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from the temptation, and foils the Enemy with the words, " Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
Turn now to another scene. Jesus stands before Pilate. Alone ? Not now alone; worse than alone. Deserted by the few humble friends he had, without one to know him, he is confronting malignant and powerful accusers. A savage crowd surrounds him. Blind to his divine excellence, deaf to the calm voice of reason, dead to gentle pity, they glare on him with their eyes; they gnash their teeth at him ; nor are restrained but by the steady port and resolute de meanor of these Roman guards from rushing in like a pack of blood-hounds, and tearing him to pieces. Blessed Lord! now, now mayest thou say, “My soul is among lions ; and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.” There, in that hour, see how his life hangs on a thread, on a single word. Every charge they have brought against him has broken down--bursting into spray and foam, as I have seen the sea-wave that has launched itself upon a rock. Leaving their witnesses to convict themselves of perjury, he preserves, on his part, unbroken silence. Serene and unmoved he stands the cruel pelting of the storm. Shame to his chosen disciples, shame to his followers, shame even to the thousands he had blessed and cured, not one is there to espouse his cause; and, boldly stepping out, to say, in the face of that infuriate crowd,“ I know the man ;
I know him to be the purest, kindest, greatest, best of men. Assembly of murderers ! crucify him not; or, if you will perpetrate so foul a crime, crucify me with him.”
Such are the circumstances in which Pilate puts his
question, “ Art thou the King of the Jews ?” On this question, and our Lord's answer, everything is now to turn. The crisis has come. His fate is in the balance. Let him say, no, and resign his claim--he lives ; and, the baffled crowd dividing before him like the sea of old before the host of Israel, he leaves the bar for life and liberty. Let him maintain his silence—continue dumb, he is safe. Unless he compromise himself, this coward judge condemns not“ innocent blood.” Have you ever been present in a court of justice when the bell rang, and the jury returned, and the foreman rose to pronounce a verdict of death or life on the pale, anxious, trembling wretch who stood before you? Then you can fancy the deep, hushed, breathless silence, with which judge, and accusers, and the whole multitude, bend forward to catch our Lord's reply. If he claims to be a king, he seals his fate. If he renounces and disavows his right, the Roman sets him at liberty. Our Lord foresees this. He has a full foreknowledge of all the consequences of the word he is now to speak. Yet he claims the crown. Refusing to abandon, or even to conceal his kingly character, he returns to Pilate this bold reply, “ Thou sayest ;" in other words, “I am a king”—King of the Jews.
How do these facts illustrate the preëminent importance which Jesus attached to his office and character as a king! They do more than illustrate, they demonstrate it. To explain this, let me recall a recent circumstance to your recollection. When our Indian empire was shaken to its foundations, and, as many feared, tottering to its fall, the enemy in one instance offered terms of compromise. They were rejected. Unmoved by the most adverse fortunes, undismayed by the pestilence, starvation, and murder, which stared
them in the face, with the hope of relief burning lower and lower as the weary days wore on, our gallant countrymen, in the darkest hour and crisis of their fortunes, would listen to no compromise. They could die but not yield ; and so sent back this stern answer, " We refuse to treat with mutineers.” And if we would yield up no right in the hour of our greatest weakness and terrible extremity, far less shall we do so with the tide of battle turned in our favor, and that enemy crushed, or crouching in abject terror at our feet. Now, our Lord had the strongest temptations to abandon his kingly claims; and if he refused to give them up in the desert, where he had not a morsel to eat, and at the bar, when to have parted with them would have saved his life, he is not likely now certainly to yield one jot or tittle of what belongs to him as a King. He has no inducement to do so. A friendless prisoner no more, he stands at the right hand of God; the head which was bound round with a thorn wreath, now wears the crown of earth and heaven ; and the hand they mocked with a reed sways, over angels, men, and devils, the sceptre of universal empire. Think you that Christ will allow Satan, or the world, or the flesh, to pluck from his power what they could not wring from his weakness? Never. He will never consent to share his throne with rivals from whom he won it. He claims to reign supreme in your hearts, in every heart which his grace has renewed, over all whom he has conquered by love and redeemed with blood.
Would God that we could live up to that truth ! How often, and to what a sad extent, is it forgotten ! each of us doing what is right in his own eyes, as if there was no king in Israel. Oh, that we were as
anxious to be delivered from the power, as all of us are to escape the punishment, of sin ! I do not say that we should look less to Christ as a Saviour, but we should certainly look more to him as a sovereign ; nor fix our attention on his cross, so much to the exclusion of his crown. We are not to yield him less faith, but more obedience. We should not less often kiss his wounds, but more frequently his feet. We can never too highly esteem his love, but we may, and often do, think too lightly of his law. His Spirit helping us, let his claims on our obedience be as cheerfully conceded as his claim to our faith ; so that to our love of his glorious person, and his saving work, we may be able to add with David, "O how love I thy law !!
II. Consider from whom Christ received the kingdom.
1. He did not receive it from the Jews. unto his own, and his own received him not.”
Once, indeed-like stony-ground hearers, like some who make a flaming profession of religion to abandon it almost as soon as they embrace it—the Jews seemed eager to receive Jesus. They even attempted to thrust royal honours on him ; " Jesus perceived that they would come and take him by force to make him a king." Afterwards, and by one of those popular movements, which, in the form of a panic or an enthusiasm, rises rapidly, like a flooded river, to sweep in its headlong course stones as well as straws before it, they bore him in royal state on to the capital. Not with sacred oil, or golden crown, or imperial purple, but such royal insignia as the circumstances admitted of, they invested their new-made king. They denuded themselves of
their garments to carpet the dusty road. Mothers held up their babes to see him ; women and children filled the joyous air with loud hosannas; gray old men, as the procession swept by, shed tears of joy that the long-looked-for hour had come; and, marching with the tramp of freemen—as if every foot beneath its tread crushed a Roman eagle-strong men, with ten thousand stout arms ready to fight for his crown, waved green palms in anticipation of triumph and victory. Thus the living wave, swelling higher as it advanced, rolled on to Jerusalem, bearing Jesus forward to the throne of David. For his mother, for the Marys, for his disciples, for all ardent patriots, it was a glorious hour. Alas! how soon all was changed ! It passed like a beautiful pageant-passed like the watery gleam of a stormy day-passed like a brilliant meteor that shoots athwart the dusky sky. A few days afterwards, and Jerusalem, with a crowd as great, presents another spectacle. The stage, the actors, the voices, are the same; but the drama, if I may so speak, how different! This brief act of honour and duty, homage and triumph, is closely followed by an awful tragedy. We have seen tales of horror and shocking butchery shake the heart of a whole nation; but this event struck the insensate earth with trembling, spread a pall of mourning over the whole firmament, filling creation with such signs of bereavement as fill a house when its head is smote down by the hand of death. The tide, which bore Jesus to the crown, turns; and when next we see him, he hangs basely murdered upon a cross, An inconstant people have taken the object of their brief idolatry and, like an angry child with its toy, dashed it on the ground. The only crown our Lord gets from man is woven of thorns. His