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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER V. PETER COMMITS PERJURY.

King Of The Jews by William T. Stead

CHAPTER V. PETER COMMITS PERJURY.

How bleeds my heart!
The Holiest stands before the judgement seat.
The malice of sinners he must bear,
Betrayed and outraged, bound and beaten there.
O, sons of men, your faces veil this day! --
The scarred form is touched by impious hands,
From Annas dragged to Caiaphas away,
What's here foreshadowed, see, fulfilled it stands. See Jesus, how in silence he
Bears outrage, blows and mockery!
O! what a man!
Oh, hearts of men who now draw near,
Melt with compassion when you see
Bowed down in deepest misery!
O! what a man!

Caiaphas, in his bed chamber, wearing a dressing gown, surrounded by priests, exulted over the news which had been brought him of the arrest of Jesus.

|This happy capture,| said he, |promises us a fortunate realization of our wishes. I thank you, noble members of the Sanhedrin, for zealous and prudent co-operation.|

But the priests with one voice cried, |The greatest share of praise belongs to our high priest!|

|Now,| said Caiaphas, |let us pursue our path without delay. Everything is ready! The council will immediately be assembled. The necessary witnesses have already been brought along. I shall now without losing a moment, at once begin the trial of the prisoner. Then judgment shall be pronounced and provision made that it shall be executed. The quicker the execution the surer the result!|

Dathan said, |It would be advisable to get everything over before our adversaries recover their senses.|

Caiaphas replied, |I have encountered this necessity. Trust me, my friends. I have thought of a plan. I hope to carry it out.|

At this Zadok said, |The wisdom of our high priest deserves our fullest confidence,| and then cried they all, |the God of our fathers bless all his measures!|

Then Selpha, the leader of the band, brought Jesus into the chamber of Caiaphas, the high priest, Balbus and Malchus holding the cords by which his hands were bound.

|Illustrious High Priest, here is the prisoner,| said Selpha.

|Bring him nearer,| said Caiaphas, |so that I may look him in the face and question him.|

|Step forward,| said Selpha, |and show respect here to the head of the Sanhedrin.|

Then Caiaphas, having looked into the face of Jesus, said to him disdainfully, |Thou art he then who dreamed of bringing about the destruction of the synagogue, and the law of Moses?| Then assuming a more judicial tone, he said, |Thou art accused that thou hast stirred up the people to disobedience, that thou hast despised the holy traditions of the fathers, that thou hast transgressed the divine command for the keeping of the Sabbath day, and that thou hast even been guilty of many blasphemous speeches and acts. Here,| Caiaphas continues, pointing to five Jews who had entered the chamber at the same time as Selpha brought in Jesus, and had taken their stand on the left of the high priest, confronting the accused, |Here stand honorable men who are prepared to prove the truth, of these accusations by their testimony. Hear them and then thou mayest answer if thou canst.|

Then stood forth the first witness and spoke, saying, |I can testify before God that this man has stirred up the people by openly denouncing the members of the council and the scribes as hypocrites, ravening wolves in sheeps' clothing, blind leaders of the blind, and has declared that no one shall follow their work.| At this the members of the Sanhedrin smiled approvingly one to another.

The second witness said, |I can also testify to this, and can still further declare that he has forbidden the people to pay tribute to Caesar.|

|Yes,| interrupted the first witness, |at any rate he has dropped words of double meaning about that.|

Then Caiaphas turned to Jesus and said, |What sayest thou unto this?| He paused for a reply, but Jesus opened not his mouth. Then said Caiaphas, |Art thou silent? Hast thou nothing to answer?| But Jesus never answered a word.

The third witness took up his testimony. |I have often seen how he with his disciples, in defiance of the law, has eaten with unwashed hands; how he has become accustomed to hold friendly intercourse with publicans and sinners and go into their houses to eat with them.|

|That we have also seen,| cried the other witnesses together. |I have heard many credible people say that he has even spoken with Samaritans, and indeed has lived with them for days together.|

Then the first witness began to speak again: |I was a witness how he has done on the Sabbath what is forbidden by God's law, in that he healed sick and infirm people without fear on that day. He has seduced others to break the Sabbath; he ordered a man to take up his bed and carry it to his house.| The second witness joined in, |I also can testify to this.|

Again Caiaphas turned to Jesus and said, |What has thou to say against this evidence?| And after a pause, seeing that Jesus still spoke not, he said, |Hast thou nothing to say in reply?| But Jesus spoke not.

