PONTIUS PILATE'S OWN STORY
You have heard from many interpreters
and commentators about me and the crucial
decision I made, which has taken place
in the annals of man's tumultuous history. Allow me to tell my side of the story, emanating
from first-hand encounter.
The high priests and the rest
of the religious establishment, thoroughly
skilled in manipulating the masses, brought
him before me with the resolute indictment
that he had claimed to be God's Son.
Having blasphemed he deserved death.
Let me begin my narration by
telling who I am.
During the years of 26-36, in future
to be universally referred to as Anno
Domini I was the fifth procurator of Judea,
Samaria and part of Idumea. My responsibility was to retain peace in these regions which were
under the direct control of the emperor.
My procuratorship was concurrent
to a very turbulent period in the history
of the Jews.
And indeed it ushered the culmination
Having been born of Roman nobility,
I enjoyed the confidence of the Augustus. My authority on military, civil and judicial affairs was absolute.
Many in Rome envied my position.
If you ask me my governmental style,
it had the reputation of being severe.
I must confess meanness was one
of my personality traits. Whenever my wily performances come to mind I
On one occasion I was highly
infuriated with some Jews who were sacrificing
animals while celebrating a feast.
I had a number of them arrested
My ferocity knew no bounds: I gave
the order that their blood be mingled
with that of their sacrifices.
Any death verdict passed by the
Jewish Sanhedrin required my confirmation;
a privilege I enjoyed.
My residence was at the palace
of Herod in Caesarea.
During the Jewish feasts I moved
to Jerusalem to prevent any possible turmoil
caused by Jewish extremists.
The rise of numerous messiahs was
a propensity among these people.
Eventually they were attested to
be false. I had to deal with several such exigencies. Little did I realise the forthcoming messianic
The clamorous event in the
crux of history, to shape the rest of
times occurred during my tenure. I was aware of having before me a salient trial,
however not in the proportion of what
it turned out to be. At the time I envisaged that the controversial
nature of the case might have serious
This unusual person was dragged
before me in Jerusalem as being an active
revolutionary, perverting the nation,
forbidding people to pay taxes to Caesar
and saying he was the Messiah, a king.
He was stirring up the people.
Besides the religious assumptions,
the political implications of such amplitude
baffled me. I was pressed to pronounce judgment on matters
of both earth and heaven.
Immediately I sensed the burden
of an undertaking far beyond my capability. Until this hour I had handled religious quandaries from a strictly
My experience in dealing with supernatural
matters was negligible. My impulse led me to ask him, "From where are you?"
To my dismay there was no response.
The thought flashed through my
mind, "Could he really be the Son
of God, as the Jews were furiously accusing
him of pretending to be?"
It should have registered in my
evaluation that he actually was from above,
while the rest of us were the worms of
I carefully examined his whole
life and demeanor without finding a single
case of any contravention.
He had violated no article of the
law which I was appointed to uphold. They carried him to me for trial, but in a few moments I was transformed
from ruler and judge into a miserable
captive. The detained person arrested my deliberation.
His accusers must have had mixed
But they had cast the die and were
dragging me with them.
When I asked, "What accusation
do you bring against this man?" their
petulant reply betrayed extreme hatred
and prejudice, "If this man were
not an evil-doer, we would not have handed
Could it be that, after all, we
were the evil-doers, whereas he was faultless,
guiltless and sinless?
I was sitting on the judge's bench
in Gabbatha, known as the BYMA. In actuality my place was his, from where he could accurately judge
all of us.
Annas, Caiaphas and other priests
had not a spark of humanity in their souls. They were merciless, pitiless and by all accounts whitewashed captives.
The perfect man who was in total
command was engulfed by a company of iron-hearted
entities. The flames of hatred and hell were spreading
ferociously in all Jerusalem.
And I, the judge and ruler, was
selling truth, honor and justice.
Until then, both people and
rulers were afraid of my iron fist.
I could insult, intimidate or hold
any of them in contempt. I did not bow to any person's whim. But what could be wrong on this occasion?
I was helpless, swayed by their
Why couldn't I exert my widely
"He stirs up the people
from Galilee even to this place!"
was their persistent cry. Couldn't I have used my muscle and reprimand
them, It is you, senseless bigots, stirring
up this ugly mob!" And with this rap throw them out of the Praetorium?
That moment I sought an appraisal
of mob mentality.
What is a mob in reality?
I would say many heads without
Their fears are manipulated and
weaknesses exploited by nefarious agitators
who get them to do their job.
Looking at the irrationality
of the whole process, I tried to pacify
the mob. I was quite skilled in this technique. Once, when our emblem of worship ensigns of the Roman eagle aroused
the wrath of the Jews, I tactfully withdrew
them. And how successful I was! But this time the mob was beyond managing.
I was being manipulated by a shrewd
crowd whom I was expected to govern.
