The prayer which the Lord addressed to the Father is followed, in the progress of the gospel history, as recorded in this chapter, by a series of events, directly leading to the fulfilment of the predictions which Jesus had uttered more than once in the ears of his disciples, that he must be put to death and rise again the third day.
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. The place from which Jesus ” went forth ” was the city of Jerusalem, and the place to which he was repairing was the garden of Gethsemane, the scene of his great agony and of his betrayal. The brook over which he passed flows through a deep gorge between the city and the Mount of Olives, and falls into the Dead Sea. It is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. The first instance in which its name occurs has some historical resemblance to the present case, and may be concluded to have a typical reference to it. When king David, followed by his weeping people, ” went forth” from Jerusalem to escape the wrath of his rebellious son, Absalom, he passed over the brook Kidron, towards the way of the wilderness (2 Sam. xv. 23). When Solomon granted Shemei an asylum in Jerusalem, it was on the condition that he should not, on pain of death, pass over the brook Kidron, a penalty which he incurred when he crossed it in pursuit of his two fugitive servants, who had fled to Gath (1 Kings ii. 37). The name of the stream suitably expresses the nature of the circumstances connected with it. The brook Cedron means the black, turbid stream. The reading which has led some to understand it to mean the brook of cedars, is believed to owe its origin to the natural mistake of some copyist, who took Kedron to be the Greek used. for cedar trees in the plural, and who therefore made the article agree with it, whereas in the Hebrew it is singular. There does not seem to be any question among the best Biblical scholars as to the identity of the Cedron or Kidron of the New Testament and that of the Old. The black and turbid stream over which Jesus now passed might suggest, even to the natural mind, the dark and troubled state on which he was about to enter. But the circumstances connected with the historical events of Scripture are not to be regarded simply as poetical images to please the imagination, but as spiritual analogies to enlighten the understanding. Jerusalem and all other parts of the Holy Land were typical. Canaan represented the church, of which Jerusalem is the inmost but intellectual part, thus the church as to doctrine, or the doctrine of the church. The Mount of Olives, over against Jerusalem, represented the principle of holy love, especially love to the Lord. The dark stream that ran through the valley which separated the city and Mount Olivet, like the Jordan itself, which divided Canaan from the wilderness, and through whose swollen waters the children of Israel passed into the promised land, was a symbol of temptation. The waters themselves are emblematical of truths, even of holy truths of the Word. But truth, ever the same in its own nature, is affected by the state of the mind through which it flows. It is smooth or troubled, clear or turbid, bright or dark, according as the mind is so. It reflects our mental states, and by this means helps us to see and correct them. Our Lord, who was the Truth itself, as being the Word, was the subject of such states as we ourselves experience, but he was the subject of them, not because he was the Word, but because he was the Word made flesh. It is the flesh that casts its dark shadow over the truth, and which troubles its peaceful and sullies its pure waters. When this takes place it is the time of tribulation. When our Lord passed over the brook Cedron it was to go into a garden. This was the garden of Gethsemane, which means the olive-press, where Jesus trod the olive-press alone— where he endured temptation of the deepest and direst kind from the whole powers of darkness, the conquest of which was necessary for human deliverance. The garden of Eden was the place where the first Adam was tempted and fell, the garden of Gethsemane was the place where the second Adam endured temptation and overcame. The garden, spiritually considered, is the mind itself, where the affections of good and the perceptions of truth have been planted by the hand of the Lord, and where the choice is to be made between the tree of life and the tree of death. The second Adam chose the tree of life, and so introduced life where death had been and had reigned. In this his disciples have to follow him. They too have to enter into temptation, and although they cannot endure the same depth of trial that Jesus experienced, they still must enter and continue with him in his temptations (Luke xxii. 28).
2 But Jesus was not only assailed by the powers of darkness from within, but by the powers of the world and the degenerate church from without. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place; for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. The resemblance, if not analogy, between the transaction which took place in the garden of Gethsemane to that which is recorded to have taken place in the garden of Eden, may be further traced in this particular. Eden had been the scene of primeval man’s delight, as well as of his temptation and fall; Gethsemane was a place whither Jesus often resorted with his disciples, and where in its peaceful retirement, they took sweet counsel together (Psa. lv). But while under the shade of its olive trees, the disciples were listening with rapt attention to the voice of one far surpassing in wisdom and innocence the Adam of the primeval paradise, the serpent was lurking there, desiring to work a greater ruin than that which he had effected in Eden; for had Jesus been betrayed into sin, instead of into the hands of his enemies, mankind would truly have fallen, and fallen irretrievably with him in his transgression, since, unless Jesus had maintained his integrity, no flesh could have been saved. Among the disciples who resorted with Jesus to the garden was Judas, the type, if not the impersonation, of that very principle of human nature by which the fall of man had been accomplished. Like the serpent of the tree of knowledge, Judas was the betrayer of innocence. The old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, found in him a suitable instrument through which to attempt the frustration of the Saviour’s purpose, and prevent the completion of his work of redemption, which consisted in the subjugation of the powers of hell.
3. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns, and torches, and weapons. Judas was at this time acting as an emissary of the priesthood, to whom he had sold himself. Cupidity, which had been his besetting sin, now prompted him to commit the great crime. His case, individually considered, is no doubt intended as a warning, and should induce us to “beware of covetousness,” avarice being the root of all evil. Avarice, which is the love of money for its own sake, without respect to the use for which alone it is worthy of regard, corresponds to the love of knowledge for its own sake, without respect to the use for which alone it is worthy of regard. People of this character were represented by Judas, who therefore carried the bag containing the money, and was a thief, the bag, as we have seen, being the memory, where the evil lay up their knowledge, by claiming which as their own, and using it for their own ends, they become spiritual thieves. The pieces of silver, too, for which Judas betrayed Jesus, represented the knowledge of spiritual truth which the evil covet, and for the sake of possessing which they betray the truth itself into the hands of, its enemies. To effect its betrayal they do what Judas did when he received from the chief priests and Pharisees a band of men and officers, they draw into alliance with them the powers of an evil world and of a perverted church, and make themselves the instruments of accomplishing their selfish ends. The lanterns and torches which Judas and his hand used to light them on their way, and discover the object of their search, are the false lights of the natural man, employed in the night of the church, to enable men to do their works of darkness; and the weapons with which they were armed are the false principles that are ready to be used against the truth, in order to bring it under the dominion of evil.
