I am in Pilate’s court and the newly-tortured Jesus has been brought back before the Roman governor. Pilate’s court is large and very clean, compared to the rest of the city. He appears to me to be rather young, older than Jesus, but filled with energy. It shows in the way he sits, stands, stares at Jesus and barks orders at his servants and guards.
He is sitting upon a chair. It is hardly a throne but I am given to understand it is from this place that Pilate rules - trying to keep peace among the ever-garrulous Jews. When he sees Jesus returned to him after the scourging, his eyes, and a momentary flexing of facial muscles, give away his immediate reaction of revulsion at the site of the mutilated man. His eyes see an inevitable trail of blood wherever Jesus moves, and Pilate would like this blood, this evidence, instantly cleaned up.
But he is silent, realizing that until he has gotten rid of this prisoner in one way or the other, there will be blood on the floor. Wearily, sighing deeply, he gestures for Our Lord to come closer.
By His Will Jesus takes the required steps under His own power, and meekly, yet m majestically, before Pilate.
Pilate, shorter than our Lord, average in build, comes forward to be closer to the victim. "Who are You?" he whispers, half in awe, half in scorn. Pilate is clearly uneasy. A part of him, conscience-soul, recognizes that this is no ordinary man. But, he is wary! He has his job, and there is no real security with Rome’s emperor if the empire has any trouble spots.
Palestine has always been a thorn in Rome’s side, and Pilate must fight an internal battle because before him is a Jew, a Jew obviously hated by the Jews. Yet he, Pilate, sees something in this presence, and he cannot bring himself to believe that this Jew not only commands, but also deserves respect! An unthinkable thought for a Roman. And Pilate paces, careful to keep a distance so his own sandals do not touch upon any of the blood which continually drips on the floor.
"They," sneers Pilate as he gestures out beyond the long portico where the scribes, Pharisees and elders still await final judgment, (behind these Temple leaders a vast crowd has gathered) "have accused you of many things. Yet you make no answer?" A rhetorical question. Pilate is perplexed.
In this moment I see again the demons of hell all around the large outer area beyond the portico of Pilate’s palace. They swarm by the thousands and their high-pitched screams which impart no human words, but which do register in their minds as agitation, and they grow restless. A murmur that grows into a rolling wave of hatred, trying to push into and against Jesus and Pilate.
Jesus remains motionless. Pilate seems unnerved. A servant comes rushing in with a scroll for Pilate. Pilate is irritated. Yet, the interruption postpones the decision he must make. He takes the scroll and the ring which the servant also gives him, and returns to the judgment seat. Opening the scroll, Pilate reads. Pauses. Rereads.
"By the gods of Olympus, I do not understand!" he mutters, looking to his right where a long corridor leads into the residence quarters of the palace. I follow his own gaze and see, just beyond the doorway, crouched against a pillar, a woman, tall, slender, beautiful, but obviously frightened. I am given to understand this is Pilate’s wife. As she catches her husband’s look she nods affirmatively to him, and then her eyes dart to the prisoner, who has only remained in a bowed position of excruciating pain.
Pilate crumbles the scroll and rises. He goes directly to Jesus and, being of shorter stature, stares up into His eyes. They are swollen, filled with fever, sweat and blood. But - they are the eyes of the Son of God.
"Answer me! Art thou the King of the Jews?"
For the first time Jesus opens His mouth. His lips are swollen, cracked, bleeding, yet His answer, spoken directly to Pilate’s heart, contains all the truth, the Divine Will.
"Thou sayest it!" NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part two of Lesson 13: THE JUDGMENT BY PILATE