The tension of this passage is as old as time – who holds power and how will it be used? In the case of Jesus, the religious leaders have found him guilty of blasphemy, but lack the authority to take his life. The Roman government has the authority to execute him, but Pilate believes that Jesus is innocent. Three times, Pilate states that he does not find Jesus guilty of any crime that would deserve death.
Where does the power lie?
The Roman Empire, whose power rests in Pilate, has the greatest authority and impact on the lives of the people. And yet, Pilate cannot compel a straight answer from Jesus or from those bringing charges against him. Jesus and his accusers answer Pilate’s questions with more questions or statements that question Pilate’s authority. When Pilate asks Jesus to defend himself by saying “You won’t talk? Don’t you know that I have the authority to pardon you, and the authority to—crucify you?” Jesus replies, “You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven.”
Use of authority
At first, Pilate appears to take this responsibility seriously: he makes two attempts to pardon Jesus. But he caves under pressure. Whether to preserve what little popularity he has, or to avoid a riot, Pilate ultimately cedes to the will of the crowd. Conversely, Jesus chooses not to exert the full extent of his power and authority. He could have saved himself. But, he replies, “My kingdom doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” Instead, Jesus chose to yield his authority in order to forgive and rescue the very people who condemned him.
Pause and reflect: What authority has God given you? How do you use it to further your own interests? How can you use it to promote peace and reconciliation with those around you?
Written by Nick & Rachel Cotton
Artwork by Lauren Wright Pittman, A Choice, © A Sanctified Art