4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye ? Jesus acted differently towards his enemies now from what he did on some previous occasions, when he escaped out of their hands (chap. x. 39). His hour was now come, and he yielded himself up as a lamb to the slaughter. The Lord’s conduct on this occasion, as on all others throughout the whole of the dreadful scene which now begins to be enacted, displays the beauty and sublimity of his character even more than his heavenly teaching and his beneficent works. He, it is true, knew all that was to happen, even to the passion of the cross, and was so far prepared for the trial. The outward indignities and bodily pains which were to be inflicted on him were, however, but a small part of what he had to suffer. The inward temptations, which he had still to endure, were immeasurably more afflictive than the agony of crucifixion. Yet, with all these before him, Jesus, while possessed of the power to defeat or destroy his enemies, calmly yields himself into the hands of those sent to take him. While we reverence this calm submission on the part of our Lord, we should not forget that he was our example in his sufferings as well as in his active life. The scene which is presented in this narrative, has, however, a deeper than the literal signification, which we will do well to consider. That scene, which was acted before the eyes of angels and men, so many centuries ago, in this outer world, is acted over again in the inner world of the human consciousness of every true disciple, on the one hand, and of every apostate, on the other. We have the new man and his representatives in the Lord and his disciples, and the old man in Judas and his band. In Judas we see the human selfhood in its true character, not simply as it is in every one by birth, when it slumbers in the shade of innocence, but as it is when it has come forth in its strength, armed with all the aids which the wisdom and authority of the world can lend it. When we speak of the new man, we mean the new principles and character we acquire by regeneration, which are indeed a new nature we receive from the Lord, when, as the Divine Man, he dwells in us by his love and truth; and by the old man we mean the old nature which we inherit from, our parents, but which we make our own when we adopt it in principle and practice. In those who are in the progress of regeneration, both the old nature and the new are always present, and are frequently active; and this part of the Gospel history exhibits the final conflict between them. In those who are being regenerated, the new nature is within and the old is without; and the purpose of the conflict is to determine whether the natural or the spiritual shall rule. In all cases of spiritual conflict, it is the evil that assails the good, while the good only defends itself. But in the highest states good does not even resist evil. Judas with his band comes to take Jesus; they make the assault against him—the Good and Truth itself. Jesus comes forth and asks whom they seek. The divine Truth comes forth from the internal into the external, where the evil is, whence the assault proceeds, and where the conflict is to be endured; and only demands what the evils and falsities seek, to awaken reflection as to what is the object of their hatred and pursuit. In this, as in all other instances, Jesus, differently from all other men, acted out completely his own principles, as delivered in his teaching.
5, 6. When Jesus asked the officers whom they sought, They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. It has been remarked as a singular .circumstance, that the priests and Pharisees should have required the aid of a disciple to find and apprehend Jesus. The reason was, that Judas undertook to betray Jesus in the absence of the multitude, or without tumult, which the rulers apprehended and dreaded (Luke xxii. 6). It is likely, too, that the Pharisees were glad to accept the aid of a disciple, to prevent the defeat which previous attempts to take the Lord had met with, and which, but for his own willingness to be taken, would have attended the present, as is evident from the effect which the simple utterance of his first words had upon the soldiers. The soldiers were heathens; and feeling no interest in Jewish questions, they knew not Jesus, except by name, as given by those who sent them. They knew that the person whom they were sent to seize was named Jesus of Nazareth, but personally they knew him. not. The natural rationality which they represented is similarly circumstanced—it knows and knows not the truth. Jesus himself reveals it, and reveals himself in it, as he said to the soldiers, ” I am he.” But when natural reason is under the influence of evil, such a revelation does not produce the same effect upon it as when under the influence of good. “Judas which betrayed him stood with them.” But although the revealed connection between the name and the Being does not spiritualize the reason, while doing this work of evil, it overawes and paralyzes it; like as the soldiers, when Jesus uttered the words, ” I am he,” went backward and fell to the ground. There can be no doubt of the powerful influence which the presence of the Lord had on minds of a certain class, or in a certain state. The soldiers were not actuated by any feeling of enmity against Jesus as the Messiah; they were simply, as we may suppose, indifferent to the question, even if they knew it. Such being the case, they could be brought under the power of the divine sphere which proceeded from Jesus, and be struck as with lightning by it. Considered spiritually, the effect of the influx of good and truth from the internal into evils and errors in the external is here described. To go backward is to recede from the Lord and from belief in his “Word, and especially from belief in him as the “Word made flesh. Those who forsake the Lord are said to go backward (Jer. xv. 6), and to go backward and not forward (ib. vii. 24). While to go backward is to recede from the truth, to fall to the ground is to decline from good, and thus to become earthly.
7 But the Lord asks them again, Whom seek ye ? And again they answer, Jesus of Nazareth. Repetition, in the Word, expresses repeated action in the mind, when that which takes place in the will is repeated in the understanding, or what is done in the internal is done afterwards in the external. When the same question, repeated, receives the same answer, it is a sign that the mind is confirmed in the object which the reply expresses. The band sought Jesus of Nazareth, against whom they had no personal enmity; but those for whom they acted sought him. for his destruction, and this they did with heart and mind. This was the confirmed purpose both of Judas, and of the chief priests and Pharisees who sent the band; and is expressed in the words of their instruments. Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord as to the divine humanity, especially as to the divine natural, for the sake of putting on which he came into the world. Against this the world and the worldly principle are at enmity; and it can only be glorified in us as it once was glorified in the person of the Lord, after severe trial and temptation.
8, 9. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he. If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: that the saying might be fulfilled which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. Taken in their natural historical sense, these words seem to intimate that the Lord’s object in asking this question, and pressing the soldiers for an answer, was to induce them to take him only, leaving his disciples to depart; and that this was for the fulfilment of his own words, that none of them might be lost. It may be admitted that this was the literal fulfilment of his saying. But we cannot suppose that this is all the meaning that his words contain. Let us endeavour to ascertain what, in the present case, their further meaning is. There is here an exemplification of the truth, that the Lord gave himself for us. He was willing to submit to be taken, but he desired that his disciples should be allowed to go free. He, as the shepherd, was to be smitten; the sheep were only to be scattered, not lost. Had the disciples been taken at the time the Lord was apprehended, their faith would have failed them. Their time was not yet come. Not until the Lord had passed through his great trial could they pass through their lesser trials; not till he had been tempted could he succour them in their temptations; not till he had passed through death could he support them in their passage from death unto life. The disciples, as given to Jesus by the Father, represent those who have been drawn by the Lord’s love to his truth ; but in their present state they have not been led by his truth to his love. This is a subject we have already considered, but it deserves to be further explained. Love, as an unknown influence, draws us to the truth; and then the truth, as an enlightened guide, leads us to love, as a known power. As in the childhood of our natural life we are drawn by the love of knowing to the acquirement of knowledge, and are afterwards led by knowledge to the attainment of love as a ruling principle; so, in the childhood of our spiritual life, the Lord draws us by the secret influence of his love to the acquirement of his wisdom, that he may lead us by his wisdom to the conscious possession of his love. In this way does God’s love lead us by wisdom to love God. For we cannot love God till we know him and know what is meant by loving him. This is the truth which the Lord teaches when he says that none can come to the Son but those whom the Father draws, and that none can come to the Father but those whom the Son leads. His disciples had been thus drawn to him, and were, therefore, those whom the Father has given him. At the time Jesus was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, his disciples, though they had been drawn and given to him by the Father, had not yet been led to the Father by him. Not till Jesus had gone to the Father could his disciples go. Not till the Son was united to the Father could the disciples be united to the Father through the Son. As the Son could not be united to the Father, till he endured the passion of the cross, and laid down the life of his frail humanity: neither could the disciples, till they were prepared to lay down the life of their selfhood. How unprepared they now were, their forsaking the Lord in his trial abundantly testifies. When Jesus said, “If ye seek me, let these go their way,” he had regard to the state of his disciples, as being unfit to endure such a trial as that which he himself was about to undergo. The disciples, besides being spoken of personally, are mentioned in this and in other places as representing the church. When the humanity was smitten, the church was scattered; but it was provided that the principles should not be lost. Nay, as the Lord’s crucifixion in weakness was the means of his resurrection in power; so the dispersion of the apostles was the means of their confirmation in the faith and of their unity. When the Lord was fully glorified, his Divine Humanity became fully and truly the rock on which his church was built, and against which the gates of hell could not prevail. Being then the First and the Last, all intermediate things and beings could be brought into and preserved in order, and be held together in unity.
10. Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and smote, the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. This incident is recorded in Matt. xxvi. 51, where it is explained. Peter represents those who are in faith ; his sword was a symbol of truth; but the truth used falsely is turned into what is false. The cutting off of the ear of the high priest’s servant was a sign that, in those last days of the church, the perceptive faculty was destroyed, and with it all spiritual hearing and obedience. The only peculiarity of John’s account is the introduction of the servant’s name. Malchus is generally understood to be derived from the Hebrew melech, a king, which in the genuine sense signifies truth, in the opposite sense, falsity. Now, a king in relation to a priest, and a servant to a Lord, signify truth in relation to good, and falsity in relation to evil; and this last was, no doubt, the representative character of Malchus. The servants of the high priest do not indeed mean principles in themselves false, but natural truths, or knowledges, under the dominion and direction of evil: for such truths may be made serviceable to evil as well as to good. And as the high priest was opposed to the Lord, so the priest’s servants were opposed to the Lord’s servants. We know that in human interpretations of the Word, one truth can be opposed to another, especially may the apparent truths of the Word, be opposed to its genuine truths.
11. 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 ? The principle on which the Lord reproved [peter for smiting the high priest’s servant, was that which he laid down for the church, and which he himself always exemplified, ” resist not evil.” This is the principle of the celestial angels and of celestial men. They never assault the wicked or even resist evil. And as evil can never act against us to our injury, except so far as we have evil in ourselves, therefore evil cannot do harm to goodness except by means of evil. This was the case even with the Lord himself. The evil which he inherited from the mother was the ground of his temptations. Evil men and evil spirits only acted upon him through these. And their assaults were the means by which these evils were overcome and removed. Hence our Lord said to Peter, ” The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it ?” The cup is a common figure for that which the cup contains. In Scripture it is mentioned both in a good and bad sense. We read both of the cup of salvation (Psa. cxvi. 13), and of the cup of trembling, which is the cup of the Lord’s fury (Isa. li. 17). This is the cup which Jesus says his Father had given him to drink. Those who do not know the distinction between genuine and apparent truth, as it exists in the Word, believe that God pours out his wrath and displeasure upon men and nations, in judgments for their sins. And as mankind are spoken of as subject to wrath, on account of their evil state and sinful conduct, it is believed that Jesus endured the whole weight of Divine wrath, which was due to men for their sins. This is understood to be the cup which the Father had given him to drink, and which he willingly drank, even to the last dregs. These dark and unworthy views are now gradually passing away, and at no very distant time will entirely disappear. Men will come to see, what they may even now understand, that there is no wrath or fury in God, that he is Love in its essence, and that he desires to save all, and does save all who come to him. The language of Scripture, on which such opinions rest, is the language of appearances. God appears to every one in accordance with his state. ” With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; and with the upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright. With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavoury” (2 Sam. xxii. 26, 27). The Lord is described and expresses himself in the Word as he appears to men to be. The notion that God inflicted upon Jesus the punishment he otherwise would have inflicted on men themselves for their sins, is part of the theory that God’s government is maintained by means of rewards and punishments. Obedience to the Divine laws certainly produces happiness, and disobedience to them produces misery. But this does not arise from God rewarding the obedient and punishing the disobedient, but from the fact, that goodness is its own reward, because God is in it, and that evil is its own punishment, because God is not in it. Harmony and conjunction with God produce happiness, disharmony and disjunction from God produce misery. It was not, therefore, to endure Divine wrath that the Lord was manifest in the flesh. He did indeed suffer as no man ever suffered; but his sufferings were not from the wrath of God but from the wrath of the devil. The cup that he drank was the cup of-temptation which he endured, not to appease the wrath of God, but to overcome the power of the devil. The cup of suffering is said by the Lord to have been given him by the Father, in the same sense and for the same end, that afflictions are given to the righteous, for their purification, and for perfecting them in holiness. Afflictions are declared in the Scriptures to be an evidence of God’s love. ” As many as I love I rebuke and chasten” (Eev. iii. 19). The cup which the Father gave to the Son was the cup of affliction which the Lord received from his own Divine Love,—not that his sufferings came from his love, but that his love prompted him to endure them, and therefore sustained him under them.
12 Then the band, and the captain, and officers of the Jews, took Jesus, and bound him. What the Jews did to Jesus represented what the Jewish church had done to the Word. The series of acts now recorded are similar to those in Matthew and the other gospels. The band and their leaders taking Jesus and binding him, is expressive of all falsities derived from evil in the church taking and binding the divine truths of the Word. These are taken and bound when they are brought under the power of their opposite errors, and deprived of all their freedom of action, in reproving sin and teaching righteousness.
