Good morning all — since today is Easter Sunday, I wanted tore- post an excerpt from ny book, “Journey: a Novel,”now available on Amazon.com. The book is an account of the life of Mary Magdalene. It is the result of 8 years of research and a trip to Israel. This excerpt is from Chapter sixteen, entitled, “New Wine.” It is a peek into what the day of the Crucifixion might have been like for people who were there to experience it. —
It was sunset before Antonio Longinus returned to his quarters in the Fortress. Justus Flavius had been off-duty for several hours.
Taking off his sword, and his shoes, Antonius sat down across from him. “It was quite a day today,” he said.
Justus did not look up. “Yes, quite a day,” he answered quietly.
“Your man Atticus was a real help today, Flavius. I appreciated him getting that foreigner to carry the Galilean’s cross. Your men did well. I am going to include a commendation in my report to Rome.”
“Thank you,” Justus answered, still quiet.
Longinus sat down by him. “What’s wrong, man? Have you not eaten? Did you get bad news?”
Justus lifted his head. “One of my best friends died today,” he said.
Longinus nodded. “I understand. I’m sorry. Did he die here in Jerusalem or back home?”
“Here,” Justus answered, looking down again at the floor.
“Oh,” Longinus walked across the room and took two wooden goblets. He filled them with wine. Looking through the provisions on his table, he pulled out loaf of bread. He tore the loaf in two, and began preparing two plates of food. “Come and sit with me, at least. You’ll feel better if you eat something.”
Unfeeling, Justus rose and came to the table. He sat down across from Longinus, who began to speak.
“In all my years, I’ve never seen an execution quite like the one we saw today. I’ve never seen that many people, or that much blood. And, until today, I thought it was against the law to scourge and crucify a man. I thought the rulers were supposed to choose.”
Justus looked at him. “It still is against the law.”
Longinus took a drink of his wine. “You know, that one man; the one in the middle; what was his name?
“Jesus.” As Justus spoke, his voice broke.
“Oh,” said Longinus, tearing a piece of bread. “Was he your friend?”
The Capernaum commander nodded. “He was a Healer. He healed my servant. He raised my friend’s daughter from the dead. He healed several lepers that I know. He….”
Longinus interrupted him. “He raised someone from the dead?”
“I knew there was something about him. You should have heard the things he said from the cross. He gave out forgiveness. He asked a man to take care of his mother. It was like he was looking out for people.” He paused. There was one thing he said I didn’t understand; garbled, you know….Then he said, ‘it is finished,’ like he had completed some sort of job or something.” The centurion paused to take bite of his food.
“Anyway, usually I have to break a man’s legs so the lungs collapse. That way they die before sunset, and the birds don’t get to them. Some of the men don’t do it that way, but I hate going back the next day and seeing places where the vultures have had their fill.”
Justus shuddered. Longinus continued, his mouth full of food. “This man was already dead when I went to check him. Just before, he had said, “I’m giving my spirit into your hands.” I thought he was talking to one of his group that stood there all day. But just after he said it, he let out a long yell.”
“I wanted to be certain he was dead, so I took my spear, and opened up his side. It’s important to be sure the lungs have really stopped working, you know. It’s more merciful, really. I wouldn’t want to be buried alive, would you?”
He swallowed his mouthful.
“Anyway, I told my captain ‘this man must be the son of God!’ When the spear hit the lungs, a fountain of blood and water came rushing out of him. It went everywhere.”
“Is that unusual?” Justus asked
“It’s never happened before; at least not to me.” He paused. “I left my men there to finish the burial detail.”
A knock sounded on the door. Justus rose to answer it. “Go ahead and eat, Antonio,” he said. “I’ll get it.”
When he opened the door, Justus was greeted by young messenger, dressed in the regalia of Pilate’s court. “Commander?” the messenger said.
“Yes,” Justus answered, not remembering the message would be for Longinus. He took out his hand and took the sealed scroll.
The young man put his fist to his chest and saluted, then walked away. Closing the door, Justus looked at Antonio. “It’s a message from Pilate, I think,” he said.
“Go ahead and read it,” came the reply. “Are you going to eat your meat?”
“No, I’m not really hungry.”
Longinus moved Justus’ plate in front of himself, and continued eating. Justus opened the message and read.
“We have both been summoned to come to Pilate’s palace.”
“It doesn’t say.”
“Let’s go then. Let me just clean up a little.”
When they arrived in Pilate’s court, the two officers were ushered immediately to the throne room. Pilate looked up from the scroll he was reading. He rolled it up and gave it to the scribe who stood by him.
“Yes, that is what I wanted to say. Make sure you include the extra details I told you.”
“Yes, sire,” the scribe responded.
Pontius Pilate looked at the men before him. “So, Longinus, I’m sorry to call for you. I know you’ve had a long day.” He looked at Justus. “Who is this?”
“My name is Justus Flavius, sire. I serve Rome in Capernaum. My men and I were summoned as support for the Passover detail.”
“This has been a nasty business,” Pilate commented. “At least it will be over tomorrow.” He looked around the room, and raised his hand to indicate a man in priest’s robes standing just to the left side of the bema, or judgment seat where he sat.
“Longinus, this is Joseph of Arimathea. He is a wealthy man; well respected in the city. He has asked for the body of Jesus, the Nazarene. He wants to take care of the burial requirements for us. He will need help getting the body down.”
Longinus and Flavius looked at Joseph. “We will see to it, my lord,” Antonio answered.
“There’s more,” Pilate said. “I also called you here because we have a small complication. Caiaphas has yet again managed to put a fly in my ointment. He has ‘requested’ that we set a watch on the tomb for three days. It seems this man said he was going to rise from the dead or some such nonsense. I want you to seal the tomb and set a watch. Rotate the men if you have to. I know they are all tired after the week.” He paused, thinking.
“That’s all,” the Prefect finished. “You can go.”
As Justus and Antonio turned to go, they heard him speak to his assistant. “I asked you for water and a towel.”
“I brought them to you, sire,” the assistant responded.
“I know. I used those. They are soiled now. I need another basin of water,” Pilate commanded. “I need to scrub my hands again.”
“Yes, sire. I will do whatever you say. But if you keep washing your hands, you will rub them even rawer than they already are.”
“Don’t presume to tell me what to do, man!” the Prefect angrily replied. “Who are you to tell me if my hands are clean or unclean? I have to get this blood off of them!”
Outside the palace, the three were met by another priest. He was waiting in a wagon. “What did he say, Joseph?” Nicodemus asked.
“He gave me the body,” Joseph answered. “But these gentlemen have been asked to seal the tomb and guard it.”
“I have myrrh and aloes to anoint his wounds and prepare him for burial, here in the wagon,” Nicodemus told him.
“It will take a huge amount,” Joseph said, with a sad sigh. “How much did you bring?”
“About a hundred pounds,” came the reply.
“That might be enough,” Joseph answered. “We had better hurry. Nightfall is coming.”
(C) 2010 DG- AwakenedtoGrow. Duplication without permission prohibited.