man of God whom we owned as friend, and knew to be innocent, and we have not tried to vindicate him; where some great religious movement in which we were interested was being discussed and condemned, whilst we have coolly joined in the conversation as if we had not made up our minds, or were totally indifferent. We have been unwilling to be unpopular, to stand alone, to bear the brunt of opposition, to seem eccentric and peculiar. Let those who are without sin cast their stones at Peter; but the most of us will take our place beside him, and realize that we, too, have given grief to Christ, and grave cause to His enemies to blaspheme.

But, be it remembered, the true quality of the soul is shown, not in the way in which it yields to temptation in some moment of weakness and unpreparedness, but in the way in which it repents afterward. Do we weep, not for the penalty we dread, but because we have sinned against Christ? Are we broken down before Him, waiting till He shall restore? Do we dare still to believe in His forgiving and renewing grace? Then this is a godly repentance, which needs not to be repented of. These are tears which His love shall transform to pearls. How different this to the attitude of a Judas! Each fell; but in their demeanor afterward the one was shown to be gold, silver, precious stones; the other wood, hay, and stubble.

How may we be kept from falling again?

(1) Let us not sleep through the precious moments which heaven affords before each hour of trial; but use them for putting on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand in the evil day.

(2) Let us not cast ourselves needlessly into situations where our most cherished convictions are likely to be assailed by wanton men; though if God should lead us there we need not fear, for it will be given us in the same hour what to answer. Take care of warming yourself at the world's fire.

(3) Let us keep within the environing presence of our Lord. It is always right to do right; always safe; always blessed. Satan can only hurt us when he allures us out of that safe hiding-place. Never forsake the things which are pure, and lovely, and of good report. You, in Jesus, shall yet overcome the world if you refuse to allow the world to come between Him and you.



XXVII

The Trial before Caiaphas

"Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest."—JOHN xviii. 24.

It was as yet but two or three o'clock in the morning. Jerusalem was still asleep, and well it was for the foes of Jesus that no suspicion of what was on foot had breathed into the minds of the crowds of pilgrims; for, had the Galileans only known what was being done to their favorite prophet, they would have risen, and the plot must have miscarried before Jesus was handed over to the Romans. But, as the Lord said, "It was their hour and the power of darkness." The darkest hour before the dawn!

When Annas had completed his preliminary inquiry he gave orders that He should again be bound with the thongs of which He had been relieved, and led to that part of the palace specially used by Caiaphas, who was High Priest, but a mere puppet in the hands of the wily Annas. By this time the leading Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests, had been got together, summoned by special messengers; and though the formal meeting of the Council was probably not held till a little later (compare Matt. xxvi. 57 with xxvii. 1, 2), the trial was really conducted at that untimely hour, and the evidence procured on which final action was taken.

They awaited the Prisoner in one of the larger halls of the palace, sitting in Oriental fashion on cushions and pillows, in a half-circle, with turbaned heads, crossed legs, and bare feet; the High Priest in the centre, the others, on either side, according to age.

All the rules of justice were violated. The judge was chief inquisitor; witnesses against the prisoner were alone summoned; and the Court set itself from the first to get evidence to put the accused to death.

Ever since Jesus had commenced His ministry it had been certain that He would have to face some such tribunal as this. His soul was aflame for Righteousness and Truth; it was inevitable that He should come into conflict with these representatives of a traditional and external religiousness, which consisted in a number of formal rules and rites from which the life had long since fled.

This Gospel specially narrates the progress of the quarrel in the holy city. As far back as ch. ii. 18 we are told that there had been an altercation on the Lord's right to cleanse the Temple.

Ch. iv. 1-3.—He left Judaea because of the irritation of the Pharisees at the numerous baptisms which were taking place under His ministry.

Ch. v. 18.—He was only at the beginning of the second year of His ministry, and had just healed the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, and we find the Jews consulting how they might kill Him, and He was compelled again to retire from Judaea.

Ch. vii. 19.—Such was the spirit of vindictiveness excited against our Lord that when twelve months afterward He came to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles, one of His first words was, "Why go ye about to kill Me?" The people were well acquainted with the designs of the rulers (vers. 25, 26); and ultimately officers were sent to arrest Him (vers. 30, 32).

Ch. viii. 59.—They were so exasperated with His words that they took up stones to stone Him.

Ch. ix. 34.—They excommunicated the blind man because their hated foe had cured him, and he in his favor had dared to protest.

