John 19:1-15 Jesus Christ on Trial

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on March, 21, 2020

John 19:1-15 Jesus Christ on Trial

Purpose: The detailed description of Jesus’ trial in John 19, though not seemingly critical for the Gospel, serves to portray the saving mercy and power of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, so to increase our confidence in our Lord.

The final presentation of Jesus as the Son of God is fast-coming, in chapter 19, heralding its readers towards John’s climactic purpose statement in 20:31.

“But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)

The seizure and trial of Christ, found in chapters 18-19, throw unexpected tough questions at us. Jesus, of course, has all along hinted at His suffering and death (Mat 16:21), but it remains hard to link the cross with God’s good and glorious purposes.

From John 12 to the end of the gospel, the second half of John, God in slow motion, unfolds before us the great and glorious Gospel message. At the beginning of Matthew and Luke, numerous signs suddenly appeared, declaring Jesus’ birth to the world. The same prophetic unfolding of events occurred here surrounding Jesus’ death in John 19.

I know. We don’t like funerals and discussing death. There is an emptiness, a vacancy of warmth, and hope. But John’s words broadcasted the Messiah’s trial and death to capture the attention of the inhabitants of Jerusalem as well as those dispersed in later periods. Because of John and other gospel records, Jesus’ death, trial, and resurrection were incorporated into mankind’s important historical records.

Something much larger in scope, critical to the human race, was taking place—all according to plan. Distant prophecies, some known while others unfamiliar, all became fulfilled and written down in the annals of history—for us. Where else has such a horrific death been transformed into this treasured love scene? That scene of the cross, despite its horrible association with criminals, powerfully stirs up memories of God’s love because of Jesus. Being so moved, they place a delicate wood or metal-shaped piece of jewelry, a cross, next to their hearts.

Without lessening the import of the horrible atrocities staining earth’s history, we must insist that Jesus’ death starkly stands out above them all. Christ’s crucifixion remains the most shocking, unjust, and shameful act committed by humans. Those values that we esteem the most are treated like dirt at the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. All the war crimes shudder when placed before what happened on that dark day when Jesus stood before Pilate the King.

The chief reason for the long list of details on Jesus’ trial was, I believe, for John to display the righteousness and authority of Jesus even though He was convicted as a sinner and seemingly helplessly stood before the falsely indicting courts. It is easy to gloss over these verses, but if God, in His magnificent wisdom, takes the time to show us these facts, then we ought to allow the unquestioned innocence of Christ has its intended touch on our hearts.

This passage broadcasts two key truths to the world. They need to be told, and, as it were, put on all our devices at a time so that we see or hear no other message. John, as it were, is not only stating facts about Jesus’ unjust trial but answering questions that fully establish Jesus’ righteousness and authority.

John 19:1-15 – The Bible Text

1 Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; 3 and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face. 4 Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” 5 Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!” 6 So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

8 Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; 9 and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” 12 As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”
“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover” (John 19:14).

13 Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” 15 So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:1-15)Jesus, the Righteous Messiah - a lamb slain

If Jesus is the righteous Messiah to save the world, then why is He so cruelly beaten and killed as a common criminal?

Jesus is the Christ that offers Himself as the righteous sacrifice of His life on Passover. Because Jesus is the Lamb of God, people can find forgiveness of sin. John elsewhere states, “Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). In a long symbolic tradition, Jesus became the Passover lamb, the sacrifice that enables us to escape the enemy’s pursuit.

But questions often arise around Jesus’ trial and death.

How can such evil happen to an innocent person?

The Passover lamb was but one-year-old. Each family would take in a baby lamb, at least a little bit of time, and keep it in the house. But on Passover, as a family, they would need to kill that lamb, spread its blood over the doorpost, and eat it. You can imagine the children crying to their father, “Don’t kill him. He is so cute. He didn’t do any wrong!” Like any young pet, there is something innocent about it that begs special love and protection. But here, written in the Law, every new year’s Passover celebration mandates a lamb had to be killed, one for each house.

John expanded this account so that we can, as a jury, see that the accusation had no case. With a lack of evidence, there were no just charges deserving death. More than that, several times Jesus was declared as innocent, He was the Righteous One. Peter, in Acts 3:14, announced, “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.” Jesus is declared righteous, and only the Jews’ raging envy and Pilate’s vainglory had Him wrongly put to death. Notice the three following subsequent statements by Pilate to free the accused but innocent Jesus.
The Governor Pilate, then, inadvertently declared Jesus righteous. This search to free him announces to all that Jesus was not guilty of any crimes. Jesus, in fact, was righteous.

  • Pilate: “So that you may know that I find no guilt in Him” (John 19:4).
  • Pilate: “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him” (John19:6).
  • Pilate: “As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him” (John19:12).

