As I waked down the corridor, I reconsidered Pilate’s story and how inconsistent it all seemed. I knew for a fact that he did not like the high priests, and that he could have gone against their wishes just to spite them. Yet, if he genuinely wished to spare the Nazarene’s life, why send him to the tetrarch Herod, and what was it Herod had said to Jesus?
I was mulling all this over and considering my next move when my attention was caught by a servant girl. She was young and eager-looking. There was urgency in her manner that seemed underlined by fear.
"My mistress wishes to speak to you," she said in a hushed tone. Her eyes darted back and forth along the hallway as if afraid to be seen with me.
"And who is your mistress?" I asked.
"The great lady of the house," she replied. "It is important that she see you."
I turned to leave, but the girl grabbed me by the arm with more strength than I gave her credit for having.
"I will be whipped if I do not bring you to her," the girl spoke in a way that told me she had no intention of letting me leave.
I looked at her. She was beautiful for her age, and would soon become a fine woman that most men would appreciate.
"I would be displeased to see anyone as young and beautiful as you beaten," I told her smiling, but the compliment had little effect.
She led me to an interior room that was ill lit. I turned to say something to her, but she was already gone. Her small bare feet had made no noise upon the floor. The room appeared to be empty, but after a moment I sensed another’s presence. A small brazier burned near me. It made more smoke than light. It burned heavy incense, and its low flame threw flickering shadows. I moved past the brazier and let my eyes adjust to the dim light. A figure moved in the far corner of the room. A woman stepped forward out of the shadows. She stood tall and slender, and her black hair was piled high atop her head which made her appear taller than she was. By all the gods, she was beautiful. She reminded me of a statue of Venus I had once seen as a boy in Rome. I had believed it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and for years to come I would use it as a standard from which to compare all other women. Of all the women I had met in my life, no woman could compare to the perfection of Venus. The one who stood before me now came close.
"You know who I am?" she uttered, her voice low and soft.
I nodded. She was Claudia Procula, wife of the Governor, Pontius Pilate.
"Regarding the Galilean, Jesus?"
"What did my husband tell you?"
"Your husband said he did not wish to persecute the Galilean," I told her. "But the man wound up just as dead."
She thought on this a moment. Her lovely face was pensive, and as she spoke she seemed distracted. "Do you know why my husband wished to free Jesus?"
"Your husband told me he could find no guilt in the man."
"That may well be so," she remarked nodding. "I personally do not believe Jesus was guilty of any crime. It was I who asked my husband not to persecute the man."
"Why did you do that?" I asked curiously. "You admitted that you did not know the man."
She turned away from me and paced the room contemplatively. She was dressed in a splendid gown of white and red that swept the dark tile floor. It hung on her well, displaying a fine figure. She turned and faced me again.
"It was a dream," she said.
"It was a what?"
"I had a dream regarding the man Jesus."
"What sort of dream was it?"
"A very disconcerting dream."
"What happened in the dream?" I asked hoping she could be more specific.
"I do not know," she responded confused and bewildered and a little afraid. For some reason I believed what she said; as strange as it sounded. "Or perhaps more to the point, I do not remember. Of the dream I cannot recall precise details. It all becomes cloudier as days pass. All that I can remember is that the dream was disturbing, and it convinced me of the man’s innocence. No, more than innocence, he was . . . he is . . . "
She did not finish, as if she were uncertain. She gripped my right arm firmly to impress her sincerity. I felt her fingernails sink into my flesh. Her lovely green eyes looked deep into my eyes. By all the gods, she was beautiful! The fierce desperation and concern made her more desirable to me. But she was the Governor’s wife, and even I had my limits. They were spelled out in an ancient code of conduct passed down through the ages. Mostly I thought they were a pain in the podex.
"Promise me you will be careful," she pleaded. "I fear you are in peril." Here she lifted her hand to the cuts and bruises on my face. She ran her fingers over them gently, caressing them, as if that would heal them. "Promise me!" she repeated.
Apparently she possessed oracle powers, but seemed very ill-at-ease with them, as if not at all certain what to do with them.
"I promise," I responded, then asked her: "What can you tell me of the Jewish tetrarch, Herod?"
"Herod." She said the name like it had been on her mind.
"Your husband, the Governor, sent the man Jesus to Herod, but the tetrarch sent Jesus back to the Governor."
"A strange man," she commented, and for a moment I was not certain to whom she referred. "I cannot tell you much about Herod," she said, and her face held a haunted look. "But one thing did strike me."
"What was that?"
"It has to do with his relationship with my husband"
"Between Herod and the Governor?" I asked, wishing to be specific.
"Yes. They used to be political enemies. They did not even like each other personally. But since the crucifixion of Jesus, they have grown closer, friends even."
"What may have brought them together?" I wondered aloud.
Claudia Procula did not reply but only looked at me. After a moment she said: "Tribune, I understand that in Rome you are persona non grata. May I ask you why?"
"It is an extremely personal matter," I said, and would say no more about it.
She nodded. "You may not be welcomed in Rome, Tribune, but please know that you are always welcome here in this house– any time."
Without another word, I left the woman– no easy feat since she evidently desired my company. This last bit of information regarding Herod and Pilate was intriguing. It spoke of conspiracy. The entire matter did. So many players and so many stories. It reminded me of the building of a fantastic mosaic I witnessed once as a child in Rome. The construction of the mosaic began in the centre and grew outward. Each day more tiles were laid, some white, some coloured. At the beginning I saw nothing, simply tiles laid together, side by side. Then I saw a shape, but not a recognizable shape. Then one day, near completion, I saw it. A picture was in the tiles and had become clear to my eyes. I thought it was wondrous. All that time I had seen no discernible pattern or shape, but suddenly it became something. It was a beautiful thing to witness. At this point in time the mystery of the empty tomb was like that mosaic– pieces, hundreds of pieces with no discernible shape. But if I put together enough tiles I would have a clear picture.
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