Cross, Day 6
What a day! I’ve faced some difficult decisions in my time as Roman Governor, but nothing like this! I’m sure the trial of Jesus is one I will never forget.
It was early in the morning when they brought him to me, saying he was leading people astray by telling them not to pay taxes, and that he was claiming to be the Messiah. It seemed clear to me that the man had committed no serious crime, so when I discovered he was a Galilean, it made sense to let Herod deal with it.
I thought my part in it was over.
If only it had been that simple…
Before long he was back.
Herod agreed Jesus was innocent, but his enemies were insistent he was a trouble-maker. They accused him of stirring up riots and rebellion.
It confused me.
He didn’t seem the type at all. He wasn’t angry or argumentative and, unlike most prisoners who desperately try to defend themselves, he hardly spoke a word. The whole time he displayed a calm, quiet…authority…. which was remarkable given the circumstances.
It was disconcerting.
It was as if he was the one in control.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I was convinced he didn’t deserve death. I suggested having him whipped before releasing him, thinking that might be enough to appease the religious leaders, but they refused to let it go. I suspected their real motive was envy, but there was no way to prove it.
Then I had an idea. The custom is that each year at Passover, one prisoner is set free, and the crowd chooses.
What if I offered them the chance to free either Jesus or Barabbas?
Barabbas was notorious – a murderer who had taken part in an insurrection against the government. Surely, the crowd would free Jesus!
But I had underestimated the powerful influence of the religious leaders
and the strength of their hatred.
To my amazement the crowd shouted repeatedly for Barabbas to be freed!
My plan had failed.
As I considered what to do next, an interruption came – a message from my wife: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for today I’ve suffered terribly in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19)
What did it mean?
What was I supposed to do?
The words kept running through my mind: “that righteous man.”
Surely, if he was righteous, I should set him free.
Silencing the cries of the crowd for a moment, I found my courage at last: “Take him and crucify him yourselves, since I find no grounds for charging him.” (John 19:6)
Their answer came quickly:
Under Jewish law, Jesus ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.
I have never felt fear like I did in that moment.
Who was this man?
I needed to speak to him some more.
Find out the truth before I made a big mistake.
“Where are you from?” I asked but, again, he was silent.
“Don’t you know that I have the authority to release you and the authority to crucify you?” I asked, trying to get him to see the severity of the situation. Still, he remained calm:
“You would have no authority over me at all if it hadn’t been given you from above.”
Despite being Roman Governor, I have never felt more powerless.
What if He did hold all authority?
Once more, I attempted to release him, but the religious leaders retorted that if I released Jesus, I was rebelling against Caesar.
I tried to think, but the noise was relentless.
The fear of people was overwhelming.
The churning inside was unyielding.
“Crucify him! Crucify him!”, the crowd chanted over and over again.
Before long, I would have a riot.
I was torn. I truly believed the man was innocent, but the crowd were so angry, I didn’t know what to do.
Eventually, I called for a bowl of water and I washed my hands.
If he was going to die, they could take the responsibility.
This man’s blood would not be on my hands!
They agreed readily, so I handed Jesus over to be flogged and then crucified.
The decision was made, but I felt uneasy… I still do.
I suppose it’s guilt. I believed he was innocent, yet I let him die.
I wish I had been stronger, but it’s too late now. He’s dead.
It all happened quickly in the end. The Jews were keen for it to be over before the Sabbath, so they asked permission to break the legs of the men being crucified to hasten their deaths. I agreed, but when it came to Jesus there was no need.
He was dead already.
Some friends came and asked if they could bury his body and they placed it in a tomb, sealing the entrance with a stone.
Now it is truly over, but this is one trial that will continue to haunt me.
I’m not happy about the decision I made, and I feel unsettled.
Somehow, I just can’t shake the feeling I haven’t heard the last of this man, Jesus.
Like Pilate, we all have times when we must choose between loyalty to God and pleasing people. James writes that “whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.” (James 4:4) May Pilate’s story motivate us to choose well.
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