Forgiveness Made Possible

An Easter program for our church. The reading can be heard or read below.

Forgiveness Made Possible

One would think living in a Roman home would guarantee safety. But I must confess that may be the most unsafe of places. 
Tiberius was the emperor of the Roman Empire. Drusus, Tiberius’s only son, died. Rumor had it that he was poisoned. 
No one seemed alarmed. Nor did anyone question, at least out loud, when Drusus’s mother, whose sons would be Tiberius’s heirs, were also attacked.

Instead everyone carried on life as usual, in fact, Tiberius hosted the Feast of Lupercalia. Lupercalia started at the public meeting place where a male goat and a dog were sacrificed. The blood was smeared on two priests who whipped any woman within striking distance as they ran through the streets, awarding fertility to the woman. 
Then the feasting began.
It was my first public feast.
A girl beside me leaned toward me and whispered, “Single men will chose a woman’s name from a jar. They became a couple until the festival is over. Sometimes, they stay together until the following year’s festival.” She giggled then, as a man stepped forward to choose a name from a vessel.
The entire room fell silent as he withdrew a scroll. He read the name in a clear strong voice. 
Laughter followed as the surprised couple met for the first time.
I wondered how chance could bring happiness.

Another man stepped forward. Tall. Had the look of the Roman strength that all aspired toward. He smiled nervously.
Who was he?
As if by answer, the girl beside me whispered, “He’s from the Samnite clan.”
At my raised eyebrow, she continued, “From one of those warlike tribes in the mountains of Italy. He’s a friend of Sejanus.” She nodded to a man who stood over Livilla, Drusus’s widow. “It’s rumored Sejanus asked to marry her but Tiberius refused. Sejanus is the prefect of the emperor’s household troops.”
The room grew silent as the man from Samnite removed a small scroll from the vessel. He looked bored.
He cleared his voice to announce the name.
“Procula Claudia.”

I could not breathe. There must be some mistake. I had not submitted my name to be included. 
Who would have done such a thing?
The girl beside me giggled and nudged me to receive the man. 
I looked into her eyes and had my answer.
Laughter filled the room at my hesitation.
Sejanus yelled from across the room, “Pilate, seems you will have to win her affections, for they do not come willingly.”
The room roared in laughter as the man received me.
He escorted me from the room amidst more laughter and jesting. But we were soon forgotten as another couple was chosen.
My heart beat wildly as I walked beside this man whom I knew not and wondered what would happen.

My heart continues to beat wildly for this man, but for another reason.
The man was Pilate.
He was a Roman knight. Because of his friendship with Sejanus, he was appointed prefect of Judaea or governor over Caesarea. 
My father, who did not care who I married as long as I did not hinder his real heirs, gave consent. 
And I became Pilate’s wife. 
I was fifteen years old.

We settled in the coastland palace in Caesarea.
Pilate had been warned of the unrest and instability of the Jews, but he wanted to press the Roman strength upon its people. Though no other ruler had tried, he commanded images to be placed in Jerusalem. Those who obeyed his request, put them up during the night, for they knew what it would create with the Jews. 
The Jewish leaders came to Caesarea in numbers to protest and request the images be removed. 
Before Pilate met with the multitude who assembled outside his palace, he ordered his soldiers to encircle the people. At his signal, the soldiers pulled their swords and made ready to kill the multitude. 
The masses knelt before Pilate, exposing their necks and said, “We would die, rather than break our laws given by God.”
Their action so surprised Pilate, he relented and removed the images from Judea.
Thus Pilate was introduced to the Jews tenacity for keeping their law.
After this incident, Serjanus warned Pilate, “Do not push these people. You did not want a riot that would cause Rome to question your leadership.”
But what was too hard?

When the emperor added more taxes, Pilate demanded the taxes to be paid with coins barely the emperor’s image. 
Again the Jews protested.
This time Pilate went to Jerusalem to ensure his will was carried out.
Most wives would have preferred to stay at the coast, where the cool winds off the Great Sea would make life bearable, but I choose to travel with him.
Pilate warned me of the miserable hot weather but his eyes held greater concern than the weather. For I carried our child.
We rode with an escort of a thousand soldiers—bodyguards for our time in Judea. And we would need every one of them.
Pilate rode on his black steed, his position as prefect clearly demarked by his attire.
I could not have been prouder as I rode beside him on a black mare. 
The discomfort of the trip was forgotten as the end was coming near. I braced my womb with its growing child, unable to think of much more than resting for a long time.

But as we made our way through Jerusalem’s congested streets, the crowd became a mob. 
A stone glazed my cheek then hit my husband on the shoulder. I ducked involuntarily. Another struck my womb and I winced in pain.
Pilate grabbed me from my horse and protected me with his own body. 
The soldiers responded immediately, slicing those holding stones to throw. 
We proceeded to what was once Herod’s palace and shut the gate.
Pilate was livid. He studied me carefully to make sure I was fine.
I still shook from the encounter. 
To what city had I decided to come? And what would it bring?

