I always had a lot of sympathy for our various Secretaries of State, as appointed by Westminster to serve in the Province.
Away from the Westminster bubble and having to deal with complex local issues, they hoped for a call-back to the capital and with that call, some promotion. Pilate was in such a position.
The political factions of Judea were a thorn in Rome’s side and Pilate was to find they were waiting for him when he arrived. ‘The Splash of Water’ is our Easter Sound this week.
As we say in these parts, Pilate married well; he was not born into Rome’s ruling class, but his wife was. He was a soldier on the make; his wife was related to Tiberius (after whom a town in Judea was named). Tiberius had Pilate appointed a Procurator in Judea and Pilate was responsible to this grim old man living in retirement on Capri.
Pilate began with this disadvantage; he was arrogant and stubborn. He had a traveller’s knowledge of people and a conqueror’s scorn for them. Read chapters 18 and 19 of John’s Gospel and note his interest in the claims of Jesus.
‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ was Pilate’s question; he discerned in Jesus the discipline and self-composure of those born to rule. Jesus informed Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world.
‘What is truth?’ asked Pilate when Jesus affirmed that all seekers of Truth came to His cause; there was not a lot of truth around Jerusalem that weekend and truth did not reside with the schemers who were planning the death of Jesus. ‘Where do you come from?’ was Pilate’s next question. The reality of the eternal was now entering the discussion and Pilate was determined to seek the release of the dignified Galilean now in his custody.
Jesus was now questing for the soul of the Procurator, but the Chief Priests became aware of that and then began their final strategy; they knew Pilate was an ambitious man. ‘If you let this man go you are not Caesar’s friend,’ they said.
Now they touched a raw nerve in Pilate. Any reports to Rome about Pilate’s incompetence and his inability to keep law and order meant the death of his dreams.
Now the crunch came; it was career or Christ for the Roman. Pilate washed his hands in public, showing he was absolving himself of the outcome of the case; Rome had no such legal procedure such as washing one’s hands. Pilate let die Jesus to save his job.
History holds Pilate in contempt for lacking the courage of his convictions; he knew Jesus was a unique person and innocent of all charges, but, for self-advancement he let Him die.
Before becoming too judgemental, however, consider that if, like Pilate, we are rejecting Christ, what is our reason for so doing?
Respect for Jesus and praise of His character is not enough; He seeks our total obedience. Nothing less will suffice.