There is no greater proof that Jesus is the Son of God than his love for his enemies. In the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested, Peter’s swift reaction in cutting off the right ear of the high priest’s slave captured the all-too-human impulse toward retaliation. Jesus responded with the strength and power of God: “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11)
Strength and power are not ideas the world associates with suffering and torture at the hands of enemies. Mighty and fearful displays, such as when the earth swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram seem to demonstrate divine power more convincingly (Numbers 16:31-33).
The Son of God, in assuming flesh, accelerated human spiritual maturity to its zenith. Jesus answered Pilate’s questions with such calm assurance that the latter marveled. When Jesus’ accusers claimed that the Nazarene had to die “because he made himself the Son of God,” Pilate “became afraid” (John 19:7). He was a man immersed in political and earthly affairs. Talk of God or gods belonged to the mystifying realm of religion and the numinous.
Pilate’s first question after that strange accusation was, “Where are you from?” (John 19:9) If Jesus was the Son of God, he would reveal an otherworldly origin. Roman mythology was pervasive enough to make Pilate afraid of spiritual forces beyond human control.
Jesus was silent, so Pilate attempted to assert and define his power over the mysterious defendant.
So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?”John 19:10
If Jesus was a mere man, he would do everything possible to gain release. He would fear Pilate’s power like all the other criminals who have stood trial before him. Jesus’ answer took Pilate by surprise.
“You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”John 19:11
Pilate was stripped of power before this bloodied man wearing a crown of thorns and a purple cloak. Divine tranquility and unshakable dominion emanated from his whole being.
Without comprehending Jesus’ words, Pilate instinctively knew he was innocent and tried to release him. But he was caught between Truth and Politics.
The mob saw they were not getting their way, so they played their trump card: Caesar.
“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”John 19:12
All sense of justice and right drained away at this threat to Pilate’s own position and security. He would not save Jesus at his own expense, despite his wife’s warning (Matthew 27:19).
The whole world sought to preserve its own dominion and power by crucifying “The King of the Jews,” as the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek inscriptions on the cross mocked. Jesus, who bent low to wash the feet of his disciples the night before, poured forth invincible power and might by his mercy and forgiveness. Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Jews and Gentiles—the world—came under his merciful wing.
Love is stronger than death, and cannot lay buried in the ground for long. On the third day, Love Incarnate rose from the grave to live and reign forever and ever.