I wrote this back in 2010. I wish I know how to pin this to the top but I don’t so instead I will link it.
Have a read
I wrote this back in 2010. I wish I know how to pin this to the top but I don’t so instead I will link it.
Have a read
When people read the bible how do they perceive God? If you read the prophets the perception is one of an angry God, Deuteronomy and Leviticus shows us the legal God, The Gospel of John a compassionate God. Intermixed is varying degrees of these perceptions. When God destroys the earth and almost everything in it we see the God with a big stick. When we see Jesus heal people we see God with a compassionate heart.
We need to be able to see the big picture so we can appreciate the little things that play out. So what is the big picture? The Almighty Ones are sitting around chewing the fat and decide that they want to get their creative side working. So they make a decent house and employ a few billion servants (angels). The servants live in their presence, enjoy the light and the love and they go about their work in joyous harmony. Angels have free will but very little creative capability. One important player is Lucifer, the angel of light. He is the leader of the angels and can do pretty much as he pleases.
Eze 28:12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
Eze 28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.
Eze 28:14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
Eze 28:15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.
God meanwhile decided to move ahead with another project – Man. He created a very beautiful earth and the universe as we know it today. He created Adam and Eve and set them down in the Garden of Eden and He only had one requirement – Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life was also there. Now we get back to Lucifer. Eze 28:17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. Lucifer became proud in the midst of heaven. He was undoubtedly jealous of Adam and Eve. They had everything the angels had plus more – creativity. He pushed Eve to eat from the TotKoGaE. There was a war in heaven, Lucifer got kicked out and 1/3 of the angels followed. Lucifer became Satan and the fallen angels, demons and they live here with us. That is the overall situation.
Satan hates us mankind and will use fear, humiliation and any other tyrannical device to get us to worship him instead of God. God wants to use love, kindness and other similar devices to get us to worship Him. People have asked me why didn’t Jesus use His power to show us the way. The answer is that if Jesus used the power the people would have submitted in fear. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not want submission in fear – they want submission in love. Satan is the submission in fear guy. This is the big picture. When God uses the big stick it is not for us to submit, it is to do a clean out. The earth and everything in it belongs to God so God can do as He likes, when He likes for whatever reason He likes. However He does like to stick to the rules also mainly to show the angels that He is fair. From Adam to Noah there were no rules. According to Enoch, some angels were able to procreate with human females. These produced hideous offspring which corrupted the original world. In my opinion the evil was far worse than anything we have seen in the last 3000 years. God did a clean out. In the new world, I believe he put restrictions on Satan and the demonic horde and probably even restricted Himself.
We see t he rise of Abraham and then the nation of Israel. Then the rules were put in place and the stage was set for the coming of the Son of God. Meanwhile history ebbed and flowed. Evil would take over a bit then righteousness. God knows that worshipping Satan is a BAD thing. The Old Testament prophets are urging the children of Israel to stop worshipping idols and worship God instead. That is why we see and angry God. But he knows best and wants the best and He is not getting through. It was probably very frustrating but God is patient and He would wait a long time before taking action. When the Hittites took Israel is was another clean out. When the Babylonians took Judah it was another clean out. Warning, warning, warning, action.
The heart of God is one of love, mercy, compassion, justice. He created the legal framework that our sins are forgiven and we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Our part is to have faith – to believe that the Son of God came in the flesh, that he died and rose again. He wants to make it as easy as possible. Satan wants to make it as hard as possible. That is one of the reasons that there are so many denominations and cults that make us want to jump through hoops. How easy you ask.
Joh 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Joh 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Joh 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
Joh 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Rom 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Rom 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Rom 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Eph 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Believing in Jesus, faith pleases the Father and this is salvation. The thief on the cross asked Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Before this day ends you will be with me in Paradise.”
That is the real and true heart of God
I have been rereading Parkinsons Law (and Other Studies in Administration) by C. Northcote Parkinson. It is a pretty good set of essays which deal with his observations of the civil service. One of his laws is the Law of Triviality. The general idea is that the more complex an idea being debated the less time is spent on debating that topic. However a lot of commentators miss an important point and that is this.
“People who understand high finance are of two kinds: Those who have vast fortunes of their own and those who have nothing at all.To the actual millionaire a million dollars is something real and comprehensible. To the applied mathematician and the lecturer in economics (assuming both to be practically starving) a million dollars is at least as real as a thousand, they never having possessed either sum. But the world is full of people who fall between these two categories, knowing nothing of millions but well accustomed to think in thousands, and it is of these that finance committees are mostly comprised. The result is a phenomenon that has often been observed but never yet investigated. It might be termed the Law of Triviality. Briefly stated, it means that the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.”
He then goes on to give three examples of a Nuclear Power Station costing $10 million, a bike shed costing $2,350 and Refreshments costing $57. The time spent on the Power Station is two and a half minutes, the bike shed is 45 minutes and refreshments for 1 hour and 15 mins and deferred until the next meeting. There are two aspects of this and that is the simplicity of the topic and the amount of money involved. I would like to put aside the simplicity of the topics and just concentrate on the money side.
How many people can visualize $1 million dollars let alone $10 million or $1 billion? Actually very few. Warren Buffet can handle it as can Bill Gates and a few others. When people go shopping for a house how much time is spent on being able to save large chunks of cash? Most people will haggle over the difference between kitchen bench-tops which may save $200 but lose sight of the total cost. How many people when grocery shopping will spend a lot of time trying to save cents on their shopping bill but the next day go shopping for a new car which they may be paying several thousands of dollars more than they should? This is real, the more the price of something is the less the purchaser will spend thinking about how to spend less.
There is an important principle here. How many stories have you read where a person or family who were dirt poor has won a lot of money on the lotteries and not only spent it all but gone bankrupt with many millions in debt. There was a story of such a man in Western Sydney many years ago. He won $10 million on Lotto. He handed out the usual cash to family and friends probably without thinking too much about it. He bought a property out Orange way to grow fruit. He made his next door neighbour the property manager. He also bought a few properties on the Gold Coast for rental purposes. Within 10 years he was bankrupt. He had lost the lot and about $1 million in debt plus he had the police on his doorstep. What happened? Well his next door neighbour who knew nothing about fruit growing decided that cannabis was more lucrative. Of course our lotto winner wasn’t checking up on his new found property manager. He had to liquidate his Gold Coast properties to pay for the farm that was losing money and there you have it -all gone. Why? In my opinion it was because he couldn’t adjust his thinking from trivial to large amounts.
Let us move on the more important people, our politicians. They have to deal with, vote for and allocate BILLIONS and TRILLIONS of dollars depending on the country you are in. Now from the examples above do you have any wonder why these politicians overspend your tax payer money. They CANNOT UNDERSTAND the amounts involved.
I will give you another example. How many people can visualize 1 light year. 1 light year is approx 5,865,696,000,000 miles. Which number is easier to work with? The reason scientists reduce numbers is because they are easier to work with and easier to understand. Large numbers are difficult to comprehend. In Parkinson’s example with the Nuclear Power Station, if Bill Gates was sitting on that finance committee he would have saved some serious cash – stuff the $350 for the bikeshed.
Politicians should not be making decisions about how to spend large amounts of money unless they know how to wisely spend large amounts of their own money without going broke.
What has all this to do with Christianity? OK did you know that Jesus tied in righteousness with being able to handle money?
Luk 19:12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.
Luk 19:13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’
Luk 19:14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’
Luk 19:15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.
Luk 19:16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’
Luk 19:17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’
Luk 19:18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’
Luk 19:19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’
Luk 19:20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief;
Luk 19:21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’
Luk 19:22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow?
Luk 19:23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’
Luk 19:24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’
Luk 19:25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’
Luk 19:26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
Luk 19:27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
Think big not petty.
My objections to Marx are of two sorts: one, that he was muddle-headed; and the other, that his thinking was almost entirely inspired by hatred. Bertrand Russell, Portraits From Memory And Other Essays (1956), p. 211
Marx’s economic teachings are essentially a garbled rehash of the theories of Adam Smith and, first of all, of Ricardo. Ludwig von Mises (1957), Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution
[W]hen Karl Marx, the most consistent translator of the altruist morality into practical action and political theory, advocated a society where all would be sacrificed to all, starting with the immediate immolation of the able, the intelligent, the successful and the wealthy—whatever opposition he did encounter, nobody opposed him on moral grounds. Predominantly, he was granted the status of a noble, but impractical, idealist. Ayn Rand (1961) For the New Intellectual, NY: Signet
Plenty of people had plenty of things to say about Karl Marx. When I read the Communist Manifesto all I see is a garbled rant. It is very difficult to write coherent objections against ranting. He didn’t like capitalists probably because they had money and he didn’t. Maybe if he had done some work instead of being a rent seeker he may have made some money. The interesting thing about Marx was that he benefactor, Engels, gave him more money to live on and he still managed to spend it all plus some. Sounds like a true socialist. Why do people follow the rantings of this man? Because he created a class of people and that class of people is large enough to identify themselves with his writings. I should reword that – that class of people is large enough to be TOLD that they identify themselves with his writings. The Proletariat or more succinctly the wage earning working man or woman. I doubt if any real working person could pick up the communist manifesto and actually get past the first page. He created a collective and the members of that collective liked what they were told about themselves. In reality his manifesto is just a lousy story which has sucked in a lot of people and surprisingly a lot of intellectuals which I suppose goes to show that a high IQ doesn’t equal common sense.
