Authority to Crucify...But Powerless to Set Free
Title: AUTHORITY TO CRUCIFY…BUT POWERLESS TO SET FREE
Text: John 19:1-24
As we saw in our previous lesson, Pilate made several attempts to set Jesus free because he believed Him to be an innocent man. Though Pilate saw him as relatively harmless as far as the Roman Empire was concerned, the Jews saw Him as a blasphemer worthy of death. They accused Him of claiming to be the Son of God, but He did not lie, for that is who He is. This sparks furry in the heart of the Pharisees and they will go to any length (including lying and paying for an undercover agent) to see Jesus killed. To accomplish their evil deed, they circulate among the crowds and insight a rebellion. This is threat that Pilate buckles under. In fear of what the Emperor would do to him if the rebellion takes place (he had just executed another province governor for the inability to keep control), Pilate weasels out of his former pronouncement, “innocent,” and decides to appease the crowd. Character is never weaker than one who goes against what he knows is morally right in order to please others! Rather than demonstrating he is in control, Pilate actually proves he is powerless. Read Text.
1. What can you tell me of the process of scourging? Why do you think Pilate had Jesus scourged? (He hopes that that would be punishment enough to appease the Jews, and thus save Jesus’ life.)
Insight: The command to have Jesus scourged was not just an act to insight pity and sympathy, it was prophesied that this very thing would happen. Who but God could foretell centuries before that Pilate would have Jesus scourged as well as crucified? Ps. 129:3; Isa. 50:6; 53:5; Matt. 20:18-19
2. What was the motive behind the soldiers making the crown of thorns, the purple robe and the scepter? (To make sport of Him, mock Him, have some fun.) Would you call it “sick” to do so to someone who is about to be put to death?
Insight: Once again a careless action turns out to be the fulfillment of prophecy may years previous. Isa. 53:3-4
3. Once again in verse 4, Pilate declares He finds no fault in Jesus. Count backwards at the number of such declarations to this point. How many? (18:31, 38) What do you call a mob that rejects a sentence of innocence by one that sits as a judge?
4. What was Pilate trying to do in verse 5? (“Look at this pitiful man. You call that a king that’s a treat? Come on!”) Notice who speaks up first in the crowd in verse 6 to push things their direction. Who is it?
Insight: In verse 6, for the third time Pilate pronounces Jesus’ innocence. Pilate must think that he is preaching to deaf ears. Let this be a lesson on the sometimes-futile effort to turn around the heart of one who harbors hatred and murder. Prov. 9:8; 29:10
5. Pilate orders the mob to take Jesus away and crucify Him themselves, v.7. They quibble back saying that He ought to die because He calls Himself God. If Pilate has just given them approval to crucify Jesus, why did they push it back on Pilate…isn’t that what they wanted? (It was all to keep from being ceremonially unclean. It was the Passover and they couldn’t do such a thing because of their ritual law. How sick!) Lev. 24:16
6. The Pharisees words in verse 7 produces fear in Pilate for the first time. Why is that? (They just changed their accusation from “King of the Jews” to “Son of God.”) Pilate is now struck with fear that he just gave approval for them to crucify the Son of God. To make sure he isn’t making a big mistake, he takes Jesus aside and privately asks Him where He came from.”
Insight: To ask Jesus where He came from is to ask the most pertinent question that can be asked about Him. For to know where Jesus comes from is to know the most important thing about Him.
7. Jesus is silent to Pilate’s question because to reveal the answer would prevent His crucifixion. How would you handle this moment – to keep to yourself the very evidence that could save your life?
8. Verse 10 shows the dark side of Pilate’s character. How so? (He may have authority to release or crucify, but he was about to demonstrate that he was powerless to set Jesus free…and all because of fear of his position in front of an angry, lying mob.)
Insight: There is nothing more pitiful than a person with great power – and no character!
9. How does verse 11 show us where the seat of all authority rests? Rom. 13:1-4 Who was Jesus referring to concerning “he who has delivered me up to you has the greater sin”? (The High Priest.)
10. Attempt #4 to proclaim Jesus’ innocence is in verse 12, but the crowd has one more trick up their sleeve to push this weak governor to do what they want. What is it? (They accuse him of insurrection against Caesar. That’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. He goes to his judgment seat and pronounces the verdict to crucify Him.) How do the words in verse 15 show how pathetically rebellious this mob is? (“We have no king but Caesar.” Lie! Their only king was God!)
11. “Jesus went out bearing His own cross.” How does this picture the “scapegoat” of the Old Testament? Lev. 16:21-22 Even the act of the crucifixion was a fulfillment of prophecy. Who but an awesome God would know generations before that it would happen this way? Ps. 22:16; Isa. 53:12
12. Pilate’s inscription to be put on the cross provoked the Jews. Why? (They did not see Jesus as their King – only a blasphemer saying He was the Son of God. But what Pilate wrote was the truth.)
Insight: Isn’t it awesome to see God use pitiful men with no character to declare His truth and majesty? Man may think they are mocking, but when the light dawns upon their darkness, their own inscription has declared the truth of all the ages! Even soldier’s play (verse 24) becomes a fulfillment of prophecy of the ages.
Let’s revisit a critical question: Who is guilty of the greater sin? The High Priest was responsible for leading a nation in covenant with God to worship Him only. When God visited them, they rejected Him and sent Him to the Judgment Hall for crucifixion. Even Pilate was weak and easily manipulated. But the greater sin lie in the hands of those who rejected the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was sent from God.
So who is guilty of the greater sin today – he who follows a god of this world because he doesn’t know of One greater (Jehovah), or the one who knows of Jehovah and rejects Him? Rom. 1:18-25, 2:11-16
No matter how you throw the dice…to gamble your soul on any other stake other than Jesus Christ is to roll “snake-eyes.”