Here we have, I. A consultation held by the great Sanhedrim for the effectual prosecution of our Lord Jesus. They met early in the morning about it, and went into a grand committee, to find out ways and means to get him put to death; they lost no time, but followed their blow in good earnest, lest there should be an uproar among the people. The unwearied industry of wicked people in doing that which is evil, should shame us for our backwardness and slothfulness in that which is good. They that war against Christ and thy soul, are up early; How long then wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?
II. The delivering of him up a prisoner to Pilate; they bound him. He was to be the great sacrifice, and sacrifices must be bound with cords, Ps. 118:27. Christ was bound, to make bonds easy to us, and enable us, as Paul and Silas, to sing in bonds. It is good for us often to remember the bonds of the Lord Jesus, as bound with him who was bound for us. They led him through the streets of Jerusalem, to expose him to contempt, who, while he taught in the temple, but a day or two before, was had in veneration; and we may well imagine how miserably he looked after such a night’s usage as he had had; so buffeted, spit upon, and abused. Their delivering him to the Roman power was a type of ruin of their church, which hereby they merited, and brought upon themselves; it signified that the promise, the covenant, and the oracles, of God, and the visible state church, which were the glory of Israel, and had been so long in their possession, should now be delivered up to the Gentiles. By delivering up the king they do, in effect, deliver up the kingdom of God, which is therefore, as it were, by their own consent, taken from them, and given to another nation. If they had delivered up Christ, to gratify the desires of the Romans, or to satisfy and jealousies of theirs concerning him, it had been another matter; but they voluntarily betrayed him that was Israel’s crown, to them that were Israel’s yoke.
III. The examining of him by Pilate upon interrogatories (Mark 15:2); “Art thou the king of the Jews? Dost thou pretend to be so, to be that Messiah whom the Jews expect as a temporal prince?”—“Yea,” saith Christ, “it is as thou sayest, I am that Messiah, but not such a one as they expect.” He is the king that rules and protects his Israel according to the spirit, who are Jews inwardly by the circumcision of the spirit, and the king that will restrain and punish the carnal Jews, who continue in unbelief.
IV. The articles of impeachment exhibited against him, and his silence under the charge and accusation. The chief priests forgot the dignity of their place, when they turned informers, and did in person accuse Christ of many things (Mark 15:3), and witness against him, Mark 15:4. Many of the Old-Testament prophets charge the priests of their times with great wickedness, in which well did they prophesy of these priests; see Ezek. 22:26; Hos. 5:1; 6:9; Mic. 3:11; Zeph. 3:4; Mal. 1:6; 2:8. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans is said to be for the iniquity of the priests that shed the blood of the just, Lam. 4:13. Note, Wicked priests are generally the worst of men. The better any thing is, the worse it is when it is corrupted. Lay persecutors have been generally found more compassionate than ecclesiastics. These priests were very eager and noisy in their accusation; but Christ answered nothing, Mark 15:3. When Pilate urged him to clear himself, and was desirous he should (Mark 15:4), yet still he stood mute (Mark 15:5), he answered nothing, which Pilate thought very strange. He gave Pilate a direct answer (Mark 15:2), but would not answer the prosecutors and witnesses, because the things they alleged, were notoriously false, and he knew Pilate himself was convinced they were so. Note, As Christ spoke to admiration, so he kept silence to admiration.
V. The proposal Pilate made to the people, to have Jesus released to them, since it was the custom of the feast to grace the solemnity with the release of one prisoner. The people expected and demanded that he should do as he had ever done to them (Mark 15:8); it was not an ill usage, but they would have it kept up. Now Pilate perceived that the chief priests delivered up Jesus for envy, because he had got such a reputation among the people as eclipsed theirs, Mark 15:10. It was easy to see, comparing the eagerness of the prosecutors with the slenderness of the proofs, that it was not his guilt, but his goodness, not any thing mischievous or scandalous, but something meritorious and glorious, that they were provoked at. And therefore, hearing how much he was the darling of the crowd, he thought that he might safely appeal from the priests to the people, and that they would be proud of rescuing him out of the priests’ hands; and he proposed an expedient for their doing it without danger of an uproar; let them demand him to be released, and Pilate will be ready to do it, and stop the mouths of the priests with this—that the people insisted upon his release. There was indeed another prisoner, one Barabbas, that had an interest, and would have some votes; but he questioned not but Jesus would out-poll him.
VI. The unanimous outrageous clamours of the people have Christ put to death, and particularly to have him crucified. It was a great surprise to Pilate, when he found the people so much under the influence of the priests, that they all agreed to desire that Barabbas might be released, Mark 15:11. Pilate opposed it all he could; “What will ye that I shall do to him whom ye call the King of the Jews? Would not ye then have him released too?” Mark 15:12. No, say they, Crucify him. The priests having put that in their mouths, the insist upon it; when Pilate objected, Why, what evil has he done? (a very material question in such a case), they did not pretend to answer it, but cried out more exceedingly, as they were more and more instigated and irritated by the priests, Crucify him, crucify him. Now the priests, who were very busy dispersing themselves and their creatures among the mob, to keep up the cry, promised themselves that it would influence Pilate two ways to condemn him. 1. It might incline him to believe Christ guilty, when there was so general an out-cry against him. “Surely,” might Pilate think, “he must needs be a bad man, whom all the world is weary of.” He would now conclude that he had been misinformed, when he was told what an interest he had in the people, and that the matter was not so. But the priest had hurried on the prosecution with so much expedition, that we may suppose that they who were Christ’s friends, and would have opposed this cry, were at the other end of the town, and knew nothing of the matter. Note, It has been the common artifice of Satan, to put Christ and his religion into an ill name, and so to run them down. When once this sect, as they called it, comes to be every where spoken against, though without cause, then that is looked upon as cause enough to condemn it. But let us judge of persons and things by their merits, and the standard of God’s word, and not prejudge by common fame and the cry of the country. 2. It might induce him to condemn Christ, to please the people, and indeed for fear of displeasing them. Though he was not so weak as to be governed by their opinion, to believe him guilty, yet he was so wicked as to be swayed by their outrage, to condemn him, though he believed him innocent; induced thereunto by reasons of state, and the wisdom of the world. Our Lord Jesus dying as a sacrifice for the sins of many, he fell a sacrifice to the rage of many.