The Silence of God

The Silence of God
John 19:6-11 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 8, 2015 • John


Andy Woods
The Silence of God
2-8-15 John 19:6-11 Lesson 111

Good morning everyone. Happy pre-Valentine’s Day Sunday, I guess that’s the holiday Will is alluding to. If we could take our Bibles and open them to John 19:6; if God allows it this morning we are going to make it from verse 6 to verse 11, and the title of our message this morning is The Silence of God. As we continue to make our way through John’s Gospel we are in the tail end of the book entitled the Passion Narratives. It’s essentially the events surrounding the final days of Christ on the earth, which would encompass His death and His resurrection.

We are moving through chapter 19 which is focused on the events leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Having looked at His arrest, His various religious trials, and now we are in that section where He is being tried before Pilate and we find ourselves in that very final part of this material that John records for us as Jesus is being tried before Pilate. We can sort of outline it this way; the scourging that Jesus went through, we saw that last week, and then beyond that we started looking at last week Pilate’s first encounter with the Jews in this section, verses 4-7, and then as we kind of wrap up our thoughts this morning we’ll see Jesus and Pilate by themselves as even more give and take takes place in verses 8-11.

Notice, if you will, John 19, and notice, if you will, verse 6. It says, “So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, ‘Crucify, crucify!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” Pilate had, in essence, roughed up Jesus a little bit before the trial. In fact, it wasn’t a little bit, it was a scourging, and he probably assumed that if I just kind of rough Him up a little bit and mistreat Him then that will satisfy these unbelieving Jews. But here we discover in verse 6 how wrong they were. These were people that were thirsty for blood; they wanted to see Jesus dead and they wanted it right now.

You’ll notice that “crucify” is used two times there in verse 6, “Crucify, crucify!” In fact, that
word translated “saying” there is a present participle so you get this idea that they were saying this perpetually. This was not just a onetime comment that they made but this was something that they verbalized over and over again. And this is, of course, the great explanation why the nation of Israel was put under divine discipline and continues under divine discipline today as we speak. It’s not as if God has forgotten the nation of Israel, He will fulfill His covenanted program to them in the future. But in this interim period of time He is not working through the nation of Israel, they are under divine discipline; they have been under discipline for the last two thousand years.

This is why, of all of the people that can be reached with the gospel, I believe the Jewish person is the most difficult. There has been a judicial blindness placed over their eyes. There are Jews that come to Christ. There were Jews in Christ’s day that came to Christ but they are in the distinct minority. The overwhelming people that dominate the church today are the Gentile people groups of the earth, and it relates to this discipline or this hardening that God put them under because of this obligation that they had as a nation to embrace their King, which they did not do.

One of the things that’ s interesting to study about the nation of Israel, and this is actually the point that Stephen makes in that very long speech in Acts 7, is he says this nation gets it right the second time. It has a habit of getting things right the second time. He uses the example of Joseph in that speech in Acts 7, how Joseph presents himself to his brothers and they rejected Joseph, betraying him into Egypt, and yet later on, about thirteen years later they submitted themselves to Joseph, once he was in a position of authority with Egypt. And Stephen goes on in Acts 7 and he says you see this same pattern at work with Moses; you know Moses, at age 40, came to them as their redeemer, and they rejected him, causing Moses to flee into Midian for 40 years. And finally when he came back 40 years later they embraced him as their redeemer.

This nation, Stephen says, gets it right the second time, never the first time. And how that is a pattern, if you will, for what is happening here. They have gotten it wrong the first time, having rejected their king. And how glorious it is to read in the Scripture the future period of time in which the nation of Israel will get it right in the events around the tribulation period, how they will receive Jesus Christ and consequently Zechariah 12:10 says they will look on Him whom they have pierced, and begin to mourn as one mourns for an only son, or a firstborn son. [Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me, whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”]

Getting it right the second time is the propensity of the nation of Israel. And how we, as God’s people today, how we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ today, and even people that have not yet believed, should not gamble with our eternity. We have no guarantee that we will get this second chance. Israel, as the covenanted nation, appears to get a second chance but there is no such promise for us; there is no guarantee of it, and how the Scripture teaches that we should trust Christ now, while there is an opportunity. This is why the Apostle Paul writes that “Today is the day of salvation. [2 Corinthians 6:2, “… Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION.’”]

And this is the message that we need to communicate to people, that this is your opportunity, there is no guarantee of an opportunity down the road; if the Spirit prompts we should respond to that ministry of the Holy Spirit, trusting in the provision that’s available to us, with no real guarantee that prompting of the Spirit will continue.