I put politic above principle.
Why couldn't I display the
moral stamina and prerogative to become
master of the occasion? Why did I surrender to such a ruthless show?
The fear entered my mind that if
I did not play politics they may stone
him to death! But since the religious establishment insisted on a Roman verdict
I could have very well made that verdict
a timeless act of courage. Instead, I saw the accused person the Master
of the hour.
The rest of us puny beings were
under His silent sway, mortals against
"For this I was born,
and for this I came into the world, he
declared, "to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth
listens to my voice."
I had never encountered such an
assured, composed, persuasive pronouncement.
I expressed the curiosity troubling
the very core of my mind, "What is
truth?" Again, he did not satisfy my query. No response! I should have known then and there that he was the embodiment of
truth, assuredly testifying to the truth,
whereas the rest of us lying rascals were
totally alienated from the requirements
of truth, with no element of truth in
Did I hear correctly?
He once said to his hearers: You
will know the truth, and the truth will
set you free. I wonder if they comprehended it! Obviously I was not a free person, since capitulating
to truth was not one of my concerns. I was yet to discover that truth is eternal, but lie is invented.
As I had heard him put it once,
we all are from our father the devil,
determined to do our father's desires.
The devil was a murderer from the
beginning, and has nothing to do with
truth, because there is no truth in him.
He is a liar and the father of
Rulers of this earth, me included,
are detached from commitment to truth. We can only treat truth with adroit manipulation.
I posed another question to
him; "Are you the king of the Jews?"
He asked me if this was my own
inquiry or if I had heard it from elsewhere.
No, His kingship was not of this
world, as He confirmed in no uncertain
terms. I should have known that I was standing before the King of kings
and Lord of lords, who is to judge the
living and the dead kings, rulers and
didn't I boldly declare, "Woe is
eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
and wait for the consequences?
In my bewilderment I asked,
"What have you done?"
From all that I had heard, he went
about doing good, helping the helpless,
healing the sick and feeding the hungry.
Spiritual and physical goodness.
I thought I held the power to release
him or to crucify him. But how miserably I was mistaken! Here I am, the fallible against the infallible,
a captive to human caprices against him
of perfect composure.
He reminded me that all my
actions and deliberations during that
crucial hour were foreordained from above
I was merely an instrument of a
will other than my own.
I was guilty along with the religious
leaders though in lesser degree for
my part in the execution of the whole
Was I a detail in a pre-planned
I could not conceive the workings
of a sovereign design.
While at a total loss on how
to handle this process, I was informed
that Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee had
also come from Caesarea on the occasion
of the Passover. Jealous of each other
we had been enemies for a long time.
In an attempt to embarrass him,
I decided to pass the onus on to my renowned
He must decide on the verdict of
this case since the accused was a Galilean. The prospect of extricating myself from such
a quandary flashed before me.
Gaining fame at others expense
is part of the game.
But shrewd as he was, Herod
would not submit himself to my scheme.
He evaded his duties by expressing
the desire to witness a miracle. He started asking light questions about the
way he performed signs and how he drew
the crowds. When Herod received no response, his temper flared. He joined the soldiers in a barrage of mockery
To top it off, Herod put on him
a colorful robe such as clowns wear and
sent him back to me.
By this Herod displayed the cynical
mien of those who rule.
Common folk cannot conceive the
I resorted to the convenient
game, if you can't beat him join him,
and became friends with Herod. Our feud turned to truce, at least externally.
I became an accomplice to the tricky
Herod I had once heard described by the
accused in very uncomplimentary language,
What foxes we all are!
Contrariwise, the man Herod had
beheaded introduced the arraigned as,
'The Lamb of God.'
While sitting on the judge's
bench in Gabbatha, word reached me from
Claudia Procula, my wife, "Have nothing
to do with that man.
He is innocent!"
Then she explained a tortuous dream
she had had in the night because of him. The Abyssinian Church in the meantime canonised
her because of this bold stand.
I could not even be as courageous
as a woman! No canonisation for me.
What did I do? I ventured to appease the mob. There was a condemned criminal in bonds, Barabbas
I ordered the soldiers to bring
Placing him next to the innocent
man I shouted, "Which of the two
shall I release to you?"
To my dismay when they responded
with one voice, "Barabbas, Barabbas!"
I lost another ploy.
The verdict of the mob was to nail
the condemned man to an ugly cross invented
by us Romans, standing as a monument of
shame in the annals of capital punishment. What would future generations think about the
In my anxiety, once again I
was led to believe that I could prevent
the infamous crucifixion. Let me flagellate him with extreme rage.
The mob may be appeased with this
Strips of leather with metal and
bone chips attached.
Repeated lashings on the bare body
would rouse anyone's sense of pity. How far removed was I from any perception of
reality, and how inept in decision-making!
