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JOHN - The Light Shines in the Darkness
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to John
PART 4 - Light Overcomes Darkness
A - Events From the Arrest to the Burial (John 18:1 - 19:42)
3. The civil trial before the Roman governor (John 18:28 – 19:16)

d) Pilate awed by Christ's divine nature (John 19:6-11)

JOHN 19:8-11
8 When therefore Pilate heard this saying, he was more afraid. 9 He entered into the Praetorium again, and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Aren’t you speaking to me? Don’t you know that I have power to release you, and have power to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power at all against me, unless it were given to you from above. Therefore he who delivered me to you has greater sin.”

Pilate was uncertain as to Jesus’ personality. His uprightness, purity and love were not lost on the governor. So when he learned that Jesus was regarded not just as king but also as God’s Son he was alarmed. Romans and Greeks imagined the heavens to teem with spirits and godlings who could sometimes become incarnate and move amongst men. He became apprehensive thinking, "Is he likely to be a god in man’s form?" So he asked, "Where are you from?"

Jesus did not seize this opportunity to escape punishment, but stayed silent. This silence is suggestive. God does not answer questions that have to do with logic or mere curiosity, but reveals Himself to the believer who confides in Him. He differs totally from Graeco-Roman conceptions of Him, no one is like Him. At this silence, Pilate was angry and asked, "Do you not want to talk to me? I have the power to kill or release you, you are in my power. Your enemies demand your crucifixion. I alone can save you or hang you."

Jesus would have responded, "True, you have the power. My Father gave you that power. You are not important in yourself. Your futility will appear soon in an unjust sentence. My Father in heaven is omnipotent, and I too. There is no authority on earth, except by His permission." This permissive will often result in destruction as with Pilate, who had been gifted with power by divine permission. God controls history, but allows people a share in responsibility for their deeds. You are accountable for your dealings with others.

Jesus said to Pilate, "You have sinned gravely, but you are not alone in guilt. All are caught in the meshes of sins. You do not want to crucify me, but your cowardice and fear of Caiaphas makes you condemn me." The high priest was guilty of a greater sin, for he wanted to crucify Jesus because of jealousy and hatred. As he held high office, he needed to show pity for felons to reconcile them with God. But he was subject to evil spirits and he loathed Jesus to the point of murder.

e) Pilate's unjust sentence on Jesus (John 19:12-16)

JOHN 19:12
12 At this, Pilate was seeking to release him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you release this man, you aren’t Caesar’s friend! Everyone who makes himself a king speaks against Caesar!”

Pilate wished Jesus’ release because the prisoner had acknowledged his authority. Even though Christ’s majesty and piety had set bounds to that power. Jesus did not threaten Pilate, but rebuked him mildly. He made a distinction between Pilate’s sin and Caiaphas’ crime. Jesus was the judge of the one trying him, and tried to draw him towards the divine realities.

When the Jewish priests noticed the change of heart in Pilate, they switched the discussion to politics. Their charge that Jesus was claiming divinity was useless in a Roman court. So they threatened to expose the governor as disloyal to Caesar if he would not kill Jesus.

"The friend of Caesar" meant a favorite of the Emperor. This title was accorded to his envoys and imperial relatives. Pilate’s wife may have been one of these relatives. Since Tiberius Caesar trusted no one and was of pessimistic nature, he was inclined to doubt the sincerity of his delegates. He constantly expected rebellions led by one or other of them. Anyone who accused Caesar’s friend and substantiated the charge, could bring about the downfall of the accused, who could be exiled.

Had the Jewish leaders written to Rome that Pilate had set "The King of the Jews" free, despite their own charge of rebellion, it would mean he was gathering Caesar’s foes round him. Consequently, Pilate’s position was shaky. He was unwilling to give up his position for Jesus, even if truth was on Jesus’ side. This threat broke down his resistance and he prepared to pass official judgment to condemn Jesus. He fell back on formalities to clear his person of Christ’s blood. He appeared to have passed a fair judgment, but in his heart of hearts he knew he had been grossly unjust.

JOHN 19:13-16a
13 When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called “The Pavement,” but in Hebrew, “Gabbatha.” 14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, at about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” 15 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!” 16a So then he delivered him to them to be crucified. …

Pilate was scornful of the Messianic hope held by Jews and mocked their defiance of Rome and said, "You have accused Jesus who claimed kingship! Take up your powerless kingdom! You are like him, not deserving any attention!"

The Jews understood the point of this mockery which turned their complaint against Jesus into contempt of his accusers. They cried together, "Take him to the cross, to shame, he is accursed! Crucify him!"

Brother, those who cried were pious according to their law, but had become blind, unable to recognize love incarnate and divine condescension, as well as God’s holiness fulfilled in Jesus. They hated him and wanted to do away with him. Neither bigotry nor zeal will draw people to God; only love manifested in Jesus will open our eyes to his mercy and sacrifice.

Pilate vented his scorn on the furious Jews and again called Jesus "King", bringing out the evidence that all the populace were resolved to kill Jesus. Pilate tried to find an excuse for his accusing conscience, but the howling mob was one in their aim to crucify Jesus. The voice of the people is not the voice of God, because they err often in their ambitions and worldly drives, and Satan exploits these failings.

The priests were indignant at Pilate’s repeated mockery. They rejoined with a surprising declaration, "We have no king but Caesar." This in itself was hypocrisy. The priestly family feared the Messianic movements, as well as hating Herod the puppet king. They preferred Caesar, the guardian of Greek culture, with law and order in the land. They thus betrayed the Old Testament prophecies and all Messianic expectations. The Father of lies inspires his children. However, Jesus alone in the Court stood by the truth, hearing God’s voice in his conscience and holding fast to his integrity.

Eventually, Pilate passed the harsh sentence, driven by egoism, malice and deceit. The Son of God kept silence, relying on the guidance of his Father, who had allowed the governor to crucify his Son. By this unjust sentence, Jesus completed the reconciliation between God and Man. The evil spirits imagined they had won, but it was God’s plans that had become fulfilled, despite the deceitful machinations of the forces of hell.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we bow to you; you are the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Grant us a merciful, truthful and upright heart. Help us not to use others as means for our benefits, and enable us to prefer death to deceit and compromise with evil.


  1. Why did Pilate pass judgment on Jesus?


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