The Signs of the Times


January 31, 1900

Before Pilate


Pilate's Declaration—The cause of Compromise—Without Pity—Jesus or Barabbas—“His Blood Be upon Us”—All of Us—Character of Popular Opinion—What May Be Expected

Hardened as he was, Herod dared not ratify the condemnation of the Jews, and he therefore sent Jesus back to Pilate. The Saviour, tottering with weariness, pale and wounded, was mercilessly hurried back to the court of the Roman governor. Pilate was very much irritated; for he had congratulated himself on being rid of a fearful responsibility when he referred the accusers of Jesus to Herod. He now impatiently inquired of the Jews what they would have him do. He reminded them that he had already examined the Prisoner and found no blame in Him; that His accusers had failed to sustain a single charge against Him; that he had sent Jesus to Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, and one of their own nation, who also found nothing worthy of death against the Prisoner. “I will therefore chastise Him,” Pilate said, “and let Him go.” ST January 31, 1900, par. 1

Here Pilate showed his weakness. He had called attention to the fact that no fault had been found in Jesus. He had appealed to the humanity of the people, plainly stating his conviction of the Prisoner's innocence. What justice, then, was there in laying the scourge on One who was not guilty? Why inflict on Him a punishment He had done nothing to merit? This proposal was made to gratify the revengeful hatred of a nation that claimed to hold in their charge the only piety in the world, to please a party of professedly godly men, who had been warned and wept over by the world's Redeemer. ST January 31, 1900, par. 2

As Pilate took his seat in the judgment-hall, a messenger pressed through the crowd and handed him a letter. It was from his wife, and read, “Have thou nothing to do with that just Man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him.” Pilate's face grew pale. He was confused by his own conflicting emotions. But while he was hesitating as to what he should do, the priests and rulers were still further inflaming the minds of the people. Some of their own number were sent among the crowd, with instructions to gain over the leading minds by promises of reward. This they did, thinking that the rest would follow the example set. ST January 31, 1900, par. 3

Pilate was forced to action. “At that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.” Turning to the crowd, Pilate asked, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him.” Like the bellowing of wild beasts came the answer from the mob, “Release unto us Barabbas.” Louder and louder swelled the cry, “Barabbas, Barabbas.” Thinking that the people had not understood his question, Pilate asked, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” But they cried out again, “Away with this Man, and release unto us Barabbas.” “What shall I do then with Jesus?” Pilate asked. Again the surging multitude roar like demons. Demons in human form were in the crowd, and what could be expected but the answer, “Let Him be crucified”? ST January 31, 1900, par. 4

Pilate was troubled. He shrank from delivering an innocent man to the most ignominious and cruel death that could be inflicted. After the roar of voices had ceased, he turned to the people, saying, “Why, what evil hath He done?” But the case had gone too far for argument. It was not evidence of Christ's innocence that they wanted, but His condemnation. ST January 31, 1900, par. 5

Still Pilate endeavored to save Him. “He said unto them the third time, ST January 31, 1900, par. 6

Why, what evil hath He done?

I have found no cause of death in Him; I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go.” But the very mention of His release stirred the people to a tenfold worse frenzy. “They were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.” “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” they cried. Louder and louder swelled the storm that Pilate's indecision had called forth. ST January 31, 1900, par. 7

In the vain hope of exciting the pity of the people, that they might decide that this was sufficient punishment, Pilate now caused Jesus to be scourged in the presence of the multitude. “And the soldiers led Him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed Him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head, and began to salute Him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they ... did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshiped Him.” Occasionally some wicked hand snatched the reed that had been placed in His hand, and struck the crown upon His brow, forcing the thorns into His temples, and sending the blood trickling down His face and beard. ST January 31, 1900, par. 8

Thus Pilate took the step which Satan wanted him to take. He gave himself as an instrument into the hands of the Jews, to perform an unjust and unlawful action, to accomplish their purpose against an innocent man. Pilate thought that the marks of the lash on the back of the Sufferer would touch the sympathies of the people. But the rulers were inspired by a power from beneath in their hatred toward Christ. He had reproved them for their unrighteousness, and they were determined to be revenged. This hatred they communicated to the common people. ST January 31, 1900, par. 9

With keen perception the Jews saw the weakness of punishing a man who had been declared innocent. They knew that Pilate was trying if possible to save the life of the Prisoner, but they were under the control of Satan, and were determined that Jesus should not be released. To please and satisfy the Jews, Pilate had scourged Him, and they thought that if they pressed the matter to a decided issue, they would surely gain their end. They were confident that, now that Pilate had acceded so much, he would yield to their desires. ST January 31, 1900, par. 10

