March 23, 2017

Is Pilate Innocent? Are We?

Matthew 27: 22-24

Pilate . . . took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said.

—  Matthew 27:24

Pilate was the chief judicial magistrate in the Roman province of Judea. At that time Rome did not allow local community courts, like the Sanhedrin, to execute anyone (John 18:31). So if Jesus was to be executed, the order had to come from Pilate.

Though he stated several times that he had found no basis for a charge against Jesus, Pilate eventually gave in to the Jewish religious leaders who wanted Jesus crucified. So while he made a show of washing his hands and saying he was innocent of Jesus’ blood, Pilate wasn’t fooling anyone. He was basically admitting that he let the Jewish leaders have their way, probably because he feared they could retaliate and cause political unrest.

So Pilate sanctioned Jesus’ death. As chief of staff of the Roman military in the province, he ordered the centurion and his soldiers to carry out the death sentence he had pronounced. It was also Pilate who ordered that Jesus’ tomb be placed under guard and secured with an official seal (Matthew 27:65-66).

Still today, many Christians regularly recite the Apostles’ Creed, which mentions that our Lord Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate.”

Refusing to accept responsibility—that is not repentance.

But are we any better?

Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned. Help me to accept responsibility for what I have done. Help me to repent, ask your forgiveness, and live faithfully for you. Amen.

About the author — Fred Bultman

Fred Bultman began a “second career” as a pastor in 1997, after a first career in the banking business.  He served as pastor to congregations in the U.S. and Canada. In retirement, he continues to enjoy sharing in the ministry of the churches in and around his home in Fremont, Michigan.

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