A friend of the Emperor

November 1, 2010 | 40 comments

This post was originally published on February 18, 2009.

When I read the Bible for the first time a few years ago, I had a hard time getting into it. With little knowledge of Christianity and no knowledge of Judaism, I often felt a great distance between me and the events depicted on the wispy pages of this brand new book. Even the New Testament seemed very strange and foreign, and it would be a long time before I was able to feel a connection to even the figure of Christ himself. But there was one exception. One event described in all four of the Gospels jumped off the page to me in its vividness, because I felt a strong familiarity with one of the main people involved:

Pontius Pilate.

When Pilate came on the scene for the first time in the Gospel of Matthew, I sat up in bed and became transfixed by what I read. For some reason I found the scenes that involved him some of the most fascinating that I’d read yet, though I couldn’t put my finger on why. As I went on to read the accounts of his actions in the books of Mark, Luke and John, however, I came to the unsettling realization of why this person had so captured my interest:

Because he reminded me of me. More than anyone else in the Bible, I saw in him someone whose pattern of actions I recognized in an intimate way.

Of course I’d heard his name before and at least knew that he was somehow involved in Jesus’ crucifixion, but I’d always pictured him to be just “the bad guy, ” depicted as a flatly evil cardboard character. But as I read of his back and forths with the crowds, saw the hesitation in his words even 2, 000 years after they were spoken, I realized that he was a much different person than I’d imagined. I realized that the motives for his choices were complicated, disturbing…and familiar.

“There is nothing this man has done to deserve death.” (Luke 23:15)

Pilate said to them the third time, “But what crime has he committed?” (Luke 23:22)

“You take him, then, and crucify him. I find no reason to condemn him.” (John 19:6)

He knew what was right. He knew that this was an innocent man, and seemed to suspect that this might even be someone very special. But with the massive momentum of the crowd and his political future to consider, there was a lot of pressure to make the wrong decision. So what does someone like Pilate do when they stand in the face of some really alluring temptation to turn away from the right path? I knew it before I read it:

Pilate asked the crowd, “Which one of these two do you want me to set free for you?” (Matthew 27:21)

Pilate wanted to set him free, so he appealed to the crowd again… (Luke 23:20)

You test the water a few times. You keep flirting with the prospect of doing the right thing, hoping against hope that maybe this time it will be easy. And when you find that there is just no painless way to do what is good…

He took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am not responsible for the death of this man! This is your doing!” (Matthew 27:24)

You shift the blame. You make the discomfort of doing the wrong thing comfortable again by telling yourself that you are not wrong at all. You focus on your external circumstances, listening to the noise of the crowd instead of your own inner thoughts, pointing the finger always away from and never toward yourself.

But why? What is so alluring as to make a person act in such a dishonest, cowardly way?

He tried to find a way to set Jesus free. But the crowds shouted back, “If you set him free, that means that you are not the Emperor’s friend!” (John 19:12)

When I first got to this part, even though I had never read it before, I knew what was next:

When Pilate heard these words…[he] handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. (John 19:13, 16)

I knew that the threat of losing favor with the Emperor would be more than a person like Pilate could take. I knew it would be the last straw, the spark to ignite the rationalizing and denial that would clear the way for proceeding with evil. I knew it because, at that moment, I recognized somewhere within myself my own disturbingly strong desire to be “friends with the Emperor.” My “Emperor” was something different than Pilate’s, of course: his was an actual man who had the power to make all Pilate’s wildest dreams of riches and success come true; mine was a symbolic Emperor comprised of all my desires for things like comfort and pleasure and money and control and success and acclaim, an Emperor whose friendship I sought over doing the right thing on at least a daily basis.

At the time this was all somewhat vague for me. Without the knowledge I would eventually gain through Christianity, I didn’t have a lexicon for articulating the reality of things like temptation and sin and redemption. But what I see so clearly now is that the story of Pontius Pilate’s decisions up there before the crowds resonated so deeply with me because it is the story of rationalizing sin. It is the story of trying desperately to make it comfortable to do what you know to be the right thing, and giving up when you can’t.

