But the chief priests incited the crowd to free them Barabbas instead.
So Pilate spoke out again to them "What must I do then with the one you call king of the Jews?"
They shouted back "Crucify him!"
But Pilate said to them "Why? What evil has he done?"
They shouted louder "Crucify him!"
- Mark's gospel
"When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time - the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone."
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
I wasn't expecting it. I fully expected them to ask for his release. Or, if they did choose Barabbas, they might forget about him entirely in the wake of my amnesty. But they surprised me. The mindless beast surprised me.
I expected to lose him all at once. Give the people what they wanted, wash my hands of him, and be done with it. I do these kinds of things all the time. But that's not how it happened; at least not with him. I have lost the king of the Jews gradually over time. I realize it sounds strange, but all I can do is relay truth. You say "'What is truth?" Ah. Well, only this:
For years, each trip to the Praetorium held his presence. I would walk across the spot where he stood and I swear to you I could smell him. His scent was one that could not quickly be forgotten. There was the usual mingling of blood and sweat, but something else was mixed in; something accepted, something submitted to, a will greater than his own. I don't have words for it, but for years it would burn my nostrils when I crossed the place where he stood.
And then his eyes. I cannot count the days when I've seen his eyes, but in the sockets of others. He stood on that day, bruised and silent, and pierced me with his gaze. I am a man of power, I deal in power, I am power, so I know it when I see it. The man's eyes were full of power like I've never witnessed before. I truly felt I was looking into the eyes of a god. But his power was reined-in, like a steed held in the moment. I have since come to believe I was looking into the eyes of mercy. So, I guess it surprised me the first time I saw his eyes in another. I've seen them in the gaze of my wife, fellow officers of the court, common people in the marketplace; I've even seen his eyes in the heads of children as they watch me pass. Some days, it is as if I cannot escape the mercy of the one they called the king of the Jews.
And then this. You will probably think me a fool and I would not doubt you. His feet. The day he stood before me and the chief priests and the crowd, I noticed his feet. Strange, I admit. But his robe had been torn so that it no longer brushed the ground; no, it was in shreds up around his knees. As he stood there, enduring, I saw his beautiful feet. That sounds weak, coming from a man, no? But you asked "what is truth?" so I tell you. He stood on feet that were purpled from being stomped and wet with the sweat of the ordeal. But they were so beautiful. Not a beauty like the feet of a woman; no, these were the template for feet, the original design. I'll never forget the moment, not days after his crucifixion, as I sat and stuck my feet out in front of me to cross them, and my feet paled in comparison to the one from Galilee. Mine were like his, but not his, in the way that he was like me, but not me. For days, I intentionally tried to tuck my feet under me each time I sat before others. But in moments of distraction, I would see my own and so see his: how beautiful were the feet of him who brought the news the people rejected.
I expected to lose him all at once. But it has not been as I expected. Since I met him, nothing has been as I expected. It was as if someone I loved had died, quickly, unexpectedly. I did not expect his death, but I did not love him. I tell you, I did not love him. I say it again: I did not love him. I am Pilate. I will extend pardon once a year. But I will have nothing to do with love. You can be a leader or a lover. You cannot be both. He tried to be both. See what it got him?