What Shall I Do Then
by Evangelist Billy Sunday
As preached at Richmond, Indiana,
"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called
Christ?" (Matthew 27:22).
Nineteen hundred years ago a star poised above a lowly manger
in Bethlehem and above the moonlit hills of Judea the angels heralded the
beginning of the life of Jesus Christ upon this earth--He who came to teach us
the religion of human kindness, brotherly love and salvation through repentance
and faith in His shed blood.
No matter what He said or did, the Jews refused to
acknowledge His claims as the Messiah. Their enmity finally culminated in the
greatest tragedy that the brutality of man ever committed, or the eye of God
ever witnessed--the murder of Jesus Christ under false testimony. Jealous of His
popularity and rejecting His divinity, they resolved at all hazards to kill Him.
Not having the power of life and of death in their own hands,
or tribunals, they renounced Him before Pilate, the Roman governor. To stir up
his enmity, they said that He was an impostor, that He had stirred up sedition
and that He was an enemy of the government.
Pilate examined these charges made against Him but, being
unable to prove Him guilty of any offense worthy of death, proposed that they
release Him. But the rabble shrieked and screamed: "No! Away with Him! Give us
Next to Jesus, Pilate is the scene, and from his lips fall
the words I have taken for my text. When they cried, "Barabbas!" he turned to
them and said: 'Well, then, what will I do with Jesus which is called the
Christ? I got rid of Barabbas at your suggestion, but I still have Jesus on my
Pilate was very near the line. He tried to reason with them.
Then he arose from the throne, took Jesus by the hand, led Him out in front of
them and asked, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"
So I lead Him out before this audience tonight and ask you
the same question Pilate asked the crowd that surged around the throne that day.
Pilate was confronted, my friends, with difficulties. He had
many things to encourage him. He had his wife's dream. The story of Mrs. Pilate
is very briefly told in the Bible, in one verse of Scripture. It is no evidence
of her worth and character as a woman that God condescended to reveal Himself in
a dream to her. He revealed Himself in a dream to Pharaoh, to Nebuchadnezzar.
Yet for all we know, Mrs. Pilate might have been a very reverent, devout woman,
constantly on the alert to save her husband from the difficulties into which she
knew his miserable, pliable temper would lead him. Somehow, while she slept, God
worried her by a dream. What He revealed, I do not know. Presumably it was about
Jesus and the part her husband was to play in this tragedy. (They couldn't put
Him on the cross without the consent of Pilate.)
She sent a messenger to Pilate with the plea: 'Have thou
nothing to do with this just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a
dream because of him. Have nothing to do with him.'
So we have the personality of Jesus. Never had such a
personality appeared before Pilate for sentence. There He stood in His calmness,
in His purity, in His power--more beautiful than a dream of Pericles.
I am frank to tell you that if I were on a jury, the
personality of the man would have a big drag with me--almost as much as what the
man on the witness stand would say. If I were called upon to try a man like
Bryan, or Roosevelt, I am frank to tell you that his personality would have a
tremendous drag with your Uncle Fuller.
Pilate had the personality of Jesus. He had the miracles of
Jesus. I do not know that Pilate had ever witnessed Christ's performing a
miracle. I do not know that Pilate had ever seen a man or woman who had been a
recipient of the power of Jesus. Positive am I that he knew about the miracles,
for they were current conversation. There was no section of the country where he
could not find somebody whom Jesus Christ had benefited, either by opening their
eyes or curing their lameness.
So while certain things influenced Pilate for Jesus, other
things discouraged him. And while God is trying to bring influence to bear
toward making you a Christian, the Devil is bringing influence to bear toward
keeping you away from Jesus.
So Pilate had these things to consider: first, what would the
Jews say? The Jews were at this time under the control of the Romans, who were
severe in their exactions; and Pilate was the very triple essence of severity.
So harsh was he that some of the influential Jews had gone to Rome to intercede
with Caesar to have Pilate recalled and a more kind and humane man placed over
them in Jerusalem.
Pilate knew that these Jews had no use for Jesus. He also
knew that if they heard that he had thrown his influence on the side of Jesus,
it would only increase their enmity and their hatred and they would bring
stronger influence to bear. Pilate figured: "These Jews up at Jerusalem have no
use for Jesus. They say He is a fraud. If they hear that I say He is not a
fraud, then they will have no use for me. But if they hear that I have denounced
Him, I will win their friendship, they will withdraw their opposition and I will
hold my job."
