“Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You bought this man to me, accusing Him of leading a revolt. I have examined Him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find Him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent Him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty.””
In John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate in chapters 18 and 19, Pilate publicly said three times that he found Jesus innocent. First in 18:38, then again in 19:4 and finally in 19:6. In Matthew’s account, just before Pilate released Barabbas and condemned Jesus to death, Pilate washes his hands of Jesus’ sentence, as if to show that he was not responsible for Jesus’ death.
Yet in actual fact, Pilate had every opportunity to stop Jesus’ crucifixion. He was the governor. He was in charge. He had the power to release Jesus. In addition, Pilate didn’t actually know why he was sentencing Jesus to die. Matthew 27 verse 22 – 23 says the following, “Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has He committed?”” Even Pilate himself didn’t think Jesus had done anything to warrant the death penalty.
Yet the real reason Pilate wouldn’t release Jesus, is because he cared too much about his own status, popularity among the Jews, and fear of Caesars opinion of him. In John 19 verse 7, the Jewish leaders highlighted to Pilate that Jesus had declared Himself as the Son of God, which by status would have meant that Jesus was a King. If so, as the Jewish leaders pointed out in verse 12 “…anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar!” A rebel against Caesar being released by a governor appointed by Caesar could indicate that the governor was also guilty of treason! Surely enough, those words did put fear into Pilate’s heart… “When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever” (v8).
So in order to save face, Pilate succumbed to the crowds angry calls to crucify Jesus, fully knowing that Jesus was an innocent man. Yet Jesus’ innocence is the very reason why we are saved. An innocent offering had to take our place and bear the punishment for our wrongdoings. By allowing an innocent man to die, Pilate actually allowed humanity to be saved.
It is darts of sarcasm for Pilate to save his face in front of Caesar, and that finally allows humanity to be saved.