The trial, according to Pontius Pilate
The masses of the Jews, their passion whipped up by the political and priestly establishments working in collaborative hatefulness, vociferously demanded the crucifixion of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The priests and political circles believed that the Teaching of the Lord was undermining their power and influence.
The priestly circles found themselves exposed that they had been spreading false teachings. Even where they got the words correct but the interpretation wrong, the Lord Christ brought to light, freshness, and vitality into what they had had in their hands. The political authority and the masses had a different expectation of the Promised Messiah that would arise in Israel. The prophesied stupendous Light-happening was dragged down, interpreted as earthly freedom from Rome.
According to their expectation, the Messiah was one who would lead them to battle and free them from foreign Roman rule and yoke. The Lord Christ would have nothing to do with war or national pride. What He brought to mankind were love and peace. He sought to draw the attention of mankind to the danger of living in their wrong ways and free them from faults and weaknesses which constitute barriers to ascent to Paradise. Once mankind was liberated from sins through heeding the Will of His Father, peace would ensue.
His Words: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7, 21). The will of the Highest is expressed in the self-enforcing Laws of Creation also called Divine Laws. The teachings resonated well with His audience. The listeners were seized by the primordial wisdom in His utterances. People massed around him continually. A great many out of surprise, and unbelievability over what they heard, mixed with scorn exclaimed: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” (Matthew 6, 3).
The flocking was felt to constitute a threat capable of undermining the hold of the political leaders on the people. At first, on one occasion when the authorities wanted to arrest Him, the crowd demonstrated resistance and a readiness to defend Him. The minions of darkness went away disappointed seething with rage. But they would not give up. All manner of falsehood and intrigues was procured to entrap the One, a Part out of God. Resistant movements were formed to drive the realisation of their prophesied God’s Kingdom and freedom from the Roman oppressive dominion which even entailed paying tax to Rome.
Now enter Pontius Pilate, the third Governor in Judea. He was appointed by the leader of the Roman Emperor’s guards, Sejanus, who himself had come to the office, appointed by the emperor, Tiberius, the adopted son of Emperor Augustus who died in 14 AD. Pontius Pilate came into office in a time of crisis. In his first encounter with the Envoy of God, he was overwhelmed by the sheer personality of Jesus. He narrated it in his letter to Emperor Tiberius as follows: “He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance.” Pilate found no fault in Him and would have no hand in the death of an innocent man. His account of the trial of the Son of God runs thus, as they say, from the horse’s mouth:
“Noble Sovereign, Greetings…
“The great feast of the Jews was approaching, and the intention was to avail themselves of the popular exultation which always manifests itself at the solemnities of a Passover. The city was overflowing with a tumultuous populace, clamoring for the death of the Nazarene. My emissaries informed me that the treasure of the temple had been employed in bribing the people. The danger was pressing. A Roman centurion had been insulted. I wrote to the prefect of Syria for a hundred-foot-soldiers and as many cavalry. He declined.
“I saw myself alone with a handful of veterans in the midst of a rebellious city, too weak to suppress an uprising, and having no choice left but to tolerate it. They had seized upon Jesus, and the seditious rabble, although they had nothing to fear from the praetorium, believing, as their leaders had told them, that I winked at their sedition—continued vociferating: ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’
“Three powerful parties had combined together at the time against Jesus: First, the Herodians and the Sadducees, whose seditious conduct seemed to have proceeded from double motives: they hated the Nazarene and were impatient of the Roman Yoke. They never forgave me for having entered the holy city with banners that bore the image the Roman emperor, and although in this instance I had committed a fatal error, yet the sacrilege did not appear less heinous in their eyes. Another grievance also rankled in their bosoms. I had proposed to employ a part of the treasure of the temple in erecting edifices for public use. My proposal was scorned.
“The Pharisees were the avowed enemies of Jesus. They cared not for the government. They bore with bitterness the severe reprimands which the Nazarene for three years had been continually giving them wherever he went. Timid and too weak to act by themselves, they had embraced the quarrels of the Herodians and the Sadducees. Besides these three parties, I had had to contend against the reckless and profligate populace, always ready to join sedition and to profit from the disorder and confusion that resulted therefrom.
Jesus was dragged before the High Priest and condemned to death. It was then that the high priest Caiaphas performed a diversionary act of submission. He sent his prisoner to me to confirm his condemnation and secure his execution. I answered him that, as Jesus was a Galilean, the affair came under Herod’s jurisdiction, and ordered Him to be sent thither. The wily retrarch professed humility, and, protesting his deference to the lieutenant of Caesar, he committed the fate of the man to my hands. Soon my palace assumed the aspect of a besieged citadel. Every moment increased the number of malcontents. Jerusalem was inundated with crowds from the mountains of Nazareth. All Judea appeared to be pouring into the city.