Pilate was willing to let that gang nail Jesus Christ to the
cross in order to keep their friendship and hold his job. All over the land
today there are people who are willing to do the same thing for a trifling
reason. Pilate, my friends, asked himself: "What would the Jews say about it?"
Pilate should not have yielded to their clamor, but should
have been willing to sacrifice his office and his life to avoid convicting Jesus
Christ, an innocent Person. It was that Jewish hierarchy that threatened old
Pilate as an officeholder.
Pilate was a stand-pat, free-lunch, pie-counter, pliable,
plastic, lickspittle, rat-hole, tin-horn, weasel-eyed, wardheeling, grafting
politician of his day, pure and simple. Old Pilate was a direct product of the
political system of Rome. He was a typical machine politician. And there is no
more low-down scoundrel on earth than a mere typical machine politician.
So, "What will the Jews say?"
Listen, "What will Caesar say?" (Caesar's word was law.)
Pilate says: 'If Caesar at Rome hears that I have let Jesus
go, and by that act admitted that I believe His claims are just, he won't stand
for it; so off will come my head; I will surely lose my job. But if Caesar hears
that I say this man Jesus is a fraud and that I let them put Him on the cross,,
he will know that I am at my job, working for the interests of Rome. I will win
Caesar's favor and keep my job.'
Oh, he was willing to sacrifice Jesus Christ to please old
Caesar and to please the gang that had no use for Jesus Christ. I despise a man
like that. But, hold on! I don't have to go back to old Pilate--I don't have to
go out of this city to find people of the same low-down type as was old Pilate.
Pilate often heard of Jesus; no doubt he was prejudiced
against Him, and was longing for the chance to pass sentence against Jesus. I
have imagined the look of wonder that must have swept over the face of Pilate as
Jesus was ushered into his presence. Pilate turned to Him and said: 'Art thou
the Son of God?'
Jesus answered: 'I am.'
He was either the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and
buried; or He was a bastard, for He was born out of wedlock. He was either
conceived by the Holy Ghost or He was an illegitimate offspring of a Jewish
Away with your damnable Unitarian theory that makes Jesus a
bastard! My mother taught me that the Good Book didn't lie. And if Jesus Christ
wasn't the Son of God, it does lie. My mother taught me that a good man didn't
lie. And if Jesus Christ wasn't the Son of God, He was a liar, and all the
teachings of the Bible are false.
I have often tried to imagine how different the early history
might have been had there been in Jerusalem at that time a great Jewish daily, a
string of popular newspapers down through Asia Minor--a Hebrew Lord Northcliffe,
or a Jim Keeley of the Chicago Tribune, or a Pulitzer or a Hearst.
Just imagine what a hard time those high priests would have had, had there been
a syndicate of newspapers playing upon the front page a three-column display
headline about the villainy of that little crowd of religious bigots and crooked
politicians who were intent on murdering Jesus Christ, the One who stood for the
common people as no other man in history had stood and no other man in history
ever will stand.
So old Pilate called for a basin of water, walked out before
the crowd, washed his hands and said: 'I wash my hands of His blood. I find no
fault in Him.'
If he had washed his old black heart at the same time, he would have been a
There has come from across the seas a book bearing the
strange title, Letters From Hell. The introduction was
written by George McDonald. In that book Pilate is represented in the lost world
bending over a stream of water. (I think the author must have gotten his wires
crossed. A stream of water in Hell would be the limit, according to my idea.
That is just like the average fool novel writer anyway.) Pilate is represented
bending over, dipping his hands in the water. Some one touches him on the
shoulder and says: "Will they never be clean?" And with a shriek of agony that
rang through the lost world he cried: "Oh, will they never be clean! No!"
Poor Pilate! The blood of Jesus has been on you for nineteen
hundred years in Hell. It will be on you through an unending eternity. You had
your chance that day in front of the gang in Jerusalem, but you were willing to
let them nail Him to the cross rather than stand by the side of Jesus Christ and
"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"
He didn't have the courage of his convictions. He was
convinced that Jesus was right. Oh, if Pilate had bared his back and said, "This
Man is on the level; you can take me and crucify me, but you can't touch one
hair of His head"-he would have taken his stand in the same company with Joseph
of Arimathaea and other famous men. We would have been glad to name our children
after him. But tonight we speak his name with ignominy and repulsion. He had his
chance. He was a miserable, white-livered coward.
