+JMJ+ I’m writing a work of historical fiction set in New Testament times with characters from the Bible, mostly, with some lacunae filled in with my own imagination. This is a rough draft of what will, I hope, become a novel. Other parts of the story are linked on the Fiction page. Come along with me, if you like. It’s time for our journey to continue.
A Journey – Part 15
Later Morning, Sixth Day, Friday
I must remain calm so I can think. There has to be a way out of this. I have money and connections but neither money nor connections are doing me much good right now. I haven’t found a way to free the rabbi from this insanity.
The guards dragged him from place to place, everyone trying to pass him off to somebody else. The priests and the Council are afraid of him. They don’t know what to do with him. They know the people, most of them, love him. The Roman authorities, most of them, either don’t know about him or don’t care. Our authorities, most of them, hate him. But there are those who have taken the trouble to listen, as I admit I have–though some would say, not enough, though some would say, too much, and I know he would say, yet I haven’t heard.
What I have heard this morning is that they are shuffling him around from place, trying to find a way out of this. Well, that’s not true, or, at least, it’s misleading. The chief priests and some members of the Sanhedrin know what they want to do with him and that is to kill him. Ostensibly because they say he blasphemed, claiming to be God and the Son of God. They say he’s a liar or he’s crazy or he knows what he is doing and he lets people claim what he knows is against the Law. I say this is crazy. The man is not insane. I’ve known him since he was a young man and I was a boy. He’s always been saner than most of the men in the Council who sit in judgment of him now. And he’s not a liar. I can’t remember a time or hearing about a time when anyone in his family told a lie. And after all of the scrutiny into his background, someone would have made a point to bring it up and spread it around. There’s no way they would let that bit of news go unused.
I don’t know why he’s being so stubborn. He could stop all of this if he wanted to, if he would just take it back. They might be willing to let him go with a beating and then they could ban him from ever coming back. They could exile him from Jerusalem, from the whole of Judea. Whatever it takes, I wish he would do it! I have plenty of land and houses, and so do Nico and Joseph. Between us we could accommodate the rabbi and all of his disciples and their families, in the upper Galilee or almost anywhere else. If we need to buy property elsewhere, we can do that and make it available to them. It really is no problem for us.
Why is he making this so difficult? It’s a problem easily solved. He’s just being stubborn but somehow I know he won’t change his mind, and he makes me want to scream! Think, Jonah, think! There is a way out, there has to be! Maybe I can talk to him. I’ll just happen to be walking along and run into them. Him.
Not sure how feasible that is, I’m not sure where he is now or where they’re taking him. My spy followed them but then he came back, much later than he was supposed to, to let me know that he was not going to work for me anymore. He has joined the rabbi. And–get this–he says he’s going to pray for me. Pray for me? I don’t want to go into all the things he has done, for me, for others. Why, he worked for my father for years, and I don’t even want to know what he did for him.
A message has found me: Come now. They have passed judgment on him and sent him to Pilate who sent him to Herod who has sent him back to Pilate. The hour approaches. Come now.
Pilate?! Surely Pilate doesn’t want to be involved in this bickering. Romans never try to understand why we Jews are bothering them with our “petty squabbles over nothing” and I can’t imagine Pilate wanting to deal with this. Herod only wants to be “loved by the Jews, his people” but we Jews aren’t his people and he knows it and we know it, and he knows we know it, and we know he knows we know it. And he has weaseled his way out of this uncomfortable moment and that doesn’t surprise anyone, surely. Herod doesn’t care about messiahs and prophets, he only wants to satisfy his idle curiosity and his perverse desire to collect oddities. He might have truly wanted to know about our religion and way of life at some point, but he is beyond that now. All he wants is for people to praise him. And his collection. He would have kept the Baptizer for who knows how long if his evil bride and her evil daughter hadn’t tricked the old fool into slaughtering him. He wanted to stay out of it then, and he only wants to stay out of this case, because he was and still is afraid of the people.
