Pontius awoke. He wasn’t in the mood, but there was an important trial occurring today regarding the priests. It was this Jesus man. Putting on his governor robes, he remembered how for the past three years Jesus had been a popular teacher for the people of Judea. It was said that he could heal people and that he was a prophet from their god. Personally, he cared little about this rabbi. All he was here for was to make sure that the people did not rebel.
That difficult balance to keep the peace must have been tripped. According to the reports he received last night, the priests found him to be a traitor to Rome and about to cause a rebellion.
‘I don’t know if I should trust these reports,’ Pilate thought. ‘The Pharisees and other leaders are fanatics who are so power-hungry they’ll condemn anyone that they view as traitorous. It’s them that I think would cause a rebellion.’
The sheets moved around from the bed behind him. Pontius’ wife was waking up.
“Go back to sleep, I have a trial to go to,” Pontius requested.
“Dear, who is being tried so early in the morning?” His wife asked.
“Some Jesus of Nazareth. The people have been calling him a prophet. The priests and other leaders have been calling him a sinner and a traitor.” Pontius’ wife gasped.
“I had a horrible dream about him, Pontius. Don’t lay a hand on that man because he is innocent. Whatever you do don’t condemn him to death.”
Pontius turned to see his wife’s face. The fear in her face convinced him that she knew something about Jesus. It must be true.
“I promise I won’t do anything. I’ll find a way to make sure he is innocent.” Pontius went out the door. His wife curled up, afraid that even Caesar could stop what she saw in her nightmare.
The crowd continued its mocking and loud curses. All had one message: Crucify Jesus. Roman soldiers used their shields to blockade the way to Jesus. If the Jews broke through, they would surely murder Jesus without trial.
Still bound from last night, Jesus dragged his legs over the ground. Even though his bones were intact, the beatings he received made his body ache. Misery filled his mind. Six days had passed since Jesus entered Jerusalem. Since their worshipping him, the Jews slowly went from revering him to cursing him. They had expected him to become their king. When he didn’t, they believed that he wasn’t an incoming king but a traitor. The people had hated Rome before today. Today, Caesar was their king.
While most of the crowd was cursing and jeering at Jesus, in the far back Jesus heard the weeping and sighs of others who still followed him. He knew that they were his disciples and whoever else cared to come.
Another push made him lurch forward. “Move faster, get to Pilate!” A guard growled. Jesus moved as fast as his body could bear. Within a few minutes, they arrived at Pontius Pilate’s court. Inside, Pilate and prosecutors awaited him.
Pontius groaned. He was afraid. All that morning he heard the hissing and curses from the crowd. He did not want to kill Jesus. If there were anything that could prove Jesus’ innocence, he would focus on that. When he saw Jesus come in, he saw that Jesus was already beaten. The priests had treated him cruelly before they had even given him a fair trial. Surely, these charges must be falsified because something the religious leaders had against him. No matter, he must judge Jesus without condemning or releasing him. Pontius’ heart burned to release Jesus, though.
“What charges are you bringing against Jesus of Nazareth?” He asked the prosecutors. To his surprise, the prosecutors seemed stunned by this question, as if they had no charges. They mumbled to each other quietly so Pilate couldn’t hear, and then turned back to the governor.
“Pontius, if he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” This response almost sickened Pontius. Did the prosecutors honestly have no charges on Jesus?
As Pontius was about to release Jesus, he heard the mob outside. If he released Jesus without a full trial, charges or not, the Israelites would be infuriated. They would surely rebel. Thoughts flew quickly through Pilate’s head about the consequences to himself, Judea, and Rome.
Not wanting to risk it but yet wishing to find a way to release Jesus off of his hands, Pontius responded back to the prosecutors, “If you have a problem with this rabbi, it is none of my concern. Go away and judge him by your own law.” Perhaps this way he would get rid of Jesus. Perhaps the leaders of the Sanhedrin would let him go.
“We have no right to execute anyone,” the prosecutors fretted. Pontius sighed. This case would be up to him to judge.
