…continued from The Medallion V
They had found it; they had found The Medallion.
The man who Simon had identified as Joseph of Arimathea spread out a length of white linen on the floor with which he wrapped up the body of Jesus. Mary and the other woman put the handkerchief containing the blood-drenched soil – and unknown to them, The Medallion – in with the corpse just before it was wrapped. The corpse was placed in a pulled cart and the procession, soldiers inclusive, headed west of the city where the sepulchers were located. Rufus and Simon followed.
They reached a tomb which from the looks of it had been freshly dug. Joseph led the way in and they laid the wrapped corpse in the tomb. The women dragged Mary away who was still weeping uncontrollably and all the men present combined strength to roll a heavy stone across the mouth of the tomb. The centurion ordered four of the soldiers to stand guard at the tomb while he retired towards the city with the rest of his men. The young man who had been at the foot of the cross of Jesus with Mary persuaded her to come away with him; the weeping women of Jerusalem followed, most of them dry-eyed with exhaustion. Joseph of Arimathea and Nichodemus brought up the rear.
There was not much that Rufus could do; even if he somehow overpowered the four soldiers standing guard, he had no means to get past the massive stone which had taken the combined strength of over a dozen men to roll over the mouth of the tomb. Also Simon was anxious to return to their sons whom they had left asleep at Golgotha. With one last look at the sealed tomb, Rufus turned and left with Simon.
He would be back.
*** *** ***
“Eleazer, douse your light quickly!”
The boy obeyed. Rufus put a hand to his lips and stealthily, crawled closer behind a prominent rock from where the mouth of the tomb was clearly visible. Eleazer followed suit. The tomb was a little bee-hive of activity; the soldiers on guard duty had positioned lit torches at strategic corners lending more visibility to the already moonlit night and they sat around dozing, playing games, eating, drinking and jesting.
It was almost midnight on Sabbath day and well into the Feast of Unleavened bread. After they departed the tomb the day before, Rufus had left with Simon to the latter’s house where he had heard the whole story of this Jesus who was called the Christ. Rufus was intrigued by the stories of healings, resurrections, exhortations and miracles which Simon regaled him with about this man.
Rufus could not however, fathom why a man with such powers could not have saved himself from the shameful death he had died. In his shoes, Rufus fantasized over the numerous ways in which he would have ensured the painful demise of his attackers – a snap of his fingers and a man would lose his arm, one smile and all the teeth in one soldier’s mouth would dissolve into red-hot molten metal, one arched brow and the ground would open up to swallow that fat Pilate with his shiny basin of water. The deeds of this Jesus as Simon had told them – and Rufus had confirmed from a good number of people – certainly put any of these retributions within the man’s capacity. Yet he had meekly followed his captors, like a lamb to the slaughter, to death on the cross.
In his quest for answers, Rufus accompanied Simon to the temple on the Sabbath day; the look on Eleazer’s face said volumes about how often his father visited such premises. But Rufus was a man seeking answers. He was disappointed though. The temple was over-run by the ‘pricks’ as the followers of the dead Jesus had all disappeared. The entire Sabbath day was dedicated to denigrating what was left of the memory of the man crucified the day before. One by one, the priests rose and spewed a litany of offences Jesus had been guilty of: he had cured Alphonso’s withered hand on a Sabbath day, he had dared to heal Ebenezer, a leper, neither he nor his disciples were ever seen fasting with ash on their heads or anguish on their faces, he even mustered the audacity to quench a storm sent by the Almighty,God of Moses.
Rufus could scarcely believe the sheer blasphemy and sycophancy that played out before him. He did learn one interesting piece of news though – Jesus had said that after he died, he would rise on the third day. If there was any truth to this – the man had quite a reputation for keeping to his word – Rufus felt deep within him that something of some significance would indeed happen at that tomb on the prophesied day. He hadn’t told Simon of his plan to return to the tomb because they had both agreed that The Medallion was a lost cause. But he had known he would be going there.
Rufus was unsure what drew him to the tomb – was it The Medallion which had been buried with the man or the man who had been buried with The Medallion? Whichever, it was strong enough to pull him after he left Simon’s with Eleazer in tow, westwards towards the guarded tomb rather than eastwards towards Bethany. They had hung around dozing and munching on strips of unleavened bread while waiting for darkness to fall. Now it was dark and they crouched behind a rock few meters away from the soldiers and the tomb. What next, Rufus had no idea.
As the city bells clung midnight, the earth reverberated soundly. Rufus thought he had imagined it until he saw the look on Eleazer’s face. Then the ground shook again, this time with a ferocity that made the quake of the crucifixion day feel like child’s play. Rufus anchored himself firmly to the rock while holding on to Eleazer with his spare arm. The soldiers’ noises quieted down in an instant as they looked about with terrified eyes each struggling to maintain balance.
