Do you know who put the sign on the cross that said “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”? I did! My name is Pontius Pilate. I was the Roman governor over Judea and to be honest I didn’t like the Jews. They were constantly stirring up trouble and the one thing a Roman governor hates more than anything is trouble! Trouble draws the attention of Rome and that could mean trouble for me. Things had finally started to calm down until this Jesus of Nazareth came along. He had the Jewish leaders in an uproar and that’s when they brought him to me.
I asked him if he was the King of the Jews (the Jews told me he was making this claim). And he responded in the strangest way. He said, “You have said so”. I was not sure what to make of his answer. The Jews accused him of all sorts of other things but Jesus would give no response. I was amazed that this man gave no reply in his own defense! I really didn’t know what to do with him because I could find no fault with him. I was relieved when I heard he was a Galilean. This meant he was from Herod’s jurisdiction. Herod happened to be in Jerusalem when Jesus was brought before me, so I happily passed the buck to Herod. I was glad to be finished with this man…or so I thought!
It didn’t take long before this Nazarene was back before me, and the Jews were angrier than ever. So I questioned him further. I asked again if he was a king but he would not give me a straight answer. I asked what he had done to cause his own people to raise up against him and he said his kingdom was not of this world. Well, who has a kingdom except for a king? So I again asked if he were a king but he gave me the same slippery answer. But this time he continued and said he had come into the world to bear witness to the truth! Truth – what does that even mean? What is truth? He just wasn’t making any sense, so I went out and told the crowd that I found no guilt in the man. Crazy - maybe. Guilty – no.
As was the custom I would release one prisoner on the Passover. Surely I could release this man. When I asked if they wanted him released the crowd turned into a mob. They shouted for Barabbas. Barabbas? That man was a murder and this Jesus was unlike anyone I had ever met. He certainly didn’t deserve to die. So I decided I would appease the crowd and punish their king by having him flogged. Yes, the soldiers had a little fun at his expense with the crown of thorns and the purple robe…but he claimed to have a kingdom somewhere-- so what if they dressed him as a king!
I told the crowd that I didn’t find any guilt in Jesus. I shouted, “Behold the man!” as Jesus made his entrance. In response the shouts of “Crucify him” were deafening. This crowd of angry Jews wanted this man dead. I didn’t want any part in his death. Even my wife had a dream about this Jesus and she had warned me to have nothing to with him. What could I do?
I questioned him one last time. He could at least help me to help himself! I asked Jesus if he realized I held his life in my hands. His answer baffled me once again. He said something about me only having authority that came from above??
I wanted to release this man, but the crowd even questioned my loyalty to Caesar because of my reluctance to execute him. What was I supposed to do? What could I do? I had a real situation on my hands. If things got out of control, it would be very bad for me.
So I washed my hands in sight of this angry, blood thirsty mob. I proclaimed for all to hear that I was innocent of this man’s blood. And then I handed him over to be crucified. In just a few hours it would be over, and Jesus – the king of the Jews -- would be dead. So I wrote that inscription – Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews and had it placed on his cross. The Jews wanted it changed, but I was done with whole affair. I refused their request.
I know I will be vilified for my actions in this case. But I ask you…what would you have done in the face of that angry mob?
While I couldn’t find any guilt in Jesus – he didn’t mean anything to me!
Does he mean something to you?