When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 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.” (Jn 19:7-11)
“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given to you from above.” Pilate has grown more fearful. He learns that Jesus has claimed to be the son of God. This would not be something a Roman citizen took lightly. Today a person might shrug his shoulders, and claim that Jesus was crazy. In the Roman world, shrugging your shoulders at such a claim would be crazy. The people believed in Gods. In Lystra the whole town begins to think that Paul and Banabus are Zues and Hermes. The spiritual world was real for them. It wasn’t something they tossed aside as make believe. So he asks Jesus to tell him where he is from. But Jesus won’t answer. What he does do is calm Pilates fears about what is about to happen. He says the one who has delivered me to you has greater guilt. In Jesus’s eyes, Pilate is just doing his job, as horrible as it might be. He doesn’t say that Pilate is without guilt. To be sure Pilate is misusing his power by sentencing a man he believes to be innocent to death. But Jesus recognizes that Pilate has the authority to do it. The authority he says is given by God, given from above.
All authority comes from God. In a manner it is a gift from God that we have police and governors, presidents and military. These people are not to be despised. But their offices if not they themselves are to be respected. Sometimes this leads Christians to believe that whatever government is in place can never be challenged. That unjust laws cannot be challenged or thwarted. I’ve even seen people go so far as to say the American Revolution was unjust and we shouldn’t celebrate the Fourth of July. Of course that sort of presents a predicament, because like it or not, it was the birth of the current government we have, and God has given these men authority too, even if you want to make the case that their war with England was unjust. I tend to think though that what God has given us in this world is more than that this man has authority and this other man has none. Perhaps it isn’t wise to overthrow a government at every turn of abuse of power. However, there are times when Governments need to be overturned, re-examined etc. What God has given us is law, which finds expression in government, but when the government is no longer able to express law, than there is time for new governments to be born. No one is above the law. On the other hand, those who abuse their power and authority in this world will answer for it in the one to come, even as others will answer for not submitting to authority.
Jesus does submit to authority, even tyranny. He goes uncomplaining forth to the cross where he will die for the sins of Pilate and all in authority, the messiah who refuses to be the revolutionary the people want. But in so doing, the revolutionary goes free, Barabbas too is forgiven. Jesus realizes there is neither political nor military resolution to the problems of this world, there is only his blood.