11—THIRTY-THREE YEARS LATER
- Capernaum, Province of Galilee, Palestine
The day will dawn in unbelievable mourning. It will end in unimaginable adulation. It will dawn in a valley and end on a mountain top.
Today is the memorial service for Jesus. His body is missing, so they cannot have an actual funeral. This will have to do. They need to say goodbye to him. How they miss him.
Everyone has heard rumors he returned to life, but most do not believe it. They will.
Gradually people make their way toward the assembly area. It is a grassy meadow with the backdrop of a high cliff. The service will be led from the top of the cliff. Eulogies will be given also from there.
More and more people on the highway arrive at the hill. More and more blankets and mats being brought out from animal packs and packs carried on heads and backs. More and more crooked rows form in front of the designated area.
People talk among themselves quietly. Sometimes a surge of conversation as people spot friends in the crowd. They explain why they have come, creating their own private mini-memorial service between them. Then they sit back down and wait amidst respectful whispering.
Some do not talk at all. They are thinking. Some of the women are already bringing out handkerchiefs. How they miss Jesus. He was so kind to their families. So gentle.
The men, too sit in silence, sometimes an angry silence. They had been so sure he was the Deliverer. Now, all hope has died with him. All dreams of self-rule once more, and peace, and justice, and a land of the free. All evaporated like the snows of the previous winter.
Now what, God? What was it all for? How could we have been so wrong when he had seemed so right? God, why did you do this to us?
“Welcome, everyone, to the memorial service for Jesus our Holy Deliverer.” It is James calling out from the top of the cliff. He estimates there are roughly five hundred people assembled.
People discontinue private conversation.
“Because so many people have indicated a desire to deliver a eulogy, we will commence by allowing his twelve, er uh, eleven personal aides to speak first. Then some of his personal friends. Finally, the rest of you will be given an opportunity to say something. We will stay here all day if need be.
“But first of all, we need to start with a psalm—Oh Great Deliverer”.
A psalm leader walks forward and sings one line. The crowd echoes him. Then the next line and the next.
- Deliver my soul from death.
- My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
So many voices being raised to the skies above. Mournful voices. Disappointed voices. Forsaken voices.
- What can I give God for delivering me?
- My cup of deliverance…
Rapturous melody, although many do not know how to carry a tune. Blended voices, although many are softer or louder than those nearby. Angelic chords, although many know they do not sound or feel angelic.
- …and calling on his name…
In mid-verse the psalm halts.
Only a few stragglers sing from the back of the crowd. Startled at the sudden interruption, those on the top of the cliff stare at the audience. The audience does not stare back. They are all staring at a small isolated cliff just below the large one.
standing on top…
out of nowhere…
No, it cannot be!
Are you sure?
“It’s him!” comes an echo.
“Oh, God, it’s him! It’s really him. Thank you, God.”
The women’s tears suddenly turn to tears of unbelievable joy. The men feel goose bumps rising up their arms and backs.
Now there is no more singing.
No more announcing.
No more talking or whispering or praying. No one knows what to do except to stare.
Faded are all the musical tones.
Faded all the talking.
Faded all the doubts and misgivings and qualms.
They have become witnesses to the impossible.
It IS you!
It IS you!
Gradually the people fall prostrate on the stony wasteland. No dancing. No shouting for joy. No jumping up and down. But falling. Quietly falling to knees and more in the presence of divinity.
Silence. Holy silence that encircles the crowd of people who had dared to hope amidst their relentless doubt.
Though bowed in body, they do not bow their heads. They cannot take their eyes off him.
Is it okay, Jesus?
Wait! He’s saying something to the men above him on the large cliff. What is he saying?
A man at the top raises his arms, trying to gain everyone’s attention. It is hard to do.
People move from full-body prostration to their knees.
“Brothers, sisters, friends,” says Peter. “Jesus has just said he would like to meet each one of you.”
Laughter! Applause! Hallelujahs! Jesus was always like that, wanting to meet all his followers.
“Therefore, I would like to ask that everyone in the front row start making your way up here.”
Then, in the blink of an eye, Jesus disappears from the small isolated cliff, and appears on the large cliff above.