Ch. x. 31.—The Jews (and the Apostle always uses that word of the Sanhedrim and their allies) took up stones to cast at Him; and in verse 39 we read that they sought again to take Him; but He escaped out of their land to Perea, where He remained until the message of the sisters called Him from His retreat.

Ch. xi. 47.—The raising of Lazarus produced such an effect that a special council was called to consider what should be done, with the result that from that day they took counsel to put Him to death.

Ch. xii. 10.—Their malignity was so great that they consulted whether they should not put Lazarus to death also; because by reason of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

It was all this that made them fall in so eagerly with the proposal of Judas that he should betray Him unto them.

Now at last they had Him in their power, and their object was to convict Him of some crime which would justify the infliction of the severest sentence of the law. To preserve the appearance of justice, witnesses were called to testify to some action or speech which would involve blasphemy against their law, and, if possible, against the Roman law as well; and it was necessary that two of them should agree in some specific charge. The chief priests, and elders, and all the council, Matthew tells us, sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death. They brought forward many, but either their charges did not reach the required degree of criminality, or the clumsy witnesses, brought hastily forward, undrilled beforehand, broke down so grossly in their story that for shame's sake they had to be dismissed.

At last two witnesses appeared who seemed likely to agree on a very momentous charge. They said they had heard Him utter, more than two years ago, words which seemed to threaten the very existence of the temple. But, when more closely questioned, their witness also broke down utterly. It seemed as though Jesus was not to die, except on His own testimony to His own supreme claims. All lesser counts failed.

All this time, as witness after witness was brought in, our Lord maintained an unbroken silence. He seemed as though He heard not, but was absorbed in some other scenes from those transpiring around. What need was there for Him to interpose, when all the charges proved abortive? He was, moreover, waiting till the Father gave Him the signal to open His lips.

At last Caiaphas could restrain his impatience no longer; he sprang to his feet, and with unconcealed fury fixed his eyes on Jesus and said: "Answerest Thou nothing? Hast Thou nothing to say, no question to put, no explanation to offer as to what these witnesses say?" Jesus quietly returned the look, but held His peace. There are times when it is treason to hold our peace, when God demands of us to raise our voice and cry like a trumpet. But when it is clear that high-handed wrong is bent on securing the condemnation of the innocent, and that the case is prejudged, it is the highest wisdom to be as a lamb dumb before its shearers, and not open the mouth.

There was a last alternative. Caiaphas might put Jesus on His oath, and extort from His own lips the charge on which to condemn Him; but he was evidently reluctant to do it, and only availed himself of this process as a last resource. It was well known to this astute and cunning priest that Jesus on more than one occasion had claimed, not only to be the long-expected Messiah, but to stand to God in the unique relationship of Son. Nearly two years before, He had called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God (John v. 18); and again, comparatively recently, at the Feast of Dedication, He had claimed that He and the Father were one; in consequence of which the bystanders threatened to take His life because that, being a man, He made Himself God (x. 31-33). Gathering, therefore, the two claims in one, and in the most solemn form, putting Jesus on His oath, the High Priest said unto Him, "I adjure Thee by the Living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" (Matt. xxvi. 63; Mark xiv. 61). There was no need for further hesitation. Charged in this way, in the highest court of His nation, and by the representative of His people, He could not hold His peace without inconsistency with the whole tenor of His life and teaching. John, representing His disciples and friends, must be assured that his Master did not vacillate by a hair's-breadth at that supreme moment. Those high officials must understand, beyond the smallest possibility of doubt, that if they put Him to death He would die on the supreme count of His Messianic and Divine claims; and, therefore, amid the breathless silence of the court, without a falter in the calm, clear voice, Jesus said, "I AM." The Father that sent Him was with Him; He had not left Him in that awful moment alone, and it was a great pleasure to the Saviour to be able publicly to avow the relationship, which was shedding its radiance through His soul. Then, with evident allusion to the sublime vision of Daniel, he added, "Ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven." Though Son of God, He was not less the Son of Man; and though one with the Father, before the worlds were made, was yet prepared to exercise the functions of the expected Prince of the House of Israel. This is the force of nevertheless in Matt. xxvi. 64—"I am Son of God: nevertheless, ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power."

