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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jesus Before Pilate



Witness: Anya, a Jewish peasant woman of the time of Jesus
Story N. 18 (see previous posts)

In the eerie darkness, where no moon or stars lightens the muddy road, the disciples walk towards the Garden of Gethsemane. Few drops of rain still hit the leaves with a muffled sound. The trees sigh in the wind, their branches reclining to and fro like waving spectral fingers.
Jesus is on his knees and his face is a mask of sorrow. The Son of Man has taken up upon himself a burden so heavy in horror that its weight is crushing him into the very dust. His forehead is covered with crimson sweat as he mourns for the fading happiness that was granted to him on this earth. There is not going to be another sunny, joyful morning for him, nor another tender, odorous night. No more deep valleys, blue oceans, crystalline rivers, sweet-scented flowers, gentle butterflies. Nothing but pain, blood and humiliation are ahead of him. He’s praying:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”

As the night hours pass the disciples fall asleep one by one, exhausted with grief.  A sudden commotion awakens Anya from her dreamless repose. The nightmare is already unfolding. Blades glitter in the torches’ light. Unknown, contorted faces appear in their reverberation. Someone shrieks, blood running down his neck. The disciples flee in all directions as Jesus is led away. The sight of the temple guards grabbing him by his wrists chills the morrow of Anya’s bones. She runs until she feels close to fainting, only to fall into Mary’s arms. Mary Magdalene has not abandoned her. Clinging to her Anya lives through the rest of that horrible night. Together they linger outside Caiapha’s courtyard, where Jesus has been taken. Peter has managed to get inside the high priest’s house to see the outcome of Jesus’ trial. When the apostle comes out the two women run to him, asking anxiously:
“Tell us, what happened?”
But Peter cannot answer. His eyes bear the haunted expression of a wild beast. He looks up towards the pitch black sky, then rises his hands to hide his face. Finally he utters:                       
“He has been spat upon, and mocked, and struck. He has been accused of blasphemy. And I …oh Lord, I’m so ashamed…three times I’ve sworn that I didn’t know him, because I was afraid!”

As they weep together a purple haze spreads on the horizon. It’s dawn. Jesus is about to be taken before Pilate, the Roman governor. Anya and Mary of Magdala make their way to the  square in front of his palace. In the livid morning light the people start assembling, waiting for the show to begin. After what seems like an eternity Pilate appears on the terrace. On his left stands Barabbas, who had been condemned for rebellion and murder. On his right stands Jesus. At his sight Anya feels a dead weight upon her heart and a sense of suffocation inside her chest. The feature of his face are swollen and of a bluish color. He has been beaten.
 Pilate addresses the crowd:
“It is our custom that on the feast of Passover we release one prisoner. Now, which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas or Jesus called the Messiah?”
Incredulous, Anya hears the crowd asking vehemently for Barabbas to be freed. These are the same people who idolized Jesus, but now, incited by the scribes, they show no mercy. Never has she felt so helpless, so betrayed. And as she listens to the many voices calling for his death, one strikes her as well known, and she shudders inwardly. Her gaze searches the crowd, and it’s tainted with horror. When it meets the object of her distress, it feels as if she had been punched in the stomach. Neri, his mouth opened in a hateful grimace, is screaming:
“Let Jesus be crucified!”
A sickening of the heart overwhelms Anya’s senses. I’ve lost everything, she thinks. There is nothing left for me in this evil world. Covering her ears with her hands, she buries her face against Mary’s chest and whispers:
“Please, take me away.”