Easter Rising

I’d seen a bunch of these so-called prophets before. The Jews were full of it, always looking for a quick fling with one of their messiahs who would solve all their problems and let them lord it over everyone else; gullible fools. Frankly, we didn’t give a toss, provided that is, they didn’t cause trouble. The problem with holy men is that they can easily be a cover for insurrection and that was my job; to sniff out trouble before it started and either deal with it directly or, if it looked really serious, to alert the big boys.

I’d been on the trail of the Nazarene for a few days and to be honest he didn’t look like a problem. My immediate superior, a pain in the ass called Calenus Potitus, the local counter insurgency supremo, had said, “follow him about for a bit, stay incognito and report back.” And that was what I was doing. I’m good at my job. I’m a proper Roman you understand, but born in Judea. My father was a staff tribune, later a senior tribune when we transferred to Rome, but my mother was Jewish. I was ten before we were transferred so I spoke fluent Aramaic and had the sort of dark looks that, when I wanted, let me blend into a crowd. So here I was, back in the old country doing my bit for the Emperor.

The chap I was shadowing seemed to attract crowds wherever he went and there were plenty of stories about what he had got up to but there always are with these types. From what I could make out, a bit of a smart ass with a clever tongue. Ducking and diving with slippery words about accusers chucking stones at adulterers and paying your taxes to the collector as well as giving your bit to God. They say he healed lepers, made a crippled man walk and even got someone up from the dead. A better class of rumour than normal I’ll admit, but crap nonetheless.

Anyway, I heard that at the Jews’ Passover he was planning to go into the city with a few of his acolytes so I decided to tag along and keep an eye on him. The most disturbing thing is how he attracted the crowds. The whole of Jerusalem seemed interested and if I had a denari for every time I heard someone reverently mention the Nazarene of Galilee I’d be doing OK. I have to say though that they weren’t a hostile lot. Even I had to admit that a strange feeling of peace and well…. ‘goodwill’, for want of a better word, seemed to come over everyone.

He went into the temple after a bit and I squeezed in with him. Knowing what was what, I scanned the high alter area and surprise, surprise, there was Annas and I thought I spotted Caiaphas, the head honcho just behind him. I guess they were wondering what our friend would get up to. Suddenly, with a crash and a wallop it all changed, gone were the sweetness and light; the man went bloody berserk. Hello, I thought, here we go, time for the boys with the helmets and short swords to take a hand.

At the time the place was awash with traders and merchants of all sorts. He seemed particularly to vent his spleen on the financial boys. With an alarming display of physical strength he was able to manhandle some pretty heavy tables, upsetting them and flinging a good deal of valuable stuff onto the ground. Then as suddenly as he had erupted he was all calm and control, back to his normal self. You could have heard a pin drop. He spoke in that modulated and gentle voice of his but there was no mistaking what he said. “It is written, my house shall be called the house of prayer but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

It wasn’t just the tables that were upset I can tell you. I reckon the moneylenders would have torn him limb from limb but the ordinary people closed around him and I lost sight of the Nazarene in the crush. I did notice that Caiaphas had come forward and was peering down with an extremely nasty look on his face. The poor chap’s for the high jump I thought.

I was on my way out when I noticed the old woman, moaning on the floor. “What’s up with her?” I asked the fellow next to me.

“She’s been hit by one of the big tables that landed on her and it’s broken her leg,” he replied. She did seem in a bad way with the limb twisted up behind her and sticking out at a funny angle and her setting up a fearful howl. Then, as if my magic, the Nazarene appeared from out of the crowd, all alone. He went up to the woman and knelt before her. He reached out a hand and touched her head and that at least seemed to shut her up. It was no more then ten seconds then he rose, turned and went back into the crowd. As he passed me he looked into my eyes and smiled. It was bloody weird, because all of sudden there were tears streaming down my face and I felt light headed. It was a few moments before I was myself again. The old crone lay where she was for a bit then slowly got to her feet and tested her leg as though she couldn’t believe it was mended. She walked, without even a limp, out of the temple. If I hadn’t seen it I’d say it was bollocks.

Later the same day I was making my way back to the hotel, still pondering what I’d seen. It was obvious, I reasoned, that her leg hadn’t actually been broken at all but nonetheless it was damned odd. Deep in thought, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was around me. It wasn’t the best part of town and one moment there was no one about and next I was surrounded by an ugly set of young thugs. Make no mistake, I can handle myself but there must have been eight or nine of them. In my game it makes sense to carry a few denarii and even a little gold to help out in difficult situations but I was determined that these bastards weren’t getting any. But when a couple of them jumped me from behind and got me on the ground I wasn’t so sure. The leader pulled a knife and while a few of the others held me down, he advanced in a decidedly unfriendly manner. It occurred to me that although robbery might be the main motive, a little, incidental murder might not be a problem for this scum. It’s funny but when it all seemed up for me, I suddenly thought about the man in the temple.

