John 19: 1 – 16 Jesus sentenced to be crucified

John 19: 1 – 16 Jesus sentenced to be crucified

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ and they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’

But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’

The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. ‘Do you refuse to speak to me,’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise that I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’

Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’

‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.

‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

*       *       *

Verse 12 says this: “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’”

Pilate was always reluctant to convict Jesus.

His initial response was to tell the chief priests to judge Jesus by their own law. When they demurred, he questioned Jesus. He found no basis for a charge against him.

He challenged the priests, offering to release Jesus for the Passover, which they rejected.

So Pilate had Jesus flogged. Jesus would have suffered intense pain, cuts, bruises, blood loss and clinical shock. Pilate showed him to the chief priests in that state, and repeated that he found no basis for a charge against him.

The chief priests then tell Pilate that Jesus deserves to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.

Pilate was terrified by this. If Jesus was the son of a god, what retribution would he incur if he had him crucified? So he questioned Jesus again. Jesus remained silent. Pilate said: ‘Don’t you realise that I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’

And Jesus, bloody and weak from loss of blood, and facing even worse suffering on the cross, says, calmly, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’

I think that Pilate must have been astonished at Jesus’ courage. Pilate probably expected Jesus to make some sort of compromise that would enable him to hand him back to the chief priests. After all, if Jesus were no threat to Rome, if he weren’t claiming to be a king, Pilate could argue convincingly that Rome had no reason to execute him. But, in the face of an appalling death, and already in agony, Jesus refuses point blank to compromise.

“From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free”

He couldn’t.

It wasn’t the threat of a riot that stopped Pilate. One of the main reasons the chief priests and Pharisees had wanted Jesus killed had been to avoid the appearance of an insurrection that would bring disastrous retaliation from the Romans. The last thing they wanted was a riot.

‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’

That is nearer the mark, I think. The chief priests would have gone to Herod, who had influential contacts in Rome. Word would have got back to Rome and Pilate would have been censured; perhaps removed as governor; perhaps exiled, or even assassinated. He would have risked losing his life of luxury, with its satisfying power. He would have risked ridicule for his incompetence. And it was only the life of a foreigner, not a Roman citizen. The security of the state demanded it. And he couldn’t really be the son of a god; could he?

Pilate was embedded in the power structures of his time. The responsibilities of his position; the satisfaction of being important; Pilate would have needed to overturn everything that had hitherto driven his life.

‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.

We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

What an admission by the chief priests! Pilate could pick this up as a major diplomatic success! It was the fig-leaf he needed.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

*       *       *

And now comes the hard bit.

The application of this to my own life.

I am, like just about everyone in Western society, embedded in the power structure of my time. I am retired and comfortable on my pension. Who is paying for my pension? Whose suffering makes the profits out of which my pension is paid? World trade is heavily weighted against the poor.

Much of the food I buy at the supermarket is from overseas. Even Fair Trade goods are still weighted in favour of the consumer, because the supermarkets have so much commercial power.

The smartphone (on which I probably place overmuch reliance) uses materials of questionable origin, the extraction of which has probably harmed people. The scrap procedures are loosely enforced and children in poor countries are harmed.

My country, the UK, supplies munitions to Saudi Arabia which are used in Yemen, killing and maiming innocent civilians.

Am I as constrained by power structures as Pilate? Am I as guilty as Pilate?

I don’t know.

But I choose to follow Jesus.

I don’t think he wants anything dramatic; just that I should listen to him; just that I should do as he says. And just that I should accept his love.

Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

I’m sorry for my involvement with the power structures of society, sorry that I don’t do more to try to change them, sorry that I am less generous than I could be in supporting the weak.

Thank you that you love me anyway, and please help me to do better.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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