This is a story I wrote for the feast of Christ the King the other year. It seems like a good time of year to post it up.
Sometimes its good to fill in the gaps in a well-known story. Or to see it through different eyes. And so, instead of a sermon. I’m offering you a story. A fictional account of one woman’s glimpse of Christ the King. So here it is, Claudias tale. And apparantly she really was called Claudia. As for the rest. Well the factual information is taken from the gospels which you can read for yourself. The rest....came from somewhere in the imagination.
My name is Claudia Procula, and it is said that I was a grandchild of the great Augustus Caesar through a rather unruly daughter. You probably think you have never heard of me, yet you may well have done, although not by name. I bet you have heard of my husband though. The man who killed a god to stop a riot. Pontius Pilate. So, if you are willing to sit back and relax a while, I will tell you my story.
It began early Thursday night with a dream. A terrifying dream of a tortured man, a wreck of a man, with holes in his hands and thorns on his head, crying out to a deity in utter devastation. But then an incredible shining light began to shimmer from within him growing in its intensity until it seemed to turn the world to white and as I creased my eyelids against the light I saw that he himself was divine. The son of God. Then time flashed back, and I saw my husbands stylus sign a death warrant. And the pen became a hammer and the hammer clanged on the steel of the sharpest nail I had ever seen, ripping and tearing through the flesh of a hand that was only outstretched in blessing. The blood ran down and covered my husbands hands and I saw the man I loved turn into a monster, a murderer, a king-killer, a god-killer, and a smotherer of all the goodness in the world. And as I ran towards them screaming, to try and stop the man I loved turning into a demon I ended up running nowhere, sliipping further and further away, and as I ran and screamed I too was covered in blood. The earth quaked and swallowed us up.
I awoke, and my bedsheets were wet with sweat and tears. This dream was more real than anything else I had ever experienced in my sleep. I could think of nothing else and the screams were still ringing in my ears. The night was stiflingly hot, and in fear of further terrifying nightmares I left my bed and my room, quicky pulling on a simple dress and an all-encompassing dark cloak. I left my hair down rather than dress it, for I did not want to wake the slaves. But in my confused sleep-filled frame of mind, I quizzed one of the guards at the entrance of the palace. A guard I trusted for his loyalty “Has anyone been arrested this evening. Anyone unusual. I feel sick with foreboding. I’ve had a terrible nightmare and sense that a great injustice is about to be done.”
The guard knitted his brows. “ I have heard that the prophet from Galilee has been arrested by the Jewish priests.He is currently being held in their prison. One of the soldiers just returned from patrol reported it back to me. “
“Take me there. I want to see him,”
‘Take me there. But do not breathe a word of this to anyone. I just want to look, you understand.”
And so we went, in the dead of night, to the Jewish priests prison. My cloak offered invisibilty and the soldier offered protection. And my face, well that was the passport to whatever I wished. Noone could refuse the wife of the governor.
The cell had a heavy oak door, with a square barred grille upon it. I did not ask for it to be opened. I was too terrified. I had never entered a prison before. The stench made me retch. I had nothing to mask the smell of blood and sweat, urine and sick. I covered my nose with my cloak, and peered into the cell. There were rats in there. There was also a man in there. But the rats would not go near him. They cowered in fear and kept to the corners. The man had been badly beaten, so much so that it was hard to make out his facial features. He was bound hand and foot, but was kneelng on the floor, his head raised to the sky. And then I knew. It was the man from my dream. And despite the smell, and the wounds, the pain and the sounds of arguments from the room above, there was a sense of calm, of authority. A bubble of peace surrounded the man. He held his head like a king preparing for battle, scanning the sky to judge the weather and then I felt the ground tremble, ever so slightly. As if the creation itself was preparing for battle too. As if creation itself obeyed him. And I knew in my bones that this beaten up wandering mystic dressed in ripped and bloody clothing had the ultimate power, which ran deeper than I could possibly understand. He was king... but if he was in charge the world was crazy. Nothing made sense. ...But nothing does make sense in a world where children die and monsters live.... And then my fear got the better of me, and I ran from that place and the guard ran behind me. I wanted my Pontius to have nothing to do with that man. He was terrifyingly powerful, even in his weakness. Not Pilate, but the prophet. I could believe that that prophet ruled the world and I did not want to cross him. And so, arriving back at the palace, I scratched out a message to my husband’s office in my own hand, not that of a scribe “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man. For I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” I sent the letter to him via my trusted guard as the cock crowed, announcing the dawn of a new day.
But there was nothing I could do to save the man.
And I believe my husband tried too, as far as he dared, but he didn’t dare risk a riot, or his precious position.
The next day, I went, once again in disguise, to the room in the Palace where Pilate was questioning Jesus. And from my hiding place, behind a pillar, I heard it all. The battle commencing. “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea. Or did others talk to you about me?”
Who was running this conversation? Those did not sound like the tones of a prisoner begging for his life.
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were my servants would have fought to stop them arresting me. My kingdom is not from here. “
”So you are a king then?”
“You say I am a king. “ then that light I saw in my dream seemed to glimmer in his eyes “Its for this I was born, for this that I came into this cosmos. To be martyred telling you the truth. Everyone belonging to the truth hears me .”
‘WHAT IS TRUTH!” Pilate cried sweeping out of the room.
And then things went hazy and the world turned wild. Pilate offered to free Jesus. They preferred to free a robber who was practially a serial killer thinking THAT would make the world better place. And then they crucified their king while Pilate washed his hands.
But I witnessed the end. I saw the wreck they had made of his naked body, ripping his skin off with metal whiphooks. I saw the nails of my dream in his palms. But I also heard the conviction in his voice when he spoke to the thief they crucified with him. I heard the thief beg him. “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” And he replied to that man who had probably never done a good thing in his life, hours away from it ending “Amen. I’m telling you . Today you will be with me, in Paradise.”And I knew that it was true. He was a king. He had a crown, even if it was made of thorns.
He had a throne, even if it was an instrument of torture, and as he breathed his last the earth itself shook, releasing the dead. Yes, I could believe that in all this, he really was in charge.