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.” John 19:8-11
Our Lord conceded that Pilate did have power: He acknowledged the authority of the human courts. To the very last Christ respected the law, nor did He dispute the power of the Romans over the Jews. But He insisted that Pilate’s power came from above, for, “There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1) and compare Proverbs 8:15, 16. Christ acknowledged that Pilate’s power, extended over Himself—”no power against me except,” etc.—so thoroughly had He made Himself of no reputation. But it was because Pilate’s “power,” both personal and official, was “from above,” that the Savior bowed to it. In His “he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin,” the Lord, as in Luke 22:22, shows us that God’s counsels do not abolish the guilt of the men who execute them. And mark here, for it is most striking, that the same One who meekly bows to Pilate’s (God-given) authority, manifests Himself as the Judge of men, apportioning the comparative guilt of Pilate and the Jews. Thus did He maintain His Divine dignity to the end.