John 19

1.  So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.

Pilate, finding he cannot talk the Jews into letting the Lord go instead of Barabbas, decides to have the Lord scourged in another attempt to appease them.  Remember that this scourging is done to a man of Whom Pilate had already testified, “I find no fault in Him at all.”  If this was the case, how unfair was it that He was scourged?  Pilate had obviously given up on doing the right thing, and was only trying to defuse the situation.

2.  And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.

Remember, these soldiers were taught loyalty to Rome, and naturally would think of those whom Rome said were criminals as criminals.  If Pilate, the Roman governor, was having the Lord scourged for being a king, then He must be a traitor against Rome.  Since the Roman soldiers were foreigners in a strange land protected only by their status as Romans, anyone who rebelled against Rome was considered an enemy and looked on by these men in a very negative light.  They would have had little or no sympathy for such a man.

Keeping these things in mind, we can understand why the soldiers, in the process of scourging Him, decide to have some fun with Him as well.  They make Him up in a mockery of a king.  The crown is a great symbol of the authority of kings, and the Roman soldiers here twist one for the Lord out of thorns.  Imagine how this barbed crown must have dug into His flesh as they jammed it on!  Then, they put a purple robe upon Him.  Purple was the color of royalty, the color of kings.  This was probably an old robe of Pilate’s that they had gotten a hold of somehow.  Thus, the Lord was arrayed as a mock king for the soldiers to laugh at.  When we think of how much more than a mere king the Lord was, this cruel mockery of Him seems all the worse.

3.  Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  And they struck Him with their hands.

With Him now arrayed as a king, they mock Him by hailing Him as King of the Jews.  Of course, that is what He really was.  They looked at a king not sanctioned by Rome as a traitor.  Yet Pilate knew that, since the Lord never preached rebellion against Rome, there was no reason why Rome could not have acknowledged Jesus Christ as a king.  This treatment came about solely because of the insistence of the Jews that He be punished.

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.”

After scourging Him, Pilate goes out of the Praetorium once again to speak to the Jews.  Remember back in chapter 18 verse 28 that the Jews would not go into the Praetorium so they would not defile themselves and be unable to eat the Passover.  Thus, Pilate was going back and forth from talking with the Jews outside and interviewing the Lord inside.  Now, he goes out one last time to the Jews, this time bringing the Lord out to them.  When He comes out, they will see that He was scourged, and yet Pilate insists that he found to fault in Him.  Here, Pilate clearly demonstrates that he has knowingly miscarried justice.  He was probably hoping, since trading the Lord for Barabbas didn’t work, that seeing the Lord in such a pathetic condition would arouse their pity and their consciences, and that they would give up on the idea of putting Him to death.  If this was his intention, then it was a vain hope, for the Jews had no intention of stopping their plans anywhere short of the Lord’s crucifixion!

5.  Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”

The Lord must have made a pitiable spectacle in the condition He was in.  Surely He looked anything but dangerous or threatening.  Pilate must have speculated that, if the religious leaders were not set on their course, they would surely see this spectacle and reconsider what they were planning to do to Him.  Yet the hatred the Jews bore for the Lord was far too deep to be satisfied with merely seeing Him beaten and humiliated.

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.”

The sight of their hated enemy, even in mock kingly garb, was enough to arouse their fury, and cause them to cry out for His crucifixion.  Notice once again that it is the chief priests and their officers who cry out thus against Him.  From whence then comes the idea that the Lord was rejected and His death called for by the common people?  No, this was the middle of the night, and only His enemies were present.

When the chief priests and their officers cry out for crucifixion, Pilate wants no part of it.  He tells them to take Him and crucify Him themselves.  This is a sarcastic statement, since no one but Rome had the power to crucify.  The Jews were not able to crucify Him themselves.  That is why they had come to Pilate in the first place, remember.  They wanted Him disgraced as much as possible in death, so there would be no thought among His followers of making His death a martyr’s death.  No honorable martyr died on a cross!

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.”

The Jews had refused to tell Pilate their accusation against Him before.  (John 18:30)  Now, they find that they have to reveal it to keep him from dropping the case altogether.  Thus, they reveal to him the truth about their conviction.  They convicted Him because He made Himself the Son of God.  Their reading of the law was that this made anyone who claimed it to be worthy of death.  Of course, they never seemed to consider what it would mean if this was claimed by One Who actually was the Son of God, or how they would know the difference.  For anyone whose eyes were not blinded, the powerful miracles that the Lord worked should have been proof enough of the rightness of His claim.  Yet they hated Him for not conforming to what they thought the Messiah should be, and so they rejected all evidence supporting His assertion that He was the Messiah.  Because of this, they believed that He deserved to die according to their law.

8. Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid,

The Jews may have been blinded by their hatred of the Lord, but Pilate was not.  This was no doubt the first he had heard of such a claim.  Yet he surely must have remembered the Lord’s miracles, for they were no doubt proclaimed far and wide.  This, the Lord’s strange attitude throughout the trial, and the message he had received from his wife of her dream about the Lord (Matthew 27:19) surely must have all weighed on his mind to give him the growing suspicion that such a claim might be true.  Thus, he becomes even more afraid.  Who exactly was this One he was dealing with?  Who was it Whom he had on trial before him?  Could it be that he was actually dealing with One Who was more than a mere man, but a supernatural being?

9.  And went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.

Pilate, with this fear and suspicion burning in his mind, returns with the Lord into the judgment hall and asks Him where He was from.  He was not asking to know His hometown, but whether or not He truly might have been from a supernatural place.  The Lord, no doubt much to his frustration, gives him no answer at all.  Pilate had already surmised the answer, but the Lord would give him no confirmation of it.  The Lord would not receive deliverance from Pilate because of this.  Indeed, it was His intention to die.  If Pilate were to do the right thing here, he would have to do it as he would for any man.  The Lord was not going to claim a special place to deserve special treatment.

