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.”
(John 19:7-11 NIV)
In our last passage, Pilate had questioned Jesus and found no basis for the nebulous charges the Jews brought against Jesus. The Jews still demanded Jesus’ crucifixion. Hoping to placate the angry mob, Pilate had Jesus flogged as a punishment for anything Jesus might have done to offend the Jews.
When Pilate brought Jesus back after the flogging and presented Him to the crowds, the crowds reacted exactly the opposite of he had hoped. The masses became even angrier, demanding Jesus’ crucifixion.
As we pick up today’s passage, we see the Jews bringing specific charges against Jesus: “He claimed to be the son of God.” Verse 8 is very significant to the context of Pilate’s response and subsequent actions: ” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid”.
In Roman culture, only Ceasar was believed to be a child of the gods. When Pilate heard these charges against Jesus, he knew he had to investigate. Pilate didn’t care one bit about Jewish laws or customs, but he cared everything about Ceasar’s laws and customs and more importantly about being loyal to his boss Ceasar. If Pilate did not investigate these serious charges and word got back to Rome, Pilate stood a high chance of losing his position as governor.
So Pilate brought Jesus back into the palace and interrogated Him again. “Where do you come from?”, Pilate asked Jesus. Jesus was silent. Pilate was hoping Jesus would say “from God” or “from heaven” so Pilate would have a legitimate case under Roman law to bring charges against Jesus. Pilate tried to intimidate Jesus into talking to him, reminding Jesus that he had the power of life and death over Jesus. Jesus tells Pilate that any power he possesses has been given to him by God.
In a remarkable act of grace, Jesus tells Pilate that the one that handed Him over to Pilate is guilty of a greater sin than Pilate. Even though Jesus has been flogged at Pilate’s command, Jesus shows grace to Pilate in hopes of leading Pilate to repentance. Jesus is not trying to change His destiny, but He is trying to reconcile Pilate to Himself.
As our faith lesson for today, how do we respond when wrongly accused or when our life or reputation or good name hangs in the balance?
- Do we defend ourselves?
- Do we become angry?
- Do we retaliate with similar accusations?
- Do we respond in love?
- Are we more concerned about others’ relationship with the Lord than our life?
May we consider Jesus’ response and live out our lives accordingly.