My wife spoke of Him many times ere He was brought before me, but I was not concerned.
My wife is a dreamer, and she is given, like so many Roman women of her rank, to Eastern cults and rituals. And these cults are dangerous to the Empire; and when they find a path to the hearts of our women they become destructive.
Egypt came to an end when the Hyskos of Arabia brought to her the one God of their desert. And Greece was overcome and fell to dust when Ashtarte and her seven maidens came from the Syrian shores.
As for Jesus, I never saw the man before He was delivered up to me as a malefactor, as an enemy of His own nation and also of Rome.
He was brought into the Hall of Judgment with His arms bound to His body with ropes.
I was sitting upon the dais, and He walked towards me with long, firm steps; then He stood erect and His head was held high.
And I cannot fathom what came over me at that moment; but it was suddenly my desire, though not my will, to rise and go down from the dais and fall before Him.
I felt as if Caesar had entered the Hall, a man greater than even Rome herself.
But this lasted only a moment. And then I saw simply a man who was accused of treason by His own people. And I was His governor and His judge.
I questioned Him but he would not answer. He only looked at me. And in His look was pity, as if it were He who was my governor and my judge.
Then there rose from without the cries of the people. But He remained silent, and still He was looking at me with pity in His eyes.
And I went out upon the steps of the palace, and when the people saw me they ceased to cry out. And I said, "What would you with this man?"
And they shouted as if with one throat, "We would crucify Him. He is our enemy and the enemy of Rome."
And some called out, "Did He not say He would destroy the temple? And was it not He who claimed the kingdom? We will have no king but Caesar."
Then I left them and went back into the Judgment Hall again, and I saw Him still standing there alone, and His head was still high.
And I remembered what I had read that a Greek philosopher said, "The lonely man is the strongest man." At that moment the Nazarene was greater than His race.
And I did not feel clement towards Him. He was beyond my clemency.
I asked Him then, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
And He said not a word.
And I asked Him again, "Have you not said that you are the King of the Jews?"
And He looked upon me.
Then He answered with a quiet voice, "You yourself proclaimed me king. Perhaps to this end I was born, and for this cause came to bear witness unto truth."
Behold a man speaking of truth at such a moment.
In my impatience I said aloud, to myself as much as to Him, "What is truth? And what is truth to the guiltless when the hand of the executioner isalready upon him?"
Then Jesus said with power, "None shall rule the world save with the Spirit and truth."
And I asked Him saying, "Are you of the Spirit?"
He answered, "So are you also, though you know it not."
And what was the Spirit and what was truth, when I, for the sake of the State, and they from jealousy for their ancient rites, delivered an innocent man unto His death?
No man, no race,no empire would halt before a truth on its way towards self-fulfilment.
And I said again, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
And He answered, "You yourself say this. I have conquered the world ere this hour."
And this alone of all that He said was unseemly, inasmuch as only Rome has conquered the world.
But now the voices of the people rose again, and the noise was greater than before.
And I descended from my seat and said to Him, "Follow me."
And again I appeared upon the steps of the palace, and He stood there beside me.
When the people saw Him they roared like the roaring thunder. And in their clamor I heard naught save "Crucify Him, crucify Him."
Then I yielded Him to the priests who had yielded Him to me and I said to them, "Do what you will with this just man. And if it is your desire, take with you soldiers of Rome to guard Him."
Then they took Him, and I decreed that there be written upon the cross above His head, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." I should have said instead, "Jesus of Nazareth, a King."
And the man was stripped and flogged and crucified.
It would have been within my power to save Him, but saving Him would have caused a revolution; and it is always wise for the governor of a Roman province not to be intolerant of the religious scruples of a conquered race.
I believe unto this hour that the man was more than an agitator. What I decreed was not my will, but rather for the sake of Rome.
Not long after, we left Syria, and from that day my wife has been a woman of sorrow. Sometimes even here in this garden I see a tragedy in her face.
I am told she talks much of Jesus to other women of Rome.
Behold, the man whose death I decreed returns from the world of shadows and enters into my own house.
And within myself I ask again and again, What is truth and what is not truth?
Can it be that the Syrian is conquering us in the quiet hours of the night?
It should not indeed be so.
For Rome must needs prevail against the nightmares of our wives.