The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Here Pilate learned the second lesson of the stubbornness of the Jews. But in the next lines this celebrated writer tells us:
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was the doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; And when Pilate at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold. These and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him, and the tribe of Christians so named from him, are not extinct at this day." 1
On another occasion Pilate nearly drove the Jews to rebellion, because he hung up in his palace at Jerusalem gilt shields inscribed with the names of pagan gods. The Jews rose in great wrath and appealed to the emperor, and Tiberius ordered them removed, says Philo. 2 This was the third victory they gained over him.
Again they rose against him in Galilee and he slaughtered them without mercy. (Luke xiii. 1.) The friction between Pilate and the Jews continued, and the former was generally obliged to give way to them, and they had by their obstinacy forced him to yield so often by appealing to the emperor, that we understand how he condemned Christ to death to please them, although it was against the instincts of his nature.
The causes of the enmity between Pilate and Herod were these : Pilate undertook to build an aqueduct, as already given above, on the southeast side of the Temple Mount, at the end of the' Cedron valley, into which the Pool of Bethsaida emptied, so as to carry off the refuse of the Temple. A member of the Sanhedrin told the design to Herod, and the latter offered to furnish the material and twenty-eight architects, giving these, who were Herodians, directions to build the work so it would fall, hoping that it would thus cause a riot against Pilate.
When the work was nearly finished, and the workmen and stonemasons from Ophel were removing the scaffoldings, the architects ascended the Siloe tower (Luke xiii. 4.) to see the crash, which they knew was coming. The whole aqueduct fell, killing eighteen of the workmen, the tower was also pulled down and not an architect escaped death. This took place on Herod's birthday, January 8th, in the year A. D. 32, while Herod was celebrating his feast at Machserus, where he had ordered John the Baptist be headed. Jesus was then preaching at Samaria, and he went at once to console the Baptist's family. When he came up to Jerusalem, he healed the wounded workmen of Ophel. Josephus mentions the matter of the aqueduct. 3
Pilate imposed a tax to cover the extra expenses of re building the aqueduct, and a sedition against him was raised among the Jews. The rebellion was headed by Judas of Gaulon, 4 who was only a tool in Herod's hands. Pilate captured and imprisoned fifty of them. The Galileans came to Jerusalem, delivered their comrades and raised a revolt in the Temple. On April 6th, A. D. 82. Pilate sent Roman soldiers disguised as Jews into the Temple, who slaughtered Judas with his companions at the time of the sacrifice. This fanned still more the flame of Herod's hatred for Pilate. 5 Other causes of friction rose between them, but on the day of the crucifixion they were reconciled, as the prophet foretold : " The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord, and against his Christ." (Psalm ii. 2.)
The character of Pilate may be inferred from his con duct during our Lord's trial. He was the type of the rich and corrupt Rome of his age, a worldly-minded politician, a statesman looking for his own ease, but continually troubled by turbulent Jews, quarreling, fighting and ready to die for religious matters, which he did not understand. He was not without the instincts of justice, and he wanted to free the poor Prisoner brought before him. But the whole Jewish nation, represented by their chief men, who attended the Passover feast, demanded His crucifixion, and he gave in to their request when they threatened to report him to Caesar.
His treatment of the Jewish people may look harsh in our day, but it was the only way of keeping them quiet. This was the practice of the Roman governors in dealing with the Jewish nation, so arrogant, perverse and stub born. But Pilate was mostly moved by selfish regard for himself and his position. To keep his place, to be esteemed by the emperor who could remove him by a nod of the head, was the thought uppermost in his mind during the trial. He is the example of the smooth, polished politician of our day, who agrees with every one, favors all sides, seems to be the friend of every one, but looks out only for his own interest, and is ready to sacrifice his sense of justice, to outrage every law, to gain his ends, or to gain the smile of the unthinking crowd.
1 Josephus, Antiq., Book xviii., Chap, iii, Art. 3. 89.
2 Ad Caium, Sec. 38, Art. 2. 589
3 Antiq. xviii., iii. 2.
4 Acts v. 37 ; Antiq. xvii., i, 2, 6, War i. iii. 4.
5 Josephus, Wars, B. ii, iv. l.