Summary: A look at Pilate and the rolehe played in handing Jesus over to be crucified.
“God and Human Hands”
***Intro: Video of Jesus before Pilate from “The Passion”
Pilate was the Roman Procurator of Judea from 26-36 AD. Judea was an imperial province which meant it was under the control of the emperor, Tiberius, directly. Pilate would have answered directly to the emperor on all matters related to the running of Judea.
As procurator of Judea, Pilate had full civil, military and criminal jurisdiction. A death sentence could only be handed down from him. The Jewish leaders were not allowed to put someone accused of a crime to death.
Therefore, we find Jesus before Pilate in Matthew 27:11-26
The charge against Jesus before Pilate was that he declared himself King, a violation of Roman law. Jesus, however, made no attempt to overthrow Rome, though people tried to force him to do so.
“After the people saw that miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
Pilate does not see a reason for him to be crucified. He tries to convince them to allow him to release Jesus for a Passover custom. Instead they have him release a notorious criminal named Barabbas. Barabbas was a man who had been thrown in jail for starting a riot and murder. He was a common street thug. Pilate turned Jesus over to be crucified.
I. Why did Pilate have Jesus crucified?
“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility.’” Matthew 27:24(NIV)
Pilate was not a man worried about killing. He often used brutal tactics to send a message to those under his authority who questioned him. Here are some historic accounts we have.
*Josephus, a Jewish historian- Samaritan revolt and the aqueduct
Josephus gives an account of what really happened to Pontius Pilate and his removal from office. A religious fanatic arose in Samaria who promised the Samaritans that if they would assemble on Mt. Gerizim, he would show them the sacred vessels which Moses had hidden there. A great multitude of people came to the “sacred mountain” of the Samaritans ready to ascend the mountain, but before they could they were attacked by Pilate’s cavalry, and many of them were slaughtered. Pilate was ordered to go to Rome and answer the charges made against him before the emperor. Pilate set out for Rome, but before he could reach it, Tiberius had died. From this point onward history knows nothing more of Pilate.
Eusebius tells us, based on the writings of certain Greek historians, that Pilate soon afterward, “wearied with misfortunes,” had killed himself.
At another time he used the sacred treasure of the temple, called corban (qorban), to pay for bringing water into Jerusalem by an aqueduct. A crowd came together and clamored against him; but he had caused soldiers dressed as civilians to mingle with the multitude, and at a given signal they fell upon rioters and beat them so severely with staves that the riot was quelled.
He tried three times to get Jesus released. But fearing a riot while Jerusalem is filled with Jewish pilgrims, Pilate decides to have Jesus killed rather than released.
Pilate chose what was easy instead of what was right.
Pilate wanted desperately to avoid this situation, but instead of doing what he should, he did what he could.
We often make the same choices. We choose the easy way of going with the crowd and not raising a voice. When faced with choices of right and wrong, what choice do we make.
Pilate gave into pressure instead of living on principle.
In another gospel account, it is only after the threat of being reported to Caesar that Pilate agrees to have Jesus killed.
“From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are not friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be king opposes Caesar.’ Finally, Pilate handed him over to be crucified.”
What decisions in your life are you facing that you have to choose between pressure and principle?
What will be your determining factor?
II. Why did Pilate wash his hands of Jesus?
Washing hands was a common sign of purity of heart in Middle Eastern culture. Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews were instructed to wash as a sign of cleanliness and purity before God.
Jesus himself had spoken of washing as an outward sign. He confronted the religious leaders of his day by challenging their true heart motivation.