And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. – Matthew 27:11-26
We have already seen by the preceding verses that our Lord Jesus so offered Himself of His own will as a sacrifice to make reparation for all our iniquities by His obedience and He was willing to be condemned to wipe them out. That is why it is said that He did not answer at all the accusations that were raised against Him. He had enough wherewith to answer, but He was silent, as is also mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah. That was not only to show his patience, but in order to acquire for us liberty to be able today to glory in being righteous and innocent before God (indeed, notwithstanding that our conscience accuses us and condemns us), knowing that God has received us in mercy, and that all our faults are abolished by the perfection which was found in our Lord Jesus Christ. That, then, is how the Son of God acquired for us the liberty to be able to glory boldly that we are the children of God and reputed righteous before Him, that is, when He willed to offer no reply to show His integrity. Besides, one might at first find it strange that He is thus captured and nevertheless responds that He is King of the Jews. For these things seem contradictory; but Saint John proceeds still further, and says that He declared that His Kingdom was not of this world, and then He declared also that He was Son of God, indeed, He protested that He had come into the world to maintain the truth. But all this agrees easily. For our Lord Jesus surely had to declare Himself to be King of the Jews, unless He wished to reject the Prophecies. Also He had to be declared Son of God. But that did not lead to His absolution. It was rather that there might not be a long drawn-out trial, but that He might be condemned. Let us note well, then, when the silence of Jesus Christ is spoken of, that it was inasmuch as He did not wish to offer any excuse. As for His person, He kept His mouth closed. However, He did not cease to make such confession as He had to make. That is also why Saint Paul says that He made a good confession before Pontius Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13). For if it had been a matter of Jesus Christ’s entering into His own self-defense, already the judge was persuaded of His integrity. He could, then, easily have won His case by speaking. That is what amazes Pilate. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ did not cease to render such testimony as God had committed to Him — not tending to instruct (for this was not the place) but to confirm and ratify the doctrine to which He had previously borne witness.
However, we have to note on the one hand that the crime which troubled the Jews most was that He had stirred up trouble and prevented them from paying tributes to the Emperor of Rome. That also was to irritate the Governor, a pagan man who was sent there by the Emperor. Now it is very certain that our Lord Jesus had declared Himself to be King, but not an earthly king. As, in fact, we see that when the Jews wish to crown Him, He withdraws Himself and hides on the mountain. Still further He dulls the edge of that calumny, because it would have been a slander against the Gospel, if He had perverted the order and law-enforcement of the world. For He Who has come to call us all to the heavenly Kingdom and to make us sharers in it did not wish to abolish earthly kingdoms, since even they are sustained by Him and in His power. The Gospel, then, need not be blamed, saving that Jesus Christ had come to usurp any power or worldly authority. That is why He said to Pilate especially that His kingdom is not of this place.
In fact, what would happen if the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ were earthly? What would we gain by hoping in Him, since our condition is so miserable in the world? Unbelievers have a much better lot than we, concerning the afflictions which we must endure. True it is that the chastisements of God have effect everywhere and that those who wish it as much as they possibly can do not cease to be subject to many miseries and afflictions. But all the same let us always be ready for more rigid discipline. For God must begin His chastisements in His house and in His Church. If, then, our Lord Jesus were an earthly King, it would seem that we might be entirely alienated from Him. Further, suppose we had everything easy in this world and that by means of the Son of God we had here, as it were, a paradise, yet our life is only a shadow. Our happiness, then, would be very brief and frail. So we must surely know and be entirely persuaded that the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus is heavenly, in order that we may reach the life everlasting to which we are called. That, then, is how the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is perpetual, because it does not consist in anything which is of this world, here where everything is corruptible.