Later when rested from our travels, Pilate and I ate fruit in the garden. The heat of the city radiated in the air around us. 
I fanned myself. 
“So this is Jerusalem.” Pilate shook his head. “Does the weather make these people hot-tempered, or do they just live here because it fits their mood?”
“You make them angry by the images on the coins.” A voice answered behind us.
I turned to see the commander of the troops, Marcus standing at the doorway.
Pilate motioned him forward. 
In Rome, everyone worshipped any kind of god. Why would an image incite a riot?
Marcus bowed toward us and stepped forward. “This people believe in only one God. They do not allow images anywhere in their city.”
Pilate laughed. “And they expect a Roman to abide by their religious rules?”
The commander hesitated then seemed to decide something. “If that Roman expects to work with these people.”
Pilate shook his head and ate another grape. “Rome does not work with people. Rome makes them bend their backs to her will.”
“These Jews do not bend when it comes to their Law. You saw that with the images.” 
Pilate sipped from his vessel. “They must acknowledge Rome as their new master.”
I sipped from my vessel but did not look up.
“You do not agree?” Pilate studied me.
I raised my head to meet his gaze. “A master who demands gets less than a master who asks.”
Pilate smiled. “An asking master is never taken seriously. I must show Rome is strong enough to take without asking.” He lifted his eyebrows and waited for my response.
I shrugged, conceding. “Maybe Rome will find strength comes from doing what is right, not what it wants.”
“Is what it wants wrong?” Pilate arched his eyebrow. It would be treason for me to tell that Rome was wrong. He turned to his general, “Require their taxes to be paid only in those coins.”
I blurted, “But they will not use those!”
Pilate smiled, “They must use them to pay their taxes, for I will accept nothing else.” 

Not too long after we arrived, a group of their religious leaders came to advise Pilate. 
Though all wore their turbans, and cloaks, slight differences in their dress marked their different sects. These were the men who influence their own people.
Pilate sat on his judgment throne waiting for them to approach him. 
I listened behind the curtains, but could not enter.
They bowed from the waist to Pilate. Their spokesman told how they had received their Law directly by their one God Who told them not to worship any other god but He.
I was impressed by how they knew they Law.
Pilate was not. He listened  without interrupting, but when they finished he laughed. 
This insulted them. One changed as red as an apple ready to pick.
I swallowed. How would Pilate calm them?
Pilate pointed to the spokesman. “It’s good you have a god to worship. But he is not your only god.”
The spokesman started to interrupt, but Pilate raised his hand. “You worship this god, but not whole heartedly.”
This time they stepped forward as if to physically restrain him.
Pilate did not budge.  “You like your money. The tithe these people give does not go to your god, it goes into your pockets. Did I not hear of your own Teacher who went into your temple and rebuke you?” According to my sources, he told you, “Stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 
Pilate stared at them until they dropped their gaze. “So let’s get passed the worship and tell me what you really want.”
They looked at each other. The leader coughed and lowered his head, this time lower than before. “We do not endorse this Teacher.”
I could see Pilate arch his eyebrows, a sign that he was displeased and impatient. 
“Yes, yes, you have little groups you approve and control, but what is it that you want?”
The leader coughed more nervously now, “If it please, your Prefector, we request the coins be changed. They hinder the people from worshipping.”
Pilate smiled and placed his hand on his chin. “You have your own coins for temple worship. My coins will also stay.”
“But the people—” 
Pilate spoke now with force. “Do not tell me about your people. You care nothing about your people except what you can get from them. The coins will stay.”
He motioned with his hand to dismiss them.
As they left, their faces showed extreme displeasure.
Watching one man, I swallowed a laugh. He looked as if he’d sucked a lemon—his entire life. 

When they were gone, Pilate motioned for me to come to him. It was against policy for a woman to be in the judgment hall, although I could stand behind the curtain. 
I came at his request.
When I reached him, he motioned for me to sit on his lap.
“What do you think?”
I paused before answering. “I feared for your life when you told them they did not obey their own laws.” 
Pilate laughed, “They were a bit perturbed, weren’t they?” 
We both laughed.
“What about the Teacher who corrected them?”
Pilate leaned his head against the back of the throne and closed his eyes. “A rebel teacher of theirs came into their temple. He rebuked these leaders about what they were doing to the people.”
“What were they doing?”
“Stealing. They require sacrifices. Those who travel far must buy them here. They pay high prices and can only use temple money. When the people exchange their own money for the temple money, they pay a fee—a high fee.”
“Is that why you would not remove your own coins?”
Pilate nodded. “They must learn that two can play their game. Only Rome must win.”
I sobered, “But their people—they truly want to worship their God.”
Pilate shrugged. “Rome must maintain her strength. Besides, isn’t it always the people who get caught between rulers’ decisions?”