Why is Jesus’ innocence so important?

Without His innocence, Jesus could not save anyone. He would need to die for His own sins and, like us, die for his sins. This account only has Pilate establishing that he was free from the accusations by the Jews. But, perhaps, equally significant, if the Jews could have brought any crime forward, even a broken Jewish law, they would have mentioned it. This argument is understood to be from silence but is still forceful considering the drive for the Jews to incriminate Jesus. But do not get derailed here. The key point is that Jesus’ death does not imply Jesus’ wrong.

Because of Jesus’ innocence, we are forced to ask, “Where is God?” Does God care? Couldn’t God have done something to protect His life? The essential principles of justice drive us to consider why Jesus, who cared so much for others, died a cruel death. People might have done evil things and deserved death (i.e., two criminals hung beside him), but Jesus was innocent. Why didn’t God stop this injustice? The short answer is God arranged it; it was not by accident. The cross forms the central part of the redemptive plan—God’s plan but man’s evil act.

Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:22-24)

God sent Jesus into the world to die for sinners. The angel told Joseph, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Mat 1:21). Or in John, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).

The Romans were known for their just courts. The Roman Empire’s legal procedure formed the basis for modern procedure in countries with civil law. The Jewish High Priests represented holiness and pure judgment. Certain criminals deserved to die, but if Jesus was stated to be righteous, why would He be crucified? The judge and king stated, “I find no guilt in Him” (6). Yet, Jesus was condemned to death. “Crucify Him!” they shouted.

Though Jesus was condemned and killed, He was innocent. And so, His righteous life formed a penal substitutional death for us who believe in Him; the righteous died in place of the unrighteous.

The blood of animals cannot eradicate people’s guilt. Guilty people need a righteous person to die in our stead. There was only one way. Jesus rightly said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:14).

I hope that you have found faith and hope in Jesus Christ and not the church and religion. Why boast about your goodness when God’s judgment hangs over your head. If God is so gracious to send His only Son to die for us, then believe and flee to Him for salvation. Look no further; wait no longer. If Jesus had to die for us to gain forgiveness, then unbelief will seal you under God’s great eternal judgment.

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Jesus is the Passover Lamb, dying just at the time they killed the lamb

(2) Jesus, the Son of God - power surrendered

“Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.”

If Jesus is the all-powerful Son of God, then how is it that He is so weak, weary, and completely broken?

Brought before our eyes, Jesus stood before Governor Pilate, looking completely weak and harmless. Pilate didn’t have a threat of concern for this weak-looking person accused of being king. Jesus, however, is the all-powerful Lion, the Son of God.
Did you ever question why God allows evil things to occur? Look carefully here. With a crown of thorns, Jesus is proclaimed as the “King of the Jews!”

  • How can One of such power and authority as the Son of God be treated so miserably and unjustly?

Let’s not miss the main point. Jesus’ death first convinces us that Jesus was indeed judged guilty and executed on the cross. But His innocence forces us to think about why this Righteous One died such a horrible death, especially that Jesus is called and admitted to be the Son of God. Is it possible that Jesus, with all His power, could die? We all would have stopped the injustice if we had the power. This line of questioning becomes more intensive as we consider who the Son of God is with all His power and authority.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” (John 19:7)

The term ‘Son of God’ occurs 13 times in the Gospel of John (see below). The phrase, rather than being obscure, is an oft-used term throughout the scriptures (369 times in the Bible with 287 in the OT). Its description is merged with the Messiah in His glory. The Son of God, if objectively seen, is God’s own Son, the Prince of all. A few quotes will help you see why John’s usage is so significant.

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. “(1 John 5:20)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this….” (Revelation 2:18)

“But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8)

  • The identity of the Son of God with Jesus
  • The glory of the Son of God, Jesus
  • The Shared Authority of God the Father and Son

When Pilate heard the Jews assert that Jesus was the Son of God, he realized that he did not want any part in judging the “Son of God.”

8 Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; 9 and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” 12 As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him… (John 19:8-12)

Matthew and Jesus felt comfortable equating the Son of God (63) with the Son of Man (64) in Matthew 26 in a similar context to what we have in John. Jesus was compelled by Law to respond by the special phrase, “I adjure you by the living God…” Jesus, then, spoke openly and powerfully as the Son of Man sitting in power and coming in glory.

62 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:62-64)

The term ‘Son of God’ was first used of Adam (Luke 3:38; cf. Luke 1:35), as He was made in God’s image and shared God’s authority on earth. But when Adam failed God, Satan usurped the kingly role of the humans. Jesus, the Son of God, came to kick the usurper out of place and took His rightful spot. Even today, the world powers and the United Nations with their known injustice clearly depict they are not God’s true representative. They do not resemble God nor rule on His behalf. That prerogative is Jesus’ alone.

