A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?
In today’s reading, from The Soldier Who Killed a King, Marcus is in a discussion with his friend and fellow centurion, Renaldo. They are at the Roman bathhouse at the end of a long day. Date: Wednesday, April 5th, 30 A.D.
I sat down again beside the pool and let my feet dangle in the tepid water. Renaldo put his hand on my shoulder as he eased himself down into a similar position.
“So what do you mean by that? How do you think this will end?” he asked.
“This Galilean prophet’s days may be numbered. He’s stirred up a hornet’s nest by kicking those merchants and money changers out of the temple. He’s offended and humiliated the high priest and his clan. He’s cut off a major source of their temple revenue. He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. And if that’s not enough, he predicted that their power, their kingdom as he calls it, will be taken from them and then given to others.”
I paused and kicked my right foot out straight, scattering a shower of drops onto the flat surface of the water. “You don’t say and do those kinds of things without creating some enemies. I’d say he’s sealed his own fate.”
With a furrowed brow, Renaldo asked, “Where’d you get this information?”
“Claudius. Claudius told me. Yesterday I had him sit in on one of the prophet’s teaching sessions. It was quite an eye-opener. Jesus doesn’t just heal the poor; he takes a skewer to the bloated rich. He’s publicly opposed the rich and powerful in this town, and his opposition has been right to their face. If nothing else, the man’s got courage.”
I drummed my fingers on the poolside tiles and then continued. “I tell you, Renaldo, they won’t stand for it. They’re probably hatching some plot to do away with him right now, as we’re sitting here talking.”
“Yeah, but he healed all those kids,” he said. “Doesn’t that show that the God of heaven is working through him?”
“The God of heaven? Do you honestly think that matters to them? This is all about money and power. That’s their real god. Jesus is a threat to their money and their positions of power. Healing a few poor kids, the offspring of the unclean—that isn’t going to mean a thing to them. You’re right. You hit the nail on the head. They’re puffed-up swine that care only about themselves. There isn’t a drop of mercy in them.” Then with scathing irony I added, “But they’re right. They’re always right. Right to the letter of the law.”
“So what do you think they’ll do?”
“I’m not sure. But I know what they won’t do. They won’t arrest him with that crowd around him. They know better than that. They’d have a bloody riot on their hands. There’s no doubt about that.”
Thought after thought came racing in as I considered the implications of my own words. “They might wait till after Passover when the crowds leave, but then Jesus would probably leave with the crowds and head right back to Galilee. Then he’d be out of their hands. No.” I hesitated and then briskly snapped my fingers. “I think they’ll try to act now, if they can. He’s humiliated them in front of the people. They won’t stand for that. Caiaphas won’t stand for it. Jesus has co-opted the high priest’s authority right within the temple courts. Blood will flow because of it. Mark my words. It will flow.”
“But what could they do to him? What crime has he committed?” Renaldo reasoned. “You know the Jews can’t condemn a man to death. They can’t have him crucified. They would have to bring him before Pilate.”
“Yes,” I said, “but accidents happen in the dark of the night. And Renaldo, I think you underestimate the old Weasel. If anyone can twist the law to his own liking, Caiaphas can. That Weasel can kill his prey in more than one way. The big question is, can he get his hands on the prophet?”
“So you really think there’ll be a confrontation?”
“Absolutely. From what I saw on Monday, the confrontation has already started. It started when Jesus kicked out the merchants. Later, when I was there, the high priest’s men questioned him, but he wouldn’t back down. Then yesterday, according to Claudius, he humiliated Caiaphas and his delegation right in front of the crowd. Like I said, he called the Pharisees and the teachers of the law a pack of hypocrites and a brood of vipers. I’d call that a confrontation. And he didn’t do it out in the desert; he did it right in front of them, in front of the pilgrims, and right in their holy place. I tell you, the man’s got guts.”
“But”—I paused to emphasize my point—“I’m just waiting for the other side to strike back. And they will.”
I made a long, sweeping motion with a pointed index finger and then stabbed down spear-like into my friend’s bare ribs. “I’m sure they will.”
Instinctively, Renaldo recoiled, shrugged off my antics, and then said, “But you don’t think he’s a threat to Rome?”
“Not from what I’ve seen or heard. But he is a threat to Caiaphas. Right now he’s their problem. And that’s where I want to leave him. If blood’s going to flow, I don’t want it getting on these hands.”
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Here’s a journey to the cross and the open tomb you will never forget.