Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea from 26-37 AD.  We do not know much about Pilate, however the Lord’s trial before Pilate is spoken of in each of the four Gospels. 

We know nothing of the credentials of Pilate that earned him the role of governor of Judea.  We do know that he was a particularly sadistic man by reading Luke 13:1, “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” It seems that Pilate, possibly enraged by some sedition of certain Galileans who had come to Jerusalem to worship, had violated the sanctuary, and slain them in the courts of the temple, mingling their blood with the blood of their sacrifices.  Not only did he kill those who opposed him, but he also mocked their religious rites by pouring the blood of his victims into the blood of their sacrifices.

Let’s look at the events of the Lord’s trial before Pilate.  This is where we learn much about him.  Prior to His arrest, the Lord Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane to pray.  He took Peter, James, and John with Him.  After leaving the garden, the Lord was arrested.  “Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:12-14).

After His mock trial before the council, the Lord was taken to Pilate as we see in John 18:28, “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.”  How great was their hypocrisy!  They wanted the Son of God to be killed, but they dare not go into the hall of judgment because that was defiling to them. 

When Pilate was told about the charges against the Lord Jesus, he told the Jews to judge Him themselves.  We read in John 18:31, “Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”  This surely shows the hearts of the Jewish leaders…they wanted the Lord Jesus to be put to death and only Pilate could give that order.  Pilate considered this to be a religious matter, so after questioning the Lord, he returned to the Jews and said, “I find in him no fault at all.” (John 18:38).  However, they did have a custom to release one criminal at the time of the Passover, so Pilate allowed them to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, a known criminal.  “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.” (Matthew 27:20).  Perhaps Pilate knew they would choose to release Barabbas because he was involved in an insurrection and would probably be counted as a hero to the Jews. (Read Mark 15:7). 

At this point, Pilate received a warning from his wife. “When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19).  That must have rattled Pilate a bit.

Upon learning that the Lord Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate had Him taken to Herod, who was over Galilee.  It seems Pilate just wanted to get rid of this issue, so he passed Him over to Herod.  Herod questioned the Lord, he mocked Him by putting a robe on Him and sent Him back to Pilate.  (Read Luke 23:6-11). 

Reading Luke 23:13-24, we see that Pilate once again tried to release the Lord, but the people would not hear of it.  We read in Matthew 27:24, “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and WASHED HIS HANDS before the multitude, saying, I AM INNOCENT OF THE BLOOD OF THIS JUST PERSON: see ye to it.”  Mark 15:15 tells us, “And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.”  In washing his hands, Pilate tried to disassociate himself from all responsibility he had for making the decision of crucifying the Lord.

We do well to look at part of the time Pilate spent questioning the Lord.  We read in John 19:9-16, “And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And 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. 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. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.”  When Pilate referred to Jesus as “your King”, I imagine this infuriated the crowd.  Pilate probably knew that, so his words were meant to stir them up.  His frustration with the Jews was overflowing by this time and he allowed the Lord Jesus to be taken away to Calvary, there to be crucified.  Pilate irritated the Jews again with the plaque he placed above the Lord’s head while He was on the cross. (Read John 19:19-22).

Pilate made a mistake that many people still make today.  He tried to please the people around him, more than he was determined to be fair.  In John 18:38, he asked the Lord, “What is truth?”  Then he walked away before the Lord could answer him.  He had the perfect opportunity to learn that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), but he did not listen.  Some scholars say that Pilate committed suicide in AD 39.  Much more could be said about Pilate, but we will stop here. (440.4)