Then said the third witness, addressing himself to Jesus, |Thou hast, for I was present, taken upon thyself to forgive sins, which belongs to God alone. Thou hast, therefore, blasphemed God.|

Then again spoke the first witness, |Thou hast called God thy Father, and hast dared to declare that thou art one with the Father. Thou hast therefore made thyself equal to God.|

The second witness added, |Thou hast exalted thyself above our father Abraham. Thou didst say, 'Before Abraham was, I am.'|

Then spoke the fourth witness, who said, |Thou hast said, 'I can destroy the temple of God, and in three days build it up again.'|

The fifth witness, who had not hitherto spoken, stood forward and said, |I have heard thee say, 'I will destroy this temple which is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'| This concluded the testimony of the witnesses.

Then Caiaphas, turning to Jesus, spoke to him with indignation: |So thou hast claimed to possess a superhuman divine power? These are serious accusations, and they are legally proved; answer if thou canst.| Jesus remaining silent, Caiaphas resumed, |Thou thinkest that by silence thou canst save thyself. Thou darest not to admit before the fathers and judges of the people what thou hast taught before the people. Or dost thou dare?| Then rising to his utmost height, and stretching his hand on high, Caiaphas continued, |Hear, then, I, the high priest, adjure thee by the living God. Say -- art thou the Messiah, the Son of the Most High?| and as he uttered the sacred name Caiaphas crossed his arms and dropped his head on his breast.

For a moment there was silence, then Jesus answered and said, |Thou hast said it, and so I am. Nevertheless, I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of God in power and coming in the clouds of heaven.|

As Jesus spoke these words, the members of the council started in horror, and Caiaphas rending his robe, exclaimed with a loud voice, |He has blasphemed God! What need have we of any further witnesses? You yourselves have heard the blasphemy. What think ye?|

And all the members of the council cried together, |He is worthy of death.|

Then said Caiaphas, |He is thus unanimously declared worthy of death. But not I, not the council, but the law of God pronounces the death sentence upon him. You teachers of the law, I call upon you to answer; what does the holy law say of him who is guilty of disobedience to the authorities appointed by God?| Then stood up Josue, and unrolling the book of the law read therefrom: |The man that will do presumptuously and will not hearken to the priest that standest to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shalt die, and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.|

Then again said Caiaphas, |What does the law decree concerning him who profaneth the Sabbath?|

Then Ezekiel stood up and read, |Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you. Every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein that soul shall be cut off from his people.|

Then asked Caiaphas, |How does the law punish the blasphemer?|

Then stood up Nathanael, and unrolling the book of the law, read: |Speak unto the children of Israel saying, whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him, as well the stranger as him that is born in this land.|

|Thus,| said Caiaphas, |is the judgment pronounced upon this Jesus of Nazareth -- pronounced according to law, and shall be carried out as speedily as possible. Meanwhile I will have the condemned placed under safe guard. Lead him forth, guard him, and by the safe dawn of the morning bring him to the Great Sanhedrin.|

|Come, then, Messiah,| said Selpha, roughly, |we will show thee thy palace.|

|There thou shalt receive due homage,| said Balbus, as he placed his hand on the shoulder of Jesus, and marched him out of the chamber.

Then said Caiaphas exultingly, |We are approaching the goal. Now, however, resolute steps are necessary.|

The priests and Pharisees cried together, |We will not rest until he is brought to death.|

Then said Caiaphas, |With the break of day let us come together again. This must be announced to the High Priest Annas and the rest. Then shall the sentence be confirmed by the whole assembled council, and the prisoner will immediately be brought before Pilate in order that he may confirm it and have it executed.|

The priests then departed, crying as they went, |God deliver us soon from our enemy.|

When the council had been dismissed and all was still, Judas, moving as one distracted, came down the street in front of the high priest's palace; as he went he muttered to himself: |Fearful forebodings drive me hither and thither. That word of Annas' 'He must die!' Oh, that word pursues me everywhere.| Then, as if he remembered all that had happened, Judas cried, |No, it cannot come to that; they will not carry things so far! That would be too terrible if my Master -- no! -- and I -- guilty of it? No! Here in the house of Caiaphas, I will inquire how things stand. Shall I go in? I can no longer bear this uncertainty, and it terrifies me to ascertain the certainty. My heart throbs with terror -- surely I shall not have to hear the worst. Yet it must come some time.| And thereupon he went into the house of the high priest.

