John 19:1-15: Pressure Points

Read: John 19:1-15

The high priests had no case against Jesus, and Pilate saw good reason to put him to death either. Pilate therefore presented Jesus to the crowd, and they demanded that they release Barabbas rather Jesus. Then, perhaps in an effort to appease them rather than sentence an innocent man to death, Pilate had him scourged. The soldiers then mocked of Jesus, twisting a crown of thorns and putting the crown on his head and placing a purple robe on him. They hit him in the face, and then they brought the humiliated Jesus so  everyone could see. The Jews then insisted that they crucify Jesus even though Pilate was making a spectacle of out of him. It was here that the Jews finally accused Jesus of something: they said that Jesus committed blasphemy by calling himself the “Son of God”, a crime punishable by death (Leviticus 24:16). Jesus has previously exposed the hypocrisy of this accusation in John 10:22-42. He had told them that the scriptures assert those that receive an oracle from God are as “gods” in some respect, and this should be true even more so considering that Jesus was the one sent by God and was one with God. Jesus pointed to his works as evidence for this claim. The Jews now that they had Jesus in front of them as a spectacle and Pilate attempting to appease a crowd, they could push for their agenda to have Jesus executed to remove his perceived threat.

Pilate reenters the Praetorium and asks Jesus where he was from, but Jesus did not answer. Pilate then appears to play it tough by pointing out that he has the power to free him or have him crucified. Jesus then points out to Pilate that Pilate has no authority of Jesus other than what is given to him from above. Jesus had already told Pilate that he was not of the world and that his kingdom was not of the world (John 18:36). Pilate seemingly had already established Jesus’ innocents, and was perhaps looking for some way to pass the buck to someone else. If Jesus was not from the province of Judea, perhaps he could have claimed that Jesus was not under his jurisdiction or something of that nature. Pilate was looking for a way to release Jesus, but the crowd was insistent that he be crucified, saying that if Pilate released Jesus, Pilate would be no friend of Caesar. This was playing off of Pilates loyalties, as he was the Roman prefect of the province of Judea. Pilate continued the spectacle passing Jesus off as their king and sat on the judgment seat in a place called “the Pavement”. This was probably symbolic in nature to show that Pilate was trying to be fair by not condemning an innocent man to die, but rather it was the Jews that wanted him to die. Matthew 27:24 notes that Pilate symbolically washed his hands of Jesus’ blood placing it on the Jews who demanded his crucifixion. Jesus told Pilate that the greater sin was on the part of the Jews who had turned Jesus over to Pilate. Eventually, Pilate caves in and hands Jesus over to be executed. Pilate in a last ditched effort asks if he should crucify “their” king, and the chief priest answers saying they had no king but Caesar, again appealing to Pilate’s allegiances.

Pilate lacked the gall to free Jesus because he, like the priests, was not really concerned with the truth. Pilate was concerned by appeasing the people and trying to Rome happy at the same time by maintaining some semblance of peace, even if it meant crucifying an innocent man. In this case, external pressures kept Pilate from doing what he obviously knew was right. Often times, people fear what others might think of them or might do to them and let this be a barrier to doing what is right or coming to Jesus in faith and repentance. Rather than give in to pressure, it is always better to desire truth and righteousness. Psalm 51:6 notes that God desires truth in one’s innermost being and the one who truly desires it will be filled (Matthew 5:6). This sort of truth produces a contrite heart and a broken spirit and this is what God can restore. The psalmist in Psalm 51 notes that in doing so, he can teach the sinners God’s ways so the sinners can be converted. In desiring truth, one will have more fortitude to resist the external pressures to sin and be more bold to speak truth into the lives of others.

Lord, help me to resist pressure and pursue truth!