Scripture John 19:8-12
8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate 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?” 11 Jesus 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.” 12 From 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.”
- Pilate is conflicted between his answering to Caesar and to what is right, to higher power represented by Jesus
- the Jews in this passage set Jesus against the emperor and thus against Pilate
- Is Jesus’ refusal to answer a sign that Jesus is the greater power here – in contrast to how things appear (even to Pilate)?
- Jesus speaks of the sin of those who handed him over to Pilate – the Jews argue that Pilate “sins” against the emperor by not punishing Jesus
John’s gospel has this thread of conflict and contrast between the authority of Jesus and the authority of Pilate and others (the Jewish leaders, etc). Pilate is already afraid – Jesus’ talking about sin and the suggestion from the Jews that not treating Jesus as a threat to Rome likely adds to that fear.
How does power play into my fears, my anxieties? Who or what has control over me? The government in some sense does over all of us. But the real fear, the daily anxiety reflected in Pilate is, for me, more rooted in fears about power. About controlling my future. About my plans and purposes.
I wonder if one of the lessons here is to remember not to listen to the voices that would trump the voice of the Spirit? Pilate struggles with what to do… often I do too. Do I rest in what I know of God – power that is “above” or to the loud voices that worry me about the Caesars in my life (my own desires, the good opinions of others, whether or not people or my church likes me, etc.)
Lord, so much of your Son’s final hours as John remembers them are about power and fear. So much fear, so much misunderstanding of what is really power and who really wields it. I confess my own confusion about these things despite the witness of Jesus and his words. May I listen to the voice of your Spirit this day and remember again the power that is yours alone. Amen.