The Resurrection Plot Pt 2

Questions Without Answers

After the events of that Sunday morning, and the trouble with the guard of the watch, we had persuaded the people that the followers of the false prophet Jesus of Nazareth had stolen his body.

We hoped this would be an end of the matter. Then more reports arrived of empty tombs, and that the dead had been seen walking alive.

Guard: Sir, reports are now coming in of graves having been desecrated.

Chief priest: That is a matter for the elders to attend to.

Guard: But sir, there are witnesses who are certain they have seen empty graves and that the bodies are missing.

Chief priest: Now, that would be a matter for immediate investigation.

Another guard arrives with urgent news saying: Sir, I must report a…

Chief priest: Yes, what is it now?

Another guard: I have an urgent report of dead people seen alive in the city. Some people are saying that they were the ones who had come out of the empty graves.

The chief priest sat down in astonishment and said wearily: Now it begins, the thing we feared most. Did we not warn Pilate that this last error would be worse than the first? And now it’s growing into something even worse… Where will all this lead?

Another chief priest: We must convene an immediate consultation. Call the whole council together. No doubt Pilate’s spies will already be aware of the situation.

The chief priests then angrily demanded to be given the names and addresses of those responsible for spreading these insidious and dangerous rumours. All those involved in this plot must be brought in for immediate questioning.

Not content with stealing the corpse of that imposter, it would seem the grave robbers plotted to steal more bodies out of graves to provide further evidence for their resurrection plot, in preparation for their imaginary kingdom. It must be them, that is the only explanation that would make sense.

Will we never be free from the curse of that Jesus of Nazareth? Everyone in Jerusalem will be troubled. We must act wisely in this matter, or many will be taken in by their deception and become followers.

The Examination

We the temple guards were sent by the chief priests to investigate the rumours of empty graves causing panic among the people of Jerusalem. We entered into the place of graves and were shocked to find it as reported.

Many of the graves had been violated, and we saw that the graves were indeed empty. The bodies were missing! What had happened here? We had never seen anything like it. When we had recovered from the shock of it, we proceeded to examine the graves.

We discovered that the graves were more broken up at the top where the head and shoulders would have been, where they could have been dug up, or pulled out. On closer examination, it seemed that force had been used from inside the grave, almost as if the occupants had broken out, judging by the clumps of earth that were lying scattered around the graves.

I also noticed handprints by the sides of the graves where someone getting out would have placed them. There were some remains of grave-clothes and napkins they would have been wearing. Also, there were footprints walking away from the grave towards the city. There didn’t seem to be any footprints leading to the tombs, only away from them. Who could have done such a thing and why?

If a cart had been used to load the bodies, surely it would have left tracks on the ground? The reality of the evidence was staring us in the face, but it was too much to accept: there had to be another explanation, but what? So far, we have caught no one, nor seen any of the missing bodies. How can we explain all this to the priests?

We made our way wearily back into the city to report to the chief priests.

A Counsel of Expediency

After our investigation, we returned to give our report to the chief priests. They were surprised we had returned so soon and alone, and were impatient to hear our report.

Guard: We found it as reported. We carefully examined the graves and surrounding areas but were left puzzled and greatly perplexed, as there seemed to be no logical explanation for what had happened.

We found no evidence of grave-robbing or movement of bodies from the area. Instead, the evidence suggested the impossible. The occupants of the grave had somehow come upwards, as if force had been applied upward by hands from within. How, or by what means, we had been unable to ascertain. Apart from this, we saw nothing and found nothing.

Chief priest: You found nothing? The Romans will demand answers or they will take the matter into their own hands, and you know what that will mean. We must save the temple and the nation by any means. We must apprehend the perpetrators: we must have those missing bodies!

Guard: But sir, so far we have no evidence. Perhaps we are dealing with supernatural events that…

Chief priest: You understand nothing! It is not a question of what may or may not have happened. It is a question of how to keep the people under control. We must stamp out this dangerous sect before it’s too late. They will always believe us, their priests.

We will make a second proclamation. In the meantime, we instruct you to spread a report among the people that the followers of Jesus removed the bodies out of the graves to deceive people into believing their prophecy of resurrection.

As it was expedient that one man, Jesus of Nazareth, should die for the whole nation, so it is with this case. The Romans demand answers: we will give them their victims, the followers of Jesus.

So the chief priests instructed the guards what to tell the people, commending them for their good work and obedience, and promising to reward them with bags of money.

The Place of Empty Graves

Pilate had become increasingly mistrustful of the promises of the chief priests. Did they not convince the people to choose a notorious murderer, Barabbas, to be released instead of an innocent man? Had they not allowed the body of Jesus of Nazareth to be stolen? So he sent a detail of his own guards to examine the place of graves.

We were startled to find such an upheaval, even given the effects of the great earthquake last Friday. We had never seen anything like it. There were clumps of earth lying around many graves, and looking closer we saw what looked like misshapen holes where a body might have been pulled out, but there was no evidence of footprints leading to the grave, or tracks of a cart used to move the corpses.

Stranger still, were the handprints by the grave, almost as if the bodies had been levered or steadied when coming out. Then we realised if the bodies had decomposed there would be remains left around and inside the graves. But there was nothing, not a bone or fragment to be found. It was as if the bodies had simply vanished or got up and walked away. Or is that what we were supposed to believe?

Presumably, if the grave robberies had occurred at night and not in the day when someone could have seen the crime, some traces would have been evident, but again nothing. We noticed that the bare footprints all led away from the tombs towards the direction of the city gates, and they were not wearing any footwear. But either way, ghosts don’t leave footprints.

Who could have perpetrated such an elaborate hoax, and why? How could they have remained undetected? The gruesome work would have taken some time to accomplish. We argued amongst ourselves, trying to find an explanation for this enigma. The hypotheses we put forward were all unsatisfactory, as the pieces did not fit.

One of us voiced the suspicion that some supernatural event could have occurred. But who could explain the inexplicable? Such a theory would not meet with Pilate’s acceptance. We were sent to gather evidence, not to hunt for ghosts or miracles.  But we were unable to explain it, or gather any meaningful evidence, and we decided to take refuge in the safe answer of an unexplained occurrence requiring further investigation. We needed to find witnesses, if there were any, to help us solve the mystery of the empty graves.

