Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me. - Matthew 26:67-27:10
As Saint Paul says that the preaching of the Gospel is odor of life to those whom God calls to salvation and odor of death to all reprobates who perish, also we have two noteworthy examples who are here proposed to us to show that the death and passion of the Son of God was to the salvation of one and pushed another into condemnation. For in the fall of Peter is seen the need which he had of being drawn out of the pit in which he was trapped. For while he was there he was banished from the Kingdom of heaven, he was alienated from all hope of salvation and cut off from the Church, as a rotten member. Nevertheless the death of our Lord Jesus did not fail to benefit him, although he may not have been worthy of it. As for Judas, it is said that, seeing that Jesus Christ is condemned, he is seized with despair. Now in this condemnation of our Lord Jesus (as we have said) one must take courage to hope in God. For we are absolved by virtue of the fact that our Lord Jesus was condemned. But it was necessary that we had here these two mirrors in order that we might be able so much the better to know that unless we are by special grace called to be sharers of the fruit of the death and passion of the Son of God, it will be useless to us. It is not enough, then, that our Lord Jesus Christ has suffered, but the good which He acquired for us must be communicated, and we must be put in possession of it. That is done when we are drawn to Him by faith.
But to better understand all this let us follow the thread of the history which is here narrated to us. It is said that our Lord Jesus was treated with every shame in the house of Caiaphas, that they spit in His face, that He was insulted and made fun of by calling Him “Prophet,” indeed in disgrace. Now that was in order that we might know that what He suffered in His person was to deliver us before God and before His Angels. For no one needs to spit in our face in order for us to bear many spots and blemishes before God. All of us are not only disfigured by our sins, but full of infection, and abominable. Besides, here is the Son of God, Who is His living image, where His glory and majesty shine, Who suffered such shames, in order that in His name now we can appear before God to obtain grace and that He may know us and own us as His children, and that all our stains and spots may be wiped away. That (I say) is what we have to consider in the first place.
Now we come to the fall of Peter. It is said, “A chambermaid, seeing him, accused him of being a disciple of Jesus. He denies it.” Another chambermaid returns. He denies it again. Then, more press him and make quite an issue of it. Then he begins to swear, and even to curse, and to use the form of execration. As if he said, “May I be damned, may I perish, may the earth swallow me up if I know Him.” There, then, is the fall of Saint Peter, and not one, but three which are so heavy and so enormous that we surely ought to be frightened reading this history. Now we know the zeal which was in him. Moreover, he had been praised by our Lord Jesus Christ, and the name of Peter had been given to him to note the firmness and constancy of his faith; he had been taught in such a good school. He had heard this doctrine: “Whoever will renounce Me before men, him will I also renounce before God My Father to disavow him from Me.” Yet we see how he stumbles. Each one, then, ought surely here to have occasion to tremble. For unless we are sustained from on high, the weakness of Peter was no greater than ours. So, in the first place, we see how frail men are as soon as God has let go with His hand. For this is not spoken of some mocker, of some profane man, of someone who had never heard a particle of the Gospel, who had no fear of God, and who had borne no reverence to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is entirely the contrary. For there were already some excellent gifts in Peter. It had been said to him from the mouth of the Son of God, “Flesh and blood have not revealed to you these things, but My Father.” It is, then, the Spirit of God which dwells in Peter. Yet how little he resists renouncing our Lord Jesus! A chamber-maid! If a man had assailed him, or if it had been some honorable person who had assailed him, there might have been some excuse. But we see that it required only a chamber-maid to make him give up hope of life and of salvation.
Let us contemplate, then, in the person of Peter, that it is very necessary that God strengthen us each minute of time. For it is impossible to persevere otherwise. Although we may have tried to draw near to God, and though we may have done many deeds of virtue, all the same at the least little turning of the hand we shall be entirely changed unless God continues to give us invincible constancy. Let us learn, then, to practice the admonition of Saint Paul, “Let him who stands take heed lest he fall.” It is true that we cannot maintain ourselves. But let us have recourse to Him Who has the means. However, let us walk in all humility. As Saint Paul says in the other passage.
“Since it is God Who gives the will and the deed and He does it by His good pleasure, be advised (says he) to work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:13, 12b.)
As if he said that all presumption surely ought to be beaten down, and indeed all indifference. When we see what necessity we have to be helped by God, and in so many ways, is it not right that we be on our guard, indeed that we do not presume at all on our own strength, but that we be solicitous to call upon God evening and morning, and to put ourselves in His keeping and leading?
