Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Up and Down (04/02/09)
By Sharon Kane
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Rage and self-righteous arrogance erupt within you at this affront on your human dignity. You mutter something about capital punishment being too good for him, even as you wonder how a man could sink so low. What lured him into the world of crime? His father abandoned him? He fell on hard times, got into debt and lost the straight way? Those raving fundamentalists brainwashed him and manipulated him to their own ends until he went mad under the pressure? Obviously he turned to drink, those bloodshot eyes give that much away! You catch yourself. Against your better judgement you look again into his eyes – and turn away upon meeting his gaze. Your senses reel. You find no bitterness there, nor anger; no trace of hatred nor of hard defiance. Is he truly a criminal? Never have you seen such passion in the eyes of any man. Strength of resolve, anguish of soul, and raw, tender compassion mingle there. And dreadful, inescapable insight. In that momentary locking of your eyes the murky corners of your own soul are laid bare. You are the one condemned, he is wholly innocent.
Numbly you follow as he climbs the hill. You determine not to miss his last hours. Wishing you had met him long ago, you cling to the vain hope that there may yet be time... A single tortured cry is torn from his lips as the soldiers drive the nails into his wrists. Now they raise the cross and he hangs naked and silent before the baying crowd. Dislocated joints sculpt his body into strange contortions. His furred tongue passes futilely over cracked lips. Blood oozes from his scourged back, trickles around the nails, stains the rough wooden beams, drips, drips, drips onto the ground. His life ebbs away. His eyes close. You hear the death rattle, and know there will be no last minute reprieve, no miraculous intervention. You missed his living years; you arrived too late.
Dazed with grief and confusion you turn to leave, heavy footsteps carrying you mechanically down the hill. He cries out and you stop in your tracks. “It is finished!” More a victory shout than a cry of despair, it carries on the air with an intensity that is not of a dying man. The exclamation rings in your ears, and hope is unexpectedly rekindled.
Peter's preaching dispels all your confusion, and when he urges his hearers to repent and be baptised you are the first to step forward. As the cool water caresses your skin, forgiveness floods your soul. Then Peter disappears, the crowd falls silent, and you find yourself with your Saviour. Majestic He stands before you, his noble features radiating strength and victory. He holds his regal head high, his brow encircled by a crown of rarest gold. A shimmering white robe flows to his feet. Light pours from his flawless face, permeating to the very depths of your being, bathing you in purity. The songs of angels cascade around you. You fall to your knees before Him, overwhelmed. He touches your lips, lifts your chin, raises you to your feet. A smile of love and invitation breaks over his face. His eyes sparkle with a joy that eclipses forever the memory of that day of darkness and pain. That rush of joy embraces you as his words reverberate in your soul, “Welcome, child of my suffering, child of my love.”
The vision fades. Back in the world of men you lie panting as the force of the revelation surges through your spirit. He, the Glorious One, was disgraced; The Exalted One, abased. The Master of the universe became servant of all. The Firstborn descended to the depths. Now He calls you to follow, to serve with humble gratitude, to decrease that He might increase. You bow your will, vibrant with expectation of the day when He will raise you up to share His exuberant joy.
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