Been thinking a lot about this lately. Not really sure why, but it prompted me to resurrect this fictional story I wrote a few years ago. Thinking about how Jesus was able to forgive, even those who put him on a cross, moves my heart attitude to a really good, grateful place. Maybe it will for you, too. Please keep in mind this is historical fiction, a mere creation from my mind based on true events. But. I believe it is possible that events similar to this one may have actually occurred…
The Roman Soldier’s Wife (March 31, 2015)
It was evening when my husband came through the door. His face was not contorted with vexation, as was his usual greeting, but set in a weary, bewildered expression. His tunic and leather lappets were spattered considerably with blood.
I knew as much to quickly hush the children and hustle them into the back room. I kissed them good night and told them to lie very still.
Hurriedly, I began to prepare a meal for my husband. Wearing only a loincloth, he was sitting with his head in his hands. My eye caught sight of bloody clothes on the floor as I brought the wine and food.
I stood beside him ready to serve. He drank the wine but did not eat. He grunted at me, and I poured more wine. He gulped it quickly and, again, motioned for more. Staggering a bit, he disappeared into the other room. I did not move until I heard him breathing loudly. Then I cleaned up his untouched meal and shuddered as I got to work on the bloody clothes.
As I scrubbed vigorously, blood ran from the wool tunic over my fingers and down into the pail of water. I was no stranger to what my husband did as a soldier and I knew very well of what he was capable at home. I thought about what I had heard earlier that day while I was out in the court washing clothes with the other women. The Jews wanted to kill a man who claimed he was the Son of God, but Pontius Pilate said he couldn’t find any fault in him.
My thoughts were interrupted as my husband called out. I jumped and my heart was momentarily gripped in fear. I dreaded going to him but I knew it was better than him looking for me. When I reached the room, he was asleep, drenched in sweat, his face twisted in anguish. I waited. He called out again. His words were unintelligible, but he seemed to be calling for help.
I returned to my work and my thoughts. Could this be the blood of the Jewish man who claimed to be the Son of God? Had my husband assisted in putting him to death? I listened to him call out in his sleep again and wondered what it was that tormented him. My friends, in the court, today had also said that Pontius Pilate offered Barabbas, a murderer, and the Jewish man, Jesus, to the mercy of the crowd; one would be released and the other crucified. The Jews had chosen Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified!
I was sitting on the floor by the window as I worked. The moon illuminated crimson stains on my husband’s leather lappets. Dipping a rag into the pail of water, I tried to wipe them clean. I had seen men hanging from crosses along the road and, always, I shielded my eyes. I felt a tug in my heart for this man, Jesus, who suffered the horrible fate of the cross and, it seemed to me, all very unfair. Tears ran down my face as I pondered it all.
I suddenly wished I had met this Jesus whose blood was, perhaps, on my fingers, now splashed on my tunic and still on my husband’s lappets. Not managing to get anything clean, I sat idle among the bloodstained clothes, crying softly, face turned toward the moonlight.
Lost in thought, I hadn’t noticed the figure looming over me. He took a step forward. Startled, I retreated into the corner and pulled my legs against my chest. I waited for the insults to come but there was only silence. I dared to look up. My husband’s eyes were wild, but not with rage and fury. He appeared like something I had never seen before. On his massive, muscular frame, that had struck fear in the heart of many, was the face of a helpless child.
Falling to his knees, my husband gently touched the bloody lappets that were lying abandoned on the floor. Then he looked into my eyes and spoke. He said that he had, indeed, participated in crucifying a man called Jesus. He spoke of the beating, scourging, mocking. His voice broke when he told of how they spat upon him. He said that through it all, Jesus never opened his mouth in defense or retribution.
His voice faltered again when he spoke of Jesus calling out to his Father, asking Him to forgive the very ones who had nailed him to a cross. Weighted by grief and laden with regret, my husband’s words seemed to pelt me like a rainstorm made of lead droplets.
My husband went on to say that all night he had dreamed of Jesus. He saw the blood, the nails, and the pain-filled, sad eyes of Jesus. He saw Jesus helpless and dying on the cross. But, still, in the dream, it was he who needed help and felt the need to call out for it repeatedly.
I listened in amazement. This hardened, cruel man, who, on more than one occasion, laughed as he recounted the torture of another at his own hands, was exposing emotions I didn’t think existed. This same man, who considered me a slave rather than his wife, was speaking to me as an equal and making eye contact for the very first time.
Something had changed. Something impossible now seemed not entirely too far from my grasp. Could there be life outside of constant fear and suffering? Was it possible for me to be truly loved? Could I forgive my husband? Again, I felt a tug in my heart towards this Jesus, a man I had never seen nor met.
My husband moved toward me and I, instinctively, shrank backward. Understanding the movement, he buried his face in my hair and, folding his huge body against the wall, he began to weep. Over and over, he repeated, me paenitet. Me paenitet. Me paenitet.
I felt waves of joyous shock emanating through me at this apparent softening occurring in my husband’s heart. Then my mind suddenly returned to the afternoon. While the other women and I were in the court doing wash as the children played, the sky had unexpectedly become very dark and the ground shook violently. Grabbing our children by their hands, we had left the wash and ran inside, terrified.
A thought that seemed to enter my mind instead of being formed by it made my heart seize then push hard against bone and flesh.
I put my arms around my husband’s trembling body. A sudden peace replaced the pounding in my heart as I understood truth. Just as dawn was approaching and first light streaming in, I lifted my husband’s face to mine and looked into his tear-filled eyes. I said one thing before we drifted off to sleep, together, on the floor as the sun was rising.
“Truly, Jesus was the Son of God.”