Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Shower Of Redemption

Julia stood in the middle of the courtyard staring at the stars, tomorrow she would die. The man that had killed her Father would die. Crucified by the Romans. A bitter smile crossed her lips.  Yes she would be there; she would watch this murderer be brought to justice. Justice - the word made her sick was there such a thing? Maybe once when she had been a child she had thought it had existed but no, not anymore.

She clenched her hands into fists at her sides.

“I swear I’ll hate you until the day I die,” She swore anger boiling inside her.


Julia stood in the courtyard of the governor’s palace with hundreds of other people all-jostling for room.

"You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him,” Pilate said, “Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him."

"Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" the crowd shouted.

“No!” Julia shouted, “He killed my father!”

“Quiet woman!” someone shouted.

“I will not,” the man slapped her.

"Crucify him! Crucify him!" the crowd shouted.

"Why? What crime has this man committed?” Pilate asked, “I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."

“No! Crucify him! Crucify him!” The crowd screamed.

Pilate motioned to a slave. He came forward bearing a bowl. Pilate plunged his hands into the water. Julia’s heart sank lower than the pavement beneath her feet.

"I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!”

"Let his blood be on us and on our children!" the people shouted. Julia closed her eyes they would kill this teacher instead of a murderer.  She was disgusted; these people were crazy they would rather have a violent man than a man that had never hurt anyone but the official’s pride.   

She propelled herself through the people elbowing her way through to the edge and then began half running half walking up the street. She knew which way they would go, her father had overseen more than one crucifixion as a Roman Centurion while he had been alive.

She stopped in front of an alley where several children stood with a woman who balanced a water pot on a shoulder and a baby on her hip. She looked sad though light seemed to cascade from her and her children.

“Hello, are you lost?” Her voice was as sweet as honey.

“No, I… They will be taking the prisoners this way on the way to their execution… I just wanted to see one of them,” her voice trailed off as she threw a glance over her shoulder at the shouting coming down the street.

“Oh… You mean Jesus of Nazareth, Don’t you?”  

“Yes, he is to take the place of the man who should have died today,” She felt the anger rising up in her again.

“Barabbas?” Julia nodded, but did not answer, “And you are angry about this?”

“Yes,” her voice was hollow yet burned with bitterness.

“Tell me, my friend, why do you hate this man so much?” she asked surrendering the baby to one of the other children so she could lower the water jug to the ground.

“He killed my father,” her words came through gritted teeth.

“I’m so sorry,” Sympathy creased her brow; “You're a Roman then? 

“Does it matter?” her voice crackled with anger she was still a Centurions daughter she didn’t need this woman’s sympathy.

“No, not to me,” The women said lifting the baby back to her hip, “we are all alike in gods eyes,”

“Which gods?” she asked sarcastically.

“The one true God,” the man that dies in the stead of the man you hate is his Son,” the woman answered as soldiers framed the road blocking them into the alley. The thunder of people's voices was now upon them their voices mingling together into an incomprehensible roar. 

Julia turned and looked at the street the first of the three prisoners were dragging their crosses up the street.  a group of soldiers followed then behind them the second prisoner lugged his heavy cross up the street.

“Why?” the word slipped from her lips before she could stop it.

“To take the punishment for our sins,” a small girl stepped up beside her and entwined her fingers into Julia’s as her mother came up beside them, her other children clinging to her legs. A tear spilled down Julia’s cheek.    

The third cross came into view but the man that she was looking for was not pulling that cross, then she spotted him staggering behind the man lugging his cross. She wasn't sure how she had recognized him. He was beaten so badly that his face was unrecognizable, one eye was swollen shut, blood oozed from multiple wounds.

One of the soldiers pushed him from behind and he fell to the ground. The centurion cursed at the soldier.

The woman next to her handed her baby to one of her children and stepped forward. Julia watched as she knelt before the man her arm out to help him rise, the child that held her hand let go and disappeared behind her before she ran to her mother a small cup of water in her hands. The child knelt before him next to her mother and offered it to him.  A soldier kicked it away.