Since when does my happiness depend on someone Else’s happiness???? Karl Marx failed to understand the human condition. He failed to understand the psychology of human needs and wants. We gain satisfaction from our OWN achievements not someone elses. Did you know that Jesus wants us to be ambitious and a little selfish.
Up until the mid 17th century all systems of government were a collective of some for or another. Monarchies, tribalism, dictators etc are all a form of collectives. Lets face it, the leaders of these systems do not do any productive labour. The people produce to keep the leaders in power. Supposedly these leaders will provide protection (giggle), that protection being that you dress up to play soldier to die for your leader. People of course saw nothing wrong with that idea since there were a lot of bad people around in groups and you needed a group to survive.
If you look back at history though you will see something wrong. Human advancement was very slow. Creativity was at a snail pace and some societies even went backward. You only need to look at the tribes of Africa, Australia and the Americas. If you cannot be yourself then you cannot be creative. If all your energy goes into looking after the tribe then there is no energy left to create.
When God created the state of Israel, after Joshua led the people into Canaan, there were no kings, leaders or even government. The Levites were the priestly order whose charge was to look after the spiritual and legal wellbeing of the people and the prophets were to give the guidance for life. The Levites were given 10% tax from the people being their crops. Now this looks like a collective since the Levites were not a productive member of society but God was specific that looking after spiritual health is important and the Levites were NOT supposed to be rulers. God is an Individualist. He wants people to be their best creatively. However it didn’t work out. The people decided that worshiping idols was the way to go so invaders invaded then after a few years a leader would rise up and drive them out and the cycle would continue. After a few hundred years the people wanted a King, “Just like the nations around them.” Samuel warned them that they would be taxed and be subservient to the king but they didn’t want to know. They got Saul who didn’t quite work out, then David who was the best and after him it all went downhill. Israel was supposed to be a nation of individualists but turned into a collective like everyone else.
Fast Forward to 400AD and we have the Roman Church which itself turned into a collective but by the 15th century the Protestants came into being. Even though they were still modeled on the Roman church things began to happen. There was the Renaissance followed by the Reformation. The Renaissance was a period of creative arts and the Reformation was a period where the Holy Spirit was poured upon people. The churches were reformed, missionaries sent out and Christianity was making a comeback. It was during this time that Democracy was born. The shackles of oppression form Kings to the Roman church were being thrown off and individuality started to bloom. This was all in Western Europe. When the Pilgrims were being oppressed in England they set off to the Americas and created a new country. When the Kings of England tried to tax them out of existence they rebelled and the USA was created and the constitution. The constitution is the most important document to have been written because on it it says that every person has the right to pursue their own happiness, own property and protect that property. This is Individuality.
The USA became a very prosperous country and at this time it still is. However it is about to lose that prosperity because the collectivists (parasites) invaded the country back in the 30′s and now have taken over. Marx was not the first philosopher who put together a manifesto for statism but it was him that gathered the philosophers before him and put it together.
Any group that puts the group before the individual is a collective. Football teams can fall into this category. It takes a great coach who can get a bunch of individual players to work as a team and yet foster creative brilliance that can win matches. You will find that footy teams that take out individuality can win matches but also lose matches since it can come down to the size of players or speed or some other factor that one team has over another. Don’t misunderstand though – some collectives can be good. Example would be a group of people who donate money for cancer research. However when it goes from voluntary to making people feel guilty then it has crossed the line..
I have done a lot of reading over the years and I remember quotes without remembering the where, when or who. Some time ago I read a book and in it was a conversation with a sea captain and a young theologian whose specialty was cults. The captain said to the young guy, “Son, I just need to know where the rocks are I don’t need to know what they look like.” Now at the time I thought this was wisdom. However now I think it is wisdom to study the rocks. The reason being that rocks in the ocean only serve one purpose and that is to sink ships but they are physical and unchanging (mostly). Once charted these charts are available for all captains. Theological rocks are a bit different and after charting they can change and morph into something different. The Word tells us to “2Ti 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. “
During the time of the disciples false teaching and heresy started doing the rounds and had to be countered by Paul and John at least. After the disciples were taken up then others countered the false teaching. The people who keep track of biblical false teaching and warn others about them are called Watchmen in the bible. They watch for danger and warn the populace. However there is a danger with being a watchman, you can end up like the dangers you are warning about. Some of the people who counter cults and false teaching become paranoid with any teaching that is against their stated religious beliefs and they can end up being shrill against their brothers and sisters in Christ. Just as an exercise type Rick Joyner into Google and see what comes up. If you notice down the right side I have a link to Morningstar.org which is his church. Apart from his political silliness at times I find no fault with his teachings yet plenty do and most of it is unjustified and appalling lies are told.
Now all this is well and good for doctrine but what about worldly heresy? How many Christians study philosophy and find fault with it. How many Christians could tell you what is fundamentally wrong with Marxism or Platonism and any number of other worldly philosophies? Maybe you ask why bother since they don’t effect us. However on the contrary they effect our very lives.
One of the biggest influences on our lives today is Karl Marx. The study of his writings is Marxism and his work is taught and propagated in practically every university in the world. Nearly every student who goes to university no matter what their major is will study Marxism and be told that it is a ‘good’ thing. So much for an education system that is supposed to teach us how to think critically. However if you want to debate the good and bad of Marxism you will not succeed unless you know the basics of human behavior.
Now most of what I will put up next comes from Ayn Rand and you can find it here
Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group — whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called “the common good.´
Individualism holds that man is an independent entity with an inalienable right to the pursuit of his own happiness in a society where men deal with one another as equals.
There are two types of people, Individualists and collectivists. Ayn Rand also characterizes them as Active man and Passive man.
“From the beginning of history, two antagonists have stood face to face, two opposite types of men: the Active and the Passive. The Active Man is the producer, the creator, the originator, the individualist. His basic need is independence — in order to think and work. He neither needs nor seeks power over other men — nor can he be made to work under any form of compulsion. Every type of good work — from laying bricks to writing a symphony — is done by the Active Man. Degrees of human ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s independence and initiative determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man.
The Passive Man is found on every level of society, in mansions and in slums, and his identification mark is his dread of independence. He is a parasite who expects to be taken care of by others, who wishes to be given directives, to obey, to submit, to be regulated, to be told. He welcomes collectivism, which eliminates any chance that he might have to think or act on his own initiative.”
Collectivists come in all sorts of flavours whereas Individualists usually only come in one sort. What I mean by this is that collectivists are made up of bullies, the bullied and soft hearted. A collective is a group of some sort. It may be a tribe, a team, a work group, a social group any group where the participants feel needed and wanted. The worse thing that can happen is to be kicked out of your group. However when you have a group you need a leader and the leader usually ends up being the bully, the loadmouth, the one who gets his own way. The participants will sacrifice their own individuality to stay in the group and even sacrifice themselves for the group even if the group is evil. This is why collectivists come in many different flavours because they see the group as meeting all their needs.
As an example. Has anyone been in a workers union. When you go to a union meeting the leader shouts and screams at whatever supposed injustice has been done by the company. If you the worker start objecting to the leadership then their wrath falls upon you. It is bullying at its best and all meant to keep you in the brotherhood and together as a group. Before you can understand Marxism you must understand the differences between Individualism and Collectivism.
Our God is an Individualist. He deals with us on an individual level. However He also knows that we need to live together as a society and that is why we got the commandments so we can get on .with each other. He will hold us personally responsible for our actions and we cannot come back with “My group made me do it.”
This is it, the denouement. I hope you got something out of it.
Zachariah walked down an immense hall where a glorious light emanated in front of him. He was accompanied by an angel. In these surroundings he was a little afraid. His thoughts went back a few days as measured in earth time. As promised by Jesus he found himself in Paradise with Him. Jesus had gathered all those in Paradise and told them that He would take them to their permanent home after He received His Kingdom from the Father. Zachariah met and spoke to the heroes of Israel, including Abraham, Moses, and King David. He considered how fortunate he had been to have died next to Jesus. Jesus had returned to Paradise and brought them all here. Now it was time for him to meet the Lord in person.
