This is the first installment of a booklet written by Philip Mauro and first published around 100 years ago. Mr Mauro was a prominent US lawyer, who embraced dispensationalism at the beginning of his Christian life but then saw the inconsistencies in that teaching. He wrote a number of books on the subject, which today are in the public domain and accessible in various ways.
“The place that is called Calvary” (Luke 23:33) has obtained an enduring and hallowed distinction far above and beyond all other localities of earth, because at that place the death sentence was duly executed that had been pronounced by two tribunals — the Jewish and the Roman, the ecclesiastical and the civil — upon Jesus of Nazareth.
That sentence was carried out in strict conformity with the process of law prevalent at that time and place, the penal procedure of imperial Rome. Even the requirement that the offence for which the death penalty was exacted should be placarded above the criminal’s head, was duly observed in this instance. Attention is specially directed to this detail of our Lord’s crucifixion by the impressive fact that prominence is given it in each of the four Gospels; and, as might be gathered from that circumstance alone, the incident is of deep significance. It was Pilate himself who formulated that “accusation” and that it was with deliberate intent he worded it as he did, is made very evident; for when the chief priests remonstrated with him, urging him to “Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am the King of the Jews;’ Pilate curtly replied, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19: l9-21).
Let us not miss the significance of this. What Pilate had written was the truth; though it cannot be supposed he was aware of it, and we are warranted in assuming that he dictated those words under the constraint of the Spirit of truth. We recall that when Christ, in replying to a question of Pilate’s, had said, “For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth;” the governor asked his famous question,“What is truth?” (John 18: 37, 38). And now Pilate, acting in his official capacity as representative of Imperial Caesar, the supreme ruler of the world, was proclaiming the truth, causing it to be inscribed in Hebrew and Greek and Latin, to reach the ears and stir the hearts of all future generations of men.
Similarly Caiaphas, when presiding over the Sanhedrin in his official capacity at the time that august body was taking counsel against the Lord and against His Anointed, had been constrained by the Spirit to prophesy “that Jesus should die for that nation” (John 11: 49-52; 18: 14).
But whereas Pilate, doubtless unwittingly and under Divine constraint, wrote what was true and of the highest importance, what the chief priests urged him to write was infamously false; for our Lord had never proclaimed Himself King of the Jews. It is most needful that this be carefully noted. What they urged Pilate to write was indeed the accusation they had decided, in solemn conclave, to bring against Him, but it was a false accusation and the accusers had failed dismally in their efforts to support it by the testimony of witnesses. Pilate himself had so adjudged during the trial (Luke 23: 4, 14).
It will be seen, therefore, that the matter we are about to investigate involves an issue between the word of Pilate and that of Christ’s accusers. Which was right?
There is, of course, no doubt or question in the mind of any Christian that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the promised Messiah of Israel; that long expected Son of David, Who was to save His people out of the hand of their enemies; for that indeed is “the truth”. That He was and is “The Christ, the Son of the living God” and hence is God’s anointed King, is the foundation truth of Christianity (Matt. 16: l&18). Therefore, being truly “The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords;” He was clothed with full power and authority to cast down the mighty from their seats and to depose even Imperial Caesar from the throne of the world. And not only so, but He might, even at that very time, have summoned for the execution of His royal dictates more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26: 53). As to all this there is no room for discussion. The question which a modern system of doctrine that has found acceptance with many orthodox Christians forces upon us is this: Did our Lord, during His earthly ministry, either commit (or authorize others to commit) overt acts, or utter (or authorize His disciples to utter) words of treasonable or seditious import? Did He ever commit or authorize acts or utter or authorize words in their nature subversive of the then subsisting government of the land? Specifically did He ever present or announce Himself as an earthly King, the claimant of David’s throne? Did He ever offer to the oppressed people of Judea, either in person or through the lips of His disciples, the earthly kingdom they had been taught to expect? Had He ever, by word or act, sought to incite insurrection against the rule of Caesar, or given any countenance whatever to the political ambitions of the Jews?
These are in substance the things whereof He was accused by the leaders of the Jews; and now we, twentieth century Christians, find ourselves confronted with a situation that demands on our part an investigation of the inspired Records for the purpose of ascertaining whether they lend support to those accusations or whether on the contrary the evidence they contain thoroughly refutes them. The proposed Investigation can be readily made; for those Records include four separate and detailed accounts of our Lord’s sayings and doings. Those several accounts, moreover, are so clear; so complete, so plainly and simply written, that “the common people,” who always “heard Him gladly”, are as well able to understand and evaluate the evidence they contain and to decide the question at issue, as a faculty of erudite scholars or a bench of astute jurists.
It is recorded that for a long time the chief priests and leaders of the people had been closely observing the Lord and their spies had been dogging His steps, being in a state of alarm because of the multitudes that had been drawn to Him by the miracles He did; and it is recorded also that their alarm was greatly augmented by the raising of Lazarus. When the report of that miracle was brought to them they were in consternation, realizing that immediate and drastic action of some Sort was necessary to compass His destruction. Therefore they hastily convened a council of chief priests and Pharisees to concert a plan (John 11: 46, 47). It was possible to convene the Sanhedrin promptly at that time, because the Passover was approaching, at which season all the prominent men of the nation were gathering at Jerusalem. What the chief priests feared was that, because of His “many miracles” — not, be it noted, because of what He preached or taught — all the people would “believe on Him;” that is, would acknowledge Him as the promised Messiah and King, the consequence of which would be that the Roman armies would march against them and take away both “their place and nation” (John 11:48). As they saw it, they were threatened with national disaster and extinction. Therefore, upon the advice of Caiaphas, who was president of the Sanhedrin that year (which advice was in reality a prophecy) the immediate death of Christ was decided upon as an imperative political necessity — “That the whole nation perish not” (John 11: 50). The plan agreed upon for the accomplishment of that object was to charge Him with the crime of fomenting sedition against Caesar. It was a very astute plan; for, if successful, it would not only compass the death of Jesus, but would also afford convincing proof of their own loyalty to Caesar. In perfect agreement with this is the recorded fact that when Pilate, in the course of the trial of Jesus on the charge of making Himself a King, asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” the chief priests exclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19: 15).