Then Pilate said to Him, “Are you not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:10-11
Spending some quiet time this Good Friday morning, I read this passage and these verses caught my attention.
This was the moment of reckoning. Pilate had already declared that he found no fault in Jesus – three times (John 18:38; 19:4, 6)! And yet, the Jews were adamant, insisting that Jesus be crucified. Everything laid in the hands of Pilate.
Or so it seemed.
All power belongs to God. This means that the power that Pilate had, was given by God. In other words, God allowed Pilate the power. Could God have withdrawn it at that moment? Of course. Did He? No. Instead, He allowed Pilate to wrestle with how he would use his power, or abuse it.
Power comes with accountability. Although Pilate sought to release Jesus (John 19:12), he bowed to public pressure. Although he sought to remove himself from the responsibility of crucifying an innocent man, it did not remove the fact that he did not judge justly. That is sin.
There is sin, and there is greater sin. It may have ended with Pilate, but it began with someone else. Who was Jesus referring to? Judas? The religious leaders? The people who demanded his crucifixion? Think about it. Have we all not been guilty of this? One wrong word. One careless act. One piece of juicy gossip. And how that has sparked a chain reaction of consequences. Not only is that sin, it is the greater sin.
Silence and submission. After these verses, Jesus spoke no more. He had made His point and He demonstrated it through silence and submission. To argue with Pilate would be to argue with God. To appeal for clemency would be to oppose the Father’s will. The Lamb of God went silent, ready to be led to its slaughter.
God achieves His purpose. How bizarre does it get? God seemed to have left it to the choices and decisions of men and yet, His purposes were accomplished through them. Instinctively, we would want to jump in, to save the situation, to restore order. But God remained totally in control and achieved His purpose amidst the shouts of “Crucify Him!” and the declarations of “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15) How do we understand this? The free will of Man and yet, the sovereignty of God. Wow!
Upon reflection, I find these points oddly comforting, but also extremely challenging.
The power play in the world increases with each passing day. I am reminded that these have no power if it had not been first granted to them by God. For sure, power in the wrong hands would be bad news for everyone. And yet, through the hand of Pilate, God brought good news! Clearly, I must learn to see that ultimately, all power belongs to God and He is still in total control. In this, I am comforted.
But this comfort does not come without a challenge.
For me, the question is, “How can I remain silent and submitted to the will of God amidst the chaos and confusion in our world today?” When does a Christian make a stand and when does he suffer in silence? Do we fight for our convictions? And if so, how should we fight, remembering the words of Jesus to Pilate in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” How do we apply this as people of His kingdom?
I wish I had a ready answer for this, but I don’t.
And so, my Good Friday reflections continue, as I ponder again the example of Jesus, the One “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;” (1 Peter 2:22-23) and how I am to follow in my Master’s steps.