Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 23:1 - 23:3

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 23:1 - 23:3

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Luk_23:1-3. And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to C æ sar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

UNANIMITY in any cause is no proof that the cause is good: nothing is requisite but to raise an outcry, and the passions of the multitude are soon heated; and, if there be a few artful and designing men to head them, they will concur in measures the most violent, and in acts the most atrocious. Never was this more awfully exemplified than in the conduct of the Jews towards our blessed Lord. Of all the Benefactors that nation ever beheld, Jesus was by far the greatest: yet there we find the whole multitude of the Jews, with the priests and elders at their head, leading Jesus before the Roman governor, in order to obtain against him the sentence of death.

We would call your attention to,

I.       The transaction itself—

Here are three things to be noticed;

1.       The virulence of the accusation—

[How contemptuously, how maliciously, how falsely, do they speak against him! He pervert the nation! Had they called him the Instructor of the nation, the Healer of the nation, the Saviour of the nation, they had done well: but to call him the Perverter of the nation, was a calumny, which one would have thought his bitterest enemies would not have dared to utter. It was not long since the very question had been publicly submitted to him; and his express answer was, “Render unto C æ sar the things that are C æ sar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s [Note: Luk_20:25.].” What he thus enjoined on his followers, he had before sanctioned by his example, having actually wrought a miracle on purpose to pay his tribute [Note: Mat_17:25-27.]. And when the people would have taken him to make him a king, he by a miracle rendered himself invisible, and withdrew himself from them [Note: Joh_6:15.].]

2.       The subtlety of his accusers—

[They formed their accusation so as to influence the person whose decision they desired. Before the High Priest, they accused him of blasphemy; but before Pilate, of sedition; that so they might interest the feelings of each, and procure from both a sentence of condemnation against him. Their pretended zeal for the honour of the Roman emperor, was especially calculated to make a favourable impression on him, who, as C æ sar’s deputy, now governed Jud æ a as a province of the Roman empire.

Their accusation too was founded upon assertions made by our Lord himself. He doubtless had frequently declared that he was the Christ, the King of Israel. His triumphant entry into Jerusalem but four days before, and his approbation of the Hosannas of his followers, amounted to a declaration, that he was the person spoken of by the prophet, “Behold thy King cometh unto thee, riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass [Note: Zec_9:9.].”

But did he therefore pervert the people, or claim for himself the tribute that was due to C æ sar? No: their premises in a certain sense, were true; but their conclusions from them were utter falsehood. They knew, however, that logical precision was not wanted in such a cause: when passion and prejudice guide the judgment, a specious plea will pass for substantial reason, and the semblance of truth will operate as forcibly as truth itself; especially where the accuser espouses the cause of the judge, and the accused is represented as his enemy.]

3.       The dignity of the accused—

[He preserved silence in the midst of all the accusations which were brought against him; “insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly [Note: Mat_27:12-14.].” And well he might marvel, that not a word of anger, or complaint, or self-vindication, should escape him. But Jesus was mute and passive, like a sheep led to the slaughter [Note: Isa_53:7.], and “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”

Nevertheless, when interrogated by his judge, he did answer, “Yea,” and “witnessed a good confession.” “Art thou the king of the Jews?” saith Pilate. “Thou sayest right,” replied our Lord; “I am.” He would not dissemble, nor for a moment hide such an important truth. He was prepared to endure all consequences, and to yield up his life in the very way that his enemies desired. And, as the Jewish Sanhedrim had already condemned him on his own confession [Note: Luk_22:71.], so he was willing that the Roman governor should follow their example. He was alike unmoved by impatience or revenge, by hopes or fears.]

II.      The improvement that should be made of it—

The followers of Christ are called to tread in his steps. Would we then approve ourselves worthy of that high calling? let us,

1.       Expect all manner of evil to be spoken of us falsely for his sake—

[He has warned us plainly to expect it [Note: Mat_5:11.]: and experience proves that we ought to be prepared for it — — — Our enemies will not only take advantage of any thing we say or do, to build malignant reports upon it; but will be sure to impute our conduct to false principles, and to load our principles with consequences not at all deducible from them. We preach salvation by faith only i therefore we are enemies to morality: “We are instant in season and out of season;” and therefore we are irregular, and enemies to the established Church — — — If they would inquire, they would soon find that the very reverse of what they affirm is true: but they desire our condemnation; and therefore they make up by confidence and clamour, what they want in truth and equity — — — Thus was our Lord himself treated; and “if they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household [Note: See 1Ki_18:17. Jer_38:4. Est_3:8-9. Act_17:6-7; Act_24:5.].”]

2.       Submit with meekness to whatever evils we may be called to suffer—

[Our blessed Lord has suffered, “leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.” It is true, it is not easy to preserve meekness and resignation amidst all the treatment which we experience from “unreasonable and wicked men:” but we should endeavour to “walk as Christ walked:” and be willing to “be made perfect through sufferings,” even as he was. “Let patience then have its perfect work;” and, when led to indulge an impatient spirit, beg of God to strengthen you with all might “by his Spirit in your inward man” — — —]

3.       Be steadfast and immoveable in the maintenance of our principles—

[Many occasions may arise wherein we may be tempted to conceal our principles: but it is better to confess them openly, and suffer for them, than to violate our conscience and offend our God. We are expressly commanded “not to fear man, who can only kill the body; but to fear God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” We do not recommend it to any one to court persecution by a voluntary declaration of his principles to those who will only make them grounds of offence; (for that were to “cast pearls before swine;”) but whenever called to give an account of our faith, let us follow the example of our Lord, and at the risk of our lives “witness a good confession.”]