John xviii. 37.-"To this end was I horn, and for
this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
Every one that is of the truth heareth My Voice."
[1.] A Marvelous thing is longsuffering; it places the soul as in a
quiet harbor, fleeing it from tossings and evil spirits. And this everywhere
Christ hath taught us, but especially now, when He is judged, and dragged,
and led about. For when He was brought to Annas, He answered with great
gentleness, and, to the servant who smote Him, said what had power to bring
down all his insolence; thence having gone to Caiaphas, then to Pilate,
and having spent the whole night in these scenes, He all through exhibiteth
His own mildness; and when they said that He was a malefactor, and were
not able to prove it, He stood silent; but when He was questioned concerning
the Kingdom, then He spake to Pilate, instructing him, and leading him
in to higher matters. But why was it that Pilate made the enquiry not in
their presence, but apart, having gone into the judgment hall? He suspected
something great respecting Him, and wished, without being troubled by the
Jews, to learn all accurately. Then when he said, "What hast thou done?"
on this point Jesus made no answer; but concerning that of which Pilate
most desired to hear, namely, His Kingdom, He answered, saying, "My Kingdom
is not of this world." That is, "I am indeed a King, yet not such an one
as thou suspectest, but far more glorious," declaring by these words and
those which follow, that no evil had been done by Him. For one who saith,
"To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that
I should bear witness unto the truth," showeth, that no evil hath been
done by Him. Then when He saith, "Every one that is of the truth heareth
My voice," He draweth him on by these means, and persuadeth him to become
a listener to the words. "For if," saith He, "any one is true, and desireth
these things, he will certainly hear Me." And, in fact, He so took him
by these short words, that he said,
Ver. 38. "What is truth?"
But for the present he applieth himself to what was pressing, for he
knew that this question needed time, and desired to rescue Him from the
violence of the Jews. Wherefore he went out, and what said he?
"I find no fault in him."
Consider how prudently he acted. He said not, "Since he hath sinned,
and is deserving of death, forgive him on account of the Feast"; but having
first acquitted Him of all guilt, he asks them over and above, if they
were not minded to dismiss Him as innocent, yet as guilty to forgive Him
on account of the time. Wherefore he added,
Ver. 39, 40. "Ye have a custom that I should release unto you one
at the Passover"; then in a persuasory way, "Will ye therefore that I release
the king of the Jews? Then cried they all, Not this man, but Barabbas."
O accursed decision! They demand those like mannered with themselves,
and let the guilty go; but bid him punish the innocent. For this was their
custom from old time. But do thou all through observe the lovingkindness
of the Lord in these circumstances. Pilate scourged Him perhaps desiring
to exhaust and to soothe the fury of the Jews. For when he had not been
able to deliver Him by his former measures, being anxious to stay the evil
at this point, he scourged Him, and permitted to be done what was done,
the robe and crown to be put on Him, so as to relax their anger. Wherefore
also he led Him forth to them crowned (ver. 5), that, seeing the insult
which had been done to Him, they might recover a little from their passion,
and vomit their venom. "And how would the soldiers have done this, had
it not been the command of their ruler?" To gratify the Jews. Since it
was not by his command that they at first went in by night, but to please
the Jews; they dared anything for money. But He, when so many and such
things were done, yet stood silent, as He had done during the enquiry,
and answered nothing. And do thou not merely hear these things, but keep
them continually in thy mind, and when thou beholdest the King of the world
and of all Angels, mocked of the soldiers, by words and by actions, and
bearing all silently, do thou imitate Him by deeds thyself. For when Pilate
had called Him the King of the Jews, and they now put about Him the apparel
of mockery, then Pilate having led Him out, said,
Ver. 4, 5. "I find no fault against him. He therefore went forth,
wearing the crown."
But not even so was their rage quenched, but they cried out,
Ver. 6. "Crucify him, crucify him."
Then Pilate, seeing that all was done in vain, said,
"Take ye him, and crucify him."
Whence it is clear that he had permitted what had been done before,
because of their madness.
"For I," he saith, "find no fault in him."
[2.] See in how many ways the judge makes His defense, continually acquitting
Him of the charges; but none of these things shamed the dogs from their
purpose. For the, "Take ye him and crucify him," is the expression of one
clearing himself of the guilt, and thrusting them forward to an action
not permitted to them. They therefore had brought Him, in order that the
thing might be done by the decision of the governor; but the contrary fell
out, that He was rather acquitted than condemned by the governor's decision.
Then, because they were ashamed,
Ver. 7. "We have," they said, "a law, and by our law he ought to
die, because he made himself the Son of God."
