I Trust In You | A Short Story by Leah Myers
Leah Myers is the 1st Place Winner for Grade 12 in the 2017 Seton Short Story Contest
The smoky breath of a blazing torch curled up into the starry sky and disappeared.
Eight other trails of smoke followed, and the fire of the torches lit up the faces of those who carried them. Hard faces, determined. Their leader’s face was the hardest, and his green eyes glowed hot with fury as he peered between the struts in the gate where Jesus was being brought in to be questioned.
The soldiers had arrested Him only a few hours ago and had been most cruel. And now, as a soldier struck Jesus, one of the men carrying a torch made a move to enter the gate. He was stopped by his leader and held back.
“Not yet,” Nathan muttered in a low voice. “Peter’s still in there.”
The man drew back, and the group huddled closely together. Nathan reached behind him and pulled up his younger brother. Daniel had only been recruited into his brother’s group of zealots the week before, and this would be his first day of action.
“You stay by me,” Nathan whispered, his arm resting across Daniel’s shoulders. “Make no move without asking me first.” He scowled at the man who had tried to enter the moment before. Nathan was a harsh leader and didn’t like his direct orders to be waived in the slightest. The group silently watched as Jesus was taken out of their sight, and they looked to Nathan for directions. Nathan nodded.
“We will go around and see if there is another gateway closer to where they’ve taken Him. Then if we can—”
He grew quiet at the sound of Peter’s voice coming from somewhere on the other side of the gate. “I told you. I don’t know the Man!” he shouted. Moments later, a cock crowed in the distance. The group of zealots exchanged glances, each holding their breath, not moving. No sound, not even a night bird. Suddenly, the gate burst open and Peter ran out, sobbing. The gate creaked on its hinges but was left wide open.
“We go in now!” Nathan ordered gruffly and jerked toward the gate.
“Nathan, wait!” One of the older men, James, grabbed his shoulder and kept him there. Nathan shook it off.
“What is it? If we lose this chance, they might lock the gates!”
“Yes, but John is still in there,” James murmured, then added, “along with Mary Magdalene and the Messiah’s mother.”
“For pity’s sake, if we wait for all of them to leave, we’ll never get our chance!”
“But they may try to stop us,” James answered.
“And that was our plan, anyway,” another zealot whispered harshly.
Nathan glared at them through his dark hair hanging in his eyes, dripping with sweat. “Plans change.” He jerked his head towards the gate, and they quickly made their way inside. A large mob was forming, and it was hard to see which way to go through all the people and soldiers. Nathan and his group of zealots spread out, as was part of the plan, discarding their torches. They weaved and dodged through the crowd, each trying to find his way to where they held the Messiah prisoner. He was being questioned, they knew, though they knew not where.
Nathan grabbed Daniel’s arm and pulled him along as he squeezed through a huddled group of people. Looking back, he saw his brother’s face was troubled.
“Don’t worry,” he said quietly to him, pulling him against a wall, where there were fewer people. “I won’t let them torture Him.”
“You not letting them is just what I’m worried about,” Daniel answered, his voice shaking slightly.
“What do you mean?” At the sound of a neighing horse, they swerved and flattened themselves against the greasy wall, letting a snarling Roman, dealing harshly with his frightened horse, pass by them. Once passed, Nathan let out a sigh and turned back to Daniel, but his brother was looking elsewhere.
“I see Him,” Daniel whispered. “Brother, they’ve brought him out!”
“Come on!” Together, they pushed through the crowd to make their way to the front. Of course, they could not enter the courtyard of the high priest, where Jesus had been questioned, but they got as close as the soldiers would allow. Some of the Jews were shouting angry insults at Jesus, and others were pleading for His release. Jesus remained calm, though Nathan wondered what He was going through on the inside. Nathan’s breath quickened, and he gritted his teeth as he looked upon the shackles that bound the Messiah.
“They treat Him as if He were a criminal, yet He does nothing,” Nathan growled.
Daniel sighed and whispered, “‘Like a lamb led to the slaughter…’”
Nathan strained to hear, but he wasn’t sure what to listen for or who to look at. He waited impatiently, searching Daniel’s face. It paled.
