Christ Before Pilate
- Supplement to Lesson 13
Lucius Pontius Pilate was a Spaniard, born
in the city of Seville, probably about the time of the birth of
Christ. We never would have heard of him, except by a unique set
of events that made him one of the most famous men of all
history. For Pilate was the judge that approved the death
sentence upon Jesus Christ.
The name "Pontius" may have been
given him because of fighting that was done earlier by someone in
the family in the Pontus (Black Sea region) of the Roman Empire.
"Pilate" may stem from pilatus, "javelin"
which was given to victors of certain armed combats. We are told
that his father, Marcus Pontius, won the pilium, or javelin, for
heroic Roman service, and that the name Pilati was taken
henceforth as the family name to commemorate this medal of valor.
Having fought in the German campaigns of
Germanicus, young Pilate at the conclusion of the war went to
Rome. Rome was the place to go if you wanted a good job, and
Pilate was determined to get it.
He had not long been in this city famous
for size and debauchery, when he met Claudia, the youngest
daughter of Julia. Now, this Julia was the daughter of the
previous emperor--Augustus Caesar. Julia was the black sheep of
the family. She was so vile that after having married Tiberius,
her third husband, her own father Augustus banished her from Rome
because of her lewd and dissolute life. Suetonius, the Roman
historian, tells us that nothing so embittered the life of
Augustus as did the shameful conduct of his own daughter, Julia.
While Julia was in exile, she gave birth to
an illegitimate daughter, Claudia. The father was a
Roman soldier. But all would go well for Claudia for on the death
of Augustus, her mother's third husband, Tiberius, became
Emperor. At about the age of thirteen, Claudia was sent to Rome
to be raised in the palace of the Emperor. Pontius Pilate arrived
in Rome when she was about sixteen.
After the wedding in a pagan temple in
Rome, as Lucius Pilate and Claudia came out to enter an imperial
litter, thus to be borne by slaves to the palace, Pilate was
stopped and drawn aside. It was Tiberius, the Emperor himself. He
had been one of the twelve witnesses required to attend the
marriage ceremony. He held him back and handed him an official
document which he had taken from under his coat.
And so Pontius Pilate received his wedding
present--the governorship of Judea, --with orders to proceed at
once to Caesarea to take over the office recently vacated by the
recall of Valerius Gratus.
It was 26 AD., and what would the future
hold for Pilate? Little did he dream what it would bring five
Palestine had been conquered by Pompey, the
Roman general in 63 B.C., and thus passed under Roman rule. Two
years before the birth of Christ, in 6 B.C., Judea was made a
Roman province under the rulership of procurators, or governors.
Pontius Pilate was the sixth of these Procurators. The
procurators were personally appointed by the emperor, and were
sent out from Rome as his personal representatives. Judea was
considered one of the most difficult of the provinces to rule at
this time and it is somewhat surprising that it was given to a
man as inexperienced as Pilate.
Immediately, Pilate was notified that his
ship was waiting to take him to his province--and that Claudia
would be sent soon after. He did not see her again for several
months, at which time she rejoined him at the port city of
Caesarea, on the coast of Palestine.
It was a large area that Pilate had been
given the rulership over. But when he arrived in Judea, he was
totally unprepared for governorship. He had never governed
anything in his life, much less an entire nation. One blunder
after another brought upon him the intense hatred of the Jewish
people that he now ruled over.
The coastal city of Caesarea was the Roman
capital of Judea. Pilate decided to make it his summer capital,
and relocate the winter capital in Jerusalem. This bothered the
Jews. But when he brought with him to Jerusalem the military
standards on which Caesar's image was prominently displayed, the
city went into a near-riot. The people petitioned Pilate to
remove them, but he refused. This went on for several days and
then following a near-slaughter of a large number of the
populace, he finally relented and sent the shields and images
back to Caesarea.
