What was he? No one thought to tell him, because it was not necessary to know, and in time he would discover all that was needful.
Before he knew he could speak with the part of his face that was his mouth, he could speak to them with his mind. Thoughts formed in his mind, very simple, but gaining meaning and complexity, informing him and carrying him from point to point as he was able to absorb what was imparted. He was learning! After a bit he realized he was being taught, and he listened and learned, for his consciousness yearned instinctively to inform his unformed, wondering spirit.
Since there was no sleeping for his kind, he gained sufficient knowlege to know where he was and how his “greeters” had come to help him find his place in his “new home.”
And what was his new home? He would soon learn, but first his Instructor told him to tarry where he was for a time, and his greeters would explain many things to him face to face. This was the second stage of his “homecoming.”
Tsedahh, as the moment came, turned to the greeters. They were, he saw now, wonderful beings, with stunning beauty and majesty. He sank to his knees before them, waiting for whatever they were there to do to him.
“Your name is Tsedahh,” said the first. “It means ‘Hunter of Food’.”
Tsedahh was overwhelmed. “I have been given this wonderful thing called name?” he thought. As for the meaning, he could not take it in. To have a name seemed the greatest good fortune. Someone had been so good as to give a name to him, which began working in him the moment it was uttered, giving him meaning, character, and purpose. But who? Why?
The natal greeters, sensing his confusion, took his hands and gently drew him up. One of the greeters smoothed Tsedahh’s rumpled, sandy hair, holding out a mirror. Tsedahh, astonished to see his own image, did as the greeters showed, and he took delight in smoothing his hair, too delighted in it to begin to compare it with the hair of others that shone far greater and showed much finer texture. Another greeter held out a robe. Tsedahh was shown how to dress himself. Everything that he needed to know about hair and robe shown, they took his hands and drew him slowly down the great curving space, which changed gradually and began to be filled with shrubs, flowers, and walkways. In the distance rose little hills of various light colors, with sparkling clouds over them, but they must have been far off for they did not come closer though Tsedahh walked attended by his greeters for quite some time.
Finally, they stopped where the ground gave way and sloped into a spreading valley. The little hills, he saw now, were mountains that climbed the sky. And in the valley were winding rivers, and tall spires of glistening color, with many-colored trees and and flowers, allindividually fragrant. The scene was so breath-taking that Tsedahh had to rest--that was why the greeters stopped.
Apparently, it was such a place for resting, for the meadow was made very pleasant with a multiple-tiered dancing spring of water, hovering birds and butterflies and many fragrant flowers.
Tsedahh did as his greeters did, and seated himself on the thick growth of flowers,which were not crushed but easily supported them.
“We have brought you this far, beloved Tesedahh, “ a greeter told him. “What do you wish to know. Think carefully.”
By this time a question had grown to almost a burning in Tsedahh’s breast. “Whose am I? Who has made me?” burst from him.
The four guides looked at each other, nodded, and the first turned his gaze away, pointing. “We will go and your own eyes will see Elohim, Your Creator, Who is the Forever Blest and Reverend Creator of all this you see, and much more.”
Tsedahh was dumbfounded. Evidently, a Great Being had made him, to have made so much as he could see spread before him. These greeters, too, they could not be so great as this One! But the discovery was overwhelming, as he began to grasp more implications as he gazed upon his surroundings, realizing that there were worlds whirling above and that the great mountains in the distance were succeeded by even greater ramparts beyond.
At that moment Tsedahh tasted Infinity, and his whole being thrilled and gasped at the same time.
The greeters were most kind and understanding, for they held hands and arms lest Tsedahh’s spirt whirl off and burst with too much revelation.
On the other side of this revelation lay Terror, which was holy if guided into the right channel, and the guides knew just when to stop and when to go on. Knowledge was not wisdom, and only wisdom could enlighten and sweeten terror--and wisdom was not something Tsedahh could learn in the first and second stages.
When it was judged time, three of his guides drew back away, and only one--Nakon--accompanied Tsedahh on his journey--for it was a journey to the “City of the Great King” which lay somewhere on the crests of the far mountains.
There was no hurry getting there, Nakon told him. They could stop and rest any amount, just as Tsedahh pleased. And Nakon knew many things, showing Tsedahh many marvels along the way, and how to swim in the pools and rivers and play with the fishes, great and small. Other times Tsedahh simply stood and enjoyed the chiming music that came down out of the clouds, producing intricate melodies that his spirit could scarcely comprehend.
