Something big was going down. All of my training had not prepared me for the anxiety I experienced as I marched toward the garden.
Okay, I’ll come clean: it was my first important assignment as servant of the high priest and I was terrified. Not so much of the job itself; I had no problem arresting somebody. It was WHO I was arresting that frightened me.
But I would never – EVER – say that out loud.
To the average person, the “who” was only a man named Jesus. However, since that night I am convinced he was not just a man, but the son of God Himself.
I had heard tales; who hadn’t? Stories of a simple Jewish carpenter recruiting a smattering of loyal disciples, going from town to town, creating controversy with his teachings. I’d also heard of miraculous healings that took place – even people raised from the dead!
Initially, I dismissed the reports as phooey but my wife was not so sure. And late at night, when we lay in bed, she would talk for hours about this man, Jesus, and how he was changing the world. My wife has a very convincing way about her and to my surprise – and dismay – I found myself beginning to believe too.
There was a slight problem, though. I am a Roman soldier. And if anyone so much as suspected I was less than one hundred percent loyal to the Roman government, I would be killed - no ifs, ands, or buts.
I was not an idiot; I did not want to die.
As we drew closer to the garden to seize Jesus and take him to be tried before Pontius Pilate, I attempted to put my conflicting emotions in check. I scolded myself for acting like such a woman by letting my feelings take control. I squared my shoulders and pushed my emotions aside.
Like a man.
“What’s wrong with you tonight, Claudius? You seem...anxious,” the guard beside me spoke without glancing in my direction.
“Nah...just thinking.” I focused my gaze straight ahead as I felt beads of perspiration materialize above my lip.
The guard Hmphed, “I'm thinking how I cannot wait to get my hands on that crazy man. We will see if he still proclaims to be the son of God after some sense is pounded into him.”
I remained silent. Sweat now trickled down my jaw line, even though the night was cool enough.
I had never actually seen Jesus in person but as we approached and I scoured the cluster of men, I knew instinctively which one he was, even before Judas Iscariott walked over and greeted him with the “kiss of death,” as we soldiers called it.
Then Jesus spoke, eyes and voice strangely calm. “Judas, how can you betray me, the Son of Man, with a kiss?”
Judas averted his eyes and retreated as we moved forward to seize him. I drew my sword but desperately hoped I would not have to use it.
Then, with a loud shout, some maniac burst forth with a sword of his own and before I knew what was happening, a pain like I have never felt pierced through my head. I brought my hand up and, in horror, felt only wet, sticky warmth where my ear should have been. Looking down at the ground, there it was, in the middle of a dark pool of blood.
Before I could faint, Jesus reprimanded his follower and quickly moved toward me. He reached down, recovered my ear, and brought it up to my head. As suddenly as it had been taken from me, it was given back.
Despite the fact that he was about to be arrested, that man-slash-Son of God, took the time to tend to me. Could there be any explanation other than he was exactly who he said he was?
Jesus is gone now, although many say he came back from the dead for a time. Recently, I visited the garden again – that olive grove where he healed me. While I was there, a determination rose up in me that I cannot explain. Although I am still working as servant to the high priest, I am concocting a plan to escape with my wife and children and follow after the men who walked and talked with Jesus.
I heard once that life began in a garden. And I can say that is exactly how mine began as well.
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