LUCIUS – A GUARD AT THE TOMB
At last the crowds dispersed and the body of a dead rabbi was removed from the cross. He was nothing more than flesh and blood and even though he’d suffered beyond imagination, he died just like any other man. Joseph of Arimathea claimed the body. The dead man was escorted to Joseph’s tomb to be buried and forgotten. The hoopla was over. The skies began to clear. The crowds scattered and went about their lives as usual again. The show was over and maybe – just maybe things would get back to normal again.
I saw Mary, the mother of the slain criminal, being led off by the only disciple remaining to witness the crucifixion. All the rest were in hiding somewhere. Where were these devoted followers when their leader hung bleeding to death? It seemed an ordinary execution. When you’re a soldier, you witness death on a daily basis. It becomes part of your inner being. In war, in keeping the peace, in accompanying higher ups to their destination – we’re called on to be ready to face anything – even the torturous death of criminals as well as those we know.
I broke up what was left of the dwindling crowd. There weren’t many left to witness this ugliness. There was nothing more to see. The silhouette of the three crosses planted on Golgotha were black against the returning orange sky. I turned to witness Jesus being carried off to be buried in the tomb of a rich man. It seemed to be a final redemption for this man who was once claimed a king.
I was ordered to stand guard at the mouth of the tomb along with three other Roman guards. There were also members of the temple guard on hand to make sure the followers of Jesus didn’t try to steal his body and claim that he had risen from death. My fellow guards and I rolled the heavy round stone in front of the opening to the tomb. It was massive and even though we were strong, well seasoned men, it took all our strength to push that giant rock into place. Four of us were placed at the stone to fend off any intruders. We’d rotate every few hours to allow one guard to sleep while the others stayed alert for any covert action.
The sky turned dark by this time. An eery glow surrounded the empty scene at Golgotha. For the first time in my career as a soldier, my heart was mixed with a plethora of emotions. Being a witness to a scourging, a mockery of a trial, a parade to an execution, the suffering of a death on a cross, the final breath of a soldier who had served his general for thirty three years. The silence of that night was deafening. It was over.