TC-Execution

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Yeshua stirs his sleeping disciples awake.

He says to the former publican who had left his post, "Will you follow me, Mattiyahu?"

I will, Lord, even unto death itself!

Then the time has come.

He says to the former publican who had left his post, "Will you follow me, Mattiyahu?"

I will, Lord, even unto death itself!

Then the time has come.

Even as Yeshua spoke shouts began to be heard in the grove of olive trees, along with running feet and whipping robes.

One of the running figures skids to a halt when he catches sight of Yeshua and Mattiyahu standing together with their faces dimly visible in the light of shifting torches. He points at them. "Seize those two men!"

"And what of the others?"" barked a voice from the dark.

TC1807: ""What of them?"" shrugs Yudah, drawing near to the ones he fingered. ""Let them run free."

Mattiyahu thought he recognized the voice but doesn't imagine it can truly be his close friend Yudah of Kerioth, one of the Twelve, until he sees his face in the flickering light.

Yudah reaches out a hand to grab a fistful of Mattiyahu's beard, a deadly insult that would have triggered an instant fistfight if the disciple wasn't being held by several other men. He says, "This is the tax collector I spoke of, Mattiyahu. He also answers to Levi."

The mere utterance of his job title earned him a wad of spit in his eye. Yeshua, however, was treated to a even greater indignity than a plucked beard and spittle. With his master held as well, Yudah kissed him full on the lips. He said, "Do you know why I did it, Rabbi?"

You did it because you failed to listen when I told you the Kingdom of God would not come with visible signs.

Yudah shook his head. "Any false messiah could say as much, Yeshua. I did it because all you are is a persuasive traveling magician with a few simple tricks."

My errand in this world is not what you imagine it should be, Yudah, so my persuasion can fail. Yet you have made my errand possible. I would thank you, but as you have often heard me to say to those who love to acquire perishable things, you already have your reward.

Yudah sees that Yeshua has sabotaged even the small joy he had expected to glean from this night. He draws back and says, "Truly it is my hope that God may now be with both of you. But somehow I do not think he will." Then he watches the band of strongmen take them away.

Before dawn they are brought before Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas. He had been deposed as high priest for mismanagement and a sadistic streak that offended even Rome. At the trial of Annas no judgment is rendered, because he has no real authority.

What Annas does instead is ask particular questions about Mattiyahu's choice to suddenly abandon his position as tax collector, only to be met with invinicible silence, and each failure to answer merits a blow, until the faces of both men are a mass of cuts and bruises.

As dawn breaks Yeshua and Mattiyahu are taken to the house of Yosef bar Caiaphas, son-in-law of Annas, where some members of the Sanhedrin tribunal have gathered to put together something resembling a trial. But when Caiaphas sees Mattiyahu's battered face he is incensed.

He said, "The entirety of our case is this false prophet has discouraged a Jew from collecting the taxes of the Gentiles. What do you imagine they will do when they see the same Jew has the marks of a beating and ask him who did the deed?"

"Nasi, it was the Ab Bet Din, the father of your wife, did the deed,"" offered one of the men who had been present at the arrest in Gad Smane.

"Wisdom has departed from Annas,"" said Caiaphas. He draws near to the publican. ""You may go, but you must say nothing of this."

You have spoken truly," Mattiyahu says as his binds are loosed, "for I will be too preoccupied with writing all these things in a book to say anything.

The forty stripes less one lay just the other side of that book.

Then my back shall become a second witness.

Mattiyahu is cast out of the home of Caiaphas and Yeshua is grateful that his disciple will not share the rest of his ordeal but it complicates things. Now the high priest must somehow get him from here to his execution by the Romans and that will take some improvisation.

Caiaphas puts his first question to Yeshua. "It is said you seized control of the baptizer's cult when he was put to death. Is that true?"

The followers of Yohanan looked to me when he was martyred, yes.

What does Moshe prescribe for the forgiveness of sins?

Yeshua answered him, "'And he shall bring his trespass offering to Adonai, a ram without blemish out of the flock, and the priest shall make an atonement for him before Adonai, and his transgression shall be forgiven him.'"

