Nobody’s going to tangle my toga, for tourists are packing out the town for this weekend’s festival.
Tomorrow the priests in all their fancy robes will be the cheerleaders.
Today they are wearing those same robes, but they are herding mass hysteria in my direction!
If only these Jews would let go of that “invisible god” myth and be like us. Our individual gods all have sculptures to show us what gods look like, and what kind of help we can expect.
So why not the Jews?
Can’t they accept that we have improved the whole world? We allow home rule for every nation in the Empire; and local public works projects soak up most of the taxes they pay. Our engineers arrange water supplies into desert cities; our army is unbeatable; our all-weather roads will last forever; and the Great Sea (Mare Nostrum—“Our Sea”) is free of pirates so even Jews can safely travel to their festivals.
All we ask in return is an annual sacrifice to honour Caesar. What more could they want?
Lately, a Galilean rabbi has been teasing Jewish legalities, producing the odd miracle, collecting some followers; and there’s some vague claim about him being a divine king.
The Jews could easily solve that by stoning him.
I could have ordered my troops in on his group at the Temple—like I fixed some other irritating Galileans;(1) but I sent him off to Herod, for strictly speaking, they are under his jurisdiction. Anyway, this crowd needs no extra provocation over human blood being mixed with their sacrifices again. But hey, life is cheap—animal or human.
Now this rabbi’s back before me, wearing one of Herod’s cast-off robes. Ironic touch there, Herod. Maybe we could be soul mates after all.(2)
My wife’s note warns me not to get involved because she’s had a scary dream about him.(3)
I’m in charge around here.
Not the priests.
Not this rabbi.
And definitely not the crowd—even though the priests have them baying for his blood.
On what charge?
Wrong-footing their lawyers?
Seated in my judge’s chair I raise my hand for quiet; which reluctantly descends as I look into the clear eyes of this purple-draped target of hatred.
A king? A rebel?
He shows no anger,
“Don’t you know I can free you or crucify you?” I demand of him.
He replies quietly, searching me with piercing warmth, “You would have no power over me if it were not given from above.”
Could it be that he is in charge—ignoring my position and the shrieking of the crowd? I sense a depth beyond mine, and I have to try to persuade this mob to see reason.
Surely there is some way to free him from these hysterical indictments…
I offer to exchange a murderous thug for him. That’s always placated the crazies before; but I have no choice but to set this Barabbas free, knowing he’ll be back.
Those “Crucify him!” calls are getting louder.
“But isn’t he your king?”
“We have no king but Caesar!” Not from the crowd but, amazingly, from those holy, hollow priests in their empty robes! My involuntary chuckle catches in my throat as I hear one of them purr icily, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar!”
Definitely not meant for Tiberius’ ears to catch!
Sane debate and discussion have left the arena, and my wife’s note is making more sense: “Have nothing to do with this innocent man” and, with personal comfort rapidly disappearing, I ask for a basin of water and a towel.
I stand to splash my hands and dry them, publicly disavowing my support for this fervent ignorance. After all, good soldiers can choose which hills are worth dying on.
As my guards bustle him away, one further way to show that I’m in charge rapidly comes to mind.
I write my own note that reads “Jesus of Nazareth – the King of the Jews,” in Aramaic, Latin and Greek; and order them to attach it to the cross above this rabbi’s head.
“No!’ protest these empty robes. “Say that he said he was the King of the Jews!”
My stomach’s churning over their vapid vindictiveness briefly surfaces as a gulp before I reply, “What I have written, I have written.”
Because I’m in charge around here.
(1) Luke 13:1
(2) Luke 23:12
(3) Matt 27:19
Author’s “note:” This entry selects from all four gospel records of Pilate’s conversations with Jesus, so to avoid a mass of footnote references I have only highlighted three specific scriptures.
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