Q. My pastor used John 19:11 to argue his point that some sins are greater than others. He asked me what Jesus meant by saying, “Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” I told him I didn’t know what Jesus meant, but if it meant what he thinks then Jesus contradicted what he taught on the sermon on the mount, saying that thinking about committing a sin is as bad as doing it. Can you give me some insight on what Jesus meant by this statement?
A. Read all of John 18: 28 – John 19:16 and compare the motives of the Jewish leaders with the motive of Pontius Pilate. Jesus was the conspicuous fulfillment of their Messianic prophecies and yet the Jewish leaders refused to believe in Him, choosing instead to have Him executed in an attempt to shut Him up.
Although a non-believer, Pilate knew they were playing him and tried to set Jesus free. When he saw he wasn’t getting anywhere, he gave up and let them have their way.
If sin begins as a motive of one’s heart, whose sin was greater? The ones who acted with malice aforethought, or the one who at least tried to prevent the death of an innocent man?
But this is not a good verse to use in defending degrees of sin. I think everyone would agree that the murder of God in the flesh is a uniquely egregious sin. The important thing to remember is if the penalty for any sin is the spiritual death of the sinner, and if spiritual death is the maximum penalty a sinner can pay, then every sin carries the maximum penalty.
So while there may be degrees of sin, there are no degrees of penalty. The good news is there are no degrees of remedy either. Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No matter how strongly you feel that your sins are worse than someone else’s, or even everyone else’s, you will be totally and permanently absolved, and your slate will be wiped clean, if you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again. The only sin He can’t forgive you for is the sin of failing to ask Him to forgive you.