The Chalenge Of Death
Pilate was aggrieved. "Pah," he said, "religious beliefs, rubbish! Let them kill their own so-called offenders."
Servants rushed this way and that to dress their master but today he had no laughter for mistakes - his tongue was vicious. They wondered if he was afraid. Last night he had openly vowed that justice would be done but the morning had brought doubts.
His wife was anxious. "I dreamed," she said. "The dream troubled me all night; do nothing to this man, all who do will suffer badly, especially you." Pilate had never seen his wife so anxious. He had to take notice but what could he do?
Meanwhile Jesus awaited his coming, feeling tired and sore. His captors had harassed him and though calling themselves priests of the one God they had no love or mercy in their hearts. Could he have seen the fear in the heart of Pilate, Jesus would have taken it from him, for upon no one did he intend to place the responsibility of his own death. The scriptures had laid down the way of death for him; the will of God he felt was responsible, and yet he knew his mental self was part of and fed by the one great force that is life and because of it he was a son. His mind was on the one he thought his father, his whole life given unto goodness. From all men of goodwill the mind displays the light by showing the good within. Men point the finger at goodness because the evil in themselves is shown up by it; their gain from evil is then destroyed and so it was with the Jewish Priests. The doctrine they clung to was based upon sacrifice and upon words written. The tablet of Moses outlined only the first steps towards Godliness and included little about harmony of mind or the use of personal initiative. They did not know the importance of mind with which every action is backed.
Are you King?
To ease himself Jesus moved, only to be caught by the eye of a soldier who slapped him with his hand. Others, not wishing to be left out, buffeted Jesus until he was thrown down. The appearance of Pilate stopped the kicks that would have come, for Jesus, heavy with chains, was unable to lift himself up.
"Put him on his feet!" thundered Pilate. "Let us see what he has to say for himself; he had plenty to say before." He laughed at his own wit but when no one laughed he frowned and turned his intent gaze upon Jesus.
"Are you King?" questioned Pilate.
"You say I am, not I," was the answer, spoken so quietly that Pilate again questioned.
"Can you tear down the Temple as it is said?"
"The Temple will be torn down," wearily Jesus answered, for he knew he would not be believed.
"Impossible!" said Pilate, and causing his servants to run, sent them for a cloak. Its colour strengthened the soul within Jesus, for purple gave the body comfort that was felt by the soul. The service that Jesus had so unselfishly rendered brought into his aura the protective colour of purple, its richness spreading over him and giving him peace, so that even when the soldiers plaited him a crown of thorns he did not squirm, neither did he flinch, and Pilate as he watched him became more and more afraid.
"Take him and kill him yourself," the Priests were told, but they hid behind their religion, forgetting that he who offers another for death is far more guilty than the executioner who carries out the work, who if given a choice might not wish to kill at all.
Pain without compassion
The soldiers were taught to murder but even to them crucifixion was distasteful, and as crucifixions were frequent, free wine was given to them so that in drunkenness they worked, giving pain without compassion for the human bodies they had to destroy.
"What if this man is the son of God? What will happen then?" a voice taunted Pilate. He was becoming bewildered. What was that someone was shouting. Jesus, a Galilean? He could have shouted himself for he was thankful, as it would now free him from having to make judgement.
"Is he a Galilean?"
Pilate spoke loudly to subdue the crowd. "He is," was sent back in answer.
The priests were angry. "What has that to do with it?" they said amongst themselves and turning, shouted all the harder, "Crucify him, crucify him!"
"I must not," replied Pilate. "He must go to Herod!" Waving away all those who would have persisted, Pilate beckoned the soldiers to take off the cloak. Jesus, beaten and sore and with blood upon his head, was dressed in his own robe and led from the room.
Pilate was glad. "It still isn't finished yet," said his wife. "The priests will kill him and you will be unable to stop it."
"I won't have anything to do with it, Herod will see to that. It will be something he will enjoy," and with this in mind Pilate went out to follow Jesus to Herod's palace. As he rode along he wondered what Jesus had in mind. "He must know that in the end death awaits him." Pilate could see as only He would have reacted. Had he known how Jesus had kept at peace he would have been more than surprised, for he himself could never react in the same way.