After what seemed a long time, Zachariah finally stood before the Lord. “Zachariah, welcome to my house,” Jesus said. “You are the first to die in my name under the New Covenant written in my blood. You are a witness to my Grace, you will be an example to people until the end of time. By learning of your story, people will know that by faith they may enter my house and my Kingdom. Turn around, Zachariah.”
Zachariah turned and saw more people than stars in the sky, but in this immense hall they looked like only a few and the hall seemed empty. Jesus motioned to them.
“These are the ones who saw me by faith and looked forward to my coming. This hall will be full by the end of the age and you will witness that. Face me, Zachariah. I must judge your life now. It will not be pleasant but it must be done. You will now understand all of the prophecies about me and why I had to die. After this you will be free to explore my Kingdom.”
Zachariah was back in his childhood . . . .
The carriage rocked gently as Abebe settled back and read one of the scrolls his friend Simon had given him the previous year. Abebe was returning to Ethiopia after visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. “I wonder where Simon is. It would have been wonderful to have visited Jerusalem with him. I would have learned so much.”
Abebe slowly unrolled the scroll and read the Hebrew text. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
Abebe stroked his chin. “What does this mean?”
A man ran up to his carriage. “Do you understand what you are reading?” the man yelled.
“How can I unless someone guides me?” Abebe replied. “Come up here and join me if you can be of service.” Abebe told his driver to stop and the man climbed in beside Abebe.
“Is he talking of himself or someone else?” Abebe asked the man after he was seated.
“He is speaking of Jesus,” the man said. “Have you not heard of him?” Abebe shook his head. The man excitedly told Abebe about Jesus, beginning with the prophets and ending with the empty tomb.
Abebe and the man talked until the sun set and then the man disappeared as quickly as he had come.
Abebe ate a small dinner by the fire that night. “How is it that I came to be here today, reading Hebrew scrolls when this man approached?” He walked to the carriage and looked on the scroll as it sat on the bench. “Could these be more than just words?”
A month later Abebe stood before his Queen at the palace in Axum. “This man Jesus, he is the one the passage is about?” she asked.
Abebe nodded. “Yes, your highness.” He paused and glanced down at the floor and then back at her. “I have travelled many places at your request. Our kingdom has spared no expense to seek out knowledge from all parts of the world. After praying and meditating on this, I am certain the prophecies in these scrolls are true, and that the one they call Jesus was sent from God.”
The Queen sat silently in her throne. Moments later she said, “You have proven yourself a wise counselor. What should we do with this knowledge?”
“We must spread word of Jesus to our own citizens, and then to the rest of the world.”
“Our treasury is at your disposal. You need only to ask.”
Abebe bowed and left to pray for wisdom.
“This is a very difficult passage from the prophet Isaiah. Do not become discouraged if it does not come easily,” Simon said as he dismissed his students for the day.
The young men filtered through the door and Simon’s thoughts drifted to his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. “Has it been two years already?” He looked out the door and saw the streets of Cyrene. “I have travelled the world only to return to Cyrene,” he sighed as the packed his scrolls and walked to his parents’ house.
The setting sun turned the sky blood red as Simon trod the narrow street. “If only my family had believed the things told them about Jesus. Of course, I would not have believed them had I not been there to see them.”
Simon ambled along, lost in his thoughts. He did not see the stranger until he and the man bumped into each other. Simon turned and apologized, catching a glimpse of the man’s face. It seemed familiar, but Simon could not remember where he had seen it before.
The other man look startled and then smiled. “Hello, Simon. Do you remember me?”
“Your face does look familiar,” Simon blurted. “But I am at a loss as to where I have seen it.”
“My name is John. We spoke at the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. You carried his cross and I was sitting with his mother.”
The memory flashed before Simon. “I was just thinking of those things only a few minutes ago. How have you come to Cyrene?”
John smiled. “I have come at the calling of God, but did not understand why until now. We must talk. I have many things to tell you.”
“You will stay with me and my family. Follow me and tell me what has happened since that day.”
After dinner John told Simon and his family the events which followed the crucifixion. He spoke of the resurrection, Jesus’ ascent into heaven, and Pentecost. He told of the miracles and the people who had become followers of the Way.
“I was teaching a passage from Isaiah today. It speaks of the one whom the Lord crushed,” said Simon. “Is that the same Jesus?”
“It is,” said John. “He was the one who was sent to save us. He died so that we might live.”
Simon’s father interjected, “You saw this Jesus after His crucifixion?”
“Yes,” replied John. “I was an eyewitness to all these things. I was not the only witness. There were hundreds of others.”
“How is it that you saw a dead man walking after he was taken down from a cross? I am only a simple trader, please explain this to me,” Simon’s father implored.
“It was no man, but was God himself who hung on that cross.”
No one spoke. Simon’s heart raced as the struggled to understand what John said. As John spoke he felt a fire burning inside.
“What must we do to be saved?” Simon yelled.
“Believe with all your heart that Jesus is the Messiah and follow Him,” said John passionately.
Simon’s family and John talked late into the night. Simon slept for only a few hours after the conversation ended and the lamps were extinguished.
The next morning Simon dragged himself back to his makeshift school. “Class, today we are going to the review yesterday’s passage from Isaiah.” The students let out a small groan. “But instead of reading the passage I am going to tell you how I watched this prophecy become reality.”
After class was over students fired questions at Simon. “You carried the cross for this man?”
“The sun, did it really disappear?”
Several of them begged Simon to tell their parents what had happened. “If I tell them, they will think it is only a foolish child’s story. If you look them in the eye and say it, they will believe,” one said.
For the next month John and Simon spread the word of Jesus to the people of Cyrene and to the traders who passed through. Many were converted and followed Jesus.
Simon felt a clarity he had never known, and a purpose that energized him. Months later he heard the voice that had taken him to Jerusalem. “Axum.” Within days Simon left, hoping to see Beatrice and Abebe one more time and this time he took his children.
Claudius drank wine in the warm sun and dreamt of his past. He had been retired for several years as he sat outside the small house he shared with his wife near Rome. He watched laborers tend to the vineyards further down the hill.
Claudius didn’t hear the approaching horse and was startled at the shout, “Hail, Claudius.”
Claudius jerked upright and squinted in the sunshine. His eyes focused and he recognized his old friend and assistant sitting on a horse.
“Hail, Marcellus. What brings you to my humble abode?”
Marcellus stepped out of the saddle and approached Claudius. “Retirement, Claudius. I was released from service a year ago. I have spent most of the time since travelling. It took me some time to find out where you were living, but I was able to find an old soldier in Britanicus who knew of you.” Marcellus looked at Claudius’ waistline. “Retirement does not allow you much time to train, I see.” They both laughed.
“Come, Marcellus, where are my manners. We must eat, drink and talk about your adventures. I was reliving my time in the guard as you arrived.”
After several hours of swapping stories and drinking wine the men fell silent.
“Claudius, I have been talking to a man in Rome called Paul of Tarsus.”
“Really, and what is so interesting about this fellow?” replied Claudius.
“Remember the man we crucified that day, the one called Jesus of Nazareth?” said Marcellus.
Claudius gulped wine from his cup. “I can’t forget. I still get nightmares. Pilot may have washed his hands of the man, but there is a stain on my soul from what happened. We released a murderer and killed an innocent man that day,” Claudius said bitterly.
“Well, Paul says that this Jesus rose from the dead,” said Marcellus.
“Impossible,” retorted Claudius. “This Paul, is he prone to drinking too much wine?”
“I am serious. Remember the rumors several days after he died?” said Marcellus. “They said that his followers stole his body.”
Claudius stared into the hills. Marcellus continued, “I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But, do you remember how the sky went black, and what Gaius told us?”
“Yes, but I didn’t put any credence in that.” Claudius paused. “It was funny though. Pilot put some other fool in charge of sealing the grave. When the rumors circulated, there was no investigation. I asked Pilate if I should interrogate Jesus’ followers, but he told me to forget about it. We were transferred to Rome a few weeks later.” Claudius put his empty glass on the table. “That was a very strange affair, Marcellus.”
“I did not come to you by accident. Let us go and speak to Paul, Claudius. He is under house arrest in Rome and is going nowhere. We can look him in the eyes and hear him tell his story,” Marcellus pleaded.
Claudius thought for a moment. “Yes, we should go. I have nothing else to do these days. I’m getting old, Marcellus,” said Claudius with a hint of resignation. “It is late. Sleep here tonight and we will leave in the morning.”
The next day the ex-soldiers rode to the house that served as Paul’s prison. A guard met them at the front door.
“Is this man so dangerous that he needs a full-time guard?” laughed Claudius.
“It’s a long story,” said Marcellus. “We wish to see Paul,” Marcellus told the guard.
The guard nodded and knocked on the door. “You have visitors,” he yelled gruffly.
“Please let them in,” a voice responded.