“I see you’re having trouble with remembering your charges. Go away for a while and then come back and give me some decent reasons to try this man.” The prosecutors sheepishly crept away in another part of the room. Jesus stood still, looking down upon the floor.
Secretly, each prosecutor had his own false story to share in court. Taking the words of Jesus incorrectly, some claimed that he opposed taxes to Caesar and claimed to be their Messiah, a king.
Pontius’ mind whirled. How could he escape not punishing this man? He made a promise that he would make sure Jesus was set free. If he had the convict’s blood on his hands, his wife would never forgive him. Thinking hard, he came up with an idea.
“Now, I am not a follower of this Jesus and have no record on what exactly he says. I do know this, though. This man whom you claim defies the taxes imposed by Caesar does not do as he says. Let me ask you a question, did Jesus and his disciples pay the temple tax you all imposed?”
The prosecutors gathered together. Jesus did not look up a minute. Even though Pontius’ actions were well intentioned, they would not stop what was to happen. The prosecutors turned around swallowing hard.
“Yes, he has,” they admitted.
“But you claim he is your and Caesar’s enemy, correct?”
“Yes.” The prosecutors anticipated what Pontius would say.
“It seems, then, that he will pay taxes imposed upon him even when it seems that he is against them. Why would that be true? I know for a fact that this rabbi has paid taxes to Caesar. He certainly cannot have denied that paying taxes to Caesar. As for the second accusation, I’ll allow Jesus to speak for himself.” Pontius looked down at Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” He asked.
Without lifting his head, Jesus replied, “Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?”
Confused by Jesus’ answer but still determined to receive an answer, Pontius answered, “Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done? Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus nodded his head. He looked up and replied, “Then I must answer you about my kingdom. My kingdom that I have is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“Then you are a king!” Pilate exclaimed.
“It is for that reason that I was born. I have come to testify what is the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Pilate snorted abruptly. “What is truth?” When he asked that, he ordered the guards, “Take Jesus outside to the courtyard. Have the Jews come there. I will give my verdict there.” Striding out of the door, Pilate prepared for the curses to come on him.
The prosecutors grimaced. They had failed to try Jesus and give him a sentence of death. They bit their lips and stormed out to join the mob. The guards grabbed Jesus’ arms and walked him out to the forum. Pontius was sitting outside in another bedizened throne. The crowd, upon seeing Jesus, grew louder in their uproars. They cursed Jesus.
“Die, demon of the devil!”
“May your blood spill on Golgotha today!”
Reading himself for the worst, Pontius stood up and held out his hand to silence the mob.
“Upon the evidence brought up in the trial, I find no basis for a charge against Jesus,” Pontius declared. The crowd began to riot. The soldiers moved in so that they could quell this crowd. Pontius saw that he made his verdict too brief. He laid his head on his fist, thinking hard on how to release this innocent priest.
He had to continue to reason with them. “What is there to accuse Jesus on the grounds of death?” He reasoned with the rioters.
The question only made their voices louder. “Crucify him!” They all screamed.
Things were falling apart, the soldiers started to beat back the Jews. In their midst, Jesus saw that Satan was in among them, only driving their fury deeper. If Satan was going to fail, he was determined to make Jesus suffer the punishment that he suffered and mankind should have suffered.
“I will make your heaven like hell, Son of God. I swear that,” Satan promised to Jesus. With that, Satan disappeared among the rioters.
The rioting would not cease. It would not be long before the Jews would overtake the soldiers. It was the brink of war.
“Pontius,” a breathless centurion begged, “the Jews are about to rebel against your rule. You have to do something with Jesus now.”
Persistent to his promise and his belief in Jesus’ innocence, Pilate looked around. Soon, a plausible answer came upon him. A while ago, a man named Barabbas had led a violent rebellion against him and Herod. He was crushed and brought before him. Then he was sentenced for his rebellion. Popular opinion of him had greatly decreased since his imprisonment. Now, since it was the Jews’ tradition on the Passover, he could release one man. Surely they would choose an innocent man over a true traitor of Rome.