As the journey went on and they neared the mountains on the other side, Nakon took Tsedahh more and more into his confidence. “Child,” the guide said, “I have enjoyed this time with you, and there is much to come. By the end of this journey you will have grown in understanding, and then I will leave you, but not altogether, for I will visit you from time to time to see how you are doing.”
For the first time Tsedahh felt his heart turn over. He had taken Nakon’s loving and charming presence so for granted, that the thought of their parting had never occurred to him. His eyes widened, blinked, and he “ wept” with sadness for the first time in his existence.
Tsedahh felt ashamed after he had shown sadness, for he was just a child in his spirit. Nakon put his arm around him, and this assurance strengthened Tsedahh. Not explaining why they must part, Nakon led Tsedahh gently onward. Gradually, Tsedahh grew accustomed to the thought that had provoked his sadness, and he trusted Nakon to lead him. More and more Nakon told him about the Creator God, and then began to explain the Names by which God was known to all his creatures.
In this stage Nakon was joined by others, who introduced themselves and taught Tsedahh and then departed. Sometimes the two met large convocations, which were assembled for various purposes, and they listened to what was said and then continued on their way to the City.
Tsedahh’s wonder and amazement grew. All he learned only made him want to know more about his Creator, especially because He was the source of all life and light and goodness and beauty. But not all he learned was pleasing. There was, for instance, a “War” being fought against “enemies,” a war between Light and Darkness, Righteousness and Unrighteousness, Good and Evil.
What did all such things mean? Vast events and powerful forces, they bewildered Tsedahh and seemed too overwhelming to grasp with his mind.
“You will have your opportunity to choose whom you will serve,” Nakon told him gravely. “What is in your own heart will be revealed by your choice.”
It happened just as he said, that the real choice lay with Tsedahh’s heart, not his mind. The most splendid being Tsedahh had ever seen appeared, followed by so many others that the whole valley filled with the vast host, and there still wasn’t room enough, so that many flew upwards on the winds and lay suspended there looking down.
“Is this not the most wonderful Creator the Elohim?” Tsedahh asked his mentor.
“No, it is His cherub, the Light-Bringer. He is the Covering Cherub, the Keeper of the Stones of Fire; he also has the great wisdom and music that the Creator has given him, beyond what has been given all others.”
Then Nakon retired, leaving Tsedahh to his fate.
Tsedahh was confused. How could someone so glorious not be the Creator? Seeing the multidudes throwing themselves down, hands outstretched, praising the Light-Bringer, Tsedahh was about to do the same when he saw Nakon holding to a tree, keeping it between him and the spectacle.
“How strange!” Tsedahh wondered. “Why doesn’t he throw himself down as the others?”
Still wondering, Tsedahh was standing when the glorious Keeper of the Fiery Stones passed. An attendant saw Tsedahh and flew at him.
“Bow the knee immediately!” he ordered. “Don’t you know His Majesty, the Son of Beauty and Power, Who is coming to bring the Dawn of a Brave N ew Heaven to us?”
Tsedahh began to blink his silent, moistureless tears, feeling dismayed that he had done something greatly wrong.
“Who is this showing disrespect and ill favor to the Glorious One?” another mighty being cried. “Who is this who doesn’t fall down and worship our great Light-Bringer?”
Hands seized Tsedahh in a crushing grip and held him off the ground. That one violent act was enough for him to decide on which side he would always stand.
As if he were an echo, Tsedahh pointed toward the object of the vast congregation, the towering being crowned and clothed with revolving starlike jewels, and cried, “Who is this?” A crowd soon collected and looked at him with amazement. “He is too small thing, to be asking so so great a thing! “ observed a leader in the group. “But numbers are needed to face Michael, so shouldn’t we see if this one will join us?” someone asked the leader. “Him?” the leader snorted. .
Tsedahh was dropped like something both inconsequental and distasteful. And then the mighty one that spurned Tsedahh strode off, the others quickly following to rejoin the passing throngs, leaving the matter unexplained.
Though having made his eternal choice, Tsedahh also felt passed over and rejected, and he blinked with sadness.
Finally, when all had gone, Nakon ceased hugging his tree, returned, and took Tsedahh’s hand. His face showed great relief, not for himself but for his protege. He was glad the Deceiver was not going about as formerly, stirring the pools with a golden staff and causing glorious images of their “furture glorious estates” to appear that had seduced so many of the brethren and captured their allegiance.
“He said I was ‘too small’,” Tsedahh said, not understanding Nakon’s expression. “Am I ‘too small’?”
Nakon shook his head. “No, you are what the Elohim have created you to be, perfectly fashioned. I was going to tell you, if you couldn’t see it yourself and ask me. But he brought it up out of turn to hurt you.”
