Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Jesus has been delivered over to Pilate and he is trying to release Jesus because he finds no fault in him (19:4). But the chief priests want him crucified because he is calling himself the Son of God (19:6-7). Then Pilate becomes afraid and brings Jesus back into his quarters and asks him again who he is and where he is from, but Jesus chooses not to speak. Pilate responds by letting him know that he has the authority to release him and the authority to crucify him (19:10). But Jesus says that the only reason Pilate has authority is because it came from above (from God), therefore the one who delivered Jesus over to Pilate (the religious leaders) have the greater sin (19:11).
Jesus is now in Pilate’s quarters and he is being questioned about who he is and he is even being beaten by Pilate’s guards. However, the reality is that Pilate can find nothing to charge Jesus with, but he is scared of an uprising of the people so he is willing to crucify Jesus knowing that the Jews cannot do it themselves because only the Romans were able to crucify people in that day. However, within the context of John 19 itself it becomes apparent that this is happening because of the will of God, or as John says in a few places to fulfill the scriptures (19:24,36-37). Even Jesus’ statement points to the reality that this is God’s will because Pilate only has his authority and the ability to crucify Jesus because God gave it to him. Yet, despite this being God’s will for Jesus the religious leaders will still be held accountable.
John 19 is the climax of the gospel message and of the gospel of John. This is what Jesus came to do and it is what he predicted within the gospel itself (Jn. 12:27-36; 16:16). The reality is that the crucifixion is a horrible tragedy, but at the same time it happened according to the will of God so that eternal life could be given to many. In this way Jesus was being obedient to fulfill the will of the Father in heaven and we as his children have life to the full because he was willing to die on the cross, and because he truly is the Son of God (he was God) who was able to take our sin and the wrath of God upon himself.
God is the one who apportions (gives) authority and power to people (even evil people) to accomplish his good purposes. This means that nothing happens outside of his will and plan (including all evil things). Yet, because God is a just God he will still rightly punish that evil.
The call of this passage is to a believe in the great truth that God is sovereignly using all things, both good and bad, to accomplish his great purposes for his kingdom and to accomplish great good for his people. And even though it seems like evil at times prevails God will hold evil men accountable for their actions even though he will still use them for his purposes. This should cause us to trust and follow God even in the hardest of circumstances, even when it feels like the evil is all we see around us, because he will prevail over it. He will win, because he is in control of all things and has power over all people in all places, at all times.
- How do I respond to the evil that happens around me? Do I respond with despair or faith?
- The death of Jesus is a spectacular sin on the part of the religious leaders that brought about a spectacular result. Can you think of a time when God used something evil in your life for good?
- How does the reality of God’s power over all things, including evil, cause you to worship him more?