13, 14. When bound, they led him away to Annas first: for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. John is the only one of the four evangelists who mentions the Lord’s being led to Annas. The reason of this, no doubt, is, that John treats of more interior states of the church than the other evangelists : and the father-in-law of the high priest represents a more interior principle than the high priest himself. Considered as father-in-law and son-in-law, Annas and Caiaphas represent the church in respect to the will and the understanding. Had they been the true priests of a true church, they would have represented the will and understanding of good, of which the priesthood was the type. But being the evil priests of a corrupt church, they represented the will and the understanding of evil. It is not necessary to suppose that, compared with others and in regard to their time, they were morally depraved. We speak of them as the enemies of Christ and of Christianity, and of the share they had in the Lord’s condemnation, which, as it was unjust and merciless, indicates the character of those who were the chief agents in obtaining it. It is not perhaps safe to affirm confidently respecting the spiritual meaning of all Bible characters from the signification of their names, even when, their literal meaning can be ascertained. But if Annas means merciful and Caiaphas a rock, their names answer to their representative character, so far as this relates to the distinctive nature of the will and the understanding; and, in relation to the sacred office they held, expresses what they should have been, though the opposite of what they were. They may thus be seen to have the same relation to each other that John and Peter have. And in these two disciples, when introduced into the palace of the high priest, where Jesus is, we may see the two priests on the one side, and the two most eminent disciples on the other—the moral and intellectual powers, as they are when opposed to, and as they are when in harmony with, the Truth as it is in Jesus. The distinctive character of Annas and Caiaphas, considered representatively^ appears especially from what is related of them in regard to these proceedings. Jesus is questioned by Annas about his doctrine and his disciples, and by him sent bound to Caiaphas, whose intellectual character is indicated by the prophecy which he uttered, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people, and by the active part he took in bringing about the accomplishment of his own prediction. Matthew, who mentions only Caiaphas, speaks only of Peter as having followed Jesus into the palace of the high priest; while John, who speaks of both Annas and Caiaphas, mentions the entrance of two of the Lord’s disciples, he himself being one of them. Thus, when regarded spiritually, each account presents that contrast which properly belongs to the two gospels, as describing events in a less and more perfect development of the religious state. In regard to John’s account, according to which Jesus was led away’ to Annas first, it represents that the Lord’s divine goodness, which is meant when he is named Jesus, was opposed in the church, first, not only in time but as to state, by evil in the will, and then, secondarily, by evil in the understanding. Caiaphas, to whom lie was sent, gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. Some consider this as an oracular announcement, to induce the people to favour the plan of the priesthood for putting Jesus to death. It is rather to be regarded as a prediction he uttered in virtue of his priestly office, which, under the Israelitish dispensation, gave, among other supernatural gifts, the gift of prophecy. Such gifts did not depend on the character of the person, but were annexed to him in consequence of his office as high priest. But a priest could act in agreement with his own personal character, even while he could speak from the prophetic spirit; for a man ” may have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and yet be as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”
15 This portion of the sacred history, which now comes to be considered, gives an account of what took place in the palace of the high priest, not before Caiaphas, but Annas. This relation differs very considerably in some respects from the account of the other evangelists. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. That disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. John does not speak of himself by name, but, naming Peter, he calls himself another disciple. Indeed, this ” other disciple,” in the gospel which he wrote, never speaks of himself by his proper name. This is considered to have arisen from his modesty. The grace of love or charity, which John represented, is the farthest removed from, self-seeking : it ” vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” But there is another reason for John’s suppressing his name. Name is expressive of quality, and of that which reveals it. Love does not itself reveal its own quality. Love, in itself, as it is in the will, is nameless. It only acquires a quality and a name when it descends into the understanding, and puts on the form of wisdom, or when, as affection, it clothes itself with thought. Simon Peter and John followed Jesus. All the disciples at first forsook him, and fled; but these two returned, and followed him to the palace of the high priest, not openly, but as timid though anxious friends. The Lord was still the object of love and faith among his disciples, but these graces were as yet feeble and unconfirmed, because not yet completely severed from the loves of self and the world. Jesus was thus followed by the two disciples who seem to have occupied the highest position among their brethren, and who had the highest representative character, being the types of faith and love. The conduct of these two disciples on this trying occasion is descriptive of the state of faith and love, as they existed among the disciples generally ; and it was also prophetic of the condition in which these two essential graces of religion would be found at the end of the church. Of the two graces which Peter and John represented, love was the more firm and constant, as we learn from the general conduct of John, and from his following the Lord into the palace itself of the high priest. ” That disciple was known” unto the high priest.” “We have remarked, that he who is here called the high priest was Annas. Although he does not exhibit so much enmity to Jesus as Caiaphas displays, we are by no means to regard him as friendly to the Saviour, although one of his disciples was personally known to him; and we find Annas at the head of the priesthood, in their combined effort to suppress Christianity, soon, after the death of our Lord (Acts iv. 6). “We are, however, to reflect that a distinction is to be made between the man and the priest, between the functionary and the function. The office was sacred even when a profane person was invested with it; and in the Word, it is the office and the function that we have generally to attend to ; for it was this which was especially representative. This we are to regard in the present instance of John being known to the high priest. It has been considered as somewhat singular that a humble follower of Jesus should be known to the high priest. What may have been the circumstances in which his knowledge and friendly relation originated, it is not necessary for us to imagine : it is their spiritual meaning which – makes them interesting to us. John represented the principle of love or goodness, and this was also represented by the priestly office. That disciple being known to the high priest shows representatively that some affinity and connection existed between the good of the Christian and the good of the Jewish church, as represented by John and the high priest. Yet as John is not spoken of in this verse, except as a disciple, we are to infer that the true nature of the good he represented was unperceived, although the principle itself was known. In every church some remnant of good is preserved. Faith may utterly fail, but love is never entirely quenched. If this were to take place, no new church could ever rise out of the ashes of the old. The Lord promised that amid the falling away which should precede and mark the end of the dispensation he established, something of this vital element of the church should be preserved, even to the time of his Second Coming. And this promise was given in symbolic language in reference to John himself, when the Lord said to Peter respecting John, ” If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” The disciples understood this to mean that the disciple should not die. And spiritually understood they were right; for love never dies. Some spark of it is preserved in every church, and even in every soul, while men live in the world. Its utter extinction would be utter ruin, an end without the possibility of a new beginning. Even in the Jewish church there was some very small remnant of good saved. This formed the ground of discipleship in those who acknowledged and followed the Lord. It formed also the one point of contact between the Christian and the Jewish church; and it forms the point of contact between the new church and the old in our own day. The good of the old helps the good of the new, as the earth helped the woman, when persecuted by the dragon. However unjustly the Truth may be accused at the bar of a corrupt church, there is still sufficient good left to serve as the means of introducing a higher good, as John by his means entered with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.
16. But 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. While something of good and love entered the church, truth and faith stood at the door without. Yet truth is introduced by good, and faith by love, and this by the influence of good and love upon the affections, signified by her that kept the door. But although Peter was introduced, he was not known to the high priest; he was indeed afterwards recognised by the damsel and some of the other servants, but only as a disciple, involved in the supposed criminality of his Master.
17 The affection, by the influence of which faith is admitted into the church and into the mind, exercises a scrutiny as to the origin and object of that faith. Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not. The predicted trial of Peter’s faith now commences, and at the very beginning fails. In this, as in some other instances, Peter represented faith, such as it then existed in the church. But to understand the subject rightly, we must consider that Peter’s conduct represented the character of faith as it would be at the end of the first Christian church, the state of which is described by the Lord when he said, ” When the Son of man cometh shall he find faith in the earth?” The history of Peter on this occasion is the history of the faith of the church; it is a historical prediction, representatively teaching, that at the end of the church, when the ruling love of self and the world, which prevails among men, opposes itself to the Lord as essential love and truth, faith fails and denies Him who is its Origin and Object.
