Summary: Pilate's examination of Jesus stands to prove the innocence of our Savior.
Punishing The Innocent and Powerful John 19:1-16
Today we begin John 19 and watch our Lord Jesus take the punishment for sin. At the end of John 18, Barabbas was granted his freedom in a prisoner exchange in which the Son of God was condemned to die. Look at John 19:1-16:
“So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands. 4 Pilate then went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him." 5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold the Man!" 6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him."
7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." 8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, 9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer.
10 Then Pilate said to Him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" 11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (most likely referring to the high priest, Caiaphas)
12 From then on 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." 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" 15 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!" 16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.”
Pilate’s Role in Jesus’ Atonement
Pilate obviously was a man prone to follow popular opinion: By the law and in his own heart he could find no fault in Jesus, and yet he freed Barabbas and he proceeded to scourge Jesus and subjected the Innocent Son of the Father to the merciless ridicule and relentless torture by the Roman soldiers. We see that Pilate plays an important and ironic role in Jesus’ atonement. God sovereignly used Pilate to accomplish His Divine and Perfect Will in order to bring Jesus to the cross as the sacrifice for our sin.
Pilate’s insistence of Jesus’ guiltlessness is part of the witness of Jesus’ innocence. Remember that the only way that Jesus could atone for the sins of man would be if He were without guilt. Many had accused Jesus of breaking the Law, of claiming that He was God, (which of course He was!), of not honoring the Sabbath (but the Sabbath was His Creation-He was Lord of the Sabbath), and on and on, but Pilate could find no fault in Him. Pilate was at fault for not letting Jesus go, but Pilate actually insisted on Jesus’ innocence.
Pilate had asked the question, “What is truth?” in John 18:38 and then confessed for the first time that he could find no fault in Jesus; in essence, Pilate was not even “true” to himself when he relented to the pressure of the Jews and proceeded to punish the innocent Lord Jesus. We usually think of a ruler abusing or misusing his authority when he reaches outside of the law (as our leaders have done repeatedly without being checked), but Pilate misused his power and authority by NOT USING IT when he should have.
Ironically, Pilate referred to Jesus as “the King of the Jews” to the end. This is unusual, and we can only surmise that he was trying to persuade the Jews to change their mind concerning Jesus’ demise, but according to God’s Divine Plan, they would not change their minds because their hearts were hardened toward God’s promised Messiah, even though the evidence was undeniable that Jesus was the Christ sent from Heaven to redeem them.