8 Minute Read

Today’s Bible Reading:

2 Samuel 15:23-16:23
John 18:25-19:22
Psalm 119:113-128
Proverbs 16:10-11

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

John 19:10-11 (NLT):” ‘Why don’t you talk to me?’ Pilate demanded. ‘Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?’ Then Jesus said, ‘You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.’”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

A few years ago, I reread this text again for the very first time. By that, I mean that I read it for the umpteenth time but saw something new and profound in it that I had never observed before. Let me share it with you…

If you look at John 19:10, you will see that Pilate was essentially saying, “Come on, Jesus. Cooperate with me, man. I can get you out of this mess, but you’ve got to work with me.”

If I was in Jesus’ shoes, a mob was outside calling for my life, and I was standing in the presence of a powerful leader, I would definitely cooperate. Why? Because I would be under the impression that he is correct. He could help me out of the mess. In fact, I would not only cooperate … I might even plead for his help.

But not Jesus.

What Jesus said next, in John 19:11, is profound and is counter-intuitive. Instead of agreeing that Pilate could get him out of the mess, Jesus said:

John 19:11 (NLT): “…You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above…”

Essentially, Jesus said, “Pilate, you think you are in control of things. Well, you’re wrong. You can’t do anything unless my Father in Heaven wills it. Whatever you choose to do only furthers the ultimate purpose that my Father is accomplishing.”

So, Jesus wasn’t running to Pilate for help. He didn’t fall down on His knees and plead for this governmental leader to protect Him. When He looked at Pilate, he saw a man who had power but only to do those things within the perfect or permissive will of the Father.

Yet, one more thing: when we see how much power God held over Pilate, we may come to the conclusion that Pilate was simply a pawn on God’s chessboard. We may think that Pilate had no free will of his own. 

If we come to that conclusion, we would be wrong. All we need to do is read the next thing that Jesus said…

John 19:11 (NLT): “‘Then Jesus said, ‘You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.’” (emphasis mine)

Jesus acknowledged God’s ultimate authority over the events and people in this narrative. Anything they did only furthered God’s plan. Yet, Jesus also made it clear that this did not absolve the characters in this true-life story of their own choices. The one (Judas) who handed Him over had committed a greater sin and thus would be punished to a greater degree. If Judas was simply a pawn on God’s chessboard and had no free will of his own, God would have been unjust to punish Judas. 

But, we believe that God is fully sovereign and that mankind has free will. God is entirely in control, and mankind has the ability to do as he pleases within his range of options.

Sure, Pilate could do as he pleased, but God’s will was simultaneously being accomplished.

Bringing it down to our real-life experiences, people are capable of hurting us (and we may hurt them). People are also capable of protecting us (and we can protect them). But, let us never, ever come to think that our help is solely, or primarily, to be found in others. Ultimately, our help and protection come from the Lord. 

So, trust Him. Spend time taking your cares to Him. Ask Him to intercede but ultimately submit yourself to His will. And don’t fear people. They “would have no power over (us) at all unless it were given to (them) from above.”

One final note: Interestingly, Jesus’ exchange with Pilate occurs on the same day that we read of Shimei’s mistreatment of David. Go back and consider how David could tolerate Shimei’s injustice because David realized that God was in control of the events. A firm conviction in God’s sovereignty really can help us to tolerate and respond nobly to the injustices of life.

Matt Ellis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida (fbcpolkcity.com). His latest book is God’s Grace in the Real World. Connect with him on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

From “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)