The council, full of passion's heat,
Come to demand Messiah's blood.
Oh, what has made them mad and blind?
And what has kindled in their mind
Of fury such a fiery flood?
'Tis envy which no mercy knows
Then went the high priests and the scribes, together with the rulers and traders of the temple, and the witnesses, to the house of Pilate. Jesus was led forth in front of them by Balbus and Malchus as before, Selpha being in command of the band of soldiers. As they went the soldiers shouted aloud, "Away with thee to death, thou false prophet! Ha! doth it dismay thee that thou wilt not go forward?"
"Drive him on," said Selpha. But Jesus being weary walked with slow footsteps.
Then the soldiers thrust him forward, crying, "Shall we have to carry thee in our arms? Go on! Thou hast not far to go, only to Calvary; there upon the cross thou canst rest in comfort."
By this time they had approached the precincts of Pilate's house. Then said Caiaphas to the soldiers, "Be still; we have to announce our coming." And they were still.
The rabbi said, "Go to the door and knock."
It was done, and Quintus came out, saying, "What does this crowd of people want here?"
The rabbi replied that the council had assembled there. Quintus promised to announce them at once, and the rabbi turning to the members of the Sanhedrin, said, "Do you hear? He will announce our presence without delay."
Caiaphas addressed those who were following him: "Ye members of the Sanhedrin, if you have at heart the holy traditions, our honor, the tranquility of the whole land, then consider well this moment. It decides between us and that deceiver. If you are men in whom flows the blood of your fathers, then listen to us. An imperishable monument you will set up for yourselves. Be firm in your resolve."
Then cried the priests, "Our fathers forever; death to the enemy of the nation!"
"Do not rest, then," said Caiaphas, "until he is blotted out of the number of the living!"
And they cried again, "We will not rest, we demand his death, his blood."
Then the soldiers turned to Jesus and said, "Hearest thou that, O king and prophet?"
Then came Pilate out with his attendants upon the balcony of the house; two spearmen on either side advanced to the foot of the steps of the balcony, and stood spear in hand whilst the audience listed. Then Caiaphas stepped forward in front of the crowd, and, bowing low, thus began, "Governor and representative of the great Caesar, health and blessing to thee." Then Caiaphas continued: "We have brought here before thy judgment seat a man of the name of Jesus that thou mayest consent to the execution of the death sentence pronounced against him by the Sanhedrin."
Pilate answered, "Bring him forth," and the soldiers led Jesus, out before Pilate so that he stood on the right hand of the balcony. Pilate having looked upon him asked, "What accusations have you to bring against this man?"
[Illustration: "What accusations have you to bring against this man?"]
Caiaphas, speaking with some surprise, said, "If he were not a great malefactor we would not have delivered him over to thee, but have dealt with him ourselves according to the direction of our holy law."
"Well, of what evil deeds has he been guilty?" asked Pilate.
Caiaphas answered, "He has in many ways grievously offended against the holy law of Israel."
Pilate answered, "Then take him away and judge him according to your law."
Then said Annas, "He has already been judged by the Sanhedrin and has been declared to be worthy of death."
Then all the priests cried aloud, "For according to our law he has deserved death."
But Caiaphas explained: "It is not lawful for us to execute the sentence of death upon any one; therefore we bring the application for the execution of the sentence to the representative of Caesar."
Then Pilate having looked upon Jesus and upon Caiaphas asked, with indignation, "How can I deliver a man over to death unless I know the crime, and before I have satisfied myself that his crime is worthy of death? What has he done?"
Then said the rabbi, "The sentence of the council upon this man was unanimously pronounced, and grounded upon a careful investigation into his crimes. It seems therefore unnecessary that the illustrious governor should take upon himself the trouble of a second investigation.
"What," said Pilate, hotly, "do you dare to suggest to me, the representative of Caesar, that I should be a blind instrument for the execution of your orders? Be that far from me! I must know what law he has broken, and in what way."
Caiaphas, Annas and the members of the Sanhedrin waxed wroth and spoke warmly among themselves on hearing the words of Pilate. Caiaphas answered and said, "We have a law and by our law he ought to die because he made himself the Son of God," while all the people shouted, "We all have heard the blasphemy from his own lips," and Annas added, "And upon that account we must insist that he suffers the legal punishment."
