Pilate was definitely in a tough situation with Jesus. While we know he wasn’t a good person, he seemed to recognize Jesus was innocent and that sentencing him to die would be unjust. He also saw that refusing to convict Jesus would lead to chaos among the crowd who had brought Jesus to be crucified. He had a choice between justice and order but tried to have both, which in the end only led to more frustration and suffering for him.
At first, Pilate tries running things like an ordinary trial, asking Jesus to respond to the accusations made against him. Jesus’s lack of cooperation seems like the first time Pilate realizes relying on the usual way of doing things won’t cut it. However, he wasn’t done trying to balance justice and order. His tactic of giving the crowd a choice between Jesus and Barabbas was an attempt to have the crowd choose justice, thus keeping order. But Pilate underestimated the anger of the crowd and the influence of the religious leaders, and his plan failed. At this point, it seems Pilate realized there was no more delaying; he had to choose.
Pilate may have tried to wash his hands of the responsibility and place it on the heads of the crowd, but he still made a choice for order over justice. We are blessed with hindsight and can see that this is the decision that had to be made. Jesus’s sacrifice was necessary for our sins to be forgiven, so what had to happen happened. But Pilate couldn’t have known that. Instead, he chose to let an innocent man die because keeping the order was easier than seeking that justice.
Pilate is often seen as a villain in the passion story because of his choice, but going with the safe, easy option over the just, compassionate choice is something we humans do all the time. Even when we know the right thing to do, we often fail to do it if it’s difficult or would cause us any pain. So if we see Pilate as a villain, we should do our very best not to repeat his mistakes. When we know what the right answer is but don’t want to make that choice because we fear pain and struggle, we are acting like Pilate. Instead, let us act more like Christ and make the difficult choice because we know it’s right, even if it’s harder for us.
Holy God, when we’re faced with difficult choices but know the right answer, help us follow Jesus’s example instead of Pilate’s. Remind us that pain and suffering are part of life and that they can’t be avoided even if we always take the easy way. Thank You for always being with us even through the hard times. Amen.
Written by Preston Thiemann
Preston Thiemann and his wife, Rachel, live here in Lincoln. He is the Web Content Coordinator for the ASEM Marketing team at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he’s worked since April 2015. At Sheridan, he also plays guitar on the Praise Band and is active in Sheridan’s 20s & 30s ministry, Second Quarter. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with friends.
Matthew 27:1-2, 11-26
Jesus Brought before Pilate
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
Pilate Questions Jesus
Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Barabbas or Jesus?
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.