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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crucify Him!

Malachi couldn’t enjoy the sunrise in Jerusalem, that morning.  His thoughts continued down that pensive and desperate track.  “How could things have gone so bad so fast?” he asked himself.  Here he had just come to know Jesus, and now that was all for naught!  It wasn’t fair, how could the Pharisees not see who Jesus really was?  Why did they have to do the awful things they had done?  He recalled his walk to the temple the morning after Jesus forgave him.

When he arrived, all the talk was of how Jesus was now a prisoner and had even been betrayed by one of his own disciples.  When he heard that is was Judas Iscariot, and that Judas had done it for 30 pieces of silver, his heart jumped!  He wondered if it was the same family as his neighbors.  Those same neighbors that were living very well off of the Romans and all the money that came from those transactions.  He thought to himself, “This is what happens when you love money more than God.  No good can come of that path.”  He immediately resolved to go talk to Silas, to see if he could change his heart about how he was making money.

Silas was in the shop with his oldest son, making more crosses when Malachi arrived.  He was immediately angry.  “What are you doing here now?” he said, “You have already missed too many days.  Are you expecting to just go back to work now that blasphemer, Jesus, has been arrested?  Did I not tell you what could have come of any contact with him?  The Pharisees have arrested him and I heard this morning that they were taking him before Pilate today.  How could you get involved with a heretic like that?  You are supposed to be the wise older brother, start behaving like one and go back to work today.  We have many orders to fill and my son is not enough help to finish them all today.”

Malachi felt as though he was being assaulted with Silas’s barrage of questions and statements.  He thought about at least trying to answer some of them, but ultimately decided his brother’s spiritual condition was more important.  So he started in telling him about how Jesus had forgiven him of his sins and some of the teachings that Malachi had learned in the temple.  How God loved them and had given them a way to live up to the life that Jesus had led.  He continued with all of the miracles that Jesus had done and finished with “Jesus is the living Son of God!”

Silas just looked at him with his mouth hanging open.  All of the sudden he jumped up and ran to the door.  He looked outside and quickly shut the door.  When he turned back around, he was so angry that he had trouble controlling himself.  “You cannot say such things!” he shouted, “you are my brother and I do love you, but I will turn you in myself for such blasphemy.  You have already seen the lengths the Sadducees and Pharisees will go to deal with heretics.  Shut up!”  But Malachi continued on, still talking about the love of God and the miracles of Jesus.  Silas finally said, “Come on, we will go to the temple to see what our leaders have to say about your Jesus.  This must be nipped in the bud, before you get yourself in trouble.”

Silas closed up the shop and sent his oldest son home.  Then he and Malachi headed to the temple, Malachi with dread in his heart and Silas with something almost like glee.  It was almost daybreak when they reached the temple where the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law were questioning Jesus.  They arrived just as Jesus was led before them.   

“If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Malachi was pleased and thought, “surely they can now see that Jesus really is the Son of God” He was more than shocked when the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate.  “Are these people possessed by demons?”, he asked himself.  Silas had been silent all this time and he just looked at Malachi, turned and followed the crowd to the governor’s palace.

When the crowd arrived at the palace Silas and Malachi ended up at the back of the crowd.  They watched as the Jewish leaders began to accuse Jesus, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

Malachi could not believe what he was hearing.  Jesus was speaking the truth and no one was listening.  It was obvious to him that Pilate was not going to make a decision.  In fact Pilate said he was giving Jesus over to Herod.

Malachi and Silas did not go with the crowd to where Herod was staying.  Malachi chose to stay and pray, but Silas was strangely silent. 

When the crowd returned, the Pharisees and Sadducees were walking among them.  Malachi was straining for the site of Jesus and when he finally saw him, he was shocked.  Jesus was dressed the robe of a rich Roman.  He turned to Silas, asking “what happened when He went before Herod?  Look how He is dressed now.”  Silas just looked at him, a hint of sadness in his eye.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!”

Malachi looked at his brother, “who is Barabbas?”  Silas replied, “He was thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder”.  Malachi was horrified, how could people ask for the release of anyone but Jesus?  He looked back to the podium and strained to hear Pilate over the crowd.  They were shouting something that he could not understand, but it sounded like Pilate was appealing to them again to release this man.   But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Crucify?!!?!?!  Were these people insane?

