Power games

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Think of an area of life where you have some influence and power. How will you exercise that influence today?

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Bible passage John 19:1–16a

John 19

Jesus Sentenced to be Crucified
 1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.

 4Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." 5When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!"

 6As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!"
      But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him."

 7The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."

 8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"

 11Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

 12From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."

 13When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.
      "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.

 15But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"
      "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
      "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.

 16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Pilate's battle
In today’s reading, the stakes are raised, restraint is lifted and violence let loose (vs 1–3). As the religious authorities advance their demands, Pilate retreats in weakness and confusion and at the centre stands Jesus, virtually silent, bruised and beaten but still in control (v 11).

It’s all about power. Pilate revelled in the power he had over Jesus, and at the thought of losing it he was prepared to hand over an innocent man. Moreover he thought he had got away with it as he washes his hands (Matthew 27:24) and prepares to face down his wife (Matthew 27:19).

Misused power's end
But for 2,000 years, all over the world, week in, week out, the church has recalled his guilt: ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried’ (The Creed). The religious leaders saw power in terms of control and in its pursuit were prepared to offer their allegiance to their enemies (v 15). What irony!

We may feel we have little power, but all of us have some sphere of influence and we need to exercise it with care and love, otherwise it may come back to haunt us!


‘Power tends to corrupt...’ (Lord Acton). ‘Help me today, O Lord, not to wield power for my own sake, but to exercise it for the well-being of others.’

David Bracewell

Deeper Bible study

‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ (Psalm 119:18)

The ordinary Jewish people followed Jesus for two reasons: they flocked to hear him teach and they came to him for healing. His teaching was markedly different from that of their own rabbis, because it carried authority. His miracles of healing amazed all who witnessed them. As he explained to the people in Nazareth, his Father had sent him ‘to proclaim good news to the poor … to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free’ (Luke 4:18), fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1,2). He was the culmination of all the Jews’ hopes. The chief priests, Pharisees and scribes who handed him over to Pilate had so surrounded and insulated themselves with their own religious minutiae that they were blind to what the crowds so clearly saw. So when Jesus had talked about ‘my father’, they understood his words as blasphemy. They saw his miracles of healing on the Sabbath as no more than a violation of their religious stipulations.

Pilate saw things differently and was genuinely afraid when he heard that Jesus claimed to be God. (For the polytheistic Romans this was feasible. Stories abounded of men who were punished for not recognising divinity when they saw it.) There was certainly something unusual about this prisoner.

The situation gives rise to irony upon irony. Pilate warns Jesus that he has authority to release him and authority to crucify him. The Jews warn Pilate that if he releases Jesus he is ‘no friend of Caesar (v 12), following this up with the ludicrous statement ‘We have no king but Caesar’ (v 15). Such a disingenuous and hypocritical posture is what comes from their wilful blindness.

Annabel Robinson

Background: Meet Pilate

● Born a middle-class Roman, little is known of his career before AD 26 when he was appointed governor of Judea. (The early Roman title was prefect, later replaced by procurator.)

● He was in full control of the province and in charge of the army of occupation.

● He also had control of the Jewish leadership, being responsible for the appointment of the high priest. He even retained control of the high priest’s robes, releasing them only for festivals.

● During Jewish festivals he came to Jerusalem and reinforced the military presence.

● Soon after his appointment, he antagonised the Jews by raising Jewish standards bearing images of the emperor in Jerusalem. Only after considerable protest were they withdrawn.

● He further antagonised the Jews by using temple money to build an aqueduct to take water into Caesarea where he was normally based. In the subsequent protests large numbers of Jews were killed.

● Following a further rebellion by Samaritans, he was ordered to appear before the emperor in Rome and disappears from history.

● He is described by contemporary sources as harsh, insensitive, corrupt, arrogant, violent and inflexible.

● He appears in the Gospels as weak and self-serving. His decisions were made on the basis of short-term pragmatism rather than principle. He tried to avoid any responsibility for the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:24), but his involvement is clear.

● His mocking inscription over Jesus (John 19:21) captured more truth than he knew. His refusal to change it in the face of Jewish protests was typical of him.

John Grayston

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Judges 5,6

Psalms 40,41

Praise and worship

Read through the verses again, noticing every insult and example of the mockery Jesus received for us.

Pause to thank and praise him as you read.