Then Pilate made a secret deal with some of
the Jewish leaders and obtained Temple money to use to repair the
aqueduct, or water supply, to Jerusalem. When this was found out
another riot took place. Pilate sent his soldiers among the mob
with concealed daggers--and a great massacre followed. Still
later he placed pagan shields dedicated to heathen gods into his
winter home in Jerusalem. Again he refused to remove them, until
at the request of the people a direct order came from Tiberius
that Pilate take them away.
The predecessors of Pilate had been careful
to avoid offense to the Jews because of their religious ideas,
but of this Pilate cared little. Proud and tactless, Pilate
defied the religious beliefs of those whom he had been sent to
govern, until the emperor himself had to step in, at the appeal
of the people, and personally require Pilate to retract some of
his more headstrong ways. All of these experiences served only to
deepen Pilate's hatred of the Jews, and their hatred of him.
Both Josephus and Philo, two first century
writers, have left on record a very ugly picture of the character
of Pontius Pilate. Philo Judaeus lived at the same time Pilate
did, and he charged him with "corruptibility, violence,
robberies, ill-treatment of the people, grievances, continuous
executions without even the form of a trial, endless and
intolerable Cruelties."--Philo Judaeus, De Legatione ad
Cajum, page 1034.
By 31 AD., Pilate had learned to spend most
of the year in Caesarea, the provincial capital of Judea. He
spent but a few days each year in Jerusalem, and this was usually
during the great national Jewish festivals when the danger of
insurrection was the greatest. And he had reason to be wary, for
throughout that century, the Romans repeatedly had more trouble
with the Jews than with any other people that they governed. The
Jews had become a turbulent nation, embittered because of the
loss of their kingly and judicial authority, and seething with
continual discontent that a foreign power ruled them. These
feelings seemed to run highest during their national gatherings.
Josephus, the first century historian, estimated the number
attending a single Passover at 2,700,000, including the
population of Jerusalem. And so it was, that on such occasions,
the governor made sure he too was at Jerusalem--accompanied by a
Before his death in 4 B.C., Herod the Great
had built an ornate fortress-palace in Jerusalem, and during his
visits to the city, Pilate stayed there. Josephus tells us it was
the official residence of the procurators--the governors--of the
province, whenever they stopped over in Jerusalem.
The palace was located in the northwest
quarter of the city, on the heights of Mount Zion. From its upper
windows the entire city and surrounding countryside could be
seen. One of the wings of the palace contained an assembly room
in which Roman court trials were held. This was the praetorium of
Mark 15:16, the common hall of Matthew 27:27, the hall of
judgment of John 18:28, and the judgment hall of John 18:28,33;
19:9, and Acts 23:35.
The palace of Herod was the most
magnificent home in the city. It was surrounded by walls
forty-five feet high, from which rose strong towers. Within the
palace were spacious rooms with elaborate carvings on both wall
and ceiling, inlaid with gold, silver and precious stones.
Between the palace and the guard walls were groves and gardens,
pools and walkways.
This palace was to become the hall of
judgment and condemnation for Jesus Christ, the Creator of the
world and its only Saviour.
It was the time of morning when the birds
sing their hardest. The sun was just coming up. But Pilate didn't
want to hear it. He wanted to sleep. And he knew he would need
it, for this was the time when trouble could come. For tomorrow
was the Passover.
Hurrying through the streets, priests and
rabble pressed toward the gate of the palace of Herod.
But upon reaching it they halted. Passover preparation had
already begun and defilement was sure to be theirs if they
entered this heathen building today. Gradually the crowd
increased, and with it the noise. And so when aroused, Pilate
knew he had better get out there right away.
And so it was that the Roman trial of
Christ took place outside the gate, and not in the praetorium.
