Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Cross (as in the Cross of Christ) (08/17/06)
TITLE: Pilate's Choice
By Patrick Oden
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“Take it,” Pilate says to the servant. “I am done with it.”
The servant walks out the large double doors onto the balcony and picks up the heavy basin of water and the towel draped over it. The water sloshes as he walks out, some spilling on the mosaic floor.
Pilate stares at the spilled water and at the servant who doesn’t stop walking. At other time he would have the servant whipped. Not today. He is exhausted by his position today, though the servant may make up for this later.
He stares out over the courtyard where not long before crowds and rebellion had been calling for blood. Pilate gave it to them. What else could he do?
Soft footsteps and rustling of fine robes stir his frustration again.
“What now?” he yells as he turns. “Leave me alone I said!”
“Like you left the holy man alone?” his wife asks. “Did you do it?”
“It is done,” Pilate replies.
“I told you my dreams,” she says. “You are wrong.”
“Wrong. Right. None of that makes a difference, Procula my dear,” he replies. His mood softens under the gaze of the only person who could make him feel shame. “Are you the Sibyl that I can record your dreams in my reports to Rome? Ah, they were stirring up rebellion over this man, I will write, but my wife, she had bad feelings about the whole business so I let him go. Sorry about all the buildings they burned.”
“Your mocking does not befit you,” Procula responds. “This is a matter of the gods.”
“I am sorry,” Pilate says. “This day. These people. What can I do? I go left I am assaulted. I go right I am crushed. You have heard their clamor. You know they are constantly complaining. I am Rome to them, all they despise and hate. They never relent. So what am I to do? Defy them and take a stand against their fiery darts? For what? For what Procula? I ask you that.”
“They only use words,” she replies. “They have no real power. You are afraid of their arguments? You are Rome and wield Rome’s power to act with justice and nobility. Do you use that? You have been called here with authority. Yet words make you falter.”
“Words now. What later? He is innocent. Don’t you think I know that? But, what else could I do? I gave him the opportunity. All I needed was a reason, an argument, a defense so that I could use that to protect him and to protect me. This didn’t have to turn out like this. You call him a holy man. What did he say to me? ‘You say so.’ He said, ‘You say so.’ What am I to do with that? I asked him to prove himself, he gives me nothing but my own opinion.”
“You could have chosen what you knew to be right.”
“Choose what is right? Choose what is right for who? I choose me, Procula. I choose me. Had he given me an eloquent
defense; had he pointed me to his righteous deeds; had he done a miracle, I would have chosen him, and sent that scoundrel Barabbas to the cross. I wanted to, Procula. I wanted to save him. But he gave me nothing. How could I choose him if I have nothing more than my own stark choice. Indeed, I think he wanted to die. I think I am doing him a favor.”
“You are doing no one a favor, Pilate my husband. Do not confuse willingness to die for desire. Though maybe that is a
distinction you can no longer make.”
“Procula, there is no distinction. Willingness is desire. He is not afraid of death, and so he is dying even now. I am afraid of death. I am terribly afraid of it. So I choose not to die at the hands of rebellious barbarians or cunning Romans. I choose not to die so I stay here in power. He chose to die so he is on a cross. Let that be the sign of those who would follow him and not be afraid of death. I choose me. I choose life. Those rabble who follow him, choose the cross. And they choose all that brings.”
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