Peter answers the charge of the damsel, that he was one of the disciples of Jesus, by a simple but positive denial. We know from the other gospels that on the three different occasions on which he was recognised and accused of being a disciple of Jesus, he denied, and each succeeding time with increased vehemence. With what feeling his first denial of the truth was uttered we are not told; but we may infer that there was some compunction in the commission of so daring a sin. He had made the first departure from the truth, and had it been the only one, it would have remained as a solemn warning to all other members of the church of Jesus Christ. As the first denial, it teaches us that the first step in sin, and in this case, the sin of insincerity, is to be carefully avoided, since another step is more easy and likely to follow. This may be considered as an act of the will, and one which, as we find, gathers strength, as it becomes secondarily an act of the understanding, and finally of the life.
18 And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; (for it was cold 😉 and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself. The servants and officers represented the principles of the church and of its members, which are subordinate to the ruling love, as these servants were to the high priest. The cold which invades the church at the time of its end, is its state when the warmth of genuine love has departed, or when the love of the many waxes cold. Then the members of the church, when its sun has set, and left it exposed to the cold as well as the darkness of night, kindle a fire of coals from their own natural loves, and warm themselves ; and even faith itself, which has no life but from love, derives its warmth from the fire which the lusts and appetites of the natural mind have kindled. The servants of the high priest had kindled a fire, and a servant of Jesus warmed himself at it. Fire is a common and well understood emblem of love. Sacred fire comes from heaven, and is an emblem of the holy love which the Lord inspires into the contrite heart. The fire which man kindles is symbolical of the love which is earthly in its origin and character. The idolator is represented as burning part of the wood of which he makes his image in the fire; and “he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire” (Isa. xliv. 16). He that walketh in darkness and hath no light is exhorted to trust in the name of the Lord and to stay upon his God. But this warning and threatening are added : ” Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks : walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow ” (Isa. 1. 11). When one of the faithful seeks warmth at the fire which man has kindled, or seeks to draw from the natural love of the world or of self the warmth which he should find in love to the Lord and to the neighbour, it is a sign that he has turned away from the Lord of life and light to the life and light of his own love and intelligence.
19 While Peter warmed himself with the servants and officers at the fire, the high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples and of his doctrine. These questions and the Lord’s answer to them are entirely different from those recorded in Matthew (xxvi. G2, 63), and afford countenance to the opinion already noticed, that this examination of Jesus’ took place before Annas, who was not then in office, although, in conformity with custom, he is called the high priest; and who had no active share, judicially, in his condemnation. This inquiry about the Lord’s disciples and his doctrine, or teaching, is assumed to have been intended to draw answers from him that might form the grounds of accusation; and the Lord’s answer seems to favour this opinion. But there is nothing related of this interrogator, as of Caiaphas, condemning Jesus out of his own mouth. It may be, therefore, that Annas was the high priest to whom John was known. As to questioning Jesus about his doctrine: the Lord is doctrine itself, for the whole of doctrine proceeds from him and relates to him; and his disciples are those who receive his doctrine, and live according to it. All the doctrines of the Word refer to two things, comprehended in the two great commandments—to love the Lord above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves. These are the Lord’s doctrines, and those who live according to them are his disciples. The evil do indeed inquire into these, and desire to know what the Word teaches respecting them, not for the purpose of knowing, that they may honour them, but either that they may gratify their curiosity, or find in them the means of their condemnation. Whether the high priest regarded Jesus as Herod regarded John the Baptist we cannot say.
20, 21. Jesus does not tell of his doctrine, but refers the high priest to those of his own people who had heard him teach. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world: I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me ? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. Those who for unworthy ends interrogate the Word do not receive the answer they desire from the Word itself: it comes to them through their own thoughts and feelings. Jesus spake openly, or fearlessly, to the world. The church is the general recipient of the Lord’s truth; and the lessons which he teaches in his Word come from the temple of his divine humanity and from the doctrine which relates to it, whither those who are Jews in name or in reality resort for worship and instruction. In secret he said nothing. Jesus taught his disciples privately; but what he said apart was not a secret doctrine which he concealed from the multitude, but rather an inner sense of what he had publicly taught, which the disciples alone were prepared to understand. To them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom j but to others in parables. What he taught to the multitude he expounded to the disciples. Therefore he demanded of the high priest, ” Why askest thou me ? Ask them which heard me.” To see the force of this reply we must remember that the high priest wished to know what doctrines Jesus had taught the people. To the people, therefore, Jesus referred him. The general doctrines of the .Word are taught to all who are within the church; particular teaching, or enlightenment, is communicable to those only who practise the truth they know. “He who doeth truth cometh to the light.” For this reason our Lord often refused to teach what men were anxious to hear, but what he knew they were unwilling to believe or practise.
22 And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying. Answerest thou the high priest so ? One reason why the Lord refused to answer the high priest and some others who asked him questions, was to prevent profanation. He in many instances hides the truths of his kingdom from the wise and prudent and reveals them unto babes. The disposition to profane and blaspheme the truth was shown by the conduct of the officer of the high priest, for to smite is to destroy. And truth is destroyed when men do violence to it, because it testifies against them. Such violence was represented by the officer smiting our blessed Lord with a rod (as this may more strictly be rendered) a rod signifying the false principle proceeding from evil.
23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me ? That which our Lord gave as a test to judge of and act towards himself, is also a test by which his word is to be tried. The teaching of the Word is open to just judgment. If it speaks or teaches evil, men may bear witness of the evil, but if it teaches truth and righteousness, why should it be smitten ? Yet as the Lord was smitten, so Ms Word is smitten, because it reproves evil, and refuses to gratify the sinful or idle curiosity of those who please to consult it for their own ends.
24 Now Annas had sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest. We have already spoken of Annas and Caiaphas as representing the voluntary and intellectual principles of the Jewish church, in their relation, or rather opposition, to the Lord as essential goodness, which his name Jesus implies, both as revealed in his Word, and as manifested in him as the Word made flesh. Annas sending Jesus to Caiaphas describes representatively the opposition successively of both the will and understanding to the divine goodness and truth. First, and essentially, there is the opposition of the will, and then there is the opposition of the understanding. Annas sent Jesus bound, to represent that the divine Word, as subjected to the will of the church, was deprived of that freedom which is one of its eminent characteristics, and that the divine will was subjected to the human will, which is done when the Word only teaches what the will of man is disposed to allow it to teach. The Lord being sent bound to Caiaphas thus represents the Word being subjected to the dominion of the human will, even before it is submitted to be judged of by the understanding. When this is the case, can we expect anything but its condemnation?
