Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Night

It was the worst day of my life, or so I thought. All of my hopes, all that I had trusted was gone, dead and hopeless. And I had to go to work. I couldn’t beg off or find someone to work for me; no one wanted to trade, nor cared how I felt.
My Captain, Achelus, smiled as I entered the guard station.
“Tadas. Come here.” I didn’t like the look in his eyes, as his smile became a grin.
“Are you all right? Are you able to work today, Tadas? Perhaps you would like a rag to wipe your eyes?”
“I can work, Achelus, I’m fine. What’s my assignment?” He laughed, but nothing was funny.
“Tadas, I have a very special duty for you; if the General himself had asked, “Achelus, who should do this job?” I would have said, “Tadas, sir. Tadas is the just the man to stay all night in a graveyard.”
I could feel the blood leaving my face. “Achelus, please...” He cut me off.
“Tadas, I would not give a plum assignment like this to just anyone. You have earned it! For the next few weeks, no more than a month, I would guess, we will be standing a guard in a graveyard, and you will have the honor of the midnight shift. No need to thank me so quickly, Tadas.”
In an instant his jovial manner was gone.
“He is dead, Tadas, and you will guard his grave until I say differently. Dead, and an end to your foolishness.”

* * * *

In the graveyard the rest of the squad was quiet. There was a chill in us; even those closest to the fire would shiver at times. We were set up near the tomb; I sat so that the great stone was behind me, so I wouldn’t have to see it, and think about who was lying within. I couldn’t sit still, and decided to patrol along the paths-no one else was at all interested in leaving the fire.
It was a clear night, and very quiet, until I was hailed out of the dark.
“Soldier!” A man approached me-older, gray, but still a strong man-he had a military bearing, like a general, so much so that I almost saluted.
“Who are you, sir?”
“I am David, and I have a question. Are you here to guard his tomb?”
I was shocked to hear him speak.
“Sir, you speak as if you were from my own village! Are you from Vilnars also?”
He smiled, and said, “No, not from Vilnars, Tadas. I know that is your name; do not be afraid of anything you will see tonight. God is good, and He bestows blessings on whom He will. You are assigned to guard his grave, Tadas?”
I nodded, and he seemed pleased.
“Good! Guard it well; an honor guard, though not intended as such. But an honor guard, indeed.”
“There is a concern that some of His followers may come, take His body and claim resurrection-that is why we are posted here. If I may ask, Sir...”
He shook his head.

“Tadas, that will not happen. A group of us have been brought together by God to mourn for His Son; we are gathered a little further ahead, and I stopped you so that I could explain, but please, come; there is someone who wants to see you.”
I had no idea who he could mean, but as we walked on I could see a group, women and men sitting in a circle, without fire for heat or light. Some were crying.
One man got up and approached us, and it was good that David had an arm on my shoulder to keep me from running, as I was seeing a ghost!
John smiled, and said, “Tadas, do not be afraid-I am all right.”
“But I saw you dead! I held the door for your disciples as they carried your body away!”
“Praise be to God, I am fine now, and there is nothing to be afraid of, ever.”
“John, this is unbelievable!”
He smiled.
“David,” He said, “ I remember the day I was preaching and baptizing, and our young friend Tadas came to hear me. I could see that God was convicting him, and when he came up to be baptized-Tadas, do you remember what you said?”
“I said...please sir, can I be saved if I am not a Jew?”
“And I said, ‘God calls, and we answer.’ It hasn’t been easy for you since that day, has it, Tadas?”
“Not easy, no. But until today...” I found it hard to put into words, how I felt. But they understood.
“Yes, until today it all made sense, but then our Lord Jesus was killed. Please trust us that it still makes sense.”
David said, “Tadas, return to your fire, and guard well His tomb; we must continue our mourning. But meet us here tomorrow night before dawn, and I promise that you will be blessed.”
“I feel blessed right now, and I praise God that you, John, have been raised from the dead!”
“Tomorrow night, Tadas, you will see a greater miracle. Until then, Praise God!”
As I lay on my cot in the morning, too excited to sleep, I marveled at what I had seen. John alive, and hope not dead.

* * * *

That night I stayed close to the fire with the others. They were fearful, half-jumping at shadows, and if I had told them of meeting a dead man the night before, they would have believed me. But John was no longer dead, and just a bit before Dawn I left to meet him and David and the others.
They were standing together, about a dozen men and a few women, and the mood was no longer one of mourning, but expectation-something was about to happen.
They all welcomed me, and David shook my hand, but there was a feeling that we shouldn’t talk.
We had a clear view of the tomb, being up a little higher on a hill. It was still dark, but dawn would be here soon.
Suddenly, a man appeared next to the tomb, dressed in white. He was looking at the stone, and just as I was thinking, “What can one man do?” he took hold of it and moved it as easily as I would roll an egg across a table. The ground shook from the weight of its moving, and there was instantly from the tomb a light, shining so brightly that we were blinded.
Suddenly I was lying face down, and as my sight returned John helped me up- the others were also getting to their feet, even the one who had moved the stone -when he arose he hopped up and sat atop it.
We all were cheering, hugging each other, Praising God. Tears were streaming down my face, and I felt joy in my heart which is still there to this day.
David shouted, “He is Risen! Our Lord Jesus has risen from the grave, and won our Salvation!” and we all cheered with joy!
“Tadas, all of Creation has looked for this day, and it pleased God to bring us together, witnesses of His Glory! Praise be to God!”
“Praise God!” I somehow now understood that God had planned for
Jesus to pay for our sins with His death, and now He lived again!
David pointed down to our fire. “Oh, look, Tadas- your fellow soldiers have abandoned their post; come with us into town.”
And so we walked together, singing and praising God. Some went off to the Temple, others left to look around the city; David, John and I walked together to its very heart, near the Palace.
John said, “Tadas, Praise God for all that He has done! Do not fear when your time comes to die-our Lord has a place ready for you in His Kingdom, and we shall all be together, Praising God. David and I will be leaving soon, after we stop in and see my good friend Herod Antipas.” David laughed.
“Tell everyone what you have seen, and of the Goodness of God!”
With that word they disappeared, but in a few seconds I heard a fearful howl from within the Palace, and I decided I had better get back to the guard station.
Money was paid for our silence; I left my portion on the barracks table, not caring whose pocket it ended up in.
So the worst night of my life was quickly followed by the best. Praise God!

Matthew 27:50-53:
“50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

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