But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate said to them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)But they cried out . . .—Better, they cried out therefore . . . They feel the sting of Pilate’s irony, therefore cry the more passionately, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him.”
Shall I crucify your King?—In the order of the Greek words “your King” comes emphatically first, “Your King—shall I crucify Him?” The taunt is uttered in its bitterest form.
We have no king but Cæsar.—They are driven by Pilate’s taunt, and by their hatred of Jesus, to a denial of their own highest hopes. They who gloried in the Theocracy, and hoped for a temporal Messianic reign, which should free them from Roman bondage; they who boasted that they “were never in bondage to any man” (John 8:33); they who were “chief priests” of the Jews, confess that Cæsar is their only king. The words were doubtless meant, as those in John 19:12, to drive Pilate to comply with their wishes, under the dread of an accusation at Rome. They had this effect.Mark 15:42.
The sixth hour - Twelve o'clock noon. Mark says Mark 15:25 that it was the third hour. See the difficulty explained in the notes at that place.
Shall I crucify your King? Yet so fierce was their malice against Christ, that to compel the governor to condemn him, (though there were not a people under heaven more zealous for their liberties, nor more impatient of a foreign yoke), they cry out,
We have no king but Caesar; that is, the Roman emperor, who had conquered them.
away with him: they were impatient until he was ordered away for execution; and nothing would satisfy them but the crucifixion of him; and therefore they say,
crucify him; which is also repeated in the Syriac version; for this was what they thirsted after, and were so intent upon; this cry was made by the chief priests:
Pilate saith unto them, shall I crucify your King? This he said either seriously or jeeringly, and it may be with a view to draw out of them their sentiments concerning Caesar, as well as him; however it had this effect;
the chief priests answered, we have no king but Caesar; whereby they denied God to be their king, though they used to say, and still say in their prayers; "we have no king but God" (g): they rejected the government of the King Messiah, and tacitly confessed that the sceptre was departed from Judah; and what they now said, came quickly upon them, and still continues; for according to prophecy, Hosea 3:4 they have been many days and years "without a king": and this they said in spite to Jesus, and not in respect to Caesar, whose government they would have been glad to have had an opportunity to shake off. They could name no one as king but Jesus, or Caesar; the former they rejected, and were obliged to own the latter: it is a poor observation of the Jew (h) upon this passage, that it
"shows that before the crucifixion of Jesus, the Roman Caesars ruled over Israel; and that this Caesar was Tiberius, who had set Pilate over Jerusalem, as is clear from Luke 3:1. Wherefore here is an answer to the objection of the Nazarenes, who say that the Jews, for the sin of crucifying Jesus, lost their kingdom.''
To which may be replied, that this is not said by any of the writers of the New Testament, that the kingdom of the Jews was taken away from them for their sin of crucifying Jesus; and therefore this is no contradiction to anything said by them; this is only the assertion of some private persons, upon whom it lies to defend themselves; and what is asserted, is defensible, nor do the words of the text militate against it: for though before the crucifixion of Christ the Jews were tributary to the Roman Caesars, and Roman governors were sent to preside among them; yet the government was not utterly taken from them, or their kingdom lost; they indeed feared this would be the case, should Jesus succeed and prosper, as he did, saying, "the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation", John 11:48, which shows, that as yet this was not done; though for their disbelief and rejection of the Messiah, their destruction was hastening on apace; and after the crucifixion of him, all power was taken from them; the government was seized upon by the Romans entirely, and at last utterly destroyed; besides, the Jews did not own Caesar to be their king, though they said this now to serve a turn; and after this they had kings of the race of Herod over them, though placed there by the Roman emperor or senate.But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 19:15-16. The bitterness is still further embittered. To the impetuous clamour which demands crucifixion, the question of Pilate: your king shall I crucify? is only the feeble echo of ἴδε ὁ βασ. ὑμ., whereupon, with the decisive οὐκ ἔχομεν βασιλέα, κ.τ.λ., although it perfidiously denied the sense of the hierarchy, the again awakened fear of the emperor at last completely disarms the procurator, so that now then (τότε οὖν) the tragic and ignominious final result of his judicial action comes out: Χριστὸν ἑκὼν ἀέκων ἀδίκῳ παρέδωκεν ὀλέθρῳ, Nonnus.
αὐτοῖς] to the chief priests, John 19:15. To these Jesus was given over, and that, as a matter of fact, not merely by the sentence of itself (Hengstenberg), that He might be crucified under their direction by Roman soldiers (John 19:23, comp. Matthew 27:26-27). Comp. John 8:28; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15. παρέδ. does not signify to yield to their desire (Grotius, B. Crusius, Baeumlein).
On crucifixion in general, see on Matthew 27:35.John 19:15. They at once shouted, Ἆρον, ἆρον, σταύρωσον αὐτόν. To this Pilate could offer only the feeble opposition of more sarcasm, Τὸν βασιλέα ὑμῶν σταυρώσω; where, of course, the emphasis is on the first words, John with his artistic perception exhibits their final rejection of Christ in the form in which it appeared as a reckless renunciation of all their national liberties and hopes: Οὐκ ἔχομεν βασιλέα εἰ μὴ Καίσαρα. Even yet Pilate will take no active part, but hands Jesus over to the Sanhedrists with the requisite authorisation; παρέδωκεν, used in a semi-technical sense, cf. Plut., Dem., xiv. 4, and the passages cited in Holden’s note.15. But they] The true text gives. They therefore, with the pronoun of opposition (ekeinoi) in harmony with their cry. They will have nothing to do with such a king.
