John 19:12
And from thereafter Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend: whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.
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(12) And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him.—The words may be interpreted of time, as in the Authorised version, or of cause—“For this reason Pilate sought to release Him.” The latter is more probable, as the reference seems to be to the attempt which he made at once. (Comp. Note on John 6:66.)

If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar’s friend. . . .—There was another weapon left in the armoury of their devices, against which no Roman governor was proof. The jealous fear of Tiberius had made “treason” a crime, of which the accusation was practically the proof, and the proof was death. The pages of Tacitus and Suetonius abound with examples of ruin wreaked on families in the name of the “law of treason.” (Comp. Merivale: History of the Romans under the Empire, vol. v., p. 143 et seq.) Here was One who had claimed to be a king, and Pilate was seeking to release Him. They knew, indeed, that it was a claim to be “king” in a sense widely different from any which would have affected the empire of Cæsar; but Pilate has refused to condemn Him on the political charge without formal trial, and he has refused to accept their own condemnation of Jesus on the charge of blasphemy. He dare not refuse the force of an appeal which says that he is not Cæsar’s friend, and suggests an accusation against himself at Rome. See Note on Matthew 27:2 for the special reasons which would lead Pilate to dread such an accusation.

19:1-18 Little did Pilate think with what holy regard these sufferings of Christ would, in after-ages, be thought upon and spoken of by the best and greatest of men. Our Lord Jesus came forth, willing to be exposed to their scorn. It is good for every one with faith, to behold Christ Jesus in his sufferings. Behold him, and love him; be still looking unto Jesus. Did their hatred sharpen their endeavours against him? and shall not our love for him quicken our endeavours for him and his kingdom? Pilate seems to have thought that Jesus might be some person above the common order. Even natural conscience makes men afraid of being found fighting against God. As our Lord suffered for the sins both of Jews and Gentiles, it was a special part of the counsel of Divine Wisdom, that the Jews should first purpose his death, and the Gentiles carry that purpose into effect. Had not Christ been thus rejected of men, we had been for ever rejected of God. Now was the Son of man delivered into the hands of wicked and unreasonable men. He was led forth for us, that we might escape. He was nailed to the cross, as a Sacrifice bound to the altar. The Scripture was fulfilled; he did not die at the altar among the sacrifices, but among criminals sacrificed to public justice. And now let us pause, and with faith look upon Jesus. Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? See him bleeding, see him dying, see him and love him! love him, and live to him!Sought to release him - He was more and more convinced of his innocence, and more unwilling to yield him to mere malice and envy in the face of justice.

But the Jews cried out ... - This moved Pilate to deliver Jesus into their hands. He feared that he would be accused of unfaithfulness to the interests of the Roman emperor if he did not condemn a man whom his own nation had accused of sedition. The Roman emperor then on the throne was exceedingly jealous and tyrannical, and the fear of losing his favor induced Pilate to deliver Jesus into their hands.

Caesar's friend - The friend of the Roman emperor. The name of the reigning emperor was Tiberius. After the time of Julius Caesar all the emperors were called Caesar, as all the kings of Egypt were called Pharaoh. This emperor was, during the latter part of his reign, the most cruel, jealous, and wicked that ever sat on the Roman throne.

12-16. And from thenceforth—particularly this speech, which seems to have filled him with awe, and redoubled his anxiety.

Pilate sought to release him—that is, to gain their consent to it, for he could have done it at once on his authority.

but the Jews cried—seeing their advantage, and not slow to profit by it. If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend, &c.—"This was equivalent to a threat of impeachment, which we know was much dreaded by such officers as the procurators, especially of the character of Pilate or Felix. It also consummates the treachery and disgrace of the Jewish rulers, who were willing, for the purpose of destroying Jesus, to affect a zeal for the supremacy of a foreign prince" [Webster and Wilkinson]. (See Joh 19:15).

When Pilate … heard that, … he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in—"upon"

the judgment seat—that he might pronounce sentence against the Prisoner, on this charge, the more solemnly.

in a place called the Pavement—a tesselated pavement, much used by the Romans.

in the Hebrew, Gabbatha—from its being raised.

He sought all fair and plausible means to release him, being convinced in his own conscience that he was an innocent man: but the Jews double their clamours, and (according to the usual acts of sycophants) quit their charge as to religion, though that was the true and real cause of all their malice, and pursue only the charge which was proper for the cognizance of the Roman governor, of sedition or rebellion; and tacitly accuse Pilate as a traitor, and being false to his trust, if he should let our Saviour go; for no man could set up himself as a king, but he must proclaim himself a traitor to the Roman emperor. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him,.... From the time that Christ spoke the above words; or, as the Syriac version renders it, , "because of this", or on account of the words he had spoken; to which agree the Arabic and Ethiopic versions: he sought by all means, and studied every way to bring the Jews to agree to his release: his reasons were, because of the consciousness of guilt, and the danger of contracting more; the sense he might have of a Divine Being, to whom he was accountable for the exercise of his power; his suspicion that Jesus was the Son of God, or that he was more than a man; for he perceived that power went along with his words, by the effect they had on him: but though he sought to release him, he did not do it, nor use the power he boasted he had; the reason in himself was, he was desirous, that the Jews would concur with him; the secret one in providence was, God would not have it so; and yet things must be carried to this pitch, that it might appear that Christ suffered not for his own sins, but ours, and that he suffered willingly:

