Pontius Pilate: Maybe the Most Uneasy Retirement Ever…

The Man Who Washed His Hands

“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:24-26, NIV)

Pontius Pilate

A Dilemma For the Ages

I have always wondered about Pontius Pilate. He was a Roman governor in a hostile land, thrust into a situation that had no reasonable outcome. Matthew says that he marveled at Jesus’ lack of response, and that his wife had been greatly troubled about Jesus in a dream. She actually told him to have nothing to do with “that innocent man” (Matthew 27:19), but in the end he couldn’t avoid it. Pilate was the ultimate example of a man stuck between a rock and a hard place, a military man forced to make political decisions for unreasonable and hostile constituents.

He offered to release Jesus, said he found no fault in him, and ultimately washed his hands publicly of the whole messy affair. Pilate and his wife were both uneasy about this Galilean “King of the Jews”, and both of them expressed a desire to be rid of this call for judgment; yet even so, Pilate handed this innocent man over to be crucified in order to pacify the zealots who were calling for his death.

So, Then What Happened?

Do you think that in later years, once they moved back to Rome, they talked about Jesus, and wondered about who he was? Did they live long enough to keep up with events back in Jerusalem, to sense the magnitude of what they had seen and done? Surely the “King of the Jews” came up in their dinner time conversation, and perhaps Mrs. Pilate was able to say “I told you so!” every once in a while…

According to Josephus, Pilate was ordered back to Rome after viciously suppressing a Samaritan uprising about AD 36. Maybe he was just doing his job as governor, or perhaps he harbored some bitterness towards the Jews for the role they had forced him to play in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus; in any case, he dealt harshly with the Samaritans and was sent home, either as a reward or a punishment. But it was clear that he needed a break from Judean politics.

What was “The Rest of the Story”?

There are a lot of characters in the Bible, and Pontius Pilate seems to be one of the most realistically portrayed. Too bad Matthew or Luke was not able to chronicle his later life after he returned to Rome. I have always wondered what he felt and thought about Jesus, what he ultimately knew and didn’t know…

And I have wondered if, during their troubled retirement years, Pilate and his wife ever found answers to the questions they must have had about Jesus, the Christ, the man whose kingdom was not of this world. Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth” I wonder if he ever found the answer to that question, the question all of us must ask as we behold the man.

Pontius Pilate

In an assignment far from home, caught between the Jews and Rome,
As politics and eternity swirled in events that surely changed his world,
Pontius Pilate tried to choose, when any way he went, he’d lose…
Out in this remote command, a case he couldn’t understand,
Pilate tried to wash his hands of this Jewish King, this innocent man…
Events began he couldn’t halt—and so he said, “I find no fault!”
And when the Sanhedrin wouldn’t budge, Herod was called to be the judge;
But Herod only sent him back. So Pilate tried a different tack:
“Be careful here!” his wife had urged, so Pilate had the prisoner scourged,
And asked the crowd to give relief, but instead of the King, they chose a thief…
Perplexed and trying to find a plan, he brought Christ forth: “Behold the man!”
Hoping that he could try to buy some sympathy now; But “Crucify!”
Yes, “Crucify him!” reached his ears, a cry that he would hear for years,
And think about with angry tears as the mark of the darkest of careers…
See, Pilate didn’t know from old of the things the ancients had foretold,
of another man who said, “Behold!” as political strife around him swirled:
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes the sins of all the world!”

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A Sentence that wasn’t a Sentence: Pilate’s Backhanded Compliment to Jesus

One of the most unusual testimonies about who Jesus was is expressed in a short sentence that wasn’t a sentence: “I find no fault in this man.” Consider the reactions of Pontius Pilate and his wife:

“While he [Pilate] was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19 NASB)

So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:3-4 NASB)

sentence

Not all of the testimony in Jesus’ favor came from friends, or people he healed… You’d expect those folks to say that Jesus was somebody special, but why would someone from outside this inner circle say good things about him? These two Romans, who had no real personal concern about Jewish claims or religious arguments, encountered Jesus and evaluated him based on face value.

Pontius Pilate’s wife called Jesus a “righteous man”, and Pilate himself found no fault in him. Instead of finding an arrogant upstart or a shrewd political operator, Pilate found a humble, quiet man who refused to pontificate or even dispute the scurrilous claims against him. Jesus’ simple affirmation of the truth and his quiet dignity unsettled Pilate so much that he washed his hands of Jesus’ blood in front of everyone. Ironic that he wanted no part of Jesus’ death, but still sent him to the cross…

Here at the end of Jesus’ kangaroo court trial, Pilate uttered a sentence without ever actually pronouncing a sentence on the defendant. I’ve often wondered if, years later, retired and sitting on his porch in Italy, Pilate thought about Jesus and reflected about the things he said. “My kingdom is not of this world.” “I bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” “You have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above…” (John 18:36, 37; 19:11)

Did his wife ever say, “I told you so! I told you not to have anything to do with that rabbi!”? Did he ever experience anxiety over the role he played in sending Jesus to his death? He encountered the Son of God face to face and then still became culpable in his crucifixion. Can you imagine? But if you stop and think about it, isn’t that what many do today? Technically, isn’t that what we ALL have done? Since Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for sin, doesn’t that mean that all of us sinners participated in sending him to the cross? Don’t end up retired somewhere thinking, “Wow, I knew there was something different about Jesus. I should have treated him a little differently.” You’ll regret it.

A Most Uneasy Retirement

In an assignment far from home, caught between the Jews and Rome,
As politics and eternity swirled
in events that surely changed his world,
Pontius Pilate tried to choose, when any way he went, he’d lose…
Pilate tried to wash his hands of the Jewish King, this innocent man.
Events began he couldn’t halt, and so he said, “I find no fault!”
He knew the sentence wasn’t fair, but left his sentence hanging there
To add to Christ’s validity, recorded for posterity,
And echoed through eternity…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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