DUCCIO di Buoninsegna
Pilate Washing his Hands (detail)
The 29. Meditation of the fourth accusation of Christ before Pilate.
From thence forth Pilate sought to dismiss him: but the Jews cried, saying: if thou dost dismiss him, thou art not friend to Caesar: for every one that maketh himself King, contradicted Caesar: but when Pilate heard these speeches, he brought Jesus fourth, and sat in the judgment seat, in the place called Lithostrotos, but in Hebrew Gabbata; and it was the parasite, about the sixth hour.
Consider first, that Pilate, when he heard mention of sin thought earnestly of the dismissing of Christ, for fear of committing a greater offense: that thou maist learn hereafter to abstain from sin for the love of Christ; for thou hast offended God long enough, and defiled thy conscience with the of sin: but be thou more constant then Pialte, upon whom God hath bestowed more grace.
Consider secondly, the burning hate of the Jews, who wanting matter of accusation, terrified the Judge with threatenings, and as it were enforced him to do wickedly: as if they should say: We will complain of thee to Caesar, whose enemy and competitor of the kingdom thou hast favored. Wicked men use to threaten, when they cannot prevail by truth. if thou fearest none but God, thou shalt overcome all thy enemies.
Consider thirdly, that Pilate hitherto played the man, so long as it concerned bot himself: but when he thought his own honor and reputation was called in question, he yielded to their threatenings, and was quite discouraged: like to those, who defend the truth, as long as they shall suffer no inconvenience thereby: but if they perceive any storm, they presently turn sail, and yield unto the tempest, and will not suffer any kind of trouble. Do thou fly the world, least it carry thee away from the affairs of Christ to some unjust action. For he which maketh himself a king and ruleth over himself, and over his desires, is not a friend to Caesar, the devil ( I mean) the prince of this world, whose friendship if thou seeks, and dost fear his wrath, thou shalt get that, which happened to Pilate, who by the complaint of the Jews in another cause, lost Caesars friendship, & died miserably in exile. The Devil followeth those that fear him; and flyeth and foresaketh them, that hate him.
Consider fourthly, that the place, day, and hour of the condemning of Christ is distinctly noted: first, to declare the greatness of the sin, when the only begotten Son of the true God was condemned to die on the Cross. Secondly, to signify the mystery which is contain in the same. It was the day of the Paraseeve, that is, the sixth day, in which man was created, in which man was to be redeemed, in which the true Lamb was to be immolated, and in which the typical Lamb was slain. ( About the sixth hour) that is, a little before noon, in which hour the typical Lamb was prepared to be sacrificed, and men do commonly pamper and cherish their bodies. The place which is strewn with stones: that is, high, because Christ was condemned by men more hard, and more proud then the very stones; and did receive this sentence of death for thy pride, and for the hardness and blindness of thy heart. Pray unto thy Lord to lighten thy blindness, to mollify thy hardness, and to suppress thy pride.
IIAnd Pilate said to them, behold your king: and they cried, away with him, away with him, crucify him.
Consider first, that Pilate prevailing nothing by other reasons, began to provoke them to mercy by laughter, as if he should say: behold your great King, whom yes accuse of aspiring: for he which scarce looketh like a man, how can he hope to be a King? or else that he spake these words, to make them deny their Messias, and to submit themselves to the bondage of the Romans, which was hateful unto them. For yet there remained a little spark of piety in his mind: that thou mayest learn how hardly our Lord forsaketh us.
Consider secondly, the three names given to Christ in this time of his passion by Pilate and the Jews, A man, a king, the son of God: which three names the Sages acknowledged by their offerings. For salvation could not be given unto us, except God and man should suffer, who by his Passion took away the kingdom of the world from the devil.
