“In the midst of pain, I received peace, at the point of death, my freedom. And though I will die a condemned man, I will live eternally pardoned.
– The Thief
The stars glistened like diamonds against the night sky, while a gentle breeze came through the bedroom window where Pontius Pilate was sleeping.
“Sir,” a voice came beyond the curtain that covered the doorway. “The high priest of the Jews has come to have a word with you.”
“Tell them to come back later I’m sleeping,” grumbled Pilate.
“Sir they say it is most urgent that you come out to them and hear the case against the prisoner they have brought to you. They say he claims to be a king!”
Throwing the covers back he stumbled to the floor.
“Doesn’t anyone ever sleep around here?” Pilate growled as he lit the lamp beside his bed.
“Take them into the courtyard and I will join you there,” he commanded.
“Sir, the Jewish leaders request that you come out to them,” the soldier replied hesitantly.
“Why?” demanded Pilate as he finished getting dressed.
“To come into the Praetorium would make them ceremonially unclean and they would not be able to partake in their Passover feast going on this week.
“These Jews and their feast,” Pilate growled as he walked out of the room to join the soldier who was waiting for him. Together the two men went to the place where the Jews were waiting.
The soft flickering light from the torches illuminated the courtyard in front of the Praetorium, as the mob that had arrested Jesus waited for Pilate to come and pass judgment. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, Pilate came out to them and said,
“What accusation do you bring against this man?”
“He is a criminal,” they responded.
“Then take him and judge him according to your own law,” Pilate commanded as he turned to leave.
“You know we cannot sentence anyone to death according to the law!” the Jews responded.
“Death? What has he done?”
Pilate turned and walked into the courtyard , “Bring the prisoner to me ,”he commanded. As the guards came in with Jesus he observed him as they approached.
“Who is this man? Why do the Jewish leaders want him dead?” Pilate thought to himself.
Jesus stood before Pilate in silence. His face dripping blood and sweat from the beating he received from the temple guards.
“Are you the king of the Jews?” questioned Pilate.
“Are you speaking for yourself about this concerning me?” Jesus responded.
“Am I a Jew? Your own people and the chief priest have delivered you to me!” Leaning forward Pilate continued,
“What have you done?”
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here.”
As Pilate stared into the eyes of Jesus, an uneasy feeling gripped his heart. He arose and came down from the place he was sitting and stood before Jesus. In the dimly lit courtroom the darkness loomed just outside the light of the torches.
“Then you are a king.”
“You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
“What is the truth?” Pilate said out of frustration as he turned and went back out to the place where the priest and the Jews were gathered. As he approached the crowd Pilate said,”I find no fault in this man!”
“He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place!” the priest cried out. Others among the crowd shouted in agreement with him.
“Galilee? Well then, since Galilee is Herod’s jurisdiction take it up with him.”
Pushing Jesus on ahead of them the soldiers along with the Jewish leaders that followed came to the place where Herod was staying, for he had come to Jerusalem for the feast. Awakened by the sound of their voices Herod sent his guard to see what they were up to.
“Sir, the chief priest and the Jews have come from Pilate to bring to you a man they want you to judge.”
“Interesting,” Herod said to himself. “Bring him to me.” As they brought Jesus into the room, Herod recognized him.
“I have been hoping to have an opportunity to meet you Jesus. I have heard of the miracles you have done over the years,” Herod smiled with delight as he approached Jesus.
“This man is a criminal!” exclaimed the chief priest.
“He even says he is the king of the Jews!” another added as the crowd became agitated again.
Raising his hand to silence them Herod said, “Well, what do you have to say about these accusations Jesus?”
“Why do these men want you dead?”
Still no response.
“What miracle will you perform to convince me of your innocence?”
Jesus stood before Herod in silence while the chief priest and the Jews continued to accuse him. When Herod concluded that he was not going to be entertained by him he began to mock Jesus.
“So you’re a king?” Herod said as he took off the robe he was wearing.
“No king should be dressed like you are!” he laughed as he gave it to his chief officer.
“Oh your highness let me help you get dressed!” the officer said sarcastically as he threw the robe over Jesus. Other soldiers joined in by mimicking people Jesus healed by acting as if they were blind or had a disease and they were healed miraculously. Herod returned to his chair disappointed.
“Well if you will not talk to me I will not waist anymore of my time with you! Send him back to Pilate and tell him thanks for the entertainment!” Herod ordered as he joined in with the soldiers laughing at Jesus.
