And The Rest Becomes History
Disclaimer: The story is a work of the writer’s overactive imagination. Liberties were taken. However the writer assures you that it was done with empathy and reflection and definitely without malice. The writer begs that the story be read with the due consideration.
A shudder went through Barabbas as the scene of crucifixion played out in his mind. After his release, he had gone to the Golgotha hill to witness it. A curious one that he was, he wanted to know from what agony he had been saved.
And agony it was! Even to watch…
Each hit on the nail, each groan that escaped the parched lips kept reverberating through his agitated soul.
While still in prison, he had heard from his fellow prisoners the spectacular ways of crucifixion. The Romans had no heart or mercy, they said.
‘A seven-inch nail is bored into the nerve tactfully, paralyzing the arms as the blood drained from the wounds. Then, with the weight of the body pulling down, each breath became a beg for death and it came hours, sometimes, days later.’, a very enthusiastic prisoner had explained it to Barabbas, who was to be crucified soon.
Then, Fear had rattled Barabbas. He had been revolting against the Roman authorities, and in an insignificant scuffle, had killed a Roman officer. Not to be seen as the pliant ones, the Romans had sentenced him to be crucified on the hills of Golgotha during the Passover feast.
But he had been spared, saved, let go when he had won in a game of choice.
For three days then, he spent his ‘saved life’ in the taverns and in the company of wine and women. Then on a Sunday, he awoke to the news of a miracle or a theft, whichever way that could be presumed. The body that had suffered on his behalf, that ephemeral skin that covered the rich soul, was missing from its place.
Barabbas did not join the crowd that ran towards the empty tomb to witness the miracle. He, instead, found himself in the taverns again.
While drinking, he was joined by a couple of citizens who were in full zeal, having just returned from the miracle site.
‘Empty! The tomb had no traces of the body. It was as if he had never been nailed to the Cross, never suffered and never died’, one said, flushed with excitement. ‘And the shroud that clothed him, still smelling of the perfumed oil.’ he shook his head in disbelief.
The second one did not want to be outdone.
‘I saw him rise’ he declared with an air of self-importance.
At this point even the stoic Barabbas was stunned.
Was that possible?
To rise from the dead? he thought. Maybe, the citizen was lying.
A sense of guilt was what had driven him to the taverns, on that fateful Friday after witnessing the crucifixion. Now, with the news of the missing body and the miracle, he did not want to bargain for more. He got up and moved to the far end of the tavern where there was less light.
‘What’s troubling you? asked a voice.
He was startled to find himself in the company of a man. He thought he was alone. The man had been sitting in the shadows.
‘Er..the men….their belief in miracles…..I cannot stand it’, he was surprised that he was talking but did not stop.
‘Do you not believe in miracles?’, the voice asked.
Barabbas faltered before continuing, ‘I murdered a man. Though my enemy, I made his wife a widow, his children, fatherless and here I am alive. My pitiable life was saved, in exchange for a greater soul, a soul that knew no violence.’
His voice quivered while continuing, ‘When in prison, I was ordered to make my own cross. The Romans are crafty torturers, indeed.’ He chuckled and continued.
‘While at it, a few splinters had pricked my skin, foretelling the agony I might feel later. The nails I drove into the woods reminded me of those that would bore my flesh when I was to be crucified. It was torture, just to imagine the pain ’.
Barabbas sighed, ‘Yet, I am here and another suffered for me. Where is the justice in that? I had lied, stole and even killed. Why save me? Why?’
The shadow spoke.
‘You are saved for a better purpose, Barabbas. You would be the symbol of salvation and deliverance’.
Barabbas, as restless and confused as he was, could not resist listening to the hypnotic voice.
Was he imagining the conversation?
Was his drunken mind hallucinating?
He was not sure. But he now knew he was saved to serve his people. He knew he had to continue to fight, fight against the oppression of his people, fight against Romans. Yes, he would fight.
He fought on the Lord’s side, he fought with His name on the lips and died very much later while trying to win that Promised Land.
The Trial-Pontius Pilate-Before
The searing pain almost blinded Pontius.
‘The migraines will do me in. They swoop in and stay on your head, potions and herbs made ineffective in their monstrous presence’ Pilate lamented to his wife, Procula, as she handed over a vial of dark liquid to him.
‘My dear sir, my dream…’ she hesitated, ‘It was very ominous. I don’t want your hands wet with an innocent man’s blood.’ she pleaded.
The red shot eyes looked at her in disdain and he cried to himself.
‘Oh! That clever, clever Herod Antipas!’
Seeing his wife shaken, he smoothened his voice, ‘Be a dear and hand me my medicine. If I could deal with this wretched migraine now, the other nuisances could be settled in time’.
Meanwhile, a legionnaire announced that the court was ready to receive the Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
As usual, the court had assembled at dawn, the sun lazily lighting up Jerusalem
When Pontius sat to preside the court, he observed, between two needlessly towering soldiers, a man in a dirty chiton. The man was as worn out as his dress and a few bruises on his face showed that he was handled with irreverence.