He turns and greets the people already on the upper cliff. One by one they walk up to him and say something briefly. The small group of men step aside.
An old man is led to Jesus.
“My name is Michel. I was one of the ambassadors who came so far from Parthia to find you and your star.”
Michel, the old Wise Man, looks into the eyes of the boy he had seen over thirty years earlier. The star child. The eternal one. They smile at each other.
“You’re the one who brought my parents the sweet-smelling frankincense.”
“Actually, that was Kumar. He is still alive, but his health is poor. He could not come.”
“Then, perhaps you were the one who brought the gold.”
“No, that was Yasib—he is dead now—and Dushatra who is over in northern Indus now.”
Jesus smiles. Michel knows what Jesus is doing, and likes it.
“I am the one who brought you the jar of anointing myrrh.”
“I played with the amethyst lid. It was my favorite lid.”
Michel grows serious. He stares into Jesus’ eyes again, bends his knees, and touches his forehead to the ground.
Jesus reaches down and helps Michel back up.
“Next?” they hear.
Jesus turns, now, and waits as Andrew escorts the second person in the audience to him. Another old man. He bows his head the best he can.
“Hello, Jesus. It’s been a long time. I never saw you grown up.” The old man bows his head and puts out a trembling hand with crooked fingers. Jesus takes them gently between his two hands. “My name is Benjamin. I lost track of Amos. Jesse died a few years back. We were the shepherds the angels appeared to when you were born. You sure were a tired little tyke that night. We always understood who you were, even though no one paid any attention to us. We knew. This is my wife, Eve, and my two sons and their wives.” Jesus smiles and gives them all a hug.
The couple bows low before Jesus. “It’s been three years, Jesus. But you performed your first miracle at our wedding. My name is Azriel and this is my wife Daniella. Remember? I am Nathaniel’s brother.” Jesus shakes hands with Azriel and gives a brief embrace to Daniella.
“Mother isn’t very well and couldn’t come over from Cana. She probably would have, had she known you’d be attending your own funeral, so to speak!”
The three laugh. “We’re going to have a baby next summer. Maybe we’ll name him after you. You made our wedding the talk of everyone, you know. The talk of the whole country, actually. We’re glad you’re back, Jesus.”
He bows low before Jesus. “We met personally twice, Jesus, but I doubt you remember me. It took three years for you to get your point across to me. Was I stubborn! I was one of the bankers at the temple who was exchanging people’s money into temple currency and robbing them in the process.
“You really sent us scrambling when you knocked over the tables of money. It wasn’t until you came back last month that I caught on. What you did, Jesus, letting them crucify you like that. I knew you let them. They couldn’t have done it without your permission. I knew that.” He and Jesus shake hands. Jesus is proud of him now.
He bows low before Jesus. A gentleman approaches wearing a priestly sash. “Jesus, I do not know what to say. All I know is that I helped embalm you. Now here you are. Do you remember me? I am Rabbi Nicodemus. This is my wife Naomah and my assistant Calev. And this is one of my students from the temple classes, Ovadia.
“I know, Jesus, exactly who you are. You are not just a prophet as everyone thought. You are The One. Somehow in a way I have not yet figured out, I know that you are God. I will remember this day forever.” Jesus offers to shake hands. Instead, the old rabbi kneels in worship.
She and her friends bow low before Jesus. “My name is Istar. We met at a well in Samaria three years ago. You convinced me you were the eternal water. Was that ever an understatement! I didn’t understand how, then, but I knew you knew all about me—my secrets, my past life with all my husbands, everything.
“And here are a few friends I brought with me. We brought a small caravan from Sychar. They’ll all introduce themselves to you. But, Jesus, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciated you talking to me that day. People used to be embarrassed to talk to me in public. Now they’re not. You saved my life.”
One by one Istar and twenty-two of her friends kneel and pay homage to Jesus, the Son of God.
The family bows low before Jesus. “Jesus, I want to thank you again for the honor you paid by appearing to my lady friends and me first so we wouldn’t worry about you.” Joanna turns and motions for a young teenage boy to stand in front of her. “This is my son, Asher. You remember he almost died, but you healed him. And you remember my husband, Chuza.” Jesus embraces both Joanna and her son.
