Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 12 (1897)


Ms 51, 1897

In the Judgment Hall


May 20, 1897

Portions of this manuscript are published in 5BC 1148.

It was past midnight when Jesus was hurried from the garden of Gethsemane, through the hushed streets of the sleeping city, to the palace of the high priest. This palace was occupied by the principal actors in the plan [to] obtain possession of Christ—Annas, and his son-in-law, Caiaphas. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 1

Because Jesus had rebuked the hypocrisy and avarice of the chief priests and rulers, they evidenced a most bitter hatred against Him. The Sadducees were still more bitter, although Jesus had not directed against them so plain and decided a reproof as against the Pharisees. But it was at His second act of cleansing the temple, that their most bitter enmity was aroused. In His act in interfering with the merchandise in the temple court, He set aside and condemned all the arrangement which to them was great gain. He told them that they had made the temple courts a den of thieves. [Matthew 21:13.] By their extortion and dishonesty, they had made the service of God contemptible. Avarice was the besetting sin of the Jews. It was on this point that Judas was overcome. The erection of stalls for sales brought in great profits, and any interference with these plans for extortion and commercial income was an act that would not be tolerated. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 2

And now that Jesus was within their power, all feelings of sympathy and humanity went out of their hearts. They were fiends. The bitter contempt and hatred which the ex-high priest had for Jesus was illy concealed when he accosted Him. But he was forced to keep his intense malice under cover as much as possible. They had no legal right to take this matter in hand at this time. They knew they had no charge against Christ by which they could hold Him a prisoner or condemn Him as a malefactor; but they designed, in secret consultation, to charge Him with guilt, and thus draw something from His own lips which they could, with their own additions, their wresting and perversion, so construe as to make stand against Him. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 3

The high priest questioned Him in regard to His doctrines. But the answer was calmly given, “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue; and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? Ask them which heard me,” pointing to those around Him, “what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.” [John 18:20, 21.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 4

Jesus would contrast His manner of work with that of His accusers. This midnight seizure by a mob, this cruel mockery and abuse before He was even accused or condemned, was their manner, not His. His work was open to all. He had nothing in His doctrines that He concealed. Thus He rebuked their position, and unveiled the hypocrisy of the Sadducees. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 5

His accusers sought to turn the conversation by falling back upon the dignity of their position. “Answerest thou the high priest so?” said one, while he smote the sacred face with his hand. How did angels of God look upon this scene, and see their loved Commander smitten by sacrilegious hands? They longed to take Jesus away from these wicked men. But Jesus did not retaliate. This insult was a part of the humiliation He was to bear. There was no resentment in His voice as He reproved the illegal act: “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?” [Verses 22, 23.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 6

At last Jesus entrenched Himself in silence. He saw that nothing would avail in such company, and before such a tribunal, where neither conscience or fear of God had any control, but whose worse passions were fired with intense hatred. Then He was bound, signifying that He was condemned, though unheard and unsentenced. Annas had Him taken to Caiaphas, his son-in-law, a Sadducee, fully as severe, heartless, and unscrupulous as himself, but wanting in force of character. In his house Jesus was again illegally criticized. Some of the most desperate enemies of Jesus were among the Sadducees, and who, with the priests and rulers, composed the Sanhedrin. And as the very existence of the priestly rule, was, they thought, endangered by the teachings of Christ, they would resort to any means to get Him out of the way. They tried many ways of waylaying and entangling Him: and accused Him of secret apostasy. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 7

They were themselves in bitter animosity and controversy with one another, jealous, and daring not to approach certain points for fear of getting into a brawl with the Pharisees. With a few words Jesus could have awakened the prejudices which existed between them, and thus have averted their wrath from Himself. But there was one thing on which they were united—their hatred for Christ and their desire to put Him to death. To gain this end, they sought false witness against Him. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 8

We may see the same spirit manifested today. There will be a corrupt union formed between corrupt men, who will seek and employ false witnesses which will be obtained of those whose wrong course of action has been reproved. The devil is not at a loss to supply the necessity. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 9

