When I was little, I remember thinking that Pilate was really the villain in the story of Jesus' crucifixion... but as I started to read the Bible myself, I realized that there was more to his story.
Pilate actually wanted to release Jesus... but he gave in to pressure from the Jewish leaders:
"Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.” (John 19:12 NLT)
Pilate thought that Jesus should be released... but he chose to save his job and his reputation instead.
I've been just as guilty of giving in to pressure. I don't always stand up for my beliefs -- or even acknowledge them -- when I'm working on consulting projects. I tell myself that I'm just being professional by not contradicting my customers... but really, I'm just more concerned about their opinions than I am about God. (I'm not talking about being offensive or argumenative -- it can be something as simple as just acknowledging belief in God after someone belittles religion in general.)
The Jewish leaders were motivated by a desire to preserve their position -- Pilate was motivated by a desire to preserve his position... and then, standing in stark contrast, we have Jesus' example. If anyone in this story had the right to self-preservation, it was Jesus! But right up until the end, He is making provisions for others (see vs 26-27)... and His death was the ultimate provision for my salvation!