Centurion: From Glory to Glory

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The Worst Day

"Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly welts on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long-drawn-out agony? He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross." - Ancient description of the gradual death of victims of crucifixion

The Tribunus sat, silent for a moment. “Tell me, Gaius, why does this man, Jesus, fascinate you so?”

“Does not hearing about his deeds and words capture your imagination as well, my Lord? Is it not for that reason we speak so late at night?”

“You are the philosopher-politician.” He paused. “Yes he interests me, for I have heard of many soldiers in this region falling captive to his teaching. Is it a newfound faith, or witchery that captures their imagination? I have heard that he claimed to be the embodiment of truth and the sole means to obtain paradise. What man can make such claims and not be considered mad?”

“It is true that he made such claims, and you are right to be cautious. However, if the authority of his words isn’t sufficient, the power he exerts over the world should be. He heals the sick, calms the storms, and brings people to back to life.” Gaius’ boldness was a surprise, and he knew the source from which it came.

“Did you see him do these things? Were you healed yourself? Conjurers make claims all the time. How do I know that what you say is true?” The Greek philosophers were always seeking after truth; Romans liked concrete laws and actions. The Tribunus was more apt to let the Greeks drone on, while he conquered their lands.

“All I can do is tell you what I have seen, and what I have heard from people I trust. You will have to decide for yourself whether or not to believe, my lord.” He added the last quickly. He was still a soldier under authority, a prisoner on trial.

“This speculation matters little anyway. The reports I received indicate that the rabbi was ostracized from his own religious community and put to death. In the end his so called truth was extinguished.” The Tribunus blew out a candle on the table. “The power and glory of Rome remains, and the passing philosophies and dusty old orthodoxy lie trodden in the dirt.” He was growing tired and was about to dismiss Gaius.

Gaius picked up a discarded grape seed from a tray on the table and said, “This seed, my lord, has the potential to grow hundreds of grapes. But before it can it must fall in the dust and die. Only then can it spring forth new life. Every great civilization has sprung from humble beginnings. Even Rome herself began small and grew to its great glory. What if the kingdom that Jesus spoke of is the same? What if a new kingdom is ushered in that is more glorious than we can even imagine?” Gaius had the Tribunus’ attention again.

The week of Passover was lining up to be horrific. Gaius was so enthralled with the festivities at first, but now it was becoming a nightmare, as all these people were crowding and jostling through the streets. He and his men had already broken up three fights, and arrested two other men for trying to waylay a Roman patrol on the outskirts of town. They were quickly tried and found guilty of insurgency. Zealots were out in full strength, and the little gnats were beginning to really bother him. Now they were chasing another down the street as he made his way to the lower city. They liked to melt away among their own kind.

“Stop that man,” Gaius yelled to people ahead of him, but they merely stepped aside and let him run into the crowd. There was no way they would assist a Roman in catching one of their own. He took his girth belt off and handed it to one of his men. If he was going to catch him he was going to have to be lighter. The man was running for his life. Earlier, he and a couple of his buddies jumped a soldier and began beating him. Like a pack of wolves they waited for him to fall behind his patrol. When they saw their opportunity they took it, and if the Duplicarious had not realized he was one man short, the soldier might have died. Nonetheless attacking a Roman solider was punishable by death.

Gaius rounded a corner and saw the man slip between two merchant stalls. The man knew there was nowhere to go and tried to give Gaius the slip by hiding. Gaius slowed his pace as he approached the leather stand. He gave a stern look to the people around, warning them off any temptation to help. Even though he believed he was stronger, it was prudent for him to wait for his men. When they arrived, Gaius held his finger to his lips, and then pointed to a pile of animal skins behind the stall.

Once they had taken away any possible escape Gaius said, “We know you’re under the hides, you might as well give up without a fight.” The man slowly crawled from under the fleece, but when he stepped out onto the street he bolted. The soldiers, however, where prepared. They knocked him down and gave him a good beating.

“That’s enough, we don’t want to spare him the just rewards of his actions. Bind him and take him to the garrison prison.”

The physical exertion wasn’t the worst; it was the paperwork. Every prisoner had to be recorded: his name, his city of birth, and, of course, his infraction. He would then be brought before a magistrate. A sentence would be pronounced and punishment quickly dispensed. “What is your name?” Gaius asked. He didn’t respond. Gaius gave him a disgusted look and then smacked him in the head. “I asked, what is your name?”