“It’s an honor and privilege to stand here next to you, sir,” says the dignified Chuza standing behind Joanna. We’re not very popular, you know. But you were kind to our family. I always knew there was something different about you. A kind of nobility. Noble does not nearly describe you, Jesus. You are indeed the One the world should venerate.”
He bows low before Jesus. He rises, then this older man in the military uniform stands at attention, and salutes him. Jesus returns the salute.
“My name, sir, is Centurion Demetrius. This is my maid, Miriam, and her boy, Claudius. He and Asher are friends. You healed both boys. Your kind of power is such that no army in the world could ever defeat you. Jesus, I knew your power was directly from God. I respect you above all men in history. And there will never be another like you. I am most honored to be among those to see you today. I think you are a god on earth. No, I don’t believe that. I think you are God on earth for some reason.”
The old familiar couple bows their heads the best they can. “We wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Abel says walking forward slowly with his aged wife. Jesus looks at his long-time friends and gently hugs them, being careful not to squeeze too hard on frail bones.
“You have turned our lives upside down, Jesus. We hear our daughter and Peter are moving to Jerusalem soon. We probably won’t go. We’re a little old for that sort of thing.
“But, Jesus…” Tears come to the old man’s eyes. “Thank you for saving my precious Esther. Thank you for giving us some more years together. She’s my shining star.
“And, Jesus, we know who you are. Peter has convinced us. Although we have known you a lot of years, we now know who you really are. Somehow you are God. Well, give us a few more years and we’ll see you in heaven. Will you meet us at the gate?” Jesus nods and says he will be proud to.
He bows low before Jesus. “Hello, rabbi. You spent quite a bit of time on our boats in the early days. Man, those crowds nearly got out of control a few times. Teaching them from a boat was brilliant. But I don’t need to tell you that. You know everything.
“By the way, my name is Selig. Zebedee leased his fishing business to me when he got sick. His sons offered to sell the business to me now that Zebedee’s gone and they’re moving to Jerusalem. I guess I will.
“You know I put up a sign after you went to Jerusalem the last time. It says, ‘Jesus taught from these boats.’ You can control nature, can’t you? And not just wind and rain and fish. You can control everything, can’t you? Uh, by any chance, did you make everything?” Jesus nods affirmatively.
The elderly couple bows their heads the best they can. Simon the Revolutionary is with them. “Jesus, I’d like you to meet my parents, Hiram and Elissar Do you remember healing my mother when she was so sick?” Jesus shakes Hiram’s hand and gives Elissar a gentle hug.
“You really straightened that boy of ours out, Jesus,” Hiram says. “We couldn’t do anything with him. You turned that aggressiveness of his against the government into aggressiveness against Satan. That was a miracle if we ever saw one. Only God could have done that. We will always be grateful for what you did for our family. Thank you.”
Next? The couple bows low before Jesus. “Hello, Jesus. I don’t know if you remember us. My name is Asa and this is my wife, Dinah. Our marriage was headed for doom. But we kept going to synagogue because we didn’t know where else to go for help.”
Jesus shakes hands with the man. Instead, Asa grabs him and gives him a bear hug. Dinah joins them in a triangle of love.
“That demon anger in me—you cast him out,” Asa explains. “I could feel him inside of me fighting you. But you were so strong. I had no idea love was anything other than weak; it was getting so I thought hate was strongest. It was the other way around. Jesus, we tell people everywhere we go about you. Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”
The men bow low before Jesus, then walk forward. “Jesus, my name is Eitan This is my close friend Manoach. We live on the other side of the lake. We will always be grateful for what you did. There were thousands of demons in us trying to control us and drive us crazy. You were stronger than all of them put together.” Again, the two kneel before Jesus, the one they know firsthand has incredible powers over the unseen world.
The three bow low before Jesus. “You may not remember me, but my name is Moshe, this is my wife, Adina, this is Rabbi Hushi.” Jesus shakes hands with all of them.
“Jesus,” Moshe continues, “You healed me of leprosy. It was eating away at my body. I’d lost some of my fingers and toes. I could hardly walk, I was so weak. You gave me a new life, Jesus. I am so grateful for what you did. Because of you, I now believe you represent God on earth. Thank you.”
