We Want a King Pt. 5

My death sentence was handed to me today.

There’s not enought time! My whole life…every dream, every hope, my plans….ripped from me! I curse Caiaphas! I curse Pilate! I curse the entire Roman Empire! Tyrrants! Blood-sucking murderers! My life has been diseased by the edicts and trickery of the leaders in this nation…

Death row gives you time to think.

I was nine when Herod ordered baby boys ages 2 and under to be murdered in my village. My mother was nursing two twin boys, who were 15 months old when that Heinous Villain ordered his police force to break into homes to slaughter Jewish boys. I wasn’t strong enough to fight them off, and I’ll never forget how my mother screamed when they tore those boys away from our arms. She threw herself at the feet of the commanding officer and begged for their lives. He kicked her. He kicked her so hard she hemorrhaged from the inside out, and she was never able to bear children again. I spit and swore and fought with all my might, but I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t save my brothers…

We were never the same. My mother “disappeared” after that–stolen away by depression, and numbness. I could never get her back. My father, who was gone when the murders came, could never make sense of it all and drank himself to death within a year. But I, I, on the other hand, decided I would never be a fool of this regime! What they stole from me, I would steal 100 fold in my lifetime. But I would be clever!

Now I’m in the same prison as Barrabas, that infamous murderer and I feel as poisoned as he in my heart.

Am I bitter? Heck, yes! Now I’ve been betrayed by the ones who supposedly are closest to God! I’ve been sold out in exchange for what? For what?

My every waking thought is murder, darkness, destruction, hatred, bitterness, envy, and pride…and severe regret. No, I’m not innocent. But death? Crucifixion?

Tomorrow I’ll carry my cross. Tomorrow  I will die alone. Not even God is going to look my direction. I’m a lying, murdering thief. I know it now, and it’s too late.

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We Want a King Pt.4

Part 4 of a short story for Holy Week

I’m an idiot! I should have known better!

Passover is happening in the city this week. Pilgrims from all over are gathering here in Jerusalem to celebrate with family and loved ones. The town is inundated with tourists, and every market buzzing with the fresh clientel. Of course a person in my line of work gets a little excited. In large groups you can do a little pushing and shoving, and lifting of belongings without much notice.

Of course the Roman government would “up” their security measures during this holiday. He must have been a new guard on the policing force because he was cocky, and I didn’t recognize him. At least I hadn’t seen him before. But he saw me. I was helping an older gentleman “offload” his cart in the market place. I helped him offload a few of his coins too when his back was turned. Petty theft, I was sure. But this guy blew it all out of proportion! I’ve been arrested!

I thought that Caiaphas, the High Priest, should be able to get me out of this. I’ve done a few jobs for him, and surely he needs my help if he is going to successfully get rid of that Jesus character. But I should have known that Pharisees have no loyalties. Instead of coming to my defense, Caiaphas sent false witnesses to my jail cell who have now blown my cover and exposed me as a criminal. Why would he do this to me? Instead of standing trial for petty theft, I am now going to stand trial for all of my crimes! What is happening to me? How did I become so disposable?

I’ve always had an alibi! I’ve done so much good for the Jewish rebellion. It can’t be ending like this for me. I know the penalty for thieves like me…

To add insult to injury, the only topic I hear talked about in this prison cell is that man Jesus. Some have said he is a miracle worker who has come from God Himself. The stories they are telling are extravagant. There’s no way that so many miracles could be attributed to one guy. I saw the man. He was riding on a donkey! There was nothing powerful about him. He gets his influence from the stupidity of people. That’s all.

This is madness! I’ve got to get out of here!

 

 

We Want a King Pt.3

Part 3 of a short story for Holy Week

National pride is a beautiful thing. Especially when you know what you could be as a country, or what you used to be. It’s the stuff post cards are made of, and wall calendars that hang in our homes.  Our balladeers sing the songs of the glory days, and we listen with longing. This is where we freedom fighters draw our inspiration. We’ve got to get our country back!