But nothing about immersing sinners in water?

We honor Hosea as a true prophet of God when he said, 'For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.'

But these fallen ones who come to you seeking redemption in water, do you accept them all, or do you turn some away?

Some are not baptized," replied Yeshua, "this is true. God forgives, but only the truly penitent.

How many shekels must change hands to frame the remorse of the penitent as true remorse?

Perhaps you unknowingly ascribe the motives of your own heart to others.

And perhaps you knowingly blaspheme God," Caiaphas raged, "by arrogating to yourself, a man, the power to forgive and retain sins! But let us turn now to what happened at the temple last week. Did you really say you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days?

Yeshua said, "Those were not my words."

Then what were your words?

A group of men picked up stones to assail me. Then I said to them, 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.' The meaning is clear. By temple I was merely speaking of my own body.

Merely?" muses Caiaphas. "The temple is the house of God. Do you claim that your body is likewise the house of God? Speak now! Abjure in the name of the living God that you are divine!

Yeshua replied, "Henceforth you shall see me standing at the right hand of God."

Mattiyahu never wrote his account as he threatened to do, but the pseudepigraph has Caiaphas renting his robe at Yeshua's stateme. He actually does no such thing, but he does beat his breast and wail, "Blasphemy! Blasphemy! This man deserves to die!"

Mattiyahu never wrote the account he threatened the high priest that he would pen, but the pseudepigraph has Caiaphas renting his robe at Yeshua's statement. He does no such thing, but he does beat his breast and wail, "Blasphemy! Blasphemy! This man deserves to die!"

The other elders gathered in the house of Caiaphas echo his judgment. "The charge is proven!" some exclaim. "What need have we of witnesses!" exclaim others. But one party pooper reminds them that Rome had recently taken away their tribunal's authority in capital cases.

Caiaphas knows he is right. The only authority the Sanhedrin retains to carry out the death penalty is in the case of a Gentile trespassing in the temple. But he brightens when he realizes this is a way around their law forbidding execution on the same day as conviction.

We will take this false prophet before Pontius Pilate," said he, "and say the rabble looks to him to restore the line of David to the throne in Jerusalem.

Yeshua shook his head at the amazing irony. Yudah had betrayed him precisely for not fulfilling that expectation.

Pilate was procurator of Judea. He ruled under Vitellius, who was the legate of Syria, and Judea was considered to be part of Syria by Rome. Pilate was so cruel even Vitellius sometimes thought he went too far. He would execute Jews at the drop of a kippah, any kippah. He had absolutely no respect for Jewish religious sensibilities, so bringing Yeshua before him on charges of being a false prophet or a blasphemer would be a waste of his time and Pilate enjoyed having his time wasted somewhat less than watching the drop of a kippah.

Yeshua knew that too well. He planned to commit suicide by Roman by suborning a tax agent, but the oafish incompetence of Annas nullified all his preparations when he roughed up Mattiyahu. Pilate would demand to see the tax agent and he would see the marks of the beating. So Yeshua worked a blasphemy narrative to motivate Caiaphas, in turn, to work a messiah narrative before Pilate. The irony was that when Yeshua, in hypostatic union with the eloah Binah, claimed to be on a level with the God worshiped by Caiaphas, he wasn't lying at all.

Notwithstanding what Yeshua's admirers would come to believe in the centuries to follow, in First Century Judea "mashiach" was a word which very specifically meant a Jewish king who would defeat their Gentile enemies and restore the Jews as a regional power in the Levant. So if the people acclaimed a Jew as mashiach, or messiah, and that Jew did nothing to discourage them, Rome had every reason to suspect sedition, and her usual response was state terrorism in the form of public crucifixion on the Tau cross. That suited Caiaphas to a "T".

Since Pontius was an honorific assumed by Pilate himself, Caiaphas was not being familiar with the military governor when he said, "Pontius Pilate, this man leads the rabble who once followed the baptizer in Galilee. Herod Antipater has no doubt has spoken of him to you. His followers believe him to be one to restore the line of David to the throne in this city. In recent days his disciples set him upon an ass and the foal of that ass. He rode into the city deliberately 'fulfilling' the words of one of our prophets about a future king."