“Enter,” the guard said as he pushed the door open. Paul was sitting and writing behind a desk. He put down his pen and looked up.
“Ah, Marcellus. Welcome again. You have bought a visitor,” said Paul.
“Yes, this is Claudius the Centurion, my Centurion.” replied Marcellus.
“Enough of the past, Marcellus. Now I am just another old man trying to stay warm in the sun,” said Claudius, a little embarrassed.
“I am honored,” said Paul as he looked in Claudius’ eyes. “Marcellus has told me much about you.”
“Marcellus tells me you speak about a Jesus who rose from the dead, the one crucified by Pilate,” said Claudius quietly after he and Marcellus sat.
“He is correct, Claudius. That has been my mission for many years now and it has brought me to Rome,” said Paul purposefully.
Claudius stared at the floor. “I was the Centurion who performed the crucifixion. I watched him die,” said Claudius sadly. “It has haunted me every day since. Now I am told that he is not really dead. ”
“I remember that day as if it were yesterday, Claudius. You cried out that Jesus was surely the Son of God,” said Paul. “Wouldn’t you expect the Son of God to rise from the dead?”
Claudius recalled every detail of the day Christ died and blurted out his account. Paul listened intently and did not interrupt.
After Claudius finished his account, Paul calmly stated, “These things were meant to happen, Claudius.” Paul explained the prophecies that were written about the Christ.
“Claudius, Marcellus tells me you were an upright and honorable soldier. You did your job to the best of your ability. The Lord forgives you and he wants you to come into His Kingdom,” stated Paul.
Tears welled in Claudius’ eyes. “An innocent man died a horrible death and a murder went free because I lacked the courage to keep an innocent man from dying. How am I to be forgiven for that?” asked Claudius.
“You are already forgiven. Just believe with all your heart that Jesus is the Son of God and follow Him,” said Paul.
Claudius dropped his head into his hands and tears wet his palms. “Forgive me, forgive me,” he whispered. He thought what he had seen and heard about Jesus. Claudius looked at Paul and said, “Yes, I believe. There is no other choice”
Paul said, “Today, you are a new man.”
Zachariah thought of his friends and family as he struggled to sleep. “Is my brother still in Jerusalem? Will my parents learn what a miserable wretch I have become?”
He put his head between his hands and wept. “The captain was lucky to have died the night Little Dove was captured. If only the Romans had shown me so much mercy.”
Sadness and despair overwhelmed Zachariah as he sat on the damp floor of the cell with his knees pulled to his chest. “I wasted my life on wine and women. What good will this do me now?”
Matheus also tossed and turned in his sleep. The heavy chains on his legs rattled and startled Zachariah.
The cell door clanked open. “Breakfast,” a guard grumbled and dropped two bowls of thin broth and a plate of bread. The soup sloshed over the edges of the clay cups and splashed on the dusty floor.
Zachariah crawled over and looked at the food. “This is my last meal?” cried Zachariah. “Bread and soup?”
“Shut your mouth, you ungrateful scum! If it were up to me, you’d have no food at all. Why waste good food on condemned men?” The guard laughed as he banged the door shut and returned to his post.
Zachariah took a bowl and a piece of bread and crawled to his corner. Matheus slid to the second bowl and remaining bread. “Damn these Romans,” Zachariah muttered as he slurped his soup. “What a fool I was to ever admire them. They are nothing but thieves and murders!” He spit on the ground. “If only I had listened to my family.”
Claudius washed the sleep out of his eyes and thought about his duties for the day. “We crucify those two worthless criminals and Barabbas. The locals don’t care about the thieves, but when it comes to Barabbas, there is no telling what they may do.” Someone knocked on his door and interrupted him.
“Centurion Claudius, come quickly! There is trouble outside the Praetorian.”
“On my way,” Claudius shouted. “Tell Marcellus to meet me there.”
Claudius threw on his uniform and grabbed his sword. “What could be the trouble at this time in the morning?”
A small crowd of priests stood three meters from the base of the steps at the Praetorian. A pair of temple guards held a man by his arms. Claudius looked closely at him. “Where have I seen him before?” Marcellus approached him from behind.
“I am here, sir,” said Marcellus.
“Who is the one they are holding?” Claudius asked. “He looks familiar.”
Marcellus looked at the man. “We saw him on the road last year,” Marcellus answered. “As we rode though Galilee he was teaching a group of people by the road. Gaius told us his name was Jesus.”
“Ah yes, I remember. What has he done to make these priests so angry?” Claudius shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Get thirty soldiers here now and surround this crowd,” he ordered.
“Yes sir,” Marcellus answered and strode toward the barracks.
“What do you want at this hour? Surely you have better things to do than to drag me out of my room this early in the day,” Claudius barked at the crowd.
“We wish to see Pilot and have this man tried,” replied one of the priests.
“Can’t it wait until a more reasonable hour?” questioned Claudius.
“We want Pilot now!” a priest yelled.
Claudius looked closely at the crowd. Some of the priests tore their clothes and shouted at Jesus. “As you wish. I will inform Pilot of your desire to see him.” Claudius spun up the steps toward Pilot’s room.
“Pilot will not be pleased when I wake him at this hour. I hope he does not kill the messenger.” He reached Pilot’s room, took a deep breath and firmly rapped on the door.
“Governor, it is Claudius. I apologize for disturbing you so early, but there is trouble with some of the priests. You are needed outside. The Jews are demanding to see you.”
Claudius waited for a response. When the door opened, Pilot was fully dressed.
“My servant already informed me, Claudius. Perhaps we can pacify these troublemakers and salvage the afternoon.” He led Claudius down the hall.
They walked out of the palace and down the main steps. Claudius surveyed the crowd and saw his soldiers were not in position yet. Pilot and Claudius approached the priests who circled around Jesus and the guards holding him.
“What do you want?” asked Pilot no one in particular.
“We want this man tried as a criminal and crucified,” one of the elder priests screamed and pointed to Jesus.
“Try him yourselves. What law of Rome has this man broken for which I should take his life?” demanded Pilot
“We have no right to execute him. Only you and Caesar have that authority.”
“Again I ask, what has he done?” asked Pilot. “I will not kill a man solely because you wish him dead. For what offense does this man deserve to die?”
“He opposes the paying of taxes to Caesar and he says he is the Christ, a king.”
Pilot stood in front of Jesus and stared at him. “Come with me,” he said.
The guards turned Jesus loose. Claudius walked beside him and they followed Pilot into the palace. The three stood in the main hallway, beyond the sight of the crowd.
Pilot looked intently at Jesus. “Are you the King of the Jews?” he asked.
“Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?” Jesus asked. He stood between Pilot and Claudius with his hands clasped behind his back.
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It’s your people and chief priests who handed you over to me. They told me these things. What have you done?”
“My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But my Kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a King then?” Pilot asked. “Why do you insist on talking to me in riddles? Do you know who I am and what I can do?”
Christ answered, “You are right in saying I am a King. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Pilot stared at him in disbelief. “Claudius, what do you say about this? Can you make sense of what he says?”
“Governor, there is no rebellion in this province, not since we arrested Barabbas and his followers. If this man has spoken against Rome I have not heard of it. I think the priests lie. They certainly have not proven he deserves to die.”
Pilot returned to Jesus and said, “What is truth?”
Pilot walked out of the palace to the head of the stairs and faced the crowd. Claudius took Jesus by the arm and led him behind Pilot.
“I find no basis for a charge against this man,” Pilot declared.
“He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here,” screamed a priest.
“This man is a Galilean?” asked Pilot.
“Yes,” the priests replied.
“In that case he must go to Herod,” Pilot replied.
Pilot turned to Claudius and said, “Have this man escorted to Herod’s palace, then come inside and dine with me.”
Claudius summoned two soldiers. “Take this man to Herod’s palace. Return here when he is delivered.”
Simon finished his breakfast and found the innkeeper. “Excuse me, sir. Could you tell me how to get to the temple and Praetorian?”
Simon cleaned up, left the inn, and turned right on the street outside the main door. He strolled through the streets, following the directions the innkeeper gave him.
“Thank you for inviting me to breakfast, Governor,” Claudius said.
“Always a pleasure Claudius,” replied Pilot. “Now what do you make of this man the priests brought this morning?”
“He is called Jesus of Nazareth. I saw him and some of his followers last year when we went on the fact-finding tour. I am informed that he has many disciples but that he teaches peace and humility. He also opposes the priests and not Rome as they claim. Do you remember Centurion Gaius?” Claudius asked.
“Vaguely,” replied Pilot. “He is almost at retirement age, isn’t he?” Pilot added.
“I visited him at his barracks near Caesarea Philippi. He told me how this Jesus healed his servant when he was at the point of dying. He didn’t give the man any medicines, just spoke some words,” said Claudius. “Jesus claims he has the true power of God, and not the priests. That is the dispute between these two groups.”