‘You have been accused of high treason, an offense punishable by crucifixion. What have you got to say?’, Pontius winced at every word as it was announced.
‘Our dear Governor must rest. He is suffering’, was all that the man in the dirty chiton said, with no regard to the seditious allegation leveled against him.
There were murmurs and commotion among the members of the Sanhedrin.
Even as the order was being brought about, Pontius felt a deafening light stun him and the ground beneath him sink. He faded to faint, all the while trying to get a better glimpse at the famous accused.
Later in the day, while his head was swathed in cold compresses, Pontius’ thoughts spun around those who would want his name to be embroiled in the case.
Herod, the ruler of Galilee, where the famous accused had carried out most of his ‘seditious’ activities, had no great liking for Pontius. He would want to see Pontius fall scandalously. Herod knew that the accused would visit Jerusalem in the district of Judea, during Passover feast. He was aware that it might lead to a riot and yet he refused to stop the accused from traveling. He wanted to place Pontius exactly in that predicament.
Pontius governed Judea with the help of the moneyed Jews of the place who were convinced that the accused was a threat to their religious authority. The man, who was called a Messiah by the common people, would instigate a revolt against the Heads of the Temple of Jerusalem, they felt. They would want him to be done with as early as possible, without estranging the citizens.
Herod volleyed his responsibility to Pontius.
The elite Jews wanted the accused dead.
Pontius was no stranger to the art of tyranny. His iron hands had seen more than its share of carnage. But he hesitated now and not just because the accused was innocent as his spies had confirmed twice to him. His instincts told him that he would die in infamy if the accused was punished. His quandary increased with his wife’s appeal to have nothing to do with the innocent man’s blood.
As a last effort, he had a plan.
Tomorrow was the beginning of the Passover feast and keeping in the tradition of Paschal Pardon, a Jew in a death row would be released as a mark of good will.
Pontius tried to make use of the opportunity to secure the release of the innocent man. To make the choice easier, he had chosen Barabbas, a notorious murderer, and rioter, as the other option. The gravity of the crimes involved might tip the balance in favour of the innocent.
He had called in the Head of the Sanhedrin regarding this, who was expected any minute.
A soft knock later, Kaifa entered.
‘Have you decided whom the public would set free tomorrow?’, Pontius asked artfully, for he knew, the Head had a hand in fabricating the crowd before whom the plea of release was to be presented.
‘The crowd will choose Barabbas, Hegemon.’, Kaifa’s firm reply evoked a fake stun from the Pontius.
The Sanhedrin would cleverly use this opportunity to do away with the detractor and blame it on the ruling Roman.
‘Oh, Our names will be sullied with his flesh and blood’ Pontious shook his head.
‘Are these words coming from the same Roman Governor who had on many occasions, ordered the soldiers to club the protesters to death?’ Kaifa laughed and added, ‘I reckon one more death won’t do any harm’
Sneering, The Head of Sanhedrin said, ‘The power is ours to take as many lives as we want to keep up the laws of the district’.
Thus the noncommittal Roman Governor and the determined Religious Head of the Jews parted ways.
Pontius prayed and wished that the death of the man in the dirty chiton would be another insignificant one that usually occurred in Judea.
Crucifixion- Yeshua Ha Nozri- During
I was Yeshua Ha Nozri and I realized very early that being poor was a sin, a greater curse was being poor and being born out of wedlock as I was.
Now I was in the prison cells in Jerusalem, from where I would be taken to be crucified tomorrow.
What a dramatic end to an ordinary life lived!
I wished I were killed when Herod had ordered the strangling of all the babies in the town of Bethlehem, when I was born. It would have been an easier way out. I wondered why I had to live, only to die in agony 30 and odd years later.
Born to an unwed mother and a poor father, kids of my age were warned to stay away with me. On my own most of the time, I would spend it contemplating matters that were beyond my comprehension. I was, at many times, found with the scrolls that I taught myself to read, for I had no friends.
As I grew, I often wandered in the temples, where the elders discussed knowledgeable words. They did not pay attention to me as I sat listening to them, imbibing their wisdom.
I seldom spoke and when I did, it did not augur well.
One day an insolent boy kept pestering me for entertainment.
I said, ‘You shall stop now’, with force. I was surprised when the boy fainted as if on my orders.
It was a very hot afternoon and it could have been dehydration. But alas! I was blamed for willing it to happen.
A few more of such and I gained unenviable popularity for prophetical words. To my astonishment, I even had followers.
I spoke less and less every day and each of my words was given a needless twist.
For instance, I was invited to a marriage at Cana. Unbeknown to the head of the house, the wine keeper diluted the drink given out to the guests. When I noticed that, I informed the host that he was served ‘wine that was actually water’. The host immediately dealt with the situation and hailed me for my truthfulness. In a lighter vein, he called me the man who turned ‘water into wine’.
