The Jews originally charged the Lord with treason (Lu.23:2), but Pilate didn’t feel threatened (23:3,4) because if He were a king, His subjects wanted to kill Him, not crown Him. Besides, Pilate already investigated the charge of treason against the Lord and dismissed it (Luke 23:13,14). So the Jews switched from charging Him with claiming He was a king to claiming He was a god (John 19:7).
The Jews claimed He had to die for blasphemy like that (19:7 cf. Lev.24:16) because He claimed to be God’s Son (John 10:36) which made Him God (5:18). Hearing that his prisoner might be God spooked Pilate (19:8). He may not have believed in Israel’s God, but he believed in Roman gods, and he believed that they sometimes slummed among men (Acts 14:11,12). He was already afraid, figuring the gods may have warned him through his wife’s dream not to kill the Lord, and because no man ever spake like this man in interrogation (cf.John 7:46). Now that he heard the Lord might be God, he was “the more afraid.”
But he doesn’t ask who the Lord is, he asks where he was from (John 19:9). Now, he knows where he was from on earth (Lu.23:4-7), but he knew if He was a god He had to have “come down” from heaven (cf.Acts14:11), so he asked where He was from. The Lord didn’t answer (Jo.19:9) because He couldn’t deny He was God, but couldn’t say He was, lest Pilate release Him, and not let Him die for our sins.
The Lord reminded Pilate that his power of capital punishment was given him by God (19:10 cf. Gen.9:6). When we say that all government is ordained of God (Rom.13:1), people ask if Hitler’s power was God-given, but Nebuchadnezzar was no better (Dn.5:18,19), and Rome was worse. When Caligula ran out of criminals, he ordered spectators be fed to the lions. While it is bad when kings act that way, we know kings are ordained of God because were it not for kings every man would act that way (Judges 17:6). God didn’t create this evil world, but He knows how to regulate it. Some today claim that U.S. citizens are sovereigns to whom the laws don’t apply, but that means they can do what is right in their own eyes (Jud.21:25), and that’s a problem (Pr.21:2). “We the people” created a government consisting of rulers that we all agree to obey.
The “he” that “delivered” Christ to Pilate could be Judas (Mt.26:14,15). Pilate was condemning a stranger, but Judas condemned a friend, making his sin the greater sin. Pilate knew He was innocent, but Judas knew He not only didn’t do anything wrong, He had done a lot of good. Of course, the one who “delivered” the Lord to Pilate to die could be Israel’s rulers (Mt.27:1,2), or all the people (Acts 3:12), or Caiaphas (John 11:49,50). Verses like this make Christians hate Jews, but Pilate (a Gentile) “delivered” Christ to be crucified as well (John 19:15,16), as did God Himself (Acts 2:22) to save us (Rom.4:24,25).
The Jews had “the greater sin,” but Pilate had the lesser. He couldn’t just say he was doing his job, because his job was to acquit men like Christ whom he knew to be innocent. God will someday hold governmental leaders responsible for their sins and crimes.
You’d think being called a sinner would make Pilate mad, but he’s already feeling guilty for condemning an innocent man, so he sought to release Him (Jo.19:12). The Jews threatened Pilate with a charge of treason, and Pilate, knowing the Jews didn’t like him in the first place (Luke 13:1), didn’t dare anger them by releasing the Lord. It would be too easy for them to hire false witnesses and manufacture evidence against him. We know from the Mcarthy era in our country that when it comes to treason, it doesn’t always matter what you can prove. Just charging a man with treason can get you assumed guilty, and the political climate in Pilate’s day in Rome was similar.
So Pilate moved to his position in “the Pavement…Gabba-tha,” which means “an elevated position.” Judges generally sit above men. He is now ready to issue his verdict on the Lord, a verdict based on nothing more than a desire to avoid the charge of treason against himself.