SATURDAY IN PASSION WEEK
OUR LORD IS CONDEMNED TO THE CROSS
Consider first, how the Jews perceiving that Pilate was bent upon releasing our Saviour, told him that if he released that man he could be no friend of Caesar, (the emperor,) for whosoever made himself a king opposed Caesar. (John xix. 12.) See here, my soul, what evils human respects are capable of producing, and how sad a thing it is, either to fear or to love any thing more than God. Pilate’s resolution in a moment falls to the ground, upon the apprehension of being accused before Caesar, and of losing his favour; rather than risk this, he is determined to make a sacrifice of his conscience in condemning the innocent. Alas! have we never had a share in the like guilt? Has not human fear, or the apprehension of what the world would say, too often influenced us to condemn, at least in fact, our Lord and his doctrine by mortal sin? Has not a much less consideration than the fear of losing the favour of an emperor, prevailed on these occasions over our best resolutions? O what hold do we give to the enemy by these human fears, and by our irregular affections to this cheating world! But see the vain excuses by which men seek to palliate the guilt of their sins, and to save their conscience. Pilate washes his hands and cries out, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just man – look you to it,’ Matt. xxvii. 24; as if this ceremony and verbal declaration could clear him, in the sight of the just judge, from the guilt of concurring in the death of the innocent. But see also into what dismal extremities unhappy souls cast themselves when they are once obstinately bent upon sin, in that dreadful sentence which the Jews pronounced against themselves on that occasion:‘His blood be upon us and upon our children!’
Consider 2ndly, how Pilate proceeds to give judgment of death against the Lord of life, and sentences our Saviour to the cross in compliance with the cry of the whole people, who still call out in a tumultuous manner, ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’ But O! my soul, reflect that it was the voice of thy crying sins that far more effectually called for the death of the Son of God than the cry of the Jews; for that tumult could have had no power to bring on his crucifixion, had not he been determined to suffer this kind of death for the expiation of thy sins. But see with what loud huzzas, with what triumph and joy, this sentence is received by the enemies of our Lord – and with what sighs and tears, with what grief and anguish by his friends, and most especially by his blessed mother. But how does this Lamb of God behave on this occasion? In what manner does he receive this sentence of death? He receives it in silence and peace, with perfect submission and conformity to the will of his Father: he receives it even with joy out of his infinite charity for us, as the only means of our redemption and salvation. See, my soul, whether thou submittest to thy crosses with the like dispositions. Dost thou embrace them as the means of divine appointment to bring thee to heaven?
Consider 3rdly, that this sentence of death pronounced against our Lord was an act of the highest injustice on the part of Pilate; but highly just on the part of God in consideration of our sins, which his Son had taken upon himself. And therefore our Saviour, who is infinitely holy, could not indeed but abhor the crime of Pilate, though he suffered it; but as the judgment and sentence of his Father he embraced it as being most holy and just; he bowed down and adored it with all the powers of his soul; to teach us and all that desire to be his disciples to distinguish, on the like occasions when we have any thing to suffer from others, between man’s injustice and God’s justice, and to receive our sufferings, from what hand soever they come, and how unjustly soever, as highly just on the part of God, punishing us by those instruments for our sins.
Conclude with thanksgiving to the infinite charity of the Father, who, for the love of us, spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, and sentenced him to die; and to the infinite charity of the Son, for embracing so cordially this sentence of death for the love of us. Make an oblation in return of thy whole self, both to the Father and to the Son, and desire henceforward to live only for him who has delivered himself up to death for the love of thee.