And from thereafter Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend…
I. DESPAIRING STRUGGLES BY A FEEBLE SOUL (ver. 12).
1. The earnestness of this attempt. Already he had endcavoured to rescue Christ —
(1) By refusing to proceed without an accusation (John 18:29).
(2) By offering a choice between Barabbas and Jesus (John 18:39; Matthew 27:17).
(3) By scourging Christ and thus appealing to their sympathy (ver. 5). These stratagems were defeated, perhaps largely because Pilate had not been in earnest. Now he bends himself with energy and determination to the task.
2. The reason of this attempt.
(1) The inward conviction of fear that Christ was a supernatural being.
(2) The deepening impression made by Christ's person and character.
(3) The secret apprehension that it would not be safe to proceed farther against Christ.
(4) The gentleness Christ had displayed in palliating his offence.
II. DEXTEROUS MANOEUVRING BY A CRAFTY FOE. "But the Jews cried out," &c. The last arrow that the Jews had in their quiver, was —
1. Sharply pointed. It was a return to the original indictment of sedition which Pilate an hour before had waved aside as absurd. Now they show the governor how adroitly it may be turned against himself. Tiberius would hardly regard as a loyal act the liberation of one who had professed to be a king.
2. Correctly aimed. The shaft found the open joint in Pilate's harness and went straight to his heart. There was nothing that Pilate had more reason to dread than deletion to the emperor.
3. Powerfully driven home. Like men bent on having their way, they cried out with one simultaneous yell. And they had it! The procurator reeled as one shot.
III. IGNOMINIOUS SURRENDER BY AN UNJUST JUDGE (ver. 13). The capitulation was —
1. Cowardly. These accused hierarchs had proved better players than himself for Jesus' life. With truth, justice, conscience, heaven, Christ and God on his side he had lost the game because he was a coward. The one thing he could not contemplate without a shudder was being reported to the emperor.
2. Complete. The struggle so long and at one time so gallantly and to appearance so hopefully, maintained was ended. There was no mistaking the import of Pilate's next actions, the fetching out of Jesus, the sitting down upon the judge's chair, and perhaps the handwashing.
3. Contemptuous. "Behold your King!" as if intimating with fierce disdain and stinging mockery of the people that had conquered him, that the thorn-crowned prisoner was indeed their King.
4. Conclusive. The deed was irrevocable (ver. 16). If for a moment there was hesitation while for the last time he asked, "Shall I crucify your King?" it was only for a moment, it was swept away before the awful shout, "We have no king but Caesar."Lessons:
1. The difficulty of doing right when self-interest stands in the way, "If self the wavering balance shake, its rarely right adjusted" (Robert Burns).
2. The feebleness of every soul that hesitates to follow conscience. Had Pilate listened only to the still small voice within he had been invincible.
3. The guilt incurred by openly defying conscience. Christ palliated Pilate's sin before the preceding interview: it is not clear that He would have done so after that interview closed.
4. The degeneracy into which a soul may fall by turning away from Christ. Priests and people elected Caesar for their king rather than have God's Son for their Messiah!
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.