Pontius Pilate was  the Roman governor of Judea from A.D. 26-36, serving under Emperor Tiberius. He  is most known for his involvement in condemning Jesus to death on a  cross.

Outside of the four Gospels, Pilate is mentioned by Pliny the  Younger, Philo, and Josephus. In addition, the “Pilate Stone,” discovered in  1961 and dated c. A.D. 30, includes a description of Pilate and mentions him as  “prefect” of Judea. Pilate is also mentioned in the apocryphal writings, but  these were all written at much later dates.

In the Bible, Pilate is  mentioned solely in connection with the trials and crucifixion of Jesus. The  Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) portray Pilate as reluctant to  crucify Jesus. Pilate calls the charges against Jesus “baseless” (Luke 23:14) and several times declares Jesus to be not  guilty: “What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for  the death penalty” (Luke  23:22).

Pilate’s conscience was already bothering him when his wife  sent him an urgent message concerning Jesus. The note begged him, “Don’t have  anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in  a dream because of him” (Matthew  27:19).

John’s Gospel offers some more detail of the trial,  including an additional conversation between Pilate and Jesus. Jesus  acknowledges Himself as a king and claims to speak directly for the truth.  Pilate responds with the famous question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). The question intentionally communicated  multiple meanings. Here was a situation in which truth was compromised in order  to condemn an innocent man. Pilate, who is supposedly seeking the truth, asks  the question of the One who is Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). A human judge,  confused about the truth, was about to condemn the Righteous Judge of the  world.

In the end, Pilate sought a compromise. Knowing Jesus had been  handed over by the religious leaders out of envy, he appealed to the crowds at  the Passover, asking which “criminal” should be set free, Jesus or Barabbas? The  leaders convinced the crowd to cry out for Barabbas (Matthew 27:22-24).  Giving in to political pressure, Pilate authorized both the flogging and  crucifixion of Jesus: “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to  them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified” (Mark 15:15).

Pilate had the charge against Jesus  posted on the cross above Jesus’ head: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Matthew 27:37). As soon as  Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus in order to  bury Him, and Pilate granted the request (Mark  15:53-54). The last glimpse we have of Pontius Pilate is when he assigns  guards for Jesus’ tomb (Matthew  27:64-66).

Pilate’s brief appearance in Scripture is full of  tragedy. He ignored his conscience, he disregarded the good advice of his wife,  he chose political expediency over public rectitude, and he failed to recognize  the truth even when Truth was standing right in front of him. When given an  opportunity to evaluate the claims of Jesus, what will we decide? Will we accept  His claim to be the King, or will we follow the voice of the crowd?

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