Suddenly, a wraith appeared in a halo of white light so bright that Rufus inadvertently let go of Eleazer to shield his eyes. This form gradually grew in visibility till it took the form of a big man in a flowing white robe cinched at the waist by a wide glistening belt. From the belt hung a sword with a glistening handle that crackled with charges; the man’s entire ensemble gave off a pristine glow, calm and white. Thunder rolled and perpetual lines of lightning divided the midnight sky.
The glowing man glided – for that was the only word for the way he moved – over to the stone that sealed the tomb and Rufus saw then that he had two massive wings. The wings were like those of a giant-sized eagle, a snow-white giant eagle with feathers which looked to be as soft as wool from Shechem. They flapped once, the wings, sending everything – man, beast and thing – in the vicinity flying off in a gale of strong wind.
Rufus felt certain that the vision before him must be God and from a distant childhood memory, he remembered the saying that no one ever saw God and lived to tell the tale. So he quickly put his hands over Eleazer’s eyes and cursed the fatal fate that had seen him come across this Christ.
The vision raised one glowing hand and the stone over the tomb’s entrance started to roll away. In his amazement, Rufus’ jaw dropped down and his hands fell away from Eleazer’s eyes. He had seen a dozen men roll that stone across the tomb’s entrance, huffing and puffing to the brinks of their very lives’ breaths. But before him, the same stone now rolled, as if on oiled wheels away from the mouth of the tomb. As it rolled away, the tomb’s entrance peeped through as a crack through which light – a white light brighter than the glow of the winged vision, if such a thing was possible – shimmered.
The farther away the stone rolled, the wider the crack grew and the more of this brighter incandescence it oozed. The illumination that poured out of the mouth of the tomb after it was fully opened was glory in itself; it glided over one’s skin with the warmth of a soothing balm, white and blinding but indeed calming to the eye. It flooding the entire hillside and the skies above with a luminescence so bright that the air shimmered like a pristine veil over the grasses which glittered like transparent glass.
In the midst of all this resplendence, Jesus emerged from the tomb, flying without wings. The white linen in which he had been wrapped hung over him loosely hooked over his shoulder; it twinkled with stars and even more light poured out of the holes which the nails had made in his hands and feet. The expression on his face was of peace, a calm dignified peace and royalty. A halo of warm gold encircled his head and the tips of his beard seemed to be on fire – it was like looking into the sun from just ten paces away.
Suddenly his eyes, burning a triumphant yellow, settled on Rufus where he stood dazed. A thrill, akin to the one he had felt when Jesus looked at him from atop the cross at Golgotha, raced through his marrows and settled like a warm pool in feet Rufus could barely feel. Staring up into the face of the resurrected Jesus, Rufus knew he was a dead man.
Slowly, Jesus began to rise up into the skies, his stately face and arms raised up to the night sky awash with heavenly splendor. The winged vision from earlier fell down on one knee, clasped his hands together as if in prayer and bowed his head; his massive snow-white wings came together at his back with their glowing tips pointing downwards. Had Rufus been thinking, he would have fallen on his knees too but he was lost to the luxury of human though. A warm heady feeling coursed through his veins like warm honey, and as the resurrected Jesus vanished from sight, and with him the phenomenal light and vision, he felt a lightness take its place, a sweet friendly lightness. Like a second chance.
Darkness resettled quickly upon the entire hillside; the wind howled, its noise given a hollow timbre by the open deeps of the now-empty tomb. Crickets chirped, their music given a mournful tinge by the emptiness left behind by the departed light. Rufus stood with Eleazer, oblivious of the scampering soldiers, staring upwards into the dark of the now moonless night.
A series of tugs on his sleeve woke Rufus from his shocked state. He stared down at Eleazer and could not believe that they both were still alive.
“We should go, Father”
The boy’s eyes gave away nothing. It was almost as though he hadn’t just seen God rise from the dead; yes, he was God, Rufus admitted. There was indeed a God and Rufus had just watched Him defeat the great power of death without uttering a word. A God of light; no noise, just light and love.
Another pull on his arm, this time leading, shook Rufus back to his surroundings. Eleazer had taken his hand and was pulling them both towards the city gates – the trip to Bethany was definitely cancelled for the night.
Rufus was amazed to find that his legs worked. Totter by totter, he followed his son across the rock-strewn hillside still dazed. The lightness he felt in his bones was slightly dizzying, and he hadn’t realized it but his throat was parched shut with a thirsty dryness. Signaling to Eleazer to hold on, Rufus reached into his robe for his water flask.
He felt something else in the pocket, something he hadn’t put there. Not knowing what to expect, Rufus pulled it out; it was a small bundle wrapped in a spotless white cloth, the finest piece of silk he had ever seen.
His breath hitching, fingers quivering, unbelieving, Rufus unwrapped the bundle. And it was right there, staring him in the face.
I apologize for the tardiness on delivery of this piece. It has been a great experience walking you through the path of Rufus’ journey in the hunt for The Medallion. May His encounter with the risen Christ replicate itself in various ways in our individual lives, Amen.
HAVE A VERY MERRY EASTER!
Winners of The Medallion prediction and ‘first-to-comment’ prizes will be announced soon.