He blamed no one
Each step would have been agony for Jesus if his mind had not been harmonious! He remembered once more the upper room and all his loved ones about him. How anxious they had been and how they had avowed their loyalty only to deny their support when it came to the crucial moment! He smiled with love for them knowing the time would come when they would be strong and unafraid of anything. He would live, he would give them courage, for the Christ Spirit within himself would never leave them. How glad they would be to forget him as being dead, and to see him alive and again with them. In this way did he forget his surroundings. He blamed no one, having in mind the prophecy he had to carry out. It was not in him to consider that his father would not give him to the world and did not will him to die. His own mind had taken on the responsibility and he did not question the prophecy as to whether angels or men had to take his life.
David spoked in prophecy but not always in truth. Some knew that truth was made only if prophecy was believed and carried out. Good men and blessed women alter violent prophecy for they know it is against peace! Jesus himself desired to pave the way to peace and gave himself for that purpose, showing all men that if they held no grudge against their fellow men they could be at peace! In much the same way did the soldiers fight in the recent wars. "A war to end all wars," it was said, but giving in love was not understood and continually has greed, lust and power been the cause of grudges held, inevitably followed by evil.
Jesus knew only the part he would play and the example he could leave in this earth world! Strength must enter into all people who believed and from them peace must come. He could not know that after the deed was done the miscreant would be blessed with his blood whilst the peace-makers would have to hide and meet together in lowly places. Because this actually has happened life has not truthfully progressed, but has moved backward and not forward as the violent death of Jesus is remembered with greater clarity than all he taught. This in itself has encouraged violence in the world and has not allowed goodness to alter the more significant prophecy, given by many, that fear would become widespread, as indeed it has today. The subsequent annihilation of the world has also been prophesied but this need not come if light spreads and love casts out all fear.
Jesus had peace in mind and his loved ones who would teach of it while Herod was making preparations. He rubbed his hands with satisfaction, no dreams stopping his enjoyment of the whole affair. He knew Pilate hated him but he shrugged off his own feelings toward Pilate and mentally thanked him for sending Jesus to him.
Pilate hated him
Herod had long wanted to see miracles performed and now the time had come. Pilate would be honoured for giving him the opportunity of trying the miracle man, but could he find him guilty? This he wondered; so powerful a man must be watched closely.
Meanwhile Jesus was being hustled by his guards and word went through the crowd that the mighty Herod was waiting. An ominous silence had fallen upon the moving crowd, many of whom were beginning to wonder why they were there.
Suddenly a woman broke through the crowd with a baby lying inert in her arms. "Heal my baby!" she cried. "Help me, she is dying." The guards began to push her away, laughing at the tears streaming down her face. Jesus stopped. He could see the woman as the guards pushed her to the ground, where the crowd would have trampled upon her.
"For such as these I came, not to bring death but life and peace everlasting. Pick her up and bring her to me," Jesus commanded. He was not rough or heady with power as the soldiers had been but humbled them in their laughter. Roughly the woman was picked up and placed before Jesus who looked on her with pity in his eyes.
He could not place his hands upon the child but placed his lips upon its head and then blessing it, said to the mother, "Go home, your baby will be well and will live."
Amazed at what they had seen, the pressing crowd began to move away. "No evil person would have healed a child when on the way to certain death," they said, as one passed the other, and no longer was Jesus' breathing constricted by the pressure put upon him by the milling throng.
His step became firmer
As Jesus moved on again he felt comforted. He saw once more the love in the woman's eyes and took strength from it. Looking straight in front of him his step became firmer, until the soldiers were discomforted and said amongst themselves, "This is no ordinary man."
Without realising it they were more gentle with him than they might have been, and when they came to the council rooms they did not push Jesus upon his knees and in their hearts acknowledged him as King. This incident was noticed by Herod who, with a smile for Pilate and his counsellors, stored up the lack of deference to be used against them. Inwardly he was enraged by it but, showing nothing of what he felt, he turned to Jesus and commenced baiting him, accusing him of infidelity and conspiracy.