26 25. And now comes another trial of faith, such as it is when the Word is subjected to such treatment. And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art thou not also one of his disciples ? He denied it, and said, I am not. Peter stood and warmed himself, fit emblem of faith when it derives its warmth from self-love, from the world and not from heaven. Under the influence of such love how could the faith of the church do otherwise than deny the Lord? This was Peter’s second denial, but another and more daring one follows.
26, 27, One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did I not see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again, and immediately the cock crew. The consistency of Peter is now put to the severest test. The time and place of his being seen with Jesus, as one of his disciples, are mentioned to him, but a selfish fear prompts a ready and angry denial, confirming his asseveration, like the wicked, with a profane oath. How striking an instance is this of the presence and power of man’s natural depravity, even after he has entered sincerely on the regenerate life ! How well it proves the truth of the experience of one who had himself been tried: “When I would do good evil is present with me;” and of our Lord’s saying, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The temptation of Peter did not proceed from the persons who accused him. In times of spiritual trial evil spirits accuse, and hence Satan is called the accuser of the brethren. But evil spirits call forth the evils that are in man, and so condemn him, and try to induce him to despair of salvation. Here the servants do not accuse Peter of evil, but charge him with being what he really was, and with doing what he really did, both of which were good and not evil. Yet good was evil in the estimation of the Jewish party, and to Peter it seemed to be evil in the present circumstances; the truth was likely to entail upon him what seemed to him to be evil consequences. These servants of the high priest represented, therefore, those knowledges which are possessed by the natural man, which can be used either for a good or an evil purpose. The servant of the high priest, who accused Peter the third time, was kinsman to him whose ear. that disciple had cut off. He thus represented a principle akin to that which Malchus represented. The Lord had reproved Peter for the act, and now he is accused by one related to him to whom, in his hasty zeal, he had done the injury. ” Did not I see thee in the garden with him?” Minute as well as direct, this question, which should have stricken him dumb, only seems to have deepened his denial. But what is meant by the form of their accusation ? To be in the garden with Jesus is to be with him in his temptations, to have communion and fellowship with Mm by internal faith and acknowledgment. But it was one of Peter’s weaknesses that he deprecated the cross of Christ, as formerly for his Lord, so now for himself. He was willing to be a disciple of the Lord in his prosperity, but he was not yet willing to be a disciple of the Lord in his adversity. He was not yet willing to be crucified with Christ, to suffer and to die with him. But the crisis of his state had come. One moment he daringly persisted in a presumptuous sin, the next he is humbled to the dust in the deepest repentance. Hardly has he uttered his last denial when the cock crows. John does not record the effect which this predicted incident had upon Peter. We know from the other gospels how sudden and deep was the change which it produced. This was not an essential change of character. It was a change such as takes place at the crisis of a disease, when the balance trembles between life and death. The cock crowing was to Peter the dawn of a new day, the day of the Lord and of salvation.
28. We now come to another act in the terrible drama which was acted by the enemies of the Saviour in the sight of angels and men. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment. Jesus was first led to Annas, then to Caiaphas, and lastly to Pilate. Thus was the Divine Truth opposed in will, understanding, and act. Pilate represented the civil power which gave effect to the spiritual. As Pilate, the Roman governor, who is here introduced, plays an important part in the scene which is now to be enacted, it may be useful to inquire into the relative representative character which he and the ruling powers among the Jews sustain. The Jews, in a state of subjection to the Roman power, represent the church in subjection to the world, or the spiritual principle in man in subjection to the natural. But the world and the natural principle which the Romans represented were such as they are among the Gentiles, and thus among the simple. There is a feature in the character of Pilate which has been remarked by all commentators. He does not appear to have been hostile but rather favourable to Jesus ; he found no fault in him (xix. 4) he sought to release him (ver. 12); he had the power to do so (ver. 10); and yet he gave him over to the Jews to be crucified (ver.(16); satisfying his conscience by washing his hands, as a testification of his being guiltless of shedding innocent blood. We see in him, what is often observable in natural men, a want of principle. They may see what is right, and have the disposition and the power to do it; but their action in the matter is not determined by principle, but by expediency. Being ruled by natural motives, natural men, even when not ill disposed, are liable to be led by the evil as easily as by the good; for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light, and their persuasive power is greater than that of those who have Jtp625a higher light to guide them.
Pilate does not act from his own judgment, which was in favour of Jesus, but gives effect to the judgment of the Sanhedrim, which was against him. When the Jews led Jesus into the judgment hall it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. The council at which Jesus was tried by the Jews was held during the night. And this deed of darkness, like the night in which it was enacted, was a sign that the church was at an end. Its night had come; and the early dawn of a new day had commenced. That was not however a day of light and hope. It was the darkest in the calendar of time—the day on which the Holy One was crucified—a day in which the sun itself was darkened, in sympathy and correspondence with the darkening of the Sun of righteousness, in the last temptation of the Son of man, during the passion of the cross. While the Jews were committing the great moral crime of handing an innocent one over to the Roman governor to be condemned, they were yet so scrupulously observant of ceremonial rules, that they would not themselves enter the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled and prevented from eating the passover. What could more thoroughly indicate the end of the church ? The church is consummated when there is sanctity without and unholiness within; when, like the tombs of the prophets, it is outwardly beautiful but inwardly corrupt, full of dead men’s bones and of all corruption.
29 As the Jews would not go in to Pilate, Pilate then went out unto them. Pilate suffers himself to be drawn out of his own house by the Jews, which is to go out of his own state, and place himself in theirs. Having thus yielded himself up to their influence, he asks them, What accusation bring ye against this man ? It is as if the judgment should leave its seat in the understanding, where reason should preside, and appeal to the will, where passion rules, for the purpose of hearing what it can lay to the charge of innocence.
30. They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. This is just such an accusation as passion and prejudice would urge. Jesus is accused of being a malefactor, but no evidence is offered in support of the charge. It is, however, to be understood that the Jews had already tried Jesus and pronounced him to be worthy of death. But having no executive power, they apply to the Roman governor, to confirm and carry out the sentence they had pronounced. They therefore thought it sufficient to state that he was a criminal, without even mentioning his crime, or -offering any testimony in support of it, a proceeding which is clearly enough indicative of an act of the will, and of one under the influence of evil and malevolence.
