The chiasm outlined by Jo-Ann A. Brant has a classic seven-point structure.
A Exterior: John 18:29-32, Jesus is brought to Pilate with a demand for execution; Pilate refuses
B Interior: John 18:33-38, Pilate asks about Jesus’s royal claim
C Exterior: John 18:38-40, Pilate finds Jesus innocent, but the temple elite choose Barabbas
D Interior: John 19:1-3, Soldiers scourge and scorn Jesus
C’ Exterior: John 19:4-8, Pilate finds Jesus innocent, but temple elite charge capital crime
B’ Interior: John 19:9-11, Pilate asks about Jesus’s origins
A’ Exterior: John 19:12-15, Temple elite demand Jesus’s execution; Pilate agrees
We are now approaching the end of John’s chiasm. The fulcrum was the flogging of Christ. That event did not achieve the sought-after result of satisfying the temple authorities so Pilate could free Jesus from the cross.
C’ Represents the unchanging and unflinching insistence of the Sanhedrin to have Jesus executed.
B’ Represents Pilate’s change of heart—he went from skeptic to believer, at least in that Jesus was not what he appeared, but was perhaps a supernatural being springing up within Judaism.
A’ Represents a complete reversal in Pilate’s actions.
Pilate sat for a while, having absent-mindedly picked up the grape once again and begun rolling it with his fingers. His other hand rested on the table near his goblet and on occasion he stroked its twisted and wrought stem. Jesus stood as tranquil as snow upon a hill, lit by the soft winter sun, all creation spread round his feet.
Over and over in his mind, Pilate reviewed the prisoner’s words. You do not have any authority and power over me at all if it had not been given to you from above. He could not remember being spoken to in this way before. The procurator was used to deference, used to being feared and respected from a distance by those beneath him, treated with formal good manners by his peers, and with courteous interest by those above him. The last time he had been treated as a student was as a boy.
But this strange being in front of him was gracious. Pilate felt as though even warmth were being extended to him, cordiality . . . grace. The word seemed to come from nowhere, but as Pilate transfered his gaze from his grape to Jesus, he realized the word fit. This man was giving Pilate particular favor, opening the mysteries of the spiritual realm to him, revealing the secrets of the Almighty.
Pilate shifted uncomfortably, suddenly restless, the energy inside his chest starting to vibrate. Did this man mean the gods had given him his authority? Or perhaps he meant son of the divine Augustus, emperor Tiberius? He shook his head to himself. It was not that he felt he had been humbled. No, it was that he had been reminded he did not alone carry the onus of this decision. He was but one cog in the wheel of justice.
Again, Pilate moved in his chair, lifting one leg down, and the other over, crossing and recrossing. He picked up a thin wedge of asiago, its pungent aroma released by the movement, then, halfway to his mouth, put it down again. Absently, he wiped his fingers on the wood of the board and reached for a fig instead.
It was the second thing the King of the Judeans had said that had arrested Pilate’s thoughts, and held him here in this room. Because of this, the one who handed me over to you has greater sin.
Who was that one? Did he mean the Sanhedrin? Annas? Caiaphas? Or was there some other person who had betrayed this man into their hands first, which would have meant ultimately into his own hands? But even more so, how was it that the judge was being judged? Only Caesar had the authority to judge the prefect.
Strangely, though, rather than umbrage, it was a sense of relief filling him. He accepted this cosmic estimation of his place. It was not he who would attract divine retribution, it was this other who had the greater sin. His acts of authority would come from some deity far above him, who had granted him the role of governor. Pilate found himself sitting up straighter and squaring his shoulders. He would determine to govern well, then, with the integrity of a true Roman noble. Proven an able and resourceful politician, he would do whatever he could to free the King of the Judeans, the one called Son of God.
As Pilate stood he exchanged glances with his captain, who moved forward from his post and reached for the guide on Jesus’s manacles. With Pilate leading, they proceeded toward the private archway to the dais. Turning, Pilate spoke, stay here until my signal. The captain nodded and stopped as Pilate continued into the Praetorium.
Caiaphas and Annas had once again refreshed their Sanhedrin representatives and temple guards, for there were new faces in their company. Pilate motioned them to come before the dais, then spoke with them in low tones.
Later, John would write, “ἐκ τούτου ⸂ὁ Πιλᾶτος ἐζήτει⸃ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτόν·” “Out of this, Pilate was seeking and striving to release him,” meaning, Pilate said everything he could think of, tried every artifice, posed every argument, waved every carrot or stick he had available, alternating between velvet glove and iron fist, but to no avail.
As the people watched, the conversation became ever more heated and intense, with Pilate’s visage darkening, his brows drawing together, his words becoming ever more clipped and harsh. The chief priests and elders became ever more animated, hands jabbing the air, arms waving, chests thumped. Finally, Annas threw down his final gauntlet. Loudly and clearly he shouted, If you release this one, you are not, and here Annas slowed his speech and raised his hand in parody of a Roman orator, a friend of Caesar.
The elders and Caiaphas turned in frank admiration to stare at Annas. What a coup d’etat! The people collectively gasped, but Pilate grew suddenly still, his face chiseled in stone, yet his eyes two burning tunnels of rage and hate. “Friend of Caesar” was a formal title he had been granted by the emperor Tiberius himself. There should be no question of his loyalty and gratitude. He had risen far, from a freedman to a governor because of his friend Sejanus, who had made it all possible.
But as Annas well knew, the emperor had recently executed Sejanus for treason, and Pilate could hardly afford to get in trouble now.
Caiaphas, the first to recover, now turned to the fuming procurator, Any who makes himself the king opposes Caesar.
Pilate’s gaze turned slightly to take in Caiaphas, clearly under the influence of that wily rogue, Annas, he thought. Though he marveled they should be so obdurately obtuse, refusing to acknowledge the spiritual sphere of their King Jesus and the physical sphere of Emperor Tiberius. And they, the religious leaders of their people! How was it that he could feel the cold curl of fear snaking through his body at the thought of sending a demigod to the cross, and these despicable schemers, wearing the garb of temple officials, seemed to have no fear at all? Hubris, he thought to himself. They soar too near the sun, in bold defiance of the sun’s power, but they shall fall far, to their deaths.
Slowly Pilate turned and sweeping his cloak with practiced flare, he settled himself on the judge’s bench, draped with royal vestments, positioned in the center of The Stone Pavement, the Gabbatha as it was known in Hebrew. An almost imperceptible nod to the archway behind him, a slight movement of his right hand, resting on the arm of the chair, and a flick of his left brought the captain back into the Praetorium with Jesus, and his private royal guard forward in two flanks, one on each side of the dais. Again, the Sanhedrin rulers had to scurry or be swept aside.
It came without question the procurator of Palestine would hail Caesar. His loyalties were secure. Whose king would these people before him hail?
[Story taken from John 19:11-13]
[Christ before Pilate | By © Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia Commons – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45250522%5D