. TESTIMONIUM VERITATIS (True Testimony)
by Jacob Ben Avraham
I pace back and forth here on the patio. The fortress of Antonia is full of life and busy during the day, but at night, so quiet, ever so quiet. As I look out over the city of Jerusalem, there are faint lights here and there. Torches burning on the walls. Zealots waiting in hiding for an unwary Roman soldier, while the rest of the city sleeps.
The moon has traveled across the sky , and a multitude of stars can be seen. It’s hard to believe that the same heavenly bodies that can be seen here are seen in Rome. It has been a season since I have been back to that city that was founded by Romulus, the city of the Tiber, where the mob cries out for justice, for crimes unsolved and the senate plays the role of gods. The senate is corrupt, always looking for a few denarii more.
Tiberius has concerns for lands conquered, forever worrying about uprisings. Here in this land called Judea, the people hate us. The eagle of Rome is but an ugly reminder of the strong overpowering the weak. We are an intruder that offends their religion, and laws that oppose their own laws.
My report is overdue to Tiberius. I should have written it two weeks ago. The criminals were tried and condemned, executed according to Roman law and justice. I could have written the report with ease, telling Tiberius that indeed, Roman justice was served. In every report, the crimes of the criminals are recorded. The first two were thieves and almost killed two of my officers in the attempt to rob them. Their punishment was just. But the other man’s punishment, now that I think back, seemed somewhat unjust.
The man named Yeshua Ben Yosef, a carpenter by profession from the town of Nazareth. What crimes did he commit that warranted crucifixion? Crimes against Rome I think not. There was no proof. Crimes against his own people? Did not the leaders of his own people bring him to me for judgment? Why did they not judge him themselves?
I am plagued for the wont of answers, for deeper understanding in this matter. It is also a matter of conscience. Tiberius will want a report, and a report he will get, but at what price? At the price of my position as procurator of Judea? For putting to death an innocent man?
When I first heard of this man Yeshua I was awed. Unlike the other Judeans who are forever complaining about taxes, this man Yeshua said they should pay the taxes. When the mere presence of Rome embitters their souls, this man Yeshua befriended Romans. Even one of my best centurions abandoned his belief in the gods of Rome when this Yeshua healed his servant. I can’t hardly blame him, I can’t remember even one time when the gods of Rome did me or Claudia any favors.
I wish I had met this Yeshua sooner, perhaps he would have healed our grandson. We asked the favor of the gods on him, yet he died of fever nonetheless. I was very curious about these miracles, so I assigned Decius, one of my trusted servants to follow this Yeshua, yet from a distance as not to arouse suspicion among his twelve followers.
My servant came back and reported that this Yeshua indeed took five loaves of bread and a few fishes which he received from a lad, and fed five-thousand people. Now I ask myself, how could that be possible? Could anyone do that? I posed the question to my dear Claudia and she told me that indeed, it would be impossible if he were only a mere man. I felt that she had more to say, yet she contained herself. Later that night, before coming to bed she looked me deep in the eyes and I remember her words; “I do believe that this Yeshua is more than just a man!”
Her words still echo in my ears, “more than just a man” but if that man is more than just a man, then what can he be? Only a god is higher than man. I ask myself, can this Yeshua be a god on this earth? A god that would be a king? Yet this Yeshua refused kingship, at least kingship here in Jerusalem. When he was before me that infamous day, I even asked him if he was a king, and I remember too well his words:
“You say that I am, did you hear that from others?”
Yes, I remember hearing rumors among the Judeans that this Yeshua was a king prophesied by the Jewish prophets of old. Then I remember his other words to me;
“My reign is not of this world”
But if not of this world, what other world is there? Decius did not leave out details when I questioned him more about Yeshua. The more he talked about Yeshua, the more excited he became. I had to continuously remind him of his position as servant and protocol.
I have seen a change in my servant however, a change for the better, not to say that he is a bad servant, only now he asks if he might do extra things, saying, “I wouldn’t mind going the extra mile”. He has a strange peace about him, like all the others who have come into contact with this Yeshua. Decius also told me that once while he was following Yeshua and his followers from a distance, Yeshua just stopped walking, turned around and looked at him. Even from the distance, he could sense that Yeshua was looking straight at him. He slowly nodded his head, and then continued walking. It was if he knew why my servant was following him.
Decius told me that on various occasions he had heard Yeshua mention “the Kingdom of Heaven”. Could this be the answer to his kingship? But then where is this place called “heaven?” if not on earth, could this be some sort of home for the gods? A place from whence the gods rule the earth? Would it be, I wonder, the same place where the gods of Rome live? Or…is it different?
So many unanswered questions I have, and no easy answers. I heard it mentioned by the followers of Yeshua that “the truth would set men free” but free from what? And what is truth? Alas, the same question I posed to Yeshua when he was before me after having spoken these words to me;
“Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice”
I hear myself thinking that the “truth” is opposite of falsehood. It is looking at the facts and acknowledging the facts no matter what. This I would have to do. Yes, I will report the facts about Yeshua to Tiberius. He would want nor expect no less. I will tell him who I really think he is. I will give my “Testimonium veritatis” my testimony of truth.
Many call Yeshua a king, but he says that his kingdom is not here. With the reports and facts that I have received from Decius my servant, I can only conclude that he indeed has the makings of a king. He cares about his people, he feeds them bread and fish and teaches them about love. He discourages hate and rebellion. He shows compassion to the poor, he hates injustice and teaches honesty. Oh if only Rome were ruled by someone like him, how different it would be.
My servant also told me that he talked about “his father”. His followers said that his father lives in Heaven, and that “he and his father were one”. I wonder if that means that both Yeshua and his father are both kings? What could be the truth about that I wonder? Again, questions without solid answers.
I am glad I gave him the title, “King of the Jews”. I do believe he earned that title. Let Caiaphas and the rest of those religious leaders foam at the mouth like rabid dogs. The more I think about it, the more I believe Yeshua was delivered into my hands on account of jealousy, or jealousy with a lot of misunderstanding about this “Torah” as the Jews call their holy writ. The religious leaders teach it one way, and Yeshua teaches it another way, so who’s right? Can both be right? I wonder where this carpenter got so much understanding.
The Jews also say that their “Torah” said something about a “coming Messiah” who would be a king. According to the records he was born around the time it was prophesied, during the Jew’s festival of Sukkot.
Some of the Jews believed that this coming “king” would free Judea from Roman rule, but here we stand. Rome has not fallen and I am still governor of Judea. So where, I ask myself, does this Yeshua fit into all this?
As I look over all the facts, I find myself wanting and guilty of condemning to death an innocent man, or maybe more than just a man, a god become man perhaps? So how can men kill a god?
My head is still dizzy with still unanswered questions, and the moon is high above in the night sky. I have the parchment, quill , and ink on the table, but this letter will have to wait until morning. Tiberius will have to wait one more day for this report. Whatever happens, happens, by the will of the gods....or should I say....God?
AUTHOR'S ENDING COMMENTS:
We might never know what went on inside the mind of Pontius Pilate. He was certaining aware of the miralces and teachings of Yeshua (Jesus). Did he really believe Yeshua was God? Only our Father in Heaven knows for sure.