John 19:22
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
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John 19:22

This was a mere piece of obstinacy. Pilate knew that he had prostituted his office in condemning Jesus, and he revenged himself for weak compliance by ill-timed mulishness. A cool-headed governor would have humoured his difficult subjects in such a trifle, as a just one would have been inflexible in a matter of life and death. But this man’s facile yielding and his stiff-necked obstinacy were both misplaced. ‘So I will, so I command. Let my will suffice for a reason,’ was what he meant. He had written his gibe, and not all the Jews in Jewry should make him change.

But his petulant answer to the rulers’ request for the removal of the offensive placard carried in it a deeper meaning, as the Title also did, and as the people’s fierce yell, ‘His blood be on us and on our children,’ did. Possibly the Evangelist had some thought of that sort in recording this saying; but, at all events, I venture to take a liberty with it which I should not do if it were a word of God’s, or if it were given for our instruction. So I take it now as expressing in a vivid way, and irrespective of Pilate’s intention, the thought of the irrevocable past.

I. Every man is perpetually writing a permanent record of himself.

It is almost impossible to get the average man to think of his life as a whole, or to realise that the fleeting present leaves indelible traces. They seem to fade away wholly. The record appears to be written in water. It is written in ink which is invisible, but as indelible as invisible. Grammarians define the perfect tense as that which expresses an action completed in the past and of which the consequences remain in the present. That is true of all our actions. Our characters, our circumstances, our remembrances, are all permanent. Every day we make entries in our diary.

II. That record, once written, is irrevocable.

We all know what it is to long that some one action should have been otherwise, to have taken some one step which perhaps has coloured years, and which we would give the world not to have taken. But it cannot be. Remorse cannot alter it. Wishes are vain. Repentance is vain. A new line of conduct is vain.

What an awful contrast in this respect between time future and time past! Think of the indefinite possibilities in the one, the rigid fixity of the other. Our present actions are like cements that dry quickly and set hard on exposure to the air-the dirt of the trowel abides on the soft brick for ever. Many cuneiform inscriptions were impressed with a piece of wood on clay, and are legible millenniums after.

We have to write currente calamo, and as soon as written, the MS. is printed and stereotyped, and no revising proofs nor erasures are possible. An action, once done, escapes from us wholly.

How needful, then, to have lofty principles ready at hand! The fresco painter must have a sure touch, and a quick hand, and a full mind.

What a boundless field the future offers us! How much it may be! How much, perhaps, we resolve it shall be! What a shrunken heap the harvest is! Are you satisfied with what you have written?

III. This record, written here, is read yonder.

Our actions carry eternal consequences. These will be read by ourselves. Character remains. Memory remains.

We shall read with all illusions stripped away.

Others will read-God and a universe.

‘We shall all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ.’

IV. This record may be blotted out by the blood of Christ.

It cannot be made not to have been, but God’s pardon will be given, and in respect to all personal consequences it is made non-existent. Circumstances may remain, but their pressure is different. Character may be renewed and sanctified, and even made loftier by the evil past. Our dead selves may become ‘stepping-stones to higher things.’

Memory may remain, but its sting is gone, and new hopes, and joys, and work may fill the pages of our record.

‘He took away the handwriting that was against us, nailing it to His Cross.’

Our lives and characters may become a palimpsest. ‘I will write upon him My new name.’ ‘Ye are an epistle of Christ ministered by us.’19:19-30 Here are some remarkable circumstances of Jesus' death, more fully related than before. Pilate would not gratify the chief priests by allowing the writing to be altered; which was doubtless owing to a secret power of God upon his heart, that this statement of our Lord's character and authority might continue. Many things done by the Roman soldiers were fulfilments of the prophecies of the Old Testament. All things therein written shall be fulfilled. Christ tenderly provided for his mother at his death. Sometimes, when God removes one comfort from us, he raises up another for us, where we looked not for it. Christ's example teaches all men to honour their parents in life and death; to provide for their wants, and to promote their comfort by every means in their power. Especially observe the dying word wherewith Jesus breathed out his soul. It is finished; that is, the counsels of the Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled. It is finished; all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished. It is finished; the ceremonial law is abolished; the substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. It is finished; an end is made of transgression by bringing in an everlasting righteousness. His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. It is finished; the work of man's redemption and salvation is now completed. His life was not taken from him by force, but freely given up.What I have written ... - This declaration implied that he would make no change. He was impatient, and weary of their solicitations. He had yielded to them contrary to the convictions of his own conscience, and he now declared his purpose to yield no further. 19-22. Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross … Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews … and it was written in Hebrew—or Syro-Chaldaic, the language of the country.

and Greek—the current language.

and Latin—the official language. These were the chief languages of the earth, and this secured that all spectators should be able to read it. Stung by this, the Jewish ecclesiastics entreat that it may be so altered as to express, not His real dignity, but His false claim to it. But Pilate thought he had yielded quite enough to them; and having intended expressly to spite and insult them by this title, for having got him to act against his own sense of justice, he peremptorily refused them. And thus, amidst the conflicting passions of men, was proclaimed, in the chief tongues of mankind, from the Cross itself and in circumstances which threw upon it a lurid yet grand light, the truth which drew the Magi to His manger, and will yet be owned by all the world!

