Father bustled through our humble abode, sweeping us into a warm embrace. “Quintus, sit down and drink.” Mother handed him a cup of wine. We hadn’t seen him for three days since Jesus’ controversial crucifixion. He looked as though he’d been through battle, but clinched the victory. Father made us promise to stay away from the fervent crowd during the Passover frenzy. If only I could’ve been a mouse amongst the throngs of people.
Father inhaled deeply, weighing his words. “Jesus was tossed from Pilate to Herod, and back to Pilate again. Enemies in the past, their commonality of humiliating and abusing Jesus sealed their friendship.” Father’s face reddened in anger. “Here I am, a Roman centurion, upholding Roman authority. But, after today, I don’t want to be affiliated with these leaders!”
Mother gasped, “Quintus, you mustn’t say such things!”
“Nothing leaves this room.” His tired eyes bore into mine. I reassured him, “of course not, father.”
“Herod and Pilate knew Jesus didn’t deserve the death crime. They knew all the false accusations from the jealous Jewish leaders…spineless! Cowering under political pressure! Pilate failed in persuading the crowd to release Jesus. Their cries grew angrier and intensified, ‘crucify him!’
Pilate surrendered, shouting, ‘I am innocent of Jesus’ blood!’ He released Barabbas instead.” He paused momentarily, shaking his head in disgust. “Jesus was ordered to be beaten with the leaded whip.”
Although used to seeing cruelty from Roman soldiers, this case affected father deeply. His friend and colleague, Marcus – who befriended many Jews by aiding in building their synagogue - played an important role in our partiality to Jesus. Marcus’s words and deeds were as gold.
During a past dinner visit, Marcus confided his stance. He believed Jesus was sent from God; and that the Jews possessed God’s message for mankind. He told of the many miracles Jesus performed. He shared of Jesus love and compassion. Marcus said Jesus was an excellent teacher; relaying the kingdom of God, and the importance of loving God and others. He said the religious authorities constantly tried to trap Jesus in his statements, but couldn’t weasel him into a corner. In fact, many of the people who had seen and heard Jesus believed he was who he claimed: the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, the Son of Man and Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, Teacher and Master, One with authority to forgive, Lord and Savior.
A few days after Marcus’s visit, one of his servants fell ill. He sent a messenger to seek Jesus’ help. When Marcus told Jesus he needn’t bother coming all the way to his house, but to just say the word, Jesus commended his faith. He said He hadn’t witnessed such faith in all of Israel – and then Jesus healed his servant.
Father’s words brought me back to the moment. “I was stationed at the foot of Jesus cross.” His eyes misted as he recalled the horrific events of the day. “His body was badly beaten… they struck him with fists, spat in his face, shoved a crown of thorns into his head, then forced him to carry his own cross to Golgotha until he fell to the ground…after nailing him to the cross and hoisting him up, the soldiers divided his clothes by casting lots. The taunts continued, right in front of his mother! Pilate placed a sign above Jesus head that sarcastically read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
Father’s face paled. Tears slipped down his leathered cheeks. “In his agony, Jesus prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ One of the criminals on the cross beside him said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus replied, ‘…today, you will be with me in paradise.’ Trying to choke back his sobs, father continued, “Jesus loved till the very end. Finally, he cried, ‘Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit! It is finished!’ Then he died.”
“Darkness fell for three hours in the middle of the day! I believe nature mourned the death of God’s son. Then, the heavy curtain hung in front of the Jewish temple room – the Most Holy Place – tore in two from top to bottom.”
“Wow!” Mother declared. “Surely, Jesus was the son of God!”
“That’s exactly what I concluded!” Dad’s countenance brightened. “And, just this morning, after Jesus body was sealed in a tomb by a large stone with soldiers guarding, his body is reported missing. Praise God! He has risen, just as he said!”
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