Chapter SixteenCommander Corsini remained unaware of the arrest of Yeshu’a by Caiaphas’ men, ‘till mid-morning. He was angered that Roman authority was flagrantly ignored, once again, by the Jewish high priests. Since it was customary, under the mutually agreed treaty, for any arrests and final judgement, to be sanctioned by the local Roman authority, he wasted no time in summoning Caiaphas to him.
“What is the meaning of this? Commanding me to appear before you! You have no authority over me!” demanded an outraged Caiaphas. The man standing before Corsini, was of medium height with dark complexion, dressed in the regalia of a rabbinical high priest. Corsini was meeting him for the first time and wondered how such a pompous individual could have reach and sustain such an exalted position within the Jewish community.
Ignoring the protestations, Corsini reminded Caiaphas of the political and social implications of arresting an apparently innocent man. Secretly he could not help but recall to mind the ‘distant healing’ Yeshu’a had given to his man-servant.
“Where is the prisoner, now?” asked Corsini.
“The trouble-maker called Yeshu’a is with my father-in-law, Annas.”
“You are known to have said that it was expedient that one man should die for the Jewish people,” Corsini remarked. “Does this include an innocent man?”
“I see no innocent man. It is reported to me that he who is called Yeshu’a has attempted to assert himself to be our King, and so should be punished for treason. We recognise no one other authority than Caesar’s.”
While Caiaphas chose his words well, however, Corsini was not deceived by his patronising ways, he ordered Caiaphas to present the prisoner immediately to Pilate for questioning.
It was late afternoon by the time Yeshu’a stood before the Roman Governor. Pilate turned to Caiaphas’ men and asked what accusations had been made against Yeshu’a. Their reply was vague suggesting that they would not have disturbed the Governor should the evildoer had not been guilty in their eyes. Pilate instructed them, saying, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own laws,” throwing the responsibility back to them.
Caiaphas’ men smiled inwardly, knowing the Treaty forbade them from putting any man to death and this was to be the responsibility of the Romans. After prolonged questioning, Pilate could find no cause for condemning Yeshu’a and reported as much to Caiaphas’ men.
“I find no crime in him. But you have a custom that I should release one prisoner to you for the Passover festival. Who do you choose?” Pilate directed his question to the crowd that had gathered in the courtyard below. Unknown to him most were the followers of the rebel Barabbas, and paid agitators, they cried aloud, “Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!” This request shocked the group of moderate Jews gathered with the disciples, but the die had been cast and Yeshu’a’s fate was sealed with Barabbas’ released. Pilate was enraged when he realised he had been skilfully out- smarted by a bunch of common criminals, in this game of political intrigue.
Word of Yeshu’a’s trial for treason, spread speedily throughout the Jewish community and amongst his followers and friends. Joseph of Arimathaea consulted with Nicodemus, and other members of the Sanhedrin, to see if something could be done to reduce the charge.
“Treason means certain death,” Joseph remarked afterwards to a small group of Essene Brothers, gathered to discuss the impending event. “We must negotiate with Pilate to reduce the charge to a misdemeanour. Another thing…he likes money!”
“It is time we stood up against these barbarians,” voiced one Brother, angrily. “We cannot allow one of our own to be lost to those idol worshippers.”
“We are peace-loving, Brother. We cannot condone violence for whatever reason,” remarked another.
“I will speak to Pilate, myself,” Joseph interjected. “I will plead for compassion, and if that doesn’t work, I shall bribe him, much as it goes against my principles; but I fear Caiaphas may have got in before us!”
A number of rabbis and elders went to Pilate entreating him to release Yeshu’a, that he may attend a great festival that was near at hand. They were refused. So they then asked that he be brought before the Council of Elders, so that his guilty or innocent could be judge by them. Pilate agreed.
In the meantime, Yeshu’a was taken to the subterranean dungeon, now vacated by the rebel Barabbas, and was to remain there for eight days in isolation without food, and the minimum of water; the Roman way of weakening their captives in preparation for torture.
The room was dark, being windowless, with a stout wooden door barring any light of the torches in the corridor from entering. He was now to spend his long days and nights on yet another trial. It was as if the devil entered the cell to confront him, to taunt him, and to suggest how foolish he was to presume to be superior to others. It was a crushing experience, but one for which he had long prepared himself.
The following day the principle rabbis, elders and judges were assembled and Yeshu’a was temporarily released, to be questioned by them. He was seated between two thieves before Pilate, for they too were to be judged. Pilate asked Yeshu’a, “Is it not true that you have incited the populace against the authorities so that you could proclaim yourself King?”
“They have told you an untruth when you were informed that I was inciting the people to revolution,” Yeshu’a answered. “I preached only of the Kingdom of Heaven and it was to Him, the Lord our God, that I told the people to worship. For the sons of Israel have lost their original innocence and unless they return to worship the true God, they will be sacrificed and their temple will fall in ruins.” He continued, “Live in conformity with your situation and refrain from disturbing public order,” and he reminded them that disorder reigns in their hearts and spirits.
At that moment witnesses were brought before the court to give their evidence, one of whom stated, “You have said to the people that in comparison, with the power of the King who would soon liberate the Israelites from the yoke of the heathen, the worldly authorities amounted to nothing!”
