Summary: Pilate was convinced that Jesus was not worthy of crucifixion, but he compromised and sent Jesus to the cross anyway, and by that choice he went from a hero to a zero in the history of Christianity.
Pilate was appointed procurator of Judea in A.D. 26, which was only about 3 years
before the crucifixion of Christ, but already he had so much trouble with the Jews that he
despised them. When he first came to Jerusalem he discovered that it was about the only
city in the whole Roman Empire that did not have an image of the Emperor. He did not
realize how the Jews hated idols, and how they would rather die than bow down to one.
In his ignorance he sent a guard to set up images on a tower overlooking the temple. He
had enough sense to do it at night, but when it was discovered in the morning, the angry
Jews began to stream out of Jerusalem toward the palace of Pilate. By the time they got
there they had gathered seven thousand people and completely surrounded the palace.
The people sent Pilate their request to remove the images, but he refused, and so
they camped there for 6 days. Every time Pilate looked out he saw seven thousand Jews
praying that God would change His mind. Finally, he told them to go to the marketplace
and he would speak to them. Then he ordered his soldiers to surround the marketplace.
He then gave them a warning that they either go home quietly or the whole lot of them
would be killed. They said it was better to die than have images in Jerusalem. This called
Pilate's bluff, and he knew if he began his career there by killing thousand of unarmed
Jews he would soon be back in Rome. He had to give in and order the idols removed. He
despised the Jews for winning this battle and forcing him to be humiliated.
On another occasion he tried to rob the temple treasury and started a riot. Many
Jews were killed by his soldiers. On a third occasion he tried to bring in shields with
pagan gods on them, but again the Jews won out by writing to Caesar. He rebuked
Pilate, and so with this as a background we can better understand the attitude and action
of Pilate when Jesus is brought before him. First we see-
I. PILATE'S CONCERN. v. 28-32
Pilate was suspicious from the start. In the first place he could not stand their smug
self-righteousness. They would not come into his judgment hall less they be defiled, but
they could plan a cruel murder and think nothing of it. The letter of the law was
everything to them, but the spirit of it was nothing. Pilate knew they were up to no good,
but he went out to them and asked what they charged Jesus with. The Jews had no love
for him either, and so they said, "If He wasn't guilty we would not have brought Him to
you." They were saying this is none of your business. We only come to you to get your
order to crucify Him.
In verse 31 Pilate shows he is not to be outwitted. He says, "That is just fine. If you
don't need to tell me anything, then you take care of it yourself and judge Him by your
own law." That was a victory for Pilate, for he knew he had them there. They had to
admit it and confess that they could not put a man to death without his permission. Pilate
would have been glad to see them try, for then he would have Rome behind him while he
satisfied his thirst for revenge against them. They knew this, of course, and so they
obeyed the law of Rome that forbid them to practice capital punishment without
Pilate was concerned also because he knew they were charging Jesus with treason.
Luke tells us that they said he claims to be a king, and if you do not try Him, you are no
friend of Caesar. Pilate had to consider this charge, for if news ever got back to Rome,
he would be in serious trouble. He knew, however, that this was not the real reason they
wanted Jesus crucified. He knew they were envious. They hated Rome and would be
glad to see someone overthrow it. When Jesus was only a boy Judas the Galilean started
a rebellion, and all of Galilee was in a uproar. Many of the Pharisees joined him. It was
soon crushed by the Romans, but it showed that the Pharisees hated the Romans, and so
Pilate was very suspicious of their charge. Pilate was cruel, but he did have a typical
Roman concern for justice, and so he determined to examine the prisoner.
II. PILATE'S CONVICTION. v. 33-38
When Jesus was brought into Pilate the first question he asked Him was, "Art thou
the king of the Jews?" Jesus had to be very cautious here, and so He answers by asking