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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER VIII. |JESUS OR BARABBAS.|

King Of The Jews by William T. Stead

CHAPTER VIII. |JESUS OR BARABBAS.|

See! what form of woe standeth the Saviour there!
Even Pilate himself's touched with compassion now
Foolish people and blinded,
Have you no hearts to pity him?

No, for seized with madness they cry, |To the cross with him!| Cry for torture and death upon the holiest.
For Barabbas, the murderer,
Pardon asking, and liberty.

Oh, how otherwise once 'fore the Egyptian folk
Joseph! Around him shouts echoed, and songs of joy As the Savior of Egypt
He was solemnly shown to them.

But round the world's deliverer rages a nation in wrath, Blinded, maddened with hate, no man among them will rest Till the judge all unwilling
Says, |Then take ye and crucify him.|

* * * * * *

Ah, see the king that's crowned in scorn,
What monarch such a crown has worn
Or scepter borne, and he so great?
Ye see him decked with purple shreds,
They laugh and jeer and shake their heads,
Is this the royal robe of state?
Ah! what a man!
Where is the trace of deity?
Ah! what a man --
The sport of the rude hangman he.

Caiaphas and Annas and the chief priests and rulers, and the council and the traders of the temple, and the witnesses accompanied the soldiers, who once more led Jesus to Pilate's house. Then said Caiaphas, |Now Pilate must be challenged more imperiously; and if he does not do according to our will then shall the authority of Caesar extort the sentence from him.|

|Shall I now,| said Annas, |in my gray old age see the synagogue overthrown? No! with stammering tongue I will cry for the blood and death of this criminal, and then descend to the bosom of my fathers, when I have seen this evil-doer die upon the cross.|

|We would sooner,| cried the rabbi, speaking with great animation, |be buried in the ruins of the temple than to go back upon our resolution. We shall never leave off until he is dead.|

Then proclaimed Caiaphas, |Whosoever goes back on this decision, let him be cast out of the synagogue.|

And Annas added, |Let the cross of the fathers fall upon him.|

Then said Caiaphas, |Time presses, the day is advancing; now we must employ all the means at our disposal in order to carry out our will before the feast.| At this time the Jews and the soldiers leading Jesus stood once more before the house of Pilate.

Pilate, attended by his servants, soon appeared on the balcony.

|We bring the prisoner once more before thee and earnestly desire his death,| said Caiaphas.

All the priests cried aloud, |We insist upon it, he must die.|

Then said Pilate, |Ye brought me this man as an agitator and see, I have heard your complaints, and I have myself examined him, and have not found anything in him touching those things whereof you accuse him.|

Then said Caiaphas angrily, |We abide by our accusation; he is a criminal worthy of death.|

And the priests cried, clamorously, |He is an offender against our law and against Caesar.|

Then said Pilate, |I have sent him because he is a Galilean to Herod. Have you brought forward your complaints before him?|

|Yes,| said Caiaphas, |but Herod would not judge the case because thou art in authority here.|

Then said Pilate, |He, too, has found nothing in the man that deserves death, but in order to meet your desire I will have this man scourged and let him go.|

But Annas said, |That sufficeth not,| and Caiaphas said, |The law prescribes for such a criminal not the punishment of scourging, but the punishment of death.|

The priests cried again, |To death with him.|

Then Pilate, hearing the clamor of the Jews and seeing how bitter they were against Jesus, said unto them, |Is your hate so deep and bitter unto the man that it cannot be satisfied by the blood from his wounds? You compel me to tell you frankly what I think. Driven by ignoble passion ye persecute him because the people are more devoted to him than they are to you. I have heard enough of your hateful accusations. I will now hear the voice of the people. An innumerable number will now assemble here in order to demand, according to old custom, the release of one prisoner at the Passover festival. Then it will be seen whether your complaint is the outcome of popular sentiment or only of your personal revenge.|

Caiaphas, smiling to himself, bowed low before Pilate and said, |The result will show, O governor, that thou thinkest evil of us unjustly.|

Then the priests cried, |It is not vengeance, but zeal for the holy law of God which compels us to demand his death.|

Pilate said, |You know of the murderer, Barabbas, who lies in chains, and of his evil deeds. Between him and Jesus of Nazareth I will let the people choose. The one whom they ask for, him will I release.|

