The Evil Way of Pontius Pilate
It’s interesting that some who try to teach the Bible actually try to say that Pilate wasn’t really a bad guy. I recently read an article where someone made that claim. All the people who commented on it also commented positively. It is logical to conclude that the writer of such an article, and those who praise the writer’s conclusions, so blatantly defend the conclusions because they do evil that is of a similar nature to the evil which Pontius Pilate committed in his involvement in Christ’s crucifixion.
Proverbs 28:4 says: “They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.”
On the other hand, in Acts 4:27 Christ’s Apostles did indeed implicate Pilate as being a guilty party in the murder of Jesus.
So, what did Pilate do that was so wrong? It is more about what he did not do. We all have a tendency to want to claim we’ve done everything in our power to cause what is right to prevail and to stand against injustice. Yet to make this claim when we really haven’t done so is actually the essence of self-righteousness.
While some claim Pilate wasn’t really a bad guy, others say Pilate was normally a very brutal person who wouldn’t have cared what happened to Jesus at all. Those who make this claim would also seem likely to claim that the four Gospel accounts actually portray Pilate very favorably compared to what his actual character was. I believe these have a point about Pilate’s brutal character, yet they don’t factor in some events leading up to Pilate’s decision about Jesus which shook him and made him very careful in his dealings with Jesus in a way which he would not have been otherwise.
Matthew 27:11-14: “And Jesus stood before the governor (Pilate): and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.”
Shortly afterwards, we also see in Matthew 27:19: “When he (Pilate)was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”
And then afterwards, after Jesus had already been scourged, we read in John 19:4-9: “Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.”
These factors made Pilate afraid and concerned to do the right thing with Jesus, even though he may not have been concerned otherwise.
It’s especially interesting and pathetic that Pilate did not have Barabbas crucified. Barabbas was a murderer and a robber; an exceedingly wicked person overall which you would logically think Pilate would be happy to not have to deal with anymore. Even very wicked people can be very zealous for justice when their own authority has been transgressed in the crime. If Pilate would not normally have been bothered by crucifying Jesus, a man whom he could tell was innocent, then he would especially be happy to crucify Barabbas! And in the case of Barabbas, it was a situation where execution would have been just and totally appropriate. This was a case where a man in power could righteously crush someone who opposed him. Justice demands that murderers be put to death. God’s own Word says that He ordained earthly governments to execute wrath upon criminals. Yet the same idolatry of self-preservation which pushed Pilate to deliver Jesus to be crucified also pushed him to let a murderer go free whom he righteously could have, and should have, executed.
(And by the way, the custom that Pilate release a Jewish criminal at the Passover was not of God. The fact that the Romans were pressured to have this custom is a reflection of how wicked the Jews had become. God never intended the celebration of Passover to prevent his command about the death penalty being administered to murderers from being carried out (Genesis 9:6) nor to disrupt law and order being kept in society. Such unrighteous pressure from the Jews is one of the many examples of them causing God’s name to be blasphemed among the gentiles through their lawless behavior. It’s also pathetically interesting that I cannot remember any preacher ever saying anything against this evil custom).
Why do people struggle and struggle with sin and yet never really get free from it? They are not willing to really die to self and suffer for not giving in and rather doing what they ought to do. And as long as that is so with an individual, they are candidates to succumb to whatever sin might tempt them in certain circumstances and whatever unrighteousness the world may pressure them towards- especially should that pressure truly threaten what they regard as valuable in their own life.
Yet the Bible warns in Job 36:20-21: “Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place. Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.”
A true significance of the Passover celebration is that the Passover Lamb had to be completely eaten, along with bitter herbs. We must receive everything about Jesus Christ, including His Lordship and the embracing of suffering in coming under His Lordship, in order to be redeemed by His precious blood. Embracing His Lordship necessarily means hating our life in this world and actually taking the risks which the truth demands we take in order to do what is right before God.
Matthew 16:21-27: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Is this an issue of salvation? Yes!) For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Romans 8:17 says: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
Don’t separate Pilate’s behavior before the crowd, the behavior that led him to condemn Jesus, from what is evident about him from the conversation which he had with Jesus prior to that.
John 18:33-38: “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 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. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest 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 unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.”