Then Pilate said scornfully unto them, "On account of such a speech, which at the most is only the outcome of an enthusiastic imagination, a Roman can find no one guilty of death. Who knows also," he added, with a glance at Jesus, "whether this man may not be the son of some god! If you have no other crime to lay to his charge you need not think that I will fulfil your desires."
Caiaphas answered and said, "Not only against our holy law, but also against Caesar himself has this man been guilty of serious offences. We have found him to be an insurgent and deceiver of the people."
Then cried all the priests and Pharisees together tumultuously, "He is an agitator and a rebel."
Pilate answered, "I have heard of one Jesus who was said to go about the country and teach and do extraordinary works, but I have never heard of any sedition stirred up by him. Were anything of that kind to happen I should have heard of it before you, who am appointed for the maintenance of peace in the land, and am perfectly well informed concerning the words and deeds of the Jews. But tell me, when and where has he stirred up any commotion?"
Then Nathanael stood forward and said unto Pilate, "He brings together multitudes by thousands around him and he has quite recently, surrounded by such a crowd, made a solemn entry into Jerusalem itself."
"O I know that," said Pilate contemptuously, "but nothing took place on that occasion to disturb the public peace."
By this time Caiaphas and the priests were in a state of indignation which they did not care to conceal, and Caiaphas asked angrily, "Is it not sedition if he forbid the people to pay tribute to Caesar?"
Pilate asked, "Where have you proof of that?"
"Proof enough," retorted Caiaphas, "for he gives himself out as the Messiah, the king of Israel. Is not that to challenge the imperial authority?"
Pilate replied, sarcastically, "I admire your suddenly awakened zeal for the authority of Caesar."
Then turning to Jesus, who had stood silent during the altercation, he asked him, saying, "Hearest thou what serious accusations these bring against thee? What answerest thou?" Jesus remained silent.
"See," said Caiaphas, eagerly, "He cannot deny it. His silence is an admission of his crime."
Then cried all the multitude, stretching out their hands toward Pilate, "Sentence him then!"
"Patience," said Pilate, "there is time enough for that. I will take him apart for a private hearing."
Pilate, speaking to his attendants, said, "Perhaps when he is no longer confused by the crowd and the fury of his accusers he will answer me." Then, speaking to his servants he said, "Lead him into the court." And turning to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, he said, "Go! my guard shall take charge of him, but do you examine the justice or injustice of your complaints, and be careful to investigate whether they do not perhaps come from a polluted source. Then let me know the result of your reflections."
At this Caiaphas turned his back upon Pilate and looked with indignation upon his followers, who showed the liveliest manifestations of disgust. Josue said, "Everything has been well considered and examined already. The law pronounces him worthy of death." The Jews, turning to go, angrily discussed this reverse.
"This is a troublesome delay," said the rabbi.
But Caiaphas encouraged them, saying, "Do not lose heart, victory belongs to the steadfast."
Then was Jesus brought before Pilate's judgment seat, and Pilate said unto him, "Thou hast heard the complaint of the council against thee. Give me an answer thereto. Thou hast, they say, called thyself a Son of God. Whence art thou?" But Jesus made no answer. Then Pilate said unto him with some surprise, "Dost thou not speak even unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee and to release thee?"
Then Jesus turned to him and said, "Thou couldst have no power at all against me except it were given unto thee from above. Therefore he that delivereth me unto thee hath the greater sin."
"Frankly spoken," said Pilate, aside. Then, speaking to Jesus he said, "Art thou the king of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or only because others have told it to thee?"
Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me. They accuse thee that thou hast desired to be the king of Israel. What ground is there for this?"
Then answered Jesus and said unto him, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, so that I should not be delivered unto the hands of the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence."
Then said Pilate, "Art thou a king then?"
Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice."
When Pilate heard this he said, "What is truth?"
Hardly had he asked this question when the servant Quintus entered hastily from the door behind. "Lord, thy servant Claudius is here; he has to bring thee a pressing message from thy wife."