As I’ll show you in a minute, as Jesus here is interacting with Pilate it appears to me that the grace of God is leaving Pilate; he is given a golden opportunity to receive truth which he is rejecting and as he is rejecting this truth what is happening is the light that he has, spiritually speaking, is growing dimmer and dimmer and dimmer.

Notice, if you will, the second part of verse 6, “Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.’” Pilate, no doubt, is struggling with putting a man to death who really is not guilty. You see there in verse 6 his frustration with the Jewish nation. You wanted my decision, you brought Jesus before me, I gave you my decision and yet no answer will satisfy you. I give you an answer you don’t like and you won’t accept it. Why is that? Because the nation of Israel had already made their decision, they had already made their choice.
You see, this is how unbelief functions; once a heart has become closed to truth you can continue to present them truth, piece of truth after piece of truth after piece of truth, yet it will be to absolutely no avail because ultimately the issue is not intellect, it is a condition of the heart. It is a receptivity of the heart. It relates to the soil ahead of time being prepared by God and that soil absorbs that seed or that truth at the right time and a crop and a harvest comes forth. But if that soil has not been prepared it doesn’t matter how much seed you put into the ground you’ll get a negligible crop, if anything. This is what is happening to the nation of Israel, they seem to be satisfied by absolutely nothing other than the death of Jesus Christ, much to the displeasure of Pilate, who now has this awesome decision, in terms of handing down a verdict.

Pilate, there in verse 6, again establishes the fact that, “I find no guilt in Him.” You might remember last week verse 4, essentially the same statement was made back in verse 4, “I find no guilt in Him.” Verse 6, he says the same thing, “…I find no guilt in Him.”

One of the things to understand is the Old Testament background. These events are taking place on the first feast in the spring cycle in Judaism, in the nation of Israel. In fact, if you wanted to understand these various feasts you would read Leviticus 23; it lays out these feasts in great detail. These feasts are very interesting because they give us the calendar of the nation of Israel, but they also reveal prophecy. There are specific prophecies that are going to be fulfilled on specific feast days. The prophecy that will be fulfilled on this feast day, Passover, is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

And in fact, if you study this very carefully what you’ll discover is that there were four prophecies fulfilled on the first four feast days of the spring, at the first advent. But because the nation of Israel rejected Christ the nation of Israel will receive yet another opportunity. This nation, as Stephen tells us, gets it right the second time. And there are three fall feasts remaining. And in those coming fall feasts in years that are known only to God, three more prophecies will be fulfilled. The four spring feasts have been fulfilled in Christ’s first coming related to the nation’s rejection of their own Messiah. The remaining spring feasts will be fulfilled in the events surrounding the Second Coming or Second Advent of Jesus Christ related to them this time, not rejecting Jesus Christ but receiving Him.

And what is taking place, then, between the spring feasts, that are in the past, and the three fall feasts that are yet coming? There is a unique period of time that was undisclosed to the Old Testament prophets; it’s a period of time that we are living in now called the age of the church. The church, of course, is a mystery; Paul tells us that in many places. A mystery is an unknown truth or an unknown commodity and in between those four spring feasts (yet past) and three fall feasts (yet coming) is this unique age of time that we are very privileged to live in, called the age of the church, where the body of Christ is being formed. We are, and God has been dealing with us this way for the last two thousand years, we are those, whether Jew or Gentile, primarily Gentile, who have trusted in the very Messiah that national Israel rejected. We are part of this new man called the church, or the body of Christ. We have a specific mission to fulfill while we are here on the earth. That is to fulfill the great commission.

Sadly, what happens in many churches is the great commission becomes the great omission and yet we have a specific set of instructions. I like to define the Bible this way: basic instructions before leaving earth. B-I-B-L-E, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. And that’s what we have in New Testament revelation. This is what we have in Paul’s writings. But you see, one of these days the church age will come to an end, the body of Christ will be complete. There is a specific number that is destined to be reached in this age that Paul refers to in Romans 11. And once that number has been reached the church will be removed from the earth through what we call the translation of the church, or the rapture of the church and the nation of Israel, this nation that is the covenanted people of God, will then, as Stephen very well articulates, be given a second opportunity. And during this period of time they will receive the message of Jesus Christ, consequently fulfilling those final three fall feasts in a positive sense.

