06 April 2012

Diary of a Disciple: Day 1005

by Dr Mark Keown

This is the worst day of my life – I can’t even call it life. It is the day the “Messiah” died! It is the day my hopes have been shattered! Seems he was only a prophet after all! If so, he was a false-prophet. He is certainly not Messiah; he is cursed of God, hung on a tree! A crucified Messiah! Foolishness! He is not the son of the divine, for the Jewish leaders rejected him and the Romans with their false gods vanquished him. Yet how can this be? Yeshua cannot be a false-prophet, not this man of love who healed the sick with a touch, who fed the poor, and who raised the dead – oh that he would raise himself! But the resurrection will come at the end; we are not there yet! I don’t know what to think. Here’s what happened.

After I fled from the garden the previous night I went to the house where we had celebrated Passover. The others came in dribs and drabs. Only Peter and Judas were not there. So it was Judas who betrayed Yeshua? Why had Yeshua called him then, if he knew? Why didn’t he expose him at the meal, we could have killed him then and there! Was Peter in on it after all? Surely not after he attacked that guy in the crowd! Who knows? That might have been a ruse. The image of Judas kissing Yeshua will haunt me forever. If he were here now, I would kill him with my bare hands!

We grieved through last night. Mary, Yeshua’s mother, and the other women cried laments. Every heart was broken! No one understood! I had nothing to give. I sat in silence, grief and anger.

Ultimately people dozed fitfully. Then it was dawn, the time for prayers – but no-one seemed interested. A knock came at the door, the secret knock agreed on. It was Peter, eyes red and looking a total mess. My first thought was to accuse him, but I held back, he was no betrayer. We ushered him in, and with tears, he told us what he had seen.

He had followed as Yeshua was taken from the garden to the home of the high priest Caiaphas – typical Peter, we all flee, he follows, he is the bravest. His plan had been to help him gain release, to stand with him, or join him if Yeshua began the final conflict. He had stood outside by the fire in the courtyard. He saw people going in and out of the home, members of the Sanhedrin, and others he did not know. He had seen Joseph and Nicodemus go in.

I felt a nudge of hope – perhaps it was now that Yeshua would demonstrate who he is, before the Sanhedrin and priests, with Joseph and Nicodemus and we would be called to his aid! We asked Peter what else he saw. He said, rather too quickly, “nothing.” Was there more? Perhaps we will never know.

It was only later in the evening we learned from our two Sanhedrin insiders what had gone on inside. The whole thing was an illegal set-up, the worst of political machinations – more like the Roman Imperial Court than God’s people! Jesus had been interrogated. People had testified against him, all set-ups and their testimonies inconsistent. Some said he had threatened to destroy the temple. All false witnesses! I was livid with rage. Jesus remained silent through it all – Joseph and Nicodemus could not understand why he hadn’t defended himself?

Finally, Caiaphas had asked directly if he is the Messiah. Jesus answered directly, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Unsurprisingly, this set off Caiaphas who tore his clothes and viciously accused him of blasphemy. Many of the Sanhedrin gathered around, they blindfolded him, hit him, spat on him and mocked him, “prophesy!” they said, “prophesy!” He said nothing, his fate was sealed. I wondered why Nicodemus and Joseph hadn’t stopped this – but realized that we were all in the same boat – what could they have done?

Back at the house, a discussion followed and we resolved to get as close to Yeshua as possible. If he did begin the fight, he would need us. We headed toward the temple and fortress. If it was to begin, it would be there.

We got there just after dawn. As we watched we saw a crowd of soldiers coming from the home of the priest. Yeshua wasn’t leading them as I hoped, but they led Yeshua, bound between them. His face was a mess, clearly he had been beaten. We watched in grief and stunned horror. What was going on? Doesn’t look like a war-council, or that Yeshua put up a fight. Simon (the Zealot) suggested we attack, but we held back – a combination of confusion and fear.

We followed at a distance as they took Yeshua to the Praetorium at the Antonia, Rome and Pilate’s base in Jerusalem, into which he and the soldiers disappeared. We slunk into the crowds gathering outside. We waited. Is this the moment? Was this the means Yeshua would use to get into the inner sanctum of the Romans? Would holy war now begin with Yeshua healing himself, talking terms, and then if need be launching his attack? We waited.