Again, Pilate shouted to the crowd:  “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.  Malachi could not believe what he was seeing and hearing.  They drug Jesus off and Malachi knew where they were going.  They were going to scourge him, and Malachi could bear it no more.  He did not have the strength in his body to watch more.  As the soldiers led him away, he collapsed to the ground.

Silas was strangely gentle as he helped Malachi up and led him back their home, and let him lay on a mat in the living room.  They stayed there for several hours and all Malachi could think about was the beating the Jesus was being given.  Surely this could not be happening!  Surely the living Son of God was calling on His Fathers armies to destroy all those that were involved in this sham.

All at once, they heard a great crowd of noise out in the street.  Malachi jumped up and ran to the door with Silas.  They had barely gotten outside when some Roman soldiers came through, pushing people and kicking things out of their way.  Then the brothers caught site of a cross being drug down the street.  But the thing dragging the cross did not even resemble a man.  “What in the world…?”, asked Silas.  But Malachi heart sank.  He knew this was what they had done to his Lord.  “It is Jesus carrying the cross”, he answered.  There would be no destroying army of angels, no vengeful God.  Jesus had to deal with this here on this world.

As Jesus staggered and stumbled down the street, the crowd shouted and jeered at him.  After he had fallen several times and the beatings would no longer get him up, the Romans seized a man from the crowd and made him carry the cross behind Jesus.  Jesus staggered and struggled even in walking, Malachi did not know what kept him going.  Then he realized that not all of the people were jeering, some women were wailing and mourning.  All of the sudden Jesus stopped right in front of Silas, Malachi and some of the weeping women.

He turned to the crowd and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Malachi knew this would be some of the final teachings of a living Jesus.  There was only one place a man had to carry a cross on that street.  That would be Golgotha, the place of the Skull.  Silas must have realized it at the same time, because he jumped as if he was struck.  He turned to Malachi, and with horror in his eyes, said “do you see the mark on the cross?  God forgive me, it is one of mine!”

They both fell in with the crowd, walking numbly, as they followed Jesus to the hill.  When they arrived they noticed two other men, both obviously criminals.  These two men were quickly tied to a crucifix and raised up. 

Jesus was thrown to the ground and two soldiers grabbed both arms pulling for all they were worth, Malachi even heard the joints pop as they stretched his arms to the maximum.  Then the Roman captain stepped up and for the first time, Silas and Malachi noticed he had a hammer and some nails.  He quickly knelt and placed one of the nails near the hand of Jesus.  Time seemed to stand still for Malachi as the hammer rose and came down again and again.  The cries of pain seemed to fill his ears till he could hear nothing else.  He watched the soldier do this same action three times, one in each hand and one through both feet.  He was startled by quiet sobbing beside him and he realized it was Silas.  He was dumbfounded, was this really Silas?

When Jesus’ cross rose above the crowd, the criminals were on either side of him.  Jesus looked to the sky and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Silas turned to Malachi and asked, “How can this man be so forgiving?  This is a hard death even for a heretic and blasphemer.”   Malachi turned toward him and said, “You know the answer to this already, don’t you?  He is the Son of God; he loved them even through all of this!”

The both stood as if transfixed and watched Jesus hanging there, Malachi with pain in his heart and Silas…well he wasn’t sure what he was feeling.  The crowd ranged around them from people weeping and mourning, to mockers.  The rulers were the loudest, they said “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”  The soldiers even came up and mocked him.  They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

Silas poked Malachi in the side and said, “what it that above him?”  Malachi had better eye sight than his brother and said, “They have written the truth, it says ‘THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS’.  Even in death he is truth.”

As they stood there, one of the criminals started hurling insults at Jesus.  “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Malachi was amazed, here Jesus was at his death and he was still forgiving others.  Almost as if he was dying for them.  It came to him then, Malachi finally understood the thoughts that had been in the back of his head.  He had been thinking that God’s Son should have been calling down an army of angels, destroying all of those who did not believe in him.  He thought he understood Gods love before, but this was why Jesus was here.  Not to condemn the world, but to die for it…saving all of those that would believe in Him.

All of the sudden it was so dark a man could not see in front of him.  Malachi felt around for Silas and they locked arms, trying to stay still as people screamed and scrambled around them.  They both had sense enough to be still, to wait out the crowd.  As some of the crowd dissipated, trying to head home in the dark, they heard Jesus speak.  He called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Both Silas and Malachi knew that he had breathed his last.  They could hear one of the centurions saying, “Praise God, surely this was a righteous man”

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