When the morning came, the priests met once more with all the chief Jews, and said Jesus must die. But the Jews could not put anyone to death. The Romans would not allow it. So they took Jesus to the Roman governor, whose name was Pontius Pilate.
When Judas saw that the priests had made up their minds to kill Jesus, he began to feel very unhappy. He did not care for the money now. He came to the Temple, and brought it back to the priest, and said, 'It was very wrong of me to give Jesus up to you. He had done nothing wrong.' But their hearts were as hard as stone. They said to Judas, 'What is that to us? See thou to that.' Then Judas had no hope left. He flung the thirty pieces of silver down in the Court of the Priests, and went and hung himself. But oh! what a pity that he did not go to Jesus and ask Jesus to forgive him, instead of going to the priests! Jesus is a good, kind, loving Master. When we do wrong, if we are very sorry, like Peter, and will come and ask Jesus, He will forgive us. For
'THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST, GOD'S SON, CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN.'
Pilate took Jesus inside his splendid palace, away from the Jews, and asked Him, 'Art thou a King then?'
'Yes,' Jesus said, 'but My kingdom is not of this world. I came into this world to teach people the truth. That is the reason I was born.'
'What is truth?' said Pilate. But he did not wait for an answer. He went out again to the Jews.
When the Jews saw Pilate again, they began to tell him lies which they had been making up about Jesus. And Jesus stood by and said nothing. Presently Pilate said to Jesus, 'See what a number of things they are saying against you. Have you nothing to say?'
But Jesus did not answer one single word, and Pilate was greatly surprised. He felt sure that the quiet prisoner was right and that the Jews were wrong; and he said to the priests and to the people, 'I find in Him no fault at all.'
It was the custom for Pilate at Passover time to set free from prison any one prisoner the people liked to ask for. So Pilate said to the crowd, 'Shall I let Jesus go?' Then the priests told the people what to say, and they shouted, 'Not this man, but Barabbas.'
Pilate wanted very much to let Jesus go, and he said, 'What shall I do then with Jesus?'
The crowd shouted, 'Let Him be crucified! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'
'Why,' said Pilate, 'what has He done wrong? He does not deserve to die. I will scourge Him and let Him go.'
Then the people cried out more loudly than ever, 'Let Him be crucified! Crucify Him!'
But Pilate did not want to be shouted at for five or six days and nights again. And, besides, he rather wanted to please the Jews if he could, because he had done many things to vex them; so he thought, 'I will do what they wish.' But first he had a basin of water brought, and he washed his hands before all the people, and said, 'I have nothing to do with the blood of this good Man. See ye to it.' And all the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us, and on our children.' Sometimes now, when we don't want to have anything to do with a thing, we say, 'I wash my hands of it.' But Pilate did have something to do with the death of Jesus, and water would not wash away that sin.
And at last, wishing to please them, Pilate had Barabbas brought out of prison, and gave Jesus up to be beaten. The Roman soldiers seized Jesus, and took off His clothes and put a scarlet dress on Him, to imitate the Emperor's purple robe; and they twisted pieces of a thorny plant which grows round Jerusalem into the shape of a crown, and put it on His head; and they put a reed in His hand for a sceptre. And then all the soldiers fell down before Jesus, and said, 'Hail, King of the Jews.' And then they spit at Jesus, and slapped Him; and they snatched the reed out of His hands and struck Him on the head, so as to drive in the thorns.
Outside the city gate, on the north side of Jerusalem, there is a round hill, called the Place of Stoning. On one side of that hill there is a straight yellow cliff, and prisoners used sometimes to be thrown down from that cliff, and then stoned. And sometimes they were taken to the top of that round hill and crucified. It is very likely that this is where the soldiers took Jesus. That hill is often called Calvary.
The soldiers made Jesus lie down on the cross, and they nailed Him to it -- putting nails through His hands and His feet. Then they lifted up the cross with Jesus on it, and fixed it in a hole in the ground. And Jesus said,
'FATHER, FORGIVE THEM; FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.'