The city’s unrest invaded the safety of the palace. 
I could feel it. It affected our son’s health. Our son was born early. 
He was perfect in every way, except one.
His foot turned in an unusual way. Would he be able to walk on it? I worried but could not voice my concerns.

Pilate acquired a Jewish servant for me. When the sun was sinking, the servant hesitated to fulfill my wishes. I stared at her, ready to extract a punishment, when I saw her tremble and a tear escape her lashes. 
“What is it?” I asked.
She swallowed, head down.
I looked outside my window to the streets below. Devout Jews were hurrying to the temple as if their prayers would not be heard if they were late. I relented of any punishment, “Go, but when you are finished, return and tell me about it.”
She looked up, surprise in her dark eyes, then was gone.
I waited, wondering what God would be worth so much devotion. 
After all, in Rome, when a Roman worshipped one god, other gods were left ignored. 
What would it be like not to be torn by which god should be pleased?

When she returned, she told of their sacrifices, “We sacrifice to only one God.”
“How do you know this One is the only God?”
She seemed flustered before she answered with confidence, “Our God talked with Moses and gave our Law.”
What would it be like have a god talk to you? I was envious for that personal God. 

I had learned of some of their laws: they eat no pork, what they miss by that! It seemed like a confusion of do’s and don’ts. Yet they were a unique people. Was it their God that made them so?
She told me their history, how their God had led them from Egypt and slavery to their Promised Land. Given to them, if they’d obey His commands.
“So Rome is fighting your God?” I interjected.
She started to answer, but caught herself, fear in her eyes. Then she considered, choosing her words carefully, “Our people have forgotten God and do not obey His laws.”
“But you sacrifice! Is that not enough for Him?”
She asked, “Would you want your child to give you a present, but not obey you?”
I considered. Obedience was more important than presents. He must love me enough to obey what I say. I shook my head. 
The servant hesitated, before continuing, but her eyes shone with great intensity. “There’s a Teacher who explains the law like no other, not even our rabbis. He talks as if He knows God.” 
“Who is this Man?” I was intrigued, as I remembered the man the Jewish rulers said was not one of them.
“He came from Nazareth.” 
Nazareth was such a small area, not prestigious enough for their rulers.
I smiled. It had to be the same man.
But if this man talked with God, these religious leaders would not control Him, any more than they would control my husband. “I must hear Him. Is He here?”
The girl shook her head. “He left. But He will return for Passover.”

I had forgotten about the Teacher—what with our move back to the palace by the sea, then our return here. And our son’s first year. 
With each passing month, I sensed with greater fear something was wrong. 
Our son drug his foot behind him as he crawled. Nor could he stand. 
Pilate would not even look at the child.
I mourned the loss.

Passover was coming again. Whenever the Jews feasted, they tested Rome’s restraints. 
Pilate approached me, “I must return to Jerusalem. Rome’s presence may hinder mischief. Do you want to come?”
Though I remembered our stone’s reception last time, I also remembered the Teacher may be there. I answered with confidence, “I’ll be by your side.”
Pilate seemed pleased with my answer, though his eyes showed concern.
As we entered through the eastern gate Shushan, the streets were empty, almost eerily. 
Pilate moved his horse closer to mine.
He called to one boy running from us, “What’s going on?”
The boy lowered his head. “The Teacher has healed Nahman.”
Marcus had moved his horse closer to Pilate’s side. “He’s a lame man who stays at the Pool of Bethesda.”
At Pilate’s raised brow, the general continued, “Bethesda Pool has an supposed angel that moves the water and heals whomever gets in the water while the water moves. The pool is over by the sheep gate.”
The boy shifted from one foot to another, “The Teacher is there. He is back.”
Pilate turned to me, “At least we aren’t pelted with rocks this time.”
I, too, was relieved. But my heart skipped, for I too wanted to run to the pool to see this Man Who could tell me about His God. He seemed to draw me to Him. 
I held my reins tightly and swallowed, hope rising in my heart. If He could heal a lame man, He could fix my son’s leg.

