For centuries now, the Jews had been a subject people. To date resistance had been most successful through the leadership of the Maccabee family so named because they were like a hammer in attacking the rule of the Greek Antiochus Epiphanes. In the second century BC they gained a short period of selfrule.
Now it was the Romans who ruled them and a kind of underground resistance movement continued. Following in the line of the Maccabees were a group known as the Zealots. One of the disciples of Jesus seems to have belonged to this party (Luke 6.15, Acts 1.13). The Zealots were active throughout the war of 6673AD, their last stronghold being Masada, which fell in May of 73AD.
In our imagination we visit these three condemned resistance-fighters...
Well, Nezzar and Mizbah, we've blown it properly this time chained and in stocks! We're not the only ones in the Movement, of course. The resistance to Roman rule will continue. We will become a Jewish nation again! We will be free!
You know what I mean by that. We will share the glory of that victory except that, for the three of us, there's no way out this time. But we will not inform on the other collaborators, even though we pay with our life! True, we didn't time our revolt right too many supporters hadn't arrived for Passover yet. And some of our Jewish leaders especially the Sadducees and Herodians actually seem to support the Roman power.
I can never understand that. This is the promised land. This is our land. Only the Lord God is our king!
You two should remember the stories about Samuel when the people were asking for a king so they would be like the other nations. Samuel thought it was not right because the Lord was their king. And he was correct.
Mind you, we have had some good kings but some bad ones too! Our best kings have trusted the Lord. We could do with another king like David. What we need right now is the Messiah the king God has promised to send.
But we have done our bit. Some will even call us heroes perhaps not in the league of Judas Maccabee, but heroes all the same and heroes for the same cause.
They will string us up like scarecrows on those crosses a warning to other Jews who think to revolt in the search of freedom. Some will laugh at us. Others will cry. But our death will spur in many a cautious resolve to plan and work for freedom. Every death gathers a few more sympathisers and supporters. The oppression must end. The Romans must go.
What do you think, Nezzar? ... Yes, I agree this place stinks. All jails do! ... I know, I know I got you into this. But we are part of the Movement a willing part of it. We accepted there would be dangers. The Movement is bigger than any of us bigger even than any individual group like the Zealots.
Yes, Mizbah, the three of us will die. We are unlikely to escape death cruel Roman death by crucifixion. The scaffolding is already waiting for us. The crossbars are ready for us. Yes, they will nail us to them and hoist us up in full public view.
I remember the last crucifixion I saw a horrible sight. The poor fellow screamed and writhed... He called for mercy but the soldiers just laughed. It was just the kind of spectacle they wanted. Then he began calling down curses on them and on any old enemies he could remember. Even when his body was tired out, the pain went on and on he took so long to die...
No, Nezzar and Mizbah, I do not look forward to this death. Better to have met a Roman sword than this. I want to grit my teeth. I want to die as a patriot. I want to die with dignity. I want to die defiant and unrepentant. Few words, but perhaps a good loud curse, calling on the Lord to smite these benighted Roman soldiers who don't understand what they are doing!
We will all die, but the accusing inscription above our heads will bring us honour with all who matter. "Nezzar Rokba," it will read, "Rebel Jew." Can't you see it, Nezzar? "Mizbah Hadda, Rebel Jew" you're an honourable man, Mizbah! And above my head, "Jesus Barabbas, Rebel Jew."
Listen! What's that shouting? There's a crowd passing close to this jail. I thought I heard my name my first name "Jesus". No one uses it these days. I'm just Barabbas.
"Jesus of Nazareth"... Right! That's the teacher from Galilee.
We had some contacts with his group. One of his disciples was a Zealot gone a bit cold on the resistance bit, I think. Another one, Judas Iscariot, interested me more. His parents obviously admired the Maccabees. I think Judas can do a lot for the Movement. I don't know about this Jesus of Nazareth. Judas had ideas of getting him into the Movement not much of a chance really. Jesus keeps talking about God's Kingdom, so it's said, but I don't think he means a restored Jewish state.
Listen! I can just make out snatches of the song they are singing... It's from Psalm 118.
Will they be going into the Temple? Perhaps, though I'm not sure that they'll get any more support from the officials than we did. Sounds like a healthy crowd of supporters much stronger than we had the other day!
That's good! Perhaps this Jesus of Nazareth will promote the Movement after all! Perhaps he will save Israel!
Perhaps Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah - is that what people are thinking? And if he is, can he act quickly enough to save us from the death that awaits us?
Perhaps not! Our memory will still be honoured! I wish we had met him! If only we had taken more notice! O that we could see the glory of his reign! A curse upon these Romans, for they don't know what they are doing!
Let's join the shouting! Perhaps even our voices will join the welcome. We have nothing to lose.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us, Lord!
May God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!