The Condemnation

And Pilate, seeing that he prevailed nothing, but rather that a tumult was made, having taken water, washed his hands before the people, saying: "I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it." And all the people answering said: "His blood be upon us and upon our children." Then Pilate, being willing to satisfy the people, gave sentence that their petition should be granted. And he released unto them Barabbas, who for murder and sedition had been cast into prison, whom they had desired, but delivered up to them Jesus, when he had scourged Him, to be crucified according to their will. - Matthew 27:24-26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:23-25; John 19:13-16

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1. It is in this scene that Pilate displays his greatest meanness, which is common. The priests and ancients showed it when, having induced Judas to sin, they turned on him and said: "What is that to us? Look you to it." Cain showed it when, after the murder of his brother, he said: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Of all the meanness of this mean world, nothing is so mean, yet scarcely anything is so common, as to induce another into sin, or to sin along with another, and then to decline the responsibility of the crime; to murder another's soul, another's honour, and then to say: "I am innocent of the blood of this man. He could have helped Himself if He had chosen. I am in a difficult position. If there is guilt at all, it is not mine who do the deed, but His who permits me to do it, or those who make me do it. I am innocent, though the deed is mine."

2. And yet one is appalled at the opposite extreme. If it is mean to put on other shoulders the guilt of sin of which we have in any way been the cause, it is even more terrible so to contemn the guilt of sin as to accept it for oneself with both hands. There are those who know no better, to whom sin has no more meaning than an illicit prank, though these are fewer than at first it might seem. There are those who look on sin as a matter of this life alone, an offence against man, against the law, against their own common sense and conscience. Of these one need not here think. And there are those who, with eyes wide open, knowing both the meaning and the guilt of sin, yet in their passion will accept the full burthen, the burthen which broke Our Lord Himself in the Garden. "His blood be upon us and upon our children" is an act of more determined suicide than that of Judas; and yet in every great sin that is determinedly committed one hears the echo of the same words.

3. There follows the condemnation and the preliminary scourging; it is a fitting scene after this terrible manifestation of weakness on one side and malice on the other. "I will chastise Him, therefore, and let Him go," has now been changed into, "I will chastise Him, therefore, and then will crucify Him." The worldling has been beaten; his support has only added to the agony of the Passion; at the last moment he has betrayed his imagined Protege; and he has done it with a show of dignity and injured innocence which, he hopes, may secure his good name and good estate. But Our Lord is scourged; Our Lord is stripped naked, and tied to a pillar, and scourged; in the presence of anyone who cares to come and see, He is treated as a felon and scourged. We can come; we can see; but how long can we dare to look?


1. Pilate, the type of that mean worldling who would sin but lay on others the guilt.

2. The crowd, the type of that other extreme which would defy guilt.

3. For all this Our Lord is scourged

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier