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Galilean Teacher Seen Complicit in Own ExecutionJudah ben David
Special Correspondent to the Capernaum Times
JERUSALEM, Friday, Passover Week. The execution today of Jesus of Nazareth — and one of Capernaum's most famous adopted sons — took place in such a unusual manner that this reporter can only conclude that Jesus himself was complicit in his own death. Observers describe it as a plot by religious authorities to silence of one of the most independent and refreshing voices of our time.
As I write these words, Jesus hangs dead on a Roman cross. They'll be removing his body soon for burial. However, last night's arrest holds the key to understanding events surrounding Capernaum residents in the nation's capital this week.
Gethsemane Olive Garden Is Scene of Arrest
The arrest took place in the Garden of Gethsemane last night, and this reporter was present.
I interviewed one of his disciples who told me that Jesus had led his group there for a time of prayer. As my readers will remember, the Teacher's inner circle consists of three Capernaum natives, Simon, son of Jonas (nicknamed "Rock" by the Teacher) and James and John, sons of Zebedee, whom he called "sons of thunder" due to their loudness. These men, partners in a commercial fishing business, have taken a leave of absence in order to travel with the Teacher.
Teacher Suffers from Stress and Exhaustion
"He was beside himself, overwrought," John told me today. "I don't think I'd ever seen him so emotional. It seemed that weight of the world was settling down upon his shoulders and crushing him."
"He asked the three of us to stay awake and pray with him," John continued. "He ventured a bit farther into the grove, then fell to the ground, praying with deep groanings."
Another disciple told me that even in the chill of the night, Jesus was agonizing and perspiring profusely. "It was an unnerving sight."
"He prayed the same kind of prayer three times," said John. "And though I wasn't able to hear it all, he kept repeating these words: 'Abba, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me... But not my will — yours be done.'"
"He was struggling with God about whether or not he should go through with some painful mission," John told me. Now it is tragically clear what that mission was. Only its purpose and why Jesus felt it was required of him remain hidden. Though Jesus demanded that his followers not say so publicly, many believed that he was the long awaited Messiah, and that his current pilgrimage to the Holy City would usher in the Messianic Age.
Soldier Detachment Guided by Turncoat Disciple
The prayer in Gethsemane was cut short as temple troops and crowds loyal to the high priests swarmed into the ancient olive grove. This reporter, learning of the plot, followed so he could provide an accurate account.
Soldiers ahead held torches that cast eerie flickering shadows among the gnarled trees of the grove. Voices urged the soldiers: "Over here. Look over here."
At the forefront was a long-time associate of Jesus', Judas Iscariot, one of twelve key leaders of the movement and, some say, treasurer of the group. One could tell he knew where to find Jesus. He led the detachment unerringly to the spot.
When Judas saw the popular Teacher, he motioned to the captain and then walked over to him, embracing and kissing his leader. But the sham was obvious to all observers. Rumors peg Judas as an informer paid to help arrest Jesus when he was unprotected by throngs of his own supporters.
From across the garden Jesus' response echoed: "So, friend, you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" At this, Judas stiffened and all the color drained from his face. He left the arrest scene abruptly. Reports of a possible suicide are unconfirmed at this hour.
Teacher Defended by Armed Force
Immediately, soldiers deployed a flanking action surrounding Jesus. Two of them grabbed his arms, though the prisoner made no attempt to escape.
One of the disciples produced a sword and began to slash at Jesus' captors. He was obviously untrained with the weapon. When he had severed the ear of one of the high priest's servants, Jesus told him sharply. "No more. No more of this." Then Jesus touched the servant's bleeding head and the ear was instantly restored, another in a long string of healing miracles that have followed the Teacher from Galilee to Judea.
Restrained Legions of Angels
Jesus' next words have haunted this reporter all last night and into today. Jesus told the sword-wielding disciple, "Don't you know that I could ask my Father, and that he would immediately summon more than twelve legions of angels to defend me?"
Then the band of approximately fifteen soldiers took Jesus into custody and marched him back into Jerusalem. There a midnight arraignment took place that ended today in his crucifixion.
But one cannot stop comparing the tiny detachment of temple soldiers to the twelve legions the popular Teacher spoke of. This reporter has seen Rome's legions travelling up the roads of Galilee. Each legion is made up of one thousand trained warriors marching in step to the drummer's beat, four abreast, on and on. All traffic is forced off the roads when they march through, and Rome's unwilling subjects wait while 250 rows of troops tramp by, enveloped in a cloud of dust.
If one were to imagine twelve such legions of soldiers marching by it would take hours. Twelve thousand troops outnumber the Roman military stationed in Palestine several fold. Twelve legions could have liberated Jerusalem, the Governor's residence, Herod's palace, and the Chief Priest's quarters. Twelve legions could have freed the entire nation from Roman domination and oppression. Twelve legions would have been an unstoppable force if commanded by a popular leader believed by many to be the Messiah. Twelve legions could have freed our people.
In Control of His Destiny
That is why Jesus' words in the garden last night seemed so very strange. It was as if Jesus was still in command, still in control of his destiny. As this reporter sees it, Jesus was not taken because a superior force had come upon him unawares. He willingly submitted to arrest and had full power to avoid arrest if that is what he had wished to do.
It leads one to the inescapable conclusion — bizarre as that may seem — that Jesus' crucifixion today is not some tragic martyrdom of a Galilean teacher for challenging the religious establishment or unsettling Roman oppressors.
No, somehow this crucifixion is fulfilling a mission and destiny that Jesus of Nazareth struggled with and then embraced.
If, indeed, he could have summoned twelve legions of angel warriors and did not, this reporter concludes that more is going on in Jesus' arrest and crucifixion than meets the eye.
I'll file my next report Sunday morning.
Fictional short story by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, based on Luke 22:39-55 and Matthew 26:47-56.
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