“And Jesus,” Rabbi Hushi continues, “I have told my colleagues about you. You are no charlatan. The leprosy was gone, the cysts were gone, the scar tissue gone, the hands and feet were whole again, even the bridge of his nose back instantly. There is no doubt in my mind you have control over nature.”
The couple bows low before Jesus. “My name is Nachum and this is my wife Dalit. I was part of a colony of lepers. Our whole group—all ten of us—went to your meeting at the town square. You healed us. I don’t know where the other nine disappeared to so fast. I just had to go back and thank you. You turned my life around.
“And now the God in you has brought you back to life. I never stop telling my people that you are not just the spirit of nature but that you created nature.” He kneels in homage. “Thank you.”
The four bow low before Jesus. “Jesus, you saved my life. Oh, I’m Barnabas, this is my wife Nava, and our two little boys.” Jesus leans over, picks up both children in his arms, and gives them each a kiss. Then he gives a hug to both parents. “Also, these are my friends Eli, Yigal, Tenchum, and Peretz. They’re the ones who got me through your roof when we couldn’t get in because of the crowd.” Jesus shakes hands with all four.
“I was paralyzed and half dead long before the accident,” Barnabas continues. “That accident made me realize how bad I had become. How could that family I killed ever forgive me? It ate away at me until I met you. You not only took away my paralysis, but you also forgave me and assured me that family, now safe in heaven, had forgiven me too. You are life, Jesus. I am convinced of that. Life now, and life forever.”
The three men bow low before Jesus. “Greetings, Jesus. I’m sure you don’t remember me. My name is Abihu, and these are my brothers, Beril and Nissim.” Jesus embraces them.
“I went to that healing service at the pool. The people who convinced themselves they weren’t sick anymore said it was because they dipped in the pool. But their sicknesses always came back. Then you showed up at the pool and performed the real thing on me. My shriveled legs grew back to normal. How can I thank you enough? I started telling people that those magic angel shows aren’t real; you are the only genuine one. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you very, very much.”
A man walks forward not very well dressed. But he is smiling. “Hello, Jesus. My name is Yoram. And this is the hand that was shriveled and that you made whole.” With this, the man offers Jesus his hand and they shake them vigorously.
“That synagogue wouldn’t allow anyone to be treated or even healed on their holy Sabbath Day. They didn’t want the likes of me dirtying up their place. Were the synagogue leaders mad at you that day. You brought life back into my hand, and now you have brought life back into your own body. God is somewhere in you, isn’t he? I’m proud to shake your hand once again, Jesus.”
The teenaged young man and an elderly woman bow low before Jesus. A group of teenagers stands behind them and bow too.
“Jesus, I am Miriam and this is my son, Jonathan. These are his friends. We brought a whole caravan.” With this, the young man and his mother once again bow low before Jesus. The group of teens with them kneel once again. Many of the girls are crying. Some of the boys are. Mariam is. Jesus smiles, then motions for them to stand.
“I will spend the rest of my life telling my friends you came back to life. I know. Because you brought me back to life.” Jonathan says no more, but grabs hold of Jesus, embracing him with a kind of mutual knowledge that they both have. They look into each other’s eyes.
Jesus embraces Miriam. Then he looks at the rest of the teens in the group and receives each one of them heartily. The girls cry with joy. They understand things the grown ups do not.
She bows low before Jesus. Kneeling, the beautiful woman looks up at him. “Jesus,” she whispers, “once more I kneel before you.” As she does, her tear drops fall to his feet. Then he remembers, draws her back up, and kisses her hand, just as he had done then. “I am Eliana. You forgave me for all the terrible things I had done with those men from the temple. I tell everyone that, if you can forgive me, you can forgive anyone. Jesus, I now have a real life. Thank you.”
The two men bow low before Jesus. “Jesus, how can we say thank you? You challenged the unseen world and won. We knew you did. Those diseases were in each of us limiting our abilities, just to prove they could. My name is Cherrad. You brought back my sight, hearing, and speech—a triple blessing my friends called it. And this is my friend, Rafoel. You brought back his speech. We have prepared something special for you.”
The two men pause, smile, then sing in perfect duet.
