John’s account of the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion show the extent to which fear can drive our sin. Back in chapter 11 of his gospel, John shows how Caiaphas and the religious leaders feared that Jesus’ popularity might cause the Roman government to clamp down on – perhaps eradicate – the Jews. (I wrote about that here).
Pilate is driven by fear, as well. John gives us Pilate’s response to the demand for Jesus’ crucifixion:
Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. John 19: 8 ESV
What was Pilate afraid of in the first place?
… while he was sitting on the judgment seat, [Pilate’s] wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Matthew 29:19
Pilate was afraid of Jesus. There’s no way he wanted to kill God’s son!
Besides, Pilate knew that the Jewish leaders weren’t just motivated by fear, they were driven by envy (John 19: 6). They wanted the following (and the prospective power) that Jesus had. Perhaps their real fear was not that Roman power would punish them, but that they would miss out on gaining more power.
So Pilate has Jesus beaten (and the description is hard to take) in order to placate the Jewish leaders and the crowd. All the while, he keeps trying to release Jesus out of his appropriate fear of God, while also believing that Jesus has done nothing illegal.
…Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” vs. 12
[Later,] Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. vs. 15
Pilate’s fear of God was trumped by his fear of a man. He chose Caesar over the true King.
They were all driven by fear. The fear of power: of losing it, of being overcome by it, of losing it’s favor.
When all the while, He who had the TRUE power stood fearlessly before them and took the beatings:
Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. vs. 10b, 11a
It’s a good question to ask myself when I know I’ve sinned: What earthly power do I fear?
And how can I find courage in the perfect love that casts out fear? How can I receive courage from the One who gave up power that I might have the power to know His love?
Today’s Readings: 2 Kings 9:1-10:36, Psalm 72:15-20, Proverbs 18:14-15, John 19: 1-16a. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).