It is simply amazing what you learn as you read, study, and share God's word. While discussing the Apostle's Creed with my youth group, I came across some interesting tidbits about this man who surprisingly found his name mentioned along Jesus in the creed of the church.
In fact, how many of you have ever wondered why instead of Abraham, David, Peter, or even satan, only one person is mentioned in this document alongside Jesus and Mary? Was he exceptional in any way? Let start with discussing who he was.
The evangelist-historian Luke tells us that Pilate was the governor of Judea in the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1). However, it is not only the New Testament that talks about Pilate, for we also find references to his existence in the writings of Philo and Josephus (for instance, see Antiquities 18.32f, 35, 39).
Not to mention, a stone was discovered in 1961 that had the name and designation of Pilate. The question is, was Pilate really a bad guy, a villain as the Church remembers him?
While studying Arthur's Miller "The Crucible" in my school's literature class, I came across this dialogue "Pontius Pilate! God will not let you wash your hands of this!", which obviously has a negative connotation.
Before proceeding with a discussion of Biblical texts, let me mention that even going through the secular references to the Prefect show us that he was not a good official, especially when it came to Roman-Jewish relations.
He provoked the Jews more than once. On one occasion, he brought in idols of Roman emperors into Jerusalem, and it is also said that he once took money from the Temple to complete his administrative projects.
This is what history tells us. But what about scripture? Let's go through some verses:
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, (John 19)
In all this, we actually see Pilate, a Roman governor going to the limit in order to save a Jewish carpenter from the invisible town of Nazareth. To please the Jews, he had Jesus flogged and even tried to let a Jewish criminal (Barabbas) free. Why then do we call him evil? Where did it all go wrong? The passage continues:
but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
The man who tried to show justice killed his conscious when his authority came under danger. In fear of losing his position, he let a man be crucified, someone he and his wife knew to be completely innocent.
Only in one moment a man becomes the hero or the villain. This holds an important lesson for all of us. It is not sometimes the sum total of our lives that history will count us righteous or evil, it may only be a single critical moment.
When friends, family, and society pressurizes you to do something you know is wrong, remember that if you give in to their demands, the annals of time will come to haunt you.
This brings us to our original question. Why to we remember Pilate while reciting the Creed? The answer is Jesus and not Pilate himself.
Anyone who came in contact with Jesus became immortal, whether it was a young villager who had 2 fish, or the donkey who received a king's welcome the original Palm Sunday. Time waits for no one and it tramples those who try to stand in its way. But when Jesus collided with time, He broke it into two.