It came into my mind this morning that it would be nice to have some sort of special Easter post. Resurrection Sunday is, after all, the most important celebration in the Christian calendar, no matter what your denomination. Had Christ not died in our place, we would not have freedom from our sin nature; had He not risen into glory, we would have no hope of glory and Life ourselves! All of human history revolves around this great Event. Indeed, it is the very eucatastrophe of history itself.
So I desired to have some relevant material to here present. But as the thought came to me this morning, I have little hope of producing something new for the day. I will soon be working on a review of Ben-Hur, which is subtitled “A Tale of the Christ,” but even should I begin that today, I doubt I should be able to finish it in time.
Instead, I post here a short story I wrote some years ago. It was one of those rare times where the story just sort of fell out of me and onto the page. I felt it in my heart, I knew in my head exactly what it should be. When I tried to edit it afterwards, it would accept none but the tiniest changes. At any rate, it is relevant to the theme of our Lord’s Passion, and I hope it gives some good to you.
In addition to the inspiration of the Gospel stories themselves, I also took inspiration from the Old English poem The Dream of the Rood.
Place of Honor
I never harmed anyone, except for once, and this was not of my own choice.
My home was in the courtyard of the governor’s palace, in a corner mostly ignored by the gardeners because it was just inside the walls, where no fine plants of any kind were kept. During the day I gratefully warmed myself as the sun beat down, but the dryness of its heat often left my skin hard and baked, all the water sucked out of it, and so I also welcomed the cold of night as a respite, though I felt less invigorated in those hours. But more than anything I watched for clouds, not just for the shade they brought in the sweltering noon but because the dark ones brought down the cool waters of the heavens. Oh, how I longed for those waters more than anything else, relishing every drop that burst on my skin and dashed the dust away, seeping into all my eager crevices and injecting my veins with life! With the morning dew, this was all the water I would ever get, for unlike others of my kind who received such gifts from people, I was not beautiful, but thin, brown, and sharp when people came close.
They surprised me, they did, the soldiers, when they came in the evening and tore me from my place of rest. I clung desperately to the wall but one drew his sword and hacked me away from it, and then the carrying was easy because I was so light and small. Laughing uproariously, they shouted of “his” stupidity and “his” weakness; what a fool, what a stubborn pitiful fool! Bad for him, but good for a laugh. The soldier held me firmly but tenderly, mindful of my sharpness. Orange light writhed between the great marble columns of the palace doorway, and as they carried me into a side room, closer to the barracks with a dirt floor, I could see more of them all around, some laughing together at a cruel joke, others looking bored, some disgusted, and a few who studiously kept any thought from flickering across their faces.
A circle, more or less, they formed, mocking a ragged figure who staggered bloody in the center with his back to me. The pain of the soldier’s sword still lingered where he had hacked me, and I felt my life ebbing away. His hands tightened around my body then, and bent me hard. Excruciating pain, the snapping of some branches, but I had no voice with which to cry out. I was lifted up, twisted upon myself into a circlet, and tied so. They must have grabbed the mocked man to hold him still, but honestly I was too engrossed in my own pain to notice. I was brought towards him, lifted above his head. His eyes glanced up at me, once, and in them I saw the pain and the hurt of every living thing since the creation of the world, all our sorrows and rebellion, all the soullessness, even among plants such as I. Forgive me, I whispered, hoping that he above all men might understand my cry. I see who you are now. Forgive me for what they will use me for. And in his eyes I saw him answer, Do not worry, wild briar, for you will be remembered with honor far longer than they.
They jammed me onto his head, winding my branches into his hair and forcing my thorns into his brow so the blood ran over his eyes and dripped off his nose. He cried out. I recognized the voice as that which had caused my ancestors to burst from the new dust of the earth on the third day. When they stopped beating him, he crawled slowly to his feet, and as I rose higher and higher on his head I felt the wind blow in through the open doorway. It flew past us with a cry that sounded to me like the ringing of royal trumpets, and suddenly I felt proud, as though all the flowers and vines and bushes of the world now looked on my place of honor with envy.
“A crown!” laughed the soldiers. “A crown of thorns for the King of the Jews!”
Story originally published in Santa Clara Review, Vol. 97, No. 2.