John 19:8 – 16a
8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 10Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ 11Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ 12From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’
13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ 15They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ 16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
When Pilate heard Jesus claim to be the Son of God, he was frightened; this is an interesting comment – Pilate obviously did not believe in the God of the Jews, but he was, apparently, a superstitious man, allowing for power in all the gods of the nations ruled by Rome. That was the Roman attitude – let the conquered people worship their gods – so long as they also worshipped the emperor. On that last point things got sticky with the Jewish people, who refused to worship the emperor. But, Pilate went back inside and talked to Jesus again, asking where he came from, and when Jesus refused to answer said, “Do you not know that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?” But Jesus tells him he would have no power over him unless it was given him from God. Pilate was never in charge, Jesus remained in charge. It may be that very thing that made him wonder about this man. Jesus tells him that those who handed Jesus over to him bore the greater guilt. Together, Pilate and those leaders represent the world’s guilt in rejecting Jesus.
Pilate then tried again to release him, but the “Jews”, those hired by the Chief Priests, cried out – “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor.” They say that Jesus claims to be a king, and that sets him against the emperor. The religious leaders want to kill Jesus for his blasphemy – how dare he claim to be the Son of God! But when they are unable to get Pilate to kill him for them, for violating their own laws, they accuse Jesus of violating Roman law, of treason against the emperor himself. This was a crime for which even a Roman citizen could be killed.
When our choir sang the Easter Concert the other night, one number depicted this scene. It began with a slow, low beat, then a whisper, “Crucify him!”, a hissing noise, that gradually built to a shout, “Crucify him!!” It sent chills down your spine.
And so, Pilate turns him over to the soldiers to be crucified.