Having decided we had done all we could do that day, we left the place of graves and returned to report our findings to Pilate.

The Guards’ Report to Pilate

Pilate listened carefully, occasionally raising his eyebrows. After a while, we saw he was becoming doubtful and increasingly concerned by the things we were saying.

It would appear that everything connected with Jesus of Nazareth seemed out of the ordinary, as if he was following a path that had been prophesied. But we cannot deal with the miraculous or the supernatural, only with the practical matters facing us. It appears likely that some of his followers conspired with other parties to concoct this scheme to further their kingdom agenda.

After some thought, Pilate said the case would indeed appear to require further investigation and evidence, in particular, finding witnesses. I mistrust those priests: what part have they in all of this? Did they not persuade the mob to choose a murderer instead of Jesus of Nazareth, who they had condemned out of envy, despite my determination to release him. Such people are dangerous and capable of anything.

We must uncover the truth for ourselves, but time has become our enemy. This case then requires the recovery of the bodies and the interrogation of witnesses to uncover the full truth of what actually happened. I will get to the bottom of all of this, one way or another.

Pilate’s Order

Pilate had carefully considered the situation and its implications. He perceived that cunning and subtlety would be required to uncover the truth about this elaborate conspiracy. He instructed his guards what they were to do.

  1. A watch is to be placed on the movements of the priests and guards around the temple.
  2. Anyone claiming to have seen the so-called living dead or found to be spreading rumours of the resurrection myth is to be immediately arrested and brought in for questioning and examination by scourging if necessary.
  3. Any and all means are to be employed to obtain the required information, including impersonation, plying witnesses with money, drink, entrapment, deception, whatever it takes.

We must have those witnesses and we must have those bodies. That is an order.

A Decisive Meeting

A meeting had been arranged with the Roman authorities by the order of Pilate. His representative demanded of the chief priests and elders what they were doing to solve the dangerous situation.

Roman guard: I must inform you that Pilate’s patience is coming to an end. The governor is demanding results.

A chief priest: Sir, we are doing everything possible, and more…

Roman guard: Have you apprehended the conspirators of this resurrection plot? Where are they? And what of the empty graves? Where are the bodies?

A chief priest: As we speak, the guards are scouring the city, questioning witnesses, rounding up conspirators, and…

Roman guard: This you told us some days ago. We desire results, not promises.

A chief priest: As you are aware, these things may require a certain passage of time to accomplish.

Roman guard: It appears you are rapidly running out of your allotted time. Need I remind you that it was you who demanded a guard upon a dead man’s tomb. Then you allowed the bodies to be stolen. And now this, an army of empty graves!

These rumours of the walking dead are unsettling the entire city and cannot be tolerated. We are warning you for the final time that unless the conspirators are delivered to us, we will take the matter into our own hands and impose martial law not only on the city, but also on the temple. Is that clear enough for you? Pilate has been more than generous and patient already, but now…

A chief priest: As you are aware, because of these things many of the people are becoming followers of that dead prophet, and this forebodes trouble for us all. We are as determined as you to maintain the peace. Be assured, the conspirators will be apprehended, and the bodies located and reburied.

News of the Empty Tomb

As Pilate was just about to finish washing his hands again, a guard burst in and said: Sir, I have just been given a report that the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, formerly the tomb of one Joseph of Arimathea has been found empty. The body is missing.

Pilate: What? Weren’t those vipers given a watch and the tomb sealed? Have they been sleeping on the job? I want the soldiers guarding the tomb to report here immediately. I want a full account and an explanation from the Jewish priests forthwith. In addition, I want a full report of the movement of Barabbas since his release and that of his gang of followers.

2nd guard: Sir, the Sanhedrin desires an audience with you on urgent business.

Pilate: Speak of the devil! Do they? You had better send them in.

Pharisee: Governor, we come on an urgent matter concerning…

Pilate: Yes, yes, I have already been informed. So you let him get away? Were you not given a watch? Did you not seal the door and take the necessary precautions?

Pharisee: Perhaps the Governor has not been told all the facts concerning…

Pilate: The Governor shall very soon judge all the facts. I have already given the order for the guards to report here.

Pharisee: But sir, that will prove difficult for us.

Pilate: How so? Explain yourselves.

Pharisee: The guard came to us for protection, fearing reprisals. The penalty for sleeping on duty is known to you, of course.

Pilate: It is known to me indeed, go on…

Pharisee: The soldiers claim that the reason they fell asleep was perhaps because the wine was drugged. The disciples of that deceiver came in the night and stole the body away. Then…

Pilate: What kind of story is this? Do you really expect me to believe that they all dozed off at the same time? And, if so, who saw the disciples come to steal the body? I want to know who moved that heavy stone? Who dared to break my seal? All I have is questions with no answers, and no evidence.

Pilate became quiet, lost in thought. Then he said: I remember when I asked Jesus of Nazareth directly why you, the chief priests and his own nation had delivered him to me. I asked him: What have you done?

He answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom was of this world, then my servants would fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now, my kingdom is not here. I remember asking him: Then are you a king?

He replied: You say I am a king. For this end was I born and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth will hear my voice.

Then I said to him: And just what is the truth? But there was no answer. There never is.

This time, I intend to get to the bottom of all this – to the truth – even if I have to question every one of you personally.

Did you really believe you could march in here again, hatching your plot to manipulate me to get your desired outcome? Not this time. This time, I will order the course of events and I will decide the outcome.

The Writing of Pontius Pilate

Even though I had washed my hands of the whole matter, I could not let it rest, let so monstrous an injustice end like this. So I took a board and wrote on it, in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, so that all could read it. The writing read “Jesus of Nazareth, The King Of The Jews”. I took the inscription and with my own hands fixed it upon the cross above his head.

As I stepped down the ladder, my eyes met his eyes. Never had I seen such a look. He looked at me as no man had ever looked at me. It was as if I had looked into the eyes of truth itself. I remembered what he said to me: You say that I am a king. To this end was I born and for this cause I came into the world that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.

I then asked him a question that had troubled me all of my life: What is truth?

It was at that moment I understood who the truth was. The experience was overwhelming.

