SHADOW OF DEATH
Novel #7 in THEY MET JESUS series
It’s now 6:00 AM and the Temple hierarchy has managed to find liars to testify against Jesus in their middle-of-the-night illegal court. They can already smell Jesus’ blood. They drag him through the street to Governor Pilot’s palace. Rome controls all executions. Pilate interviews Jesus in private. It doesn’t take Pilate long to realize he is standing before greatness. He decides to save Jesus’ life by having him scourged with iron bits on the tips of the whip. Jesus’ back turns to raw meat.
Barely alive (most people die of scourging), Jesus is presented to the “holy” mob. They still are not satisfied. “Crucify! Crucify!” The death penalty is granted. It takes two chapters in my book to struggle with Jesus on the cross. This is some of it (which I wrote fifty years ago when I was 17):
The pain. The writhing, seething, shooting pain. How can another moment be like the last? It can’t. But it is.
On and on, endlessly, each joint screaming, calling out for mercy. Relieve me! Relieve me! But there is no relief.
Still the pain. The pain that shoots through the body like fire arrows. The pain that tangles up the muscles like fish in a net. The pain that mounts, ebbs, then comes back more horrible than before.
“…Oh, my God, my God… Keep me strong. Strong for them.”
…On and on, deeper and deeper. Harsh, horrible, hideous, hanging on, never letting go. No relief, no release, no anything but this excruciating pain. Oh the pain…
The spasms. The unrelenting spasms. They’re back. They knot Jesus’ feet and twist them, involuntarily pulling at the rusty stake.
Jesus, God is nearby. He’s touching your feverish brow and enveloping you in his love. And the angels. They’re preparing for your homecoming. Remember? Remember how it used to be?
The longer Jesus’ weight is carried by the spikes, the more his joints slip out of their proper location. The droning of his pain slips almost secretly from his nerves and little by little sneaks into his bones.
Harder and harder it becomes for Jesus to claim his next breath. Still harder to exhale.
His muscles shattered, his shoulder bones dislocated, part of him dehydrating, part of him bloating.
The rhythm of indistinct breathing interrupted only by the spasms that gradually creep up his legs.
Jesus’ heavy laden heart struggles with his dehydrated broken body to pump thick, heavy, sluggish blood to a resistant, barely living being.
“I…uhhhhcgk…thirst,” he whispers.
One last request. It is time to will himself to die.
Can they refuse? No! Look! Someone has had mercy on you, Son of God! He’s taking a sponge dipped in vinegar, and now…and now…he is offering it to you, thirsty Savior. A drink.
With the weariness of dying, Jesus takes the vinegar and it momentarily helps the nausea.
His tormented swollen heart labors slower and slower.
Gradually and increasingly surrounded by a contemptible, mocking serum, his heart strains even harder as it struggles to pump just a few more drops of blood.
Slower it pumps, and slower…
…Everything is getting so dim, so hazy, so blurry…
Where is everything going?
Around and around. Spinning, spinning, back, farther and farther, faster, faster, faster!
Finished. Your work all completed. Everything as you knew it would be. And now, oh Lamb of God, die! The sacrifice is completed. But for your sins, Son of God? No, of course not. You have none. You’ve been perfect, unselfish one, from your human birth, the whole way. All of this has been for the others.
…Everything is drifting so far away…
So far away…
So far away.
No one here…
So hazy…All alone…
…Something drawing… something… something drawing you to it. What is it? Where is it coming from?
Look up! But the pain—the cramping relentless pain.
Torturing to the very end.
But look up.
Don’t you see?
He calls out.
Yes, he’s coming for you!
“Father…uhhhhcgk… I know…uhhhhcgk…you’re there.
My spirit…uhhhhcgk…it’s yours!”
Just a little more now!
Just a little closer…
Jesus’ head lifts up in all the defiance of death. His body jerks and writhes, his knotted muscles strain.
Just a little closer now…
His heart swells…
And with a loud piercing cry that shakes the foundations of the earth, Jesus sends his liberated spirit rushing at last to the outstretched arms of God.
OH, MY SON! MY SON!
(Later in this volume is his resurrection and appearances to his startled friends.)
Katheryn Haddad was born in the cold north, but now lives in Arizona where she does not have to shovel sunshine. She enjoys hot weather, palm trees and cacti in her yard, and a computer with the letters worn off.
With a bachelor’s degree in English, Bible and social science from Harding University and part of a master’s degree in Bible, including Greek, from the Harding Graduate School of Theology, she also has a master’s degree in management and human relations from Abilene University.
Her newspaper column appeared for several years in newspapers in Texas and North Carolina ~ Little Known Facts About the Bible ~ and she has written for numerous Christian publications.
Currently she teaches English over the internet every morning, using the Bible as a text book. Most of her students are Muslims. She has taught some 6000 thus far, and has former students, now Christians, in hiding in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, and Palestine. “They are my heroes” she declares.
She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers of the West, and is also an energetic public speaker who can touch the heart of audiences.
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