Chapter Fourteen

                      GOOD FRIDAY  (PESACH)

       Some time towards early morning, the Sadducean Tribunal began to
interrogate him. Mark, the earliest of the evangelists reports the gist of
the questioning, according to his received tradition, as follows, regarding
the testimony of witnesses that reported him to have made messianic claims:

     "We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with
      hands, and within three days I will build another made without
      hands. But neither so did their witness agree together. And the
      high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying,
      Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against
      thee. But he held his peace, and answered nothing."
                             Mark 14:58-61

       Caiaphas then asked him to explain who his disciples were and what
their mission was, and in general, to give an account of the exact
"doctrine" that he taught. Jesus replied that his teachings were no secret
since he has always spoken to the people openly and that his teachings were
public knowledge. (John 18:15-16).

       Seeing that this line of questioning was getting him nowhere, the
high priest asked him directly if he was claiming to be the messiah, to
which Jesus responed:

     "I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the righ hand
      of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
                             Mark 14:62

       Or, as Matthew has it:

     "Thou hast said: neverthless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye
      see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming
      in the clouds of heaven."
                              Matthew 26:64

       The gospel account continues that after making this declaration, the
servants of the high priest began to verbally and physically abuse Jesus.
Whether this is inserted for dramatic affect is not certain but in the
story of Jesus before Pilate, we see agin that the Roman soldiers did the
same. This is more in connosance with a historical reality of the situation
that obtained between the Romans and any subject native that would be
seen as a rebel against the Empire. But to suppose that Jewish leaders,
even Sadducean collaborators, would mistreat their own is a bit too much.
It appears that either the author (or the editor) is casting the high
priest and his servants in a particularly bad light, or that he wishes to
bring out the aspect of Jesus suffering abuse as a relevant part of his

       While the interrogation of Jesus was going on, Peter and another
disciple were waiting in the outer court yard of the Caiaphas' palace.
Presumably this other disciple was one of the sons of Zebedee since we are
informed that this other disciple was known to the high priest (John
18:15-16), and we remember that the family of Zebedee supplied fish to the
house of the high priest. Servants of the high priest's household were in
the court with the two disciples and, seeing the disciples there, the
servants asked if they were acquainted with the prisoner. Peter vehemently
deneied knowing Jesus. When the high priests servants pointed out that he
must be one of Jesus' followers since he had a Galilean accent, Peter
became angry and beligerent. This continued until, in a state of
embarrassment and shame at his cowardace, he could no longer remain and lie
in his interrogators' faces. The other disciple who had accompanied him,
possibly John, probably remained to see the outcome of the Sadducees'

       Having now determined that Jesus indeed was a messianic pretender,
the Sadducees decided to hand him over to the Roman authorities for
questioning since the Romans were looking for all and any ring leaders
involved in the insurrection. Consequently, he was taken to the palace of
Pontius Pilate, Rome's governor of Judea. Matthew informs us that while
they were on route to Pilate's residence, Judas was overcome with guilt and
remorse for his betrayal of his master, and he hanged himself (Matthew

       Jesus was brought to Pilate's Hall of Judgment (John 18:28) in the
early morning. The Sadducees no doubt told Pilate that Jesus was the
ringleader in the Temple takeover, and may have added that Jesus was
overheard by many to have said that he would ultimately destroy the Temple
and rebuild it himself within three days. If so, Pilate must have thought
that this was another instance of Jewish madness until the Sadducees
explained to him the significance of such a statement on Jesus' part:

     "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to
      give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King."
                     Luke 23:2


     "He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry,
      beginning from Galilee to this place."
                     Luke 23:5

       This was something that Pilate could understand. Sedition against
Rome. Here was another Jew setting himself up as a saviour of the Jews, and
a king to challenge the Empire. The Romans were by now quite used to this
phenomenon but but no means the less threatened by it just because it was
repetitious in Israel. Jewish Messianism always frightended Rome because the
Romans always saw the POLITICAL element in it no matter that there was also
a RELIGIOUS element, and their concerns were justified. Politics and
religion were forever inseparable in Israel. Pilate therefore thought it
expedient to have Jesus interrogated along with other captured leaders in
the insurrection.

