Someplace between dreaming and waking, I found myself gazing into the face of Jesus. He was in Pilate’s Court, beaten until he was almost unrecognizable. I say almost, because I knew those eyes. Those tender, compassionate eyes, which even at that instance of humiliation and pain, looked into mine and said, “I love you.”
The unyielding desert sun beat its fiery rays upon the pavement beneath my feet. It was hard to keep my balance in the agitated, restless crowd as the people pressed me away from those loving eyes. The assembly was closing in on Pilate. Electricity was in the air. A riot could spark at the slightest provocation. Murder was in their hearts and on their lips as the mob forcefully demanded, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“No!” I howled at the top of my lungs, my voice immediately muffled by the roar of the crowd as they pushed me further and further away.
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” they continued, the hysteria feeding on itself and building by the second.
I stumbled through the mob, shoving my way through so I could see what was happening in the court yard. I caught a glimpse of Pilate. His back was to the crowd as he consulted with a few guards. His hands shook as she ran his fingers through his hair. Abruptly, he spun around to face down the angry crowd. He raised a hand to quiet the clamor.
“Is it not time for your Passover?” He questioned. Confusion shadowed the dense faces in the throng. A merchant finally answered, “Yes, what do you care about that?”
“Then, as you know,” Pilate continued, his voice gaining more strength, “It is my custom to release one prisoner to you on your Passover.” He paused, cleared his throat and added, “This is a sign of the kindness and generosity of your Caesar.” A small wave of snickers and insults passed through the mass. A toothless old man spit on the ground. Pilate ignored the offence. “It appears we have two prisoners from whom you may choose. Barabbas, who is guilty of murder and insurrection, or this Jesus, who has done nothing wrong!
Without a moment’s pause, the mob launched a new chant, “Barabbas..Barabbas…Set Barabbas free!”
“No!” I screamed again. “Shut-up, fool!” someone snapped as they pushed me, face-first, to the ground. The monstrous pack of hyenas stepped over me and kicked me out of the way. Tears of frustration and rage mixed with the rocky, scorching earth as I pushed myself up with bloody palms.
I had to see Jesus’ face again. I had to gaze into his eyes. I forced my way through the wall of hysteria to the front of the crowd. I stumbled once more, sprawling at the bottom of the steps that lead to Pilate’s palace. I lifted my eyes in time to see Pilate fiercely washing his hands in a bowl of water. I dropped my head into the hot sand. It was useless. Evil had won. I wanted to lie there and sink into the burning earth.
Just then, I heard footsteps on the stairway. Light footsteps, moving quickly, eagerly leaving the palace. The man leaving was laughing excitedly as he jaunted along. “It’s Barabbas,” I thought numbly, “That murdering sinner. He deserves to die, yet he is being set free. Jesus has done nothing wrong, and he will die in Barabbas’ stead.”
Fury swelled within my heart towards this soul who was set free while Jesus was sentenced to a horrific death. I rose from the dirt, intending to spit in the face of this vile sinner. I lifted my aching head to glare at the selfish ingrate.
Shock and horror overwhelmed my soul. I bowed and staggered away. My salty, bitter tears burned the abrasions on my hands as I covered my face and shook uncontrollably. The face of Barabbas, that evil sinner who deserved to die; the face for which I had only contempt….was my own.