What I have written, I have written
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
Do you refuse to speak to me? Pilate said. Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:10-12 NIV)
It was as if the Prisoner were in charge. Pilate was baffled, offended—and nervous. It didn’t make sense!
The charges. What were the charges? “If he weren’t a criminal we would not have handed him over to you,” the Jewish leaders had blustered. There’s something going on here—clearly a local matter, nothing that would invoke the power of Rome. “Try him in your own courts,” Pilate had ordered. The only response: “But we don’t have the authority to execute him!”
Has the whole country gone crazy? “What are the charges? I don’t find anything that I can charge him with. The man is innocent of any chargeable offense!”
From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
Pilate was no friend of the Jews; one might have said that he seemed to find satisfaction in rubbing them the wrong way. He hadn’t much respect for them, either, though he had enough sense to know that their threat could potentially be a political nightmare for him. Pilate hadn’t been born to the purple, as the saying goes; he had earned his position, fighting his way to the top, the son of a freedman, he had gained the respect of his emperor, and been rewarded accordingly. His loyalty to Caesar was unquestioned. Yet. Such a charge could easily shift the balance against him. Why should he imperil himself, his family, for the sake of an unknown peasant in a small but troublesome province? Why should he care?
But he did. The man had impressed him—unsettled him; Pilate continued to argue against the death penalty for the man, convinced of his innocence, but the looming threat of Roman political power was too strong. He caved, and called for a bowl of water as a testimony to his own innocence in the matter. The stain on his reputation—and his soul—remained.
Jesus cared about Pilate. He watched as the procurator struggled against the overwhelming prejudice and vindictiveness of an angry mob determined to destroy an innocent man; he watched as Pilate battled his own conscience, his sense of right and wrong, his awe of the Prisoner who stood before him. Jesus sought to console Pilate, to assure him that his sin was less than that of the accusers, but Pilate could not be consoled. And Jesus was condemned to die on a cross.
It was typical that a sign be posted naming the crimes of the condemned man, but what was it that caused Pilate to dictate the words be posted to declare to the world: JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS?
And why did he refuse to allow the sign to be revised, at the request of the Jewish priests, to read, “He said he was king of the Jews”? Why did he insist, “What I have written, I have written”? Was it a final, vindictive dig at those who had insisted upon the execution of an innocent man? Or was it something else?
I like to think that the posting of that sign was a testimonial to the man who died there, the man who was something more than he seemed, the man who looked him in the eye and said, “You have only the authority that God has allowed.” Pilate may not have fully understood his own actions, he may have deplored his own failure to stand firm on his convictions, he may have condemned himself in a way that Christ did not, but Pilate’s final judgment on the claims against Christ stand for eternity to see, attested to by his resurrection: JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS.