Pontius Pilate and Jesus

Pilate and Jesus

It was customary for the Roman procurators to reside at Jerusalem during the Passover in order to maintain order. During the time of our Lord's last Passover Pilate was occupying his official residence in Herod's palace. Jesus was brought to the gates of this palace and condemned on the charge of blasphemy.

He was then brought early in the morning by the chief priests and officers of the Sanhedrin, though they could not enter the residence of a Gentile, lest they be defiled and unfit to eat the Passover (John 18:28).

Pilate came out to deal with the situation and demanded that they reveal the nature of the charge. At first the Jewish authorities assumed that Pilate would give way to their wishes without question and so they merely described Jesus as a disturber of the public peace. Pilate, as the Roman procurator, was familiar with the administration of justice and was not willing to consent to the pressure of their accusations. Therefore they devised a new charge and attempted to construe the Lord's claims in a political sense, accusing Him of assuming the title of king, and perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay tribute to Rome (Luke 23:3).

Pilate had to deal with two conflicting feelings, first there was the fear of offending the Jews, and second was the gut feeling that Jesus was innocent. This was not the first time that the Jewish leaders had caused him trouble, and he probably had little patience for their manipulation.

First he examined the Lord privately and asked Him whether or not He was a king. After examining Jesus he came out to the Jews and declared Him innocent. The Jewish leaders immediately replied that His teaching had stirred up all the people from Galilee to Jerusalem. When they mentioned Galilee Pilate had a quick solution in order to escape this dilemma, he would send this case to Herod Antipas.

Herod refused to make any decision on this matter. Pilate was forced to make a decision. He assembled the chief priests and the Jewish people and announced to them that the accused had done nothing worthy of death. To satisfy the Sanhedrin he offered to scourge Jesus before releasing Him. But seeing immediate rejection, because the accusers of Jesus would not be happy with anything less than His death, Pilate had to think fast if he wanted to maintain his conviction that Jesus was not worthy of death.

Each year, in honor of the Passover, it was customary for the Roman governor to grant pardon to one condemned criminal. Pilate therefore offered the people their choice between two condemned criminals. First was the murderer Barabbas, and second was Jesus the prophet, who the Jewish people had hailed as the Messiah only a few days earlier.

Pontius Pilate ascended the Bema seat of judgment, a portable tribunal placed on the Gabbatha, a mosaic pavement in front of the palace. As Pilate was seated he received a message from his wife, who had "suffered greatly in a dream because of Him" (Matt 27:19), urging him not to condemn the Just One.

The mob, being urged by the priests, frantically chose Barabbas for pardon and death for Jesus. Pontius Pilate had no alternative, lest there be an insurrection. Before ordering the final command to sentence Jesus to death, Pilate washed his hands before the multitude, as a sign that he was innocent of the crime.

Pilate then ordered his soldiers to scourge Jesus, no doubt hoping that this would be enough to satisfy the people. But the priests cried for His death all the more, and, fearing that the political charge of treason might be considered insufficient, returned to their first accusation of blasphemy. They quoted the law of Moses (Lev 24:16), which punished blasphemy with stoning, declared that He must die, "because He made Himself out to be the Son of God" (John 19:7).

This title bothered Pilate who was already nervous by his wife's dream. Perhaps he feared that Jesus might be one of the heroes or demigods of his own mythology. He took Jesus again into the palace and asked Him, "Where are You from?" and sought to know anxiously what were His claims (John 19:9).

This interview was the one last effort to save Jesus. Pilate went out to the crowd again and they shouted, "If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar" (19:12). Pilate finally gave in to the crowd and the pressure. He again ascended the tribunal and finally pronounced the crucifixion of Jesus.


Pontius Pilate
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The main historical sources about the life of Pontius Pilate were:

- Josephus (75-94 A.D. approx.)

- The New Testament (50-100 A.D. approx.)

- Jewish and Christian Tradition

- Archaeology: inscriptions, coins, written text.

Bibliography on Pontius Pilate

Pontius Pilate by Wroe, 432 Pages, Pub. 2001

Pontius Pilate a Novel by Maier, 384 Pages


Pontius Pilate

Bible History Online

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