He was a little more cooperative. “Barabbas, from the city of David, and you filthy pagans shouldn’t…” But before he could say another word Gaius stuffed a piece of cloth in his mouth. He could fill out the rest of the paperwork without the noise.

Perseverance is more prevailing than violence and many things that cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little. – Plutarch

Claudia tossed all night and the veil between wake and sleep was hard to distinguish:

There were those in Jerusalem who feared the rabbi Jesus. Annas and Caiaphas, the chief priest and head of the scribes, summoned the council. They were devising a way to rid themselves of this troublesome young man. They saw Jesus as a usurper of the Law and a blasphemer of the things of God, but most of all a danger to their power and position. Their only recourse was to put him to death. Caiaphas had said, “Better that one man die on behalf of the people.” The question was how; Roman law did not allow the Jews to put anyone to death. They needed to draw the governor Pilate into their plot.

Annas and Caiaphas, and many on the council, approached the residence of Pilate, and requested an audience with the governor. When Pilate was informed, he was irritated. By their law the Jews were not allowed to enter the residence of a non-Jew, and for the purpose of peace it was expected that the governor would hold court outside. Motioning to a guard he commanded, “Take my judgment seat outside. These Jews are irrepressible. It irks me that a governor of Rome has to acquiesce to their silly mythology.” He took his time, and at midday the Jews had to stand in the heat. He would make it as uncomfortable for them as possible.

“Caiaphas, my old friend.” Neither considered themselves friends. “I hope your preparations for the Passover are going well. What can I do for you today?”

“We come to you with a great concern among our people,” Caiaphas began. “A man named Jesus has been stirring up the people. He is the son of a carpenter, from the city of Bethlehem, and he has claimed to be the Son of God and a king.” This last statement perked Pilate’s ears.

Annas then interjected, “More than that, he has polluted the Sabbath and would destroy the law of our fathers!” As usual Annas was punctuating his statements with gestures to the sky.

“This doesn’t seem to be a Roman issue. What deeds has he done that would destroy your law?” Though Pilate was not interested in the Jews’ petty religious squabbling, he did care about the law and the stability of the region.

“Our law forbids anyone from healing on the Sabbath. But this man ignores the law and had healed the lame, the blind, and the paralyzed.” Pilate was noting Caiaphas’ outrage, but their anger didn’t seem to fit the crime. Caiaphas continued, “He is a sorcerer as well. He casts out devils in the name of Beelzebub, the prince of devils!”

“How can I, a mere governor, examine a king?” Pilate was being coy.

“We plead you, my lord, to bring this man before you and judge him for his crimes. How can the governor stand idle when a man claims to be king? There is no king but Caesar.”

That last statement angered Pilate. They were playing him against his loyalty to Caesar. Yet, he was now curious about the man Jesus. He instructed his messenger to go and bring Jesus to him, but with gentleness. When the messenger approached Jesus he perceived something different in the man, and he worshipped him. He informed the rabbi what his master had instructed and Jesus came with him immediately. As they approached the governor’s residence the messenger motioned for Jesus to wait, and pulling out a handkerchief he spread it on the ground before Jesus and said, “Lord, walk on this and enter in, for the governor is waiting.” As Jesus entered the residence there were guards on either side holding standards with the royal images of the empire on display. As Jesus walked by, each image, in their turn, bowed before him.

This enraged the Jews! Not only did a messenger of the governor bow in worship to this man, so did their standards. What kind of sorcery was this? They cried out to the governor to judge this man as a witch, a blasphemer, and a usurper of Rome. If the royal standards bowed to him, then Caesar must as well. Pilate responded, “I saw no such thing. Surely you are delusional, but we will see if what you say is true. Pick for yourself twelve strong men to hold the standards for yourselves. We will have Jesus brought back in the same manner to see if what you have said is true. If it is not, I will have your heads cut off.”

Nervously Caiaphas and Annas brought twelve strong men to hold the standards. With gentleness the messenger brought Jesus around the courtyard and back through the entrance. Once again he took a handkerchief and spread it before Jesus. The rabbi entered the residence and passed before the standards once again. To Pilate’s amazement he saw the standards bow before the presence of this man, and he was afraid.

Claudia sat straight up in bed and was breathing heavily. Pilate woke, placing his hand on her shoulder, and asked, “What is the matter, my dear?”

“I have had a bad dream, and I am not sure what it means.” Sweat was beading on her forehead.

Pilate drew her close and said, “Don’t be frightened. We will be leaving today for Jerusalem. You always enjoy the Passover festival. It will be a good diversion.”

