I knew it was true long before the “authorities” destroyed our hope. They were so conceited, so arrogant, that they couldn’t stand to admit that he had finally arrived! And they burned with hatred and jealousy toward this man who gave himself to the people. He saw to it that thousands were given successful medical treatment, thousands were fed without being charged. I knew all this. So did thousands of others. And on the day when the final proof was given, his credentials established beyond any doubt, thousands more, both rich and poor, immediately knew it was true and accepted it! Our Liberator had come! We had waited so long, had suffered through false leaders, fools who thought they could lead us out of the tyranny we suffered under … but they all failed.
After a while, we had become numb. Cynical. The weapons of our oppressors seemed to be more powerful than anyone could overcome. We went about our lives trying to be content to accept what we had, we who had been the greatest nation that ever saw the light of day. Once all nations looked to us as to a shining example. Once foreign leaders publicly acknowledged the superiority of our culture. We were the best that humanity could offer. The other nations, well, some of us barely considered them human. They were under a curse. They didn’t have the magic that held our nation above disasters.
We knew we could lose it, of course. Our historical records told us that our Founding Fathers had chosen to walk dark paths of evil in generations past, and there is always a price to pay for following evil. But every time, though at terrible cost, we came back from the edge of the abyss. Of course, at the time the Liberator came, we were again under the boot of a tyrant nation as a result of our leaders’ compromises with evil.
We had long since learned not to trust our “leaders”. They were too powerful to oppose openly, though some tried. A friend of mine was in prison for trying to start a revolution against them. A revolution! When “our” leaders were collaborating with our oppressors! How stupid can you get?
But we remembered our history. Like many of my nation, I had sworn I would never forget that we were a special people, with a special destiny. Never forget! had been my motto since I was in my teens. There had been Liberators in the past, and there was a legend of another Liberator coming, who would end injustice and oppression forever.
Then one day, rumors began to circulate that the Liberator had come. Within a matter of days he could not appear anywhere without being mobbed by desperate and deliriously happy people! He solved their problems as if by magic. And besides that, what I have come to believe is far more important, he taught us the old ways, the things that had made our beloved nation strong, safe, and prosperous! He motivated men, women, and even children to be strong in the old ways, and even to set a much higher standard for themselves than our most righteous leaders had set for us.
That began to thin out his followers a little. Even some of his strongest supporters fell away. And then our leaders openly opposed him. They confronted him publicly, trying to find a legal loophole to arrest him, can you believe it? The man had done nothing but good to everyone. There were rumors that he was marked for death. I alternated between hope and fear constantly. Hope that this time, our Liberator would truly be our Liberator. Fear that his liberation attempt would end with half the population dying on Roman swords, and the rest of us being once again transported to foreign lands as slaves.
He faced them down every time they confronted him publicly. Even our blind leaders were heard to say, “We can’t control this man! The whole world is following him!” With all the dissent and opposition, he had become so popular that at one point, those around him cooked up a plan on the spur of the moment to force him him to be our king! He slipped away, though, and the plan wasn’t attempted again.
And then the leaders, in secret meetings at night, collaborating with our oppressors, faked a charge against him, turned him over to the tyrant, and had him killed. My heart was torn with grief! I couldn’t sleep. I heard that my imprisoned friend, Barabbas, was ranting about another opportunity lost because we didn’t rise against the oppressor when the Liberator was arrested. But before we knew what was happening, the Liberator was hanging on a cross. Afterward, Barabbas was told by one who was there that in the moment of his arrest, the Liberator had forbidden his followers to fight the mob sent to arrest him. That’s all they were, a mob. There was no cause to arrest him. He was put through three different trials, in three different courts, and only by a lawyer’s verbal tricks could they find anything to even accuse him of.
When he finally stood in front of the Roman governor for the second time, he refused even to respond to the babble of false, stupid accusations they tossed at the governor. But Pilate was pressured by our leaders to have the Liberator crucified, and like a true leader, Pilate crumbled under pressure and ordered it done.
Barabbas shambled home that same day, released by Pilate’s tradition. He was in shock, which got worse three days later when we began to hear vague rumors that our God had raised the Liberator from the dead. I ignored the rumors, but they persisted, increased, came from more and more of His followers, and finally, on the day of Pentecost over a month later, His followers came out of hiding and dared to loudly announce, in their enemies’ stronghold, that it was true. That they had seen Jesus, had touched Him, eaten meals with Him … He even commanded one who doubted to touch His wounds to verify that it was He, and not a ghost.
And then they, His followers, began to work the same miracles that Jesus had! I was told of a few of those miracles done for people I knew slightly, and I began to believe, but it was a very tentative faith. I had so many questions!
A Roman soldier finally convinced me that it was true.
I was in Jerusalem, which was still, weeks later, on fire with excitement. I was trying to go about my business (I’m a wine merchant) when a Roman soldier, already well into the bottle, staggered into my shop and demanded wine. He appeared haggard, shaken, completely unfit for duty. He paid for his wine, stared at me, and asked in a trembling voice if I was one of the followers of “this Jesus”. I told him frankly that I didn’t know what to believe. He replied, “I do! I was assigned to guard His grave … and … there was … something … a god, an angel … who came down from the sky and rolled away the stone that sealed the tomb. He looked like a living lightning bolt. I’m terrified. I don’t want to be here when He comes back.”
And so I came to believe at last. I went in search of some of His followers then, and told them about the Roman soldier. They laughed – with joy. They told me that if I saw that soldier again, I should tell him that Jesus forgave him, even as He was hanging on the cross. They explained that the reason Jesus didn’t allow them to fight was because His Kingdom is not of this world. When we die, we’re going to His Kingdom. There’s more to the story than that, but you need to talk to one of His followers yourself.
Or talk to Him. They claim He can hear their prayers. And I believe that too.