That, then, is what we have to observe in the first place. It is even very necessary for us to assume that the temptations, although they may not be large, will have soon overwhelmed us, unless God by His grace works on it and He remedies it. And those who imagine themselves to be the most hardy, when they are far from blows, find themselves, as it were, lost if there is only a little wind that blows. It is true that if God assists us, we shall persevere, however great storms arise. For we know the figure of speech that our Lord Jesus Christ drew: that a building with a good foundation and built of good material, although there comes a great torrent, always remains whole; but what is built upon sand will soon go away in decay. So then, when we shall be founded upon our God and He will extend to us His strong hand, we shall surely be able to sustain great and very rough alarms. But although there may not be any enemy who fights us, yet we shall be conquered immediately when God withdraws from us or lets go of our hand, as we see in Peter.
But it is still worse that it is not only once that he denies the Lord Jesus. But he repeats it as many times as he is questioned. We see that it did not matter at all to him that he was going from bad to worse, even until he adds execration, as it were, asking that God may curse him and swallow him up. When we see that, let us know that he who has fallen, instead of wanting to be raised soon, will plunge himself ever more deeply into ruin, until he completely perishes in it, unless God remedies it. This is the condition of men. From the beginning they make themselves believe that they are marvels in their own power. Yet our Lord shows by experience that it is nothing, and that only a little wind blows, and they are beaten down. Still they are persuaded that they can stand up again. But on the contrary they only augment their evil, adding fault upon fault, overflowing still more with preposterous deeds. If Saint Peter had been tempted a hundred times in a day, he would have renounced Jesus Christ a hundred times, and a thousand besides. That is where he would have been unless God had had pity on him. But He spared him, and did not wish to prove him further. Yet the three falls mentioned here are enough to show a dreadful example, and it ought to make our hair stand up on end when we see that for the third time Peter so forgot himself and that he was as senseless as a brute to renounce his salvation. Besides, we must always observe that if still other temptations had come upon him, he would have resisted them no better and he would have been put into the most profound depths unless God had spared him that much.
That, then, is how we have to profit from this doctrine. Now we do not hear these things in order to judge Peter and to condemn his cowardice. To be sure, we cannot do it justly, but if it is necessary in the first place to receive instruction, may we know our weakness, may we even know that we can do nothing at all, may we not be inflated with pride, attributing to ourselves by foolish opinion some virtue. However, may we also know, since the devil has so many means to plot our ruin, he would soon put an end to us, since St. Peter fell without his making any appearance. Then finally, let us know that our Lord Jesus has pity on us when He does not permit us to be tempted without limit. For it is certain that always so much more evil would be uncovered, and that there would be no end, unless we were held back by His goodness. These are all the things we have here to observe.
However, it is said, “Peter, after having heard the cock crow (as St. Luke tells) after Jesus Christ looked at him, went outside and wept bitterly.” By this conclusion it is shown us (as I have already mentioned) that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus has already produced its effect and its power in that Peter has been raised from such a horrible fall. For is it not a miracle that God had pity on him and that he still obtained mercy after having committed such a detestable fault? We have declared that he could not have the excuse of ignorance, as if his fault of having renounced Jesus Christ were small. For it had been said and pronounced to him that if he did not make confession of his faith and give testimony before men he would deserve to be entirely cut off before the Angels of God and that his name be erased from the book of life. However it does not matter to him that he sells this miserable and frail life by so villainous and so strange a renunciation. Indeed, he is not yet even led before the judges. He is not questioned to the limit. There is only a chamber-maid who speaks to him. When they might already have been rude to him, and well so, he had fought only as a poor ill-starred creature. Nevertheless, he did not forget all fear of God. When, then, we see that, let us think how much more necessary it was for us that God displayed the infinite treasures of His goodness, when He still made Peter sharer of the fruit of the death and passion of His Son.