In the next few days, I sent my Jewish servant to report to me where the Teacher was. 
One evening as Pilate and I walked through the garden, Pilate spoke softly. “My Claudia is far away. Where is she?”
I laughed, but at his insistence, asked, “What more do you hear of the Teacher?”
Pilate looked at me strangely, but answered, “My informants tell of miracles, healing, but his teachings do nothing against Rome. Why?”
“I am drawn to know Him and His God.”
Pilate laughed but then stopped when he realized I was serious. “He brings trouble.”
“How can being so good, bring trouble?”
Pilate shrugged. “The masses follow Him. They ignore their leaders. Their leaders cannot accept being rejected.”
I nodded. “What do you expect them to do?”
“Time will tell. Be cautious about being seen with him.”
“I have yet to see him.”
Pilate looked at me out of the corner of his eye. His voice grew firm. “DO NOT go to their temple or be caught in the streets with him.” He softened his voice when he saw me tense,  “I do not want you caught  in their riots.” 
I sighed with relief, for those instructions would not hinder what I wanted to do.
But then he added,  “Take Marcus with you.”
How could I listen disguised, as I had planned to do,  with the commander of the guards standing beside me? I sighed.

It was several days later when my servant rushed into my room. “The Teacher speaks outside the city. You would be safe.”
We hurried to find Marcus and leave the palace. 
I was dressed in a poor woman’s cloak acquired by my servant. 
I was glad for Marcus as we hurried through the crowded city streets. The jostling crowds unnerved me. The city’s maze of streets made me feel dizzy. 
When we finally left the gate and the city behind, I felt exposed, though no one gave us a second look. 
All hurried to where a multitude had already gathered. 
I slowed to catch my breath. 
Marcus walked beside me. 
I spoke under my breath, “Marcus, could you walk farther from me? It defeats my purpose of wearing a commoner’s cloak if you insist on staying by my side.”
Marcus chuckled. “I must answer to your husband if something should happen to you, but I will give you some space.”
“Thank you.” I said, though his designated space was a lot less than I wanted.
We fell silent as we could hear the Teacher’s voice carry over the hills. 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Is God like my Father?  My father disowned me, because my mother was not a noblewoman. Would God not accept me either?
It was different thinking of pleasing a God-Father, than it was to do something for the gods that would make them bless me.
My thoughts were drawn back to his words, 

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill….For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I felt Marcus stiffen and reach for his sword. His eyes surveyed the religious leaders who stood as a group at the back of the multitude. They looked angry.
But the Teacher continued, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘you good-for-nothing’ shall be guilty before the supreme court….”

This would explain why my thoughts would feel wicked, though I did no outward wrong. I was still guilty. How does a person be good, inside and out? Not that I killed anyone. 
How did anyone be good enough to follow their laws perfectly? 
How many sacrifices would it take to cover all that was wrong with me?

But the Teacher had moved on. “You have heard that it was said, ‘ An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’”

That was how Rome executed judgment—no mercy with Rome. Just show more strength.

“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. Whoever forces you to go one mile,” And the Teacher looked at Marcus for that was what the Roman soldiers would demand of some.

Marcus stiffened. I held my breath.

The Teacher smiled, “Go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

I listened mesmerized by this teaching of kindness and love. Love without condition. Who could live by such a standard?
How could they not fight for what was theirs?

“Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food? And the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?... for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I exhaled a long sigh. Yes, every day had its own trouble. An image of my son trying so hard to stand, but unable with his bent foot. I had already worried about how he could compete in the world that Rome had created where only strength was accepted. 

The Teacher’s words brought soothing.

“OR what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?”

My thoughts went back to Drusus. Were the rumors right that he was poisoned? By who? His own family? Surely they would not give him a serpent! Did the Jews have better fathers? Is that why the Teacher always compared God to a father? I had trouble comprehending that.

The Teacher finished and started to leave. 
The crowds followed him.
Marcus came to stand closer to me, with his hand lightly resting on his sword hilt. “It would be better if we did not follow Him.” He said it nervously, as if I might refuse. 
I would not test him. 
I nodded. I had heard enough to think about.

As Pilate and I walked in the cool garden that night, Pilate asked, “Marcus told me you went to hear the Teacher. What did you think?”
I hesitated for my thoughts had not been good at that moment. Instead of answering, I asked him, ““Did you have anything to do with Sejanus killing Drusus?”
I studied Pilate. His face went white. My question had caught him by surprise. 
“Claudia,”  his tone was condescending. “Without Sejanus, I would not have any position.” He hesitated, but then answered, “But no.” His voice trailed off.
There was a long silence.
“How did you know?”
“It was something that the Teacher said today, about fathers giving serpents to their children.”
Pilate laughed. “What father would do that?”
“Exactly. I had once thought Tiberius had killed Drusus, but could never think of a motive, other than being a cruel father. But Sejanus tried to marry Livilla, Drusus’s wife, shortly after his death. I figured—”
Pilate nodded. “I warned Sejanus it was too soon to ask. But—”
“So you knew of his plan?”
“Not really. But I could see him advancing in position and power. It’s best to know little of other’s actions. So what else did this Teacher help you see?”
“He made me wonder at our fathers. Did you have a good father, Pilate?”
He considered. “I come from a warlike tribe. Fathers taught their sons to fight, so Rome would not rule over us. Look where it got us!” He laughed.
But I would not be dissuaded.  “My father did not want me. Could I help that he did not marry my mother? My father ignored me—as if I didn’t even live. I often pretended what it would be like to be loved by both parents. I’d watch those children who were truly noble be treated like they were already  kings and queens, yet I could only look on and feel rejected.” I wiped a tear from my face.
Pilate hugged me. “I would never have been given you, if your father had been more selective.”
I stepped into his embrace, glad that my father had given consent. Pilate was good to me.
“If this is what happens when you listen to the Teacher, I will have to forbid you from going.” He teased.
But his words only made me want to follow Him more. 
Though the Teacher’s words left me feeling the emptiness of my own heart.

