AS DUSK FELL UPON THE city of Caesarea, the sound of clamoring voices, which had surrounded the praetorium, dwindled away. The lone figure at the center of the judgment hall finally emerged from its shadows. Though tall, he was somewhat slumped over, his gaily colored clothes hanging loosely on his frail frame. He walked slowly and deliberately as he moved from the open judgment area through the hallway that led to the main entrance of his home. Opening the door, he called out to the tall, lonely figure of a woman who sat quietly on the lavish couch at one side of the dimly lighted sitting room, “Darling, I’m home.”
Her previously pensive face broke into a broad smile. “At last!” She clapped her hands as a signal to the servant girl in the next room. “You must be starved. Dora cooked us a lovely dinner.” She got up and moved slowly to the dining area. The table was already set and there was a large bottle of wine chilling in the center. She motioned for her husband to follow. “Come, let’s eat." After the servant girl placed the food on the table and filled two glasses with wine, she dismissed her, and, walking back to her husband, whose gait was slower than hers, put her arm around him. As they walked together the short distance to the table, she asked, “Tell me, how was your day, Pilate dear?”
“Uh! What a day! All kinds of cases! All kinds of silly laws to enforce.” By now they had reached the table. She seated herself gracefully, while he flopped down into the plush chair that was waiting for him. “I wish I was as wise as Socrates, and as strong as Caesar.”
She got up and threw both of her arms around him, smiling. “Oh, but you are, my dear Pilate, you are! You mustn’t underestimate yourself so! Now, come on, let’s eat.” She released him and sat down again.
“No, Portia, dear.” He sighed, placing his napkin on his lap. “It’s not what I am, but rather what you’d like me to be. You know very well that I’m a washout – a wishy-washy, no-good-weakling.”
Her hand hit the table, causing the dishes of food to shake, as she called out his name in disgust. “Pontius Pilate! How dare you downgrade yourself so? You’re just as good as any other ruler and you know it! In fact, there’s no reason at all why you couldn’t rule Galilee and Perea as well as Judea, if you put your mind to it.”
“But, why should I?” he asked, as he helped himself to generous portions of the lamb, potatoes and vegetables. “Herod handles that territory quite well, I believe.” He passed the food to her and started to eat.
“But there’s no reason why you couldn’t do just as well, if not better.” She retorted, filling her plate.
“Really, Portia dear! I’m not even doing a good job with Judea, and you talk of extending my territory!”
They continued to eat, continuing the conversation between bites.
“What do you mean, you’re not doing a good job with Judea? I think you’re a fine governor, and Caesar must think so too, or you wouldn’t be here. What makes you think differently?”
“You haven’t been watching me out there lately. I give in to the people constantly, not to mention listening to Herod’s stupid suggestions.”
“Ah! I wasn’t aware of that. I thought you were the same tough governor you used to be. What’s wrong with you? Have you lost your backbone?”
He shrugged. “Perhaps I have. But, on the other hand, perhaps I’m really starting to do a good job for the first time in my life.”
She winced, as she reached for her glass to wash down the last mouthful. “Just what do you mean by that?”
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Dear, don’t you think the people deserve some consideration?”
“Why?” She snarled and turned to face him more squarely. “They don’t know what’s good for them. How can they know the intricate workings of government? And yet they want to run it! They gripe and the fuss! They’ve griped ever since you became governor and they’re still griping.”
“Surely they had just cause back then. I do believe we were a bit too hard on them from the beginning, dear.”
“Or you! It was you who stood behind me all the way. It was your idea to treat ‘em tough. It was your idea to tax ‘em heavily, and enforce the taxation. ‘Show ‘em who’s boss,’ you said.” He took another bite of lamb and washed it down with a big gulp of wine. “And all the trouble with those Jews – that business of moving the army to Jerusalem – that was your idea too, you know, and it caused more trouble! Since the soldiers’ standards bore the image of the divine emperor, they were viewed as desecrating the holy city. Of course the Jews were outraged. But I stood firm. ‘Show ‘em who’s boss,’ you insisted, and I loved you, so I stood firm against them— as firm as I could. When they came here, all the way from Jerusalem, to plead with me for the removal of my army from their city, I did not immediately give in or think of doing so. But I tried to be fair and listened objectively to their arguments. For five days I listened, considering the merits of their case, until, I got tired of hearing of their religious superstitions. Finally, at your insistence, I had them surrounded with soldiers and threatened them with death if they did not cease to trouble me.”
“A very wise move, if I do say so!”
“Yes, I was starting to stand quite ruthlessly, upon my own feet, so to speak. But I could only stand up to a point even then. I fear they stood more than I did that day, for when they declared themselves ready to submit to death rather than to my idolatrous order. I did give in, finally, and ordered the standards brought back here to Judea.”
She sighed. “Yes, I remember that I remarked it was a dreadful sign of weakness on your part. But you persisted.”
“I couldn’t, as yet, bring myself to give the death order. Not then. But a few months later, I did.”
“And none too soon!”
“None too soon, you say? So it was none too soon that I became a cruel and heartless man?”
“—-that you became a man, Pilate! -–that you became a man at all!”
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