The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Exad still holds the letter in his hand while he tells his flock what they must do. They are surprised at his words and will spend most of the night discussing the plan he lays before them. But at that very same moment, in that very same town, there is another group even more surprised than the little church that meets in Exad’s house. The gang of Sicarii who had gone with their leader to fetch you from Daniel are probably the most confused men in Jerusalem tonight.
All day long they have sat outside and waited. All day long their leader and Daniel and you have been inside the small shop; a poor house that once sold wares in the neighborhood but now serves as the gathering place for this small band of Ka-na-im. Now night has come and still no one comes out from inside the shop. The men, accustomed to action, sit impatiently.
“This is not right,” Eli has been with the zealots for as long as their leader, but his bad temper and poor judgment destroyed his chances to rise in rank among his peers. He has that penchant for spouting off whatever is on his mind and now what is on his mind is critical of their leader.
“There is no reason this should take so long. Why we didn’t kill this dog already is unheard of. And keeping us waiting here all day is…is…it’s just not right.” The others are accustomed to Eli’s tirades, but the line is thin between questioning their leader and outright insubordination. Eli is too close to crossing that line and no one wants to be found sympathetic to his rashness. They’ve seen too many men disregard their leader’s authority and pay for it with their lives.
“Maybe you should say these things to Jarrod, Eli,” Jusef holds back a grin when he says this, knowing what Eli will say before Eli says, “I have no problem with that.”
“Neither do I,” says Jarrod, the leader, surprising Eli from behind. Eli, hot blooded as he is, isn’t really a fool. Speechless, he lowers his head.
“If anyone insists on questioning today’s actions now is as good a time to do it as any.” Jarrod looked at each man. Nine brothers in arms, all trained by him and transformed into an effective guerrilla squad over the course of years that spanned the time between that event with Jesus on the beach and now, this night. He knew as he stood there in the dark that not one of them, including Eli, would dare utter a word, just as surely as he knew that whenever his next opportunity to sleep came so with it would come the dream: the pigs and the chains and the tombs; the voices screaming, the arms bleeding…and the eyes. Always the eyes… just before that elusive moment of revelation which he’d never be able to cling to and drag back with him into the light of day.
He could not explain why it was so hard to kill Christians. He’d killed so many men. Jews of every sect, Samaritans, Romans of course; but followers of the Carpenter were the hardest for him to kill. He had not had occasion to kill many. Often as not, these days, those who had claimed to be Christians were just as easy to turn as any other. But he knew the difference in that kind of man and the real disciples of the Carpenter. The real ones he always had to kill, and it grew harder each time.
He could have supposed that being buried alive in the tombs and then being set free by Jesus had something to do with it, but when he was awake he never, never…not for a moment…allowed himself to think like that. What he couldn’t deny, though, was that he’d spent the entire day listening to you go on and on about Jesus. From the time they had burst in on Daniel and you this morning…as you tried as hard as you could to persuade Daniel to remember the Lord…until now, he hadn’t interrupted you once as you continued to talk or quote or whatever it was you were blabbering about:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
He knew that first night in the courtyard that you were one of them; that you were one of the real disciples. Not killing you right then was a mistake. The longer he lets you live makes it harder to do what he knows he should have already done.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
No, the words can not get to him. How could they? He has spent a life time hardening his heart so that nothing will penetrate his soul that could possibly interfere with the mission he has given himself to.
I have come to do your will, O God.’ “First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
You tried as hard as you could and at moments you thought maybe Daniel was really listening. You were surprising yourself; you never thought you could remember these words, but they are in your heart and they come overflowing out of your mouth. Why the leader, the one called Jarrod, let’s you keep on talking is a mystery to you, but you don’t let pondering that fact slow you down. Sometimes you even allow yourself to think that maybe he’s really listening, too.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
You keep on talking to Daniel and don’t even notice that Jarrod has left the room.
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Outside Jarrod tells his men what they’ve been waiting to hear all day.
You, left alone with Daniel, your voice spent, find the words from your heart pouring out of you so fast that you don’t know if they are the words of the letter or your own extemporaneous thoughts.
“Daniel, if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. Don’t throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
“He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous onewill live by faith.
And if he shrinks back…,”
…you are cut off in the middle of this thought by the abrupt entrance of Jarrod. He stands in the doorway, his comrades leering behind him, and in a lower voice you finish your thought, “…and if you shrink back, Daniel, the Lord will not be pleased with you.”
The room is quiet and dark. Jarrod looks at you a long time before he speaks.
“You are certain that you will not change your mind and join us?” You want to say something but all you can do to answer him is to look him square in the eyes without backing down. And when you do you find that you’re not feeling defiant. You look at the man and see a soul more trapped than you are right now.
And that’s when it happened. As he was looking into your eyes.
In a lightening-like flash, for the first and only time in decades, he KNOWS.
He knows while standing there…wide awake…what he’d only been able to glimpse in his sleep; what the dream had revealed to him night after night. A warm wave of understanding floods over him and at last he knows. He knows so clearly, so brilliantly, so absolutely and it makes him happy…and it tears his heart apart… and it makes him want to cry…and it makes him want to curse in bitter frustration… and it changes everything. It is the answer to everything. It is the secret to everything that is important…and it is the opposite of everything he’d thought he’d known. He knows he will always remember this, but he wants desperately to forget it. Of course he will remember. How could he forget the most important thing in the universe now that he has seen it; now that he has grasped it in his heart? This changes everything! He is so excited. He is so damned. He is so amazed. He is so angry. He is so elated. He is brought so low. His mind splits open and his heart rips wide apart with this “knowing”. Knowing changes everything.
He is finally awake. Again. Like when he was with Him on the beach.
Nevertheless, unbelievably, mechanically, he hears himself say, “Then you must die.”
His men rush past him and drag you out of the shop. Daniel and he stand alone in the cold, dark space.
You are pushed to your knees in the courtyard. Terror wants you. Your ears are humming, your head is pounding, your stomach is climbing up your throat and your eyes sting like they’re on fire. Yet…
Someone…who isn’t really there…whispers in your ear. He can’t really be speaking softly to you. You can’t really be hearing him, but you are. He’s in your heart, you know that. He isn’t really leaning on you, with thorny crown and nail pierced hands. He isn’t really gripping your shoulder and calming your pulse. Still, you hear his voice just as real and as clear as if he actually was kneeling right there beside you. Kneeling with you, prepared again to take the whip or the fists or the nails. Kneeling there ready to die again with you, for you.
You hear him clearly and he says, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”