Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 33: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 27:11-14; MARK 15:2-5; LUKE 23:2-12
11. Now Jesus stood 245 before the governor. And the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus saith to him, Thou sayest it. 246 12. And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, and he answered nothing. 13. Then Pilate saith to him, Hearest thou not how many things they testify against thee? 247 14. And he did not answer him a single word, so that the governor was greatly astonished.
2. And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said to him, Thou sayest it. 248 3. And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4. And Pilate again asked him, saying, Answerest thou nothing? Lo, how many things do they testify against thee? 249 5. But Jesus again answered nothing, so that the governor wondered.
2. And they began to accuse him saying, We have found this man subverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying, that he is the Christ, a King. 3. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said to him, Thou sayest it. 250 4. And Pilate said to the chief priests and to the multitudes, I find no fault in this man. 5. But they persisted, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout the whole of Judea, beginning from Galilee even to this place. 6. And when Pilate heard mention made of Galilee, he asked if the man was a Galilean. 7. And as soon as he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who also was at Jerusalem at that time. 8. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad; for he had long cherished a desire to see him, because had heard many things concerning him; and he hoped that he would see some miracle 251 wrought by him. 9. And he asked him in many words; but he made no reply to him. 10. And the chief priests and scribes stood, and vehemently accused him. 11. But Herod, with his attendants, despised him; and having mocked him, sent him back to Pilate clothed with a shining 252 robe. 12. And came friend; for previously they had been at enmity with each other.
Matthew 27:11. Now Jesus stood before the governor. Though it was a shocking exhibition, and highly incompatible with the majesty of the Son of God, to be dragged before the judgment-seat of a profane man, to be tried on the charge of a capital offense, as a malefactor in chains; yet we ought to remember that; our salvation consists in the doctrine of the cross, which is
folly to the Greeks, and an offense to the Jews,
For the Son of God chose to stand bound before an earthly judge, and there to receive sentence of death, 253 in order that we, delivered from condemnation, may not fear to approach freely to the heavenly throne of God. If, therefore, we consider what advantage we reap from Christ having been tried before Pilate, the disgrace of so unworthy a subjection will be immediately washed away. And certainly none are offended at the condemnation of Christ, 254 but those who are either proud hypocrites, or stupid and gross despisers of God, who are not ashamed of their own iniquity.
So then, the Son of God stood, as a criminal, before a mortal man, and there permitted himself to be accused and condemned, that we may stand boldly before God. His enemies, indeed, endeavored to fasten upon him everlasting infamy; but we ought rather to look at the end to which the providence of God directs us. For if we recollect how dreadful is the judgment-seat of God, and that we could never have been acquitted there, unless Christ had been pronounced to be guilty on earth, we shall never be ashamed of glorying in his chains. Again, whenever we hear that Christ stood before Pilate with a sad and dejected countenance, let us draw from it grounds of confidence, that, relying on him as our intercessor, we may come into the presence of God with joy and alacrity. To the same purpose is what immediately follows: he did not answer him a single word. Christ was silent, while the priests were pressing upon him on every hand; and it was, in order that he might open our mouth by his silence. For hence arises that distinguished privilege of which Paul speaks in such magnificent terms, (Ro 8:15,) that we can boldly cry, Abba, Father; to which I shall immediately refer again.
Art thou the King of the Jews? Although they attempted to overwhelm Christ by many and various accusations, still it is probable that they maliciously seized on the title of King, in order to excite greater odium against him on the part of Pilate. For this reason Luke expressly represents them as saying, we have found him subverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to caesar, saying that he is the Christ, A King Nothing could have been more odious than this crime to Pilate, whose greatest anxiety was to preserve the kingdom in a state of quietness. From the Evangelist John we learn that he was accused on various grounds; but it is evident from the whole of the narrative that this was the chief ground of accusation. In like manner, even at the present day, Satan labors to expose the Gospel to hatred or suspicion on this plea, as if Christ, by erecting his kingdom, were overturning all the governments of the world, and destroying the authority of kings and magistrates. Kings too are, for the most part, so fiercely haughty, that they reckon it impossible for Christ to reign without some diminution of their own power; and, therefore, they always listen favorably to such an accusation as that which was once brought unjustly against Christ.
