John 19:8
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
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(8) When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid.—That is, as the verses which follow show, he was the more afraid because of his wonder who Jesus really was. He must have heard of some of the current impressions as to His life and words; he had himself heard Him claim a kingdom which is not of this world; his wife’s dream (Matthew 27:19) had furnished an evil omen which the superstition of the most educated classes of the Roman empire would interpret as a message from the gods; and now the Jews speak of Him as one who claimed to be the Son of God. (Comp. Notes on the words of the Roman centurion in Matthew 27:54.)

John 19:8-12. When Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid — He before feared to shed innocent blood, and now he became more afraid than ever to take his life; suspecting, probably, that the account which he heard of him might be true, and that he might be a divine person. For doubtless he had heard of some of the many miracles which Jesus had performed, and now, it seems, began to think that perhaps what had been currently reported was true, and that he really had performed the wonderful works ascribed to him. For it is very well known, that the religion which the governor professed directed him to acknowledge the existence of demi-gods and heroes, or men descended from the gods. Nay, the heathen believed that their gods themselves sometimes appeared on earth, in the form of men, Acts 14:11-12. Pilate, therefore, went again into the judgment-hall — Being resolved to act cautiously; and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? — That is, From whom art thou descended? or what is this divine original which thou art charged with claiming? But Jesus — Knowing that his innocence was already apparent, even to the conviction of Pilate’s conscience; gave him no answer — To that question. Indeed, Pilate’s ordering, or allowing such cruelties to be inflicted on a person he knew to be innocent, rendered him unworthy of an answer. Then saith Pilate — Marvelling at his silence, and being displeased with it; Speakest thou not unto me? — Dost thou make me no reply, and not so much as speak to me in such a circumstance as this, in which thy life is so evidently concerned? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee — To adjudge thee to that terrible death; and have power to release thee — If I please, notwithstanding all the clamourous demands of thine enemies? Jesus answered — With great calmness and mildness; Thou couldest have no power at all against me — For I have done nothing to expose myself to the power of any magistrate; except it were given thee — In an extraordinary way; from above — From the God of heaven, whose providence I acknowledge in all these events. Some have thought that the word ανωθεν, from above, refers to the situation of the temple, which stood much higher than the pretorium: and that it is as if Jesus had said, I know that whatever thou dost against me, is only in consequence of the sentence passed in yonder court held above, so that their guilt is greater than thine. But though this would very well account for the connection of the latter part of this verse, “I cannot think,” says Dr. Doddridge, “it altogether just; for had Providence permitted Pilate to seize Christ as one dangerous to Cesar’s dignity, he would have had as much power of putting him to death as he now had. It is therefore much more reasonable to suppose it refers to the permission of God’s providence.” Therefore he that delivered me unto thee — Namely, the Jewish high-priest, with his council, having far greater opportunities of being acquainted with God and his law than thou hast, and knowing, also, that I have done nothing amiss; hath the greater sin — Is more blameable than thou art. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him — That is, he was still further satisfied of the injustice of the prosecution, and of the innocence of Jesus, so that he endeavoured even more than before to have him released. For the reader will observe, that this was not the first attempt of Pilate to release Jesus. This evangelist himself tells us, (John 18:39,) that he had once before offered to release him. And the answer of the priests on this occasion corresponds thereto. They cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cesar’s friend — That is, thou art not faithful to the emperor; by which they insinuated that they would accuse him to his master, if he did not do his duty. This argument was weighty, and shook Pilate’s resolution to the foundation. He was frightened at the very thought of being accused to Tiberius, who in matters of government, as Tacitus and Suetonius testify, was apt to suspect the worst, and always punished the least crimes relative thereto with death. Whosoever maketh himself a king — Or rather, maketh, or calleth himself king, speaketh against Cesar. So Dr. Campbell reads the clause, observing, “the sentence is true, when βασιλεα [the word here used] is rendered king, but not when rendered a king. Judea, at that time, together with Syria, to which it was annexed, made a province of the empire. Nothing is more certain than that whoever in Judea called himself king, in the sense wherein the word was commonly understood, opposed Cesar. But it did not therefore hold, that whosoever called himself a king, opposed Cesar. For if the kingdom to which he laid claim was without the bounds of the Roman empire, the title in nowise interfered with the rights of the emperor.”

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!When Pilate therefore heard that saying - That they had accused him of blasphemy. As this was not the charge on which they had arraigned him before his bar, he had not before heard it, and it now convinced him more of their malignity and wickedness.

He was the more afraid - What was the ground of his fear is not declared by the evangelist. It was probably, however, the alarm of his conscience, and the fear of vengeance if he suffered such an act of injustice to be done as to put an innocent man to death. He was convinced of his innocence. He saw more and more clearly the design of the Jews; and it is not improbable that a pagan, who believed that the gods often manifested themselves to people, dreaded their vengeance if he suffered one who claimed to be divine, and who might be, to be put to death. It is clear that Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent; and in this state of agitation between the convictions of his own conscience, and the clamors of the Jews, and the fear of vengeance, and the certainty that he would do wrong if he gave him up, he was thrown into this state of alarm, and resolved again to question Jesus, that he might obtain satisfaction on the subjects that agitated his mind.

8-11. When Pilate … heard this saying, he was the more afraid—the name "Son of God," the lofty sense evidently attached to it by His Jewish accusers, the dialogue he had already held with Him, and the dream of his wife (Mt 27:19), all working together in the breast of the wretched man. It should seem that the Romans permitted judgments to the Jews according to their own laws, which the Roman governor was to see executed; or else, seeing the rabble in such a heat and disorder, he feared some breaking out.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying,.... That Jesus had asserted himself to be the Son of God, and that the Jews had a law to put such a person to death that was guilty of such blasphemy:

he was the more afraid; he was afraid to put him to death, or to consent to it before; partly on account of his wife's message to him, and partly upon a conviction of the innocence of Christ, in his own conscience: and now he was more afraid, since here was a charge brought against him he did not well understand the meaning of; and a law of theirs pretended to be violated hereby, which should he pay no regard to, might occasion a tumult, since they were already become very clamorous and noisy; and he might be the more uneasy, test the thing they charged him with asserting, should be really fact; that he was one of the gods come down in the likeness of man; or that he was some demi-god at least, or so nearly related to deity, that it might be dangerous for him to have anything to do with him this way: and in this suspicion he might be strengthened, partly from the writings of the Heathens, which speak of such sort of beings; and partly from the miracles he might have heard were performed by Jesus; and also by calling to mind what he had lately said to him, that his kingdom was not of this world, and that he was come into it to bear witness to the truth.

{3} When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

(3) Pilate's conscience fights for Christ, but it immediately yields, because it is not upheld with the singular power of God.

8. that saying] Better, this word (logos), the charge of blasphemy.

he was the more afraid] The message from his wife and the awe which Christ’s presence was probably inspiring had already in some degree affected him. This mysterious claim still further excites his fears. Was it the offspring of a divinity that he had so infamously handled? Comp. Matthew 27:54.

8–11. Inside the Praetorium; Christ’s origin is asked and not told; the origin of authority is told unasked.

John 19:8. Μᾶλλον, the more, rather) He did not assent to the Jews as to putting Jesus to death, but rather feared lest he should sin against the Son of God.

Verses 8-11. - (f) [Within the Praetorium.] The fear of Pilate, and the apportionment of the measures of guilt by the majestic Sufferer. Verse 8. - When therefore Pilate heard this word he was more afraid, implying that John had seen all along that some element of "fear" had moved Pilate, and that now it was augmented. Superstition goes hand in hand with skepticism. Instead of this being (as Keim says) contrary to psychologic laws, the history of skepticism is constantly presenting the same features (cf. Herod Antipas the Sadducee, who would dogmatically have repudiated the idea of resurrection, crying out concerning Jesus, "It is John the Baptist, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead," etc.). We need not suppose that Pilate was suddenly affected by the truth of Jewish monotheism; but he may readily have believed that the wondrous Being before him was enshrouded in a mystery of supernatural portent and pretension that he could not fathom, and before which he trembled. The idea of Divine energy enshrined in and wielded by human beings was not altogether foreign to heathen thought - and one centurion, at least, who was probably present on this very occasion, exclaimed that Jesus was a Son of God (Matthew 27:54). John 19:8The more afraid

"These words of the Jews produced an effect on Pilate for which they were not prepared. The saying gives strength to a dreadful presentiment which was gradually forming within him. All that he had heard related of the miracles of Jesus, the mysterious character of His person, of His words and of His conduct, the strange message which he had just received from his wife - all is suddenly explained by the term "Son of God." Was this extraordinary man truly a divine being who had appeared on the earth? The truth naturally presents itself to his mind in the form of pagan superstitions and mythological legends" (Godet).

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