Under the influence of the chief priests and rulers, the agents of Satan were willing, for the money offered them, to testify to any lie. Yet their testimony was so false and contradictory, it reveals itself so plainly as a tissue of lies manufactured by the priests and rulers, that the judges, unjust, and without conscience as they were, could not make their stories of any weight, or cause them to bear against Christ. The words they claimed to hear Him say, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again,” were misstated. [John 2:19.] It was perjury, having no semblance to the truth. They hoped to construe this into a charge of blasphemy, but they failed even here. And because they could find nothing whereby they might fasten condemnation upon Him, they became furious, fearing that after all Jesus might not be delivered into their hands. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 10

Patiently, and without one expression of revenge, Jesus listened to their conflicting testimony. He was perfectly silent, answering not a word to their accusations. At last His accusers were entangled, confused, and maddened; they had nothing that they could make stand as a charge against Jesus. That silence was terrible for them to endure. They saw that their plottings were liable to fail. Caiaphas was desperate. He was determined to act. Starting from the judgment seat, his face contorted with satanic passion, and voice and demeanor plainly indicating that were it in his power, he would strike down the Son of God, he exclaimed, “Answerest thou nothing? What is it that these witness against thee?” [Matthew 26:62.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 11

Jesus knew the nature of the men surrounding Him, and the impotent madness of His accusers because they could not find occasion against Him. But He remained in silence. The high priest was afraid that all their purposes were to be defeated unless they could make Jesus utter His own condemnation. Standing over the prisoner as though he would annihilate Him, he said, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said; nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy, what further need have we of witness? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” [Verses 63-66.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 12

In legal condemnation nothing could be done until the light of day and before a full session of the Sanhedrin. And yet the priests had declared that He was worthy of death. He was not considered fit to receive abuse from the lowest and vilest of human kind. He was taken from the outer court to the guard room, on every side meeting with taunts and jeers, and cruel mockery in regard to His claims to be the Son of God; “sitting on the throne of his glory,” and “coming in the clouds of heaven,” was tauntingly and mockingly repeated. [Matthew 25:31; 26:64.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 13

How little did these Pharisees and Sadducees, these priests and rulers, understand the prophecies which they were in the very act of fulfilling to the letter. What intense blindness comes to the human mind that has turned from light, rejected Bible evidence, and closed itself in with the impenetrable wall of prejudice. For two thousand years the Jews had looked and waited for the Messiah, and this is the reception He receives at their hands. That nation which should have received Him as the greatest blessing that heaven can bestow upon a fallen race, refused Him, and gave Him over to the mob for them under the inspiration of Satan to insult and mock and curse. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 14

But that which caused Christ’s soul the keenest anguish was that which He had foretold Peter would come. He heard the denial of Peter; He heard the wicked oaths, and this made more intensely bitter His cup of anguish. Christ is now in His deepest humiliation; He is greeted with jeers; smitten by cruel hands, yet He utters no word of retaliation. They spit in the face of the Lord Jesus. And while thus insulted and mocked, Peter, his boldest disciple, is denying that he knows the man who has been his beloved Teacher—the one he had owned to be the Son of the living God, and having the words of eternal life, when many of his fellow disciples were offended at Christ’s words, and walked no more with Him. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 15

“Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. And a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. ... And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow was also with him; for he is a Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” [Luke 22:54-57, 59-62.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 16

That look was enough; it pierced the heart of Peter like an arrow. The eloquent anguish of the Master he had loved and served was a picture so vivid that he could not efface it from his memory. And he rushed from the company, his heart broken, repentant, remorseful, agonized. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 17

While waiting for His legal trial in the guard room, Christ was not protected. The malice of the ignorant, the brutal cruelty with which He had been treated was assumed by them as a liberty. They made manifest the satanic in their character. His very nobility and God-like bearing goaded them to madness. His meekness, His innocence, His majestic bearing filled them with a madness born of Satan. Defenseless and alone, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. Justice and mercy were trampled upon. Never was criminal treated in so merciless and inhuman a manner as was Jesus, the world’s Redeemer. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 18

Christ had reproved their avarice and their hypocrisy, He had laid open the ignorance of the scribes; He had rebuked the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and they had not been able to controvert His arguments, because they were truth. Like Cain, this made them furious. His noble, spotless character was so much higher than theirs that they were intent on having Him, the representative of all righteousness and goodness, out of the way. He had told them that while teaching the law, they had not kept it; but in its place had taught their own doctrines, the commandments of men. And this the teachers in our age are doing. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 19

