Question:I have always believed the Bible teaches that no one sin is greater than another. I truly believe this IS how God views sin. However, I would like some explanation of John 19:11. The Bible seems to have so many "seeming" contradictions. It is hard to argue my point when someone can just pull another verse that seems to say just the opposite. I have searched the internet for quite a while, and I can't really find any kind of discussion that answers the question about why Jesus refers to a "greater sin" in this verse. Please explain!!!
Thanks for your question. Yes, the Scriptures are full of "tension," and at times it seems as though there are contradictions. But, the way I see it is that apparent contradictions are our problem when it comes to understanding, not God's problem in being inconsistent.
When it comes to the issue you raise, the Scriptures are clear that all have sinned and that the "wages" or result of sin is death (spiritual separation from God). In this way, all sin can come under the same ultimate penalty. In the spiritual sense, all sins are equal. But, think of this illustration: Today, we have lots of laws. Break one of them and you are considered a law-breaker. It doesn't matter which law you break. Yet, there are different penalties for breaking different laws. Speeding in your autombile results in a different penalty than robbing a bank or murdering someone. So, there is a real difference between between lesser and greater offenses. Get caught speeding and you'll pay a fine. Get caught murdering and you may go to prison for the rest of your life, or even lose your life.
In the same way, if you look back to the Old Testament, let's say in the book of Leviticus, it's easy to find different penalties for different sins. Not all sin resulted in the same penalty. Kill another's animal and full restitution was required. Kill another person and the punishment was death. So, the Scripture has always implied that there are "greater sins" by virtue of assigning different punishments.
So, I think when it comes to discussing sin, it's helpful to separate the spiritual from the physical. In the spiritual sense, all sin - regardless of the degree - results in separation from God. In the physcial sense, all wrong behaviors have consequences, some worse than others. We have no problem with pointing out today, for example, that "this" action is better (or worse) than "that" action.
So, when we specifically consider John 19:11, I don't see this passage as trying to teach a Biblical principle about the spiritual nature of sin at all. I believe that Jesus is simply trying to convey that what the Jewish religious leaders' had done (seeking for a long time to find a way to have Jesus killed and finally delivering him over to the Romans) was worse than what Pilate was doing (This was in response to Pilate's question asking Jesus if He realized that Pilate had the power to release or to kill Him). The religious leaders were more responsible than Pilate for what was about to happen to Jesus. That makes sense to me. Pilate is not absolved from his role, but Jesus points out that those who put him in this situation were more guilty. I think this would be similar to us today in that a person(s) who hire someone to kill an enemy are more morally responsible than the "hit man" who carries out the deed. Even so, all who have a part in the murder bear responsibility.
Hope this helps you...
The HomeWord Team