"How then when the judge said, `Take ye him, and judge him according
to your law,' did ye reply, `It is not lawful for us to put any man to
death,' while here ye fly to the law? And consider the charge, `He made
himself the Son of God.' Tell me, is this a ground of accusation, that
He who performed the deeds of the Son of God should call Himself the Son
of God?" What then doth Christ? While they held this dialogue one with
the other, He held His peace, fulfilling that saying of the Prophet, that
"He openeth not his mouth: in His humiliation His judgment was taken away."
(Isa. liii. 7, Isa. liii. 8 LXX.)
Then Pilate is alarmed when he hears from them, that He made Himself
the Son of God, and dreads lest the assertion may possibly be true, and
he should seem to transgress; but these men who had learnt this, both by
His deeds and words, did not shudder, but are putting Him to death for
the very reasons for which they ought to have worshiped Him. On this account
he no more asks Him, "What hast thou done?" but, shaken by fear, he begins
the enquiry again, saying, "Art thou the Christ?" But He answered not.
For he who had heard, "To this end was I born, and for this came I," and,
"My Kingdom is not of this world," he, when he ought to have opposed His
enemies and delivered Him, did not so, but seconded the fury of the Jews.
Then they being in every way silenced, make their cry issue in a political
charge, saying, "He that maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar."
(Ver. 12.) Pilate ought therefore to have accurately enquired, whether
He had aimed at sovereignty, and set His hand to expel Caesar from the
kingdom. But he makes not an exact enquiry, and therefore Christ answered
him nothing, because He knew that he asked all the questions idly. Besides,
since His works bare witness to Him, He would not prevail by word, nor
compose any defense, showing that He came voluntarily to this condition.
When He was silent, Pilate saith,
Ver. 10. "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee?"
Seest thou how he condemned himself beforehand; for, "if the whole rests
with thee, why dost not thou let Him go, when thou hast found no fault
in Him?" When then Pilate had uttered the sentence against himself, then
Ver. 11. "He that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin."
Showing that he also was guilty of sin. Then, to pull down his pride
and arrogance, He saith,
"Thou wouldst have no power except it were given thee."
Showing that this did not come to pass merely in the common order of
events, but that it was accomplished mystically. Then lest, when thou hearest,
"Except it were given thee," thou shouldest deem that Pilate was exempt
from all blame, on this account therefore He said, "Therefore he that delivered
Me unto thee hath the greater sin." "And yet if it was given, neither he
nor they were liable to any charge." "Thou objectest idly; for the `given'
in this place means what is `allowed'; as though He had said, `He hath
permitted these things to be, yet not for that are ye clear of the wickedness.'"
He awed Pilate by the words, and proffered a clear defense. On which account
that person sought to release Him; but they again cried out, saying,
Ver. 12. "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend."
For when they profited nothing by bringing charges drawn from their
own law, they wickedly betook themselves to external laws, saying,
"Every one that maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar."
And where hath this Man appeared as a tyrant? Whence can ye prove it?
By the purple robe? By the diadem? By the dress? By the soldiers? Did not
He ever walk unattended, save by His twelve disciples, following in every
point a humble mode of living, both as to food, and clothing, and habitation?
But O what shamelessness and ill-time cowardice! For Pilate, deeming that
he should now incur some danger were he to overlook these words, comes
forth as though to enquire into the matter, (for the "sitting down" showed
this,) but without making any enquiry, he gave Him up to them, thinking
to shame them. For to prove that he did it for this purpose, hear what
Ver. 14, 15. "Behold your king!" But when they said, "Crucify him,"
he added again, "Shall I crucify your king?" But they cried out, "We have
no king but Caesar."
Of their own will they subjected themselves to punishment; therefore
also God gave them up, because they were the first to cast themselves out
from His providence and superintendence; and since with one voice they
rejected His sovereignty, He allowed them to fall by their own suffrages.
Still what had been said should have been sufficient to calm their passion,
but they feared, lest, being let go, He should again draw the multitudes,
and they did all they could to prevent this. For a dreadful thing is love
of rule, dreadful and able to destroy the soul; it was on account of this
that they had never heard Him. And yet Pilate, in consequence of a few
words, desired to let Him go, but they pressed on, saying, "Crucify him."
And why did they strive to kill Him in this manner? It was a shameful death.
Fearing therefore lest there should afterwards be any remembrance of Him,
they desired to bring Him to the accursed punishment, not knowing that
truth is exalted by hindrances. To prove that they had this suspicion,
listen to what they say; "We have heard that that deceiver said, After
three days I will rise again" (Matt. xxvii. 63); on this account they made
all this stir, turning things upside down, that they might ruin matters
in after time. And the ill-ordered people, corrupted by their rulers, cried
out continually, "Crucify him!"