Pilate addressed the prisoner directly. "Is it true, what the High Priest has accused?" Yeshua merely shrugged and was silent, which infuriated Pilate at first, then intrigued him. He said, "You must know what I can have done to you, yet you reply to me in this manner?"

Yeshua raised his eyes to peer into those of Pilate and said, without a trace of fear, "You have no power over me but that which is ordained by God."

"We shall see," said Pilate, who was more interested in the venom Yeshua's simple presence invoked in the high priest.

He said, "And you, Caiaphas, what would you have done with this man?"

The high priest replied, "You have ears, Pilate, but do you not hear? Do you not discern the faithfulness of the Jews of Yerushalayim? Listen to them crying out for an enemy of the Emperor to die."

"What I discern is a mob you have raised up against a mob led by this man, and you think I cannot see how your scribes are inciting them. I would chastise both of you, but I am constrained to just the one." And Pilate ordered solders to lead Yeshua away to be flogged.

A Roman flogging was nothing like the caning of "forty stripes less one" ordered by Jewish religious courts that often didn't even break the skin. They used the flagellum, a whip with pieces of bone and metal embedded in the thongs. Its primary purpose was to flay a man. The first stroke was too much for Yeshua. As a b'nei elohim he invoked unconsciousness for the rest of the ordeal. The Roman soldiers saw he was wasting their time and tried to rouse him with water but to no avail. Seeing he was not dead, they proceeded to skin him alive.

It was not Chokhmah's will that Yeshua endured the preliminary torture, but that he died of crucifixion. Yet he would never get from the barracks courtyard to the cross by remaining in a self-induced coma. He came around, and the full yoke of his suffering slammed down. It was as though the skin of his back had been burned away, but it felt far worse than that. A flame, at least, would have charred away most of the nerve endings. Here the nerve fibers of Yeshua's ruined and bleeding were intact and screaming, by exquisite Roman design.

Yeshua longed to will his death yet from obedience chose to live. Binah, a living star, knew pain on such a level that it captured the psyche of the eloah and trapped her in Yeshua's body with no hope of escape except through death, but death could only come on the cross. Binah freely accepted this mistreatment in compliance with Chokhmah's will, and the compliance was in full union with the human Yeshua. With the obedience of Binah/Yeshua even to the point of a wretched death, Keter's final claim against all humanity was silenced forever.

Yeshua was brought back before Pilate with his teeth chattering from shock and loss of blood and agony. Pilate, in a contorted way, was actually trying to save Yeshua. Perhaps the crowd controlled by Caiaphas would look at the man after his bloody ordeal and be satisfied.

Instead, the crowd's demand to crucify him grew into a throbbing chant. Pilate began to see the depth of Caiaphas' inexplicable fear of the prisoner. Then he saw a chance to mock the high priest. He said, "Behold, the King of the Jews!" and laid his own robe on Yeshua.

Yeshua flinched under the weight of the robe on his raw shoulders and let out a rasping moan.

Caiaphas said, "Pilate, do not say he is the king of the Jews. Thus do his followers think him, and so we brought him before you."

But Pilate remembered another Yeshua. Yeshua bar Abbas was an assassin of Roman officials who was presently undergoing a slower but more thorough chastisement than a flogging. Pilate said to Caiaphas, "Forget the crowd. Choose your Yeshua. Either this Yeshua bar Yosef shall be crucified or Yeshua bar Abbas."

Yosef Caiaphas knew he was caught in a trap. One bad choice here and he could be deposed as high priest as was his father-in-law.

Pilate said, "I have made my own inquiries into this man long before you brought him before me, did you know? Of course you must have known. This man you are asking to have put to death for you, Caiaphas, was a disciple of the baptizer called Yohanan, and he accepted some of the baptizer's disciples when Herod put him to death, that much is true. Such Herod communicated to me when this one walked to Judea. Do you wonder why Antipas never killed this Galilean also, Caiaphas? The answer is simple. This Yeshua never spoke a single word against Herod. He is a doctor, and by all accounts a very good one. The crowds follow him seeking to be cured, not to watch a fiery prophet.

