Easter -- what really happened

Lyle Burkhead (lybrhed@earthlink.net)
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 23:16:42 -0700

The key to understanding Easter is to understand who Pontius Pilate was. He wasn't just some stupid soldier who happened to be there. He was a genius, worthy of the occasion, and a mindfucker on a grand scale. He was a corrupt, ruthless man who loved power. He enjoyed every part of his job -- evicting families from their land, framing innocent people, torturing prisoners, etc. But any number of petty tyrants would fit that description. Pilate was not a simple man. He had a deeply ironic view of life. His horizons were much too wide for him to be a simple tyrant. He was a Satanist; not a make-believe liberal Satanist who talks about the Lucifer meme, but a practitioner of black magic, who performed midnight rituals involving human sacrifice.

When he became governor of Palestine, his ministers gave him a report about a young man in his jurisdiction. The Roman authorities were always vigilant for any potential troublemakers. There was a boy in Galilee who had come to their attention because of his precocity. Yeshua ("Jesus" to us) took the SAT when he was eleven, and made the second highest score in all Palestine. The men in black had been watching little Yeshua ever since. He was a charismatic boy, reputed to have an aura of destiny about him. Pilate read the report on Yeshua and was fascinated. His thoughts ranged far. He had heard that the Jews expected a Messiah. A plan took shape in his mind.

He befriended the young man who had scored higher than Yeshua on the SAT. His name was Y'hudah ("Judas" in the English Bible). He was an orphan; Pilate became a father figure to him, and initiated him into black magic. Pilate asked Y'hudah to infiltrate Yeshua's circle. This proved to be easy, since the two boys had a lot in common. They became best friends. They stayed up far into the night, talking about all the things young men talk about. Y'hudah was a one-man Extropian list. He could talk for hours about everything. They grew into manhood together.

Jesus, as I will call him from now on, was not an ordinary man. He was the kind of man who would spend forty days in the desert, fasting, having visions of God and arguments with the Devil. He was the kind of man who might toy with the idea that he himself was God. Judas encouraged this. Instead of helping Jesus to stay grounded, as a real friend would, he planted messianic ideas in Jesus's mind. He asked leading questions and treated Jesus with exaggerated deference, as if he were more than human. Judas set an example for the other disciples.

And he reported back to Pilate. Things were going well.

Jesus had a unique rapport with people. He could play human emotions like Mozart playing a piano. He could give people hope, no matter how desperate their condition. He was what we would call a faith healer, but not a fake like the charlatans of today. He believed in what he was doing. He experimented with the placebo effect. He found that he could cure both himself and others of various illnesses.

He wondered: how far can this be taken? If we trust in the power of God -- he thought in terms of God, of course, not the placebo effect -- is it necessary to get sick at all? Is it necessary to die?

He wonders about himself : if I can create health, if I can create order out of chaos, if I can use the same creative power that God himself uses, then who am I?

He also wonders, sometimes, about his friend. In the back of his mind there is a nagging thought that something doesn't quite fit.

Some of the men of his generation are revolutionaries, determined to overthrow the Roman government. He sympathizes with them but never joins them. He despises Rome every bit as much as Timothy MacVeigh despises the American government, but he is thinking on an entirely different scale. He thinks he can do something that will change the very structure of society and make unjust governments irrelevant. But Judas keeps on inviting the revolutionaries to meetings, and tells them that Jesus is one of them. Jesus is the one who will lead them to freedom -- lead them in a military sense.

One afternoon, as Jesus enters a town, a crippled man calls out to him. Jesus comes up to talk to him. The man reaches out and touches Jesus -- and then jumps up and throws his crutches away. This is unprecedented. He has cured diseases, but not a man crippled from birth. Judas is exuberant. "This is the breakthrough! You've finally done it! A real miracle!" Jesus walks on, bemused, alone with his thoughts.

The cripple was working for Pilate.

>From then on, whenever Jesus has a meeting, miraculous cures happen. Just
like in today's revivals, where the sick people who are cured are planted in the audience in advance -- except they aren't planted by Jesus, they are planted by Pilate. The miraculous cures are all illusions, created by Pilate. Judas makes sure everybody hears about the cures. Everyone in Jesus's circle sees him as a miracle-worker. Word spreads in the towns and villages. People flock to see him. Many of them really are cured, since his reputation makes the placebo effect even stronger. Pilate himself sometimes comes to meetings, in disguise. He is having great fun with this.