The words were very grateful to the ears of Caiaphas and his confederates, as they afforded ground for the double charge they needed. For a man to claim to be Son of God would make him guilty of blasphemy, and he must be put to death according to Jewish law; whilst if there was a prospect of his setting up a kingdom, the Romans' suspicions would be at once aroused. But in their glee at having entrapped their victim they must not forget to show a decorous horror of His crime. In well-assumed dismay the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, "He hath spoken blasphemy: what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard the blasphemy." And then came the decisive question which the judge was wont to put to his co-assessors, "What think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death."

Then ensued a brief interval, until the early formal session of the Sanhedrim could be held: and during this recess the disgraceful scenes were repeated which had already taken place in the hall of Annas. Luke tells us that the men that held Jesus mocked Him, beat Him, and asked Him to prophesy who it was that smote Him. Matthew adds that they spat in His face. But Mark lets in still more light on the horror of the scene, when he appears to distinguish between some who began to spit on Him, and to cover His face, and the officers who received Him with blows of their hands. And the expression some occurs so immediately after the record of their condemning Him, that the suggestion seems irresistible that several of these reverend dignitaries did not hesitate to disgrace their grey hairs in personally insulting the meek and holy sufferer, venting their spleen on one who gave no show of retaliation, though one word from those pale compressed lips would have laid them low in death, or withdrawn the veil of eternity, behind which legions of angels were waiting impatient to burst upon the impious scene. But do not condemn them as though they were sinners beyond all others; remember that we have all the same evil human heart.

At last the morning broke, and as soon as it was day the assembly of the elders of the people was gathered together, both chief priest and scribes; and they led Jesus away into their council (Luke xxii. 66). This scene had already been so well rehearsed that it probably did not take many minutes to run through the necessary stages, according to the precise formulae of Jewish procedure. The method that had already proved so valuable was quickly repeated. Questioning Him first as to His Messiahship, Caiaphas, as spokesman to the rest, said formally, "If Thou art Christ, tell us."

It was a sorry figure that stood before them. Dishevelled and in disarray, with disordered garments, the spittle still hanging about His face, and the marks of the awful storm and mental anguish stamped on every feature, the innate dignity and glory of Jesus shone out in His every movement, and notably in His majestic answer, "What do you ask Me? You have no real desire to know! If I tell you, ye are in no mood to believe! And if I ask you your warrant for refusing to believe, if I argue with you, if I adduce Scripture to support My claims, ye will not answer; but though I read the motive of your inquiry, I will give you all the evidence you desire. From henceforth shall the Son of Man be seated at the right hand of God."

As to the other charge, involving His Divine nature, the admission of which involved the crime of blasphemy, they were too eager to wait for Caiaphas; but with swollen faces, excited gestures, and loud cries, rising from their seats, and gesticulating with the fury of religious frenzy, they all said, "Art Thou then the Son of God?" And He said unto them, solemnly and emphatically, "Ye say that which I am."

Then they turned to one another and said, "What further need have we of witness? for we have heard from His own mouth." The inquiry was at an end so far as Jesus was concerned. But they held a further council against Him, how to construct the indictment which would compel Pilate to inflict death; for the execution of the sentence of death was kept resolutely by the Roman Procurator in his own hands.

Finally, as soon as they dared disturb him, they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, the palace of the Roman governor, who, in accordance with his custom, had come up from his usual residence at Caesarea to the Jewish capital, partly to keep order amid the vast crowds that gathered there at the feast, seething with religious fanaticism, and partly to try the cases which awaited his decision. The Jewish authorities anticipated no great difficulty in securing from him the necessary ratification of the death sentence. It surely would not matter to him to add another to the long tale of robbers and revolutionaries which are awaiting the cross, the more especially as they were able to prefer a charge of treason against the Roman power substantiated by the prisoner's own admissions made recently in their presence.

It is an awful spectacle, and one over which we would fain draw a veil; but let us dare to stay to watch the evolution of the diabolical plot to the end. This, at least, will become manifest—that Jesus died, because He claimed to be the Son of God, in the unique sense of oneness with the Father; that made Him equal with God, and constituted blasphemy in the eye of the Jewish law. And He who has taught the world Truth could neither have been a deceiver, nor deceived, in this high claim.



XXVIII

"Judas, which Betrayed Him"

"Judas, which betrayed Him."—JOHN xviii. 2.

On the Wednesday evening before our Lord died, He supped with His disciples in Bethany at the House of Simon. Lazarus was there, and his sisters—Martha, who served, and Mary, who anointed Him beforehand for His burying. The Master's reception of this act of love, and His rebuke of the parsimony which sought to check all such manifestations of devotion, exasperated Judas beyond all bounds; so, after supper, when Jesus and the rest had retired to their humble lodgment, he crossed the intervening valleys and returned by the moonlight to Jerusalem.