Then cried all with one voice, |Release Barabbas and to the cross with the other.|

|You are not the people,| said Pilate haughtily, |the people will speak for themselves. Meanwhile I will have this one scourged.| Then speaking to his servants, he said, |The soldiers will lead him hence and scourge him according to the Roman law.| Then turning to his courtiers, he said, |Whatever he has done amiss will be sufficiently atoned for and perhaps the spectacle of the scourging may soften the blind wrath of his enemies.|

When Pilate quitted the balcony and entered his house Caiaphas addressed a stirring speech to the Jews. His opportunity had come. |Pilate,| said Caiaphas, |appeals to the voice of the people. All right; we appeal to it also. Now,| said he, turning to the traders and witnesses, |now, true-hearted Israelites, your opportunity has arrived. Go hence into the streets of Jerusalem, summon your friends to come hither, unite them in masses, kindle in them the most glowing hatred against the enemy of Moses. The waverers seek to win by the strength of your words and by promises, but terrify the followers of the Galilean by an overwhelming outcry against them, by insult and mockery, by threats, and if necessary by ill-treatment, so that none of them may dare to let himself be seen here, much less to open his mouth.|

Then cried the traders and witnesses together, |We will go hence and soon return again, everyone at the head of an excited mob.|

Caiaphas said, |Let us all meet in the street of the Sanhedrin.|

The traders bowed, and as they went the priests cried after them, |Hail to you, faithful disciples of Moses.|

Then said Caiaphas, |Let us not lose a single moment. Let us go together to the crowds to encourage them, to inflame them.|

Annas added, |From all the streets of Jerusalem will we lead the exasperated people before the judgment seat.|

The rabbi said complacently, |If Pilate wishes to hear the voice of the people, let him hear it!|

|Let him hear,| said Caiaphas, |the unanimous cry of the nation; release Barabbas; the Galilean to the cross!|

Then all the Jews cried aloud, with an exceeding loud voice, |Release Barabbas; the Galilean to the cross!|

Then the soldiers led Jesus away to the Pretorium and took off his robe and tied his hands to a low pillar and scourged him. When they were weary with scourging they said, |He has had enough, he is all running down with blood.|

|Thou pitiable king of the Jews,| said one of the soldiers as they knelt and mockingly did homage to him, |what kind of a king can this be? He has no scepter in his hand, no crown upon his head. That can be mended. I will at once bring the insignia of the Jewish sovereignty.| And then going out he brought a scarlet mantle, a crown of thorns and a reed. They were laid upon a cushion, and together with them were laid iron gloves, so that they might handle the crown of thorns without suffering therefrom.

|Here,| cried they, |this is certainly the most lovely attire for a king of the Jews. Is it not true that thou hast never expected such an honor? Come, let us hang this purple robe about thee. But sit down, a king should not stand. Here is a beautiful pointed crown.| And a soldier, taking the crown of thorns with the iron gloves, placed it upon the head of Jesus.

|Let us look at you.| Then they laughed aloud for joy.

|But,| said one, |if it is not to fall off your head then must we set it in firmly. Come, brothers, help me.| Then four of the soldiers seized in their hands two staves, and, crossing them over his head, pressed the crown heavily down upon the brow of Jesus. Jesus shuddered in agony.

|Here,| cried the soldiers, |is the scepter.| And taking the reed they placed it in his hands. |Now nothing more is wanted. What a king!|

Then all knelt before him crying, |Hail to thee, most mighty king of the Jews!| When they were mocking him a servant entered from Pilate, saying that the prisoner mast be brought immediately into the judgment hall.

Then said the soldiers, |Thou comest at the wrong time. Thou hast disturbed us in the middle of our demonstrations of reverence.|

Then they said to Jesus, |Stand up, we will lead thee about as a spectacle. There will be rejoicing among the Jewish people when their king appears before them in full splendor!|

* * * * * *

Then was Jerusalem in an uproar; the traders and the priests ran everywhere hither and thither, stirring up the people against Jesus. On all sides the crowds were mustered, and directed by the priests to assemble in the streets of the Sanhedrin, and from this to proceed to Pilate's house to demand the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus; from four sides the tumultuous mobs came pouring down to the place of assembly. Their hoarse cries of |To the cross with him! To the cross with him!| were heard in the distance before the foremost leaders came in sight. At the head of one mob came Nathanael, fervently exhorting the multitude to demand the death of Jesus.

|Moses, your prophet,| said he, |calls upon you. His holy law demands you should avenge it.|

And the multitude cried together, |We belong to Moses. We are and remain followers of Moses and of his teaching. We hold fast by our priests and teachers. Away with him who would rise against them.| Another multitude poured down from the right into the central thoroughfare. Caiaphas was leading them proudly, exulting in the manifestations of their zeal.

