A rooster crowed loud and clear, dividing night from morning. Simon awoke with a start, surfacing from a bad dream. Where is Messiah? The question had tormented his sleep.
His sore feet throbbed from yesterday’s interminable search. High and low, around every corner and doorway, he had sought Jesus and His disciples in some upper room he had never found.
He pushed his cover aside and sat up. The darkness permeated the room, but gray shadows promised the wings of dawn. Was his brother awake? He laced his sandals around his tender soles and stood.
“Simon.” Saul’s voice whispered from an adjoining room. “Come outside.”
He followed his brother through the door and met him by an olive tree. In the lifting darkness, he could make out his features—poker-faced, wrinkled brow, wide-eyed.
Saul leaned close to his ear. “A temple servant—a believer—brought news early. He is warning all of Jesus’s followers to proceed with caution. Caiaphas had Jesus arrested very late last night in the Garden of Gethsemane and is holding Him in a prison cell even now.”
Simon swallowed hard. The realization strangled him, and he hung his head, his shoulders slumping. “I—I couldn’t reach Him in time.”
Saul patted his brother’s back. “It’s not your fault. You did everything you possibly could.”
“Brother. I must go to the temple. Will you accompany me?” He turned and stepped onto the road.
“Gladly.” Saul matched his steps, and both escalated into a rapid clip.
As they neared the heart of the sacred city, Simon viewed the temple’s towering presence in the early dawn. He imagined Jesus bound in an underground dungeon—a horrible pit fit only for criminals, not his innocent Messiah. The volume of low, rumbling voices heightened as they drew closer.
“Many people are already assembled. Perhaps they will release Him soon.” Saul’s words were hopeful, but Simon sensed the agony behind them.
“Watch out! Who is this?” Simon fell sideways against his brother.
A madman had dashed out of the rays of the rising sun, pushing Simon aside and fleeing in the opposite direction. The man’s wrapped face was invisible, revealing only wild eyes, and he uttered a cry that should have come from a wolf, not a man. Eyes that seemed familiar. He tore away with no apology, growling in torment like a wounded animal.
The brothers rocked on their heels as they stared at his zigzag into the distance and up a hill. Simon turned back to Saul and grabbed his arm. “Something terrible must have happened. Quickly!”
Their steps spurred into a sprint to the courtyard of the high priest. Crowds milled, voices argued. “Jesus is a blasphemer! The witnesses have testified!”
Defenders contended. “He is guilty of no crime. Our Messiah is from God and must be released!”
Simon ran to the edge of the porch and peered. Was that Jesus, surrounded by chief priests and elders? He heard slaps and voices mocking. His heart jolted, landing in his throat. He leaned against Saul, his knees buckling. “My God, they’re beating Him!”
Saul pointed. “Look! They’re leading Him off in chains. Let’s see where they’re taking Him.”
Simon clung to his brother for support as they trailed a large crowd of followers trudging down the road. The dust, knee-high from scores of shuffling sandals, puffed brown in the early morning brightness. They soon discovered their destination was to see Pilate. As they waited in the distance, Simon wiped the streaming sweat from his brow and coughed, his throat dry, straining to discern what was happening.
Time crawled. The chief priests reappeared, pushing and shoving Jesus, forcing him in a new direction.
The crowd waved fists in the air at the sight, crying out. Some pleaded for mercy, others condemnation.
One elder in the circle with Jesus placed his hands on either side of his mouth. “Pilate is sending Him to Herod—He is a Galilean!”
The volume of differing opinions rose. Simon judged that the majority of voices were expressing hostile remarks against Messiah, and his heart ached.
“If they could only know what it was to be a leper …” He recoiled at the memory of his dissolving extremities wrapped in stinking rags, forced to proclaim Unclean! to passersby. But to be delivered and healed by one touch from Jesus. His life restored, his body whole.
His brother hugged him close. “Let’s continue. I pray that Pilate may be merciful to our Lord.”
Saul flashed a reluctant smile as they joined the hundreds on the next leg of the journey. The sand in the hourglass was slipping away for Jesus. And Simon’s son.