Bible Review 19:6, December 2003

How Pilate Became a Saint

By Robin M. Jensen

Pontius Pilate has a terrible reputation. We tend to think of him as one of the New Testament’s greatest cowards. Tragically, at Jesus’ trial, Pilate seems to recognize that a gross injustice is being done, yet he doesn’t use his power as the Roman governor of Judea to stop it. According to the Gospel of Matthew, three times Pilate asks the crowd, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” He seems to hope they will say, “Release him!” But they don’t. Instead, the crowd insists that Pilate have Jesus crucified. So the governor famously washes his hands, claims he is “innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24), flogs Jesus and then hands him over to the soldiers who lead him to his death. And in an act that suggests recognition of his terrible error, Pilate himself supplies the nameplate for the cross: “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.”

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