This was the first of several illegalities that occurred during
There were two trial sessions before
Pilate, interrupted by another before Herod Antipas. You can read
the complete story of the first trial before Pilate in Matthew
27:2, 11-14, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-5, and John
18:28-38. The trial before Herod is given in Luke 23:6-12. The
continuation of the trial before Pilate is given in Matthew 2
7:15-31, Mark 15.6-20, Luke 23:13-25, and John 18:38 to
As he strode through the massive rooms of
the palace toward the gate, Pilate was told that the Jews had a
prisoner to be sentenced,--and just now he was only too glad to
be agreeable. It would put the Jews in a good humor and perhaps
make the weekend go better. Pilate had never been a man to worry
much about justice.
Stepping outside, Pilate immediately
directed his attention toward the priests, and called out,
"What accusation bring ye against this man?" In reply
came an evasive answer, "If he were not a malefactor, we
would not have delivered him up unto thee." Pilate was used
to this kind of reply from these men. So let them have
him--that's what they wanted. "Take ye him, and judge him
according to your law." "We can't do it ourselves --for
we want the death sentence!" And just then, for the first
time Pilate saw Jesus. Now Pilate hardly saw the crowd, hardly
heard the curses and impatient calls of the rabble and the
Pharisees. For Pilate's eyes were riveted on the face of Jesus.
Pilate had never seen a face like that
before in his life. It was so pure--and there was such a kindness
in it. It bore a kinglike bearing of patience and dignity beyond
anything he had ever seen before. And Pilate was no stranger to
the palaces of royalty and kings.
From somewhere he heard contemptuous voices
call out the name of the prisoner. "Jesus", they said.
He had heard of Him. What had he heard? Memories of reports
submitted to him over the past three years about this man's
activities--his sayings, the speeches, those miracles--it was
coming back to his memory.
Pilate was confused. It seemed like an
immense decision lay ahead of him. And somehow he knew he hadn't
prepared himself to meet it.
And now Pilate spoke, and demanded a formal
charge against the prisoner. The Jews were surprised. Pilate
usually went along with them better than this. Amid hooting and
yells from back in the crowd, the priests called out that Pilate
should accept their conclusions in the matter without asking too
many questions. But by now, Pilate was trying for the firmness of
decision that in the past he had never taken time to develop.
More clearly he was recalling to mind stories of paralytics and
lepers cleansed--and even members of his own Centurians' family
healed. Although Pilate did not have much firmness of character,
his office had taught him to read people, and it was clear as the
day that the man before him was totally innocent of any
accusation. But it was not the innocence nor the stories--it was
the face of Jesus that held Pilate back from handing Him over to
His enemies. Pilate knew he didn't dare. In the shimmering heat
of the early morning, Pilate saw before him a man that was
But the uncertainty that Pilate's apparent
firmness had brought to the Jewish leaders quickly passed away.
Important principles in the great controversy between Christ and
Satan were here being worked out, and it seemed as if on this
day, these men were in close league with devils in their
desperation to destroy Jesus.
"We found this fellow perverting the
nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He
Himself is Christ a King." The men who sought in vain to
find a valid charge against Christ when He appeared before them
four times earlier that morning (see our study--"The Hebrew Trials of Christ"), now
dreamed up another on the spot. A political charge was
needed--and so three were given. And each one, though without a
foundation in fact, was a charge of treason against the
government of Rome.
It might be well at this point to give a
little background information. The Jews had authority to hold
court trials, but the Romans forbade them from executing the
death sentence. For this reason they had to have the Roman
government confirm their sentence as correct. Now a procurator
when holding a trial against a provincial citizen, could use
either Roman law or the laws of the national that was being
judged. But if the charge was treason, only Roman law could be
applied. And so it is Roman law that Pilate must follow in this,
the most famous court trial in history.
We well know what Roman court law was, for
it was the law used in court trials at Rome, and it was required
that it be applied the same way in the provinces. And because of
this we can know that the Roman trial of Jesus before Pilate was
illegal in several instances. Here are some of them. We may
consider more later in this study:
(1) Private citizens preferred the
charges and prosecuted the case, not public officials as was
done in the case of Jesus by the priests. Even though a trial
had already been conducted by the Sanhedrin, their death
sentence required a brand new trial by Rome--and private
citizens must initiate it and prosecute it.
