Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.—Pilate had twice said, with something of the pride of his position, “I have power.” Jesus says that he had of himself neither power of life nor power of death, that he had no power against Him but that which was given to him from above. By this is meant, of course, the power which was given to him by God, and the form in which it is expressed (“from above”) has a special force in connection with the question of John 19:8, “Whence comest Thou?” That power of which he boasted existed only because He against whom he boasts submitted to it of His own will. “He that cometh from above is above all” (John 3:31). But that power was given to him of God for the carrying out of the Messianic purposes which rendered the death of Jesus necessary. The position of Pilate was that of a half-conscious agent wielding this power. He indeed had sin, for he acted against his own better nature; but not the greater sin, for he did not act against the full light of truth.
He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.—This cannot mean Judas, who is nowhere mentioned in this connection, and is excluded by the words “unto thee.” Judas delivered our Lord to the Jews. It was the Sanhedrin, and especially Caiaphas, the high priest, who, professing to represent God on earth, had delivered up the Son of God, and had declared that by the law He ought to die. (Comp. John 11:49; John 18:14-28.)
Except it were given thee - It has been conceded or granted to you. God has ordered your life, your circumstances, and the extent of your dominion. This was a reproof of a proud man in office, who was forgetful of the great Source of his authority, and who supposed that by his own talents or fortune he had risen to his present place. Alas, how many men in office forget that God gives them their rank, and vainly think that it is owing to their own talents or merits that they have risen to such an elevation. Men of office and talent, as well as others, should remember that God gives them what they have, and that they have no influence except as it is conceded to them from on high.
From above - From God, or by his direction, and by the arrangements of his providence. Romans 13:1; "there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God." The words "from above" often refer to God or to heaven, James 1:17; James 3:15, James 3:17; John 3:3 (in the Greek). The providence of God was remarkable in so ordering affairs that a man, flexible and yielding like Pilate, should be entrusted with power in Judea. Had it been a man firm and unyielding in his duty one who could not be terrified or awed by the multitude Jesus would not have been delivered to be crucified, Acts 2:23. God thus brings about his wise ends; and while Pilate was free, and acted out his nature without compulsion, yet the purposes of God, long before predicted, were fulfilled, and Jesus made an atonement for the sins of the world. Thus God overrules the wickedness and folly of men. He so orders affairs that the true character of men shall be brought out, and makes use of that character to advance his own great purposes.
Therefore - On this account. "You are a magistrate. Your power, as such, is given you by God. You are not, indeed, guilty for accusing me, or malignantly arraigning me; but you have power intrusted to you over my life; and the Jews, who knew this, and who knew that the power of a magistrate was given to him by God, have the greater sin for seeking my condemnation before a tribunal appointed by God, and for endeavoring to obtain so solemn a sanction to their own malignant and wicked purposes. They have endeavored to avail themselves of the civil power, the sacred appointment of God, and on this account their sin is greater." This does not mean that their sin was greater than that of Pilate, though that was true; but their sin was greater on account of the fact that they perseveringly and malignantly endeavored to obtain the sanction of the magistrate to their wicked proceedings. Nor does it mean, because God had purposed his death Acts 2:23, and given power to Pilate, that therefore their sin was greater, for God's purpose in the case made it neither more nor less. It did not change the nature of their free acts. This passage teaches no such doctrine, but that their sin was aggravated by malignantly endeavoring to obtain the sanction of a magistrate who was invested with authority by God, and who wielded the power that God gave him. By this Pilate ought to have been convinced, and was convinced, of their wickedness, and hence he sought more and more to release him.
have no power at all against me—neither to crucify nor to release, nor to do anything whatever against Me [Bengel].
except it were—"unless it had been."
given thee from above—that is, "Thou thinkest too much of thy power, Pilate: against Me that power is none, save what is meted out to thee by special divine appointment, for a special end."
therefore he that delivered me unto thee—Caiaphas, too wit—but he only as representing the Jewish authorities as a body.
hath the greater sin—as having better opportunities and more knowledge of such matters.
thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: meaning, not from the Jewish sanhedrim, whose court of judicature was in the temple, which was higher than the other part of the city; nor from the Roman emperor, or senate of Rome, the higher powers; by whom Pilate was made governor of Judea, and a judge in all causes relating to life and death; but reference is had to the place from whence he came, and to the decree and council of God above, and the agreement between the eternal three in heaven. Christ speaks of a power he had against him, that is, of taking away his life; he had no lawful power to do it at all; nor any power, right or wrong, had it not been given him by God: and which is to be ascribed, not merely to the general providence of God, without which nothing is done in this world; but to the determinate counsel of God, relating to this particular action of the crucifying of Christ; otherwise Christ, as God, could have struck Pilate his judge with death immediately, and without so doing could as easily have escaped out of his hands, as he had sometimes done out of the hands of the Jews; and, as man and Mediator, he could have prayed to his Father for, and have had, more than twelve legions of angels, which would soon have rescued him: but this was not to be; power was given to Pilate from heaven against him; not for any evil he himself had committed, or merely to gratify the envy and malice of the Jews, but for the salvation of God's elect, and for the glorifying of the divine perfections: and to this the Jews themselves agree in general,
"that all the things of this world depend on above; and when they agree above first, (they say (s),) they agree below; and that there is no power below, until that , "power is given from above"; and the whole of that depends on this:''
therefore he that delivered me unto thee, hath the greater sin; , "than thine", as the Syriac version adds; and to the same purpose the Persic. Pilate had been guilty of sin already in scourging Christ, and suffering the Roman soldiers to abuse him; and would be guilty of a greater in delivering him up to be crucified, who he knew was innocent: but the sin of Judas in delivering him into the hands of the chief priests and elders, and of the chief priest and elders and people of the Jews, in delivering him to Pilate to crucify him, according to the Roman manner, were greater, inasmuch as theirs proceeded from malice and envy, and was done against greater light and knowledge; for by his works, miracles, and ministry, as well as by their own prophecies, they might, or must have known, that he was the Messiah, and Son of God: and it is to be observed, that as there is a difference in sin, and that all sins are not equal, the circumstances of things making an alteration; so that God's decree concerning the delivery of his Son into the hands of sinful men, does not excuse the sin of the betrayers of him.Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 19:11. With a clear and holy defiance, to defend against this expression of personal power at least, the supremacy of the Father, Jesus now speaks His last word to Pilate. He points the latter, with his ἐξουσία which he has put forward, by the reference σταυρῶσαί σε, to the highest authority which has invested him with that ἐξουσία, but at the same time, with conciliatory mildness, deduces from it a standard to diminish the guilt of the judge. The saying breathes truth and grace.
οὐκ εἶχες] Thou wouldst not have. “Indicativus imperfecti sine ἄν h. l. in firmissima asseveratione longe est aptissimus,” Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. vii. 6. 21. See also Stallbaum, ad Plat. Sympos. p. 190 C; Bremi, ad Lys. Exc. IV. p. 438 ff.; Winer, p. 286 [E. T. p. 383].
δεδομένον] Namely, the ἐξουσιάζειν κατʼ ἐμοῦ. See Kühner, II. sec. 421; Bernhardy, p. 335. Not: the definite act of condemnation (Steinmeyer).
ἄνωθεν] i.e. from God, John 3:3; John 3:31. That even the heathen could understand. Had Jesus said ἐκ τοῦ πατρός μου, he would not have understood it. Pilate stands before Jesus with the ἐξουσία to destroy Him; but he has this power from God, and he would not possess it if God had not appointed him for the fulfilment of His destiny concerning Jesus. For this reason, however (διὰ τοῦτο), that is, because he here acts not in independent self-determination, but as the divinely-ordained organ of the procedure which is pending against Him, he is not indeed free from sin, since he condemns Jesus contrary to his own conviction of His innocence; but greater is the guilt of him who delivered Jesus into Pilate’s hands, since that divinely-bestowed ἐξουσία is wanting to the latter. The logical connection of the διὰ τοῦτο rests on the fact that the παραδιδούς μέ σοι is the high priest, to whom, consequently, no power is given by God over Him, the Messiah, who in truth is higher than the high priest; to Pilate, on the other hand, the Roman potentate, this power is lent, because, as bearer of the highest magisterial authority, he derives his warrant from God (comp. Romans 13:1), to decide concerning every one who is brought before his court, and therefore also concerning the Messiah, who has been accused and delivered up as a pretender to a crown. This power Pilate possessed simply as a Roman potentate; hence this point of view does not confuse the matter (Luthardt), but makes it clear. As δεδομ. is not to be transmuted into the notion of permission (Chrysostom), so also there is nothing to be found in διὰ τοῦτο which is not yielded by the immediate context. Hence we are not to understand with Euth. Zigabenus (comp. Theophylact): διότι ἐξουσίαν ἔχεις καὶ οὐκ ἀπολύεις με, so that the lesser degree of guilt rests on the weakness and timidity of Pilate (comp. Luther); nor with Grotius (comp. Bengel, Baeumlein, and already Ruperti): because thou canst not know so well as the Jews (to whom ὁ παραδ. is referred) who I am; nor even with Lampe: because the Jews have received no such power from God, have rather assumed it to themselves (Luthardt); but solely in harmony with the context: because thou hast the disposal of me, not from thy proper sovereignty, but from having been divinely empowered thereto.
