Being Confident of God's Plan
- Tuesday, March 03, 2009
As a highly political man, Pilate knew how to play the political game. The Jews he ruled were also well-versed at playing the political game with him. In fact, so many complaints had been filed in Rome about Pilate’s unkind and ruthless style of ruling that the threat of an additional complaint was often all that was needed for the Jews to manipulate Pilate to do their bidding. This no doubt affected Pilate’s decision to crucify Jesus.
That day the high priest, the Sanhedrin, and the entire mob, insisted that Jesus be crucified. Pilate wanted to know the reason for this demand, so they answered him, “…We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He himself is Christ a king” (Luke 23:2).
Pilate knew the Jews were jealous of Jesus. But politically the charges they brought against Jesus put him in a very bad position. What if the news reached Rome that Jesus had perverted the nation, teaching the people to withhold their taxes and claiming to be a counter King in place of the Roman emperor? It would be political suicide for Pilate to do nothing about that kind of situation. The Jewish leaders were well aware of this when they fabricated these charges against Jesus. They knew exactly what political strings to pull to get Pilate to do what they wanted - and they were pulling every string they held in their hands.
The Jewish people loathed Pilate for his cruelty and inadequate care of his subjects. The kind of brutality that made him so infamous and hated can be seen in Luke 13:1, where it mentions that Pilate slaughtered a number of Galileans and then mixed their blood together with the sacrifices. Appalling and sick as this act may sound, it is in accordance with many other vicious actions instigated under Pilate’s rule as procurator of Judea.
Another example of Pilate’s callousness can be seen in an incident that occurred when a prophet claimed to possess a supernatural gift that enabled him to locate consecrated vessels, which he alleged had been secretly hidden by Moses. When this prophet announced that he would unearth these vessels, Samaritans turned out in large numbers to observe the event. Pilate, who thought the entire affair was a disguise for some other political or military activity, dispatched Roman forces to assault and massacre the crowd that had gathered. In the end, it became apparent that nothing political had been intended.
The Samaritans felt such great loss for those who died, they formally requested that the governor of Syria intervene in this case. Their complaints of Pilate became so numerous that he was eventually summoned to Rome to give account for his action before the Emperor Tiberius himself. But before Pilate could reach Rome to counter the charges that were brought against him, the Emperor Tiberius had died.
Outside the Gospels, Pilate is not mentioned again in the New Testament. Historical records show that the procurator of Syria brought some sort of accusations against Pilate in the year 36 AD. These indictments resulted in his removal from office and exile to Gaul (modern-day France). Eusebius, the well-known early Christian historian, later wrote that Pilate fell into misfortune under the wicked Emperor Caligula and lost many privileges. According to Eusebius, this man Pilate - who was ultimately responsible for the trial, judgment, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus and who had ruled Judea ruthlessly and mercilessly for ten years - finally committed suicide.
With this history now behind us, let’s look at Matthew 27:2. It says regarding Jesus, “And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” The word “bound” is the Greek word desantes, from the word deo, the same word that would be used to describe the binding, tying up, or securing of an animal. I am confident that this was precisely the connotation Matthew had in mind, for the next phrase uses a word that was common in the world of animal caretakers.
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