Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 19:6a (Holman) When the chief priests and the temple police saw Him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
Pilate probably thought the flogging of Jesus would satisfy the crowd’s anger, but it was not enough. The sight of blood made them thirsty for more blood. They acted like human tigers. The taste of blood enflamed their desire.
To squelch any feelings of pity that might have started swelling up among the crowd, the leaders began chanting immediately. They became cheerleaders, leading the people in a bloodthirsty, one-word chant.
They “shouted,” were yelling and screaming. The leaders were in a mad frenzy, having gone crazy due to their hatred.
The leaders chanted one word repeatedly, “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!” It was the kind of one-word slogan a frenzied crowd could easily take up.
It is sad to notice the first public mention of the cross in these proceedings was made by the religious leaders. They were ferocious, demanding not only death, but also the cruelest and most humiliating death. The cross was reserved for slaves and the vilest criminals. These leaders wanted Jesus tortured and degraded as well as executed.
John 19:6b Pilate responded, “Take Him and crucify Him yourselves, for I find no grounds for charging Him.”
Pilate seemed shocked at the suggestion. For the third time he declared his inability to find fault in Jesus. Pilate did not want to be their legalized assassin. He had no desire to shed innocent blood solely for the crowd’s gratification. Pilate displayed a noble sentiment here, but his resolve eventually crumbled beneath the craftiness of the chief priests.
Pilate may have been taunting the religious leaders. He knew they would not crucify Him on their own. He almost seemed to be challenging them to defy him, as if he were saying, “I have nothing to crucify Him for; you crucify Him if you dare! You won’t yield to my authority regarding a verdict; go ahead and commit full rebellion by taking the execution into your own hands.”
John 19:7 “We have a law,” the Jews replied to him, “and according to that law He must die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
The sly leaders appealed for Pilate to honor a Roman custom. Rome prided itself on its habit of accommodating the rules and laws of a local people as much as possible. The leaders wanted Pilate to follow suit and enforce their laws.
They insanely brought a religious charge against Jesus and expected a heathen to be the judge. They wanted a pagan Governor to decide whether or not Jesus had blasphemed. In other words, the leaders wanted the Procurator to render a verdict and be the executioner for a charge totally unintelligible by him.
John 19:8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was more afraid than ever.
The chief priests’ ploy almost backfired on them. It put Pilate into a panic. Claiming to be royalty was one thing; claiming to be God was quite another. Even a pagan like Pilate did not want to be guilty of fighting against God.
Romans believed the gods did sometimes visit earth in human form. Also, as Eastern religions began making inroads throughout the Roman Empire, there was an ever increasing amount of superstition.
John 19:9a He went back into the headquarters and asked Jesus, “Where are You from?”
Pilate was not seeking information on Jesus’ racial or national origins. The Procurator wanted to know if Jesus was human or divine. Pilate was asking, “Are you a man born on earth, or a god descended from Heaven?”
This is an important question to ask. To know the true nature of Jesus is one of the most valuable things any person can know.
John 19:9b But Jesus did not give him an answer.
Jesus knew His words would have fallen on deaf ears. Pilate’s heart was too pagan to understand. At best Pilate would have considered Jesus simply another member of the Pantheon.
Jesus’ silence here was quite a contrast to His open declaration before the chief priests that He was the Son of the Blessed. Those men were students of the Old Testament and knew full well what Jesus was claiming. They disagreed with what He said, but understood Him perfectly.
Pilate, on the other hand, could not have appreciated Jesus’ straight forward response. The Lord was silent only when it would have been in vain to speak.
John 19:10a So Pilate said to Him, “You’re not talking to me?
Pilate’s apprehension turned to anger. His fear was temporary, having no root. His countenance changed from awe to contempt.
Pilate, interpreting the silence of Jesus as insolence, flew into a rage. The Governor evidently felt his dignity had been offended.
His ruffled pride prompted vanity in his voice. Weak people often hide behind a screen of self-importance. They have to stand on their ego because they have nothing else to stand on.
John 19:10b “Don’t You know that I have the authority to release You . . .”
Ironic. The coward bragged of his authority in the presence of Authority itself. Fear boasted in the presence of courage; weakness vaunted itself in the face of power; sin writhed in the face of sanctity; a human bragged in the presence of God. Position often inspires intolerable vanity in small souls.
John 19:10c “ . . . and have power to crucify You?”
Pilate was proud of the fact he had the power to kill a man he had thrice declared innocent.
John 19:11a “You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above.”
Jesus could not let a mortal man get away with such a brash remark. He reminded Pilate, all power and authority belong to God. Everyone must eventually render an account to Him. Jesus essentially rebuked Pilate for acting as if there were no Judge in Heaven.
John 19:11b “This is why the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.”
“Greater” sin implies “lesser” sin, therefore Pilate is guilty of sin, but his error is not as grievous as that of Caiaphas. Jesus was referring to the High Priest as embodying all the religious leaders.
At least Pilate did what he did in a partial state of ignorance. He knew nothing of Christ’s miracles or His background, but Caiaphas and his cohorts knew these things “full well.”
They also had the advantage of knowing Scripture. Yet even as they held the written Word of God in their hands they condemned the incarnate Word of God.
The Messiah was one of their own, sent directly to bless them. They should have welcomed Him, but refused to receive the kind of Messiah God intended for them to have. They wanted to dictate their preconceived notions to God.