ὁ παραδιδούς] he who delivers me up to thee; the affair is still in actu, those who deliver Him up stand without; hence the pres. The expression itself, however, cannot, as elsewhere in John (John 18:2, John 13:2, John 11:21, John 12:4, John 6:64; John 6:71; comp. Mark 14:21), mean Judas, who here lies entirely remote from the comparison, especially since σοι is used with it, nor even (so most interpreters) be understood collectively of the Jews. It is rather the chief of the Jews, the high priest Caiaphas, who is meant (so also Bengel, and now Ewald; comp. Luthardt, Baumgarten, p. 388, Hengstenberg), who ought to have recognised the Messiah, and not to have assumed to himself any power over Him.
μείζονα] compares the sin of the παραδιδούς with that of Pilate, not with itself, so that its guilt is designated as aggravated by the misuse of the ἐξουσία of Pilate (Calvin, Wetstein, Godet, also Baur). The guilt which belonged to the παραδιδούς in and by himself, was in truth not aggravated by the delivering over into the hands of the regular magistracy, which was rather the orderly mode of procedure.
 Buttmann, on account of the absence of ἄν, would interpret the reading εἶχες as follows: “Thou hadst, i.e. when thou didst receive the accusation, against me … no power over me, unless it was given to thee by God for that purpose.” See Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 501. But irrespective of the dragging in, in this necessitous manner, of this exacter definition of time in εἶχες, it is in truth precisely the undoubted possession of the ἐξουσία which forms the presupposition of the διὰ τοῦτο κ.τ.λ. that follows. With the reading ἔχεις, which Buttmann prefers, he explains: “thou hast no power over me, if it had not been given thee from above,” p. 494. But why in that case should the pluperf. ἦν δεδομένον stand? Instead of ἦν, ἐστί must have been used, in conformity with the sense.
 Baur in the Theol. Jahrb. 1854, p. 283: “Since thou hast in my case the magisterial power over life and death, those who surrender me to thee, incur by their action, in itself immoral, all the greater guilt, if they abuse the magisterial authority given to thee for their own objects.”
 According to Steinmeyer, p. 156, Jesus would say: “Thy power, on the other hand, to release me, is already as good as wrested from thee on the part of the παραδιδ. μέ σοι; but on that very account thy sin is the less.” But this interpretation of διἀ τοῦτο is in truth altogether untextual, as the entire conception to which it would refer is first imported.John 19:11. Jesus answered, Οὐκ εἶχες … ἔχει. ἄνωθεν, “from above,” i.e., from God. Pilate must be reminded that the power he vaunts is not inherently his, but is given to him for God’s purposes. From this it follows, διὰ τοῦτο, that ὁ παραδιδούς μέ σοι, “he that delivered me unto thee,” to wit, Caiaphas (although the designation being that which is constantly used of Judas it has not unnaturally been referred to him), μείζονα ἁμαρτίαν ἔχει, “hath greater sin,” not than you, Pilate (as understood by most interpreters), but greater than in other circumstances it would have been. Had Pilate been a mere irresponsible executioner their sin would have been sufficiently heinous; but in using the official representative of God’s truth and justice to fulfil their own wicked and unjust designs, they involve themselves in a darker criminality. So Wetstein: “Comparatur ergo, nisi fallor, peccatum Judaeorum cum suis circumstantiis, cum eodem peccato sine istis circumstantiis: hoc Judaeos aggravat, eosque atrocioris delicti reos agit, quod non per tumultum sed per Praesidem, idque specie juris, me quaerunt de medio tollere”.11. Thou couldest] Or, wouldest. This is Christ’s last word to Pilate; a defence of the supremacy of God, and a protest against the claim of any human potentate to be irresponsible.
from above] i.e. from God. This even Pilate could understand: had Jesus said ‘from My Father’ he would have remained uninstructed. The point is not, that Pilate is an instrument ordained for the carrying out of God’s purposes (Acts 2:23); he was such, but that is not the meaning here. Rather, that the possession and exercise of all authority is the gift of God; John 3:27; Romans 13:1-7 (see notes there). To interpret ‘from above’ of the higher tribunal of the Sanhedrin is quite inadequate. Comp. John 3:3; John 3:7; John 3:31; James 1:17; James 3:15; James 3:17, where the same adverb, anôthen, is used: see notes in each place.
