Normally I hate to quote so much but this time it is important to set the scene as described in Matthew chapter 27:
“And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate, the governor. …
And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked Him, saying, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said unto him, “Thou sayest.” And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto Him, “Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?” And He answered him never a word, insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.
Now at that feast, the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, “Whom will ye that I release unto you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him. When he had sat down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
The governor answered and said unto them, “Which of the two will ye that I release unto you?” They said, “Barabbas!” Pilate said unto them, “What shall I do then with Jesus, who is called Christ?” They all said unto him, “Let him be crucified!” And the governor said, “Why, what evil hath he done?” But they cried out the more, saying, “Let him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he could not prevail, but rather that a tumult was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person. See ye to it.” Then answered all the people and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children!” Then released he Barabbas unto them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole detachment of soldiers. And they stripped Him and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head and a reed in His right hand, and they bowed their knees before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon Him, and took the reed and smote Him on the head. And after they had mocked Him, they took the robe off from Him and put His own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.
And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they had come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a Place of a Skull, they gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall. And when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink. And they crucified Him and parted His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.”
And sitting down, they watched Him there, and set up over His head His accusation, written: This Is Jesus The King Of The Jews.
Then were there two thieves crucified with Him, one on the right hand and another on the left. And those who passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself! If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross!” Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will have him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The thieves also, who were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This man calleth for Elijah.” And straightway one of them ran and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed and gave Him to drink. The rest said, “Let be; let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”
Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom, and the earth quaked and the rocks rent. …
Now when the centurion, and those who were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
And many women were there beholding afar off, who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s children. When the evening had come, there came a rich man of Arimathea named Joseph, who himself also was Jesus’ disciple. He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the sepulcher.
Now the next day, that following the Day of the Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Command therefore that the sepulcher be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto the people, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ so that the last error shall be worse than the first.” Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch. Go your way, make it as secure as ye can.” So they went and made the sepulcher secure, sealing the stone and setting up a watch.”
Let’s look at two themes from this story:
- What was the significance of the plaque above Jesus where “INRI” was written by Pilate
- Who was Pilate?
INRI means Jesus Nazorite Rex Judeaorum which means Jesus the Nazorite, King of the Jews. Many translations will read Jesus the Nazarean, King of the Jews. The Greek word is Nazoraios. It does not mean from Nazareth but, rather, the one singled out. Such an inscription meant that Pilate knew something key about Jesus – that he belonged to the secret Jewish sect, the Essenes. Books of the Essene community in Qumran are discovered in 1947 and are today known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In this word Nazoraios, the Alpha and the Omega are the first two vowels as well as the first and the last. Was Jesus, from approximately age 12 to age 30 part of the Essene sect? Did Pilate know this? Does the inscription INRI point us to this?
His wife is so deeply troubled by the unfolding of this event she sends word to Pontius “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” In some dreamlike way, could Pilate foresee that this man would need to die to save “the nation” but he does not want to be morally connected to those who condemned him?
Within the Gospel of Peter we find a narrative that places responsibility for the crucifixion not on Pontius Pilate but on Herod Antipas, one of three sons of Herod the Great. As a Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate would have been the region’s supreme judge, not ruler. He had the sole authority to order a criminal’s execution. His principle duty was to maintain law and order. Additionally his duties included mundane tasks such as tax collection and to oversee construction projects. He had up to 3000 soldiers at his command to enforce his orders.
It was in 26 A.D. that the Roman Emperor Tiberius had appointed Pontius Pilate as prefect of the Roman provinces of Judaea, Samaria and Idumæa succeeding Valerius Gratus. While the typical term for a Roman prefect was 1–3 years, Pilate would hold this post for 10 years. In my next post we’ll look more at this interesting historical figure, Pontius Pilate and ask, could he have been an initiate?