“We have to go!” Daniel whispered urgently. “They’re taking Him to Pilate! They’re going to kill Him!”
“Slow down.” Nathan let out a long, low whistle, hoping the others would hear and gather to him. “They haven’t decided anything yet.”
The zealots formed a group once more; together, and as silently as they could, followed the group of soldiers that led Jesus to Pilate. They plodded along, determined, bold, and excited. They had known Jesus would be captured and arrested. They had seen it coming and had planned for weeks, acting out how it might occur and deciding what each would do in different situations. They were ready, to say the least, to rescue the Man they believed was the promised Messiah. They had heard Him teach in the synagogues, had followed Him in the crowds of disciples as He traveled, had witnessed Him cure the sick, and some had even seen Him raise the dead. They had given their lives for the glory of the Kingdom, and now was their chance, not only to save the One they believed was King, but to have Him look upon them and recognize all they had done for Him.
The sun was beginning to rise as the soldiers led Jesus into Pilate’s headquarters. A mist was starting to rise, and Nathan shivered in his cold sweat. He had only been the zealot’s leader for a few months, and though he would never have admitted it, was terrified they might lose his trust if he missed this chance to save the Messiah from the hands of the Romans.
Most of those in his group were older than him, but the last leader, a bold, steadfast man in his forties, had chosen Nathan to lead if there was ever an attack on the believers or on Jesus. This former leader had suffered a wound from an attack by bandits, a deadly wound that eventually took his life. But before his death, he appointed Nathan as leader. Now, Nathan felt, if he slipped up on this chance, the zealots could throw him out of their group. Their former leader would have handled this situation better; Nathan knew they knew that. But, this was his chance to prove them wrong. His only chance. This was the climax of everything they had lived for.
The crowd of people following Jesus halted just outside Pilate’s headquarters. Nathan made a move to follow, so lost he was in his thoughts.
“Nathan!” Daniel grabbed at his brother’s shirt. “Ritual defilement, remember?” he whispered. Nathan pushed his hand away and scowled.
“Yeah, I know.”
The zealots huddled together and looked to their leader for instructions. “What do we do now?” James asked. “Should we simply wait outside while Pilate could be sentencing Jesus to death as we speak?”
They all knew very well the plan was to send in a few of the younger men to sneak into the headquarters and eavesdrop on Jesus’ questioning and somehow figure out a way to attack and lead him out through a back door they had yet to find. That was a weak part of their plan, as they knew little of Pilate’s headquarters, though it had entered their minds that Jesus would be brought there.
Nathan thought for a moment, running this plan through in his head; he was about to answer, when Pilate emerged onto his balcony with Jesus standing behind him.
“He hasn’t been questioned yet,” Nathan answered. “Now, perhaps, is our chance.”
And with that, they pushed their way closer to the front of the ever-growing crowd. Many had come when they had seen Jesus being led here, some had followed from the beginning, and still more were coming, most simply out of curiosity. Roman soldiers were in abundance too, and they raised their spears intimidatingly to keep the crowds from becoming a riot. It seemed, though, a riot had already begun and, to Nathan’s dismay, most were shouting in favor of having Jesus put to death. But perhaps, Pilate would let Him go free…
“What accusation do you bring against this Man?” Pilate said in a loud, clear voice. He looked troubled and somewhat confused at the angry crowd. An indistinct yelling from the crowd followed.
The zealots and followers of Jesus tried to shout louder, in favor of setting him free, but an elderly Jewish priest stepped forward and spoke as if on behalf of everybody.
“If this Man were not a criminal, we would not have handed Him over to you.”
The zealots shouted in protest, and another roar of competition and arguing rose from the crowd. Nathan let out his anger, shouting as loud as he could, but stopped short when he heard his younger brother whisper, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers…’”
Pilate, looking a little alarmed at the people’s reaction, raised his hand for quiet and called to them, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your law.”
Nathan let out a sigh of relief, though he was somewhat disappointed. If Pilate would not condemn Him, then Jesus was more than likely saved. But then, Nathan wouldn’t have his big moment of rescuing Him. It’s meant to be this way, he thought. But then the Jews answered Pilate.
“We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”
Daniel leaned over to Nathan. “Jesus knew this would happen. He has spoken of it before. He knows He will die.”
“He won’t die,” Nathan growled through clenched teeth. “Once Jesus comes out of the headquarters, we will have a better chance of rescuing Him.”
“Maybe He doesn’t want to be rescued.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re crazy. Jesus will not die. You’ll see.”
Pilate, looking troubled, retreated into his headquarters, calling for Jesus to be brought to him. The crowd waited, some of the people forming groups and discussing. The priests seemed to be choosing their next spokesperson. The zealots looked on for a moment in anger before creating a discussion circle of their own.
Having gone over the situation and all that could happen when Jesus was brought out again, they concluded they should try to rouse the believers and form them into a group. Once they were dispersed throughout the crowd, Nathan dodged his way around people as he searched for a convenient spot for himself. If they brought Jesus out, Nathan wanted to be in the closest spot possible, so he could make an attack on the soldiers or sneak Jesus away, depending on what the circumstances offered.
No sooner had he found a spot near the gateway to the headquarters, where he could easily slip into an alleyway behind him, Pilate again came out with Jesus. Pilate look tired and perplexed, while Jesus remained steady, offering little expression on His face. Pilate again raised his hand, as the Jews erupted into shouts, and called over their voices, “I find no case against Him.” Then looking more sure of himself, he said, “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus’ followers, the zealots being the loudest, shouted in favor of His release, but the new spokesperson stepped forward from the group of priests and shouted, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!”
Barabbas? Nathan almost lost his balance. Barabbas was a bandit, ready to be put to death, and yet, they would choose him to be released over Jesus? Nathan took a deep breath. No, the people can’t fall into that trap. Nonetheless, the Jews started a chant in favor of Barabbas. “Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!”
Nathan growled and started a different chant. “Jesus! Jesus!” Some of the people joined in, but those in favor of Barabbas’ release drown out all opposing voices.
So, Barabbas was released. And Pilate, since there was nothing he could do, had Jesus flogged. Nathan couldn’t leave his spot; he felt paralyzed. It was as if he was failing already. The plan was falling apart. They hadn’t led Jesus out of the gate, and now, they were torturing Him.
And there was nothing Nathan could do. The group of zealots gathered around him, but he could not speak to them, nor distinguish their voices from one another. He hugged himself and hunched over, trying vainly to sort things out. Then, a thought came to him. They would not try to kill Jesus in Pilate’s headquarters, nor anywhere nearby. They would take Jesus to be killed somewhere else.
Jesus wouldn’t fight back. He hadn’t so far, so He wouldn’t be heavily guarded as they led Him away. Then, the zealots would have a chance, a risky one, but still a chance to attack and save Jesus. Even if they could get Him away from the soldiers, from the other Jews, they could hide Him and make plans from there. It wouldn’t be a very strategic plan, just an attempt out of desperation. But a chance was a chance. And Nathan was ready to take any chance that came to him.
Pilate brought the scourged Jesus before the Jews. The soldiers were laughing and mocking Him. They had set a crown of thorns on His head and draped a purple robe over Him. A disfigured image of a king. Blood covered every part of Jesus’ body, and Nathan had to force himself to look at Him. It suddenly seemed that Jesus was beyond saving; He was already half dead. But, they still had to try.
Daniel huddled close to Nathan and said under his breath, “‘I can count all My bones. They look, they stare at Me.’”
“Do you really want Jesus to die?” Nathan asked accusingly, no longer aware of what was happening.
“Of course I don’t,” Daniel replied, “but Jesus said this had to happen.”
“But it doesn’t have to happen!” Nathan’s furry was slowly rising. “Not if I can help it.”
“I think you’re jealous,” Daniel said quietly.
“Jealous of who?”
“Jesus’ apostles. You’re jealous because you were there when He chose some of them, and you kept waiting for Him to choose you, but He didn’t.”
Nathan clenched his teeth and grabbed Daniel’s shoulder roughly. “You think I’m jealous, do you? Jealous of Jesus’ friends? The same ones who abandoned Him?”
