Pilate Matthew 27:11-26; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:29, 19:16

In a few moments Pontius Pilate will be before you.  Let me give you a little back round of Pontius. . .

Little is known of Pontius Pilate before he arrived in Judea in AD 26. He was likely a Roman knight who rose to prominence through military service. As governor his primary task was to maintain law and order. Pilate lived in the Roman headquarters at Caesarea Maritima with a small support staff and company of auxiliary troops. During Jewish feasts and festivals, he would visit Jerusalem to keep peace in the city.

Pilate is best remembered for his role in sentencing Jesus to death. All four Gospels include Christ’s trial in front of Pilate, although the details of the accounts differ some.

Jesus was arrested on the order of Joseph Caiaphas, (remember last week’s guest) the high priest of the temple in Jerusalem at the time. Caiaphas and other members of the Sanhedrin had accused Jesus of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death under Jewish law. But the Sanhedrin, or high council, of which Caiaphas was president, did not have the authority to execute people. So, Caiaphas turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, who held power as governor to carry out a death sentence. Caiaphas tried to convince Pilate that Jesus was a threat to Roman stability and had to die to prevent a rebellion.

Caiaphas owed his position to Rome and had a good working relationship with Pilate. Both he and Pilate wanted to keep the peace, especially in a crowded city at Passover. Since there was no set legal precedent for a case such as Jesus, it was up to Pilate as governor to decide how to handle the situation and what sentence to enforce. Pilate likely saw Jesus as a troublemaker. He ordered Jesus to be crucified under the ironic and sarcastically mocking title "King of the Jews."

Pontius Pilate was probably a successful soldier before he received this appointment through patronage. In the gospels, he is portrayed as finding no fault with Jesus and symbolically washes his hands of the matter.  Pilate was afraid of the Sanhedrin and a possible riot. He knew Jesus was innocent of the charges against him yet gave in to the crowd and had Jesus crucified anyway.

What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular. Pontius Pilate sacrificed an innocent man to avoid problems for himself. Disobeying God to go along with the crowd is a very serious matter. As Christians, we must be prepared to take a stand for God's laws.

Now let’s listen to Pontius Pilate this afternoon. . .

''It was fear! 0, how I hate to hear those words. Truth! I asked Him, 'What is truth?' The truth is that I am a coward. I want to call it political expediency, but it was fear, plain and simple.

"I knew immediately that He was innocent.  'Perverting the nation and forbidding the Jews to pay their taxes to Caesar.' Rubbish! That was a pack of lies. The Sanhedrin is jealous of Him. Those vicious liars finally got down to the truth when they said that He claims to be a king... the Messiah sent from God.

"I examined the Man. I told the crowd that I found no wrongdoing. He was innocent. But I was afraid ... afraid to uphold my verdict. To uphold the truth! I could have sent one thousand Legionaires to dispel the crowds. But I, Pilate, Governor of this forsaken land of the Jews was afraid.

"Those Jews could have caused me trouble. They could have interfered with my political plans. They could have started insurrection after insurrection, making my career look spotty and inefficient. They could have sent word directly to Rome that I was not acting in the best interests of the Roman empire. I was afraid! I allowed them to decide the verdict.

"It was a cunning move, born of fear, that led me to send this troublesome Man, Jesus, to Herod. Herod is the Tetrarch of Galilee. This Jesus was active in Galilee, so let Herod assume my responsibility. Herod, that old fox, was too clever. He remanded this Man back to me.

"Well, that's one plum for me.  Herod is now my friend ... our differences are past. Maybe that  move will prove advantageous for my career?

"That doesn't shake this fear. I could have sent the entire Sanhedrin packing. I could have cleared the whole lot of them. I could have released this Jesus. Fear!  What a horrible rule. I was afraid. I offered to have Him whipped. 'Oh, no\ Pilate,' they said, 'We don't want him whipped. We want Him Crucified!'

"And then it struck me. A brilliant move. Ever since I've been here, I've released one prisoner for them during Passover. That should do it...I'll give them the choice of Barabbas or Jesus, I thought. I know they would  select Jesus.

This Barabbas is a monster ... an insurrectionist... a cold blooded murderer. No one is safe with Barabbas in the streets. I thought that would be a clever move, until I heard the frenzied crowd shout out, 'We want Barabbas! Crucify that Jesus!'

"I couldn't believe it! I didn't want to believe it. My good wife sent me word not to have anything to do with Jesus. Claudia had suffered a great deal of anguish in dreams regarding this Jesus. She knew He was innocent. She was afraid for me.

"But even as Barabbas was slipping through the crowd to the darkness of the streets, I thought I could dissuade this crowd from their blood lust. I would shock them into their senses. It was a move that I considered  would stop them from committing such a heinous crime... that  would  permit me to escape being a part of this vicious plan. I used their own custom of washing my hands as a symbol of innocence. 'I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to it yourselves.'

''Those people are demons. They rather blithely and gaily responded, 'Right Pilate! His blood be on us and our children!' How could they do such a thing?

"My last desperate move. I'd show them. I'd show those callous people they had nothing to fear from  this Jesus. I had him whipped and mocked. How could such a king allow himself to be spat upon... to be hit on the head with a stick ... to be dressed in a filthy old soldier's robe ... to have thorns crushed into his head... to have his flesh ripped from the bone by the whips. Couldn't they see that this Jesus is nothing to fear?

But still they cried out, 'Crucify Him!  Crucify Him! If you don't, you're no friend of Caesar!' My political career! Fear! They took this Jesus and even now He is hanging on the cross.  ''That symbolical washing of my hands in the basin has not removed my fear. Political career? What's that to me now? Now I fear that I have murdered God's Son!

"Oh, how my friends back in Rome would laugh! 'Pilate, those people and their strange religious customs are getting to you. You're made of stronger stuff than that. Take a vacation!' "But then, they haven't heard of  His  miracles ... His words of love and forgiveness.

They haven't heard His majestic silence which speaks volumes! They haven't had Him look them in the eye and declare, 'I am a king, but my kingship is not of this world else would my servants fight.' They haven't heard Him say, even as He said to me, 'Pilate, you would have no power to crucify me if it  hadn't been given to you from above.'

"Their wives haven't had agonizing dreams about the Man. They don't have that inner feeling like I have, that He is more than some kind of religious fanatic or prophet!

"I fear...Oh, it will dissipate. Today is Friday. By the time the weekend is over, I'll feel better. Maybe I should invite Herod to dinner...'' But how will I cope with this weekend? I feel so guilty and afraid! The baths.. that's it, I'll go to the baths. I'll see my friends and clean up. That should refresh me.

"Where's the soap?"

Not all of the soap in the world will ever cleanse Pilate's guilt or remove his fear. But the water of God, the Sacrament of Baptism will. At the font, we do not symbolically receive cleansing. We  do  not  wash  mere earthly grime from our bodies. No, in the Sacrament of Baptist, we become the perfect children of God. God enters our hearts and creates faith through the water and His Word. God cleanses us from all impurities.  He takes  our guilt and fear from us.

During this blessed season of Lent, think on your Baptism. Thank God for it and use it. It created saving Christian faith within you. Now it strengthens you to lead bold and joyful Christian lives each and every day of your  lives.  Your Baptism unites you with the Savior. He grants you power to fear and love Him more than anyone else... more than any ambition .. Think on the cleansing power of Baptism and then use it.  Pilate needs to forget  the  soap  and  seek  the  blood of Christ.