Pilate said, "Let him come in. Lead the man hence for a moment into the hall." The attendants having led Jesus out, Claudius entered. Pilate asked him, "What bringest thou from my dear spouse?"
"My lord," said Claudius, "thy wife greeteth thee and prays thee from her heart, for thine own sake and for hers, that thou wouldst have nothing to do with this just man who has been accused before the judgment seat. She has suffered anguish and terror on his account last night, owing to a fearful dream."
Pilate answered, "Go back and tell her that she need not disturb herself. I will have nothing to do with the proposals of the Jews, but do all that I can to save him." Saluting Pilate, the messenger departed.
Pilate then said to his attendants, "Would that I had nothing to do with this business! What do you think, my friends, of the complaint of the Jewish priests?"
Then said the courtier Mela, "It seems to me that they are only inspired by envy and jealousy. The most passionate hatred appears in their words and countenances."
And the courtier Sylvius added, "The hypocrites pretend that they have the authority of Caesar at heart, whereas the matter concerns only their own authority, which they believe endangered by this famous teacher of the people."
Pilate answered, "I agree with you. I cannot believe that this man entertains any criminal schemes in his mind. There is so much that is noble in his features and in his demeanor. His speech displays so noble a candor and such high natural gifts that he seemed much more to be a very wise man, perhaps only too wise for these gloomy fanatics to be able to bear the light of his countenance. And then the dream which troubled my wife on his account! If he were really of higher origin? No," said Pilate decidedly, arriving at a resolution, "I will not let myself be induced to comply with the wishes of the priests." Then he ordered his servants, saying, "Let the chief priests appear here again, and let the accused be led out again from the judgment hall."
Then came Caiaphas, Annas and the chief priests, and the scribes and rulers of the people once more before Pilate to receive his decision. Then Pilate spoke unto them as follows: "Here you have your prisoner again; he is without guilt." Consternation and fury were displayed on the faces of all the Jews.
Then Annas said, "We have Caesar's word that our law shall be upheld. How can he be without guilt who treads this very law beneath his feet?"
Then cried all the council, saying, "He is worthy of death!"
Caiaphas, who stood before the council, asked, "Is he not punishable by Caesar when he maliciously injures that which Caesar's will has guaranteed us?"
Pilate said, "I have told you already, if he hath done anything against your law, then punish him according to your law, in so far as you are authorized so to do. I cannot pronounce the death sentence upon him, because I find nothing in him which according to the laws upon which I have to act is deserving of death."
Then were the Jews vexed beyond measure and muttered among themselves in hot displeasure, but Caiaphas replied, "If any one proclaims himself as king, is he not a rebel? Does he not deserve the death punishment of high treason?"
"If," said Pilate, "this man has called himself a king it seems to me that so ambiguous a word is not sufficient to condemn him. For it is openly taught among the Romans that every wise man is a king. But you have brought forward no facts to prove that he has usurped kingly authority."
Then said Nathanael, "Is it not a sufficient fact that through him the whole people are stirred up; that he fills the whole of Judea with his teaching, beginning from Galilee, where he first attracted followers to himself, until here in Jerusalem?"
Then asked Pilate in surprise, "Has he come out of Galilee?"
Then cried they all, "Yes, he is a Galilean," and the rabbi added, "His home is in Nazareth, in the jurisdiction of King Herod."
"If that be so, then am I relieved of the jurisdiction. Herod, King of Galilee, has come hither for the feast; he can now judge his own subject. Take him away and bring him unto his own king. He shall be conducted thither by my body guard." Then Pilate with his attendants left the judgment hall.
Caiaphas exclaimed, "Off, then, to Herod! With Herod, who professeth the faith of our fathers, we shall find better protection for our holy law."
Annas said, "And if a thousand hindrances were to oppose themselves, the criminal must meet with the deserved punishment."
Then they cried to Christ, as they went off to the palace of Herod, "One hour sooner or later, what matters it? Thou must come to die, and this very day!"
* * * * * *
King Herod stood beside his throne, arrayed in scarlet robes, wearing a golden crown upon his head, and holding a golden scepter in his hand. On either side were his courtiers. He said unto them, "What! have they the famous man from Nazareth? And are they bringing him a prisoner here to me?"
