was Friday, the 14th of Nissan. A dark sky covered the city of David,
and the continuous and bothersome rain left everything drenched: the
palace steeples, the watchtowers, the small white roofs of the houses
of the poor, the Temple’s marble and the narrow streets through which
a stream of dirty water haltingly trickled… Jerusalem was jolted from
her sleep as the cocks announced the beginning of a new but gloomy day…
Woman: Neighbor, neighbor!… Have you heard the news? They grabbed
the prophet from Galilee!
Woman: Who, Jesus?
Woman: Yeah! They’re holding him prisoner.
Woman: But this can’t be… How is that possible?
Woman: Well, you heard it. I tell you, neighbor, in this country
everything is backwards: the good ones are put in jail and the thieves
stay in the palace. C’mon, dress up fast and let’s see what’s happening…!
The news spread through the entire neighborhood…
Man: Barabbas and Dismas were taken prisoners in a raid they
had staged. Gestas, too, was arrested.
And now, they say it’s Jesus, the Nazarene, whom they grabbed last night
in the Mount of Olives.
Man: Damn, what do the Romans want? Arrest everyone?
Man: Anyway, be ready, man. Pontius Pilate will torture them
to make them sing. If they do, then you know… half of the city will
be locked up in the Antonia Fortress!
We, too, were out in the street….
John: Don’t despair, Mary. They’ll let the Moreno go. They’ve
got no evidence against him.
Mary: Oh, John, I don’t know, but I’m scared…
James: If they harm him, he will break loose, you will see.
John: Look, James, the members of the Sanhedrin are leaving….
The palace gates were opened and the magistrates of the Supreme Tribunal
started to leave. They exuded a conceited air with their tiaras and
elegant turbans. They had complied with their mission and were now heading
for the street toward the high barrio. Behind them was the high priest,
Joseph Caiphas, who was walking with all solemnity, in the company of
four Sanhedrinites. He went directly to the Roman fortress… Jesus, with
tied hands, was taken by the guards, who made their way through the
people, shouting and hitting them with sticks….
The retinue crossed the city and entered through the gate on the western
side of the Temple. The women and our group followed behind, amidst
pushing and shoving. We could see before us the most detested tower
within whose walls the governor, Pontius Pilate, was heavily protected.
The black and yellow flags of Rome were drenched by last night’s rain….
Soldier: Halt! Who are you? What do you want?
A line of armoured and stiff-looking Roman soldiers, stopped the Sanhedrinites.
The high priest, Caiphas went forward to reply….
Caiphas: We must see the governor at once. It is a matter of importance.
Soldier: This way please, your excellency. And the magistrates
too. But not the crowd…. Out, out, all of you!
Caiphas: They are not with us. Anyway, neither of us can go inside.
Our law forbids it. It’s the eve of the Great Sabbath of the Passover.
Go tell the Governor to please come out here for a short while and attend
In a short while, a window facing the esplanade of the gentiles was
opened, and Pontius Pilate appeared, his arms crossed over a Roman toga,
and his face unshaven. There was annoyance on his lips….
Pilate: What the hell is this?… It is barely morning and there
seems to be some trouble.
Caiphas: Illustrious Governor, my apologies for the early intrusion,
but believe me, this is a matter of urgency.
Pilate: What is it about?
Caiphas: This man.
The soldiers shoved Jesus to the front for Pilate to get a view of him
through the window…
Pilate: What’s wrong with this man?
Caiphas: He is an offender.
Pilate: And who, in this country of bandits and hookers, has
no offense? Then judge him. That’s what the magistrates are paid for
by the Sanhedrin!
Caiphas: Governor, we have brought him before you because this
is a political matter. This Galilean has rebelled against Rome. And
Rome ought to pass judgment. We cannot sign the penalty of death, the
punishment he deserves.
Pilate: You cannot sign it, but the way I see it, you have already
done it. This man is badly beaten. By what authority have you maltreated
a political prisoner of my jurisdiction?