We returned to Caesarea. The Great Sea’s breezes were calming after Jerusalem’s heat. But I felt like I had left behind a part of me.
While there, we went to Herod’s birthday party. We were not one of his favored guests, but were invited so Herod could gloat over his accomplishments. 
Pilate shrugged in response; he could also compare and critique.
After we feasted, Herodias, Herod’s wife’s daughter, danced provocatively. 
I was embarrassed for her. 
Herod was pleased and promised her anything, up to half his kingdom.
I heard Pilate suck in his breath. That would be a dangerous request in public to promise.
Herodias requested, “The head of John the Baptist.”
I swallowed and closed my eyes. 
John the Baptist was the Jews’ prophet, declaring the Teacher as the Lamb of God. 
He also accused Herod of sin after taking his brother’s wife.
Herod had thrown John the Baptist into prison.
Pilate had told me that Herod was afraid to do anything more, lest the Jews riot.
I looked at Herodias. How could she request such a thing? Did removing the spokesman make the sin acceptable? Where was the justice in this request?
Herod’s face turned several shades of white. He nervously glanced at Pilate before he plastered a smile on his face. “Let it be done.”
I tensed, wanting to stand and scream. Where’s the justice?
Pilate squeezed my hand under the table. 
The silence as his guests waited for his decree to be fulfilled only lasted a short time. Soon, the guests resumed talking.
The woman beside me asked when I thought they would bring dessert.
I could not even think of what to say. How could these people talk of dessert when we waited for a man’s head to be brought!
The head was soon brought on a platter and presented to Herodias. 
She smiled and carried it out of the room. 
Blood dripped from the platter behind her.
I could no longer look at food or drink.
Pilate took me to our room. 
I lost my dinner.
“How could anyone remain in that room and believe that Rome is just?”
Pilate shushed me. “Lower your voice, my love, for that is treason.”
“But the man did nothing wrong.”
“He stirred the people against Herod.”
“Herod stirred the people against himself by his own acts. John merely pointed them out.”
Pilate shook me. “Control yourself, Claudia. If anyone hears you, they can report us both. Think where it led this—this prophet?” He held me tightly against his chest. 
I could feel his heart beating wildly. He whispered in my ear, “I could not bear to lose you.”
I stopped talking, although I talked to myself all night long.
Why did I think Rome would act justly? Or do what was right? 
They did not. But by their strength they ruled the world. 
What justice was that?

As we were leaving Herod’s palace a few days later, Herod greeted us. He whispered in my ear, “I feel badly about that prophet incident. But I could not ignore my promise.” He looked into my face, begging for acceptance. He smiled weakly. 
What did he expect me to say? That I loved it? I would not lie. I forced a smile. “Your birthday will long be remembered by everyone present.” 
Some men acted in fear when their power was threatened. 
I was grateful my husband would not.

We were soon returning to Jerusalem. Their feast would bring more people that would swell its walls to capacity. Pilate thought it best to be there to show a presence of strength. 
I, of course, came with him. 
We brought our son. He was two. His stumbling shuffle showed that he would never walk normally. I had all the more reason to find the Teacher and beg for healing. 
We had tried to come sooner, before the feast was this close, but pressing matters in Caesarea hindered us. 
Now as we entered, the streets were more than crowded. 
The streets were littered with palm branches and ahead of us on the street a figure rode a donkey. The people bowed before him giving him homage. 
What did they chant? I could not hear.
I looked at Pilate. 
He was biting his lip, a sign he was nervous. 
He turned to ask Marcus to send others ahead to find who that was.
I already knew. 
It was the Teacher. 
I felt my heavy heart lift and I felt hope renew in my heart. Perhaps this time, I will be able to beg for healing for my child.

