Pilate's Wife, Part 1
The wife of Pontius Pilate hid
Her trembling hands and did
What she had done a dozen times
Before. Her husband's deadly crimes
Against the Jews had made her face
Well known and hated every place
Where she might go in Palestine.
And so she wore a veil. The fine
Apparel of the court she laid
Aside and wore the common grade
Of clothing women wore who worked
In shops. And there, unseen, she lurked
Around the edges of the crowd,
And put her hands beneath the shroud
That lay across her face and fell
In simple folds. No one could tell
She trembled there, or that behind
The veil stood Claudia, the kind
And gentle wife of Pilate, bold
And daring, if she might behold,
Perhaps, the Teacher of the Jews
Once more, and hear from him some news
To still her fearful heart.
Because of Pilate's gruesome crime,
There was a tension in the air,
And people wondered if and where
The Lord would speak his mind about
It. Claudia had gone without
Her royal meals three days, and kept
A secret vigil as she wept
Herself to sleep each night since she
Had heard of the atrocity.
As much now as she feared to hear
What he might say, she lingered near
Enough to listen if he spoke.
At last, one voice dared speak, and broke
The angry silence of the crowd:
"Good Teacher, some of us have vowed
Revenge on Pilate, and we do
Believe it is with justice too.
My brother and his wife three days
Ago were slaughtered by the craze
Of Pilate's bloody power. And they
Were not the only ones. Like clay,
He trampled them beneath a horde
Of soldiers, slit their throats, and poured
Their blood in mockery upon
The altar of our God. We don
Therefore ourselves with robes of truth
And righteousness, and pledge our youth
And zeal to overthrow this pawn
Of Rome and sweep away, like dawn
The dark of night, his house. Tell us,
Should we now fear Tiberius,
And all the wrath of Rome? What do
You make of men who make a brew
Of sheep and human blood and pour
It out to God like holy gore?
Or do you think, Good Master, that
These Galileans' sin was at
The root of their demise and brought
All this from God that Pilate wrought?"
She stood like stone, and listened to
Her own death sentence there, and knew
That he was right - that Pilate killed
The Galilean flock and spilled
Their blood for nothing but his own
Disgust for Jewish flesh and bone.
But Claudia was stunned to hear
The man ask Jesus if the mere
Sin of his family had brought
All this from God - as if the thought
That God could possibly ordain
Such things was thinkable - the pain,
The grief, the wickedness! And so
She waited for the Lord to show
The truth that surely God cannot
Be found behind a wicked plot,
As if the sin of Pilate could
Be punishment from God or would
Be more than Pilate's own design.
She watched to see the Lord assign
A proper guilt, and say, "Go fight
The man, for your revenge is right."
The silence lengthened as the Lord
Looked out upon the crowd, and t'ward
The place where Claudia stood by.
For one brief instant, eye to eye,
They met, at least it seemed to her
That he could see as if there were
No veil at all. And then he said,
"Do you think these who now lay dead,
Worse sinners, since they suffered so,
And died this way? I tell you, no.
But you, unless you will repent,
Must suffer to the same extent."
These words struck Pilate's wife with such
A moral force, she lost all touch
With crowd and time and Christ. She felt
As if a world, where Jesus dwelt,
Had opened, shocking, to her eyes,
And God till now was in disguise,
And sin was small and self was great,
And justice was a balanced hate.
But now, there lodged this arrow in
Her soul from Jesus' bow: "Begin,"
He seemed to say, "with this: The lot
At which to be amazed is not
That some have died in pain and shed
Their blood, but that you are not dead.
Let wonder fill you daily that
The judgment has not lingered at
Your door. You take another breath,
A gift you don't deserve, and death
Delays its final blow. At this,
Now marvel, Claudia, and kiss
The mercy of each passing hour
While you escape his raging power.
All sin is serious, not small,
And, yes, the Lord God governs all."
How much time passed she didn't know.
The sun had set; a golden glow
Made all the rocks burn orange on
The western side. The crowd was gone.
She sat in peace, though all her world
Had been thrown down, and kindly hurled
Into the sea by Jesus' word
Of truth. Then, suddenly, she heard
A motion, turned, and saw the Lord.
His face was peaceful now. The sword
That shattered all before was gone.
Then Jesus spoke: "You are no pawn
Of Rome, whatever Pilate is,
Good Claudia. Though you be his
By marriage, here today by grace
You have become my own. My face
You will not see again until
The night before I die. He will
Once more, make Jewish blood to flow
And then no more. He does not know
The greatness of God's work, and this
Through all his sin and cowardice.
But you, be strong. Your holy dreams
Are not in vain. And though it seems
You will have lost your husband and
Your Lord, trust in the unseen hand
Of God. I now declare by oath,
And blood, that you will have them both.
Come, children, take your fire, and light
This advent candle one. For bright
And blazing is our hope and deep
Desire that all the world would leap
To know the truth that Christ destroys
False worlds that he might fill with joys.
To know the truth that massacres
Might be forgiv'n and one who errs
A thousand times may find at last
That all his horrid sins are cast
Into the deep, and Christ, by grace,
Has made his massacre a place
Of life where even those who scorned
His face, may be with life adorned.