Part 3

 

As a warning to the people who read part 3 of this story.  The scenes in this posting are graphic and violent.  I wish they weren’t but part of telling a true story in a fictionalized way is to describe what happened by bringing out the details that might not be in the original telling.  I do not take this lightly and I am not, in any way, trying to glamorize violence.  In fact, my point in writing this is to show how deplorable the actions were.  It is hard for me to imagine how something so violent could be so necessary.  I apologize to everyone who waited for part 3 to arrive.  I honestly didn’t want to write this part.  Without delay, here is part 3.

The trip to see Herod was not a particularly long trip, however, each step on the road became heavier to make, as my friend and I crept closer to the man who held Jesus’ fate in his hands.  When we arrived, Herod seemed almost delighted to see the man claiming to be the King of the Jews.  He put his arm on Jesus back and escorted him, and a few soldiers(including myself) into another room where Herod and other leaders hammered him with questions.  Jesus remained silent.  The religious leaders became furious and hurled even more accusations at Jesus, each one becoming more outrageous than the last.  Why wouldn’t Jesus defend himself?  In addition to the mockery of the priests, Jesus was dressed in royal robes and dismissed and sent back to Pilate.
On the way back to Pilate’s residence, whispers started that the man that had betrayed Jesus, a one Judas Iscariot, had hung himself when learning that Jesus was being lead to his death.  Each minute we took part  in this parade of death, it became increasingly believable that this Jesus, King of the Jews, might actually be who he said he was.  One thing was becoming increasingly clear, this wasn’t an ordinary day on the job.
Upon our returning to Pilate, there was a meeting with the religious leaders to determine what to do with their shackled leader. In the end Pilate declared that both he and Herod found nothing to blame in Jesus but to appease the crowd would have Jesus flogged.  Besides, Pilate was certain that his ability to rule could not sustain the public execution of a religious icon on Passover.  The crowd, already in a frenzy, demanded more.  Because of the Passover feast, Herod had the ability to let one prisoner go free.  So, in one last desperate move to make certain an innocent man would go free, Pilate offered up Barrabas, a man guilty of revolt against the state, as a substitute for Jesus.  The crowd yelled, becoming increasingly violent, “Give us Barrabas, Crucify Jesus.”  Refusing to give into the crowd, Pilate asked a second and third time.  “Are you sure you want to crucify this man?“  The crowd continued to scream insults and demand that Jesus be crucified.  Prior to releasing Jesus to the crowd, Pilate made good on his promise to have Jesus flogged.
Pilate motioned Jesus and his accusers to an area away from the rest of the crowd into a courtyard of  stone with a pillar of stone leaning out of the ground and shackles dangling from the top.  The stone was unnaturally colored, stained with the blood of countless other criminals.  I looked to my friend with fear in my eyes as we lead Jesus to the whipping post and ripped the mock robes from his body  As we approached the whipping post, I noticed a table off to the side that had whips on it.  From having this job for a while, I was aware that these whips would be laced with lead shards which would latch on to the skin and pull it from his body.    Each contact with the skin would be even more painful as the last, not only ripping at the first layer of skin but any other muscle and tissue attached to Jesus’ bones.
It was up to the discretion of Pilate to flog him up to 40 times according to Jewish law.  Knowing that the crowds would not stand for anything less, I was pretty sure that Jesus would be getting the maximum sentence allowed.  As I looked over to Pilate, I saw the recognition in his eyes that this would be the first, and probably last, time that this was going to happen to a truly innocent man.
The guard standing at the whipping posts grabbed Jesus by the hands, raising his arms high above his head.  Gathering his wrists together, he closed the shackle around them and we watched as Jesus almost dangled from them.  His toes barely touched the ground.  In a loud voice the guard demanded that Jesus stand with his back toward us.
