Over the course of the next few days, I'm going to post excerpts from a book I'm writing called Messiah. I'm not doing this as a promotion as the book is a long ways from completion, but rather I want to tell the Easter story in a way that perhaps has not been done before: from Jesus' perspective. (Please note, this is only my interpretation of what Jesus might have been thinking and experiencing at the time and should be taken as nothing more than that. I have been as Scripturally accurate as possible, but have had to fill in a few minor details for the sake of narration.) Check back each day for more.
Sudden stillness struck.
I rose to my knees, drenched in sweat and blood from my prayers. The hour had come. It had finally come. The light of the torches could already be seen flickering in and out between the trees in the garden. My soul was sick within me at the horrors I knew were only hours away. This was my last chance to leave before I was found. I could hear the steady thump of the mob's feet, echoing quietly in the darkness. At any time, I could call down legions of angels to sweep away my enemies. I am the Son of the Most High. I do not have to suffer the pain. Is there no other way? But this was love; no, this was my love, and there could be no other way. The Father had determined, and I must obey. I glanced at my disciples, just beginning to wake while the wind carried the sound of whispering voices as it stole through the midnight air. Beloved, Beloved, my heart cried out in tears, I am about to be taken from you.
"Wake up," I called to them softly. "Are you still sleeping? The hour has come and the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Look, here comes my betrayer!"
I stood to my feet and turned to face what was coming. The night stood still and my heart began to pound. A cold chill swept over me. I waited. Love must conquer all.
A shout pierced the darkness, "There he is!"
The mob rushed toward me, their torches bobbing up and down in the night, their weapons clanging against each other. My disciples cried out in alarm behind me, but I did not turn. I could see the faces of the men running towards us, the fierce frenzy illuminated in their eyes. The chief priests and elders had sent a mob, a small army armed with swords and clubs.
As they came closer, I saw that they were guided by a figure in a hooded black robe. He led them up to me and the mob circled around us. I stepped forward to face the noisy crowd, keeping my disciples to my back. The men went suddenly quiet as the hooded figure separated himself from them and walked slowly toward me. There, beneath the light of the flickering torches, he withdrew his cowl. It was Judas.
"Greetings, Rabbi," he said and then he kissed me on my cheek.
My heart sank. I had known from the beginning that it would happen this way, that it must happen this way, but it was such a bitter thing to swallow. Judas had been with me for every step of the last three years, we had shared the same table, drank the same drink, and slept beneath the same stars. I had opened my arms and my heart to him. Now he was completely consumed. No longer did his eyes share the same light as when he had listened to my teachings; they were hollowed out pits, the life snatched away like the wind snuffs out a candle. Judas, dear Judas, Satan has sifted through you and has claimed you as his own.
"Have you betrayed me with a kiss, Judas?" I took his head in both of my hands. "Friend, do what you came here to do."
Judas withdrew back to the mob, replacing his hood as he went. His kiss had been a prearranged signal with the guards, meant to tell them whom it was that they were to arrest. When he had reached the edge of the crowd, several of them started forward.
"Who are you looking for?" My voice rang out like a challenge in the cold night air.
"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied as they kept marching forward.
"I am he," I told them, my voice barely above a whisper.
Instantly, the men were swept back and fell to the ground, as if a giant hand had pushed them away. They lay there for a moment, stunned. They got to their feet, shaking their heads to clear the confusion. Finally, they began heading back toward me.
"Who are you looking for?" I asked again.
They stopped dead in their tracks and looked at each other, fearful that they would be swept away once again. After a long moment, a man named Malchus, a servant of the high priest, stepped forward and said, "We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth."
I stared into his eyes, past his stoic face, and into his heart. Here was a man, I thought, who was trapped by weight of the Law. He longed to be righteous, but his heart was being killed by his inability to do so. I could see the hurt and the pain just below the surface of his carefully maintained bravery.
"I told you before that I am Jesus," I said. "If you are looking for me, then let these other men go free." I knew that I could still call legions of angels to fight at my side, but my concern was for my disciples. No harm was to befall them under my care.
Just then, John called out brashly, "Lord, shall we draw our swords?"
I could hear the tremble in his voice, and so I turned, only to see Peter rush past with his sword drawn.
"Simon!" I called out.
He swung wildly at the nearest member of the crowd, grazing the side of Malchus' face and cutting off his right ear. Peter would have cut off the man's head if Malchus had not ducked. I rushed over to Peter and gripped his sword arm tightly.
"NO! No more of this! Put your sword away!" I whispered quietly in his ear. "Don't you believe that I can call upon my Father and He will send even more than twelve legions of angels to rescue me? I must drink this cup, Peter. There is no other way for the Scriptures to be fulfilled. Put your sword away."
I could feel Simon Peter shaking with fear and anger, but after a moment he dropped the sword on the ground and stood with James and John. I bent down beside Malchus, who was lying on the ground, clutching his wound. I did not say anything to him, but I gently removed his hand from the side of his head and healed his ear.
I stood up and addressed the crowd. "Why have you come with swords and clubs? Am I leading a rebellion? Every day I have sat in the temple courts. Every day you have seen me teaching the people, but you made no move to arrest me. All that has taken place has been to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. But this, this is your hour, the hour when darkness reigns."
The temple guard that had accompanied the mob rushed in when I had finished speaking. They grabbed my arms and bound them behind my back. The ties from the rope bit into my arms, but watching my disciples flee into the darkness tore at my heart.
I was marched to the house of Ciaphas, the high priest that year. The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders had all gathered around a fire in the courtyard, waiting for the mob to deliver me into their hands. I was made to sit before all of them as they began discussing what to do with me, while I remained bound like a common criminal.