Continuing the journey, Tsedahh was taught again. He learned about the orders of created beings, and how one of the highest order had rebelled against the Creator and seduced many others to join his cause. No one knew yet how this War would go, for the Almighty God had not seen fit to crush the Light-Bringer with His power.
Later, after they reached the City that was being built in the high mountains, and Tsedahh had been taught his work and was active in helping to build many rooms in the palaces, news reached him via Nakon that the rebellious Light-Bringer and his army had suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Michael and his army. Since rebellion had cost him his place in heaven, the Light-Bringer and the Fiery Stones, together with all supporters, were cast out of heaven.
As Nakon, assisted by others, spoke these truths into Tesedadah’s dawning understanding, the child matured into a man within him. Yet he had suffered a hurt, and he could not heal it. Despite Nakon’s explanation, having been told he was “small,” he looked around at the others and saw that they were, indeed, taller and impressive in form. It wasn’t that his order of beings was different, for all the orders varied in garments, majesty, ability, and responsibility. Rather, the chief difference lay between him and the others in his own order.
It was undeniable. They were bright, he was dim. They were tall, he was short. Sometimes he wept, but they never blinked with sadness as he did. They were--it went on an on, how small he was within his own kind. Nakon said he was meant to be that way, but why? Even Nakon could not tell him. It did not help when they were joined eventually by a growing congregation of strange beings, “humans” that had been born on the terrestrial plane called the Twin Earths. It was for these small, weak-appearing beings, Tsedahh was given to understand, that they were building the City. How strange! It was called the “City of the Great King,” yet these creatures from the Earths would live in it when it was finished! Could anything be more strange?
Yet things thereafter got even more strange for Tsedahh. Until then he had not given much thought to his name. It was unlike all the others--and no one could tell him the meaning of “Hunter of Food,” but he had many other things to occupy his thoughts. Yet when Nakon came to him, acccompanied by many mighty angels of the highest degree, Tsedahh sensed his prospects were about to change dramatically.
Tsedahh looked at Nakon without comprehension. An audience with the Creator, in His court located in the second heaven? “How am I to go there? I do not know the way.”
Nakon turned, indicating the ones who had come with him. “They will accompany you from this heaven to the second. Do not fear, they know the way.”
Nearly in tears (though heavenly orders cannot weep), Tsedahh went to his old friend, taking his hand. “I want to go with you.”
Nakon shook his head. “I am not needed. I have never been called there. But you are called.”
There was no question concerning the matter, for the greeters and guides from the second heaven had brought a robe, and it surpassed in fineness and glory every other garment in the third heaven, and it was placed on Tsedahh.
Even with such a garment, nothing could disguise the smallness of Tsedahh, and the beings that accompanied him towered over him. As he stood gazing up at them, the whole venture of a royal audience, a call to the Court of the Creator, was just too much--he broke and wept actual tears there in the sight of thousands of those working with him in a city that stretched, upwards and outwards, for a thousand, three hundred miles.
When he had finished, the waiting guides turned, giving him the words that he needed to travel with them. Instantly, when they formed in his mind and he had given assent, they carried him from that heaven, and the next thing he found was that he was standing with his guides in the outer courts of the second heaven. He found that the multitudes of beings here were of orders he had not even seen in the third heaven. Some were the most fearsome beasts in appearance. But his guides led him by the hands so that he was not afraid of anything, and everyone gave way as they proceeded directly toward the Gates that opened to the Throneroom.
Tsedahh, feeling painfully dim admidst so much splendor, would have shrunk back if he had not been led by such great guides as his. Michael was the name of the one on his right. Gabriel was the one on his left. Worlds revolved slowly above, worlds made up off clustered stars, and these were choirs, singing almost continually. Their radiance and music were overwhelming to Tsedahh, and he felt a growing terror of the glories ahead, which lay on the other side of the Gates.
The Gates themselves were like red crystal, only they were living glories from which a golden light shone--and they were guarded by the most fearsome beasts. Four in number, one was like a lion, the second a calf, the third had a face like Michael and Gabriel together, and the fourth was an eagle, and all flew continually, with six wings. They climbed the steps, and the music and light became greater and greater, and then the Gates themselves began to part as multitudes threw themselves down before the glory that came pouring through.
