Pontius Pilate

William J. Stewart | Faces Surrounding Calvary

I have always been intrigued by Pontius Pilate. Scriptures don’t tell us much about the man, but it is interesting to wonder concerning him.

History tells us about Pilate. In AD 26, Pontius Pilate was appointed to the office of procurator of Judea. Philo describes Pilate as a harsh, spiteful and brutal man. Josephus tells of Pilate antagonizing the Jews almost immediately after being appointed. At any chance, it would seem that Pilate was ready for conflict with the Jewish people. So bitter was the conflict that on many occasions several Jews died.

Pilate was finally removed from his office, and required to answer before the emperor, Tiberius concerning his conduct. However, Tiberius died before Pilate reached Rome. We do not know what the outcome of his trial was, nor is there much information concerning him afterwards. It is recorded by a 4th century Christian historian that Pilate had committed suicide. Whether such is so or not, we cannot tell.

What concerns us however is Pilate’s conduct surrounding the cross. Jesus, after being found guilty by the Sanhedrin was led to Pilate. The charges being laid on Jesus changed when He was before Pilate. John records, “We found this fellow perverting the nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” We find Pilate then interviewing Jesus, asking if such was so. When Pilate completed his examination of Jesus, he concluded, “I find no fault in this Man.”

Upon finding that Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee. Jesus would not speak before Herod, and thus was sent before Pilate again. Again, he questioned Him – again, he concluded, “I find no fault in this Man.”

Pilate was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to the people each year, and thus, as the time drew near to crucify the criminals, he went out and sat on the judgment seat, and asked the people, “‘Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.” While sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, asking him to “have nothing to do with that just Man…”

The people continued to ask for Jesus’ death. “Why, what evil has He done?”, he questioned, but they cried out all the more. The next words we are given in the Bible account are sad. “When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person, You see to it.'” Pilate, who claimed to Jesus that he had the power to either save Him or crucify Him, knowing that He was a “just Person” sent Him to the cross anyway.

What can we learn from Pilate? There are a few things:

  • If we are placed in a position of authority, we ought not let it go to our heads. If Pilate had judged rightly, he would have released Jesus, but he allowed the crowd to sway his decision.
  • Crowds are dangerous. If the majority are for something, it is in all likelihood wrong. Think throughout time, even back to the days of Joshua and Caleb, Noah and his sons, etc.. Majorities are dangerous to listen to and be part of.
  • No power is given to us, except it be from the Father above. That is what Jesus told Pilate when he stated he had the power to crucify or release Him. How true! Any power or authority we have comes from God and from Him alone.
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