Let us learn, then, to bear patiently our adversities, knowing that they neither diminish nor impair at all the grace which was acquired for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. For indeed, these are aids to our salvation, as St. Paul shows in Romans 8:28. When we are despised and mocked by the world, that we have to suffer many reproaches, that we are hungry and thirsty, that our wings are clipped, that we are harassed from all sides; we must consider “So it is that God accepts us.” That is as if He said to us. “Look on high. Do not set your minds on what is in this world.” That, in summary, is what we have to observe. In fact, it is not without cause that our Lord Jesus wished to add as a confirmation that He was born and came into the world to speak the truth. Whoever has clearly heard it stops at the sound of His voice. By this we see that it is a doctrine of importance to know that the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is not from this world. For if it had been a trivial sentence, He might have passed it quickly. But when He pronounced that He had come into the world to speak the truth, it is as if He wished to render us attentive, and that each one should meditate in his heart, and apply well his study to this doctrine. That is, that we be withdrawn from the world and from all creatures, in order to come to this heavenly King, and to seek in Him the spiritual benefits which are here communicated to us, in order that we might enjoy them according to the measure which He knows to be useful to us for our salvation. Indeed in all that we see to be of the summary of the Gospel, let us note particularly this word: that Jesus Christ came into the world to speak the truth, in order that we may come to the conviction from it, when we are attentive to His doctrine that we shall not be at all disappointed, since it is an entirely sure and certain thing that what He has promised He will bring to pass. When David wishes to be assured against all temptations, he says that the Word of God is as silver purified seven times and which has been well tried by fire. So as often as we shall enter into doubt about the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as we shall be troubled and molested (as the devil also uses such craftiness in order to dishearten us and to make us lose courage), let us return to this testimony, that in any case our Lord Jesus appeared in the world in order to be to us a faithful witness. Let us wait today for Him to show in effect that it is not in vain that He gave us all these promises, because they are infallible. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember.
Besides, when Pilate says, “What is truth?” let us note that it was not, as it were, through a desire to learn that he asked such a question, but it was, as it were, through spite and in mockery, as today this vice is seen in many. When we speak of the truth of God, we mean the doctrine of the Gospel. Saint Paul (in Ephesians 1) attributes to it this title in order that we may be able to distinguish it from all other knowledge. To be sure, if someone gives us all account of something which has happened, it is truth; but when God calls us to Himself, and He wishes to withdraw us from this world in order that we may arrive at the heavenly life, that is a truth which ought to be put in sovereign position and by comparison all the rest should be nothing. Now let us notice how the world bears reverence toward the doctrine of the Gospel. The wisest men in the world (who are considered to be such) are so blinded by presumption that when it is spoken of to them, “How now?” they say, “Have we lived such a long time in the world, and we should know the Gospel only and nothing else that exists. All of them, then, will be scandalized when it is said to them that the truth of God has been buried and that it is now necessary to guard it more closely. We hear how they scoff at that idea. So it was with Pilate. For inasmuch as he was sent by the Emperor to be his lieutenant in the country of Judea, it seemed to him that a great wrong was done to him when a truth was spoken of which was unknown to him. “And how so? Must we, then, act like idiots? Is there nothing but lies in us? Can we not discern between good and evil? And I who am appointed to office, who take the place of the Emperor, representing his person, must you reproach me just because I have not known what truth is?” This, then, is the intention of Pilate. He is inflated with pride like a frog and he does not wish to have the reputation of not knowing the difference between good and evil. In fact, we do not see that he waits for the answer of our Lord Jesus, but he throws in this word as if in spite, and leaves the place. Since it is so, then, let us be advised. If today there are many Pilates who refuse to be taught in the school of God and become teachable, as if they were already wise enough, may we not be hindered from placing ourselves under the obedience of faith, in order to accept what our Lord shows and proposes to us; that is, knowing that the truth does not grow in our minds, inasmuch as there is only vanity and falsehood there and we are plunged in darkness until our Lord draws us out of it. Let us recognize, then, that the truth surpasses all our senses and faculties and God must surely be our Master to keep us in it; also that we are little to receive what He shows us. May we hold this truth so precious that, when we shall have circled the heaven and the earth, and it seems that we have learned everything, we may know that it is only smoke and that it will prove ephemeral until we are founded upon this Word, Who is certain and immutable. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember.
Now it is said, “As Pilate was seated upon his throne his wife commanded him not to condemn Jesus Christ, because she had been tormented by many dreams.” There is no doubt that God wished to testify to the innocence of Jesus Christ in many ways; as even by the mouth of Pilate (as already we have mentioned and as we shall see still more fully), not that God had not already concluded what ought to be done by His Only Son. So, since He willed that He be the Sacrifice to wipe out the sins of the world, Scripture had to be fulfilled. Yet our Lord Jesus also had to be proved righteous and innocent, in order that we might know all the better that He suffered the condemnation which was due to us and which we deserved, and that we might always look at our faults and sins in everything that is here told us of the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Whereupon it is said, “Pilate desires to be able to acquit our Lord Jesus.” For although he had sovereign authority beyond appeal, still he was in a foreign country and with a mutinous people, though he had a garrison in the city, the sedition troubled him. That is why he wished to proceed by subtle and amiable means, in order that the people might be appeased. It is then said that he presents what was his custom, “At the feast of the Passover he released a prisoner whom the people willed.” He allows them to choose either Jesus Christ or Barabbas, who was (as says Saint John) a robber. The other Gospel-writers say that he was a well-known malefactor, who had even been a murderer, and had stirred up sedition and trouble in the city. He is a pest who should be detestable to everyone. Yet, nevertheless, the people cry, “Let us have Barabbas, and let him be pardoned, and let Jesus Christ be crucified.”
