How I longed for the freedom of Israel! I hated the Roman yoke we struggled under, and I was quite convinced that most of the problems I saw around me were the direct result of our nation being under Gentile oppression, and that if only we could be liberated from them, we would truly be the Israel of God that the prophets had described. My friends nick-named me the Zealot for my passionate views.
I was surprised when the Teacher called me to be one of his disciples, but I was entranced by the beauty of his teaching, and impressed by his miraculous powers. Surely he was the one sent by God to deliver us? So I followed, and I sat as his feet and I learned. He knew the scriptures better than any rabbi I had ever heard, but when he explained them, they came together in a different pattern. Truth itself was a different shape to what I had thought. The Kingdom of God, as he described it, was so different to the correct religious observances that the priests taught us. There was freedom there, as well as justice, and something else I couldn’t put a name to. Only later did I learn to call it love.
And the miracles? Truly he had the power of God! He could heal the sick, the blind and the deaf, calm a storm, feed a multitude from almost nothing, and even raise the dead. With such power, how could he not defeat the Romans and bring about a greater Israel than David or Solomon ever knew?
Even when they arrested him, I hoped this would be the moment when he turned the tables and showed his power. But it wasn’t like that. Convinced that something had gone horribly wrong, we fled the scene and cowered in hiding. Wasn’t he going to fight for us at all?
It was only days later that I began to understand. Yes, he was fighting for us in every moment of his suffering. Sometimes the warrior is not the one who beats everyone else up. Sometimes he is the one who gets beaten. It takes so much courage to suffer in silence for another’s sake. I thought the victorious fighter was the one with the shining armor and the blood-smeared sword. I was so wrong.
Our greatest need wasn’t to defeat Rome, our greatest enemies weren’t the Romans, but those who could devour Rome, Israel, and every human being that ever was or will be. Our greatest enemies were Sin, Death and Satan, and in that lonely torment on the cross he overcame them all. Calmly and deliberately, he walked into the ultimate darkness, and made a way. He was life, the very life of God himself, and that life was the light of men. It is easy to be brave when you operate in your strength, and the cheering crowd supports you. But to fight alone, invisibly, under insult and derision, and still stay faithful to the end? Such is my hero, my warrior, my Lord and my God.