What might Pilate really have been concerned about?
When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews” (John 18: 33-37), he almost certainly was not asking for the benefit of the pharisees, though it was they who had sent Jesus to him. Why then did Pilate ask that particular question?
When Romans occupied a territory, they would send in their own governor which for Jerusalem at that time was, of course, Pilate. In some places they would use someone else, possibly someone who would be more tolerated by local populations, as a figurehead. Usually, the person selected would have very limited powers and have to report to the Roman authority. This method of handling the populations of locations and territories might have been used as a way to reduce the size of the local Roman garrisons, while still keeping control.
Around the time of Jesus’ birth, Judea was controlled by Herod, on behalf of Rome. Herod was not of Israeli origin but was probably tolerated since he was a Jew.
Pilate’s question may have been nothing to do do with the pharisees concerns, that Jesus was reducing their influence over the people regarding their religion. Pilates concern would probably be much more pragmatic, from his own point of view. Could this man, whom many called a king, be of use to the Romans, or was he a threat to them.
I can’t help but wonder how succeeding events might have been altered if Pilate had thought Jesus could have been useful to Rome. The problem with someone who might be useful is often that the same person can be dangerous, if they cannot be controlled.
From the Roman and particularly Pilate’s point of view, might it have been better if jesus had been quietly murdered? When Pilate ‘washed his hands’ of Jesus it was a symbolic act, however Pilate would be equally as glad as the pharisees to be rid of Jesus. I just wonder at the motives and weather without the pharisees machinations, it would have been a public crucifixion?