And, as I realized only later, Pilate’s all-to-familiar actions 2, 000 years ago are not as different in severity from mine as I might have liked to tell myself, because they both led directly to Jesus’ death on the Cross.


  1. ~Ana Paula~A Católica

    Regards from BRASIL!!

    What a wonderful Post…. WOW. I am not exagerating in my reaction:
    I SIMPLY LOVE when I read something that is so fresh, so new to me, that almost, almost make me cry. Really.

    I learned today that exists a “Poncio Pilatos” in me. Thank you.

    I hope God Bless You, Your Happy Family and specially Your Readers!
    I wish the Holy Spirit always acts above all you read and all you WRITE!
    Be Good!

    • ~Ana Paula~A Católica

      Today over here in Brasil we are quite happy cause we elected yesterday our First Female President: Dilma Rousseff!!

  2. Michelle

    Wow. This is powerful. I have noticed the past few years, every Lent when I watch The Passion of The Christ, that I have been quite taken with Pilate and as we read The Passion in Mass on Passion Sunday, I reflect so much more on Pilate than I used to. This really helps me see what I may have been inclined to ponder before, but didn’t have it categorized correctly. Wonderful.

  3. Dorothy

    A truly beautiful exegesis. Thank you. Lord, help us all to stand up when it’s not easy.

  4. Hermit Mama

    I always thought it was also interesting that Pilate asks Jesus “What is Truth?” (John 18:38) but doesn’t stick around for the answer.

    • Javier (JCA)

      I also found this passage very interesting… and disturbing. In Pilatus is only a rhetorical question, not to be answered. He is the prototype of mundane, incredulous and, perhaps, cynical man who prefers to slip away difficult questions. And he is the most “modern” character in the Bible

  5. Barbara C.

    I can’t think of Pontius Pilate without thinking about his two songs in Jesus Christ Superstar (especially on the movie soundtrack).

    But like you, I am constantly amazed at the terrible things (like abortion) we humans can rationalize even if we have twist ourselves in pretzels to do it. And we also get confused between the things we can/should control and things we can’t/shouldn’t.

    • Magda

      What is life?

  6. David O'Neil

    For a more comprehensive view of Pontius Pilot, that makes better sense in light of our historical records, read the fourth chapter of my book at http://randommonkeyworks.com/wordpress/?p=142.

    Best wishes,

    • Shannon

      David, your reference to Pontius Pilot reminded me of a drawing one of my students did once: Jesus standing at the top of the stairway on a plane, delivering a sermon. And who was the guy flying the plane? Why, Pontius the Pilot, of course.

      • David O'Neil

        I’m glad my typo made you smile! Today was an eternity of editing, and that one passed me by. But it is (and was!) correct in the writing I linked to! 🙂

        Best wishes,

  7. Martina

    This came up in the spring session of our Bible study when we learned about the Gospel of John. We talked about the Pilates in our society. Then the discussion morphed into abortion…or more specifically, how much apathy or even a disregard for right and wrong for fear of what others may think is responsible for the ‘pro-choice’ movement. People who typically vote ‘pro-choice’ often do so for apathetic reasons – they aren’t firmly convinced of the black and white nature that informed Catholics are. They say that ‘it isn’t their place to tell a woman what to do with her body’ or ‘personally, I wouldn’t do it but…’. It’s this level of apathy that governs the majority of the voters, I think. You hear the phrase ‘if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything’ and I think it applies to the issue of abortion.

    I’ve often felt like apathy is the greatest tool in Satan’s arsenal. And if you look around, even to this day, the two most avoided – yet polarizing – discussions are politics and religion. Sure, there’s a *way* to say things without demoralizing the other, but these are two topics that are what tend to define a person. And we’ve made them into these taboo topics. I’d say in ways most people don’t recognize, Satan has done his work and sits back and laughs. Because if he can get you to stop caring, he’s done his job.

    Thanks for sharing about Pilate. He is a very compelling person in the Bible and the more I read the Bible, the more I realize those people are us, just a different time. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • Chris D

      Your “apathy” is my “allowing others to exercise their free will.” I see little justice in forcing women to bear children they don’t want or can’t support. Your starting priorities differ from mine, and that’s to be expected, and we can talk about it. But if you want a constructive conversation, don’t fool yourself into thinking pro-choice supporters are simply succumbing to social pressure. There’s a lot of good exchange of views to be had, and it’s best to accept the opportunities to connect and communicate.

