Pilate: The Expedient Ruler

Luke 23:1-5


Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King."

3 Then Pilate asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?"

He answered him and said, "It is as you say."

4 So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd,"I find no fault in this Man."

5 But they were the more fierce, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place." NKJV

Many of the people we have discussed during the past few week could have kept Jesus from being Crucified. Judas could have not betrayed Him and made it much more difficult for the Jews to arrest Jesus.

Caiaphas could have not given in to the temptation to destroy Jesus in his own sinister plot to preserve his own position.

The Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees could have accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah. But they would not yield to Him.

But today we come to the final obstacle as these wicked men plan the destruction of the very Son of God. Pilate holds the power of the state. He can do what he wants. No one else in Jerusalem can over rule his decision. We might expect him to be impartial in this process. He is not a Jew. He is not concerned about Jesus’ Messianic claims.

He is supposed to be Rome’s power of justice. But he turns all that on end to put to death a man that he knows without doubt is innocent. How will the Jewish leaders work on him that day to pry from him a condemnation of the sinless Son of God. How will they get this secular ruler to get involved in their religious matters? Pilate might have been know for other things, but now all he is know for is for condemning Jesus to death.

I.         His Person

            A.        As the Jews saw it, he is just one more pagan that has been brought in by Rome to rule over them.

                        1.         He was no worse and no better than those before him or after him.

                        2.         The position of being in charge of Palestine was not a desired position.

            B.        Normally he would not care that he had upset the Jews. But his past blunders make him more careful.

                        1.         He had almost brought about a revolt by bringing the Roman standards into Jerusalem.

                        2.         These contained emblems of the pagan God worshiped by the Romans.

                        3.         This all got back to Rome, who didn’t want their rulers making unnecessary actions that destabilize an area of the Roman Empire.

II.        His Position

            A.        He was governor as appointed by Rome.

            B.        The procurator was the personal servant of the emperor, directly responsible to him, and was primarily concerned with finance.

            C.        But the powers of procurators varied according to the appointment of the emperor. Pilate possessed civil, military, and criminal jurisdiction.

            D.        Under his rule, the Jews were allowed as much self-government as was consistent with the maintenance of imperial authority.

            E.        The Sanhedrin was allowed to exercise judicial functions, but if they desired to inflict the penalty of death, the sentence had to be confirmed by the procurator. (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

III.       His Problem

            A.        The Jews cannot legally put Jesus to death although they want to. Jn. 18:31-32

                        1.         John 18:31-32 31 Then Pilate said to them, "You take Him and judge Him according to your law." Therefore the Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death," 32 that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. NKJV

                        2.         The Jews had arrested and condemned Jesus on the charge of blasphemy, making Himself the Son of God.

                        3.         But when they bring Jesus to Pilate, they accuse Him of treason to Rome Luke 23:2

                                    a.         Luke 23: 2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King." NKJV

                        4.         But this was also done to fulfill Jesus prediction as to how He would die.

                                    a.         John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. NKJV

                                    b.         John 8:28 Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. NKJV

                                    c.         John 12:32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die. NKJV

            B.        Pilate can hardly take these charges seriously since he know that neither do the Jewish leader think paying taxes is alright.

            C.        Pilate knows that it is because of envy they have accused Him

                        1.         Mark 15:10 he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. NKJV

IV.      His Performance

            A.        Jesus, when questioned by Pilate doesn’t deny that He is a King.

                        1.         John 18:37 Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." NKJV

            B.        But Jesus says that His kingdom was not “now of this world” to show that He was no threat to Rome. This would give Pilate no course of justice but to let Jesus go.

            C.        Pilate’s wife send a message about a dream she has had and warns him to hve nothing to do with this just man.

                        1.         Matt 27:19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, "Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him." NKJV

            D.        Pilate first attempted to be free of this when he finds that Jesus is from Galilee and sends Him to Herod, hoping that Herod will take care of his problems for him.

            E.        Pilate’s second attempt is to allow Jesus to be set free by releasing a prisoner to them during the feast. But the people choose Barabbas.

            F.        Although Pilate is appointed by the Romans, he has learned to be a politician.

                        1.         Mark 15:15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified. NKJV

            G.        Pilate is never in doubt of Jesus’ innocence and declares Him not guilty at least four times.

                        1.         Luke 23:4 So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd,"I find no fault in this Man."

                        2.         Luke 23:14 said to them,"You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; 15 no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. NKJV

                        3.         John 18:38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them,"I find no fault in Him at all. NKJV

                        4.         John 19:44 Pilate then went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him." 5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold the Man!" 6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him." NKJV

                        5.         Matt 27:23 Then the governor said,"Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!" 24 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." NKJV

            H.        He tires to let Jesus go but cannot prevail against the people.

                        1.         John 19:12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." NKJV

                        2.         He was willing, indeed, to do right, if he could do right without personal disadvantage.

            I.         Eventually he sends Jesus to be scourged, hoping that this will appease the chief priest’s Jn. 19:1, 5; Luke 23:16

                        1.         John 19:1 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands. 4 Pilate then went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him." 5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold the Man!" NKJV

                        2.         Luke 23:16 I will therefore chastise Him and release Him" NKJV

            J.         Also the Jews let in be known the real charge against Jesus. That He claimed to be the Son of God. Pilate very much believes in gods and does not like the idea that he might be about to condemn a son of one to death.

            K.        Pilate questions Jesus but Jesus will not answer. Then there is that thing between them about him having power to put Jesus to death and how Jesus needed to be afraid. Jesus tells Pilate that he has no power at all against Him unless it is given him from above.

            L.        Then Pilate plays a little game with the Jewish leaders who would not recognize Caesar as their king. He brings Jesus to them with the crown of thorns on His head and a purple robe about Him. He taunts them about crucifying their king. But as he desires the priest shout that they have no king but Caesar. It is then that Pilate sends Jesus to be crucified.

            M.       In order to gratify the people “he released Barabbas and delivered Jesus to be crucified.

                        1.         Mark 15:15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified. NKJV

If now we wish to sum up the judgment of Pilate's character, we easily see that he was one of that large class of men who aspire to public offices, not from a pure and lofty desire of benefitting the public and advancing the good of the world, but from selfish and personal considerations, from a love of distinction, from a love of power, from a love of self-indulgence; being destitute of any fixed principles, and having no aim but office and influence, they act right only by chance and when convenient, and are wholly incapable of pursuing a consistent course, or of acting with firmness and self-denial in cases in which the preservation of integrity requires the exercise of these qualities. (from McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)