By Gloria Mabeiam Ballason Esq
I hurried my steps to catch up with mom as we made our way to Church which is few blocks away from our home for the 2022 Good Friday service. Mom was wearing very comfortable shoes.
“Looks like it’s going to be a long day today as you accompany Mother Mary to Golgotha”, I said.
“Oh certainly! We the committee of friends will be with Mary through the day.It will be a long walk and our shoes need to be comfortable,” my mom keyed into the joke.
As we got to the door of the Church, I told mom I needed to put my phone in silence mode as I was getting into Pilate’s court and didn’t want to be cited for contempt if my phone rang while proceedings were ongoing.
Sitted in church, I had an epiphany. What did a day like this mean for Mary the mother of Jesus? Her son had been picked up by a state mob. It would have been difficult to get him but Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ friend and inner caucus member of the Salvation Movement, had not only received a whooping thirty pieces of silver to give Jesus up but had served as the pointer choosing to identify the wanted Man with a kiss.
Peter’s adrenaline shot into self-defence mode as he pulled his sword and cut off the ear of a gang member.
‘Put back your sword Peter! We don’t do it that way. We will follow due process.’
Jesus picked up the fallen ear and placed it back on its owner.
There were chief priests, captains of the Temple and elders. This was no mean mob. Mobs were often youth-led but here, leaders of note in the country, many of whom had sat under His teachings and witnessed his miracles, had come to arrest him with dangerous swords and staves.
“Why have you come at me as though against a robber? I often sat with you in the Temple and you said nothing against me nor arrested me; why today and what have I done?” They gave no answers but seized the Teacher and took him to the High Priest.
Seeing how dangerous things had become and how his limp Katana sword was no match for the Rapiers he saw in the room, Peter followed from afar.
But Peter was too famous to be lost in the crowd. As he warmed himself by the fire side, a vocal young lady called him out:
‘I know you. You were also with the accused;’ she said.
“You must be hallucinating. Many from our side of town share features but you see that man? I have never seen him, met him nor spoken to him. I don’t know him at all,” Peter said, traversing effectively with an alibi.
Shortly afterwards, another man pointed at Peter:
“Guy, no be you be strongman fo d waka wen d Jisos-pipo dem dey do? why you con dey yan patra fo hia?”
“My friend! E b lyk dis fire don dey kolo una fo head” Peter hissed and walked away.
Less than an hour later, a third person stared Peter in the face:
“Guy-man, dis ya deny no augur. No be fo Galilee den born you? I bin don know you tey-tey. You follow join fo dis Jisos mata abeg!”
“God! How una dey tek reason dis mata? I get plenty look alike. See my bag, na today b my first tym to efun enta dis una area. My crib no dey Galilee, na from Timbuktu I waka lyk dis show fo area! Abeg free me !!”
With Peter’s third and unequivocal denial, it brought to two the inner circle members of Jesus’s Movement who, better than most, should be credible deponents but who had now become hostile witnesses. The remaining ten were no where to be found.Peter especially, was the closest and had the inner scoop of things but with the third denial, the dice was cast. Jungle justice set in as those who seized Jesus began to make spot of him and whip him furiously.
Throughout Thursday, the accelerated hearing continued. The procedural rules were suspended as the prosecution and Court worked from end to process.
Early on Friday morning, elders, chief priests and scribes converged again and led Jesus into the council room to ask him if he was the Christ. In response, he told them it was clear to him that whatever he said will go to no issue and they would also not let him go. What they wanted was for Jesus to incriminate himself on the records. They rephrased their question again:
‘Are you not the Son of God?’ they asked.
‘You say that of me.’ Jesus replied making them answer their own question.
“What further evidence do we need? This is enough to take him to Pilate!” they yelled as they reached concensus.
Pilate emerged from the door. After the accolades and ululation had simmered, the registrar mentioned the matter and the prosecution announced appearance but there was no defence counsel. Although the charges were heinous and it would have made for justice for the accused to be represented, Pilate proceeded to hear the case on the records without the defence counsel.
The charges on the first information report sheet were that Jesus was perverting the nation, forbidding citizens from paying taxes and claiming He was Christ and King.
Pilate found the entire allegations bunkum and laughable. He delivered a bench ruling: “… having considered the charges, evidence and depositions, I find that no case has been made against the accused; ” he ruled.
The prosecution broke into an uproar spewing extraneous charges : ‘He stirs up the people from Galilee to this place!’