But now they have Him in their power. If their words and arguments were weak and failed to silence His voice, they have other weapons, such as the church of Rome has used to silence the voice of the heretic—suffering, and violence, and death. They had suborned witnesses, but these had been so contradictory that they could not, dared not, use them. The charge of the Jews that He had broken the Sabbath of the fourth commandment had been made against Him; but the work had been done to relieve suffering humanity and in working miracles, and they dared not come upon this ground for evidence. This would have revealed more than they desired to have revealed. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 20

He had also disregarded their traditions; but on this the Pharisees and Sadducees were at sword’s point. They dare not bring this charge, for it would lead them into a quarrel with each other, and, warring against each other, they would fail to accomplish their object. His cleansing of the temple, at the commencement of His ministry, and then again at its close, was one of the chief things that they had against Him. His authoritative manner in overturning the tables of the money changers, and driving out priests rulers, and cattle was insulting to their dignity and position. But this they could not mention, for the people had seen and felt the injustice and iniquity practiced in their dishonest deal and avarice. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 21

But Christ had declared Himself to be the Son of God, and they construed His own words into a charge against Him. Still, they could not condemn Him on this, for half of them had not heard these words; and they knew that the Roman tribunal would find nothing in them to accuse Him of guilt and secure His condemnation. But if, from His own lips they could all hear the same words, they might construe them into a political, seditious claim. They tried their utmost to have Him repeat His words, but He was silent. He knew what they wanted to do with His words. They had violated every principle of the law. Their own rule of action declared that every criminal should be treated as innocent until his guilt was apparent. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 22

But although they were so full of zeal, and in such haste, to secure His condemnation, the trial made no headway. At last He opens His lips and His voice of mournful pathos is heard, “If I tell you, ye will not believe; and if I ask you a question, ye will not answer me.” But that they may have every evidence, and be left without excuse, He addressed them in solemn warning, “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.” “Art thou then the Son of God?” they asked in one voice. “And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.” Then they cried out as had the malignant Caiaphas, “What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.” [Verses 67-71.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 23

And so by the third condemnation of the Jewish authority, Jesus was to die. They thought that all that was now necessary was for Pilate to ratify this condemnation, and deliver Him into their hands. And then came the third scene of shameful abuse and mockery, worse, tenfold worse, than that received from the ignorant and unenlightened. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 24

“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” [Matthew 27:1, 2.] With the bound hands of a sentenced criminal, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter. He was a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 25

The chief priests show satanic hatred and intensity of desire for the condemnation of Christ. This they could not conceal. The frowning priests, with tightly compressed lips in the attitude of a suppliant, entreat this favor, as though the sentence of death pronounced upon the noble sufferer were a matter of life or death to them. The malignity seen and felt in words, attitude, and spirit in all His accusers, bear testimony that the Spirit of God is not there, that humanity even had dropped out of their hearts. Christ is the central figure. His face is sad, but a heavenly light illuminates His countenance, as though He were in communion with the Father. At His side, seated by the seat of judgment, is the Roman governor, and crowding about Him are the chief priests and rulers. The expression of their countenances is fierce and determined as they clamor for the condemnation of Christ. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 26

Outside the judgment hall is a mob who have had their worst passions aroused by the chief priests and rulers, who wish to have no time lost, fearing that the people will have Christ and take Him out of their hands. No sooner does a rumor reach the immense crowd outside that Christ is found guilty, than their voices are raised like the yell of demons, “Crucify him; crucify him.” [Luke 23:21.] But Pilate stretches forth his hands to silence the deafening roar of voices, for Christ is not yet condemned. Guilt has not yet been found upon Him. But that roar of voices, those words, “Crucify him; crucify him,” are as music in the ears of the priests. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 27

“Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.” [John 18:29-32.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 28

Pilate is in perplexity. He knows that Christ is innocent; he knows that the Jews have delivered Him up from hatred and prejudice. He knows what his duty is. But the priests had intimated to him that should he not give Christ into their hands, a tumult would be raised and he feared the people. “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answerest him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 29

“Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness of the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate said unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and said unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release one unto you at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 30

“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, king of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and said unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said unto them, Behold the man! 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 31

“When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him; for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered and said, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 32

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee?” [John 18:33-19:10.] Thus Pilate acknowledged his responsibility in the condemnation of Christ. “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him; but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend, whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar. 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 33

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no King by Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them. And they took Jesus, and led him away.” [John 19:11-16.] 12LtMs, Ms 51, 1897, par. 34