Summary: In this Narrative monologue in several parts, Pilate writes his report to Rome on the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Interspersed with readings and hymns.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 30min(?)
(Scene: Pilate is sitting at a desk, where he stays throughout the service.)
Confound the man! Confounded me, he did!
What is a ruler to do with such an uprising? With such an upstart!
Here I sit - trying to write - to write a report to Rome concerning the matter of the crucifixion of the Galilean, and the troubles - and the rumors. I hardly know what to say…
I would have thought the mere mention of my name - or at least the authority of Rome - would have quelled the mob, or silenced the man himself.
The mention of my name. Pilate. Pontius Pilate. I wonder how the history books will remember me? I wonder if it will be writ large as it should be - as a man of ambition, decisive action, assertive and in control. Loyal to the Emperor. A man who brought order and stability to this little outpost of the Empire. Goodness know I’ve tried. I never wanted to be here in the first place. But you do what duty requires. Even if it means going to places you never imagined. You put in your time. You climb the ranks. You live or die by your reputation. Your name. My name. it should be trumpeted through the streets of Rome. But will it?
Or will I forever be associated with the carpenter - the outback preacher - the crucified troublemaker - the bewildering poet? For a short time he and I shared a stage on the world’s theatre. High drama it was, too.
Pitting the powerful against the defenseless. The gladiator with no sword against this lion of a procurator. There should have been no contest. No quarter. I should not have given him the time of day. Mars knows I had it in my power to expedite the matter. Be done with it.
Why did I give him a trial? Why indeed? I will be asking myself that question until the end of my days. and why did the trial go the way it did? I suppose others will be asking that question for even longer.
I must start to write - but what is there to say? Everything? Or as little as possible?
Start at the beginning. Perhaps. But which beginning? And whose? Somehow this incident is - how to put it? it is so much larger than the characters involved.
It is about the Nazarean of course, but it is about me, and about the Jews and their hopes and their relations to the Empire and their confounded God.
Stop rambling, Pilate. Just get it down on paper. Start at the beginning. With that outrageous Passover parade.
Scripture: Matthew 21: 8-11
They were rumours of course, at least until I met him in person, but the stories confirm each other. They build credibility for my case. The parade on that Passover day had all the markings of a revolt. Crowds in the streets, shouts of acclamation of a Messiah, a deliverer. To a people who imagined themselves in repression! Imagined, indeed! There could be no better situation possible for them. Rome had bent over backwards to keep them happy. They had - though I cannot understand why - allowed them to maintain their own temple and practice their own religious traditions. They had given power and authority to the chief priests and a court of sorts with the Sanhedrin.
What more could they have wanted? But you know how it is with a people. You give them one thing they want another, and another. There is no end to the appetite. You give them autonomy and they want liberation. And that Passover celebration. Every year it is the same thing. They remember some dusty old story of their dusty old God delivering them from Egypt. Through the wilderness into the promised land. The land they now live in.
Yes, of course, they are subject to the supreme authority of Rome, but Rome is Rome. It is her destiny to give order to the world. Why can’t these people understand that?
And this fellow comes along and talks of - what? I never heard him preach, of course. Stories, parables, I hear. About what? About the Kingdom of God.
Now that is seditious! That I can write about. Seditious rumours. Mobs in the street. A nation clamoring for deliverance. And claims they made that he was their liberator. Yes, that would wash. And a betrayer. One Judas, a known zealot. A daggerman. Infiltrator, I imagine. Good for him. The priests paid him off with good Roman coin. Turned him over. At least some of them knew what was good for them. Good for the Empire. They will be commended in the report.
Scripture: Luke / Matthew 26: 14-16
We trapped him. With stealth, patience a bit of bribery, and some well trained soldiers. He was in the garden.
Scripture: Matthew 26: 36 - 46
I like the way the betrayal worked out so well. It was like clockwork. The soldiers shadowing Judas to this garden where he knew Jesus would be. They are also to be commended.
Scripture: Matthew 26: 47-50, 55-56
So much for the revolution. It was that easy. Sure, they put up a bit of a scrap. But once again, the Imperial forces reigned. We can show no mercy to cowards and troublemakers. The followers knew that. They ran like dogs.
So far things were going well. The ringleader was under arrest. His fellow insurrectionists scattered, terrified. The next thing to do was simply procedural. Turn him over to the high priest Caiaphas and his lot and let them try him then turn him back to me for sentencing.
Caiaphas was well paid. He would not risk his position with Rome for a backwoods preacher. They would have some little god-talk and it would be over. Caiaphas could be trusted.
Scripture: Matthew 26: 57-67
We had our charge. Blasphemy. Whatever that means. Whatever it means, for me it was good enough. What am I? A theologian? What should I care what they agreed or disagreed about? It was enough that he was on trial. And I was his judge.
The blasphemy line would not work for me, nor for Rome. But treason. Sedition. Plotting to establish a rival kingdom within the Empire. That was worth pursuing. Surely the Passover crowd were shouting that out. There were hundreds of witnesses. He was feeding the agitation of the mob. Son of David. King of the Jews. Yes. That could get him to the cross. If only he would agree to the charge.
Scripture: Matthew 27: 11-14
Confound the man! What can I tell Caesar about this trial? There is nothing to say. He made no claims to be king. He answered my questions with confusing statements, almost accusing me of false accusations. And mostly he said nothing.
I went to the crowd, who by this time had become hostile to the man. How fickle these fools are! Mindless sheep. One day they were clamoring for his coronation, and now they were jeering at him. But I must remember that this is Rome. The Empire strikes fear into people. As it should. It keeps them in their place. As it should. This crowd knew well that I had to power to crush them like stones and turn them into pavement. Their fragile little leader was now nothing to them. His voice was rendered mute by my questions, I suppose.
So I turned to the crowd, in a fit of whimsy and played the puppeteer for them. I dangled their little Jesus on one hand and this scoundrel Barabbas on the other and asked them to play a game with me.
Scripture: Matthew 27: 15-23
I washed my hands of the whole affair. I was tired of playing games with a spineless mob. I would show them all the strength of my hand, and the power of Rome.
Scripture: Matthew 27: 26- 31
Hymn: Were you there? Verse 1
The soldiers had then had their way with him. He was theirs to play with now.
Scripture: Matthew 27: 33-36
Hymn: verse 2
But I have to say - and I cannot put this in the report - that something else happened. There was more than dust and a few whimpers from his mother in the air that day. The sky darkened. An eclipse, I suppose. I should consult the astrologers. But even more. The earth - stood still. There were chills up my spine. And then it felt like the earth itself would explode.
Scripture: Matthew 27: 45-46, 50-51
Hymn: verse 3, 4
After he died it was procedural. Arrangements were made for a place of burial. It was over.
Scripture: Matthew 27: 55-61
Hymn: verse 5
Scripture: Matthew 27: 62-66
Another deluded prophet gone. Another rebellion crushed. We were done with the man. For good. I hope the citizens of this little armpit of Rome will get him and his Kingdom talk out of their heads. We sealed the dreams of their little god up with a big strong stone.
© Copyright Jim Hatherley, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.