but the Jews cried out, saying, if thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend. These were the chief priests, Scribes, and elders of the people, more especially, and by whom, the common people were stirred up to request his crucifixion: these still made a greater outcry, and in a more clamorous way urged, that should he be released, Pilate would show but little regard to Caesar, by whom he was raised to this dignity; who had put him into this trust; whom he represented, and in whose name he acted. This was a piece of craftiness in them, for nothing could more nearly affect Pilate, than an insinuation of want of friendship and fidelity to Tiberius, who was then Caesar, or emperor; and also, it was an instance of great hypocrisy in them, to pretend a regard to Caesar, when they scrupled paying tribute to him, and would have been glad, at any rate, to have been free from his yoke and government; and is a very spiteful hint, and carries in it a sort of threatening to Pilate, as if they would bring a charge against him to Caesar, should he let Jesus go with his life, whom they in a contemptuous manner call "this man": adding,

whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar; returning to their former charge of sedition, finding that that of blasphemy had not its effect: their reasoning is very fallacious, and mere sophistry; for though it might be allowed that whoever set up himself as a temporal king in any of Caesar's dominions, must be an enemy of his, a rebel against him; and such a declaration might be truly interpreted as high treason; yet Christ did not give out that he was such a king, but, on the contrary, that his kingdom was not of this world, and therefore did not assume to himself any part of Caesar's dominions and government; and though the Jews would have took him by force, and made him a king, he refused it, and got out of their hands.

And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
John 19:12. ʼΕκ τούτου] Not: from this time forward (so usually); for ἐζήτει, κ.τ.λ., is a particular act, which is immediately answered by the Jews with loud outcries; but: on this ground, as John 6:66, occasioned by this speech of Jesus (so also Luthardt and Lange).

ἐξήτει, κ.τ.λ., he sought to release Him (John 10:30; Luke 5:18; Luke 13:24; Luke 19:3; Acts 27:30, et al.). In what this attempt, which, though made, yet remained unaccomplished (hence imperf.), may more definitely have consisted, John does not say, and therefore it was, probably, only in renewed representations which he made. That which is usually supplied, as though μᾶλλον, as in John 15:18, were expressed therewith: he sought still more, he sought most earnestly (“previously he appears to John rather to have played with the matter,” Lücke), and the like, is capriciously imported, as also the rendering: now he demanded peremptorily, etc. (Steinmeyer).

With ἐὰν τοῦτον, κ.τ.λ., the Jews cunningly enough again return to and fasten upon the political side of the accusation, ὡς οὐ παροπτέον τῷ Πιλάτῳ διὰ τὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ Καίσαρος φόβον, Euth. Zigabenus. How greatly must he, who in so many features of his administration had anything but clean hands (Josephus, Antt. xviii. 3. 1 ff.; Philo, de legat. ad Caj. p. 1033), have desired to see avoided an accusation before Tiberius, so suspicious and jealous of his authority! (Suetonius, Tib. 58; Tacitus, Ann. iii. 38.) Comp. Hausrath, Christl. Zeitgesch. I. p. 312 ff.

φίλος τοῦ Καίσ.] Not in the titular sense of amicus Cacsaris, as high officials bore this title (see Wetstein; Grimm on 1Ma 2:18), in which, however, the sense of confidant (counsellor) of Caesar exists; but faithful to the emperor, friendly to him, and readily devoted to his interests (Xen. Anab. iii. 2. 5).

He who makes himself a king, by the fact, that is, of declaring himself to be such (comp. John 10:33), thereby declares himself (ἀντιλέγει) against the emperor. Accordingly, ἀντιλέγει is not generally: he opposes (Grotius, De Wette, Maier); but the emphasis lies upon the correlates βασιλέα and Καίσαρι.John 19:12-16. Fresh assault upon Pilate and his final surrender.12. And from thenceforth] Or (as in John 6:66), Hereupon. Result rather than time seems to be meant; but the Greek (here and John 6:66 only in N.T.) may mean either. Omit ‘and.’

sought] Imperfect tense, of continued efforts. Indirect means, such as the release in honour of the Feast, the appeal to compassion, and taunts having proved unsuccessful, Pilate now makes more direct efforts to release Jesus. What these were the Evangelist does not tell us.

If thou let this man go] Better, If thou release this man; it is the same verb as in the first clause. The Jews once more shift their tactics and from the ecclesiastical charge (John 19:7) go back to the political, which they now back up by an appeal to Pilate’s own political interests. They know their man: it is not a love of justice, but personal feeling which moves him to seek to release Jesus; and they will overcome one personal feeling by another still stronger. Pilate’s unexplained interest in Jesus and supercilious contempt for His accusers must give way before a fear for his own position and possibly even his life.