"And I was not content to take Herod's word for it," Pilate went on, turning to face Yeshua as he spoke. "I sent an agent to find this fellow. You may remember him, Galilean. He was a Jew but he really answered to me. He asked about your views on paying taxes to Rome."

Yeshua acknowledged Pilate with a nod of his head, but said nothing. Pilate turned then back to Caiaphas. "Yeshua here said, 'Show me the coin used to pay the tax' and my agent produced one. Yeshua said, 'Whose likeness is stamped on the coin' and my agent said Tiberias. Finally Yeshua said, 'Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God.' So my agent returned to me and made his report, and I put this traveling healer out of my mind until you brought him before me today, Caiaphas, and said he must die. Now when he rode the donkeys, that was stupid. I can't have more of that, so he's been punished, but was it worthy of death? I leave it entirely up to you and your God, Caiaphas. Choose. Shall I crucify an actual Judean revolutionary, or shall I crucify your king?"

"Release to us Yeshua bar Abbas," said Caiaphas. "We have no king but Tiberius Caesar."

Pilate fairly beamed with pleasure. "See how much better it is, priest, when all can clearly see your professed fealty to Rome is a lie? I despise nothing more than hidden motives."

As Yeshua was led away to die Caiaphas said to Pilate, "You spoke of hidden motives. Today this false prophet foretold his own death in my presence, and that he would rise again on the third day. It is clear to me now he was really attempting to deter his own execution."

"Now Governor, I fear that after he dies his followers will spread a lie throughout the city that they have seen Yeshua risen again from the dead, exactly as he predicted. We will never be rid of the zealots his disciples will draw to themselves with this fabrication."

"Then I will simply leave the man on the cross until the crows have picked him clean."

"Governor, you must not let that come to be. I invoked the Law of Moshe to bring Yeshua's fate upon him and the Law also says the sun must never set on one who has been put to death."

Pilate's annoyance grew to obvious anger. Would he never be rid of this priest? He said, "I will order my centurion to make sure the man is dead before sunset and to bury him nigh to the place where he was crucified. Will that satisfy Yosef Caiaphas and his God's law?"

"I do not question the discipline of your troops, Pilate, but it is known that following a Roman crucifixion the bodies are usually buried in hastily-dug graves with only a light covering of gravel over them. During the night dogs will root his body out and feast on it."

"What of it?" barked Pilate. "It would be, in the end, no different than if birds consumed his body, except the burial will comply with the letter of your Law of Moshe."

"But we will never be able to disprove he is risen, as his followers will claim to the multitude!"

"I can do nothing about the dogs," said Pilate. "They make crucifixion a more effective deterrent among your people in light of your own belief that bodies are raised at the end of time."

There was in the audience hall a member of the Sanhedrin named Yosef of Arimathaea. "Listen," said he. "I have a freshly hewn crypt which I caused to be made for myself and my wife when our time is at hand. You may lay the body of Yeshua within for the span of three days where it will be safe from beasts or any of his followers who would do us harm."

"The crypt will keep the body of this Yeshua safe from being devoured by dogs, true enough, but what is to stop his followers from stealing the body away? Any stone we set into place to seal the tomb can be removed by the man's followers if they have sufficient numbers."

"What of it?" demanded Pilate. "Their future king will still be dead, whether his body rests in their hands or in a tomb."

"General, you do not anticipate what will happen. His disciples will bury the body in another place and three days after claim they saw him alive."

Pilate thought on Caiaphas' words for a moment and reluctantly came around to his point of view. "Make any reasonable request of me, priest, but consider carefully. When you depart I will receive no more audience concerning that man, and entertain the matter never again."

"Pilate, order a number of armed men to watch his sepulcher four days and four nights. Then we may be certain none of his followers have stolen his body only to say in three days, 'Lo, he is risen as he said, behold his empty tomb!'" And all the other councilmen agreed.