Consider thirdly, the word full of comfort, (behold your king) by which word the conditions of our King are shown unto us, who is not a sour, hard, and importunate exactor, oppressing us with labors, and leading is with great burdens, and imposing a grievous yoke upon us; but loving and gentle, bestowing in us through his abundant charity, his own labors, dolors, blood, and life, and that blood by which alone all the filth of our sins is washed away: who carries also our sins & beareth our burdens: briefly, who refresheth us with his body and blood, and lifteth up his sweet yoke upon our shoulders. To this King thou hast given thy name in baptism: thou hast begun to fight under his banner; behold therefore diligently his armor, and observe the manner of his fighting with his enemy. For thou must use the same weapons, & fight in the same manner: and if thou dost desire to be rewarded with the like Honors, thou must strive for the victory, by humility, contempt, Charity, and other virtues.
Consider fourthly, the unbridled rage of the Jews, who rejected the King of glory, together with his Kingdom. (away with him, away with him) (say they) we will not have him reign over us. But do thou take this king of the Jews, rejected by the Jews, and given to the Gentiles; and bring him into the house of thy Mother, and into the chamber of her, that bare thee. Make him thy King, and not the World, not the Devil, nor thy Belly, nor Mammon. And say not now, Behold your King; but behold, our King, yea, my King, who hath loved me, and given himself for me. And beware, that, thou doest not again by any sin crucify this King, whom thou hast once admitted,least he complain of thee, saying: Yee, all eye people, do nail me: But rather being fastened thyself unto the Cross with Christ, pray him, that he will fasten they flesh with his fear.
Pilate said unto them, shall I crucify your King? The Priests answered, we have no King, but Caesar.
Consider first, in this question of Pilate, how unworthy a things it was, that the Messias, who was promised to Man-kind from the beginning of the world, and expected so many ages, and at last, through the mercy of the eternal Father, sent for the salvation of the Jews; should come to such and so miserable a death, and as an unworthy & accursed person should be demanded to the horrible punishment of the Cross. Do thou look upon thyself, & mark whether perhaps thou art not in the same error. Thou knows that thou wert born into this world to this end, that at the last thou shouldest enjoy God in everlasting and heavenly felicity. Thou knowest that all the whole world was made and framed by God for thy sake, and that for the same cause the very Son of God descended down from Heaven, was born of the Virgin Mary, and consecrated all his labors, yea his Passion and Death unto thee. But thou having no consideration of all this, doest by thy sins drive away God from thee, when thou oughtest to embrace him; thou shutest up heaven, & neglects wholly thy salvation.
Consider secondly the frantic choice of the Priests. They refuse the Messias sent by God, as if it were in them to choose a Messias according to their own will and pleasure, & not rather to receive the Messias, whom God gave unto them. O intolerable madness of men! who will make to themselves a God according to their own will; or devise a new Religion; or frame the manner of serving God out of the holy Scriptures, wrested and interpreted according to their own fantasies. Wherefore they are truly called Heretics, that is, choosers. It is Gods office to appoint Religion, and the manner how to serve him; and not ours, to choose.
Consider thirdly the nature of envy, which seekesth the hurt of another, though it be to his own loss. The Roman government was very grievous and hateful unto them, and yet the Priests, both for themselves, and for the whole people, preferred it before the sweet yoke of Christ. Learn first to lay aside all evil affections of thy mind, least thou fall into more grievous sins. Secondly, not to esteem so much of outward Nobility, or power, that thou shalt therefore break the least Commandment of God, or swarve one iote from truth and justice. For Nobility, power, and authority, are of no estimation, except the same be under Christ, and for Christ, from whom all power proceedeth, both in Heaven and Earth, and unto whom all Honor and power is due.
Consider fourth, that this foolish election of the Jews is confirmed by God: for they have been both deprived of the Messias now so many years; and also given into bondage to strange Kings, who burned their City, and overthrew their Temple, leaving not one stone upon another, Did eat Jacob, & made his place desolate, dispersed them amongst the Gentiles, oppressed them with grievious servitude, that they should be a reproach to their neighbors, a mocking stock, & illusion to them which were round about them. Do thou desire nothing of God, but to be guided by him, and to take from thee the grievous yoke of that tyrant the devil.