Christ's Journal Part 14

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Lanterns and torches appeared. Peter saw and heard the soldiers and s.n.a.t.c.hing a sword from one of the guards he slashed a man's ear. I rebuked him and cared for the guard, an Arabian named Malchus, who was singularly afraid of me, afraid of the garden, his task.

"We shouldn't have come...you were praying...this is the garden where you come to pray," Malchus said.

"Is Judas with you?" I asked.

"He has gone... I'm captain here...you must come with us. We have been commanded to take you to the high priest, Ananias."

"You take me with swords and s.h.i.+elds-like a thief. I taught in the temple... I prayed daily for you..."

Malchus, his face in torchlight, mumbled in Arabian and turned away.

"Leave him alone...get out of here," Peter shouted; I saw the guards struggle with him.

Malchus led me along the narrow streets, dark. People lay asleep in corners and doorways. Donkeys were hobbled together. We walked over piles of garbage. As we filed toward the house of Ananias wind smoked our torches. At the door of the house we were kept waiting. Two of my guards fell asleep.

Amid bickering I was led into a small room and left there; then, late in the morning, I was brought before Caiaphas, before scribes and elders, in an open courtyard. There I heard someone say that it is expedient for us that he die for his people.

Caiaphas asked me about my teachings and I responded:

"I have spoken openly. I have taught in the synagogues of Nazareth and Cana and Capernaum and in this city... I have said nothing in secret. Ask those who have heard me what I have said." I spoke tersely because I realized this was a false trial.

One of the scribes struck me across my face and hurled me to the floor.

Witnesses were brought-citizens. One testified that I had vowed to destroy the temple within three days and rebuild it without hands.

Other witnesses disagreed. A woman said I faked miracles. A man testified I had threatened to depose the governor. Others disagreed.

"Are you Christ...are you the man the people call Christ?" Caiaphas asked.

"I am."

A priest gestured; he seemed to tear his robe. Caiaphas smiled.

"You have heard this blasphemy," he said. "We need no more witnesses.

I condemn this man to death." I knew nothing more could be said in my defense.

As I sit at my table, underneath the trees, at Peter's home, I write as if I were writing about someone else, a friend perhaps. I write without prejudice. I am shaken by man's corruption and yet my lack of faith in man does not influence my writing.

I was left in the hands of guards and palace servants and then I was led into a room where my hands were roped behind me. I was thrown on the floor and beaten and kicked and spat on. Men placed me in a chair and covered my eyes and asked me to guess who struck me, everyone laughing.

I fell asleep on the floor and was wakened for a trial before priests, elders, scribes, in a marble-floored room, Roman insignia on the wall, the room icy, airless, officers and soldiers at one end, one of them in battle gear-to impress me, I thought. But I was scarcely able to stand, scarcely able to think. My hands on the back of a chair, I put my mind to work: I singled out my home, its doors, its windows, the gra.s.s growing in the street. I forced myself to visualize my mother and father. Though I was in pain I remembered my little friend, Amos: we were kneeling in the dust before my house, playing marbles: dust flipped as we shot.

I was asked if I was the son of G.o.d.

The trial was not a trial. There were no witnesses.

Temple officials conferred.

Roman authority was not involved.

A judge or priest condemned me to death.

Such authority had been denied forty years ago by the Romans. Being aware of this added to my resentment; I tried to speak out but was silenced. From the courtyard I was marched to the paved square called Babbatha; troops lined the square, spectators gathered. The sun's warmth lessened my pain. One of the guards, secretly, gave me bread.

I saw Judas with Pontius Pilate; Pilate was accompanied by councilors, guards. I felt I had been hurled into a wholly alien world-enemy world.

Pilate, stepping forward in his robe, asked Caiaphas the nature of my crime. I will remember that scarlet robe.

Caiaphas, annoyed, said:

"If he were not a malefactor we would not bring him before you."

Pilate understood the evasion. He responded:

"Take him, judge him according to your law."

A priest declared:

"We found this man saying he was Christ the King."

Perhaps Pilate was remembering his troubled past, the servitude of his ancestors, some problem, for he hesitated, suspecting a ruse, that the priests were deceiving him. He must have known that I had not preached revolt.

"Are you king of the Jews?" he asked, motioning me to come closer.

"Your people have brought you here. What have you done?"

"My kingdom is not of this world."

"Are you a king?"

"I was born to bear witness to the truth."

Pilate shrugged.

"What is truth?" He resumed his seat.

I did not respond.

"What is truth?" he repeated. He waited a little while and then said, looking at me closely: "I find no fault in this man."

Spectators and priests protested. Someone shouted:

"He stirs up the people from here to Galilee. He's a troublemaker. He drove us out of our temple market."

At that moment Pilate may have become aware of my accent or remembered I was born in Nazareth for he ordered me brought to trial before Herod, the local governor. Herod, I thought, the name stunning me as I recalled his crime.

We crossed a bridge, a hostile crowd following; young Herod welcomed me because he had heard of my miracles and wanted me to perform for his benefit. Was I wizard, necromancer, fakir?

I could not speak to this murderer: I envisioned John in prison, waiting, waiting for the liberty that never came. I saw his decapitated head on a tray, displayed for a dancing girl.

Because I could not speak Herod had his men throw a purple robe over my shoulders and place me on a chair. They mocked me, spat on me, and demanded I save myself.

Herod refused to try me and ordered guards to return me to Pontius Pilate. It was then, as we recrossed the bridge where the populace jeered, it was then I attempted to think of home. Something like an actual wall blocked me. All the emptiness of life, the savageness of the wilderness, the enmity of mankind, came into being. I prayed but prayer was useless. A man held my arm or I would have fallen: his sword hit my side.

Christ's Journal Part 14

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Christ's Journal Part 14 summary

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