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I thought she was referring to the prisoner.

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If my husband frees Him, that mob will find a thousand ways to kill Him, and for some reason He will not try to escape. They want His blood; it seems almost as if He wanted them to have. So nothing, not my husband's p ardon or justice or luck, will stop Him from letting them drain it away. No, no.

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What I mean was, what will become of my husband, the Lord Pilate? Her voice took on so much force that I stepped back almost as if she had struck me. It's my husband who's on trial, not that man. The man is innocent though doomed-heaven knows why. But my husband, what will become of him? Her speech came in gasps. This is the great trial. He must make the choice. The choice is his to make. He cannot escape it. He must not escape it. She paused, and her voice sank till it was almost like a prayer. He must make it right forever. This is the time he needs me and all I can give him.

She fairly raced towards the hall door. But it was too late. Another roar from the crowd reached me. She pushed past me to the window. We strained together over the drama that filled the platform and the steps below. Pilate had returned, his forehead knitted into a thick, black hedge of eyebrows, his lips a straight, thin, cynical line. I saw him glance, almost as if for prompting, at the figure of the prisoner. But the man was immobile. His eyes now fixed on some faraway point that none of us could see. He seemed to be travelling from the present day down into some remote, not-yet-happened era of history.

Filthy, begrimed as He was, He was the only one master of the situation, a king among rebellious courtiers, not just a prisoner among accusers and judges. How was it possible to use the word king to designate that bloody, mud-stained, beaten figure there on the platform? Yet, I knew that I had used it.

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I use it again. Give him the courage he needs to-. Pilate's arm shot into the air to command silence.

For a moment he might as well have played stage magician to the thunderstorms over the lakes of Galilee. Then the innate power of the governor, and the Rome he represented, triumphed. Over the crowd came an abrupt, heavily-charged silence, the more terrible because it succeeded an uproar and preceded- heaven knew what. The Lady Procula's fingers dug into my arm, for what she said was less a statement than another prayer. I waited for a signal that would send the soldiers down into the mob to disperse the people in double time and cut a road for the prisoner's freedom.

But the signal did not come. Instead a smile suddenly curved Pilate's lips in that sinister irony I knew so well.

Who was Barabbas and why that matters?

He always smiled that way when he was about to make a sharp play. I remembered he had smiled thus when he told the Jews that Rome would insist on taxes, but, if they wished, they might collect them themselves.

He had smiled that way when he told the Jewish merchants who came to secure army contracts that, since they had agreed among themselves to exact exorbitant prices they might also deliver their provisions-two hundred miles away in the heart of the hill country-on camels they themselves were to provide. That was his smart smile, his diplomatic smile, the smile that meant he had the trick and was just about to draw it to him. Or I would have, had not the remembrance of his query about Barabbas chilled me.

Procula sighed in sheer relief. I knew what she was thinking. Her husband was going to play the magnanimous and release this prisoner on the feast. He was going to honour the Jewish Passover with clemency to a condemned man, but he himself would pick the condemned man.

And, of course, the man he'd choose was the prisoner on the platform. His voice grew suave, almost affectedly cultured, as he went on with his statement of clemency and forgiveness. The crowd stood there silent, stunned. Smart Pilate! I, too, could have laughed aloud in my relief. Yet, even as I did, I heard the sharp intake of the Lady Procula's bre ath.

Her whole expression changed. And again, 'Oh! This is no time for diplomacy. No trick can possibly save Him now.

Barabbas - Wikipedia

Why doesn't he take a stand? Why doesn't he cry out, 'The man is not guilty, and He goes free'? Anything else is dodging. She cut into her own cry. For in a magnificently dramatic gesture Pilate signalled an officer of the guard. I dashed down the stairs and caught the officer as he swung into the palace. The officer, a young dandy serving his foreign duty and hating his exile from Rome , made a wry face.

Did you ever hear of a felon named Barabbas? Hear of him? I'd named him myself. The whole city stank with his filth and crime.


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Thank the gods for strong, protecting gloves. To think that I came to this mad country to play guard to that mass of offal! He ordered four soldiers to heel. The squad was heading for the passageway to the dungeons when I raced back to my lady. The Lady Procula recognized the name at once.

Who wouldn't? Once in a while some particularly obnoxious villain comes our way, and we are not likely to forget that seven-day wonder of crime. This fellow had made treason an art and a science. First, he fought the Romans, stealthily, beyond our conviction, with a knife thrust in the neck of some lone sentry.

Introduction

For that deed he posed before his fellow Jews as a national hero. Then-and I had seen the record of payments-he tricked the Jews, turned in to our office the names of fellow conspirators, and got drunk with the traitorous silver we paid him-while his fellows were weeping their fate into his wine stoup.

Romans and Jews alike wearied of him at long last. We had swooped down on him a fortnight before, while the blood of murder was still wet on his hands. A Jew's? On whose pitiful earnings was he taking a holiday? Who knew? We booked him for murder during sedition, and I'm sure the Jews themselves were glad enough to be free of this cheating double-crosser.

Yes; the Lady Procula and I both knew his record. What possible place could he fill in this drama before us?