Deserted (an excerpt from BEHIND THE HALO)

Being humiliated or deserted is not for the fainthearted. When it’s compounded with doing your best to help someone else, the pain can become unbearable. Has there been a time you tried to help others, but ended up humiliated and forsaken? How did you fight your way past the pain?

 The road was packed. Jerusalem was the place to be for the Passover festival. Families, merchants, con men, zealots, all types of folks with a single goal: get the most out of the Jewish celebration.

Crying babies, restless kids, endless vendors already hawking their wares, Roman soldiers harshly directing traffic. The cacophony of the crowd could have just as easily been in the marketplace or on any other jam-packed Roman road. An edge to the noise echoed the hostility in the courtyard of the governor’s palace a few hours earlier in the day.

 Amphoras holding new wine whispered a barely perceptible aroma that mingled with fragrances coming from baskets of pungent ginger and olives, all headed for the marketplace. Unfortunately, no amount of delicacies could completely mask the stench of animals and death.

The hill near the road into the Jewish “Holy City” was a prime spot to display Roman expertise in crucifixion. It was meant as a deterrent to those who might be thinking about bucking against the power that ruled the known world. Soldiers seemed unaffected by the display of their handiwork, and openly smirked at those traveling to the city.

 The gruesome, tortuous executions filled the air with the foulness of blood and torn bodies. Averting their faces could not erase images of distorted forms from the travelers’ minds, or filter out echoes of ragged breaths and moans. 

Parents drew their children closer, fathers becoming shields against the hatred of heavily armed troops. Mothers did their best to protect their children from the horrific sights and sounds all around them. The road into Jerusalem seemed longer than ever before.

For some among the crowd, the teacher on the middle cross was getting exactly what he deserved. How could he have the arrogance to claim he was the Son of God? A growing number of Pharisees, scribes, and other temple leaders gathered to hurl caustic taunts at this teacher as if stoning him.

As the throng pushed toward the gates of Jerusalem, priests and scribes wound their ways through the crowd. They were careful to stay on the side of the road opposite Roman soldiers; after all, they couldn’t risk becoming unclean, especially in plain view of other Jews. Concern about being unclean didn’t interfere with the men of the Temple gloating as they gazed upon the criminal in the center of the trio being executed. Their plan for his demise had worked.