Today I find myself thinking about Pontius Pilate. Does anyone think of him with any thing but disdain, and disappointment? I don’t think so. Ha ha, can you imagine it, “Pilate is one of my heroes.” Nope. It’s sad, he had power and potential, but he threw it away for peer pressure. (Okay, enough illiterations, sorry I just couldn’t resist.) Seriously, his story always makes me feel a little sad. Here he stood at a crucial point in history, and he failed. The reason he did it is what bothers me most about his story.
He caved into pressure from others to do something that he didn’t feel good about. I hope you can see where I’m going with this. Haven’t we all done that at some point–hopefully an error of youth not repeated, but still. Certainly our caving was short, and not often repeated. For most of us, no one will ever know of our weakness. Not so for Pilate. His story stands for all as a cautionary tale. Let’s look at his story more closely:
Matthew tells us (in chapter 27) that Pilates wife warned him:
19 ¶When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
Luke points out that Pilate knew Christ was innocent:
Luke 23:14 [Pilate] Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:
But he ignores his wife’s warning and his own conscious and gives the command for Christ to be killed. Why? Because that’s what the people wanted. He tries to escape the blame:
Matthew 2724 ¶When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
As if saying the words will release you of guilt, Pilate. I don’t think so.
We can look at this story and tell ourselves we would never to anything that bad. I hope not, but we also have to be honest with ourselves and admit Pilate probably would have said the same thing before it happened. We don’t know, of course, but it seems reasonable. So what happened to him then? My guess is that this was not his first time caving into peer pressure. I think we can say with a fair amount of certainty that he did not have a history full of standing up for what was right.
So when I read his story, I ask myself are my choices leading me to be someone like who stands boldly for truth like Daniel or Abinidi, or are my choices leading me down a similar path as Pilate. This may seem like a simple choice, a “no brainer” as they say, but I see in it something deeper. Standing up for the right is not always as obvious as standing for Christ. It also means standing for the weak and vulnerable. I’m thinking of Edmund Burke’s quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” With that in mind, am I a Pilate? It’s a weighty question that I think bears consideration from time to time.