Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

True Believer pt3 . . .(it could have happened this way)

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          Pilate’s summons was not unexpected.  For the past week the city had been rife with rumors of the arrest of the Baptist.  The outcry prompted by the rumors had thrown Jerusalem into a state of near chaos; leaders of the various factions within the city had flooded the Temple with pleas for the High Priest to intervene on the Baptist’s behalf.  For his part, Caiaphas could not believe Herod was act so rashly as to arrest as popular as the Baptist, one whom many considered a holy man.  The summons from Pilate could only mean the rumors were true, which put Caiaphas in a precarious position. 

          While he did not agree with the Baptist’s teachings, he could not deny the preacher’s right to interpret Scripture as he chose, regardless of the official interpretation.  The Baptist’s sermons were a powerful attraction for the masses who flocked to hear him speak.  Many saw him as the Messiah, or as Elijah reborn.  This, combined with his recent vocal criticism of King Herod, a less-than-revered monarch,  proved irresistible; many deserted the Temple when the Baptist preached.  Herod’s arrest of the charismatic preacher had only served to increase the Baptist’s standing.  Caiaphas had to admit one thing, though; with the Baptist’s arrest money would, once more, flow into the Temple coffers now that the troublesome preacher was no longer distracting worshippers.

          The civil unrest created by Herod’s actions was, undoubtedly, the reason for the Procurator’s summons.  Pontius Pilate took a dim view of any action which disturbed the status quo, and the arrest of the Baptist had done precisely that.  Caiaphas knew there was no love lost between the Procurator and the Galilean tetrarch.  If the High Priest could find a way to ingratiate himself with Pilate, perhaps offering his services as a mediator, he could garner some much needed political capital and improve his own rather tenuous standing with Procurator.  As his caravan, with its heavily armed escort, sped through the countryside toward Cesarea, Caiaphas pondered how best to accomplish his goal.

          When the High Priest arrived at Pilate’s seaside residence, the Procurator was storming about, ranting about the “asinine, inbred fool who supposedly ruled in Galilee.”  A guard stood nervously at attention outside the door to Pilate’s suite, unwilling to risk his commander’s ire by announcing the visitor.  Seeing the guard’s hesitation, Caiaphas  announced himself.

          “I see the Procurator has taken the news of the Baptist’s arrest with his usual good grace,” he said.  The High Priest’s sarcasm, under different circumstances an unwise move, had the desired effect.   Pilate stopped in mid-rant and turned to face the High Priest.  The expression on his face showed a marked lack of appreciation for Caiaphas’ sense of humor.

          “Good grace be damned!” he snarled.  “If not for the fact Herod enjoys the Emperor’s favor, I’d have one less troublesome Jew to deal with in Galilee.”  Pilate strode to his writing desk, riffled through the documents scattered there, produced a parchment and handed it to the High Priest.  “Herod’s spies have convinced him this Baptist person is responsible for the attack on Sepphoris.”

          “I take it your Excellency doesn’t agree,” Caiaphas said and dropped the parchment onto the table.

          “My own sources tell me this Baptist is a preacher.  Oh, he draws crowds, sometimes several hundred, but he never preached violence, never incited the people to rebel against the king.”

          “But Herod thinks otherwise?”

          “It appears the king has thin skin when it comes to having his relationships criticized.” Pilate responded.  “It seems the Baptist took exception to king marrying the wife of his half-brother; something about its being against his god’s law.”  Pilate had been pacing about the room but with this last statement he turned to face the High Priest, an unasked question in his expression.

          “The Baptist was not the only one to question the wisdom of Herod’s divorce and remarriage,” Caiaphas said.  “Many of the more conservative among the Sanhedrin refuse to accept the king’s marriage to his brother’s wife while his brother lives.  Of course, it doesn’t help that she is a gentile, a non-believer.  The Baptist and a number of Pharisees believe the king should dissolve this marriage; a union they see as an abomination before God.  The Baptist, of course, was the most outspoken of the king’s critics.”

          “So you think this has nothing to do with the attack on Sepphoris?”  It was clear Pilate wanted to steer clear of becoming embroiled in a religious dispute.  He had no understanding, nor appreciation of Jewish law and no desire to acquire any.  If this matter of the Baptist was, in fact, a religious quarrel, he would leave its resolution to the Jews.

          “I believe the king is using Sepphoris as an excuse to censure his critics,” Caiaphas replied.  “It would appear he is having little success in tracking down those responsible for the attack and is using this as means of retaliation.”

          “Leave it to that fool to try to douse a fire with oil.”  Although he was angry with Herod, Pilate was more disturbed by the distraction the incident with the Baptist was creating in dealing with the Zealots.  His spies in Galilee had been unable to identify any of those responsible for the attack on Sepphoris.  These criminals disappear into the wilderness like ghosts and the people refuse to help ferret them out.  They fear the Zealots more than they fear the Romans, and with good cause.  Those who give aid to the authorities, Roman of Jew, against the Zealots are killed without exception.  “It’s hard enough dealing with rebels without something like this happening,” Pilate complained as he lowered himself into a chair, his brow furled in concentration.  “You seem well-informed in this matter, Caiaphas,” he said.  “Perhaps you could use what influence you have with Herod to resolve this problem.”

          The High Priest smiled.  This was the opportunity he had been waiting for.  If he could remove the burden of dealing with what was, in effect, a religious dispute, the Procurator would be in his debt.  It was a rare opportunity and one Caiaphas was quick to exploit.  “I have already dispatched a delegation to Macherus, where the Baptist is being held, Excellency,” he responded.  In fact, Caiaphas had done no such thing, but would see to it upon his return to Jerusalem.

          “Very good.  That will allow me more time to deal with rebels instead of preachers,” Pilate said, pushing out of his chair.  “My spies suggest the Zealots have camps here, in Judea.  I’m sending troops into the wilderness to hunt them down.  If Herod’s mercenaries can’t find these rabble, perhaps my legionnaires can.”

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Written by stevewthomas

April 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm

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