      • Martina

        I don’t own ‘apathy’ and clearly from what you’ve written, you make up the extreme that does not make up the portion of citizens who vote out of that apathy. Before you make assumptions about me, it might be a good idea to understand where I’m coming from. I have walked in the pro-choice shoes before and I attended one of the most liberal universities around {at the time I was there, and it likely still is} and this was during my time as a pro-choicer. I *get* where you’re coming from, but from what you say, you don’t fit the bill of who I was describing.

        I am all to happy to share, but it’s difficult when people read what I write and walk away with something entirely different from what I’ve said.

        Your passion for your position automatically takes you out of the ‘apathy’ category and so maybe you aren’t able to understand the point I am making? Only you can answer that…

        • Molly

          “I see little justice in forcing women to bear children they don’t want or can’t support.”

          What about any other situation where someone doesn’t “want” to do the right thing? Some people may feel forced to not abuse their child. Some people may feel forced to not kill a born person. Some people may feel forced to pay taxes.

          Just because some people think certain crimes are OK does not mean we should abandon laws that protect society. Why should we not protect the smallest and most innocent of our society?

          • Chris D


            Yes, you’re onto something, although I hesitate to draw an equivalence between forcing a woman to have a child, and forcing someone to stop abusing children/not kill people/pay taxes. I might be missing something, but I think the consequences are quite a bit more serious for the pregnant woman than for the other examples.

            Every society depends on some amount and form of coercion to get the majority of its citizens on the same page and functioning smoothly. I prefer to be cautious (and I hope minimalist, though I’m probably not) about applying that coercion. I’d be all for creating a society that supported women choosing to carry pregnancies to term, by providing social services to help them; the contradiction is that in general the politicians who fight abortion also cut social services.

            I realize that what I see as “forcing a woman to have a child,” you may see as the flipside, “protecting the life of the fetus.” Our fundamental disagreement is quite possibly about whether a fetus is a person. There’s a solid argument for that, even for non-Catholics, but I haven’t seen it presented in a way that tips the balance for me toward bringing down the hammer of government coercion. (I’m happy to listen or read, if you’ve got pointers.) Since that’s not a settled issue society-wide, that makes “the right thing for everybody” a bit more ambiguous in this case. I think our society saddles women with enough difficulty as it is.

          • Martina

            Molly made my point, as well as Jennifer and Kerri. Those who are convicted vote in line with their conscience {whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant} – they are *not* apathetic, which is what I was speaking to. Those who are apathetic typically will vote pro-choice *because* they aren’t strongly convicted. Being pro-choice, from a political standpoint, is painted such that it is a “good” of some sort. People don’t pick abortion because they think it is wrong or evil or whathaveyou. They pick it because it has been been presented to them in a light that makes it a ‘good’ of some sort.

            This is what I call semantics gymnastics by the pro-choice movement. The problem with how they present their information is that they fail to include the humanistic side of abortion. They refer to it as ‘the pregnancy’ – there is no baby being removed during an abortion! They downgrade the dignity of both the baby and mother by calling the baby a ‘fetus’ {which actually means ‘offspring’}.

            They get the people of the pro-choice movement to feel *first* for the mother – this pits mother against child. Why wouldn’t they advocate for both mother *and* child?

            I think if we’re honest with ourselves we have to start labeling things appropriately. As a former pro-choice voice, I can still as a pro-life advocate *still* call myself pro-choice. I just don’t advocate for a choice that results in the death and murder of the unborn. But the pro-choice movement doesn’t advocate for life choices, they advocate for the right to choose abortion. Pro-life and pro-choice do not disagree on the right of the mother to choose to birth and keep her child or to birth and give her child up for adoption. The divide occurs when the movement advocates for the right of the mother to abort her child based on desire.

