My tomb

I know what it’s like to live a privileged life. Sure, I was born with certain advantages but I have also put a lot of effort into my success.

I’ve dedicated myself to working hard and living a moral life. In return, I’ve been blessed with resources and respect.

There is only one problem. All that striving and all those possessions don’t bring me joy. There is an ever-present ache inside my soul that won’t go away. Like a cancer that spreads silently underneath the surface of my skin, this gnawing pain is always with me.

In desperation, I turned to a man who seemed to have a peace that evaded me. His life was not dominated by the pursuit of wealth or status. He was clearly not anxious or driven by the opinions of people.

It took courage to ask him a question. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth but I managed to blurt out, “What do I have to do to have a life of true meaning?”  Underneath the question was a longing to make the aching pain stop NOW. 

His response was nonchalant. I’m used to people paying me more respect. He simply listed off commandments that I needed to follow.

Frustrated, I replied, “I’ve done all that since I was a kid!”

I think he heard the desperation in my voice. He turned and looked me directly in the eyes. It was only a few seconds but it felt like hours. An expression, I can only describe as “love” radiated from his face. Somehow I knew he truly cared for me.

Like a good doctor, he saw the disease that was destroying me. “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Then you will have the life you are seeking.”

Tears filled my eyes. He knew the one thing that was in control of my life. How could I give up the comfort and safety I had worked my whole life to attain? He could have told me to fly to the moon and it would have been easier.

I couldn’t look at his face anymore. I was seen for who I truly was. I bowed my head and walked away weeping.

My story could have stopped there…but it didn’t.

That look of compassion continued to haunt me. I secretly began to follow him. I watched as he cured the ill and cared for people that no one else thought worthy of respect. THIS was the life I desperately craved!

Just as I was about to leave my successful life behind, I was shaken again. He was sentenced to the brutal death of crucifixion. The hands that healed the sick were nailed to a piece of wood. The body that embraced outcasts was beaten so badly that you couldn’t even tell he was human.

Yet, as I stood at a distance, I saw him look at his tormentors with the same love that he showed me. He never cursed them or demanded justice. He forgave them.

He willingly gave EVERYTHING he had.  In his death, he showed me how to live.

I watched in stunned silence as he gasped his last breath. Once again I wept the bitter tears of regret as I thought about “What could have been”.

Suddenly a feeling of resolve came over me. Today is the day it all changes! No more being dominated by the expectations of others or pursuit of wealth.

Even if the entire world is ashamed of him, I won’t be. I boldly went before the governor and asked for Jesus’ body so that I could bury it. Yes, associating myself with a convict could have cost me my life too, but I didn’t care anymore.

My relationship with my possessions began to change as well. One of the first things I did was buy as many burial spices as I could. I spared no expense. It was a small way for me to symbolize that money was no longer my priority.

Finally, I put him in MY tomb. I thought I would be the one laying here one day. It was a way for me to represent the truth that a part of me really did die. It may sound odd, but in dying, I found that I could truly live.

There is someone laying in my tomb yet somehow I’m more alive than I’ve ever been.

Killing a King

He deserved it.

I should know. I’ve seen a lot of criminals in my life.

They don’t get handed over to me because they are boy scouts. If I told you what some of those low-life scumbags have done, you’d want to wash your ears out.

My job might not make you feel warm and cozy inside. Honestly, I don’t care! I keep you safe and comfortable. You might not like me, but you NEED me!

I’m the ultimate deterrent. I know how to make someone feel so much pain they wish they were dead but I can keep them alive, like a barely-breathing billboard. It is an advertisement that shouts to everyone who passes by, “Don’t mess with Rome…the biggest, baddest, empire on the planet!”

Supposedly, that man was the leader of an uprising. He claimed to be a king.

My fellow soldiers and I decided to show him what happens when you mess with the real king…Caesar!

We laughed as we beat him with rods and whipped him until chunks of his flesh were flying from his body.

I expected him to direct the usual string of expletives at us. Vile words fuel me. They let me know I’m doing my job well. This guy didn’t say anything to us. Nothing! We beat him harder to make sure he got the message.

After we were done with him, we came up with the hilarious idea of giving him the “royal treatment”. We draped “his majesty” in a purple robe and jammed a crown made of thorns on his head.

We laughed again until we couldn’t breathe.

Apparently, the crowd didn’t think their king was humiliated enough. They shouted for us to crucify him. My friends and I were more than happy to oblige.

Then something happened that I can’t explain. As I grabbed him to take him away, he turned his bloody face toward mine. His expression should have oozed anger and hate but I swear it looked like he felt sorry for me.

I gave him another uncomfortable laugh and shoved him away.

The next several hours were pretty normal for executions. We forced him up a hill. Dislocated his shoulders, drove some nails into his arms and lifted him into place. He still never rained down cursing on us (or any of the spectators gawking at him).

Eventually, we got to relax. We played a game to decide who got to keep his clothes.

I didn’t hear him say much (it’s tough to talk when you are hanging from an old piece of wood) but I swore he uttered the words “forgive them”.

About that time, the sky grew dark. I shifted nervously as my laughing grew more and more uncomfortable.

Even though his death only took a few hours, it felt like an eternity.

When he gasped his last breath there was a violent earthquake. It seemed like the ground beneath our feet was grieving. In horror, one of my fellow soldiers cried out, “He was a son of the gods!”

My laughing stopped.

Questions raced through my mind.

“Who was this man?” “Why did he really die?”

Even worse, “If I killed an innocent king, am I the one who deserves to die?”

I flashed back to the time he stared directly at me. If there is a king who would look at me with love after everything I’d done to him, HE is the kind of king I would give my life to follow.