"Yes, my Lord," said Zabulon, "I saw him and recognized him at the first glance."
Then said Herod, "I have for a long time desired to see this man, with whose wondrous works the whole land rings, to whom, as if by magic, people run in crowds. Can he be John, risen from the dead?"
"Oh, no," said Naason, "John worked no miracles; whereas they relate deeds done by this man which in truth are wonderful if they are not exaggerated."
"As I have," said Herod, "so unexpected an opportunity of seeing him, I am impatient to put his magic skill to the proof."
"He will be very willing," said Manasses, "to oblige you in that respect in order to obtain your favor and protection."
Then said Herod, who had seated himself, to Zabulon: "Tell the priesthood they may bring their prisoner in."
"They are probably coming with complaints against this man," said Manasses, "as they are forsaken by all the people."
Herod replied, "Let them do that before Pilate -- here I have nothing to do -- no judgment to pronounce."
Manasses remarked: "Perhaps they have met with a refusal from the governor and are now siding another way."
Herod replied, "I do not enter into their pious quarrels. I will see him for myself and test his alleged miraculous powers."
Then came into the presence of Herod, Caiaphas, Annas, the rabbi, Nathanael and four priests, bringing Jesus with them led by the soldiers of Herod. Caiaphas bowed before King Herod, saying "Most mighty king," and all the priests cried, "Prosperity and blessing upon thee from the Almighty!"
Then said Caiaphas, "A criminal is brought before thee here from the Sanhedrin, that thou mayest execute on him the judgment of the law."
"The law," said Nathanael, "decrees his death;" and Annas added, "May it please the king to confirm the sentence of the synagogue."
"But," said Herod, "how can I be a judge in a foreign territory? Go to your own governor; he will do justice."
Then said Caiaphas. "Pilate sent him hither, because being a Galilean he is thy subject."
"Then this man belongeth to my jurisdiction? Who is he?"
The priests said, "Jesus of Nazareth."
Caiaphas added, "Pilate himself said, 'Go to King Herod; let him pronounce sentence upon his own subject.'"
"Did Pilate say that? Wonderful!" said Herod. And turning to his courtiers he remarked, "Pilate sends him to me! Allows me to act as judge in his own province!"
A courtier replied, "It seems as if he wished to make approaches to thee again."
Herod replied, "I will accept it as a proof of his friendly feeling."
Then turning to Jesus Herod said, "I have heard very much of thee by common report and have longed to see the man that has created such a sensation in this country."
"He is a deceiver," said the rabbi; "an enemy of the holy law."
"I have heard," said Herod, taking no notice of the interruption, "that thou canst interpret all mysteries and achieve feats which set at defiance the laws of nature. Let us have an example of thy skill and mighty power; then we will honor thee like the people and believe in thee."
"O king," said Zadok, "do not let him lead thee astray, for he is in league with Beelzebub."
"That is all the same to me," said Herod. Then, addressing Jesus, he said, "I had last night a wonderful dream. If thou canst tell me what I have dreamed of I will esteem thee as a first-class reader of hearts."
Herod paused, but Christ remained motionless and silent. "Thou canst not do so much as that," continued Herod, "but perhaps thou understandest how to explain the dream if I tell thee what it was. I dreamt I stood upon the battlements of my palace at Herodium and saw the sun go down. There stood suddenly a man who stretched out his hand and pointed to the setting sun and said, 'See there, there is Hesperia in thy bedchamber.' Hardly had he said this when his form melted into mist. I started and woke up. If thou desirest to be like Joseph when he stood before the King of Egypt interpret to thy king this dream." Christ remained silent, looking sadly at Herod.
"Art thou not experienced in this branch of the business? Well, then, show some of thy famous magic art. Cause it suddenly to become dark in this hall, or raise thyself and depart from us without touching the ground, or convert the roll on which thy death sentence is written into a snake. Thou wilt not, or thou canst not? Any of these things ought to be easy to thee; they relate much more wondrous miracles of thine." Then turning to the courtiers Herod said, "He does not stir. Ah, I see well that what has made him so notorious was only idle tittle-tattle. He knows nothing and can do nothing."