“Get back,” he ordered. The Centurion grabbed the soldier’s arm and growled something in Latin as the woman and her daughter retreated back to the alley.  The Centurion pulled the man up and helped him walk up the street sending the soldier who he had grabbed by the arm a glare as he passed.

Jesus turned his head to the side and looked at her. She saw the pain of the world in his eyes.  And then he was gone and the crowd was rushing by, she stepped out into the crush of people and allowed them to pull her along to the place of execution.   

The cross-loomed above the hillside like a sword. The air felt heavy in this place of death, this place of pain and misery. Evil clung to the shadows of the rocks where Julia stood. The clouds above her were black and heavy as if themselves in mourning. Lightning streaked through the blackness in eerie silence before thunder roared in protest of the deed taking place. An earthquake shook the ground revolting against this horrid act. Raindrops mingled with the tears streaming down her face. The earth shook again and she fell to her knees. The soldiers gambled for the prisoner's clothing beneath the crosses. People threw insults at him from the crowd,

“Come now save yourself,”

“Yes you saved others save yourself,” a woman cried from the crowd. Another quake she fell to her hands and knees. One of the soldiers fell and slid down the hill toward her on the steep incline.

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” The man hanging from the middle cross, cried barely loud enough for Julia to hear. The soldier stopped on his hands and knees and looked up at the cross, his mouth slightly agape. Another earthquake knocked him to his stomach. He cursed as he scrambled to his feet.

She wanted to cry out, to stop it, but she was rooted in place her tongue heavy. When she did speak her words were a whisper.
“I believe,”

“Save yourself and us too,” One of the other prisoners on the other crosses, cried out.

"Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong,” The other prisoner rebuked him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” he said.

"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise,"  Jesus answered the man.

Minutes felt like hours. She was still on her knees on the hill, her tears slowly tracing paths down her cheeks and falling to the dirt and stone beneath her.

 “Eloi, Eloi, lama sab ACH Thani?”  He cried.

“Listen he is calling Elijah,”

“Fool its Hebrew,”

“"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" she whispered his words bowing her head.

“It is finished!” His words were almost lost in the storm but she heard them, her head snapped up her gaze on the man that had taken the place of the man she hated.  The storm intensified the earthquake becoming stronger, the thunder louder, the lightning brighter as if the earth itself screamed against the life of this man leaving.

People around her began to flee in fear.

“Break those two’s legs,” the order came from the soldier who had fallen. “That one’s dead already,” His order was quickly carried out.  Screams of agony followed the soldier’s work.

“Better make sure,” one of the other soldiers said.

“Right,” The soldier who had fallen grabbed a spear, he hesitated only a second before plunging it upward and into Jesus’s side.  She sucked in a breath, she felt physical pain at watching this man's pain, the man who had died for her sins. Could she forgive her father's murder? Barabbas the name sparked anger in her. No, she couldn't, she wouldn't forgive him. 

Blood streamed down the spear and onto the soldiers hand and arm he winced and shook his hand of sending a shower of scarlet drops flying away from him.  one hit her in the center of her forehead instantly unearthly heat seared through her. Her breath caught. She felt the blood burn away her anger, her hatred, She felt the bitterness fall away like shackles, fresh tears swarmed in her eyes blurring her vision.

“I forgive you Barabbas, for killing my father,” she whispered the words though she felt as if she had screamed them, “I forgive you because the man that took your place forgave me,”

The centurion looked around his men stood wide-eyed around him; several had tear streaming down their hard faces. He looked at his blood-covered arm then at the crowd - few remained. A figure kneeling caught his eye and he began to walk toward her. No one noticed, all preoccupied with their own thoughts he reached her as another quake knocked him to the ground next to her.  He grabbed the rocks to steady himself the blood smearing onto them.

“Truly he must have been the son of God,” he whispered so low he wasn't sure she heard him.

“He was,” her voice was almost lost on the wind. She reached out the blood smeared rocks and placed her hand on the stain, heat radiated from the place of contact and up her all the way into the deepest reassess of her heart. She took a deep breath, “Yes,” the whispered word was no more than a breath but it was enough. She closed her eyes and accepted the healing.

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