THURSDAY, FOURTH WEEK IN LENT
ON OUR LORD’S BEING BROUGHT BEFORE ANNAS AND CAIAPHAS
Consider first, how the rabble that had apprehended our Saviour, having dragged him into the city with loud shouts and cries, brought him first before Annas, one of the chief priests, to give him the pleasure of seeing the prisoner, and of exulting over him. Go in, my soul, with him, and see the Son of God, the Judge of the living and the dead, standing with his hands tied behind him before this insolent Jewish priest. Hear the impertinent questions he puts to him concerning his disciples and his doctrine, and admire the courage, meekness, and evenness of soul which thy Saviour shows in his whole comportment on this occasion. See how he suffers even a vile servant not only to rebuke him in words, for his modest and just answer, but also to strike him on the face before all the company; an affront which, if offered to the meanest of men, would be thought insupportable by the children of this world; but our great Master has taught us, both by word and example, that true courage consists in bearing and not in revenging injuries. And surely nothing can be more honourable to a Christian than to walk in the footsteps of his King, and keep his laws.
Consider 2ndly, how our Saviour, bound as he was, is hurried away with the like shouts and insolences from Annas to the house of Caiphas, the high priest, where the senate or council was assembled, determined to destroy him, right or wrong; and therefore, notwithstanding it was now late at night, they immediately proceeded to his trial, and to the examining the witnesses, of whom they had provided a good store, to depose against this innocent Lamb of God. Christians, what shall we most admire on this occasion – the malice of the enemies of our Saviour and the gross falsehoods they impose upon him, or the force of truth and the wonderful innocence of our Lord, which would not suffer their testimonies to be of any weight against him, even in the judgment of so partial and so wicked a court? But what is the most admirable of all is that invincible meekness and patience, that perfect peace and tranquillity of soul, with which our Lord suffered in silence to hear himself charged by these wicked impostors with so many false crimes, tending to rob him both of his honour and his life! O surely one must be more than man to be silent on such occasions! Learn at least, thou my soul, from this silence of thy Saviour not to be so excessively nice with regard to thy honour; and if thou must speak in defence of thy own innocence, see thou do it with that calmness and modesty that becomes a disciple of such a Master. A noisy and passionate defence will only make thy cause worse, and will rob thee of thy peace, which is a more valuable good than any thing the world can either give or take away.
Consider 3rdly, how the high priest, finding his evidences did not agree in their story, stood up and adjured our Saviour by the living God, to tell them if he was indeed the Christ, the Son of God? Our Lord, in reverence to his Father’s name, and to give testimony to that capital truth, the great foundation of the Christian religion, which he came to seal with his blood, immediately answered that he was, and that hereafter they should see him sitting on the right hand of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Christians, give thanks to your Saviour for this solemn profession of what he was, though standing now in the midst of enemies determined not to believe him. They rejected and condemned the grand truth to their own condemnation; do you embrace and adore it for your salvation. Upon this open declaration of his divinity the high priest rends his garments and cries out ‘blasphemy!’ and they all with one voice condemn him to death. See, my soul, the Saint of Saints traduced now as a blasphemer, and the Author of Life judged worthy of death; and this by the whole council of the priests and ancients of his people; and learn thou henceforward not to be so much concerned about the judgment of the world: if it condemns thee wrongfully, what wonder, since it has condemned Christ himself; he was innocence itself; whereas thy sins deserve other kinds of punishment than the world can condemn thee to.
Conclude, in opposition to this unjust sentence given against the Lamb of God, to join with all the heavenly Spirits, and with all the Elect of God, in that solemn canticle, Apoc. v. 12. ‘The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction.’ But learn withal, from his great example, when thou art called to the trial never to be ashamed of him, nor his truth, though thou wert even to lay down thy life with him and for him.