Pilate makes it very clear that Jesus had no guilt in Him. Why does it keep saying that over and over again? Because this is the first spring feast related to the death of Christ. And when you study Passover very carefully you will observe that God gave specific instructions regarding the Passover Lamb. Exodus 12:5 specifically says, “Your lamb shall be an unblemished….” Why does it keep saying over and over again, I find no guilt in Him, I find no guilt in Him, I find no guilt in Him? Because He is the fulfillment of this Passover typology. He is the fulfillment of Exodus 12:5.

And we will see this imagery continue on into John 19; in fact, one of the things that’s coming, not today but sometime down the road in our study of John 19 is there will be a reference to the fact that His bones were not even broken. Why would the biblical writers point that out? Because of Exodus 12:46. If you look at Exodus 12:45-46 you’ll learn more instructions about this Passover lamb. Not only must He be unblemished but once he is killed, this Passover lamb, even his bones should not be broken. [Exodus 23:43, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; [44] but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. [45] “A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. [46] “It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.”]

And what a mistake it is to try to understand the New Testament without the light of the Old Testament. One of the great problems that we have is people jump right into the New Testament, they have no thorough understanding or grounding in the Old Testament, and consequently things that are happening are mysterious. Why make reference to His lack of guilt over and over again? Why would John, a devout Jew, later on in John 19, make reference to the fact that not even His bones were broken? This is to fulfill a specific feast day in God.

We continue on and we move down to verse 7, and notice what it says here, “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.’” Again John is highlighting the guilt of first century Israel, this nation that has a propensity to get things right, not the first time but the second time. One of the things that they did is they charge Christ with a specific crime; they charged Him with blasphemy. That was what would happen in His trial before Annas and particularly the trial before Caiaphas. And then they turn Him over to Rome for execution. The problem is, Rome could care less about Jewish law and blasphemy.

So right in the middle of an accused being tried, as He is moving to Rome, they switch the charge, even though Jesus had never been tried for these crimes that are mentioned in Luke 23:2, it says, “And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’” The only problem is, He was never tried for any of these charges. They just switched the charge because they felt that would be palatable to the ears of Rome.

The problem is now Pilate himself, as he has questioned Jesus Christ, is doubtful of even these charges. And what do they do now, we’ve got to make this stick somehow, let’s switch the charge again. You know, it’s like throwing Jell-O or Playdoh to a wall, if you just keep throwing pieces over and over again and eventually something will stick, right? And that, in essence, is what is happening here. That is why what happened with Jesus Christ is a sham of justice. This is why the nation of Israel is under discipline. This is why they did not get it right the first time, but praise the Lord, will get it right the second time.

So let’s just switch the charge. What do they say now? He made Himself out to be the Son of God! We started with religious charges; those wouldn’t work so we switched to political charges. Those wouldn’t work and now we see Pilate is doubtful of even these religious charges and political charges so let’s switch it back again to religious charges—He made Himself out to be the Son of God!

Why would John include this? Because John’s point is to reveal Jesus as the Son of God. The purpose statement of John’s Gospel is found in John 20:30-31, it says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the” what? “the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

John records this switch in charges because he’s trying to bring out the fact that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God. John’s purpose is to reveal Jesus as the Son of God, not so people can simply sit, soak and sour, not so people can simply have a lesson in theology, but so they might respond to the light and the truth that they have, and consequently enter into the gift of life.

We need to start becoming more sensitive to the idea as to why some books of the Bible are written as compared to others. Every biblical book has a specific purpose in mind. Sometimes the author is difficult to understand or his purpose is difficult to surface because he doesn’t come out as boldly as others, like John does, and give us their purpose in writing. But every book of the Bible is written for a different purpose.

The Gospel of John is written so that people can be saved; that’s one of the reasons I wanted to cover it in our church in such detail, because we want to see salvations. And beyond wanting to see salvations we want to see people taking the truths found in John’s Gospel and using it in their personal evangelism, because I guarantee you, one of the things that you’ll find in your Christian life is there will be people that will be drawn to the cross because of your testimony and they will want to know what should I read? What book of the Bible do you recommend? Your answer to that, if they are an unbeliever is a no-brainer, read the Gospel of John, because John is given by the power of the Holy Spirit so that people might see who Jesus Christ is, might believe or trust in Him and have the gift of life.

Certainly people can be saved by reading other sections of God’s Word; I’m not denying that, “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” [Romans 10:17] But John has a special purpose on mind. In fact, John, as I’ll be talking about more next week, wasn’t even written for the Jews. That’s why he kept translating, for the benefit of the Gentiles, Hebrew phrases. More on that next week. But John is the most evangelistic book that’s there in the Canon of Scripture. God wants this book read by unbelievers so that the confusion in their minds regarding the proper identity of Christ can be cleared up, so they might make a faith step, trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And consequently John calls our attention to these Jews who say “He made Himself out to be the Son of God” as they again switch the charge, trying to get this man, Jesus Christ, dead.

