A hostile crowd of thousands roared in anticipation of the gruesome spectacle that was about to be unleashed upon us poor souls crowded together at the arena’s centre.
With a piercing screech of rusting chains, the trellis gate was drawn into the stone wall. Ferocious roars echoed ominously forth from the darkened passageway beyond.
“I have to go,” I said, backing away from the others.
“You think there’s somewhere to hide in here?” Arria scoffed.
“I’m not just going to stand here!” I threw back.
Deacon Cornelius opened his arms to beckon our attention. “Brothers and sisters, now is the time to assemble together.”
“For what reason, Deacon?” Arria snapped.
Cornelius was not daunted. “It is written that where two or three come together in Jesus’ name, there He is with them.”
“So what are you suggesting we do?” I pressed.
Aware that the feral roars were reaching a crescendo, Cornelius called us closer. “Let us lift holy hands and praise the Lord, right here in the midst of the Colosseum. For the Lord inhabits the praises of His people.”
Emboldened by a confidence that was not my own I stepped forward and raised my hands heavenward. Several others hesitantly followed my example.
“Sister Arria, can you lead us in song with your lovely voice,” Cornelius asked.
Gulping in fear while watching the open gate, Arria stepped forward. She stammered, “I will lead us in ‘King David’s Psalm of Thanks.’ ”
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Thirteen terrible, starving lions darted forth from the darkened passageway. Upon spying the knot of Christians standing together, they strained muscles and limbs in their haste to reach us.
I tore my attention from this chilling exhibition and lifted my voice to accompany Arria.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
“That’s the way!” laughed Deacon Cornelius. “Come, let’s glorify Jesus!”
One by one, the others joined in, and the Colosseum’s walls amplified the strains of our melody and cast them upon the ears of the chanting Romans.
The lions’ claws ripped great gouges in the sandy soil in their haste to reach us, but to the credit of my brethren, no one moved. In moments the lions closed the gap, yet instead of tearing into us they parted and swept around us like the tide crashing about a mighty rock at the beach.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
The Romans went insane with rage and confusion. They had come to see the non-conformist, intolerable Christians torn limb from limb, but instead were met with a sight that challenged their every belief and mocked their gods.
Nero lept to his feet and thrust down his thumb, screaming at the captain of the Praetorian Guard. The Captain disappeared from sight, but appeared moments later leading rank upon rank of Praetorians from the gate beneath Caesar’s box. The Guards drew swords and headed for us.
“Deacon, what now?” I squeaked in alarm.
“Young Marcus, would you rather a quick death by the sword, or an agonising one by lions?”
I nodded, “I understand. As we declared Jesus’ glory, He revealed His power. But now it is time for us to enter into our rest.”
“That’s it. Now, let us worship!”
I turned away from the Praetorians who were now only moments away, closed my eyes, and joined my brothers and sisters in song.
One by one, the voices around me ceased, until finally, I sang on my own.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Something cold sliced through me and interrupted my song. But I found myself able to continue so I pressed on, though now mysteriously accompanied by a great multitude as I reached the last verse.
Cry out, "Save us, O God our Savior;
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
that we may glory in your praise."
I opened my eyes. Before me stood One clothed with light. With a voice like the sound of rushing waters, He said, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant.”
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