When he found no answer was spoken and Jesus remained quiet, he questioned the power of miracles, saying, "I can save you from death if you will show me what you can do. Rend the veil of the Temple as you have said and I will see to it that you are freed."
Jesus raised his eyes and looked straight into the eyes of Herod, great compassion filling him. No word was spoken yet Herod knew himself for what he was. To cover his embarrassment he sent out a harsh command. "Fetch my cloak; this man would be King in my place - see what he looks like in my cloak!" Fear made him rage and disappointment brought him to his decision. "Let Pilate take him back, I see no harm in him," he said.
Pilate was aghast! He had been so pleased to place the responsibility upon Herod for the crime that was to be committed, how could he refuse to take it back? Herod was complimenting him but was also afraid! He was smiling. Pilate nervously returned the silent salute, unable to argue for, after the many years of enmity, being friends would mean a great deal. Almost with a caress, Herod bid goodbye. It was as if he knew that ill would befall Pilate when judgement upon Jesus had been passed.
Riot makers had joined the onlookers
The crowds pressed about the entrance and would have forced their way in had the guards not been well trained. They contended with the crowd almost light-heartedly and anyone who seemed to side with Jesus they warned to go home, for nothing could now be done for him.
Words were bandied about, lewd remarks were passed one to the other as young men from Thessalonica stirred up those who were left. Riot makers had joined the onlookers and the whole scene changed. Could the people on the outside have seen the colour form about the shouting crowd, they would have run away. It was black, and only the light of the sun stopped it from being seen until the challenge of death had come.
Pilate brusquely hustled his soldiers to return the prisoner to his own council chamber. Although he headed the procession, the eyes of the prisoner haunted him. Pilate felt them boring into him. "I can see no evil in this man," he said to the officer riding near to him, "but they want him to die. What can I do?"
"Tell them," was the quick response. "Let the deed be done by them. Why bother with it? They hate us and would kill us also if they dared."
Pilate looked hard at the man beside him. "I can't," he retorted. "You know what would happen if I did. Their religious festivals make them blood happy and I can't risk an uprising."
Silently the centurion shook his head. He was glad that it was not his doing. He wanted nothing to do with it, for in many ways he was sympathetic to Jesus. The Temple to him had always been a bloody place.
The faces held no pity
Slowly the procession made its way to the court of Pilate. The footsteps of Jesus were getting slower and the soldiers prodded him to keep him on the move. Blood was trickling down his face, disappearing into the cloth of his robe, painting it scarlet. The faces of those about him held no pity and Jesus knew that the crucial time of his ministry would soon be upon him.
Pilate stopped the crowd with his hand. Mounting the steps of the courthouse that previously he had left so joyously, his brain seemed to stand still - he could not think. His wife's anxious face seemed to hover in front of him, and as in a flash, he was back in time, listening to the soldiers as they laughed and talked with those who had captured the unarmed man.
"Judas has killed himself," one had said to another. "Too quick a death for such a traitor, don't you think?" he queried.
Pilate heard again the laugh of the speaker. "The silly fellow healed one of my men. That big fellow had cut off his ear. He looked so surprised when Jesus picked it up and stuck it on again. You'd think the priests would be happy with a man who could do such things. I thought it highly amusing, but Jesus looked at his own man as if he had done him an injury instead of trying to look after him."
Pilate shook his head to rid himself of the scene and found himself once again facing the angry crowd. They were in a hurry to hear Jesus scream in pain. "I must try once again to free him," the frightened ruler said (almost to himself) but those near at hand heard him and started to shout.
"Quiet!" shouted Pilate trying to be heard above the noise. "Let me give you Barrabas. Kill him, he is a murderer. I will punish this other man and let him go."
He said the words quickly, fearing that someone would shout him down but instead they called: "Give us Barrabas and let him go. Crucify Jesus!" The crowd in echo shouted again and again, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
"The Passover is upon us," said the priests, harassing Pilate to make up his mind.
