Why Did Jesus Not Answer Pilate’s Question?
Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
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?”
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.”
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.”
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.
John 19:8-13 (NKJV)
The Romans and Greeks had numerous myths about the gods coming to earth as men, so it is likely that Pilate responded to the phrase “Son of God” with these stories in mind. Already the words and demeanour of our Lord had impressed the governor; he had never met a prisoner like Him before.
Was He indeed a god come to earth?
Did He have supernatural powers?
No wonder Pilate was starting to be afraid! Also, Pilate’s wife had sent him a strange message that he should have nothing to do with Jesus (Matt. 27:19). Jesus had even come into her dreams!
Why did Jesus not answer Pilate’s question?
Because He had already answered it (John 18:36-37). It is a basic spiritual principle that God does not reveal new truth to us if we fail to act on the truth we already know. Furthermore, Pilate had already made it clear that he was not personally interested in spiritual truth. All he was concerned about was maintaining peace in Jerusalem as he tried to expedite the trial of Jesus of Nazareth. Pilate did not deserve an answer!
Pilate didn’t know how to deal with Jesus! Jesus didn’t fear him or his authority the way other people did. So Pilate tried to point out that he had the power to kill Jesus if he wanted to. However, Jesus pointed out that others had given Pilate that authority. Pilate was just a pawn in their hands. I’m sure this fearlessness shook Pilate to his core.
Fear and anger often go together. When we are afraid we are weak, we go the other extreme and try to appear strong. This is what Pilate did as he reminded Jesus of his Roman authority. But his statement did not demonstrate his power; it demonstrated his weakness.
For if he had the authority to release Jesus, why did he not do it?
He condemned himself with his own boastful words.
John 19:11 records our Lord’s last words to Pilate, words that reveal His faith in the Father and His surrender to His will (see 1 Peter 2:23; 4:19). All authority comes from God (Rom. 13:1). Jesus was able to surrender to Rome and the Jews because He was first of all yielded to God. Pilate was boasting about his authority (John 19:10), but Jesus reminded him that his so-called authority was only delegated to him from God. One day God would call him to account for the way he had used his privileges and responsibilities.
To whom was Jesus referring when He said “the one who delivered Me to you”?
Certainly not God, because God does not and cannot sin. Jesus was referring to Caiaphas, the corrupt high priest who had long before determined that Jesus must die (John 11:47-54). Caiaphas knew the Scriptures and had been given every opportunity to examine the evidence. He had wilfully closed his eyes and hardened his heart. He had seen to it that Jesus was not given a fair trial. It was his associates who were inciting the mob to cry, “Let Him be crucified!” Pilate was a spiritually blind pagan, but Caiaphas was a Jew who had knowledge of Scripture. Therefore, it was Caiaphas, not Pilate, who had the greater sin.
What a dilemma Pilate was in!
How would he go about investigating the claim that Jesus was “the Son of God”?
And there was no evidence that He was a troublemaker or a seditionist. In a final burst of courage, Pilate tried to release Jesus. John does not tell us what steps Pilate took (the Greek text says “he kept seeking to release Him”), but they all failed. In fact, the crowd started to accuse Pilate of being a traitor to Caesar! This was too much for the governor, so he gave his official verdict and delivered Jesus to be crucified. Matthew tells us that Pilate washed his hands before the crowd (Matt. 27:24), but this did not cleanse his heart. Alas, it was Pilate who was on trial, not Jesus!
Yet Caesar deposed Pilate just a few years later and banished to Gaul in A.D. 41. Pilate’s compromise and sin only granted him a very temporary advantage and ultimately doomed his soul to hell. It wasn’t worth the cost. Sin is never worth the cost.
Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
John 19:14 (NKJV)
As mentioned in John 1:39, the Jews reckoned time from sunrise. That would make the sixth hour approximately noon by Jewish reckoning. However, Mark said that Jesus was crucified at 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25), and Matthew (Matthew 27:45), Mark (Mark 15:33), and Luke (Luke 23:44) all clearly stated that there was darkness from noon until 3:00 p.m. when Jesus died. Therefore, John must have been using the Roman method of reckoning time that started at midnight. This would mean Jesus was condemned by Pilate here at about 6:00 a.m.
The “preparation” refers to the preparation for the Sabbath, which would begin at sundown that day (Friday). Being the Passover Sabbath, it was an especially holy day. The religious leaders were more concerned about their traditions than they were knowing the truth and obeying the will of God. On a high and holy day, they crucified their own Messiah, Jesus the Son of God!
The crowd had the last word: “We have no king but Caesar!” “We will not have this man to reign over us!” (Luke 19:14)
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!”
John 19:15 (NKJV)
These chief priests weren’t loyal to Caesar as they professed. They weren’t even loyal to God. They were only loyal to themselves. They were simply saying this to shame Pilate into crucifying Jesus.
Matthew 12:37 says we will be judged by the words we speak. These Jews will regret these words throughout eternity.
Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.
John 19:16 (NKJV)
I’m sure these people and the demons that were inspiring them thought they had won. They were celebrating. But they were all playing directly into the plan of God (1 Corinthians 2:8). Likewise, God can take whatever Satan and his demons throw at us and work it together for good.
From the human standpoint, the trial of Jesus was the greatest crime and tragedy in history. From the divine viewpoint, it was the fulfillment of prophecy and the accomplishment of the will of God. The fact that God had planned all of this did not absolve the participants of their responsibility. In fact, at Pentecost, Peter put both ideas together in one statement! (Acts 2:23)
When Israel asked to have a king, and God gave them Saul, the nation rejected God the Father (1 Sam. 8:5-7). When they asked for Barabbas, they rejected God the Son. Today, they are rejecting the pleading of God the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51; Rom. 10:21). Yet there will come a day when they shall see their King, believe, and be saved (Zech. 12:10-11; Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7).
Both the nation and the governor were on trial, and both failed miserably.
May we not fail!