Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Cross (as in the Cross of Christ) (08/17/06)
By Rick DeMille
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Most painfully, Azariah hated his part in what was happening before him.
Everyone felt it and the crowd milled expectantly, sensing that the end was near. There were actually four crowds, a gathering of different groups from contrasting worlds.
The Roman officials stood to the side, disinterested, as if this were one more bothersome interruption in a life of tedium. A few of the guards even distracted themselves irreverently with a game of dice.
The second group spread itself chaotically around the edge, crude and disgusting in their enjoyment of the horror before them. Most were commoners, even Gentiles, extracting their cruel pleasure from the suffering of others. The idea of attending a crucifixion for pleasure was unspeakable, yet here they were.
The third group was his, apart from the unclean and the ordinary. Azariah was a craftsman, a carpenter of great skill. His work adorned the offices of the Roman Governor; the High Priest himself had chests and racks of his construction. Had he not personally worked a year for Herod in the Temple? His place was certainly among the devout, those whom the Lord had blessed in life.
The craftsman was surprised to find Caiaphas among them, this must indeed be a singular occurrence. When the High Priest had commissioned Azariah to construct a cross, he had been told it would be a great service for his nation. This was to be a moment of greatness and pride, but the carpenter’s true feelings were now much different.
The cross of his creation now stood in the center of two others, of smaller and rougher cut. Caiaphas could not have known that the condemned would be forced to carry the cross up this hill, or he would not have instructed the craftsman to make it so great. The poor prisoner had struggled under its weight. He looked to be a sturdy person, but the signs of prior abuse were obvious. Azariah was not an emotional man but the condemned’s struggle toward Golgotha was painful to watch.
The final group was the smallest, and the most distinct. They had gathered at the foot of the cross, the cross Azariah had built for the man Jesus. He had not known who was to be raised there; only that they were of note. He had heard reports of this Jesus and the uproar among the people, but Azariah had been too busy with his labors to learn more.
Azariah watched this final group with interest. They wept at the suffering before them, but there was no despair in their pain. And there were those who knelt. Some were overcome with grief, but others had hope hidden under the stain of falling tears. How could that be?
One of the Rabbi removed himself from our group and spoke uncomfortably with the Romans. A soldier approached the cross with a spear, but Azariah turned away from what was to follow – he had seen enough suffering for today, for a lifetime.
Quickly it ended. Caiaphas walked down the hill in victory, but Azariah could not follow. He felt compelled to turn one final time and observe the pain his hands had helped inflict. There could be no words to describe the remorse and shame now growing inside.
Finally, the craftsman awoke from his abyss of soul and looked. Those who had waited at Jesus feet filed past and he searched their faces. He thought now to share their anguish and grief, but that is not what he found. Pain was in their reddened eyes, but also peace; a peace he could not feel.
An unbidden urge had brought him here, now it seized him once more. It had awakened a need to confess what he had done. He wished desperately to lose the burden now darkening his mind and spirit, but greatest was a yearning to understand the expectant strength of those who strode passed.
Azariah turned to follow those who had waited at Jesus feet.
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