The Bible does not paint Pilate in a very good light. There is, of course, good reason for this. He was Rome’s representative in Judea, administering Roman justice to a people in constant turmoil because of Rome’s presence. Moreover, the name “Pilate” has gone down in history as an infamous name, one that will always be tied to the crucifixion of Jesus.
In John 19 the tough spot Pilate was in was how best to deal with a crowd that had the single interest of killing an innocent man (19:6), and for him to maintain loyalty to Rome. The crowd did not originate this desire of theirs to kill Jesus (cf. Acts 19:32); rather, they were complicit with those who did originate the desire (Matthew 27:20; cf. John 12:19; 11:45-50). Pilate knew this (Matthew 27:18), and desiring to satisfy the crowd he gave Jesus over to their will (Mark 15:10-15).
Pilate was in a tough spot, don’t you think? Not really. He knew Jesus was innocent of the charges leveled against him. Knowing this and allowing justice to hold sway meant that he was not in a tough spot at all. Pilate’s way of thinking, however, was not one that allowed justice to hold sway; what did hold sway was his political fortunes. Because that was his priority the Jews had him over a barrel (as the saying goes). Pilate knew this and turned it around on them. Pilate cried out: “What shall I do with your King?” They replied, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:14-16). What Pilate had just accomplished, unbeknownst to the Jews at the time, was to make the Jews succumb (worship) to the emperor of Rome. More than that, however, even in their denial that Jesus was their king, the Roman administrator, made it a point to label Jesus as their king with the sign he nailed on the wood (John 19:17-22). Pilate was in a tough spot; our tough spots don’t have to be so dramatic if we allow God’s justice to hold sway in our lives. Surely, we don’t want “Pilate” to accomplish the same with us, do we?