Matthew makes one thing very clear above all else; Pilate wanted nothing to do with the Jesus matter. Notice in verses 11-14 that Pilate is trying to engage Jesus in a defense against the charges brought by the Jewish leaders, and Jesus declines to engage: Suffering Servant. Pilate is amazed by this. In 15-21, Pilate tries to free Jesus, as part of his annual custom of pardon, and the people, instigated by the Jewish leaders choose Barabbas instead. Notice verse 18 that tells us he knew Jesus had been handed over to him out of the leaders’ self-interest; no, Pilate wanted a way out of this situation, for he knew perfectly well that Jesus had done nothing wrong.
Pilate’s situation is made worse when he receives that famous note from his wife about her dream…
But the Jewish leaders were unrelenting in their demand for His blood. Doesn’t that strike you as the greatest irony of all time?
In verse 21, the pagan governor goes out of his way to shame them, as he washes his hands of the matter in a symbolic act of utter contempt, telling them that Jesus’ blood will be on their hands. He will bow to their pressure, for he, like the Jewish leaders in earlier scenes feared that the crowds would turn ugly, and if there was one thing a Roman official did not want on his record, it was a riot; such things had ruined the careers of many officials before him, so Pilate bows to pressure, and sends Jesus off for a good flogging and execution, simply to appease the mob.
And with this, Satan and his human agents charged headlong into an ambush, for through their great rebellion, their treachery, lies, corruption and pure malice, they brought God’s eternal purpose to fruition, and secured their ultimate doom in the process.