But Pilate refuseth to gratify them, and lets them know he would not be directed by them what to write, nor alter any thing of it. Pilate answered, what I have written I have written,.... He seems to say this, as one angry and displeased with them; either because they would not consent to release Jesus, which he was desirous of, but pressed him so very hard to crucify him; or at their insolence, in directing him in what form to put the superscription, which he determines shall stand unaltered, as he had wrote it. This he said, either because he could not alter it after it was written, for it is said (w), that

"a proconsul's table is his sentence, which being once read, not one letter can either be increased or diminished; but as it is recited, so it is related in the instrument of the province;''

or if he could have altered it, he was not suffered by God to do it; but was so directed, and over ruled by divine providence, as to write, so to persist in, and abide by what he had wrote inviolably; which is the sense of his words. Dr. Lightfoot has given several instances out of the Talmud, showing that this is a common way of speaking with the Rabbins; and that words thus doubled signify that what is spoken of stands good, and is irrevocable: so a widow taking any of the moveable goods of her husband deceased for her maintenance, it is said (x), , "what she takes, she takes"; that is, she may lawfully do it, and retain it: it continues in her hands, and cannot be taken away from her; and so the gloss explains it, "they do not take it from her"; and in the same way Maimonides (y) interprets it: so of a man that binds himself to offer an oblation one way, and he offers it another way, , "what he has offered, he has offered (z)"; what he has offered is right, it stands good, and is not to be rejected: and again, among the rites used by a deceased brother's wife, towards him that refuses to marry her, if one thing is done before the other, it matters not, , "what is done, is done (a)"; and is not to be undone, or done over again in another way; it stands firm and good, and not to be objected to: and the same writer observes, that this is a sort of prophecy of Pilate, and which should continue, and for ever obtain, that the Jews should have no other King Messiah than Jesus of Nazareth; nor have they had any other; all that have risen up have proved false Messiahs; nor will they have any other; nor indeed any king, until they seek the Lord their God, and David their king, Hosea 3:5 that is, the son of David, as they will do in the latter day; when they shall be converted, and when they shall own him as their king, their ancestors at this time were ashamed of.

(w) Apulei Florid. c. 9. (x) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 96. 1.((y) Hilchot Ishot, c. 18. sect. 10. (z) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 3. 1. (a) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 106. 2.

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
John 19:22. But Pilate, “by nature obstinate and stubborn” (Philo, ii. 589), peremptorily reiused to make any alteration. ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα.22. Pilate answered] His answer illustrates the mixture of obstinacy and relentlessness, which Philo says was characteristic of him. His own interests are not at stake, so he will have his way: where he had anything to fear or to gain he could be supple enough. A shrewd, practical man of the world, with all a Roman official’s contemptuous impartiality and severity, and all the disbelief in truth and disinterestedness which the age had taught him, he seems to have been one of the many whose self-interest is stronger than their convictions, and who can walk uprightly when to do so is easy, but fail in the presence of danger and difficulty.John 19:22. Ὃ γέγραφα, what I have written) Pilate’s thought was to consult for the honour of his own authority: he really hereby subserved the Divine authority. [In the person of the Procurator (Governor) himself something of a prophetical character was in this instance vouchsafed, as in the case of the High Priest, ch. John 11:51, Caiaphas: “One man should die for the people. This spake he not of himself; but being High Priest that year, he prophesied” etc.—V. g.]—γέγραφα, I have written) Ploce [The same word repeated: first used simply, then to express some attribute.—Append.] The second, I have written, is meant to express, I will not write otherwise.Verse 22. - Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. And he curtly dismissed them. Pilate no longer dreaded their making his apparent favor to Jesus into a complaint to the emperor, and he gave way to the indomitable temper of which Philo accuses him. He found grim satisfaction in insulting and browbeating them for a moment, {Ο γέγραφα γέγραφα. "I said it, and I meant it; I have crucified your King; yes, true King in his own sense, but not in yours. You have falsely charged him with rebelling against Caesar, and you know that you have lied to my face. Let be; he is your King, and so perish all your futile attempts to shatter the arm that holds you now in its grasp." That and more was condensed in this haughty and obstinate reply. While this was going on in the Praetorium, the tragedy was proceeding at Golgotha; and St. John now returns thither, and describes an event of intense interest which occurred, as all synoptists say, at the very time of the elevation of the cross. John, however, has further facts and symbolic detail to append which were omitted by them.
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