(2) If there was more than one accuser,
a preliminary hearing must be held to decide which one should
prosecute the case.
(3) This preliminary hearing must be an
entirely private one--a closed door affair with the defendant
and the prosecutors and those testifying alone being present.
(3) Only after this hearing could the
several prosecutors frame an indictment--state in words the
charge against the man.
(4) And it was only after this hearing
that the indictment could be presented to the judge.
(5) It was only now that the trial date
could be appointed and fixed on the legal calendar of coming
(6) When the day of the trial actually
came, the judges as well as the jurors were summoned by
(7) Now the impaneling of the jury
began. This was done in this way: The names of a number of
citizens were written on clay tablets, and deposited in an
urn or clay howl. Then the number required were drawn out.
(8) Only in the Forum, or Roman
courtroom, could the trial be conducted. In this legislative
hall seats were placed for the judges.
(9) Decisions were arrived at by
balloting, and this was done as black (condemnation)
stones or white (acquittal) stones were deposited in an urn
as it was passed.
These charges of sedition or treason
against the government hit Pilate in a weak spot. We are told the
emperor, Tiberius Caesar, was "a morbid and capricious
temper, whose fretful and suspicious temper
would kindle into fire at the slightest suggestion of treason in
any quarter. Tacitus [the Roman historian] records fifty-two
cases of prosecution for treason during his reign--The most
harmless acts were at times construed into an affront to the
majesty or into an assault upon the safety of this miserable
despot ."--Walter M. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus,
volume 2, page 70.
Also, Pilate knew that Judea was a
powder-keg,--and that Rome knew it. A charge such as this would
be the more serious in the eyes of the Emperor and the Senate, in
view of where it originated.
And now for the first time, Pilate entered
the Forum, or Roman judgment hall--the Praetorium--where the
trial was supposed to be held. But it was only for a few minutes.
Pilate wanted to speak with Jesus. Hearing the charge of treason,
already his firmness was crumbling, and he thought that something
Jesus might say could give him a fresh outlook on a direction he
should head in all this. The idea of standing for the right
because it was right--and without further adieu simply setting
Jesus free--never occurred to him.
The conversation can be read in John
18:33-38. It has many lessons for us. At a time when Jesus must
not acknowledge that He might be a king,--He told Pilate three
times in this interview that He was. And each time He also told
him that His kingdom was not of this world. But more than
information or settlement of a court trial, it was truth that
Pilate needed. Pilate needed salvation. And Jesus was more
concerned that Pilate have it, than that His own life be spared.
And Pilate asked Him for this understanding--and then he walked
out. Business was calling. If I could write one phrase on
Pilate's tombstone, I would pen, "He didn't wait for an
Pilate was convinced now that Jesus was
thoroughly innocent. Reaching the gate, Pilate rendered his
official decision in the case as the presiding Roman judge--"I
find in Him no fault at all."
One of the most prominent legal minds in
American court history has written a book on this trial. Consider
his words: "Here was a sentence of acquittal, judicially
pronounced, and irreversible, except by a higher power, upon
appeal; and it was the duty of Pilate thereupon to have
discharged Him."--Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the
Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in
Courts of Justice, page 565. Dr. Greenleaf was a professor
of law at Harvard University at the turn of the century, and was
considered to be one of the keenest students of jurisprudence of
Clearly, it was the duty of the procurator
to enforce his decision, and not only to immediately release
Jesus, but to protect Him from the fury of the mob as well. This
he could easily do, for at one word from him and a detachment of
Roman soldiers would immediately have dispersed the crowd. But
this Pilate did not do.
With eager anticipation the Jewish leaders
awaited the return of Pilate. When he appeared and summarily
declared the man innocent, it was too much. With a roar as
of wild beasts about to be robbed of their prey, a terrific
shouting and hollering began, and amid it the same charge in new
wording was again hurled at Jesus. "He stirreth up the
people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to
this place." The Jews were trying to reopen the case that
Pilate had just closed, and this Pilate should not have
permitted. He had already rendered a verdict of innocence, and
the trial was actually over, the case dismissed. It was a rule of
Roman law that "no man shall be put twice in jeopardy."