Now as this information is dawning on Pilate, notice, if you will, verses 8-11 where we have a conversation simply between Jesus and Pilate. Notice the reaction of Pilate. “Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid;” he was not simply afraid but he now becomes even more afraid. And this is the first time that John tells us that Pilate, when all of these things were happening, was in a state of fear already. And as these events continue to unfold the fear that Pilate is already in accelerates to an even higher level of intensity.

Why was Pilate afraid? A lot of reasons; one of them was he just released Barabbas, didn’t he, a known insurrectionist. That, no doubt, didn’t make Rome (his boss) very happy. Another thing is he’s having a crisis of conscience and he will not give the guilty verdict immediately that these unbelieving Jews are necessary; now he’s got another people that are mad at him. Rome is upset with him; these unbelieving Jews are upset with him. Beyond that now Jesus was rejected in Jerusalem but when you move into Galilee, you begin to go up north and we had a record earlier in John’s Gospel of Jesus’ testimony in Galilee. Jesus was not rejected in Galilee; in fact, He was overwhelmingly popular in Galilee. In fact, when He fed the multitudes with a few fish and a few loaves they were going to take Him, John 6 says, verse 15 and 26, and make Him King by force. [John 6:15, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” 26, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”]

And now Pilate, as he is contemplating handing down this guilty verdict understands he’s got another group of people mad at him, the people in Galilee, where Jesus was popular. You throw into the mix that his wife had a dream, Pilate’s wife. Matthew 27:19 says this, “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.’” He’s getting influence from his wife, he is getting negative feedback from Rome, he is displeasing the Jewish leadership, and as he is contemplating handing down a guilty verdict he is, no doubt, in risk of displeasing those in Galilee where Jesus Christ was very popular. So no doubt he was afraid, all of these factors are at work upon this man, Pilate. And then beyond that he learns, in verse 7, that Jesus claims to be the Son of God. The Son of God, this man claiming to be the Son of God, is in your custody and His destiny is in your hands. That would be enough to make anybody afraid, wouldn’t it?

Now one of the things to understand about Rome is they worship demigods; they worshipped gods that were polytheistic in nature, many gods, and supposedly these Roman deities had supernatural power. Pilate, no doubt, as a governor over Judea, working for Rome was well familiar with that polytheistic Roman pantheon. He no doubt believed that those gods were true and it very well could be that now he is beginning to understand that Jesus is one of those gods, with supernatural power.
But there is another thing I think that is happening in Pilate’s mind is he’s starting to “get it.” He’s seeing the picture come together, that this man, Jesus Christ, perhaps is not just one member of the Roman deity pantheon but He actually is who He claimed to be. And the moment a person begins to see light is the moment fear, many times, takes over. Because the thing about Jesus is He doesn’t just give information just to give it; hey, here’s a few pieces of data, why don’t you chew on these for a while? That’s not how it works in the Bible.

Information comes to a person for the purpose of a response, and the more you learn about the truth of Jesus Christ the more is expected that a person will respond to the message by way of faith. And one of the things you start to see very clearly about Jesus Christ is He gives you no middle ground. There isn’t any wriggle room with Jesus. When He comes to you and reveals Himself to you through the pages of His Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the work of the church, He tells you to make a decision, and make a decision right now is essentially what He’s saying. “Today is the day of salvation.” [2 Corinthians 6:2, “…Behold, now is THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION.’”]

And that is a frightening thing for people, gee, I didn’t know all this Bible study was going to force me to behave differently, I thought I was just coming to kind of fill and flush, you know, fill my head up with information for an exam, barf it back on the sheet for the professor and I’ll just move on with my life. That’s how a college course works; that’s how academia works. That’s not how it works in spiritual Biblical truth. The information comes and we have to decide, are we going to believe in Jesus or not?

And then as you continue to grow in the Christian faith the Lord keeps showing you more things, after you get saved, things in your life that aren’t working right, things in your life that are displeasing to you. He’s not showing you those things just to enlighten your mind; He’s saying choose, you know enough information from the Bible to understand that this sinful habit, whatever it may be, is not right before Me, choose to get rid of it. Oh Lord, I don’t have the power to get rid of that! And the Lord says you’re right, I have the power, but I’m a gentleman you see, I’m not going to take over your will in a hostile takeover manner. YOU have got to give Me permission, through human volition, to act.

