19:7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, 9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”
This conversation is depressing on so many levels. In it two groups of people are represented. The Jews represent those who are following God and living for a greater purpose and higher destiny than this short life.
Pilate represents those fully invested in this life, in the here and now because they honestly believe that is all there is.
The Jews represent those who are supposed to bring the truth that there is so much more to people like Pilate. They are supposed to be the bearers of good news to people lost in meaninglessness.
Instead they have come to Pilate with the Good News in their possession asking him to kill Him. Pilate truly believes he occupies a position of power. He truly believes Jesus' life is in his hands. He tries to reason with Jesus and help Him understand the predicament He is in. It's like Pilate doesn't think Jesus gets it. Because Pilate is genuinely confused about this point Jesus speaks again. What He says is profound, shakes Pilate to his core and is ultimately depressing.
He explains to Pilate that any power he has is borrowed or given. It's like me allowing my children to make a decision about our family. They may be given the power to choose a restaurant destination or a vacation plan but the power is not inherently theirs, it was given. The Bible says and prophetic history has shown that God raises up kings and deposes them. Pilate is where he is and able to wield power only as much and as far and for as long as God permits.
Jesus doesn't stop though by clarifying that Pilate's power is given from above. He goes one step further. He clarifies that the greater guilt is on the one who handed Him over to Pilate. Well who was that? Caiaphas handed Him over to Pilate. Who was Caiaphas? The Jewish High Priest.
Pilate gets it. He sees in Jesus One who is above and beyond any ordinary man. He knows what he must do. He must release Him. Only one obstacle stands between Pilate and doing the right thing. Upon hearing his intentions the Jews play their trump card.
"Pilate you can't release Him without making yourself an enemy of Caesar."
Pilate has invested his entire career and life into pleasing Caesar as his ticket to increased power and success. He has a stark choice to make - Jesus or Caesar. A new path or sticking in the deep rut he has been in all his life. Faith or fortune. Forever or right now.
The most depressing part is not the choice Pilate is about to make. The most depressing part of this whole mess is that the very ones who should have been leading Pilate from his lucrative but ultimately short and meaningless path are the very ones who seize upon his weakness to push him down the wrong road. The Jews aren't working for God's cause at all. They are the sons of their father the devil who was a liar and murderer from the beginning. The greater guilt is on Caiaphas because he didn't just send Jesus to His death but Pilate as well.
Lesson: religious or secular, avowed believer or atheist, priest or politician - whose team am I on really and what influence am I having on those around me?