Page images
PDF
EPUB

say unto

power, in the

Nevertheless, or moreover,

I you, Hereafter shall ye see, rather

ye shall soon see, the son of man sitting* on the right hand of power, i. e, of the divine power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

What is here called the right hand of parallel place in Luke is, the right hand of the power of God; Luke xxii. 69. The right hand is well known to be the highest post of honour in the courts of princes: to sit therefore at the right hand of the divine power, is to be honoured in the highest manner by the power of God. So.that when Christ speaks of himself in this passage, as speedily to be seen by the Jews in the clouds of heaven, he means no more than that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be as severely punished, on account of the sufferings which they inflicted upon him, as if they were to see him coming in the clouds of heaven for that purpose. There is a considerable resemblance between these words of Christ, and his language upon another occasion, Matt. xxiv. 30, when, foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, he says, then shall they see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.

65. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath” spoken blasphemy.

Blasphemy properly signifies words injurious to God: in this light did the high priest regard the declaration of Christ, that he was the Messiah; and not without reason, if that declaration were ill founded: for to assume the character of a divine messenger, and a right to speak in his name, are pretensions which, if false, would be highly dishonourable to God. The malice and inconsistency of the high priest appear, in first adjuring Jesus to declare whether he were the Messiah, as if he Wished for information, and then making the avowal of it the ground of a charge of blasphemy.

* That is, Him whom ye do not seem willing to acknowledge under

any other and higher character. Amner. p. 64. note.

The high priest was forbidden by the law of Moses to rend his ciothes: Lev. xxi. 10. But that prohibition was probably limited to funeral cases: in other instances he might be allowed to indulge himself in this usual expression of sorrow amongst eastern nations.

What further need have we of witnesses ? Behold now ye have heard his blasphemy.

66. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death, or guilty of a crime deserving of death *.

The Jews had no power, at this time, of executing a sentence of death: but they still maintained the forms of judicial proceedings; and when a criminal was condemned, abandoned him, it seems, to all kind of ill useve, after the manner of the most barbarous nations, as appears by what follows.

67. Then did they, i.e. they who held and guarded him, spit in his face, and buffeted him, struck him with their fists upon the head, and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

68. Saying, Prophecy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee?

That is, Tell us without seeing (for Christ was at this time blindfolded) roho it is that smote thee. Prophets were enabled not only to foretel future events, as their name properly signifies, but likewise to know other things beyond the reach of human sagacity t. By ask

* He is guilty of blasphemy, for which, by our law, he ought to die.

Lev. xxiv. 16. + 2 Kings, vi. 12.

ing Christ therefore these questions, while his face was covered, they ridiculed his pretensions to the character of a prophet.

REFLECTIONS.

1. We have here a melancholy example of the depravity of human nature, in the conduct of Christ's judges: instead of waiting to receive the testimony of others; instead of carefully sifting their evidence in order to discover whether they spoke the truth, or were actuated by malice; they invite men to accuse him: they accept of their testimony without examination: they suggest false evidence by their manner of propos: ing questions to the witnesses; and when, notwithstanding these artifices, it was not sufficient for answering their malicious purpose, they oblige the prisoner himself to speak, in order that they may obtain a pretext for condemning him, from his own lips, How unworthy is such conduct of a Jewish council, sitting in judgment upon the life of a prisoner! How unworthy of the Jewish high priest, a chief magistrate and minister of religion! After beholding every principle of humanity and justice violated, in the treatment of the prisoner, without concern, in vain is it that he pretends to be shocked with blasphemy, and rends his garments from affected concern for the honour of God: it is not a zeal for religion that he feels; but it is the unhallowed warmth of envy and malice, which kindles his passions. Such hypocritical advocates for the honour of God are surely more odious than the professed libertine, who openly acknowledges his contempt of him.

2. How honourable is this trial to the character of Jesus! Had he always exercised his miraculous powers, and been surrounded by a numerous train of friends and followers, it might have been said, that there were many things exceptionable in his conduct, but that no one dared to impeach it, through fear of experiencing his own resentment, or that of the multitude. But behold him now in the hands of his enemies, entirely deserted by his friends, and suspending the exercise of his divinę gifts: he is a friendless prisoner at the bar of the Jewish Sanhedrim, without any one to plead his cause or defend his character. Those who should have shielded him from false testimony, call for, and encourage it; but what do these encouragements and advantages, on the part of his enemies, produce? Nothing but a charge, by a gross perversion of his words, of an intention to destroy the temple. How fair must the character of Jesus have been, which remained unaspersed in such circumstances!

3. The discretion, composure and meekness of Jesus are worthy of admiration. Amidst false accusations and manifest injustice, he observed a strict silence. Fersons of less self command would have been violently agitated in such circumstances : they would have uttered violent exclamations against the malice of their accusers, and the partiality of their judges. But the meek and lowly Jesus bears all with perfect composure: he sees the whole scene of iniquity which is passing before him, without being transported into one intemperate expression : he maintained an expressive silence, which conveyed his sentiments more forcibly than if he had spoken. While he thus supported the dignity of his own character, he fulfilled the language of prophecy, which said of him, as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. When he does speak, it is to avail himself of an opportunity of solemnly asserting his claims to the character of the Messiah, and to avoid the imputation to which his silence might be liable: this was an opportunity of doing good which he could not decline, although he knew that it would afford his enemies occasion to accuse him of a capital crime.

Let the disciples of Christ, after the example of their master, be ready to profess the truth, and to give a reason of the hope that is in them, on every proper orcasion; whatever the consequences may be with regard

to themselves. But let them also learn from him, that the best method of treating some accusations is not to notice them : they are so evidently false and malicious that they may safely leave them to time and the cool consideration of mankind, to refute.

Lastly, how affecting is it to behold our Lord and master in such humiliating circumstances; to see him in the hands of a wanton mob of enemies; to see him exposed to the degrading insult of being spit upon, struck upon the head with the fist, slapped on the face with the palm of the hand; and is it possible that he whose behaviour was so mild and unoffending, that he who delivered such excellent instructions, which charmed the hearts even of his enemies, that he who performed so many beneficent miracles, and was a friend to all the distressed; is it possible that he who was transfigured upon the mount, and honoured so often with a voice from heaven, declaring him the favourite of God, should be exposed to such brutal usage, and receive such un, worthy returns ? How mysterious are the ways of Providence! How unsuitable are its plans to our wishes and expectations !

Let no one be surprised, after this, to see the most excellent characters treated with scorn and insult : let no one complain of ungrateful returns from those whom he has endeavoured to serve.

Matt. xxvi. 69. to the end. Matt. xxvii. 1..--10.

1

69. Now Peter sat without, in the palace, rather court, and a damsel, one of the maid servants, came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

What is here translated, a palace, was properly a court before the house, or a place surrounded with a wall, but open to the sky; hither Peter had followed his master, from affection to him, and curiosity to see the issue. Christ is called Jesus of Galilee, because

« PreviousContinue »