Three Dark Days

Between the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the first day of the week, his disciples must have been deeply discouraged. Their hope for Israel’s restored kingdom had died on a Roman cross.

While writing the second book of the Reflections series, I considered the question: what did those disciples do during that time?

The following excerpt from Martha of Bethany’s story gives one possible perspective. Perhaps not everyone had lost hope.

From Chapter Thirteen of A Laboring Hand:

I stared into the stricken faces of Andrew bar Jonas and Philip of Bethsaida. Laz nodded somberly as they spoke of Yeshua’s demise. Our eyes met across the table. Thankfully, Mary was with Avi’s girls. She wouldn’t be able to bear this news.

“Crucified?” I still couldn’t believe it.

Messiah was dead? G-d’s Anointed came to redeem us all, but instead he’d become the victim of a Roman cross?

Andrew’s dull eyes swept toward me, and our gazes connected for an instant.

“John bar Zebedee was at the cross with the women and had to hold up the Lord’s mother.” Philip scowled. “I should have gone, but I ran at the first sign of danger.”

“We all did.” Andrew squeezed Philip’s shoulder.

They made an incongruous pair: the burly fisherman with wild hair and the sleek scholarly scribe with his trimmed beard and fine robes. I was surprised to learn they had known each other since childhood when Philip’s family emigrated from the Grecian provinces after his father’s death.

Philip shrugged off the work-worn hand. It was the most animated I’d ever seen him. Around our table, he often took notes or made calculations during discussions. His pale brown eyes reflected the disbelief careening through my chest.

“I should have gone.” Laz glanced toward his clenched hands on the table.

I couldn’t stand his misery. “I’m sorry.”

After all, I was the one who discouraged it when the messenger came telling us Yeshua had been arrested and taken to the Roman governor. I couldn’t comprehend that an innocent man would be tried and sentenced so quickly. And executed?

I scurried around the table to rest my hands on my brother’s shoulders. “The crowd was mad. And I didn’t want Mary to go.”

After a long pause, Laz squeezed my hand. His palms had the calluses of a scribe, and he would finally earn money from doing what he loved. With the feast and the additional high sabbath, he still hadn’t made it into the Weaver’s Quarter to inform the guild of his changed plans.

“I couldn’t have stood there and done nothing.” Andrew’s voice shook with deep emotion. Not anger or bitterness, but perhaps a combination of both. “Peter disappeared after the arrest, and I expected him to be there. But John told us he was the only one.”

“What does it mean?” Laz straightened. “We can blame ourselves for failing Yeshua, but he’s never failed us. What does this death mean?”

Movement stirred the skin over our doorway. Avi pulled it aside and paused. “May I enter?”

“Enter and be blessed,” Laz said.

The men rose as the older man stepped over the threshold. Stew bubbled in my gut, and my cheeks were fire-touched. My betrothed carried several scrolls in a bag that bumped his hip with each step.

“Wine?” I sidled away from Lazarus. My hands trembled, needing a task.

“Well-watered, thank you.” His thin lips tilted, and the look in his eyes held a promise I couldn’t comprehend.

I scuttled to serve him as the apostles shared the news of the crucifixion. He thanked me, and I returned to the preparation counter to mix dough for fresh bread.

“It means the sacrifice is made.” Authority resonated through Avi’s words. “Here. I have Isaiah’s prophecy.”

The parchment rustled. My hands stalled in their measuring.

Could it be true? Was there a prophecy about Messiah as a sacrifice? Would we have to wait until the resurrection to see Yeshua again?

He that believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live. Yeshua’s words from the day he called my brother back from Paradise overlaid what the men in the room said. He could raise Lazarus, but who would raise Yeshua?

“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand[i].” Avi’s voice made the scripture ring with life and truth.

“Smitten of G-d.” Lazarus breathed the words like a prayer.

“Bruised for our iniquities?” Andrew sounded dismayed.

I turned from my work. My heart lurched in my chest. Could this be true? Was Yeshua offering his own soul for our sins? My sins?

But why?

Philip stood and paced, hardly able to take four steps in the room cluttered with pillows. “He’s been doing the work of the Father. Why would He forsake him this way?”

“Let me read.” Avi cleared his throat. “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Avi stopped, and his face glowed with a holy discovery. “The Passover Lamb in actuality. Don’t you see?”

The other three gaped at him.

The hollow of my stomach ached, and I pressed my hand to it. Oh, to hope that this death served such a great purpose. And why not? Yeshua’s life was lived to help others, should we have expected his death to be different?

“This is not all. I had word from my brothers at the temple.” Avi glanced around at the other men.

“What word?” Philip rejoined them around the table.

“During that earthquake yesterday afternoon, the veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place ripped.” Avi pressed his hands flat on the table. “From top to bottom.”

His voice shook with unbridled joy. Joy! He wasn’t insensitive to our grief as we discussed the death of one we loved, but he couldn’t contain his emotions. Amazement, awe, and joy bubbled from him.

“Don’t you see what it means?” Avi glanced between the three men.

“Impossible! That curtain is too thick.” Philip crossed his arms.

“From top to bottom?” Laz’s eyebrows dipped together.

My brother was losing his grief-stricken expression. This was making sense to him.

“Earthquake. Darkness. Acts of G-d.” Andrew panted the words.

Avi met the fisherman’s gaze. “Yes. The G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ripped the veil that divides the temple on Earth from the mercy seat in Heaven.”

We gaped at him, but something buried deep in my soul sang.

“The price for mankind’s sin was paid. The innocent sacrificed for the guilty.” If anyone knew about the shedding of innocent blood, it was a priest. “My righteous servant—Yeshua—shall justify many. That’s what happened!”

Avi clapped his hands. As if a dozen incense burners flared to life, a sense of worship filled the room. Isaiah’s words echoed and rebounded while the men continued to question Avi.

Yahweh, is this true? Even as I prayed the question, the peace I’d felt the first time I looked into Yeshua’s eyes engulfed me.

Yes, it seemed to say, Yeshua has finally finished his work.

“That’s wonderful!” The words escaped before I could draw them back.

Laz blinked at me. Slowly, his lips relaxed and turned upward. “Of course. He can’t claim His earthly kingdom until He settles His heavenly one.”

“But he’s gone.” Andrew voiced the unanswerable.

“Am I gone?” Laz leaned forward. “I died, but now I’m alive. Our Heavenly Father will do the same for Yeshua.”

Like a trumpet blast, the words pealed throughout the room.

Scripture quotations are from Isaiah 53.

If you enjoyed this glimpse behind the (imaginary) curtain into the life of a woman in the Bible, you can pick up A Laboring Hand in eBook or paperback on Amazon.

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