The Jews had laws in which the violation thereof called for death.  Before any kinds of government (i.e. Roman or otherwise) were domineering over the Jewish people, stoning the guilty seemed to be the common method of the death sentence.  So, to me at least the Pharisee's response to Pilate - "But we have no right to execute anyone" (John 18:31) - was a lie!  This is further supported by the next sentence - "This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled."  So, there were two methods of death - one that man had ready for Jesus and one that God had ready for Jesus.   One of the Jewish laws that demanded death was someone claiming to be The Son of God.  Jesus agreed with the statement from the High Priest that He was the Anointed One.  So, why was Jesus not stoned to death by the religious leaders of the that day instead of crucified by the Roman occupation of Israel?

The number one answer to this question is that Father God did not plan and prophesy through His Word the death of Jesus to transpire through a stoning.  Just one of the prophesies about Christ's crucifixion is found in Numbers 21:8-9The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live."  So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived."  Jesus made it clear when He was here that this event was foreshadowing Him - "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up," (John 3:14)  "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." (John 12:32-33)  

The second answer concerning - why Jesus was not stoned to death - deals with the agenda of the Jews to thwart their overseers at every opportunity and look righteous doing it, but especially their governor - Pontius Pilate. "The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, noted that Pilate was ruthless and unsympathetic and that he failed to comprehend and appreciate how important the Jew's religious beliefs and convictions were to them.  The Jewish people loathed Pilate for his cruelty and inadequate care of his subjects.  The kind of brutality that made him so infamous and hated can be seen in Luke 13:1, where it mentions that Pilate slaughtered a number of Galileans and then mixed their blood together with the sacrifices.  Appalling and sick as this act may sound, it is in accordance with many other vicious actions instigated under Pilate's rule as procurator of Judea." (pp.242-243, Renner, Sparkling Gems From the Greek) 

Still dealing with this second answer, the Pharisees have a case that they probably could have solved on their own, but they are going to milk it for all it's worth.  The Pharisees will try to have Pilate trapped in the Case of Jesus.  If that does not work at least the Pharisees will have killed a nuisance, because either somebody's reputation was going down tonight (Pilate) or their "trouble-maker" will be dead soon (Jesus).  The trap clamped down on Pilate hard when he heard - "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.  Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar." (John 19:12)  Bottom line - if you don't deal with this threat, word is going to reach Caesar's ear about this and your job and maybe even your life is going to be at risk.  

So, we know about Pilate's past - cruel.  We know about the Pharisee's dealings with everybody - opportunistic.  We know about the relationship between these two - heated.  We know the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees - fallen.  But what happened when Pilate met Jesus?

The historical Pilate disappeared when confronted with Jesus.  Instead....... 
  • There is a governor who allows Jesus to defend himself, the Roman standard, three times (Matthew 27:11; Matthew 27:12; Matthew 27:14).  
  • Pilate sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, who was in Jerusalem, due to jurisdiction procedure. (Luke 23:7)
  • As Pilate takes the Judge's Seat, his wife warns him to have nothing to do with Jesus because of a dream she had just recently. (Matthew 27:19)
  • After Jesus returns to Pilate from Herod with a Not Guilty verdict Pilate agrees with the verdict and offers to release Jesus as part of the standing tradition during the Passover Festival. (John 19:4; Luke 23:13-16; Matthew 27:15-17)
  • Pilate tries to put this ordeal back on the Pharisees but it doesn't work. (John 19:6)
  • Pilate pulls Jesus aside one last time and elicits a response from Jesus this time - "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."  Pilate is still captivated by Jesus. (John 19:8-11)
  • Pilate attempts to free Jesus several times after this encounter.  Luke 23:18-25 records three instances of Pilate trying to help Jesus to freedom.  John 19:12 says, "From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free,"
Again the Political Ping-Ponging in this case was evident.  But after Pilate tried to seize the opportunity of tradition between his people and the Jews, the Pharisees said (paraphrased), "O.K. were are not going to knock Pilate out of his position so we might as well buddy-up to him and Rome and get rid of Jesus - 'Crucify him!  We have no king but Caesar!' " (John 19:15).  After these attempts were exhausted Pilate realized he was getting nowhere and at worse a riot could be on his hands - so he met their demands.

The Pharisees thought they got what they wanted.  Jesus' mission was coming to fruition.  Father God's plan was being fulfilled.  Pilate seemed to be just a role that played his part in this Divine Drama.  "Outside the Gospels, Pilate is not mentioned again in the New Testament.  Historical records show that the procurator of Syria brought some sort of accusations against Pilate in the year 36 AD.  These indictments resulted in his removal from office and exile to Gaul (modern-day France).  Eusebius, the well-known early Christian historian, later wrote that Pilate fell into misfortune under the wicked Emperor Caligula and lost many privileges.  According to Eusebius, this man Pilate - who was ultimately responsible for the trial, judgment, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus and who had ruled Judea ruthlessly and mercilessly for ten years - finally committed suicide." (p.243, Renner)

Can a tiger change his stripes?  For the tiger named Pontius Pilate, that answer seems to be - yes.  Jesus' ministry was from approximately 30 - 33 AD.  Pilate was governor of Judea from 26 AD - 36 AD.  During Pilate's encounter with Jesus, Pilate seemed not himself.  But only three years after Pilate's meeting with Jesus, Pilate's "stripes" returned.  He was removed from office and exiled to Gaul on account of dealing with a Samaritan uprising to harshly (saying that about a Roman is really something).   

Something happened to Pilate.  Several agendas hinged on Pilate's decision of what to do with Jesus.  The Pharisees had their goals (out with Pilate and/or down with Jesus).  Pilate had his objective - to get this case over with as fast and peaceful as possible (which historically was unlike him).  Unseen were the forces of Hell.  Satan knew these prophecies about the Messiah and His mission and would try to stop it many times throughout history.  Perhaps influencing Pilate not to pursue death, and death on a cross, with Jesus was a tactic the devil attempted in order to keep the salvation of the world from occurring.  Then there was the mission of Jesus and His Father.  Nothing was going to stop this pursuit and nothing did - Hallelujah! 

For this brief period of time Pilate may have been different and acted different for many reasons - stress, the spiritual battle in his mind and soul, encountering Jesus, etc...but God's plan was NOT halted!  Just because we might see a major change in people, places, or things - does not mean that God's purpose will not be accomplished.  Be encouraged in your personal life and in this crazy world that we live in - God has a Master Plan that He is executing it perfectly!