Summary: What can we learn from Pontius Pilate? (Material adapted from Steven J. Cole at:


A Sunday school teacher asked her students to draw a picture of Jesus' family. After collecting the drawings, she noticed that one little boy's drawing depicted an airplane with four heads sticking out of the windows. "I see you drew three heads to show Joseph, Mary and Jesus," she said to the boy. "But who does the fourth head belong to?"

The boy replied, "That's Pontius the pilot."


Pontius Pilate, the Roman official in charge of Jerusalem and the surrounding area, during the time of Jesus Christ, will always be remembered for the miscarriage of justice that sent Jesus to the cross. 3 times in the book of Acts Pilate is connected to the injustice. One of the oldest creeds, the Apostles Creed, that is repeated regularly by millions of people even today, has this: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

During the trials of Jesus, Jesus was mostly silent but he said the most to Pilate. Out of all the people involved with the trials of Jesus, Pilate was the least informed about everything. He knew little of Jesus Christ. Jesus was popular in Galilee and so Jesus did not concern Pilate. Pilate knew little about the Jewish faith. Like many Roman officials who came to Palestine, Pilate was a pagan Gentile and the faith of the Gentiles and the faith of the Jews was as different as night and day. Maybe this is why Jesus spoke the most to Pilate because Pilate was the least informed. Even so, Pilate knew enough to give the verdict that Jesus was innocent. 3 times in Luke 23 Pilate contends that Jesus is undeserving of the death penalty.

I saw the movie Risen and I believe that movie gives an accurate picture of Pontius Pilate. Pilate was concerned about pleasing the Emperor Tiberius. Tiberius wanted no trouble out of the Roman provinces. Palestine was notorious for being a trouble spot and so Pilate was under a lot of scrutiny. Pilate knew that many wanted Jesus Christ dead even though Pilate knew it was wrong to kill him. If he let Jesus go free this could lead to trouble with the leaders of the area and this might lead to unrest so Pilate granted their demands. Mark 15:15 tells us that Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd so he gave the order to execute Jesus. Matthew 27:14 says this: “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,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”” Pilate allowed Jesus to be executed because he felt like Jesus and his followers were insignificant. ““What is truth?” Pilate asked in John 18:38. Pilate left before Jesus could answer. Pilate needed no reply, because the truth was of no particular concern to him. He was far more interested in what was politically expedient, doing what was the best for himself and Rome. Even today many politicians are unwilling to stand up for Christian causes, even ones they believe to be true, because this might jeopardize their position and their careers.

This is informative but what does this have to do with us? We are not in positions of power or judges in courts that determine the futures of people. True, so what can we learn from Pilate?

Thesis: What can we learn from Pontius Pilate?

For instances:


Josephus, a Jewish historian of the time, lets us know some of the background of Pilate’s rule in Palestine. Josephus tells us that Pilate got off to a bad start in Judea. When he first came into Judea he had sent his soldiers into Jerusalem, doing something which no Roman before him had done and that is, taking the standards of the Roman legions that had on them the images of the emperor as a god; everybody else had agreed not to offend the Jews by doing this. But Pilate decided, right off the bat, to show who was boss, so he sends the images of the emperor into Jerusalem. So enraged are the Jewish leaders that they come down from Jerusalem to Caesarea to meet with Pilate and Pilate lets them cool their heels for five days. On the sixth day, he comes out in his open courtyard, takes his seat on the judgment seat to meet with them. He has told his soldiers to surround the group and, if any body gets out of line, to execute them. Then he lets the leadership know that he is not going to give in and he‘s going to let the Roman icons or images stay there and if they don‘t like it, he will put them to death. Whereupon the Jewish leaders bare their necks to the soldiers and said to Pilate, “Then kill us.” Pilate knew that to do that would not set well in Rome—wiping out the leadership of a nation. So he backed off and removed the standards. But already he had compromised and he was in a delicate position, knowing that the leaders of Judea could go to Caesar with a complaint against him.

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