Ellen G. White Writings

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The Youth’s Instructor

February 1, 1900

Christ Before Pilate

“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: and when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”

The priests and rulers were prepared to place themselves in a false position in order to sustain their charges against Christ. The Jews were bitter opponents of the Roman power, they hated Caesar's rule and supremacy; but to gain their end, they professed to be his loyal subjects. They had no conscience, no pure principles. When it was safe for them to be so, they were most tyrannical in their church requirements: when they aimed to bring about some purpose of cruelty, they exalted the power of Caesar. The world was gone after Christ, they declared, and all men would believe in him if he was permitted to live.

“They began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.”

These charges were wholly at variance with the appearance of Christ, and Pilate did not believe them. “He knew that for envy they had delivered him.” To all their accusations Christ had 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 marveled greatly.” The eloquent silence, the patience and serenity maintained by Jesus throughout the condemnation, had a different effect on the several actors. The same meekness and patience that spoke conviction to Pilate, excited satanic hatred in the hearts of the Jews.

“Art thou the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked. “Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 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. Pilate therefore said 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 the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and said unto them, I find in him no fault at all. 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? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them. Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid.” He went again into the judgment hall, and said to Jesus, “Whence art thou?” Jesus gave him no answer. “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him.”

“He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Christ here referred to Caiaphas, who, as high priest, represented the Jewish nation. Caiaphas knew the principles that controlled the Roman authorities. He had had light in the prophecies and in the written word, which testified of Christ; and according to his light, he would be judged.

The words of Christ filled Pilate with awe. He feared the results of his course of action. He had boasted of his power to crucify Christ or to release him, according to his view of the matter. But when he considered that this man was connected with the highest authority the world ever knew, he was afraid. He thought that he could on his own authority let Christ go forth uncondemned. But the Jews cried out, saying, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”

This threat increased the guilt of the Jewish nation before God. They were determined to accomplish their purpose. To gratify their envy, and get rid of Jesus, they placed themselves in a false position, professing loyalty to a ruler whom they hated. To have complaint of him go from the priests and rulers to Caesar was more than Pilate dared risk. To have them impeach his course of action might forfeit for him his place and authority. Therefore Pilate yielded up to the will of his enemies the One whom he had pronounced without fault. Christ was again scourged.

Again Pilate took his place on the judgment-seat. He had made his decision. In mockery he presented Jesus to them, saying, “Behold your King.” But the mad cry was raised, “Crucify him, crucify him.” In a voice that was heard far and near, Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify your King?” But the loud, ringing, awful cry came from profane, blasphemous lips, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Though Pilate had given Christ over to the will of the infuriated mob, he was not willing to take upon himself the responsibility of his act. In an imposing manner he took water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” Priests, scribes, and rulers answered, “His blood be on us and on our children.”

What was Christ's grief to see the Jews fixing their own destiny beyond redemption! He alone could comprehend the significance of their rejection, betrayal, and condemnation of the Son of God. His last hope for the Jewish nation was gone. Nothing could avert her doom. By the representatives of the nation God was denied as their ruler. By worlds unfallen, by the whole heavenly universe, the blasphemous utterance was heard, “We have no king but Caesar.” The God of heaven heard their choice. He had given them opportunity to repent, and they would not. Forty years afterward Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Roman power ruled over the people. Then they had no deliverer. They had no king but Caesar. Henceforth the Jewish nation, as a nation, was as a branch severed from the vine,—a dead, fruitless branch, to be gathered up and burned,—from land to land throughout the world, from century to century, dead,—dead in trespasses and sins,—without a Saviour!

Mrs. E. G. White

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