[3.] But let us not merely read of these things, but bear them in our
mind; the crown of thorns, the robe, the reed, the blows, the smiting on
the cheek, the spittings, the irony. These things, if continually meditated
on, are sufficient to take down all anger; and if we be mocked at, if we
suffer injustice, let us still say, "The servant is not greater than his
Lord" (c. xiii. 16); and let us bring forward the words of the Jews, which
they uttered in their madness, saying, "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast
a devil" (c. viii. 48); and, "He casteth out devils by Beelzebub." (Luke
xi. 15.) For on this account He bare all these things, in order that we
might walk in His footsteps, and endure those mockings which disturb more
than any other kind of reproach. Yet nevertheless He not only bare these
things, but even used every means to save and deliver from the appointed
punishment those who did them. For He sent the Apostles also for their
salvation, at least thou hearest them saying, that, "We know that through
ignorance ye did it" (Acts iii. 17); and by these means drawing them to
repentance. This let us also imitate; for nothing so much maketh God propitious
as the loving enemies, and doing good to those who despitefully use us.
When a man insults thee, look not to him, but to the devil who moves him,
and against him empty all thy wrath, but pity the man who is moved by him.
For if lying is from the devil, to be angry without a cause is much more
so. When thou seest one turning another into ridicule, consider that it
is the devil who moves him, for mockings belong not to Christians. For
he who hath been bidden to mourn, and hath heard, "Woe, ye that laugh"
(Luke vi. 25), and who after this insults, and jests, and is excited, demands
not reproach from us, but sorrow, since Christ also was troubled when He
thought on Judas. All these things therefore let us practice in our actions,
for if we act not rightly in these, we have come to no purpose and in vain
into the world. Or rather we have come to our harm, for faith is not sufficient
to bring men to the Kingdom, nay, it even hath power in this way most to
condemn those who exhibit an ill life; for He "which knew his Lord's will,
and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes" (Luke xii. 47); and
again, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin."
(c. xv. 22.) What excuse then shall we have, who have been set within the
palace, and deemed worthy to stoop down and enter into the sanctuary, and
have been made partakers of the releasing Mysteries, and who yet are worse
than the Greeks, whohave shared in none of these things? For if they for
the sake of vainglory have shown so much true wisdom, much more ought we
to go after all virtue, because it is pleasing to God. But at present we
do not even despise wealth; while they have often been careless of their
life, and in wars have given up their children to their madness about devils,
and have despised nature for the sake of their devils, but we do not even
despise money for the sake of Christ, nor anger on account of God's will,
but are inflamed, and in no better state than the fevered. And just as
they, when possessed by their malady, are all burning, so we, suffocated
as by some fire, can stop at no point of desire, increasing both anger
and avarice. On this account I am ashamed and astonished, when I behold
among the Greeks men despising riches, but all mad among ourselves. For
even if we could find some despising riches, we should find that they have
been made captive by other vices, by passion or envy; and a hard thing
it is to discover true wisdom without a blemish. But the reason is, that
we are not earnest to get our remedies from the Scriptures, nor do we apply
ourselves to those Scriptures with compunction, and sorrow, and groaning,
but carelessly, if at any time we chance to be at leisure. Therefore when
a great rush of worldly matters comes, it overwhelms all; and if there
hath been any profit, destroys it. For if a man have a wound, and after
putting on a plaster, do not tie it tight, but allow it to fall off, and
expose his sore to wet, and dust, and heat, and ten thousand other things
able to irritate it, he will get no good; yet not by reason of the inefficacy
of the remedies, but by reason of his own carelessness. And this also is
wont to happen to us, when we attend but little to the divine oracles,
but give ourselves up wholly and incessantly to things of this life; for
thus all the seed is choked, and all is made unfruitful. That this may
not be the case, let us look carefully a little, let us look up to heaven,
let us bend down to the tombs and coffins of the departed. For the same
end awaiteth us, and the same necessity of departure will often come upon
us before the evening. Prepare we then for this expedition; there is need
of many supplies for the journey, for great is the heat there, and great
the drought, and great the solitude. Henceforth there is no reposing at
an inn, there is no buying anything, when one hath not taken all from hence.
Hear at least what the virgins say, "Go ye to them that sell" (Matt. xxv.
9); but they who went found not. Hear what Abraham saith, "A gulf between
us and you." (Luke xvi. 26.) Hear what Ezekiel saith concerning that day,
that Noah, and Job, and Daniel shall in nowise deliver their sons. (Ezek.
xiv. 14.) But may it never come to pass that we hear these words, but that
having taken hence sufficient provision for our way to eternal life, we
may behold with boldness our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father
and the Holy Ghost be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, and world without