Okay, I’ll be honest. I started out a Freedom Fighter, but I got a little jaded, and maybe a little greedy. When you start showing some initiative to make changes, some of the most interesting people come out of the woodwork. Cash starts exchanging hands for “secret operations,” and I’m talking BIG cash! That’s when I learned about the how deep the treasury is with the religious ruling class. Oh, they’ll pay alright, but their “jobs” are some of the most devious. But hey, for the right price, I can be devious!

You know, when you’ve got nothing to live for, you can be bought for the right price. Some people call it “selling your soul”, I just call it making a living. Everyone knows outside of a miracle, there just isn’t any future here. I hate to have to live like a thief, (sort of), but a man has to make a buck. Heck, I’ve got nothing but what I aquired with my own hands–legally or not, and I’m sure not giving it up for some big government. I’m not going to be their slave! No, I’ll be a thief before I’ll be a slave!

Judas Iscariot, was one of those guys who joined the rebellion early on, but then he just seemed to disappear. I found out recently that he has been hanging out with that Jesus guy, and I thought, “That’s interesting! What the heck is Judas doing? “True, I’ve never seen a homeless man with as much influence as Jesus, and He does have quite a big following these days, especially now that the Jewish community wants to make him king! Then I learned Judas was the treasurer for that entire band of men who followed Jesus! “That Rascal! I should have become better friends with that guy!”

Jesus….He’s aquiring quite a following, but He is political suicide! Judas better play his hand well, because I don’t think that Jesus will be around much longer if you know what I mean. Judas picked a loser, but he may still make a buck yet.

You got to hand it to people like Judas and me. We found a way to provide for ourselves while sticking it to the man! We are inside saboteurs! You’ll probably read about our names in history some day. We are a different kind of “war hero.”

 

 

We Want a King Pt. 2

Part 2 of a short story series for Holy Week.

What I love about political turmoil, is that you can take advantage of the fears of people. I mean, when people are insecure about their futures, you can make them any kind of promise, and they will latch on to it. The promise becomes a distraction of sorts, because while people have their hopes set on the promise, you can steal their rights out from under them. Yes, political turmoil contains just the right conditions for thieves. That’s why I got in the business.

Dominating powers pay well to have their agendas pushed. I am fortunate to work for the ruling religious class of my day. I wouldn’t call myself religious, but I’ll fake it for the cash. Pharisees are pretty eager to spend their fortunes if it means buying themselves position, and as a thief I’m pretty apt to accept their deals.

It’s just too easy, I mean really! Take for instance the political rally yesterday when that guy Jesus came riding through town on a donkey. The crowd went wild! They were shouting and dancing, waving palm branches, and making such fools of themselves falling all over this guy, that they weren’t minding their wallets, their children, or their houses back home. Well, I wasn’t exactly “on the time clock” yesterday, but, come on, it was too much of a temptation not to pass up. I stole some things. Okay, I stole a lot of things…for myself. Every good thief needs to be tipped once in a while.

I don’t know what people see in this Jesus guy. I’ve heard that he supports paying taxes to Caesar. Not only that, when corporal punishment was due for an adulteress caught in the act, (a scenario I helped set up with the Pharisees for a handsome sum), Jesus refused to stone her, and somehow pursuaded the others with rocks in their hands to put them down and walk away. Absurd! This is who they want for king?

I usually keep my political views to myself, so forgive me, but there are lots of things about this guy that just don’t add up. However, I’ve heard some of my bosses talking about getting rid of Jesus…now that’s a paycheck that might add up just right. Who cares about politics when cash is being doled out, right?

Hosanna!

In dedication to Lorraine Williams, I reflect on a blog I originally published in 2011. Updated now…

I had had been reflecting on the Easter season when my kids and I had read through the book of John, we came to the chapter about the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.  Often in our churches, Palm Sunday will be marked by children walking into the sanctuary waving palm branches and shouting out what the people of Jerusalem did, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”   Palm Sunday is a cheery, celebratory day and we revel in the history and joy of Jesus’ entry,  but how did the same cheering crowd praise Jesus one day and crucify him on another?