Why does God deal with us that way? That’s how we’re made; we are not robots, we are not computers, we are not puppets on a string, we, in fact, are different than all of the creatures God has made in the sense that we are image-bearers of God. Genesis 1:27 is crystal clear on that as well as many other passages. [Genesis 1:27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”] Consequently God does not override our free will. He will respect any decision that we make but we have to make a decision. You know, the people in Elijah’s day had to make a decision. I’m reminded of 1 Kings 8:21, it says, “Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.” Why didn’t they answer him a word? They didn’t want to make a decision.

What is God saying to us? You have enough information to be saved, believe it. What is God saying to us? You have enough information to grow in the grace and knowledge of God; now start obeying. And we say well, I’m not sure…, here come the excuses, how is this going to work, I don’t have the power; I don’t have the strength, dah, dah, dah, dah dah. What does God say? “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” What you have here with this man, Pilate, is a man who was trying to waffle and walk the middle line. He’s trying to make everybody happy and God, through this revelation of His Son is telling Pilate, and all of us by way of extension, to make a choice.

And Pilate then, it explains the question that he asked, in verse 9, he’s beginning to understand who this man, Jesus Christ is; he’s beginning to see the picture. Verse 9, “and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are You from?’” Why would he say that? Because this man is the Son of God. This man, Pilate is thinking to himself, is different than any other human being I’ve ever come across. Therefore, His origin must be other worldly, which of course it is. Jesus is the unique God-man, adding humanity to eternally existent deity at His virgin birth but having entered our world from another world. Very perceptive, Pilate, it’s obvious you understand that Jesus is something different. Pilate asks this question, “Where are You from?” Notice the second part of verse 9, “But Jesus gave him no answer.” Wow, silence, the silence of God.

Why wouldn’t Jesus give him an answer? We’re not told. I have some speculations on it; I think it’s highly likely that at this time Jesus could see into Pilate’s heart and realized that he was an insincere seeker. To an insincere seeker all they want to do is ask questions; they never want to make a decision. Why do I think Pilate was an insincere seeker? Because of what happened in John 18:38, “Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” Now you would think if you asked God incarnate “What is truth” you’d stick around for an answer, wouldn’t you? What does it say? “And when He had said this he went out again to the Jews….” This is a man that wants to ask questions but he’s really not interested in the answer.

And there are many people that are just like that; it’s just question after question after question after question. I’m in favor of trying to answer the questions of the true seeker but what you have to understand is that there are other people that are a total waste of time; all they want to do is ask, ask, ask, ask, when they have the information they need to make a choice, yet they don’t want to make a choice.

And this is one of the dangers of having an internet ministry because people throw questions at you all the time. When I first started down that road I was trying to answer every question. And the fellow that posts my material on Spirit and Truth sent me an e-mail at one point and he said you know what; you need to start discerning better. He said I don’t answer every question that comes my way because I can see, through experience, that many of these questions are just insincere. I am very careful about my time and who I decide to give an answer to. And wow, what a lesson that was for me. Not everybody who asks the question wants an answer. And we get embroiled in these long conversations with people and at some point we just have to cut the whole thing off, because we have to have the discernment to know and to understand that there are some people that could care less about the answer, they just want to ask the questions because they’re postponing making a decision. But there are others who are sincere seekers; those are the people that we pour our hearts and lives and minds into.
Jesus, at this point, is silent because He believes that Pilate is insincere. And one of the most frightening things in the Scripture is God becoming silent. I had a basketball coach and he was just all over my case, constantly. And finally he could see this disturbed me, and he said you know what? You don’t determine if you have a problem with me when I yell at you; the reason I’m yelling at you is I can see potential, what you start worrying about is when I quit yelling at you because once I quit yelling at you I’ve given up on you. See?

The silence of God is a frightening thing because once God becomes silent is the moment, many times, where God simply gives people over to what they already want to do. You say well, the Bible doesn’t teach that, does it? Romans 1:24 says, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity….” You want it that bad, I won’t bother you anymore; I’ll stop bugging you about it; you want to reject My Son, I’ll quit bothering you. If you want to, as a Christian, wallow along in immaturity, holding on to sinful habits, go ahead, have your way. I’m tired of arguing with you about it. God gets that way.

Jeremiah 7:16, God says to Jeremiah, “As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up or cry or pray for them, and do not intercede” for them “with Me; for I do not hear you.” This is the same God who wants all men to be saved. There came a point in Jeremiah’s ministry where God told Jeremiah to quit praying for these people. And I am reminded very much of Genesis 6:3, “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” It reached the point in the days of Noah where God said I’m striving with man, but it won’t be like this forever; there’s a time duration known only to Me when that striving will stop.

