PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXXV
Pilate understood the Jewish fanatical stubbornness and he gave them what they wanted. The witness of Mark’s Gospel saw no compassion in Pilate, in his soldiers, or even in Jesus’ accusers, except some in Simon of Cyrene. The witness in Matthew remembered that Pilate’s wife had a dream that her husband should have nothing to do with that righteous man (Matthew 27:19); hence, Pilate declared Jesus’ innocent by washing his hands in public. But Pilate, too, let the soldiers have their degrading way with Jesus; however, some of the soldiers had pity on Jesus and coerced Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barababas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified (Matthew 27:24-26).
In the Gospel of Luke, Pilate did not oblige the Jewish leaders immediately. Upon learning that Jesus came from Galilee, Pilate sent Him to Herod. Jesus gave Herod no reason to spoil his holiday and so Herod returned Jesus to Pilate. Pilate did examine Jesus and found Him innocent, but the Jewish leaders refused his findings; and they demanded that he free Barabbas and crucify Jesus.
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man (Jesus) was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him.
So he questioned him at some length; but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in gorgeous appeared, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this day they had been at enmity with each other (Luke 23:6-12).
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers of the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”—a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thronw into prison for insurrection and murder, whom thye asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will (Luke 23:13-25).
PILATE IN THE EYES OF THE WITNESS IN JOHN
The witness of John was more cognizant of the role Pilate played than anyone else. No one could offer up the Lamb of God, but Pilate. The writer of John called the witness, “the other disciple” and that “Jesus loved him.” That witness was in Gethsemane, and while the disciples were asleep, he saw Peter swing the sword. To prevent him being captured, he escaped naked, he had access to the high priest and also to Pilate and Herod. That witness was a man of means and he also had the respect of the authorities. He provided the information on the proceedings against Jesus, which no one else could. Pilate did spent time with Jesus, with no one present, except for some one, who managed to bring Pilate a drink and even brought a drink to Jesus. Pilate respected Jesus; and therefore, he was not the brutal judge, as he was and is being portrayed. He was fulfilling a purpose for God to atone for the sins of mankind. And this encounter between Jesus and Pilate was the other disciple’s greatest contribution. It is doubtful that the other disciple was a Jew — who would have dared to enter a Gentile’s residence on a Passover Day?
Then they (Jewish leaders and attendants) led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They (the Jews) themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this?” They answered him, “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” This was to fulfill the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die.
Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you’re a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, “I find no crime in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber (John 18:28-40).
THREE TIMES PILATE APPEALED TO THE JEWISH LEADER TO LET JESUS LIVE, BUT TO NO AVAIL
Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you andpower to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”
Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; every one who makes himself king sets himself against Caesar.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 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.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified (John 19:1-16).
WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT TELL US ABOUT PILATE AND THE HERODS?
The Apostle Paul believed that all men were guilty in the eyes of God (Romans 3:23). According to Jesus, in John, Pilate was only carrying out the orders of heaven! And therefore Pilate was less guilty than the Jews, who had already condemned Jesus to death before they had dragged Him before Pilate (John 19:11). Jesus would lay down “His Life” on his own! However, Jesus needed Pilate to help Him (John 10:14-18). The truth was that Jesus grew up under Pilate and under the Herods. And Jesus began and ended His Ministry without interference from them. Before Herod the Great went after the “Baby Jesus,” he was spooked by the wise men and the Jewish experts (Matthew 2). The Jewish leaders tried to coax the Herodians to pursue Jesus, but they did not succeed (Mark 12:13). Jesus moved and served freely in Herod’s territory and in Pilates region. The Herod, who had James Zebedee killed, did it to please the Jews (Acts 12:1-5). Also, to please the Jews, the Roman governor, who followed Pilate, kept Paul in prison in Herods’ palace in Caesarea for two years (Acts 27:26-27). And when Paul was shipped to Rome, he was allowed to live on his own for two years before the Jews convinced the Romans that it was the Christians who were the cause of the Jewish resistance (Acts 28:30-31). During Pilate’s ten years tenure, he, himself, had to shed some Galilean blood, only once (Luke 13:1). His leniency toward Jesus, may have cost Pilate job and his life. Some sources believed that Pilate’s approval of Jesus’ death broke his heart, and he committed suicide. The fact remains that only heaven could have chosen these men and their time to allow Jesus to complete “His Redemptive Mission” among the Jews and in the world.
Time and human imagination helped to enhance and embellish Pilate’s life and role. The further away from the time of the disciples and eye-witnesses, the larger Pilate became for speculative Christians. There was a cordial relationship between Joseph of Arimathea, whom Pilate allowed to take the body of Jesus, and who was assisted by Nicodemus with the burial (Mark 14:42-47; John 19:38-42). Someone did take the name Nicodemus and wrote a Gospel; and someone else wrote a Gospel of Peter and made Pilate prominent. The Gospel of Peter, trying to please the Romans, had Pilate resign from sentencing Jesus and blamed Herod for Jesus’ death. Nicodemus deserved to be remembered in a gospel; for it was he who cautioned the council not to go against their law and condemn Jesus (John 7:50-52). In Nicodemus, Pilate, because of his wife, had become a Christian. The Eastern Church paid tribute to Pilate’s wife on October 27, and the Coptic Church to Pilate on June 25. Both became martyrs and saints, and Pilate’s body was taken to France and buried on a hill near Vienne. These writings appeared in the fourth and fifth century AD.
Also, there appeared a “Passion Gospel” entitled “The Acts of Pilate.” As reported in the Four Gospels with some embellishment, it consists of two parts. Part one was the actual trial, the death, and resurrection of Jesus. There were twelve witnesses who testified that Joseph and Mary were married. Joseph of Arimathea had a wife by the name of Veronica, and she was the lady with the issue of blood. Her husband Joseph was put in prison for removing the body of Christ. This crime was uncovered when Nicodemus ordered a search for the missing body of Jesus. Pilate was dressed in royal garb and treated with great respect. He was deeply moved and apologetic for the unjustified sentencing of Jesus, who was more divine than human.
Part Two, in “The Acts of Pilate,” has Jesus descend into the world of the dead, according to I Peter 3:19. When Pilate’s Acts were written, Joseph of Arimathea became prominent, died, and then returned to the living; and so did two of his sons who were alive and living in Arimathea. The underworld is the realm of Hades where Christ and Satan have access. When Jesus came to the underworld, Satan was not delighted1 However, the saints rejoiced, for Jesus the Christ could not be kept in Hades. It also was the place where the cross was set up. Hades was the place where sinners reside and where they are given quick views of paradise where Lazarus, the thief who died with Jesus, Enoch, and Elijah enjoy the hereafter. Since the fourth and fifth centuries, Pilate had considerable impact on the “Passion plays” and on the “Memorials of Jesus.” The human mind has been very fertile in keeping imagery alive (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. IV, pp. 811-814; Abingdon Press, New York, Nashville, 1962).