The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved: Part 3
The Sanhedrin couldn’t risk entering Pilate the Gentile’s praetorium and becoming defiled on the Passover weekend, so as the sun rose over Jerusalem, they congregated outside the front gate, the first layer of a densely packed, clamoring mob. I was in the thick of it, bruised and weary from all the jostling.
I wondered where James and others were now. Part of me resented them for deserting Jesus–and me–but the other part couldn’t blame them. After all, I shared their fear. But I also harbored a greater one–that our Lord would die alone and friendless.
It must have been an hour or two past dawn when the trial began. I couldn’t see a thing, but I heard a voice ring out with authority that could only have been Roman. “What charge do you bring against this Man?”
“If He were not a criminal, we would not have handed Him over to you,”Caiaphas called out in reply–his voice was unmistakable after the long night I had just endured. “We found this man misleading our people; He opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that He is the Messiah, a king.”
I bristled at the blatant lie, but Pilate’s voice sounded curiously indifferent. “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your law.”
The dismissal elicited angry complaints. “We do not have the right to execute anyone!”
If Pilate was still talking, I couldn’t hear him, much less Jesus. I waited impatiently until the Sanhedrin started to complain again. “He is inciting the people with His teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where He began even to here.”
Thus the trial dragged on. Though my view was still hopelessly obscured, I gathered from surrounding reactions that Pilate was alternating between retreating back into the praetorium to question Jesus and arguing with the Sanhedrin outside. He also had Jesus sent to Herod. The sun was climbing high in the sky by the time Pilate emerged once more–or so I judged from the stir in the getting agitated crowd–to deliver his verdict.
“I find no guilt in Him,” he declared. “But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
I gasped, hope surging through me for the first time, only to plummet at the boos emanating from the crowd. Voices began to call out, “Not this one but Barabbas!” I recognized the name as a man imprisoned for murder and rebellion.
Pilate sounded perplexed. “Then what do you want me to do with the Man you call the King of the Jews?”
The worst shout I ever heard swelled and split the air with a crash.“Crucify Him!”
“Why? What evil has He done?”
The shouts only escalated in intensity. “CRUCIFY HIM!”
When the bedlam died down, Pilate asked once again, “What evil has this Man done? I find Him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have Him flogged and then release him.”
After that, I heard nothing more. Wiping nervous sweat from my face, I waited with bated breath, cringing at the assault of profanity and jeers surrounding me. How could this be happening? I was a fisherman, used to spending quiet days on the Sea of Galilee with my brother and father. How had I ended up here, in this mad city at the maddest time of the year, hearing a crowd shout for the blood of the one whom I followed and loved? Less than a week ago, Jerusalem had welcomed Jesus as king, laying down a path of palm branches. Had I been hallucinating then, or was I hallucinating now?
The crowd emitted an overwhelming roar. Feeling a stab of terror, I charged through the human barrier, clawing men aside and ramming my way through. I reached the fringe just as Pilate was stepping into view. “Look,” he declared, acting quite sure of himself. “I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” Turning to the doorway, he signaled a guard. “Behold, the Man!”
I stopped short as if paralyzed. For the first time since last night in Caiaphas’ courtyard, I saw Jesus. Flanked by two guards, He stood there, wrapped in a purple cloak and crowned with a tangled mass of thorns. His dripping blood pooled on the floor.
I staggered back, my heart in my mouth. But the mob reacted like a single entity, a wild beast mad with the smell of blood. “Crucify Him! CRUCIFY HIM!”
“Take Him yourselves and crucify Him,” Pilate declared. “I find no guilt in Him.”
The retort from the Sanhedrin was instantaneous. “We have a law, and according to that law He ought to die because He made himself the Son of God.”
Pilate didn’t give up. He may have been oblivious to the cruelty Jesus had already undergone on his account, but he was determined to let Him go free. He made another attempt at protest, but the mob cried out, “If you release Him, you are not a friend of Caesar! Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar! Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Something snapped within me. I suddenly realized that I was screaming in sheer desperation, but my voice was ripped from my mouth, lost and futile in the pandemonium.
Pilate wiped a weary hand across his brow. “Shall I crucify your king?”
“We have no king but Caesar!” was his only answer.
He then signaled a servant who produced a towel and bowl of water. After washing his hands, Pilate stood up again. “I am innocent of this Man’s blood,” he declared in disgust. “Look to it yourselves.”
“His blood be upon us and our children,” the Sanhedrin responded.“Crucify Him!”
There wasn’t a single shred of humanity left in these people. The shouts brutally echoed in my head, over and over, each one hitting with the staggering weight of a millstone. I felt the world crumbling around me.
To Be Continued…
By Ellen Virginia