Yeshu’a raised his head and faced the witness, “Blessings on you, for you have spoken the truth! The King of Heaven is greater and more powerful than the laws of man and His Kingdom surpasses the kingdoms of this earth. The time is not too distant when Israel, being obedient to God’s will, shall throw off its yoke of sin; for it has been written that a forerunner would appear to announce the deliverance of the people and that he would re-unite them in one family.”
Whereupon Pilate jumped up, stabbing the air with his forefinger, crying, “Have you heard this? He acknowledges the crime of which he is accused. Judge him then according to your laws and pass upon him condemnation to death!”
“We cannot condemn him,” replied the elders, saying he spoke only of the Kingdom of Heaven, and never proclaimed himself King.
Pilate was outraged and thereupon shouted that Yeshu’a be condemned to death and that the two robbers should be declared guiltless! The judges consulted amongst themselves and later announced to Pilate, “We cannot consent to take this great sin upon ourselves, to condemn an innocent man and liberate those wicked thieves!” their spokesman declared. “It would be against our laws. Governor, you only must decide, for we are innocent of the blood of this righteous man,” -whereupon the rabbis and elders walked out, washing their hands in the sacred vessel as they did so.
Pilate saw their refusal as a personal slight, and angrily ordered Yeshu’a’ crucifixion, for he was aware of Yeshu’a’ royal ancestry and origin, and saw it as a threat.
Yeshu’a was returned to his confinement where, for eight days, his long solitary hours were spent in prayer and communion with the Father, for he had long been able to confer with Him and was now being presented with the ultimate test; total surrender to His Will!
Yeshu’a was unafraid, for it is the loveless that are enveloped in fear. His love for all mankind had instilled in him courage, and banished fear, for if one follows the Master, one never comes face-to-face with the ‘devil’, for he is protected and sustained. Yeshu’a’ life’s mission held forth the highest ideals of life for all mankind.
Keys rattled and the sound of metal bolts being slid across, with the opening of the door. A small goat’s skin bag of water was tossed inside and the door slammed shut once more. In the darkness Yeshu’a crawled along the wall to where the water-bag had been. No food of any kind was given to him for those eight days, making him physically weaker. He blessed the water before he sipped it and splashed some on his face.
He knew the hour of his deliverance was getting near, when once more the door crashed open and two soldiers reached down and dragged him out into the corridor, up steps and into the sun-drenched courtyard. The light burst upon him, momentarily blinding him, that he dared not open his eyes. He felt the heat of the sun upon his face, its welcomed warmth after the dungeon dankness. His wrists were roughly bound to a stone pillar and the garment on his back was torn apart. He didn’t feel the first lash ‘til a moment later when he cried out in pain through clinched teeth. Another stroke, and still another, until he ceased to count and his legs buckled beneath him unable to support his weakened body. He kept thinking that he must not condemn or find fault with his persecutors, for they also had within them the same Divinity as he.
The prolonged flaying resulted in barely an inch of his body having not been ripped and bleeding, for this loss of blood was to weaken him further.
Many of his devoted followers and family members, pleaded with the authority to set Yeshu’a free, but without result. Indeed, his brother Joses procured a meeting with Corsini in the vain hope he too might intervene.
“Commander, I have something of yours which I wish to return to you for my brother’s release. I found it many years ago upon the sands of the Sinai,” Joses reminded him, as he produced from under his cloak Corsini’s precious dagger, lost when his troops camped by the fresh water Oasis of el-Lejah. Corsini could not believe his eyes as he slowly extended his hand to receive again the precious gift from his family.
“Where did you come upon this?” Corsini demanded. “Or was it you who had stolen it?”
“Indeed not! I found it half buried in the sands where you had camped that night when my brother restored the hand of your soldier.”
Corsini slowly sank back in his chair recalling the incident many years previous, and the occasion of its loss. Holding his jewel-encrusted dagger once again, the thoughts of his beloved wife and family came flooding back to him and tears came to his eyes.
“You found it you say?” he said, quietly. “I suppose you wish for a reward? What shall it be?”
“My brother’s life! You know him as Yeshu’a.”
Corsini looked up quickly as he placed the dagger before him on the table, insisting that there was little he could do in this matter, since Pilate himself had settled the case. Anything else…gold or silver, he suggested.
“I too am aware of your brother’s innocence. I know him to be a good and pious man, but I am not empowered to save him.”
“I do not understand. If as you say you know him to be innocent, why then should he be crucified? For what is he being sacrificed?”
Angry words came flowing out at the injustice of the verdict. Corsini explained that there were powerful people who had a vested interest in seeing Yeshu’a punished for his part in the ‘raid’ on the Temple.
“They have close connections with the Roman authority, and have privileges extended to them for financial return,” Corsini explained. “There are many of your people who do not wish to see a national uprising for fear it would interfere with this perfect arrangement.”
“But my brother has nothing to do with such plots!” Joses argued. “He speaks of the Heavenly Kingdom, he speaks of love, truth, and peace, not rebellion!”
“I too am angry that the rebel, Barabbas, should go free. It was my duty to seize him and have him tried for his murderous actions towards my men. Seeing him walk free is not to my liking. But never fear, we will capture him again and next time there will be no exchange,” Corsini said. “Now, leave me.”
Enraged, Joses turned and stamped out into the sunlight, his simple request for Yeshu’a’s release left unrewarded.