Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | August 18, 2021

The Pilate Syndrome

(3 Minute Read. 18Aug2021)

Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea under the Roman Emperor Tiberius for about 10 years (26/27 to 36/37 AD). He presided over Jesus’ trial and ordered His crucifixion.

Pilate: “Behold the Man”
Oil painting by Antonio Ciseri (1821–1891)

There is a striking Bible passage reporting on Jesus’ trial before Pilate. The verses shed light on Pilate’s character. I call it the Pilate Syndrome.
Now at the feast he [Pilate] used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:6-15)

Pilate had decided that Jesus was innocent of the charges. He said,
“You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.” . . . And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death.”
(Luke 23:14-15,22. Cf. John 18:38; 19:4; 19:6)

Pilate repeatedly declared that Jesus was not guilty. Nevertheless, when Pilate was confronted by the mob demanding, “Crucify Him!” Pilate gave in to the mob:
Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:15)

Pilate was more loyal to the haranguing mob than to his responsibility to render judgment with truth and fairness. The pressure of the crowd squeezed him to abandon what he knew was right and just.

Another example of someone in the Bible with the Pilate Syndrome is King Herod who ruled over Galilee. He is also known as Herod Antipas or Herod the Tetrarch. John the Baptist had been telling Herod that it was not lawful for Herod to have his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. As a result, Herod wanted to put John to death, but Herod feared the crowd and refrained. Later Herod made a rash, wide-open offer to Herodias’ daughter because she pleased him with a dance. When the gift she asked for was John’s head on a platter, Herod was grieved. But because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests, Herod ordered John beheaded. (Matthew 14:3-11; Mark 6:14-28)

Both Pilate and Herod were Roman rulers over Jewish regions. One might think that powerful government rulers would be able to withstand the pressure of public opinion, but often that is not the case. In these two instances, the pressure of others’ opinions constrained Pilate’s and Herod’s decisions and actions. They were influenced to make fatal errors of judgment.

Today many Christians suffer from the Pilate Syndrome: wishing to satisfy the crowd. They embrace secular ideas in distinct contradiction with Biblical truth. Many “progressive” Christians support politically correct cultural trends which directly violate the moral teachings of the Bible. Often the motivation is to harmonize with their peers — the Pilate Syndrome. They care more about what their friends think than what Jesus thinks. They listen to ideas around them and veer away from Scriptural truth.

The Pilate Syndrome is frequently apparent on social media. Rarely does one see people asking, “What does the Scripture say about . . .?” Instead, people tend to ask, “What does everyone think about . . .?” Even on issues outside the purview of Scripture, people want to know what others think rather than making up their own minds.

Society is badly confused on issues like origins, salvation, abortion, purity, sexual fulfillment, gender, and marriage. Christians should not be confused, as the Bible is crystal clear. These are not complicated issues. The Great Creator has spoken clearly. Christians should be faithful to their Lord, not to culture and social pressures.

The Apostle Paul expresses it this way:
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Jesus Himself gave the key to avoiding deception:
If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The Great Creator calls believers to stand strong with courage and conviction for Biblical truth. Resist cultural pressure. Speak and live truth with clarity, wisdom, and grace. Resist the Pilate Syndrome.

Questions to Ponder

1. What are some examples of the Pilate Syndrome you’re familiar with today?
2. What pressure will you encounter some day soon? How can you plan ahead to stand firm on Biblical truth and not exhibit the Pilate Syndrome when the pressure hits?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday August 18, 2021 A.D.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:3)

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