It’s obvious that Pilate was willing to enquire about truth, yet diligently seeking the truth, siding with the truth, and walking therein was not Pilate’s supreme concern. He was about to prove that further by failing to walk in the truth he knew and delivering Jesus to be crucified. He knew that this action was unrighteous and unjust by both the laws of God and men..
Pilate also proved his disregard for truth that day through his friendship with Herod being kindled.
Luke 23:11-12: “And Herod with his men of war set him (Jesus) at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”
You wonder why they had been at enmity. Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been worse than Herod’s ill, unjust treatment of Jesus. And for these two to have attained unity on this day is a disgraceful thing which shows something very bad about them both considering how things unfolded on that day. Not all unity is a good thing. Perhaps their unity ultimately stemmed from their cooperation with each other to save themselves from the threat to their own careers and safety which the storm which had come that day had brought to them. They sure were successful in weathering this storm (that is, for the time being- God is not mocked and they would yet have their own court day with Him).
Pilate and Herod’s place, name, comfort, security, etc. were what they ultimately valued- not truth and righteousness. Otherwise, they would have risked their place, name, comfort, security, etc. and contended with this Satanic mob- to the death if necessary! Herod and Pilate were Pagans at heart, though Pilate was openly a Pagan while Herod was a Jew outwardly. And the Jewish leaders who delivered Jesus to be crucified were Pagans at heart too, though they would have raged at being given such a label (and Jesus did essentially give them this label if you actually read the Gospels and consider what Jesus said about them and how He dealt with them).
John 11:45-48: “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did (this is right after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead), believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.”
Sympathy for Pilate means you’re compromised and out of line with the truth; likewise with sympathy for Jews who reject Jesus Christ.
And the same can be said for compromise related to running a church or being a member of a church which, if you were to be honest, you know is compromised. Like the Jewish leaders, and like Pilate, many professing Christian church leaders will not teach and enforce Biblical righteousness and will not overall lead their church faithfully according to the Word of God, because they value their place over the truth. They don’t make Biblical adjustments like they need to because they know that if this continues the following which they have accumulated, which is an essential to their valued place in life, will be lost. Likewise with holding Biblical stances consistently on moral issues. Don’t join a compromised church then! Be someone who would follow someone who is leading their church according to the Word of God without regard for a place and a name for themselves. Joining a church which you know is compromised is regression and could very well be an attempt to feel justified in not doing the good you know you ought to be doing in other areas of life (because the compromised church doesn’t demand you do so and will accept you “as you are.’)
It is actually an exceedingly difficult thing to be a Pastor, or to have any sizeable following in spiritual matters, without essentially doing what Pilate did- compromising truth and neglecting to do righteousness in order keep the peace; to avoid a tumult; to not put your own position and/or security on the line. It is also possible to be guilty of this in any other area of life.
So, was Pilate really evil for refusing to put his own neck on the line and shed his own blood for truth and righteousness in God’s eyes? Yes! And that is what we most need to learn from Pilate and why we need to label his behavior, as it is recorded in the Gospels, the evil way of Pilate. Related to that, proclaiming oneself guiltless, like Pilate tried to do, doesn’t make one so. “I did my best not to have any part in this evil.” Oh, did you really? “I tried everything I could.” No, not when you’re caving into pressure not to do what is true and right before God; not when you didn’t really lay your own life down to oppose evil and uphold righteousness. And it’s worth mentioning here that there is a false piety which cites patience as an excuse to not do the good one knows to do when what you must do is apparent, and you could indeed do it.
Jesus Christ’s identity and the nature of His character (He is the Ultimate Authority figure, the second person of the Trinity, who represents in Himself what is true and right; He is a Righteous King who loves righteousness and hates lawlessness) means that there is an inevitable conflict for each of us in the world, a world which is at enmity with Him, which we cannot avoid. Those who don’t utterly forsake the pleasures of sin and die to self in abandonment to Jesus Christ side with the devil by default. Following the light of truth leads to Jesus Christ; and receiving Jesus means the abandonment of sin and self to follow Him faithfully. And this must be done to the end in order to inherit salvation through Him. No wonder that even most who claim to believe in Him embrace some form of cheap grace which doesn’t really confront them at the heart to properly deal with this conflict.
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]