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Pontius Pilate

INTRODUCTION: Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor in Judah when Jesus was crucified, and this study will concentrate on his role in the predetermined will of God among the unknowing participants. the Jewish leaders and the ruling civil government interacted to bring about the death of the Christ in accordance with scripture prophecy. The followers of Christ actually carried out their proper role by having no control in what seemed to them to be a disaster. Only the gospel of Luke provides a connection of scripture about Pontius Pilate with generally accepted history during the early period of the Roman Empire. There is another reference to Pilate that is not in any other gospel, so the study will begin with scripture from Luke, supplemented with the other gospels where they provide more detail.

NOTE: All scripture passagess are from the American King James Bible.


Luke 3 "1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

Luke 13 "1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish."

COMMENTS: The Bible presents much in the way of spiritual content, but it does not neglect geographic and historic information that can be compared with common knowledge available to all people through other sources. This can help every reader of scripture in any era to better relate to the FACTUAL events recorded in scripture covering many centuries in ancient times. The Roman Empire had spread eastward through Europe and into parts of Asia, and all of Israel was under Roman rule before Jesus was born. However, the Roman and Jewish heads of government there had changed before John the Baptist and Jesus began their public ministries. The passage from Luke chapter 13 gives an example of the authority even to death held by Pilate. But Jesus declared that neither that murder, nor the calamity of a tower collapse, was evidence that the victims deserved judgment more than anyone who does not repent.

The Apostle Paul made a presentation before a Gentile ruler and a Jewish ruler about the clear evidence that Jesus is the Christ, and he said the events were done in the public view. This was not a fictional ACCOUNT. Acts 26 "22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue to this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: 23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light to the people, and to the Gentiles. 24 And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad. 25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26 For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believe you the prophets? I know that you believe. 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, Almost you persuade me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only you, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds."


John 18 "28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas to 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. 29 Pilate then went out to them, and said, What accusation bring you against this man? 30 They answered and said to him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to you. 31 Then said Pilate to them, Take you him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said to him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: 32 That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke, signifying what death he should die. 33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him, Are you the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Say you this thing of yourself, or did others tell it you of me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you to me: what have you done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice. 38 Pilate said to him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, I find in him no fault at all. 39 But you have a custom, that I should release to you one at the passover: will you therefore that I release to you the King of the Jews? 40 Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber."

Luke 23 "1 And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. 3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Are you the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, You say it. 4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. 5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. 6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. 7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time."

COMMENTS: John's gospel provides much detail about conversations between Pilate and Jesus, but it is difficult to be sure of accurate chronological arrangement when integrating the information with the other gospels. The Jewish leaders were so dedicated to the strict religious beliefs that they did not want to defile themselves before the Passover by entering the judgment hall, but their dependance on their own righteousness made them fail to recognize the promised Christ. They wanted the ruling governor to order the execution of Jesus because they did not have that authority from the Romans. They brought accusations against Jesus which were considered by Pilate, so he asked Jesus if he claimed to be a king. When Jesus asked if that was Pilate's own question, he replied that he was not a Jew, and he wanted to know what Jesus had done that his own people and the chief priests had delivered him. When Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world, Pilate asked him if he was indeed a king. Jesus said that he was born, and he came into the world, to bear witness to the truth, and everyone that is of the truth hears his voice. Pilot, and the Jewish leaders, were not open to the truth that Jesus was born of a woman, and he came from above as God in flesh, to embody the thruth about the way to everlasting life. Everyone who is converted by truth receives his word into the innermost part of their being.

When Pilate said to him, "what is truth?" he typified the way that was then, and continues to be, so common for secular and religious people alike to view truth as only relative to their own understanding. Pilate went out to the Jews again and said he found no fault in Jesus, so he asked them if he should release the king of the Jews to them per the custom at Passover. They all shouted that they wanted Barabbas, not this man. Luke provides the information that when the highly agitated crowd mentioned Galilee, Pilate took the opportunity to send the crowd and jesus to Herod who was in jerusalem at that time.


Luke 23 "8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. 9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. 11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nothing, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. 12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves."

COMMENTS: Herod was glad that Jesus was sent to him because he had hoped for a long time to see him perform a miracle. He questioned Jesus extensively, but Jesus gave him no answers. The chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Jesus. Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus and sent him back to Pilate in a fancy robe. Pilate and Herod became friends that day: previously they had hated each other. They had no idea about the true nature of this event wich brought them together as friends as they exercised their authority so as not to lose control over the masses.


Luke 23 "13 And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 Said to them, You have brought this man to me, as one that perverts the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof you accuse him: 15 No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, see, nothing worthy of death is done to him. 16 I will therefore chastise him, and release him. 17 (For of necessity he must release one to them at the feast.) 18 And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas: 19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) 20 Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spoke again to them. 21 But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. 22 And he said to them the third time, Why, what evil has he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. 23 And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. 24 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. 25 And he released to them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will."

Matthew 27 "11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Are you the King of the Jews? And Jesus said to him, You say. 12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13 Then said Pilate to him, Hear you not how many things they witness against you? 14 And he answered him to never a word; so that the governor marveled greatly. 15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release to the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said to them, Whom will you that I release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. 19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, Have you nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, Whether of the two will you that I release to you? They said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate said to them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say to him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil has he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified."

John 19 "1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. 4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and said to them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that you may know that I find no fault in him. 5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, Behold the man! 6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate said to them, Take you him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. 7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. 8 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; 9 And went again into the judgment hall, and said to Jesus, From where are you? But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then said Pilate to him, Speak you not to me? know you not that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you? 11 Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin. 12 And from thereafter Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend: whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar. 13 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. 14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he said to the Jews, Behold your King! 15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate said to them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar."

