Light for the Last Days

What happened to Pontius Pilate after Jesus’ death?

SHORT TALK

He was removed from being Roman governor of Judea in around 36 AD and returned to Rome in some disgrace, where according to some he committed suicide, but more likely he simply faded out of public life.

What happened to Pilate on the day of the crucifixion after Jesus died? The Gospel of Matthew tells us is that after Jesus died on the cross, a rich man called Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus came to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him that permission and he took the body down from the cross and placed it in his own rock tomb and rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb.

If he had not done this Jesus’ body would have been taken down from the cross and thrown into the common pit in the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem. 

In which case it would have been one corpse among many and who could verify what happened next?

Why did Pilate go against the normal practice and allow Joseph of Arimathea to take down the body of Jesus and give him a decent burial? No doubt this was a very troubling day for Pontius Pilate. He didn’t want to pass the death sentence on Jesus but had been forced into it. No doubt he had a bad conscience about it.

This would have been made worse by the dream his wife had warning him before the trial of Jesus to have ‘nothing to do with that innocent man’.

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.

19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”

20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

Matthew 27.15-20

The Romans were quite superstitious and the whole ‘Son of God’ question surrounding Jesus would have made him more troubled. 

Ancient Roman Superstitions and Beliefs – Ancient-Rome.info

Then Pilate would have witnessed the supernatural darkness which came over the land at the time of the crucifixion. This would probably have terrified him. 

There was another major reason why Pilate had to allow Joseph to take down the body of Jesus and give Him a decent burial.

Who was Joseph of Arimathea? | Bibleinfo.com

In the prophecy of Isaiah 53 about the suffering servant Messiah written about 700 years before Jesus came, the prophet wrote of one who would be subjected to an unjust trial at which he would not try to defend himself, then sentenced to death.  

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
.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

Isaiah 53.7-9

His death would not be an ordinary death but as a sacrifice for sin ‘For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.’

As a result of this death He should have been put in a common grave with the other criminals crucified with him. 

And they made His grave with the wicked—

Isaiah 53.9

But a rich man would intervene and come along and give him a decent burial. 

But with the rich at His death,

Isaiah 53.9


Matthew’s Gospel shows us the fulfilment of this prophecy when the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, came to Pilate to ask him for the body of Jesus and gave him a decent burial in his own tomb, with a stone rolled across the entrance. 

In this way God overruled history to authenticate the most momentous event in history, the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead. 

No doubt, these things troubled Pilate for the rest of his life. And his wife, who some say did become a believer in Jesus.

Sadly for him, Pontius Pilate received an epitaph which has been repeated in churches down through the Christian era which is not very flattering – ‘Crucified under Pontius Pilate.’

Tony Pearce

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