Guardians of Ancora

Have you played the new Bible story App game, Guardians of Ancora? Jesus' trial by Pilate is part of the featured story of 'The Way to the Cross' – why don't you check it out for yourself!

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How deep the father’s love for us
Stuart Townend
Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com

The lamb has conquered
Mike Pearson
Copyright© 2010 Vineyard Song (UK/Eire)
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk

  • Enyobi Chukwunonso | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    And Christ was silent throughout the mockery and insult. What a pain when people you are greater than in every aspect of life is humiliating you, but Christ endured all this. Thank you Jesus

  • Brian Livesey | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    I would recommend that we read the "Seven Stanzas at Easter" by John Updike.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Pilate had tried many things to get Jesus released but this was the clinching argument. (v12) They changed the accusations from just a religious nature and made them political. They were saying Jesus was a threat to Caesar and that Pilate would be participating in treason if he didn’t condemn Him to death. I pray I won't be manipulative for my own ends when the family arrive this Easter.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Jesus came to earth for those of us who need Him; by faith we receive........"Bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore." Thank you God for showing Yourself in Your Son, Jesus. We look expectantly and we see; JESUS IS LORD. Amen.

  • Hilary Dale | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    It would be so easy for me to fall like Pilate. Start out by trying to take a stand, but then giving in to others, for fear for my self. Lord, by your grace, may I be able to stand strong for you.

  • Ken Sykes | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Jesus answered, "The only power you have over me is the power given to you by God. v11 Presumably we who are brothers/sisters of Jesus can say exactly the same. The implications are enormous for all who are suffering for the sake of Christ at whatever level (torture, imprisonment, unfair dismissal etc).

  • Hilary Dale | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Dear David C, thankyou SO much for asking after Mark, and for praying. The flame is still flickering but has not been snubbed out! Am praying for him to make a good friendship with a Christian who "gets" him. Church have a youth activity on Friday (social) that he has shown interest in going to. I still feel it is a big spiritual battle for him. His generation are SO discipled by the world, and it is hard to feed truth amongst darkness. I have just found a copy of the book you recommend on second hand website so have ordered it! Your care and prayer is a great encouragement on the lonly road of teen parenting! Thankyou!

  • Adam Julians | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    My answer to the question being posed today can come from scripture. I know I have power where I speak as if God is speaking and an serve with the power God provides. And when I know Christ and share in his sufferings. No-one can resist that power for long - it is overwhelming the power of God's love. Either they will react with fear as Pilate did or arrogance as the Jews did. Fearing a revolt, Pilate defers to the Jews and whipped up by the chief priests, the socially conditioned crow become a baying mob. Or they react with humility and surrender to that love just as his followers did. And I count myself among the least likely of people to be counted upon them. Some might call that a miracle.

  • Oakley Bookworm | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    At choir, we usually ding the Anthem, Go to dark Gethsemane, on the 4th Sunday of Lent using a beautiful Welsh tune. Sadly, I can only find it sung to Redhead 76. Having said that, it still makes a nice meditation. https://youtu.be/btd2BItO6Wc

  • Ruth Chisholm | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    What struck me today was that Jesus always knew that this week was coming and how it would end, yet all through his earthly life daily got on with doing his father's will. We've been talking of Manna and God providing all we need for each day, Jesus is just the best example of living like this. Lord, thank you for enduring all this for me, you are the reason for our being, when it's hard seeing the reason to get up in the morning, thank you that you stir up your spirit in our souls, that we don't need to be anything but enjoy being loved by you, the rest falls into place, you will provide. Hallelujah you are ALIVE! (Sorry i know that's premature for Holy week, maybe that's how Jesus kept focussed, oh how he loves us!) King of kings majesty, God of heaven living in me. https://youtu.be/y5VutCGsVXE

  • Kath Prior | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    BRIAN Thanks for recommending the poem by John Updike, I'd never come across it before. Just as we are contemplating today the physical reality of Jesus' trial the poem is a powerful reminder of the physical reality of the resurrection.

  • Adam Julians | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Hilary, what you say about teen parenting seems to me to be also true for engaging with an unbelieving generation that Jesus talking of looking for miracles rather than being attentive Jesus. And is it not by an large what we face in the west? Someone wrote to me recently saying "most people... just have wants/needs and naturally "obey". Sheep conditioning philosophy is... gotta be with someone... & my more enlightened philosophy throws that out the window." Well, is that not a case of the worlds wisdom? No real security can be found in any human philosophy, movement or religious observance. So trying to find purpose in being in a relationship or adhering to a personal philosophy is building castles in the sand. We with having purpose in Christ are going to be regarded as mad or bad - hated, disrespected just as he for doing nothing wrong but being associated with him. And yet in him is a source of power, love and sound mind. I hope that is comforting, encouraging and strengthening :).