       At this point, Luke introduces an episode (Luke 23:7-15) not found
in the other gospels. He states that Herod had come to Jerusalem
(ostensibly for the holiday), and when he (Pilate) discovered that Jesus
was a Galilean, he decided to send him to Herod for an interrogation.
Herod having heard so much about Jesus, having for a time believed him to
be a possible reincarnation (or resurrection) of the Baptist, and having
sought him out in Galilee, now at last had the opportunity to face him and
question him. Luke reports that Jesus refused to answer any of Herod's
questions, possibly because he considered Herod as a royal usurper,
sitting on the very throne of David that he himself ought be occupying.
When Herod found that he could get no satisfaction from the interrogation,
he mocked Jesus and dismissed him as being of no consequence. Thereupon, he
sent him back to Pilate to be questioned further. The gospel adds a detail
that up to that day, Pilate and Herod had been angry with each other and
that the protocol of courtesy on Pilate's part in sending Jesus to him
caused their friendship to be renewed.

       John's gospel gives the most thorough details of the questioning,
perhaps because the original author, the son of Zebedee, was present
throughout the proceedings. In order to appreciate the full force of the
dialogue between Jesus and Pilate it is to the point to render it into
modern idiomatic English rather than to present it in the King James which,
due to its archaism, detracts from its impact. I have therefore taken the
liberty to render it into emotionally charged language of today in order
to underscore the emotional conflict going on between the two men, on the
one hand the Jewish resistence leader who is being put on trial for daring
to challenge the power of the mightiest nation in the world to save his
people, and on the other hand, the viscious representative of that
totalitarian power, the miliary governor of Judea.

Pilate: Do you claim to be the messiah, the king of the Jews?

Jesus: Did someone tell you that I am or are you saying that of your
own accord?

Pilate: I'm no Jew! Your own leaders delivered you to me. Are you aware
of the seriousness of your crime?

Jesus: You mean because I say I am a king? Yes, I am a king but my
kingdom is not of this Age. In MY kingdom, my servants will fight
alongside me.

Pilate: SO you DO say that you are a king!

Jesus: You ask if I am a king. The purpose of my comming into this
world is to bring about the Age of Truth. Everyone who will enter the
world of Truth hears my voice, and they will follow me.

Pilate: What do you mean by that

       At this point, Jesus had no wish to continue parrying with
Pilate. Believing that he had made his point, he remained silent.

Pilate: You're not answering? Don't you realize I have the power to
crucify you (John 19:10) for what you have preached and done?

Jesus: You have no power at all except that which is given you by

       Pilate saw the futility of continuing the conversation. Here was a
Jew who by his own admission, by proclaiming himself as the king messiah,
by incitng to riot, by preaching the withholding of tribute to Caesar, was
a danger to the government and to the status quo, fully recognized as such
by the Sadducean leaders of the country, merited the sentence of execution
for sedition.

       Outside the governor's palace, in spite of the early hour and
despite the fact that it was a holiday, a crowd had gathered. Their mood
was ugly and they were crying out for the release of one of the
insurrection leaders, a certain Barabbas.

     "One named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made in-
      surrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrec-
                        Mark 15:7

     "Who for a certian sedition made in the city, and for murder,
      was cast into prison."
                        Luke 23:19

     "Now Barabbas was a robber."  LESTAS
                        John 18:40

       The gospel authors tell us that there was a custom that one prisoner
was released during the holiday by the governor. No outside source, neither
Josephus nor the Talmud corraborates this "custom". Whose custom was it
supposed to have been? That of the Jews or the Romans? Why do we not hear
of it in other Roman provinces? This is not to say that some LOCAL
precedent had been established in Judea to show leniency to certain
prisoners during a holiday. During our own days a judge may let an accused
off with probation or a word of warning at Christmas time just as an
example. But this would not happen if the perpertrator were being indicted
for sedition against the government, or if he were a KNOWN felon who would
continue to be dangerous to the established social order after his release,
holiday or no holiday. Yet Pilate seems to have no difficulty releasing
this man who we are informed was a MURDERER and ROBBER. Again we are
reminded that John's usage of the word LESTAS (briggand) rather than the
more common KLEPTIS (thief) highlights the fact that this Barabbas must
have been a Zealot. He is popular with the multitude (Matthew 27:22). We
are informed that he is "a NOTABLE prisoner (Matthew 27:16). In other
words, we are here dealing with a local Judean hero who was more popular
with the Jerusalemites than the Nazarene Galilean preacher. It is
possible that the name Barabbas is a reflex of the Semitic bar-abba, "son
of his father", but more likely of bar-rabba, "son of the rabbi", perhaps
an allusion to some other popular local religious leader. If the Barabbas
episode is historical (why would the evangelists bother to include it
otherwise?), it would lead more credence to the fact of a popular
insurrection in the City that week. Pilate did release him, probably
grudgingly and with the intention of arresting him again at the next
possible opportunity.