Pontius came up to the mob and yelled out, “Since it is your custom that I release one prisoner this time of year, I will give you an option. Do you choose Barabbas or do you choose the king of the Jews?”
Without any thought, the crowd shouted back, “Away with Jesus! Give us Barabbas!”
Pontius was shocked. How much did these people truly hate Jesus? What had Jesus done to them? Pontius turned back to Jesus.
“Where are you from, Jesus?” Pilate asked. Jesus, who stared out over the mob sullenly, didn’t make a single response. A person in the crowd began to throw rocks at the soldiers. The mob would soon break through and surely kill them. Jesus was the only way that he could be release without a rebellion arising. Pontius grabbed Jesus on the shoulder and jerked him to look up.
“Why are you saying nothing? I’ve heard that you are able to calm storms, now calm this mob.” The soldiers backed up as the mob began to push in. Pontius shouted at Jesus, “Say something! Don’t you realize I have the power over your life or death?”
Jesus immediately answered calmly and softly, “You have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Pontius backed away. This was it? Of the wise sayings, Jesus told him this? That he has no power over Jesus? Why did Jesus say that a greater sin was committed? Was Jesus talking about his promise to his wife to not commit a crime against him?
Suddenly, a soldier fell down. The mob was running through! The soldiers were about to slice down on their heads. Pontius stepped away and shouted, “Stop! Jesus will be punished then released. I will have him flogged.” The mob stopped its advance and the soldiers put away their swords. The two groups separated. Two centurions grabbed Jesus and drug him back into the palace. Meanwhile, the lead centurion, Abeldarus, came up to Pontius.
“Governor, you did not specify how many times we would whip the prisoner.”
Pontius turned to Abeldarus. Pointing to the dispersing crowd, who were going to see Jesus’ scourging, Pontius ordered, “Enough times to satisfy them.” Abeldarus nodded his head and went into the palace. Pontius sat on his throne, finally able to breathe. The problem of Jesus’ survival was imminent. Only a few ever survived being flogged. Pontius prayed that Jesus would survive.
Another problem had surfaced too. The Jews were going after Jesus’ death. If the flogging did not satisfy the people, the fate of Jesus was out of his hands. He had lost all power.
Another whip crack ripped through Jesus’ back. The soldiers had lost count to how many times they whipped Jesus. Surely he would be dead if they whipped him much more. It looked as if “much more” would be the only way to satiate the Jews.
Unlike Pontius, the soldiers were more than happy seeing the pain Jesus was going through. Another whip snapped. Another stripe down Jesus’ back. Another cry out for pain. The crowd could not get enough of this torture. Satan had made them thirsty for blood.
Deciding that they didn’t want to whip Jesus anymore, one of the soldiers turned to the other soldier on his right. “He’s had enough scourging. Hold off. Balius, bring in the crown for the mighty ‘king.’” Snickering, Balius walked off. A few others grabbed a stick and one retrieved a violet robe.
Balius returned. The crown was not of jewels and gold, but of thorns. Using two sticks, they slid the thorn crown over Jesus’ head. Blood welled from his head. At this moment, Jesus was hardly able to move. The soldier holding the robe set it nicely around Jesus’ chest. The stick was set in Jesus’ immobile hand.
The soldiers got down on their knees and mock worshipped Jesus as if he were a king. The crowd jeered at Jesus, asking him to prophesy to them. When the soldiers stood up, one grabbed the stick and struck Jesus on the head. As his body hit the ground, the crown of thorns rampaged its way further in Jesus’ skull. Jesus coughed up blood. The crowds cheered more.
The soldiers picked up Jesus in “kingly” uniform and brought him back to Pilate.
Pilate stood up from his seat. Seeing that the soldiers went beyond his orders, he grabbed his lead centurion on the neck.
“I thought I told you to have Jesus whipped, not mocked and treated like you have done.” Pontius’ hand squeezed tightly around Abeldarus’ neck.
