Last time we examined 4 different versions of the story of how Pontius Pilate reached the decision to sentence Jesus to be crucified. While each version from the Gospels was slightly different they all conveyed the same basis message: Pontius Pilate was reluctant to send this innocent man to his death.
To understand the dynamics of the scenario we first must put the story in context….
Pontius Pilate was an official acting on behalf of the Roman Empire. “His two main duties were to keep order in the country and to make sure that all imperial tax revenues were collected and sent to Rome. The Jewish historians Josephus and Philo describe Pontius Pilate as a stubborn, inflexible, and cruel man who had no respect for the Jewish people” (gospel-mysteries.net). As you can imagine, there wasn’t much love between the Jewish people and Romans who were ruling them.
By the standards of those days, Pilate was probably very good at his job. “Pontius Pilate is known to have been a Roman governor of Judaea from about A.D. 26-36, which is a long tenure for a post that normally lasted only 1-3 years“ (about.com) The fact that he lasted 10 years in a job where most were out in 3 years implies he wasn’t the worst of the Roman rulers. So imagine the difficult position he was put in…The crowd is riled up crying for Jesus’ execution. The Jewish leaders are reminding him that declaring yourself a king (as Jesus was doing) is a threat to the Roman Empire. And to make matters worse in three of Gospels they report that Jesus wouldn’t defend himself against the charges (Matthew 27:13 – 14, John 19:9 and Mark 15:5). Pilate’s ability to “keep order in the country” was in jeopardy; his elaborate display of washing his hands was his attempt to abdicate responsibility for the mess that was unraveling.
We like to portray Pilate as the bad guy in this story. He, however reluctantly, is the one who gave the execution order. That makes it easy to see him as a wimp who wasn’t willing to use his authority and stand up to do the right thing. But just like Judas, Pilate’s actions were necessary to fulfill the prophecy.
That is the one key lesson we all have to learn from Pilate: Everyone has a role to play (even if they are reluctant in playing that role).