- Jesus is stronger than Satan’s power.
- He is a giant, a colossal tower.
- He is stronger than demon might,
- For he is the creator of goodness and right.
We try to teach everyone who will let us. We will never stop singing. Someday we hope to join your angel choir. Thank you.”
The father and grown son bow low before Jesus. There is an obvious physical resemblance. “Jesus, I am Menashe, and this is my son, Nathan. We’re from Syria. You said it was the demons in him causing him to fall into flames, the river, in front of wagons, just anything that could potentially kill him. Your apostles tried to cast them out, and couldn’t. But you did. Your power did. Thank you for giving my son back to me.”
At this, Menashe and his son kneel once again before Jesus. Then they rise back to their feet. “I will spend the rest of my life telling other people about your powers, Jesus,” says Nathan. “It didn’t surprise me that you came back to life. You have power over dark powers and dark death both. I’ll never forget you. Thank you.”
The elderly woman bows her head before Jesus. Andrew helps her rise and supports her on his arm. “Jesus, you probably don’t remember me. My name is Atara. I live over in Perea. My spine was bent so bad, all I could look at was the ground. You straightened me instantly, even though the elders really got angry when you interrupted their worship.” Jesus leans over and gives Atara a hug and a kiss on her forehead. “Thank you,” she responds.
The family and their close friend bow low before Jesus. A man, a young teen girl, and two women rise from their knees. Jesus shakes hands with the man, embraces the two women, then pulls the girl over to his side and looks down into her smiling eyes.
“Jesus, sir, my name is Elder Jairus, this is my wife Rina, our daughter Leah, and our friend Shira.”
“I had lost my health, my job, my friends, my furniture, and even my house,” Shira explains first. “For twelve years I had one long menstruation. All I had to do is touch the hem of your robe and it was gone. You gave my life back to me, Jesus. Thank you.”
“These are nine of my co-workers who realize who you really were after you healed me.”
“I am Dr. Micah. I was only the first of many doctors who saw no hope in Shira. It took a miracle—yours.” They all bow in worship.
Jairus continues. “And this is Leah,” Elder Jairus says as a reminder. “You gave her life back to her also. Literally. She had died. We were having a wake in our home.” He puts his arm around his wife and she puts her head on his shoulder, both in tears. “You gave her… You gave her…back…to us.” Jesus faces Leah, puts his arms on her shoulders, then leans down and kisses her on the forehead. They have something in common.
“I don’t care if they do kick me out of the synagogue. I’m going to tell people you came back to life. I know it can be done. They’ll never stop me, Jesus. They’ll never stop any of us from telling. You are the Son of God!”
Shortly, a group of some fifteen others of all ages walks forward and joins them, bowing low. They were in Jairus’ house that night Leah was brought back to life. They rise and say thank you also.
Four men walk up, and stare at Jesus a moment. “Growing up, we always knew there was something different about you. We had no idea,” Adam says. With that Adam, Benyamin, Micha, and Hezron kneel before their Lord.
The woman and the girl walk forward. Simon is with them—A Canaanite woman and teenage girl.
“They are afraid their Aramaic is too bad,” Simon explains. “They just wanted to tell you how grateful they are. Her daughter, Dalia, had a demon that left her unable to control parts of her body. This woman is Phoebe, her mother.
The two back away from Jesus, their eyes full of tears, and kneel once again at his feet.
The elderly man bows low before Jesus. He rises, smiling broadly. He is not dressed very well. “Jesus,” he says enthusiastically, “I’ve told everyone about you! My name is Berel. I’m from Decapolis. I was deaf and couldn’t talk. From the first time I learned about you, I believed you could heal me. And you did! Thank God, you did! I keep telling people about you. With my new voice. I’ll always use it to tell people that you’re from God. Oh, uh, and welcome back alive.
The two young men bow low before Jesus. “Jesus, I’m Aram. I was homeless, living out in the city square. This is my friend, Eleazor. He was homeless too. I was blind for years and couldn’t hold down a job. I’d gotten bitter, so I left home and moved east to Decapolis.
“That’s where I met Eleazor. He made me go see you so you could bring my sight back. Then you made me go back home to Gergesa. Things worked out with my family. They saw a change in me. I sent for Eleazor and now we’re working for the same stone mason.”