       Pilate then ordered Jesus taken out and scourged. Why did he do this
if he really believed that Jesus had committed no crime? During the
scourging, the soldiers who were administering it mocked and abused Jesus,
a common practice for Roman soldiers against the hated Jews. Why did Pilate
permit this if he was the saint that the New Testament tries to paint him
to be? (This is reminiscent of the detail about the servants of the high
priest mocking and abusing him and the suspicion is that the evangelist (or
the editor) carried the abuse of the Roman soldiers over to the high
priest's servant for dramatic affect.

       At the same time, the evangelists tell us that Pilate was overcome
with guilt and "washed his hands" of the blood of Jesus's death (Matthew
27:24). The evangelists describe this ritual as though it were some parody
of the expiation ritual described in the book of Deuteronomy. Washing of
the hands is a JEWISH ritual form of symbolic ridding of guilt, not a Roman

       If a dead body is discovered in a field outside the city limits
of a city in Israel, and the slayer is unknown, the city elders come
out and perform a ritual of expiation for the city, then ...

     "And all the elders of that city, who are nearest unto the slain
      man, shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken
      in the valley. And they shall speak and say:'Our hands have not
      shed this blood, either have our eyes seen it. Forgive, Oh L--d,
      Thy people Israel, whom Thou hast redeemed, and suffer not inno-
      cent blood to remain in the midst of Thy people Israel.'"
                     Deuteronomy 21:6-8

       For the most part, the gospel writers (and editors) appear to treat
Pilate as a saint, and as a matter of fact, there was a period of time in
which he actually was made a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
Christianity indeed did have its own reasons for casting Pilate in a
favorable light, and we shall explore these reasons later. However the
gospel portrayal of the Roman governor as it relates to the trial and
sentencing of Jesus is NOT historically acurate. It is precisely because
the New Testament wishes to shift the guilt of the death of Jesus away from
the Roman authorities and on to the heads of the Jewish nation that Pontius
Pilate has been white-washed by its authors and editors, and made to appear
the innocent dupe of "THE Jews". However, one only need go to other
contemporaneous sources outside the New Testament to get ANOTHER
appraisal of the character of the governor of Judea at the time of Jesus'

       Philo of Alexandria, the great philosopher of his day, states that
Pilate was "cruel by nature and hard hearted, entirely lacking in remorse."
He states that under his administration, men were often sent to their
deaths without benefit of a trial, and that he committed many other
injustices of a similar magnitude.

       Josephus, the well-known Jewish historian, writes that, in every way
possible, he deliberately tried to outrage the religious feelings of the
Jewush people he was responsible for governing. On one occaision he had the
Roman standards brought into Jerusalem, something that no procurator before
him had done. These standards bore images upon them, notably of the emporer
whom the Romans deified. Therefore they were considered anathema to the
Jewish people, and there had been a long standing agreement between the
Romans and Jews that Jerusalem would not be subject to these standards.
After the standards were brought in, a delegation of Jews appealed to
Pilate to remove them but he refused, saying that their removal would
constitute an insult to the honor of Caesar. Subsequent to that another
delegation of Jews peacefully petition for their removal whereupon Pilate
ordered his soldiers to attack the unarmed assembly and kill as many as
possible for their "insult against August Tiberius." Herod himself became
enraged at this treatment of his subjects, and from then on cut off all
communication with Pilate. It is this break in friendly relations between
Pilate and Herod that Luke alludes to in his story of the interrogation of
Jesus by Herod.

       Pilate also robbed the Temple treasury to finance his own par-
ticular pet projects, and it is continuous similar actions which probably
prompted the Jerusalem to finally attempt an insurrection.

       In C.E. 36, after a decade of inept and provacative administra-
tion, he was ingloriously removed from his position as procurator by Rome
for a savage and senseless masacre of Samaritans. Pilate later died, alone
and friendless, in exile.

       Finally, as if these dark facts about the man were not enough, we
have the one true picture of him as rendered in Luke 13:1 in which we hear
that Jesus was told by his disciples about the Galileans "whose blood
Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices."