therefore] Better, for this cause (John 12:18; John 12:27); comp. John 1:31, John 5:16; John 5:18, John 7:22, John 8:47.
he that delivered me unto thee] Caiaphas, the representative of the Sanhedrin and of the nation. The expression rendered ‘he that delivered’ is used in John 13:11, John 18:2; John 18:5 of Judas. But the addition ‘to thee’ shews that Judas is not meant; Judas had not betrayed Jesus to Pilate but to the Sanhedrin. The same verb is used of the Sanhedrin delivering Him to Pilate, John 18:35.
hath the greater sin] Because he had the opportunity of knowing Who Jesus was. Once more we have the expression, peculiar to S. John, ‘to have sin’ (John 9:41, John 15:22; John 15:24; 1 John 1:8).John 19:11. Οὐδεμίαν, no power at all) either to crucify or to let go, or any other power.—δεδομένον, given) It had been given to Pilate to have power.—διὰ τοῦτο, therefore) Because thou hast not known (dost not know) Me at all.—ὁ παραδιδούς μέ σοι, he who hath delivered Me to thee) This was Caiaphas. Pilate, when he heard mention, however, made of the Son of God, was afraid: Caiaphas, when he had heard from the Lord Himself that He was the Son of God, called Him a blasphemer, and judicially pronounced Him “guilty of death” [Matthew 26:65-66].Verse 11. - Thou wouldst not have authority against me of any kind, either judicial or actual, or both combined: thou wouldst hold no judicial position which I or others could recognize, nor wouldst thou have the faintest power to proceed against me unless, etc. Here our Lord points to the great doctrine which Paul afterwards expressed (Romans 13:1) about the powers that be, and hints that every circumstance and event which led to Pilate's occupancy of that judgment-seat, or which in recent times had delivered up the people of the Lord to the authority of Rome, and prepared for the occupancy of the Praetorium by Pontius Pilate himself, was altogether beyond the range of his judge's spontaneity and competency. Unless it were given thee from above (ἄνωθεν). He does not say, "from my Father," or "from God" - phrases which would have been incomprehensible to a skeptical heathen; but "from above," from that Divine providential source of all power which rules all. The Lord thus implies the Divine legitimation of the judicial rank of Pilate; and the fact that his continuous occupancy of it was a talent revocable in a moment by the hand that gave it, and that all the exercise of his so-called ἐξουσία was dependent on his supreme will. For this cause he that delivered me up to thee. Though Judas is continually described as παραδούς (John 18:2; John 13:2; John 11:21; John 12:4; John 6:64-71), yet we have already seen that the act of Judas had been endorsed by the people, and by the Sanhedrin, who now by their highest official representative had "delivered" him up to Pilate (John 18:35, note), betrayed him with murderous intention to the power which could not merely excommunicate, but could kill by judicial process. Our Lord may either refer to Caiaphas (Bengel, Meyer, Luthardt) or to the Sanhedrin and people as a whole (Godet). Hath greater sin. "Because the initiative has been taken by him, and irrespective of thee; because thy power, such as it is over me, is a Divine arrangement, made irrespective of thy will; and the whole of this proceeding has been forced upon thee against thy better judgment." Nevertheless, he implies that Pilate has sinned: he was exercising his seeming judicial rights irrespective of justice. He had declared Jesus to be free from blame or charge in open court, but he had nevertheless submitted the innocent Sufferer to the utmost wrong; but he that delivered Christ-to Pilate had done so out of willful ignorance, and was sinning against light and knowledge. Caiaphas might have recognized Christ's true Messiahship, and accepted his true claims, and bowed before him as the Sent of God, as the Son of the Blessed; but instead of this he had violated the law, and sacrificed the hope and spiritual independence of his own people, out of deference to the sacrosanct honors of his own order. Pilate's consciousness of independence is rebuked, and his conscience appealed to, and the Lord, in this last word to his judge, claims to be his Suzerain, and awards to him his share of blame. Pilate said to the Jews, "I find no fault in him;" Jesus said to Pilate, "Thou hast committed a great sin, though there is another God-given ἔξουσια, which is more seriously and culpably trifled with than thine is: he that delivered me to thee hath committed a greater."
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