It is, then, a miracle which ought to enrapture us, that Peter obtained remission for such a great offense, indeed, as it appears, by his repentance. For it is certain that if a man is touched to the quick, after having failed, and he moans and wails before God to obtain pardon, it is a sign that God has already received him, and that He has reconciled him to Himself. For also repentance is a peculiar gift proceeding from the Holy Spirit, Who shows us that God has pity on us and that He does not will that we perish. But He draws us to Himself. Now we see that in Peter. It follows, then, that already the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ was profitable to him, indeed, in a marvelous way, as I have already said. But in the first place let us note that St. Peter always remained sleepy and stupid until he received the sign of which our Lord Jesus Christ has warned him, that is, that the cock would not crow until he renounced Him three times, or better, that the cock would not crow for the second time unless Peter had already made his renunciations. Since it is so, then, that if he had not been warned by our Lord Jesus Christ he would have remained there in his sin and he would be forever plunged into perdition, let us know that we need to be solicitous after we have committed some fault. For if we were deprived of the grace of God and He did not exhort us to return to Him, it is certain that we would be preoccupied by Satan and all our senses would be brutalized so that we would have neither any scruple nor good movement to return to the way of salvation.
That, then, is what we must contemplate further in the person of Peter. But when Saint Luke tells that Jesus Christ looked at him, through that we are so much better taught that it is not sufficient to be stung and that someone tug on our ears to make us return to God, but Jesus Christ must cast His glance and His look upon us. Now it is true that it is here spoken of only the look of the eyes. However our Lord Jesus does not converse with us in a visible manner. Yet it is certain that until He has cast His glance upon us we shall always be blockheaded dullards in our faults and we shall never think to moan and wail, although we may have provoked the wrath of God. Although He may have His bow bent and His sword unsheathed, we shall always remain in our indifference until our Lord Jesus has made us feel that He has not forgotten us and that He is not willing that we perish, but wishes to draw us back to Himself. And that it may be so, we hear daily sermons, by which we are exhorted to repentance. And how are we touched by them? There are as many admonitions as there could be. Does not all creation incite us to come to God? If our senses are well ruled so as to have some particle of prudence, when the sun rises in the morning, does it not call us to adore our God? After that, if we notice how the earth and all elements perform their offices, the beasts and the trees, that shows us that we must draw up to our God, in order that He may be glorified in us, and that we may not think of doing otherwise. The cock, then, has well crowed, and not only the cock, but God makes all his creatures above and below to crow to exhort us to come to him. What is more, He surely deigns to open His sacred mouth through the Law, through His Prophets, and through the Gospel, to say, “Return to me.” However, it is seen, as it were, that we are dull-witted. Such a stupidity is seen in us that we are, as it were, monsters. It is very necessary, then, that our Lord Jesus regard us in pity, as He did Peter, in order to draw from us true wailing’s to give testimony of our penitence. For when it is said that Peter wept bitterly, it is to note the sorrow of which Saint Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians, when he says that it works toward salvation (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10) and that we ought not to flee it but that we even ought to seek it. Although naturally we wish to enjoy ourselves and not to experience any nuisance, yet we must have some melancholy. As when God touches us with anguish, we must be tormented in our hearts after having offended Him. For such unrest is to lead us to real rest and such sorrow is to make us rejoice both before God and before Angels.
Soon we shall well see that Judas repented, but it is in another and diverse fashion. But as for Peter, he wept to show that he was greatly displeasing in his sin and he has fully returned to Jesus Christ. Let us note also that “he went out to weep.” It is true that it still proceeded from his weakness, that he feared to show his repentance before the crowd. But though that may be, when he, weeps alone, he well shows that he is touched by his fault and offense. For he does not seek men to witness his repenting, but being alone, he weeps before God. That is also how we must do it. For if we weep only before men, by that we show our hypocrisy. But when each one has collected his thoughts, and he examines his faults and sins, if he is then touched with anguish, it is a sign that there is no make-believe in him, and that he knew his Judge, and that he is there to ask pardon, and he well knew that it is the office of God to draw back from the depths those who are already, as it were, damned and lost. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember from the account here given of the fall of Peter, and concerning these three renunciations, by which he had deserved to be cut off from the Kingdom of God, unless Jesus Christ had already displayed the power of His death and passion in order to draw him to repentance, as we see that it came to pass.