At that moment, the burly man sitting at the table with the whips stood up, grabbed the longest whip and pushed away from the table.  He walked to a place directly facing Jesus’ back, looked at the ground momentarily, raised his hand over his head and with a movement of his arm and wrist let the whip crack through the air.  The leathery straps flew through the air and attached to Jesus’ shoulder.  At first it did not seem that the straps would detach from his skin but with a forceful yank, the guard pulled back the whip, bringing with it a chunk of Jesus’ flesh.  Before raising his arm a second time, the guard reached to the end of the whip and discarded the skin that had attached itself.  All I could do was stand and stare.  Showing any sense of emotion and I could lose my job, or worse, I could be branded a sympathizer and be the next in line.  I swallowed back tears knowing this would only serve as the beginning of Jesus’ humiliation.
As the whippings continued, Jesus’ face contorted showing signs of intense pain.  He only cried at first but as the beatings continued his cries became louder and eventually became screams.  Halfway through the process a woman appeared along the side of the courtyard with cloths in her hands.  As she took one look at the man, tears began welling up in her eyes and she, too, began to audibly cry.  She made no attempt to approach the man knowing that if she did it would only complicate the situation even further.  Although, it was never said, it was clear that this was the mother of Jesus.
When the whipping started Jesus stood on his feet but with each of the beatings his posture weakened, slumping until he could no longer support his weight.  And although, his skin was torn, broken and bleeding, none of his bones had been broken.  As the whippings came to an end, one of my fellow workers approached with a crown he had made of thorns and pressed it firmly over the top of Jesus’ head.  Jesus screamed as the thorns dug into his brow and blood trickled down his cheeks.  Another soldier approached Jesus with purple royal robes and dressed him in them.  A line formed of soldiers in front of the messiah, and as it formed it was clear to me that I was expected to be in that line.  Each of the soldiers stood in front of Jesus and yelled at him “All hail King of the Jews.“  and slapped him in the face.  As the line got shorter, I resented what I would have to do.  If I showed any sort of weakness I would instantly be fired and possibly face the same punishment as Jesus.  I didn’t want to hit Jesus but I had a family to protect and provide for.  The choice was clear for me.  As I approached Jesus, his eyes met mine.  I know he felt my shame as my hand raised and I slapped him.  My mouth opened and said the same phrase all my other friends had said as well.  I saw no anger in Jesus eyes as I left the line.
Once everyone in line had their turn in front of the accused, Pilate yelled out to the crowd and told them he was bringing out their prisoner and insisted that the man the crowd had chosen to crucify had done nothing wrong.  Pilate led Jesus out to the crowd dressed in mockery and said “Here he is.”  The chief priests and other officials yelled out to Pilate “Crucify Him!”  Pilate refused.  He looked over the crowd and said.  “Look, you crucify him.  As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”  The priests countered by saying that they had a law that said that Jesus had to die because he claimed to be the son of God.  Pilate had already banned the Sanhedrin from carrying out capital punishments except in the case of foreigners entering the sacred areas of the temple unlawfully.  Turning Jesus over to the Roman government was the only way the priests would get what they want.
Pilate showed fear and asked Jesus “Where do you come from?”  Jesus remained quiet, refusing to say anything.
“Why are you not talking to me?   Don’t you know I have the power to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus looked at Pilate and said, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.  Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Pilate continued to argue with the priests, refusing to crucify Jesus.   They responded by telling Pilate that unless Jesus went through with the punishment, he was no friend of Caesar.  Their reasoning: Anyone who claimed to be a king, opposed Caesar.  Everything had been planned out.  From the beginning the priest had the answers.
Pilate sat down in his judges seat.  “Here is your king.”
The officials, priests and others yelled back.  “Take him away! Crucify Him!”
Pilate asked one last time, “Shall I crucify your king?”
They yelled back “We have no king but Caesar!”  Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.

