February 14, 2021

Jesus’ Trial Before the Romans

Passage: Luke 23:1-25

Pontius Pilate was the Roman procurator of Judea. He ruled there for ten years, from AD 26–36. His headquarters were at Caesarea, but he frequently went up to Jerusalem. Pilate, according to one source, was a “typical Roman … of the imperial period, a man not without some remains of the ancient Roman justice in his soul, yet pleasure-loving, [overbearing], and corrupt. He hated the Jews whom he ruled, and in times of irritation freely shed their blood. They returned his hatred …, and accused him of every crime, [mis]administration, cruelty, and robbery.”[1]

An inscription at Caesarea gives the technical title of his position as, prefect of Judaea (praefectus Iudaeae). A prefect (ἡγεμών) was a leader of 500–1,000 military troops. The office involved military, financial, and judicial responsibilities (Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 44).[2]

Pilate’s cruel behavior and disregard for Jewish customs began immediately upon his arrival in [Judea] in ad 26. He first offended the Jews by bringing Roman [flags/pennants]—with images of the emperor—into Jerusalem. This created a near-riot among the Jews. A second conflict occurred after Pilate took funds from the [temple] treasury to build aqueducts. When the Jews protested, his soldiers beat them with clubs, and many Jews died. On another occasion, Pilate placed shields bearing the emperor’s name in … Jerusalem. The Jews requested that Pilate remove the shields. When he refused, they appealed to Emperor Tiberius by letter. Tiberius was infuriated and ordered Pilate to remove the shields.[3] Such errors caused Pilate to fall into disfavor with the Roman leadership, and he was eventually removed from office in AD 36.

Pilate returned to Rome, but nothing is recorded of him after his arrival there. His name fades into obscurity. Had he not appeared in the pages of the Gospels, he would have been little more than a footnote in history. But because of his association with Jesus, Pilate is one of the most recognizable characters in ancient history.

And there is no doubt that Pilate was a genuine historical figure. In 1961, archaeologists found physical evidence of Pilate’s existence and activity in the Holy Land. They uncovered a block of stone with an inscription mentioning Pontius Pilate and his position in the Roman Empire. So here’s another example of how archaeology confirms the Bible.

Today we begin Luke chapter 23. Perhaps the main theme in this passage is that Jesus is innocent of the charges brought against him. Both Pilate and Herod agree that Jesus did nothing worthy of death. In spite of his innocence, the corrupt Jewish leaders insist on his death. Humanly speaking, Jesus died because the Jewish religious officials pressured Pilate into killing him. But from a divine point of view, all of this happened as a fulfillment prophecy. Jesus was rejected by his people, mocked and ridiculed, abused, and ultimately crucified in accordance with God’s foreknowledge and plan.

[1] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893).

[2] Michael Brandon Massey, “Pontius Pilate,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[3] Michael Brandon Massey, “Pontius Pilate,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Download Files Notes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.