After this malicious fustigation
I declared 'ECCE HOMO!' (Here is the man!) I did not realise until that moment the extremity
of man's vindictiveness and blood-thirstiness. No act or reasoning could pacify these delirious
him, crucify him!" was the constant
hateful cry. I was helpless. Deep inside
I lamented, "O wretched man that
I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" He who could have was going to die infamously.
My distress to secure his release
was stretched to its limit, and they knew
it. "If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar!"
At that moment they were dyed-in-the-wool
They wanted to accuse me of treason.
Fear gripped me.
Tiberius the Emperor was a ruler
to be feared.
His cruelty knew no bounds.
I had to retain my reputation before
this the proper resort in politics?
Appeasement is the name of the
Also I was afraid of that fox
Herod, even though our enmity had turned
into a friendship of convenience for a
One could never tell what sort
of strings he was capable of pulling.
I badly wanted to retain my prestigious
well-paying job with its numerous fringe
You can understand the precarious
tight-rope acrobatics of a politician. In addition to those already mentioned, there was fear of the Jewish
Their machinations are beyond grasp.
Here was I in front of a mob
stirred up by politico-religious extremists.
Logic, reason, sensible thinking
were all discarded. In this whole episode there was no person more
miserable than I.
Here was I, the very judge, swimming
all alone in the ocean of irresistible
hatred and determined vindictiveness,
of which the basic elements were enmity
When I proclaimed, "Here
is your king!" they flew into a rage.
Repeated demands for his crucifixion
were resolute. They did not want this king. Their allegiance was to Caesar. Could I change their mind? I employed every scheme I could think of, but
to no avail.
In this depressing quandary of
being left between Scylla and Carybdis
truly a person in the middle I realised
the plight of others like me, seeking
to rule and to succeed at the same time.
My own conscience induced me to
believe in his innocence, but the overpowering
interest of the Empire and the intimidating
authority of the Caesar left me indecisive.
Not once or twice, but three times
I pronounced him innocent.
All to no avail!
I finally passed the notorious
It was neither to be understood
nor accepted. The unbroken acrimonious panorama was beclouded with unending ironies
and in the midst of all I wavered as a
manipulated actor, playing the prime role
in the execution of the innocent.
Resorting to a common practice
of theirs I took some water, washed my
hands and said, "I am innocent of
this man's blood!"
Here was a guiltless person sent
for crucifixion. I committed the greatest of all injustices in
an unjust judicial setup I am told that
a prophet of theirs said, "Justice is turned back, and righteousness
stands a far off" (Isaiah
59:14; Habakkuk 1:4).
They were eager to take the guilt
on themselves, even at the peril of their
What a daring pronouncement, I
With deep pain I released the criminal
Barabbas in keeping with their unflinching
demand, and delivered him for crucifixion.
I washed my hands, but who will
wash my painful heart?
I sacrificed conviction for
concession, credence for convention, and
justice for appeasement. Since I could not determine a sole specific
disorderliness in his life or conduct,
and all their accusations fell flat before
me, I wrote the inscription fitting best
to the occasion: JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS. Deep within I was determined to be candid.
The chief priests again protested
vehemently, insisting on altering this
designation. But, I had enough of their shenanigans. This time I remained adamant. It was my turn to vex them a little.
I followed the progress of
the drama with interest and awe.
I heard he made a few statements
as he hung on the cross. The most amazing of these was his first word: "Father, forgive
What a staggering climax!
In spite of the chain of heinous
injustices, he had malice toward none.
Conversely, he touchingly pled
forgiveness for his tormentors. I cannot think of anyone dying in this manner.
I had heard of people praying
all varieties of prayer, but nothing like
this had ever reached my ears before.
This prayer included me also.
Until then I was quite sure of
myself and my abilities.
We rulers and politicians are convinced
that we know everything and can enlighten
those we govern.
In one stroke he was negating our
Certainly, I was among those who
knew what we were doing in this crucial
case. He prayed that my ignorance and injustice be
Who else could pray such an open
and sincere prayer for me?
How I wished I had appropriated
that earnest intercession made on my behalf
and been affected by its transforming
But I did not respond to it.
I was just one of the many who
would not admit having done wrong, and
After this episode a rumor
reached me: The religious establishment
was offering quite a sum of money to the
soldiers in order to conceal some unheard
of developments about the dead body: If
this comes to the Governors ears well
satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.
These unprincipled men were lying
in dejection and distress.
Indeed, news reached me that the
tomb he was buried in was found empty;
but they had no more nerve to encounter
doubt, the covering up continues.
Such people must always invent
Now, will you cast the stone
of accusation at me?
Let me pose a question:
What would you have done on that
crucial morning if you had been in my
position? What will you do now? The
sad events which were my share constitute
a call and admonition to you to change.
Don't remain in the stubbornness
of your heart and mind.
Don't repeat my transgression and
end the way I did.