As for this custom of releasing a prisoner at the Passover, we see where men are led by their foolish devotions. For it surely seemed that the feast was so much better kept by delivering a prisoner, and that it was a service of God. Nevertheless, all that was only an abomination. For it is said that he who justifies the malefactor is just as blameworthy before God as he who punishes the innocent. There must, then, be a sense of equity in those whom God sent and established upon the throne of justice. For in arming them with His sword, He has not said to them, “Do what seems good to you.” He surely wishes that they have a fatherly care over the people and that they guard well against rising in cruelty to do wrong to others by abusing their credit and authority, but rather that they be humane and pitiful. However, evil-doers must be chastised, and so God commands it. But what do men do? They imagine they are keeping the feast of the Passover, when they are offending God and they are transgressing openly His Word. By that we ought to be admonished not to follow our fancies when it is a matter of honoring God, but to please His will in everything and by everything. So then, let us not conjure up any devotion according to what seems good to us, but let us be satisfied to do what God orders us to do and what He approves. We even see what this custom is, which men make law today, that everything that is received as a common statute seems to be lawful. Though that may be, God does not fail to condemn it. We see the abuse that took place, that this corruption brought about — that Barabbas was preferred to the Son of God.
Also at first, one might find it strange that our Lord Jesus is thus cried down and that a robber and murderer is more privileged than He, that he finds more favor among men, and that Jesus Christ has received such shame and disgrace. For was it not enough that the Son of God be crucified and that He endured a kind of death full of opprobrium and that furthermore there were great torments? For death by the cross was, as it were, the punishment of robbers. It was not only like the gallows would be today, but like the wheel. Would it not have been enough, then, that Jesus Christ, after having been whipped and spat upon in the face, should be plunged into the depths, with its being necessary by comparison to show Him to be execrable to all the world? For if we judge by our senses and we do not look beyond what appears, surely we shall be confounded, but we must raise our eyes higher by faith and come to what we have previously mentioned: namely, that God governs all this by His counsel. Let us not stop then with what the people did with Pilate, but let us contemplate this immutable decree of God: that to better humble us He willed that His Son be plunged into complete confusion and that He be put even below all the malefactors of the world, as He was crucified between two robbers, as we shall see later. That, then, is what we have to observe when it is here said that Barabbas had to be set free and Jesus Christ put there, as it were, the most detestable man in the world.
Pilate, even after all that, tries to make our Lord Jesus escape, but by a devilish means: namely, he whips Him (what was then called “chastise”) and wished to release Him after having thus chastised Him, as one who had committed some fault. For by that he pretended to quiet the people. Now if our Lord Jesus had thus escaped, what would have become of the Gospel, what would have become of the salvation of the world? For this “correction” as Pilate called it, might forever have been a mark of shame, as if the Gospel had been a wicked doctrine, since the judge of the country condemned it, and our Lord Jesus in His person would have been entirely rejected. Meanwhile we would have perished, since there was no other means to reconcile us to God, except by the death of His only Son. This, then, is the overture of life — the death of our Lord Jesus. So we see that the devil exerted himself very greatly that our Lord Jesus might not die at all. Yet who drove the Priests and their kind to pursue Jesus Christ to death, unless the devil? It is true, for he works, as it were, like a madman. According as we see that God sends a spirit of disturbance and of frenzy upon all wicked men so that they contradict themselves and are like waves of the sea which beat upon one another, so the devil was carried away when he tried to abolish the memory of our Lord Jesus on the one hand and then, however, wished to prevent the redemption of mankind. But God so worked that He willed that the innocence of His Son might have witness through the very mouth of the judge; however, He also willed nevertheless that He should die in order to make the sacrifice for our salvation and redemption. God has only a single and simple will, but it is admirable to us, and He has such strange ways of proceeding that we must bow our heads in awe and yet recognize that our Lord Jesus suffered, not at all according to the desire of men, but because we had to have such a gage of the infinite love of our God, and Jesus Christ had to declare it to us to show how precious our souls are to Him and how dear is the salvation of them to Him. Let us, then, consider all these things.
