What Pilate Said One Night

by: Frederick Speakman

(This is an imaginary conversation between Pontius Pilate and his servant Giaus, after he had spelled the death sentence for Christ.)

"It suddenly closed in on me Giaus, the impact of how trapped I was. The proud arm of Rome with all its boast of justice was to be but a dirty dagger in the pudgy hands of the priest. I was waiting in the room for him, Giaus, that I used for court, officially enthroned with cloak and guard when they let him in. Well Giaus, don't smile at this as you value your jaw, but I've had no peace since the day he walked into my judgment hall. It has been years, Giaus, but these scenes I read from the back of my eyelids every night. You've seen Caesar when he was young inspect the Legion; his arrogant manner was childlike compared to the manner of this Nazarene. He didn't have to strut, you see. He walked towards my throne, arms bound, with the strident mastery and control, that by its very audacity silenced the room for an instant and left me with a trembling and an insane desire to stand up and salute. The clerk began reading the absurd list of charges. The priestly delegation punctuating these with the palm rubbings, the beard strokings, the eye rollings and the pious gutturals I had learned to ignore. But I more felt it Giaus, than heard it. I questioned him mechanically, he answered very little. But what he said and the way he said it, it was as if his level gaze had pulled my naked soul right up into my eyes and was probing it there. And a voice kept saying in my ears, "Why? You're on trial Pilate and that the man wasn't even listening to the charges" You'd have sworn he just come in out with a friendly interest to see what was going to happen to me. And the very pressure of his standing there had grown unbearable Giaus, when a slave rushed in, all a tremble, interrupting court bringing a message from my wife Claudia. She had stabbed of the stylus in the childish way that she has when she is distraught, “Don't judge this amazing man Pilate”, she wrote, “I was haunted in dreams by him this night.” Giaus, I tried to free him, from that moment on I tried and I'll always think he knew it. I declared him out of my jurisdiction being a Galilean. But the native King Herod discovered that He was born in Judea and sent him right back to me. I then appealed to crowd that had gathered in the streets hoping they were his sympathizers. But Caiphas had stationed agitators to whip up the beast that cry blood. And you know how any citizen here loves just after breakfast to cry for another’s blood. I had him beaten Giaus. A thorough barracks room beating. I’m really still not sure why. To appease to crowd I guess. But do we Romans really need a reason for beatings. That's the code isn't it for anything we don't understand? Giaus, it didn't work. The crowd roared like some slavering beast when I brought him back. If only you could have watched him Giaus, they have thrown some rags of mocked purple over his pulped and bleeding shoulders, they have jammed chaplet of thorns down in his forehead. It fitted, Giaus, it all fitted. He stood there; watching them from my balcony flamed from weakness by now but royal I tell you. Not just pain but pity shining from him eyes. And I kept thinking, this is somehow all monstrous, upside down. That purple is real, that crown is real, and somehow this animal noise the crowd is shrieking should be praise. And then Caiphas played his master stroke on me. He announced there in public that this Jesus claimed a crown and this was treason to Ceasar. And the guards began to glance at one another quickly. And that mob of spineless filth began to shout, "Hail Caesar! Hail Caesar!” And I know right then I was beaten and that's when I gave the order. Giaus, I couldn't look at him. Then I did a childish thing, I called for water and there on the balcony I washed my hands of that whole affair. Giaus, as they lead him away, I did look up and he turned, and looked at me, no smile, no pity. He just glanced at my hands. And I feel the weight of his eyes on them from now on. But you're yawning Giaus, I've kept you up. And the fact of the matter is, you're in need of rest in some holidays. Claudia would be asleep by now. Rolls of lighted lamps lying her couch. She can't sleep in the dark anymore, not since that afternoon. You see Giaus, the sun went down when my guards executed him. Yes, that's what I said. I don't know how or what. I only know I was there. And thougth it was the middle of the day, it turn as black as the tunnels of hell in that miserable city. While I tried to compose Claudia, and explain how I'd been trapped. And she railed at me with her dream. She's had that dream ever since. And she sleeps in the dark. Some form of it. That there was to be a new Caesar and that I killed him Oh we've been to Egypt to their seers and magicians. We've listen by the hours to the oracles of the musky temples of Greece chattering there inanities. We call it an oriental curse that we're under in. We tried to break a thousand ways but there is no breaking it. But do you know why I keep going on Giaus? Deeper than the curse is the haunting, driving certainty that he's still somewhere near. That I have an unfinished business with him. And now then, as I walk by the lake he's following me. And much as that strikes terror the only hope.
You see Giaus, if I could walk up to him and this time salute. And tell him, "I know now. Who ever he is? He was the only man worth the
whole Judea that day. I know I was entrapped. That I trapped myself. Tell him, here's one Roman who really wishes he were Caesar. I believe that would do it. Don't you think so? I believe he would listen and believe that I meant it. And at last see him smile.
It's quite tonight. A breeze stirring by the lake.
Good night! You better run along. No! No! I think, will you waken my slave outside the door? At tell him to bring me a cloak. My heavy one please. I'll walk by the lake. Yes it's dark out there Giaus but I won't be alone. I guess I never really have been alone.
Yes, goodnight Giaus."



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