            If the pregnancy is ‘wanted’ it’s a baby. If the pregnancy is ‘unwanted’ it’s a fetus, something to be ‘dealt with’. The child itself has never changed. It is what it always was…the only variable is the want of the mother – because apparently her desire is what governs what life is worthy and what life is not.

            A good question women can ask themselves is ‘if it is our body, at what point did it become *ours*?’

          • Adrienne

            Chris D,

            You were asking for arguments for why abortion is wrong, is a fetus a person. Why is abortion performed inside the womb? Some will say it is for the comfort of the mother, so she doesn’t have to experience labor pains, thus the “fetus” is dismantled before extraction so no or little dilation is necessary. However, take away the comfort reason. What if the “fetus” were first born alive, then dismantled right there in front of the mother. Is that still abortion, or is that murder (and of a heinous variety at that)? The *location* of the fetus’s demise (in the womb, outside of the womb) shouldn’t determine the legality of the action. If it would be illegal on the outside of the womb, it should be illegal inside the womb.

          • Magda

            Unborn children should receive shelter, food, water and clothing.
            And they should not be subject to dismemberment, burning, and/or eviction.

      • Jennifer Fulwiler

        Your “apathy” is my “allowing others to exercise their free will.”

        Which “others” do you believe should be allowed to exercise free will? Only pregnant women, or the human beings in their womb? I don’t ask the question to be snippy, only to point out that the *only* real question in this debate is: “Is the life in the womb a human being?” (And surely you’d agree that at some point it is, i.e. what if a woman who is eight months pregnant decides that she wants to exercise her free will not to have a child?) And if the life within the womb in indeed human, then we need to consider their rights too.

        • Martina

          *That* is the million dollar question, Jen. Since the pro-choice movement doesn’t have a definitive time frame that life ‘begins’ from their POV, it weakens their argument. And even *if* they had a time frame that they agreed on {i.e. 13w5d}, you would *still* have other groups that would have other time frames because anything beyond that 13w5d removes the ‘right’ or ‘choice’ of the mother. It’s a no win situation for the pro-choice movement. In order to justify their position, they really have to be pro-abortion until the entire baby has been removed from the womb. And even then, I’ve heard of pro-aborts who don’t consider the fetus alive until it leaves the hospital…I wish I could remember the linkup to that story. It’s just never ending. It’s sad…rights above human dignity. 🙁

      • Kerri

        Martina’s point wasn’t that pro-life voters are not apathetic and pro-choice voters are. That’s a total misreading of what she said. If you feel strongly about an issue and you vote with that issue in mind as one of importance, than you are not apathetic. Her point of apathy came down against the people who have the “Hey, it doesn’t effect me what you do, so even though I may not agree, I’m not going to stop you” kind of attitude. That kind of an attitude is dangerous, whether you’re talking about abortion or anything else. What if we thought that way about other issues??? If you want to steal from your neighbor and it doesn’t effect me, hey go ahead! Why should you be punished?

        It is sad that in our world people feel that just because abortion is legal it must be right. We know murder (the killing of another human being) is wrong and we have laws against it. Kind of too bad, that when it comes to abortion it isn’t recognized for what it is … the killing of another human being. Instead people are either very apathetic about it (it’s legal, so why is it bad; it doesn’t effect me; etc.) or they turn a blind eye to the other human involved and insist it’s a woman’s right. It’s a sad situation we as a country are in.

        And to the idea of no woman should have to have a baby she doesn’t want or raise a baby she doesn’t want, who says she has to? There is the choice of adoption. I know several people who have been on waiting lists to adopt for a very long time. It seems that more people are choosing abortion and those who desperately want a child and can’t naturally are still waiting (it takes years in some cases!).

      • Kelly

        I think you have to ask yourself why you are all for a woman chosing to abort (kill) her child while she is carring the baby in her womb? At what point do you consider the child human? We are so well advanced in science that we know as a society that life begins at the moment of conception. If that is not the case then why have contra-ception?
        I find it odd that you would allow a women to kill her child but I bet you , if you saw someone slashing their wrist you would call the police and of course she would make a trip to the mental ward of the hospital. Its her body , why not let her slice away? Its her choice right?