Next it is said, “The priests and governors took counsel to condemn Jesus.” But because that was not in their power, they led Him bound and tied to the governor who had jurisdiction over the country, that is, Pontius Pilate. After that the Gospel tells that Judas repented, seeing that Jesus Christ was condemned, and threw down the money which he had received as the price and payment for his betrayal and completely confessed his fault. However the Priests are not willing to receive the money, but it buys a potter’s field, where there had been some tile-making so that the field was useless and could be neither cultivated nor seeded. They buy, then, this field to bury passers-by. Indeed, they do it under cover of some devotion. For they said that it was not lawful that this money be put with the offerings of the Temple. Whereupon the Gospel-writer says what was said by the Prophet was fulfilled, that the thirty denarii, by which God had been appraised by the people of Israel, could be used for the pottery. We have here to consider what was already begun, that is, that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus does not bear fruit in all men, because it is a special grace that God gives to His elect when He touches them by His Holy Spirit. Although they have fallen, He raises them. Although they have gone astray like wandering sheep, He corrects them and extends to them His hand to bring them back to His fold. For there is Judas who is entirely cut off from the number of the children of God. It is even necessary that his condemnation appear before men and that it be entirely obvious.
So let us learn (following what I have already mentioned) to know in everything and by everything the inestimable goodness of our God. For as He declared His love toward mankind when He spared not His Only Son but delivered Him to death for sinners, also He declares a love which He bears especially toward us when by His Holy Spirit He touches us by the knowledge of our sins and He makes us wail and draws us to Himself with repentance. The entrance, then, that we have to come to our Lord Jesus Christ does not proceed from us, but it is inasmuch as God governs us and it pleased Him to show His election. And these circumstances are good to note. Behold Judas who had been a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had done miracles in His Name. Yet what is the issue of it? May we, then, learn to fear and to walk in solicitude, casting ourselves entirely upon our God; and may we pray that He may not permit us to fall into such confusion as this miserable wretch. And even when we have fallen, that He may raise us again by His power, and that we may return to Him; not with such a repentance as that of Judas, but with a true and right confession. For the wicked mock God as much as they can. They are pleased in their sins. They even take glory in them, and in the end they become as shameless as prostitutes, as it is said by the Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Besides, in the end God makes them feel their sins, and they are in such fright that they fret and cry “alas!” But it is not in order to conceive some hope and to present themselves to God. Rather it is a fury which drives them. They flee as far as possible and they would like to pull down God from His throne. It is only a matter of fretting and of gnashing their teeth in complete rebellion against Him.
Now we surely must come to another kind of repentance; that is, not that we be frightened, seeing that we cannot escape the judgment and the hand of God; but that we confess our sin, and detest it; and next that we do not cease to draw near to God, indeed, being summoned before Him without being drawn to Him by force; but that of our own good pleasure we come to do Him homage, and to confess that we deserve to perish; nevertheless, being assured that although we deserve a hundred thousand deaths, He will not, however, cease to have pity on us. That was the repentance of Peter. But that of Judas ought to show us that it is not sufficient to have some feeling of our faults and some scruple, but we must be fully converted to God. This is very noteworthy, because we see how many, and nearly all, flatter themselves. When they have made confession in a word of their faults, however grievous they are, it seems to them that they are free and clear, as if all they had to do was to wipe their mouths. And even if some instance is mentioned to them, they imagine that they are done a great wrong. “Why?” they say, “Have I not recognized my fault? Have I not done penitence?” That is all the payment they make, as if God were a little child Who was appeased by some laughter, even a false laughter which is full of hypocrisy and lying. But since it is common among men that they wish to appease God I do not know how all, so it is said that Judas repented. Let us fear, then, when God admonishes us and He makes us feel our faults, but let us not stop everything there. For that is not properly repentance. But here is the test by which we can know whether we are truly repentant or not. It is when of our free will we seek complete accord with God and we do not flee being judged by Him, indeed, provided that He receives us in mercy. This is what He will do after we plead guilty. For he who will judge himself in order to plead guilty before God, before Angels, and before men will be justified and absolved, since he asks only that God may be favorable toward him. That then, in summary, is what we have to observe.
Now this confession of Judas had to be made in order to render the Priests all the more inexcusable. Also the Gospel-writer gives this account so that we may contemplate so much the better the blindness that Satan had put into all these reprobates, and that each one may think of himself. When God proposes to us such examples of His wrath and of His vengeance and He shows that men are, as it were, mad, that they are depraved of sense and of reason, that they are (briefly) brutish to fling themselves with an infernal fury; it is in order that each one of us may bow his head and that each one of us may know that we could often come to that, unless we were preserved by the goodness and grace of our God. However, let us be advised not to fight against our own consciences as the Priests did. For all those who so harden themselves against God in the end will fall into such a reprobate condition that they will no longer have any reason in them. Even after being thus undone before God, they will also cease to be at all ashamed before men. For it is a good thing that their baseness is shown to all and that they be put in such disgrace that everyone may be horrified by their villainy.