"How foolish they are," he thought, "to want Barrabas released when there is no wrong in this man Jesus." Calling a servant he asked for a bowl of water and everyone wondered what he was going to do. They were not long in doubt for, when the water arrived, he dipped his hands in it, saying at the same time, "I wash my hands of the whole affair! I want nothing to do with the hurt of this man. Take him away and do with him as you will." As if with much ceremony Pilate dipped his hands into the basin, shaking his head at those near at hand. They stared, not knowing quite what to do. It was not the hands of the priests that dragged Jesus away for they were still hiding behind their own seeming goodness - the religion that covered them.
The male aspect of the mind
The heavy cross bowed Jesus down, his bruised shoulders painful in the extreme, but still the soldiers prodded him as those who shouted the loudest kept themselves clean.
Jesus stumbled from fatigue. His heavy cross was given to a young man who wondered how Jesus had managed to carry it without falling down.
The step of Jesus quickened and everyone thought his release from the wooden weight was the reason. Today there is a greater understanding. It is known that the male aspect of the mind took over from the female aspect - the weakened body far more powerful than before because of it.
Jesus looked up at the hill of death in front of him. Two other prisoners were being crucified before him and the screams made him shudder. Both were thieves but for them he had pity as the drunken soldiers hammered in the nails.
At last the thieves hung silently in their pain, their heads wagging from side to side, and as Jesus was raised up beside them, one looked at him and said, "Master, save me. I know I am guilty and deserve to die, but help me!"
"Today you will be with me in Paradise," Jesus answered assuredly and watched him until he quietly died.
The cross upon the other side dripped with blood. A big man hung there. He would take many hours to die and his face was contorted with anger as he looked at the man who had died. "You saved him, now save yourself," he said hoarsely, through his pain. He wished it was he who was safe from the world and its cares. Jesus looked with compassion upon him as his voice halted and then, with greater vehemence, cursed all about him as the pain his body to bear grew greater. He would have liked to die but could not and cursed all the louder as people laughed at him.
Disillusioned, they waited
Some distance away the disciples were gathered together to pray but so disheartened were they that prayer was of no avail. They could not believe that the one he called his father would let their Master die, and yet they had no understanding of how he could be saved.
They kept themselves apart and none came to see them. Disillusioned, they waited, knowing that the women at the cross would bring them news. Gone were the hopes of liberation from the Romans. If Jesus could not save himself, how could he possibly save the Jews, for it was they whose words had condemned him? The words of Jesus had failed to inspire but what they had not been told was of the men who had stirred up trouble as the sincere followers had gone to their homes.
The disciples gathered closer together, their disappointment etched upon their faces. Speech would not come for each was afraid and none made the move except John who, wishing to know the fate of his Master, hurried to Golgotha which was the place where victims were crucified. Such a form of punishment was used before the Romans came to Jerusalem. They have been blamed for its origin but the place and the haunting horror of it was there long before the country was conquered and inhabited by them.
The Jews wanted peace but the hearts of many were rebellious. They found no peace within themselves and would not alter the scope of their own enlightenment, and as a result, all through history enlightenment for them has stood still. When leaders join inquirers to find the light within, the use of it will stop the harassment Jews have suffered, for as it was promised of Jerusalem that it would fall, so will the progress made by them falter, time after time, until the light is seen and peace is in every heart as well as desired by each mind.
The earth began to move
John arrived breathless at the cross to see the women weeping and Jesus hanging limply, thirsting for water. "They have no mercy, oh my God," moaned a man close at hand. "He doesn't cry out, why doesn't he? He isn't like the others; how can he bear it!"
"Father forgive them, they know not what they do." The man heard the whispered words, and though he had come to scoff, he turned from the sight and stumbled away. Suddenly he looked up, darkness was coming over everything. Stumbling and falling, he fled from the evil he had seen. The earth began to move. It shook as if a vast hand had pushed it from underneath. Lightning flashed and a great noise rushed through the air as it struck the Temple which proudly dominated the city, splitting the veil of the Temple in two.
The man fell upon his knees and covered his face with his hands. "Surely this is the son of God," he cried, and whimpering with fright, rose to his feet and started to run. The remaining thief (still alive on his cross) also saw the darkness and shuddered as if in death. "God help us," he said, "He is the Son of God; no one else could make the earth as black as this."
