Pilate. Pilate. You thought the man innocent. Not guilty. But you bowed to peer pressure. Both you and Herod found him innocent. Yet you couldn’t let him go. You valued your life over his. You even claimed a friend that day. Herod, the man who was once your enemy became a friend. For what? Because you both agreed about this man? You both found him innocent but couldn’t free him. What kind of leader are you?
So you listened to the crowd. You had the opportunity to free a man sentenced to death. You could have released Jesus. An innocent man. Yet you released a murderer. You released a man charged with insurrection. A troublemaker. A rioter. Were you afraid of a riot if you let Jesus go free? Do you always lead with double standards? Were you afraid for your life that day?
Pilate. You sat on the judgment seat. The power was in your hands. Even your wife knew you should free Jesus. She had a nightmare. She knew. She begged you to let him go. But you didn’t listen. You were too concerned for yourself. Coward. Spineless. Yourself a troublemaker. You couldn’t stand up for an innocent man. So you traded his life for that of a murderer. Your claim to fame is the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
How does it feel to sentence an innocent man to death? Oh. You came to the right conclusion. Both you and Herod. Jesus was innocent. No crime was committed. Yet you bowed. But you were the leader. The governor. You were the one with the power. And you were afraid. You had a choice. Do the right thing or do the popular thing. Yes. We know what you chose.
Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?” Mark 15:12
You thought that washing your hands in a bowl of water would cleanse you from guilt. There is not enough soap to wash away that guilt. The only thing that would cleanse you was the man you put on that cross. Sometimes the things we try to run from continue to haunt us long after the deed is done. Sometimes you can’t run far enough or fast enough. And it doesn’t matter if someone else says they’ll take the blame. It was you who freed the wrong man. You’re the one who has to live with that.
There are stories that tell how you had a history of executing prisoners before their trial. You were violent. Greedy. Stubborn. Cruel. Yes. That’s the way history paints you. So killing another innocent man wasn’t new to you. But this prisoner was different. You knew this man was innocent.
I wonder, Pilate, if Jesus’ words had begun to sink in. When you asked if he was king of the Jews, did you believe he was? I can see how his words of truth would prick your heart and create the stirrings of belief. You were frightened by his words. I believe you knew that you were dealing with someone not of this world.
You had him flogged with a lead-tipped whip. Then you ordered your men to put a crown of thorns on his head. You dressed him in a purple robe. Perhaps deep down you knew. He really was King of the Jews. But you couldn’t say it to the crowd. Or you might have been the one on the cross.
Here’s the thing. Pontius Pilate. You couldn’t change your mind. Your decision was part of God’s plan for his only Son. Jesus was born to die on that cross. God knew there would be those warring against him. You were placed in that role for this very part. Oh. Yours wasn’t a starring role. But it was powerful. It was shameful. It was tragic. But you did the job. Your decision set Jesus up to be the Savior of the world. He died for you, Pilate.