Pilate and the Jews

By Genelle Austin-Lett

Categories: Easter (Passion Week), Jesus


When you read John 19:12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: and Mark 15:10 For he [Pilate] knew that the chief priests had delivered him [Jesus] for envy. Why did Pilate cave in to the Jews' demands to crucify Jesus when he couldn't find anything wrong with him?


The Jews blackmailed Pilate. On this day, Pilate's past threatened him with being recalled by Rome. He had made three mistakes already and knew if he didn't do what the Jews were asking, he would lose his job as Governor. Even his wife, pleading that he should have nothing to do with Jesus, couldn't stop him.

His first mistake was refusing to remove the bust of the Emperor from the soldiers' standards when entering Jerusalem. Previous governors had understood that the Jews did not want an image of a ruler before them: God was their King. Pilate refused to remove the busts of the Emperor. When Pilate returned to Caesarea, the Jews followed him for five days. Finally, he ordered them to the amphitheatre. If they didn't stop hounding him, he would kill them. The Jews instantly bared their necks and told the soldiers to kill them. Pilate was unable with a clear conscience to kill so many, so he removed the busts from the standards in the future.

The second problem involved the building of a much-needed aqueduct. Pilate didn't have the money to pay for one, so he raided the Temple treasury. When the Jews protested, he dressed his soldiers in plain clothes and armed them with concealed weapons. When he gave the signal, they attacked the mob of Jews, killing many of them. This didn't make Pilate popular.

The third situation was a case of Pilate not learning his lesson the first time. He put up shields in the palace with Tiberius' name on them. The shields were devoted to honoring Tiberius. The emperor was regarded as a god. Once again, the people were outraged and this time they reported the matter to Rome. Pilate was ordered to remove the shields.

Pilate wanted to do the right thing and free Jesus, but he couldn't upset the Jews one more time without losing his job. Ironically, two of his misdeeds were giving tribute to a king in the holy city. The Jews believed this dishonored God. They only obeyed God. And yet they said, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15).

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