Rooted in Christ

A Creedal Crescendo – Suffered Under Pontius Pilate

This Lenten/Easter series explores the work of Christ under headings of the Apostles’ Creed.

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” (John 19:4, NKJV)

The Apostles’ Creed takes us to the death of Jesus by a particular route, namely His suffering under Pontius Pilate and His being crucified. Why is Pontius Pilate mentioned by name in the Creed? Why are we told not just that Jesus suffered but that He suffered at the hand of this Roman governor? Certainly, suffering is a significant component of God the Son coming into this world. Suffering characterized His mission as He entered a world filled with sin and in rebellion against God. Old Testament passages describe Jesus as God’s Suffering Servant (Is. 42, 49, 53). In his first letter, the apostle Peter highlights Christ’s suffering on the road to His death (1 Pet. 3:18) and describes the intensity of Christ’s suffering (1 Pet. 2:21-24). But what is so significant about the suffering Jesus endured under Pontius Pilate?

Naming the Roman governor locates the suffering and death of Jesus at a certain point in history (26-36 A.D.). We do want to be reminded that what Jesus accomplished actually occurred in time and space as historical happenings. The mention of Pilate also helps us to understand how crucifixion became Jesus’ means of death. The Jews did not have the authority to impose capital punishment, let alone the ability to employ crucifixion to fulfill biblical prophecy (Dt. 21:22; Gal. 3:13).

But the primary reason for the specific mention of Pontius Pilate in the movement from conception to death likely has to do with the qualification of Jesus to bear the sin of those He came to save. Pilate served as a civil judge. The Jews were accusing Jesus of all sorts of things, from blasphemy to treason. In his judicial capacity, Pilate examined Jesus and made this declaration: “I find no fault in Him” (John 19:6). In legal proceedings, Jesus was declared “not guilty” and would be sentenced to death as an explicitly innocent man.

This judicial charade highlights Jesus’ blameless life. Not only did He not break Roman law, He never broke God’s law – not in thought, word or deed, not in sins committed by action or sins committed by neglect, either intentionally or unintentionally. He was the spotless Lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world. He arrived at the cross without debt of sin of His own that He might stand in the place of sinners laden with the debt of sin, the Guiltless One for the guilty ones.  (excerpted from The Christian’s Creed, pp. 80-81) 

Digging Deeper

  1. What difference does it make that Jesus was without sin or guilt of His own?
  2. How does Pilate’s tribunal reflect the tribunal of God the Father?     

Father, I thank You that You made Him who had no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might be reconciled to You, our sin atoned for, Your wrath spent, and Your righteousness bestowed. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale