Pontius Pilate Encounters Jesus
“What is truth?” asked Pilate.
It’s a timeless question that has been asked by humankind since the beginning. Regardless of who is doing the asking, or when, the question is a critical one. When Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea, asked it of Jesus during His, it was a climax moment. From a legal standpoint, Pilate alone held the power to send Jesus to His death (John 18:31) or free Him and put an end to any legitimate effort of the Jewish leaders to silence Christ and His message. Jesus had already appeared before Annas and Caiaphas, facing the charge of blasphemy, and had been found guilty by the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:65). They lacked the power to kill him, so they sought out Pilate. It is rather excruciating to read Jesus’ interaction with Pilate, isn’t it? We see an uninvolved party—the Roman prefect—come to recognize Jesus’ innocence, and yet he doesn’t have a good enough reason to incur the wrath of a bloodthirsty mob for the life of a single Jew.
pilate questions jesus
Why did Jesus not answer his Jewish accusers, the chief priests and elders? This amazed Pilate and was not lost on him (Matthew 27:14). But Jesus knew who He was, and knew His purpose. He would not be thwarted by offering a spirited defense to win favor with Pilate, nor would He argue with those to whom He had already testified. He stood resolute to do the will of His father. Can you imagine being so set on God’s will for your life?
It is clear from Luke’s account that Pilate attempted to reason with the crowd (Luke 23:13–16; 20–22), but they would not be satisfied with anything other than Jesus’ death. The crowd that once shouted, “Hosanna!” now shouted, “Crucify!” (Luke 23:21).
pilate sentences jesus
Pilate remained oblivious to Jesus’s identity and purpose, and his line of questioning is rather revealing. He asked Jesus, “What have you done?” (John 18:35). Perhaps he expected Jesus to defend Himself against a common charge brought before a Roman court: insurrection. Jesus understood Pilate’s intent and answered that He was a king, but not the kind that challenges a political power. His kingdom “is not from here” (v. 36), and His kingship is unlike any other. It is divine and heavenly (“not from this world,” and “for this reason I was born”) and His kingly purpose in the world was to “testify to the truth” (vv. 36–37). Then came Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” (v. 38).
He failed to see that truth was not a set of facts that would clear the troubled waters. Perhaps he had grown tired of Jesus’s enigmatic responses. Perhaps his question was an honest reflection of the inner confusion within his own conscience, yet he turned away without receiving an answer and gave the emboldened crowd what they sought, unaware that the answer to his final question had been standing before him the whole time.
what pilate missed in jesus
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). What Pilate failed to understand is for us to cherish. We have in Christ the answer for the most important question of all: “Who is God, and how can we know Him?” Jesus lived among mankind as God incarnate, a living witness to the very nature, character, and will of the Father. He was both the King of heaven and the Son of Man. We know what Pilate failed to comprehend, even after such an encounter: that Jesus was the Truth. The question before us, now, is this: What will we do with Him?