Pilate the Vacillating Questioner

As I get to the second half of John 18 and the epic scene between Jesus and Pilate, I am struck by Pilate’s personality.  The way that John records the interrogation of Jesus, Pilate does almost nothing but ask questions.

Now, I know you are thinking, “well, Pilate was the governor and in charge of the interrogation so wouldn’t he ask a lot of questions to get at the truth of whether or not Jesus was guilty of something?”  The answer should be yes, however, look at the questions that Pilate asks:

  • Are you the King of the Jews? (vs. 33)
  • Am I a Jew? What have you done? (vs. 34)
  • So you are a king? (vs. 37)
  • What is truth? (38)
  • Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews? (spoken to Christ’s Jewish accusers) (vs. 39)

The only time that Pilate ever gets close to trying to ascertain whether or not Jesus is guilty of anything is when he asks, “what have you done?” [A question, by the way, that Jesus does not feel the need to answer]  It’s as if, Pilate knows that Jesus is not guilty of anything at all, so Pilate is going to spend the time trying to see whether or not Jesus really is the King of the Jews.

The whole shape of Pilate’s personality–demonstrated quite perceptively by the way that John records the interrogation–was one of vacillating between his recognition that Jesus was completely innocent and his fear of the Jewish crowds outside his door.  It’s difficult to imagine from this distance, but such was Pilate’s character that he allowed a man that he knew was innocent to be put to death, in order to curry favor with the Jewish leaders.  Needless to say, this does not speak well to Pilate’s (lack of) character.

One wonders how Pilate slept the night of Jesus’ crucifixion.

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