Into the same central place came a third band led by Annas, whose followers shouted aloud, |Ye are our fathers, and we will answer for your honor!|

Annas answered, |Come, children, throw yourselves into the arms of the holy Sanhedrin. It will save you.| While the clamorous multitudes from these three quarters were pouring down confusedly into the main street, the shouting of a fourth mob was heard down Pilate's street.

Ezekiel marched at the head of this new company crying, |Shake it off; the yoke of the deceiver!| and they cried in answer, |We will have nothing more to do with him; we follow you!| As the four contingents of the populace collected thus in the open space it could be seen how successfully they had been organized. Each of the four divisions was led by a ruler of the people and had in its ranks a number of the traders of the temple, the witnesses and the priests, whose violent zeal gave movement and direction to the whole crowd. Various cries burst forth from the multitude and each section as it saw the strength of the others exulted and greeted their leaders with shouts of joy. |The whole people applauds you!| cried one part of the multitude.

|We will be free from that false teacher, the Nazarene!| answered another section of the crowd.

Then Caiaphas, Annas, Nathanael and Ezekiel, meeting together, cried with a loud voice, |Your fathers' God will receive you again! You are again to him a holy people!|

The crowd now massed together in the main street cried, |You are our true friends. Long live the great Sanhedrin! Long live our teachers and priests!| and Annas answered, |Death to the Galilean!|

|Up,| said Caiaphas, |let us now hasten to Pilate,| and Nathanael and Ezekiel added, |Let us demand his death, his blood.|

Then all the people answered, |On to Pilate; the Nazarene shall die!|

As they came tripping forward their leaders addressed them from time to time to incite their zeal.

|He hath falsified the law,| cried the leaders. |He has contemned Moses and the prophets!| |He hath blasphemed God!|

Then all the people cried again, |To death with the false prophet!|

The section led by Ezekiel shouted, |Death by the cross!| and the other sections took it up, |Pilate must let him be crucified!|

Then said the leaders, |On the cross he shall atone for his crimes!|

|We will not rest,| cried the crowd, |until his sentence is pronounced.| The whole multitude was now moving rapidly toward the judgment seat of Pilate.

Caiaphas, who lorded it over the whole assemblage with look and gesture, thus addressed them, |Hail to you, children of Israel! You are indeed still true descendants of your father Abraham! Oh, rejoice that you have escaped the nameless destruction which this deceiver would bring upon you and your children!|

|Only,| said Annas, |by the untiring efforts of your fathers has this nation escaped the abyss.|

Then cried the people, |Long live the council! Death to the Nazarene!| and the priests and Pharisees cried out, |Curse him who does not vote for his death!|

The people responded, |We demand his death!|

Then for some time there was nothing heard but a confused clamor, but the voice of Caiaphas rang out notwithstanding, while the people responded to his appeals. It sounded from afar in this wise: Caiaphas: |Let him be cast out from the heritage of our fathers,| and all the people cried, |Let him be cast out.|

Caiaphas said, |The governor will give you the choice between this blasphemer and Barabbas. Let us insist upon the release of Barabbas.|

Then the people cried, |Let Barabbas go free, and down with the Nazarene.|

Then said Annas, |Let the fathers be praised who have heard our wishes.|

Then all cried out, |Pilate must consent, the whole nation demands it of him.|

Caiaphas walked backward and forward with excited mien, but proud and triumphant step, and said, |Oh, most glorious day of the people of Israel. Children, be steadfast!|

The priests and Pharisees: |This day brings back honor to the synagogue and freedom to the people.|

|Now,| said Caiaphas, as they approached the house of Pilate, |let us demand the sentence with uproar and threaten him with universal revolt!|

Then cried the whole multitude tumultuously, |We demand the blood of our enemy!|

So loud was the cry, so savage the emphasis, that two servants of Pilate started out of the house and looking down on the turbulent throng cried out, |Uproar! Insurrection!|

And the people answered, |The Nazarene shall die!|

Caiaphas, hastening hither and thither in the crowd to excite them to still further violence, said, |Show courage. Stand out undismayed. A righteous cause defends us.|

Then the people called out clamorously; |Pilate -- pronounce the sentence of death!|

Pilate's servant from the balcony said, |Silence! be quiet!| but the crowd shouted at him louder than before, |No, we will not be quiet until Pilate consents.|

Then said the servant, |Pilate will come out immediately.|

Then cried all once more, |We demand the death of the Nazarene.|

And Caiaphas, listening to the shouts of the people, said to the priests, |Now let Pilate, as he wished, learn the opinion of the people.|