Caiphas: Our apologies, Governor… The prisoner was captured at
the outskirts of the city, in a place called Gethsemane. He showed resistance
to our guards who, logically, had to defend themselves. He was also
found to be in possession of arms.
All: That’s a lie, that’s a lie! This man is innocent. Let
Soldier: Silence, you dogs!!
The stentorian voice of the Roman centurion and the soldiers’ threatening
lances silenced us. From his window, Pontius Pilate continued talking
to Caiphas at the esplanade….
Pilate: And what was this man doing in Gethsemane?
Caiphas: He and a few Galileans are conspiring against you, Governor.
They belong to a group that is well organized and dangerous…. He is
the leader of this group. He started making trouble in the north and
now is doing the same in Judea. He is also inciting the people not to
pay taxes to Rome. He ridicules the Caesar. Saying he’ll be crowned
as the King of Israel.
Pilate: Very good. Centurion, let the prisoner in. I shall interrogate
Pontius Pilate shut the window and descended the Tiling (the Lobby)
where trials and hearings were conducted. It was a small inner patio,
surrounded by gray columns, where the troops were also quartered. Since
it was raining, the Tiling was deserted. Beneath a stone overhang, serving
as a protecting roof, the Governor had a platform and a big chair with
a high back and the figure of the Roman eagle above. Pilate crossed
the patio and took his seat. His hands were fidgeting with a whip he
used for horse-back riding. Then he called a scribe to his side, to
take the declaration of the prisoner… Two escort guards brought Jesus
in and closed the gates behind him. The crowd remained outside… With
tied hands and torn clothes, Jesus remained standing, under the rain,
between the two soldiers, before the Governor. He looked very tired…
Pilate: State your name, family and place of origin. Did you
hear? I’m asking where you’re from and what your name is…. What’s the
matter, my dear friend?… Are you too scared or you have lost your tongue?
This is what you are, a bunch of cowardly and boastful Jews! You talk
a lot, and then when the moment of truth comes, you all tremble like
a rabbit…. Speak up, I say. Did you hear all the accusations against
you?… C’mon, answer me!… What have you done?
Jesus: Every one in Jerusalem knows what I have done. Why don’t
you ask them?
Pilate: I am asking you! The leaders of your town have delivered
you to me. I can condemn you, if I want to, and I can even set you free,
if I wish.
Jesus: You’re not taking away my freedom and neither are you
giving it to me. You have no authority over me.
Pilate: Really?… What gall you have, my friend. Don’t you know
that I can sentence you to death right now?
Jesus: That would be an added crime to your already long list…
Pilate: Aren’t you afraid to die?
Jesus: It’s you who should be afraid. Your hands are stained
by the blood of the innocent. Mine are not.
Pilate: Of course not, but your hands are tied! I am the only
person who can untie them, do you understand? So, try to speak clearly
and be truthful, if you value your head. Let’s see, now, tell me: do
you want to be crowned as king of the Jews? Are you aspiring for the
throne of Israel?
Jesus: Did this question occur to you or they wanted you to
Pilate: Dammit! Who do you think you are anyway?! I don’t get
orders from anyone! And I’m not accountable to anyone for my actions!
Except to the Emperor.
Jesus: Neither am I. Except to God.
Pilate: Let’s see, my friend, tell me the truth. To what group
do you belong?… You’re one of the zealots. Aren’t you?
Pilate: Or the group of the hired-assassins, perhaps?
Pilate: So, what’s your group? Better confess! For whom do you
Jesus: For the Kingdom of God.
Pilate: For what?… You don’t say?… And where is this “Kingdom
of God?” In heaven? I like that better. You worry about God and the
heavens, but leave the earth to us.
Jesus: The Kingdom of God is here on earth. It is in this world,
but the leaders of this world
cannot capture it.
Pilate: Oh, yeah? And where is it?
