Not sure how you’ll receive this letter but I think I know you well enough to know you’ll read it. That would be the Judge in you – the one who reads and listens to the evidence before a judgement is handed down. You’re trained for this so I’m fairly sure you’ll read and reflect before leaving down this page.
They say your wife sent you a message that day. Even as I stood before you a woman out of our line of vision saw what you and others could not see. I’m told she said it was a dream, as if my Father doesn’t speak to us in our dreams. “Have nothing to do with that man” – is that what she said? Needless to say, I’m glad you didn’t fully take that advice literally. You see that’s why we met that day because too many people decided they’d have “nothing to do with that man”. I know that’s not what she meant but it’s what they meant. For having nothing to do with that man gave them an excuse not to listen and not to change and not to follow. Having nothing to do with that man allowed them distance and, at times distance is dangerous. It leaves too much room, literally, too much room for error, gossip, lack of judgement – wrong decisions.
There was very little room between us. I knew you knew what was happening was wrong. You wondered why I was silent. You even uttered something stupid about your authority. You were searching for words, Pilate but deep down you knew what I knew. All this was happening because of jealousy. Your wife spoke to you out of love – love for you and, through her dreams, love for me. Her dreams told her something of what I was about – the Author of her dreams, wanted to awaken in her awareness of hope and change. You didn’t listen to her – well you did and you didn’t. You washed your hands, declared your innocence and handed me over. It’s not what you wanted to do though and that’s the bit that stayed with me. Not so much that you caved in, passed sentence as you didn’t do what you wanted to do – needed to do – the right thing to do.
I don’t blame you Pilate. When we were on our own, I knew what you wanted. The crowd just got the better of you. All I’d ask is that now you’d follow your inner promptings more – err always on the side of compassion. “Be compassionate as your Heavenly Father is compassionate and you will have compassion shown you”.
Again, you were right. I read your letter and re-read it many times. Just as I have re-lived that day many times. It was my chance to do the right thing. I felt guilty about letting Barrabas go. He was a nasty piece of goods. I couldn’t believe it when they called his name. I still hear that chant when I try to sleep. “Not this man, Barabbas” Oddly enough, I heard that you later pardoned a criminal and I took some small consolation from that. At least we did something the same, even if your forgiveness were less reluctant than mine.
Authority is such a difficult place to be. I felt so stupid talking to you about my authority to release you or condemn you. People used me to suit themselves. Your case, no different than many for always there were victors and losers after a case. I always hoped I’d made the right decision but sometimes would have heard that someone I declared innocent had, in fact, used the system to beat the system. Bad as that was, I heard too of the innocence of ones I judged guilty. Your case was different though. I knew you shouldn’t be there. Everything in me wanted to shout at them “leave him alone” but the words wouldn’t come. Yes, I got a message from my wife that day. Pretty much along the lines you mention. “Have nothing to do with that man. I have been troubled all day by a dream I had about him”. Her words, much as I value them, were not what convinced me. I was convinced, even before I met you. We talked, at our judicial parties, in our houses, on our travels about you. We heard all the things you had done. Word gets around. There was something very different about you. Of course my wife’s words were significant. But like mine, they were drowned out by the roar of the crowd. “Crucify him”, “If you let him go you are no friend of Caesar’s”, “Not this man, Barrabas” “Let his blood be on us and on our children”. The judge was afraid. The good word was drowned out by the bad. The light overshadowed by the darkness. I lost my way. Washing my hands was a wasted exercise – a waste of water – and, as I thought at the time, a waste of your life.
I was pleased, shocked yes, but breathlessly pleased to hear of an empty tomb, shocked guards and new hope. Could it be true? The one condemned, the one executed, the one betrayed had risen from the dead. Today I get your letter. Your words and your eternal promise jump off the page and find life in my heart. You live. Praised be God forever.