What is truth? — Pilate in three takes (take 3)

As mentioned in the footnote of the last Bible study (“Don’t just read it”), the following post is the last of three that explores different interpretations of Pilate’s question “What is truth.” Using the ancient Jewish practice of Midrash (in which scholars took the stories of scripture and expanded them to reach new insight and new interpretive depth), I have attempted to get into Pilate’s mind on that fateful day before the Passover. Think of these posts as “takes”  — a film director asking an actor for different emotions over the course of shooting a scene. These different angles help us interpret Pilate’s conversation with Jesus in John 18:33-38. After reading all three takes, decide which you think is persuasive. If none is, write your own!

Take Three

I shut the door behind me, and the noise of the crowd dies away. What do they expect me to do? They didn’t even offer an accusation, and they want this man dead. If they just wanted him dead, someone could have knifed him in the back. No, they don’t just want him dead. They want a spectacle. So they come to me. They think they can manipulate me into complying with the whims of their high priests. We’ll see about that.

I open the door again and motion for Jesus to be brought to me. He enters the chamber and immediately fills it with his presence. I feel the same way I do when my commander comes for an inspection. “Are you the king of the Jews?” I ask, and an ounce of wonder escapes my lips with the words.

He replies with his own question: “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

I feel suddenly put on trial. I take a step back; indignation replaces wonder in my voice: “I am not a Jew, am I?”

He is really from a different kingdom, he says. His followers would be fighting if he were from here, he says. The nation I am governor of has no bearing on him, he says.

“So you are a king?” I am perplexed, but at the same time I am conscious that my office does not allow for vexation brought about by a local celebrity.

“You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

His words hold such power. They linger in the air, catching the morning light that is streaming in the window. I want to believe what he is saying, but a lifetime of orders and spears and pavement and paperwork and…holds me back.

He stands in front of me, hands clasped as if in silent prayer. I look into his eyes and they reflect the words, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

I slump down, back to my desk, knees bent. “What is truth?” I say. It is a plea more than a question. I bow my head, upset that I let my emotions show in front of this Jew. My vision begins to mist as tears build in the corners of my eyes.

Get a hold of yourself. You are the governor. You are in charge, not this delusional freak. I sling my head back and whack it on the desk. My head clears. The tears are gone. I look up and see a hand reaching down. My eyes narrow. I do not need your pity, I think. Knocking his arm away, I pull myself up and stalk out of the room, without a further glance back at those eyes or those hands.

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