[Based upon Chapters 13-18 of GLORY REVEALED: Sisters of Lazarus, Book 2]
From “Glory Revealed” Chapter 18
*Intro to the story: Jesus ben Joseph has been arrested. Throughout the night, He was questioned by Annas, tried before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin—a trial which broke multiple Jewish laws—taken to Pilate, then the Herod and back to Pilate. He was slapped, beaten, ridiculed and endured the Roman flogging, a punishment that had no limit on the number of lashes of the flagrum taxillatum, a whip that had pellets, bones, or metal tied along each strand and a hook at the end. Pilate has brought the Teacher, beaten and bloodied, back to the waiting crowd in the courtyard of the Antonia Fortress.
They turned back as Pilate extended a hand towards Jesus. “Behold the man! I have brought him out to you, so that you may all know that I find no fault in him.”
“No!” Caiaphas yelled.
“Crucify him!” Annas’ scream echoed by Joktan, “Crucify him!”
“No!” Pilate shook his head. “He has done nothing worthy of death!”
“According to our law, He should die,” Annas shouted, “because he claims to be the Son of Yahweh!”
Abel saw Pilate startle at Rabbi Annas’ accusation. The Governor lifted a hand to silence the crowd. “What did you say?” Pilate asked the elderly rabbi.
“I said,” Annas replied, “this man claimed to be the Son of Yahweh!”
The Governor’s eyes widened as he turned to stare at the Nazarene. He turned back to the elderly priest. “You told me that he claimed to be your Messiah. You said nothing of him claiming to be the son of your god.”
“Why should I think that would matter to you?” Annas replied.
Pilate looked from Annas to the centurion, “Bring the prisoner,” and turned to enter the praetorium once again, the scribe following. The centurion crooked his finger to the soldiers holding Jesus up before following Pilate into the darkened corridor.
Abel didn’t need to glance at his father to know he was expected to go. Pilate had gone only far enough into the corridor to be out of the sight of the courtyard. He was talking to the centurion. The other two soldiers continued holding Jesus by the forearms. From the way the prisoner slumped, he would have crumpled to the floor if not for the soldiers’ grasp.
As Abel reached them, Pilate turned to him. “Abel ben Joktan, I know little about your religion. Tell me; has your god ever taken on human form?”
Abel’s eyebrows shot upward. “What?”
“Rome has many gods and goddesses,” the Governor glanced over his shoulder at the prisoner and lowered his voice, “and some have been known to take on human form and walk among humans.”
“How dare you suggest such a thing!” Abel spat. He was surprised at his own vehemence, but he did not stop. “Our Yahweh is not like your pagan gods!”
Pilate glanced at Jesus ben Joseph again and then turned to the centurion. “Maximus, what do you think?”
“I am a soldier,” the centurion replied. “I offer sacrifices to Mars, the god of war, on his feast days. Beyond that, I do not concern myself with the gods and goddesses, whatever form they take.”
Despite the centurion’s brave words, Abel noticed that he, too, slanted his eyes towards the Nazarene. He’s frightened, Abel realized. He knows that he was responsible for allowing his men to beat Jesus ben Joseph.
Pilate followed the soldier’s glance and then looked back at Abel. “What if this man really is the Son of your Yahweh, but in human form?” He studied the floor for a moment before shaking his head. “No. I won’t be responsible for the blood of a god.” He turned to walk over to the Nazarene. “Annas ben Seth said to you claim to be…” he licked his lips, “the Son of Yahweh?”
Abel noted that the Governor’s tone was diffident and cautious. He truly believes this man might be a god.
Jesus said nothing, but stood with his eyes closed. Pilate flicked a glance at Maximus and
then back to the prisoner. He took a deep breath.
“Where are you from?”
The Governor frowned. “Why don’t you say anything? Don’t you know that I have the power to release you and the power to crucify you?”
Jesus ben Joseph opened his eyes and looked at the Roman. He filled his lungs with a ragged breath. “You have no power over me,” although he spoke softly—painfully—his voice echoed in the stone corridor, “that was not given to you from above. For this reason, he who brought me to you,” he looked at Abel and then back at Pilate, “is guilty of greater sin.”
Abel stepped back as if the Nazarene had broken his chains and attacked him. Are you saying that I am guilty? How dare you! I never had any choice; my father made me go to Judas. He made me follow you in the crowds, question you, help arrange your arrest. My father made me lie about you. Now I am guilty of a greater sin? How dare you!
Pilate studied the prisoner for a second longer before turning to his scribe. “Arrange for a bowl of water.” He looked at the soldiers. “Bring him.”
The scribe scurried away while the soldiers with Jesus followed Pilate and the centurion back to the platform.
Abel, only steps behind them, found his spot on the platform. He kept his gaze on Pilate to avoid looking where his father, Rabbi Caiaphas and Rabbi Annas stood.
The Roman governor crossed to the edge of the platform. “I have examined this…man,” he swallowed, “and to appease your desire for his blood, I had him flogged. I will release him as I find no basis for a charge against him.”
“No!” The crowd surrounding the Chief Priest screamed. “Death!”
“Yes!” Michael tried to out-scream the crowd. “Release him!”
“Kill him!” Caiaphas yelled.
“Crucify him!” Joktan shrieked.
Pilate raised his hands to silence the crowd. “He has done nothing wrong!”
“If you release this man,” Annas said, “you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
Abel watched as the crowd erupted again, screaming for Jesus’ blood and repeating Annas’ words. It didn’t take one skilled in the art of subtly to recognize the veiled threat in the rabbi’s statement. Unless Pilate killed Jesus, Annas would see that word reached Tiberius that Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea, Samaria and Idumea, had released a man who was plotting to overthrow the Emperor.
