Know the witness
“You were there?”
There was a long silence as the young man thought about his answer. Demetri, one of Jerusalem’s leading scribes and expert interpreter of the Torah found the silence irritating, why wasn’t the boy answering? He acted as if he had been brought into a court of law.
Since he was Demetri’s own son, Demetri had carefully explained that this was merely an informal meeting of the synagogue’s leaders as they sought firsthand accounts of the recent events.
“Yes.” Yerik didn’t look at his father as he answered, but his chin jutted out slightly and jaw set firmly.
No one except Demetri noticed. Inwardly Demetri groaned—that was the boy’s stubborn look. According to Demetri’s wife, the boy had inherited the look from Demetri’s side of the family. Why then did this son, out of all his sons, irritate and chafe Demetri the most?
Demetri wished the rest of the group had settled for discussion of their own witnesses of the execution. After all, many of them had been there. In fact, he would have been willing to share his own testimony even though it would not be pretty in the retelling. But no, they had to insist on someone outside of the synagogues telling the story, and Demetri’s son was of age.
“What did you see?”
Yerik looked at the group, and Demetri knew what he was thinking. Thinking that many of these men had been there—and they wanted him to tell them what they had seen? Now that Demetri thought about it…it was a bit on the illogical side, perhaps Yerik had had a point when he asked what the men were trying to achieve by their ‘inquisition’. At the time, Demetri had thought the statement was a gross exaggeration and had told Yerik so.
“I saw…what many of you saw…”
Silently, Demetri groaned again…the boy just couldn’t resist the jibe at their religious superiors. ’Stick with the facts’ that is what Demetri had told him. Yerik was good at the facts. He never forgot a face, a word—written or spoken, and had always been too honest. Their worst disagreements had been goaded to new lows when, even as a child, Yerik threw his parent’s own words back at them.
Yerik continued, “I saw the Romans give him thirty-nine lashes, place the ‘crown’ upon his head…”
As Yerik spoke, images were running through Demetri’s head. The crack of the whip, the onlookers’ gasps; then the thorns long and sharp, piercing the skin on the skull with every blow, the cursed tree laid upon a bloodied back, the trembling legs as they began death’s journey.
“Stop!” It was a fellow scribe—one who had stood beside Demetri as they had observed the actions that were being accounted.
Demetri swallowed hard, could it be that the scenes were replaying in his mind as they were in Demetri’s? Demetri couldn’t have spoken even if he wanted too, his mouth was dry and despite the fact that Yerik had stopped when commanded, the pictures in Demetri’s mind went on…he could see each pain-laden step, the man who stepped in to carry the tree, the journey through the streets, the climb up the hill…
“We want you to recount what happened at the end.” A Pharisee glared at Yerik. Though Demetri had told Yerik to start with that, he was a bit proud of Yerik’s shrug and the nonchalant way he continued.
“The Romans hung a sign that said…”
“Stop!” the command came again, “the end…”
“Around the sixth hour…”
The pictures in Demetri’s mind didn’t jump the sixth hour, instead they flew through every moment until they caught up with the story...he saw the nails, the dripping blood, heard the words to and by the three men twisting in agony, the drenched sponge offered to unwilling lips.
Demetri tried to escape the replay by looking around the group. They looked frozen, speechless. He wondered…what were they remembering…perhaps their little ‘pretrial’ before Pontius’s judgment? Or were they too, recalling those final words “it is finished”.
“…He was dead…The spear went deep, missed the rib cage, straight into the heart. The sky went black…there was a mighty shake…”
Blood mixed with water poured out of the wound. Some of Demetri’s acquaintances were of the medical profession and loved to query the mysteries of life. It had annoyed him, their push to explain the healings that had occurred recently. He’d been avoiding their discussions in the square; but had heard one theory of a old Greek doctor—a theory that blood and water around the heart in that quantity signified pain, not of physical origin, but pain of the mind or the soul—like sorrow. Demetri shook off the thought and returned his attention to Yerik’s account.
“They say he was seen by quite a few witnesses in Jerusalem…”
The head of the Sadducees interrupted Yerik.
“We are not interested in secondhand accounts…”
Yerik interrupted the man, and Demetri felt it was a sign of how shaken the group was that they let him do so without protest.
“I understand,” Yerik paused and for the first time he looked at Demetri. Demetri could tell Yerik was trying to tell him something.
Yerik squared his shoulder and looked at the group.
“I saw the man two weeks ago, and can testify that it was him. The Nazarene they call Jesus.” A collective gasp ran through the group. Demetri was stunned. That was why Yerik had been reluctant to tell the group the story; he knew what a precarious position he was putting his father in.
“That is a lie!” burst from one man’s lips.
“My son does not lie!” Demetri glared at the man. Long silent seconds passed, and Demetri knew what was coming. They were preparing to turn their attack from son to father. Demetri’s eyes found Yerik’s. Yerik’s eyes were filled with respect for the decision Demetri had made—to support his son knowing the cost of that decision.
Mentally Demetri prepared himself and turned to face the group. It was a lynch mob if he’d ever seen one.
Suddenly a young boy pushed into the circle of men, breathing hard like he had been running.
“They are in the street! Those men…”
“What men? You are interrupting an important meeting!” one of the men grabbed the boy’s arm.
The boy didn’t even have the sense to look scared, he was too excited.
“The men that were his followers! They are in the streets, and telling everyone about the man, Jesus!”
Dignity was laid aside as the group quickly disbanded so that each could investigate this new situation on his own. Demetri appreciated the fact that Yerik slowed his steps to walk beside his father. Demetri looked at his son. He could see that Yerik was controlling his eagerness to run in order to stay with Demetri.
“You met him.” Demetri said quietly.
“Yes.” There was a wealth of meaning in that one word.
“You are different.” Demetri stared down the road. His mind’s eye could still see the labored walk; his ears hear the scrape of that cursed tree.
“I have made a decision…”
Demetri knew what was coming but was surprised at his own heart’s leap of desire to embrace his son’s next words.
“I have decided to be a follower…I believe…He is the promised One, the Christ.”
Yerik pulled Demetri to a stop and waited until his father’s eyes met his.
Then Yerik pleaded,
“Father, believe! I know. I saw him…He is the Messiah!”
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