As the sun broke over the horizon the sky was illuminated with the color of red. Pilate sat in the chair in the center of the Praetorium.
“Pontius,” his wife spoke softly as she came up from behind him.
“Why don’t you go back to bed while there is still enough time to get a little more sleep before you start your day,” she continued as she wrapped her arms around him.
“I am not sleepy anymore, and besides I have already started my day with this man they are trying to convict.”
“I had a dream last night about a man who was brought before you,” his wife said. As she described the dream to him, Pilate became nervous. Unable to stay in the chair any longer he pulled away from his wife and began to pace around the courtroom.
“Pontius what’s wrong?”
“I have seen the man you just described to me! He is the one the Jews want me to crucify!”
“Have nothing to do with this man! He is bad news!” she pleaded with him.
As they were speaking a guard approached them, “Sir, the Jews have returned from Herod and they are demanding your presence.”
“Pontius,” she cried out.
He paused for a moment then turned and went with the guard to where the Jews were gathered.
“It is customary to release a prisoner condemned to death during their Passover, surely they will want to release Jesus!” Pilate thought to himself as he walked toward the outer courts. When he arrived the Jews started accusing Jesus while others cried out his innocence. By this time the crowd had grown and all their voices became a loud roar. Raising his hands, Pilate quieted the crowd.
“You have a custom that I should release a prisoner to you in honor of your Passover feast. Do you therefore want me to release to you this man Jesus in whom even I find no fault?” he announced while pointing to Jesus.
The Jewish leaders started to shout,
“We want Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!”
“That man is a thief and a murderer! You want me to release him?”
Pilate stared at Jesus shaking his head in disbelief.
“Take the prisoner and have him scourged,” commanded Pilate.
The soldiers grabbed Jesus and took him into the prison courtyard. There they stripped the robe off of him and bound him to a pole with his hands over his head. The sound of the whip echoed off the prison walls as it came down upon Jesus’ back tearing away the flesh in it’s path of fury.
Awakened by the sounds coming from the courtyard, the prisoner winced as he felt the pain in his back from the beating he received the day before. The shackles that bound him hand and foot clanged on the floor as he struggled to the window to see what was going on outside. As he looked into the courtyard he observed a man being beaten. Instead of cursing or begging for his life the man remained silent as if he was allowing them to do this to him. When the soldiers had finished scourging Jesus, one of them drew his sword and cut the rope that held Jesus to the pole. Then taking a purple robe he placed it on Jesus’ back and propped him against the pole.
“Wait,” exclaimed another soldier as he came toward Jesus.
“No king is complete without a crown!” He laughed as he forced the crown of thorns into Jesus head causing him to bleed. The other soldiers laughed as they joined in placing a reed in his right hand, then others came and kneeling before Jesus saying, “All hail the king of the Jews!’ Then they spat on him while others slapped him with the reed they gave him and ripped the beard away from his face. Their laughter filled the courtyard as the prisoner watched in silence.
“What did he do to deserve such treatment from the Romans? Why are they calling him ‘king of the Jews?,” the prisoner thought to himself. Just then the prison doors swung open and some guards came into the main corridor of the prison.
“Get Barabbas and take him to Pilate,” the officer commanded the guards.
The soldiers burst into the cell where Barabbas was being held for execution and threw him out into the hallway of the cell block.
“Move it!” commanded the soldiers as they prodded him along with their spears.
Pilate gathered the Jewish leaders, and the people together in front of the Praetorium in the place called the pavement. Then he ordered the guards to bring out Jesus and presented him to the crowd.
“Behold the man!” he announced.
When Pilate saw Jesus he thought, “Surely they will release him now instead of Barabbas.” His thoughts were abruptly interrupted as the chief priest and other religious leaders started yelling,
“Crucify him! Crucify him!”
They encouraged the people to join them. Then Pilate silenced the crowd and commanded,
“You take him and crucify him, for I have found no fault in this man!”
Then one of the Jewish leaders responded, “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God!”
At that the crowd began to rise up again. Pilate turned and went into the Praetorium,
“Bring Jesus to me,” he commanded as he walked by the guard.
“Where are you from?” he questioned Jesus as the guards entered the room with him. Using what strength he had left to stand, Jesus spoke not a word in response.
“Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know I have the power to crucify you, and the power to release you?”