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part 2

As the blindfold slid down over his eyes, Ciaiphas stood in front of Jesus and ripped open his shirt, revealing his bare chest. He waved on a number of soldiers and he ordered them to punch Jesus. Each fist sounded like a fish being slapped down on wood. They mocked him, telling him to prophecy who was hitting him. After each slap they spit on the man and white, frothy spittle ran down his face until it dripped slowly from his chin and splattered on the ground below. When Jesus remained silent the beatings intensified. Jesus, who had been sitting up in his chair erect, began to slouch and at one point fell out of the chair but was put back on it when he did. The beatings went on for what seemed like forever. As they continued I’m sure I heard a rooster crow three times and I wondered what that could mean. Once the beatings stopped, I heard the head priest say.
“Now that we have heard him utter blasphemy, we need to decide what to do with him.” He gathered the priests and elders and lead them inside the temple leaving us behind. For what seemed like hours we waited and on occasion we could hear mumbling and harsh disagreements coming from the other side of the door in front of us. After a while, they emerged from the building and approached Jesus with rope and a gag and bound their prisoner and tied his hands behind his back. As they began to lead Jesus out of the courtyard, the head priest turned to us and nodded his thanks but informed us that they would take it from there. As the rest of the soldiers left, my friend looked at me. “We can’t pass this up. We need to follow.” My friend turned his back to me and started walking. I just stood there.
As he left by himself, he noticed me not walking with him and turned to me.
“Why are you not following me?” , he asked.
“Do you know who that is?” I yelled at my friend. “Do you know what you are doing? Do you have any idea? I mean, if that guy….” Before I could continue my friend yelled back.
“You really believe this guy could be the Messiah? The Chosen One! He just sat there and let us beat him. Do you really believe that a guy with the power of Heaven at his fingertips would allow someone to beat on him?”
“What about your ear? I mean you saw it. He put it back on! I mean that wasn’t just a magic trick. I saw it hit the ground.”
“I don’t know. Yeah, I guess I have to admit that was pretty strange. And for a moment, it felt like he was looking into me.” He replied.
“So why do you want to be a part of this?”
“I don’t know. I just know something important is happening.”
“Well, if you’re going to follow, you need to stay at a distance. Or should I say we need to follow at a distance. “
As we left the courtyard of the temple, we looked down the road to see where the priests were with Jesus and saw only silhouettes. In order for us to catch up to the throng of clergymen we would need to move quickly. We looked at each other, took a deep breath and sprinted toward the distant figures. The further we ran, the harder it was. As we got closer to our goal, I began experiencing sharp pains in my side. As I grabbed my side, I began slowing down and my friend looked over at me with a mixture of concern and as if to say “Hurry up, we only get one chance at this.” I lifted one finger and stopped. Bent over and breathing hard, I told my friend to go on ahead. He continued to run on ahead closing the distance between he and Jesus’ accusers. After taking a few deep breaths, I stood and began my jog to catch up. As I got closer I yelled at my friend. “Hey, slow down.” He did.
“Where do you think they’re taking him?” I asked.
“Do you want the truth or a guess?”
“Whatever you can give me!” I replied.
“Well, if I were to make a guess. When they questioned Jesus and couldn’t find anything to find him guilty of, they must have decided to take him to a higher authority. They can’t accuse him of anything religious when talking to government officials so they’ll have to appeal to his power. They are going to have to accuse Jesus of claiming to be the King of the Jews. But that’s really the least of their problems.”
“What do you mean?”, I asked.
“Well, first they have to figure out how to get the Governor to come outside. They can’t go inside, it will make them unclean.”
I looked ahead of us to see that we had begun to close the gap between us and the religious leaders. I also began noticing that there numbers had grown and people who were out in the streets had stopped what they were doing and begun to follow the priests. It only took another minute for us to catch up to the growing throng of people, and only a few extra minutes to reach our destination.
As we reached the courtyard of Governor Pilate’s home, the guards stiffened as they watched the courtyard fill up quickly. As they continued to watch us all push our way in, one of the guards turned around and disappeared inside shouting to Herod to come quickly. For what seemed forever we waited. As we waited the shouts of the crowd grew louder. I looked next to me to see if my friend was next to me and he was nowhere to be found. I turned around to see if I could see him but in the process ended up getting knocked over. I fell backwards and as I did my head hit the ground with a crack. I opened my eyes and everything seemed blurry. Brown boots passed my head with a flurry, most missing me but a few clamping down on my hair causing me to scream. It felt as if hours elapsed as I laid there but as I was an arm reached out and I grabbed it, lifting me off the ground. I looked to see who had been my rescuer and saw it had been my friend. I nodded thanks and started toward the front of the crowd to see what was happening in front of us. As we pushed our way through the crowd, a man dressed in royal robes stepped outside and rose his arms quieting the crowd.
“Who is it that bothers me this night?”
Each of the religious leaders looked at one another to determine who was going to speak but in the end, the honor was given to the highest member of the Sanhedrin. The older man, with full beard, wearing a red tunic, stepped forward and told the King, in a loud voice, that the man they had brought before him had claimed to be a king and had more authority in Heaven and on Earth than the you do, Governor Pilate.”
Pilate stepped forward and looked Jesus up and down. “Is this true that you call yourself ‘King of the Jews?’ Jesus said “You are right in saying that I am.”. Pilate, irritated by being awoken from a deep sleep, looked at the religious leaders and said “This man has done nothing wrong.” The priests showed equal frustration as it seemed that their plan was about to fall apart. In desperation, they added to the charges brought saying that Jesus was causing riots everywhere from Galilee to Jerusalem. It was the ammunition that Pilate needed. He could wipe his hands free of these unruly religious leaders.
“Well if he’s from Galilee, that’s not my jurisdiction. You will have to take him to Herod. He will make a decision. Luckily, he is in Jerusalem as we speak.”