That, then, is why the Gospel-writer has here related to us that when Judas came to pay back the money, the Priests were not at all moved by it. It is true that they do say that it is not lawful to put it into the coffer of the treasury, but that it is the price of blood. That is how hypocrites always guard well I do not know what appearances to make a shadow and a covering for their iniquities. But this in only mocking God. For they never come in integrity and openness to Him. For what is there to say? “Oh, we shall not put this money with the sacred oblations, because it is the price of blood.” Then this money, had it been stolen? It is known that the Priests lived on the oblations of the Temple. As today in the Papacy those who are called Prelates and people of the Church gobble up the oblations and do not care for what purpose they apply them. Although the Priests had drawn from the oblations of the Temple the money which they had given to Judas, it does not matter to them; they have no regard. Now they make an issue of putting this money back into the coffer of the oblations. By which means they repulse Judas, as it were, by mockery, and as if they said, “Perhaps this wicked man has betrayed his master. We have only to determine whether be has done good or evil. Yet in order that we may not be sharers in his offense on our part, and in order to keep our hands clean (since they had used this money for such a purpose) we shall buy with it a field for the burial of strangers.” Indeed, to say that they have surely satisfied God and that He might not know how to ask more, though there was some fault in what they did.
That is how hypocrites will always have their satisfactions, thinking to buy their way out, but this is only child’s play. Yet let us know that this is recited to us in order that we may learn when we have fallen to recognize our faults in truth and not to make circuits from one side or from another, but in everything and by everything to frankly bear condemnation. That, then, is what is shown to us. Meanwhile, let us pray to God that He remove from us the blindfold Satan is trying to put on in order that we may not croak on our flatteries, wishing to excuse evil, but that more and more we may take the trouble to examine well all our vices to condemn them and to make an upright confession of them. Besides, we see also how God overthrows the opinion of hypocrites, that in the end they remain frustrated by what they had pretended. For the Priests had surely wished to erase their fault and that no one might ever mention it. That is why they pretend when they buy a field for the burial of strangers. But God turns that entirely to the contrary of their intention. For this field must be called “field of blood” or “field of murder.” That memorial must be perpetual and it remains forever on the mouths of men, women and little children, so that this detestable crime which had been thus committed by the Priests is daily known and manifest, and they say, “Behold, the field of blood, that is, the field that was bought with the price of betrayal. And who did it? The Priests and the chiefs of all the people.” So then, we see when hypocrites try to hide themselves in their crimes and to disguise themselves, that God uncovers their villainy all the more and causes their shame to be known by all men and that everyone hold them in detestation. That is why I have said it is all the more necessary that we be advised to come to God and there to uncover all our offenses, in order that it may please Him to bury them before Him, before His Angels, and before all the world, when we have thus recognized them on our part.
Finally the Gospel-writer cites a passage from the Prophet to show that this is not recited only on account of the sin of Judas, or on account of the devilish obstinacy of the Priests, but on account of the condemnation of all people in general. He says, then, “What was written by the prophet has been fulfilled, that God was appraised at thirty denarii and that was applied on a potter’s field.” Now Zechariah, from whom this passage is drawn, compares our Lord Jesus Christ to a Shepherd, and says that wishing to govern the Jewish people, He had taken His staff, or His shepherd’s crook, which was called “Beauty,” in order to say that He had a condition so well ordered that it was possible among those people, indeed, that He might be allowed to be led by the hand of God. For is there anything more desirable? And that it may be so, where is our sovereign joy and bliss, unless God cares for our salvation and He performs the office of shepherd among us? That, then, was a government of God in those people, when it is spoken of this rod, not of a staff which is to strike and break everything, but to lead and govern peaceably the sheep which become docile. Now it is said that again He took a second rod. As in fact, when the people have been returned from the captivity of Babylon, God has then gone back to His position as shepherd. After such a horrible dissipation as had existed previously, He gathers in the people to govern them peaceably under His hand. But in the end there was such villainous ingratitude that God had to quit everything. So He says, “Oh, I see what it is; I need not lose My time or My trouble with you.” He speaks here in the common fashion of men. “Let us get on the march at once. Pay me, that I may go away.” Whereupon they brought Him thirty denarii. “What?” says He, “is this the reward and the payment I get from you?” For when He speaks of thirty denarii, He considers the oblations which they made in the Temple. They were (since they used them in hypocrisy without faith and without repentance) only vain ceremonies which, nevertheless, the Priests and the Jew’s prized highly. As today the Papists, when they have done many “holies” and all their beautiful devotions, it seems to them that God is almost indebted to them. Now God says all that is only rubbish. “How,” says He, “have I gained from your having gone through it? Perhaps that is the payment for a shepherd, I am much obliged to you. Oh, oh, no! I have nothing to do with it. Go, throw that in the pottery, and may you decorate the mouths and handles of your pots with it! Go! I am leaving you. Use that in your tile.” As if He said, “If it rains in your Temple, fix it yourselves. As for Me, I no longer have any part or portion with you. I wish you would go away. And do not think to appease Me here by bringing Me, as it were, the payment of a scoundrel. I do not approve at all of any of it.” That, then, is what the Prophet, in summary, has intended.
