He was one of the most brutal and oppressive Roman leaders in Jesus’ day. Soldiers did unspeakable things at his command. Jews feared his reign, bowing to his will to preserve their very lives and culture. There was nothing good about him. But there was a moment, a brief split-second in time, when Governor Pilate sorted through some holy clothing.
His questioning of Jesus in John 18:33-38 tells the story:
Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”
Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”
Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the governor was talking to Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Unbegotten One, the third whole of the Trinity. HE WAS TALKING LIVE TO JESUS. Jesus, the most righteous Man in the world, the most holy, the most just, the most perfect, the most powerful, the most supreme, the most… everything. Pilate had to have been moved in some way. I do not say this lightly. No one can face the God of the universe without at least one knee getting weak.
At that precise point in time, only Pilate had the nerve to passionately speak with Jesus. Everyone else, thousands of “followers,” bolted or clammed up. (Parenthetically, I happen to believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the exception.) Jesus’ own inner-circle turned tail and ran. None of His servants fought for Him.
Need proof? In Luke 19:40, Jesus exclaimed that if the multitudes of His disciples were silent, the very stones would cry out. Fast-forward to Jesus’ death on the cross. Matthew reported that when the Lord died, in vast aloneness, the rocks split open. Personally, I think they were trying to say something.
So in that moment in history, when every follower of Christ denied Him, at least Pilate had a conversation with the Lord, face to face at that. Maybe if he had waited just a second longer for an answer after he asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Maybe the governor’s wife was on to something when she urged him to have nothing to do with that just Man (Matthew 27:19).
Maybe, just maybe, the holiness and righteousness and love of Jesus edged the Roman ruler closer to truly seeking Truth and finding Him not just faultless but as Lord. If just in that split second, Pilate would have wavered and wrapped himself in Righteousness and Justice, like Job said, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban” (Job 29:14). Pilate was so close, yet like everyone else, so far away.
But for sure, he was eyeing the Wardrobe.