“We will make an example out of him.” Lofty eyes glared at the bent figure, weary before them. “No man can make a fool out of our holy order and live.”
Another head nodded in agreement. “Lets send him to the governor, and have him executed.”
“Not just executed,” the former pressed, “I want the world to see.” He nodded to the soldier who stood at attention. “Take him to the governor. Relay our verdict. This man must die.”
Dmitri, the soldier, bowed stiffly. Harshly ordering his men to follow, he strode up to the condemned man and thrust him out the door.
He stumbled. With expected firmness, Dmitri hauled him to his feet, and yanked him down the hall, toward the governor's palace.
Dmitri hated executions. The anger in the accusers voices made him realize that this execution would be one of the cruelest. Hatred had spewed out from their eyes. Mouths twisted in disgust. He did not even know what the condemned man had done. He just knew that before the sun set tomorrow, the man would be dead. And Dmitri would be his executioner.
For the next several hours, the soldier watched the prisoner in amazement. He seemed to know no fear. Questions were hurled at him, threats abounded, but he remained calm, choosing words so carefully, and even refusing to answer questions, answering them only with a quite smile. The stage had swung around. The governor groped for words, as if he stood judged, and the prisoner became the one in control. Authority reigned in the condemned man, and his voice rang with power, yet gentleness. Fear was only in the governor.
Confused, Dmitri shook his head. While death was inevitable, he only wished he was not chosen as the executioner. It would not be easy.
The governor stumbled off his judgement seat, and shakily ordered, “Scourge him.”
Swallowing protests, Dmitri carried out his order. The prisoner's hands were bound to a post, and the whip slashed across his bare back.
Dmitri watched silently, arms crossed. His eyes raked over his prisoner, and suddenly his head raised and he turned to look at Dmitri. Their eyes met. Emotionless clashed with pain. Dmitri recoiled.
No. Far more spilled from those eyes than pain. Those eyes drilled into him, and he stood as naked before his judge. What did this man have that could make him face death with so much courage that he had compassion on his murderers. Love? And this from the man who would die in a few hours?
The whip lashed again and made his body jerk. With a harsh word Dmitri ordered the whipping stop. He let the men under his control have their fun and mock the condemned man before they prepared him to return to the governor.
“Wait.” Everyone stopped, and glanced at their leader. Dmitri stared at the prisoner for a long moment before turning to his men.
“Throughout your training, you have had many lessons and instructions. Now I give you another.” He paused for another moment, weighing his words. “Watch this man. He will die tonight. We will be his executioners. As Romans, we know what it means to die with glory. Die as a Roman. Die being strong. I set this man before you as an example. Watch him die. If you die with as much strength as he does, if you can face death with his calmness, the world will see true greatness.”
And so began the execution. Jesus was paraded through the streets. He climbed a hill with a heavy beam across his shoulders. Nails bore through his flesh. Blood seeped from his brow.
Yet he did not open his mouth. Dmitri watched as men mocked him. He listened to other prisoners shriek in pain, and curse their executioners. Yet this man, this Jesus, whom the Sanhedrin wanted to make an example of, was different.
He knew how to die.
The Roman army could take lesson.
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