Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed to the chief priests all the things that were done.…
Some of the particulars of the negotiation between the chief priests and elders on the one hand, with the guards on the other hand, shall be the subject of our meditation.
I. Looking at the heads of the Church and the heads of the people, it might be concluded that from such a source nothing could flow that was not consistent with religion and "honour." Wherever a lack of principle and high-toned feeling might be found, it would assuredly not be found in the reverend fathers who were the ornaments of that Church which dated back to the days of the patriarchs and prophets. The "elders," too. These were the "princes" of the people and the heads of family associations. Their rank, their education, their hereditary civil privileges and consequent authority, their judicial relations to the people — all these circumstances were of a kind to justify the expectation that their words and their deeds would be not only wise and constitutional, but also free from all injustice, narrowness, meanness, low cunning, corruption, and heartlesshess. Where among the Jewish laity were pure principles, lofty aims, commanding virtue, strict integrity, general greatness of character to be looked for if net in these the aristocracy of the nation?
II. These distinguished men took steps, which legally were allowed, to gain one greatly-desired object of their lives, namely, the death of Christ. How much nefariousness was employed by them in arranging and completing their murderous scheme so as to bring it within constitutional limits it is not our design at present to inquire. All the help that was possible by law they secured. The governor by courtesy gave them permission to use a guard of soldiers to further their plans. The captive Lord, doubly captive for a time, rose from the dead. The military watchers told "the things" which had come to pass to the " sacred" and "noble" men under whose brief authority they acted. Supposing these had doubted the truth of the affirmations made by the soldiers, what, in that case, was the course suggested by their doubts? It was clearly that of inquiry-patient, careful, fair inquiry. Try the temper of the man. Ask him if it be true, as some say it is, that not many days since he sat down to meat with unwashen hands? What an active volcano of sacerdotal indignation I Did you think there were beneath that dignified and quiet exterior such force and fire as this half-implied imputation against his ceremonial goodness has stirred into activity? Is it not a mystery that this saintly-mannered man should be one of those who, having "taken counsel," advised that "large money" should be given to the soldiers to declare deliberately a thing to be true which both he and they knew to be entirely false! Yet he did all this, and did it without an apparent hesitancy or even the smallest sign of compunction or self-reproach. "Say ye, His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we slept."
III. Then as to the agents paid to commit the sin. There was, it must be allowed, a very great conventional and accidental disparity between the parties. These soldiers were, most probably, of the "lowest order." They were uneducated. The military life had not helped to improve in them either mind, heart, or manners. Add to these things the facts that they were nationally Gentiles and religiously pagan. Were they, however, on these accounts to be used as mere matter — tools to be handled without a thought about their consciences or their moral responsibilities? Might they be used as landlords sometimes use tenantry? or as manufacturers use their "hands?" or as some among the "upper classes " use their dependent tradespeople and menials? Was it right to treat them as having neither part nor lot in the interests of truth and goodness? The Jews had been taught that God was "mindful" of "man." The high priests and elders in Jerusalem knew no man had a right to "sell" the truth, whatever his condition in life, his nationality, or his degree of knowledge. It is not to be much wondered at that the soldiers "took the money and did as they were taught." Was not the cause of condemnation unspeakably greater in the bribers than in the bribed? We are verging upon days which will be trying days to the followers of Christ. They will be intensely exciting days, and, as such, likely to throw mind and conscience off the even balance. Can it by any casuistry be shown that to use station, money, learning, or other power at command, for the purpose of inducing a man to do or to say what is contrary to his belief is an act of "righteousness," and that it will help to exalt a nation? Let us show that we are prepared to encourage political conviction, and even to aid those around us to become fully persuaded in their own minds that we honour men not because they think as we think, but because they fairly and at some cost of time, effort, feeling, try to learn what is true, and have the disposition and the will to do what they believe to be right. Such a spirit and such a bearing on our part will help to make the nation "righteous," will also aid in healthfully drawing class nearer to class, and will greatly assist in counteracting and in hastening the expulsion of the diabolical spirit, which in every age, under varying conditions, has made its appearance — the spirit which bargains that for so much money there shall be so much lying.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.