THE PROCURATOR OF JUDEA
Just before Easter I came upon a short story written by Anatole France (1844-1924); its title, “The Procurator of Judea,” immediately caught my attention because of its timeliness. The odds of your ever reading this ten-page story are so slim that I think I can tell you how it turns out without fear of getting you too angry at me for spoiling the ending.
Set in Italy many years after the death of Jesus, the story consists entirely of a dialogue between one Lucius Aelius Lamia and an elderly and retired Pontius Pilate. Lamia had once been a house guest of Pilate’s for some weeks back in Judea but had not seen him since. Thus the two sat down on a shady terrace at the retired Procurator's villa to share lunch, a pitcher of wine and good conversation.
I started reading, waiting impatiently for the inevitable moment when the author would offer some insights into the death of Jesus from the perspective of Pontius Pilate, who as “Procurator of Judea” had been responsible for the most famous execution in history.
The conversation was free-flowing and wide-ranging, but eventually turned to a long discussion of the Jews, whom Pilate had governed for some years. As the two men traded opinions I sensed that we were about to get to some great self-revelation – probably Pilate’s confessing that his uneasy conscience had left him unable to sleep at night ever since that fateful Friday afternoon.
Finally Lamia started talking about a Jewish dancing girl he’d fallen in love with in Jerusalem, and how she had broken his heart when she completely disappeared one day without a word. I’ll continue his story in Anatole France’s words:
“Some months after I lost sight of her I learned by chance that she had attached herself to a small company of men and women who were followers of a young Galilean wonder-worker. His name was Jesus; he came from Nazareth, and he was crucified for some crime, I don’t quite know what. Pontius, do you remember anything about the man?
“Pontius Pilate contracted his brows, and his hand rose to his forehead in the attitude of one who probes the deeps of memory. Then after a silence of some seconds –
“Jesus?” he murmured, “Jesus – of Nazareth? I don’t seem to remember him.”
And that was the end of the story: Pilate couldn’t recall ever having met Jesus, let alone having had him killed!
I was appalled that Pilate could have been so blasé and could have forgotten such a momentous event. But then, if it’s appalling that he should forget the death of Jesus, isn’t it equally as appalling that I should often be so blasé and indifferent about Christ’s resurrection?
....“Jesus – of Nazareth? I don’t seem to remember him.”