This principle of double jeopardy is an important one, even in
modern law. A man cannot be tried in a court of law twice on the
But instead of reacting to this offense to
the Roman system of law, Pilate used it as an excuse for an
easier way out of it all. Rather than stand by Roman law now that
the trial had been concluded, Pilate reopened the case and sent
Jesus to Herod. When everything was all settled, Pilate opened it
up again as a way to solve it.
Herod Antipas (4 B.C.--39 A.D.) was the
younger brother of Archaelaus (mentioned in Matthew 2:22),
who in turn was the eldest of the three sons of Herod the Great,
who tried to kill Christ at His birth (Matthew 2:13, 16).
Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and his
provincial capital was Tiberius in Galilee. He happened to be in
Jerusalem for the weekend, and when Pilate heard mention of
"Galilee" he thought that perhaps he could transfer
jurisdiction in this case that had been concluded--to Herod. So
Jesus, the One everybody needed, and the One no one wanted, was
sent to Herod--the man who in a drunken party had ordered the
death of John the Baptist.
Pilate, the man who was constantly looking
for a loophole, now sent Jesus, under escort of a praetorian
cohort, to the palace of the Maccabees where Herod was accustomed
to stay on his trips into Jerusalem.
Down the streets of the city the mob
headed, again bound for a court room. The residence of Herod when
in Jerusalem was in the same quarter of the city as was the
palace of Herod. It was an older building, this palace of the
Asmoneans, and lay but a few streets to the northeast, within the
same old city wall. It was on the slope of the hill that Herod's
The Jews had refused to enter Pilate's
headquarters, but Herod was in a far uglier spirit. His life
stained with the blood of John, he cared nought for Jewish
fooleries, and upon learning that Jesus had been sent to him, he
demanded that He be immediately brought into his assembly room.
Interestingly enough, the Jewish leaders now made no complaint,
but quickly followed on in. Jesus was now to appear before Herod
Antipas, who had been responsible for the deaths of nearly all of
his ten wives, as well as thousands of innocent victims, and the
prophet John as well.
But hardened though he was, Herod was glad
to see Jesus. But much of this seems to be from idle
curiosity (Luke 23:8). He was hoping for grand
entertainment, and ordered the sick and the lame to be brought in
that he might see them healed. And thereafter Jesus would be
released, he promised. The Jewish leaders well knew Jesus' power
over disease and feared for what was ahead. But to every one's
surprise--Jesus did nothing and said nothing. Jesus' life, both
in earth as well as in heaven, has never been to live for
Herod had no intention of killing this Man
who was so popular with the common people throughout two
provinces. Jesus was considered by many to be a prophet, just as
John had been. And the stain of one of their deaths was enough
But he was not prepared for the amazing
self-control of Christ. Herod was without conscience--he had long
since seared it away. And Jesus had no words for him. Try as he
would, Herod could obtain no healings, and not even a reply, from
the Man who stood before him. This was a rebuke to his authority
that Antipas could not take.
But finally the silence of Jesus brought
the patience of Herod to an end. "And Herod with his men of
war set Him at nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a
gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate."--Luke
There is evidence that if the Roman
soldiers that were standing there in Herod's courtroom that day
had not saved Him, Herod and the rabble and the priests would
have torn Him to pieces. Maddened with fury, Herod left his
throne and acted like a demon, and he was immediately accompanied
in this diabolical work by nearly everyone in the room. Few
will ever know what Jesus went through that day so that man might
have another chance to return to God and again in His strength
obey His laws.
Herod refused to pronounce sentence in
the case, and this was the equivalent of an acquittal. And Pilate
acknowledged it as such upon the return of Jesus. "Ye
have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people. And,
behold, I, having examined him before you,--have found no fault
in the man touching those things whereof ye accuse him. No, nor
yet Herod, for I sent you to him, and,--lo, nothing worthy of
death is done unto him. "--Luke 23:14-15.