At that untimely hour the Sanhedrim may have been still in session, plotting to destroy Jesus. At any rate, the chief priests and captains were quickly summoned. Judas may have been in communication with some of them before; but, in any case, he met with a glad welcome. They were glad, and covenanted to give him money.

In the word, communed with them, used by the evangelist Luke, it is suggested that there was a certain amount of bargaining and haggling before the sum was fixed. Perhaps he wanted more, and they offered less, and at last he was induced to take less than he had hoped, but more than they had offered; and the price of betrayal was fixed at thirty pieces of silver, about 8 pounds, the price of a slave. From that moment he sought opportunity to betray Him unto them.

At the Passover Supper provided on the next day by Peter and John in the upper room, Judas must have reclined on the Lord's left, and John upon His right, so that the beloved disciple could lean back his head on the bosom of his Friend. When all were settled, Jesus exclaimed, with a sigh of innermost satisfaction, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer"; and as He uttered the words, Judas must have felt a thrill passing through his nature, as he realized more clearly than any around that table, what was approaching. Evidently, then, the Master had guessed what was being prepared for Him! Did He also know the share that he had had in preparing it? In any case, it was clear that, so far from resisting, He was prepared to suffer. Apparently, He would not take the opportunity of asserting His claims; but would allow events to take their course, yielding Himself to the will of His foes!

When He had given thanks, the Lord passed round the first cup; then followed the washing of the disciples' feet, in the midst of which He looked sorrowfully toward Judas, exclaiming, "Ye are clean, but not all"; for He knew from the first who would betray Him. It was with a strange blending of awe and wonder that the little group saw the dark cloud of anguish gather and rest on the beloved face when, on resuming His place, He was troubled in the spirit, and testified, and said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me." The disciples looked at one another, doubting of whom He spoke, and Peter beckoned to John to ask. But Judas knew. And when He went on to say, "The Son of Man goeth, even as it is written of Him; but woe unto that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had not been born"—again Judas' heart smote him. It may be that he asked himself whether he might not even now draw back.

For three years he had played his part so well that, in spite of his constant pilfering from the bag which held the slender resources of the little band, no one suspected him. His fellow-disciples might contend for the first places at the table, but all felt that Judas, at any rate, had a prescriptive right to sit near Jesus. All round, in sorrowful tones, the question passed, "Lord, is it I?" Each, conscious of the unfathomed evil of his own nature, thought himself more likely to be the traitor than that the admirable Judas should do the deed. It was terrible to know that the Shepherd should be smitten, and the flock scattered; but more, that the Master would be betrayed by the inner circle of His friends! But there seemed no reason for challenging His announcement, backed as it was by a quotation from a familiar Psalm, "He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me." From these words also it was evident that the traitor must be one of two or three; for only these could reach the common dish in which Jesus dipped His food.

It became, therefore, more and more clear to Judas, that the Master knew perfectly well all that had transpired, and he said to himself, "If He knows so much, it is almost certain that He knows all." Therefore, partly to disarm any suspicions that might be suggested to the others if he did not take up their question, partly because he felt that probably there was nothing to be gained by maintaining his disguise before Jesus, and being withal feverishly anxious to know how much of his plan was discovered, he asked, adopting the colder title Rabbi, rather than that of Lord, as employed by the others, "Rabbi, is it I?" Probably the question was asked under his breath, and that Jesus replied in the same tone, "Thou hast said."

Immediately the thoughts of Judas sprang back to the foot-washing, and all the other marks of extraordinary tenderness with which Jesus had treated him. At the time he had thought, "He would not act like this if He knew all." Now, however, he realized that Jesus had acted in the full knowledge of all that had passed, and was passing in his heart. It must have struck him as extraordinary that the Master should continue to treat him thus when He had read the whole dark secret. Why did He not unmask and expose him? Why not banish him from His company? Why count him still on speaking terms? Not till afterward was he aware of Jesus' motive, nor did he detect the loving purpose which was laying siege to his stony heart as though to turn him from his evil purpose before it was too late.

Once more the Lord made an effort to prove to him that though He knew all He loved him still, even to the end. It was the Jewish custom for one to dip a morsel in the common dish and pass it to another in token of special affection, so when He had dipped the sop, Jesus took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon. He had previously answered John's whispered question, "Lord, who is it?" which had been suggested by a sign from Peter, by saying, "He it is to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it." But He did not give the token of love merely as a sign to John and Peter, but because He desired to assure Judas that, notwithstanding His perfect knowledge, His heart was full of tender affection.

