His hands were tied up behind him. A soldier knocked him to his knees. John tried to stand back up, but another soldier held him down, stepping down on his legs and brandishing his sword in front of John’s eyes. The soldier shouted at him to stay down and that John and his brother were being arrested for disturbing the peace. John could not move, and he could not stop himself from trembling. He saw his brother, James, 10 feet in front of him. The soldiers were also binding him and holding him down. James was shouting at the soldiers. “Just be quiet Jame,” John thought, trying to make eye contact with his brother, “and maybe they’ll let us go.”
He kept on shouting, in his loud, thunderous voice.
“If you repent, even now, and believe in Jesus, that – .” One of the soldiers next to James hit him on his face with a hilt of a sword. James fell sideways, his face hitting the dirt. James slowly opened his eyes, looking dazed, his eyes searching for something, for someone and finally saw John.
They had always been together. When they were growing up, people who first met them thought they were twins. People of their village thought of them as pranksters, as rascals who would be good fishermen but not much more. John and James had never studied under a house of a teacher. Once, a rabbi told them to follow him, except this rabbi did not have a house. So John and James followed this itinerant rabbi, as they walked across deserts and dry places, the rabbi’s feet stirring dust that would cover them as they followed behind him in awe.
John couldn’t breath. He could not talk. He looked at his brother, pleading through his eyes to be quiet and to go along with the authorities. James, smiled, shook his head, and closed his eyes. The soldiers grabbed him and set him up back on his knees.
James kept on shouting. “Believe in Jesus, whom you have crucified, has been raised – ” A soldier kicked him, and again James was sent to the ground. The soldier pressed his feet on James’s head.
They had followed the rabbi for three years, and they had seen miracles. They couldn’t fathom what it all meant. Surely, this rabbi was the one who would overthrow the Roman oppressor, restoring the glory of the Israel nation. But the rabbi seemed disinterested in politics. And for being a rabbi, he seemed disinterested in religion, or at least the religion that they knew about. The rabbi didn’t wash his hands. They were more than okay with that. The rabbi befriended the outcasts, the tax-collectors, the prostitutes, the sinners. The Samaritans. John and James didn’t understand, and yet they recognized that they too were commoners. The rabbi taught in perplexing parables. “Look at this great temple, teacher!” John once marvelled as they entered the temple. The reply was not what John had expected. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.” They looked at each other to see if the other knew what it meant but they were both puzzled. But now, it was beginning to make sense.
With the soldier’s heels pressed against his head, James shouted all the more. “That he has been raised from the dead, then you will be saved!” The soldier raised his sword above his head and swung down. As blood gushed out of James’s open wound, as life slowly faded from his eyes, he looked one last time to his brother.
The rabbi had taken them and a fellow fisherman Peter up to a mountain. It was pitch black. As they steadily climbed their way up, they were suddenly blinded. The light was brighter than a midday sun. And the Rabbi. He seemed to be the source of the light. He was discussing something with two other men, whose names were …. Moses. Elijah. The law-giver. The prophet. John and James didn’t understand the significance of it all. And days later, when the Roman soldiers crucified the Rabbi, they thought he was just another prophet, just like Moses and Elijah. But then the Rabbi came back, and they understood.
As tears rolled down John’s face, James gave a weak smile and looked at John while slowly drifting into unconsciousness. “It’s okay,” James whispered, “I am going to be with our Rabbi.”