by Sarah Kourkoulis

The old man made his way carefully along the stone streets to the Temple. At age eighty, he moved slowly, but steadily forward. Thankfully, the Lord did not need quick service. “The eyes of the Lord roam to and fro seeking the hearts of those who are completely his,” he murmured to himself. Ever since he was a child, serving as a priest in the Lord’s temple was all that he’d wanted. Even now, the rituals, sacrifices and Scriptures quickened his heart and increased his love.

There was something changing, however. He could feel it deep inside. This year, this Passover, there was a restlessness that burned within him. It had kept him up all night, as though he were waiting for a sign. He’d partaken of the lamb, done everything required by law, but today, the morning after, he still felt unfulfilled, as though something more was needed.

“Obadiah!” a young voice called out from behind him. He turned, nearing the steps of the Temple.

“Jacob, how came you to be here so early?”

“They have need of me, have they not? Passover always increases the number of sacrifices.” Jacob ran toward him, smiling widely. Obadiah recognized in him the same passion and desire to serve the Living God that had consumed him at that age.

He put his arm around his shoulder, leaning a bit as they walked. “Yes, my young friend, and I willingly take your help. Today is important.”

The two walked up the steps, and began the preparations for the morning sacrifices, joined by the other priests.

The morning wore on, or so it seemed to Obadiah, who even in the midst of this day could not shake the feeling of restlessness. There was talk among their number of a council of the people the night before. The execution of a man had been decided, and today was the day of his death. Such was all that the old man heard, and he did not desire to hear any more.

He kept mulling over the events of this Passover, so different from any he had ever remembered. He stopped. Well, there had been that time, twenty years before...He shook his head now, remembering it. That young boy, so intent in his questions, earnest in his search for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Three days he had been with them in the temple, seeking answers to intelligent, probing questions. He had challenged Obadiah’s convictions, reminding him of his own youthful inquisitiveness, and causing him to long for those things again. The priests had talked about it for months, wondering what was in store for such a passionate young man.

This year had brought such a one around again. Obadiah had been here that day, had been watching from his place in the Temple as the young man overturned tables, drove out the moneychangers and brought conviction back into the Holy Place. A den of robbers, he had said, and Obadiah recognized him as the young boy who had been here so long ago. Those around him called him Jesus of Nazareth, and though so many thought he desecrated this Temple, Obadiah rejoiced to see one passionate for the purity required here.

Jacob approached him. “Obadiah, have you heard what the Council has done?”
“Young man, politics and maneuverings have no place here. Watch your words; we are in the Temple of Yahweh.”

“Sir, I think you will want to hear this.”

“Then speak it outside. Not in this place.” Obadiah moved into the courtyard.
Jacob looked troubled. “The young man, the one who swept through here a few days ago...”

Obadiah expected him to finish his sentence, and when he didn’t, finished it for him. “Jesus of Nazareth?”

“The very one. Last night, the Council put him on trial. They condemned him for heresy and insurrection and-and they sent him to the governor and to Herod-” Jacob’s voice trembled and broke. He couldn’t go on.

Obadiah felt more disturbed than ever. He’d seen this Jesus, had watched and admired his devotion. Jesus, a heretic? An insurrectionist? For what? For doing what the priests should have done long ago? For being more devoted to Jehovah than those that ministered in His Temple?

“Go on lad. What was the outcome?”

Jacob shook his head. “They crucify him today. As we speak.”

Crucifixion! Today, on the Passover, when the lamb was sacrificed, when sin was forgiven. Was this what awaited those who longed for the holiness of the Most Holy God? Obadiah bent forward, unsure if he could continue with this heaviness of heart.

Caiaphas came toward the two of them, his face drawn tight in irritation. By the look of him, Obadiah could tell he’d had a sleepless night too. But for an entirely different reason.

“Come along,”he called. “There is much to be done. Is this not Passover, and you two are standing here talking like old women.”

Jacob felt the rebuke, but Obadiah would not stand for it. “We have only been talking of your business last night, Caiaphas.”

His face tightened even further, fury in his every feature. “You do not question me, do you Obadiah?”

“Question you? What is there to ask? Has not everything been said, and done, without my questioning?”

That did not satisfy the high priest. Though much younger than Obadiah, his position caused him to be higher than him, and Caiaphas took pleasure and pride in it. Any hint that he lacked either wisdom or devotion always aroused intense anger.

“What happened last night does not pertain to you. There is no reason for you to be discussing it. Now, obey my orders! There are sacrifices to be made.”
Yes, Obadiah thought. There are, but it seems you have sacrificed an innocent already. He went back to the temple with Jacob.

Not long after, at noon, the sky went black. Those who had come to sacrifice cried out at the sign, and those inside came out to stand in awe. No cloud in the sky, no stars and noticeably, no sun. Obadiah saw, and trembled.

For three hours, the priests fulfilled their duties, but there was doom in the air. Obadiah moved slowly, lifting up a constant prayer to Jehovah for a reprieve. Holy One, they have murdered an innocent man. He was unlike anyone I have ever seen. His face, O Lord, like a fire lit by You Yourself. Jehovah, what atonement can be made for this? What sacrifice can cover this great sin?

He offered up sacrifices, watching the carcasses burn, overseeing the slaughter of other innocents, aware of the futility of it all. Year after year, the same sacrifices, the same people, the same sins. Yet no one could enter the Most Holy Place, but the high priest on one day. His spirit’s insistent prayer increased with each death, with each offering of blood. Please, Yahweh, send your Redeemer. Atone our sins. Over and over it ran through his mind and heart.

He came to a father and son bringing their sacrifice. This one, a lamb. He bent to inspect it, carefully checking every inch of the tiny animal looking for flaws. She had none, and he nodded to the father. The boy looked on, cringing slightly over what he knew must be done and Obadiah understood. He felt the same way. The innocent dying for the guilty. Such was the commandment of the Lord, and it must be obeyed.

The ground began shaking before the father could draw his knife. The earth trembled and then rocked, sending the men reeling to their knees. Obadiah held onto the ground, afraid he would fall off. The sound of rocks rolling filled his ears and lightning flashed across the sky. The quake lasted for what seemed like hours, then stopped as abruptly as it had begun.

Obadiah stayed kneeling for a minute. He noticed immediately that the feeling of restlessness and dread had left. Fear was gone. And what was this? Relief, and boundless joy! It was irrational, but it was there.

He stood and looked for the two he had been helping. The boy was holding a terrified lamb, and the father looked scared but otherwise well. Around him, others were picking themselves up and wondering what had just happened. First the darkness and now this!

Jacob came running out of the temple, frantic. He spotted Obadiah, and darted toward him. “The veil! The veil to the Most Holy Place! It is torn!”

This was too much to comprehend. “That’s not possible, Jacob. That veil is six inches thick!”
Jacob nodded, desperate to be believed. “Come see. It’s torn, top to bottom, in two pieces. I saw it. It was like the hand of God. Do you know what this means?”

Obadiah felt tears rise up and then fall down his cheeks. “Yes, my young friend. Now anyone can go into the Most Holy Place. Anyone!”

“But how? How did this happen?”

Obadiah looked toward the little lamb, cradled in the boy’s arms. “The innocent one has died for the guilty, Jacob. It is the plan of Yahweh, as the prophets foretold.”

He went to the two standing there, and put his hand on the lamb’s head. “Take this little one home, lad. I believe there has been enough sacrificing for today, and maybe for all time.” BACK_TO_TOP