“I had taken a wife from among the Gauls, who pretended to see into futurity. Weeping and throwing herself at my feet, she said to me: ‘Beware, beware, and touch not that man: for He is Holy. Last night I saw Him in a vision. He was walking on the waters; he was flying on the wings of the wind. He spoke to the tempest and to the fishes of the lake; all were obedient to Him. Behold, the torrent in Mount Kedron flows with blood, the statues of Caesar are filled with genocide; the columns of the interim have given way, and the sun is veiled in mourning like a vestal in the tomb. Ah, Pilate, evil awaits thee. If though wilt does not listen to the vows of thy wife, dread the curses of a Roman senate, dread the frowns of Caesar.’
“By this time the marble stair groaned under the weight of the multitude. The Nazarene was brought back to me. I proceeded to the halls of justice, followed by my guard, and asked the people in a severe tone what they demanded.
“’The death of the Nazarene’ was the reply.
“For what crime?
“’He has blasphemed; He has prophesied the ruin of the temple; He calls Himself the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of the Jews.’
“’Roman justice,’ said I, ‘punishes not such offences with death.’
“’Crucify Him! Crucify Him’ cried the relentless rabble. The vociferations of the infuriated mob shook the palace to its foundations.
“There was but one who appeared to be calm in the midst of the vast multitude: it was the Nazarene. After many fruitless attempts to protect Him from the fury of His merciless prosecutors, I adopted a measure which at the moment appeared to me to be the only one that could save His life. I promised, as it was the custom to deliver a prisoner on such occasions, to release Jesus and let Him go free, that He might be the scapegoat, as they called; but they said Jesus must be crucified.
“I then spoke to them of the inconsistency of their course as being incompatible with their laws, showing that no criminal judge could pass judgment on a criminal unless he had fasted one whole day; and the sentence must have the consent of the Sanhedrin, and the signature of the president of that court; that no criminal could be executed on the same day his sentence was fixed, and the next day, on the day of his execution, the Sanhedrin was required to review the whole proceeding; also, according to their law, a man was stationed a short way off on horseback to cry the name of the criminal and his crime, and the names of his witnesses, and to know if anyone would testify in his favour, and the prisoner on the way to his execution had the right to turn back three times and to plead any new thing in his favour. I urged all these pleas, hoping they might awe them into subjection; but they still cried, ‘ucify Him! Crucify Him!’
“I then ordered Jesus to be scourged, hoping this might satisfy them; but it only increased their fury. I then called for a basin, and washed my hands in the presence of the clamorous multitude, thus testifying that in my judgment Jesus of Nazareth had done nothing deserving of death; but in vain. It was his life these wretches thirsted for.
“Often in our civil commotions have I witnessed the furious anger of the multitude, but nothing could be compared to what I witnessed on this occasion. It might have been truly said that all the phantoms of the infernal regions had assembled at Jerusalem. The crowd appeared not to walk, but to be borne off and whirled as a vortex, rolling along in living waves from the portals of the praetorium even unto Mount Zion, with shrieks, and vociferations such as were never heard in the seditions of the Pannonia, or in the tumults of the forum.
“By degrees the day darkened like a winter’s twilight, such as had been at the death of Caesar. It is likewise the Ides of March. I, the continued governor of a rebellious province, was leaning against a column of my basilica, contemplating athwart the dreary gloom these fiends of Tartarus dragging to execution the innocent Nazarene. All around me was deserted. Jerusalem had vomited forth her indwellers through the funeral gate that leads to Gemonica. An air of desolation and sadness enveloped me. My guards had joined the cavalry, and the centurion, with a display of power, was endeavouring to keep order. I was left alone, and my breaking heart admonished me that what was passing at the moment appertained rather to the history of the gods than that of men. A loud clamour was heard proceeding from Golgotha, which borne on the winds, seemed to announce an agony such as was never heard by mortal ears. Dark clouds lowered over the pinnacle of the temple, and setting over the city covered it with a veil. So dreadful were the signs that men saw in both heavens and on the earth that Dionysius the Aeropagite is reported to have exclaimed, ‘Either the author of nature is suffering or the universe is falling apart.’
“Whilst these appalling scenes of nature were transpiring, there was a dreadful earthquake in lower Egypt, which filled everybody with fear, and scared the superstitious Jews almost to death. It is said Balthasar, an aged and learned Jew of Antioch, was found dead after the excitement was over. Whether he died from alarm or grief is not known. He was a strong friend of the Nazarene.
“Near the first hour of the night, I threw my mantle around me and went down into the city toward the gate of Golgotha, The sacrifice was consummated. The crowd was returning home, still agitated, it is true, but glooming, taciturn, and desperate. What they had witnessed had stricken them with terror and remorse. I also saw my little Roman cohort pass by mournfully, the standard-bearer having veiled his eagle in token of grief, and I overheard some of the Jewish soldiers murmuring strange words, which I did not understand. Others were recounting miracles very like those which have so often smitten the Romans by the will of gods. Sometimes, groups of men and women would halt, then, looking back toward Mount Calvary would remain motionless in expectation of witnessing some new prodigy.