Then the soldiers crucified two thieves, and put them near Jesus, one on each side; and they nailed up some white boards at the top of the crosses with black letters on them, to say what the prisoners had done. They put over Jesus Christ's head the words --
'THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.'
Three hours of fearful pain passed away. It was twelve o'clock. And now it became quite dark and it was dark till three o'clock in the afternoon. That was a dreadful three hours more for Jesus. It was a time of agony of mind, like the time He spent in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was having His last fight with Satan, and He felt quite alone. When it was about three o'clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'It is finished.' And He cried again with a loud voice, and said, 'Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.' And He bowed His head and died.
And now wonderful things happened. The ground shook; the graves opened; dead people woke up to life again; and a great veil, or curtain, which hung before the most holy part of the Temple, was suddenly torn into two pieces. The high priest used to go once a year into that Most Holy Place to offer sacrifice for sin before God. But when the great purple and gold curtain was torn down without hands, it was just as if a voice from heaven had said, 'No more blood of lambs, no more high priest is wanted now. Jesus, the real Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Jesus has offered His own blood before God for sinners, and God will forgive every sinner who trusts in the blood of Jesus.'
Then a rich man, called Joseph, came to Pilate and begged Pilate to let him have the body of Jesus to bury. Pilate said that Joseph might have the body of his Master. And Joseph came and took it down from the cross; and he and Nicodemus wrapped the body round with clean linen, with a very great quantity of sweet-smelling stuff inside the linen.
There was a garden close to the place where Jesus was crucified, and in that garden there was a grave which Joseph had cut in a rock. The grave was not like those which we have. It was a little room in the rock, with a seat on the right hand, and a seat on the left, and with a place in the wall just opposite the door for the body. Joseph and Nicodemus laid the body of Jesus in this new grave. Then they came out, and rolled a great round stone over the door, and went away.
Jesus was crucified on Friday, and now it was Sunday. It was very early in the morning. The soldiers were watching at the grave of Jesus, and all was still; when suddenly the earth began to tremble and shake. And behold, an angel came down from heaven, and rolled away the stone at the door of the tomb, and the Lord of Life came out. The soldiers did not see Jesus, but they did see the shining angel. The Roman soldiers shook with fright. They were so frightened that they had no strength left in them, and as soon as they could they ran away from the place.
And now that the soldiers had gone, some women came near -- Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome, and at least one or two more women. They had brought with them some sweet-smelling spices, which they had made or bought, to put round the body of Jesus. The light was beginning to come in the sky, to show that the sun would be up soon, but it was still rather dark. As the women came along, they said one to the other, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?' For it was very great. Then they looked, and behold! the stone was gone. And Mary Magdalene ran back to the city, to tell Peter and John that the door of the tomb was open. But the other women went on, and went into the tomb where they had seen Jesus laid. He was not there now, but an angel in a long white robe was sitting on the right-hand side of the tomb. Then the women saw two angels standing by them in shining clothes, and they were afraid, and fell on their faces to the ground. Then one of the angels said to them, 'Fear not. He is not here; He is risen.'
[Illustration: The empty tomb.]
But Mary Magdalene after all had been the first to see Jesus. She had run off to tell Peter and John that the stone was rolled away. As soon as Peter and John knew that, they ran off to the grave as fast as they could, and Mary Magdalene went after them. John could run the fastest, so he got there first, and just peeped in through the little door in the rock. The angels had gone away, but he could see the linen bandages. They were not thrown about here and there, but they were lying neatly together. But when Peter came up he wanted to see more than that, and he went straight into the tomb, and John followed him. When Peter and John saw that the body of Jesus had really gone, they went away back to the city and told the other disciples.
But Mary Magdalene did not go back. As she turned away from the grave she saw that somebody was standing near the grave. It was really Jesus, but she did not know that. She was too sad to look up.
And Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?'
Mary thought, 'It is the gardener,' and she said, 'Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.'
Then Jesus said, 'Mary.' And Mary turned round quickly, and said, 'Master.' Then she saw that it was Jesus, and He sent her with a message to His disciples. So Mary hurried back again into the city with her good news. She found the disciples, and when she said, 'I have seen the Lord,' they would not believe it. And when some other women who had met Jesus a little later came in, and said, 'We have seen the Lord,' it was just the same. The disciples only thought, 'What nonsense these women talk!' Before the women came in, two of the disciples had gone for a very long walk. As they walked along, and talked, Jesus came near, and went with them.
