Like many politicians today, Pilate had a lot of worldly stature to lose.
In Matthew, the Roman governor, Pilate, asks the people whom they want to see released: Jesus or a common criminal.
But perhaps it's time to take another look at old Pilate—he may be more like us, and our leaders, than we care to admit.
And like a lot of our leaders, Pilate had to be responsive to the demands of his base.
When they call for the criminal, Pilate washes his hands of responsibility for the death of Jesus in a basin of water.
c.1400 as a term of reproach, from the Roman surname, especially that of Pontius, a governor of Judaea, from Latin Pilatus, literally "armed with javelins," from pilum "javelin" (see pile (n.2)). Among slang and cant uses of Pontius Pilate mentioned in the 1811 "Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence" is "(Cambridge) a Mr. Shepherd of Trinity College; who disputing with a brother parson on the comparative rapidity with which they read the liturgy, offered to give him as far as Pontius Pilate in the Belief."