“Thank you for giving sight to Aram,” Eleazor interrupts. “We’re best friends, you know. We watch out for each other. Now we know you watch out for us too. Thank you, Jesus. And welcome back.”
A large group bows low before Jesus. “My name is Jockthan and this is my wife, Acsah. We’re from Samaria. I am the lawyer you recruited to be part of the seventy-two men to cover the middle and southern campaign.
“I know you are from God. You actually gave us power to perform miracles so people would believe what we were saying about you was true. Somehow I think you are part of God. I bow as the highest token of honor I can offer you.”
The man leaves. Then, in pairs, various ones approach Jesus, introduce themselves, and pay homage to him. They were all part of those sixty men who joined Jesus’ apostles for the campaign last fall. They all know he is a form of God, although they are not sure how. They thank him for the honor of defending him.
The man bows low before Jesus. “Hello, my name is Elam. I rode up here from Jerusalem. I had been blind all my life. Jesus, you made me see. You gave light to my eyes and light to my life. I tried to convince my parents, but they were too afraid of being excommunicated by the synagogue. I tried to convince the priests and rabbis and elders, but they didn’t like you being more powerful than them. I will never stop trying.” With this, Elam falls once again to his knees before his Lord. Jesus indicates for him to stand, and gives him a hug.
Without waiting to be called, the next man rushes up, bows low, and waits prostrate for Elam. “Hello, my name is Bartimaeus. I’m from Jericho. I was blind. Everyone kept trying to keep me quiet, but I knew you had the power. I’m sorry if I interrupted your parade, but I was desperate. Thank you for bringing my sight back, Jesus. It only took a word and I was a new man.” With that, he kneels again and kisses Jesus’ hand.
A man and two women bow low to Jesus. The three are his old friends. They rise, then become intertwined in each other’s arms. They sway back and forth, none of them wanting to let go. They whisper to each other. They weep freely. Jesus too. They part enough they can talk.
“We couldn’t wait to ride up here,” Martha says, representing her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus. “We have you back. We were hoping. We had heard some of the others had seen you. Thank you for coming back. We missed you so.”
“Jesus, I remember the day I walked out of my own tomb,” Lazarus says. “I know the exhilaration. I know what you did was even greater because I know that you are life. I know too, without any doubt in my mind, that you are my creator and my God.”
With this, the three kneel once again at the feet of Jesus. They linger there a few moments, but John walks over and whispers they need to give time to the others.
The mature man bows low before Jesus. Matthew has accompanied him, a well-dressed man of shorter stature. “Jesus, you remember my former mentor, Zaccheus, with the Procurator’s tax office down in Jericho.” Jesus smiles in recognition as the two shake hands.
“You made me a believer in mankind once more,” Zaccheus continues. “I hated everyone because I thought they should just automatically like me. When I went out of my way to benefit them instead of them having to benefit me, then I got the friends I had wanted all my life. Furthermore, Jesus, you are my best friend. You always will be. And your power. It is limitless. I know somehow you are God in some form. I know this.”
The middle-aged man bows low before Jesus. “Hello, Jesus. I never met you in person. But I’m the spice merchant who made the ointment down in Bethany that Mary ordered for your anointing. I want you to know, Jesus, that you are the greatest man who ever lived. And now I’m not so sure you’re just a man. You came back to life. I saw the empty tomb. Everyone knew you’d died. I will never forget you, Jesus.”
Four men bow low before Jesus. The Grecians—Secundus, Justus, Trophimus, and Achaicus—wearing foreign-designed togas remain there until Jesus indicates for them to rise.
“Sir, we met you in person down in Jerusalem at the temple just a few days before they crucified you. We’re sorry they put you through it. They did not recognize the divine when they saw you. We think they’re the ones who wanted to be divine. You are stronger than them. You control life and you control death. You are God.”
The three couples bow low before Jesus.
“Jesus, I’m the owner of the house you and your twelve apostles used for the Passover meal the night of your arrest. This is my wife. These are the two cooks and their wives.” Jesus shakes their hands and smiles.
