Human Power Heaven-Bestowed
John 19:10, 11
Then said Pilate to him, Speak you not to me? know you not that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you?…

Human judges see all sorts of people brought before them to be dealt with. Some prisoners, in the most critical situations, betray the utmost coolness and indifference; others are beside themselves in the agonies of despair. And Pilate doubtless had had a large experience of all sorts of prisoners. But now at last Jesus makes his appearance, and Pilate is profoundly perplexed how to deal with him. If Pilate had been a perfectly just man, and dealing with Jesus under a perfectly definite code of laws, he would have had no difficulty. But because the man thought of his own interests first, and was left to perfectly arbitrary methods, he found himself in the utmost difficulties. Every additional question he asks only lands him in greater puzzlement. "Whence art thou?" he says to Jesus; and what use was it for Jesus to reply? Pilate would have understood no explanation; he was too far from the kingdom of heaven for that. Canaan cannot be seen from Egypt; one must reach Mount Pisgah first. And so Jesus stood in gentle, patient silence.

I. PILATE'S ASSERTION OF AUTHORITY. It was very natural for Pilate to speak so. He mistook the spirit or' Jesus; but he made no vain boast in speaking of his power to crucify and to release. He had troops of obedient soldiers at his disposal, to effect whatever he decided. This exhibition of Pilate's power had its good side. Bad as Pilate may have been, he held a necessary and a beneficial office. Brutal as the soldiers were, they made the last barrier against anarchy and lawlessness. The office of Pilate is ever honored in all true Christian teaching. A strong executive is a thing to be thankful for. Judges and magistrates have to be watched, for the mere wrapping of a man in scarlet and ermine cannot take away his frailties, prejudices, and antipathies. But the office is good, and the man that fills it is often good. We are not wild beasts. There must be something to restrain the violent and predatory hand. If the lion in the desert sees the antelope, he springs on him at once; no after-power will come in to demand of the lion wherefore he slew the helpless beast. But if a man in a civilized community ponders an evil deed, he has to ponder also all the possible results. He cannot get past the risk of punishment.

II. JESUS AND THE ORIGIN OF AUTHORITY. Pilate was not a man caring to seek and think under the surface of things, or he would have asked himself the question, "Why are these soldiers so ready to obey me? Why is it that I, one man, have all these dwellers in Jerusalem under my control?" Man recognizes the need of authority. Jesus did not mean to dispute the right of Pilate to do what he liked with him. Pilate would have traced the origin of his authority to Rome, but that only threw the question a little further back. When we get to the very highest seen thing, we feel that, as it were, an invisible hand is stretching down and making it what it is. Jesus wanted to make Pilate feel that, whatever power he had, he would be called to account for the use of it. Judas had the greater blame, but Pilate could not escape. - Y.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

WEB: Pilate therefore said to him, "Aren't you speaking to me? Don't you know that I have power to release you, and have power to crucify you?"

Greater and Lesser Sins
Top of Page
Top of Page