************ Sermon on John 19:1-15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 28, 2021
John 18:31,39-40; 19:1-15
"What shall I do with Jesus?"
"What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" According to Matthew's gospel, this is the question Pilate asked (Mt 27:22). Pilate wants to get rid of Jesus because Jesus is giving him problems with the Jews. And, if the Jews get upset he will also have problems with Rome.
In this season of Lent I want you to ask the same question: "What shall I do with Jesus?" That's the most important question anyone can answer. Is He your Savior and Lord? Or, like Pilate, is He simply a problem to get rid of?
I Pilate's Proposals
A "What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate tries multiple attempts to get rid of Jesus and nothing is working out.
First, in verse 31 Pilate gave the Jews permission to kill Jesus according to their own law. We looked at this last time. By the providence of God they refused. Because if the Jews killed Jesus it would have been death by stoning; but God's plan is that Jesus die the cursed Roman death of being lifted up on a cross.
B "What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate's second attempt to get rid of Jesus is not recorded by John -- namely, Jesus is shipped off to Herod. But Herod does not play along and sends Jesus back to Pilate.
C "What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate's third attempt to get rid of Jesus is the Barabbas incident. Pilate asked (Jn 18:39), "Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"
In my mind's eye I see Jesus standing next to Barabbas. Jesus is holy, perfect, righteous. Barabbas is a rebel known for pillaging and looting, a robber and bandit (Jn 18:40), a notorious prisoner (Mt 27:16), an insurrectionist (which means he rebelled against Rome) and a murderer (Mk 15:7; Lk 23:19). Don't think of Barabbas as a petty thief. He is a criminal guilty of murder. Which one does the crowd want Pilate to release?
Incredible as it seems, the crowd asks for Barabbas! The people were persuaded by the chief priests and elders (Mt 27:20) who were motivated by envy (Mk 15:10) and hatred (Jn 15:24-25). There is no explaining how a mob chooses its heroes. Had they honestly compared and contrasted the two "candidates," the people would have had to vote for Jesus Christ. But when a mob is manipulated by crafty leaders, it acts on feelings instead of brains.
Back to our original question: What are you going to do with Jesus? Who do you want? Do you want the world (represented by Barabbas) or do you want heaven (represented by Jesus)?
What are you going to do with Jesus? For us the answer is easy because as Peter said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Not only is He the Savior but He is also the Lord of lords and King of kings. What will you do with Him? That's the question. Confess Jesus as Savior and Lord and your sins are forgiven. Reject Jesus as Savior and Lord and you stand with the Jews and the mob.
D "What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate's fourth attempt is sympathy. Perhaps the crowd would be placated if Jesus was flogged (Jn 19:1). What man could behold a whipped prisoner and not feel pity? The Roman whip was made of leather, knotted and weighted with pieces of metal or bone that ripped into the flesh; many a prisoner never survived the whipping. It pains us to think that the sinless Son of God was subjected to such cruelty. He was innocent, yet He was treated as though He were guilty; and He did it for us.
Pilate called Him "the king of the Jews" (Jn 18:39), so the soldiers decided that the "king" should have a crown and a robe (Jn 19:2). The Jews mocked His claim to being a Prophet (Mt 26:67–68), and now the Gentiles mocked His claim to being a King. The verb tenses in the Greek text in John 19:3 indicate that the soldiers repeatedly came to Him, mocked Him, and beat Him with their hands. The forces of hell were let loose in Pilate’s hall. Sin had brought thorns and thistles into the world (Gen 3:17-19), so it was only fitting that the Creator also wear a crown of thorns as He bore the sins of the world.
For the third time, Pilate went out to face the people (John 18:29, 38; 19:4). When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" (Jn 19:5). Pilate was saying, "Look at this poor fellow! Hasn’t He suffered enough? Take pity on Him and let me release Him." Pilate hoped that the sight of this scourged and humiliated prisoner would arouse some pity in their hearts; but it did not. Pilate's words only aroused their hateful passions more. "Crucify! Crucify!"
If any crowd should have been moved by pity, it was the Jewish crowd that waited before Pilate. Here was one of their own, a Jewish prophet, suffering unjustly at the hands of the Romans, but the Jews did not repent or even show a touch of pity!
The failure of Pilate’s plan teaches us an important lesson: it takes more than human emotion to bring the lost sinner to salvation. There is a view of the Atonement called "the moral influence theory" that fits right in with the governor’s approach. It states that the realization of our Lord’s sufferings moves the heart of the sinner so that he turns from sin and begins to love God. If sinners who actually saw Christ in His suffering did not repent and believe, then we know sinners today who read about His agonies will not repent and believe either. No one repents and believes unless the Spirit first works in them.
E "What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate's fifth attempt is an appeal to justice. Three times Pilate declares Jesus to be innocent (Jn 18:38; 19:4,6). He is hoping the Jews and the crowd will come to their senses and realize there is no place for mob rule and mob justice -- especially if Jesus is innocent. You know the response: "Crucify! Crucify!"
II Pilate's Fear
A "What shall I do with Jesus?" This brings us to our second point: Pilate's fear as he considers what to do with Jesus. Look at verse 8: "Pilate ... was even more afraid." Pilate was already afraid and now he is even more afraid. The Greek word means "to put to flight, to cause somebody to flee in sheer panic."