With an effort of will, I walked away from the cross, my head bowed. Suddenly I was descended upon by the chief priests in self-righteous indignation. They demanded that I immediately change the writing from “King of Jews” to “He said he was King of the Jews”. Not even his murder could satisfy them.

I answered angrily: What I have written stays written. I threw the hammer down on the ground and walked back to the city gate.

The Written Accusation

After they had crucified him and two other thieves with him, they sat down and watched him there, in Golgotha, in the place of a skull. Then they set up over his head the accusation written against him: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews”.

Many people were reading it in astonishment, because the place of crucifixion was near to the city wall. Some were in shock, in doubt, in disbelief, and some were indignant and angry.

One of the chief priests said: Wasn’t the insult enough in one language but that it had to be in three? Pilate wants to put us to shame before all of our neighbours. It is insufferable!

A priest said: We demand that something be done about this – we must force Pilate to change the title to another.

Another said: Change the writing to read that he claimed he was our king – how dare that arch imposter claim to be not only the son of God but also our king? He’s been nothing but trouble for us from the beginning. Driving the traders out of the temple, arguing with the priests, mesmerising the people with his magic, and turning them away from our traditions. Then, threatening to destroy God’s temple. And now this! It’s all too much!

Another said: When will all this end? We must end it. We must all go to Pilate now and demand that he immediately change the inscription.

A King’s Title

I was one of the guards on duty at Golgotha that day. I was shocked when I saw what Pilate had written on the sign which he then personally fixed to the cross above the head of the prisoner, Jesus. Those watching were also astonished and many became offended and began heckling Pilate, pointing at the sign and shouting that it had to be removed immediately.

They said: Don’t write: “The King of the Jews”, but that “He said he was the King of the Jews”!

I wondered why he had written this, and in three languages? Was this a final revenge against the chief priests? No, it wasn’t just that. He would not have written it unless he suspected or believed it to be true. Pilate had carefully observed and noted the behaviour of Jesus during the trial and marvelled at him.

I then became worried. If this got back to Rome, there could be trouble. In our Empire there was room for only one king, one son of God, and that was Caesar, the son of Jupiter.

A Day of Days

I had walked away from Golgotha, the place of a skull, and the controversy with the priests over the inscription I had written and placed on the cross of Jesus of Nazareth. I went back to my palace, exhausted by the ordeal.

At about the sixth hour, an unnatural darkness came over the land, settling over the city. This darkness continued until about 9 o’clock, and as it began to recede there was another fearful sign, the sun became darkened.

The dreams of my wife were now beginning to greatly trouble me. After these things, there was a brief pause until suddenly there was a great earthquake, and the rooms of the palace shook. I  glanced towards the direction of Golgotha. I perceived that signs accompanied what had happened there, as if they witnessed to him who they had called the King of Jews, and, some, the Son of God. The truth of this was inescapable.

Shortly after this, my wife burst in saying: Didn’t I tell you to have nothing to do with that just man? You must know by now that the things I dream of have a habit of coming true. I don’t know what we are going to do now. I tried to comfort her but she was inconsolable and kept wringing her hands and walking backwards and forwards across the floor, raising her head upwards with a look of fear in her eyes.

A while later, representatives of the Jews arrived, imploring me to have the bodies taken down from the crosses so the Sabbath would not be defiled. I replied that Roman justice had not yet run its course and that the prisoners would still be alive. I also upbraided them for breaking their own rules regarding preparation of their Sabbath day. After some deliberation, and wishing to get closure on the matter, I assured them that the order would be given to grant their request.

Following them, I had yet another visitor. A certain Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor of the Jews, to implore me that he be granted possession of the body of Jesus of Nazareth. I asked him why he wanted the body and what he would do with it.  He replied that he would lay him in his own new tomb which had been cut out of the rock, located in a garden in Golgotha.

I marvelled that Jesus of Nazareth had died so soon. I called for the centurion who had been there on duty, and enquired of him if Jesus had indeed died a while ago. When it was confirmed that Jesus had indeed died, just before the great quaking, I granted permission to Joseph of Arimathea to take possession of his body.

As the centurion left, I perceived that more had happened at Golgotha than had been reported to me and I would later question the centurion further as I desired to know the whole truth. I hoped that having a complete report, there would be an end to the matter.

After all of this, I sat down, never having felt so drained and exhausted. What a day! Never had I seen such a day and would probably never see another day like it. After all the visitors, I Pontius Pilate, Governor, was left alone. Quite alone.

A Centurion’s Report of the Last Three Hours

Pilate:  Centurion stay awhile, I must hear your account of how he died.

Centurion: The man called Jesus died at about nine o’clock. He cried out with his last breath asking why God had forsaken him. With his second cry, the last word he uttered was “Father”. It had been very dark and now the sun was darkened. Even then, he believed to the end!

There was an unnatural darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour. As the darkness receded, there was another fearful sight: the sun became darkened.

After we had broken the legs of the thieves, when we saw Jesus was already dead, so we did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with his spear pierced his side, near to his heart, and there came out a stream of blood and water. I don’t know why but we seemed transfixed by that sight.

Suddenly, as if in response to the stream of blood, the Earth started to violently shake which increased until the rocks around us started to split. We were all thrown to the ground on our knees, using our hands to steady ourselves. We were very afraid.

Pilate: Yes, I felt the tremors even from here.

Centurion: Then a sudden dread came over me. I could feel a presence in the air. I looked up again at the man Jesus and then I realized, I knew who….

Pilate: Yes, Centurion, go on. Who? What?

Centurion: I knew who he really was.

Pilate: And who do you think he was?

Centurion: I would rather not say, sir.

Pilate: You must give me the full account.

Centurion: Then I knew that he was the Son of God!

Pilate: Do you realize what you are saying, man?

Centurion: I could not help myself, some unnatural power was compelling me. I was on my knees and saying that he truly was the Son God! You would have to have been there. In all my years of service, I have never experienced anything like it.

The account continues. Pilate is visibly shaken and in doubt. At last he spoke:

I have known you for some years as a man of great integrity and bravery. You have proven yourself yet again and I will vouchsafe you for your past service. But you must see these words stay with you and go no further. That is an order.

A Profound Question

All that evening, I, Pontius Pilate, kept asking myself the question I had asked Jesus of Nazareth: What is truth?