But this event not only declares the authority of Christ but forces us to explore more deeply why God allowed this shameful trial to take place. But remember, just because Jesus subjected Himself to Pilate, it does not mean He did not have the power to prevent it. The plan of God took priority over His preference despite His title and position as the Son of God. The Son proved His ultimate faithfulness by the way He laid down His life in obedience to the Father. All judgment was in Jesus’ hand, and yet, He allowed Himself to be subjected to false judgment and horrible, shameful death.

Jesus knows how to entrust His life into His Father’s hands so that God can bring salvation through an altogether horrible and unjust scene.

Our Reluctant Faith

I grew up in a so-called church that believed Jesus was a good man. They denied His deity and therefore denied the Virgin Birth. Since they denied the miraculous, they also refused to believe in the resurrection. They, then, could not see a greater purpose of Jesus’ death. Once he was dead, he would, like others, remain dead. For them, Jesus only served as a memorial of a good person.

This understanding of Jesus is so different from the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, we see one with all authority, lay down His life so that we, the guilty sinners, could find eternal life. The righteous One, though without guilt, became the Giver of Life by laying down His life for others. Time slows down at the end of the Gospel of John, and each movement of Jesus heightens the scenes of His glory. The Righteous and just Creator dies by the hand of the unjust.

Nothing would make sense here if it were not for how the amazing love of God established salvation for humanity. This suffering proves it is wrong and even evil for one to say there is no hell and judgment from which God saved us. Jesus suffered because God’s judgment was real and to be feared. If people did not deserve judgment for their sins, then Jesus died needlessly. But instead, we find that Jesus fulfilled a key part—the hardest part—in God’s grand redemptive plan, planned from the beginning. The Messiah needed to be sacrificed as the Lamb of Cavalry so to rescue a people for Himself.

Summary

With this scene etched in our minds, let us now take a look at the whole passage, especially concerning Jesus being king.

This passage of Jesus’ unjust trial displays both Christ’s innocence as well as His power. From the trial itself, we would typically conclude Jesus was just another one of the convicted revolutionaries trying to overthrow Rome. But Jesus suffered not for His sin but for ours, even those who believe in Him. We must refuse to stop there. Jesus was also the Son of God. Although looking weak and helpless, Jesus was in control of the whole scene. Pilate had no authority but that which was given to him.

For our lives, Jesus is the perfect Savior not only to cleanse us from our sin and reconcile us to God our Maker, but to lead us powerfully into eternity.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”(1 John 4:10)

Other Resources

Gospel of John, Introduction video, audio

Purpose of John
Power of John (7 signs, miracles)
Penetration of John (I Am)
Plan of John (Outlines)
John 1:1-13 The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ Questions
John 2:1-11 The Great Transformation: Drinking and Drugs Questions
John 2:12-25 Intimacy with God Questions
John 5:1-9 Questions (New)
John 5:10-24 Questions (New)
John 5:18-23 Affirming Christ’s Deity
John 5:19-20 Christian Living by Understanding Christ’s Mind Questions
John 6:1-71 Jesus the Sustainer, the Bread of Life (New)
John 6:45-47 (New)
John 7:37-39 Rivers of Living Waters Questions
John 8:32 Finding Life in God’s Word
John 10:30 I and Father are One
John 12:20-36 The Investment of Your Life Questions
John 14:6 Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life
John 15:1-17 Abiding in Him Questions
John 15:15-16 Genuine Friendship
John 17:1-26 Jesus’ Priestly Prayer Questions
John 19:17-30 Bible Study Questions
John 21:1-14 Going Fishing | Study questions
John 21:15-25 Commitment | Study questions

Jesus' miracles point to the second half of John where Jesus marvelously lives out the cross

Discussion Questions on John 19:1-15

  1. Highlight both the word ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of God’ in John 20:21.
  2. How is the Passover connected to Jesus’ death?
  3. Why were lambs killed during Passover in the Old Testament?
  4. How do we know Jesus was righteous?
  5. What does the phrase ‘Son of God’ refer to?
  6. If those in power are protected from harm, then why did Jesus suffer?
  7. Where and how do we know Jesus made Himself out to be the Son of God?
  8. How did Pilate respond once he heard Jesus was the Son of God?
  9. What verse shows Jesus having authority over Pilate?
  10. If Jesus had all power and authority, why did He allow Himself to be ill-treated?
  11. Usually, we succumb to harm only because of brutal force. What might have gone through Jesus’ mind during this time when He relinquished His authority over His life to Pilate?
  12. How does Jesus give hope here for those who have been wrongly treated or accused on earth?
  13. In what way can you learn more from Christ’s devotion to you?

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