The Jews answered, “We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this, he became even more scared. He went back into the palace and said to Jesus, “Where did you come from?”
Jesus gave no answer. (John 19:7-9)
Thoughts of a Beaten King
I just stood there. I didn’t know what else to do. My face hummed with numbness. Every blink hurt. But my ears. The sounds flooded in, on top of each other; a distinct garble of noise. And behind the noise a ringing. Not bell-like.
Oh, my perfect ears.
Amidst the garble and ringing I heard footsteps. Sandy shuffling; deliberate steps and anxious steps. The anxious steps came together, then stopped. The deliberate steps continued. Close, and even closer to me they came.
And there he stood. A peacock. He was in charge, and he knew it. He thought his feathers and colors were all his own creation. Poor peacock.
He spoke. He pushed his feathery face into mine and clucked and strutted his confidence without saying a word. The sun fell through the doorway and landed on my bare feet. The dust caught the light and reflected it into a billion pieces. I counted them.
He clucked, but I only heard the sun dancing in a billion pieces.
I knew I was in trouble. I could hear the peacock’s anxiety. And then real words came into my ears.
“Is this true? Are you ... ?"
The humming numbness swelled into my eyes. Was I crying? I just stood there. I didn’t know what else to do. The sun dust, the steps, the garble. And now this?
When I looked at him a memory flooded in. It drowned out the rest of the noise. The waters; those dark waters; and there sailed the peacock. He was racing ahead of me, towards the horizon. But no land was in sight.
A thick fog swept in and the dark waters hummed, like my face. Then, suddenly, the shore; and I fell forward. The sand felt so warm and I laughed and the sun dust shimmered all above me like it did in the doorway. Ah yes, this place, this memory. The time when I called it good. Or so the poet says.
So much more than light and day and night and trees and gulls came the quiet. It swelled in primordial fullness. The same fullness I felt in the corridor with the peacock and the sun dust.
As I stood tucked in the shadows of the doorway this memory settled me. It reminded me of my friend who once found an invaluable artifact while exploring a mediterranean island. In his unbelief he fell to his knees in jubilant praise, and a great quiet followed. He never could explain it.
There I stood, in the doorway and garble. There I lay in the sand, under sun dust and quiet. There I knelt with my friend. All was quiet.
I am the Fullness
“Well, is it?” clucked the peacock?
And then strength came.
“It is true.” I said.
This ruffled the peacock. He paced.
“You expect me to believe this? Stuff like this doesn’t just happen. You expect me to just, just, believe?”
He floundered and stamped around, then turned, and motioned. One by one those outside the door--those responsible for the garble--came in through the sun dust and screamed at me. Their mouths gaped wide, their neck vessels bulged, their words landed in my ears and their fists landed on my jaw, both delivering the same force.
Could anything be more true than the blood letting out from my mouth and the quiet of the sun dust? The blood and dust muted their blows.
“After this, I don’t even know what truth is. A meaningless word.”
“Not true,” I said. “Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.”
“Well, I hear you, but don’t … though, I do ... ”
He paused. Longer. Then, he stepped into the sun dust and stood next to me in silence. The silence changed his mind, and washed his hands. He didn’t follow the crowd of loud-mouthed punching garblers. He didn’t give in to the shouting and name calling and blood letting. Even in this culture of loud mouths, he kept his sealed.
I think he felt the warm sun. I think he could feel the quiet of my memory--that beginning time of water and sand and flourishing newness. I think he could sense the ending time; that plain jubilant praise of finding the treasure and not knowing what to do with such knowledge.
I was telling him the truth. He lowered his feathers.
Be Thou Not A Garbler
Mine is not a voice you would recognize if you yell all day long. Mine is not a voice you hear if you garble and garble. Mine is the voice that sounds like the constancy of waves when no one is around. Mine is the voice that sounds like the quiet that garblers choke on. Mine is the voice the vagabond murderer hears; the voice the do-gooder mimics but hears not.
Until you stand in the sun dust doorway with me, until you take the jaw shots, until you absorb the ridicule your goodness is noisy junk. When you can take the blood and blows, then you can stand with me.
I just stood there, what else was I supposed to do?
My posts don't always venture into fictional episodes, but I like when they do.
I have, however, written a book full of short devotional daily readings that you might find beneficial for your spiritual growth. It's called Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. Grab a copy here.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.