9.And he entered again into the hall, and said to Jesus; Whence Art Thou? It is evident from this that he was in a state of perplexity and anguish, because he was afraid that he would be punished for sacrilege, if he laid his hand on the Son of God It ought to be observed that, when he asks whence Christ is, he does not inquire about his country, but the meaning is, as if he had said, “ thou a man born on the earth, or art thou some god?” The interpretation which I give to this passage, therefore, is, that Pilate, struck with the fear of God, was in perplexity and doubt as to what he ought to do; (162) for he saw, on the one hand, the excitement of a mutiny, and, on the other hand, conscience held him bound not to offend God for the sake of avoiding danger.
This example is highly worthy of observation. Though the countenance of Christ was so disfigured, yet, as soon as Pilate hears the name of God, he is seized with the fear of violating the majesty of God in a man who was utterly mean and despicable. If reverence for God had so much influence on an irreligious man, must not they be worse than reprobate, who now judge of divine things in sport and jest, carelessly, and without any fear? for, indeed, Pilate is a proof that men have naturally a sentiment of religion, which does not suffer them to rush fearlessly in any direction they choose, when the question relates to divine things. This is the reason why I said that those who, in handling the doctrine of Scripture, are not more impressed with the majesty of God, than if they had been disputing about the shadow of an ass, are given up to a reprobate mind, (Rom_1:28.) Yet they will one day feel to their destruction, what veneration is due to the name of God, which they now treat with such disdainful and outrageous mockery. It is shocking to relate how haughtily the Papists condemn the plain and ascertained truth of God, and with what cruelty they shed innocent blood. Whence, I beseech you, comes that drunken stupidity, but because they do not recollect that they have anything to do with God?
And Jesus gave him no answer. We ought not to think it strange that Jesus makes no reply; at least, if we keep in mind what I have formerly mentioned, that he did not stand before Pilate to plead his own cause, — as is customary with persons accused who are desirous to be acquitted, — but rather to suffer condemnation; for it was proper that he should be condemned, when he appeared in our room. This is the reason why he makes no defense; and yet Christ’ silence is not inconsistent with what Paul says,
Remember that Christ, before Pilate, made a good confession,
for there he maintained the faith of the Gospel, as far as was necessary, and his death was nothing else than the sealing of the doctrine delivered by him. Christ left nothing undone of what was necessary to make a lawful confession, but he kept silence as to asking an acquittal. Besides, there was some danger that Pilate would acquit Christ as one of the pretended gods, as Tiberius wished to rank him among the gods of the Romans. Justly, therefore, does Christ, by his silence, frown on this foolish superstition.
(162) “Il estoit en perplexite et doute de ce qu’ devoir falre.” — The Latin phraseology is highly idiomatic, being formed on a noted passage of Plautus: — “ Quod inter sacrum, ut aiunt, et saxum haeserit ” — “ he stuck fast, as they say, between the victim and the sacrificial knife.” A close resemblance to this may be observed in a French idiom — “Etre entre le marteau et l’ ;” — To be between the hammer and the anvil. — Ed.