“Pilate said, “So you are a king!”
“Jesus answered, “You are the one saying I am a king. This is why I was born and came into the world: to tell people the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.””
“Pilate said, “What is truth?” After he said this, he went out to the crowd again and said to them, “I find nothing against this man.”
John 18:37-38, NCV
Not only was Jesus on trial, but it seems the truth was too. “Truth” is mention three times in just two verses (again, for emphasis). Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor of Judea, meets with Jesus to make the determination if Jesus would be executed.
Truth seems to be a focus here. Jesus understands that he was sent to declare the truth to the people. He also states that those were called would be listeners, and these would respond positively to all the Jesus had been saying. Jesus clearly understood what he must do, it was the reason he was born.
Pilate is cynical, “What is truth.” He asks the question that even today is being considered. He thinks that truth has many variations, and none of them could be understood.
But Jesus pronounces that he is the King of truth, and to Pilate that was foolish. No one person, in his mind anyway, could be the sole source. He dismisses Jesus’ statements with a philosophical idea that things are relative, nothing can be understood with any degree of certainity.
Pilate very obviously believes in unbelief.
He seems to want to set Jesus free–from his balcony he points out Jesus’ innocence. He finds no reason that Jesus should die for these statements. We see him negotiating with the Jewish people. But the Pharisees have decided that Jesus must die, we see them stirring up the crowd.
To Pilate’s credit he tells them that Jesus is no revolutionary. He presents no danger to either Rome’s empire or Judea. Being pressured, he orders Jesus to be whipped. It was also the place where a crown of thorns was put on Jesus’ head (John 19:1-5).
He tries to negotiate once more.
But the people won’t listen. It was Passover, and there would be pilgrims in the city. Scripture tells us that they’re on the verge of rioting. They declare that anyone who supports Jesus must be an enemy of Caesar (John 19:12-16). Pilate finally acquiesces and orders Jesus to be executed. C.H. Spurgeon makes the following observation about Pilate:
“Oh, the daring of Pilate thus in the sight of God to commit murder and disclaim it. There is a strange mingling of cowardliness and courage about many men; they are afraid of a man, but not afraid of the eternal God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”
Pilate ceremoniously washes his hands over the whole thing. He seems disturbed by the whole incident (Matthew 27:24).
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Tradition has it that Pilate does become a believer in Jesus some years later. He is martyred for his faith by being beheaded on orders by the emperor Caligula.