Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Reports are True! The Nazarene is Alive!

Blogging isn't a modern thing. It's only the technology that's new. Men and women have kept journals for centuries. Ships' Captains have kept logs since Navies first set sail. The only difference is, now we have computers for storage and the internet to allow the whole world, if they like, to see our rambling.

I was wondering last evening what a blog from the centurion in charge of Jesus' crucifixion might have looked like as his world turned upside down over the course of a long and interesting weekend. Perhaps it went something like this:

Centurion's Log: Friday: Today, I played a role in a very great mistake. Today, we executed the Son of God. I didn't think so at the start, but now...........

It began as a quite ordinary event. There were three scheduled for execution today. Two had been on the dockets for a while. One was hastily ordered only this morning. I am assuming the Governor did so to try and avoid a riot. My, how he hates this Judean assignment.

It's festival season here in Jerusalem. People are everywhere. It's some part of their religion. They swarm the city every spring to celebrate. And it goes on for two months. How do they ever get any work done?

The streets are quite literally teeming with bodies. Crowd control is difficult at the best of times. Pilate worries constantly this time of year. Today things got out of hand. A Galilean itinerant teacher, called Jesus (He is so much more) was arrested by the local temple police last evening and charged with all sorts of crimes against the Jewish religion. I have little understanding of their beliefs or traditions. But I do know the Priests and Clergy hate this Jesus with a great passion.

This morning came early as the High Priest led a contingent straight to Pilate's hall of judgment demanding immediate prosecution and execution of the Galilean. The Governor is not a strong man. He is sometimes wise, sometimes prudent, but rarely shows strength of leadership. After some attempts to settle the matter peacefully, even enlisting the help of Herod, the 'king' of these Jews, Pilate eventually yielded to the request of the Jewish leaders, out of fear of the crowd. As the morning progressed the scene had indeed become most unruly.

I was put in charge of the executions. It's part of my job. I neither like it nor am particularly repulsed by it. It is the duty of the Roman military to meet out justice swiftly and effectively. But in all my years of service, I have never seen a sight like the one I saw today. Crowds lined the streets, watching as we led the already severly flogged and bloodied Jesus towards the execution site. Blood loss, pain and exhaustion had stripped him of most of his strength, so progress was slow. Eventually, I was forced to conscript one of the bystanders into carrying condemned man's cross, or we might still be on the road.

By the time our procession reached the execution site, which these Jews call, "Skull Hill", the other two prisoners were already crucified. The soldiers with me were nervous, as was I, because of the sea of humanity that came to watch Jesus die. Why are people so fascinated by public execution? What morbid curiosity drives them? As a soldier, I have seen enough death to last me three lifetimes.

We nailed Jesus to the cross and lifted Him into place. I have chronicled the details of crucifixion elseswhere as have the historians, but I still shudder when I see and hear the bodies convulse as the cross is dropped into it's support hole. If ever a practice should deter crime, it is crucifixion.

Apart from the slowness of the march, the day had progress more smoothly than I could have hoped. Until the bodies were hanging, that is. It seems like only moments after we lifted the Galilean into place that all hell broke loose. Though it was mid day, it suddenly became darker than mid night. There were no clouds, only darkness. No stars, no sun, no moon only black. Frear gripped the crowd, but still they lingered. For hours it looked like the world might end. Terror gripped us all. And yet the people continued to watch the dying men, fixated with blood lust.

He died quicker than most. It's not surprising considering the torture he'd endured prior to execution. But it's what he said that has changed me to the core of my being. What he said, and what happened at the end. While the crowds mocked and insulted, Jesus carried on a conversation with one of the men beside him. He comforted the dying man with promises of forgiveness and eternal life. Rather than focus on his own agony, he aided another. Who behaves that way? He even forgave the crowd for their insults and insistance on his death.

At the moment of Jesus' death, the very earth shook. It was as severe and earthquake as I've experienced. All Jerusalem was rocked. It will be tomorrow before we can assess the damage, but I have heard that even the Jews' precious temple was damaged. An expensive, ornate curtain of some sort was destroyed. There is some commotion about it being torn fromt the top down. The significance of that is lost on me.

It was at that moment I realized the mistake we were making. The darkness, the earthquake, these were not coincidence. I pushed my way past the soldiers, with every intent of rescuing the Galilean. This was no ordinary man. I screamed at my men to help me. I begged the crowd to help me end this madness. "This really is the Son of God", I shouted. And I belive I am correct. But by the time I reached him, the man was dead. What have we done?

Centurion's Log: Saturday: I slept poorly last night. I am haunted by yesterday's events. It's much quieter today. I led a team through the city to survey the damage caused by the earth quake. Fortunately, there was very little. Apart from the temple, the only obvious damage is in the local burial yards. There are open graves everywhere. And dozens of bodies are missing. Perhaps vandals ransacked them in the night. Perhaps wild dogs went on a feeding frenzy. Perhaps both. But it will take weeks to find the remains and get them back into the ground. And these Jews with their odd customs and repulsion of corpses will bemoan the entire project. No doubt my men and I will do the lion's share of the work.

I can't get the Galilean, Jesus, off my mind. I've never seen a man like him. I've certainly never seen one die like him. Pilate ordered his tomb sealed and placed under guard. I guess that's one body that won't go missing in the earthquake's aftermath.

Centurion's log: Sunday, The body of the Nazarene, Jesus is gone. I have seen the gravesite myself. The stone that covered it is sitting nicely beside the empty cavern. The burial shroud is inside, but there is no corpse. There is no sign of forced entry and no sign of scavenger activity. The shroud is not damaged, nor is the head covering. There was no earthquake last night. Something is going on here, that I don't understand. Or do I?

Jesus' followers are all claiming that the man is alive. How can such a thing be? I was there, I saw him die. I oversaw the entire crucifixion. But there are more than 500 people who claim to have seen him.

And there is more. According to reports, many of them eyewitnesses, a great number of the former inhabitants of the burial yard, have been located..... alive and well. They walked as a group into the city this morning, claiming that Jesus, the Galilean had raised them. This is extroardinary. But it is undeniable. I have interviewed eyewitnesses and have even spoken with some who were dead and are now alive.

But what does it mean? How do I respond? Who will believe it? If I hadn't been present, I might wonder myself.... One thing is certain, today I must search the city. At all costs, I must find Jesus!

Note: While the 'centurion's log' is fiction, his story and the other events recorded here may be found in the New Testament accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Read them for yourself. Then go look for Jesus. He's not hard to find. Happy Easter.


Snobound said...

I wish this had been our Easter service! Awesome writing!

Niecey said...

I loved this. Thanks.