Pilate seemed delighted. "Let it be so!" he said. "Now, Caiaphas, if you are finished piling on impossible tasks to satisfy your paranoia and your religious law I will leave it for you to give the instructions to Longinus, who is the centurion overseeing the man's death."

The Romans, it was universally conceded, had a certain engineering genius when it came to building arenas, roads, bridges, and aqueducts. They applied the same acumen to the death penalty. Crucifixion was by far the worst thing they could imagine happening to any man.

In Jerusalem the Romans liked to run a practical joke when they crucified men. Near Damascus Gate the cross had a platform of wood for the feet, bristling with nails pointy end up, and a second platform was laminated under it to prevent the nails from being pushed out. They tied prisoners to the cross by his wrists with ropes, but let their legs kick free. The victim's own body weight made it impossible to breathe unless he brought his head to a level with his arms. After his arms were exhausted he must do that by standing on something. In the case of the cross near Damascus Gate, the only thing to stand on was a little bed of sharp nails. Invariably the victims "volunteered" to impale their own feet on the nails, because continued life was important to them early in the crucifixion. Later, not so much.

Very soon after the prisoner had perforated his own feet just to stay alive, the Roman soldiers lashed his ankles to the cross to make sure he could not change his mind in the hours or days to come. After that he transformed into a reciprocating engine of suffering. When the prisoner died of thirst and shock and exposure after a number days, it was a simple thing to tug on the arm ropes and haul the prisoner's feet from the points of the nails. That way the same cross could be used again, as the one at the north gate frequently was.

Now it was Yeshua's turn. Each wrist was secured by a knot with several turns of rope. The two ropes had been passed through iron rings at the ends of the crossbeam. The Romans hauled him up and he let out a great cry as his raw back was scraped against the vertical post.

Both ropes were tied off at another iron ring mounted under the little bed of nails but they weren't made too taut. By long experience Longinus, the centurion who was supervising the execution, knew just how much slack to leave in Yeshua's body to maximize his suffering.

But after a number of minutes even Longinus grew dismayed. Yeshua, silent now, had sagged against the cross and showed no sign of attempting to preserve his life by pulling himself up to breathe. His feet remained dangling, entirely motionless, along the vertical post.

If Longinus was supervising the crucifixion, Yosef Caiaphas and Yosef of Arimathaea were supervising Longinus. "What is wrong?" Caiaphas demanded.

Longinus replied, "I'm not certain. The condemned man should be showing signs of, ah, extreme distress at this point."

After more minutes passed Yeshua voided his bowels. The soldiers crucifying him found that his skin was growing cool and they began to fret, because it looked like they had somehow bungled the execution. And if that proved to be the case they would be punished themselves.

"It must have been the flogging," suggested Longinus. "Petronius was too thorough. I had nothing to do with that." He took his spear and depressed the skin of Yeshua's bare chest. Then he looked at the two members of the Sanhedrin standing nearby. "By your leave, sirs?"

It was not Caiaphas' purpose that Yeshua should suffer. The man had claimed to be on a plane with Hashem, The Name, and for that he must die, traditionally by stoning, but Yosef's fool of a father-in-law Annas had caused the Romans to withdraw that power from the council. Now, incredibly, Yeshua had somehow died in the first few moments of his crucifixion and Longinus was asking permission to verify it. Caiaphas said, "You may proceed, Centurion." And Longinus pierced the heart of Yeshua with the tip of his spear. There was no movement.

So he made his men unhitch the ropes and lower Yeshua's body into a bag made from hemp, and loaded this onto a wheeled cart. They followed Yosef of Arimathaea around the eastern wall of the city and across the Kidron ravine to his prepared crypt on the Hill of Olives. Then the sack with Yeshua's body was lowered into the hewn pit, and a heavy stone was slid over it by all the men present, even the priests. Longinus put upon on the stone seven seals in the name of the Governor, and they pitched a tent amid the olive trees to keep watch.

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