Mark 15:2-15 NLT
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise. Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual. “Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
Who was Pontius Pilate?
He was a prefect in the Roman province of Judea. He was known as a brutal leader and was notorious for the cruel treatment of his citizens. Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher and contemporary of Pilate, described Pilate’s rule as one of corruption, insolence, cruelty and unjust murders of people untried and condemned (1). Luke 13:1 records that Jesus was informed that Pilate had killed Galileans as they made their Temple sacrifices and mixed their blood with the animal's (3). Pilate, whose name means 'one with a spear', used terrorism as a tool for preserving his status of power.
A divine message
Yet surprisingly, when Jesus was presented to Pilate, he was reluctant to condemn Him to death for the following reason. Matthew 27 tells us that as Pilate sat on his judgment seat, he was given a message by his wife. That night she had a nightmare about Jesus. Realizing that He was a righteous man, she pleaded for Pilate not to harm Him. Her warning left an impact on his decision making process. One can deduce that his wife had a history of dreams containing messages that came to pass.
Also, Pilate discerned that the religious leaders were jealous of Jesus. This was the true reason why they wanted Him publicly condemned and cruelly murdered. The pharisees believed that this “Jesus movement” would dissipate, and they would rule the synagogue once again. Like himself, the religious leaders ruled the people through terror.
Pilate tried one strategy after another to convince the religious leaders and their crowd not to condemn Jesus to death. Every intervention was thwarted.
Even though he had been divinely warned, correctly ascertained the religious leaders motives, and found Jesus blameless, Pilate did not defend this innocent man. According to Matthew 27, Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” He freed the murderer Barabbas (interpreted as 'son of the father', a symbol of the anti-christ), had Jesus whipped, and passed the death sentence of crucifixion. Pontius Pilate took the path of least resistance. He was all form and no substance.
What happened to Pilate?
Josephus, a first century Romano - Jewish historian (2), recorded in c. AD 93, that Pilate was removed from his position after harshly suppressing a Samaritan revolt on the date of 16 March AD 37 (1). His handling of the Samaritans' caused Pilate to be deposed because the Roman government considered him inhumane. History records that a few years after he was deposed, Pilate committed suicide (1).
Although God intervened, Pilate threw away his opportunity for redemption.
Father, You are so merciful. You provide everyone with opportunities for redemption and it is up to us whether or not to take it. Give me the boldness and the courage to always stand up for You and to do what is right. I give You my life. You may do with me as You will. In Jesus Name, Amen.
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