       When the scourging was completed, the Romans took him out to the
place of execution called Golgotha by Matthew (27:33) and Calvary by Luke
(23:33). As was their custom, the Romans added to the humiliation of the
execution by forcing the condemned to carry his own cross to the place of
execution. Once there, the soldiers began to carry out the sentence. While
the body of the condemned was being affixed to the cross, he was offered a
drink of mixed wine with myhrr, the purpose of which was to dull the pain
of the impalement. The evangelists report that Jesus refused this draught.
It is safe to assume that even to this point, Jesus still maintained faith
that G-d would step in and save him, and thereby save the Jewish people.
His faith remained strong and he surely must have believed that this was
the final test of that faith to see that he was worthy of his messiahship
just as Abraham had received his own final test of faith - the binding of
his only son Isaac upon the alter as a sacrifice. Isaac had indeed
submitted his will to the will of G-d, and allowed himself to be bound as a
sacrifice, and at the last moment, G-d had saved him from death and caused
him to become the leader of Israel. Now surely G-d would do so for his
annointed king must have been the thoughts of Jesus as he was placed upon
the cross and lifted up to begin his trial of agony. Affixed to the cross
was a sign written in three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin,
proclaiming the crime of the condemned for all onlookers to see, and be
warned. In the case of Jesus, Pilate had mockingly written, JESUS OF
NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS, a stern warning against any and all would-be
messiahs, that there is no king but Caesar, and all who make themselves
kings rebel against Caesar and his proclaimed divinity. Thus Jesus joined
the ranks of his fellow Israelite martyrs whose complete faith in G-d led
them to defy the arrogance and tyranny of Satan who called himself Caesar
Augustus Soter Mundi, August Caesar Saviour of the World.

       Jesus was crucified in the midst of two other freedom fighters whom
the New Testament call LESTES. Perhaps they had been followers of his. Luke
says that they called out to him to save himself and them (23:39), showing
that even in the face of all hopelessness, the faith in the G-d of Israel
to perform miracles for His people, and for His Annointed One was never

       The hours wore on as did the agony of the crucifixion. Jesus felt
his strength leaving him and, as he was overcome with dispair, as his
belief in himself as Israel's messiah which to now had been so strong began
to falter, he submitted to G-d's will and began to recite Psalm 22 as a
eulogy for his own impending death:

     "My G-d, My G-d, why hast thou forsaken me. Why art thou so far
      from helping me, and from the words of my roaring. Oh my G-d, I
      cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season
      and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that dwellest within
      the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted,
      and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were deliv
      ered: they trustedin thee, and were not confounded."
                        Psalm 22:1-5

       Elie Wiesel, in his book, "Night", describes an incident that took
place in the concentration camp in which he was a prisoner. He tells us
that there was a young boy who had stollen some food beyond his allotted
ration. having been caught by the Germans, the camp com- mandant decided to
make an example of him. He was to be publicly hung. All inmates of the camp
were ordered out and forced to witness the hanging. They watched as the
Germans placed the noose around his neck and kicked out the stand from
beneath his feet. They watched as this young innocent Jewish boy swung
suspended in the agony of his death throwes. As the rope choked the life
out of him, Wiesel heard a man behind him begin to weep and to whisper,
"Where is G-d?". He heard another man behind him answer quickly, "There He
is, hanging from that gallows."

       What must have been running through the minds of the Jews who
watched this scene of three Jewish brothers hanging from their own trees? A
scene which had been repeated over and over again since the coming of the
hated Romans. The heathens mocked while the image of G-d hung dying in
disgrace before the eyes of Israel. The life force drained out of the
three Jewish martyrs while the soldiers who had executed them calously
played a game of dice at the foot of the cross, a game in which the
CLOTHING of the condemned was the prize! Such were the scenes (and THIS
upon a holy day), repeated over and over again which ultimately led the
Jewish people to revolt against Rome, the only people in the ancient world
to dare fight against the SUPER POWER of the day because they were the only
people of the ancient world to hold on to the messianic dream in faith. G-d
had redeemed them before. The prophets had promised that He would do so
again with an ULTIMATE redemption.

       Finally exhaustion overcame Jesus. With his last strength he cried
out, "Into thy hands, I commend my spirit!" (Luke 23:46). John the
evangelist records his last words as he slipped inot death; in sorrow he
hung his head, and said simply, "It is finished."

       The Sabbath was fast approaching, and those disciples who had
remained in Jerusalem wished to have Jesus buried before its onset. A
certain Jospeh of Arimathea, of whom we have not heard before, but al-
legedly a follower of his, petitioned Pilate for his body. When the
permission was given, this Joseph had Jesus interred in the very tomb he
had prepared for himself. As with all rebels who attracted a following,
Pilate had the tomb sealed in order to prevent the disciples from removing
the body. A large heavy stone was placed at the tomb's enterance thereby
effectively preventing anyone from entering. The Romans and their
collaborating Sadducees could now rest, confident that again another Jewish
trouble-maker had been made an example to the people. Their latest
"messiah" was dead. He would be forgotten by his followers and by the
people in general just as all previous "saviours" had been forgotten when
their promised Kingdom failed to materialize in the face of brute naked
Roman might.

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