“He healed a dying man with only his spoken words? Extraordinary!” exclaimed Pilot. “So it is a religious disagreement that caused so much trouble today. That’s why they want him executed.”
A servant approached. “Governor, two of Herod’s soldiers have returned with the prisoner.”
“Herod wants no more to do with this than I do,” Pilot sighed and shook his head. “Let’s finish this. We have three executions to handle this afternoon, don’t we?”
“Barabbas and two thieves,” replied Claudius.
“That should keep the soldiers busy. Do you anticipate any trouble, Claudius?”
“I don’t think so. We captured all of Barabbas’ followers and the thieves won’t be missed.”
Claudius and Pilot walked to the steps of the palace and watched one of the soldiers force Jesus to wear a purple robe. “Must be the idiot’s idea of a joke,” Claudius thought.
One of Herod’s guards approached Claudius and bowed. “Sir, Herod instructed us to return this man to you. Herod questioned him but could find no fault in him.”
“You are dismissed. What are we to do now, Claudius?”
Claudius shook his head and looked into the crowd. “Our soldiers have arrived. We can disperse these people if you wish.”
“No, that would only make matters worse.” Pilot walked to the edge of the steps.
“Neither I nor King Herod find any fault with this man,” Pilot announced. “He is to be released.”
“This man is a heretic. Crucify him!” Several of the men screamed and tore their clothing.
“It’s your Passover today. I have the right to release a prisoner to you and I release this man,” Pilot shouted.
“We want Barabbas released!”
“What has this man done?” questioned Pilot. “Why do you waste my time with a man who has broken no laws?”
The crowd chanted in unison, “Release Barabbas, release Barabbas!”
Pilot stepped to Claudius. “There is no reasoning with these people. They will not be satisfied until Jesus’ blood is spilled. But we can’t release Barabbas, Claudius. He is too much of a threat to Rome,” said Pilot.
“No, not after the trouble we had capturing him and his men,” replied Claudius. “But Jesus is an innocent man. What is there to be done other than to release him?”
“If we flog him, the Jews may relent. Have this man flogged and then return him here. He is to be flogged, but don’t let the men kill him.”
Claudius cringed at the thought of an innocent man being whipped. “I wish you would reconsider, sir. He has done nothing wrong.”
Pilot put his hand up and motioned for Claudius to stop. “The time for suggestions has passed. I have given my order.” He turned and walked into the palace.
“Yes, sir,” Claudius said as he shook his head in disbelief. “Orders are orders,” he mumbled.
The crowd jostled Simon back and forth in the busy streets. The markets were full as people hurried to ready themselves for the Day of Preparation. The stores would close at dusk and nothing would open the next day.
Simon walked from the Lower City and headed north toward the Temple. He felt a strange pride, an unfamiliar completeness, as he walked in Jerusalem during the holiest time of year. He watched other pilgrims revel at being God’s chosen people in His holy city.
“If only Abebe were here. He would appreciate this city and what it means,” Simon thought.
“Marcellus!” Claudius yelled.
“Take this man and have him flogged, but not to death. Do you understand?”
“Flogged, sir? What has this man . . . .”
“We have our orders. He is to be flogged. There is no further discussion.”
“Keep the soldiers here to watch over this crowd and then come to my quarters.”
Claudius returned to the barracks to think. “What if the Jews were not satisfied with a flogging? They are demanding the release of Barabbas. That is something we cannot allow.” Claudius sat and wrote a letter.
Simon walked across the street and stood in front of the Temple. He smiled as he looked upon the building that his parents and grandparents had told him about.
Marcellus knocked on Claudius’ door before entering. Claudius waved him in.
“Give these orders to the most reliable man you can find. If Barabbas is released we need to follow and kill him if necessary. He has been tried and found guilty. He will not escape justice,” said Claudius. “The two thieves are to be crucified as we expected. Hurry, Marcellus, we have no time to waste.”
Marcellus hurried to the barracks. Claudius darted behind him and went to the whipping post. He heard a whip crack and men cheering. He pushed his way to the front of the group. Jesus was on his knees and his hands were tied around the post. His blood stained the ground. The skin on his back was flayed and a group of priests applauded nearby. A soldier stood over Jesus and readied his whip for another blow.
“Stop!” Claudius ordered. “You were ordered to give a flogging and you use the scourge. What has come over you? Half rations for a week for all of you and if he dies you will draw lots to see which one of you joins him!”
The soldiers looked at each other and then at Claudius. The soldier dropped his whip and stepped away from Jesus.
“We are losing control. First the crowd and now my own men,” Claudius thought as he walked to Jesus. “Clean him up and get him to the Praetorian. Take him through the door away from the crowds!” Claudius ordered.
Claudius rushed back to Praetorian. He found Pilot inside.
“Sir, the men lost control and have become caught up with the crowd. The prisoner was beaten with the scourge. He is alive but he is a mess,” Claudius said with remorse.
“This is getting worse by the moment,” Pilot said and shook his head.
They walked to the top of the steps and watched the growing crowd. The soldiers formed a ring around Jesus with their whips in hand. Jesus struggled to his feet and was carried by two soldiers, one on each arm. Pilot stood at the top of the steps and addressed the crowd.
“Behold the man,” declared pilot.
“Crucify, crucify!” shouted the crowd. Their chant intensified with each word. “Crucify him!”
“You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge,” yelled Pilot.
“We have a law, and according to that law he must die. The heretic claimed to be the son of God!” cried one of the priests.
Pilot thought of Jesus healing a sick man with only his words. He became afraid and questioned Jesus again.
“From where do you come?” Pilot asked Jesus.
Jesus did not answer.
“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilot asked. “Don’t you realize I have the power to either free you or crucify you?”
“Answer him, so that you might go free,” Claudius thought.
Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me if it wasn’t given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Pilot shook his head and looked at Claudius with frustration “More riddles,” he murmured.
He then went back to the crowd. “I find no fault with this man. I will release him.”
“Crucify him and release Barabbas to us!” the crowd shouted. They screamed and pushed their way to the soldiers.
Claudius saw the crowd becoming more agitated and he looked to his men. One signal from him and they would disperse the crowd.
“There is no easy way out of this. What am I to do?” Pilot thought.
Pilot went inside and reappeared with a bowl of water. He sat down at the judge’s seat and summoned Jesus to his side.
“I am innocent of this man’s blood,” declared Pilot. He washed his hands in the bowl of water and held them up for the crowd to see.
“His blood be on us and on our children!” shouted a priest.
“What has this man done that you hate him so?” Claudius wondered.
“Claudius, bring Barabbas to me,” ordered Pilot.
Claudius had dreaded this moment. He scanned the crowd and hoped the soldier Marcellus had found a soldier to follow Barabbas. Claudius walked slowly and became angrier with each step.
“Pilot has ordered that Barabbas be released. Bring him to me,” Claudius told the soldier stationed at the cell. The guard unlocked the door, stepped inside and removed Barabbas’ chains.
Claudius gritted his teeth as he looked at Barabbas. “This is your lucky day, scum. Another man is taking your place on the cross. Come and meet your savior.”
Barabbas smiled and silently followed as Claudius led him to the top of the stairs.
“Look at him in the eyes and thank him, Barabbas,” said Claudius as he forced Barabbas to face Jesus.
After a few moments, Claudius pushed Barabbas away. “Get out of here.” Priests cheered as Barabbas bounded down the stairs and hid among the people.
Pilot nodded to Claudius who took Jesus to be crucified. The crowd shrieked as he was dragged away.
The key turned in the lock and the door banged open. The captain of the guard entered with four soldiers.
“On your feet. It’s time,” barked the captain.
The captain unlocked the chains attached to the prisoners’ feet. Zachariah stepped out of the cell and Matheus followed closely behind. Zachariah had no real thoughts, only the faint hope that he was suffering some horrible dream from which he would soon awaken.
They walked through the corridors past the cells, while inmates kicked doors and shouted. At the front of the prison, next to the barracks, heavy beams for the crosses were waiting. A soldier ordered Zachariah to extend his arms. Two other soldiers lifted a beam onto Zachariah’s shoulders and tied his arms to it. The rough wood dug into his skin. Zachariah watched as the soldiers did the same to Matheus.
Simon walked around the outer court of the Temple and admired every stone. He left the Temple through the Sheep Gate to look at the Bethesda Pool and then walked to the Fish Gate.
“Get the cross we prepared for Barabbas and bring it to the steps of the Praetorian,” Claudius ordered a soldier. “You men, clear a path and force the crowd to the edge of the street. The prisoner must carry his own cross to the execution site. And keep the crowd away from Jesus. He is not to be harmed”
Claudius looked at Jesus and ordered him to pick up his cross and follow. Claudius took a whip from a soldier and led the way to the Fish Gate.