31 32 The Roman governor, considering that Jesus was accused of some breach of the Jewish law, said unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: that the saying, of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. The Jews had been deprived of the power of lawfully putting any one to death a very short time before the Lord was crucified. It is probable, therefore, that the saying of Jesus, signifying what death he would die, was uttered before the Jews were deprived of the power of life and death. Had Jesus been put to death by the Jews it would have been by stoning; it was because he was executed by the Romans that it was done by crucifixion, and Jesus had foretold that he should be delivered to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified. The Romans were Gentiles, and by them the prediction of the Lord was fulfilled. It was fulfilled in a way that did not reflect so much discredit on them as it did upon the Jews. The Jews had the will, the Romans had the power; and the will of the one acting by the power of the other effected Satan’s purpose of slaying one whose kingdom was not of this world, and whose claims were opposed, not to Caesar’s but to Satan’s dominion. There was no doubt a providential purpose in the circumstance of the Lord’s being ” delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge and to crucify.” The Gentiles had a share, as they had an interest, in his death. He died for all men, both Jews and Gentiles. And he died for all, because all men were dead in trespasses and sins. The Jews were sinners in one way, the Gentiles in another. The Jews sinned against him directly, the Gentiles sinned against him indirectly. The Jews willed his death, the Gentiles effected it. “We find in this, as in every similar instance, that the hostility of the Gentiles to the truth, as revealed or manifested, is not so much a hostility to the truth itself, as a hostility to it as represented or reflected by those who claim its peculiar or exclusive possession. Those who are out of the church judge of the truth by the conduct of those who are within it. Those who have the Word, but walk not according to its teachings, do much to cause others to judge unfavourably of the truth, and to smite and mock, and scourge and crucify it.
33 When those of the Gentile class and character return again into their own state they are disposed to hear something respecting the truth from the Truth itself. This was represented by what is now recorded of the Roman governor. Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Pilate’s entering again into the judgment-hall is expressive of the mind retiring into or within itself, especially into the intellectual faculty, where reasons are adduced and judgments are formed. His calling Jesus unto him describes the state of the mind when the Truth itself is called to the bar of human judgment, but with the view of receiving from it that evidence on which a judgment respecting it may be formed. The question which Pilate asks Jesus is, ” Art thou the King of the Jews ?” In the Word the Lord is called a king as the ruler of his kingdom, which consists of heaven and the church. There are, however, two kinds of government which the Lord exercises. He governs from love and from truth. This distinction does not arise from his own will, but from the states of those who are the subjects of his government. He desires to govern all from love; and if all his subjects were principled in love to him above all things, his kingdom would be one, and his only government would be the dominion of love. But as there are some who are governed by love, and some who are governed by truth, therefore heaven and the church constitute two kingdoms, a celestial kingdom and a spiritual kingdom. Although these are distinct, they are not separate, much less hostile to each other. They are like the will and the understanding in man, which, while they are distinct faculties, constitute one mind. As heaven and the church are in the Lord’s sight as one man, the two kingdoms form the will and understanding of this Grand Man. And as the will and understanding enter into all things of the mind; so these two kingdoms enter into, and indeed constitute, the whole of heaven and the church. In the representative church these two kingdoms of the Lord were represented by the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Jesus in the gospels is called both the king of Israel and the king of Judah. When Pilate, therefore, asks him if he is king of the Jews, he asks him respecting his sovereignty as that of love or goodness. It is not indeed to be understood that Pilate intended to express any such meaning in his question. But as all that is recorded in the Word was overruled by providence, so as to contain a spiritual meaning, and as those who recorded the events and sayings which it relates were guided by divine inspiration, these words of Pilate are filled with a meaning which only the Author of inspiration could give them. While, therefore, in the historical sense we read Pilate’s question to Jesus, in the spiritual sense we perceive an act of mental reflection and investigation, into the truth by those whom Pilate represented. And he represented the Gentiles and those who were in a Gentile state, a state more favourable than hostile to the truth, but one which is influenced by others, rather than by an independent judgment, on questions of truth and righteousness.
34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me ? The Lord answers Pilate’s question in the meantime by asking him another, because he desires those who inquire of him respecting himself to reflect whether their inquiry springs from their own hearts and understandings, or whether it comes from the memory as a thing that has entered from without, and has thus been suggested by others rather than come spontaneously from the promptings of the mind itself. There is a wide difference in the character of questions which come from the cravings of the heart and those which spring from curiosity; between those which arise from a sense of our own wants, and those which proceed from the interest we feel in subjects that lie entirely beyond the range of our own experience. In the historical sense, the Lord no doubt answered Pilate’s question for the purpose of drawing from him an acknowledgment of what He knew to be true, that the Roman governor had framed his question from what he had learned respecting Jesus from the chief priests and Pharisees. And this shows that, as he considered the present accusation to have relation to some Jewish question, which did not come under the cognizance of the Roman law, he desired to ascertain whether Jesus had made any claim to be the ruler of the Jews.
35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew ? Thine own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? In this answer Pilate acknowledged that he had not spoken as a Jew but as a Gentile, not as one who asked him a question on which he had already formed a conclusion, but as one who was free to judge. At the same time, this question, as addressed to Jesus by Pilate, was no doubt intended to draw from him the admission or denial of the charge which the Jews had made against him, of having claimed the throne of Judea, and of drawing the Jews away from their allegiance to Caesar. When Jesus did not answer his question, and did not confess to having claimed to be king of the Jews, he asks him what he had done, seeing he had been delivered into his hands as a criminal. When the religious uses the secular power to effect its purposes in the treatment of heretics, there is the greatest cause to be alarmed for the safety of even the best of men. When dissent from a human creed is held to be a greater crime than the violation of the Divine commandments, no perfection of virtue and piety can be expected to justify the maintaining of heretical opinions. Of this our Lord was an eminent example. But his own case has had too little influence on the conduct of some of his professed disciples. And so it is individually with us, when the subject is applied to our inward life. When the truth is delivered up by a depraved will to be judged by a blinded or perverted understanding, there can be little hope of an impartial judgment. ” Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me,” said Pilate to Jesus. These are names which, in the Word are expressive of principles of the will, good or evil as the case may be, evidently evil in this case. Pilate demanded of Jesus ” What hast thou done?” To this question, which is almost an implied accusation, the Lord says nothing. He speaks, but he passes over to another and a higher subject, but one bearing upon the charge, that he claimed to be king of the Jews.