Shall I] Or, must I. There is a strong emphasis on ‘King,’ which stands first in the original. Pilate begins (John 18:33) and ends with the same idea, the one dangerous item in the indictment, the claim of Jesus to be King of the Jews.
The chief priests] This depth of degradation was reserved for them. “The official organs of the theocracy themselves proclaim that they have abandoned the faith by which the nation had lived.” Sooner than acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah they proclaim that a heathen Emperor is their King. And their baseness is at once followed by Pilate’s: sooner than meet a dangerous charge he condemns the innocent to death.John 19:15. Ἀπεκρίθησαν, answered) And yet they would have gladly set aside Cæsar, if they could. They deny Jesus to such a degree as to deny the Christ altogether: Acts 17:7, The Jews in Thessalonica say against Jason, etc., “These all do contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”Verses 15, 16. - They on the other hand therefore yelled out, Away with him! away with (him)! Crucify him! The aorists, α΅ρον σταύρωσον, imply the haste and impatience which they manifest to have done with the conflict; and Pilate, eager to thrust another envenomed dagger into the heart of their pride, and knowing that to call this Man whom he had made vile in their eyes their "KING," and to crucify One to whom such a title could be given would be gall and wormwood to them, cried, with flashing anger, Shall I crucify your King? This wrung forth from them a cry which expressed the uttermost and basest abandonment of all their proud boasts, a heartless and fateful acknowledgment of their servility and dependence. The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar! Our Messianic hope is dead, our national independence is at an end, our witness as a people to truth, our listening to the voice which would have gathered us together, are over. As before they had shouted, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" so now, "Not the Lord of glory, but the damon lord of Rome; not this King of kings, but Tiberius Augustus et Dominus sacratissimus noster." In renouncing Christ by the lips of their chief priests, they put themselves under the power of the prince of this world, and terribly they answered for their crime. "They elected Caesar to be their king; by Caesar they were destroyed" (Lampe). Their theocracy fell by their mad rage against the perfect embodiment of the highest righteousness and purest love. "The kingdom of God, by the confession of its rulers, has become the kingdom of this world." How terribly symptomatic of the perpetual resistance of his claims by all those who deliberately reject his authority! "We have no king but fashion! .... We have no king but mammon!" "We have no king but the leader of our clique!" "We have no king but pleasure!" "We have no king but our royal selves!" - are voices not infrequently heard even now. This cry was too much for Pilate; he wavered, paltered with justice, vented his insolence and pride, knew better and did the thing which he felt to be base. "He who had often prostituted justice was now utterly unable to achieve the one act of justice which he desired. He who had so often murdered pity was now forbidden to taste the sweetness of a pity for which he longed" (Farrar). Then therefore he delivered him to them, in order that he might be crucified. "IBIS AD CRUCEM. I MILES EXPEDI CRUCEM," were the awful words in which he would deliver his judgment and secure an everlasting execration. He delivered up Jesus unto them; for they, though not the positive hands by which the foul deed was done, were the sole inciting causes of the act. Luke, as well as John, involves this idea, and Peter (Acts 2:23) says, "Ye slew him, crucifying him by the hands of lawless men," and (Acts 3:15) "Ye killed the Prince of Life." Yet they were profoundly anxious for his death by Roman crucifixion, not only because thus they were impelled to fulfill the great prophecy and confirm the words of the blessed Lord himself, but because they wished to stamp out in disgrace and shame all his claims; because they wished that the supreme court, the heathen and corrupting power, should dash down to earth and defile this idol of some of the people and even some of their own number; because they wished to deliver themselves from the responsibility of the act, and to avoid being called to give an account to Rome of their judicial murder; and in the act itself they wished to have a Roman guard to prevent an escape and quell an emeute. The school of Tübingen endeavor to invalidate the Johannine portraiture of Pilate, and to ascribe its fictitious creation in the second century to a desire then rampant, to charge upon the Jews all the blame of the act, and to exhibit Pilate as a symbol of the sympathy which the Gentile world was extending to Christianity and the Church. The persecutions which prevailed from the days of Nero, Domitian, and Trajan, to those of the Antonines, rebuke such a supposition. Moreover, the synoptic narrative is equally explicit with St. John in setting forth the sympathy of Pilate, or rather his desire to release Jesus (Matthew 27:14 and 18, 17-23, 24; Mark 15:8-10; Luke 23:13-22). Luke tells us that Peter charges the guilt of the Crucifixion upon the Jews (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15; cf. James 5:6; Revelation 11:8). The explanation of Pilate's conduct and of his final despicable act is given only in John's Gospel; and even Reuss admits that we have in John "the true key of the problem" (see Coder, in loc., vol. 3. pp. 260-263).
The best texts read ἐκεῖνοι, those (people). The pronoun of remote reference isolates and sharply distinguishes them from Jesus. See on John 13:27.
Away with him (ἆρον)
Literally, take away.
We have no king but Caesar
These words, uttered by the chief priests, are very significant. These chief representatives of the theocratic government of Israel thus formally and expressly renounce it, and declare their allegiance to a temporal and pagan power. This utterance is "the formal abdication of the Messianic hope."
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