“Out of the way!” Claudius shouted as he cracked the whip. The people flinched and scurried from the center of the street, pressing against the buildings lining the road.
Jesus, weakened by the loss of flesh on his back, struggled to carry his cross. People jeered him as he slowly walked behind Claudius.
“Get moving, you two,” a soldier yelled. Zachariah and Matheus closed ranks behind the guard as he walked through the crowd that flanked them on both sides. They passed the barracks at the Praetorian and were soon on a street near the Fish Gate. Zachariah heard shouting and screaming.
“What’s happening?” Zachariah gasped to one of the guards. “Has all of Jerusalem come to see me die?”
The guard laughed. “No one cares about you, thief. There is a man called Jesus of Nazareth. The Jews demanded he be crucified and they have shown up to see that it is done.”
“Jesus of Nazareth?” He struggled to recall where he had heard that name. “What did he do to deserve crucifixion?”
“Pilot determined he had broken no law and found him not guilty,” answered the guard. “But the Jews insisted he be crucified anyway. Stop talking and start moving!” he yelled.
Zachariah and Matheus were soon near the edge of the crowd. “Make way, make way!” a soldier barked and cracked a whip over the heads of the spectators. They parted for the condemned men. Some of the eyes in the crowd glanced at the prisoners. They had no interest in two common thieves and looked for the third man.
Men ran to the front of the procession. Zachariah listened to the crowd yelling back and forth with the soldiers. It was only a few hundred yards to the Fish Gate from the Palace, but Zachariah struggled to move under the burden of the crossbeam.
As they inched to the front of the throng, Zachariah saw the bloody and mangled body of another man carrying a beam. The crowd yelled insults at the man and Zachariah felt a rock hit his ribs. He muttered something to a man nearby.
“Who looks like a King now?” a woman’s voice rang over the crowd. “You saved others, save yourself.”
The crowd focused on the third man and circled around him. They did not see the soldiers with whips in their hands. The soldiers struck randomly into the crowd and shoved people away from Jesus.
Zachariah saw a gate where the street widened in front of him. Zachariah caught a glimpse of the third man stumbling through the gate with his cross.
At the Fish Gate Simon saw an excited crowd milling about. He heard shouts from the city side of the gate.
“What is happening?” he asked a man standing near the gate, who struggled to see into the crowd. “Is this part of Passover in Jerusalem?”
“There is going to be a crucifixion,” the man answered, as he stood on his toes to peer over the people in front of him.
“A crucifixion?” He rocked back and forth, hoping to catch a glimpse of the men on their death march.
The three prisoners stood outside the gate. Claudius used his whip to keep the crowd out of the street and his arm was tired. The crowd mocked and spit at Jesus. “Be careful men, once the prisoners are through the gate they will be out of these narrow streets and into the open. Keep these people under control!” Claudius yelled to his soldiers.
Jesus stumbled and the weight of his cross nearly pushed him to the ground. Claudius stopped for him to recover. Out of the corner of his eye he saw someone hit Jesus with a rock. Claudius struck the man across the neck with his whip. The man screamed in pain and slumped to the ground.
“He is being crucified, not stoned to death! Who wants the next lash?” Claudius yelled to the crowd, as he held his whip high in the air with his right hand.
Claudius glanced at Jesus. Blood trickled from a crown of thorns on his head into his eyes and his legs quivered with each step. “This man is walking too slowly. I must press someone into service to carry the cross for him or he will die before his sentence can be carried out.” Jesus staggered toward the gate and the crowd swayed back and forth to avoid being hit by the beam.
Simon slithered to the front of the crowd and glimpsed a man covered in blood walk through the gate. Jesus took two steps and then fell in front of Simon. The cross pinned Jesus on the ground. Claudius looked at Jesus and then into the crowd. His eyes settled on Simon.
“What is your name?” asked Claudius.
“Simon . . . from Cyrene,” he replied hesitantly.
“I command you to take this man’s cross up that hill.”
Simon stared at Claudius in disbelief and protested, “Sir, what have I done that you should order me to . . . .”
“Carry the cross for this man or I will send you to be scourged,” Claudius commanded. The heat of the sun and the spirit of the crowd tested his patience. “Can you not see that this man needs help? Or do we need to build a fourth cross today?”
“I am an innocent man and yet you force me to drag this symbol of death for a condemned man? Do you promise that I will not be executed in place of him?”
“Do you think we could mistake him for you? Look at him,” Claudius replied. “Carry this man’s cross and be done with it, or I will see to it that you regret your impudence for the rest of your life.”
Simon watched Claudius tap his whip on his leg. He looked at Jesus, who kneeled on the ground and struggled to catch his breath. Simon walked over and picked up his cross.
Zachariah, Matheus and the soldiers walked through the gate. Zachariah saw Jesus lying on the ground and another man lifting the cross off his back.
As they passed Jesus and Simon, Claudius yelled to the soldiers, “Don’t wait for us, take them up the hill and execute them.”
When they reached the top of the hill, Zachariah saw holes that workers had dug for the bases of the three crosses. Even now, standing at the site of his crucifixion with his cross tied to him, Zachariah struggled to understand what was happening. “This cannot be my last day. What of the ocean? Surely I will be allowed to visit the sea one more time.”
The heavy beam dug into his shoulders and fear gripped his heart. Two soldiers untied the crossbeam from his arms and nailed it onto a pole. Zachariah flinched each time the hammer hit the nail.
A soldier carrying cups approached. “Drink this,” he ordered. “It will ease the pain that is to come.”
Zachariah opened his mouth and the soldier poured the liquid down his throat. Zachariah gulped the bitter fluid and watched another soldier give the same medicine to Matheus. The crowd circled near the crosses.
Zachariah’s heart raced as two soldiers pulled him to one of the crosses and pushed his back against the main beam. The soldiers each grabbed an arm and pinned him down on the crossbar he had lugged through the streets.
A third soldier pounded a nail through Zachariah’s right wrist. The pain shot up his arm and he felt as if he were on fire. Zachariah screamed and struggled to free himself. He didn’t see the soldier scurry to the other side. Before he could react a nail was driven through his left wrist. The pain in his hands and arms made him oblivious to the soldiers pinning down his legs. When they drove the third nail through his ankles, Zachariah passed out.
Simon’s arms and shoulders ached and his breathing was labored as he struggled up the hill. Jesus walked a few steps ahead of him and the crowd closed in behind. A scream from the hill pierced the air. “They have already crucified the two men that passed me outside the Fish Gate,” Simon thought.
Simon watched Jesus stumble up the hill. “Who is this man?” Simon wondered. “He has been scourged and is covered in blood, but there is an assurance about him. He has no fear of what is to come.”
When they reached the hill Claudius ordered Simon to drop the cross. Simon lifted the beam off his shoulder, slowly put it on the ground, and stepped into the crowd. The spectators parted, leaving Simon a small section of private space.
Simon looked at the crowd. “Nothing good will come from me being here,” he thought. “Yet I cannot leave.”
“Those of you not involved with the crucifixion form a circle around the crosses and keep the crowd back,” Claudius yelled to his men.
“Curse you Roman dogs,” screamed Zachariah after he awoke. “Little Dove, where are you, Little Dove?”
The soldiers laughed. “You are about to die and you wonder about birds?” one mocked.
“Lift them up,” ordered Claudius. The soldiers raised the crosses and dropped the bases into the ground. Matheus regained consciousness and screamed from his perch.
Pilot rode up on a horse. “Claudius, nail this on the cross of the one they call Jesus of Nazareth.” He threw a sign on the ground. Claudius picked it out of the dirt. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” it read in Latin, and two other languages Claudius could not read.
Claudius motioned a soldier to him. “Nail this on the base of the middle cross.” The soldier took the sign, found the hammer and nails used on the prisoners, and pounded the sign on Jesus’ cross. The crowd gathered to read it.
Some of the priest approached Pilot and protested the inscription. “Pilot,” the priests said, “Do not write “King of the Jews” but that he claimed to be King of the Jews.”
Pilot shrugged. “I have written what I have written. You were given your crucifixion. There is no more to be said on this matter.” He turned his horse down the hill and rode away.
“What fools are we that we mock an innocent man as he is crucified?” Claudius thought.
Zachariah relaxed his burning arms, but that put pressure on his lungs and made it more difficult to breathe. He pushed up on his feet and his ankle bones scraped the nail in his leg. He cried out in pain. Whatever drink he had been given had little, if any, effect.
Jesus shouted out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The crowd laughed. “You saved others, but cannot save yourself? Climb down if you are the Savior of God, Messiah,” a priest yelled. Men behind him cheered.
Zachariah tried to ignore the pain shooting through his body. “Is this why Jesus is being crucified? For claiming to be the Messiah?” Zachariah recalled something he heard at his parents’ house. Eli had spoken about a man thought to be the Messiah.