Claudia was comforted by her husband’s embrace, but disconcerted about the dream. She would ponder its meaning, and pray that its message would be made clear.

Pouring over the numerous pages of orders and reports, the Cornicularioius, Antonio, had the unenviable task of making sense of all the information, but he liked it. Keeping order gave him pleasure, and since he wasn't the best fighting soldier, he made himself the best administrator. When the news of Pilate’s arrival came across his desk, it was his responsibility to assign a century to the residence for his protection. Pilate often brought his own guards, but during the festival, with the increase in population, he liked to keep his soldiers on the outskirts of town, ready in the event that he needed them. Pilate would utilize local soldiers who were more informed concerning plots and intrigue.

“Here,” he said to his orderly. “Take this order to Centurion Gaius. His century will have the privilege of being at Governor Pilate’s disposal during his stay in Jerusalem.” Antonio knew Gaius to be as good a politician as he was a soldier. That would serve him well with Pilate, who could be ruthless and erratic. Gaius could prove to be a stabilizing factor for him. King Herod was in the city as well, and the Cornicularius was glad that the King of Israel provided his own armed contingent. And as long as they didn’t interfere with his responsibilities to keep the peace there shouldn’t be any conflict.

It was just another assignment for Gaius. He had secured his prisoner, Barabbas, when the Cornicularius’ orderly found him. “Thank you,” he said, opening the orders. He was a little disappointed. Gaius had hoped to station himself around the Temple so he could observe the festivities, and hopefully get a glimpse of the rabbi, Jesus. He enjoyed standing in the west tower of the fort, because it gave him an unobstructed view of the Temple and all the activities. Before he gathered his gear and men, he climbed the steps to the second set of windows to get one last glimpse. He noticed some commotion at the north end of the Temple. It was the place where the Sanhedrin met, called the Chamber of Hewn Stone. They believed themselves the keepers of Israel’s religious cult. They often met to debate fine points of their doctrine, or to cast judgment on some poor soul who broke one of their many laws. For whatever reason they were meeting, it was none of his concern right now. He called his men and they made their way through the city to Herod’s palace. It was Pilate’s favorite place to stay when he was in Jerusalem. He enjoyed the accommodations and he liked displacing Herod whenever possible.

“Ah, Centurion Gaius. It is good to see you again.” Pilate had a head for names and faces. He had only seen Gaius one other time, a couple of years previous when he passed along General Sextus’ message. That connection encouraged Pilate’s confidence and trust in Gaius. “I hope our time together will be pleasant.” He took the orders from Gaius’ hand and gave them a quick review. “Everything looks in order. You can stand at ease. I will be spending most of my time in the palace, but if there is anything I specifically need, I hope that I can count on your discretion and prompt obedience?

“Always, my lord. My men and I are at your disposal. Whatever you command, we will do.” Politicians and commanders were always testing loyalty. Gaius found it tedious. He commanded loyalty from his men, and worked hard to cultivate a relationship that could not be broken by bribe or treason. Yet, a paranoid politician is one who outlives all others. “I do want to make my lord aware of some unusual activity at the Temple.”

Pilate nodded for him to continue.

“I am sure it is nothing, but the Sanhedrin was convening this morning. They may have met merely to prepare for the Passover, but I wanted the governor apprised of everything that is happening.”

“Thank you. You are probably right. There are only two days left before the Passover, and they would be planning to accommodate all the people wanting to participate, as well as organizing the selling of the sacrifices. The Sanhedrin never wasted an opportunity to make some money.” As a good Roman, profit was never a problem for Pilate. He just found irony in the Priests’ laws and their greed.

“In regard to temple activity,” Gaius said, “there was an incident before your arrival. A young rabbi caused a commotion by turning over vendor tables and chasing them with a whip.” Gaius recounted the details for Pilate, who laughed and thought the week could prove to be very interesting.

“To be on the safe side, station a small unit around the northern entrance to the Temple. Make sure they understand that they are not to interfere without my permission.” Pilate motioned Gaius’ dismissal.

Gaius instructed Optio Servius to summon him immediately if anything unusual occurred. He had an unsettled feeling about this week. Servius enjoyed being in charge, and when Gaius sent him to lead these small units, he took advantage of the opportunity to display his own leadership skills. His unit consisted of ten men, and they would alternate the times of their patrol. That way some could sleep while others kept watch. Wednesday night was uneventful. Plenty of people milled around the Temple praying, buying doves and sheep for the sacrifices. The place often smelled of dead animals.

