Why do people suffer? - A Lesson from the Prefect of Rome
I just got on my ride to the office when this lady sitting across my seat kept staring at me. Her eyes rolled to follow my every move. She made me anxious. What was on her mind? Why was she staring at me like that? I could not find an answer. So I tried ignoring her. I decided to pray the Rosary after turning in my fare to the jeepney driver. I still could not keep my attention away from that lady on the other side.
"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth," I began silently. Concentrating on the words that I said, my mind stopped at the phrase, "he suffered under Pontius Pilate". And the thought came to me.
Who is Pontius Pilate? I asked myself. Why do people suffer? The words of Jesus in the gospel came to my memory. He said, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt. 16:25). I wonder. What does that mean?
His name is Marcus Pontius Pilatus. He was the appointed governor of Judea during the reign of Tiberius. He belongs to the warrior tribe of the Pontii clan. As a Roman knight, he owed his success in rank to Sejanus who was the chief administrator of the Roman empire at the time.
As the prefect of Rome, he was subject to criticism by the Jewish people. The Jews hated him because he displayed images of the emperor for worship all over Jerusalem. He also had coins minted with pagan symbols. He insulted the Jewish religion.
Although he was strong and autocratic, he was weak towards the emperor. The Jewish leaders found this weakness and used it to convince him to condemn an innocent man. The High Priest successfully persuaded him to issue the death sentence on Jesus Christ. He ordered the crucifixion of the king of the Jews.
A political crisis caught this Roman governor. If he did not give the people what they wanted, another riot would explode. The Jewish leaders may hold an uprising and there will be bloodshed which the Emporer had strongly ordered him to avoid. He knew his decision was wrong but he did it anyway because he wanted to save his own life.
The story goes on. Jesus carried his cross to Calvary where he was crucified. Pilate made an inscription for him saying, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". Everybody who passed by saw this inscription. A wealthy stranger took the body of Christ and laid him in a tomb. Three days later he has risen from the dead. His followers believed this testimony but the enemies of Christ made it a controversy.
Pilate's decision opened the door to the fall of the Roman empire. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius recounted that Pilate killed himself. He was ordered to come to Rome and stand trial for cruelty and oppression. He was charged for executing men without proper trial. Eusebius is the bishop of Caesarea and a well-known exegete and historian in the first centuries of the spread of Christianity.
Here lies the truth the Jesus' words. The Roman governor was concerned about keeping his post in the government and saving his life. So he agreed to the demands of the Jewish people. In the end, Pontius Pilate was condemned for the same act that he thought would save his life.