I wrote this in response to Christian Flash Weekly’s Event 43, the prompt of which required the inclusion of “and now, may the terror of the LORD be on you. Watch what you do, for there is no injustice or partiality or taking bribes with the LORD our God” (2 Chronicles 19:7) and had to be written entirely from the perspective of one character. This is the third time I submitted a story to Christian Flash Weekly, and the third time my story placed first (Malady and Bitter)
“And now,” started the old bearded man, spittle splattering from his lips, sweat dribbling down his brow, “may the terror of the Lord be on you.”
Not two hours ago I had arrived, for the first time in my life, in the Holy City only to discover, behind its splendid walls and within its glittering streets, the city, at least a portion of it, in tumult.
“There is no injustice or partiality or taking bribes with the Lord our God,” he roared like the Lion of Judah, “so watch what you do!”
I joined a throng and halted there with them on Fetter Street when the old man started his tirade and that is when I saw what I’d only heard. Little did I know the condemned were forced to carry their crosses. And here was this criminal, this rebel lumbering toward me, beaten, body caked in dried blood, wearing a crown of thorns.
I looked to a woman at my right. “Bad slave?”
Her body poised to strike, she shook her head, her lips drawn back and tight, ready to spew their poison.
“False messiah,” stated the man to her side.
“Another one?” I shook my head and the man, dragging his feet under the cross, looked past the stares, let the insults roll off his lacerated back, and looked me in the eyes.
Mine were full of spite and hate; his were full of sadness.
Though I looked at him and he at me while he faltered past, struggling to remain a grip on his sentence, I understood the sadness reflected in his eyes not that of regret or fear of what was to come, but something of misunderstanding, as if we (and by we I mean me) did not understand and behind that misunderstanding there was something of compassion in his eyes, and love.
Intrigued, I followed him.
And then there was a woman, her wrinkled face buried in her wrinkled hands.
“What is it mother?” I asked. “Why do you shed tears for this false messiah?”
She lifted her head, her eyes at once dry. “False messiah? False messiah!?” She took my hands in hers and smiled. “He is the messiah, my son. He is the messiah!”
I chuckled under my breath, thinking to myself, that poor bloody fool, walking toward his death, the true messiah? And I don’t know who I had more pity for, him or the woman who believed the words coming out of her mouth.
Still attracted to the man, I left the woman there, and followed him, only to find more crying singly and in groups. He nodded at each of them and tried his best, I noticed on occasion, to smile.
Then he approached the stairs and though he struggled mightily as each step lifted the cross from his back, only to let it crash down upon him again and again and again, he took each one in stride.
I followed him, this man I heard referred to as Yeshua, and those who followed him onward to Golgotha. To be honest, I felt a bit dejected. I don’t know why exactly, but I did. A sadness welled up in my heart and even when he fell to his knees and could no longer carry his cross, I wanted to help him, but could not bring myself to lend a hand to a criminal, false messiah or not.
I thought about how horribly we as people can treat one another. I mean I get it, he was a revolutionary and revolutionaries, by law, are to be crucified, and while I know the law is the law, seeing the law enacted in person is something different, very different.
It makes it real.
And there at Golgotha, as the soldiers laid the cross down and stretched his arms out and bound his feet, people laughed at him, they made jokes at his expense and laughed when the soldiers said “So this is the King of the Jews?”
Then there were those all huddled together, crying, consoling one another.
With great trepidation I approached them and asked of the man about to die, about his revolutionary crimes.
“His was a revolution of the heart,” answered one. He saw in my face I didn’t understand. “He was a teacher. He taught people like me, and those you see here with me wailing their grief, to love one another, everyone, even one’s enemies.”
“He taught us to forgive,” added a young woman, “and to be compassionate. To give of ourselves, completely give of ourselves, to others.”
I looked over my shoulder as a soldier holding a bold nail to the man’s palm, swung down his hammer.
The man screamed; so too did those behind me, their knees shuddering if not completely giving out.
And I stood there before them, in awe as again another nail was driven through his hand, and another through both feet. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to run, but my feet were staked to the ground and as much as I wanted to close my eyes, I could not, for there before me the soldiers, pulling on their ropes, raised the cross and before all the bloodied and beaten hung limp.
More mocked him, hurled their insults and jokes, and laughed.
I could only barely imagine the despair and I considered how I react to the sufferings of others and how my reaction is based on my relation to the one suffering. And while I didn’t know this man from Adam, I felt for him and his suffering, a suffering I will never understand.
This is a life, I think to myself, and this is what we do. We brutalize others and inflict upon them pain and suffering too great even for the imagination.
A woman behind me said under her breath a few short words I think I never shall forget: “In a world of take, take, take, the one who gives of himself is the true rebel.”