For a second time Pilate had rendered a
verdict of "not guilty." But instead of
releasing Jesus, he said he would have Him beaten before freeing
Again, Pilate was trying to escape the
responsibility for freeing Jesus. For the second time he had a
golden opportunity to release Him, and for the second time lie
cowardly let it go. Pilate's fatal vacillation
doomed Jesus and was to destroy himself.
Immediately there went up a crying and
shouting for Jesus' death that was deafening. Gradually it
subsided as Pilate proposed something new.
It was a Jewish custom that one criminal be
freed at each yearly Passover. Pilate now graciously offered to
let Jesus be the one set at liberty. Placing Jesus before the
people next to Barabbas, a hardened criminal, he appealed to
their sympathies, and asked them which man they wanted released.
"Whither of the twain will ye that I release unto you?"
The contrast between the two men was unmistakable. Pilate was
certain the crowd would choose Jesus. But Pilate was wrong.
With a roar as of an ocean in storm came
the reply, "Barabbas, Barabbas, release unto us
Barabbas." "And what shall I do then with Jesus which
is called Christ?" he shouted at the top of his lungs. Like
surging waves of sound came the answer. "Let him be
This pagan custom had come down from the
days of Athens and early Rome. During national festivals the
people had the privilege of choosing one imprisoned criminal, and
the government would release him. Pilate had selected as the
alternate choice to stand by Jesus the most dangerous and
notorious criminal in custody.
An ancient Syriac New Testament was found
in 1892 in St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai, that has a
different translation of Matthew 27:18. "Which Jesus will
you have, Jesus the son of Abba, or Jesus the King?" We have
reason to believe that Barabbas was an emboldened criminal who
had claimed to be the Messiah and had gathered something of a
following prior to his imprisonment for robbery and murder. To
prove his claim as king of the Jews, he had instigated an
insurrection that resulted in the death of many men (Mark 15:7).
"Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer
to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God
hath raised from the."--Acts 3:14-15. Many men
are still doing the same thing today. In countless ways, small
and great, they are rejecting the only One who can save them.
Forgotten now, amid the hollering, cursing
and shouting, was the last concern for legality or justice. All
that remained was the battle between the will of Pilate and the
will of the mob. Pilate saw that amid it all, Jesus stood there
calm and god-like, while the deafening noise of jealousy, envy
and hatred beat about Him. Pilate was never to forget the scene,
but just now he felt very helpless and defeated.
When Pilate had aroused from sleep early
that morning at the cries of the Jews, his wife Claudia, the
adopted daughter of Tiberius, continuing in sleep was given in a
dream a view of the entire court trial, Pilate, the Jews and
Christ. She, too, looked upon the face of Jesus, and she heard
all that was said. She saw the death sentence handed down by her
husband, and she saw Calvary.
And now the granddaughter of an emperor was
fully awake, hearing from her maids what was going on at the gate
of the palace--and she penned an urgent note to her husband.
"Have nothing to do with that righteousness man, for I have
suffered much over him today in a dream." --Matthew
Receiving it, with bloodless face he read
it. Pilate was more frightened than he had ever been before in
his life. Perhaps this was a god that stood before him. What was
he to do? All he knew was to try and work out another deal with
the adversaries. He was sure it would take some kind of
compromise to make the Jews willing to see Jesus released.
"And the soldiers plaited a crown of
thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple
robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with
their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto
them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I
find no fault in Him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of
thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, BEHOLD
THE MAN!"-John 19:1-5.
In his desperation, Pilate allowed this
beating of the Innocent One to take place, hoping that in some
way this terrible scene would at last awaken pity and mercy in
the minds of the blood thirsty rabble. But it didn't.