Yes, I know that the rabbi has committed blasphemy. I know he has claimed things that have earned him the judgment he has received. But if I can talk to him, one more time, maybe I can get him to take it all back. Just one more chance. I’m going to try one more time before I admit defeat. I don’t have much hope that Pilate will be any more just or merciful with him than Herod was. But maybe if he recants. It’s worth one more try.
When I got there, they had already flogged him. Now if you’ve witnessed a Roman flogging, you know this is no mere beating that a particularly crude and cruel man might mete out to a slave who angered him. No, to be flogged is to be nearly beaten to death with horrible whips that have terrible sharp bits of metal attached to them, which catch the skin and rip it from the bone. Pilate judged that the rabbi was innocent in his eyes so he ordered his men to flog him and bring him back to release him.
Innocent? So he had him flogged? What kind of morally corrupt and putridly perverse thinking is that? These are the great conquerors of the known world, bringing the shining light of civilization to their conquered peoples and aren’t we fortunate to have them? This is insane! Oh, just flog him and release him–if he’s still alive, that is. The amount of blood he had to lose–I can’t think about it, it’s making me ill.
This, THIS is what people hoped the messiah was coming to end! This, THIS is why we longed and prayed and waited for him to come free us from these barbarians who think nothing of whipping someone nearly to death when they think them innocent! What do they do to those they think guilty?! Lord, how long? HOW LONG?
Pilate asked us–as he pointed to what was left of the rabbi, covered in his own blood, his flesh hanging in places, bone exposed–Pilate asked us, if we wanted to release him. Yes, I yelled. All of the people around me yelled, Yes, release him. But then suddenly there were voices, I couldn’t see who they were, but these voices were yelling, screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Everyone I saw reacted with shock. “No, release him, let him go!” But we were drowned out by these loud booming voices of men whose faces I never saw. Who were these men, where did they come from? A futile question. All of Judea was there for the Passover and many others besides. One could barely move in the streets and there was no way I could move about in the close-pressed crowd to see who these men were. But they were hired men, I’m sure of it. Nico and Joseph and I are not the only wealthy men in the Sanhedrin, though I don’t know how many others are not out for the rabbi’s blood.
This is absurd. Now Pilate offers us Bar-Abbas and the cheering reaches new heights. I know I saw some who were yelling for the release of the rabbi, get roughed up by those yelling for Bar-Abbas. I saw some of them get man-handled and dragged away. This I will deal with later. Right now I have to–no. No!
No, no, no! Pilate has given in to, not the people, but whoever these barbarians are, and he is releasing the violent, murdering Bar-Abbas instead of the Good Teacher, the rabbi, the one so many thought would save us.
I did manage to see who some of them were at last. Some were certainly Zealots (men who do unspeakable things, often for money but just as often because of some misguided sense of loyalty to the cause of the restoration of the kingdom). Bar-Abbas himself was one of them, so it would make sense for his friends and fellow Zealots to come out to try to free him. But some are almost certainly bought and paid for by members of the Sanhedrin. And some were off-duty Roman soldiers who will do anything to earn extra money for gambling, strong drink, women, or any combination of these.
Bar-Abbas is released and Jesus is sentenced to be crucified. They have taken him already. All of my plans have failed. All my money and connections and imaginings–all for nothing. They are going to crucify him and I can do nothing to stop them. I haven’t been able to talk to him, I haven’t been able to get near him. I couldn’t make myself heard over the roar of the crowd. All I can do now is follow him as they drag him, half-shove him along and up the hill.
I wouldn’t follow him when he asked me to be one of his disciples, and he wouldn’t follow me when I asked him to get away from here. Now I’m following him as he carries a crudely made cross and leaves a trail of his own blood on the road. The road to Golgotha. Place of the Skull.
End of Part 15
Links to the other parts of the story are posted on the Fiction page.
Thank you for visiting and reading and hanging in there, er, here with me. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, remember daily to pick up your cross and follow Him, and become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Image in the cover: From the east, Nazareth, Holy Land, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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