To be on the safe side, Servius sent a message every six hours to Gaius, who appreciated his Optio’s diligence. The messages were pretty much the same: Lots of people preparing for the sacrifices, and religious Leaders standing around talking. All is well. Servius recruited a couple of young Jewish boys to go into the Temple and bring back periodic reports. As evening came the pilgrims disbanded to where they lived or were camping. The Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley, was a popular place for people to gather. Campfires dotted the grove, and cast an eerie glow above the mountain.

About 7 p.m. one of the soldiers shook Servius awake. “Optio, a group is crossing the bridge from the Temple to the Mount of Olives.” Servius got up and could see a line of torches and people crossing over the bridge and out of sight under the olive trees. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but dispatched a message to Gaius right away.

“Take this to the Centurion, and wake him if necessary. Tell him I will be waiting for him across the bridge.” If there was to be any trouble, he wanted to put it down as quickly as it started.

By the time Servius had reached the grove, he could see two distinct groups gathering at the center. The one group he recognized. It consisted of the temple guards, accompanied by a few scribes and Pharisees. Most of the group looked liked thugs, holding clubs rather than swords. It was the temple guards who gave Servius pause. They were the official guardians of the Temple and the High Priest. If they were here it was local, official business. He ordered his men to stand down, but to be alert.

Gaius arrived about thirty minutes later. By then the confrontation had taken place and the guards were taking their prisoner away. “Servius, what happened?”

“The temple guards have arrested the rabbi, Jesus. I am not sure they could tell who they were looking for, because when they approached the group of men one of them stepped forward and gave a kiss of greeting. Then everything happened, and it happened quickly.” Servius explained why they didn’t interfere, and Gaius nodded in approval. “As soon as the rabbi was identified the temple guards stepped forward to arrest him.” Servius paused for a second. “You’re not going to believe this, Centurion. The Rabbi said something, and as soon as he spoke everyone staggered backward. It was as if the mere sound of his voice had power. They regained their composure and the Rabbi held out his hands as if to surrender to their will.”

“Are you telling me, that the rabbi let them take him?” The Jesus he had seen in the Temple would have run them off.

“One of his disciples did make a show of force. He drew his sword and awkwardly thrust forward, cutting off one servant’s ear.” Gaius gave a puzzled look, and Servius continued, “The rabbi put a hand up, and the man retreated. Bending over the injured man, he placed his hand over the ear. The man stood up, and from what we could see he was healed!” Both stood quiet for a moment. “The next thing we knew the temple guards were leading him back across the bridge and into the Temple.”

“Centurion.” A soldier had just run up with a message. “The temple guards entered the Temple from the east gate, but have now taken the Rabbi down the back steps of the Temple and are heading into the upper city.”

Gaius thought for a moment and decided, as interesting as the events unfolding were, that they were none of his concern. He would report back to Pilate and leave it at that. “Servius, you have done well. Take your unit back to the barracks and get some sleep. I will report back to the governor.”

Around 11:00 p.m. he slipped a note to the governor’s attendant. When he returned the servant said, “The governor appreciates your attentiveness. He says you are dismissed for the evening.” Gaius retired to his quarters in the palace and tried to get some sleep.

Sleep is a luxury for the rich. Gaius was promptly wakened when a crowd of Jews formed outside the palace. Addressing the crowd he asked, “Gentlemen, why are you here so early in the morning?”

Caiaphas spoke for the whole group. “We demand an audience with the governor. We have caught a man and arrested him for sedition. Please ask the governor to address us.” It was more a command than a request. The haughty Jews always walked the line of respect. It wasn’t Gaius place, however, to make a judgment on their actions. He turned and went to inform the governor.

“Thank you Gaius, I will be out in a minute. If you could have my judgment seat taken out onto the portico.” Pilate’s attendant helped him get dressed.

Placing the seat on the portico was all that was needed to communicate Pilate’s intention. Gaius needed not speak a word. When Pilate came out he sat down and faced the crowd. A lot of people surrounded a young man who was tied. He looked as if he had taken a couple of punches to the face. “Dear Caiaphas, how can I help you?”

“Our lord, governor. We thought it important to bring to your attention a matter of grave concern. The man who stands before you has stirred the people, misleading them and forbidding them to pay taxes to Caesar, saying the he is the Christ, a King.”

Pilate looked at the man curiously and asked, “Well, are you the king of the Jews?”

“It is as you say,” Jesus said.