Now, when old Pilate heard that Herod was in town he was glad to get rid of
Jesus. So he shoved Him over to Herod. Herod thought that Jesus was sort of a
sleight-of-hand performer- -legerdemain, Chautauqua entertainer and had a bunch
of high rollers; so he asked Jesus to come up and perform a few miracles just to
entertain the crowd. Jesus answered the old fox never a word.
So they secured Him and sent Him back to old Pilate. Herod
had heard John the Baptist preach. John had said: 'It isn't right for you to
have your brother Philip's wife.' Herod wanted Jesus and his brother Philip's
wife, too; but he could not have both. So he turned down Jesus and kept his
brother Philip's wife, which was against the law.
Is William Jennings Bryan a fool? Is he a believer in Jesus
Christ as the Son of God? What are you going to do with the Christ of these
Was the late William McKinley a fool? When the assassin's
bullet struck him down at Buffalo, fondly and reverently did he pray that he
would be spared. When they gave him the anesthetic and the doctors bent over him
to catch what might have been his last words, he was muttering the Lord's
Prayer. We smiled, dried our tears, shook hands and forgot our political
Then the relapse came and we were informed that he was
growing worse. They sent for his wife. He looked up and said: "It's God's will.
His way, not ours, be done." McKinley started to repeat, "Nearer, My God to
Thee, Nearer to Thee," and the lamp of life flickered and went out forever.
Down the streets of Buffalo went the funeral procession and
the band played, "Nearer, My God to Thee." The railroad track from Buffalo to
Washington was lined with people who stood with bowed, uncovered heads and
tear-stained cheeks as they sang, "Nearer, My God to Thee."
I journeyed to Canton that I might be present at the funeral. Five hours I
stood on the street corner, opposite the Stark County Courthouse where his body
was to lie in state. The booming cannon told us that the funeral train had
arrived. Down the funeral procession came, and bands, with muffled drum, played,
"Nearer, My God to Thee."
The hearse stopped opposite to where I stood, and the
detachment of sailors from the battleship Indiana and soldiers from the regular
army drew out the coffin and carried it into the courthouse where it was to lie
Up dashed a carriage. Out leaned that giant of the west,
Theodore Roosevelt. By his side was Elihu Root. By his side was Doctor Ritchie.
I stood and watched Admiral Croinshield and Admiral Farquhar. Then I saw General
Otis, just returned from the Philippines, and General Gillespie, both Roman
Catholics, but both earnest, devout Christians who believed in Jesus Christ. By
their side walked the finest specimen of manhood I have ever looked upon-
-Lieutenant General Nelson A. Miles.
Up the steps hobbled my friend, General David B. Henderson,
of Dubuque, Iowa, then speaker of the House of Representatives. By his side was
William B. Ellison. I stood and gazed upon men from the North and men from the
South; Democrats and Republicans of all classes. Then they were given the
privilege to walk through, and I was among the first two hundred to go through.
When I looked at the dead president's pale, upturned face, my eyes were blinded
with tears and I groped my way out of the north door.
I stood there bathed in the perfect sunlight of a perfect
September day, and as I stood there I said to myself: "Hail to God! I stand with
the best men of this nation when I stand beneath the cross of Jesus Christ, the
Son of God."
What are you to do with the Christ when from the north, the
south, the east and the west the trumpet of Gabriel sounds and the unsaved dead
come out of their graves to the last judgment?
Lost! What will you do then? You can sit out there now and
sneer at me. You can damn me, call me crude, and illiterate; but old man, I have
Now, our acceptance with God is going to depend on what we do
with Jesus. The vilest sinner on earth, if he accepts Jesus Christ, will be
accepted; and the very moment you accept Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven. If
you reject Jesus, God will spurn and reject you.
In the Bank of England is a machine--a marvelous mechanism.
It is used to weigh gold sovereigns. The Bank of England never takes gold for
its face value, as our banks do. They always weigh gold because gold will wear
off by circulation.
