Very early this morning, I was awakened by a crowd of Jews. To avoid ceremonial uncleanness, they did not enter the palace, my palace; I am Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor here in Jerusalem. According to custom, the Jews wanted to be able to eat their Passover meal and I guess cavorting with a Roman governor and all that...as they call it...a Gentile...would cause them to become unclean. We all have our customs, so I went out to them.
The chief priests, the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin (in other words all the important leaders) brought this man to me. They accused him of many things: undermining their authority, misleading the people, refusing to pay taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king---blasphemy. They were furious, adamant and demanding. They wanted justice. I looked at this man called Jesus. He appeared to be a calm and gentle man, hardly dangerous. I asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
He replied, "Yes, it is as you say."
They continued their accusations, but this Jesus had no response. He never tried to defend himself. I turned to him and asked, "Aren't you going to answer? Don't you see how many things they are accusing you of?"
To my amazement, he never said a word. I had to hand it to him. I was impressed. So, I told the crowd, "I see no basis for a charge against this man."
But they were insistent. "He stirs up people everywhere he goes. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."
Ah, I thought, here's my out. I discovered that he was actually under Herod's jurisdiction. I could wash my hands of this mess. I sent him to Herod, who just so happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. How convenient! Well, Herod did nothing but mock and ridicule Jesus, dressing him in a fine purple robe. Then he was sent back to me!
Meanwhile, my wife, Claudia had sent me a note through her servant. I glanced at her in the window of her bed chamber and saw desperation in her eyes. The note said that she'd had a dream that this man was innocent and that I should have nothing to do with him. Ah, Claudia, if only you understood politics.
I honestly didn't see what crime this Jesus had done that was so heinous that it would incite the leaders this way. But I knew that these men had much influence over the crowd, and the crowd was becoming more agitated. I felt conflicted. I wanted to shout, "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?"
As if reading my mind, they began to shout to me what they wanted me to do. It was a Jewish custom to release a prison of the peoples' choosing on the Feast, and I gave them a choice: Barrabas, a murderer, or Jesus, an accused blasphemer? "Give us Barrabas!" they shouted. I had a strong inkling that they were influenced by the leaders, but what could I do? I had to give them Barrabas.
"What shall I do, then, with the one you call the King of the Jews?" I asked them.
"Crucify him!" they shouted.
I knew I would get nowhere with these people. If I didn't appease them, I would have an uprising on my hands. As I washed my hands in front of the crowd, I told them, "I am innocent of this man's blood! It's your responsibility."
I released Barrabas to them. I had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified. It seemed a cruel and unfair punishment to me; a desperate attempt to be rid of a man who was turning their beliefs upside down and inside out. And I remembered the note my dear Claudia had sent me. I agreed with her. I believed that he was innocent, but the people had spoken...or shouted. I could not back down. Still... I am innocent of this man's blood.
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