I can’t help but think of the United States of America; a nation that is blessed, was blessed with its origin, with the hand of God on it. Now these young people in the public school system don’t know that because all that history has been edited, redacted, eliminated, revised. But any honest study of history will show you the hand of God on the United States of America. I was struck by what Betty Cook was talking about, teaching the Bible in communist countries in the public schools? Why is it that the communist countries are open to the Bible in public schools and we can’t even teach the Bible here in Christian America in public schools? What is happening? God is getting silent is what is happening. If you don’t want Me in your schools, fine! I won’t be in them anymore. If you want to have millions and millions of unborn children killed every year? Go ahead; I won’t bother you about that anymore. If you want to pump filth and pornography into your living room, I won’t bug you about that any more. And God simply removes His hand of blessing from people; He removes His hand of blessing on nations.

You’re watching Jesus removing His hand of blessing and opportunity on this man, Pilate, as Pilate is becoming more and more recalcitrant. Jesus, the gentleman, will respect Pilate’s decision. Jesus, the gentleman, will respect America’s decision; if America is that intent on moving away from God, God says just go right ahead do it; you are beings made in the image of God, I won’t override your will. Yes, out of love I will convict you over and over and over and over and over and over but you can reach a point where you become so recalcitrant and resistant to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, finally “the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not strive with man forever.’” What a deception we are under to think that the grace of God that we have, and even the opportunity to respond in faith to the gospel, and even the opportunity to respond through obedience in progressive sanctification, what a deception we are under in thinking that grace of God will continue on and on and on. I wish it would, but, beloved, it’s not biblical. There reaches a point where God gives people over, quit praying for them, I’m done.

It is interesting to me that this silence of Jesus Christ is mentioned in His trial before Caiaphas. Matthew 26:62-63, “The high priest stood up and said to Him, ‘Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?’ [63] But Jesus kept silent.”

All the way through Christ’s various trials you see the silence of the Lamb, this man, Jesus Christ. Matthew 26:62-63, the silence of Jesus Christ. Matthew 27:14, the silence of Jesus Christ.
Mark 14:61, the silence of Jesus Christ. Mark 15:5, the silence of Jesus Christ. Luke 23:9, the silence of Jesus Christ.

[Matthew 26:62-63, “The high priest stood up and said to Him, ‘Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?’ [63] But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, ‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Matthew 27:14, “And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.” Mark 14:61, “But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’” Mark 15:5, “But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.” Luke 23:9, “And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing.”]

There is something else happening here though, the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. Not just through the Passover lamb but something that Isaiah himself said back in Isaiah 53:7, written a full seven centuries before Jesus walked this earth. Seven centuries is a long time, isn’t it? America has only been here 238 years, something like that; 700 years in advance Isaiah wrote this under the inspiration of God; “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” [Isaiah 53:7]

I hope we’re starting to see with Passover and Isaiah’s prophecies that this is a script; this whole thing has been ordained. And we say well, if this whole thing has been ordained, didn’t these people make a choice? Yes they did. Well, if they made a real choice how could it be ordained. My answer to that is ask God, I don’t know how that works. I know God is a respecter of free will and I know that God is sovereign at the same time. In other words, God is so big that He can use the free moral will of His creatures to fulfill a blueprint written long in advance, that is preordained by Him. The struggle with election versus free will, I’ve been teaching man, sin, salvation, election versus free will for the last seven years. Do you know what my answer is? I don’t have the foggiest idea how it works. And I don’t think this side of eternity I’ll ever understand it but it’s there. This tension is there!

Pilate gets a little perturbed, verse 10, at this silence of God. It says, “So Pilate said to Him, ‘You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’” You will not open Your mouth and defend yourself against me? Don’t you know who I am? The problem with Pilate is he knew who he was; he didn’t know who God was, because the fact of the matter is Pilate wouldn’t even be breathing if Jesus hadn’t allowed it. Pilate was dependent upon Jesus, the Sustainer of the universe, Colossians 1 tells us.
[Colossians 1:16-17, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. [17] He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”]

Pilate was dependent upon Jesus for his very next heartbeat and yet he became so deluded in his thinking that he actually thought he was the one in charge. Your life is in my hands; don’t you know who I am? And what does Jesus say in verse 11, I love this, “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been give you from above….” It is a dangerous thing to be moved into a position of authority in life. I don’t care what realm you are in, the moment you are in a position of authority something happens to human pride where we start to become infatuated by our own self-importance. And we forget that it’s God who put us there and it’s God who can take us out again.