Abeldarus wheezed, “If we went any further in scourging Jesus, he would have surely died.” At this realization, Pontius let his centurion go. In dismay, he stared at Jesus. It seemed like nothing would stop the Jews from having their wish granted.
The shouts and curses rang from the courtyard again. Pontius and the soldiers, bringing along Jesus, walked out. The mob had returned, unhappy with Jesus’ survival. Though he saw that all reason was lost, Pontius cried out, “There is no evidence on Jesus being a traitor. He is an innocent man.”
One of the Pharisees, who was there, yelled back, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
Pontius suddenly feared for his life. Would the Jews report this case to Tiberius? If this were to happen, Tiberius would have both he and Jesus killed. Pontius quivered as he thought over the torturous ways the emperor would have them murdered. It would be less painful for Jesus to die, even if on a cross, then both to die.
The words of his wife returned to him. Jesus was innocent. Pontius was a leader and judge, and he would judge based upon fact. The facts were that Jesus was a pure man!
Pontius grabbed Jesus and showed him to the Jews. The people cursed him when they saw him.
“Here is your king,” Pontius called out.
“Crucify him! Take him away!” The people shouted out.
“Do you want your king to die?” Pontius asked the people.
“We have no other king except Caesar!” All of them cried out.
It was all over. If he didn’t sentence Jesus, Tiberius and the Jews would come after him. If he did, he would break a promise and condemn an innocent man. There was only one thing to do.
“Bring me a basin full of water,” he ordered Abelardus. His centurion went and did as he was commanded. Pontius dipped his hands in the cool water. He would have no part in this sin. If the people killed a man, he could at least say that he was out of all of it.
Revealing his clean hands, he cried out to the people, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility!” Pontius threw the basin of water over and spilled it everywhere. Looking at Jesus one last time, Pontius stood in confusion. Jesus did not look like a man who was afraid of death. Jesus looked as if he were ready and planned this very moment. The centurions once more grabbed a hold of Jesus and brought him to the crowd.
The decision was unanimous. Jesus would be crucified.
The cross felt as if it would crush Jesus under its weight. He would have to carry it from where he was to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. Following two other men, Jesus felt the further whips bearing down his back. The crowds laughed and mocked him on one side, but there was mourning behind him. Some women who followed him from Galilee had followed him, crying out begging for him to be saved. Jesus reminded himself that he could only save those women from their sins with his death.
Suddenly, Jesus’ knees buckled. He collapsed to the ground and the cross crushed him underneath. He could no longer carry his burden. The soldiers continuously beat him so that he would get up, but they stopped soon. Realizing that Jesus could not move anymore, they searched through the crowd. One of the soldiers pointed at a man.
“You there, what is your name?” The soldier asked.
The man stuttered, “My name is Simon. I am from Cyrene.” The soldier grabbed Simon’s arm and tossed him onto the road next to Jesus.
“Carry the cross!” Simon was afraid and complied. He had been traveling with his two sons up till then. He prayed that they were safe. The cross was carried swiftly to Golgotha since Simon was stronger and he was not beaten as he walked. The soldiers dragged Jesus along the ground to make their way to the hill.
Simon dropped the cross and walked to his two sons who followed him. The soldiers tossed Jesus in front of his death tree.
“Get on it!” The centurion shouted. Jesus struggled. Slowly, he crawled onto the cross. The centurion noticed that Jesus still had his cloak on. Taking the cloak, the centurion laughed. Others saw the value in the cloak and asked him to divide the garment. Since it could not be torn apart, they cast lots over it.
One soldier who didn’t join in picked up three nails and a mallet.
“I hate this part of my job,” the executioner grumbled. Jesus heard the screams of the other two criminals beside him. They were being nailed onto the cross.
The soldier set Jesus’ hand on the end of one end of the cross. Jesus did not struggle. He was done moving anymore. The hammer was lifted up. It dropped down. Pain surged throughout Jesus’ body. The rusty nail went through his hand. Blood gushed from the wound. The hammer dropped down again. This time the nail went straight through his whole hand.
Jesus looked up and cried out, “Father, forgive them! They do not know what they do!”
