August 1, 1997 Issue
by Jerry Dickinson

The above words are the words of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator under whose auspices Jesus was condemned to death. No less than six times during his various interviews with Jesus, and his discourses with the Jewish rulers who had brought Jesus before him, Pilate declared the innocence of the Lord.

"I find no fault in this man," was Pilate’s pronouncement. Six times he told them that Jesus was not guilty of the charges they had hurled against him. Again and again Pilate sought a way to let Jesus go. He had him flogged and then brought Jesus out before them, bloodied and humiliated, with his forevermore famous declaration, "Behold the Man!" He offered them a choice between Jesus and a murderous rascal named Barabbas and they chose Barabbas.

"What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" the befuddled Pilate asked, and the instant and deafening reply was, "Crucify him, crucify him!" "Why? What has he done?" asks Pilate, obviously dismayed by their persistent clamor for the death of a fellow Jew that many claimed to be a prophet.

"If you let this man go," they shouted, "You are not Caesar’s friend!" That did it! Whatever else Pilate was he was a politician and when he heard that last shout he relented, called for a basin of water, and after washing his hands he declared, "I am innocent of this man’s blood. See ye to it!" How much more Pilate must have been dismayed when the answering cry was, "Let his blood be on us and our children!"

Now, whenever the Romans crucified a criminal they would place a sign or placard over the head of the man condemned. On the sign was written the name of the criminal and the crime for which he was being put to death. On the placard nailed above the head of Jesus Pilate wrote, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews." The inscription was written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Latin was the official, legal language of the Empire, Greek was the universal language of the day, and of course Hebrew was the language peculiar to the Jews. In all three languages - the legal language of the Empire, the language understood by all people who could read at all, and in the religious
language of the Jews - it was asserted that Jesus was the king of the Jews.

Quite naturally, this sign infuriated the Jewish rulers who had sought his death. They ran back to Pilate and demanded he change the inscription. "Write not, the king of the Jews, but that he said I am the king of the Jews." "What I have written I have written," was Pilate’s succinct and terse reply. It is almost as if Pilate were saying, "You men have pushed me and pushed me until you coerced me into condemning this man against my better judgment. Don’t push me anymore. You better get out and leave me alone. What I have written I have written - and I will not change it!"

Pilate’s words are memorable and have a quality of finality to them. If looked at from different angles, moreover, there are lessons applicable and essential for us, even now, in these words spoken by a Governor of Rome two thousand years ago.


"See that you walk circumspectly," says the Apostle Paul, "Not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil." (Eph. 5:15,16) The word circumspect (or circumspectly) means to be extremely careful, strict, and cautious. "Walk circumspectly," says Paul, or as one translation renders it, "Be strictly careful about the life you lead." I like that! You are writing a book - the book of your life - so be careful what you write.

In 2 Cor 3:2,3 Paul tells the Corinthians, "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart."

Whether we realize it or not (or whether we like it or not) we are writing a letter (an epistle) every day that is read of all those who know us. Be careful what you write!

Pilate wrote more than what he wrote on that placard placed above the head our blessed Lord. He wrote the story of his life - a story of a man who was given the opportunity of being noble and courageous enough to release Jesus as justice and his own conscience demanded, but the story he wrote is one of cowardice, irresolution, and ignobility. For two thousand years all men have read the writing of Pontius Pilate, a man whose name will forever live in infamy. Beware - and be careful what you write!


Really, it was stubbornness that precipitated Pilate’s pointed declaration, "What I have written I have written." The Jewish rulers were asking him to change what he had written and if effect he replies. "What I put on that sign stands as written. I will not change it! Get out of here and leave me alone! What I have written I have written."

Stubbornness in defense of truth can be a good quality, but stubbornness for stubbornness sake can end only in misery. I personally know of husbands and wives (in the church) who have not been on good terms for years and their attitude is, "What I have written I have written. Let him apologize to me. Let her crawl on her hands and knees to me. I am not apologizing. I am not making the first move for reconciliation. Not me! What I have written I have written!"

How many dear friendships have been forever severed because someone is too obstinate to just say, "It was my fault," or, "I am sorry for my part of the problem." Too often our stubborn pride prompts us to defiantly vow, "I’ll never apologize for anything. What I have written I have written." Beware of a stubborn will and obstinate spirit; misery and woe is its only fruit.


"What I have written I have written," is a statement God has made, in more or less the same words, over and over again. We are admonished not to add or detract from what God has written all through the Bible. (Rev 22:18,19; Duet 4:2; Josh 1:7) Paul praised the Corinthians for keeping the ordinances as he had delivered them to them.

(I Cor 11:2) And Paul again admonishes the church at Corinth to "learn" not to think of men above that which is written.

Interestingly, Paul says we must "learn" to prize and cherish that which is written (God’s Word) above any man or any opinion of any man. May God give us the wisdom and determination to learn that lesson. It has to be held beyond dispute that if men in the past had valued God’s Written Word above the opinions of men there would be no divisions among professed Christians over such uninspired items as infant baptism, instruments of music in the worship services, women preachers, splitting the assembly into classes to teach, individual cups and crackers in the communion, children’s church assemblies, Christian rock ‘n roll bands, bowling alleys in the basement of the church, ad infinitum. Why not just accept what God has written as it is written - nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.


The statement, "What I have written I have written," demonstrates another lesson we would all do well to learn, and that is to leave behind and forget our past writings. Whatever mistakes you have made in the past - forget them and move on. When I say forget them you understand, I am sure, that I mean after you have corrected the mistake (if it can be corrected) and found forgiveness in compliance with God’s will, then forget those things which are behind and press on. Those are, after all, the sentiments and words of the Apostle Paul in Phil 3:13,14 where he writes, "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Let me get a little personal here, if I may. You made mistakes in raising your children? Ask God to forgive you and move on. You cannot undo what is done - you cannot unwrite what is written. Press on, and ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to do for your grandchildren what you did not do for your children. Whatever mistakes we have made with our spouses, our families, or others let us seek forgiveness, correct the mistake when possible, and then move forward. After all, what I have written I have written, and I cannot unwrite it. Let us, with Paul, press on for the prize before us in Christ Jesus.


According to one tradition Pontius Pilate, sometime after his encounter with Jesus, fell into disfavor with Caesar and was exiled to an island where he and his wife eventually committed suicide. Before he died, however, an old friend of his came to visit. The friend asked Pilate if he remembered the trial of Jesus while he was Governor of Judea. According to the tradition Pilate told his friend that he did not remember Jesus or the trial his friend referred to.

How could he not remember? Perhaps he had condemned so many other innocent men that Jesus’ case was just one of the many this Roman Procurator had forgotten. Or perhaps he had, consciously or subconsciously, blotted from his memory any recollection of this case which so disturbed his conscience at the time.

However true it is that Pilate did not remember Jesus, one thing is certain: he will be reminded of it some day! There is coming a day of judgment when, as John pictures it in Rev 20:12, all the dead, small and great (Pilate will certainly be in the crowd) shall stand before God. The books will be opened, including the book of Pilate’s life -and yours and mine - and everyone will be judged according to their works.

Pilate, on that day, will come face to face with what he has written. So will you. So will I. When the Lord opens what we have written and start all over.

Once we start over, however, let us be strictly careful what we write, so that all who read our lives (including the Lord) can decipher our love for God, the Lord Jesus, his church, and the souls of men. May we have so lived our lives that when we come to the end of the road we will neither be afraid or ashamed to declare, "What I have written I have written."

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