Why is Pilate afraid? Pilate is afraid because of a warning from his wife not to have anything to do with Jesus because she had some kind of a dream (Mt 27:19). Pilate is afraid of a riot in Jerusalem. Pilate is afraid of Caesar and what he might do. Pilate is afraid of his conscience that he is allowing an innocent man to be crucified. Pilate is afraid he is giving up on any sense of justice. That's what Pilate is afraid of.
B Now, why is Pilate even "more afraid"? Because of what is said by the Jews in verse 7:
John 19:7 (NIV84) — 7 The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”Remember that the Jews did not give Pilate a single accusation against Jesus (Jn 18:30)? Well, they have finally settled on a charge: "Blasphemy. Kill Him for blasphemy. Blasphemy." What blasphemy? That Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. To the Jews this was blasphemy because this means Jesus claimed to have the same nature as God; because this means Jesus claimed deity. And yet, as we all know, Jesus is the Son of God.
C Why would this make Pilate "more afraid"? Why is Pilate more afraid of this than of the warning of his wife, a riot in Jerusalem, the reaction of Caesar, the guilt of his conscience, the loss of justice? Why is Pilate "more afraid"?
Because every Roman knows the stories of the gods who came down into the life of men. They all know that the gods had offspring who came down to earth in human form. When Pilate hears the Jews say Jesus claimed to be the "Son of God" he is scared, terrified, afraid, in panic mode. He wonders, does this mean Jesus is one of the gods or one of the children of the gods come down to earth? After all, Pilate has heard about Jesus' miracles -- miracles only the gods can perform. So Pilate is scared, terrified, afraid -- of Jesus.
You might think this is absolute nonsense. But not to the Romans. People back then actually believed the gods had come down in the past. Remember what happened in Lystra? Paul healed a man crippled in his feet, lame from birth. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes. The priest of Zeus even wanted to offer sacrifices to them (Acts 14:8-13). Or, remember what happened on Malta? Paul was bitten by a snake. Everyone was expecting Paul to swell up or suddenly fall dead. When nothing unusual happened they said he was a god (Acts 28:3-6).
"He claimed to be the Son of God." Pilate hears this and is scared, terrified, afraid that Jesus is one of the gods. With this in mind, notice what Pilate asks Jesus: "Where do you come from?" Pilate is not asking about geography; he already knows Jesus is from Galilee. "Where do you come from?" Pilate is scared Jesus is going to say, "from the gods, from heaven, I've been sent by the gods." The irony here is that though Jesus was born He did come from heaven (cf Jn 18:37).
"Where do you come from?" What was Jesus' response? What Scripture says next is about the saddest words possible: "But Jesus gave him no answer." It is not good when God goes silent. Remember what Jesus cried out on the cross? "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46). God didn't answer. God kept silent. Because in Jesus He was punishing the sin of the human race. God's silence means judgment; it means grace has limits; it means trouble for an unregenerate Pilate.
III Pilate's Blackmail
A "What shall I do with Jesus?" In the darkness of his soul Pilate is scared to death. No proposal has worked. This brings us to our third point: Pilate's blackmail.
The Jews are not listening to Pilate. The crowd is not listening to Pilate. Even Jesus refuses to speak to Pilate.
John 19:10 (NIV84) — 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said [to Jesus]. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"Pilate is fooling himself. At this point he has no power at all.
First, there is what Jesus said, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above" (Jn 19:11). Pilate is but a tool in the hand of God; he is but a tool of divine providence. Remember, it is God's will that Jesus die on a Roman cross.
Second, there is the blackmail of the Jews, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar" (Jn 19:12). Did you notice the Jews suddenly come up with another charge? Jesus not only is guilty of blasphemy but He also claims to be king and thus opposed to Caesar.
"If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar." Pilate has already shown he is no friend of Caesar by the release of Barabbas. Remember, Barabbas rebelled against Rome, attacked Roman institutions, killed Roman soldiers, refused to pay Roman taxes. A friend of Caesar does not set such a man free. But now Pilate is told he is in double jeopardy if he releases Jesus too. Understood, but not stated, if you let Jesus go we will make sure Caesar hears about this.
"What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate is stuck.
B Pilate makes one last try: "Here is your king ... Shall I crucify your king?" Here is their reply: "We have no king but Caesar" (Jn 19:14-15). What amazing blasphemy this is. They accuse Jesus of blasphemy but they are the ones guilty of this. They deny God is King. To kill Jesus, they blaspheme.
C Pilate gives up. He brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat. It was a kind of raised platform. He set up court, he set up the bench, he took his seat as judge. Notice what doesn't happen. Pilate does not render a verdict. Nor does Pilate pronounce sentence. The people do that. The people -- incited by the Jews -- are in charge, not Pilate.
This brings us back to Jesus' statement, "the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin" (Jn 19:11). Lots of people were guilty back then: Pilate, the Roman soldiers, Herod, Judas, the mob. But the greatest guilt is on the leaders of Israel -- Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin.
"What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate gave up and gave in. Judas betrayed. The soldiers mocked. The mob yelled for crucifixion. The Jews hated.
Congregation, what do you do with Jesus? You can't escape this question. If you don't believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord you end up in hell. If you believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord you are saved from your sin, death, judgment and given a place in heaven. What do you do with Jesus? What is your answer?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page