Life’s an amazing thing. So many days in our lives run together without much to distinguish one from the others. Then there are life-altering days that shape and mold who we are and who we become. We then have to answer to God and to ourselves. Did we make the right decision?
My name is Judah and I’m a carpenter, though not your typical one. Yes, I repair and create various pieces of work for whoever hires me. Unfortunately, that kind of work is few and far between. The jobs that pay me the most, that allow me to feed, clothe, and shelter my family serves a much darker purpose. I make crosses. Crosses that people hang from to die slow, tortuous deaths.
Honestly, I’m usually not bothered by the kind of work that I do. Most of the men who hang from these crosses deserve to be there. They have committed heinous crimes and have been sentenced appropriately. It’s not my concern and never has been. Until now.
“What is it, Judah?”
“What do you mean?”
A mistake. It’s never wise to play dumb with your wife, especially when she knows you better than you know yourself. I receive Sarah’s standard raised chin and narrowed brow. I know better than to look away, so I’m forced to stare directly into her emerald eyes and the confused anger behind them.
“I know you, Judah. You barely spoke at dinner. You were cross with the children and you ignored Aaron’s questions about your day. You only behave like this when something’s wrong. What is it?”
Sighing, I sit down at the table. With my head in my hands, I tell her.
“I was commissioned to construct another cross today. It’s to be heavier and longer than my standard work, and I’ll be paid accordingly.”
“That’s wonderful. With so many crosses being reused, this extra money could really help-“
Sarah stops suddenly and sucks in her breath. Her voice trembles softly, I can almost feel her fear.
“Who’s it for?”
I lower my head further and grip my neck tightly with both hands. I begin to shake my head. Sarah’s there instantly, prying my hands apart. Gripping my face gently, yet firmly, she stares me down.
Tears run down my cheeks, my vision blurs, and through the first of many sobs I whisper, “Jesus.”
I weep uncontrollably into Sarah’s breast wrapping my arms around her waist. She grips me tightly. I can feel her chest hitching. She lowers her head to mine and strokes my hair.
“When do you begin?”
Confusion and shock stops my crying instantly. I pull away and rise from my chair. I stare at her for an eternity. Several times I open my mouth to speak, but I’m unable to do so.
“I know. I know you don’t want to do this. I don’t want you to either. But, you must. You must.”
“Sarah, I know we need the money. We’ve been through tough times before. I can’t do this. I can’t put this Man’s life ahead of a few extra coins.”
Sarah’s eyes flash with anger. In seconds she’s inches from my face. If the children were not asleep she’d be yelling. I can smell stale bread and thin soup on her breath.
“You think this is about money? Think, Judah. What happens to you if you disobey? This order came from Pilate himself didn’t it? Jesus will die anyway. Only you’ll be hanging beside him. And the children and I will be left behind.”
“How can I? This is not some murderer or thief. This Man is…”
Something breaks inside me, tears race down my cheeks. I clench my fists again and again. My breathing intensifies. My chest rises and falls rapidly. Sarah stares at me, her face streaked with dirt and tears.
Grabbing my tools I run into the night. I run until I can no longer breathe. Moments later I turn to the hill where He’ll spend His last horrible hours. I can no longer keep it in. I scream and scream, bending over with the effort. Collapsing to the ground, I continue to weep.
Finally I rise and through watery eyes I see a strong, proud tree off in the distance. Black branches silhouetted against a slowly brightening sky. I stumble towards it. With thoughts of my Sarah and our children, and prayers of forgiveness, I wield my axe. With a broken heart I swing true.
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