The second nail slammed through his hand. Blood rushed out through that way. Soon, it burst through both sides. Now Jesus could no longer move. The last nail was put on the feet. The nail burst through his flesh. Blood poured out. It took five more strikes to get the nail through both feet.
When the nails were put in, the soldiers set Jesus up. They set him in between the criminals. One was on his left and the other was on his right. The crowd mocked Jesus. They were satisfied and enjoyed their time at killing this man in a torturous way.
Some Pharisees laughed, “He saved others. If he is the true Messiah and Son of God, let him come down!” The world suddenly went slowly. Jesus once again felt evil’s strong presence.
“They are right you know,” a sinister hiss pointed out behind him. “You could by your unlimited power rip out the nails and clean your own wounds. Then you can send your angels down and destroy all of your enemies.”
“Satan, leave me,” Jesus begged. Satan did not leave this time so quickly.
“This is your last chance. If you die, your Father will forsake you because you will have the sins of everyone who trusts in you upon yourself. Do you want this to happen?”
“If I am not sacrificed, then the lamb will not give its blood to the world.”
“So you fight for these pitiful, traitorous creatures. It sounds very heroic, but in reality it is pitiful and ridiculous. They will never join you.”
“Do not lie to me, Satan. I know many will join me in paradise. You and death will be defeated.” Satan hissed. This was the reason he was tempting Jesus for the last time. He was nearly on the point of begging Jesus to not die.
“Get behind me Satan,” Jesus whispered. “You have failed.”
Satan yelled, “I will enjoy watching you die, Son of God!” Satan disappeared. He returned to tempting the crowd.
Soon, some quieted down. They saw and gasped as they saw a sign above Jesus. Jesus looked up above him. On the top of his cross were the words in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Jesus knew it had to be from Pontius. The criminal on his left then looked over at Jesus.
“Jesus, if you’re really the Christ, then come down off of the cross and bring us with you,” he demanded. He continued to hurl insults and curses.
Suddenly, the other criminal shouted back, “Do you not fear God? We deserve to be here, but Jesus has done nothing to deserve this.” The criminal on the left turned away and spoke no more. The criminal on Jesus’ right turned painfully towards Jesus and continued, “Jesus, when you get to heaven, can you remember me?”
Jesus turned his head and looked at the man. He was sullen. He feared death greatly, even though he understood the consequences of his actions.
“Do not worry. Today, you will be with me in paradise.” The criminal of his right stopped speaking, but his heart leapt for joy. He had hope filled in him.
Suddenly, it started to rain. Thunderclouds flashed lightning from above. This drove some people away. The Roman soldiers and some in the crowd continued their rant and mocking Jesus. This was the end for Jesus. He was going to die the way of a criminal because of his innocence.
The rain poured harder. The crowd had long stopped mocking Jesus and now waited to watch and see when he would die. The spark of energy they had had worn out long ago. The soldiers stood by the crosses, waiting for them to die.
As for Jesus, he continued to hang there. Occasionally, he would open the wounds even more by pushing himself up so he could breath. It did not matter if he breathed now, though. He had lost most of his blood already. Finding himself gulping for air more continuously now, he braced himself for the end. He looked into the sky.
‘I have done it, Father,’ he prayed. ‘The sins of the world may now be forgiven. It is nearly complete.’ He pushed up and gasped again. ‘May you now glorify me as I have glorified you. Do not hide your face to the world any longer and embrace it. Bring lost souls to the kingdom to be resurrected later.’
Lightning sounded from the air. The wind sped through. Jesus began to shake horribly. He was dying. With the last amount of strength he had, he pushed up and gulped in more air.
“Father, into your arms I commend my spirit,” he shouted. With that, he breathed out and closed his eyes.
Suddenly, the earth shook. The Father had sent an earthquake. The people fled for their lives. The soldiers held as tightly as they could to the rocks around them. A chasm opened its way toward Jerusalem.
Abelardus looked up at Jesus’ cross and stood amazed. The coincidences were too much.