I like the way Lord Acton put it: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I can’t help but think of Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of what we call Neo-Babylonia, a man who had authority over the farthest reaching known empire of his day; a global power. And Daniel 2, as Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and dream, Daniel explains how Nebuchadnezzar arrived in that position. Daniel 2:37-38 says, “You, O king, are the king of kings; to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom,” Nebuchadnezzar, you’re only there because God gave you this kingdom, “the power, the strength and the glory; [38] and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.”

Nebuchadnezzar, you have authority in this world because God allowed it. Did Nebuchadnezzar remember that? No he didn’t. Do you know what this same guy said in Daniel 4:30, as he took a walk one evening? “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ I see a lot of repetition of I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my, I don’t see any glory to God going on here. And God dealt with him very severely there in Daniel 4.

But this is a tendency that is so alive in fallen humans that once they reach some sort of authority over people or some place of recognition that they start to think of themselves as more important than they actually are; they start to self-aggrandize, forgetting that God put them there.

I am reminded very much of Nebuchadnezzar’s eventual successor, Belshazzar. In Daniel 5:22-24 it says this, “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar,” as Daniel was speaking, “have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, [23] but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have bene drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God, listen to this, “But the God in whose hand are your life and breath and all your ways you have not glorified.”
Belshazzar, your life, your breath and your ways are in the hand of God! Belshazzar, you are in the position you are in because God put you there. Belshazzar, in fact, the beating of your heart is dependent upon God and you have not glorified God. Wow!
This is why Paul reminds people in authority this in Ephesians 6:9, “And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” Maybe you’re in some kind of position in authority; maybe in your business you’ve know, perhaps this past year a profit that you never even dreamt of before. Maybe one day you wake up and you find multiple people working for you, when in former times that was not the case. Maybe your name is in the limelight now. Maybe you’re considered a person of standing. May I just say to you this is a warning; it’s a warning to remember who put you there. It is a warning to remember that you, as a sinful person, we as sinful persons, have a tendency to forget this basic truth and forget God.

In fact, the whole institution of government, which Pilate was presiding over, wouldn’t even exist was it not for God. Romans 13:1 says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Do you want to know where human government came from? It came from the Noahic Covenant. All the way back in the book of Genesis God set up, Genesis 9:6, [“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”] The institution of human government as a restraint on man’s sin nature and that is likely what Jesus is referring to when He says, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been granted to you from above.” [John 19:11a]

Look at the last part of verse 11, and with this we’ll close. In fact, this could be a sermon in and of itself so I’ll try to fit this one hour sermon into five minutes, but notice what it says, “for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” Greater sin? I thought all sins were bad. They are! I thought all sins lead to death. They do! Then what is this business here about the “greater sin”? There are some sins that bring a greater price tag and consequence than others.

Within Roman Catholicism we have a distinction made, a false distinction, I believe, between venial sins and mortal sins. Venial is a Latin word meaning lesser. Under Roman Catholic teaching there are some sins that you can commit that don’t lead to death; there are other sins that you can commit that do lead to death. And so they will distinguish between the lesser sins and the greater sins. But the problem with that is all sins lead to death. Romans 6:23 says that. [“For the wages of sin is death.”]

Beyond that, if you think you’ve only committed the venial sins but not the mortal sins you really don’t need a Savior, do you? That’s why there is so much works orientation in Roman Catholic theology. That’s why it’s all about works and what you do because in that system, and in fact, in any system throughout the world that is not rooted and grounded in the truth of God’s Word man is his own savior. Oh, I don’t believe in Jesus… oh, well then how do you know you’re going to heaven? Well, I’m a good person… oh, so you’re your own Savior then; you’re trusting in yourself to get you there.

And this is the distinguishing mark between Biblical Christianity and works orientation. Works orientation puts the focus on man and what man does, and what man can perform. That’s how you can discern a false gospel. It will always place the emphasis on people and their performance. The true gospel places the spotlight on Jesus Christ. The true gospel is you are so far gone and dead in your trespasses and sins that you could not save yourself, even if you wanted to. Your only hope is to trust in what Jesus has done for you and to receive it as a free gift.
But if I’ve only committed the venial sins and not the mortal sins I’m still in the running, aren’t I, as being my own Savior? There is no distinction between venial and mortal sins! All sin separates from God! All sin has a price tag! But what is true is some sins have a greater price tag than others. Luke 12:47-48 says this: “And the slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, [48] but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of flogging, will receive but few” lashes. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

Matthew 11:20-24 says this: “Then He began,” the words of Christ, “to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. [21] Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. [23] And Capernaum will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. [24] Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

Jesus talks about New Testament cities and He talks about Old Testament cities. He mentions three New Testament cities and then He mentions three Old Testament cities and He said all six cities are moving off into judgment. But the New Testament cities will be judged with a severer rod; they will be beaten with many blows as opposed to few blows. Why Jesus? Why? Because the New Testament cities saw something that the Old Testament cities never saw; they saw Me, Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, performing miracles in their midst and giving them teaching from heaven and they did not respond. The Old Testament cities had received no such revelation. All these cities will be judged but the one who receives the greater light is judged more severely.