Fictionalized telling of a true story(in a few parts)

Two years ago I was introduced to an idea that caught my attention and gave me a whole new perspective to a true story I had heard hundreds of time before but never stopped to consider. To the soldiers that lead Jesus to his crucifixion, it was only a job. It was how they made their living. Most had no personal stake in what happened to Jesus. It was a days wages. So I got to thinking: What if a soldier got dragged into the day’s events on his day off and, through the course of the day, it started mattering? This is that story.

(Before moving on, I’m breaking this into three entries to make it less time consuming to read. I’m also not finished writing it. This is not an easy write or read. I will post the next parts in days to come)

Have you ever had a work day from Hell? You know the kind of days I’m talking about. The kind of days where the stars and planets align just to give you the worst day possible? The kind of day that makes you wipe the sweat off your brow and want to take a scrub brush to your brain just to forget about it? That’s my today. The truth is that has been my week. The difference being: my week of Hell came straight from Heaven.
Let me explain, I am a law abiding citizen. I love my job and I do it with honor. So when I heard that there were people planning an assassination, I was a bit skeptical. But I went along with it. I first heard about it only a few minutes before the whole incident went down. A friend of mine, on the same Force as me, pounded on my door late at night to let me know that a team of religious leaders and soldiers were going to arrest a man with some of his friends in one of the local gardens for committing blasphemy and other acts that broke the law. He asked me if I wanted to go. The truth was I had no intention of going but he was in full regalia and said it was someone important, so I went along with him. As I was running to catch up with my friend, I struggled to put on my uniform and called ahead a number of times so that he would slow down. But he just kept running. When we finally caught up to the rest of the force, we were at the entrance to the garden. As I looked at the rest of my friends, I noticed a man I had never seen before. He seemed to be leading the group, beckoning them to move forward.
We entered the garden and walked a few feet in and saw eight men lying around on the ground sleeping. When I asked one of the soldiers if these were the men we were arresting my friend shook his head no and we continued moving forward. As we walked in further we saw three others asleep against a rock and off to the side we saw HIM….praying. It was Jesus! The man I had never seen before pointed his finger at the praying figure and although I was near the back of the crowd of soldiers, I heard him say that was the man. The praying figure stood up and approached the person standing there and as he stared at the pointing man, he said softly, “do what you came to do.” And that’s when the chaos began. As the man leaned over and kissed Jesus and the soldiers moved in to arrest Jesus, one of the men that was previously sleeping, had drawn a weapon and attacked my friend, slicing his ear off. As I watched the flesh hit the ground, I also watched Jesus hold his followers back as he bent to the ground and picked up the ear replacing it where it had been cut off. All my friend could do was stare. As the madness continued to ensue, one of the other soldiers grabbed me by the arm and tried to get me involved, but I broke his grasp and stepped backwards, horrified but doomed to watch like an animal caught in the path of an oncoming chariot racing toward its destination. My friend knelt on the ground both dumbfounded that the man we were apprehending had healed him but also enraged that someone has amputated his ear without his consent. He rose to his feet and stared at me for a moment then turned his back to me and placed his hand on the shoulder of Jesus to make sure there would be no added resistance.
“Where are you taking Him?” I asked. The only reply I received was that we were taking Jesus to the people who had paid us to arrest him, and nothing more. The long trek from the garden of Gethsemane to our destination seemed to take forever. Each step became heavier and slower as we walked and watched the chained feet of Jesus trudge along barely coming off the ground as they scraped the dry dirt and pebbles below his feet. Ahead of me I could see other soldiers shoving and tripping Jesus, trying to get him to fall. As he stumbled, the person holding on to the chains between his arms would yank it back forcefully and the shackles would dig into his hands and wrists, making them bleed. During the entire trip Jesus never spoke a word. I thought about moving to the front of the crowd to stop what was happening but knew it would not solve anything. The sneers, laughter, and loud voices continued to build as we inched closer to our destination and it felt as if I had unwillingly been shoved into a riot.