“Surely, this must be the Son of God,” he whispered to himself.
Caiaphas and the other priests stood around the temple. The rain had driven them inside.
“Now he is dead?” Caiaphas asked.
“He most certainly is. We have won, Caiaphas.” The other Pharisees agreed in enjoyment.
“We must not celebrate, gentlemen. After all, if Jesus were not a sinner, he would have been valuable for all of us. He may have even enjoyed high priesthood.” Everyone agreed with Caiaphas’ saying. But now they were done with their nightmare. They had won, so they felt.
As they conversed, a tearing sound from inside the holiest room rang through their ears. Since only Caiaphas could enter, he went quickly and closed the door. Soon, he came back out with his eyes bloodshot and wide open.
“The curtain to the holy of holies has been ripped in half!” Caiaphas exclaimed. “God has separated the barrier between himself and the world!”
The rain stopped. The earthquake had passed. The soldiers were thankful that it did not destroy anything in the city. Now their attention returned to the crosses. Since the Sabbath was coming soon, they agreed to kill the live men. Taking an iron rod, they crushed the legs of the two criminals.
As they came on Jesus, they saw that his eyes were closed and he was not breathing.
“Check and see if he is dead already,” one soldier ordered. Abelardus took his spear and shot it into the side of Jesus. Pulling out the spear, a gush of blood came out. It didn’t last long when water began to pour out of Jesus. Abelardus knew what this meant. Jesus had no more blood left in him when he died.
Jesus’ mother wept as they pulled down Jesus from the cross. John tried to comfort her, but he wept bitterly as well. He thought that Jesus was the Messiah and that he was the priest. Now it looked as if there were no hope left.
Taking the nails by their hands, the soldiers ripped out the iron nails. The holes were visible all the way through. Gently, they lifted off Jesus’ crown of thorns and threw it away with the nails. The women gathered around Jesus’ body and wept.
Meanwhile, a man knocked on the palace door of Pontius Pilate. The governor opened the door, saddened by the loss of the innocent life.
“Who are you?” Pontius asked.
“My name is Joseph. I come from the town of Arimathea. I’d like to see if I can bury Jesus’ body in my tomb.”
Pontius, worn from the stress of that day, nodded his consent and closed the door. Joseph left to retrieve Jesus’ body.
Joseph carefully wrapped Jesus into the burial. The other man diligently poured the myrrh and aloes over Jesus’ body. Joseph looked at the man helping him. Judging by the looks like the man, it seemed that he was a Pharisee who believed in Jesus’ ministry.
“What is your name, sir?” Joseph asked.
The man looked up and sighed. “My name is Nicodemus,” he answered.
“Do you work as a Pharisee?”
Nicodemus remembered his last Sanhedrin meeting a few days ago. “I once was,” he replied. “I do not understand why I should now. None of this makes sense. I thought that Jesus could be the Messiah. The prophets and psalms seemed to point to him, but now he is not alive any longer.”
Joseph stared down at Jesus’ closed eyes. “I do not understand the prophecies myself, but I wonder if somehow this meant something. Maybe his death was essential for our salvation.”
Nicodemus looked at Jesus’ face as well, but felt no more confidence. “I just don’t understand anymore. No one can anymore. Jesus was the world’s last glimmer of rational thinking, but now it is gone from our world. I pray he is with his Father.”
When they put the seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes on Jesus, they wrapped him in linen strips. Next, they took two long linen strips and wrapped them around Jesus.
“He is finished,” Joseph sighed. “Let us bring him to the tomb.” Taking Jesus’ body, they walked their way towards the private tomb of Joseph, now belonging to Jesus.
The funeral procession followed. The disciples, the women, and whoever else truly followed Jesus joined in mourning.
In a few minutes, they laid Jesus in the tomb and rolled a stone in front of it. Two Praetorian guards stood in front at the request of the religious leaders to Pilate. Because the Sabbath was coming, everyone dispersed quickly.
The followers could not understand how this could happen to their rabbi, their son, their brother, their long-awaited Messiah. Now, all was despair.