Now we know that what was predicted of our God then, was fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our true God manifest in the flesh. So it was necessary that in a visible manner this passage be verified, and that Jesus Christ was appraised at only thirty denarii, that is, that the people showed such villainous ingratitude toward Him, Who was the Eternal Shepherd, Whom God had established over His people. It is certain that since the people had left being governed by God, also our Lord Jesus always performed the office of Mediator, indeed, although He had not yet appeared in human flesh. We must remember this well, in order that we may learn on our part, if God has exercised the grace to receive us, as it were, under His hand, and we are His flock, and He gives us our Lord Jesus Christ for a Shepherd, not to sting Him so that His Spirit is saddened and wearied by our acts of rebellion and ingratitude. Also may we not throw Him any bouquets of flowers (as they say in common proverb), but since He gives Himself to us, may we cling to Him as our God and King, may we dedicate our whole lives to Him, and may we not bring Him a payment that He rejects; but may we present to Him both our souls and our bodies. For it is also very right that He should have all preeminence over us and that He possess us entirely, when we see that He seeks only our salvation.
Now to end it and come to the conclusion, it is said, “Our Lord Jesus having been led before Pilate answered nothing. Pilate asked him, saying, ‘Do you not speak at all? Do you not see the witnesses they have brought here against you?’ And he held his peace, so that the judge marveled greatly.” In the first place we have to keep in memory, when our Lord Jesus Christ is judged before, an earthly judge, that it was in order that we might be exempt and absolved from the condemnation which we deserved before the heavenly Judge. We know that we cannot escape what is written by the Prophet Isaiah, that every knee must bow before God. (Isaiah 45:23.) Since God is the Judge of the world, how can we subsist before His face and before His majesty? There is not one of us who is not constrained to condemn himself a hundred thousand times. When we have lived only a year in the world, there are already a hundred thousand faults, by which we deserve to be condemned. There is no one who has not this testimony engraved upon his heart, and who is not convinced of it. Now God, Who sees much more clearly than we, how will He not condemn us when each one is constrained to condemn himself, indeed, in so many ways? But here our Lord Jesus is subjected to this extremity of being accused before an earthly judge, even before a profane man, before a man who was pushed only by his greed and his ambition. When, then, the Son of God is humiliated to that extent, let us know that it is in order that we may be able to come with heads raised before God, and that He may receive us, and that fear may no longer cause us to draw back from His judgment-seat, but that we may dare to approach it boldly, knowing that we shall be received there in mercy. We even know that Jesus Christ acquired authority and power and sovereign dominion to be Judge of the world. And when He is thus condemned by Pilate, it is in order that today we may come boldly to Him, indeed, knowing that power is given to Him to judge us. Since He stood there, may we know that He wished to bear our condemnation and that He did not intend a trial to justify Himself, also knowing well that He had to be condemned, indeed, in our person. For although He was without spot or blemish, He bore all our sins upon Himself. We need not be astonished, then, that He stood there as if He had been convicted. For otherwise He could not have performed the office of Mediator except by accepting sentence and confessing that in our persons He had deserved to be condemned. That, then, is what the silence of our Lord Jesus Christ implies, in order that today we can call upon God with full voice, and that we can ask Him for pardon for all vices and offenses.
Now let us bow in humble reverence before the majesty of our God.