While Jesus talked and the disciples listened, they came to the village of Emmaus. That was the end of the disciples' journey, and now Jesus began to walk on by Himself. But the disciples begged Him to stay with them, 'Abide with us,' they said; 'it is getting late. It will soon be evening.' So Jesus went in, and sat down at table with them. And He took bread in His hands, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to them. Perhaps Jesus had some special way of saying grace which made the disciples know who He was. Anyway, they knew Him now. And then, suddenly, He was gone. Cleopas and his friend could not keep their good news to themselves. They got up at once, and went back, more than seven miles, to Jerusalem, and found a number of the Lord's friends and disciples sitting together at supper. Some of them were saying, 'THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED.'
Then Jesus Himself came to them, and He told them that it was very wrong not to believe. Then, when He saw that they were frightened, He said, 'Peace be unto you,' and He showed them His hands and His feet, and ate some fried fish and honey which they had put on the table for supper. That was to make them understand that His body was really alive as well as His soul. And now the disciples were filled with gladness and Joy.
Then Jesus told them the same things that He had been explaining to Cleopas and his friend, and He said to them --
'AS MY FATHER HATH SENT ME, EVEN SO SEND I YOU. GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD, AND PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE.'
That is the great missionary text. A missionary means, you remember, 'one who is sent.' That text was meant for you and for me, as well as for the first disciples of Jesus.
After these things, the eleven disciples went away to Galilee, and waited for Jesus to meet them there.
One day Thomas and Nathanael, and James and John, and two other disciples, were together by the side of the Sea of Galilee. Peter was there too, and he always liked to be doing something, so he said to the others, 'I go a-fishing.' And they said, 'We will also go with you;' and at once they all jumped into a little ship, and pushed off into the lake. But that night they caught nothing.
[Illustration: The Sea of Galilee.]
Next morning Jesus came and stood on the shore. The disciples could see Him, because the little ship was now pretty near to the land, but they did not know Him. Jesus said to the men in the boat, 'Children, have you anything to eat?'
They thought, I suppose, that this stranger wanted to buy some fish, and they said, 'No.' Then Jesus said, 'Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find.'
And the disciples did what Jesus had said, and at once the net became so heavy with fish that the fishermen could not pull it into the boat.
Then John said to Peter, 'It is the Lord.'
When Peter heard that, he jumped into the water, so as to get quicker to land. The other disciples stayed in the boat, and dragged the fish along after them. When the boat got to land, Peter helped the other men to pull the net in. It was full of great fishes -- a hundred and fifty and three. Jesus had got a fire of coals ready on the beach, and some bread; and some fish were broiling on the fire. And now Jesus said to the tired fishermen, 'Come and dine,' and He waited upon them Himself.
After that day by the Sea of Galilee, the disciples went to a mountain which Jesus told them about. And Jesus met them there, and said to them, 'Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AND LO I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD.' There is another splendid missionary text.
[Illustration: The Mount of Olives.]
Jesus stayed on earth for forty days, and when the forty days were over, He went for a last walk with His disciples. He took them the way they had so often gone together -- over the Mount of Olives, and so far as Bethany. There He stopped, and lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, that while He blessed them, He was taken from them, and carried up into heaven, and sat down on the right hand of God. As the disciples looked up earnestly towards heaven after Jesus, two angels in white robes came and stood by them, and said, 'YE MEN OF GALILEE, WHY DO YOU STAND LOOKING INTO HEAVEN? THIS SAME JESUS WHICH IS TAKEN UP FROM YOU INTO HEAVEN SHALL COME AGAIN IN THE SAME WAY AS YOU HAVE SEEN HIM GO INTO HEAVEN.'
Yes, dear children, Jesus is coming again some day. He will not come as a little baby next time. He will come as a King, to cast out Satan, to judge the world, and to take away all who love Him to be with Him forever.