        • Chris D

          Sort of. People slashing their wrists in desperation typically aren’t making a clear-headed, thought-out decision. They’re normally “mentally ill,” which is an evolving construct that differs across cultures, but for our society I don’t think that’s a bad line to be arbitrarily drawing. I do support the right to end one’s life by choice, though unless you’re facing a painful and drawn-out death, I’d argue you’re almost certainly mentally ill and you should give some long-term therapy a chance first. (That’s “you” generically, not “you” Kelly, of course.)

          Life does begin at conception, but we make choices to take life all the time: we kill plants and animals for food, we use all forms of life in research–and much of that life is frighteningly close to sentience. I see human life as privileged, but not so privileged as to believe we need to save every fertilized egg. Do we mourn the 31% of pregnancies that end in miscarriage before the woman knows she’s pregnant? Should we devote our scientific resources to stop that? If not, why not? [end straw-man questions]

          I’ve known many women who have had abortions, and every one of them:

          1) Thought the decision through very carefully;
          2) Would make the decision the same way again;
          3) Would almost certainly not have another abortion;
          4) Were completely aware they were ending a life, as certain as a hunter knows when s/he pulls the trigger, and felt sad about it.

          I should add that I’m not “all for” having abortions. It’s ending a life, and it’s a painful and awful and serious choice. That doesn’t make it a wrong one, depending on the circumstances.

          It’s also not my choice to make.

          [To take a time-out, this is a wonderful discussion that’s making me think more carefully about what I’m thinking and feeling. Thank you all for your patience and thoughtful words on a topic where we all feel strongly and can get carried away. I’m not Catholic, but I feel a strong sympathy with and respect for the contemplative parts of Catholicism, and I have a life-long curiosity about faith and Christianity, which is why I read the blog.]

          • Martina

            @ Chris: I’m glad you mentioned you aren’t Catholic because that changes how some of us approach conversations – which words to use, how to construct our argument, etc.

            You make the point that we kill plants and animals. However, and I am of the same belief as Jennifer, a practicing Catholic, I can only speak from my own convictions, or beliefs that are in line with what the Catholic Church teaches. The knowledge I have points to the difference between material souls and immortal souls. Within the constraints of what I believe, animals {and possibly plants? I don’t know if I’d put them in the same category as animals with respect to pain and death} do not contain immortal souls as humans do. God created man in His image, and therefore, we have immortal souls. There is no benefit to an animal suffering and even though we are required to be compassionate in our killing of animals for our use, we are not at any level required to give them the same weight in value as we do our own souls, if that makes sense. The closest example I can think of is from the movie Avatar, where they kill out of need of survival, and they do so by killing immediately and not drawing out that killing needlessly. Humans are given the responsibility of doing the same for our animals.

            Again, there is no value to an animal’s suffering. Humans, on the other hand, suffer and given the proper context, can unite that suffering to our Lord on the Cross. His suffering on the Cross reopened Heaven for us. I dunno…suffering has immense value when we first take off the secular filter that tells us otherwise and see suffering as Christ wants us to.

            Anyway, I could go on and on about this kind of thing. I *love* to discuss theology. I look forward to future conversations with you. 🙂