“Really, Caiaphas, look at the man. Does he look like a king? I find no guilt in him.”

The crowd became agitated. They were all beginning to yell, and insisting, “He stirs up all of Galilee, even to Jerusalem.”

When Pilate heard them mention Galilee he saw an opportunity to rid himself of this nuisance and irritate Herod as well. “This isn’t my matter, it is a local matter. He belongs to Herod’s jurisdiction. Take him there and let Herod be the judge.” Before the crowd could resist, Pilate turned his back and walked inside. But before he entered the palace he said to Gaius, “Follow them. I want to know what happens before Herod.”

Caiaphas was not pleased, but had no other alternative except to go. Word reached Herod before the crowd gathered outside his residence. However, Herod was glad to meet Jesus; he had heard so much about him. As the morning fog cleared he hoped to see some miraculous sign. But Herod was deeply disappointed. He questioned Jesus extensively but not once did the young rabbi answer him. All Herod heard were the words of the crowd yelling, accusing, and threatening. Their anger fired the king’s own, and he began to threaten Jesus. Everyone’s frustration with this man began to pour out, and they mocked him, kicked him, and hit him. They dressed him in a purple robe and with little dignity sent him back to Pilate.

Gaius knew that this was not going to end well for this man. He left Herod’s just ahead of the crowd and made it back to the palace to inform Pilate before they arrived. Claudia had begged her husband to wait until after the Passover, but he shook her off and went outside. The crowd quieted as he sat on his judgment seat. He looked out at the chief priests and rulers of the people of Israel, lost people who needed a shepherd. It was his job to help them in this matter. He didn’t care about this man, and was about to render a judgment in favor of the leaders, when Claudia stepped up and whispered in his ear. “This was my dream, husband, all that you see here. It has recurred every night since we arrived, and it has tormented me so. Have nothing to do with this man, for your sake.” A fearful look came over Pilate’s face. Her words gave the governor pause, and a new direction. Only Gaius and a couple of soldiers could see it.

“You accuse this man of insurrection and rebellion. I have examined him and find no validity to your arguments. Herod finds him an oddity, and has sent him back. To pacify you, I will punish and release him.”

Pilate wasn’t expecting their response. They began to yell, “Give us Barabbas, and take this man in his place. Give us Barabbas.” Pilate always released a prisoner during the Passover. They were using this tradition against him. Pilate wanted to release him and said so, but their cries became louder and more vehement. “Crucify! Crucify Him.”

The governor was caught off guard. “What evil has this man done? He has done nothing deserving death. I will punish him and let him go.”

His wife’s dream, his own fear of losing control, and the oppressive feel of evil all around weakened his resolve and he capitulated to their demands. Taking a bowl of water he washed his hands and said, “I am free of this man’s blood. Take him and do with him as you have demanded.” While this was going on Barabbas had been brought out. He looked at Gaius and the fear of crucifixion that had covered his face faded with the realization that he was going to be set free. He shot Gaius a contemptuous look, and when untied disappeared into the crowd. Gaius wasn’t concerned; he knew they would meet again. Pilate turned to the Centurion and instructed him to carry out the will of the crowd.

“Yes, my lord.” Gaius motioned to two guards and they took the young rabbi and led him to the palace prison. There was a courtyard between the cells where prisoners were tied and flogged. “Tie him there. Where is the guardian of the prison? He is to be flogged and prepared for crucifixion.” The guardian’s eyes glinted. Gaius knew there were men who enjoyed the cruelty of flogging and crucifixion. They had been exposed to it so long they were impervious to their prisoner’s pain. They even delighted in it, but Gaius wasn’t one of them. They were necessary tools to maintain order.

Adrenaline pumped through the quickened hearts of all involved, causing events that would normally take days to happen within a few hours. The rabbi was whipped within an inch of his life. His back and face exposed vessels and bone, and though the man cried out in pain, he never once cursed his tormentors. A cross beam was eventually brought and roughly placed on his back. He wasn’t alone in his impeding death. Others, who had gone through more lengthy trials, were suffering their execution today as well, but none with as much grace.

The long procession through the city was purposeful. The gruesome and disfigured prisoners would be examples to those who would try the power of Rome. Gaius was charged to lead the procession and the first prisoner behind him was the young rabbi. The weight of his cross beam became too much and he crumpled under it. Gaius grabbed a man near by and compelled him to carry in his place. When he stepped back to force Jesus up the expression in his face was gratitude, as if he were thankful for Gaius’ mercy. He shook it off; it wasn't pity nor grace, but necessity. The Romans didn’t want their prisoners to die before being nailed and lifted up on their crosses.

