On what basis did Pontius Pilate, from his vantage point as an unbeliever, insist that he found no fault with Jesus? Also, why did Jesus mostly keep silent when Pilate questioned Him?
To answer your first question, we need to note the Jews’ accusations against Jesus. A key verse is Luke 23:14. Pilate “said to them, ‘You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him!”
Pilate “found no fault” with Jesus because he couldn’t find any substance to their accusations that He was any of the following: a criminal (John 18:30), a perverter of the nation (Luke 23:2), a tax evader (Luke 23:2), and a traitor who stirred up the people (Luke 23:5). If Jesus had been guilty of these crimes, Pilate, as Roman governor of that region of Judea, would surely have learned about Jesus earlier had Him tried and had Him executed. But Pilate, like almost everyone else, knew that this Jesus was a Man of peace, a Man of total submission to governmental authority. In public Christ had admonished citizens to “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). He paid taxes (Matthew 17:24–27). On one occasion, referring to a Roman law that required a person to carry a soldier’s outfit for him for a mile if compelled, Jesus taught that the person should carry it two miles instead (hence, the common phrase “going the extra mile”). On at least one other occasion, He even disappeared instead of letting a company of people make Him king through force (John 6:15). No, Jesus was not an insurrectionist or a political climber, and Pilate knew it. If Jesus had been that, the Jews would have supported Him because they hated Roman rule.
Actually Pilate was studying the Jews, especially the leaders, more than scrutinizing Christ. This focus was his downfall. Mark 15:10 records, “For he [Pilate] knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Pilate was a perceptive man. “Finding no fault” meant that he was acquitting Jesus for lack of evidence. But Pilate’s tremendous fear of the religious leaders, and the fear for his own precarious political position, caused him to capitulate rather than stand for the truth.
It is not to Pilate’s credit that his wife, Claudia, was more sagacious as to what to do with Jesus than Pilate was (Matthew 27:19). In fact, church tradition says that Claudia later became a zealous believer in Christ. Pilate, on the other hand, was removed from high office by the governor of Syria several years after Jesus’ death. Unwanted by Caesar he, like Judas Iscariot, went out and hanged himself; his body discovered afterward by a laborer.
Concerning Jesus’ silence, several reasons stand out. First, He didn’t need to answer false and jealously motivated accusations of others but only the claim He made that He was the Son of God and the King of the Jews (Matthew 26:63, 64).
Second, Pilate had repeatedly declared Christ innocent. What more was there to say?
Third, Jesus perfectly knew Pilate to be a coward. Pilate was really the one on trial, and he stood condemned. John 19:1–16 indicates that the more Christ refused to speak, the more frantic and afraid Pilate became. Christ had little to say to a spineless, blame-shifting individual like Pilate.
Fourth, Jesus was fulfilling prophecy in His silence: The prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Finally, Jesus knew it was His time to suffer and die. Rather than arguing and fighting, the Lamb of God became obedient unto death, even the death of that cruel Roman cross.
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