I had a friend out in Illinois who had some $45,000 in gold.
He sent it to the First National Bank of Chicago for deposit. They weighed it
for him and it was $1,500 shy on weight. The Bank of England always weighs gold.
A man sits at the machine there, the gold is dropped through a little slit and
falls on a pan. If it is standard weight it tips to the right; if it is a
fraction short it tips to the left. It never makes a mistake. Never! It saves
the Bank of England hundreds of pounds of sterling every year.
That is nothing compared with the scrutiny that we will lave
to pass through when we stand before God. We can't muster because of our wealth
or intellectual standing. It is because of our acceptance or rejection of Jesus
Christ; then our becoming children of God depends on what becomes of Jesus.
There is an insidious heresy: the teaching about the
universal Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man, the teaching that we are all
one flesh. But if you are not a child of God, you are a creature of God. We are
all creatures of God. (Nobody is a child of God but a Christian.) You are my
brother in the flesh; that is, you are human and I am human. But you are not my
brother in the spirit unless you are a Christian. God is the Creator of us all,
but God is the Father of none but those who believe in Jesus Christ.
There was one way you came into the world--you were born.
There is one way you will get into Heaven--you must be born again. You have had
a physical birth. You must have a spiritual birth and that must come through
Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Does Jesus Christ lack anything in your esteem? Wherein does
He fail to measure up to your ideal? Where could He improve? What could you
suggest that would improve Jesus Christ? I would be very glad to know.
A man said: "If you can find me an absolutely flawless
character, I will worship Him." I challenge all the infidels on earth or in Hell
to find one flaw in the character of Jesus Christ.
Oh, the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, Vanderbilts,
Armours, Astors are all powerful in the commercial and the financial world.
Kelvin, Agassiz, Newton, Spencer are all prominent in the scientific world.
Caesar, Alexander, Hannibal, Napoleon, Wellington,
Washington, Grant, Lee are all powerful in military warfare.
Mightier in England than the king; mightier in Germany than
the emperor; mightier in America than Washington or Lincoln or Roosevelt or
Bryan or Jefferson is the name of Jesus Christ.
That is the name that unhorsed Saul of Tarsus. That is the
name that knocked him blind on the highway. That is the name that knocked Newton
to the deck of the ship. That is the name that holds 500, 000, 000 of the
world's population in its magic grip and power.
It is an encouraging name. Go to the cemetery, to the graves
and read the epitaphs on the tombstones of the people who used to rule
twenty-five or forty years ago. Oh, none so poor as to do them honor today.
Mighty names of earth will perish. All the great-Caesar,
Cleopatra, Nero, Charlemagne, Gregory VI, Catherine de Medici, Catherine of
Russia, Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Madam du Barry, Madam Pompadour--are
We will perpetuate it in art. There will be other Raphaels,
there will be other Michelangelos, there will be other Murillos, there will be
other da Vincis, there will be other Rubens, there will be other Corots, other
Millets, other Munkacsy's to paint "Christ Before Pilate."
We will perpetuate the name of Jesus in art, in literature and in song.
There will be other Cowpers who will write, "God moves in a
mysterious way His wonders to perform: He plants His footsteps in the sea, And
rides upon the storm."
There will be other Topladys who will write, "The Rock of
Ages." There will be other Blisses who will write, "Almost Persuaded." There
will be other Fanny Crosbys who will write, "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross";
"Pass Me Not, 0 Gentle Saviour"; "Once I Was Blind--Now I Can See." There will
be other Charles Wesleys who will write, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul, Let Me to Thy
We will perpetuate it in architecture, Catholicism and
Protestantism. There will be other St. Pauls; there will be other St. Peters;
there will be other St. Johns, St. Johns the Divine; there will be other
Kremlins at Moscow; there will be other Cathedrals at Cologne; there will be
other Madeleines at Paris.
Oh, you can cut, burn and crucify if you will, but if he who
thus dies stands for some immortal truth, his soul will merge from his mutilated
casket and go sweeping triumphantly down the halls of time.
Look at the love the pure and holy bear Him. See what an
object of love He is with them in Heaven. Look at Him when He got ready to come
to this old earth. The angels had to come down to sing to the shepherds, "For
unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the
Lord" (Luke 2:11).