“My family told me about God, but I never listened. All I cared about was sharing a flask of wine with a beautiful woman in the next port.”
Zachariah looked at the people gathered at the base of his cross. “My life of pleasure, what end has it brought me? I am to die a common thief while Jerusalem revels beneath me. What foolish choices I made that brought me here. I assumed there would always be one more port and that death would stay in my wake. But these nails and this wood, they tell a different ending.” Zachariah’s head slumped forward and his chin rested on his chest.
Matheus cried out, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
“Shut your dirty mouth, Matheus!” Zachariah yelled back. “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. This man has done nothing wrong.”
Zachariah gritted his teeth, pushed up with his legs and took some deep breaths. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” Zachariah implored between gasps.
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Simon was saddened by the spectacle his fellow Jews made over the death of another man. Simon listened to them mocking the man called Jesus. They called him Messiah, God’s anointed. Simon knew from his studies in the synagogue a Messiah had been prophesied and that he would come as King.
He was described as the One who would deliver Israel from her enemies. “If this one was the Messiah he was not delivering anyone,” Simon thought. He saw Jesus speak to one of the other crucified men but could not hear what was said.
A group of soldiers gambled for Jesus’ robe at the base of the cross. “Typical of the Romans,” Simon thought as soldiers cast their lots and laughed.
Jesus looked at someone in the crowd and said, “Woman, behold, your son,” and then, “Behold, your mother.”
Simon followed Jesus’ eyes until they rested on a young man sitting with a group of women. Simon wondered why a dying man would struggle to find a few people in such a large gathering.
Simon walked to the people Jesus seemed to be addressing. There were several women in the group. One of the women was older than the others and looked anguished. All of the women had red, puffy eyes.
The older woman looked up as Simon approached. She stared into Simon’s eyes. “Thank you for carrying my son’s cross,” she said.
The words froze Simon. He looked into her eyes and felt strangely connected to her. “My name is Simon,” he nervously blurted out. “I am sorry for your loss. Forgive me if I seem rude, but I arrived in Jerusalem only yesterday. I do not know what is happening here. Who was your son and what did he do?” he asked.
“His name was Jesus. He was the Christ. He healed the sick, cast out demons and preached good news,” said a young man sitting with the women. “My name is John and I am one of his disciples. He was given over to the chief priests by one of our own. His other disciples ran away and now we don’t know what to do.”
Simon nodded and sat down. “Tell me more.”
Claudius relaxed as the crowd dwindled. The midday sun disappeared and darkness overtook the hill. “What can this be?” he shouted to Marcellus. “What have we done?”
Soldiers froze in terror. They looked into the sky and saw twinkling stars in a pitch black sky. Claudius fought to control his panic.
He thought of what Gaius told him. “This man has powers that are not of this earth.” Claudius trembled and fell to his knees.
Eli stopped speaking as darkness surrounded the students seated at his feet. “Teacher, come quickly! The one they call Jesus, the Romans have crucified him. As they hung him, the sky went dark!” Eli heard footsteps shuffling near the voice.
“Class, I must go see this Jesus. You are welcome to follow if you wish.” Eli stumbled down the road, his students in tow.
Pain shot through Zachariah’s entire body. Flies buzzed around him but he could do nothing to swat them away. “If only I could free my hand and knock the flies off my face,” he thought. His tongue stuck to the top of his dry mouth.
Zachariah turned his head and glimpsed at Jesus. “It must be worse for him. The flies are getting into the open wounds on his back,” he thought.
Daylight vanished and Zachariah thought he was going blind, or that he was close to death. Cries of alarm came from the crowd and Zachariah realized he was not the only one seeing darkness. “What omen is this?”
Eli stood at the bases of the three crosses with the others, peering into the sky.
One of the men screamed from his cross. “Little Dove!”
“That voice, why does it stir me so?” Eli thought.
“Where are you, Little Dove?” came down from the cross.
Eli’s mind flashed to his family in Caesarea. “No!” he screamed. “It cannot be!” He slumped to the ground and sobbed into his hands. “How, how did this happen?”
Two of his students grabbed his arms and tried to pull him up.
“Do not touch me!”
“Teacher, has a demon overcome you?” one of them asked.
“It is as if my own flesh were nailed to that cross.” He fell back to his knees.
Darkness left hours later as quickly as it came. Claudius squinted and listened to the eerie silence. None of the people who remained spoke or moved. He heard Jesus cry out and watched his body slump forward on the cross. The earth shook and knocked Claudius to the ground. “The gods are against us today,” he thought.
He looked at Jesus. “We have executed an innocent man,” he screamed to Marcellus. He thought about the trial and how the Jewish priests said Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. “Surely this man is from God. What chance have I to make amends for my part in today’s murder, or to avoid the wrath of God?”
Simon sat through the darkness and the earthquake in disbelief. As the sunlight returned he felt compelled to leave. The rest of the crowd sat and stared at the three men on the crosses. Simon bid goodbye to John and the women and walked down the hill toward Jerusalem and the inn. “Had I not seen it, I would not have believed it. There is no story as miraculous as this in all of the books in Alexandria.”
Simon reflected on what he had seen. He thought of the beating Jesus endured and the open flesh on his back, and his death upon the cross. Simon recalled what his father and rabbi had taught him as a boy and he stopped in his tracks. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
He stared at the cross and shivered. “Could it be?”
Zachariah became more lucid as death neared. “How did my life end here? Why could I not grow old on the sea, instead of living as a slave and thief? Were my sins too great to allow me to die peacefully in my old age?” He struggled for a breath and smelled the fresh cut wood of the cross bar. He thought of his father’s shop at his parents’ house.
Zachariah didn’t see the soldier with the club, but he felt his legs snap as the soldier smashed them. Zachariah cried out in pain. His lungs screamed for air, but he couldn’t lift himself up to breathe. He slipped into unconsciousness and later, as his brain starved for oxygen, died. For a moment, he was back on Little Dove, with the wind in his hair and the sea in his lungs.
Zachariah sat on the back of his horse as he and the other thieves rode away from the house. They had not eaten a full meal in four days and looked forward to cooking the chickens they carried.
Basibes rode out in front. He threw his head back and laughed. “What fools these people are! They work so hard to buy these goods, yet leave them out in the open for us to take. I could not ask for a better life.”
They pulled off the road and roasted the chickens. They had also stolen a few coins which were thrown into a money bag with the rest.
Zachariah licked the juice from his fingers. He thought of how long he lived as a thief. “Has it been a year yet? And how long has it been since I was kidnapped.” He struggled to force the events of his life into a timeframe.
He closed his eyes and thought of the sea. His band had wandered east and south staying inland until they reached as far as Israel and Syria. Not once had they come close enough to the ocean to see or smell it.
Zachariah open his eyes and looked at the men seated near him as they laughed. Matheus started singing.
Zachariah shuddered and remembered the last night he spent with his family. “What has come of me? My parents and brothers, if they saw me now, would they know me?” He thought of the things he had done to survive since he escaped and wanted to cry but dared not show weakness in front of the other thieves.
“It is time for me to be a sailor again. Maybe I can salvage what is left of my life,” he thought. “Or is it too late?”
“Get moving, you slackers,” Basibes yelled.
Zachariah mounted his horse. Basibes’ voice made him feel uncomfortable. He swallowed and tried to keep his emotions in control.
They rode west, further into Israel, for two days. Zachariah’s guilt gave way to anger and then contempt for the men riding with him. “I must find a way to escape. When we find a city, I can sneak away.” He clenched his jaw as he thought of the Romans. “If only they had chosen another ship that night. What did I do to deserve the suffering they so gladly handed me?”
The thieves slowed as they approached a small house. “Time to work, men,” Basibes said as he rode toward it.
Zachariah reluctantly followed. He thought of darting into the woods, but knew his skill at riding horses was no match for the others. “I would not get a kilometer before the chase was over.”
A woman stepped out of the house as they dismounted. She looked at the men and dashed back inside, slamming the door shut. Matheus and Laur’Ko ran to the door and kicked it open. The woman screamed and Zachariah ran inside.
“Stop! You do not know what a foolish mistake you are making!” the woman yelled. “My husband is a personal aid to Pontius Pilot. If you harm me, the entire Roman army will find and kill you.”
Basibes laughed. “Where is this warrior husband of yours? I do not see him here.”
Zachariah glared at the woman and stepped toward her. He grabbed her by the throat. “Roman whore!” he yelled. The other thieves watched in silence.
“You will give me what I deserve! Where is my silver?” Zachariah yelled as he slapped the woman across the face.
“There is no money here,” she replied. “We have nothing in this house worth your life. When Pilot discovers what you have done . . . .”
“Silence!” Zachariah struck her face again. “I will show you what you deserve for working for the Romans.”
