John 19:1–16—Jesus is Tortured & Sentenced
1 Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.
4 Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” 5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”
6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”
7 The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. 9 He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10“Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”
12 Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”
13 When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew,Gabbatha). 14 It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!”
15 “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”
“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.
16 Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.
Points of Interest
‘Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip’—I think this is letting someone off with a stern warning, Roman-style. Pilate seems to hope that the crowd will be satisfied with a good beating.
‘understand clearly that I find him not guilty’—I guess the truth thing is bothering him a little. He still seems perfectly willing to execute an innocent man; but he does want to make sure that the religious leaders know that’s what he is doing.
‘Why don’t you talk to me?’—I think Jesus doesn’t talk to him because Pilate has already told him that they have nothing to talk about. They have nothing in common: Jesus is king of truth, and Pilate is governor of Judea; there’s no point of connection.
‘Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you’—Pilate might be more accurate to say that he has the authority to release Jesus. His actual power doesn’t quite seem to match his authority. He lacks the strength of will to stand up to the crowd and release Jesus, as he clearly wants to do.
‘We have no king but Caesar’—this hearkens back to about a millennium before, when the people of Israel first requested a king of the prophet Samuel, who had been leading them up until that point:
Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment (1 Samuel 8:6-8).
Taking It Home
For you: Authority is a big word. It’s mainly associated it with police, judges, military officers, and government officials: ‘the authorities.’ However, if we think of authority simply as something you are both responsible for and have the ability to influence, all of us have all sorts of authority. What would you see you have authority in? Officially speaking, Pilate had a lot more authority than most of us ever will, but he didn’t seem to do much with it. Talk to Jesus about how you might use your position, status, responsibilities, knowledge, or job for good. Ask Jesus if there is a way he would like you to leverage your authority.
For your 6: Pilate’s meager attempts to claim Jesus’ innocence demonstrate that he at least had some hint that there is something to Jesus. However, there is too much pressure on Pilate and too little time for him to really consider what that is. Ask Jesus to help your 6 pay attention to whatever inklings they have that there might be something to Jesus. Ask Jesus not to allow anything to get in the way of them exploring who he is.
For our church: Does this whole story feel outrageous and infuriating to you? Obviously, to the Pharisees it seems like a perfectly sound and fair plan, but our two millennia of hindsight might just make us want to yell about how unfair the whole thing is. Of course, acts of gross injustice—too often done in the name of justice—aren’t limited to 1st Century Rome. Ask Jesus to help our church be a place that advocates for justice. Ask for our church to be a place that doesn’t simply roll with the status quo or popular opinion, but is really compelled to see everyone in our society treated fairly.