I looked around the courtyard and watched as the leaders of the people argued over me. Some wanted to put me to death, others wanted to listen to what I had to say, and a very few wanted to set me free. All were afraid of the Romans, however, and so they quickly agreed that they needed evidence against me in order to justify their actions. Soon they began to let their accusations fly, but no one accusation matched another; each was a lie and the alleged witnesses were unable to agree.
I said nothing while they argued over me. There was nothing that I could have said, for the lies were easily exposed and even those that wished to condemn me knew that they would need greater reasons than those already offered. And so silent I remained. I began to prepare myself for what I knew was to come, praying for strength and courage. I knew that I could not bear the weight alone, and so I felt the Spirit settle within me, giving me peace in the midst of the gathering storm.
After a little while, I saw John enter the courtyard, for he was known to the high priest. He soon let Peter in, who sat with the servants around the fire, while John sat at the edge of the gathering. Both had followed me to the house of Ciaphas, but at a distance so that the mob would not see them.
Dawn was still several hours away and it was the darkest time of the night. A chill hung in the air, a chill that even the fire lit in the courtyard could not drive away. The light from the flames flickered, casting shadows everywhere and causing the courtyard to look like the depths of Hades itself. One by one, the chief priests and the elders stood up to accuse me, but one by one, they all sat down because their testimonies carried no truth. They were becoming frustrated and desperate, shouting at each other all the more as morning drew near.
Finally, one man stood up and cried, "I heard this fellow say that he would destroy the Temple and then he promised that he would raise another temple up in its place in only three days, a temple not made by human hands."
"Yes, yes," shouted another. "I heard it too!"
"Tell me the details," Ciaphas shouted, "What are the details?"
The man gave his account, but he could not make his testimony match that of the other man. Frustrated, Ciaphas turned to me.
"These men are all accusing you, and yet you have nothing to say? At least speak something in your defense!"
I remained silent and waited, looking up at the high priest and watching him grow angrier as the moments slipped by and no resolution could be reached. Everyone gathered was arguing over how to accuse me, but their noisy din mattered little to Ciaphas. When he saw that I was not going to give an answer, Ciaphas threw his hands up in the air in exasperation and began walking away, his stride shaking with palpable rage. He turned around and started pacing back and forth, desperate to find someway to accuse me. He did not want to release me back to the people, for he was afraid that I would lead a revolt against him. How little he knew of the Scriptures and how they must be fulfilled.
Suddenly, Ciaphas stopped pacing and as he walked over to me, the crowd grew silent. He put his hands on the arms of my chair and leaned in so that his face was almost touching mine.
"I place you under oath," he spat, "I charge you by the name of the Living God. Are you the Christ, the Blessed One of God? Tell us, for we wish to know."
I stared into Ciaphas' eyes for a long moment. This moment, more than any other, would begin my journey of pain and suffering if I claimed to be the Christ. I could feel the Spirit welling up within me. It was the moment of truth.
Without letting my gaze waver, I said to him, "It is as you say, I AM the Christ. But listen as I say to each one of you, the day will come when you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Father, the Mighty One, coming on the clouds of heaven itself."
The entire courtyard was silent for a moment as my words went to each man gathered. Then Ciaphas stood up.
"Blasphemy!" he roared. "You have all heard it. This man has spoken blasphemy! What do you think, do we need any more witnesses?"
The courtyard erupted. "He is worthy of death," they shouted back, "We need no more witnesses!"
And Ciaphas tore his robe to show his disdain for my words. I was bound again, and they also blindfolded me. They began pummeling me with their fists, hitting me in the stomach, in the face; they left no part of my body untouched.
I could hear the glee in their voices as they mocked me, "Prophesy, who hit you? If you are the Christ, surely you can tell who it is that is hitting you."
They removed the blindfold and spat in my face. They slapped me so hard that I tumbled to the ground, still bound to the chair. They began kicking me and I almost lost consciousness several times when they kicked me in the head. I could feel the bruises begin to form and my face was broken open in several places, but I did not say a word.
Streaks of light were finally making their way across the dark sky when the mob of chief priests and teachers were interrupted by a man yelling near the fire. It was Peter. He was shouting at a man standing next to him.
"I tell you, I don't know this man you are talking about, and I am not one of his disciples!" Peter began calling down curses upon himself and all those gathered there. When he finally realized that everyone in the courtyard was looking at him, including Ciaphas, he hung his head and started muttering to himself angrily.
I could feel my heart begin to ache. It was the third time that Peter had denied me that night, just as I had prophesied. He looked up again, just for an instant, to see me lying on the ground, bound to a chair and bleeding from the beating I had just received. There were tears in my eyes as I caught his gaze from across the courtyard. At that exact moment, a rooster crowed.
Peter's face fell, all his anger fled as he realized what he had done. His mouth began moving, but no sounds could come out. I saw his shoulders deflate and he covered his face with his hands before he ran out of the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
Ciaphas looked at me, pointing to the retreating form of Peter. "Was that man one of your disciples?" he demanded. "Tell us who follows you and what you have taught!"
"I have said nothing in secret," I replied. "Have I not always taught openly in the Temple and in the synagogues? Why do you not ask those who have listened to tell you what I said? Why ask me?"
One of the guards struck me in the face. "Is that the way you answer the high priest?"
I turned my head to look at him. "If I said something wrong, tell me what it was that was wrong. If I said nothing wrong, why did you hit me?"
Ciaphas saw that there was nothing more to be gained by questioning me, so he called for the council to reach a decision. They quickly agreed on what to do, and so in the early morning hours, I was led away, still bound, to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
(check back tomorrow for more)