Why Did Pontius Pilate Wash His Hands?

Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor of Provinces of Judea, Idumaea, and Samaria between 26 and 37 AD. He was best known for his leadership of Judea. As a Roman prefect, he was the supreme judge, which means he had full authority to authorize a criminal’s execution. His early life was a mystery; that is why there is controversy about his land of birth.

Non-Biblical sources portray him as a barbarian leader who defied the traditions of the Jewish people willfully. In The New Testament, the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, was responsible for condemning Jesus to death.

Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the issue regarding Christ’s crucifixion because he did not believe Jesus to be guilty of any crime worthy of execution, yet Pilate permitted the punishment solely because the riotous mob the Pharisees and their leaders had formed needed to be quelled.

Pontius Pilate is a mysterious and controversial figure in human history. His actions led to the creation of the Christianity religion. If you think about it, if Jesus had not been crucified, Christianity would not be in existence. This article provides information on all you need to know about why Pontius Pilate washed his hands after condemning Jesus to crucifixion.

Jesus Handed Over to Pontius Pilate

In Matthew 27, the elders and chief priests plotted against Jesus, intending to put Him to death. After binding Jesus Christ, they took him to the governor Pontius Pilate. His betrayer Judas after seeing that Jesus had been condemned he was remorseful and returned the 30 pieces of silver that had been given to him by the chief priests and elders. He threw down the pieces in the temple and later hanged himself because he had sinned by betraying the innocent blood of Jesus Christ. Pontius Pilate heard the many things the chief priests and elders testified against Jesus.

It was a norm for the governor to release at least one prisoner to the multitude in those days during the Passover. In those days, there was a notorious prisoner by the name of Barnabas. The multitude was asked who they wanted to be released between Jesus and Barnabas. The chief priests, together with the elders, convinced the masses to choose Barnabas. They chose Barnabas. When sitting on the judgment seat, Pontius Pilate’s wife sent to him and said that he should have nothing to do with Jesus because He was just.

Pontius Pilate asked the multitude what they wanted to do with Jesus Christ, and they said he should be crucified. When Pilate saw nothing he could do, he washed his hands in front of the multitude, saying that he was not responsible for the innocent blood of a just person who was Jesus Christ. He later released Barnabas to the multitude and delivered Jesus to be crucified.

Symbolism of Pilate’s Hand Washing

Pilate decided to condemn Jesus to crucifixion, yet he knew he was wrong. Even though he knew that it would not leave a good mark on him, he still went ahead with the bad deal. His act of handwashing was symbolic. He wanted to shows his innocence.

Even though he washed his hands to show his innocence, many people wonder if he thought about his soul. Just because he proclaimed his innocence by the act of handwashing did not change the fact that he condemned Jesus to crucifixion.

The same Pilate who declared that Jesus was innocent is the same one who sentenced Him to death. It means that he was responsible for the miscarriage of justice. It is similar to what happens in the modern world, where prisons are filled with innocent people. The justice system is flawed, which means it is far from perfect. Claims of innocence do not remove guilt from the individual. Hand washing was not effective, even though it made him feel better about himself.

Today many people are those who rationalize their guilt and blame someone else for their sins. We tend to blame others for pressuring us into sin, just like Pilates was pressured to the will of the Jews. The elders and chief priests used every form of deception and political status, which resulted in Pilate sinning. Being forced or pressured into sin does not alleviate our guilt.

Lessons Christians Can Learn from Pontius Pilate

The majority of Christians are those who look upon the actions of Pilate with disgust. It is because he knew that Jesus was innocent and he had the power to release him. Because of fear, he chose to wash his hands from the whole situation. Even though there are people who hold Pilate to a higher standard, there are certain circumstances that we as Christians are forced to respond in the same way.

For example, in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, parents are commanded to train their children well, and when they grow, they will not depart from the teachings. It is the responsibility of parents to instruct their children and have authority over them. However, some parents, just like Pilates, wash their hands from these parental duties.

The innocence of Jesus is stressed throughout the trial. Pilate’s wife had a dream about the virtue of Jesus and later sent a message to her husband. According to the Passover custom, Pilate was supposed to release a prisoner, and he tried to avoid the sentencing of Jesus. By washing his hands, it shows that he was protecting his position as the governor.

During all these trials, the calmness of Jesus is a sign for Christians to give thanks no matter how hard the situation. We get assurance that God is always in control when faced with difficulties. Jesus could have been consumed with fear of pain, but instead, he used this opportunity to teach us about the meaning of his crucifixion.

Making the wrong choice as leaders is not a good example. The good thing that Pilate could have done was to stand by the truth. However, this happened so that we could understand better the goodness of the Lord.

Before His arrest, Jesus was sharing a Passover meal with his disciples. If he wanted to, he could have resisted the arrest with the help of God. The death of Christ was proof that Jesus was the son of God. We learn that self-examination and confessing our sins to God through prayer is key to living a fulfilling life. We are reminded to wait upon the Lord. Even though we may go through trials and persecution, true victory comes from God.

Christians are encouraged that even in times of persecution, there is significant victory ahead. Calling out to God in crisis is a must because he is the only one who can deliver us. Jesus was aware that his time was coming to an end. Even in agony and pain, He demonstrated love and forgiveness. When we humble ourselves, we get great freedom and expect a positive ending.

Jesus knew God had eternal life for him in store. He had to die for Christians to be delivered and for people to see and understand the miraculous ways of God. Christians need to have faith in God to endure suffering. Standing by the truth and being brave at all times is a necessary step to overcome challenges.

Crucifixion of Jesus

Crucifixion was a painful death that involved humiliation. The Roman soldiers dressed Jesus in a rob, put stones on his head, and a staff in his hand, which they used to strike him. It teaches Christians not to be quick to judge but instead follow what is right. It is better to be on the right side than to do wrong to please a crowd. Pontius Pilate agreed to condemn Jesus to crucifixion, yet he knew it was wrong.

The governor, Pontius Pilate, was conflicted between the interests of the Sanhedrin Jewish council and the Roman Empire. When he asked Jesus if He was the king of Jews, Pontius claimed that he embraced the title, which was not the case. According to some sources, Pontius Pilate saw Jesus as a political threat.  Many people claim that this was the main reason why he bowed down to pressure by the chief priests, elders, and the multitude.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is an important event that shapes Christians’ beliefs. Pontius Pilate played an essential role in the crucifixion of Jesus; that is why his name is also included in the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostle Creed is like a summary of what Jesus did on earth. Pontius Pilate gave in to the crowd’s demands to maintain his social standing because he was not in good standing with Caesar. He feared that one mistake would make him lose his position or his life.

In Conclusion

In the trial of Jesus in the gospel account, Joseph and Philo described Pontius Pilate as unfair and cruel. In the four gospels, he was described as weak because he bowed down to the pressures of Jewish authority to execute Jesus. However, in Matthew 27:24, we see that Pontius Pilate washed his hands as a sign of refusal of involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus.

He knew that he would gain nothing, but after the riot began, he had no choice but to condemn Jesus to crucifixion. In the Roman Empire, it was treason to call oneself king. The crucifixion of Jesus is necessary because it teaches Christian that God sacrificed his only son for the sins of humanity.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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