The lashes that Jesus received came from a
whip with a short handle to which were fastened several cords
tipped with pieces of iron, lead, or bone. With each lash, these
sharp pieces tore into the flesh and buried themselves in the
victim's bare back.
This had been followed by a beating and
mauling at the hands of the soldiers that was a spectacle of
horror. In it all, Jesus maintained a dignified silence through
which shone a kingly bearing that astonished even the men beating
This living torture took place within the
praetorium, and following it, Jesus was brought out and presented
to the Jews.
"Behold the Man!" Pilate
cried, as he presented Him. And now, twenty centuries later, I
ask you, Behold the Man! Behold what He went through for you.
Behold all that He did that you might have eternal life--Behold
what your God has done for you!
And in presenting Jesus to the multitude,
for the third time, Pilate had declared Jesus to be innocent.
"That ye may know that I find no fault in Him." In
response, a massive crescendo of sound erupted. "Crucify
him, Crucify him!" In disgust with the unfeeling Jews,
Pilate cried out above the uproar "Oh, take ye him, and
crucify him yourselves!--for I find no fault in him!" (John
19:6) Pilate had challenged them to take the law into their
own hands, and in response they flung back, "We have a law,
and by our law he ought to die--because he made himself the Son
of God!" (John 19:7-8). So that was it! It wasn't
treason at all. They said he must die because he was a god--and
what did that mean? Pilate's fearful thoughts were in a whirl.
"From thenceforth Pilate sought to
release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man
go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king
speaketh against Caesar."--John 19:12.
That settled the matter for the procurator.
The battle was over. Pilate felt like a broken man. Calling for a
chair, for the first time in this "trial" he sat down.
Pilate's backer in Rome, Sejanus, was fast
losing his hold over Tiberius, and Pilate well knew this. In
fact, later that same year Sejanus was put to death at the order
of the Emperor. Three times in five years Pilate had nearly
driven the Jews to revolt, and another near-miss might mean his
"When Pilate therefore heard that
saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat
in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew,
Gabbatha."--John 19:13. Archeologists have found
that pavement or lithostrotos. Vincent found it several years ago
about fifteen feet below the present level of Jerusalem, buried
under two thousand years of rubbish. Large, flat stones mark this
raised place from whence the Roman governor would issue his
Seating himself on the judgment seat,
Pilate pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold your King!"
Back came the thunderous bellow--their unanimous
decision--"Away with him, away with him, crucify him."
"Shall I crucify your King?"
Just the slightest pause . . . and then
"We have no king but Caesar!"
It was time for a legal decision, based on
the authority of Rome--but Pilate wasn't thinking about
authority. He wanted to wash his hands. And calling for a basin
of water, he did so before them all. "I am innocent of the
blood of this just person. See ye to it." Pilate had
given his fourth acquittal of Christ. In response came the
cry, "His blood be on us, and on our children."--Matthew
"And they were instant with loud
voices, requiring that He might be crucified. And the voices of
them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence
that it should be as they required."--Luke 23:23-24.
"Then released he Barabbas unto them,
and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be
This is what Pilate did with Jesus. He had
innumerable opportunities to choose the right, but he did not do
so. Something told him that another path would be the easier way.
And Pilate liked easier ways.
But it wasn't, for it cost Pilate his job,
and his life,--and his soul. Not too long after, a complaint
brought an order from the governor of Syria that Pilate appear in
Rome before Tiberius to answer on serious charges. Arriving there
he found his wife's foster-father dead, and a new emperor on the
throne,--the cruel Caligula. Pilate was stripped of all honors
and fired from his office, and soon after "wearied with
misfortunes," as Eusebius tells us, he committed suicide.
"What shall I do then with Jesus,
who is called the Christ?" What will you do with Him? You
saw what the rabble and Herod and Pilate did with Him. He let
them do it for your sake--What will you do with Him? Will you
accept Him and all that He did for you?
Choose Him, just now--It is the best
choice you will ever make--And then write me, won't you? I want
to hear of your decision. Heaven isn't far off - I want to meet
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