"It is easy," said Naason, "to make believe before the foolish mob; it is another thing to stand before a wise and powerful king."
Then said Manasses to Jesus, "Why should you not display your wisdom here? Why should your power vanish before the eyes of the king, even as a soap bubble?"
Then said Herod scornfully, "There is nothing remarkable about him. He is a conceited fellow whom the applause of the people hath made crazy. Let him go. It is not worth while making so much trouble on his account."
"O, King," said Caiaphas, "do not trust this sly and crafty rogue. Indeed, he only makes himself out to be a fool in order to obtain a milder sentence from thee."
Annas said, "If he be put away, then would the peace of the kingdom also stand in danger, for he has presumed to exalt himself to be king."
"What!" said Herod, "to be a king! To be a king of fools, that is more credible. As such he deserves to receive homage, therefore will I give him as a present a king's mantle, and do formally install him as the king of all fools."
Then cried the priests aloud, "Not this; he has deserved death."
Caiaphas said, "O, King, protector of our holy law, remember thy duty to punish the transgressor as the law ordains."
Then said Herod, "What have you really against him?"
"He hath profaned the Sabbath," said the rabbi.
Nathanael added, "He is a blasphemer."
And all the priests cried, "And as such the law declares him worthy of death."
Then said Ezekiel, "He has also spoken contemptuously of the Temple, which thy father so gloriously rebuilt; he has declared that he would rebuild a more beautiful one in three days."
Then Herod laughed and said, "Now that proves indeed that he is a king of fools."
Then said Jonas, "He has also spoken insultingly of thee. He has presumed to call thee, his lord and king, a fox."
"Then he has attributed to me a quality which he cannot certainly claim himself," replied Herod. "Clothe him -- wrapped in this splendid robe he will play his part well before the people."
Then came in a servant bringing a white robe, which he put on the shoulders of Jesus, and after Jesus had been robed, Zabulon said to him, "Now for the first time thou wilt create a real sensation, thou great wonder-worker."
The priests cried, "He must die!"
Herod said, "No, I will not be guilty of the blood of so exalted a king; rather lead him forth before the people in this his proper apparel, that they may admire him to their heart's content."
Then said the first soldier to Jesus, "Come, thou miraculous king, and allow us to accompany thee!"
The second soldier said, "What good luck for me to walk by the side of so illustrious a lord!" And so saying, they led away Jesus, wearing the white robe which Herod had put on him.
Then said Caiaphas, "Thou hast convinced thyself that his alleged great works were nothing but lies and deceit, whereby the people were defrauded by him. Give, then, thy sentence!"
And all the priests cried, "Pronounce the sentence of death upon him, as the law demands!"
Herod replied, "My opinion is, he is a simple fellow and not capable of the crime of which you accuse him. If he has perchance done or spoken anything against the law it is to be attributed to his simplicity."
"O, King," said Caiaphas, "take care that thou dost not err!"
"I fear," said Annas, "thou wilt repent if thou allowest him to escape punishment."
"I fear nothing of the kind," said Herod. "A fool one must treat as a fool. He has already suffered by his follies and will avoid them in the future. With that the trial is at an end."
Then said the rabbi, "Then it is all over with our law, our religion, Moses and the prophets!"
Herod said, "I abide by my decision. I am weary and will not concern myself further about this affair. Pilate may decide according to his official duty. Offer to him duty and friendship from King Herod."
Then went the priests out, sorely dissatisfied with the decision of the king. Then Herod rose from his seat and said, "This time the result has not corresponded to our expectations. I expected to find a great wonder-worker and eloquent orator, and behold, there is only quite an ordinary man with never a word to say for himself."
"Ah," said Manasses, "how lying rumor exaggerates that which, when more closely examined, is shown to be nothing."
"Friends," said Herod, "that is not John. John at least spoke, and spoke with wisdom, and an eloquence which one must esteem, but this one is as dumb as a fish. I am less than ever purposed to put him out of the way, now that I have seen him for myself. Pilate would not have sent him to me if he had been found guilty of any serious crime against the state. To revenge oneself on such a man would be the greatest folly. We have occupied ourselves about this wearisome business long enough. Let us now go and make up for lost time by seeking more agreeable amusement."