A Day of Reckoning ~ 2350 words
By Bob Blundell
2356 Opal Springs
Friendswood Tx 77546
Aryeh rode atop a magnificent white stallion, perched high above the cheering crowds that lined the street. The horse’s mane was the color of yellow straw and finely braided with emerald beads that hung from its powerful neck. Its saddle was made of rich leather and the silver stirrups glistened in the morning sunlight. As he and his steed galloped toward the entrance of the palace, a brilliant amber light shown through the massive arches.
The excited roar of the crowds was almost deafening as they joyfully cried out his name, and the air was filled with the sweet smell of honey and lavender. Aryeh was no longer the fatherless boy that lived in the slums; whose clothes were worn and threadbare. Even his deformed arm, weak and frail, was long forgotten. Today he was a proud handsome prince being welcomed into the palace after bravely conquering the enemies of the kingdom.
Then there was a shrill cry in the air, and Aryeh awoke from his dream to the sound of his sister, Adi’s frightened voice. “Aryeh! Aryeh! Come quickly. They have taken Mama!”
Aryeh sat up abruptly, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and tossed the camel hair blanket to the side of his pad where he had lain napping. He leaped up and ran into the second room of the tiny house to find his sister crying. She stood near the open doorway pointing into the cobbled street outside.
“What has happened, Adi? Who has taken Mama?” Adi ran to her brother, throwing her arms around his legs weeping. “Come Adi,” he said, gently stroking her head. “Tell me.”
“Men.” She muttered as she gasped for breath. “There were many men!”
Aryeh felt his pulse quicken with fear as the sounds of the marketplace outside filled the room. “Calm yourself, Adi and tell me.” He said. “What men? Where did they take her?”
“They came upon us while buying bread in the Market. They were big and powerful. Two of them took Mama and drug her away from me.” She looked helplessly into his eyes. “They said she would be punished for the sins she had committed,” she said excitedly. “As they were taking her away, an old woman at the Market said they were taking her to the Temple.” and Adi began to cry uncontrollably.
He pulled her thin body to him and softly stroked her chestnut hair. He and Adi had never known their father, and his mother never spoke of him. Though Aryeh was only 11 and bore the burden of a deformity in his right arm since birth, he had emerged into the role of male protector at an early age. It was Aryeh who been with Adi when she almost died due to the fever. And it was he who had patiently attended to his sister so many other times while their mother was away, laying next to her tiny body to keep her warm from the winter chill, or holding her when she would awaken from the nightmares that sometimes haunted her.
He looked down into her sad brown eyes, moist and red with tears, and he felt a familiar knot tighten in his stomach. It was fear. The same paralyzing fear that haunted him each day. Living a desolate life of poverty and suffering the relentless condemnation from those who would shrink away when they saw his shrunken and deformed limb was sometimes almost more than he could bear. But today, he knew deep within his heart, there was no one else to turn to. And at once he knew what he must do.
“I will go and get Mama,“ he said. “You must remain here while I’m gone.” He grabbed her thin shoulders and held her at arms-length. “Everything will be OK, Adi. Do you understand?” he said with as much courage as he could muster. ”I will bring her back safely.”
She nodded slowly and fell to the earthen floor crying softly. Aryeh stared out into the busy street as a maze of peddlers and shoppers passed through the open market. The aroma of fresh baked bread hung in the air and sounds of man and beast emanated through the doorway. He took one last look at Adi and gave her a reassuring smile, then stepped from the warm safety of his home out into the cool of the afternoon, not knowing what may lay ahead for him.
The sun had begun to sink behind the thatched rooftops casting an amber glow into the market area and Aryeh squinted into the glare shoving his way through the crowds circulating through the narrow street. Shouts of the merchants and shoppers as they bargained their prices, blended with the frightened cries of the goats and sheep being led to slaughter through the plaza, and Aryeh felt his pulse race as he frantically fought to push his small body through the masses. His name meant ‘Lion’ in Hebrew. His mother had told him that his name would someday give him great courage to overcome the many challenges that he would face. But he had been born small and weak, reliant on his mother to protect him from harm. And now it was she who needed him. As he fought back tears, he mouthed words of prayer to the ONE who had created him. “God of Jacob. I pray that you lift me up and strengthen me. Help me save her from whatever harm she may face.”
And then suddenly as if his prayer had been answered, he came upon an open passage going north away from the busy market area. His heart leaped with joy, and he whirled into the alley and began to sprint over the cobbled stones toward the Temple. As his short legs moved him faster and faster between the cracked and ancient walls, his right arm flopped uselessly at his side. But today he ignored the pain. “Please, God,” he pleaded breathlessly. ”Help me!”
When it seemed that his legs could take him no further, the alley suddenly opened into the plaza at the base of the great Temple and he scurried up the steps looking frantically in all directions for his mother’s face among the crowds. She was a tall handsome woman with long raven hair and eyes bright like a gold coin. To the south he spotted a line of older women clad in pale white robes carrying jugs of water up toward the top where the massive stone pillars twisted upward into the sky. But his heart sank when he saw she was not among them.
Aryeh leaned over gasping for air, then ascended the dusty steps to get a better view. As he made his way toward the top he came upon a man standing near the great arches, speaking to a crowd that was gathered around him. He was clad in an ash colored robe with a simple gold sash tied at his waist, and there was a brown woven shawl that hung over his broad, sturdy shoulders.
