Pilate was one of a series of governors who ruled Palestine when it became part of the Roman Empire in 63 BC. He was appointed in 26 AD but like most Romans did not understand the importance of religion to the Jews. He upset the Jewish authorities as soon as he became governor by parading the army’s standards in Jerusalem. This was blasphemy for the Jews and they rioted.
Pilate is best remembered as the man who sentenced Jesus to death. As governor he was the only person who had the power of life over death and so the High Priests had to persuade him that Jesus deserved to die. In the gospels Pilate came across as a weak character who was easily swayed against his better judgement. He believed Jesus was innocent, but he did not want a riot. He agreed to Jesus’ death when the crowd shouted ‘if you let this man go you are no friend of Caesar!,(John 19:12). Pilate did not want bad reports to get back to Rome so he agreed to have Jesus whipped, perhaps hoping that this would appease the mob.
However in the end to keep the peace, Pilate had Jesus crucified and Barabbas released. We are told he symbolically washed his hands of the whole affair, but had his way by putting the words ‘the king of the Jews’ above Jesus’ cross.(see Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 18-19).