The learned rabbis were angry because an uneducated man was speaking with such authority. They were hesitant about their own beliefs…they were also talking great things, but all those great ideas were borrowed. He was speaking directly, spontaneously, according to his own experience – not within quotes.
Pontius Pilate’s wife was a very educated woman; she heard many stories about Jesus, and many times she went in disguise to hear him. She was immensely impressed, and it was she who convinced Pontius Pilate that what is going on – this insistence of the Jews, of the crowd, of the masses, to crucify a young man – is simply ugly, inhuman…“and you have to do something.”
Pontius Pilate called Jesus to his palace. The man was so beautiful and so simple, so poor, so humble, that there was immediately a rapport between Pontius Pilate and Jesus. Pontius Pilate was a very learned Roman scholar. He could see at least that the young man had something in his being which was radiant, which those learned rabbis didn’t have. But they had power….
He wanted to save Jesus, although it was risky…risky because if the whole Jewish population of Judea – and they were the only people in Judea – were against Pontius Pilate, he might lose his tremendously powerful position. The Roman government, the Roman emperor would not want a governor in Judea who is not liked by the people, so it was against his own position. But still he wanted to do everything to save him.
The last question he asked was not answered by Jesus. The question was, “What is truth?” Jesus looked into his eyes, utterly silent, and did not say a single word.
Pontius Pilate understood the meaning of the not answered question, and he felt even more sorry and in a dilemma – what to do? Still he tried…. As he went into his house, the first thing he did was to wash his hands. That act – of washing his hands – remained uncommented on for two thousand years.
It was Sigmund Freud in the early part of this century – strangely, himself a Jew – who first made the statement that Pontius Pilate washed his hands because he wanted to be clear, at least before God, that he was not responsible for the crucifixion of this beautiful young man. “I wash my hands, I don’t have his blood on my hands.”
He tried to put up three people for crucifixion. It was an ancient tradition in Judea that the people could ask for at least one person to be released from being crucified, and he was hoping that by putting up three persons, the Jews would certainly ask for Jesus to be released.
Jesus was a Jew; he was not a Christian – he had never heard the word Christian. He was born a Jew, he lived a Jew, he died a Jew. The word Christian came into existence three hundred years later.