I can’t explain it and I won’t try but at the last moment, the Nazarene came around the corner all on his own. My assailants stopped whatever they were doing and just looked at him. He glanced around the tableaux and, I guess, summed up the situation pretty easily. He didn’t say a word just stood there looking, with a sad expression on his face. The villains holding me down suddenly jumped up and took off, the others just stood there looking sheepish. Then the leader put his knife away and, of all things, mumbled an apology and then they all turned and strolled away. Just plain weird, I thought.

The Nazarene got me up and helped dust me down. He looked me in the eye for the second time that day and then did another strange thing; he kissed me on the forehead. “Tell your masters,” he said, “it is not their empire I seek for my father’s kingdom is more glorious and it is mine already.”

He left me standing as he passed by, heading in the direction the bandits had taken. Before he was lost from sight he turned and although he was some way off I heard him clearly. “That kingdom is yours also,” he said, then he was gone. It took me a while to recover. What the hell had happened? How in God’s name had he known about me and my business? My mind was in a daze, I couldn’t think straight.

That evening I got as far away from the city as I could. I’ll tell you I spent a bad night tossing and turning in my bed, replaying the events of the day. In the early hours I finally fell into fitful sleep but I would rather have stayed awake. Was it a dream, a vision or even a premonition? I don’t know, but there was Caiaphas and the big man himself, Pilate deciding the Nazarene’s fate. It was clear they were going to put him down. When he was killed, his blood ran and wherever it ran there sprang up bands of followers who declared his name sacred and there was a huge church called Christ’s that went up to and entered the portals of Rome itself. Soon, I saw nearly the whole world become followers of the Nazarene.

But following closely on the heals of unity there came schism and then schism after schism and the whole structure was riven with dissent and gain saying and I saw huge armies from the west move east and slaughter and pillage in his name. I saw small children torn from their mothers’ breasts and beaten and herded to make war and then defeated and enslaved and sent to hell. I saw holy men in gold and scarlet persecute and torture and force others to take the sword against their own brothers. I saw live bodies burned as those who set the flames declared the gospel. I saw armies dressed in iron, seek gold and treasure in his name and destroy continents of people, all the while singing his praise.

I awoke in a fever and lay in my bed surrounded by terrifying visions of death, mayhem and destruction. I think I was in a bad state for a couple of days but when I finally came to my senses it all seemed crystal clear. This wasn’t the time for him to die. Mere men could never take on his burden and do what needed to be done. He must live; he must go amongst the population for the next ten, twenty, thirty maybe forty years. We must open the empire to him, help him travel the world and find men’s hearts. He must look into people’s eyes to change their natures, make them understand true deliverance. No matter how well meaning his disciples, they could not avert the fall from the grace that must come at the hands of venal and greedy men. It seems daft now but at the time I was sure what I had to do. If the Pharisees and the Governor had made up their minds what chance did I have? But I was convinced. I traded most of my meagre stash for a horse, an expensive and rare item in that country and rode like the wind back to the city.

I got there in the early hours. The gates were all shut as tight as a Pharisee’s purse. At the Jaffa gate however there was still a small guard attachment at the open wicket, drinking and attempting to call women out to them. I blagged my way through, leaving my horse with an optio. I said I was a spy coming to report urgently to Calenus Potitus. Frankly, they were too drunk and licentious to care, a very few denarii took care of them.

The minute I was in, I realized something was wrong. People were hanging about in small, sullen clumps. At that time of night the place should have been deserted. I made for the centre. I needed to see Calenus and, if I could, his boss, Quintilus Plautius. They’d be pissed at being woken but in God’s name I had an important message to deliver. I guess, looking back on it, I seem a bit naïve but I desperately needed to tell them that at all costs the Nazarene must live.

It occurred to me that he might be the one to help. I approached a bunch of locals huddled at a corner. By some strange coincidence one of them was the old woman from the temple. “Where is he?” I asked. “Where is the Nazarene, the one they call Jesus?”

She looked up at me, peering as if through a fog. “The bastards crucified him, didn’t they?” she answered in a sullen voice.

“How long?” I asked.

“Ten hours or more,” she said and looked away. “Anyway, best off he’s dead. He was too bloody good for those sods,” she spat a steam of phlegm and went back to rocking herself on the ground.

Well, that’s it I thought, ten hours is too long, he’s a gonner. I walked alone in shock and disbelief for a while. There was a woman standing where two alleys crossed. “They’ve done away with him then,” I said, making what I thought was casual conversation to hide my feelings.

She turned to look at me and there were tears in her eyes. “He was special you know,” she dabbed at her face with the dirty end of her shawl. “Wherever he went there were peace and...,” she searched for a word, “…..gentleness. He seemed to enter your heart and...,” for a moment she was again at a loss, “…….somehow change you. He made you content as though this bloody awful life was just a stepping-stone to something better. Somewhere where the grind and poverty, the pain and injustice would be things of the past. And when he looked into your eyes there was such …….. joy wot come bursting out of ya.” She started to cry in earnest.

I stood there looking at her, a great despair rising up in me. God sent Jesus of Nazareth to save the world and the bloody fools killed him, I thought to myself.

Back to Creative WritingCreative-Writing.html