Look at Him in His baptism of John, when God the Father
stopped making worlds and leaned over the battlements of Heaven and said: "This
is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17).
Herschel the astronomer was a Christian. So were Jonathan
Edwards, Blackstone, Gladstone, Washington, Lincoln, Lee, Queen Victoria,
Grant--honored in his tour around the world as no man has ever been honored
before. When Grant reached Jerusalem a feast was proposed for him, and he said:
"No, not in this city where my Saviour bled and died. Let me get alone; I want
Look at the love the pure and holy bear Him.
"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"
I am not worshipping a sleeping Christ in the tomb of Joseph
of Arimathaea, but a living, ruling reigning Christ, at the right hand of God,
the Christ who is coming to judge the quick and the dead.
"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" You
ought to have to do because of the sacrifice He made for you.
If Shakespeare should enter this tabernacle, we would all
stand up and bow. If Jesus Christ should sweep down that aisle, we would all
kneel and bow our heads in humility as He swept by in all His regal splendor.
"What shall I do?" In the battle of San Juan Hill, in the
Spanish American War, a roughrider was wounded on an eminence. He was supposed
dead, when he was seen to wave his bloodstained handkerchief as the Krag-Jorgensen
and the Mauser bullets were singing their death song back and forth. One of his
friends, a cowboy from Arizona, turned to his colonel and said: "Colonel, I will
go and save him . "
"Oh, Jack," the colonel said, "you couldn't live out in that zone. You would
be cut to pieces. I guess he is gone."
But presently they saw the wounded American soldier wave his
bloodstained handkerchief again. The cowboy said: "Look, he isn't dead! I will
go and save him."
He threw down his Krag-Jorgensen, and throwing his arms to
his face as if to protect himself from the bullets, he dashed out into the zone.
But what protection would flesh and bones have against steel bullets that could
go three miles and pierce through thirty-two inches of solid wood?
He ran out, grabbed his comrade and dragged him over the brow
of the hill; then a bullet from a Spanish sharpshooter struck him just above the
heart. It went through him as if he were made of papier-mâché. He dropped his
comrade and a crimson tide spurted from his nose, eyes and lips. He said, "Tom,
pard, I'm hit hard. It's all up with me. I wish you well," and he reeled and
The man crept back into the ranks to tell the story.
Oh, if Jesus could come down here, I wouldn't let Him get all
the way here. I would jump from the platform and go to meet Him. He saved me and
my wife and children, and I'll go where He commands me to go, I'll go where He
wants me to go. We ought to do that for Him because of the sacrifice He made for
Savonarola stood speaking in the square at Florence. The
people surged around God's lionhearted preacher who told that gang of
ecclesiastical crooks and thugs where to head in. He hurled the anathemas of God
at them until they incinerated him to ashes because he dared rebuke their
crookedness and their infamy. Savonarola stood preaching. He knew that these
were the questions uppermost in the minds of the Italians: What sort of
government will emerge
from all this? Will it be a Republican form or will it
continue the monarchy with the king? The second question was, What will be our
religion? Will it be the star and the crescent of the Mohammedan, or will it be
the cross of Jesus Christ?
Those were the questions, and as they all surged to hear him,
he climbed on top of his pulpit where the great crowd could see him and cried
out, "Jesu Christo al nostero sino salvatoro" --Jesus Christ, our King and
Down the streets of Florence they surged. Through every
building and every alley they met the oncoming crowd, and they caught the
spirit. Out into the country they went until it seemed to leap as by magic from
mountain peak to mountain peak, until all Italy rang with the cry: "Jesus Christ
is our King and Saviour." Tonight the cross of Jesus Christ waves over Italy
instead of the star and crescent of the Mohammedan.
Oh, Jesus Christ waits to be your King. What is your answer?
Are you ready to crown Him? Are you ready to say, "Christ is ours"? Or will you
dip the cross of Jesus into the forces of evil? What is your answer?
Get up and let me look at you. Come on, whoever you are. I
don't give a rap where you came from or who you are in the world, come on! Come
Don't sit down; come on. You wouldn't sit down if we played
the "Star Spangled Banner." Come on! The cross of Jesus Christ is waving over
the crowd. Come on, and give me your hand and stand with me.