“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
Everything about Jesus’ trial was illegal. It was held in secret in the middle of the night. It was done without witnesses. And the Israelites had no legal authority to execute anyone as that power was held strictly by the Roman government.
The fact that a Roman judge, Pontius Pilate, found that Jesus had not committed a crime, and certainly not one worthy of death, makes Jesus’ crucifixion all the more absurd.
As a representative of the Roman authority Pilate could have declared Jesus to be innocent and put an end to the trial and ordered the people to disperse. Instead he literally washed his hands of the ordeal and handed Jesus over to the mob to do with as they pleased, which he knew meant crucifixion.
It is difficult to stand up for what is right. Pilate had all of the legal backing and authority to protect an innocent man and he still cowered before the mass of people who had assembled to have Jesus killed.
Pilate is a coward but he had one thing right. Jesus had committed no crime and was not worthy of death or any other punishment. The punishment that Jesus received would be in the place of all of the people. The crowd’s response to Pilate is not just ironic, it is prophetic. They declare, “Let His blood be on our heads and on our children’s heads.” Jesus’ blood would indeed cover them all, but most would not accept it.