          • Molly

            I’m with what a previous poster says. The Choice movement is not about liberating women.. it is about power and money. It’s an ‘industry’ preying upon women caught up in “rights” and “choice” and blinding them to the reality of what it actually is.
            The problem with saying “it’s not my choice to make” is that it disregards any human responsibility we have for compassion towards others and valuing our fellow human citizens. My choice to have an abortion for “my body” does not, in turn, TRUMP my child’s RIGHT to their own.
            Abortion commits two acts: It murders a child, and, it also kills the soul of the mother. No matter how “sane” she was at the time of her decision, I GUARUNTEE you talk to her 10, 20, 50 years down the road, and, at some point, there will be at LEAST remorse over the decision, if not full regret.
            As others have said, science is so advanced now, the ‘beginning of life’ is not really a mystery anymore. We have videotape of embryos from the very early stages of pregnancy – and, unless one chooses to literally close their eyes, we see the truth. This is important because it means even in the light of obvious fact, TOTALLY unbiased (ie: science based), choicers choose to ignore that fact, and stay in the choice mentality. THIS is not being rational. We may believe what we believe..but..if something comes along that obviously disproves that, or, proves beyond a resonable doubt why we should at LEAST give the benefit of the doubt to the child (since we are discussing abortion here), then we should always do that. I’d always rather “err” on the side of life, than err on the side of death.
            On a more personal note – yes, all pregnancies lost in miscarriage should be mourned. It was a child, and one that was lost unexpectedly. Having gone through a miscarriage just two weeks ago, I can testify to this fact. Even though it is a “natural” occurance, in this case, it is still a child worth grieving for – and yes, if a woman has multiple losses, it should be looked in to – and often times, doctors find reasons why women suffer such multiple losses. I mourn my child that for whatever reason, will never be with me here on Earth. But even more importantly, through this mourning, I COMPLETELY affirm my position on elective abortion – because knowing my pain, emptiness, and physical suffering, I cannot imagine WHY in ANY case, a woman would CHOOSE to do this to herself, her child, and not in SOME way, suffer from that decision down the road.
            I always ask my female “feminist” friends….”Do you believe in women’s rights?” They answer “yes, of course”… I then ask “And that woman’s right over her own body – indefinitely?” They answer “yes, of course.. that’s why we believe what we do (prochoice)”… I then ask, “hmmm, ok. I totally agree with you – so – – when exactly does a woman’s RIGHT to her OWN body begin?” They normally do not answer – because any answer they give AFTER conception will minimize a woman’s right and freedom over her own body. I then always reaffirm, yes, I believe a woman has rights over her own body from conception… that is when women’s rights begin. And usually, this ends the conversation.
            Finally, one last point – I abhor child abuse. I abhor abuse against women (and men in some cases). I abhor abuse against anmials even…but…if we, as humans, cannot value and PROTECT the very beginning of life for our own kind (human being), then why should I care about any of the above? Why should anyone else? If we do not value our children from the moment they are conceived, WHEN do we begin to value them? I would never consider attacking anyone…but if the man on the street CHOOSES to attack another woman walking by, it’s “not my problem”… it’s not my obligation to help her, or speak up for her…or is it? I would never choose abortion…but I also believe even if another woman WOULD, my responsibility becomes to be a voice for the fetus – the inevitible FIRST victim of the woman’s act. I also feel it is my responsibility to have compassion for the woman and pray for her healing. As citizens, when women drown or kill their own children, especially when they are young children, we “gasp” as a nation….but… we turn our backs to a woman with her feet in stirrups allowing a doctor to suck out her child limb by limb….or burn the child in utero and then deliver the baby dead…or deliver a perfectly full term baby but suck its brains out before it even has a chance. We don’t want to see the pictures…we don’t want to see the video…ever wonder why? Because the industry would suffer if the reality permeated the population, especially with firsthand seeing the horrific act taking place. Those images are disturbing – I agree. These are not ‘images’ of abortion – but.. the reality of abortion. And by continuing to ignore the reality of what happens to the child, we continue to ignore the suffering and pain that the women feel after they have participated in such an act. As Martina said – the woman AND the child need to be embraced.
            Abortion is the start to a slippery slope of apathy towards human value and life itself. What about when genetic testing becomes much much better? I know a woman “can” abort..but.. is it RIGHT for her to based on features? Potential for a daughter to have a breast cancer gene later in life? Religious right parents to abort a baby who could have a “gay” gene?? And… the slope begins.
            Alot of this problem also lies with our lack of parental responsibility these days. From the moment of conception, we ARE a mommy or a daddy. And sometimes, especially with unplanned children, or children presenting specific medical or mental issues, this can be very trying. But…being a parent is NEVER easy..whether we wanted the child or not. Women contemplating abortion need to remember – although a child may not be wanted, what is her ultimate responsibility as a MOTHER to that child and as a WOMAN to herself and society? The first would be love – whether it’s carrying the child to term to keep…or carrying the child to term to bless another family with the gift of adoption….and by doing one of these two options, the woman confirms to herself AND society that SHE matters, LIFE matters, and her feelings involved ARE validated. God gave my children life – I am merely the vessel by which they were brought forth. Whether they end up in my arms, or adoptive parents arms, IS up to me – whether they live or die – THAT is above my pay grade.

