By Dorothy Brotherton
I could have spent the rest of my life saying, “I told you so,” but men never listen. He hadn’t listened before, so why would he listen after?
I told him — warned him — don’t have anything to do with that man. Don’t touch this situation with a 10-foot pole. It went in one ear and out the other. And my husband’s name would go down in history marked by blackness.
People think being married to a Roman governor is all about luxury and power, jewels and furs, parties and pastries. They have no idea.
In the first-century Roman Empire, the career of a high official teetered on a tightrope. Politics were brutal. Gossip cut like switchblades. Threats and intrigue swirled through palaces. We were not exempt.
My husband Pilate was governor of Judea. His job was to protect the absolute reign of Caesar from any hint of treason. I often heard early rumours in the women’s quarters, behind the fans, and quietly passed information to Pilate. Usually, he listened.
So I don’t understand why he didn’t listen that day. Things might have turned out so differently.
I had been tossing in my bed when I woke in a sweat, trembling, a face still in my mind that spelled terror. Then I heard commotion in the courtyard. It was scarcely dawn.
I splashed water on my face and slipped into the anteroom where I could see Pilate in his private judgment hall, interviewing a blood-smeared prisoner. I recoiled in disgust when I saw the face. No. It couldn’t be: the face from my nightmare. The dream rushed back — the terror, the pursuit, the hopelessness. I scribbled a note to Pilate and quickly found a messenger.
A few moments later, Pilate came to me and I grabbed his arm in panic.
“What?” he demanded, annoyed at being interrupted.
“Don’t have anything to do with that man,” I hissed, trying to still my trembling.
“Why? What have you heard?” he asked, suspecting some court gossip.
“That man — that man — I was greatly troubled because of him in a dream,” I stammered.
Pilate looked at me with disdain and said, “Is that all?”
He shook my hand off his arm and started back into the hall.
“Please. . . .” I called, but he did not turn.
The next hours were a waking nightmare. The crowd roared for blood. The last thing my husband’s career needed was a riot. I heard Pilate say he found no fault in the man, and my hopes soared. He offered to release the man as a gesture for the feast day. The crowd demanded release of a murderer instead.
From behind the draperies, I heard Pilate present the charges to this Jesus of Nazareth, with deafening silence in response.
Pilate asked, almost meditatively, “What is truth?” and again I hoped he would back out of the whole mess.
But sometime in the madness, my husband spoke the crucifixion order, then, strangely, called for a bowl of water. Facing the crowd, he made a show of washing his hands. My hand jumped to cover my mouth, as I saw the water trickle down his elbows. It looked as thick and red as blood.
The man was dragged away. Pilate sat at his desk marking on a rough piece of wood, “This is Jesus, king of the Jews,” the sign to post on the cross, the apparatus of death.
Immediately, the religious leaders argued it wasn’t quite right, but Pilate said, “What I have written, I have written.”
I knew also that what he had done was done.
I fled to my quarters and begged my maid for the strongest headache powders she could find.
Events moved forward. The crucifixion took place outside the city. Pilate permitted two friends of Jesus to entomb his body, then ordered the tomb sealed and guarded.
Three days later, trembling guards stood before Pilate while I listened in the shadows. They told of a shining creature that broke Rome’s seal and rolled the stone away. They claimed they froze, unable to move or speak. The body was missing.
Commotion broke out as religious leaders argued about what to do and the guards expected the axe to fall. After all, their story was preposterous and the penalty for breaking Rome’s seal was death.
Then I heard the chink of coins.
My husband counted coins into the guards’ hands, the priests passing him more. Pilate is usually uncomfortable with hush money, but I understood. This story that Jesus was alive, walking around the city, healthy, no bruises — it had to be silenced.
The guards would take the money and spread a story that friends had stolen the body. That was the deal. A little weak, but maybe the coins would bury the truth forever.
Or maybe, as in my dream, truth would rise from the dead and worlds like Pilate’s and mine would break apart forever.