Three soldiers attended each prisoner. One stood watch to keep friends and family at a distance, the second held the prisoner to the cross, and the third struck the nails, fastening the flesh to the wood. By the time the third appendage was pounded, the prisoner often had passed out from the pain. He was revived before standing the cross on end. The Romans’ didn’t want their prisoners to miss out on any part of the experience.

It was around midmorning, the third hour of the Jewish day, when all this took place, and when all the crosses had been erected, Gaius decided to stand watch over the young rabbi. He stood as a sentinel while the next six hours Jesus endured not only the pain of the crucifixion, but also the rejection of his own people.

“You saved others, save yourself.” The religious leaders were laughing. They scoffed at him, “Can’t you save yourself?”

Gaius ordered a couple of his soldiers to offer his prisoner some gall mixed with vinegar. It was thought to relieve some of the suffering. But Jesus refused to drink it. The soldiers taunted him. “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” Gaius gave them a quick rebuke and ordered them to their posts.

Gaius thought the worst of all the mocking was when the criminal to his left yelled, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Only the faint cry of the criminal on his right came to his defense, “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since we are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Jesus then said one of the most astonishing things. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Had this young rabbi truly done anything wrong? Those words Gaius mulled over and over in his mind as he stood watch.

It was unnatural when the skies began to darken at noon. The Jews standing around said that the darkening skies were a sign that the God were not pleased, and the people’s fear was evident as they scurried off to hide in their homes. When it seemed the darkest, there was a loud cry from the rabbi. “Eli, Eli lama sabachtani?” My god, my god, why have you forsaken me? And Gaius had pity on this poor man, so that when Jesus asked for a drink he soaked a sponge in sour wine and lifted it to his lips. While he was putting the sponge away he heard Jesus say, “It is finished!”

As soon as the words were uttered, the ground beneath Gaius’ feet began to rumble. The ground shifted, and the crosses wavered back and forth. It was an earthquake, and if he hadn’t been afraid before, he was now. The gods surely were not happy. But as he looked into the face of Jesus there was something uniquely different. Usually, prisoners died and their faces were frozen in pain or fear, but not his. There was peace. Before Gaius knew what was coming out of is mouth he said, “Surely he was the son of god!”

While he was transfixed in the moment a courier approached with a message from his superiors. Because the Sabbath was approaching the Jews didn’t want the bodies on the cross. They were required to break their legs and pierce their sides to speed the death process. Walking down the line one soldier struck the femur of each prisoner sending piercing cries of pain into the air. The next soldier thrust his spear into their sides puncturing the sack around the heart and spilling blood on the ground. But when they got to Jesus it wasn’t necessary. The shock had already killed him, but to be sure the soldier with the spear pierced his side. Immediately three soldiers began to divide his clothes, and when they couldn’t decide, they rolled dice. It disgusted Gaius, who always thought the practice belonged to scavengers not soldiers.

Eventually the rabbi’s friends came and took his body down to bury him in someone’s tomb. The Jewish leaders, afraid the body would be stolen, petitioned Pilate for guards. They trusted that the Roman guards could not be bribed, so Cornelius dispatched two men to stand watch over the tomb and report back to him if anything happened. The walk back to the palace was lonely as Gaius thought about the previous hours. He had experienced a lot of death in his time, but nothing compared to this day’s events. There was something unique about the person, about the trial, about the execution, and it just didn’t sit well with him. The emotional strain, the lack of sleep, and the weight of keeping everyone in line had taken its toll. Gaius had to admit that this had been the worst day of his life.

Pilate called Gaius into the palace. “Gaius, good job today. You stayed calm and kept everyone under control. I am sorry for the outcome, and my wife was not pleased that I allowed it to happen, but what can we do in such situations? There is nothing worse then a troublesome Jew, except for a troublesome wife. I have to say this has been one of the worst days of my life.” He sat back in his chair. “Ah, but at least it is over. I will only need your services until this coming Monday. Keep me posted if anything unusual happens.

Huddled in a small upper room, eleven men and a few women feared for their own lives. They didn’t know if the temple guards or the guards of the governor would come and arrest them, and feared they would suffer the same fate as their master. They had placed their hopes and dreams in him, and now he was dead. They were scared, and prayer was all they had left. With heads bowed, all silently knew that this had been the worst day of their lives.

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