But when the sun strikes on a foetid pond, its rays, beneath which all creation rejoices, bring out the repulsive odors that otherwise had slept undiscovered; so the love of God is ever a savor of life unto life or of death unto death, and the very fervor of Christ's love seems to have driven Judas almost to madness. Shutting his heart against the Saviour, he opened it to Satan, who was waiting his opportunity. "After the sop, then Satan entered into him." Instantly the Master saw the change, and knew that He could do nothing more to save His disciple from the pit which he had digged for himself. Nothing could be gained by further delay. Jesus therefore said unto him, "That thou doest, do quickly."

So carefully had the Lord concealed His knowledge of Judas' real character that none of those who sat at table guessed the real significance and purport of His words. For some thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus said unto him, "Buy what things we have need of for the feast"; or that he should give something to the poor. Only John, and perhaps Peter, had the slightest suspicion of his possible errand. The sacred narrative adds significantly, "He then having received the sop, went out straightway, and it was night"; as though the black pall of darkness were a befitting symbol of the blackness of darkness that was enveloping his soul—a night broken only by one star, when Jesus once more in the garden sought to arrest him with the words, "Friend, to what a deed thou art come! Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" But that lone star was soon obscured. The cloud-wreath hastened to conceal it. Head-long and precipitate over every obstacle, he rushed to his doom, until his career was consummated in the despairing act which the Evangelist so solemnly records.

The specified fee was no doubt paid to Judas, on his delivery of Jesus into the hands of the High Priest. As soon as the great doors closed behind the arresting band, Judas went to some inner pay-office, claimed his money, and then waited in the shadow to see what befell. Perhaps he met John; and if so, avoided him. Perhaps he heard Peter deny the Lord with oaths, and congratulated himself that there was not much to choose between them. But for the most part his mind was absorbed in what was transpiring. He beheld the shameful injustice and inhumanity of the trial. Though he had kissed his Master's face, his soul winced from the blows and spittle that befell it. Perhaps he had entertained some lingering hope and expectation that when the worst came to the worst the Master would use on His own behalf the power He had so often used for others. But if that thought had lodged in his mind, the dream was terribly dissipated. "He saw that He was condemned."

Then the full significance of his sin burst upon him. The veil fell from his eyes, and he stood face to face with his crime in all its naked horror. His ingratitude, his treachery, his petty pilfering, his resistence of a love which the strong waters of death could not extinguish. And the money scorched his hand. A wild and haggard man, he made his way into the presence of the chief priests and scribes, as they were congratulating themselves on the success of their plot. There was despair on his face, a piercing note in his voice, anguish in his soul; the flames of hell were already consuming him, the thirst of the bottomless pit already parching his lips; his hand convulsively clutched the thirty pieces of silver.

"I have sinned," he cried. "I have sinned. He whom you have condemned is innocent; take back your money, only let Him go free; and oh, relieve me, ye priests, accustomed to deal with burdened hearts, relieve me of this intolerable pain."

But they said, with a gleam as of cold steel, "What is that to us? That is your business. You made your bargain, and you must stand to it: see thou to it."

He knew that it was useless to parley with them. That icy sarcasm, that haughty indifference, told him how man must ever regard his miserable act. He had already refused the love of God, and dared not expect anything more from it. He foresaw how coming ages would spurn and abhor him. There seemed, therefore, nothing better than to leap into the awful abyss of suicide. It could bring nothing worse than he was suffering. Oh, if he had only dared to believe in the love of God, and had fallen even then at the feet of Jesus, he might have become a pillar in His temple, and an apostle of the Church. But he dared not think that there could be mercy for such as he was. He passes out into the morning air, the most wretched of men, shrinks away into some lonely spot, puts a rope around his neck, and dies.

We have been accustomed to think of Judas as one whose crime has put him far in front of all others in the enormity of his guilt. Dante draws an awful picture of him as alone even in hell, shunned by all other sinners, as Turkish prisoners will shun Christians, though sharing the same cell. But let us remember that he did not come to such a pitch of evil at a single bound. There was a time, no doubt, when, amid the cornfields, vineyards, and pastoral villages of his native Kerioth, he was regarded as a promising youth, quick at figures, the comfort of his parents, the pride of his instructors, the leader of his comrades.