On this account Pilate, laying aside all the other points, attends chiefly to the sedition; because, if he had ascertained that Christ had in any way disturbed the public peace, he would gladly have condemned him without delay. This is the reason why he asks him about the kingdom. According to the three Evangelists, the answer of Christ is ambiguous; but we learn from John (Joh 18:36) that Christ made an open acknowledgment of the fact which was alleged against him; but, at the same time, that he vindicated himself from all criminality by denying that he was an earthly king. But as he did not intend to take pains to vindicate himself, as is usually the case with criminals, the Evangelists put down a doubtful reply; as if they had said, that he did not deny that he was a king, but that he indirectly pointed out the calumny which his enemies unjustly brought against him.
12 He answered nothing. If it be asked why the Evangelists say that Christ was silent, while we have just now heard his answer from their mouth, the reason is, that he had a defense at hand, but voluntarily abstained from producing it. And, indeed, what he formerly replied about the kingdom did not arise from a desire to be acquitted, but was only intended to maintain that he was the Redeemer anciently promised,
before whom every knee ought to bow, (Isa 45:23.)
Pilate wondered at this patience; for Christ, by his silence, allowed his innocence to be suspected, when he might easily have refuted frivolous and unfounded calumnies. The integrity of Christ was such that the judge saw it plainly without any defense. But Pilate wished that Christ might not neglect his own cause, and might thus be acquitted without giving offense to many people. And up to this point, the integrity of Pilate is worthy of commendation, because, from a favorable regard to the innocence of Christ, he urges him to defend himself.
But that we may not, like Pilate, wonder at the silence of Christ, as if it had been unreasonable, we must attend to the purpose of God, who determined that his Son—whom he had appointed to be a sacrifice to atone for our sins—should be condemned as guilty in our room, though in himself he was pure. Christ therefore was at that time silent, that he may now be our advocate, and by his intercession may deliver us from condemnation. He was silent, that we may boast that by his grace we are righteous. And thus was fulfilled the prediction of Isaiah, (Isa 53:7,) that he was led as a sheep to the slaughter.
And yet he gave, at the same time, that good confession, which Paul mentions, (1Ti 6:12,) a confession not by words, but by deeds; not that by which he consulted his own advantage, but that by which he obtained deliverance for the whole human race.
Luke 23:4. And Pilate said to the chief priests and scribes. As Christ was come to bear the punishment of our sins, it was proper that he should first be condemned by the mouth of his judge, that it might afterwards be evident that he was condemned for the sake of others, and not for his own. But as Pilate, from a dread of exciting a tumult, did not venture absolutely to acquit him, he willingly availed himself of the opportunity which presented itself, of submitting him to the jurisdiction of Herod. This Herod was he who bears the surname of Antipas to whom was left the tetrarchy of Galilee, when Archelaus was a prisoner at Vienna, and when Judea had been annexed to the province of Syria. Now though we shall shortly afterwards find Luke relating that this mark of respect pacified Herod, who had formerly been enraged against Pilate, still his design was not so much to obtain Herod’s favor, as to get quit of a disagreeable affair under an honorable excuse, and thus to avoid the necessity of condemning Christ.
8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad. Hence it is evident how greatly wicked men are intoxicated, or rather bewitched, by their own pride; for though Herod did not acknowledge Christ to be the Son of God, he at least reckoned him to be a prophet. It was therefore most unreasonable cruelty to take pleasure in seeing him treated with contempt and disdain. But as if an injury had been done to him, so long as he had not obtained a sight of Christ, when he now sees him placed in his power, he triumphs as if he had obtained a victory. We see also what kind of love is cherished by wicked and irreligious men for prophets, in whom the power of God shines brightly. Herod had long wished to see Christ. Why then did he not wish to hear him, that he might profit by his doctrine? It was because he chose rather to amuse himself in beholding the divine power, than to view it, as he ought to have done, with devout and humble reverence. And this is the disposition of the flesh, so to desire to see God in his works, as not to submit to his authority; so to desire to see his servants, as to refuse to hear him speaking by them. And even Herod, though he hoped that some miracle would be performed by Christ, chose to have him placed at his feet as a malefactor rather than to receive him as a teacher. We need not wonder, therefore, if God conceal his glory from wicked men, who wished that he should contribute to their amusement, like some stage-player.