36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. The Lord’s answer to Pilate’s question removed any reasonable ground of suspicion against him as one seeking for temporal power. By declaring that his kingdom was not of this world, he claimed to be a king, but disclaimed being a rival to any earthly potentate. He stated at the same time a great truth, and laid down a great principle. Jesus is indeed a king, and even the King of kings; and he has a kingdom, which is above all others. Princes rule and kingdoms exist by him. As Divine Truth, he is the origin of all real power, of all just law, of .all true government. His kingship and his kingdom do not come into collision with earthly kings or kingdoms, but seek to enter into them, and inspire them with the eternal principles of truth and justice. His kingdom is not of this world, although it is intended to be in this world. One of the petitions of the prayer he has taught us to use is, that his kingdom may come; and the language of prophecy teaches us to expect a time when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ,—a prediction which will be fulfilled when the Lord reigns by his love and truth in the hearts of the rulers and peoples of this world ; when his will is done on earth as it is done in heaven. The church is his own visible kingdom on earth; but his true throne is in the human heart. When he rules there he rules everywhere, in all the temporal as well as the spiritual affairs of men. The Lord’s kingdom is in this respect distinguished from, the kingdoms of this world, as they have existed hitherto : it is a kingdom of peace. ” If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight (or strive), that I should not be delivered to the Jews.” It was one of the prophetic characteristics of the Messiah, that he should not strive, nor cry, nor lift up his voice in the streets. One of his servants displayed to the world a disposition to fight when he drew his sword in his Master’s defence, but Jesus rebuked him, and, through him, all succeeding disciples who would defend or aid his cause by force. The Lord gives this as an evidence of the unworldly origin and nature of his kingdom—of his kingdom not being from hence, that his servants do not fight. Truth uses no carnal weapons for its defence. It stands upon its own merits, and seeks to rule by its inherent power. If these prove no sufficient protection, it is willing to suffer, and it is better that it should suffer at the hands of its enemies than that it should be indebted for success to the warlike actions of its friends. It may be delivered into the hands of the Jews, or brought under the dominion of the evil; and it may be persecuted oven unto the death; but it will rise again in more than its former power, even as Jesus himself, by unresistingly yielding himself into the hands of his outward enemies, rose from the dead with all power in heaven and on earth.
37. Hearing the Lord’s declaration respecting his kingdom, Pilate therefore saith unto him, Art thou a king then ? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into this world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate had heard from the Jews, as an accusation against Jesus, that he claimed to he a king: and the Lord having spoken of his kingdom, the governor hut expressed the just inference he had drawn from this admission, when he demanded of Jesus, “Art thou a king then?” Jesus answers this question affirmatively. He then declares that in claiming to be a king, he claimed to be the Truth. ” For this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the Truth.” In saying this, our Lord expressed himself respecting his kingship, as it is in its first principles. A king is a governor, and truth is the principle that governs. Whether we say that truth governs, or that law governs, it amounts to the same; for truths are laws of order, according to which all right government is exercised. Divine Truth is that by which the Lord governs. Truth may therefore be said to govern, and thus to be a king. The Lord is a king, and his government is over heaven and earth, because he is Divine Truth itself. This was the character in which he came into the world. He came as Divine Truth, to put down all misrule, and to establish his kingdom of righteousness. The kingdom of misrule was the kingdom, of darkness, which he came to subdue; and the kingdom of righteousness was the kingdom of light, which he came to set up, or restore, among men. For this end was he born, for this cause came he into the world. And to this end and for this cause he now comes to each of us. When his truth is born in our hearts and comes into our understandings, he puts down all the misrule of evil and error within us, and sets up his kingdom of righteousness in its stead. Jesus therefore proceeds to say, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” Every one who loves the truth must be disposed to hear the voice of him who is the Truth, and to hear his voice is to hearken to and obey that which he teaches. So the apostle, who wrote this gospel, testifies. ” They (who confess not the Word incarnate) are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We (who confess Christ) are of God : he that knoweth God heareth us. He that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John iv. 5). And they who are of the truth are they who do the truth. ” Hereby we know that we are of the truth—that we love not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (iii. 18). He that is of the truth heareth the Lord’s voice. The Lord’s voice is truth with its living affection; and they hear this who hearken to and obey it. How instructive the lesson, especially to all who halt between two opinions, and seek to be convinced of the truth by extraneous evidence!
38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth ? This was a question that might very naturally be proposed on this occasion by such a one as Pilate—a question much discussed by the wise of his time, and which those of our own day debate as much as they did; indeed the differences which exist even among the professed disciples of Christ show that there is no certain knowledge among men as to what truth really is, or what really is truth. Our Lord did not answer Pilate’s question, partly, we may presume, because Pilate was not in a state to accept either the definition of truth or the truth itself, and partly because truth must be seen to be known. In the supreme sense, Jesus Christ himself is the Truth. But this makes us no wiser, unless we know in what respect he is so. Jesus Christ was the eternal Word, or divine Wisdom, made manifest. And the eternal Wisdom is that through which all things exist and subsist, and of which it may be said all things consist. We commonly think of truth as a spoken word expressive of what is true; but truth is the substance of all things. Divine Truth is that principle in God through which Divine Love effected both creation and redemption. Truth may be said to be the law of eternal order, according to which God necessarily and invariably acts. It is the law of his nature, and therefore the law of his love. Love cannot come to us, and we cannot come to love, but by means of truth. Hence the necessity of receiving the truth and doing the truth. Perhaps men who ask Pilate’s question imitate Pilate’s conduct, who, when he had said this, went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all, but at the same time consented to leave him to their will. Pilate, finding Jesus innocent, should have released him; but he seems to have had no very nice sense of justice, and the fate of the just one was decided by the caprice of a provincial governor.
39, 40. While pronouncing Jesus innocent, Pilate said to the Jews, But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover ; will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews ? Singular it is that this custom should have placed Jesus before the Jews in company with a noted criminal, leaving them to determine which they would choose. The passover itself had been instituted to celebrate an act of divine judgment, in saving the innocent and slaying the guilty. Unmindful of the clemency their forefathers had experienced on that night when the angel passed over the oppressed, and destroyed the oppressors, the Jews reverse the order of the divine proceeding, and profane the institution by making it an occasion of setting the guilty free. The occasion is the more striking and the ordeal still more severe if, as there is some ground for believing, the robber and the Saviour were both named Jesus, and as the name Barabbas means son of the Father. In some of the earliest manuscripts, as quoted by the early Fathers, Barabbas is also named Jesus, and its omission is supposed to be due to the scruples of later Christian transcribers. Here, then, good and evil were presented before the Jews in the most striking manner. In name they were the same; in reality, how different! But whether this identity of name may have existed or not, we have here an instance of both the good and the evil having been set before the Jews, and being set before us. The manner in which the choice is presented in the present instance is the more favourable to the good, seeing that Pilate asks the multitude if he shall release the King of the Jews, although the Lord’s being presented for their choice under that title was not likely to conciliate their favour. They were, however, like the deaf adder that refuses to be charmed. And what could have charmed them if the voice of love and truth could not ? Yet they vociferate, Not this man, but Barabbas. Let us not only learn a solemn lesson from the conduct of the Jews, but let us remember that this same choice is set before us in every instance in which goodness and truth from the Lord, and evil and falsehood from hell, are presented before us, in the constantly recurring incidents and business of daily life, and where the alternative of choosing is forced upon us. Let us beware of choosing the evil and rejecting the good, especially that highest good which is the good of love to the Lord, as it is opposed to and by the lowest evil, the love of self. The conclusion of this account is not without its significance, Now Barabbas was a robber. That deepest evil of the human heart which he represented, robs us indeed of all that is precious—the love and truth of Christ, and of all the happiness here and hereafter.
Author: William Bruce –1870
Pictures: James Tissot—-Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum