137: Pilate's verdict
Pilate and Jesus faced each other again. The King of heaven and earth faced the governor who ruled in the name of the Roman emperor.
Pilate groped for words. What did it mean that Jesus was supposed to be God's Son? Where was Jesus born, and who were His ancestors? "Where do You come from?" the governor asked.
Jesus gave him no answer.
Pilate became irritated and impatient. "Don't You want to speak to me? Don't You know that I have the power to release You and the power to have You crucified?"
Jesus looked at him earnestly and said, "You would have no power over Me if it had not been given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed Me over into your hands is guilty of a greater sin."
At that moment Pilate decided again to let Jesus go. This man could not be put to death. If Pilate chose, he could have the square cleared by his soldiers. After all, he was governor. It was about time for him to show who was boss.
He went back to the Jews and gave them his decision. They screamed threats at him, "If you let this man go, you are not a friend of the emperor! Anyone who proclaims himself king is stirring up rebellion against the emperor!"
Pilate's heart beat fast with fear. If the rabbis brought accusations about him to the emperor, he would not be allowed to remain governor. His life would be in danger. Tiberius, the emperor, was a cruel and suspicious man, and Pilate's conscience was not clear. Would he have to risk his life to save Jesus? That sacrifice was too great.
Pilate was downcast. All his cleverness, his delays, his halfway measures had done him no good. He lacked the true courage of an honest man.
If he had to give up this struggle, he wanted to show the people that he did not wish to bear the responsibility for Jesus' death.
He had a bowl of water brought out so that he could wash his hands in front of the people. "I am innocent of His blood," he said. "You will have to take responsibility."
The people were so completely blinded by their excitement that they shouted, "Fine! Let us take the blame! His blood be on us and on our children!"
Forty years later, those words were fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed. Pilate had Jesus brought to the judgment seat. It was an open, elevated area in front of the fortress. The open side led down to the street and was paved with smooth tiles. Therefore the place was known as "The Stone Pavement."
Pilate said to the Jews, mockingly, "Behold your king!"
They cried out, "Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
Pilate asked, "May I crucify your King?"
The Jews' hatred of the Romans was nothing compared to their frightening hatred of Jesus.
"We have no king but Caesar," they shouted.
Pilate finally delivered his verdict. He condemned the innocent one to death. Pilate had washed his hands to show that he was innocent. All the water in the ocean could never wash away the great guilt in his soul.
The soldiers took Jesus away. They took off His purple robe and gave Him His own clothes.
They led Him away to be crucified.