Wind raged about them while the soldiers clung together, afraid now at what they had done. They had been told to watch so they must stay but never again would they be the same, for each in turn had felt something pass through him and were left with a sense of pain.
The women huddled about the cross, silently weeping. They would not further distress the Master with their sadness, but Jesus felt for them and blessed them in his heart. His time was now not far away and upon his Mother his pain-filled eyes rested before he found the power to speak. Haltingly but clearly the words came and everyone marvelled that his voice could be so strong. "Mother, behold thy son," he said, and to John, his beloved disciple who had been as a brother, he added, "John, behold thy Mother."
To himself it was denied
The tongue of Jesus came from his mouth although a great thirst was on him. He had given the water of life to many but to himself it was denied.
The soldiers laughed softly between themselves as they gave the innocent man gall and vinegar to drink, a bitter humiliation to the last, and when he had suffered the indignity, he gave up his life.
Amazed, everyone looked on. Death had come very quickly. Hanging victims usually wagged their head in pain but this man had calmly talked. No greater proof could be required to show them that they had killed an innocent man.
The soldiers with bowed heads reported their prisoner dead. They were ashamed. Now being sober they could see what had been done and they feared the consequences, for they now knew, without doubt, that Jesus was not a man as they were men.
Quickly they wanted to get down the body to hide it from their gaze so that it would not remind them of what they had done. The officer moved forward to break his legs as others, still alive upon their crosses, suffered at the last. Seeing the prisoner dead he drew his sword and pierced the hanging body, jumping back when from the wound a fountain of blood and water spurted out. Only then did the officer believe that an innocent man had been murdered. He was astounded and looked in the darkness to the cross. Rubbing his eyes he looked again, for light was coming from the body, embracing another cross near at hand. The man was dead but as the light touched his face a smile could be seen lingering on his lips.
Right unto the end had Jesus given his compassion! Hardened soldiers shook with emotion at the evil deed that had been done. So dazed were they that, when approached for the body, they willingly cut it down, and resting it gently upon the ground, watched the women as they wept over it. Joseph, a man of some wealth who had bought a piece of land, had built himself a sepulchre upon it. Coming quietly upon the scene he begged for the body, having already asked Pilate for permission to bury it.
No one came or went
Jesus was carried to his tomb and there his body was given kindness as ointment and spices anointed him.
So afraid were the priests when hearing that the body had not been burned that they paid the soldiers to seal the tomb and to see that no one came or went. A great stone covered the entrance (such that one man alone could not move it) and all was considered safe.
When the Sabbath had passed and it was the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene - who had loved Jesus - came before it was light to assure herself that all was well with the body of her loved one. As she cautiously approached the place she found it very quiet and she was afraid. She did not look into the tomb but ran quickly to find the disciples.
Peter was not far away. He was with John who had taken Mary, the mother of Jesus, to his home. With sobbing breaths she spoke of what she had seen. "They have taken him and I don't know where they have put him." Peter comforted her and they made their way back to the tomb. John out-ran Peter, the heavier man, and when he saw the stone was rolled away he bent down to look inside. He was overcome when he saw the grave clothes that Jesus had worn, neatly laid down as if with great care.
John could not bring himself to go inside the tomb but Peter was not troubled by fears and went inside. He looked long and earnestly at the linen his master had worn and then at the napkin that had been upon his head; the latter was not with the other grave clothes but by itself.
Peter wept and stumbled outside. John also came to look, and finding his fears realised, he also wept and they went away because they could not bear to stay. Mary Magdalene loved so greatly that she could not go away. Weeping loudly she bent down to look into the tomb and was taken by surprise when a voice spoke to her. Looking through her tears she could see two Angels looking anxiously at her. One was seated where the head of Jesus had been and the other where the feet had been.
Do not touch me
"Why do you weep?" she was asked.
So kindly did the voice speak that once more she found tears blinding her eyes. "They have taken my Lord," she said, "and I do not know where to find him." The Angels were looking beyond her and she turned and saw a man whom, she supposed, worked in the garden.
The man was quick to speak. "Why do you weep?" he said gently.