“We knew that night you were different. We knew they had tried to make you high priest and king of all the Jews. Then you turned right around and came to our well for those extra pitchers of water.
“We watched from the door as you actually got down on your hands and knees and waited on your own staff. You washed their feet. We all learned a big lesson that night. We learned just how great you are, Jesus. Is it true what’s going around, that you’re God?”
The big man wearing a sword on one side, a dagger on the other side and a second one stuck in his high-laced sandal, stomps forward. He stands in front of Jesus but does not say anything at first. He just stares, trying to size him up. He cannot.
“Uh, Jesus, I heard you came back to life. I just wanted to come out and talk to the people who claimed you had. With power like yours…” He lowers his eyes. “Uh, I don’t quite know how to say this. I guess I owe you my life. I’m not ungrateful. My name is Barabbas. You took my place on the cross. You made me free.” He leaves as quickly as he had come.
The lady bows low before Jesus. She is dressed in the height of fashion, regal in her demeanor. She remains kneeling. Jesus helps her back up. She is in tears. They flow more freely than she had intended. Jesus takes a handkerchief out of his sleeve and gives it to her.
“Jesus, my name is Claudia. My husband is Governor Procurator Pilate.” She breaks down in tears again. “I am so sorry for …what they put you through. I believe that you are…the Son of God. My husband believes it too. He hasn’t admitted it. I know you recognized it in him.” Once more she breaks down in tears.
“He tried to save…your life. He really did. But he was afraid for his position…and that a riot would start all over the city. He’ll become stronger, Jesus. Someday…he will realize…all the power in the world does not compare with yours.” She wipes her tears and looks into Jesus’ eyes. “He admires you, Jesus. And I worship you.”
Two couples bow low before Jesus. “Jesus, my name is Eunice and this is my husband, Caleb. This is my very good friend, Naomi, and her husband Ehud. We were at your crucifixion. We attend as many executions as we can to comfort the family.”
“What she’s trying to say,” interrupts Naomi, “is that we had turned into real good-goodies. We thought God was lucky to have us on his side. But when we saw what you went through, we realized what we do is nothing. You never once complained. And when you stopped to warn us women of trouble to come, we could hardly believe you were thinking of us instead of yourself.
“We know you died. We saw it personally. Jesus, please forgive our self-righteous arrogance. Please. You are our Lord.” With that, the four kneel once again at Jesus’ feet. He helps them back up and smiles.
The young family bows low before Jesus. The large dark-skinned man stands next to his wife and gathers his five small children close. “Sir, Jesus. I thought I knew strength until I met you. You are the strongest man I ever knew and there will never be another like you. My name is Simon. This is my wife, Abelia, and our sons, Alexander and Rufus. We are from over in Cyrene, Libya.
“I didn’t want to be involved. Now I am glad I did. I saw you at your strongest. You were already half dead at the time. I carried your cross for you.” The big man wipes away an embarrassing tear. “Now you have used that power to come back to life. My family and I kneel before you. You are God. We worship you the best we know how. We always will. Forever.”
Once again, the awkward family bows before Jesus. The parents show the children how. Jesus catches some of the children peeking and smiles at them. They all rise to their feet, and all smile.
The forty-six-year-old soldier stands straight and tall. He marches up to Jesus, salutes, then drops to his knees. He stays a long time. Jesus reaches down to encourage him to rise. As he does, the centurion notices the holes in Jesus’ hands. “I did that to you,” he says. “I am Centurion Sergius. Under my command, my men nailed those hands to the cross. You actually forgave us for doing it to you. I stood by through the whole six hours it took you to die. I have crucified hundreds, but never someone like you. Then the darkness and the earthquake. Jesus, I knew then, and I know now that you are the Son of God. I worship you.” Jesus smiles. Sergius knows he remains forgiven.
The elderly gentleman bows lows before Jesus. He is smartly dressed, with a fine turban on his head linen prayer shawl. Eventually, Jesus has to motion for him to stand. “My name is Joseph of Arimathea. I have been religious all my life. I have declared the power of God for decades before my congregations and theology classes. But I never saw your kind of power. It was a stranger to what I called power. Yours is quiet and dynamic.