“Rome is pleased with the capture of Barabbas. I am sure you will soon have your choice of assignments.” Pilot smiled at Claudius. “If it were my choice, I would keep you in Judea, but this is not where good soldiers long to retire.”
“Thank you, sir. You are most kind,” Claudius replied. He struggled to keep from smiling.
Pilot sighed and continued, “While we are waiting for Rome, there is one more task you must handle. There is a small group of bandits in the western part of the district robbing houses and traders.”
“If I may interject, sir, bandits are nothing new here. Why are you so concerned about these men?”
“Several days ago, they robbed the house of one of my aides, a man who has served me for years. His wife refused to give them any money and told them her husband worked for me. They beat her until she almost died.
“As as they struck her, they screamed that if she worked for the Romans, she deserved to die.
“We sent scouts out to the area and discovered the men had broken into several other houses along the same road. Merchants came forward and told us the men had robbed them. There appear to be five bandits and have been travelling west to east.
“Here is the information you need.” Pilot handed Claudius a map and dismissed him.
Claudius returned to his barracks where Marcellus waited for him. “Pilot was very happy. He is waiting to hear from Rome, but has no doubt we will be able to choose our next post.” He unrolled the map and looked at the areas that had been marked.
“While we are waiting on Rome, we have one more mission. There are some bandits that have been travelling in this area. They attacked and nearly killed the wife of Pilot’s aide. We must capture them.”
Marcellus smiled. “After Barabbas and his men, these bandits should not be much trouble.”
“We cannot afford to be arrogant, Marcellus. These bandits have avoided capture for some time and will not fear us just because we wear the uniform of the Roman army. In fact, they were emboldened when they discovered they were robbing the home of Pilot’s aide. Interview the scouts who went looking for these thieves.
“I want to capture them as quickly as possible. The sooner they are in custody, the sooner we pack our bags for Rome,” Claudius said as he stared at the map.
Two soldiers in the barracks directed Marcellus to the scouts who investigated the bandits. Marcellus returned to Claudius within the hour.
“The men were consistent in their reports. The victims all reported five men travelling on horseback. They were armed but there were no reports of any weapons being used, only several beatings. The worst was on the wife of Pilot’s aide. The thieves do not appear to be disciplined or organized. The targets were all in remote areas and they took only money and food.”
Claudius nodded. He had worried that the men might be rogue soldiers, which would have made the job of catching them more difficult. “Good work. I want to leave in the morning. Find ten men and see the quartermaster. You know the routine.”
Marcellus returned to the barracks and enlisted ten of the men who had helped capture Barabbas. Within two hours the soldiers were briefed and ready to leave.
The men departed shortly after sunrise the next day. They rode west along the trail where the bandits were last seen and stopped at an army outpost for lunch and to feed and water their horses.
They rode until dusk and camped near the road. The next morning Claudius sent scouts out in four directions, looking for signs of the bandits. The scouts returned at dusk, without any news.
The soldiers repeated the pattern for three days without any results. By the fourth day Claudius questioned his strategy. “Maybe we should venture off the road, or head in a different direction,” he offered to Marcellus.
“All of the attacks happened near the main road in this area. This is where we need to search. Be patient and we will find them,” Marcellus replied.
Claudius shook his head in disgust. He mounted his horse, trotted down the road and cursed under his breath. “When will we find these men so that I may shake the dirt of this miserable place off of me?”
One of the scouts returned soon after lunch and made a beeline for Claudius. “Sir, there is a small house just off the main road about five kilometers ahead. I almost rode by, but slowed to take a closer look. There are six horses tied behind the house.”
Claudius tensed. “It must be them.” He mounted his horse and faced the soldiers behind him. “Pay attention. The thieves are less than five kilometers away in a farmhouse. Our goal is to return as many as possible to Jerusalem for trial, but if they do not cooperate, do as you must. Be safe. I wish to bring you all back alive.”
Claudius headed to the farmhouse. “If only the three other soldiers would return. We could use the additional men,” he thought. The soldiers followed closely behind Claudius and their horses stuck up a cloud of dust.
“Marcellus, take some men to the back of the house. Cut off their escape. Stay far enough away to avoid being seen or heard.”
“Yes, sir,” Marcellus said as he pointed to four of the men and rode to the back of the house where they fanned out in a semi-circle.
“Follow me, men. Once we reach the house, spread out and keep them penned in,” Claudius barked.
As the soldiers approached, five laughing men stumbled out of the front door. Two of them carried bags of property.
“Let’s get moving. We don’t want to wait here for the owner to return,” Basibes said.
He took one step outside and instantly froze. The other thieves walked close behind and, not yet seeing the soldiers on the road before them, stumbled into Basibes.
“You clumsy oaf!” Laur’Ko yelled. “Keep moving!”
“Soldiers!” Basibes screamed.
The thieves dashed to their horses, untied them and jumped into their saddles. They darted toward the side of the house.
“Now!” yelled Claudius. “Take them!”
The Romans charged. The thieves turned to the back of the house and were shocked to find soldiers waiting for them. Basibes jerked his reins, goaded his horse into a full gallop and pointed it to a forest near the road.
Claudius and his men followed. The horse carrying Matthias stumbled and fell to its knees. Matthias tumbled on the ground and was surrounded by two Roman soldiers.
Matthias drew his sword and lunged at one of the soldiers, who knocked the sword away with his own weapon. Matthias reached for the sword, but the soldier ran to him before Matthias could grab it. The soldier kicked Matthias in the stomach and then stood over him as he squirmed on the ground. He ordered Matthias to roll over and tied his hands.
Basibes heard the hooves of the Roman horses gaining as he rode as hard as he could into the woods. He saw Zachariah on his left.
“Now is the time you prove your worth, Zachariah,” Basibes yelled as he bumped his horse into Zachariah’s.
“What are you doing? Have you gone mad?” Zachariah screamed as he struggled to keep his balance.
Basibes put his reins in his right hand and struck Zachariah in the face with his left elbow. “Keep the Romans busy while my men and I escape!” Zachariah fell out of his saddle and onto the ground.
Zachariah rolled in the dust and then jumped up. He watched as the men he called friends for the last few months rode into the forest. He saw the Roman soldiers approach him. Most rode by, charging after the thieves who were still on horseback.
Zachariah pulled his sword out of its sheath as two soldiers dismounted and pointed their weapons at him.
“Drop your sword! We do not want to kill you, but we will not hesitate if we have no other choice!” one of the soldiers yelled.
Zachariah looked at the men in their Roman uniforms. He flashed back to the night he was kidnapped and the months of backbreaking work in the mines. His hands shook as hatred for the Romans filled him.
“Roman pigs!” he yelled. “I’ll not be taken so easily this time! I’m Zachariah! I am a man!” He advanced toward one of the soldiers and pointed his sword at him.
“We have no time to deal with fools,” the soldier said as he struck Zachariah’s sword with his. Zachariah placed both hands on the handle of his sword and swung with all his might. He missed the soldier and fell to the ground. The soldier stepped over him and placed his sword on Zachariah’s throat. He stepped on Zachariah’s arm as he struggled to swing his sword one last time.
“How are you now, Zachariah? Do you still feel like a man? Are you ready for me to end your miserable existence?” The other soldier snickered as tears welled in Zachariah’s eyes.
“If only I had escaped. Had I found the sea, I would have died in my sleep as an old man, and not in some field at the hands of a Roman,” he thought.
“Enough!” Claudius bellowed from the trees. “We do not kill unarmed men for sport. The court will decide what to do with this man. Put your weapon down or you will have me to deal with.” Claudius rode closer and then dismounted.
The soldier stepped back. “Sir, yes, sir. I was only . . . .” He struggled to explain himself.
“The other thieves appear to have escaped. The two we captured will have to stand in judgment for the lot. Bind him and take them to the house,” Claudius yelled. The two soldiers found some rope in a small bag on one of their saddles. Zachariah’s hands were tied behind his back and he and Matthias stumbled to the house as the soldiers followed.
They reached the house and Zachariah slumped down, a completely broken man. Whatever pride or dignity he managed to gather during his escape had left him. He sat on the ground and sobbed. Matthias sat near him and silently stared at the wall.
Claudius and the other men returned late in the afternoon. He stood in front of Zachariah and Matthias. “Your comrades’ plan worked, for now. They were able to buy their freedom with yours,” Claudius said as he brought the two prisoners water. “Give us the information we need to find them and perhaps we can arrange for a more lenient sentence.”
Zachariah remained silent. He stared at the ground and accepted the fact that he would spend the balance of his life as a Roman captive.
“Do not worry. You will be safe until we return to Jerusalem,” Claudius told Zachariah. “Then we will hand you over to Pilot who will give you a fair trial. Once you are found guilty, you will be given a just punishment.”