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Pilate: What Do I Do with Jesus?
From Characters: Comedies, Dramas, & Raps Featuring Bible Characters
Early Easter morning, Pilate struggles with his decisions concerning
Jesus Christ. Based on Matthew 27:11-66; Mark 15:1-45;
Luke 11:13, 23:1-53; John 18:28-19:42
Bare stage with chair or throne center stage
Props include a single chair suitable for a throne,
a small table; several sheets of parchment (available at most
stationary stores); a metal bowl sitting on the table.
Pilate, Fifth Governor of Imperial Rome over Judea,
dressed in royal robe with several rings on his fingers.
(Pilate enters looking nervous and exhausted; slumps in
[angrily] "Jesus"! That's all I've heard this week.
On the last Day of the Sun, a mob of Jews paraded Him through
Jerusalem as "King of the Jews." Then He caused a near
riot at the temple on the Day of the Moon. I thought
all this nonsense would be over after my men flogged and
crucified Him. He's deadsealed in a tombsurrounded
by temple guards. I have the transcription from the
trial, orders for his death, and the soldier's report of
the crucifixion right here.
[he waves parchments angrily]
So, why should I worry? [pause, stares into space] But
for some strange reason I do.
[he bolts from chair]
Why does this Jesus still live in my mind?
My first mistake was ever accepting the appointment of
Fifth Governor of Imperial Rome over Judea. Hmmmmph.
At the time I thought it was an honor. But now I'm
stationed in this dry, barren land trying to rule a
nation of religious fanatics. I have been trained all
my life for Roman leadership and now... [he points to
throne] ...this. Once a year I have to leave Caesarea
and come down to Jerusalem for crowd control of their
religious Passover. These Jews have been nothing but
trouble. They rebelled when I placed Roman banners in
the city. They rebelled when I placed shields decorated
with the Latin gods in their temple. But by that time,
I had had enough of their religion and rebellion. My
soldiers splattered the Jews' own blood over their
But did I get respect from Caesar for upholding Roman rule?
The chief priests went behind my back and complained to Rome.
And now Caesar Tiberius has declared that I must honor their
religion to keep the pax romana"the peace of Rome."
To think that my name, Pilate, means "one who
carries the javelin." But now I have been stripped of
my weapon and power over these cursed Hebrews. Their
temple guard alone outnumbers my army of Samaritan and
Syrian mercenaries. [he shakes his head in frustration]
And now this impossible incident with this other Jew
this Jesus. I tried to give Him a fair trial. I swear
to Jupiter and I swear to Caesar I tried to give Him a
fair trial. It should have been just trivial religious
matter their Sanhedrin should have dealt with. But
apparently, this Jesus claimed to be some kind of god.
But the priests and teachers of the law wouldn't even
come into the palace to press charges. They wanted to
avoid [sarcastically] "ceremonial uncleanness," so they
could celebrate their Passover. These sons of vipers
don't mind crucifying an innocent man, but they don't
want to be "unclean" by entering a "pagan" palace. I
hope you are pleased, O Tiberius, that I "honored their
religion." and went out to them.
[Pilate sits down]
I sat in the seat of judgment and declared, "He is a
Jew, you're all Jews. Deal with your own religious
[He looks to the left as if remembering Christ's
These Hebrews may not acknowledge the gods of the
Empire, but they do know Roman politics! They answered
"We have found this man subverting our nation. He
opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be a
king over Caesar himself. If you let this man go, you
are no friend of Caesar." What else could I do with
[looks to the right as if remembering Christ]
I asked Him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" He
answered by questioning me. "Is that your own idea or
did others talk to you about me?" He said something
about being from another Kingdom, so I asked Him again,
"You are a King, then?" He gave a strange answer: "You
are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this
reason I was born, and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth
listens to me." I asked Him, "What is truth?" But then
He was silent. He just stood their like a sheep before
its shearers. He wouldn't tell me what Kingdom He was
fromif He was indeed a godnothing. I finally
shouted, "Don't you realize I have the power to either
free you or to crucify you." He answered something
about I, the Governor of Imperial Rome over Judea, had
no power of Him. [Pilate shakes his head in
bewilderment] Somehow, I almost believed Him.
I knew that somehow I had to free thisthisGod-Man.
But I was getting nowhere, so I told the priests and
teachers, "I find no basis for a charge against this
man." But they only shouted, "He stirs up people all
over Judea by His teaching. He started in Galilee and
has come all the way here." Galilee? I can play
politics too! Since He was a Galilean, that meant he
was under Herod Agrippa's jurisdiction. And since
Agrippa was in Jerusalem at the time, let the great
Herod deal with Jesus. He had dealt fairly swiftly with
that other Jewish fanatic, John the Baptist. But Herod
could get nothing more out of Jesus either, so we could
at least both agree on something. We could declare Him
"not guilty." So I told the Jews that both Herod and I
had thoroughly examined Himin their presenceand He
had done nothing worthy of death. I offered to have him
flogged and released, but they still demanded His
I tried one final tactic. Each year at the Feast, it was my
custom to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At the
time I had in custody a notorious criminal named Barabbas.
He had been found guilty of treason and murder. Surely, if I
gave them the choice of a convicted murderer, they would
choose this innocent man. At least the question of
"What do I do with Jesus?" would now be their
responsibility. While the mob was murmuring, my wife
sent me a message that she had suffered greatly because
of a dream concerning this innocent man. He certainly
didn't seem guilty. There was something pure, almost
But the mob screamed. "Give us Barabbas!" "And what do
I do with Jesus," I shouted over the roar. "Crucify
Him! Crucify Him!" they screamed even louder. So you
see [talking to the audience as if hoping for sympathy]
what could I do with Jesus? There were several thousand
in this murderous mob and I had less than a thousand
soldiers scattered across the entire city. If I would
have shed one drop of priestly blood, the entire city
would have attacked and burned the palace. And Tiberius
would have my head if the mob didn't get it first.
Better that one man die than to have my family and
entire army killed.
[Pilate walks over to bowl]
So I took this bowl and washed my hands of the whole
affair. "I am innocent of this men's blood. It is your
responsibility." And then I sat in the judgment seat.
[Pilate sits down]
I ordered the release of a murderer and the death of an
innocent man. [shaking head in disbelief] I handed
Jesus over to my Roman guards. They made a crown of
thorns and shoved it onto His head. They put a purple
robe on Him and began to beat Him yelling, "Hail the
King of the Jews." Jesus didn't say one word. Even
when they flogged Him and put the cross bar on his
bloodied back, He just stood there with the demeanor and
dignity of a king.
Maybe He was.
[Pilate gets up]
Maybe what I had written above the cross was true: "The
King of the Jews." Even when the chief priests wanted
to change it to read, "He claimed to be the King of the
Jews," I answered, "What I have written, I have
written." What if He really was a King? What if He
really was a god? What, if like His followers claim, He
comes back from the dead?" Then, what do I do with
Jesus? What do I do with Jesus?
[Pilate buries his face in his hands. Black out.]
(c) 1993 James N. WatkinsCopy
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