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John 19:1-16 Study Guide: Under Pressure

Community Group Study Guide — Under Pressure 
John 19:1-16

Study Information:
Throughout the narrative of Jesus on trial we’ve seen mounting pressure from religious leaders to get the Roman authorities to crucify Jesus. It seems like Jesus was being squeezed between these two pressures, but at the center of our passage is a declaration from Jesus of his authority and his Lordship even over his own crucifixion. 

Under Pressure
John 19:1-8, 13-16
Pilate mentioned three times that he found no guilt in Jesus so why not just release him (John 18:38, 19:4, 19:6)? This declaration of innocence meant that Pilate did not see Jesus as a threat to Roman power and authority in the region and that the charge of being an insurrectionist was false. Yet, we see the pressure of this angry mob at Pilate’s front door and Pilate caved into pressure to appease this mob as he handed Jesus over to be flogged. 

Flogging (or scourging) was a wicked practice of torture where someone would be tied to a post and lashed with a whip filled with metal, glass and bone. It was designed to flay someone’s skin and expose their muscles and bones. It was a horrific punishment and many died during this process or were driven mad. 

On top of the the flogging, Jesus was beaten and abused by soldiers including being mocked with a crown of thorns, purple robe and wooden rod as a staff. Other gospels report that they took the staff and beat Jesus and asked him to prophesy which one struck him. The Roman soldiers hated the Jews and seemed to take out that hatred on Jesus.

Pilate thought that he could punish and then release Jesus and avoid having to condemn him to crucifixion. Certainly if he presented this bruised and beaten man to the crowd they’d take pity and let him go. The phrase “Behold the man!” may sound a bit triumphant in our context, but in the Greek it was actually a statement of pity something like “look at this poor creature.” Pilate was telling the crowd “hasn’t he had enough?” Isaiah 52:14 pointed forward to this moment and said that the suffering Servant would be marred beyond human resemblance. Jesus was so messed up from the flogging and beating that he no longer looked human. But the pressure remained as the crowd continued to shout “Crucify him.” 

The pressure ramped up when Pilate told them to crucify Jesus themselves. The religious leaders shout back that he ought to die because he made himself the son of God (John 19:7). That phrase caught Pilate’s attention because not only was a it a phrase used of the Jewish Messiah, but to a Roman, the only “true” “son of God” would have been Caesar. It was a title used of Caesar who claimed to be divinity and the “son of God.” The Jews were pressured Pilate when they said that Jesus was a rival to Caesar and could not be allowed to live. Caesar would have no rivals and if this charge was unaddressed and it got back to Caesar then Pilate would lose either his Title or his life. 
Stepping back we see that Pilate wasn’t the only one to give into pressure, but the religious leaders also caved on their convictions. John 19:13-16, when Pilate passed judgment on Jesus, Pilate asked the crowd “shall I crucify your king?” Their response is shocking, they said “we have no king but Caesar!” It is hard to imagine first century Jewish leaders affirmed Caesar as their king, but here it is, and you see the downward spiral of compromise based on the pressure they felt to get Jesus crucified. 

It can feel like Jesus was just an object in the story and a victim of these abuses of power, but in between the two instances where Jesus was presented to the crowd we get insight into a conversation between Pilate and Jesus that reminds us of Jesus’s ultimate authority.

True Authority
John 19:9-12

Pilate was exasperated after he first presented Jesus to the crowd and they still pushed for his crucifixion. He went back inside his palace and had a conversation with Jesus where he tried to once again get something that would allow him to release Jesus. Pilate pressed Jesus with “Where are you from?!” There seemed to be astonishment that a guy from Nazareth could stir up all this trouble. Jesus remained silent and so Pilate pressed him again leaning on his authority, “do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Pilate thought he was in control but his authority came from God and God could have easily removed that power from Pilate’s hands. When you compare the crucifixion accounts between the gospels you see moments like this in John compared to the other gospels. John really wants his readers to walk away knowing that Jesus had authority and power and went to the cross willingly for our redemption. 

To bring this to our modern day world, we sometimes lose heart or hope when we see evil in this world. What happened to Jesus was truly evil and this mob of religious leaders and this morally weak Roman official both demonstrate human willingness to ignore doing what is right and just. However, God was using all this evil for our good as Jesus went to the cross for our sin and for our redemption. We will explore how the cross fulfilled God’s plan of salvation and enabled reconciliation with God in future study guides, but for now know that Jesus was in control, and he went to the cross out of love and a desire to seek and to save the lost. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 19:1-16

How does Pilate cave into the pressure of the crowds? In what ways do you see him trying to appease the crowd?

In the face of this kind of pressure there is a temptation to compromise what is morally right for self protection. What was Pilate concerned would happen if he released Jesus? How can we have courage to do what is morally right even if it is unpopular or dangerous?

What is the significance of the religious leaders saying that Jesus claimed to be “the son of God?”

What do you learn about God based on how Jesus demonstrated his authority and his selfless love in this passage?