          • Magda

            Have you ever read the “Silent No More” testimonies?

            You must be very limited in contact outside your personal mindset.
            No offense intended in any way. I have had quite a few unsolicited testimonies from women who have unremitting sadness about having an abortion.

  8. Ashley @ Seeking Steward


    This post is a timely affirmation for convictions circling my heart. It’s easy to give in to that loud ever-present buzz of the crowd.

    I can’t thank you enough for your blog!


  9. Liesl

    I really love reading your insights from your conversion process. So profound. This part particularly stood out to me:

    “He knew what was right. He knew that this was an innocent man, and seemed to suspect that this might even be someone very special. But with the massive momentum of the crowd and his political future to consider, there was a lot of pressure to make the wrong decision.”

    It just makes me think of all of the politicians still today who know what is right, know that they are hurting or not helping innocent people, and yet they put their political futures before doing the right thing.

    But I also like how you connected it back to you – to all of us. Even though I am a cradle Catholic, there have been so many times in my life where I have given in to something because of pressure from what is comfortable or from other people – instead of what’s doing right. I just pray every day asking God to help me to do His will for me, and to give me the strength and grace I need to get it accomplished.

  10. Andie

    Beautiful post. Yes, it is so true that it is often difficult to go against the crowd, to not give in to the pressures. And yet, that is what Jesus did throughout his life. He stood alone. Pilot is a complicated character, I wonder how he slept that night.

  11. Tania @ Larger Family Life

    Both Pilate’s and our selfishness led to the death of Jesus through his selflessness and your post has perfectly articulated how. We can’t pass the buck for our sins but we can repent, or at least try to.

  12. Christine

    Jennifer, you make me want to drop everything & pick up my Bible & read, read, read! You’re an awesome lady!

  13. priest's wife

    Pilate is an interesting character- I agree with whoever wrote that he is the most modern, mundane character in the Passion…such a true Roman!

  14. Kristina

    This is absolutely AMAZING. Thank you so much for this post. I feel like I write this everytime I try to prepare for Confession. This spoke to my heart so deeply!

  15. Chris D

    That’s an awesome reading. But I think Pilate’s situation is a little harder than you think. That crowd isn’t peer pressure, it’s not Madison Avenue telling him how to be. It’s an angry mob, at a time of great social unrest, and he’s in charge.

    Say he lets Jesus go. There’s a good chance he has a riot on his hands, which he has to suppress, Roman-style, in an age where torture was routine (remember, the Romans would habitually torture witnesses to crimes, just to be sure). How many people would suffer, plenty of them innocent, as the result of a crackdown? Would either the riot or the suppression spark more violence in the area? Is that worth the life of one (presumed to be ordinary) man?

    Ethicists and psychologists and philosophers pose problems like this all the time, of the “kill one to save many” variety, and they arise in real life more often than we’d like. “The right thing to do” isn’t always clear-cut.

    • kk

      Great post on election day!

  16. Laurie D


    I love your blog–I just started reading it & it’s such an inspiration!

    This post particularly hit home. I think you’re right on target. I’ve always found him fascinating as well. It always strikes me, too, in John 18:38 when Pilate asks, “What is truth?” but then immediately turns and leaves without giving Jesus a chance to respond. It reminds me of many conversations I’ve had with others–not to mention myself–over faith. Sometimes, just as you said, we know exactly where the good stands, but we try over and over to wiggle around it to do what seems beneficial to us.

    Thanks again and may God bless you!

  17. Magda

    This made me stop and think: who is the emperor in my life that I abandon truth for?

  18. Lisa

    Hi Jennifer,
    Your blog has been, in large part, my spiritual reading for Lent. I identify with your writing and I thank you for your posts, they have given me much food for thought. A big thank you to your commentors as well, I appreciate everyone’s thoughts. This post, in particular, made me realize I am like Pontius at times, trying to find favour with an Emperor of some kind, and rationalizing sin. Talk about an examination of conscience for me! This is one of your best posts. Thank you.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Lisa!

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