Sunday, February 17, 2013

Junior
(A Fictional Good Friday Story)

My name means “Son of His Father” but my friends and family just call me “Junior”.   I would like to tell you about the day I was released from prison.
On that day, early in the morning, two guards came to my cell, unlocked my chains, and ordered me to go with them.  They escorted me to the gates of the prison and shoved me out into the street, saying “We have been ordered to release you.  No doubt, we’ll be seeing you again before long.” 

I didn’t understand what was going on, surely there had been some mistake and some other prisoner should have been released.  However, I did not want to spoil my good luck so I kept my mouth shut and immediately tried to lose myself in the crowd.  I knew their mistake would soon be discovered and they would come looking for me.
  
I made my way to one of the inns where people in my profession hang out.  None of my associates were there, probably out in the big holiday crowds seeking to relieve pilgrims of some of their burdens.  Since I had no money to spend I really was not received with open arms.

The prison food had been terrible, there was very little of it, and I had been tossed out before the day’s rations were served.  At last my hunger compelled me to move on to seek sustenance elsewhere.
  
With all the celebration going on it should not be hard to pilfer something in the market place or maybe I could take part in some feast.  That really should be easy since many hosts invited people from the streets into their feast.  I would just have to avoid the soldiers.

Following back alleys, I made my way to the market place.  I soon spotted a vendor selling portions of roast goat.  He was embroiled in a heated argument with a customer and was not paying much attention to his wares.  This would be an easy mark.  I began making my way through the crowd.  Just as I was about to grab a nice succulent portion of roast goat, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to stare into the face of one of the guards who had released me.  

Wouldn’t you know it, they had  discovered their mistake.  But instead of placing me under arrest, he gave me a sly grin and said, “After being pardoned, you’re not going back to your old thieving ways are you?”  He then turned and walked away leaving me standing there with my mouth open and thinking, “PARDONED?”

In a daze, I made my way down one of the main streets of the city, my hunger forgotten for the moment.  Somewhere along the way a reveler at a feast thrust a bunch of dates into my hand.  I do not know how long I wandered the city street and alleys sampling, as I could, drinks  or food offered at various celebrations.  I saw several soldiers who knew me.   On any other day they would have harassed me, but today they just looked at me and passed on by.  

About mid-day I began to notice that among all those partying there were also many who seemed greatly troubled and saddened.  Wondering  what could be causing this strange behavior at feast time, I felt compelled to join a group of these sad people who were headed out of the city.  Shortly after I joined them the sky began to darken.  It was soon so dark that people were lighting torches and lamps.  A strange hush fell over the city and almost everyone ceased to move about.  

The group that I had joined sought shelter under the eaves of a nearby building, although there was no necessity for shelter.  As we sat there, almost cowering, I tried to engage the person next to me in conversation about what was happening, but he was not inclined to talk and I really had no heart to pursue the matter.  I heard some murmuring about what was going on but those who were not praying seemed to be lost in their own 
thoughts.  Suddenly there was a great shaking of the ground, walls of buildings fell and cracks appeared in the pavement.

At last the light began to return and we resumed our journey.  I was anxious to discover where this sorrowing group was going.  I had heard enough to know that it involved one they called “The Master”. 

We emerged from the city on the road that ascends a hill and passes by the large rock outcropping shaped like a skull.  It is the place which the Roman’s have chosen to carry out their frequent executions.  This place 
I know too well; several of my associates have ended up there and I was probably headed there before I was so abruptly ejected from prison.

As we approached the execution site I could see that three executions were being conducted.  My companions joined a group of people whose attention was centered on the middle cross.  I did not like being so close to this place of death, but to avoid attracting the attention  of the attending soldiers, I stayed with the group.  Off to one side several of the soldiers were  engaged in an animated conversation with some of our 
local  officials. 

While all the others gazed only at the man on the center cross, I surveyed each of the men.  The man on the left I recognized as a small time petty thief who had been unlucky enough to steal from a visiting Roman official.  He still showed some slight signs of life in the form of an occasional twitch and an almost inaudible gasp for air.  On the right was an associate of mine, a member of my gang that engages in theft, graft, and even acts of insurrection when there is a profit to be made.  Occasionally, he was still pushing himself up against the spike through his feet to attempt a full breath.

Try as I might, I could not identify the man on the center cross.  He had been so severely scourged that even if he had been my brother I might not have known him.   Perhaps the scourging had really been a mercy by hastening his death for he was no longer suffering the agonies of the cross.  He was not a local thief or I would have known him.  He was not a leader in any of the insurrections that I knew about, but his crime must have been great to deserve such severe punishment. 

The soldiers seemed to have reached a decision.  Three of them approached the crosses and after some inspection they broke the legs of the men on the left and right hand crosses.  This would hasten their deaths by preventing them from pushing up to breathe. 

After some observation and probing with the butt of his spear, the soldier at the center cross reversed his spear, placed its point under the rib cage of the man and pushed up into his heart.  From the man’s side there flowed coagulated blood and the fluid that had collected in his lungs.

I had seen enough.  As I turned to leave, I heard one of the soldiers remark to the others, “What a shame that we crucified this innocent man and the Commander pardoned that thief.”  I barely made it to the side of the road before my legs gave way and I fell face down in the dirt.  There I lay sobbing, “He died for me ... He died for me.”

Copyright 2007© Willie E. Weaver 
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