EXCEPTional Bible Verse, Part 8

ultimate authority.jpg

John 19:11

Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. (John 19:11 KJV)

From a one perspective, John 19 presents the greatest miscarriage of justice in the history of jurisprudence. Rome had become well-known around the world for its system of justice. Most of us are familiar with the two-faced god, Janus. He had one face that looked forward, while the other looked backward. Janus reminded Roman judges to look at both sides of a legal question. But Roman justice came with a high price tag; Rome ruled with an iron fist. Whether you were guilty or innocent, you got justice under Roman law – not mercy, but justice. For over a thousand years, Rome ruled the world, dominating people with the promise of law and order, peace and protection, all under the heavy burden of tyranny and dictatorship. This is why, considering Roman history, what happened to Jesus was a true miscarriage of justice.

Our EXCEPTional Bible verse is Jesus’ response to governor Pilate’s question:

Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?” (John 19:10b TLB)

Let’s take a look at the events that led to Pilate’s question and our Lord’s surprising answer and what all that means to you.

1. Trial before Annas and Caiaphas

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were determined to stop Him at all costs, and they were going to use the courts to do just that. In fact, Jesus had never gone against the law – His Father’s or Rome’s – so these despicable men, puny high priests like Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas, manufactured lies against Jesus that another puny man, a Roman governor named Pilate, would pay attention to.

Jesus was given a preliminary hearing before the proud, ambitious, and wealthy Annus. It was during this time Peter, who was brought by John into the palace where Jesus was being questioned, actually denied knowing Jesus three times!

As if the humiliation Jesus was experiencing while He faced Annus and later the Sanhedrin weren’t enough, He knew a member of His inner circle – and close personal friend – was in the process of disowning Him.

This so-called preliminary hearing was really a joke, as was the mock trial before the Jews. It was a joke because there was absolutely no serious attempt to get at the truth; Jesus’ fate had been decided long ago; the verdict was decided long before Jesus was tried. Annas’ question to Jesus is enlightening because it reveals what he was really interested in:

Inside, the High Priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. (John 18:19 TLB)

This corrupt priest was more interested in learning the size of Jesus’ following than what He was teaching them; his interest in Jesus’ teaching was only secondary so as to find a hook on which to hang a charge.

When asked to defend Himself, our Lord responded in a way that resulted in a face-stinging slap:

Ask those who heard me. You have some of them here. They know what I said. (John 18:21 TLB)

Annas wouldn’t even call a witness to see if anything Jesus was teaching was wrong or seditious.

Next, Jesus stood before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin,where He fared no better. Caiaphas was the real high priest who presided over the Sanhedrin, so this was really first trial of Jesus, the trial in the Jewish religious courts. John doesn’t give us any details about what happened here.

2. Before Pilate

Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Next he was taken to the palace of the Roman governor. His accusers wouldn’t go in themselves for that would “defile” them, they said, and they wouldn’t be allowed to eat the Passover lamb. (John 18:28 TLB)

This is an interesting verse because in it, we see the religion of Jews right beside the Person of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Jewish religion. Here is Jesus Christ, the One who came to fulfill the Passover; Himself the Lamb of God, standing beside the very religious men who have brought charges against Him that will result in His hanging on a Cross. Yet, because these religious men didn’t want to violate their precious religious law, thus keeping them from participating in Passover, they wouldn’t go into the judgment hall. How they loved their religion, while plotting the death of their Savior.

This whole trial before Pilate was a mockery of Roman law as surely as the trials before the high priests was a mockery of Jewish law. Just look at what Pilate had to go through to satisfy these Jews. No wonder he hated living in Jerusalem!

18:20 – Pilate went out (of the hall)

18:33 – Pilate when back in (the hall)

18:38 – Pilate went out (of the hall)

19:1 – Pilate whipped Jesus (in the hall)

19:4 – Pilate went out (of the hall)

19:9 – Pilate came back in again (to the hall)

You can see that Pilate, not a Jew, tried to abide by the Jewish religious laws as he tried to get Jesus of the hook. Pilate knew something was wrong, desperately wrong, with what was going on with Jesus.

Then take him away and judge him yourselves by your own laws,” Pilate told them. (John 18:31 TLB)

This disgruntled Roman governor didn’t want anything to do with Jesus. The problem Pilate was encountering was this: the Jewish religious leaders wanted Jesus dead; they would accept NO other verdict but they, because of Roman law, could not pass a sentence of death. This is what Jesus meant when He said this in Matthew 20:19 –

And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Now, the Jews could have had Jesus stoned to death according to their religious law, but remember what was written in Psalm 22 and you’ll realize why the Jews did what they did:

My strength has drained away like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart melts like wax; my strength has dried up like sun-baked clay; my tongue sticks to my mouth, for you have laid me in the dust of death. The enemy, this gang of evil men, circles me like a pack of dogs; they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count every bone in my body. See these men of evil gloat and stare; they divide my clothes among themselves by a toss of the dice. (Psalm 22:14 – 18 TLB)

