Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
THE CELL IN WHICH THE two beggars were kept was even more damp and cold than the holding cell, but Timotheus thoughts were not on the cold. There was a small window, through which a prisoner could look down into the courtyard. The soldiers would sit there when on breaks and warm themselves at the little fires, which dotted the floor like stars. Often the soldiers would come to the window and taunt the prisoners. But on the evening before the beggars' trial, the soldiers were unusually silent. But Timotheus could hear snatches of several conversations, which included mention of the Nazarene. He caught enough to realize that the Nazarene had also been arrested and was now on trial for his life. The charge seemed to be blasphemy. Timotheus’ heart sank.
“What do you think your don’?” Jeered Lucas, as Timotheus began pushing his head out of the window.
“Tryin’ t’ see what’s goin’ on! Do you mind?” The window was just large enough for Timotheus to put his head through. Looking around, he could see that, aside from the soldiers, there was quite a crowd of people gathered in the courtyard. His attention was drawn to a big husky man who was warming himself over one of the fires. A slim fellow stood nearby gazing at the man with an intent scrutiny, which the former pretended not to notice. Suddenly, the second man spoke, turning to address the entire gathering. “Certainly this man also was with him!”
The tumult caused by the man’s words aroused Timotheus’ curiosity. The big man began to curse and swear, saying, “I tell you, I don’t know the man!”
“But, you must know him,” sang out another man. “Your speech betrays you. You’re a Galilean.”
At this, the man in question became very indignant. “Will you stop this!” He shouted. “I tell you I do not know what you’re talking about!” The crowing of the cock echoed his words.
What kind of man this Nazarene
That one so big and stout
In time of trouble won’t be seen
With him, but quickly yields to doubt?
If the Nazarene wasn’t worth standing up for now, thought Timotheus, then he certainly wasn’t worth any further consideration.
But now the stranger himself, accompanied by guards, entered the hall and his looks destroyed the treachery of his follower’s denial. The man withered under his glance and left the room. His sobs of remorse, heard through stone walls, meant more to Timotheus than a thousand denials. The donkey scene was aglow once more in Timotheus’ mind, as was the face of the man himself. Timotheus’ eyes now rested upon that very face. He saw it smitten, spat upon, and laughed at. He saw it stand unshaken and then move obediently, as the Nazarene was ushered out of the courtyard and into the judgment hall. What kind of man, indeed, was he?
MEANWHILE, IN THE NEARBY cell facing the front entrance, a whole different set of thoughts were running through Barabbas’ mind:
Why have things gotten to this extremely terrible state? How could everything have turned out so wrong? Why has everything I tried to do gone sour? Of course, I was doing fairly well before all this started. I had my own business, which is more than some people can say, even if the business was slow at times. But it had its good days. It’s just that all of those taxes got to me. The government was taxing us all to death. That’s why I decided to lead the revolution. I was only trying to do something to help my fellow man (as well as myself of course) to find a better way of life– to be free, for once, from the demands of this stupid government. It started out as a good thing. And we planned well. We would have succeeded too, but somehow we must have miscalculated about the number of palace guards Pilate had. We were determined, however and fought. I killed a man. I guess that’s a mortal sin, even though it was for a good cause. At any rate we were completely outnumbered and forced to flee.
Then when I was in need of food and funds and tired of berries and bark, the only way I could think of was robbery. None of my men would help me so I had to seek aid from those street beggars. I thought I had this planned perfectly also, just like the insurrection. But again, something had to go wrong. The old man had to resist being tied up. He had to struggle. I knew the soldiers would be patrolling the streets to control the crowds and I couldn’t risk letting him loose to call them. I was getting more nervous and upset by the minute. I did the only thing I could. I silenced him for good. But he had to yell so loudly! And, those soldiers just had to be going by the shop at that very moment! It must have been planned by the Almighty. I guess he hates me.
So what’s to become of me? Surely there is nothing ahead but death now. And then what? Surely there is no destiny for me except the torments of hell. I’ve become a robber and a killer. I guess I deserve no better. Still, if there were some chance hope to save me from my fate—. I’ve learned my lesson. I never will try robbery or murder again, nor even insurrection. I just want to go back to my home and family. I just wish things could be the way they were before!
Yet if there were a way for the revolution to definitely succeed, would it not be worth another try? But how? What would be needed would be a strong leader who already has a large popular following. Then, the people themselves would fight for him. What about that Nazarene I saw astride the donkey the day of the robbery? What a following he had! He could easily proclaim himself ruler. I’m almost certain it was he whom I saw the soldiers bring in the other day. Perhaps his followers will attempt a rescue and revolt. Perhaps they will rescue me also, so I can join them.
But should my thoughts really be in this direction? Should I not simply long for freedom and the joys of home and family again? Ah, I don’t know—I guess, once an insurrectionist, always an insurrectionist.
These were the thoughts of the crushed and defeated leader, as he sat in his lonely prison cell, waiting to hear his final fate.
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