Several years ago a dear friend of mine began a battle with breast cancer.  She is a pastor’s wife and a woman of great faith, so she began this fight with much optimism.  Her life was on display, and her community was ready to witness a miracle in her life as we expected God to do a miraculous healing.  Many weeks passed, many prayer vigils held, many prayer chains contacted, and many encouraging words spoken, but the healing did not come.  She stood on God’s promises of healing and quoted the scriptures that declare that He is a healer, but still the cancer prevailed.  The tumor was growing and she had decisions that had to be made quickly.

I remember her sharing with me that late into her cancer, at one doctor’s appointment, a nurse began sharing with her that there was a “Spiritual Healer” in town who lived not far from her.  The man was a Shaman who used incantations and different concoctions to cure his patients.  Many from our town had used his services and were cured, and my friend would have been a perfect candidate for his help.  With quiet resolve, my friend declined the invitation to put her hope in a Shaman and journeyed home with the cancer still present in her body and questions in her mind.

What do you do when the Jesus you are expecting isn’t the Jesus who shows up in your life?  When you are expecting a King to come and overthrow the Roman government, set you free from tyranny, and bring governmental peace decides instead to be crucified and taken from the political scene you are living in?  What do you do when God the Healer decides instead to walk you through your pain rather than deliver you from it?  What do you do with this Jesus?

We all face this dilemma.  We love God, worship Him whole-heartedly, and celebrate Him on Sunday morning, but on Tuesday when our child is incurably ill, or our cancer is still growing, or we lose our job, home, or spouse we begin to doubt and wonder–  “Is there possibly another solution?  God doesn’t seem to be coming through for me.  Should I look for another Savior?”

Jesus looked pretty legitimate riding in on that donkey.  After all He was fulfilling the scriptures prophesied hundreds of years before in Zechariah 9:9.  The people also shouted something they had rehearsed from scripture in Psalm 118:25-26.  They were ready for His arrival!  They recognized the King in the parade.  He wasn’t as recognizable, however,  when He was silent before His accusers.

When we can’t “see” Him in our circumstances, when we don’t recognize His presence in our pain we begin to doubt and look for another Savior. We can be quick to crucify or abandon our Help when it doesn’t come in our time-table dressed the way we are expecting it.

In his book “The Mystery of the Cross”, Alister McGrath, professor of theology, ministry and education in King’s College, London said: “Just as God has humbled himself in making himself known ‘in the humility and shame of the cross,’ we must humble ourselves if we are to encounter him.  We must humble ourselves by being prepared to be told where to look to find God, rather than trusting in our own insights and speculative abilities. In effect, we are forced to turn our eyes from contemplation of where we would like to see God revealed, and to turn them instead upon a place which is not of our choosing, but which is given to us.”

My friend scheduled the surgery she wanted to avoid, and had the mastectomy.  She grieved her losses, embraced the pain and embraced her Savior even tighter.  She learned to trust God in the dark and walked with Him in the light. She would tell you that cancer taught her more about the love and grace of God than any other experience.  She found her Savior.  He was there in the suffering– promising to never leave her.

Today I will celebrate the life of that dear friend, as she has gone home to be with Jesus–the One she put her trust in. I will celebrate the battle she won in faithfulness and perseverance. I will joy in the fact that she positioned her life to “see” her Savior even when she could have kept her eyes solely on her pain. Even in the face of cancer, she was able to say “Blessed is HE who comes in the name of the Lord.”

I am forever grateful for her faithfulness, and for who she was to me and this community. She is deeply missed.

Dedicated to Lorraine Williams (1959-2018)

When we wanted a King, God sent a baby.  When we wanted revolution, God sent a Redeemer.  When we wanted freedom, God sent a cross.