We mocked him, as did Jews and other citizenry about the Palestinian city called Jerusalem. Members of their temple service brought him to our courts to be judged a felon’s death Our legions had planted death trees of their kind on the hill overlooking the city before –insurrectionists, assassins, thieves, and one more Jew – just another to heap our derision on their nation. We hated their land and its’ people, and our military assignment to procure peace in the land. Daily they rioted, and without much thought, we impaled their hordes of “roman haters’ upon our spears, swords and arrows. Watching them die such merciless deaths only caused our obsession of hatred to grow worse.
When they brought this one to us, “the King of the Jews,” we were first amazed at their patronage. Why they would bring a ‘peasant’, judging by his apparel, and claiming this supposed insurrectionist had made claims to be some sort of ruler amongst their very people? Had this ‘king’ somehow disappointed them? It was rumored that this man contested their beliefs and rituals of serving their god. It was said that last week this same man came riding on a donkey through these very streets and being lauded as some kind of hero of the people. Since they bore no weapons, our command gave it but cursory attention. Now this same man was placed before Pilate, the regional procurator of Rome with the summons of execution being ‘demanded’ by their high rulers of their religious system. It didn’t seem to matter that this man already bore marks of abuse upon him. We only sought to multiply his injuries in full zeal. I could not help to notice as I watched my garrison taunt and ridicule him that this man remained mute except for cries of pain. He displayed no anger or resistance as we afflicted him.
A king? This Jew?
“…Well, let’s crown this king – it’s only ‘proper’….Janus, bring that purple cloak over here…..Claudius, we need a crown….let’s show him how we pay our respects to a Jew king!”
We lashed his back, chest, legs, arms – tore at his beard –he almost ceased to be recognizable as a human. Heaving the rugged and splintered timber upon his back, we pushed him out into the street and pressed our way through the heavily gathered crowds and our ears were numbed by the incessant roar of the crowds, shouting demising summons. I could not help but to query, is this part of the same crowd that lauded him just a week ago?
The Jew King, stumbled, fell, and rose feebly in an attempt to pull his burden upon his tattered flesh. Our commanding officer pressed into service a dark colored man, an Ethiopian, to ‘assist’ the once robust, disfigured charisma. I believed that it was not out of pity but only to expedite our ‘pilgrimage of spite’ to the rocky buttress known as the ‘place of the skull.’
Stripping this one of his last symbol of dignity, we pounded his naked flesh onto the timbers with sharp spikes. The same men that brought him to be ‘executed’ scathed him sharply and urged us on. They didn’t want the life of these three that hung on the crosses to linger into their ‘high and holy day’. The crosses were lifted skyward and dropped into cavities prepared for them. More scathing continued by Jews and Romans alike – an unlikely bond.
“Hey king, where is your army?”
“A messiah? Ha!”
Only a few women and a single man, huddled a few feet away from us, seemed to take pity upon this man. Our garrison began to gamble off his last earthen vestures; one received his robe, another portions of his inner garment and I, his sandals.
The Jewish ‘holy’ men departed as the man cried out to the heavens. There was uncertainty among the crowd of this dying king’s exclamation, but it seemed to denote one who has sensed desolation. Being caught up in the moment, it became a disquieting shock that our torches gave the only light in the darkened midday hour. A tremor shook the earth around us as the Jew king made a short outcry. After that, there was no further movement or sound from him. These events disconcerted us; an uncommon occurrence and our appraisal of the now still figure on the course timbers were shaken as well.
“Truly, this was a righteous man, a son of a god!” stated our garrison captain.
A man of wealth, judging by his bearing and apparel, came to our captain to ask for the corpse. Being unaccustomed to such a rapid decease, our captain stepped over to examine the unmoving and silent form.
“There’s no need to break the legs of this one.” As to guarantee the expiration of life, he lanced the side of the body into the heart – a mixture of water and blood spilled out.
As they removed and carried the body away after I had removed the bloody spikes that had impaled him to the timbers, I sighed with relief. Thinking that my involvement with such ill fated events of this man’s demise was finished, I attempted to shrug off the event with my normal callousness.
“Another Jew dead and this one a king, ha!” I quipped.
Thoughts of retiring to our barracks were short-lived; our captain ordered us to report to the tomb of this Jew king in order to secure it. There was an apparent rumor that this charlatan had brought others back to life and prophesied of his own resurrection. In order to prevent a hoax to be carried out by his followers, we were commanded to seal the tomb and stand guard. We were not to allow any unauthorized breaches of this seal on peril of death. There was a cool confident aura of smugness as it was reported that this would be ‘messiah’s emissaries’ – mob of fishermen and social derelicts were in hiding in fear of death. Our duty appeared unwarranted at best – or so it seemed.
I sit by a fireside as I recollect the events that followed. Fear and awe course through my mind as I reflect upon them. Early on the morning of the second day as drowsiness played at my composure, the earth quivered as a light – too brilliant to even lance at – appeared in our midst. After gaining my wits, I found with great dismay and awe that the his followers, we were commanded to seal the tomb and stand guard. We were not to allow any unauthorized breaches of this seal on peril of death. There was a cool confident aura of smugness as it was reported that this would be ‘messiah’s emissaries’ – mob of fishermen and social derelicts were in hiding in fear of death. Our duty appeared unwarranted at best – or so it seemed.
I sit by a fireside as I recollect the events that followed. Fear and awe course through my mind as I reflect upon them. Early on the morning of the second day as drowsiness played at my composure, the earth quivered as a light – too brilliant to even lance at – appeared in our midst. After gaining my wits, I found with great dismay and awe that the the tomb lay bare before us, the heavy rounded stone had been removed from its socket and the bare cavity of the tomb laid before us save the burial garments. In total dismay and confusion, our watch scattered and sought sanction for our lives. With much distress, we reported the events first to the Jewish high priest and his council. Sanction was provided on the provision we no longer serve in the emperor’s service as soldiers.
Still residing in Palestine awaiting transport to my native land of Macedonia, I stoop and examine my baggage; only to find the Jew king’s sandals come tumbling down before my feet. I pick them up to examine the wear on the soles and straps but find myself, unavoidably, pausing to reflect on the one who last stepped in this distressed land and what kind of kingdom he proffered to his listeners.
I was at a loss as what my next step to be. The ‘kingdom’ which had given my life in service had abandoned me – I was no better off than a house slave.
As I sit musing over my predicament, I hear a report that one of the ‘king’s emissaries, Simon Peter, is being received by Cornelius, a Roman officer. This is only another uncommon event to intervene in this land of nonconformity. I perceive, nevertheless, that this is my opportunity to inquire about the teachings of this uncommon king and rise up to the occasion….
A “Passion” story presented by the least likely participant….A Roman Soldier that had drew the ‘lot’ for the sandals of the dying ‘king of the Jews’.