Editor’s note: Chaplain Norris has written a two part column celebrating the Christian culture of the Easter Season.
He’d already seen how skittish and squirmy his students became when asked to confront their fears and declare their allegiance to spiritual causes. So tonight, as he stepped into his favorite garden retreat, he knew things would not likely be different.
Yet tonight was different for him. The sorrow he carried these days was crushing the life out of him and he needed time to align himself again to the light that had illuminated so much of his enigmatic path. He needed some time alone to pray to his father.
But first, he needed to get his students focused. “Stay there,” he said, pointing to a tree that would likely hide their gloom, “and pray for me.”
Finding his solitary place, his heart began to express his real grief. “Why isn’t there another way?” he reasoned, like a child begging his father to take a less difficult way down a frightful mountain trail.
“I’ll do this thing, but why must I do it alone?” Soon, the blood seeping from his forehead made it obvious that it wasn’t the physical pain that he feared, it was the torture of the betrayal.
He returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. Prayer seemed like such an easy request, yet they betrayed him even in that. Three times he asked them to pray and each time he returned and found them sleeping.
It didn’t seem like he was asking so much, and yet it was more than they were willing to give him. It hurt, and in his pain he felt angry thoughts rise in him “Why couldn’t they get this much right?”
After all, he wasn’t asking them to pray publicly.
He was reasonable. He knew that publicly revealing your allegiance to anyone but the occupying army could get a man crucified – and these days the countryside was littered with crosses.
Yet, for the man caught between alternative allegiances, there was but one hope of avoiding the cross – the path of betrayal.
And that’s exactly the path the man carrying the torch had chosen for himself as he approached the garden petitioner and laid a kiss on his face. Betrayal masked in a kiss was no softer than iron in a glove, and he recoiled in the blow to his soul as the accompanying soldiers bound his hands.
Over the next three days his captors beat him. But nothing in the sting of the whip could match the hurt in the betraying claim of his most beloved student – “I don’t know this man!” Then, not even the rooster crows could mask the volume in which his student violently swore, “Look damn it, I tell you I’ve never even seen this fool!”
Then, finally, they dragged him to a skullish-looking place that stunk of the dying hopes of other revolutionaries, missionaries, and contraries. They erected the cross high over the curious crowd. He could see everything, yet he saw nothing – at least nothing of the ones who swore they’d follow him to his death.
Now, even as the crowd formed to watch his death, so did the demons – or whatever you call darkness. They were there with their cackling cries for his remaining carcass. The scent of betrayal whet their appetite like chum to circling sharks.
Then the sky went black and he sensed the evaporation of hope. The presence he called “Abba” or “Daddy” vanished.
“Daddy, Daddy,” he cried, whimpering at first. Then, suddenly his whimpers built into a screaming crescendo. “You’ve betrayed me too!”
It was over. Betrayed. Betrayed to his dying breath.
Was this what death felt like? So alone. So nothing. So betrayed of hope.
(Continued next week.)