Jesus’ body shook with fatigue as he looked up and gazed into the eyes of the man standing before him.
“You could have no power at all against me unless it had not been given to you from above. Therefore the one who delivered me to you has the greater sin.” Breaking away from looking at Jesus, Pilate started walking toward the door. “Bring both of the prisoners out and let the people decide.”
As he took the judgment seat, the guards brought out Jesus on one side and Barabbas on the other. Pilate stood and quieted the crowd,
“You have brought this man Jesus to me as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined him in your presence, I have found no fault in this man concerning those things of which you accuse him. Neither did Herod, for I sent you to him as well. It is my ruling that nothing deserving death ……”
While Pilate was still speaking some of the leaders began to cry out,
“Away with this man and release Barabbas!”
“Why, what evil has he done that is worthy of death?”
“If you let this man go, you are not Caesars friend! Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar!”
“Do you want me to crucify your king?” Pilate questioned them as he pointed to Jesus.
“We have no king but Caesar!” And the people began to cry out again. Pilate leaned over to the officer standing next to him.
“Bring me a bowl of water and a towel.” When the officer returned with the water, Pilate raised his hands to silence the crowd once again. After doing all he could to persuade the crowd to release Jesus he said,
“You have asked for the release of Barabbas in keeping with the tradition of releasing one prisoner to you during your Passover. What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?”
“Let him be crucified! Crucify him!”
Pilate began to wash his hands before them saying,
“I am innocent of this man’s blood. You see to it!”
And the people answered and said,
“His blood be on us and on our children!”
With that being said, Pilate released Barabbas, and looked at Jesus.
Everything in him cried out this man’s innocence but the noise of the Jews prevailed.
“Jesus I sentence you to death by crucifixion.”
The soldiers stripped off the purple robe that had dried to his back , and led him away to be crucified. The sounds of the angry mob filled the city as the people lined the streets to see the men condemned to death as they passed by. Just then the door to the prison cell burst open and the guards came in and seized the two thieves who were awaiting their crucifixion. When they came to the entrance of the prison the light of the sun blinded their eyes. Then the soldiers pushed them down before the wooded cross beams on the ground in front of them.
“Pick it up and get moving!”
As they came into the main street that led to Golgotha, the prisoner that saw Jesus out the window of his cell recognized him as he walked on ahead of them. Jesus could barely stand much less carry the heavy wooden cross beam as he began to stumble under its weight. As they approached the hill, Jesus fell down out of exhaustion.
“Get up and keep moving!” demanded the soldier as he prodded Jesus with his sword. Staggering to his feet Jesus took a few more steps and fell again. The soldier prodded Jesus with his sword but he was unable to go up the hill carrying his cross. The soldier tuned to the crowd that gathered along the roadside,
“You,” he commanded pointing to Simon from the region of Cyrene. “Carry it, now!” Simon trembled as he came over to Jesus and lifted the cross off of him.
“Come on get moving we haven’t got all day!” the soldier said angrily.
Upon reaching the top of the hill the two thieves watched as they crucified Jesus to the cross. Nailing his hands and feet, the soldiers raised him up with a sign hanging over his head that read “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” Then they crucified the other prisoners along with him, one on his right and the other on his left. As the soldiers guarded the prisoners so no one could come and save them, they began to divide up the garments they had confiscated.
“Wait a minute,” one of the them said as he saw the garment that Jesus had worn.
“This tunic is one piece. Why don’t we cast lots to see who gets it?”
The other soldiers agreed. As the morning went on the chief priest, and the Jewish leaders began to mock him saying,
“And you said you can rebuild the temple in three days.”
“Why don’t you save yourself?”
“If you are the Son of God, come down off that cross and we will believe you.”
Then men on the other crosses joined in,
“If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!” said the thief on his right.
Jesus turned his head and looked at him, without saying a word and then he looked up toward heaven and prayed,
“Father forgive them they know not what they do.”
Then thief on the other cross cried out in pain,
“Don’t you fear the wrath of God even now as we die? We’re getting what we deserve for we are thieves, but this man between us hasn’t done anything wrong! Even now at the point of death he asks God to forgive those who have done this to him, and he has not yelled back at people the who are making fun of him as we ourselves did!”
Then looking over at Jesus and the sign that was over his head the thief said in a trembling voice,
“Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus turned his head and gazed over at the man on the cross next to him.
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:3-6 (NKJV)
This story was adapted from the four gospels of the Bible