She begged him to tell her where the body from the tomb was laid. "I want to take him away if he cannot rest here. Let me have him," she pleaded.
Jesus, (for indeed the man was he) was moved by her love. "Mary," he said, his voice soft and loving. As soon as Mary heard him speak her name she recognised him and blessed him by calling him Master. As she raised up her head she would have touched him but he stepped back.
"Do not touch me," he said, "but go and tell my disciples that I am alive."
Mary did not know that she was observing what is known today as the inner body; its appearance often confuses because the lines caused by emotion and pain are absent. An inner body physically built up with plasma can be seen by one of earth, but it cannot be touched until it is fully materialised and solid.
Mary found the disciples behind locked doors, for they feared the Jews and the reprisals they might make. She knocked upon the door and called them by name. "He is alive," she said, breathless with running. "He is coming to see you; we must just wait."
The light blinded me
At the sepulchre people were running about, seeking the body they had thought was there. Finding the tomb empty they were astonished but as one by one the guards who had run away were found, many became brave and entered the place with them. "The light blinded me," said one soldier to another.
"I thought I was the only one who had seen it," was the reply.
"I went completely blind," said the third, "and could not see where I went. I am very glad I was found because coming back has helped me to see. Do you think it is the power in this place?" His voice was full of awe.
"No," was the reply. "I think this man has come alive. And haven't you heard that there are others who have also risen after being dead a long time?"
Suddenly the peace was broken - priests from the Temple were climbing the hill. Despair hit the soldiers for what could they say.
"What have you done with him?" demanded the leader, his face livid with indignation. "We told you to take care. Tell us so that we can be assured he is dead."
"He is gone." The soldier's voice was guarded; it warned the priests that soldiers were Romans and should not be approached except through their officers.
Asserting his authority the leader held out his hand. "Tell us, was he stolen away?" he demanded.
The soldier shook his head and spoke of the light he had seen and of the stone that had been rolled away by an angel in white.
"You are drunk!" the priests accused. With one voice they disclaimed the truth but to convince themselves they bribed the soldiers to keep quiet and to speak of nothing they had seen.
Knowing the power of life and death that the priests wielded, the soldiers took the money and spread the lie they had been told. The disciples and Mary Magdalene knew the truth; they spoke of it and of the Master's return to them. Word passed from one to the other but the priests subdued the words and hounded the people who spoke them. The Romans killed but it was the priests who ordered the way of death and discredited the innocent by calling them guilty.
Bitter death has been their portion
Throughout the many years that have followed the guilt of the crucifixion remains, and just as the Jews harassed the innocent, so have they found harassment a part of their daily lives. Bitter death has been their portion but still the priests lie. Their victims in all countries, crying to be released, find adamant those who hold them in check. Meanwhile, because death is honoured more than life, man believes it right that Jesus was cruelly murdered; he is continually mutilated again and again by the beliefs of those on earth who hold him as a sacrifice.
Can we believe today that anyone of goodness would revenge the death of a man that he had sent to be a sacrifice? If Jesus was ordained to die, why was it that both Pilate and Herod, each in their own way, suffered madness following his death? And why was Jerusalem later raised to the ground?
Indeed, Jerusalem was raised to the ground, and all who were given money to save the name of religion died. Their families died also, but religion still thrives on a snug and seemingly safe entry into heaven. What of the words of Jesus - are they still to be disputed? "I am the light of the world," he said. "No man cometh unto the father but by me." His dead body gives but little; the Christ Spirit gives much. The mind is of light and can spread to all men, and through the use of it heaven within is found.
Peace is not subject to outside conditions. Being at peace the inner man can use mind to bless himself, for mind is of truth. To lie is to be untrue to oneself and peace can never come because of it. Untruth brings untruth; sickness and death is the reward for it, for where there is continuing untruth the soul dies, and from then on man cannot find protection for himself or for his own.
The body dies; it lives again! When this is known the blessing of truth will be found. Jesus died but he is not a whipping boy for you! You are part of the light and must follow the way of truth. In Jesus the truth in man was revealed. Can you see it? Are you still and are you able to find the love as Jesus himself had? This is what he taught and this is what we can believe!