You're probably going to shrug off the events of yesterday. I mean, you have every reason to: we crucified another Messiah.
I know! I don't understand why they keep popping up, either. It's the definition of insanity, of a whole insane race. They stubbornly persist in their belief that some day a Messiah will come, and that when they do, their people will be vindicated. Well, let me tell you some truth: these "Messiahs" will keep appearing, and we will keep crucifying them. What else are we going to do, right?
I wish I could say that there was some way to differentiate them. I know their believers certainly believe there is, but damned if I have any way to tell. But what do I know? I'm "just" a Roman. I'm "just" a soldier carrying out another execution. One in a very, very long line. You'd think they'd learn. You'd think they'd care enough about their own lives. But executions are cheap business. Line them up all day every day all week long, I say. It's just a job. You might consider me a monster, but I say I'm just doing what I'm told. And what difference does it make, anyway? They just keep coming, and I just keep crucifying them.
Have you ever seen a crucifixion? It's grim work, let me tell you. Not for me. I've grown desensitized to it. But to those being crucified? It isn't pleasant. It's designed to be unpleasant. In every sense possible. It's a long, slow death, and the whole time, you know exactly how it ends. There are no exceptions. Ever. You don't step down from a cross.
Yet they just keep coming. True, crucifixions can be ordered for any number of offenses. Insurgency is a good way to earn them. Rebellion. The Empire will endure any number of fools. That's what empires do, after all. They're designed to withstand chaos. And the Roman Empire is the greatest agent of order ever conceived. Before us there was no civilization. But the best way to earn such a death? Declare yourself Messiah.
I just don't get it. I don't even understand the concept. I admit that. Supposedly the Messiah was supposed to be a great king. I haven't seen a great king among those people, ever. Puppet kings can still be great. Greatness does not preclude taking direction. True greatness comes from taking direction, if you ask me. There was never someone so perfect that they could achieve greatness all on their own.
Take the latest "Messiah." He had twelve followers closely associated with him. Well, eleven. I'm told one of them betrayed him. There were scores of others who believed his claims, too, but it was one of his closest followers who turned him in. Then he was handed over to us, and as I said, there was really only one answer to claims like that. Messiahs mean insurrection. Messiahs mean someone truly believes they can supplant the Empire. Such hubris. The Empire will endure for a thousand years. And then another thousand. And so on. What could possibly replace it?
These followers all fled when he was taken, by the way. Every one of them. Not a soul of their kind was found at the tribunal. How's that for support? These Messiahs all claim the same thing, though, that they don't need help, that they can do it on their own. That their fate is in their hands. Funny, I never saw anyone crucify themselves. I would know.
As I've said: many, many other "Messiahs" have been crucified, and many more will be in the days and years and centuries to come. It's inevitable. It would be funny if it weren't so sad. How does a Messiah die? Well, let me tell you. This latest one seemed to endure all of it in silence. Once or twice he muttered a few things, true. He seemed anguished one minute, betrayed (well, of course) and then positively exultant the next. He actually said he forgave us for executing him. He claimed we had no idea what we were doing. Yeah, right.
Well, that much made his death unique. Very few Messiahs are so congenial in their crucifixions. On a whim, I looked into his life a little. Seems he made a lot of wild claims, and some of them were actually taken seriously. So seriously that they asked for volunteers to watch the tomb some rich fool gave him to lie in. Claimed he was going to be resurrected. Would you believe that tonight is supposed to be the last night he lies in there dead?
But I took the assignment eagerly, just so I could boast further. I mean, I've certainly sounded smug about the whole affair already, haven't I? I'm certainly no believer. No Roman could be. This was a provincial matter, a tiny speck in the eye of the universe, if even that. Barely registered in the grand scheme of things.
There was some commotion, concerning the moment he died. Apparently there was some kind of eclipse. I have to admit that had never happened before during one of these. And an earthquake. There was damage to land and property everywhere. Some of us (I won't name names) freaked out a little, betrayed everything we stand for and started believing. Ha! Such nonsense!
As I said, you've seen one dead Messiah, you've seen them all. This one was whipped like all the rest of them. Like so many others. You don't need to be a Messiah to be whipped. Or to be crucified, as I've said.
There was nothing special about this man. Let me be clear about that. He died quickly. So what? He babbled to one of the men crucified alongside him something about seeing him again in the afterlife. Ha! Romans don't really believe the stuff they say about the afterlife, about the gods. It's just a good way to maintain order in society, to give it some predictability. The only thing these guys were going to see after their death was a big black void. Nothing. You die, the end.
I found comfort in volunteering to watch the tomb. It was hotly rumored that some of his followers would attempt to steal the body, to fake the "resurrection." You don't need a formal execution order on people like that. They've signed their own death warrant. They show up and they die at the point of the sword. Easy as that.
Sure. You've fallen asleep. Leaves me alone. Leaves me to experience...nothing. Just another night. Watching the tomb of a "Messiah." Just another dead body. Nothing to see here anyway. They all ran away. They're not coming back. They never really believed, either. Just a way to pass the time, following him around. Gave meaning to meaningless lives. Insignificant lives. They gave themselves temporary significance, is all.
And hey, maybe they weren't such cowards after all. A woman has come. Rumor has it she's a whore. If I weren't on duty...Business before pleasure. Let her be. All she's going to see is a sealed-off cave.
I didn't hear anything. That's impossible.
It's empty. It's empty. I was here the whole time. It's empty. How is that possible?
Search the whole...It's empty. There's no body in there. No body. Just burial clothes...folded neatly. They rolled back the rock, stole the body...folded the burial clothes neatly? This all sounds insane. I sound insane...I didn't fall asleep.
I didn't fall asleep!
I'm a dead man. They're going to assume I fell asleep. The woman's gone. I have to get out of here. I did fall asleep. I did. That's the only explanation...They came here after I fell asleep, rolled back the rock, stole the body...folded the burial clothes neatly...
It sounds insane. I didn't fall asleep. I know I didn't. I can account for the whole night. And there you are, still asleep...
Wake up! You fool! You foolish fool! Idiot! You've condemned us both! How can I possibly explain this? I can't. I can't.
The body is gone. Gone. I have no explanation.
His death was different. Forget everything else. Nothing else matters. I was there. I've been there for countless crucifixions of Messiahs...whole fields of Messiahs. So many they contradicted each other. No one ever even believed any of them. But someone came back for this one...They believed.
What to believe? How do I reconcile this? I know how the Empire will. No formal acknowledgment. Under any circumstances. To do otherwise would be impossible. Incomprehensible. And those who gave up this man will do the same. For the same reasons. They will cling to their faith just as Romans cling to theirs. Empires depend on it.
This is a contradiction, a paradox. Completely unprecedented. What do I do?
What else? What else can I do? But...believe? I saw it. I was there. I...
I believe. I believe.