ON OUR LORD’S BEING LED AWAY TO PILATE
Consider first, how the high priest and his fellows in iniquity (notwithstanding their late sitting up at night), very early in the morning convene a more numerous assembly of the Sanhedrim or great council, to carry on and to bring to execution their wicked designs against the Son of God. Alas! how often are the children of this world more industrious in rising early to wickedness, than the servants of God to advance his glory and their own eternal salvation! Here our Lord is again brought before them, and the question is put to him again: ‘Art thou the Christ, the Son of God?’ And upon his answering again in the affirmative, they all renew their former sentence, and declare him worthy of death. But see the depth of the malice of these unhappy men against the Lord of Life, which will not suffer them to be content with putting him to death privately, or with stoning him, as they afterwards did St. Stephen, or with any other ordinary death; but they must needs have him die upon a Cross, as being the most disgraceful and at the same time the most cruel of all deaths; and therefore, as they could not of their own authority inflict this kind of death, they determined to deliver him up to Pilate the governor, in order to his being crucified by him. See what envy and malice is capable of when once they have taken possession of the soul; and remember withal that their envy and malice could not make the Son of God suffer any thing more than what his infinite charity had freely made choice of to suffer for the love of thee. Blessed be that infinite charity for evermore, which has freely chosen so disgraceful and so cruel a death for our redemption from sin and hell!
Consider 2ndly, the manner of their conducting our Lord to Pilate, through the streets, lined with an immense multitude of people, assembled at Jerusalem upon occasion of the paschal solemnity. Hear how they publish all the way as they go that now they had found him to be a cheat and a hypocrite, had discovered all his impostures, and convicted him, by his own confession, of blasphemy, and therefore had condemned him to die. See how the people, who a little while before reverenced him as a Prophet, are now all changed in his regard and join with his enemies. O see what a wretched figure he makes in their hands, after the treatment he had received in the night: see how his enemies take occasion from thence to triumph and to insult over him, and how his friends grow cold and are ashamed of him. O, my soul, do thou at least follow thy Lord with compassion and love in the way that he walks for thy redemption; a painful and humble way indeed, and quite opposite to the ways the world is fond of, and distasteful to flesh and blood; but O! how wholesome to all such souls as willingly embrace them and follow them in the company of Jesus Christ!
Consider 3rdly, how the high priest and the rest of the council being come to Pilate’s house, made a scruple of going in for fear of contracting a legal uncleanness that might disqualify them from partaking of the sacrifices that were offered on that day – it being the very day of the feast of the Passover, celebrated in memory of their redemption from the bondage of Egypt. And yet, unhappy men, whilst they scruple going into the house of a Gentile, for fear of an uncleanness that could only reach the body, they are not afraid of polluting their souls with the most heinous of all crimes, and profaning thereby the greatest of all their solemnities. But what are men not capable of when they suffer themselves to be hurried away by their passions! But see the wonderful providence of God! whilst they, on their part, are so bent upon their wickedness that no other day will serve their turn but the very day of their sacrificing the paschal lamb, without thinking or designing it they are concurring as instruments to bring about the merciful designs of God for the redemption of the whole world, by the sacrifice of the true Paschal Lamb on that same day, of which their yearly Passover was an illustrious figure.
Conclude to beware of thy passions, which, if indulged, are capable of blinding thee to that degree as to pervert the greatest good into evil. And on the other side, embrace and love the wonderful ways of Divine Providence, which so often draws the greatest good out of the greatest evils.