Pilate's Missed Opportunity

“Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

Pilate's Missed Opportunity


The consequences of making a wrong choice in life can range from superficial to serious.

Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea from AD 26-36, faced a troubling dilemma during the trial of Jesus Christ.

Pilate’s own future was on the line. Failure to consent to the Jewish leaders’ demands for Jesus’ death could spell a riot, and an uprising in Jerusalem at Passover time would be a dangerous headline to reach the ears of Caesar.

But, more alarmingly, the lack of evidence against the accused was overwhelming. Pilate’s initial assessment, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4 ESV) was strengthened as each phase of the hearing unfolded. Not one accusation stood.

In contrast with all others who appeared before Pilate, Jesus Christ was truly innocent, and Pilate was faced with a decision unlike any other.


“Let justice be done, though the heavens fall”, was the motto of Rome.

The concept of justice is universally clear: when judges “hear the case, they shall exonerate the innocent but condemn the guilty” (Deuteronomy 25:1 NET).

However, the right choice is not always the easy choice.

Pilate’s wife was aware of the gravity of the situation. Fearing the consequences of condemning Jesus, she warned her husband, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man; I have suffered greatly as a result of a dream about him today” (Matthew 27:19 NET).

As Pilate pondered his great predicament, he looked to others to provide him with answers, but the question he asked is one that he alone needed to answer, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22 NASB).

This is an inescapable question that we all have to face. It affects our eternal destiny and the wise answer is found only in the Word of God.


Standing before Pilate that day was Jesus – the very embodiment of the Word of God (John 1:14). Jesus remained largely silent during Pilate’s questioning – His innocence required no defence. However, He disclosed to Pilate this profound revelation:

“My kingdom is not from this world . . . For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:36-37 NET).

Jesus was not just a Messiah for the Jews. He is a Saviour for everyone. His very purpose in dying was to become an “atoning sacrifice for . . .  sins . . . for the whole world” (1 John 2:2 NET).

Like Pilate, we have an opportunity to listen to the One who is the Word of God and the truth that He speaks. To listen to and believe in the One who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).


History records Pilate’s final decision. His sceptical response to the Word of God was, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Pilate determined his own truth. Sadly, this response is one that many people adopt today.

There was no lawful reason for Pilate to crucify Jesus, yet he did. Despite affirming Jesus as “not guilty” on six separate occasions, in a callous act of self-preservation, Pilate oversaw the greatest miscarriage of justice this world has ever witnessed.

Justice and truth did not matter anymore, nor did Pilate’s conscience, and “for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17 NASB). When faced with the choice of Jesus or self, the innocent Son of God no longer mattered to Pilate; “after he had Jesus flogged, he handed him over to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26 NET).

Pilate was unwilling to value Jesus as the most important person in his life. He was enslaved by his own self-importance, failing to recognise or trust in One greater than himself. Pilate, most tragically, rejected the Son of God. This was a dire missed opportunity.

Your answer?

Every one of us faces a similar choice to Pilate’s. We can either acknowledge Jesus for who He truly is and accept Him into our life, or miss the opportunity by rejecting Him. If you have not yet accepted Jesus into your life, why not? What is more important to you than Jesus Christ?

It is not easy to admit that we are sinners in need of a Saviour; our hearts are often proud and self-absorbed. But God commands us all to pay attention to our God-given conscience and to repent of our sin, meaning it is the right thing to do (Acts 17:30). We must also believe the clear evidence and truth that God has revealed about His Son, Jesus, and what He has done on our behalf.

God’s justice will happen one day for us all. The consequences are momentous:

“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36 NET).

Jesus’ death and resurrection offers eternal freedom, hope and victory for every person who will accept Him. He alone is able to break the chains of sin that bind us.

“If the Son sets you free, you are truly free” (John 8:36 NLT).

Don’t miss this opportunity. You must answer for yourself Pilate’s inescapable question,

“Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”