higher authority | John 19.9-11
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.” John 19.9-11 | ESV
Back into the praetorium he went with Jesus in tow and he began pressing the flogged, mocked king: “Just where are you from?” But Jesus wouldn’t say a word. Pilate snapped back at him, getting desperate: “So, you’re not talking to me now? Don’t you realize I have it in my power to set you free – and I have it in my power to nail you to a cross?” Now Jesus spoke, slowly and carefully. “You wouldn’t be sitting there to hand down a verdict against me, period, unless a Higher Authority had placed you in power. You’re just doing your job. Those who dragged me here are the ones with the greater blame.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Another insight into ourselves, courtesy of Pontius Pilate.
That is, if we care to look.
“I have power.”
This could be the motto of any human being – but especially those of us ensconced in circles of Western affluence. We are moral agents armed with intellectual prowess and the consequent power to dismiss or embrace Jesus (or whomever) as we see fit – so, Christ, you better make your case to me and make it well.
We keep forgetting who is really on trial here.
I’m reminded of the art patron who, strolling into the museum began critiquing first this piece of art, then that. The curator finally couldn’t contain himself. “Sir, this artwork is not on trial here, you are.”
We so need to be put in our place.
We need a daily reminder like this that Jesus delivers to Pilate – a reminder of the higher “from above” authority under which we all play – a reminder that manages to both let Pilate off the hook and impale him (and us!) more deeply on it at the same time. I’m astonished at how “in command” the whipped rejected messianic-wannabe (from pretty much everyone’s perspective at that moment) remains.
How desperately we need the reminder of just who is in command, and who isn’t.
Take an honest inventory: who is really “in command” in your life? How does it show?
Lord, awaken me from all of my own “I have the power” delusions; show me how to move and play more freely and effectively under your sway and direction; remind me gently today who is really in command. Through your grace. Amen.