John 19:1-16. The Trial– part 2

John 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid,9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

Pilate thinks Jesus is innocent so he has him flogged, insulted and beaten up— thinking that it will appease the crowd (Roman justice at work!). He mockingly presents Jesus to them as their king– abused, bashed and belittled. Instead of the crowd taking pity on their fellow Jew, they turn further against him, thereby frustrating Pilate’s plan. Pilate is now pitted against the Jews; not Jesus.

The Pharisees further confound Pilate by demanding Jesus’ death on their charge of blasphemy— he claimed to be ‘the Son of God’ (v7). A charge of sedition (a claim to be ‘king of the Jews’ in opposition to Caesar), if proven, could be just cause for Pilate to crucify Jesus. But blasphemy against the God of the Jews was not a crime the Romans cared about. More alarmingly for Pilate, it seems he suspected that the charge might possibly be true— that Jesus was a ‘son of the gods’, a figure with divine connections and powers. So he takes Jesus back inside for further questioning.

“Where do you come from?” (v9) is not really a question about geography since Pilate already knows Jesus is from Nazareth (v19). Jesus does not answer directly but instead goes to the core of Pilate’s concern— power (v11). Jesus’ public ministry has displayed power of a kind that cannot be denied, and yet his humility and simple appearance still conceal his identity. Jesus is from “above”, the place from where all power is derived, where all accountability returns. Pilate has absolutely nothing— no position, no authority— that belongs to him. He must use all that he has wisely and as a steward. Jesus, on the other hand, possesses power in himself. He is from above.

Somehow Jesus’ words here win Pilate over to his side against the crowd, and yet Pilate must decide for the crowd unless it be reported in Rome that he has allowed ‘another king’ to prosper and be accused of sedition himself.

So for a third time Pilate brings Jesus out to the crowd for judgment (v13). With the Jewish crowd vociferously declaring (ironically and accurately) their allegiance to Caesar instead of their God, Pilate hands Jesus over to the military for execution by crucifixion.

Lord Jesus, all power and authority belongs to you. And yet you have used this to purchase redemption for me, for Pilate, for the Pharisees and the crowd— anyone who will turn to you in repentance. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Amen.