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What would it be like to be in Jerusalem during the most pivotal week in human history—the week of Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection? Here is your frontrow seat to all the action as seen through the eyes of a Roman centurion.

Date: Six thirty in the morning, Friday, April 7, 30 A.D.
Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate begins.

The governor peered over the heads of the men directly in front of him. He scanned the assemblage on the street, took in the significance of it all, and then cleared his throat. “Where is the man?”
Jonathon turned quickly. On reaching the first step, he beckoned beyond our pikemen to three of his own temple guards, who then advanced with their prisoner—Jesus of Nazareth.
He was a mess, almost unrecognizable. His hair was matted. He had been spat upon. The spittle was drying in his beard. There were red welts on his face and neck, a blood-oozing gash above his left eye, a discernable limp to his gait.
It was apparent that during the night they’d had their way with him.
He was escorted to a position directly before me. Intuitively I knew he was my man now, my charge.
A twitch of Pilate’s eyebrow hinted his surprise at the condition of the man.
“Loose him,” he directed with a slight wave of his hand.
Two temple guards hastened to unfasten the leather strap binding Jesus’s arms to his torso. The third man freed the prisoner’s hands. With a second wave of his hand, Pilate dismissed the temple guards, who repositioned themselves on the first step and stood facing the proceedings.


Photo by David Kitz

Pilate took a seat on the throne of judgment, which had been brought out for him by two attendants. Raising the scroll in his left hand, he asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
It was clear from this gesture that he was referring to the charges written on the scroll he now clutched in his hand. Undoubtedly he had read these charges himself, and in all likelihood had discussed them
with the assessor standing to his right. But he wanted the high priest to articulate them. “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you,” Caiaphas said with a huff.
A rather cheeky response, I thought.
“Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law,” Pilate answered.
Here Annas interjected, “But we have no right to execute anyone.”
A devious response if there ever was one. The temple, in fact, routinely acted as both judge and executioner in religious matters and had been granted full authority to do so. Death by stoning was commonplace. I had witnessed Annas himself cast the first stone at some hapless adulteress within the first week of my arrival here ten years ago. No, the temple had the right to execute, and these crafty fellows could surely find grounds to execute this man. They just didn’t want the blood on their hands. They did not want to be blamed for the death of this rabbi. For many he had become the hope of the nation. No, they wanted us to do the job, to act as their executioners. They wanted him judged and executed under Roman law. What Caiaphas said next made this abundantly clear.
“We have found this man”—he aimed a bony finger at Jesus—“subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”
Now here was a capital offense—a capital offense under Roman law.
The Weasel had backed the Badger into a corner, and he was relishing the moment. These charges would need further examination. But Pilate would not proceed in full view of a gloating high priest, urged on by his consorts and a handpicked audience. He retreated.
He abruptly arose from his throne, fixed his eyes on me, and said, “Bring the man.” He motioned with a jerk of his head toward the great doors behind us and then marched off into his residence.
I stepped down to escort Jesus, but he was already in motion. It became clear that the steps were painful for him. I put my hand to his elbow.


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