Fr. Ryan Hilderbrand on Pilate (Twitter, April 19)
From an historical perspective, one of the mysteries of Good Friday is that Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus. Even by Roman standards, Pontius Pilate was a bloodthirsty savage and a terrible human being.
Once, before the Crucifixion of Jesus, Pilate put down a rebellion. He condemned all the conspirators to crucifixion. So many people were condemned that they couldn't make crosses fast enough. The condemned basically stood in line for two weeks awaiting their fate.
He was always quick to pull the trigger on an execution. Some time after Jesus died, Pilate was sent into exile because he was so ruthless. When the ancient Romans considered you evil, you must have been awful.
Why did Pilate hesitate? From a literary perspective, his wife's dream was meant to answer that question in part - "Have nothing to do with this man. He is holy." The historical Pilate didn't seem to care much about that, nor about justice.
I don't have an answer for the question, "Why did Pilate, for perhaps the first time in his professional life, try to do the right thing?" It confounds me from a human perspective. From a divine perspective, he fulfilled the will of God. That's amazing to me.