Chapter FifteenBarabbas, the young rebel leader, lead one further futile attack on Roman authority, by assaulting a company of Roman soldiers on a lonely hill road, north of Jerusalem. One could hardly call it a battle, more a skirmish, where many of his poorly armed young men, perished at the hands of battle-hardened experienced soldiers. In close combat the slings and spears stood no chance against the gladius, the short stabbing sword responsible for conquering most of the known world.
The battle was swift, and the blood flowed freely, being quickly absorbed into the dry sandy soil. Over twenty rebel bodies lay at the feet of their superior foe, but the officer in charge identified Barabbas and spared him the fate of his companions. Speedily bound, he was led back to Jerusalem under the cover of darkness. Night, and a Roman cloak covering his head, prevented him from being recognised by possible sympathisers.
Barabbas was very popular amongst the young zelots of Judea. His leadership was drawn from the strength of young politically minded men, to whom he offered the hope of a nation once again ruled by their own people.
Beneath the castle of Antonio, was a labyrinth of passages with numerous cells barred by heavy iron gates. Continuous merciless cries echoed down the passageways, for it was here that torture, of varying intensity, was practised on hapless prisoners by sadistic Roman soldiers, expert in the ways of extracting information.
Anybody unfortunate enough to have been brought to this subterranean dungeon could be assured of never seeing the light of day again, except to be taken to the site of execution by crucifixion; Calvary. Such would be the fate of Barabbas who was thrown into a dank cell and left without food for several days, thus weakening him in preparation for torture. This torture was not for the purpose of obtaining a confession, for they had all they needed to have him put to death. They were vengefully repaying him for the deaths of their fellow comrades - after all, the Romans reasoned, he had Roman blood on his hands and that alone was deserving of the fate that awaited him.
While Barabbas sat pondering his fate, Yeshu’a was seated with his disciples and followers, both young and old, on a hillside many miles outside Jerusalem. He spoke of loving one’s neighbour as well as all animal life, for he was blessed with the ability to commune with animals, birds and fish; indeed, he would even converse with the spirits of the water and those of the air. While those surrounding him sat and ate fish and drank wine, he chose only to eat figs, bread, olives and herbs, and drinking only water which he had blessed.
On many occasions priests and elderly men would come to listen full of admiration of his discourses, and they once asked Yeshu’a if it was true that he wanted to rouse the people against the Roman authorities, as reported to the Governor, Pilate. Yeshu’a replied that he had only warned those unfortunate people, as he had done in the temple, of the dangers ahead and the yawning abyss beneath their feet. “It would be of no use to rebel against authority, for one power always succeeds another power,” Yeshu’a stated. “And it shall be thus until the extinction of human existence.” They asked him who he was, as they had not heard of him nor where he had come from. “I am an Israelite,” he replied, “I was grieved to see that my people had forgotten the true God and while still a child I left my father’s house to go among other nations. I have now returned to the land of my ancestors, which teaches us patience in this world that we may obtain perfect and sublime happiness on High.”
On another occasion Yeshu’a spoke sweetly to the children, telling them stories of past events, as a beautifully coloured rainbow appeared directly above the little group. Such a phenomenon had previously occurred when he spoke to children and animals in the desert, and these had been witnessed many times by others and were referred to as the desert rainbows! "Another miracle!" thought those close by, since there was not a cloud to be seen in the clear blue sky!
Many of these children had been adopted by the Essene Order and cared for as orphans, as were off-springs of casual relationships between Roman soldiers and young local girls. But many of these girls were cast out of their homes by their parents, only to be taken in by the Order, and when a baby was born it was adopted by the Brotherhood.
(A case in point was Mary of Magdala who fell in love with a Roman officer, but was left devastated and destitute when he later returned to his wife and family in Rome. Her parents, who were prominent in the society of the time, felt scandalised by the incident and, disowning her, forced her from her home. She was beautiful and well educated, as well as being a trained singer and musician. Fortunately, these talents enabled her to earn a living in taverns and such, but she never prostituted herself, as some commentators would later suggest. She assisted in the care of the orphaned children.)
Wherever Yeshu’a went with his disciples the crowds grew even larger; the Jewish people were always seeking the nectarine words of love and peace that flowed from his lips. He answered many questions put to him by the people. At one occasion a elderly woman was roughly pushed aside by a man who placed himself before her. He was a spy in disguise, in the pay of the high priests, there to note the words of Yeshu’a that they might be used against him. Yeshu’a rounded on the man for his lack of consideration towards womankind. “Whosoever does not respect his mother, the most sacred being next to God, is unworthy of the name of son. Respect woman, for she is the mother of the universe and all truth of divine creation dwells within her. Love your wives and respect them, for tomorrow they shall be mothers and later grandmothers of a whole nation. Protect your wife, that she may protect you and all the family; all that you shall do for your mother, your wife, for a widow, or another woman in distress, you shall have done for God!” The spy shifted uncomfortably, and slinked back into the crowd.
On this historic occasion, Yeshu’a was seated with his group shaded from the heat of the noon day sun, when Joseph of Arimathaea joined them to warn of the dangers ahead, and to advise them as to whatever course of action that might be necessary. Joseph was tall, muscular and very intelligent, and highly regarded by all as an excellent speaker and orator in the Sanhedrin. The disciples were unaware of his important status within the Sanhedrin, the body that governed the religious life of the Jewish people, a body which was tolerated, but not respected by the Romans!
Yeshu’a paid little heed to his uncle’s warnings, choosing instead to remain silent, for he knew the destiny that lay ahead, the dangers and pain which he was ordained to undertake as a Messiah. He had viewed, for some time in the depths of his meditation, the path of suffering that he willingly and gladly accepted on behalf of mankind. He was to be assisted in this mission by the apostle Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, and a man of culture and intelligence, with a deep interest in music. Yeshu’a entrusted him with the plan for his crucifixion and resurrection thereafter, for events would show the faith Yeshu’a had in Judas, as the other eleven were to deny Yeshu’a before his hour was near. Even his favourite apostle, Peter, the one he called his Rock, could not be wholly trusted to carry out the ordained plan. So one should not see Judas’ part in the ‘play,’ as an act of mistrust and betrayal, but an act of deliverance and the fulfillment of a “Glorious Design.”
It would be later, as they supped together for the last time that Yeshu’a would announce to his disciples, “One of you is to deliver me!” ( not as future commentators would put it, “One of you shall betray me!”)
Those disciples present did not know of the ‘play’ that was to unfold in the days ahead, which is why they all denied knowing their Master for fear of losing their own lives.
At the appointed hour, during the course of the supper, Judas left quietly to perform the role assigned to him. Yeshu’a raised bread and a goblet of wine stating that, “this is my body, and this is my blood,” teaching his disciples that consideration be given to all mankind and that they too should be revered as he had been. It was not a case of ‘transubstantiation’, but of instructing his followers that all peoples, all religions and all cultures, should be treated with the same equal respect as they had for him.
As the hour drew near for Judas’ momentous role, the disciples decided to accompany Yeshu’a to his home, stopping to rest awhile in a garden before proceeding further. It was here that Caiaphas’ guards came upon them and after an initial struggle with Peter and another apostle, they apprehended Yeshu’a.
The climax of the mission for which he had long prepared himself, was about to begin. He had been preparing for this moment for many years, indeed for many lifetimes! The happenings over the next few days were to shape events in the world for centuries to come, for he had come to redeem the world! Mankind, in future times, would speak of the pain and suffering he was about to endured, and that he died for our sins, while, if the truth be known, he died because of them!