The week disappeared. What with settling into the palace and listening to all the news of what trouble the Jews had done while we were gone, it was exhausting.
My servant had given me updates on what the Teacher had been doing. He had cleaned the money changers out of the temple, then healed the blind and lame. 
How I wished that Pilate would let me go to the Temple and take our son to be healed! 
But alas, Pilate sensing the spirit of the people forbid me from leaving the palace. “It’s not safe, Claudia. I should not have brought you here this time.”
I paced my room; looking out my window, I saw the streets below were packed with people hurrying. I turned and paced my room again.
I felt an urgency to do something, but didn’t know what.
My servant brought me fruit and wine. “Rest, my lady. You cannot change what happens outside your palace walls by pacing inside them.”
By my servant’s insistence, I lay down, but fell into a fitful sleep. 
I dreamt of the just Teacher was accused by liars, as if he’d done some heinous crime.  Their eyes gleamed with vengeance; their expression one of hate. They did not want justice; they wanted him dead. I screamed as I awoke.
My servant ran to my bed at my scream. “Here drink this. It is just a dream.” 
Both Romans and Jews think highly of dreams and what they mean.
I sipped from the vessel and fell again to sleep. But again my dreams were of the Teacher. When I woke, I felt beside me.
The bed was empty. Pilate had not slept. 
I threw my cloak over me.
The palace was big, but I could hear angry voices coming from the judgment hall.
Surely Pilate was not hearing a case at this early time.
I could not stop my feet as they took  me toward the yelling. They were the voices in my dream. Did I dream still?
I could now hear clearly those angry taunts. I looked from behind the curtain.

The insults came from many clustered together. They were not the religious leaders as in my dream, they were ruffians from the streets, but they were fed by those leaders. I could see through their words. 
“We found this man misleading our nation.”
“He forbids us from paying taxes to Caesar.”
“He claims to be Christ, a King.”
Pilate turned to ask the accused. “Don’t you answer? Hear the charges they bring against You!”
I gasped. It was my dream, only this was real.
There stood Jesus.
But Jesus would not speak.
If I could speak for him, I would tell how he gave peace by his words, and showed kindness by his deeds.
Pilate’s voice rose above the others, “Leave, so I may talk to the man myself.
The men filed passed me.
I concealed myself in the curtain, unwilling to be seen by such filth.
With great effort, I forced myself to look into the judgment hall.
Pilate sat on his throne and before him stood Jesus, the Teacher. “Are You the King of the Jews?”
There was a long silence. 
Pilate was biting his lip. 
I strained to hear the Teacher’s response, “Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about Me?”
Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and chief priests delivered You to me. What have You done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
Pilate sat forward on his throne. “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this reasons, I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Pilate threw his hands in the air in frustration, “What is truth?”
Pilate sat in silence for a long time. He drummed his fingers on the arm of his throne.
I looked around. 
A servant carried firewood for the fires in the courtyard outside. 
“Come here.” I motioned for him to come to me. “Go,” my voice trembled as I spoke. “Tell Pilate, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.’”
I shook as I heard my dream becoming real. 

The servant dropped his load of wood and entered the Praetorium. His steps sounded loud as he walked toward the throne. He seemed to take a long time to reach Pilate.
I held my breath as he delivered the message.
Pilate looked at the curtain behind which I stood. I revealed my face. 
His eyes met mine. His face was mixture of fear and indecision.
My heart dropped. He was afraid to go against these people. Would he make his decision based on fear? 
I stood stronger, trying to will my strength into him. I could not breath. Hemustdo the right thing.
I felt as I was back in Herod’s court, only here was the Teacher, our only hope for our son’s healing, my only dream of finding God—standing before my husband, whom I had sworn would never buckle under fear. With all that I could, I plead with him with my eyes.
A change came into his face. A look of hope and determination.

He abruptly rose and followed the men whom he had dismissed outside where the high priests waited. (I realized now why they had not come inside—they would not enter during the Passover so they would not be unclean. I seethed with their hypocrisy!)
Pilate spoke in a low voice. “I find no fault with Him. Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?”
I thought his move brilliant. At their feast, one prisoner could be released. Here was hope. They would release Jesus.
Instead, the religious leaders cried, “Release Barabbas!”
Others echoed their cry.
Pilate motioned to one of his guards. “Bring him.”
Barabbas! I shuddered. He had murdered a man.
Barabbas was brought from the dungeon to stand before the crowd. 
Though his hands and feet were chained, his arrogance and hardness remained in his face. When he reached the platform, he spit at Pilate’s feet. 
I shuddered and stepped back. This man would kill again. 
Though I knew it required all that was within him, Pilate licked his lips then spoke with forced authority. “Release him.”
The guards stepped forward and unshackled Barabbas.
Barabbas nodded at Jesus, and walked down the stairs and disappeared among the crowd.