Besides, it is said at the end by St. John, although Jesus Christ had been whipped, the people strive still more by crying that He be put to death. Then Pilate questions Him again; indeed, because he heard that Jesus made Himself the Son of God, and this word touches him, and he is more frightened by it than before. That is why he asks Him, “Where are You from?” When Jesus Christ does not answer at all, “Do You not know says he, that I have power to release You or power to condemn You?” Now here we see why the Jews bring such an accusation against our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that the crime which could better move the Governor of the country was having attributed to Himself kingdom and dominion; but when they see that their malice is discovered, and that Pilate well understands that they are only trumped-up lies, thereupon they say, “We have the law by which He ought to die.” For that privilege had been reserved for them, in order that they might not have any religious disputes. For the Romans, who were profane people and who served their idols only through ceremony, wished to maintain their empire by means of letting each one do according to his religion.
Whereupon they say, “He made Himself the Son of God and thereby He blasphemed.” It is true that, if our Lord Jesus had not been the Redeemer of the world, it would have rendered Him subject to the death penalty to make Himself the only Son of God. For we are all children of God when He has adopted us through His grace. That is the common manner of speaking of it in Holy Scripture. Those who have received some special grace are called “Sons of God” in still another manner, as Princes and Magistrates. With greater reason, then, Jesus Christ, Who was supremely anointed with graces and powers by the Holy Spirit, might well be called “Son of God.” But if He had not been Redeemer of the world at all and called Himself “Only Son of God” par excellence, that would truly have been a mortal crime. But how is it that the Jews accuse Him of that? It is first of all by ignorance of the Scripture, inasmuch as they do not know that He Who should be the Redeemer should be the living God manifest. Since, then, they did not have the real understanding of Scripture, and they were not trained in it, but they were made brutish by their indifference, that is why they are so bold to condemn Jesus Christ. Now we see a like temerity in all ignorant people. Today when they cry “Heretic” it is not that the proofs are on hand, but the most block-headed people are driven by such a rage that they wish to be zealots to honor God, and they know neither why nor how. Further, it was necessary to investigate whether Jesus was Christ the Messiah or not. But the Jews rejected Him without making any inquiry. Let us learn by that, if we wish to have a zeal which God approves, we must be ruled by true knowledge and be taught by His Word. For we may be able to skim the surface, but it will be only by wild arguments of Satan, if we do not speak as scholars of God’s truth; because He is the only competent Judge, and He reserves to Himself the office of showing us what is His will. Since it is so, then, let us follow the Word of God with simplicity, and also let us be peaceable. Then may our zeal be ruled by that. That is what we must observe in the first place.
But when it is said that Pilate feared more than ever to hear the Son of God spoken of, here we see in the person of a poor Pagan some semblance of religion which moves him, and stings him, and speaks to his conscience, so that he does not know which way to turn. There stands Jesus Christ entirely disfigured and with the marks of the whipping still upon Him. He had previously suffered so much reproach and ignominy, so many drops of spit, so many blows on the head which had been given to Him in the house of Caiaphas. Briefly, here is a man who is despised and rejected by everyone. Yet, nevertheless, the name of God moves Pontius Pilate and arouses in him fright and astonishment. What of us, then, when we behave like savage beasts? And when one wishes to speak to us of God, if we are not held in check at all, must not the example of Pilate condemn us even to the last day? We see today mockers, people full of the devil. If one proposes to them, “Look what God shows us,” if one declares to them His Word, if one wishes to prove what they reject; one thing is as good as another to them. They stop up their ears, they bind up their eyes, they are entirely preoccupied in their natural senses, and they are so proud that they would not even consider giving any audience. For they are satisfied as they are. “We have ordained it,” they say, “and so it must be done.” Indeed? However, here is Pilate who had never heard a single word of the doctrine of God, even the Law was to him in disdain, so that everything that the Jews do he considers to be something trumped-up, and he adores his idols. Yet the name “God” affects him, and he is held back when it is spoken of. Is it on account of some majesty or some pomp which he sees in Jesus Christ? Not at all. It is only the name “God” which draws him to reverence. How much, then, some people will be condemned by this fear of Pilate, when they follow their beaten path and no progress can be made among them, although the name “God” is spoken of to them, and not only as a word in passing, but offering to teach them and to show them with the finger the testimonies of Scripture! If they condescend neither to think about nor to apply themselves with any diligence, must not the devil possess them entirely? Must they not know that they are as it were monsters, who have abolished every germ of religion, inasmuch as they have made themselves obstinate against God, as it were, defying all nature? That, then, is what we have to remember.