What is truth? It kept echoing through my mind, rippling through my thoughts. Jesus had not answered. Maybe there was no final answer, no definitive truth. But could the truth have taken the form of a man? Thereby becoming a personification of a living truth?

This nagging question has haunted me throughout my life. Is the truth what we think, say and do: is the definition of our breathing existence? After a lifetime of dealing with cheats, liars, imposters and others, I thought I had finally met an honest man of truth. But is the whole truth too much for any mortal man to bear? I had also asked him where he was from, but again he gave me no answer. Was this the silence of the truth? Or the truth of his silence?

And why was I continually washing and rewashing my hands?

It had started after the trial. I had washed my hands of it all, but I was unable to wash my hands of the truth. Was I destined to be forever washing my hands from it all? Was this to be the fate of Pontius Pilate?

A Guard’s Report

I was the guard on duty in Pilate’s house that day. I heard Pilate’s wife talking in her sleep, as if she were having a nightmare. I could not help as I dared not leave my post. Then suddenly she cried out, saying, guard, guard, come quickly. So I rushed in and found her sitting upright in bed with a look of panic on her face. She took a writing tablet and quickly wrote on it. Then she looked at me and told me to deliver the note to her husband as quickly as possible and said: I only hope I’m not too late. So I took the paper and did as I was ordered.

The Dreams of Pilate’s Wife

I was the wife of Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea. I remember that fateful Friday morning so vividly. I had woken up from a frightening dream in which I kept seeing a man’s face who seemed more than a man, someone sent by the gods. He seemed to be in great torment. He looked like the prophet from Galilee.

I sensed a great danger, as if the heavens were angry and would fall on us. It seemed so very real, as if I too were suffering with him in the dream.

I woke up in a cold sweat, breathing hard. Immediately I reached out and wrote a letter to my husband to tell him not to have anything to do with that just man because I have suffered many things today in a dream because of him. I gave the letter to the guard urging him to deliver it to Pontius without delay. Was I too late?

I remained in my bed, my hands tightly clasped, sick with worry, and frightened by the things that might happen to us today.

An Argument

The dream kept recurring, I kept seeing his face, and the heavens growing dark. I would wake up in a cold sweat, shaking with fear and worry. I had argued with Pilate saying: Did I not urge you to have nothing to do with that righteous man? My husband said defensively what else could I have done? They pushed me into a corner. Anyway, he’s gone now, it’s all over.

I got up, away from his consoling hands, saying is it over? He tried to comfort me in vain. I said, Is it over? Is it? Maybe it is just the beginning of our troubles? I felt things would never be the same for us again. Nothing would ever be the same between us again.

My dreams have never lied, but had a habit of coming true. Pilate lowered his head in resignation. I felt a stab of pity for the man I had loved and weakly held out a hand that fell to my side. I felt hopeless and was sick with worry for the future, awaiting the punishment of the gods.

I wish I had never come to this country, so far from my beloved Italy. I knew no good would come of it. I wish I had never heard of Jesus of Nazareth. What could we do now? Where could we go? Nothing would ever be the same for us, nor for anyone else involved with that man.

An Honourable Counsellor

Guard: Sir, there is a man who…

Pilate: Yes, what is it now?

Guard: Sir, there is a man called Joseph of Arimathea who urgently desires to speak with you. He says it is urgent.

Pilate: Yes, yes, it is always urgent. Very well then, admit him. What a day this has been! I feel drained of strength. Kindly state the nature of your business and be brief.

Joseph: Honoured sir, as you know the preparation of our High Sabbath is near and forbids that the bodies should remain on the crosses. I beseech you that I be allowed to take away the body of Jesus of Nazareth.

Pilate: Can he be already dead? Who are you to ask so boldly? Are you related?

Joseph: Sir, as you have been informed, I am a councillor of Arimathea, a city of the Jews, and I have waited for the Kingdom of God. I beg you that I be allowed to bury the body of Jesus of Nazareth in my own new tomb.

Pilate: Will wonders never cease? This whole affair becomes ever more perplexing. I will grant you your petition, but first I must be certain that he really is dead.

Centurion: Yes, sir, I can verify that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed dead.

Pilate: So soon?

Pilate writes on a parchment, and hands it to Joseph.

Joseph: I thank you, sir, for your kindness.

Account of Joseph of Arimathea

My name is Joseph, a councillor from Arimathea, a city of the Jews. I was there on that terrible day, and had realized that there would be no place for the body. I was unable to find his disciples or his family. It made me think of the prophecy that there would be no place for him either in life or in death.

I took courage, in spite of my tears, for this man who had done so much for us. I firmly insisted to see Pilate who was always busy, but for some reason he granted me a short audience.

I begged for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised that it was me rather than any of his family, acquaintances or followers who had made such a request. He called the centurion and enquired if Jesus was indeed dead and was visibly surprised that he had died so quickly. A thought, a haunting doubt, crossed his mind. Then he looked at me with a strange look, and granted me leave to take the body.

Yes, I took the body of Jesus down. We used a ladder and with help we removed the nails from his hands and his feet. The body was unusually light and it seemed as if little blood was left in it, as that had been shed at the foot of the cross where there was large stain on the earth.

We took the body of Jesus down and wrapped him in a clean linen cloth. In the place where Jesus had died was a garden with my own new tomb which had been cut out in the rock. No man had ever lain in this tomb. There we laid him.

Taking a last quick look, we all rolled the heavy stone to the door, and quickly departed. The Sabbath was drawing on, and everything was done in a hurry.

As we walked away, we saw two women who had known Jesus, sitting near to the tomb.

A Message

After Pilate had asked the people to choose between the two men, Jesus called Christ, or Barabbas, he sat down on the judgment seat, the pavement, which the Jews had called Gabbatha. Then a guard arrived from the direction of Pilate’s house and handed him a written note. Pilate seemed to recognise it. He took the note and having read it, became thoughtful, and glanced back in the direction of his house. He then asked the crowd again, which of these two are you willing that I release to you? It seemed Pilate was now even more determined to release Jesus.

The Questions of Herod the Fox

I was in Jerusalem during that time of the High Sabbath. News had come to me that Pilate was sending a notable prisoner to me for judgment, a Galilean who was under my jurisdiction.