As we walked toward our destination, I could hear the church bells getting louder as they reverberated off the walls and caused me to shiver. It was then that I understood where we were going. The Sanhedrin had ordered a hit on Jesus! The same institution that was established to uphold God’s love was extinguishing an innocent life, and not only an innocent life but the life of someone who claimed to be the Son of God. It was then that we began to slow down. Before coming to a complete stop one of the soldiers at the front of the crowd turned to us and barked out instructions telling us that we would need to quiet down and not make any noises as we handed over Jesus.
When we arrived at the temple and entered in, there was already a throng of people having a heated discussion about what to do with Jesus. Priests sat at tables across from each other pointing fingers and raising their voices screaming for retribution. The same tables that Jesus had toppled over for turning his house into a market were being sat at to judge Jesus.
At a third table, off to the side were a few others that I did not recognize. In front of them was another priest that was talking to each of them and handing them small burlap sacks filled with gold coin that were tied at the top with pieces of frayed rope. Each of the people at the table grabbed at the bag and quickly, but smoothly, slid the bags across the table and put it inside their shirts.
The head priest, Ciaiphas, looked at Jesus and spoke to him “ You are brought here today to face us and so that we can get answers as to why you defame us at every turn. We are good men. We follow the law. But you discredit us and most of the time in front of others. Why?” Jesus said nothing and his silence caused thoe priest to turn a few different shades of red.
“O.K. If you will not speak to us we will put you on trial. Have a seat here.” He pointed to a chair as the soldiers led him to it and shoved him into his seat. As Jesus sat there, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eyes as the head priest motioned one of the people sitting at the witness table to come forward. As the man approached the table he stared at Jesus who said nothing to him. The man’s gaze fell to his shoes as he sat down and gave his testimony.
“Earlier tonight I was at home working some over time on a project and as I was cutting some wood and I accidentally sliced my finger off. I ran inside to find some cloth to wrap my hand in then found another cloth to wrap the finger in. Panicked, I ran to the street looking for anyone who would help. That’s when I saw Jesus and so I ran to him with the finger hoping he would reattach it. He ignored me. I called after him but he kept on walking. I turned to him and he ignored me.”
“When did this happen?” Ciaiphas asked. The man answered and as he did, the head priest waved him off the stand. He called a second, then a third, and then a fourth but he could not find anyone that had any credible evidence against the man they called Jesus.
“Are you the Son of God?” It was one of the only times I heard Jesus say anything that night. He confirmed that he was and said if they tore the temple down, he could rebuild it in 3 days. Ciaiphas was becoming even more agitated, and he reached inside his robe and pulled out a blindfold which he put over the eyes of Jesus

Seven to Ten

Most people who look at the title of this entry, might stare at it and wonder what it means.  Others of you might already know.  It seems these days whenever you need something important done by an agency, it requires a wait.  Seven to ten business days is what they say.  Whether that number is an arbitrary number, I’m not sure.  However, there is a part of me that secretly believes there is someone out there that looks a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge and teaches business school who,  at the beginning of every first day of class,  looks out over his eager eyed pupils and says “Write these numbers down.” He then grabs a small piece of chalk, turns his back to his students and scrawls in big letters and numbers ” 7 – 10 business days” on the board.