Though that may be, on the contrary we also see that all the fears which men have, and all sentiment and apprehension they have to honor God, will be, as it were, only a flash of lightning which passes before their eyes and immediately vanishes. For how did Pilate fear God? We see that it does not grip him at all, that he only shows such a great pride, that it seems to him that God is no longer anything. That, then, is how all those who are not governed by the Spirit of God will have on the one hand some fears by which they are seized, so that they will humble themselves for a time before God, but they do not cease to raise their horns, then to forget, and to dull their consciences to do evil. As we see in Pharaoh that sometimes he is quite astonished. “And pray to God for me,.” he says. And when he sees the power of God so apparent, “Oh, it is the finger of God,” he says, “one must be subject to Him.” But soon after he is worse than ever. Thus, then, it was with Pilate. This admonishes us not to have any fears of God like gusts of wind, but to have a good root which remains firm in our hearts. For how is it that Pilate feared God? It is only to render him more inexcusable. That is why God awakens the sleeping consciences, which wish to reject every yoke, and He brings them back and incites them to think of themselves more closely, so that in spite of themselves they must recognize their poverty and feel their vices, although they wish to sleep in them. All the scruples, then, which condemners of God and all wicked men have — these are to be regarded as summonses which God issues to take away from them every excuse of ignorance. But then they slacken the reins, they throw themselves with abandon, and so they are in no wise held back — as we see in Pilate. At the beginning he is quite astonished, but soon afterwards he goes back to his natural self. “And do you not know,” he says to Jesus Christ, “that I have power to release you or to condemn you.” Here let us note first of all, if He had been a robber, nevertheless, he would not have been able to move a finger unless God had given him the power. How is it, then, that Pilate dares to assume such unbounded license as to condemn and to set free according to his desire and by virtue of his position? For it would be better that the check be released from all robbers and that they had liberty to exercise their cruelty in the forests than for people to sit on such an honorable throne — people who take pleasure in power without thinking of their consciences and meanwhile throwing the world into entire confusion. Here we see (as I have shown) that there was no living root in Pilate, but only a gust of wind. So then, let us learn to so fear God that there may be a firm constancy in us to walk in His obedience, and that we may fight virtuously against everything that could turn us aside, and that always this check may hold us back: that it is not fitting to provoke the wrath of Him Who has all power over us. That, in summary, is what we have to remember.
However, also there is to consider how the glory which Pilate attributes to himself is nevertheless a great shame upon him. For his enemies could have reproached him no worse than this: namely, that he wishes to he held and reputed to have no discrimination between good and evil. Nevertheless he boasts of it. We see, then, inasmuch as the despisers of God imagine themselves to be raised, they must always feel themselves to be further cast down in confusion. God puts in them such a sense of disapproval that they boast of their iniquities in order to render themselves detestable both in heaven and on earth. What, then, is to be done? Let us learn to glory in the good, and let us consider what is lawful for us. For those who glory in their greatness, it is certain that they provoke God, inasmuch as they have often acquired their riches and their credit by unlawful means, by excess, by cruelty, and all kinds of extortion’s. When, then, they glory in that, it is, as it were, by defying God. He who has plundered from all parts will say, “I have done well.” And there is the blood of poor people which he has sucked. He will say, “I have acquired it.” And how? By frauds, wicked practices, pillaging one, gobbling up another, and having perverted all order. The other through ambition and unlawful means will have arrived at some dignity. Whereupon he wishes to be held in awe. This is manifestly to defy God.
Let us learn, then, (as I have already said) to glory in what God approves. It is true that although there might be some good in us, it is not lawful to usurp the praise which God reserves to Himself, and on account of which we must pay Him homage, inasmuch as He has given us everything. It is not proper, then, here to glory in ourselves, as if what God gives us belonged to us. But I say we must glory only in that it pleased God to adopt us for His children, and inasmuch as He gives us grace to walk in fear of Him, inasmuch as He gives us power to abstain from evil. In that we must glory. Then, if we are little and contemptible according to the world, let us pray that He may give us patience, and that we may prefer to be in such an estate than to be raised and meanwhile to enjoy ourselves like worldly people do, who make merry in such a way that nothing can restrain them. This, in summary, is how we have to glory, that is, that we may not wish to be more than God allows us, and that we may despise everything He disapproves of, although the world may applaud those who exercise tyranny and who practice every evil to excess. Let us leave, then, easily and willingly all such glories, not seeking anything else except to be recognized and confessed before God as His children. That, in summary, is what we still have to remember.
