+JMJ+ Welcome to the Thursday night fiction post. (When I pick up the Story of Salvation series again, I may move it to a different night. Still deciding.) 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 16
Later Morning to Afternoon, Sixth Day, Friday
I have jeopardized everything. I know he deserves the punishment required by the Law but I can’t help but think that others put him up to it and that if I’d only had more time, I could have talked him out of his obstinacy. But that does not matter now. Now there is only the way to Golgotha, along which he strains to drag the cross upon which they will crucify him, if he does not die first.
Before, I was trying not to be seen. Before, I was trying to save my reputation and my possessions. Before, I thought I owed it to my parents and their parents before them. I thought I owed it to my sister. But she was more involved with these rebels than I was. I did not see this because I did not see a lot of things. I wonder now what else I have not seen while I was busy overseeing things that mattered to me then and matter less to me now than ever before.
Before this maker of things made everything go crazy around me, I thought I understood the world and my place in it. I thought I knew what I wanted and how to go about getting it. When I started getting more serious about studying Torah, I sought a teacher among fellow Pharisees. When I wanted to go deeper still, I sought a teacher among the dwellers in the desert.
Then this man comes along and says things that I almost understand, and he turns my world on its ear. And then he lets them take him away and nail him to a cross.
All along he prayed. I could see his lips moving, I could hear his ragged breathing as he passed by, could hear him call out in pain. Watched him fall and fall and fall again. He struggled to his feet and moved on and I kept watching. I watched from a safe distance where no one would see me or think that I was with his followers. I followed but was not a follower.
I watched the nails as they pierced his hands and shattered bone and his blood poured out of his wounds and covered the ground around him, around the soldiers who slid in it and cursed him each time they nearly slipped in that pool of blood that covered the ground and seemed to well up like a river, like a tide that would sweep away the events of this hideous day.
He met his mother once before they drove the nails through. The sorrow in her face was not relieved by the light from his or when he told her, See, Mother, I make all things new! The sorrow in her face was not relieved when they lifted him up. Or when they left him there to hang for hours in the strangely still air, gasping and longing for air, lungs bursting, muscle and sinew stretching, struggling to lift himself up for one more breath, coming closer and closer to the moment he had been born for, the moment of death. She stood by the cross, watching him, listening to each gasping breath. The young disciple, the one they call John, stood by her. Of all of his male followers, only that one, the least among them, stood by him and by her. Other women were there near her, but only one man. I saw all of this from a safe distance.
The rabbi spoke from the cross. So others told me. I did not hear what he said. I turned away, unwilling and unable to watch him die in this piteous way. I did hear him when he cried out near the end. He began to pray a psalm, and the sound of his voice nearly wrenched my heart out of my chest, but the cry and the psalm did not last long. There was nothing I could do. I turned back for a moment and then his head fell until his chin rested on his chest and I knew it was finished and the rabbi was finally at rest.
I stood watching, not seeing, just standing, alone, long after everyone else left. I could not move, the scene I had witnessed was seared into my memory and I let it play over and over in my mind, and each time I hoped it would end differently and each time it ended with his death.
I had failed to save him. We all failed to save him. All the wealth I strove to save was worth nothing in the end, because with it there was one man it would have been worth everything to save, yet with all of that I could not save this one lone man. I failed to save him. So why save anything else?
I got it into my head to leave for the desert. I would leave my sister whatever she wanted, and I would give a large sum to the men who dwelt there and stay with them, at least for a while. Then I would go away from here, from Judea, from Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Zealots, and spies and soldiers, and prophecies and rabbis, and away from my guilt. Someplace new where I could begin again. Someplace where no one had heard of my name or my family’s.
Or of him, the rabbi who quoted the Law and the Prophets and made them mean what he wanted them to mean, and his rebel followers who followed him everywhere he went.
Until he went to Golgotha.
End of Part 16
Other parts of the continuing story are linked on the Fiction page.
Thank you for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, remember, we are all on the journey to the heavenly city. So 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.
Copyright: All material on Catholic Heart and Mind is Copyright © 2009-2021 Lee Lancaster, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. See Permissions and Copyright for more. Quoted material belongs to others and they retain their copyright. Most images and quoted material are in the public domain except where otherwise noted.