What is Jesus saying here in verse 11, the one, He’s speaking to Pilate, “who has delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” [John 19:11, “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”] He is talking there about Caiaphas; He is talking there about the Jews because the Jews have light that the Gentiles didn’t have.

What did they have? They had the oracles of God. Romans 3:1-2 says, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? [2] Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” These Old Testament Jews should have known better. The ones that are betraying Christ should have known better because they had the light of the divine Canon given to them by God, which Pilate didn’t have, the Romans didn’t have, and the Gentiles never had. And this is why Jesus is now becoming silent amongst these Jews because they should have known better, yet they made a decision to reject it.

Matthew 16:1-3 says this: “The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. [2] But He replied to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ [3] And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”
Do you know what Jesus is saying there? You, Israel, are responsible for responding to Me by way of truth. In fact, there is a greater responsibility on you than even Pilate and even Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and all of these other Gentile pagan kings. Why was there a greater onus on the nation of Israel? Because Israel had the oracles of God. They should have known who Jesus was. In fact, when you study the 70 weeks prophecy very carefully they should have known the exact date that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem proclaiming Himself to be their Messiah. And yet in spite of this light that they had they made a decision to reject Jesus Christ. If anybody, the high priest should have known this. It’s not as if this information was inaccessible to the high priest and yet the high priest made a decision to reject Jesus Christ.

This is one of the reasons, I believe, that God is taking His hand, to a large extent, off our country. Do you know what’s different about America than about most countries of the world is we have light here? Christianity, as of now, and as it has been for the last 200 years is not illegal; it is not underground. In fact, this republic wouldn’t even exist were it not for the Bible. What other country can make that boast? And what have we, as Americans, decided to do with this light? We have chosen to reject it. It’s not as if we were born into some atheistic pagan country with no knowledge of God at all.

You see, we in America are different; we have things, we have Christian TV, we have Christian radio, we have Christian literature. In Houston there are probably about 3,000 to 4,000 churches. The gospel is going out all of the time to this country. And yet what is happening? We are becoming more and more recalcitrant and stubborn in spiritual things. In fact, those that are really interested in the things of God are being marginalized in this culture. And that does not escape the knowledge of God, beloved. God, who has given us these truths is removing His hand from us because we, of all people, should know better, shouldn’t we? The person that I feel the sorriest for in the next life is the person who sits in a church like this and hears over and over again truth. They hear the gospel week after week after week after week, yet no response. God help… God help that person in the next life because the Scripture is very clear, “to whom much is given, much is required.” [Luke 12:48, “but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”]

I would much prefer to talk about the grace of God than about the judgment of God but the fact of the matter is, we are in a time period where we are careening into the judgment of God. And I think at some point we need to step up the message a little bit. I think the culture knows that God is loving; I think they get that. I don’t think we have enough pulpits today where people are talking about the coming righteousness and judgment of God. That’s the message that’s not getting through because that’s not the message itself, nor is it the message that tickles the ears. Yet it’s the message I’m giving to you right now, not of my own volition, this is exactly what Jesus is saying to Pilate, it’s right here in the passage, I’m not making these things up.

There needs to be a response from you. If you’re unsaved you need to respond to the truth and quit acting as if this day of grace will continue on forever. Quit presuming on the grace of God. And so my exhortation to you now is to believe the gospel if you haven’t done it, simply because I don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to have. And then those of you that have been sitting here week after week after week with sinful habits in your lives, that the Lord keeps saying change, my exhortation to you is the same—change it! You have enough teaching; you know what’s right, now go out and live it under the power of God. If the gospel is something that you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray?

Father, we’re grateful for not just the pleasant things in the Bible but the harder things. Help us not to be presumers of Your grace; help us to take advantage of this rare opportunity of light that we have and respond to it, knowing that we will be judged in a more accountable way for it. We will be careful to give you all of the praise and glory. And God’s people said…