Footsteps of Jesus 01

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Jesus is Condemned to Death

John 19:1-2

As seen by the arresting soldier

In a job like ours, Roman soldiers dealing with prisoners, you learn a trick or two. One trick was that you could do almost anything, as long as you didn’t look the prisoner in the eye. Most prisoners, their aggression towards us, well that helps us to stay focussed. But this one was different. He came willingly, or at least it seemed that way.

Some had whispered that he was a King, a secret king of the Jews who would cause trouble for us Romans and who had been rejected by his own people. Certainly it was the leaders of his people who stood accusing him this day. I have seen people who wield power. They wear it to impress and to cause fear. But he exhibited none of this. If he was a king, he was certainly different to any I had met or served before. Why? 

I stood looking around; Pilate in his chair of judgment, the accusers circling this man. Pilate had such power, life and death stood in the balance, yet he was calm and seemed at peace. His accusers were angry, eyes glistening with hatred and seeming victory. Yet, as I looked around the circle, it seemed to me that we were judged not he, and it wasn’t Pilate who was in the judgment seat at all, but some higher power present that day. Don’t get me wrong, I am no Jew to believe in their God, but it felt momentous, this prisoner was not just one of the many, and a shiver went down my spine as Pilate finally condemned him to death. He didn’t want to, I saw that. He spoke to the prisoner, took him away for a moment or two, came back declaring that he could find nothing to condemn him to death for. His accusers would have none of it, and their anger at the prisoner boiled over and erupted before Pilate. He was as frightened of their power over him, to cause riot and mayhem, as they were of his power over them.

When the prisoners get angry, it makes things easy. As they push, we push back, all the harder. I figured he must be really furious to be treated so roughly. And that was my mistake. I turned, and he was looking full at me. His eyes stayed on me. It was as if he urged his love on me, and I couldn’t stand it! I pushed him roughly, wanting him to show some anger or bitterness, but, though he stumbled for a moment he didn’t fall, and he continued to look at me with that same look of love and compassion. 

What is it about this prisoner? What? Suddenly I realized that neither Pilate, not us soldiers doing Pilate’s bidding, nor his accusers had any power over him. He didn’t fear what man could do to him. It was as if the scales of judgment had been tipped, and we were the ones found wanting. 

I can’t bear to look any longer. I feel so ashamed.

 

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