This was death by crucifixion which only the Romans did. That’s why the Jewish leaders handed our Lord off to Pilate; they didn’t know it, but they were fulfilling Scripture! Yet this man Pilate is truly a pitiful man. He didn’t want anything to do with Jesus. In this, our Roman governor is a lot like people today, who have no problem acknowledging a “higher power,” but when confronted with Jesus, these otherwise reasonable people can get downright testy. What to do with a Man who forces you to make a choice: His way or the wrong way? Yes, Jesus demands people make a choice; either follow Him or remain lost. This is why the world is so opposed to Jesus but not to the idea of “higher power,” whatever its name may be. Belief in a god or even God doesn’t call for commitment or dedication. But faith in Jesus Christ involves those things; it involves living according to HIS will, not yours. And to many people, that’s just offensive.

3. Pilate and Jesus, strange bedfellows

With superstitious fear, Pilate questioned Jesus over and over, trying to figure out a way to get this man off the Jewish hook. But Jesus remained quiet; He wouldn’t speak up in His own defense. Finally, Pilate in exasperation, looked Jesus in the eyes and said this:

Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?” (John 19:10 TLB)

This verse reveals something about Pilate. The question that precedes this one, “To ME you offer silence?”is not a statement of surprise but of offense. Pilate just could not believe that this Jesus wouldn’t speak to Him! Sure, Jesus could talk back to those provincial Jewish priests, but to the almighty governor this prisoner DARES keep His mouth shut? The second question corroborates the first: Pilate had a high estimation of himself for he alone – nobody else – can secure Jesus’ freedom. Pilate was the MAN before all should bow. He was the one the people – people like Jesus – should be thankful for. The crumbs that fell from his table were beneficial crumbs. This was Pilate’s attitude. He was so filled with the pride of his position, he over-spoke the good thing he was trying to accomplish. Was Pilate the whole Roman government? Of course not! Yet here he was talking to Jesus as though he had the power to write his own laws; choosing which laws to enforce and which ones to ignore.

Yes, Pilate is a pitiful figure in this story. He wasn’t nearly as wise as he thought he was and he didn’t have the power he thought he had. Really, all Pilate wanted was to be left alone.

And that gets us to our EXCEPTional verse, Jesus answer to Pilate:

Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. (John 19:11 KJV)

Jesus had to respond to Pilate, for to remain silent would be to agree with the governor’s assessment of his level of power and authority. Jesus had to set this man straight. The word for “power” here is exousia, which means “liberty or power” as in “power to act.” In other words, any authority or power Pilate had was derived and not inherent. Westcott draws an inescapable conclusion:

Human government is only valid as the expression of the divine will.

Woe to the government that governs against the will of God! That government won’t survive.

In comparing Jesus and Pilate, another scholar has made this observation:

Jesus does more than assert His Divine power and origin. He assumes it. In striking contrast, Pilate asserts his power.

In reality, Pilate had NO power to either release Jesus or to crucify Him. But Jesus was not thinking of the Roman government, He was thinking of Himself. Consider this:

No one can kill me without my consent—I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right and power to lay it down when I want to and also the right and power to take it again. For the Father has given me this right. (John 10:18 TLB)

You see, Pilate had no power of any kind over Jesus. The only power Pilate had in this instance was the power Jesus gave him. Whatever was happening to Jesus and whatever would happen to Him in the next few hours was what Jesus wanted, not Pilate and not the Jewish religious leaders. Pilate needed to know that the fate of Jesus was not in his hands; but that a greater hand held Pilate.

But Jesus didn’t stop with this government official. It was God’s justice that put Israel under Roman domination. Their present position was a result of God’s punitive action. As surely as Pilate had no inherent power, neither did Caiaphas or the Jewish religious leaders. These men, unscrupulous and cold as Caiaphas was and unscrupulous and weak as Pilate was, were in positions of “power” only because they were tools in God’s hands, exercising His will, not theirs.

Jesus obviously saw something in Pilate because He wanted Pilate to know the truth. It wasn’t Jesus that was on trial here, it was Pilate on trial before Heaven’s Judge. Pilate the judge was being tried by a Judge greater than he. Caiaphas was judged as having committed the “greater sin.”

After all was said and done, Pilate knew Jesus was innocent but washed his hands of the matter. But he could not remove the guilt of his actions that day. Just a few years later, in 36 AD, he was deposed, sent off to Rome to face charges, was banished, eventually killing himself.

Pilate was one who was told the truth, knew some of the truth, but did nothing with it. A lot of people today know the truth of Jesus but, like Pilate, wash their hands of our Lord because they just want to be left alone.  The tragedy is that God will leave them alone – for all eternity, unless they pay attention to Jesus.

0 Responses to “EXCEPTional Bible Verse, Part 8”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 349,578 hits

Never miss a new post again.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 286 other subscribers
Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com


%d bloggers like this: