The Bible says, “When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor” (Matthew 27:1,2). Pilate is the one who ultimately gave the order to put Jesus to death (Mark 15:15).
The Jewish leaders concluded that Jesus was worthy of death because He claimed to be the Christ, the Son of God (Mark 14:61-64). However, Roman law did not allow the Jews to carry out the death penalty (John 18:31), so that is why they brought our Lord to the governor . . . to try and persuade him to do the wicked deed for them.
Pilate asked the Jewish leaders, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” (John 18:29). On the civil side of things, they accused Jesus of perverting the nation, forbidding to pay taxes, claiming to be a king, and stirring up the people by His teaching (Luke 23:2,5). On the spiritual side, the Jews told Pilate that Jesus said He was the Christ (Luke 23:2) and made Himself the Son of God (John 19:7).
Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus actually was carried out in two phases. Pilate initially questioned Jesus (Luke 23:1-4), then he sent Him to be questioned by Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6-11). Following that, Jesus was sent back to Pilate, who continued interrogating Him (Luke 23:13-25).
As an interrogator, what questions did Pilate ask Jesus? Here is a list of those we read in the Bible:
“Are You the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:2).
“Do You answer nothing?” (Mark 15:4).
“Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” (Matthew 27:13).
“What have You done?” (John 18:35).
“Are You a king then?” (John 18:37).
“What is truth?” (John 18:38).
“Where are You from?” (John 19:9).
“Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” (John 19:10).
In his dealings with the Jewish leaders who brought the Christ to him, Pilate was clear about their thinking: “For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy” (Mark 15:10). At one point that morning, Pilate affirmed to the Jews, “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; no, neither did Herod . . . and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him” (Luke 23:14,15).
Pilate had a custom: “Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished” (Matthew 27:15). Pilate gave the Jews a choice: did they want him to release Jesus, or release a criminal named Barabbas? (Matthew 27:17). What was their decision? “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus” (Matthew 27:20).
How did Pilate respond? “Then he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him’” (Luke 23:22). Admitting Jesus’ innocence and having the authority to release Him, one would think that it would have been “a done deal.” Alas, there was more at stake than justice and doing the right thing. “So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them: and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified” (Mark 15:15).
Pilate disrespected and disliked the Jewish people. Why, then, would he want to make them happy? They gave him political pressure which caused him to think only about himself and his position (John 19:12,13). In the end, the spotless Son of God was scourged, smacked, and stuck on a cross because Pilate did not possess the moral courage to do the right thing.
In the presence of Pilate, Jesus showed respect for the man’s God-given authority (John 19:11), showed self-restraint in controlling His tongue, and firmly declared the truth, including the reality that He has a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36,37). When Pilate washed his hands that morning (Matthew 27:24), such action could neither take away Jesus’ innocence nor absolve the governor of his guilt.
— Roger D. Campbell