Then came Pilate with his followers out upon the balcony, and with them came Jesus, led by two soldiers, with the crown of thorns upon his head and the scarlet robe about him. The crowd instead of shouting, |Hail, all hail,| as before, shouted violently, |Give judgment! Pass sentence upon him!|

Then Pilate spoke, pointing to Jesus, who, with bound hands and the scarlet robe upon his bleeding shoulders, stood between the soldiers, |Behold the man!|

The priests and Pharisees answered, |To the cross with him.|

Pilate pleaded, |Cannot even this pitiful sight awake any compassion in your hearts?|

But the multitude answered, |Let him die! To the cross with him!|

Then Pilate said, |Take him and crucify him at your own risk -- I will have nothing to do with it, for I find no fault in him.|

Then Caiaphas said with a loud voice, |Hear, O governor, the voice of the people. It concurs in our complaint and demands his death.|

|Yes,| shouted the crowd again, |we demand his death.|

Then said Pilate to his soldiers, |Lead him down and let Barabbas be brought out of prison. The jailer must at once deliver him up to the chief lictor.|

When Annas heard Pilate's commands he cried, |Let Barabbas live. Pronounce the death sentence on the Nazarene!|

Then the people cried, |To death with the Nazarene!|

Then said Pilate, |I do not understand this, people. Only a few days ago with rejoicing and joyful clamor you accompanied this man through the streets of Jerusalem. Is it possible that the same people this day call for death and destruction upon him? That is indeed contemptible fickleness.|

|The good people,| said Caiaphas, |have at last learned that they have been deceived by an adventurer who pretended to be the Messiah, the king of Israel!|

|And now,| said Nathanael, |the eyes of this people are fully opened, and they see that he cannot help himself -- he who promised to bring freedom and blessing to the nation.|

|Israel,| said Ezekiel, |will recognize no Messiah who allows himself to be taken and bound and treated with scorn.|

|Let him die, the false Messiah, the deceiver,| cried the crowd.

Then Pilate spoke unto the people and said: |Men of Judea, it is customary that I liberate to you a prisoner at the feast. Look upon these two. One with mild countenance and dignified demeanor, the ideal of a wise teacher, whom you have long honored as such, convicted of no single evil deed and already humiliated by the severest chastisement. The other, a vicious, savage man, convicted of robbery and murder, a horrible image of a perfect scoundrel. I appeal to your reason, to your human feelings -- choose! Which will ye that I shall release unto you, Barabbas or Jesus, who is called the Christ?|

Then the priests and people cried out together, |Let Barabbas go free.|

|Will ye not that I release unto you the king of the Jews?| asked Pilate.

Then the priests and people cried, |Away with him, release unto us, Barabbas.|

Then said Caiaphas, |Thou hast promised to release him whom the people demand.|

Pilate answered shortly to Caiaphas, |I am accustomed to keep my promise without needing a reminder.| Then said he to the people, |What shall I do with the king of the Jews?|

And the priests and the people cried, |Crucify him!|

|What,| said Pilate, |shall I crucify your king?|

And the people cried, |We have no king but Caesar.|

Pilate said, |I cannot condemn this man, for I find no fault in him. He has been sufficiently chastised; I will let him go free.|

Then said the priests, |If thou let him go free thou art no friend of Caesar's.|

Caiaphas added, |He has proclaimed himself king|; and the priests said, |Who proclaims himself king is a rebel against Caesar.|

And Nathanael said, |And is this rebel still to remain unpunished, still to scatter abroad the seed of revolt?|

Then cried the people, |It is the duty of the governor to put him out of the way.|

Caiaphas seeing that Pilate answered not, pressed more vehemently upon him, saying, |We have done our duty as subjects of Caesar and delivered this rebel to thee. If thou payest no attention to our accusation and the desire of the people, then are we free from guilt. Thou alone, O Governor, art responsible to Caesar for the consequences.|

And Annas said, |If on account of this man universal disorder and revolt ensues, then we know who must bear this guilt, and,| he added significantly, |Caesar shall know it also.|

Then cried the people again, |The matter must be brought before Caesar.|

Then Ezekiel said to Pilate, |They will be astonished when they hear at Rome that Caesar's viceroy has taken under his protection a traitor whose death the whole people desired.|

And the crowd cried, |Thou must execute him, or otherwise there would be no peace in the land.|