Meanwhile in the hall of Caiaphas the Temple Watch was standing waiting the result of the examination of Jesus before Caiaphas. In the hall were the servant maids, Sarah and Hagar, who seeing the soldiers standing outside, went to the door, and said, |You may come in here.| It was Hagar who spoke first, and Sarah added, |It is more comfortable in here.|

|True for you, good people,| said Melchi, one of the soldiers. Then calling out, |Ho, comrades, come in! It is better for us to lie down in the hall.|

Then said a soldier named Arphaxad, |I like this; I wish we had come in long ago; how stupid we are, always standing outside in the open air and shivering. But where is there any fire?|

|Sarah,| added another soldier, |go and bring us fire, also wood to lay thereon.|

|Willingly,| said Hagar.

|That you shall have,| said Sarah. They went out together to comply with the soldier's wish.

|Will the trial soon come to an end?| asked several of the soldiers.

|It will last,| said Melchi, |until all the witnesses are examined.|

|And,| added Panther, |the accused will also use all his eloquence to get himself out of the scrape.|

|That will help him nothing,| said Arphaxad; |he has offended the priests too much.| Then returned the serving maids with a brazier in which there was a little fire and some wood, which they placed thereon, making a great smoke.

|Here is your fire,| said Hagar, |wood and fire tongs.|

Then cried the soldiers together, |Thanks, you good girls.|

|Yes,| said Panther, stooping down over the brazier, |that is good. Now take care that the fire does not go out.| Several of the soldiers stooped over the fire, piled on wood, and Sarah busied herself with bringing in meat and bread.

Peter and John, who had been wandering about the streets seeking for tidings, came to the door, John preceding Peter. Hagar, who saw John standing in the entrance of the door, said, |John, comest thou also hither in the middle of the night? Come in here, then, thou must warm thyself. Could you make a little room for this young man here?| said Hagar addressing the soldiers.

|Yes, indeed,| cried the band together.

Then said John, |Good Hagar, I have a companion with me; can he not also come in?|

|Where is he?| said Hagar. |Let him come in; why does he stand out in the cold?|

John went to where Peter was standing, but came back alone.

|Where is he?| said Hagar.

|He stands on the threshold, but does not trust himself to come in,| replied John.

Then Hagar went to the door and said, |Come in, good friend; do not be afraid.|

All the soldiers cried, |Friend, come also in here to us and warm thyself!| Peter without saying a word timidly drew near to the fire and warmed his hands in the smoke.

The men went on talking round the fire and Arphaxad said, after a pause, |We still see and hear nothing of the prisoner.|

Several then asked together, |How much longer must we wait here?|

Then said Panther, |Probably he will come out from the trial as a man condemned to death.|

|I wonder,| said Arphaxad, |whether his disciples will be sought after?|

Peter trembled as the band with hoarse laughter cried aloud, |That would be a fine piece of work if they all had to be captured!|

Then said Panther, |It would not be worth the trouble. If the Master is once out of the way, then the Galileans will fly and never let themselves be seen again in Jerusalem. But,| said Panther, |one at least ought to receive sharp punishment; he who in the garden drew his sword and cut off Malchus' ear.|

|Yes, yes,| cried the band, laughing, |that should be, as it is said, an ear for an ear!|

|Ha, ha, ha, a good idea!| laughed Panther, |but that rule would here find no application, for Malchus has his ear back again.|

During this time, while the soldiers were laughing and talking, Hagar was curiously looking at Peter. Immediately a pause took place, Hagar said to Peter, |I have been observing thee for some time. Now, if I do not mistake, thou art one of the disciples of the Galilean. Yes, yes, thou wert with Jesus of Nazareth.|

Peter started up from the fire over which he had been warming his hands and stammered out, |I? No, I am not. Woman, I know him not, neither know I what thou sayest.|

When Hagar thus spoke all the soldiers looked at Peter, who fearing his attack on Malchus might be resented, tried to slip through the band and escape unobserved. Passing the fire, he came close to the other waiting maid, Sarah, who, looking him full in the face, said in a shrill voice, |See, this man was also with Jesus of Nazareth.|

The attention of the whole band being aroused, they all clustered around Peter, asking, |Art thou also one of the disciples?|

Levi said, |Thou art one of them, quite certainly.|

Peter in the midst of armed and violent men, looked confusedly from side to side and declared, |Upon my soul -- I am not -- I do not know the man.|

Even as he spoke the cock crew, but the rattle of the weapons of the soldiers and imminent menace of a violent death left him no leisure to attend to anything but his own safety, for a soldier at the same moment exclaimed, |Look at this man. Of a truth he was also with him.|

Then said Peter stoutly, |I know not what ye have to do with me. What does this man matter to me?|

But the soldiers crowding round him said, |Yes, yes, thou art one of them. Thou art also a Galilean; thy speech betrayeth thee.|

Then Peter, raising his hands on high, said with a troubled voice, |God be my witness that I do not know the man of whom ye speak;| and the cock crew a second time.

