Having and Being Given Authority in the Gospel of John
John 1: 12-- ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν (Jesus gave them authority)
John 5: 27-- ἐξουσίαν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ (God gave Jesus authority)
John 10: 18-- ἐξουσίαν ἔχω (I [Jesus] have authority)
John 17: 2-- ἔδωκας αὐτῷ ἐξουσίαν (God gave Jesus authority)
John 19: 10-- ἐξουσίαν ἔχω (I [Pilate] have authority)
John 19: 11-- οὐκ εἶχες ἐξουσίαν κατ’ ἐμοῦ οὐδεμίαν εἰ μὴ ἦν δεδομένον σοι (you [Pilate} do not have authority . . . if it was not given to you)
The Roman State has given Pilate authority to release and to crucify prisoners as he determines. When Pilate threatens Jesus with this Roman power of life and death, Jesus counters with a theological argument. Pilate does not have authority over Jesus. (Earlier in John 10:18, Jesus had established the authority that he has to lay down his life and to take it up again as commanded by God.) In John 19: 11, Jesus simply states that Pilate’s authority has been given to him from above.
The United Methodist Church’s Social Principle against the death penalty begins with a theological argument. “¶ 164 G) The Death Penalty—We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings.” Christ has authority to save anyone no matter the circumstances, no matter the kind or extent of the transgression.
Because of political pressure, Pilate chose to sentence to death a man who was innocent according to Roman law. States like Nebraska execute death row inmates who may be redeemed, restored, and transformed by the power of Christ and thus made innocent before God.
The UMC Social Principle’s will not be quoted on the floor of the Unicameral when Nebraska senators debate the bill to repeal the death penalty. I do not expect a theological argument to persuade the politicians. I do expect UM pastors to explain the denomination’s theological argument to the members of their church.