When I heard this was Jesus, the Jesus, I was exceedingly glad as I had desired to see him for a long time and also because I had heard so many things about the famous cousin of John. Also I had hoped to see some miracles performed by him for myself.

I had so many questions to ask him, so many hopes and expectations. So I proceeded to ask him of his life in Galilee, his family and friends, where he got his powers from. I even asked him directly if he was John the Baptiser whom I had been forced to behead, risen from the dead. But he answered none of my questions, in fact he never spoke to me, his king. Indeed, not a single word.

I was becoming somewhat annoyed and tired of this game Jesus was playing. I then asked him if he was aware of what the people and his followers were calling him. They were saying he was Christ, son of David, King of the Jews. But am I not your lawful, rightful king, I asked them? What have you to say to this?

Jesus lifted up his head and looked me in the eyes…. Those eyes, so unnerving, burning with the same power of truth I had seen in his cousin, John.

Then the chief priests and scribes, who were standing by, started to accuse him again of many things, including subverting the nation, forbidding Caesar’s tribute monies and taxes, and that he was claiming to be Christ, a king. A strange, silent king, I thought.

My patience was coming to an end with it all and together with my men of war we started mocking him as a nobody, a nothing. One of my own men even took one of the royal robes and put it on his shoulders and said: Now he really looks like the King of Israel! Jesus remained silent, and neither said nor did anything to defend himself throughout, but the hall was filled with mocking laughter.

When we got tired of the sport, I said: Enough! Send him back to Pilate with this message: Governor, you sent this man to me to be tried, but despite the vehement accusations of the chief priests and scribes, we could not find him guilty of any crime deserving of death. I am therefore sending him back to you for your judgment.

My audience with Jesus of Galilee turned out to be one of the most disappointing and depressing experiences of my life, and left me feeling strangely alone, isolated and empty. If only I had not beheaded John: at least he had been willing to talk to me, his king.

Account of Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s Steward

I was shocked to hear that Jesus had been taken in the night to be tried by the religious elders. Now Pilate was sending him here to be tried by Herod. The chief priests and scribes arrived quickly hoping to be the first to speak to Herod.

I couldn’t believe what I saw. What had they done to him? Jesus looked so beaten up. His poor face was bruised and spots of blood were in his hair and upon his clothing.

I saw Herod rise up when he saw Jesus. He looked very glad as he had desired to see Jesus for a long time, having heard so many things about him. I think he also hoped to see some miracles performed by him. He was always telling us that Jesus was John the Baptiser risen from the dead, and therefore able to perform such mighty miracles.

Herod had many questions to ask Jesus, but Jesus remained silent and said nothing. While the priest and scribes were standing around him, accusing him of so many things. What had he done to deserve such hatred? Jesus was saying nothing to defend himself.

The mood of Herod had changed and with his men of war they started to ridicule Jesus and abuse him. I saw one of them take one of the royal robes and put it upon Jesus’s shoulders, saying now he really does look like the King of the Jews. They were all laughing at him.

I felt so powerless to stop it. I couldn’t say anything… I was only the wife of Cheza, Herod’s steward. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t bear to see the most loving of men treated like this. Was this his reward for all his words of comfort and for all the people he had healed? I opened my mouth but no words came.

Then Herod spoke again, saying that’s enough, send him back to Pilate. What had happened? My heart was full of confusion and fear for him. I brushed away my tears so no one could see me crying. I wanted to get away from this den of cruel men. I wanted to follow after Jesus to do something to help him, but I was only a woman…. but my heart cried after him.

Oh Jesus, we had ministered to you of our substance to help you in your work. I, Joanna, and many others, but now I couldn’t help you. Would no one help you? I could only look on, and pray.

The Appearing of the Dead

There are now many witnesses who were certain that they had seen people who had died who they alleged were now alive. Some had affirmed they had even spoken to relatives and friends who had come back to them from the dead. They said they had appeared and shown themselves to many people in Jerusalem.

Some reported that they had been believers who had risen from the dead as witnesses to the resurrection of the prophet who some had called the Son of God, who had been the first to rise from the dead.

One witness was asked if he had not seen some vision or ghost, but he said no, no, you don’t understand: they were not ghosts or spirits, it was really them, it really was. It was the same person I had known when they were alive before. I touched them and held their hand. It was them. It was the time of the dead, when they showed themselves to us. God had brought back our loved ones to us.

A Witness of the Dead

I heard more and more rumours by the day. It sounded so impossible, stories told by over-excited religious zealots. There were too many witnesses saying the same thing. Something unusual – I don’t know what or how – must have happened. There was much disputing, doubts, mocking, I couldn’t explain it, but some had called it ‘the resurrection of the saints’, while others were certain it was a conspiracy.

But there were now many people becoming convinced by Jesus of Nazareth. These rumours were spreading out of control and greatly disturbing the whole city. I felt that trouble would come of it. The priests would never accept it, and the Romans wouldn’t tolerate it.

As if we hadn’t had enough trouble already during the past week, and now this! What a week! I’ve never known a week like it.

You would have to have been there yourself to understand just how life-changing this was.

A Witness of the Dead Rising Up

After the great earthquake that Friday afternoon, there had been a great deal of disturbance in Jerusalem and in particular around the grounds of Golgotha. I often passed by that place of graves and noticed that many of the graves had also been disturbed.

As I looked closer, I thought I saw the ground moving and then moving in several places as if something was moving around under the ground trying to get out.

Suddenly, I was shocked to see… bodies coming up out of the graves. They were rising up. I was seeing heads, and then shoulders and hands coming up out of the graves. The dead were rising up!

No, I am not mad, or drunk. Listen, I tell you the truth. I saw it with my own eyes. First it was one, then another, until they were like a small army walking slowly towards the city.

I was seized with fear and panic, and started running back towards the city gate ahead of them. I think I started to shout like a madman: they are coming, the dead are coming!

Another Witness of the Coming of the Dead

I was standing by the city gates when I saw a man running towards the gate shouting something like: the dead are coming.

After him, I saw a group of people. As they got closer, I saw they all seemed to be wearing what looked like brand new clothes. They were walking purposefully like some kind of company on an errand. They seemed to be happy with a joyous expression on their faces and their eyes were bright.

