Pilate is between a rock and a hard place. The Jews refused his offer to allow Jesus to be the Passover Prisoner release. They insisted Jesus was guilty of sedition and treason– for it was unlawful for anyone to claim to be a king other than Caesar. He cannot afford an uprising but he doesn’t want to be bullied by the Jews either.
So he makes some attempts to appease the Jews by having Jesus flogged. His soldiers find this funny is a sick sort of way. Either they are accustomed to being cruel or feel the liberty in riotous atmosphere. They mock the Jews and the “King of the Jews” by crowning Jesus with thorns and adorning Him in a purple robe.
Pilate is probably hoping this torture and embarrassment will show the Jews how impotent Jesus really is – how the charge is overstated. But it backfires. The Jews are more enraged – “Crucify him, crucify him!” They are and have been intent on Jesus dying since the prophetic utterance of Caiaphas “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50 ESV)
“Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” Pilates tries again. It was unlawful for the Jews to execute anyone – that was Rome’s prerogative – so Pilate knew they really couldn’t act.
The Jews counter with “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” This information was unsettling to Pilate. It is one thing for them to make Jesus out as a “king” of this quirky Jewish culture – Pilate had assessed Jesus – he had no army or strength and was not really a threat to Rome – but to claim deity?– That was not a measurable earthly claim but a spiritual one and it was reserved for Caesar. How could Pilate accurately evaluate that?
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?” Pilate is trying to get some physical evidence to refute the Jews’ claim but Jesus is silent on this. Pilate is stressed. This thing is escalating and he is incredulous that Jesus doesn’t fear his power.
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.” Jesus reminds Pilate – you have been put in this place of authority by God. Whether Pilate took “from above” to mean the deity Caesar or the true God is not as important as the burden of responsibility he must now feel. Now Pilate was convinced he needed to release Jesus.
(It is a fearful thing to find oneself under the authority of a human institution that seems to hold your future and your life in their hands. If that institution is adversarial it is terrifying – you don’t know what they will do; you dare not allow yourself to believe in mercy; you pray for rescue but the knot in your chest does not lessen. What would change today if I believed even that ungodly, human institution only had authority over me because God had ordained it? Would that not cause me to recall the One who loves me beyond measure is in control of all things? Would that not remind me to trust Him? “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18)
There came the time that Pilate ran out of options. He could not be seen as opposing Caesar. “Now it was the day of preparation of the Passover” and so Pilate prepared the sacrifice and delivered Jesus to be crucified.
God is full of grace and mercy.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we can need? (Rom. 8:32)
About the World?
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will. (Proverbs 21:1)