Daniel only stared.
“Well,” Nathan continued, “we’ll see who His friends are after tonight. I won’t abandon Him.”
“But you don’t trust Him.”
Nathan couldn’t answer that.
Daniel sighed and shook his head. “You don’t trust what He said—that all this was necessary. You think you know better.”
They startled at the uproar of the crowd. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
“They’re taking Him away!” one of the zealots said earnestly. They looked to one another and then to Nathan. “Are we to give up?”
“No.” Nathan took a deep breath. “Not while we have one last chance to save Him.”
And he told them of his plan of attacking the soldiers when they brought Jesus out. Two of the zealots backed out, saying it was too risky, and they would be killed on the spot or hunted down afterwards. That left seven of them, with no armor and only crude weapons to fight the soldiers. As they approached the place where the soldiers had already forced the cross upon Jesus’ shoulder, another zealot snuck off.
“Let us go now, before all the rest of you run off!” Nathan said scowling.
“I do not think it would be wise to attack at this moment,” James muttered. “We should wait.”
“We’ve been waiting all this time, and now, if we wait, we will still be waiting after His death! If no one will come with me, I’ll do it myself!”
Nathan ran off, through the crowds of people, though the zealots called for him to come back. He decided to skirt through some alleyways to avoid the crowds. It was afternoon now, and he was getting very tired. The crowds, however, didn’t seem to have tired at all, as he could still hear them well, as the alleyways led him further away from where he wanted to go.
It was true that he was jealous of Jesus’ apostles, and he was angry that Daniel had stated it to his face. If he could not prove that he was worthy to Jesus now, he believed he would never get another chance.
Suddenly, he burst onto the main road where they had been leading Jesus. Except now, there was no one there. No one but a young woman hunched over in the dust, holding her veil in her hands.
Nathan approached her cautiously and crouched down in front of her.
“Did they pass this way?” he asked. Looking up, she revealed the veil to him. A blood-stained image of the face of Jesus was imprinted on it. Nathan felt himself holding back tears.
“Where did they go?” he asked in an unsteady voice and soon found himself bolting down the road in the direction the woman had pointed. His path led him out of the city, down a blood-speckled pathway, and straight up the hill of Golgotha. He arrived where the crowds were, just as the cross was lifted, with Jesus hanging, crucified, upon it. It was too late now to save Him. And this time,
Nathan didn’t need Daniel to read the scriptures engraved in his mind. When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am He.
“No!” Nathan cried out as the scriptures unfolded before his eyes. ‘They divide my clothing among themselves, and for my clothing, they cast lots…’
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Nathan, tired though he was, made his way up the uneven landscape. Jesus’ mother and John were the only ones at the foot of the cross. Nathan collapsed on the ground some ways from them and looked up to Jesus.
“Why?” he asked, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Save yourself. Please. Don’t let it end this way. Don’t let me watch you die. I tried so hard!”
He bowed his head on the stones and wept. But through his sobs, he kept repeating, “Jesus, I trust You, I trust You, I trust You…” He didn’t know why he said it, but he couldn’t stop himself.
When he was finally able to raise his head again, Jesus was dead. Nathan stayed, gazing at Him as He was removed from the cross and carried away to be buried. Nathan felt more alone than ever, wishing more and more that he could die too.
“What’s the use?” he asked quietly, to no one in particular. “What was the use?”
That was when he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned to see Daniel beside him.
“‘Destroy this temple,’” Daniel said quietly, “‘and in three days, I will raise it up.’”
About Leah Myers
I am the youngest of three children, and have been home schooled my whole life. English and writing, which were my most dreaded subjects, are now two of my favorites. I am a ballet dancer and play four different instruments (including voice) and hope to start playing ukulele and the tin whistle. Aside from those activities, I love doing all kinds of artwork and writing. I've found that combining writing and art into graphic novels is excitingly fun. I hope to teach ballet one day, along with being a part to full-time fiction author (and possibly doing the illustrations). I also love mountain-biking and will never be found sitting still for long periods of time.