“I returned to the praetorium, sad and pensive. On ascending the stairs, the steps of which were still blood-stained with the blood of the Nazarene, I perceived an old man in a suppliant posture, and behind him several Romans in tears. He threw himself at my feet and wept most bitterly. It is painful to see an old man weep, and my heart is already overcharged with grief, we, though strangers, wept together. I never witnessed such an extreme revulsion of feeling. Those who betrayed and sold Him, those who testified against Him, those who cried, ‘Crucify Him, we have His blood,’ all slunk off like cowardly curs, and washed their teeth with vinegar. As I am told that Jesus taught a resurrection after death, if such should be the fact, I am sure it commenced in this vast crowd.
“Father’, said I to him after gaining control of my feelings, ‘who are you, and what is your request?’
“’I am Joseph of Arimathea,’ replied he, ‘and am come to beg of you upon my knees the permission to bury Jesus of Nazareth.’
“’Your prayer is granted’, said I to him’; and at the same time I ordered Manlius to take some soldiers with him to superintend the interment, lest it should be profaned.’
“A few days after, the sepulcher was found empty. His disciples proclaimed all over the country that Jesus had risen from the dead, as he had foretold. This created more excitement even than the crucifixion. As for its truth, I cannot say for certain, but I have made some investigation of the matter.
“Joseph buried Jesus in his own tomb. Whether he contemplated his resurrection or calculated to cut him another, I cannot tell. The day after he was buried (i.e. Saturday) one of the priests came to the praetorium and said they were apprehensive that his disciples intended to steal the body of Jesus and hide it, and then make it appear he had risen from the dead, as he had foretold, and of which they were perfectly convinced. I sent him to the captain of the royal guard (Malcus) to tell him to take Jewish soldiers, place as many around the sepulchre as were needed; then if anything should happen, they could blame themselves, and not the Romans.
“When the great excitement arose about the sepulcher being found empty, I felt a deeper solicitude than ever. I sent Malcus, who said he had placed his lieutenant, Ben Isham, with 100 soldiers, around the sepulchre. He told me that Isham and the soldiers were very much alarmed at what had occurred there that morning. I sent for this man, Isham, who related to me, as near as I can recollect the following circumstances: He said that about the beginning of the fourth watch they saw a soft and beautiful light over the sepulchre. He at first thought that the women had come to embalm the body of Jesus, as was their custom, but he could not see how they had gotten through the guards. While these thoughts were passing through his mind, behold the whole place was lighted up, and there seemed to be crowds of the dead in their grave-clothes. All seemed to be shouting and filled with ecstasy, while all around and above was the most beautiful music he had ever heard, and the whole air seemed to be full of voices praising God. At this time there seemed to be a reeling and swimming of the earth so that he turned so sick and faint that he could not stand on his feet. He said the earth seemed to swim under him, and his senses left him so that he knew not what did occur. I asked him in what condition he was when he came to himself. He said he was lying on the ground with his face down.
“I asked him if he had been questioned by the priests. He said they had. They wanted him to say it was an earthquake, and that they were asleep, and offered him money to say that the disciples came and stole Jesus, but he saw no disciples; he did not know that the body was gone until he was told. I asked him what the private opinion of those priests he conversed with was. He said that some of them thought that Jesus was no man, that he was not a human being, that He was not the son of Mary; that he was not the same that was said to be born of the virgin in Bethlehem, that the same persons had been on earth before with Abraham and Lot, and many times and places.
“It seems to me that, if the Jewish theory be true, these conclusions are correct, for they are in accord with this man’s life, as is known and testified by both friends and foes, for the elements were no more in His hands than the clay in the hands of the potter. He could convert water into wine; he could change death into life, disease into health, He could calm the seas, still, the storms, call up fish with a silver coin in its mouth. Now, I say He could do all these things that created this enmity against Him—He was not charged with criminal offences, nor was he charged with violating any law. Nor of wronging any individual in person, and all these facts are known to thousands, as well by His foes as by His enemies—I am almost ready to say, as did Manilus at the cross, “Truly, this was the Son of God.’
“Now noble Sovereign, this is as near the facts in this case as I can arrive at, and I have taken pains to make the statement very full, so that you may judge of my conduct upon the whole, as I hear that Antipater has said many hard things of me in this matter.
“With the promise of faithfulness and good wishes to my noble Sovereign.
“I am your most obedient servant,
From the foregoing, it can be clearly seen, in Easter Reflections as I have, that mankind did not recognise Jesus as the Messiah and Lord, they rejected Him, A Part of God, and dared to kill Him like a common criminal—a dastardly murder!!
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