COMMENTS: The passage above, which is found only in Luke chapter 23, continues to describe when Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. He called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and told them neither he nor Herod had found anything worthy of death for jesus. Pilate said he would therefore chastise Jesus, and let him go as the one to be released at the feast. But the crowd shouted against Jesus, and they wanted Barabbas released. Pilate had even referred to Jesus as the one they called Christ, and he knew it was because of envy the Jewish leaders had delivered him. Also, Pilate's wife sent a message to him that she had suffered many things in a dream, and said he should have nothing to do with that just man jesus. Pilate asked the Jews which man he should release to them, and their answer was to release Barabbas and Let Jesus be crucified. Pilate asked them what evil he had done, and they persisted all the more in saying he should be crucified.

John's gospel adds another dimension to the pressure Pilate felt as he still tried to avoid condemning Jesus. After Jesus was flogged, had the crown of thorns placed on his head, and was mocked by the soldiers, he was brought out in a purple robe before the mob. Pilate again declared he found no fault in Jesus, but the chief priests and officers shouted for him to be crucified. Pilate told them to crucify him, but they replied that by their law he should be crucified because he made himself the Son of God. Hearing this made Pilate afraid, so he went into the judgment hall and asked jesus where he had come from, but Jesus gave no answer. Pilate was offended by Jesus' silence because he believed he had the power to release him or have him crucified. He must have been very puzzled when Jesus told him that he could have no power at all against Jesus, except it were given to him from above: therefore he that had delivered Jesus to Pilate had the greater sin. Pilate again wanted to release jesus but when the Jews made the statement that whoever released this man who claimed to be a king, would also become an opponent of Caesar, Pilate saw his serious political dilemma. So he brought Jesus and asked if he should crucify their king, and they responded that they had no king but Caesar.


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 you to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. 26 Then released he Barabbas to them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified."

John 19 "16 Then delivered he him therefore to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. 17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: 18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the middle. 19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. 21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered, What I have written I have written."

COMMENTS: Pilate tried very hard, with his reservations in the situation, to declare himself innocent in the execution of Jesus, who he called a just person. He washed his hands in front of the mob as a symbol, but the Jewish leaders had no hesitation in saying they readily accepted this blood guilt on themselves and even on their children! When Jesus was on the cross there was a title thereon signifying "JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS." This was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin which really irritated the Jews. This must have given Pilate some small satisfaction after doing something he had wanted to avoid. He told the Jews in criptic terms that he would not change the wording to their liking.

A brief passage from Acts as spoken by Peter, verifies that Pilate had truly desired to let Jesus go. Acts 3 "13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Son Jesus; whom you delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go." However, this does not exonerate Pilate, for another passage indicates his complicity in the death of Jesus, and yet all was within the determination and control of God. Acts 4 "25 Who by the mouth of your servant David have said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatever your hand and your counsel determined before to be done."


John 19 "31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) sought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and immediately came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true: and he knows that he said true, that you might believe."

COMMENTS: Pilate gave permission for the legs to be broken to assure a quicker death. Now that the "just man" for whom Pilate had washed his hands regarding the condemnation, was already on the cross, he granted the further desire of the Jews with no apparent resistance or resentment toward them so they could honor a special day that had no significance to Pilate.


Mark 15 "42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly to Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling to him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph."

John 19 "38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, sought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury."

COMMENTS: Even though Pilate had permitted the action that would hasten death on the cross, he was surprised when Joseph requested to have the body of Jesus. Since Pilate considered it to be sooner than he expected, he required verification of the deth from one of his soldiers before he would release the body for burial. He apparently was satisfied that Jesus was dead. There are some people even today who will say that when Jesus appeared later to many witnesses, it was because he had not actually died on the cross. There was no doubt for the Romans who were there that Jesus was dead. Joseph of Arimathaea was among the few of leadership rank who was a disciple of Christ. Even though he did not openly declare it to the Jews, he did boldly make his request of Pilate. Paul provided a good summary for acceptance or rejection of the gospel message. 1 Corinthians 1 "23 But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; 24 But to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brothers, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence."


Matthew 27 "62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said to them, You have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as you can."

COMMENTS: Pilate was approached again with a request from the chief priests and the Pharisees because he had military power accompanying his governing authority. They asked for a guard detail at the tomb to assure that the disciples of Jesus could not steal the body away and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day as he had said he would. The Pharisees believed in resurrection, and it is ironic that they were helping to make it more undeniable that Jesus rose again. Roman soldiers were not likely to be overcome and defeated at their post. Pilate gave permission with no apparent reservations about this final request regarding Jesus.


Lord, I thank you for the many details the gospel writers provided so believers could have an accurate historical record of the condemnation to death for Christ Jesus by religious and government leaders alike. Those who have positions of prominance and authority in the world system are very prone to reject the only true power and authority that you alone possess. But the desire for the things the world offers can affect even those of low estate in any society, so I ask Lord, that you give me the desire and ability to resist the temptations in my own life. There are times when even believers may go along with the crowd rather than take the risk of rejection within the general society, the work setting, social groups, or even among family members. Give me wisdom Lord, to live in peace among all men as much as possible; but also to know when to be bold about my faith that you are the way, the truth, and life eternal. I believe that it is only by your grace, Lord, that you have chosen me and sealed me with your Spirit to be part of the kingdom of God. hallelujah, amen.

Published 8 October 2015