Then I realised that one of them was a man we had buried several weeks ago – I’m sure it was him, certain of it. I froze in terror and drew in a deep breath, almost fainting. I tried to speak, to cry out, but no words came.

I stood frozen to the spot by the wall, watching them, the living dead, walking through the gate and into the city.

The Resurrection Plot Pt 1

Pilate Receives a Report of a Plot

After the many things that happened during that momentous week, reports began to come in to Pontius Pilate, Roman Governor, that the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth had been found empty. Pilate demanded an explanation as the chief priests had persuaded him to order a watch over the tomb.

The priests informed Pilate they had already interrogated the soldiers who had reported that while they were sleeping, the disciples of Jesus had come in the night and stolen his body away. This story was already being discussed among the people. Again the priests had managed to persuade Pilate and protect the soldiers, as sleeping on duty was a serious offence.

They all thought this would be an end to the matter. Further reports soon began to arrive that other tombs had also been found empty and that the occupants had been seen walking in the city of Jerusalem.

Pilate Hears of the Empty Tomb

Pilate: I want those soldiers brought here for immediate questioning.

Priest: But Sir, Governor, we have given our assurance to them of their safety inside our temple. We cannot go back on our word, for that would be a desecration of our beliefs.

Pilate: You didn’t think it a desecration of your beliefs when you held illegal night trials to further your agenda? Have your laws changed since then? And desecrating your Sabbath…

Priest: Sir, this matter is difficult for both of us. It seems to us that if the report gets out of sleeping soldiers being punished, it could diminish the fear and respect towards the army in Judea. That means yet more embarrassment for us among the people. It would seem best to let the matter go away and be forgotten. In any case, the whole thing will be forgotten in a week, and the thorn in the flesh of both of us removed for good.

Pilate: He is not the only thorn in my flesh. So I see you have worked this one out too with your customary cunning. I loathe to admit it, but again I appear to have been manoeuvred into a position. But it seems your advice is the least of evils. This, then, is my order. The stone is to be rolled back into its place. The remaining soldiers will return to duty but without harm. Thirdly, you will make a proclamation to the people concerning the true series of events.  And one more thing, you are to supply any information regarding the ringleaders of this resurrection plot and hand them over to us immediately.

Priest: But Sir…

Pilate: What I have said, I have said.

Pilate manages a half-smile, his small victory over his tormentors. He sits wearily down and props up his head in his hands, gazing forward in doubt. The dreams of his wife come back into his mind. So it will all be over in a week? I wonder, he asked himself.

The Last Mistake

The chief priests and Pharisees had come together on the Sabbath because they were not at peace. Even after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, they feared the disciples of Jesus might come in the night and steal his body away. Then they would say to the people that he was risen from the dead after three days as he said he would. They feared that many people would believe the report and become followers. They also feared this last mistake would be worse than the first. So they decided to come together and persuade Pilate to give the order to set a watch and secure the tomb until the third day. After some deliberation, Pilate was again forced to acknowledge the validity of their arguments and grant them their watch, and ordered them to go and make the tomb as secure as they could.

Soldier’s Report of the Empty Graves

It became worse, as if the matter with the tomb wasn’t enough, and hunting for the body of Jesus of Nazareth which was presumed to have been stolen. Despite examination, nothing was adding up, and we were left perplexed. Evidences only led to more questions.

Now reports were starting to come in of graves having been opened. The bodies of people were missing from the graves. Some had only recently died, now reported to have been seen walking in Jerusalem. We suspected a Jewish plot, probably by the followers of Jesus or Barabbas, to destabilise Roman rule and usher in the new kingdom ruled by their risen messiah. Had Jesus not said, my kingdom is not here now, and when it is my followers will fight for me?

Further investigations left us even more puzzled. The graves had been opened all right, but from within. Come to think of it, just like the tomb of Jesus. Report after report came in, supposedly of dead relatives seen in Jerusalem. No, not ghosts, but the actual bodies, the people who had been dead and buried. Was this a cunningly crafted plot? Mass hysteria? Some had called it the resurrection of the saints. So far, we had no reliable witness and no credible evidence or answers. Only eyewitness reports leading to more questions, doubts and panic.

It seems to have all started with that report of the watch. What were we to do? Guard graves of dead people?

Pilate Hears of the Empty Graves

Soldier: Sir, reports are coming in of witnesses who claim to have seen and met the man Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified several days ago.

Pilate: I should have foreseen this would happen. They have their martyr for their cause. First, the empty tomb, and now this. First, they wanted me to get rid of him, then order a guard for a dead man’s tomb. Then to remove the inscription I had written, and then to remove the body from the cross. And now this? But it appears `our friends’ the priests were right and that the last error will be worse than the first. Give immediate orders that any further information is given to me immediately. I want anyone claiming to have seen Jesus be taken and brought in for questioning.

Suddenly, another guard comes in.

Pilate: Yes, what is it now?

Guard: Sir, I have been informed of reports coming in of empty tombs and…

Pilate: Out with it!

Guard: Of empty tombs and… and… of people who have risen from their graves.

Pilate: Order the guards to immediately seek out the body robbers and apprehend them.

Guard: But Sir…

Pilate: Yes, what is it?

Guard: There are eyewitnesses to testify that they have seen and spoken to the bodies of their relatives who they claim are now alive.

Pilate sits down in astonishment that gives way to a great weariness.

Pilate: Is there no end to this business? First, one empty tomb and now an army of them! Now it starts. He spoke of a kingdom and of a resurrection. This is going to unsettle the populace and dangerously undermine our authority in Judea. Rome will not stand for it. I want you to take a patrol of guards and seek out those who are spreading these dangerous and insidious rumours for questioning and examination by torture if necessary. I want the ringleaders of this resurrection sect apprehended and their plot exposed for what it is.

The Proclamation of the Priests

The priests had been ordered by Pilate to make an address to the people. They had taken counsel and next morning made the following proclamation:

We, your leaders, address your concerns over the false reports and tales of the deceiver, Jesus of Nazareth, rising again. We have been reliably informed by the soldiers of the watch that his followers came in the night while the soldiers were sleeping and stole the body away. By doing this, they hoped their story and false teaching could continue after his death. As for stories of the so-called resurrection dead, this too has been revealed as a plot by zealots and fanatics working against both us and the Roman authorities. Therefore we command that anyone who has knowledge of the ringleaders of this dangerous sect is reported to us immediately or else they will be excluded from the temple and handed over to the Roman authorities.

