John 19.1-16 — Jesus’ Last Audience With Pilate

Pilate, presumably to placate the crowd, had Jesus flogged. Since he hadn’t charged him with anything, and had even pronounced him innocent, this was illegal. Flogging was a brutal torture that often brought death all by itself. It tore the victim up so badly often his bones and inner organs were exposed, and the victims would die from hypovolemic shock.

The abuse continued with a crown of thorns, mostly likely Zizyphus Spina, mockery in a robe, and beatings to the face. By the time they were done he would most likely be close to losing consciousness, in severe physical agony, and barely recognizable.

Pilate put him before the people again, probably hoping they would have some mercy on him, and once again pronouncing him innocent of all charges. It was a failed effort. The Jewish leaders insisted on death by crucifixion. Jesus was an extreme threat to them. They argued that he wasn’t innocent of all charges; he was still guilty of claiming to be God, which was blasphemy if it wasn’t true. Falsely claiming to be the Messiah was not a capital offense, so the leaders were understanding very deeply and accurately Jesus’ claims to be God. This is the point of the narrative: Jesus was innocent of all charges that could be “sin,” but guilty of claiming to be equal with God.

Now Pilate is more afraid. He has already seen something different in Jesus, and his wife has had a dream (Mt. 27.19) of warning. Pilate plies Jesus with more questions, but Jesus is silent. Pilate tried the intimidation of authority route: “Don’t you know I have the power to have you killed?”

Jesus answered not in self-defense, but in truth: “The only power you have is God-given.” Pilate seemed convinced of Jesus’ innocence, and that he was being set up and railroaded, so he tried again to set him free.

The Jews played their trump card to make Jesus’ case one of sedition and treason: “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” It was a direct threat—blackmail. He could be reported to the emperor for this, and it could lead to Pilate’s beheading. Jesus was not worth that to him, and the threat worked: he turned him over. At this point it’s about 6 in the morning. With full consent for his death, no conviction, judgment, or sentence is recorded, and the soldiers take him away to be crucified as the crowd has demanded.

The points we are to see:

1. The raucous and illegitimate judgment of an innocent man

2. The only charge that holds up is that he claimed to be God

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