Then said Pilate, |Why, what evil hath he done? I cannot, I dare not, condemn the innocent to death.|

Then said Caiaphas, |Permit me to ask one question. Why shouldst thou judge this man so carefully when quite recently thou hast allowed thy soldiers to massacre hundreds without judgment or sentence, merely on account of some rebellious outcries?|

As Pilate heard the question of Caiaphas he was dismayed, and the crowd shouted: |Thou canst not show favor to this man; if thou wilt be a faithful servant to Caesar.|

Then Pilate's resolution forsook him, and turning to his servants he said, |Bring water.|

Caiaphas said unto him, |The people will not go away from this place until thou hast pronounced sentence of death upon the enemy of Caesar.|

|Yes,| cried the multitude, |we will not go from this place until sentence is pronounced.|

Then said Pilate sorrowfully, |Your violence compels me to yield to your desire. Take him hence and crucify him. But see,| said he as he washed his hands in the basin which had been brought at his command. |I wash my hands; I am innocent of the blood of this just man. See ye to it.|

Then arose from the excited multitude a great and awful cry, in which priests and people joined, speaking as with one voice, |We take it upon ourselves! His blood be upon us and upon our children!|

Then said Pilate, |Let Barabbas be set free at the demand of the people. Lead him outside the city gate and let him never tread this ground again.| The soldiers then led Barabbas away.

The priests and people cried: |Now hast thou justly judged.|

Pilate said unto them, |I have given way to your violent demands in order to avoid a great evil. But in the blood-guiltiness I will have no share. Let it fall upon you and your children as you have so loudly cried.|

Then again the priests and people cried, |It is good; let it fall upon us and upon our children.|

Annas said, |We and our children will bless this day and with thankful joy cry, 'Health and wealth to the governor!'|

|Long live our governor,| cried the crowd. |Long live Pontius Pilate!|

Then said Pilate, |Bring hither the two murderers who are kept in gaol. Let the chief lictor give them over without delay to the guard. They have deserved death much more than the accused.|

But the priests and people cried, |He has deserved death more than any.|

Pilate said, |The sentence of death must be written out and will be read publicly before all the people.|

The scribe began to write, and as he wrote, from the street were heard the voices of the soldiers who were bringing the thieves, driving them forward: |Will you not move on, you wretches? Have you not long ago deserved your fate? Thrust them on, these outcasts of mankind.| When the thieves driven by the soldiers came to the foot of the balcony they were halted on the other side of the steps to that where Jesus stood.

Then said the rabbi, pointing to the thieves, |That is worthy company for the false Messiah on his last journey.|

Pilate said to the thieves, |Of you and your misdeeds the earth shall today be free. You shall die upon the cross. Let the sentence of death be now read.|

Then the scribe stood forward and read thus: |I, Pontius Pilate, viceroy in Judea of the mighty Caesar Claudius Tiberius, pronounce at the desire of the high priests and the Sanhedrin and the people of the Jews, the sentence of death upon a certain Jesus of Nazareth, who is accused of having stirred up the people to revolt, of having forbidden to pay tribute to Caesar, and of having proclaimed himself king of the Jews. The same shall be crucified outside the city between two malefactors who have been likewise condemned to death for many robberies and murders, and be brought from life to death. Given at Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover.|

When the scribe had read the sentence Pilate broke a staff, flung it among the people, saying in tones of great bitterness, |Now take him hence and crucify him!| and went rapidly into the house, leaving Jesus in the hands of the Jews.

|Triumph!| cried Caiaphas in wild exultation. |The victory is ours! The enemy of the synagogue is destroyed!|

The priests and people shouted, |Away with him to Golgotha! Long live the synagogue! Long live the nation!|

Then said Annas, |Hasten, that we may come home in time to eat the Passover.|

The priests and Pharisees said, |We will keep this Passover with joy, as did our fathers in Egypt.|

|Now,| said Caiaphas, |let our triumphal procession go through the midst of Jerusalem.|

|Where,| asked the rabbi, |are his disciples? They are invited to cry Hosanna!|

Then rushed the multitude away, crying, |Up and away off to Golgotha! Come and see him perish on the cross! O delightful day, the enemy of Moses is overthrown! Ha! now he has his reward! So be it done to everyone who despises the law! He deserves the death on the cross! O happy Passover! Now joy will return to Israel! There is an end of the Galilean!| And so crying, with wild and savage clamor, they swept back to the street of the Sanhedrin.

[Transcriber's note: A line seems to be missing from the book at this point. All that appears is a blank line followed by the single word:] |me?|

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