Learning that Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate divested himself of territorial jurisdiction. He referred the case to his sworn enemy, Herod, who presided over the Galilee area and had subject matter jurisdiction.
Herod was glad to have Jesus in court. He had heard about him and had been curious to verify his miraculous claims. Herod veered off the subject matter and went on his own frolic. Jesus made no effort to answer to his banters so Herod descended into joining in the mockery. He got his courtiers to wear a gorgeous robe on Jesus then sent the Accused back to Pilate. That day, Herod and Pilate became friends over musings and banters on an interesting case with the most ridiculous charges.
Pilate’s court re-convened and Jesus was arraigned a second time on same charges. Pilate violated the autre fois acquit rule in presiding a second time over a matter he had heard and decided. Nonetheless, he found at the second trial that the evidence did not support the allegations in consonance with Herod’s findings which made his the third trial. He therefore thought to have Jesus, the innocent accused, whipped and then released since tradition required that a convict must be pardoned during the period.
“Death to Jesus! Release Barabbas!!”
What?! Barabbas was a convicted and hardened murderer who had also been convicted of sedition. How the people would want a seditious murderer released while an innocent young teacher in his early thirties who had no scintilla of incriminating evidence against him, takes on the charges and conviction of the convicted criminal, was incomprehensible.
But Pilate was no longer in control of his court. The mob and prosecution will not be assuaged. It had to be death and nothing less. Pilate set aside all the rules of justice and opted for social expediency and political relevance. A ‘morally bankrupt Pilate’ sentenced the innocent and rewarded the guilty.
While Pilate was referred to as ‘My lord’ and his court, a ‘Court of Justice’, he desecrated the hallowed chambers and became the biggest justice contemptnor of the day.
Following the sentencing, a distraught Mary followed along as her son was led away to Golgotha. She had carried Jesus in her womb for nine months but had been inseminated by no one. Her claims of Spirit insemination had endured as a village gossip. And here, the myriad of spurious allegations against her son staggered her already weary body and exhausted mind.
Over her shoulders she could hear the constructs of ungwa whispers: ‘we knew this man whose father is unknown will amount to no good!’ , ‘all his miracles were fake’, ‘even his movement was disbanded hours after he was arrested, what a waste!’ The whispers reverberated in Mary’s ears. She didn’t know which was worse – the brutality of the spurious allegations or the excruciating pain and nadir of suffering her son was experiencing.
There are few agonies like a parent burying their child. However, when an innocent child is convicted to the cruelest form of execution while he is mocked at as blood flows from brows, feet and hands and each agonizing breath ebbs, you know humanity has been thrown out the door.
Such was Mary’s horrifying predicament and yet she witnessed her son’s equanimity and dignity at his lowest point: ‘like a sheep led to the slaughter he opened not his mouth…’
Jesus died. No thanks to Pilate. I must let you know that the description of Pilate as ‘morally bankrupt’ is not mine. That was the vehement description of my church pastor. Who would have known that more than two thousand years after, Pilate will be described in those terms in a Kaduna church? Were Pilate to learn of this ignoble adjectives ascribed to him when he presided, he would have cited the person for contempt. Today, Pilate no longer possesses the power to cite anyone for contempt still we remember him for what he did and all he failed to do. He had a golden opportunity to write his name in gold but failed woefully at it.
Note that at no time was it said that he received money in exchange for that perverse judgment. He simply wanted public acclaim and to gain political mileage. His court did incalculable harm when it reached its decision per incuriam and failed to reverse its perverse decision. Pilate’s name which could have made the Hall of Fame ended in the Hall of Shame.
To the Pilates in Nigeria’s judiciary and jurisdictions across the world, the admonition in 1Chronicles19: 5-7 is rife: “Consider what you are doing for you do not judge for man but for God and God has nothing to do with unrighteousness, partiality or bribe.”
Turning back to the agony of Mary, the question must be asked: what is good about a Friday in which an innocent man was sentenced to the cruelest death right before his mother and a watching world? Isaiah answers it splendidly: “He was wounded for our transgressions, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed.” We are forgiven because He was forsaken. His condemnation is our acquittal. He paid the ultimate price so we can have for free, what we cannot earn.
Whenever we think about trivializing the free gift of salvation, we must remember that what we have gratis, cost Jesus everything! This is the story of Good Friday.
Have a good one!
Friday 15 April, 2022.
*Ballason is a legal practitioner and a writer. She may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org*