What bothers me about these numbers are they are so very non-committal.  Nothing is guaranteed.  And usually when they give you the answer, it’s so you can wait again after you’ve already waited.  Let me give you some examples.  Today I woke up to a reduced SSDI check.  I had actually gotten the check on Friday which put me in a confused state of mind.  It was either one of two things(really it was only one thing, but I was stupid enough to wish beyond all hope).  Either it was my check was being reduced or it was an extra check.  I tried calling on Friday to figure it out but the office was closed.  My mind was racing.  Was I going to have to race around all over town Monday trying to plug holes in the sinking ship that was my life or was I going to be able to afford cable again?  I would know until Monday at 7am.  So I waited.

Christians have a verse in their Bibles that talking about worry.  A verse that talks about how God protects the lilies of the field and how God cares even that much more for us, so why worry?  The verse asks, ‘Who, by worrying, can add a minute to their lives?’  Well, lets just say, I subtracted from my life this past weekend.  I lost sleep.  I was up at 5am facebooking, trying to count down the minutes til I made the fateful call.

At seven today, I called asking the woman on the phone very specifically the amount of the check I’d be getting in the mail.  She replied the same amount I get every month.  I was elated but I had to make certain so I asked her about the other check.  She was unaware of it.   As a side note here:  If a government agency says they are unaware of money they sent you, red flags should go up.  But then the bad news came.  This would be my last provisional check with SSDI.  Let me explain.  If a person ever is removed from the payrolls of SSDI but lose their job and need to be returned to them, they have to go through a re-determination phase.  During that time, SSDI can elect to give the recipient provisional benefits.  There is a catch:  If SSDI determines you aren’t disabled enough to continue needing their benefit, you have to pay back the provisionary amount.  Here is the other catch:  A decision has not been made on my case.  So, if a decision is not made by Feb 3.  I need to return to the SSA building and get a check.  Rather than dealing with this by phone, I decided to make a trek to my local office which is about 3 blocks from my apartment.

When I got there there were seven people waiting in line ahead of me.  I grabbed my book and began reading.  Forty five minutes later, my number was called.  I started the short trek to the teller window and asked the woman at the counter what amount I’d be getting this month.  She quoted me the same amount the previous woman had quoted.  So I showed her the check.  That’s when the news hit.

I have come to the point in my life where stepping outside my apartment means something bad is going to happen.  I am a lightning rod of bad energy.

The woman behind the counter, who I am sure is a nice woman, stared at me and said “Oh you owe an agency money so they are taking it out of your check.  You haven’t gotten the letter yet?”  Nope.  But guess what was in my mail this morning when I got back home?  Yep, you guessed it.  On the letter was a number to call.  So I did.  Surprisingly, I didn’t get cheesy music or a recorded message asking me to press 9 if this message is already pissing you off.  I got a person, who again, I’m sure was very nice but held my life force in her hands so she was a demon.  I explained my situation and she said she’d have to send me a form claiming total disability and I’d have to wait…drum roll please 7-10 business days to get it.  I’d have to fill it out, return it and a decision would be made within a month

But that’s not where this wonderful story ends.  After going to the Social Security office, and talking to “Miss Underworld 2011”, I waited another 40 minutes in line at the Wal mart to have my check deposited onto my card and then it was off to the Welfare office.  This place wasn’t too bad with the exception of one thing.  I had all the paperwork they needed to get started but they said “Oh we’re not doing that today.  Fill out this paper work and….”  Wait for it, wait for it… “in 7-10 business days you’ll get a letter for an appointment.”  I left that building burnt.  No immediate solutions.  Just waiting.  I got home, sat down on my couch and my eyes drifted to sleep.

I guess this situation has left me with one question.  If everyone is working the same work week, how come we have to wait 7-10 business days?  What are people doing the other six days?