***Please read the Spoiler.***
Elohim: A Jewish name for God.
Yeshua: Jesus' name in Hebrew.
Nazarene: Someone born in Nazareth, a title often used for Jesus.
Golgotha: Golgotha is a hill outside the gates of Jerusalem that was used as an execution site. Golgotha means "The Skull" in Hebrew because in the side of the hill, there are massive holes that look like eye sockets. Golgotha in Greek is "Calvary".
The Upper City: I mention this in the story. The Upper City was the western half of the city of Jerusalem and was the place that housed the wealthy and the priests, as well as King Herod. The Lower City, where my character Lira would live, was the over-crowded eastern half of Jerusalem that housed the poor. The Lower City is settled at the foot of the Holy Temple.
Pilate (Pontius Pilate): He was the Roman prefect of Jerusalem and was the one who judged Jesus and finally sentenced him to be flogged and crucified.
Caiaphas: The High Priest of Jerusalem was a strong antagonist of Jesus during this time. During Jesus’ trail, the high priests tried to frame Jesus with false evidence, but could not find any fault in him. They decided to charge him with blasphemy. Caiaphas’ hatred for Jesus fueled his enthusiasm to see him killed.
Barabbas: Barabbas was a murderer in Jerusalem. Pilate, eager to see the verdict of Jesus’ trial, asked the Jews if they would welcome Barabbas back into their streets, or Jesus. The Jews said, “Give us Barabbas.”
Simon of Cyrene: Simon was a Jew that the Romans ordered to help Jesus with the cross, because Jesus was nearly too weak to carry it on his own.
H. C. Smith
The red-eyed girl kept the shadows. Lira had lost her veil and now her rippling black hair whispered at her back as she ran through the alleyways of Jerusalem. She had nothing to keep herself concealed, leaving her scarred face exposed for all to see.
Innocent Lira was infamous among the Jews. Having been abused by her father, Obadiah, every inch of her slim, pretty face was marked with ghastly scars. The marks did not stop at her chin, but continued across her arms, chest, back, and legs like spider webs. Starvation had gutted her, too, making her long and thin. However, what aroused fear within the Jews were not the scars, but her blood-red eyes.
Obadiah said that her eyes were crimson because she drank her dead mother’s blood at childbirth. His lies were enough to convince the Jews that Lira was possessed. They thought she was a witch, born to walk the way of darkness.
But, now, all was different. Lira did not have the will to worry about the cruel glances and sharp tongues of zealous Jews. She prayed that Elohim would give her speed, for sooner than she wished, her king would be dead by crucifixion.
Not one person appeared to be certain of the identity of Yeshua of Nazareth. The Nazarene was famous across all of Judea for his miracles and healings. Some thought he was a priest, a lunatic, or even the resurrected prophet Elijah. The high priests branded him as a demon. Others thought he was Elohim-made-flesh and the Messiah, sent to redeem all men and become their king, as ancient prophecy foretold.
Lira full-heartedly believed the latter.
She rushed through the alleyways to the north, toward Golgotha. She knew Yeshua was no longer at Herod’s Palace, where his judgment had taken place. Jews were rioting at the edges of the palace. They were shouting for the release or the death of Yeshua. People fought in the streets. They spat on one another, threw themselves on others, thrashing like savages. They lunged for each other’s throats. The world of Jerusalem was in complete disorder.
The Roman governor Pilate had ordered Yeshua flogged by persuasion of Caiaphas, the High Priest. Yet, the whippings were not enough to feed the bloodlust of zealots. They begged for him to be crucified. Pilate even asked of them who they wished to spare: the king or the murderer Barabbas.
It all made Lira nauseatingly sick. Not only were Roman beatings known for their brutality, but the Jews had chosen a murderer over the Nazarene. And now, Yeshua had been sentenced to be crucified on Golgotha, The Skull.
Lira knew where Golgotha was. It was to the north. She would have to cut through the heart of the Upper City to find Yeshua in time. The sun was surrounded by shadowy clouds that were approaching over every horizon. The heat of the afternoon had been replaced by a chilling wind. Lira peered up at the sun. The clouds would smother it in minutes.
Lira darted through the alleyways, her dress tossing up dust as she ran. The face of Yeshua was imprinted in her mind. She needed to hear his voice again. She needed to find her purpose and she knew it was with him.
She stepped out from the shade of an alley where she saw lines of men and women charting a wriggling path past the tall gates to Golgotha. Lira saw the glinting armor of several Roman soldiers escorting two prisoners. Behind them, Lira saw Yeshua.
Her heart skipped three beats.
Yeshua had become the embodiment of the color red. Every inch of his once smooth complexion was now a rough, deep crimson. Blood poured from torn, mangled welts across his back, arms, and thighs. He left a trail of scarlet where he walked.
He was wearing a white linen loincloth that was completely soiled with blood and was falling around his knees, exposing the torn, jagged flesh of his buttocks and lower back. His head of shaved black hair was soaked with blood and sweat and he wore a wreath fashioned of thorns. Yeshua struggled to carry a massive wooden cross upon his back. His legs quivered beneath its mighty weight.
Bile rose up into Lira’s throat. Her eyes widened at the horror of the bleeding Yeshua before her.
Lira remembered just yesterday she had earned punishment from Obadiah for breaking a jar. The sound of that shattering pot could have been comparable to thunder. She had watched her living hell unfold as the broken jar bled, the water flashing like shadows across the white stone. Her skin still stung from where her father had struck her.
The price for a broken jar was a beating.
The price to save men from sin is a dead God.
From a distance, she watched Yeshua quiver under the cross. Finally, his legs buckled and he crumbled to the ground. The cross fell on top of him.
