The trial of Jesus, as conducted by Pontus Pilate, is a prime example of one seeking to shift responsibilities to other individuals.  The narrative helps us to see the way in which Pilate tried to make others accountable for his decision.  Make no mistake about it; Pilate had the full authority and power of the Roman military machine to make any judgment about Jesus that he wanted to make.

On at least three different occasions, Pilate said that he found “no fault” in Jesus.  If so, why did he find it necessary to murder the Son of God?  In reality, Pilate could have found Christ innocent, and he could have called in a garrison of Roman soldiers to quash any uprising that the Jews might have started in response to the release of Jesus.  Pilate had the authority to do this very thing.  As a matter of fact, he even tells Jesus that he had the power to release him. John 19:10 says, “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?”

In reality, Jesus had more power than Pilate ever would have.  Pilate was the fifth governor of the region who ended up serving for ten years.  Typically, procurators served for one to three years.  With this fact in mind, it becomes apparent that Pilate had tremendous political prowess.[1]  It is ironic that Pilate would talk about his “power” in the presence of one who laid the very foundations of the universe.

Consequently, Pilate had no real power over Jesus other than what had been provided to him by Jehovah God.  Daniel 2:20-21 says, “Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:  And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.”

Pilate tried to figure out a way to release Jesus while appeasing the rulers of the Jewish people.  He was the quintessential politician of his age.  While trying to walk a tightrope between doing what was just versus doing what was politically correct for the people he ruled, he tried to relinquish his responsibilities to someone else.  This sounds very much like what is happening in our society today.

Sadly, Christians are sometimes guilty of trying to be “politically correct.”  It is easier to go along with the crowd than to be ridiculed for one’s belief.  Matthew 7:13 says “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”  Going along with the crowd, leads to destruction.

Part of Pilate’s response was controlled by fear.  The Roman Empire placed him in the region of Judea to subvert any uprisings among the Jews.  Since he believed his political positon was endangered, he sought to avoid controversy and tumults.  John 19:7-8 says, “The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.  When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid.”

Fear motivates many people to sit and be quiet when they really need to stand and speak lovingly about the truth and the Christ who died for them.  It is little wonder that it is among the first sins listed in Revelation 21.8.  “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

The political prowess of the Sanhedrin was revealed in regards to the accusations leveled against Christ.  They accused the Messiah of treason against the empire.  John 19:12 says, “And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”  They knew how to manipulate the political sensitivities of Pilate to subvert a just ruling in the case of Jesus.

As a matter of fact, Pilate attempted to release Jesus after severely beating Him.  John 19:1-4 says, “Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.  And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.   Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.”  Since Jesus had not been found guilty of any crime, He should have been released immediately.  In this instance, Pilate sought to mitigate the political climate.

Perhaps Pilate believed that he could scourge Jesus and this would appease the bloodlust of the Jewish religious leaders.  This is another attempt to avoid handing down a capital punishment for the alleged crimes of Jesus, but the Sanhedrin and chief leaders of the Jews would have nothing of it!

In a calloused, indifferent sort of way, Pilate washed his hands of Jesus.  He said in Matthew 27.22-24, “…Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”  So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”  In actuality, he was not innocent of Jesus’ blood.  He was just as guilty as the vilest of conspirators.

Contrary to what Pilate attempted to do and say, he was complicit in the murder of Jesus.  He attempted to shift his judgment of Jesus to some other person.  While one sees clearly through the cowardice of Pilate, we sometimes miss the fact that we too try to shift our responsibilities towards other people.

We are all accountable for our own transgressions.  No other person will have to answer for our sins.  We will stand before God on the day of judgement and be judged by our works.  Revelation 20:12-13 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”