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?”

The Lord’s refusal to answer angers Pilate.  He seeks to intimidate the Lord by reminding Him that he has the authority to either crucify or release Him.  Perhaps the Lord’s silence helped him regain his confidence.  Why would a supernatural being not say so, and use this fact to get Himself out of trouble?  Just looking at the pathetic, beaten figure before him must have been enough to half convince Pilate that his suspicions could not be true.

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.”

This time the Lord answers Pilate.  He points out that he would have no power over the Lord unless it had been given him from above.  This was true in two ways.  First of all, Pilate had this authority from the Roman government.  But more importantly than that, the only way anyone would have authority over the fate of Jesus Christ is if that authority were given to him by God Himself.  Otherwise, there would be none who could have authority over Him.  Then, the Lord reveals the truth to Pilate.  Though he had already beaten the Lord without a cause, and was about to crucify Him, again for no reason, yet those who delivered the Lord to Pilate had greater sin than Pilate did.  This would include Caiaphas the high priest and the Sanhedrin.  They were the leaders of Israel, God’s nation of chosen people.  Their authority did not come from a higher power like Rome.  Rather, they had set themselves up as the self-appointed religious rulers whose job it was the keep Israel pure and the worship of God without error.  Their sin in rejecting the Lord and illegally plotting His death was much worse than that of Pilate, though he certainly sinned in the things he did to an innocent Man.

The words “from above” here are the Greek word anothen that we came upon back in chapter 3.  Remember, there it was translated “again,” and I claimed that the word means “from above.”  Notice that here anothen cannot possibly mean “again.”  The statement that Pilate “could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you again” makes no sense.  Here, anothen clearly means “from above,” not “again.”  And it means the same thing in John 3.  Nicodemus was born “from above,” not “again.”

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.”

Pilate again seeks to find some way to release Him.  He was probably planning on doing it now.  He could clearly see the Lord’s innocence, and feared that He might be much more than He appeared to be.  Yet the Jews, seeing that they are close to losing their prey, play their most clever hand yet.  They accuse Pilate of disloyalty to Caesar, the Roman Emperor.  Since the Lord makes himself a King, they claim, for Pilate to let Him go would be the same as disloyalty to Caesar.  There is a clear threat here.  If Pilate lets the Lord go, this complaint will make its way to Caesar’s ears…the Jews will see to that.  An accusation of disloyalty against one of his governors, especially made by influential and powerful men, could catch Caesar’s ear and result in great difficulty for Pilate.  He was not in the best of favor already to have been assigned to an undesirable and troublesome post like Jerusalem.  The thought of being called before Caesar on such a charge must have been enough to make Pilate’s blood run cold.

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.

The Jews have Pilate where they want him now, and he yields to their threat.  Thus, he brings the Lord out of the Praetorium and himself sits down in the judgment (Greek bema) seat in the place called “The Pavement” before the judgment hall.  The word Gabbatha is an Aramaic word, not a Hebrew word as the New King James has it.  Its meaning is uncertain, but it probably means something similar to the Greek word here translated “Pavement,” lithostrotos.  This literally was a raised platform, strewn with stones, with a chair on top of it for Pilate to sit in and pronounce judgment.

14.  Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour.  And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

The Preparation Day of the Passover does not mean it was the day before the Passover.  Why then would the Lord have already had the Passover meal with His disciples?  Rather, the Passover Day was the Preparation Day for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began the day after Passover.  This is how this day was a “Preparation Day.”

The sixth hour by the Israelite reckoning was either midnight or noon.  This is not Gentile reckoning and six o’clock in the morning, as some suggest.  John uses the usual designations throughout the book, so why would he switch to the Gentile method here?  Since the Lord was crucified at about nine o’clock AM, this must have been midnight that this occurred.  This whole thing was a highly illegal, midnight trial.  Those who loved the Lord were not present to help Him for none of them knew what was going on.  They were all in bed.

Pilate calls on the Jews to “behold your King!”  If he had some small hope that even now they might relent upon seeing Him, he was again disappointed.  More likely, he was just mocking them, in frustration seeking some small retribution for their trapping him into what he was now about to do.

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!”

Again, the sight of Him infuriates His enemies.  Again, they cry out that He should be taken away and crucified.  Pilate asks if he should crucify their King?  For remember, that is Who the Lord truly was, descended from David and the rightful heir to the throne.  Is this the fate the Jews wanted for their King?  It most certainly was, for they had no intention of letting the Lord Jesus reign over them.  Thus, they cry out the claim that they have no king but Caesar!  This was again probably part of their ruse of claiming that they were loyal to Caesar, but Pilate was not if he would dare to let the Lord go.  Yet how ironic is their statement, considering how much the Jews hated the Roman rulership and the Emperor who embodied it!  They chafed under the rule of polytheists, and their dearest desire was to be their own, free nation once again.  Yet now, in their hatred of the Lord Jesus Christ, they find even Caesar more desirable then the One God had set to reign over them!  The Lord had exposed their hypocritical ways, and they wanted nothing more than to remove Him from troubling them forever.

16.  Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified.  So they took Jesus and led Him away.

Notice that Pilate delivers the Lord back to the Jews to be crucified.  The Roman soldiers who placed Him on the cross and accompanied Him there were not doing so as carrying out the orders of Rome, for Pilate made no accusation against Him.  Rather, they were placed by Pilate under the control of the religious leaders.  He was seeking to wash his hands of the whole matter, and yet appease them so they would not accuse him to Rome.  Thus, the soldiers act under the command of the religious leaders in crucifying the Lord!