Pontius Pilate, not undeservedly, judging from historical accounts, gets a lot of bad press. He was a cruel tyrant who antagonized the Jews so much that he was eventually removed crom office. Neertheless, I wonder what was going on in the deep recesses of his mind after he had met with Jesus.
Who Was He?
I think I made a mistake. It’s not easy being a governor in a foreign land — especially one with such crazy bigots.
I had the whole pack baying for his life, because he didn’t toe their theological line! How do you keep the balance between order and what you know in your heart is right? Things were heading for a riot as they yapped at my heels like hunting dogs slavering for his blood. I couldn’t let it go on.
So I killed an innocent man.
I don’t usually care. I’ve done it before. Even enjoyed it, watching them writhe and seeing the people cower at the power I can wield — or grow angry, depending on their mood. It’s never affected me this way before. What’s it to me as long as I can keep law and order? That’s the priority.
But there’s something bothering me about this one. He was different. He wouldn’t cower and he wouldn’t talk, but his looks were eloquent enough and I didn’t like it. He seemed to look into my heart, and that’s a private place. I don’t even like going there myself, sometimes. For all the pleasure I get from seeing others squirm under my power — especially those filthy Jews — sometimes the inner door opens a chink and there are longings……..and doubts…….I like to keep that door shut.
There was something else in his eyes, too. What was it? That’s part of what’s bugging me. I’ve spotted fear in eyes a hundred times or more and enjoyed the smell of it. I’ve seen arrogance, too and I like that even more. It spurs me to greater cruelty with no remorse.
His eyes had neither. The closest I can come to describe it is… let me see…pity? No, though there was some of that. Love? Perhaps. Compassion! That’s it. It was as though he was looking at ME with compassion. I had the power of life and death in my hands — his life — and he’s looking at ME with compassion. It was so absurd that it unnerved me.
And that conversation about truth! Everyone knows that truth is relative, changing with our experience. Yet when I looked at him, he seemed so completely integrated, so sure — as if behind the man was a colossus, solid and unmoving — eternal, almost. I had the weirdest feeling I was looking at Truth itself. I had to turn away and give a mocking, “What is truth?” But in a sense I was asking myself the question…. and wondering if he could tell me.
That’s when I decided to let him go.
I tried my hardest. I tried to flog and release, and when that didn’t work, I used the Jewish feast to release one prisoner, trying to persuade the Jews to accept him as the one. Nothing worked with those unbending fanatics. Then the crowd started getting ugly and it was order first, as always. I washed my hands of the case and let them have their way.
But no matter how much I wash my hands, they still feel smeared with his blood.
I heard some of the things he said from the cross — strange things to come from a dying man, especially one unjustly tortured. When I heard of them, I had a flashback to those eyes. I thought I saw that same compassionate look that unnerved me when I questioned him. How could a dying man plead for the forgiveness of those killing him? And did that include me?
I heard he even had words of encouragement to that scoundrel crucified next to him. He spoke as if that wasn’t the end of him — that they’d meet again.
And the eclipse that lasted so long (why hadn’t our astronomers predicted that?) at the same time as an earthquake. Was it coincidence that it all happened round about the time of his death?
Yes, I have a feeling that for once I made a mistake. This was one man I should have let free. Claudia thinks so — she told me on the day of the trial, and I’ve never heard the end of it since! But why should I worry? No-one can touch me. I’m Pontius Pilate and I have all the power of Rome behind me.
Yet, this one thought keeps bugging me:
“What if he wasn’t just a man?”