MARCH / APRIL 2016: BY CARISSA HORTON
Genuine faith is born from asking the hard questions… from doing the research yourself, not just accepting what you’re told. You might almost call it trial by fire because sometimes coming to faith in Christ means walking away from a lifestyle you once held. Not just because it is the right thing to do and you feel obliged to do it out of some rote response, but because you want to do it, to please the One you have encountered in a very personal and significant experience. You want to be different than the person you were before… for Him.
Risen is the story of one man’s journey to faith in Jesus Christ. He could be anybody, at any time in history, but in this story, he is Clavius, a Roman Tribune, and his time is the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In that he is fortunate because his proof can be born out of what he sees with his own eyes, not just what he experiences internally. Here is a man tasked with keeping the peace in Judea. He is to ensure that the people of Jerusalem give Pilate as little trouble as possible. When they do give Pilate trouble, Clavius is called to clean up the mess quickly, regardless of how much of a mess he might make in the tidying of the first mess.
Now, the mess is a dead Nazarene who Clavius saw, clearly dead, hanging on a cross. Except that the tomb that Clavius personally placed the Nazarene in has been literally blown wide open, the cords holding the stone over the entrance shredded as if from an internal blast outward, and the guards give him unsatisfactory answers. He questions every single person in Jerusalem who claims that Yeshua (the Nazarene) is risen. His head aches. His heart aches. And the more people he interviews about the supposed resurrection of this Yeshua, the more he begins to question.
His questioning leads him to an encounter with one of the disciples, Bartholomew. A more excitable, enthusiastic, and unafraid man Clavius has never before met. Ever. Bartholomew is like a ray of sunshine in the center of a graveyard. Nothing can dampen his fervor and his insistence that Yeshua has risen. No threat can make him recant and when Clavius insists that Bartholomew give up the other followers of this Yeshua, he leans in close, as if to impart a secret and whispers with a grin, “We’re everywhere!” Clavius could order his painful and slow execution, but Bartholomew does not fear him. His uneasiness at its peak, Clavius releases him, an unusual show of mercy from a Roman.
Then again, Clavius is no usual Roman. During a conversation with Pilate earlier in the story, Clavius shares some intimate goals with his superior. Everything he does will lead him on a strict and certain path towards an end goal. If he does his job well, he will eventually have a wife, children, a pension, and a place in the country… a day without death. Clavius has no desire to kill. The act brings him no joy, no contentment, only a restlessness. He kills because he thinks being a Roman soldier is the only way he can buy peace. He may not acquire it now, but someday, he hopes, he will.
Clavius is honestly unsure about what he hopes to find. Does he hope to find Yeshua’s body? Does he hope to find the man himself … alive? It likely does not matter either way, but in a raid on a section of Jerusalem where an informant has given up the disciples, Clavius meets Yeshua face to face. He doesn’t need to be told who that man is in the center of the disciples. He recognizes the face, even without the blood trickling down his cheeks and from his eyes. It is Yeshua, the Christ. Legs unsteady, sword hand weak, Clavius orders his men away under a pretense and sinks down against the wall, his eyes never leaving Yeshua.
This is the moment. The do or die moment every believer has faced. Clavius was able to see Yeshua in person, in a very physical setting. Today we can only imagine what an encounter like his would have resembled, the emotions associated with meeting Jesus Christ. Do you leave? Do you stay? What do you sacrifice in order to follow him? Peter sacrificed his livelihood as a fisherman. Matthew sacrificed his life as a tax collector. Clavius sacrificed his life as a Roman tribune. Yeshua does not remain with them, but tells them to meet him at Galilee, and so they journey together. Clavius trails the disciples for a time and inevitably joins their company. The men are merry and excited, joyous in their relationships with each other, drunk on the reality of their risen Savior. Nothing can restrain their exuberance.
Clavius has one conversation with Yeshua that he can call his own. Near the shores of Galilee, one night as the disciples sleep, Clavius is wakeful and so is Yeshua. Together they stargaze and Yeshua gently peals away the layers of Clavius’ identity until he gets to the core, Clavius’ desire for that day without death. There is another way—an alternative to the life he led as a Roman tribune. He doesn’t need to be the man he was before. He can choose to be different, to be made new. To live that day without death starting now. Yeshua lifts the burden from Clavius in a very real, very intense moment of a man coming to genuine belief. There is no going back.
Clavius had to ask the questions himself in order to find the answers. No one else could do it for him. If you never seek, what is there to find? Risen is a powerful story of unbelief followed by a spiritual realization and awakening. It served its purpose in asking powerful and important questions, raising the notion that you actually have to decide to follow Christ. Faith is a decision to act based upon what you have seen and experienced. And that is the most powerful and possibly most dangerous lesson of all. What will you do? ♥
Carissa Horton spends her working hours at Compassion International whose tagline reads “Releasing Children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” She is an avid crafter, a prolific blogger on Musings of an Introvert about all things literary and film-based, and dreams of getting her stories published.