11. And Herod despised him. It was impossible but that a haughty man, who valued himself on his luxuries and royal dignity and wealth, should despise Christ, who had at that time nothing but what was contemptible in his appearance. And yet the pride of Herod, which shut the door on the grace of God, admits of no excuse. Nor can it be doubted that God, in order to punish him for his former indifference, purposely hardened his heart by such a spectacle; for he was unworthy of beholding in Christ any ray of heavenly glory; since he had so long shut his eyes on the full brightness, by which his whole country had been illuminated and adorned Herod, with his attendants. Luke relates not only that Christ was despised by Herod, but that he was despised by the whole of his retinue; and this is intended to inform us, that the honor which is due to God is seldom rendered to him in the courts of kings. For almost all courtiers, being addicted to pompous display, have their senses pre-occupied by so great vanity, that they carelessly despise, or pass by with closed eyes, the spiritual favors of God. But by this contempt of Christ we have acquired new dignity, so that we are now held in estimation by God and by angels.
12. Pilate and Herod became friends. From the fact that Christ was the occasion of reconciling two wicked men, let us learn how much the children of God, and religion itself, are disdained by the world. It is probable that, in consequence of their own ambition by which both were actuated, some dispute arose about their jurisdiction. But whatever may have been the origin of the quarrel, neither of them would have yielded to the other the smallest portion of his own rights in worldly matters; yet because Christ is set at naught, Pilate easily gives him up to Herod, and Herod, in his turn, sends him back to Pilate. 255 Thus in our own day we see, that when the judges enter into disputes with each other about robbers and other malefactors, the children of God are contemptuously thrown aside as if they were the merest refuse. 256 Hatred of religion often produces mutual harmony among wicked men, so that those who formerly had nothing in common unite together to extinguish the name of God. And yet when wicked men on both sides deliver up the children of God to death, it is not by what they consider to be a valuable price that they purchase mutual friendship, but what appears to them to be of no value whatever they not unwillingly surrender, just as if a person were to throw a crust of bread to a dog. But among us it is proper that Christ should produce a different kind of peace by putting an end to quarrels. Having first been reconciled to God, we ought to assist each other, by a devout and holy agreement, to follow righteousness, and to labor to discharge the duties of brotherly affection and of mutual humanity.
“Or Jesus fut amené devant le gouverneur.” — “Now Jesus was brought before the governor.”
“Tu le dis.”
“Combien de tesmoignages ils amenent contre-toy?” — “how many testimonies they produce against thee?”
“Tu le dis.”
“Combien de tesmoignages ils amenent contre-toy?” — “how many testimonies they produce against thee?”
“Tu le dis.”
“Quelque signer, ou, miracle;” — “some sign, or, miracle.”
“D’un vestement blanc, ou, reluysant;” — “with a white (or, shining) robe.”
“Et là estre traitté comme un criminel digne de mort;” — “and there to be reated as a criminal worthy of death.”
“De la condamnation à laquelle Christ s’est soumis;” — “at the condemnation to which Christ submitted.”
“Ne se souciant pas fort de le retenir;” — “without giving themselves much concdn about keeping him in their possession.”
“Ainsi aujourd’huy, comme ainsi soit que s’il est question de quelques brigans ou autres malfaiteurs, les juges avisent de pres à maintenir leur jurisdiction, et en debatent fort et ferme les uns contre les autres, les enfans de Dieu sont par eux jettez là avec desdain, en sorte qu’il semble qu’ils en jouent à triquoter entr’eux.” — “Thus in the present day, when a dispute happens to arise about some robbers or other malefacors, the judges are exceedingly attentive to maintain their jurisdiction, and debate about it keenly and warmly between themselves, while the children of God are thrown aside by them with disdain, so that they appear to amuse themselves with it by playing tricks on each other.”