This is part of our Easter week series from Ross Paterson's daily devotional Facebook post. Like our page to keep up with our latest devotionals and news.
In John 19:1-16a the verse that impacted me on reading the passage through several times was verse 11: “Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.’” How extraordinary that Jesus in the midst of such horrific injustice and violence could be confident in His Father’s authority and sovereignty. Surely He was powerless; power lay with Pilate, the soldiers, the Jewish leaders. If we balance that with another verse that I read this morning, we have an extraordinary spiritual ‘equation’. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). The Father seeks for those then and now whose eyes are on Him and ‘strengthens’ them; the Son rested in that confidence, even in the midst of such deep tribulation. How was that possible? Look at John 13:1 and John 18:4. He knew where He had come from, where He was going and that He was in the Father’s will. That is the only secure ground on which we can stand.
It is the more extraordinary because around Jesus there is a scenario playing out that is totally and utterly the opposite, where men push and shove using secular and religious power. “In seeking to defend their place and their nation, the religious leaders now commit themselves utterly to Rome: Jesus’ claimed kingship puts Him at odds with Caesar, but they recognise no king at all other than the emperor (vv12,15). Will Pilate, like them, choose to be Caesar’s friend (a reference to a title that conferred real status in Rome)? The threat is clear: if he chooses not to be Caesar’s friend, Caesar will hear about it. Outmanoeuvred, Pilate reluctantly condemns Jesus to death” (Mike Archer).
“John makes several ironic references to the empty ritual of religion in these closing chapters (John 18:28; 19:31), and in today’s passage we face it squarely. For a statement expressive of spiritual blindness, it’s hard to beat the extraordinary confession of verse 15, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ All through their history the Jews had acknowledged the Lord as king, and their hope rested in the Messiah, a King like David. Yet the Jewish leaders rejected the One Who was truly their King. With more than an edge of sarcasm. Pilate tells them, ‘Here is your king’, and with more than an edge of hostility and contempt, the religious people reply, ‘Take Him away! Crucify Him!’ (vv14-15).”
“They who hated their Roman masters, despised the Roman religion and kicked against the foreign laws imposed on them, had to descend to owning allegiance to Caesar to get their Messiah sentenced to death. Ponder on the Father’s grief over His chosen people at that moment. He had sent His Son to redeem them, yet out of their religious hypocrisy, their envy and disbelief they rejected Him, treating Him with cruelty and contempt, even pretending allegiance to Rome in order to secure His death. Pray for Israel today.”
Pilate, who is supposed to be the ultimate local authority, is actually captive to the political games being played. “Pilate, a humanly powerful man, has Jesus beaten and whipped, though he knows Jesus to be innocent. The reason is that Pilate’s power is tenuous, and can be revoked by a higher official. Jesus responds… by saying that Pilate’s only power over His life was given to him (v11), not by the Roman government, but by God. So Jesus does not see Pilate’s authority as powerful, since Pilate is fulfilling the higher plan of the much greater authority.”
Then there is the second half of verse 11 “The one who handed Me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” “In this statement was Jesus referring to Judas, Satan, Caiaphas, the priests, or the Jewish people? Perhaps Caiaphas is the best choice since he is the one who handed Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate was guilty (c.f. the words in the Apostles’ Creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate”). But Jesus put more weight on Caiaphas as the responsible one (John 11:49-50; 18:13-14).”
So back to the beginning. As you read through this passage, meditate on the price Jesus paid to set us free. How do I respond to that? Like Pilate? The Jewish leaders? “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him”. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to a deeper place of surrender and commitment that flows out of gratitude for the astonishing path He trod to the cross in the face of Pilate, the Jewish leaders, the crowd and the soldiers (vv2-3). “Wounded for me, there on the cross He was wounded for me.”