Matthew 27:11-18 (NASB) 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. 13 Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 At that time they were holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over.
Extraordinary that Pilate knew that the Jewish leaders “env”ied Jesus. What were they envious of? His popularity? His pronouncements of authoritative truth? The ESV SB suggests both of these. Jesus was a threat to their authority and power and the existing order that served their interests; that was part of their motivation in handing Him over to the Roman authorities to be crucified.
Matthew 27:38-43 (NASB) 38 At that time two robbers *were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42 “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Here we see yet further motivation for envy of Jesus displayed. Jesus claimed to BE GOD. This affronted the Jewish leadership. God the Father’s evident favour on His Son’s ministry – the favoured One, would have been a cause for envy among them. Jesus was nothing like them. His very being would have caused them offence because deep down they likely recognised His difference as signifying something important. They would also have witnessed God’s blessing and favour on Him. Thus, their envy. And thus their gloating over Him on the cross in a state of helpless suffering. Yet, in fact, even in this “helpless” state, Jesus was not helpless:
Matthew 26:51-54 (NASB) 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus *said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”
The explanation for Jesus’ deliberate giving up of power is found in:
2 Corinthians 8:9 (NASB) 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
Vindication of Christ’s claims about His own deity can be seen in His resurrection from the dead. Read about it here.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your voluntary powerlessness and suffering for me, for us all, who believe in You.