Why was I rambling, you ask?
Maybe it was the fear of the impending death.
Maybe if not for the above incidents,
for being wiser,
for being termed prophetic,
for being truthful, I would not be in the death row today.
Can I blame it all on circumstances?
No, of course not! Some were my own doing.
My interest in physiology made me arrive at good remedies. A muscular degeneration needed just a few therapeutic stretching; a bent back was more psychological than physical. When I worked on them, people called me a miracle healer who cured by touch. Any explanation of science and medicine fell into deaf ears.
The oppressed crowd wanted a Messiah; they fashioned one out of me.
The more they saw a rebel in me, the more I fancied myself to be one.
I worked on Sabbath infuriating the religious leaders. I challenged their debauchery and greed. I spoke for the meek, buttressed by my most faithful followers, 10 and odd.
Alas, that would be my undoing. My faithfuls!
Yesterday, when I entered the gates of Jerusalem, one of my followers hailed me as the saviour of the downtrodden and the waiting crowd erupted with charged emotions. The times were such that this alone could warrant my arrest for instigating the people. The politically simmering unrest in the city was waiting for an opportunity to flow over and there I was stoking the fire with my mere presence.
After a long day of speeches and a quiet dinner with my followers, I was about to retire when I was arrested.
It was rumored that I was betrayed by one of my followers who kissed me. However, I was there for all to see. There was no necessity for betrayal. Just like the crowd needed a Messiah to save them, they needed a betrayer to give face to their hate. And one of my faithful became just that, a betrayer, out of wanting for one.
There I was, at a time and a place, I should have not been, uttering those words that I should rather not, deluding myself into believing that I could bring about a change in the world.
The Choice – Now
The sun is beating down on Jerusalem with fierceness and yet it is not even noon.
The Palace of the Roman Governor stands facing the behemoth, the intimidating Temple of Jerusalem. They, the edifices, stare at each other with vehemence and distrust, the seat of the ruling Romans and the house of the Religious head of Jews. In a play of power between the Romans and the elite Jews, one man is to die a very important death.
Millenniums later, each will blame the other for connivance, betrayal, and greed. Genocide will happen, quoting the misunderstood scriptures relating to events that are going to take place. But, now, at this single point of time, it is just another Friday during the feast of Passover.
The quadrangle is menacingly full of people, brimming at the edges, and flowing into the wide feeding roads.
There are people who visit the Temple during the feast of Passover, people who make use of the occasion to augment their business and people who have come in support of a man called Messiah.
Three men will face each other for the first time today.
Three men whose fate will be changed forever, three men who will change fate forever.
Barabbas, Pontius Pilate, and Yeshua Ha Nozri
Standing on the edge of the large balcony, holding on to its Parapet wall, Pontius scans the swelling crowd.
The taut situation was palpable. There is a crowd standing just below the balcony, distinctly different from the rest of it. There is a large flock, standing at the far end of the quad, being ruthlessly contained by the soldiers. In between them, it is business as usual, people buying the wares, going to the temple so on and so forth.
He turns to look at the two convicts, Barabbas and Yeshua, standing behind him.
Thus, their eyes meet.
One pair of eyes pleads Pontius, to be spared of agony.
One pair of eyes apologizes to Yeshua, hesitently asking to be to be forgiven for the sin about to be committed.
Yeshua’s eyes smile at both, a very resigned smile.
Turning to the crowd, Pontius clears his throat and with a commanding raise of the hand, brings some order.
Pontius addresses the crowd, ‘As the custom on the feast of Passover, you have the power to choose the release of one of the convicts.
Whom do you choose?
Barabbas or Yeshua?
Without turning back, he extends his arms to indicate each of the prisoners.
‘We want Barabbas.’ a disturbed roar comes from the front lines of the crowd.
The far end of the crowd, too far to hear, too far away from their Messiah, can hardly decipher what’s going on. They have been, indeed, effectively cordoned off.
‘Then, What shall I do with the other?’ He asks the crowd.
‘Let him be crucified’, comes the practiced reply.
‘I find no crime deserving death committed by him’, Pontius tries vainly to absolve himself of the act.
‘Away with him! Crucify him!’, the same reply from the manipulated crowd.
Pontius realizes he is not gaining any support from the crowd below him. They are rather getting restless and riot seems to be imminent. He has to resolve the situation before it triggers any unfortunate events.
Pontius asks for a jar of water and being promptly given, he washes his hands before the crowd in a great display of animation.
‘I am innocent of this man’s blood’ he says.
Barabbas is freed.
Yeshuva is lead to the Golgotha hills to be crucified.
And the rest becomes history……
Paschal Pardon –The tradition of pardoning a convict during the feast of Passover
Sanhedrin –An assembly of religious Judges, consisting of Rabbis, in the ancient land of Israel.