Summary: This Sermon is #12 from Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut.
The entire book Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
The aggravated Guilt of him who delivered Christ to Pilate.
John xix.10, 11.
_Then saith Pilate unto him, "Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" Jesus answered, "Thou couldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above: Therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin_."
JUDEA was conquered by the Romans and reduced to a province of their empire, before Christ suffered for the sins of men. When the Jews conspired his death, Pilate was governor of that province. The power of life and death was in his hands. Though said to have been devoid of principle, he was unwilling to give sentence against Jesus. Free from Jewish prejudices, he was convinced of Christ’s innocence; that he had committed no offence, either against his own nation, or against the Romans; but that for envy he had been arraigned, condemned, and delivered up as a malefactor.
A MIGHTY prince was then expected to arise in Israel. That he would save his people from their enemies, and crush the powers which held them in subjection, was the general idea entertained of him. But the Jews had no expectations of such a deliverer in the Son of Mary; nor did the Roman Governor see aught in him to excite suspicion of a formidable enemy. He wished, therefore, to release him; repeatedly declared him not guilty; and would have set him at liberty, but the Jews opposed. They declared that "by their law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God"--or gave himself out for the expected Messias.
THIS was probably the first hint which Pilate received of this nature, and it seems to have alarmed him. "When he heard that saying he was more afraid."
PILATE was not an Atheist. He appears to have had some knowledge of a divine existence and belief of a superintending providence. Living among the Jews, he was, no doubt, acquainted with their religion, and their expectations of a deliverer; and if there was a suspicion that this was that deliverer, it concerned him to act with caution; atleast to make inquiry. He therefore returned to the judgment hall, and entered on another examination of the prisoner. He began by inquiring after his origin. "He said to Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer." The test follows, in which we observe the following particulars, viz:
I. PILATE blaming Jesus, for refusing to answer him--boasting of his power, and appealing to our Lord, that he possessed it. _Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee_?
II. CHRIST reminding Pilate, that he possessed only delegated power; intimating that he was accountable for the use he made of it. _Thou couldest have no power against me, except it was given thee from above_.
III. CHRIST aggravating the guilt of those who had delivered him to Pilate, from a consideration of the power which he possessed, in which there might be an allusion to Pilate’s character as an unprincipled man. _Therefore, he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin_. We will treat of these in their order.
I. WE observe Pilate blaming Jesus for refusing to answer him; boasting of his power, and appealing to our Lord that he possessed it. _Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee_?
BUT why is Christ faulted? He had said enough to convince the court of his innocence. The judge had repeatedly and publicly declared it. "I find no fault in him."
CHRIST’S silence was not sullen, or contemptuous. He had said enough. His silence was prudent--perhaps necessary. He had come into the world to suffer--"to make his soul an offering for sin." Had he said more, perhaps Pilate had not dared to give sentence against him. Had not Christ died the ends of his coming had been frustrated. Therefore was he now dumb before his oppressors, agreeably to the prophecy. "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumb before his shearers, so he opened not his mouth."
IT was necessary that evidence should be given of Christ’s innocence, sufficient to convince the honest mind, that he was not a malefactor --that he did not die for his own sin. This had been given. It was enough--rendered his murderers inexcuseable. The wisdom of providence permitted no more.
PILATE declared himself convinced. But then _he had power either to crucify Christ, or to release him_. He felt himself possessed of this power, and appealed to our Lord whether he did not possess it.