Jesus himself, meanwhile, knows that he is not on solid ground. For a while he almost falls for the illusion. He is tempted to believe that he can work miracles, that he is the Messiah. But he is no fool. He too is a genius, worthy of the occasion.

One night it all falls into place. He sees everything clearly. The cures are bogus, that much is certain. With iron logic, he concludes that Judas's enthusiasm is also bogus, as is his friendship. Jesus is more alone at this moment than he has ever been in his life. He can't confide in his other disciples; they are simple men, fishermen and such, who simply believe in him. Judas is the only one on his level, the only one he could talk to, and Judas, his best friend since the tenth grade, he suddenly knows for a certainty, is a nark. As he reviews the whole situation in his mind, other things fall into place, and he knows that Pilate is behind it all. He knows that he is being set up. For the first time in his life he feels fear.

Judas has been meeting regularly with the revolutionaries. He has created the impression that Jesus is just waiting for the right moment to begin the revolution. Jesus is going to use his miraculous powers to overthrow the Romans. He is their hope.

Jesus looks deep within himself. At this point he is a mature man. He doesn't need Judas to tell him who he is, or Pilate to work fake miracles for him. He knows who he is, and what the whole situation is. He knows what's real and what isn't. He asks Peter, James, and John to come with him to a remote mountain. He prays like he has never prayed before. This is the moment known as the "transfiguration." When it is over, he knows what he has to do. He plans his game many moves ahead.

At a meeting when some people expect him to announce the revolution, he says in no uncertain terms that there isn't going to be a revolution, as far as he is concerned. "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." What happens next can be understood by recalling Ross Perot's run for the presidency. People believed in Perot. He was supposed to be different, not just another politician. When he withdrew from the race, his followers trashed his offices. Some of them were enraged enough to have killed Perot that night, if they could have gotten to him. He was going to lead us to freedom! He's just another rat! That's how people feel about Jesus when he disowns the revolution. They hate him with the uniquely intense hatred of the man who feels betrayed. Pilate anticipated this, of course, but so did Jesus. He made this move intentionally. They are playing as equals now. But Pilate doesn't understand this.

Neither does Judas, who suddenly finds himself excluded from Jesus's inner circle, but isn't sure why. Judas is not as sharp as he was when he was younger. He committed himself early on to memetic engineering, rather than philosophy, and years of prevarication have weakened his mind. What a tangled web we weave...

Jesus returns to Jerusalem one last time. He goes to the temple with a bullwhip, and drives the moneychangers out, knowing full well what the consequences will be. He spends his last few days reviewing his teachings for his remaining disciples. He plants seeds in their minds that will bear fruit centuries later. He institutes the holy meal -- this is my body, this is my blood, do this in remembrance of me -- knowing that it will resonate in the human mind forever, and that the institution of the holy meal will be observed as long as people live on this planet. He takes a deep breath and tells Judas: do what you are going to do, quickly.

At the garden, he prays for a way out. He knows that he faces torture. His stomach is knotted with fear. But having gone this far, there is no way out. Thy will be done, not mine.

Judas comes, with the soldiers. They take him away. When he arrives at Pilate's office, their conversation is full of irony. "Are you the King of the Jews?"-- "You say so." They both know that this was Pilate's idea all along. Pilate, the master of illusion, mockingly asks "What is truth?" He knows, or thinks he knows, that the whole Jesus phenomenon is a hoax. It's just his little joke. The crowd outside cries for Barrabas, one of the revolutionaries, to be released, and tells Pilate to crucify Jesus. He turns Jesus over to the soldiers, who "flogged" him, the Bible says laconically. Roman flogging tore the flesh from the back so the ribs and sinews were exposed. They "beat" him, another euphemism for torture. No need to go into details. It is a long night. The next morning he is already half dead from loss of blood. They take him outside of town and nail him up.

He started out believing that the placebo effect, or God, could create such perfect health that we didn't even need to die. He ends up gasping for breath, in agony, the birds pecking at his eyes, the soldiers mocking him. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

When Jesus is in the tomb, and his followers ask that the tomb be guarded, Pilate is only too happy to oblige. They are asking the fox to guard the henhouse. Everything is going according to plan. As Pilate sends the soldiers to guard the tomb, he takes them aside and says: "Ok, you guys, this is what I want you to do. Late Saturday night, when nobody is around, roll the stone away and take the body out, and bring it back here to the palace."

Story copyright 1999 by Lyle Burkhead; all rights reserved.