When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:6-11)
The hatred for Jesus by the Jewish religious leaders is unpleasant. They issue a repeated and heart felt command to Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. Having no legitimate charge of any crime against the Lord, Pilate responds with no small amount of sarcasm when he says, ““Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” Pilate was well aware the Jews had not legal authority to crucify anyone, let alone Jesus Christ. He emphatically taunted them in response to their taunting of not only him but also of Christ. However, in taunting them Pilate also affirmed that he found Jesus innocent of any crime.
Ironically, the religious leaders’ hatred of Jesus, and their subsequent response to Pilate that Jesus broke Jewish Law by claiming to be the Son of God, indeed proved that Jesus uttered such a claim. There are many individuals, historically and currently, who propose that Jesus made no such claim to be God when He was on earth. Yet, the religious leaders refuted such a bogus proposition. They acknowledged to Pilate that Jesus claimed to be God and therefore was guilty of blasphemy.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “This probably refers to Lev. 24:16: “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.” The charge of blasphemy (John 5:18; 8:58–59; 10:33, 36) was central in Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas (see Matt. 26:57–68).”
The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testaments explains that, “The Old Testament called the Messiah (and all David’s line) the Son of God (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; 89:27); in a more general sense, all Israel was called God’s child (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 8:3 Hos. 11:1). But even falsely claiming to be the Messiah was not a capital offense in standard Jewish teaching, as long as one were not a false prophet advocating other gods. On their own terms, Jesus’ accusers are thus mistaken about the law’s teaching about him (10:34–36); but John may intend more irony: he believed the Old Testament predicted that God’s Son would die (cf. Is 53).”
What was Pilate’s response to this latest charge against Jesus by the Jews? He was afraid. This fear was not a reverence for Jesus resulting in worship but rather a cowardly condition of being alarmed. Pilate was sensing that Jesus was more than what He appeared to be. Pilate evidences the truth of Romans 1:18-22 that even the worst pagan has a sense of realization of the existence of the One, True, and Biblical God.
Turning from the crowd and turning his attention once again towards Jesus, Pilate asked Jesus, ““Where are you from?” In effect, Pilate was asking who Jesus was. Jesus’ lack of response fulfilled Isaiah 53:7 which says, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
Astonished at Jesus’ lack of response, Pilate exclaimed ““You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Pilate was stating that He had power and authority over Jesus. Jesus responded that “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” See Romans 13:1-7.
In the church’s response to Peter and John’s eventual release by the same Jewish religious leaders who sought to silence them from preaching the gospel, Acts 4:27-28 says, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
Do not misunderstand when I state that God the Father purposed the evil of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion to exist in order to accomplish His predetermined purpose before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-11). That predestined purpose was the redemption of fallen sinners like you and me.
Jesus then said, “Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” To whom was Jesus referring?
Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “In this statement was Jesus referring to Judas, Satan, Caiaphas, the priests, or the Jewish people? Perhaps Caiaphas is the best choice since he is the one who handed Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate was guilty (cf. the words in the Apostles’ Creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate”). But Jesus put more weight on Caiaphas as the responsible one (cf. John 11:49–50; 18:13–14).”
It often is easy to view our circumstances as being beyond the Lord’s control. Sometimes, we assume that we, or another human like ourselves, is really in charge of the circumstances of life. Not true. Only God is ultimately in control.
Remember the words of Daniel 2:20-23:“Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!