“Most of my colleagues were angered by your kind of power. They figured out who you were. But they could never admit it, even to themselves. Jesus, I have lost my place on the Supreme Council for defending you. But I have now gained a much better place. Will you accept me into heaven when I die?” Jesus smiles in assurance and the two men embrace.
The soldier bows low before Jesus. The large man wearing the uniform of a temple guard rises, stands at attention a moment, then salutes. “I deserve trial and death. But I know your kind would never press charges. Jesus, I am Solomon, captain of the Levitical temple guard. I stood by and watched how they treated you before your crucifixion.
“I also stood by when they claimed someone stole your body. I knew it was a lie. I knew you had come back to life. I hope you take over the whole country now. The whole world. You may not want to even bother with us. You are so far superior to us. Jesus, you are the promised Deliverer sent by God. I believe now that you will live forever.”
The older couple and young man bow low before Jesus. “Jesus, welcome back,” Barnabas says. “Everyone told us you came back to life,” Mary says weeping and smiling at the same time amidst her homage. “Jesus, you have always been my hero,” says her son, John Mark. “Now you are my forever hero. For now, I know who you are. You are the Son of God!” With that, the three kneel once again at the feet of their Lord.
Two men bow low before Jesus. “Jesus, we’re so glad to see you again. I told everyone I had seen you, but no one believed me,” Matthias says. “Hello, Jesus,” Barsabas says. “Welcome back. I knew Matthias was right. Now I have seen for myself. I will never stop telling people you have the power over death. All they have to do is believe in you and follow you. Then, you will bring them back to life, too, when they die.”
Jesus is proud they understand so well. Both men had always been good friends, having both lived off their investments so they could accompany Jesus and his aides around the country. “We will never stop telling people about you,” they repeat. Jesus has further plans for them.
A large group bows low before Jesus.
They had been among the 5000 families Jesus had fed with only a handful of fish and bread on two different occasions. One by one they each kneel before him and tell him they believe he is the Son of God. There are about a hundred of them. Whatever happened to the other 4900 families?
Jesus looks toward one side. Immediately he rushes over. There he envelopes a woman snugly and securely in his arms. Everyone grows quiet. They have figured out who she is. Jesus and the woman both weep. The women in the audience weep with them. The men, too, find it difficult to control their emotions.
“Did you see him? Did you see your father?” she whispers while in Jesus’ embrace.
‘Yes, I did, Mother. He is fine. Father Joseph looked splendid. We had a good talk.’
They continue in their embrace and sway back and forth, not ever wanting to let go.
“If your father had been here,” she sobs, “maybe he could have stopped them.”
“It had to be done,” he whispers. “It was in the eternal plan to defeat Satan. It had to be done.”
They cling to each other. As they do, Jesus looks past his mother to the others. He must give them a turn. But Mary hangs on. There is one more thing she has to say.
“Jesus, he’s the oldest after you,” she whispers. “He just couldn’t come. He couldn’t face it. Give him time. Give your brother, James, more time.”
“Yes, I know. He was always the strongest. He will be again.”
With that, Mary gently pulls back from her son, and his three sisters fall into his arms.
“We don’t know what to say,” says Salome.
“Shhhh, you don’t need to say anything,” Jesus replies.
“But we didn’t realize,” Devorah adds. “We didn’t know.”
“Can you ever forgive us?” Marta adds.
You were good sisters. I love you. And always will.
Then Jesus turns his attention to the three young men. They, too, form a huddle and embrace each other, tears flowing as freely as with the women.
“Jesus,” says Joseph Junior “We always looked up to you. You know that.”
Yes, I knew.
“We always knew you were different,” says Simon. “We resented you for it just because we were jealous. You never got into trouble.”
“I tried to be careful around you.”
“Jesus, we’ve been talking with Mother a lot. She told us the stories again. About your birth,” Jude says. “This time, we knew she wasn’t exaggerating.”
Slowly, Jesus’ brothers pull away from him. “Do you have any idea how hard this is going to be for us?” Joseph Junior asks, representing the family.
With this, Jesus’ own mother, three of his four brothers, and his three sisters slowly fall to their knees. They look into his face a moment longer, then bow their heads in awe. To their son and their brother who is their Creator. And their God.