Cesar’s friend] Whether or no there was any such title of honour as amicus Cesaris, like our ‘Queen’s Counsel,’ there is no need to suppose that any formal official distinction is intended here. The words probably mean no more than ‘loyal to Cesar.’

whosoever] Literally, every one who.

maketh himself] Comp. John 19:7, John 10:33. The phrase perhaps implies action as well as words.

speaketh against Caesar] ipso facto declares himself a rebel; and for a Roman governor to countenance and even protect such a person would be high treason (majestas). The Jews perhaps scarcely knew how powerful their weapon was. Pilate’s patron Sejanus (executed a.d. 31) was losing his hold over Tiberius, even if he had not already fallen. Pilate had already thrice nearly driven the Jews to revolt, and his character therefore would not stand high with an Emperor who justly prided himself on the good government of the provinces. Above all, the terrible Lex Majestatis was by this time worked in such a way that prosecution under it was almost certain death.

12–16. Outside the Praetorium; the power from above controlled from below pronounces public sentence against the Innocent.John 19:12. [Ἔκραζον, continued crying out) They called loud enough to reach the ears of Pilate within, they being in the open air, and he in the judgment-hall; John 19:9; John 19:13.—V. g.]—πᾶς, every one) By not adding for, they add or impart ἀποτομίαν, abrupt sternness and force to their language.—[ἀντιλέγει, speaketh against) The world frequently attempts to harass the kingdom of Christ under a political pretext.—V. g.]Verses 12-16. - (g) Pilate vanquished by his selfish fears, and judgment given. Verse 12. - Upon this [Revised Version (ἐκ τούτου); not from this moment, or "henceforth," as in the English Version, but in consequence of this statement and apportionment of blame, and not from any appreciation on Pilate's part of the Divine Sonship which Jesus had admitted without further definition] - upon this Pilate sought (imperfect tense, suggesting repetition and incompleteness in the act) to release him. We are not told by what means, and we have no right to introduce the additional notion of "peremptorily," or "the more," but that he made some further steps in the direction of resistance to the will of "the Jews." Baur and others think that the author is, from doctrinal grounds by mere fabrication, emphasizing the hostility of the Jews, and prolonging the agony of a vain attempt. Every one of these vivid touches impresses us with the unintentional indication of the eye-witness. Probably the governor proceeded to give the order of release; beckoned his body-guard to remove our Lord to a place of safety, and took some obvious steps to screen him from the malice and envy of his tormentors. But the Jews, catching sight of the process, and imagining some maneuver to baulk them of their prey, revealed a spirit that has sometimes, but rarely, disgraced humanity: they dropped their religious plea, they smothered their affected loyalty for their ancient Law, and, having no further charge to bring against Jesus, hid their most intense hatred of Roman rule by assuming the mask of loyal subjection to Tiberius and to the majesty of the Caesar. They endeavored to work upon the fears of Pilate, who knew perfectly well that his position and life were at jeopardy if the matter stood as they pretended. With unscrupulous abandonment of all their patriotic boasts, the men who hated Rome and were perpetually plotting against the imperial power, exclaimed (ἐκραύγασαν, shouted with harsh loud yells of bitter hate, that κραύγη rang for half a century in the ears of the loved and faithful disciple), If thou release this Man, thou art not Caesar's friend. The friendship and confidence of Caesar was the title in their hearts to an unresting hatred and loathing; yet they are cunning enough to know that Tiberius was jealous of his own authority, and no charge was so fatal to a Roman procurator as crimen majestatis (Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 3:38). Amiens Caesaris was a title of honor given to provincial governors, and sometimes to allies of the Caesar; but (as Alford, Meyer, and Westcott think) on this occasion it was used in wider sense, and was capable of a mere deadly emphasis. Every one who maketh himself a king speaketh against (declares himself opposed to, rebels against) Caesar. As if that was likely to distress these maddened fanatics; and as if the very charge had not been already deliberately laughed to scorn by both Herod and Pilate. There was a Man who said he was a King, and Pilate was guilty of misprision of treason. Pilate's political history aggravated his fears. His relations with the emperor were not satisfactory (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18:03. 1,2; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:09. 2-4; cf. Luke 13:1), and his knowledge of the power of these Jews to renew partisan and patriotic charges against him was now a very serious danger. From thenceforth (ἐκ τούτου)

Incorrect. Rev., rightly, upon this.

Sought (ἐζήτει)

Imperfect tense. Made repeated attempts.

Caesar's friend

A title conferred, since the time of Augustus, upon provincial governors. Probably, however, not used by the Jews in this technical sense, but merely as a way of saying "Thou art not true to the emperor."

Caesar (τῷ Καίσαρι)

Literally, the Caesar. The term, which was at first a proper name, the surname of Julius Caesar, adopted by Augustus and his successors, became an appellative, appropriated by all the emperors as a title. Thus the emperor at this time was Tiberius Caesar. A distinction was, however, introduced between this title and that of Augustus, which was first given to Octavianus the first emperor. The title "Augustus" was always reserved for the monarch, while "Caesar" was more freely communicated to his relations; and from the reign of Hadrian at least (a.d. 117-138) was appropriated to the second person in the state, who was considered as the presumptive heir of the empire.

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