Lira could not contain herself as she pushed herself forward. With all the strength she could muster, she forced her legs to sprint toward Yeshua.
Everything to her was moving in slow motion. The movement of her arms and legs, the billowing of her skirts behind her, the rippling of her hair; it was all slowed to her as if she were in a terrible, inescapable dream.
Lira shoved men and women aside. “Yeshua!” She yelled. Her breath came out in short bursts. The strap of her leather satchel swung against her breast. “Yeshua!”
The people around Lira recoiled from her. They spat at her and flung their fists at her, but she continued to push them aside to get to the king. “The witch!” They hissed. They gasped and drew back as if she were contaminated by some disastrous, contagious plague.
Lira ignored them. Her eyes were on the fallen Yeshua. Her only purpose now was to be with him.
At last, Lira reached him with a few swift strides and she fell to her knees, looking over him with wide eyes. The skin of his entire right side had been removed, exposing his trembling, bleeding ribcage. The flesh of his arms, buttocks, and back had been removed, revealing his throbbing, red muscles beneath. His veins and arteries had no flesh to conceal them.
His golden eyes still burned like fire as he looked upon the weeping Lira. His beautiful face was crumpled in torture. His lips were swollen and his beard had been ripped out.
Though riot and revolt unfolded around them, all appeared silent to Lira. The flying of fists, the thrashing of people, the flashes of Roman armor; all movement was hindered to her, as if time had slowed. She could have her moment with Yeshua.
“Yeshua,” Lira cried, “I’m here.” Hot tears fell from her eyes as she cautiously began to wipe the blood away from his body. His skin was slick with blood and sweat as she smeared it with her hands in an attempt to clean them. Her hands slipped across his shoulders, arms, and she held his hands and kissed them, tasting his blood on her lips.
Her hands swept across his chest, belly, and hips. She moved her fingers across his thighs and down his legs, cautious to touch his mangled flesh. She wanted so much to deliver him from his agony. When she came to his tired, sore feet, she bent and kissed them.
She wept over the man that had done so many good things, the God who had healed so many and given faith to the hopeless. His flesh was broken and she wanted nothing more than to mend it, to make it whole again.
“Yeshua,” she breathed. Her gaze flickered to her hands. As she looked closely, she could not find the silver scars on her skin. With frantic eyes, she searched across her bloody arms, but the marks of abuse were not there.
Yeshua’s blood had removed all of her scars. Erased them.
“Lira,” Yeshua breathed as he tried to stand. He managed to get on his hands and knees, the cross still upon him. Lira went to him and took his face in her hands. “Your eyes.” Yeshua said and brushed his thumbs over her face with sweet tenderness. She felt his blood upon the thin skin of her eyelids.
When she opened them, it was as if a fog had been lifted. She could see with lucidity, with purity. All was clear to her.
“What color are they, Yeshua?” Lira asked him in a whisper. She then noticed that Yeshua’s eyes had become a deep crimson, no longer the smoldering gold they had once been. He had given her his eyes.
He whispered back to her. “They’re like the sun.”
From the corner of her eyes, Lira saw a great shadow approaching. Her blood went cold, her heart stopped beating.
“Do not touch him!” He barked and spat at Lira. His wide frame left her in shadow. His shaved head throbbed with a vicious pulse. “He is a king.” Obadiah’s dark eyes were narrow. They glimmered as he mocked Yeshua. “He is a king of liars.”
“Obadiah, stop!” Lira’s voice rushed from her mouth with fury. Obadiah did not even pause. He lifted his hands to strike her. But Lira did not cower under him. She bolted upright, baring her teeth while pulling out a dagger from her leather satchel. She held it above her father. Her muscles tightened, ready to stab him.
Lira looked into Obadiah’s eyes and for a moment, she no longer saw the man who had destroyed her childhood. Instead, she saw her father. She saw Elohim flicker for an instant within his eyes. Her heart welled with an odd sensation. It was a fire fueled by mercy, by love. She could not kill him. Lira dropped the knife upon the ground and flung her arms around Obadiah. She was trembling.
“Abba.” Papa. “I forgive you.” Elohim fed her heart with the words to speak. She kissed Obadiah and pulled back to look at him. “Now, go and sin no more.” She whispered. Obadiah’s face was frozen. His eyes were wide and he fell to his knees. The earth trembled as he hit the ground and he began to weep. He looked up at Lira with unfathomable regret.
Lira turned to Yeshua. Roman soldiers swarmed about him, barking in foreign tongues for him to stand, shouting venomous threats. They cracked their whips and flourished their spears in the air. Yeshua forced himself to lift the cross again. The man called Simon of Cyrene wrapped an arm around him and bore the cross on his shoulders as well.
“Yeshua, let me die with you! Let me die with you!” Lira fell at his feet and kissed his trembling legs, caressed his shuddering feet. Her eyes burned with tears.
Yeshua’s beautiful face wrinkled in agony. He shook his head and began to walk in short, excruciating strides. He and Simon dragged the cross behind them. “You have fulfilled your purpose, Lira. Now I must fulfill mine.”
“Please, Yeshua.” Lira begged. She put her hands on his shuddering thighs, clinging to his loincloth that was slipping from his narrow waist.
“Remember that I am doing this for you.” He said and in torment, continued on.
The price to save men from sin is a dead God.
The mob whirled around him. Romans and Jews alike engulfed the image of the king. Voices echoed around Lira. Yeshua was a figure of pure red amongst sweeping shadows. They swallowed him. Like the Nazarene, the sun was gone, having been smothered by darkness.
An icy wind embraced Lira. Drenched in her king’s blood, she watched painfully as Yeshua struggled to reach Golgotha, bleeding like a broken jar.