During the early years of His manhood, Jesus came through that court country on a preaching tour, and there must have been a wonderful fascination in Him for young men, so many of whom left their friends and callings to join and follow Him. Judas felt the charm and joined himself to the Lord; perhaps Jesus even called him. At that time his life must have been fair, or the Master would never have committed Himself to him. He was practical, prompt, and businesslike, the very man to keep the bag. But the continual handling of the money at last awoke within him an appetite of the presence of which he had not been previously aware. He did not banish it, but dwelt on it, allowing it to lodge and expand within him, till, like a fungus in congenial soil, it ate out his heart and absorbed into itself all the qualities of his nobler nature, transmuting them into rank and noisome products. All love for Christ, all care for the poor, all thought of his fellow-disciples, were quenched before that remorseless passion; and at last he began to pilfer from those scant treasures, which were now and again replenished by those that loved to minister to the Master's comfort. At first, he must have been stung by keen remorse; but each time he sinned his conscience became more seared, until he finally reached the point when he could sell his Master for a bagatelle, and betray Him with a kiss.

Alas! Judas is not the only man of whom these particulars have been true. Change the name and you have an exact description of too many. Many a fair craft has come within the reach of the circling eddies of the same boiling whirlpool, and, after a struggle, has succumbed. The young man hails from his native village home, earnest and ingenuous. At first he stands firm against the worldly influences around; but gradually he becomes careless in his watch, and as money flows in he realizes the fascination of the idea of being a wealthy man. He becomes increasingly absorbed, until he begins to drift toward a goal from which in other days he would have shrunk in horror. If any reader of these words is conscious of such a passion beginning to lay hold of him, let him beware, lest, like Judas, he be lost in the divers hurtful lusts which drown men in perdition.

And if already you have been betrayed into sins which would bear comparison with that of Judas, do not despair—true, you have sinned against light and love, the eager, tender pleadings of God's love; but do not give up hope. Cast yourself on a love which wants to abound over sin, and glories in being able to save to the uttermost.



XXIX

The First Trial before Pilate

"Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be denied; but that they might eat the Passover."—JOHN xviii. 28.

There is no doubt that had Pilate been absent from Jerusalem at the time of our Lord's trial before the Sanhedrim, they would have rushed Him to death, as afterward Stephen, and have risked the anger of the Governor. But they dared not attempt such a thing beneath the eyes of the dreaded Roman eagles. They must needs obtain Pilate's countersign to their death sentence, and, indeed, consign their victim to him for execution. The Lord was to die, not the Jewish death by stoning, but the terrible Roman death of crucifixion.

The day then breaking was that before the Passover. If the order for execution were not obtained that morning, the case could not come on for seven days, and it would have been highly impolitic, from their point of view, to keep Jesus so long in bonds. The national sentiment might have awoke and refused to sanction their treachery. For the same reason it was necessary to carry the sentence into effect with as little delay as possible, or the whole plot might miscarry. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas to the official residence of Pilate, which had been the palace of the magnificent Herod—and it was early.

In the palace there was a hall where trials were usually conducted; but the Jewish dignitaries who had not scrupled shamelessly to condemn Jesus were too scrupulous to enter the house of a Gentile on the eve of the feast, for fear there might be a single grain of leaven there, and the mere suspicion of such a thing would have disqualified them from participating in the feast. Remember that these men had just broken every principle of justice in their treatment of Jesus, and now they palter over minute points of Rabbinical casuistry. So Philip of Spain abetted the massacres of Alva, but rigorously performed all the rites of the Church; and the Italian bandit will carefully honor priest, and host, and church. How well our Lord's sharp sword cut to the dividing of soul and spirit, in such cases as these: "Ye pay tithe of mint, and cummin, and anise, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law." It is an evil day when religion and morality are divorced.

Pilate knew too well the character of the men with whom he had to do, to attempt to force their scruples, and went out to them; so that for most of the time his intercourse with Jesus was apart from their interference and scrutiny. Without much interchange of formalities, the Governor asked, "What accusation bring ye against this man?"

It was not a little disappointing to their pride to be obliged to adduce and substantiate capital charges against Jesus, so they replied in general terms, and with the air of injured innocence, "If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him unto thee." It was as though they said, "There is no need for thee to enter into the details of this case; we have thoroughly investigated it, and are satisfied with the conclusive evidence of our prisoner's guilt; you may be sure that men like ourselves would never come to thee at such an hour, on such an errand, unless there were ample grounds for it."

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