Bible Character – Pontius Pilate
Bible Character – Pontius Pilate
Pilate, anxious to hold on to his position bows to public opinion and hands Jesus over.
Buy the book
100 Stand Alone Bible Studies

Bible Passage – Matthew 27:19–26

While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


This is probably one of the most depressing, and the most modern, passages in the entire Bible. The culture of blame and avoidance so evident in twenty-first-century commerce and politics started early, evidently – well, probably with Adam and Eve, but we see it here still going strong with Pontius Pilate. Fickle, sensationalist, and excitable, the crowd bays for blood. Then as now, mob thinking swings between adoring adulation and tearing their idol to pieces.

And Pilate, anxious to hold on to his position, pressured from every side, knowing full well that if he doesn’t do what other people want him to, he’ll be the next to go, bows to public opinion and hands Jesus over.



O God of love and mercy, our creator, our Lord and our judge, you see into the human heart, and humble yourself to stoop under that low lintel to make our hearts your dwelling place. You see our justice systems, our social organization, and the punishments we mete out when somebody is accused of doing something wrong. We acknowledge before you that truth does not always prevail, that the innocent sometimes bear the consequences of the crimes of others, and that shoddy investigation and indifference to truth result in tragedy more often than we like to admit. We ask for your forgiveness and the illumination of your Holy Spirit. Transform our hearts and lives until our legal systems reflect the justice and mercy of heaven, and our private faith shines more brightly in our public life, for we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.