In conclusion it is said, “Pilate, seeing that he was gaining nothing and that the tumult among the people was increasing, washes his hands and says, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this man.’” We have already declared that the innocence of our Lord Jesus had to be proved and it was testified to through the mouth of the judge himself. For when it is said that Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate and that He was condemned, it is not enough to have heard the account, but we must be fully aware that Jesus Christ not only is innocent, but that He is the fountain of all holiness and perfection. Why, then, is He condemned? There are here two different things, it seems. It is said that He is the Lamb of God without spot. Since He is the Lamb of God, He must be condemned for the sacrifice. The word “Lamb” implies that He is to be offered. And what does the Law pronounce of sacrifices? That they stand for sins and curses. That is why it is said that our Lord Jesus was accursed for our sakes, that is, that He received the curse which was due to our sins. This, then, is the quality and condition under which He is condemned, since God appointed Him as a lamb which must be offered in sacrifice. But also He had to be known without any blemish, and His purity had to come before our eyes, in order that we might understand our sins, as far as we have known that Jesus Christ is the mirror of all perfection; and that we might enter into examination of our faults to be displeased with them and to pass condemnation, which was prepared for us unless we had been delivered by Him. Now when Pilate took the basin and the water to wash his hands, it was far too frivolous a ceremony, as if he could be acquitted before God by that. But it was not to make his excuse before God when he tried to appease the fury of the people. For he did not protest before God that he was innocent, but he only said to the people, “Look to yourselves. As for me, I am innocent.” As if he said, “You force me to this.” But all that (as I have said) is not to excuse him. Also he is not performing at all the office of judge. For he ought sooner to die a hundred times than to swerve from his office. When he saw all the troubles of the world, he ought to have this magnanimity to do what he knew to be good and just. But when he sees the people to be so inflamed, he lets himself be carried away. However, it had to be, cursed as it was, that he testifies to the innocence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that from his own mouth he justifies Him. Nevertheless, that does not excuse him from condemnation, but in that rests our consolation. For we know that if we should be brought before God today to appear before His throne, it would not be to receive condemnation; but since the fact that the blood of our Lord Jesus was spilled is the true purging of our souls, He receives us as pure and clean.
There, then, is where we. must have our recourse. However, we see the word which is pronounced by the Jews. For they are flung headlong in such a way by Satan that they say, “His blood be upon us and upon all our children.” Now they were the heritage of God, the people elected and chosen from among all the nations of the earth. Yet they renounce this dignity, and all the promises of salvation, this sacred alliance which God had established with their line. They are, then, deprived of all the benefits that God had previously distributed to them, inasmuch as they were descended from the race of Abraham. And the blood of our Lord Jesus had to fall upon them, indeed, to the confounding of them and all their descendants. As also He had previously declared to them,
“Your iniquity must come to the full, and the blood of the Martyrs, from Abel the righteous even to Zacharias son of Barachias, who was murdered not long ago, must be brought upon you, and you must see that you were always murderers of the Prophets, and by this means you have fought against God and against His Word.” (Matthew 23:34-36, Luke 11:49-51, 2 Chronicles 36:15-16.)
That, then, is how the blood of our Lord Jesus, which ought to be the salvation of all the world, and indeed especially of the Jews, since the birthright belonged to them, cried vengeance against them. But now let us learn to look deep inside ourselves, and to pray to God that it may come upon us in another manner, both upon us and, in particular, upon our children; namely, may we be washed and cleansed, seeing that we are abominable before God on account of our sins until we are washed and we suffer that the blood which was once poured out for our Redemption come upon us and that thereby we are sprinkled by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2) (so says Saint Peter in his Canonical letter) and may we be careful not to reject the grace which is offered to us by God, of which the Jews have been deprived because of their ingratitude, and have done nothing but provoke more and more His vengeance. May we, then, today be disposed to receive the purging of our Lord Jesus Christ, which cannot be apprehended except by faith. May we pray to God that we may not have received this washing in vain, but from day to day may we be purified from all our blemishes. May it please our God to make the most of this purity which was acquired by our Lord Jesus Christ until we have arrived in His Kingdom, where we shall be freed from all corruption’s of our vices.
Now we shall bow in humble reverence before the majesty of our God.