…if Pilate and Jesus had met a week before their conversation on Good Friday.
Pilate: (pushing through the crowd) Outa my way, outa my way… keep back there, keep back. Ah! There he is. Jesus, just the man. Now listen to me. I’m, telling you, listen. I’ve got a show to run here. And it ain’t an easy job. I’ve heard about you and I know what the people say, and I just want to make sure you know this – don’t cross me. Don’t make life difficult for yourself or for me. You may think you have power, but trust me – you have no idea. When it comes to Rome – we know what power is, we invented it, and we serve it up and we dish it out when the time is right. If you and I cross swords, if we meet on a dark night, and you come making trouble, trust me, one of us is going down, and it won’t be me. I mean you no harm, I have nothing against you. But I have to keep this motheaten ship afloat here. Trust me, running this backwoods country is no walk in the park. I have to hold the thing tightly by the scruff of the neck. So it’s no use coming with your miracles and your divine talk of power and glory. I am the power and glory round here. So let’s not get any wires crossed. You understand?
Jesus crouches down and draws in the sand.
Pilate: What? What are you doing? What is that? Are you listening to me? Are you taking heed? Am I wasting my breath here?
Jesus looks up. Smiles. Nods. Thinks for a moment then draws in the sand again.
Pilate: You know, I’m a reasonable man. I have family, a wife, servants, pets. I entertain all kinds of people. I go dancing, walking, climbing, I’m not a barbarian. I’m a civilized man. I’m not a tyrant. I want a peaceful outcome here. I’m not looking for a fight. But I have a king to serve. And I will serve him. That’s why I’m here now. I want to avoid harm and bloodshed. I don’t want to find myself called from my bed in the dark hours to oversee another crucifixion. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
Jesus: (looking up at Pilate) I know of your power, Pilate, I understand it, and I care about it, but it doesn’t come from your king. Can I tell you a story? There was a master, with two servants. And he sent the two men off into the world with a mission. The first came riding on a stallion, wielding power and influence, surrounded by gleaming soldiers. The other came humbly, riding on a donkey, walking with beggars and outcasts and prostitutes. The two men completed their missions, one triumphing, the other dying. However in triumphing the first lost everything, whilst in dying the second gained all. The first knew the weakness of power, whilst the second knew the power of weakness. D’you understand?
Pilate: Understand what? What are you talking about? Power? Yes, I know about power, I told you. Weakness? The first, the second, two servants… a master… who are you talking about? It’s just confusing. They told me you do this. Tell these stories which only confound and mystify. Jesus I’m warning you, stay in line. D’you hear me? Stay in line. Don’t rock the boat or you will pay the price. I promise you that.
Pilate storms off. Jesus finishes drawing in the sand. He has drawn three crosses on a hill and the outline of a man washing his hands.