Pontius Pilate: Modern Politician

Thou art a king, then? Pilate asked. And Jesus answered, It is thy own lips that have called me a king. What I was born for, what I came into the world for, is to bear witness of the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth, listens to my voice. Pilate said to him, What is truth? And with that he went back to the Jews again, and told them, I can find no fault in him. You have a custom of demanding that I should release one prisoner at paschal time; would you have me release the king of the Jews? Whereupon they all made a fresh outcry; Barabbas, they said, not this man. Barabbas was a robber.

John 18:37-40


But the chief priests and elders had persuaded the multitude to ask for Barabbas and have Jesus put to death; and so, when the governor openly asked them, Which of the two would you have me release? they said, Barabbas. Pilate said to them, What am I to do, then, with Jesus, who is called Christ? They said, Let him be crucified. And when the governor said, Why, what wrong has he done? they cried louder than ever, Let him be crucified. And so, finding that his good offices went for nothing, and the uproar only became worse, Pilate sent for water and washed his hands in full sight of the multitude, saying as he did so, I have no part in the death of this innocent man; it concerns you only.

Matthew 27:20-24

*     *     *

Pilate is a modern man. In asking “What is truth?” he marks himself as a moral relativist, someone who scorns the idea that one moral system can be better than another. He would have reacted to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the vein of many leftists: “We were asking for it.”

And like a politician who “accepts full responsibility” for a disastrous decision — but pays no penalty — Pilate ceremonially absolves himself of blame in the death of Christ. As if the ceremonial act (or rote apology) somehow rectifies a grave error of judgment or dereliction of duty. Pilate, having gone through the motions, remains in high office — just like a modern politician.