Pilate now sent for Barabbas to be brought into the court, and he then presented the two prisoners side by side. Pointing to the Saviour, he said in a voice of solemn entreaty, “Behold the Man.” “I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him.” But what cared the priests for compassion or justice. They had moved the people to a mad fury, and, instead of pitying Jesus in His suffering, they cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Losing all patience with their unreasoning cruelty, Pilate cried out despairingly, “Take ye Him, and crucify Him; for I find no fault in Him.” By thus giving an innocent man up to the passions and prejudices of the mob, Pilate placed himself where the people could compel him to do their will. ST January 31, 1900, par. 11

“The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” ST January 31, 1900, par. 12

This Will Be Repeated in the Christian World

“Men will say again, “We have a law, and by our law He ought to die.” “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 have power to release Thee?” By saying this, Pilate accepted the responsibility of the issue. “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.” ST January 31, 1900, par. 13

Pilate was now more convinced than ever of the superiority of the Man before him. Why did he feel so deeply in regard to Jesus? He was convicted, and had been during the entire trial, that the Prisoner was more than a common man. Fear came upon him as he thought, What if He is indeed a King? He could have refused to become obedient to the wishes of the mob. But Pilate was a coward. As he tried once more to release Jesus, the Jews cried out, saying, “If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar's friend.” Pilate was afraid that if he released Jesus, the representations carried to Rome would bring censure on himself. Better, he thought, that this Man be crucified, and I be left free. But his soul trembled at the thought of signing the death warrant of a man whom he had declared faultless. ST January 31, 1900, par. 14

Pilate now thought he had done all he could. He did not think of his words, “Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?” When he “saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just Person; see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” O Pilate, if you could as easily wash the stains off your soul as you washed your hands, your guilt would not remain! ST January 31, 1900, par. 15

“Then released he Barabbas unto them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” ST January 31, 1900, par. 16

What a record was made in the books of heaven of this night's work. Christ was arraigned twice before the high priests, once before the Sanhedrin, once before Herod, and twice before Pilate. Insult, abuse, personal violence, all this He received from Herod and his soldiers. He was scourged by Pilate, and then mocked and taunted by the rabble throng. ST January 31, 1900, par. 17

Who Was It That Suffered Thus?

The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory. He was “despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.... He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” ST January 31, 1900, par. 18

Christ was vehemently accused by men holding the highest offices in the church, men whose fathers He had delivered from Egyptian bondage. The people chosen by God to be the light of the world stood under the black banner of Satan, and reviled and oppressed their long-expected Messiah. Thus they brought their ruin upon themselves. Their contemptuous speeches reacted on them. What darkness this night's work brought upon the chief actors in the scene! Nevermore did the memory of it fade from their minds. Nevermore did peaceful sleep come to their pillow. Their wicked deeds testified more loudly against them than did the mark of Cain against him. ST January 31, 1900, par. 19

Transactions such as this have taken place, and will again be enacted. The tide of popular feeling is always fickle. The hosannas of today may be followed by the “Crucify him” of tomorrow. In this our day ST January 31, 1900, par. 20

Prejudice Is Deepening and Widening

In their religious bigotry men will resist all evidence and refuse all light. Those who make void the law of God, as the teachers of today are doing, have no standard by which to measure their own character or the character of others. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Instead of being softened by the compassion of God, they presume on His mercy. Instead of manifesting godlike compassion toward others, they cultivate the attributes of the enemy of God and bring oppression upon God's people by enforcing man-made laws. ST January 31, 1900, par. 21

“Thus saith the Lord”

is of more value and is to be regarded more sacredly than any human laws that can be framed. But men will refuse to others the liberty of keeping the commandments of God according to His revealed will. As Roman Catholics have thought, they will still think that human laws should prevail. ST January 31, 1900, par. 22

From the record of Christ's trial we may see to what pass those come who have perverted ideas of what constitutes godliness, and who allow their passions and prejudices to rule. When men are inspired by Satan with false religious zeal, they have no sense of what true piety means. ST January 31, 1900, par. 23

The times are marked by extraordinary depravity. The religion of the churches of today is of a kind that should make every true follower of God afraid of it. The religious character of professed Christians makes them act like demons. “We have a law,” they say, “and by our law He ought to die.” More than common contempt will be shown to those who make the Word of God their criterion. ST January 31, 1900, par. 24

The scenes of Christ's condemnation will be acted out in the courts by the people of this age who claim to be serving God. They will be moved with fury against God's people. Those who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth will know what it means to feel the wrath of the dragon. A power from beneath will cooperate with the apostate churches against those who obey the truth. Men will do the deeds of their fathers, repeating as far as possible the course of action pursued against Christ. ST January 31, 1900, par. 25

Mrs. E. G. White