I cringed as Pilate asked the next question, but nor could I turn away and not listen.
These Jews had set him up. 
Pilate had no other recourse.
Pilate asked, “What should I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
I covered my ears. It was my dream, again. “Crucify Him.”
Pilate angry by their demands and especially being manipulated by them, yelled, “What evil has He done?”
A riot was erupting. But the crowd only yelled louder, “Crucify Him.” 
Pilate was accomplishing nothing. Pilate’s stance reflected the turmoil he felt. His face wrinkled in a frown. I sensed his pressure to do something quickly. 
I kept whispering to myself, “It’s not too late. Be strong. Do right.”

Pilate requested a water bowl to be brought.
When the servant brought the bowl, Pilate slowly washed his hands. He took his time and breathed deeply. He dried his hands carefully with the towel.
He cleared his throat than spoke loudly so all could hear. “I am innocent of this Man’s blood, see tothatyourselves.”
The mob responded, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”
Pilate motioned for the guards to scourge Jesus and handed Him to be crucified.
A Roman scourging could kill a man without crucifixion.
I trembled; my legs felt weak. I clung to the curtains so I would not fall. I breathed deeply.
I started to walk away, not sure if my legs would support me. As I was leaving, Pilate commanded. “Put this inscription on the cross, ‘Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.’”

The chief priests corrected Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that He said, “I am ‘King of the Jews.’”
Pilate shook his head. “What I have written, I have written.”
I shook my head. Why wasn’t he afraid to stand against them now, but he couldn’t when the Teacher’s life was determined?
I stumbled toward my room. But when I reached it, peace did not come. All around me were the memories of my dream. Of what my husband had done.
I  must get away—away from my husband. I hated him!
How could he have ignored my warnings! Why couldn’t he show Rome’s strength by giving justice?

It wasn’t just my husband I hated. 
I hated all those Jewish leaders who claimed to do God’s will. 
What hope was left for my son? Or for me?
I could not stay here. I grabbed my cloak and left.

At the gate, Pilate called me from the end of the hall. “Wait, Claudia!” 
I ignored him and walked out the gate. The streets were crowded, even at this early hour. 
I stopped to look around. Where could I go? 
I would NOT go to the crucifixion. To watch a just man die. 
I pushed against the masses as they went only one way, often being trampled. I fell against the house walls at the side of the street and leaned on it. 
I reached the gate where we had entered the city so grandly. Was it only a week ago?
I ran to the hill where the Teacher had taught. My legs gave way beneath me and I fell to the ground.

His words came back of a Good Father-God who could only give good. And about the troubles of today. 
How could good come from this? I could only weep at my troubles of today. For they were great. And I could not bear them.
I raised my head through my tears, “Why God, did You leave me when I was just finding out what a good father was?
But all I heard was silence.
The Teacher was gone.
And my husband had failed me.

The sky turned black. 
Thunder rolled. 
Lightning split the sky and earth as if in two. 
The ground shook beneath me.
I could not see my hands in front of my face. 
I felt small.
It began to rain. Not the gentle misting rain that would bring refreshment, but a down pour that pelted my exposed skin like rocks being thrown from heaven as if God were judging even the dirt where I knelt.
I huddled closer to the ground, shaking against the cold.
The weight of my sin pressed me lower into the ground. My ugly thoughts about my father, even my new hatred toward my husband. 

The Teacher’s words pierced me, “Forgive.”
I clung to my father’s treatment of me as if he must pay for his sins over and over again.
And my husband’s decision—made in fear, he sent an innocent man to die. What was I to do with that?

With the Teacher dead, would His words still mean anything?
Was He like Rome, only as strong as His presence? 
He was not here.
I felt empty, unable to think.

The rain stopped.
My servant found me and helped me back to the palace.  
I did not want to return.

When I reached it, Pilate met me and clung to me. His eyes were red and swollen. His face looked like he had aged years in those few hours. “I couldn’t find you. I was concerned.”
I didn’t return his embrace but stood stiffly, not caring for him to touch me.
He babbled, begging me to understand, “I sent Jesus to Herod, you know, I tried to have him declare the sentence.”
My voice brimmed with contempt, “What happened to Rome’s strength? Couldn’t you stand against those evil men and uphold justice?”
His arms fell to his sides as he released me. His shoulders slumped. His face showed hurt.
I deeply wounded him. And I was glad.

A servant approached and bowed low. “A man, Joseph of Armiathea, wishes to see you.”
Pilate squared his shoulders with a heavy sigh as if he could not face anything more and nodded.
The servant led the man before them. 
The man’s face was tear-streaked. He bowed his head, then coughed and tried to speak, “I would like the body of Jesus.”
Pilate cleared his throat. “Then He is dead?”
The man nodded, swallowing before he could speak, “A soldier thrust his side with his lance.” He swallowed again. “He is dead.” After another silence, he added, “I will put him in my grave.”
Pilate nodded.
I did not notice when the man left.