In less than an hour Pilate appeared on the balcony. Aside from the soldiers and dignitaries, there were two bound figures – one unknown to me, the other Yeshua, in a terrible state – but standing with dignity. It was announced that it was time for the annual declaration of Passover clemency by Pilate. Pilate announced, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? Or shall I release Barabbas?” Simon the Cananaion whispered , “I know that Barabbas. We worked together. He and his team attacked a bunch of Romans earlier in the year but got caught! Surely the crowd will call for Yeshua and not him.” Hope awakened again ever so briefly – he will be released! I yelled, “Yeshua.” The others joined in. But our voices were completely overwhelmed by the cries of the crowds, “Barabbas, Barabbas…” I saw members of the Sanhedrin egging them on, with mocking grins. I went silent for fear of arrest. No!

Pilate stood and considered. He raised his hands for silence. He cried, “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” The crowd, clearly set up for this moment began to roar, “Crucify him!” Crucify him!” – louder and louder. Pilate turned and walked away.

To say we were stunned is a total understatement – horror gripped us all, but there was nothing we could do! Yeshua was taken away into the Praetorium. We knew what would happen, we knew about crucifixion! Unless he launched a counter-attack, the Roman soldiers would flog him brutally with a leather whip infused with nails, glass, pottery or rocks. He would then be crucified, nailed to a cross naked and humiliated, until his bones dislocated, his breath gave out and he died! – a declaration to the world of Rome’s might, another pathetic attempt to overthrow her defeated! It is the worst of all deaths, that of a slave – the final humiliation! Hardly the end of a Messiah! Later we learned that they had not only flogged him, but dressed him in purple as if a royal, crowned him with sharp thorns that cut deep, mocked him and beat him mercilessly! He is no threat to Caesar! My heart breaks as I write.

An hour or so later we saw the Roman soldiers bring him out. He was exhausted, his robe no longer clean and fragrant with the women’s perfume, but awash with sweat and blood – he was unrecognizable. He carried the cross-bar of his cross. He staggered, unable to bear its weight. A man was grabbed from the crowd, and forced to carry it for him. I felt for him, he had no choice. They led him to the hill shaped as a skull, the place of death. I wondered, is this all part of the plan? – the later he leaves it, the more impressive it will be.

I knew this was a forlorn hope. I am ashamed to say that at this point, I left in total disillusionment. Indeed, only some of the women watched at a distance. It was later back at the house that they told us what they saw.

They offered him the wine, more mockery, yet he refused it. Then, horror of horrors, they crucified him; nailing his hands and feet and lifting him up. Two others were crucified with him, no doubt Barabbas’ partners in crime! That could have been me I thought! They put a sign above him, “the King of the Jews.” The two criminals appeared to mock him – although Mary thought one of them was kind to Yeshua. The crowds laughed at him, insulting him for threatening to destroy the temple, calling him to save himself. One cried, “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Yes I thought – why didn’t he? A Roman soldier was heard to mutter, “surely this is the Son of God.” A strange thing to say – what was he thinking?

He was heard to say things from the cross – crying out to Adonai “why have you forsaken me” – that is appropriate. Probably because he is a false-Messiah I suppose! He said, “it is finished.” Yes, I thought, our hopes are finished! What a glorious waste of time! Then he died with a loud cry! I can’t believe it, Yeshua dead!

The women reported how the ground had shaken at that moment and how the sky had grown dark for three hours. I had noticed these things myself and wondered whether they were some strange portent. They related how a soldier had speared Jesus in the side, the gushing of his separated blood, you don’t have to be a doctor to know he is truly dead! They told how they had remained at the cross lamenting and grieving when Joseph and Nicodemus arrived. Joseph had been to Pilate requesting his body. He had been granted permission so they had taken his battered and bruised body and laid it in Joseph’s own tomb. They told how the Romans had sealed the tomb, and had placed a guard on it, to ensure no-one would desecrate the tomb or steal the body. As if we would do that I thought! What is the point? My life is over! My dreams are shattered. Why did he let them kill him? He could have used his power to save himself! Cursed is the day that I was born!

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