Looking at Pilate, Abel saw that the Governor understood Annas’ warning.
Turning, the Roman crossed to the center of the platform and sat down upon the bema. He extended his hand towards Jesus ben Joseph. “Behold!” he said, “Here is your king.”
“No!” Caiaphas screamed. “He is not my king!”
“Away with him!” Joktan shrieked. “Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“He is not our king,” Annas said. “We have no king but Caesar.”
The cacophony of the crowd continued to rise. The centurion stepped to the edge of the platform, directing his men in trying to control the crowd.
The scribe, followed by a servant carrying a towel and a large bowl, stepped out of the corridor. The scribe directed the servant to the Governor’s side.
The High Priest lifted his hands to silence the crowd and then turned to watch.
Pontius Pilate dipped his hands into the bowl and brought them up, dripping with water. He rubbed his hands together and dipped them back into the bowl. “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility.”
Abel bit back a gasp. Pilate told me that he wasn’t familiar with our religion, yet he is using the law concerning innocent blood! According to the Law, if someone was found murdered, the man who owned the land was to offer a sacrifice and wash his hands over the sacrifice, while declaring, “Our hands did not shed this blood.”
The crowd understood the Governor’s reference. “Let his blood be on us,” they screamed, “and on our children.”
Taking the towel from the servant, Pilate dried his hands. He turned to face the courtyard. “Centurion; release Jesus Barabbas,” his voice carried over the crowd, “and crucify Jesus ben Joseph.”
“Noooo!” A scream echoed around the walls of the fortress.
Michael turned to see the Teacher’s mother at the back of the courtyard, falling to her knees. Standing next to her was Mary.
“No!” the older woman screamed again. “You cannot! You cannot!” Grabbing the neck of her tunic, she pulled, ripping the cloth. “My son! My Son!”
Michael ran to the back of the courtyard, his father and Rabbi Joseph moments behind him.
Mary had dropped to her knees next to the Teacher’s mother and was cradling the woman’s head against her shoulder as if she were a child and not nearly three decades older.
“Shhhh,” she crooned. “Don’t cry. Something can be done.” She looked up at Michael, lifting an eyebrow in a pleading question.
Michael didn’t even look to his father for an answer; Pontius Pilate’s pronouncement of judgement doused any flames of hope for Jesus. He shook his head.
Tears drenched Mary’s amber eyes and trembled on her long lashes. She dropped her head on Mary bat Eli’s shoulder and began sobbing.
The sound of the two women’s grief left his throat constricted and his chest aching. He ran his hands over his head covering and looked upward, his mouth stretched in a silent scream. Yahweh! Help us! Help Jesus! Help me! This was the first time Mary asked me to do something and I have failed her!
There’s an old hymn—written in 1897–that encourages us to, “Count your many blessings and see what God has done.”
I’m sure that Mary, Martha and Lazarus, along with all those who loved Jesus, did not look upon that moment as a blessing. I’m certain they were horrified that—despite everything they had done—they could not save Jesus. He would be crucified.
I’m sure they asked, “Why would Yahweh allow this to happen?”
We can look back from the comfort of two thousand years and know that all of this was in God’s plans from the creation of the world. We are thankful, knowing it was necessary for our sins to be covered, our redemption to be paid for, and our relationship with God to be restored. We can smile, knowing that in three days, Jesus’ enemies—Satan and his demons—would be disappointed and Jesus’ friends would rejoice.
Yes, what Jesus went through—God saying, “No,” to their prayers—was for the greatest blessing of all eternity. It just didn’t look like it at the time.
Knowing all of this, why then do I question God when bad things happen to me? When my husband Mike and I went through seven years of infertility testing, desperately wanting a baby? When God didn’t answer our prayers and give Mike a job so we could stay in Texas? When my prayers for healing went unanswered and I was hospitalized with double pneumonia?
I can look back on those situations now and see the blessing, I can see God’s hand.
I share with others of the miracle that, despite being medically infertile, God blessed us with five children within five years.
I tell people that if God had answered my prayers the way I wanted them, we’d still be in Lubbock. We wouldn’t have moved to Tennessee. Our children wouldn’t have met their spouses; they wouldn’t have had our precious grandchildren. Mike would still be working in a corporate job instead of us both earning our living as professional writers, novelists, playwrights, and actors.
Having double pneumonia was the sickest I had ever been. Yet, while I was laying in my hospital bed, I felt the Lord’s presence all around me. He used kind and skillful health care professionals to treat me. He opened my eyes to poor lifestyle choices I had made and gave me the strength to make wise changes. The years since that time have been the healthiest of my adult life.
These are only three instances from my life. There are many other stories I can point to from my past and say, “Look; there is the hand of God.” I’m sure you have these stories as well; stories of healings, stories of provision, stories of guidance, stories of reconciliations and restorations.
So, how do we deal with challenges, with trials, with unanswered prayers? Remember God’s promise in Romans 8:28-39:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified,
He also glorified.
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all–how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God Who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, Who died–more than that, Who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Pray with me?
Father God, thank You for the hard times. Thank You for what appears insurmountable. Thank You that when I am weak, You are strong. Thank You that, through Jesus, we are more than conquerors and that nothing can separate us from Your love. Thank You for the world’s greatest-tragedy-turned-into-the-world’s-greatest-blessing; the sacrifice, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Laura Story: “Blessings”