During this season of Lent, one thing my husband and I like to do is watch Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." This helps us to meditate on how much Jesus suffered to redeem us. Each time I watch this movie, I find something new and meaningful to meditate upon. It's like reading the Bible, and even though a certain passage or story has been read countless times, there is something "new" that strikes at the heart.
This time while watching "The Passion of the Christ," I am amazed at how neither Pilate nor Herod wished to condemn Jesus. They were both powerful leaders and had condemned many people before. So, why were they so hesitant in condemning Jesus?
Mel Gibson found inspiration for this movie from a book of the mystical experiences of St. Anne Catherine Emmerich, "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ." Emmerich (1774-1824) was a mystic, stigmatic and visionary. In her later years, she ate no food, except Holy Communion, and spent much of her time in ecstasies giving her visions of the life of Jesus, and in particular the tremendous suffering he endured during his passion and crucifixion.
A person does not need to believe in the visions of Emmerich, although the Catholic Church has a detailed and scrupulous process for declaring "saints." But one thing is for certain, none of the visions experienced by Emmerich in this book goes against anything written in the Bible or against what I have read about ancient Roman history.
According to this book, Pilate allowed Herod to judge Jesus as a peace offering between the two leaders, who for years had been less than friendly toward one another. But apparently, the collapse of an aqueduct, which involved the two leaders, caused a particular strain in their relationship. This is what the book says about this incident:
"Pilate had undertaken to build an aqueduct on the southeast side of the mountain on which the temple stood, at the edge of the torrent into which the waters of the pool of Bethsaida emptied themselves, and this aqueduct was to carry off the refuse of the Temple. Herod, through the medium of one of his confidants, who was a member of the Sanhedrim, agreed to furnish him with the necessary materials, as also with 28 architects, who were also Herodians. His aim was to set the Jews still more against the Roman governor, by causing the undertaking to fail. He accordingly came to a private understanding with the architects, who agreed to construct the aqueduct in such a manner that it would be certain to fall. When the work was almost finished, and a number of bricklayers from Ophel were busily employed in removing the scaffolding, the 28 builders went on to the top of the Tower of Siloe to contemplate the crash which they knew must take place. Not only did the whole of the building crumble to pieces, fall, and kill 93 workmen, but even the tower containing the 28 architects came down, and not one escaped death." ("The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ," p. 213).
Emmerich recorded that many workers injured from this accident were cured by Jesus, which is why Herod pressed Jesus to perform a miracle before his eyes -- one of these miracles he had often heard about. On the other hand, Pilate was happy that his enemy Herod reached the same verdict as he did about this man, Jesus.
Reading this and re-watching "The Passion of The Christ" brought new light into the political times in which Jesus lived. Jesus, the prince of peace, did not need to start a war to bring a truce between two powerful leaders. He only had to allow himself to be brutally beaten and stand before them with love pouring forth from his wounded body.
Donetta Robben is a freelance columnist from Hays. Write to her at P.O. Box 614, Hays, KS 67601, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org