  • Derek Forster | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, and wonders of His love.

  • Philippa Linton | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Great poem by John Updike - thank you, Brian, for recommending it. WordLivers might like to know about the powerful art installation at St. Paul's Cathedral at the moment, Mark Wallinger's statue Ecce Homo ('Behold the man'). It's a collaboration between the Cathedral, the artist and Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/mark-wallingers-ecce-homo-statue-installed-st-pauls-cathedral May this, and the Passion Play in Trafalgar Square on Good Friday, draw the crowds in an increasingly secular UK to reflect on the power of His cross and resurrection. Remembering our brothers and sisters all across the world who suffer for following Jesus, e.g. the Coptic Christians in Egypt whose churches were bombed by jihadists on Palm Sunday.

  • Teresa Ballard | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    I thought I would just share a version of 'How Great is our God' that I've just happened across, sung by 3 million young people in English, Hebrew and Polish at World Youth Day in Krakow last year... a thrilling reminder that, because of Christ's resurrection, we will one day all gather at His throne and sing His praises in a blended mix of every language of the world. Amazing thought! Also an encouragement that the younger generation ARE being touched by our Lord's salvation. HELEN - there is a Hebrew version by Joshua Aaron filmed in Jerusalem, appropriate for your current travels! https://youtu.be/m-zp8lHBryU

  • Eileen Smith | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    OAKLEY-- is the tune you're looking for to " Come to dark Gethseane" by William Monk.? Have just found it on YouTube. Can't give the link but my search engine found it . May not of course be the one you refer to!

  • Eileen Smith | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Sorry-- Gethsemane

  • Eileen Smith | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Sorry OAKLEY-- meant to add it sounds like Aberystwyth but didn't think that was composed by William Monk?

  • David Chipchase | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Great news, HILARY D! You and the situation sounds more positive than you did at the last report. I am now confident that God will claim the victory in His own good time. Keep praying and know that a lot of WL'ers are supporting you and Mark in prayer. Thanks for the progress report.

  • David Chipchase | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    ANDREA HARRIS, how goes your dad?

  • Oakley Bookworm | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Eileen, I searched around. The tune is called LLYFNANT by J Cluley. It appears in the Methodist 1933 hymnal and is usually sung unaccompanied. You can here the music here: http://www.smallchurchmusic2.com/Song_Display-New.php?SID=6430

  • Oakley Bookworm | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Oops...Auto correct! I do know that hear and here are NOT interchangable!

  • Eileen Smith | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Thank you Oakley-- will check it out later-- I liked it to the William Monk tune

  • Helen Humby | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Today on the tour of Holy Land we were in the place where Jesus wept for Jerusalem on the mount of Olives ,Garden of gethsamane, and Jerusalem old city itself. I am reading these accounts with fresh eyes trying to imagine the dilemma in the garden for Jesus. He had the power / choice not to go through with the cross but he did it for me and you. Pilate had no power at all as Jesus had already set his face to do the fathers will. As an aside it's little wonder Mary and Joseph lost Jesus when he was 12. Jerusalem today was absolutely packed every where!!!!

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    HELEN So pleased to hear you are being mightily blessed whilst on this trip.

  • Barbara Sabin | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    This is the trial of all trials isn't it? Pilate asks what do you want me to do with this Jesus. We also have the choice what we want to do with Jesus. Judas Betrayed, Peter Denied, Pilate washed his hands, Soldiers mocked, spat on and struck him on the head Micah 5 v 1 Isaiah 50 v 6, witnesses were false Psalm 27 v 12, all these were prophesied. The prophesies were all fulfilled. We have two choices we can either reject Jesus or we can accept him and walk with him. I want to walk with Jesus Christ, all the days I live of this life on earth; to give to Him complete control of body and of soul. Follow Him, follow Him, yield your life to Him - He has conquered death, He is King of kings; accept the joy which He gives to those who yield their lives to Him.

  • Barbara Sabin | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    O Christ who dare to stand on trial alone, before the angry mob and Roman might, we ask thy courage, make it now our own, that we may stand unflinching for thy right.

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