What is significant about Pontius Pilate washing his hands?

In the bible, Pontius Pilate washes his hands before sentencing Jesus to death. What is she significance of that?


Matthew 27:24* When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” 25 And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”


Peculiar to Matthew. Took water…blood: cf. Dt 21:1–8, the handwashing prescribed in the case of a murder when the killer is unknown. The elders of the city nearest to where the corpse is found must wash their hands, declaring, “Our hands did not shed this blood.” Look to it yourselves: cf. Mt 27:4. The whole people: Matthew sees in those who speak these words the entire people (Greek laos) of Israel. His blood…and upon our children: cf. Jer 26:15. The responsibility for Jesus’ death is accepted by the nation that was God’s special possession (Ex 19:5), his own people (Hos 2:23), and they thereby lose that high privilege; see Mt 21:43 and the note on that verse. The controversy between Matthew’s church and Pharisaic Judaism about which was the true people of God is reflected here. As the Second Vatican Council has pointed out, guilt for Jesus’ death is not attributable to all the Jews of his time or to any Jews of later times.


I’ve read the same footnote that Haz cites. In that context, it communicates Pilate’s intent to the crowd (who probably wasn’t paying much attention to him) but also serves as a literary device to show that Pilate was unconvinced of Jesus’ guilt. Pilate may also have taken his wife’s warning (Mt 27:19).

These are both good responses I would only add that Pilate tried to serve two masters and we can’t do that and we fail every time we try. I sincerely believe that Pilate did not find Jesus guilty of anything especially being a threat to Rome and I suspect he may have actually believe that Jesus was who he said he was but Pilate couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that if he was the Son of God why he wouldn’t do something to help himself, much like the other criminal crucified with Jesus and the Pharisees. I don’t think any of us would envy the spot he was put in either. Pilate was in charge of a small military albeit the might of Rome but they were outnumbered in Jerusalem on Good Friday, the crowd kept growing and grew even more once Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate could not have a few things happen, a humiliation where a crowd over took and defeated the Roman military that would only embolden them more, he couldn’t also attack the crowd because part of his job as governor was to keep the peace and historical accounts which are not part of scripture show that he was already on the hot seat for attacking a group of Galileans year or so earlier. This is why when someone mentions that Jesus is a Galilean the first time they bring Jesus to Pilate, he jumps on it and sends Jesus over to Herod because Galilee was part of Herod’s kingdom. He ultimately ends up inflicting more harm on Jesus than he ever wanted to because he has Jesus scourged hoping that the crowd will pity Jesus but they don’t. It’s also sad that Jesus goes out of his way to save Pilate’s soul more so than He does anyone else that day and Pilate ignore the grace.

He is saying "there’s no blood on my hands in this " he was turning Jesus over to the Jews for execution. His soldiers assisted but he is saying the sentence of death is not on him.

He was personally opposed but …

Reminds me of Lady Macbeth.

Supposedly cleansing himself of matter.

So, despite the fact that he had the ability to save Jesus’s life, he decided to distance himself and pretend that the sin fell only on the people who demanded Jesus be crucified.

Maybe but if that is the case he wasn’t paying attention to Jesus, because Jesus tells him that those who handed Him over to Pilate have greater guilt indicating there is some guilt on his part but not as great as the Pharisees. I often wonder if the penalty for the two camps responsible for His death were that the Temple and the Levitical priesthood would be lost forever and that the prophesy in The Book of Daniel regarding the 4th beast which is Rome and Rome ultimately does get handed over to The Saints of the most High after a period of persecution which Daniel predicts is the price paid for Pilate’s role in the matter. Precisely what both parties try to protect are what ultimately get destroyed.

Basically yeah. He saw no fault in Jesus, he tried several ways to set him free , but the mob mentality scared him. It was a political play. He washed his hands of condemning Jesus to death, but still gave the crowd what they wanted to stay off a massive revolt.

Don’t mistake my comments as saying Pilate had no guilt. Just because he tried to free himself if guilt does not mean that he was not guilty. A murderer can say “I’m innocent” but it doesn’t mean he is.

Pilate was trying to be free of any guilt regarding it. Whether he succeeded is between him and God.

One of the things that Jesus was fulfilling was the atonement sacrifice. There were two he goats one chosen to be released and the other one chosen to have his blood carried into the temple. Barabbas was the goat who was released, Jesus was the goat whose blood was carried into the temple to atone for the people. The one who released the goat into the wilderness was required to wash. goats represent sinful people and Jesus was counted among sinners.
Grace and peace,

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.