John 19th, Psalm 19
Pilate proves he suffers from self-delusion by asking Jesus, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you? (John 19:10) With one word Jesus could have wiped the memory of Pilate off the earth. Though Jesus’ power is well established, His response to Pilate’s question is puzzling. Our Lord says, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11) Jesus’ first sentence simply means that God gives Pilate authority and thus Pilate’s belief that he is in charge, instead of Jesus, is mistaken. That part is easy to understand. However, the connection is unclear between the truth that God appoints Pilate and Jesus’ declaration that another has a greater sin. Who does Jesus have in mind? Certainly not God, for God does not sin. Is it Herod, or Jewish leaders like Caiaphas, and perhaps even Judas? Since Jesus first mentions God vesting Pilate with governing authority, the connection suggests another ruler is in mind, since God establishes all leaders that they might execute justice and protect peace (Romans 13:1). Thus, I am inclined to believe that Jesus intends Caiaphas, the great high priest. This Jewish leader is mentioned a few times for consistently plotting to see Jesus crucified. (John 11:49-53, John 18:23,38). This does not absolve Pilate of course, but shows that there is an authority with more culpability than governing officials. In God’s view, a high priest has a greater responsibility to perceive, support, and celebrate God’s messiah, especially when the Christ is God the Son Himself. God expects a great deal out of the leaders chosen from and for His people. It was true for Caiaphas and it is true today. As God’s people let us pray for all leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), but also pray that God would give the church shepherds after the Lord’s own heart (Jeremiah 3:15). Certainly, in Jesus’ day, the governor proved foolish and cowardly, while the high priest was morally detestable. When wise leaders for the state and righteous leaders for God’s people are absent, the worst of human evil is unleashed as we witness in Jesus’ trial.