Then Melchi, pressing forward, looked Peter full in the face and said, |Did I not see thee in the garden with him, when my cousin Malchus had his ear cut off?|

At this moment, when the situation was getting very serious for Peter, attention was called off from him by a cry from the soldiers round the fire. |Make ready, they are bringing in the prisoner.| Selpha then brought in Jesus bound between Malchus and Balbus.

|Now, how have things gone?| eagerly inquired Arphaxad.

|He is condemned to death,| said Selpha.

The soldiers mocking, cried, |Poor king!|

At this moment Jesus met Peter, and looked upon him with a gaze full of sorrow. Peter smote his head with his hand and went out into the night.

|Come,| said Arphaxad, |he will help us to pass the time.|

|Forward, comrades,| said Selpha, |we must guard him till morning.| Thereupon they all went out.

Peter, when he had left the hall of the high priest, went out into the street weeping bitterly and suffering anguish of soul. |Oh, my Master,| he cried, |how deeply have I fallen! Oh, woe unto me, weak and wretched man! I have three times denied my dearest friend and teacher. I cannot understand how I could so forget myself. A curse upon my shameful faithlessness! How my heart will repent of it -- this contemptible cowardice. My dearest Lord, hast thou still grace for me -- grace for a faithless, one -- oh! send it me! This once more hear the voice of my repentant heart. Alas! the sin is committed. I cannot undo it, but ever, ever, will I weep for it and repent of it -- and now nevermore will I leave thee! Oh, thou most loving one! Thou wilt surely not cast me off! Thou wilt not despise my bitter, repentance. No! the gentle pitying look which thou didst cast upon thy deeply fallen disciple promises it -- thou wilt forgive me. I have this hope from thee, best of teachers, and the whole love of my heart shall from this moment be given to thee. I will cling closely to thee and nothing, nothing shall ever be able to separate thee from me again!|

And with a face beaming with hope of forgiveness, even for his threefold denial, he went away.

Hardly had he gone, when John entered at the other end of the street, asking anxiously, looking on either side, |Where, then, can Peter have gone? In vain my eyes have sought him in the crowd. Surely nothing evil can have befallen him. Perhaps I still may meet him upon the road. I will now go to Bethany. Dearest mother, if I bring thee the tidings of these terrible things which have happened -- the innocent one ill-treated and condemned by sinners, what wilt thy heart feel? O, Judas, Judas, what hast thou done?|

Now it came to pass that the soldiers having taken Jesus into the guardroom of Caiaphas' palace, mocked him and despitefully used him until it was day. They seated him on a stool with a bandage over his eyes, and surrounded him mockingly, saying, |Is not this throne too mean for thee, great king? Hail to thee, thou new-born sovereign! But sit more firmly,| said one, seizing Jesus from behind and pressing him down on his chair. |Thou mightest otherwise fall down. Thou art verily also a prophet. So say, O great Elias, say who it is who has struck thee,| and with that he dealt Jesus a blow on the face.

Others came in and also struck him, saying, |Was it I?| but Jesus answered nothing.

Then one of the band went up to him and shouted, |Hearest thou nothing?| and shook him violently by the shoulders. |Art thou asleep?| Then turning to his comrades he exclaimed, |He is deaf and dumb; a fine prophet indeed.| And thereupon he roughly pushed Jesus forward so that he fell from the stool upon the ground upon his face.

|Alas! alas!| they cried. |Our king has fallen from his throne. What is to be done now? We have no longer any king. Thou art to be pitied, such a great magician and now so weak and weary! Come, help us to put him again upon his throne.|

And then they seized him where he lay on the ground with his eyes bandaged and his hands tied, and lifted him again upon his seat. |Raise thyself, O mighty king; receive anew our homage.|

As they were kneeling around him in scorn a messenger of Caiaphas entered saying, |How goes it now with the king?| and the band shouted, |He speaks and prophesies not; we can do nothing with him.|

|Then,| said the messenger, |the high priest and Pilate will soon make him speak. Caiaphas sends me to bring him.|

|Up, comrades,| said Selpha.

Thereupon, taking Jesus again by the cords which bound his hands, they led him off, saying, |Stand up; thou hast been king long enough.| And all shouted, |Away with thee. Thy kingdom has come to an end.|

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