PILATE'S DILEMMA

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an article by Ken Simmons


There is convincing evidence that Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was the son of God. When the chief priests had brought Jesus to Pilate demanding his death, Pilate’s wife, Claudius, had brought him a message saying “Don’t have anything to do with this innocent man for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”


Pilate questioned Jesus several times and each time he came away with the sense that he was innocent, but he also came away with the sense that this man was holy, and quite possibly the prophesied Messiah. Three times Pilate went before the Jews pleading his case, saying, “I find no fault in him.”


Pilate had heard about the many miracles of Jesus, such as giving sight to the blind, the cleansing of lepers, and the most miraculous of all, the raising Lazarus from the dead,  and these events would certainly have reached the ears of the governor of Judea. Pilate came face to face with his own cowardice, finding himself in the middle of a dilemma and a conflict of conscience. He found himself on trial and his choices would be profound.


keep the peace or face the wrath of Caesar . . .


His primary assignment by Caesar was keeping the peace. If he declared Jesus innocent and released him the Jews, who were intent on having Jesus killed, it would almost certainly begin an uprising which would get back to Caesar and at the very least result in him being removed as governor of Judea, or worse.


On the one hand he knew that if he sentenced Jesus to be crucified he might be killing the true Messiah, the son of God. This would likely satisfy Caesar, who had appointed Pilate to rule over this unruly desert province by keeping the peace, but it would also tear at his conscience because at this point Pilate may have sensed that Jesus was truly the son of God. This is what we call a “no-win situation” today.


Pilate had to face the cowardice in his own life just as Simon Peter had done only a few hours earlier. In Pilate’s case it was “Do what your conscience knows to be right, or do what is expedient and will likely save your career.”


This dilemma finally played out later in the life of Pontius Pilate when historians record that he committed suicide during a trip to Rome, likely because of the actions he had taken against a man he knew to be innocent; a man he came to believe was the son of God.


Today we face the same conflicts in our own lives. Many in the modern world either believe, or at least suspect, that Jesus is the son of God. God Himself has put within every person a spirit that cries out to know God, and to search for Him.


an evil act with a profound outcome . . .


We find ourselves in a similar situation with Pilate. We sense that we are on trial and we also sense that the choices we make will be profound. Do we do what is expedient? Many will end up counting the cost and saying, “If I take this step people will call me a fanatic and I’ll probably lose most of my friends. And, if I decide to become a follower of Jesus I know I can kiss that job promotion goodbye. It’s just not worth it.”


Even though Pilate made the wrong decision, it was also the right decision . . . because it was a decision written centuries earlier inscribed in prophesy. It was indisputable proof that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world. For if Pilate had known the scriptures he would have known that this horrific deed was prophesied nearly a thousand years earlier in the 22nd Psalm in which was described in detail the crucifixion several hundred years before crucifixion was even invented.


“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalms 22:1-2. Matthew 27:46) “They have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalms 22:16) "They divided my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots" (Psalms 22:18)


what will you do with this Jesus of Nazareth? . . . 


Although Pilate paid the price for his cowardly decision the outcome had been predicted centuries earlier, and unless Jesus the man had been crucified, Jesus the son of God would not have died, been resurrected, and conquered death, hell, and the grave for all eternity.


The Bible tells us that all who are in authority are put there by God, and Jesus told Pilate he had no authority over him except that which was given to him by God. Without Pontius Pilate sending the son of God to his death we would all face an uncertain eternity. Pilate was appointed (chosen) to do the unthinkable . . . and that act affected all of mankind forever.


Rewind time back to Friday morning, April 7, 30 a.d. and you are Pontius Pilate. You face a dilemma of conscience. You are convinced and your spirit within tells you this man is the son of God. What will you do with this Jesus of Nazareth?