Jesus: It’s hidden.
Pilate: This clandestine work of yours makes me laugh.
Jesus: It’s hidden like the woodworm. You don’t see it, but
it will eat up the wood from inside.
Pilate: What nonsense are you saying, imbecile? And what wood
are you talking about?
Jesus: The wood of your throne. All your power will vanish,
consumed by worms.
Pilate: In other words, are you telling me to my face that you’re
conspiring against the authorities?
Jesus: Against those who abuse their power.
Pilate: Take note of it, scribe: conspiracy, rebellion, subversion.
You’re the leader of the group, aren’t you? Do you admit having incited
Jesus: The people have been agitating for a thousand years.
It’s the hunger that incites us. Our hunger and your violence.
Pilate: It is your violence, rebel, that stirs the people. You
want to change things that cannot be changed. You are the ones provoking
war. All Rome wants is peace.
Jesus: Yes, peace.... the peace of the sepulchers.
After Jesus said this, the Governor raised his whip and cracked it on
Pilate: That’s enough, dammit!
Jesus: The peace of the lashings...
Pilate: I said... enough!!
Jesus staggered with the second lashing, which left a purple welt on
his neck. It was still drizzling. The white tiles glowed in the water…
Drenched, with his clothes clinging to his body, his hair and beard
dripping with water, Jesus looked straight into the governor’s face…
Pilate: Mad dog from Galilee, I’ll have this rabid tongue of
yours pulled out. But first, you’ve got to tell me your plans. C’mon,
speak up. What were you doing in the garden of Gethsemane?
Jesus: I was praying. Nothing bad about it.
Pilate: Really? Do you think I believe such stupidity?
Jesus: I was praying that you may not win. That your will not
be done, but God’s will.
Pilate: You were praying and concealing weapons. C’mon, admit
it: Where are you hiding your weapons…? Answer me, I command you!
Jesus: Here…. This is our only weapon, our tongue… It is as
sharp as your iron lances. It is the sword of truth.
Pilate: The truth!… That’s a funny thing… the truth! If I cut
off your tongue, then that’s the end of your truth!
Jesus: Then you’ll have to cut a thousand tongues, tongues waiting
to shout your crimes to your face, Pontius Pilate.
Pilate: Shut up, insolent man! Now you will know what the truth
is! Scribe, bring me the board! I shall sign the death sentence of this
At that moment, one of the iron gates facing the Tilings was opened.
A Roman lady, tall and elegantly dressed in blue, silken tunic, appeared
at the door and signalled to the governor…. She was Claudia Procula,
Claudia: Pontius, please come for a minute! I’ve got something
to tell you.
Pilate: Please don’t interrupt me, Claudia. I’m busy. Go away.
Claudia: It’s very important. I beg of you.
The Governor stood from his chair and hurriedly crossed the patio to
avoid getting wet....
Pilate: What the devil do you want? Don’t you see I’m busy with
this damned Jew?
Claudia: It’s precisely about him. Pontius, please, don’t sign
anything against this man. He was sent by the gods.
Pilate: He’s a charlatan from hell. A rebel against Rome.
Claudia: They say he performs miracles and heaven protects him.
Claudia: Yesterday I dreamed about him. It was a horrible night
Pilate: I’m sorry, Claudia. It’s my duty to sentence him to death.
He is guilty of conspiracy. It is a grievous crime against the Roman
Claudia: No, Pontius, don’t do it. Listen to me. Get yourself
out of this mess.
Pilate: I can’t, Claudia. Don’t you understand?
Claudia: Yes, you can. Didn’t they say he is Galilean? Well, take
him to Herod and let him do what he wants. But don’t stain your hands
with the blood of this man. It will bring us bad luck, I’m sure.
Governor Pilate, who was also a superstitious man, did not sign the
sentence and sent Jesus to the palace of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of
the province of Galilee, who had come to Jerusalem for the holidays.
It was about the third hour of the day….