The Soldier in Charge of the Watch

I was in charge of the soldiers who guarded the tomb of Christ. It was the third day after the crucifixion of Jesus.

As it began to dawn, there was a deep rumbling noise, and the whole ground started to shake. Everything was shaking. It was frightening. Then we saw what looked like some sort of man coming down from the sky above us.

I tell the truth. His face was flashing like lightning, and his clothing was shining like snow. He came down and rolled the heavy stone from the door. He then laid the stone on the ground and sat on it! We were terrified.

We couldn’t bear him looking at us with those terrible eyes burning like lamps. We were shaking with fear and fell to the ground like dead men. I felt that if I saw his face again, I would die.

I remember being on the ground face down, still shaking uncontrollably, but I thought I heard some talking. Maybe it was the man talking. Something about the body not being there because he had risen from the dead. Something about him going back to Galilee. I don’t know who he was talking to.

When we came to, there was no one else there, only our weapons lying on the cold hard ground. I looked towards the tomb and then staggered to the open entrance, and saw the stone was still lying nearby. No, it hadn’t been a nightmare, it was all horribly true.

I peered inside but the tomb was empty. The body was gone. I saw the grave clothes lying there, still bearing the shape of a figure but with no body inside. I froze on the spot and couldn’t speak for a while.

I turned to the others who were left. One of them had run off in terror. I shouted to them: He is gone, the body is gone. The others came to the entrance and looked in. They were speechless. I asked them what are we going to do now? How will we explain this? Whoever will believe us?

One of us said: You explain it. I am not going back. No one will ever believe what has happened here. We will only be severely punished. I’ve had enough, I’m going far away.

I tried to regain my composure, and said, There is nothing else to do, we have to do our duty and report back to the priests and tell them what happened here, whether they believe us or not. Let’s go.

One more thing, as we were going back into the city, we noticed two women hurrying also into the city as if they had some important news to tell someone. Somehow I felt they were involved in all this, but I didn’t think to stop them and question them.

I couldn’t rest after this. I kept having nightmares and kept on seeing that terrible face, waking up and saying over and over again: The body is gone, the body is gone.

One of the Watch Who Ran Away

I don’t really want to talk about it. What can I tell you? What happened there early that morning destroyed my life.

After the earthquake, I saw a light coming down like the figure of a man, his clothes shining like snow in the sun, his face flashing like lightning. It was terrifying beyond imagination. We were all shaking. It is difficult to describe what I felt. A sense of danger I had never known. I felt myself falling like being shaken down to the ground.

I still feel shaky when I think about it to this day and I get vivid nightmares where I wake up in a cold sweat. I keep on seeing that face coming down from the sky. I used to think that all that talk about gods and spirits were just stories, but now I know, I’m telling you, nothing in this life can prepare you for what we went through. There was no strength left in me to resist and I fell into a very deep sleep.

That’s it, that’s what it was like. My life is ruined, I’ll never be the same man again. I live constantly with the fear that I’ll be caught by the soldiers. I’ve always got my back to the wall. I can’t even bear talking about it. Maybe the man from the sky will come back and find me.

I wish I’d never been there on that morning.

Another Soldier of the Watch Who Ran Away

Yes, some of us ran away. We ran for it. What would you have done in our position? Who was going to believe our story? They would think that we were mad.

In a way, I am still running. I guess I will always be running. Maybe I am trying to run away from the truth of what happened that morning, but it’s inside of me, inside my mind.

I have no answers, but I feel it has everything to do with that Jesus of Nazareth. I have heard stories about him being alive. It seems impossible, but then what happened to us was impossible, yet it happened. I have nothing more to say and just want to be left alone.

One of the Watch Who Returned to the City

After those things, early that morning, some of us came back into the city and told the chief priest what had happened. They drew back and stared at us as if we had gone mad. Then they put us aside and told us to rest.

They assembled a council with the elders. They came back later with large bags of money and instructed us to say that his disciples came at night and stole the dead body away while we were sleeping.

I knew that we were being bribed to keep silent. I tried to protest, saying that’s not what happened. People will ask us how did we know they stole the body if we were sleeping?

This means big trouble for us. They said if you don’t do as we tell you, there will be even more trouble. Then one of the priests said, don’t worry if the governor hears of it, we will persuade him and safeguard you. Now take the money and tell it like we have told you.

What else could we do? Trapped between the priests and Pilate? So we took the bags of money and told the story – their story. Do you know that everyone believed us? I could hardly believe it myself. They are still repeating the lies to this day. Yes, I lied to others, but I couldn’t lie to myself concerning what really happened that morning.

The Fourth Guard

I kept looking back at that sealed stone blocking the doorway to the tomb. Maybe it was some sense or premonition – all those stories and prophecies – but wasn’t he dead, quite dead? He couldn’t even save himself. How on earth could he come back to life? Hadn’t it all been a superstition? Yet I kept thinking that everything he ever said had a habit of coming true.

Pilate had granted the chief priests and Pharisees their watch, commanding them to go and make it as secure as possible. Had we not checked it thoroughly and sealed the stone? What else could possibly happen?

The priest had feared his disciples would come at night and steal the body away. Then they would tell the people that he was risen from the dead. Not much chance of that, I thought, the cowards had abandoned him in the garden.  They had not as much as showed their faces, even when he was crucified. They were all in hiding for their own lives. But I could not stop myself from looking back at that sealed door.

The Gardener of Golgotha

I was working in the garden on the first day of the week, near to sunset, after the high Sabbath, when suddenly there was deep rumbling beneath my feet, and the whole ground was shaking. I became afraid and noticed the area the lower graves up from the stone tombs of the rich men were heaving as if being broken up.

The shaking increased, and I dropped my rake, and stumbling across, put my back against a rock wall. Then the shaking suddenly stopped. Tense moments passed, and there were sounds like the ground being tossed apart. It seemed like the graves were being opened.

Then I saw the bodies of the sleeping dead slowly rising up out of their graves. I cannot put into words what I felt, but I was petrified, frozen in terror where I stood. I saw them rise and stand up on their feet. I don’t know how many. They were shaking the ground off their bodies, and then they took the cloths off their faces and opened their eyes.