There were men of many ages who stood around him in a circle. Others sat on the steps near his feet, quietly watching. Though Aryeh was too far away to hear his words, he could see the men’s faces, nodding in silent agreement and peering at him with looks of amazement. Aryeh could see a gentle warmth in the man’s dark mahogany eyes that comforted him, and for a moment he forgot his plight, as he stood mesmerized by his presence.
But his trance was broken by the frantic sound of loud voices erupting near the eastern entrance. He looked down to see a boisterous crowd of a dozen or more coming up the steps toward him. And stumbling ahead of them was his mother.
She was being shoved through the entrance of the Temple by two men. And there were many others behind them who were shouting and crying out, pumping their fists in the air. She was bent over and staggering, struggling to stand upright, and there was blood on her face and on her bare shins. The ivory tunic she wore was torn down the middle and he watched, aghast to see his mother’s breasts exposed through the ripped cloth. The two men who pushed his mother forward, were large and muscular, and they gripped her frail arms, lifting her up when she stumbled.
As the gang moved up the uneven steps toward him, Aryeh felt the terror build inside him, threatening to overcome him. But at that moment he forgot that he was just a young boy, crippled and weak. And he did not see the size of the men, or the broadness of their shoulders through their robes. He could only see the pain and fear in his poor mother’s eyes. And at once, he knew what he must do.
Aryeh galloped down the steps toward the mob with all the speed his legs could muster, and when he reached them, he leaped into the air, throwing his small body into the two holding his mother. They all fell to the steps in a pile. But the two men quickly recovered and one grabbed Aryeh by his tunic and threw him aside like a piece of refuse. He fell awkwardly, landing with his nose to the ground, and blood gushed from both nostrils.
“You go home boy!” One of the others screamed, and he kicked him in the stomach sending him rolling down the steps in agonizing pain. He watched helplessly as the men drug his mother’s limp and bleeding body up the steps, and when they reached the top they dropped her near the feet of the tall stranger.
He leaned down and gently stroked her head as a mother would sooth a frightened child. “Why have you seized this poor woman?” He asked, standing before the angry crowd
As His words hung motionless in the crisp air, a sudden gust of wind swept across the Temple steps hurling a cloud of white dust that hovered around the feet of the angry men like a dense fog. Then thunder rumbled ominously as angry slate-colored clouds moved quickly across the horizon, blocking out the fading sunlight.
The mob was suddenly cast in a blanket of darkness as if day had suddenly changed to night, and there were gasps and frightened whispers heard among them. But the stranger stood alone, bathed in a bright wedge of light that peeked through an opening in the sky. And there was a radiant hue that hovered around Him like a mist, making His eyes shine like burning embers in a fire.
Many of the men withdrew in fear. But an elder, clad in splendid colors, with a beard as white as the sandstone steps he stood upon, and long curls of hair like lamb’s wool, stepped forward to face the Man. “Teacher!” he spoke with a loud authoritative voice. “This woman has been caught in adultery. The law of Moses says she must be punished!” He knelt and picked up a round grey stone the size of a lemon and held it up in the air. “The laws of our fathers say she must be stoned to death!” As he finished these words, the men behind him began to scream loudly, yelling and shaking their fists in anger
“Kill the Adulteress,” one shouted
“Stone her!” cried another
The angry cries continued to grow louder and louder, until the tall stranger calmly knelt on the white stone steps and began making signs in the dust with his finger. The voices calmed to hushed murmurs, intrigued by this Man’s actions.
“What is he doing?” one cried out
“What is he writing?” another asked
Then the Man stepped toward the crowd, pointing toward the woman who lay curled at his feet. “Let anyone among you who is without sin, be first to throw a stone at her.”
There was silence at first, then a melody of confused voices. But the cries ceased when the stranger dropped to his knees again and began to write in the dust once more. Several of the older men in the mob pressed forward to see what manner of words this man wrote. The ancient one who had spoken of the stoning, was the first to see the writing. As he read the words scripted in the dirt, his face suddenly turned ashen and the grey rock in his fist fell to the ground and clattered down the steep steps of the Temple. He slowly turned and walked away. Then the sounds of other stones, falling to the ground, one after another, cracked the silence. And slowly, one by one, the other men followed the elder.
Aryeh watched in amazement as the crowd began to disperse, and the stranger gently lifted his mother to her feet. He brushed twisted strands of hair away from her face and used His thumb to wipe blood from a cut below her eye. Aryeh could see in the Man’s eyes, an incredible intensity that gleamed like stars in the evening sky. And His smile shone a warmth that he had only seen from his own mother’s loving eyes. Then, this incredible Man and his mother spoke to one another. And after a moment she fell to her knees and kissed His sandaled feet.
Aryeh stood and hobbled over to her, throwing his arms around her waist. They embraced, mother and son, and tears of joy ran down their cheeks. When he looked up, the Man who had saved his mother’s life, was slowly descending the stairs surrounded by his disciples.
They watched the stranger move toward the entrance below them, and Aryeh peered into her tear stained eyes. “Who was that man, Mother? What did he say to you?” he asked.
She shook her head. “HE was not a man, Aryeh.” Then she smiled. “Come. I will make you something to eat.” And she took his hand in hers. Their lives forever changed.
John 8-11 And Jesus said, “Go now and do not sin any more”