The night’s hours passed, but I don’t remember how. 
Servants walked as if on tiptoe, but an earthquake couldn’t disturb me, for apparently one came and tore the Jew’s temple curtains from top to bottom. 
I did not care.

The next day, the chief priests came demanding to see Pilate.
Hadn’t they done enough? 
I wanted to spit in their faces and claw out their eyes. 
I hissed to Pilate. “Don’t allow them in here.”
Pilate hurried to meet them in the outer courts.
The speaker bowed his head. “Sir, we remember when He was still alive, the deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Give orders to secure the grave until the third day, otherwise His disciples may steal Him and claim, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.’”
Pilate shook his head at their request, “You have a guard, make it secure.”

Time passed slowly. The sun rose bright on the day after Sabbath. But the brightness could not penetrate the darkness of my heart. After pacing my room, walking the garden, and shouting at all my servants, I left the palace. I had no intended destination.
The city was quiet. 
The streets were empty.
It was almost as if it too mourned.
I again found myself out the city gate and on the mountain where the Teacher had given words of hope and life.
I fell to my knees in the hard dirt.

What would the Teacher say now?
Today is too much. My son will remain a cripple
And what must I do with my thoughts against my husband? 
He could have stopped this. He should have. 
The Teacher could only do good.
What good is doing right, if this is where it leads you?
I spent the day before the mountain. 

When I made my way back to the palace, shadows were falling over the city. It reflected my ugly thoughts and empty questions. 
It was time for the Jews to sacrifice. 
But they weren’t hurrying to the Temple. 
Had the rulers lost their following?
Instead, they moved toward a crowded courtyard.
I followed them, caught in their excitement
I could not see over all who had gathered. I stood on tip-toe to see over the heads of the people. What had drawn them?
But then I heard a voice. I could not breathe.
It was the Teacher’s Voice!
It could not be. 
He was dead. 
Nobody lives after crucifixion.
But His voice came to me clearly, “Do not be afraid. Why are you troubled and doubt? It is I.”
My heart could have jumped out of my body, it pounded so hard! 
It was him!

He explained, “This is what I told you before: That the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,”
He paused. Over the crowd, His eyes met mine. “And repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in My name to all the nations.”
There is was. That forgiveness again.

I listened thirsty to hear what He would say. I followed Him. And when He returned to His Father, though I missed his physical presence, He remained true to His promise. He sent His Spirit to enable me to live like him.
I became a devout following of The Way, as his disciples began to be called. 
The disciples hesitated to include me, especially when they found out I was Pilate’s wife. 
But later, the apostle Paul included me in greeting Timothy in his second letter.
I read by Brother Luke’s record, that the Teacher cried from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” 
If the Teacher could forgive what was done to him, then I guess should too.
Forgiveness is still hard. I could never do it by myself. But I found where my strength came from. It was not from Rome. And it certainly wasn’t from myself. It could only be found by submitting to the Teacher—the only one Who could do right.
And God enables me, daily.

Sejanus fell under suspicion of the emperor. 
Tiberius arrested and executed him.
When Pilate first became governor, Sejanus had protected him in his plunders with the images. 
News about how Pilate had handled the Teacher reached Rome. Without Sejanus’s protection, Pilate fell under scrutiny and rebuke.
I’m afraid my angry words about Rome’s strength caused Pilate to over-react to prove its strength; fore, when the Samarians revolted, Pilate crushed them without mercy.
The Jews protested to Rome of his violent murdering. 
Pilate was ordered to answer before the emperor.
He refused to allow me to go with him.
Before he could reach Rome, we received news: Tiberius was dead.
Pilate did not return.
I waited and watched for him.
Rumors told, “he committed suicide.” Others softened the report saying “he retired.” 
I never saw him again. 
I regretted my angry words and wished I could tell him of the forgiveness the Teacher allowed me to give him.

Oh, And my son.
How can any mother think it is good for her son to be lame? But I do.
The Teacher, I know, could have healed him but he remains lame. And it is good. Because through his lameness, he has brought many to know God. 
By his faithfulness to do each task—though so much more difficult for him than others, he demonstrates how God’s strength is shown through our weakness. 
He radiates God’s peace and love. 
People are drawn to him and find the Savior.

And me? I share this because forgiveness is possible through the cross.
Jesus’s death enabled our sin to be forgiven by the one and only holy God.
Jesus’s resurrection gave us power to do what is right. Not on our own, but through His Spirit.
I am finding that the God-Father will never give a serpent to his child, but only what is good. 
I am His. He knows me and I can know Him.
It’s worth my bad dreams to find Him—Who has the strength and power to makes bad things come out good, and to cause good things to be even better.



I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

Receive weekly articles by giving your email address below: