“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” This man needed to die and he needed to die in the most painful way possible. Maybe it would take her pain away. She looked around as she shouted herself until her voice could barely be heard. For a moment she wondered what everyone else had against this man. Had he hurt them like they had hurt her? The jostling and the anger gave her comfort. She was right to do this, this was justice. As she looked around her eye caught the vision of Mary and her other cronies around her. She doubled her efforts.
The governor tried to quiet the crowd. But she would not have it, nor it would seem would the crowd. There would be no escape. There would be no reprieve. There would be no hope for him. Just as there had been none for her.
Finally, there was a reason to cheer. Jesus has been taken away. The Roman soldiers grinned, knowing what would come. She looked at Mary and saw the moment the sword plunged into her heart knowing what would happen to her son. She knew that sword. It has lived in her heart for 30 years. Finally, she would have justice.
She had followed the crowd to see the crucifixion. Some were there to see the spectacle. Some were there because everyone else was there. She was there to make sure it was ended and that he died and that his mother suffered as she watched it all.
The crowd had begun to gather. She could see the effects of the Roman guards on the body of Jesus. Good. A memory of other guards flashed into her mind and she tried to suppress it quickly. The cross was slotted into the hole. She was not sure what was more painful: the nails being hammered into the hands or the thud of the cross being dropped into the ground. Some had said one, some had said the other. No-one knew because no-one lived long enough to speak of it. She savoured every moment of pain. Justice at last.
Then she remembered this was not just about his pain, it was about Mary’s as well. It took her some time to find the group of women off to the side. The sky had gone black, but she didn’t notice.
“Do you remember me?” She rushed to Mary. This was her moment. This is what she had lived for 30 years. The moment of justice and retribution. It was almost like a dream.
Mary looked up blurry eyed and confused. She knew that look. The look of confusion of what was happening, how did it happen. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She had lived with that blur for a couple of years before the bitterness had taken over.
“Do you remember me?” She repeated.
One of the friends tried to lead her away. “Can’t you see she is watching her son die?”
She shoved the friend out of the way, this was not going to be avoided.
“Oh, I know she is watching her son die. I know.” She turned back to Mary and asked a third time “Do you remember me? Do you remember Bethlehem?”
Mary looked past her tears. And after a moment there was a sense of recognition. “Rachel?”
“Yes, Rachel! We had children together in Bethlehem. Remember? Our sons! We even talked about how they might grow up together.” She started to ramble as tears filled her eyes. “Then one day your family simply disappears overnight. No-one knows where you have gone. Tyre, Syria, Egypt? Just up and vanished.”
“Then one week later the soldiers came. Do you know what they did? You do, don’t you? They took….” She still could not say his name. She wanted to, she wanted to lay it all at her feet. But in all these years she couldn’t say it. The tears burned her eyes, but she had to keep going. “They took my son. They ripped him out of my arms. They didn’t even use a sword to make it quick. They used a club.’’
“They were looking for you and your family. They found me and mine. I didn’t do anything.” Her voice was almost gone now.
“My son died because of you.”
“Her son is dying now.” Came a voice from the side. She didn’t look but kept Mary’s zombie-like stare.
“Yes, but she had him for 30 years. I didn’t. I never got to see him grow up or play or work or love or….”
There was an awkward silence. In her head, this was as far as it had got. She was not sure what to do now. She did not want to walk away.
They did not notice it but now an eerie silence had taken over the hill.
“It is finished” came the cry from the cross.
Mary screamed in anguish.
One of her friends turned to Rachel. “Are you happy now?”
She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know what to feel. She was lost. Was she happy? She should have been. But somehow she simply felt empty.
She looked at the cross and saw the man’s face. Dead.
The next few days were a blur. Not knowing what to do she turned to the thing that had kept her going for decades. The thing that had cost her her marriage, her friends, her family: strong wine. But they didn’t understand. No-one understood what she went through.
She remembered heading to buy an amphora of the strongest wine she could. There were moments of waking, feeling the pain of grief and returning to the wine.
There were vague recollections of meals that she didn’t know where they had come from.
Finally, by Sunday morning, she was done. There was no more wine, no more pain, just emptiness.
She headed to the tombs. While she was not sure why, it could have been to reassure herself that he was dead, or it could have been to continue her taunting of Mary whom she was sure was there, or it could have been to mourn her son again.
She ended up resting under a tree, recovering from her hangover. It must have been about dawn. She wasn’t sure exactly how she had got there.
“Rachel,” she heard a voice from behind her.
“What now?” She thought. “You know what, I don’t care. Rob me, kill me, rape me, whatever. I am done.”
“Rachel.” The voice was gentle. And she turned to see the person.
At first, she did not recognise him. But then in a moment, she was able to see him for who he was. But then that couldn’t be, the last time she had seen that face it had been on a cross.
“You are dead.”
“I was. Now I am alive”. He smiled.
“But, that’s…”. She didn’t know how to finish the sentence: that’s not possible, that’s not fair, that’s just…unnatural.
“Yes,” he smiled and ran his fingers through his hair. The holes where the nails had held him to the cross were still there but there was no blood. It was unnerving.
“Why are you here?” He asked. He crouched down beside her.
“I don’t know,” she started to think she had drunk too much. But now she had some control of her mind, the old bitterness rose back up. He was supposed to be dead, that was the justice she was after.
“You are the reason my son is dead”. She wondered if he even knew.
He sighed. “Yes, I am sorry Malachi had to die”. The sword in her heart twisted at his name. She looked at his face, it seemed genuinely sad. “I know the pain that it caused you. I wish it could have been otherwise.”
“How do you know his name?”
“I know a lot of things. But the thing you need to know is that I died to fix it. I died to make everything right. One day it will be. One day you will see your son again.”
She heard the words, but they didn’t make sense. She would see her son. What did that mean? She had been so obsessed with the injustice of his murder that she hadn’t thought about him. It had been too painful.
Jesus took her by the hand and raised her up.
“You will see Malachi again.”
The bitterness grew up within her like bile. It told her that what he was saying was untrue, that she needed to hold on to her pain. That was what she knew. This was not true. On the other hand, she looked up into the face of the man she had seen dead. That should not be true either.
“I want to believe you”. The words were true. She really did.
“I know,” he pulled her close to hug her. She had not been hugged in years. Then he breathed on her forehead and whispered the word “Receive.”
Something went through her like an energy bolt. The pain was still there but for the first time, she felt she could live with it. The bitterness tried to fight but it simply melted away. She felt something new. She felt hope.
“I will see him again,” she was not sure if it was a question or a statement. She looked into his eyes. “I will see Malachi again.” This time it was a statement and as she said it, she knew it was true.
“Rachel, you need to find my mother.” Mary. She needed to know. She needed to know that Jesus was alive. But then the shame of remembering their last conversation came back to her.
“It’s OK. She will understand. You both have work to do now.”
“You have come to make everything right.” He smiled and stepped away from her.
She closed her eyes. When she opened them he was not there, but somehow she still felt his presence.
She knew what she had to do.
She wasn’t sure how she knew where Mary was, but she knew. She knew that a mother needed to know her son was alive. The streets were quiet, still waking up and her footsteps echoed through the walled city, but she needed to get there.
She did not knock but burst through the door and ran up to the upper room. The women were awake looking grave but confused. As she burst in they all turned to her. They were the same women she had met at the cross and now looked at her with disdain. Several of them got up to stop her from doing or saying anything. She urgently looked around the room and found Mary’s eyes.
“You have seen him?” The room fell silent and Mary looked up in hope.
“Yes.” She smiled for the first time in a long time. “He has come to make everything right.”