“From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:12-15.
The particular idiom strange bedfellows may have been invented by William Shakespeare in The Tempest (2:2), where he writes, and “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Today a common extension is the phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows.” This means that politicians form peculiar associations so as to win more votes.
The misery and eventual crucifixion of Jesus Christ by the Jews, through the political authority of the Roman government representative Pontius Pilate, seems to apply this Shakespearean expression. The Jews’ hatred for Jesus was so extensive and deep seated that they were willing to forgo their hatred of Rome to satisfy their blood lust for Jesus’ execution.
Likewise, Pilate found himself in a rather precarious situation. He found no evidence that Jesus had committed a crime against the state. However, he was caught in the political vise. While disagreeing with the Jewish leaders concerning Jesus, at the same time he did not want to so offend them for fear that this would lead to his demotion, or worse, by his Roman superiors.
Pilate wanted to release Jesus. However, the Jews issued the Roman governor an ultimatum: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testament explains that, “Friends” of powerful patrons were their political dependents, and to be the “friend of the emperor” (NRSV, TEV) or the “friend of Caesar” (KJV, NASB, NIV) was a special honor. “Friend of the king” had been an office in Greek and ancient Near Eastern palaces (including Israel, from David through Herod the Great); “friend of the emperor” was likewise an official title with political implications.”
Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “This statement by the Jews was loaded with irony, for the Jews’ hatred of Rome certainly indicated they too were no friends of Caesar. But they knew Pilate feared Tiberius Caesar (the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion) since he had a highly suspicious personality and exacted ruthless punishment. Pilate had already created upheaval in Jerusalem by several foolish acts that had infuriated the Jews, and so was under the scrutiny of Rome to see if his ineptness continued. The Jews were intimidating him by threatening another upheaval that could spell the end of his power in Jerusalem, if he did not execute Jesus.”
This “judgment seat” or “stone pavement” was the place Pilate sat to render his official verdict. The seat was placed on an area paved with stones, which is why it was known as “The Stone Pavement.” The irony of this scene is that Pilate rendered an unjust judgment on the One, True God who would one day render a just judgment of Pilate.
John indicates that this setting took place in the Preparation Day for the Passover Feast. When he notes that Pilate’s judgment took place at this sixth hour. This would be according to Roman time, in which the day began at Midnight. Therefore, Pilate’s judgment took place at 6:00 a.m.
What was also fitting is that the Preparation Day for the Passover Feast is when the lambs were slain. The “day of Preparation” was the day that the Passover lamb would be slaughtered to be eaten that night (see John 18:28). We must remember that unlike the Romans, Jewish people reckoned days from sunset to sunset. Therefore, what we would call Friday night they considered the beginning of the Sabbath, or Saturday.
Pilate said to the people gathered, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
As one commentator states, “The authorities’ cry is typical of the irony of John: Jewish people prayed daily for the royal Messiah, and one Jewish prayer that came to be part of the Passover celebration at least in later times acknowledges no king but God (cf. 8:33).”
Dr. R. C. Sproul concludes that, “Pilate did what the Jewish authorities wanted him to do and finally sentenced Jesus to be crucified (v. 16a). However, he did not do so without taunting the Jews one last time. Commentators see in Pilate’s final presentation of Jesus to the Jews and his exclamations “Behold your King!” and “Shall I crucify your King?” (vv. 14–15) as the governor’s hurling one final insult at them. In effect, Pilate was reminding the Jewish leaders of their own impotence. The bloodied, seemingly powerless man standing before them, Christ Jesus, was the only king they would get. In Pilate’s mind, they could do no better regarding their political aspirations than a “ruler” destined to die. And yet, we can see the irony in this. For while Pilate thought little of Jesus and the Jewish leaders rejected Him as their king, we know that the One who stood before them was God incarnate, the true Sovereign over all, who was orchestrating events in order to bring about the salvation of the world (1:1–18; 3:16).”
God exists. Evil exists. God purposes evil to exist for His own purposes and for the honor and glory of His name. There was no greater evil ever committed on this earth’s history than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But with it, God brought about the greatest good: the salvation of our souls.
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!