Jesus, His Life – Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial

We begin this final episode with the same introduction as the first five parts. he episode begins with the same introductory comments.

We begin with a scene of Roman soldiers, along with a carriage in which sits Pilate and his wife, entering through the gates of Jerusalem. Pilate is thinking “I hate this place.” Referring to hot dusty Jerusalem. His thoughts continue “Once I wanted to make a name for myself, but now I just want to scrub this place from my skin”. Pilate’s attitude is significant to the whole story.

The commentators provide a bit of historical content:

Pilate was the prefect, that is the Roman military Governor in the province of Judea from 26 – 36 A.D. He’s famous for one thing. He’s the man in charge during the execution of Jesus. Pilate has come from the lowest level of Roman nobility and probably clawed his way up the ladder to end up in the little backwater town in Judea, arriving on the eve of the Passover. It’s a tough time for a Roman to be in Jerusalem.

Pilate only travels to Jerusalem during Jewish feasts and festivals and fulfills an important ‘behind the scenes’ role, working with the High Priest to make sure there is no unrest during Passover. Pilate also holds the ceremonial robes that Caiaphas must wear – a kind of hostage situation.

Pilate gives Caiaphas his ceremonial robes and asks him if there is anything he needs to know about. Caiaphas answers that there is not. Pilate is naturally suspicious of Caiaphas and really thinks that Caiaphas is expecting trouble.

Next we wee Pilate being awakened in the middle of the night by a messenger from Caiaphas and of course upset. Caiaphas drags Jesus in and presents him to Pilate, hoping Pilate would deal with Jesus because Jesus is popular with the Jewish people. It’s a familiar story. Pilate asks about the charges against Jesus and actually speaks to Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?”As with Caiaphas earlier, Jesus answers “You say so.”

Caiaphas and Pilate talk things over with Caiaphas making more accusations about Jesus. Pilate finally tells Caiaphas and the religious leaders “Take him yourselves. Judge him by your own laws.” (So far, so good.). Caiaphas wanted Jesus executed but had no authority to do so. Pilate wonders why Caiaphas wants Jesus dead.

At the same time we are told that the Pilate of history was cruel and merciless petty tyrant, while the Pilate of the Bible is weak and indecisive, not wanting to take full responsibility for Jesus’ death. The story of the trial in the gospels doesn’t really reflect the actual historical and political reality of the time, so we are told, in order to more easily convert Romans to Christianity. The Biblical portrayal doesn’t reflect the true power of the Roman Prefect.

The conversation between Jesus and Pilate is for the most part, faithful to the text of John 18. Pilate’s wife tells her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus, but when Pilate was sitting at tribunal and not privately, as depicted. Also, the film gives us a glimpse of what she saw in her dream, which is not in the text. Pilate then ‘passes the buck’ to Herod.

The appearance before Herod is recorded in Luke 23. Jesus wasn’t forthcoming there either. Herod an his solders mock Jesus and it is Herod’s soldiers who are said to mock Jesus, not Herod alone, as the film portrays. The chief priests and the rulers of the law who were there are not shown in the film either. It is suggested that perhaps Herod thought the mocking was sufficient punishment and that’s why he handed him back to Pilate.

Pilate of course doesn’t want to make a decision to put Jesus to death and is seen taking things over with Caiaphas telling the Chief Priest the he has found nothing in Jesus worthy of execution. He calls for the condemned rebel Barabbas to be brought to him, per the Jewish custom of freeing one condemned Jewish man during the feast.

We are again told that it is naïve to think of Caiaphas a terribly evil character and reminded that portraying Caiaphas birthed anti-Semitism. After all, Caiaphas just wanted to save lives. (This is the same line that was fed to us in an earlier episode.) This is consistent with an earlier commentator’s claims that the Jewish people were not, then or now, in any way responsible for Jesus’ death (even though Peter on Pentecost said otherwise).

Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas to the crowd. “Give us Barabbas!”, they shout. So Pilate is off the hook and can have Jesus executed without a major uprising. He orders the flogging that preceded the execution. We are given great detail about the whip of cords used in the flogging,

Soldiers again mock Jesus and put a red cloak across his shoulders and the crown of thorns upon his head.

Jesus is dragged through the crowds. Pilate still seems uncertain and Caiaphas tells Pilate, “Go on, crucify him.” Pilate says to Caiaphas, “You take him, you crucify him.”, demonstrating the power play between the two men. Since Pilate knows Caiaphas doesn’t have the authority to put Jesus to death and us warning Caiaphas to stay in his lane. (Scripture says they became fast friends? Luke 23:12).

We are treated to more speculative commentary concerning the back and forth between the two and a silly commentator (professor from Duke) telling us that the gospel writers were wrong trying to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death. (He doesn’t believe the gospel writers weren’t inspired by the Hoy Spirit to write what they did.)

At this point Pilate and Caiaphas sure aren’t acting like fast friends! There’s a lot of angry glaring at each other.

Another10 minutes or do of speculation I was too tired to add to my notes, along with more angry stares between Caiaphas and Pilate. Finally, Pilate himself orders the execution but washes his hands of Jesus blood. More comments about the gospel writers being wrong about the Jews being responsible for the execution (different commentator).

“The historical reality is likely to have been that if Caiaphas had brought Jesus to Caiaphas to Pilate, Pilate would not even have batted an eye in ordering the crucifixion of Jesus” (Dr. Robert Cargill)

Pilate walks away thinking, “What does another dead man matter to me anyway? Golgotha is soaked in the blood of countless men, and I remember none of them. Rome won’t give a second thought to Jesus of Nazareth, so why should I?”

Jesuit Priest, Dr. James Martin tells us, in one of the last two comments of the episode, “We should not blame Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities for the death of Jesus. Only one person had the authority to put Jesus to death, and that was Pontius Pilate, a Roman.”

The very last scene of the episode has Pilate and his wife watching two Roman soldiers dragging Jesus away for his execution. Jesus glances at them both. Pilates wife looks at her husband disapprovingly then turns around and walks away.

“If Pontius Pilate hadn’t executed Jesus of Nazareth. Pontius Pilate would have been lost to history. He would have just been another Prefect of another distant province.” ( Dr. Michael Peppard, Author)

(I guess the very last comment had to be about the main character of the episode.)

                                                                           The End

Dan’s final thoughts:

This episode had nothing at all to say about Jesus’ mission in coming, either true or false. It didn’t really need to. It was all about Caiaphas, Pilate, and Jesus’ trial. What was shown about Jesus seemed to be accurate. Not so much the Roman Prefect and the High Priest. They were both misrepresented and their relationship (they became friends) twisted to fit the botched narrative commentary.

P.S., I just noticed that there are still two more episodes to follow, Jesus life from the viewpoints of Mary Magdalene and Peter. I had already begun working a summary of sorts with a few overall observations, and now two more???????? (Some of you will get it.) Decision, decisions.

4 responses to “Jesus, His Life – Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial

  1. Started watching Episode 7: Mary Magdalene: The Cricifixion, this morning riding my indoor training bike. Just the first five minutes. VERY ‘interesting’, if you get my drift.

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