I thought I recognised one of them, a man who had been buried there weeks ago. He reached out a hand of recognition towards me and others were also walking slowly towards me.

That was it, I could take no more. A wild panic came over me, and I started to run for it, running as fast as I could, for my life. I ran through the city gates – it was only a short distance from the tombs to the city wall – into my house, bolted my door and collapsed breathless on the floor.

I couldn’t stop my mind playing the images of what I had seen over and over.

I later heard of the story of the dead who had risen and appeared to many in the city of Jerusalem. I did not see them, the risen dead, again. Others had proclaimed that the crucified prophet from Galilee had also risen earlier that day because his tomb had been found empty. I told no one. This is the first time I have told what I saw that day. I have not been back there ever since.

Simon Peter and the Sign of the Napkin

After we heard Mary’s account of speaking with Jesus, I, Simon Peter and John ran towards the tomb. John, who was younger, had reached the tomb first. When I came to the tomb, he was standing outside and said: It’s true, it’s true.  I asked him: What is true?

He did not reply, and I saw that the stone had been taken away from the door. So I entered into the tomb. The smell of spices was still in the air and light was flooding in through the open door.

I saw the linen cloth that had been wound around the Lord lying there.  They were just lying there on the floor as if someone had stepped out of them as if they still had the shape of a body. Maybe because the living no longer needed the clothes of the dead.

Then I saw the napkin that had been covering his head, but it was not lying with the rest of the linen cloth. It had been folded neatly in a place by itself. What could it all mean? The stone rolled away, the missing guards, the empty tomb, the missing body, the clothes left there as some kind of witness and that napkin like a sign to us.

It kept coming back into my mind. Then I remembered the day when he had washed our feet and the way he had laid his clothes aside folded. It all seemed so familiar.

The simple truth was staring me in the face, but I couldn’t accept the impossible. No matter what my eyes were telling me, it was all too much to take in.

I remembered how he had foretold how he would die and rise again the third day. Today was that day, but I could not understand what the rising from the dead could mean. I could not understand it.

I made my way back, wondering what could have happened.

The Grave Clothes

Yes, it’s true I took the grave clothes of Jesus. The linen cloths that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had used to wind around the body of Jesus. The cloths still had the strong odour of myrrh, and I was struck by the way the linen cloths were lying in the tomb when I first saw them. They seemed to have the shape of a figure as if someone had just walked out of them or through them. It was so strange I couldn’t understand it.

Also, the napkin that had been around his head was not lying with the linen cloths but was lying by itself neatly folded. I imagined that when Jesus rose from the dead, he had folded the napkin that way himself. Maybe as a sign for those who believed in him. It had been John and Peter who first saw the linen cloths and the napkin and they told us what they had seen.

Later that day, I went again to the tomb and gathered them together. When I touched them, I felt a strange, almost unreal sensation. Now I had become the keeper, no, the custodian of the last clothes that Jesus had worn upon Earth. How strange, just like the story we had heard of his birth and how his mother had wrapped him in swaddling clothes. I would keep them safe forever as a witness to his resurrection.

Then a thought came to me. Maybe the Roman soldiers would come looking for the cloths as some type of evidence. I could not bear the thought of them putting their hands on them. I walked out of the tomb while looking to see if anyone was there, and I hurried away.

The Steward

I was Chuza, steward to Herod the King. Jesus was sent to us for judgment by Pilate, who apparently had found no fault in him. I had suspected this was all about envy. People know how jealously those priests guard their influence over the minds of the people.

After Herod had asked Jesus many things and received no answers, his mood was changing from gladness to mockery. I found the many accusations of the chief priests both distasteful and overdone, but it seemed to embolden the men of war who joined in with the mockery. I saw all this, being at Herod’s right hand.

Then one of the soldiers picked up one of the robes and put it upon Jesus. He said: Look here he is, the true King of the Jews.

The whole hall was filled with the sound of laughter. Throughout all this, Jesus said and did nothing in response.

Yes, I had been there, but I did not join in with that ganging up on that one defenceless man who seemed no threat to us.

Despite this, wasn’t he a fellow Galilean?

I didn’t want those stuck-up Jerusalemites making sport, telling stories about those trouble-making northerners, ingratiating themselves to Pilate.

Then I noticed my wife Joanna wiping away tears with her sleeves. I could see the effect all this was having on her, but I couldn’t comfort her. I dared not incur Herod’s displeasure. I knew he had believed in this prophet, that he was the one who John the Baptist had prophesied would come.

One thing I did know, no man who ever lived had done the things this man had done.

Now we were sending him back again to Pilate, a fellow countryman, into the hands of the Romans at the behest of those plotting priests. I could not interfere nor dare to suggest an alternative outcome.

Herod’s decision was final. I saw Jesus of Galilee taken away to his fate.

Herod’s Letter to Pilate

I, Pilate, was surprised to see the soldiers I sent with the famous prisoner Jesus to Herod return so soon. I was even more surprised to see the prisoner adorned in a gorgeous robe, looking both comical and tragic. Even his own countrymen had rejected him and wanted no part of him. Why do these people insist on beating up their prisoners before a trial has even begun?

Guard: Sir, Herod having questioned the prisoner in many words, has sent him back to you, as nothing worthy of death has been committed by him. I have also with me a writing from Herod who desires to see you regarding the matter of a speedy resolution to our common problem.

Has he indeed? Hand me the communication.

Governor, you sent this man to me to be tried, but despite the vehement accusations of the chief priests and scribes, we could not find him guilty of any crime deserving of death. Indeed I was exceedingly glad to see him for some time, having heard so many surprising things he did. I also hoped to see some demonstration of his miraculous powers for myself, but I saw nothing. He also said nothing, not a word. Eventually, our patience came to an end, and my men of war began to mock him as a nothing. They even put on him a magnificent robe deserving of a pretender of the title of King of the Jews. I am sending him back to you for your judgment.

I, Pilate, pondered upon the problem handed back to me and decided the best course of action was to gather together the chief priests and rulers of the people and leave the decision with them, as it was the custom to release one prisoner at the feast of their Passover. I was confident that I could convince the people to choose to release the King of the Jews.