It was like plunging into the fiery heart of a star that covered all the horizon with its majesty as Michael and Gabriel conducted little Tsedahh into the presence of the Most High God. Just beyond the gates, in the Presence, rose the golden Altar of the Martyrs that mounted up by the highest moutain, from which fire and incense would rise continually before the Face of God, and which also was guarded on each side, this time by four horses with heads of lions spewing forth fire and smoke and brimstone. The horses had tails like serpents, with biting heads. And mounted upon these beasts were four warriors wearing breastplates of fire and of jacinth and brimstone.
Even these wonderful and fearsome beings could not stand the radiance, and the Majesty was clothed with huge dark clouds, over which shot rays of His pure white and golden glory.
Somehow Tsedahh was not consumed, trampled or bitten, though his hair turned purest white and he shone like a tiny, bright candleflame between the mighty hands of Michael and Gabriel.
At last he would meet his Lord God Creator, the Elohim! was Tsedahh’s only thought. He could stand no longer before the glory of God, and neither could Gabriel and Michael, and they fell down. If Tsedahh had felt himself “too small” before, what was his feeling before the Almighty, Whose glory he now saw? He now understood something. There was nothing that was not “too small” before such greatness and glory and terror. Even Michael and Gabriel were as leaves shaking in the wind.
Words formed in Tsedahh’s consciousness.
Gabriel and Michael stared at the Ribbon-Bearer, who in turn felt so inadequate to the task that he couldn’t begin to say so. He found it impossible to stand after what he had seen and sank to his knees. And he had not the slightest idea why he had been chosen. Perhaps, his two guides were thinking the same, for they stood, their eyes blinking, gazing at him for quite some time.
“We will accompany you part-way,” Michael finally said. “The enemy would stop you if you went unescorted. But we have nothing to do with your choice. You must follow however you are led.”
How was he to find a tree on both worlds? They said nothing to his unspoken question.
Now Michael, leader of the warriors of the Most High, knew many things, and yet he was surprised when it did not go exactly as he had thought. They thought they would be accompanying the newborn, but Power restrained them from joining the launch. Michael held the Ribbon-Bearer in position for the launch, which then began the count-down in Hebraic letter-numbers recited rather thunderingly by Gabriel who stood nearby the launchpad.
There was, for a space, utter silence in the second heaven while poor Tsedahh whirled seeemingly lost in space. Would he ever find his destination? On Earth, thirty years, almost thirty three years, had passed since the Birth of the Son, which had occurred marvelously as only the Father and Spirit could do it, simultaneously, on both Earths. What could a mere tree mean to the Father? Everyone wanted to know, of course, for they sensed it had something to tell them of the Elohim, from Whom they all drew wisdom, knowledge, and happiness. The Son had been born for one purpose as a human being--to take away the sin of the world as a perfect sacrifice. For that purpose He was even now preaching and teaching the kingdom of God to all who would listen--again, simultaneously, on both worlds. This stupendous plan was beyond wisdom--no one had guessed Elohim would do this and what would come of it. But why should a tree be involved? Everyone knew that the altar before the Temple of God in Jerusalem was the only legitimate place of sacrifice for God’s people. As to this and a myriad of other questions, Tsedahh might know something--but he was out of communication with everyone except the Spirit of the Almighty.
The appointed Ribbon-Bearer circled the Universes faster, much faster, than light. His ribbon had grown and was a soaring flame that stretched out behind him for thousands of light-years. Around and around, descending spirals took Tsedahh in his appointed course to the quarantined sector where the Gates of the Twin Earths were located, each heavily guarded by loyalist forces since the destruction of the Bridge of the Titans. Not permitted to enter the Light-Bringer’s domain, the second Earth astonished Tsedahh when he flew toward it. He could not fathom why he should be sent to so dull and insignificant a place to find the Lord Creator’s tree. Yet that was where he was to go, evidently. He found himself slowing in flight and then stepping down toward the approaching surface.
The whole flight to Earth was like a dream, but the ground he felt beneath his feet was real enough. He felt every bit of it, and the wind and sun and the sounds of life around him, it was all very real. Though Earth lacked the incandescent splendors of heaven, it was charming in a dim-lighted and dim-colored way, like a little clump of brown and spotted mushrooms he nearly crushed underfoot as he walked down a path in the woods. And, most significant of all, somewhere down on the surface walked the Second Person of the Elohim, the Anointed One, Yeshua.
Reaching the surface, Tsedahh felt it, and was surprised how soft it was. He moved both on the surface and above it, avoiding the rocks by flying over them. Tsedahh felt he could not be very far from the tree, for he felt it growing stronger to his senses as he continued on the path. Finally, he was certain it was near. The sense of the tree was overwhelming, though he couldn’t yet decide which tree it was. On all sides grew mostly tall pine trees, and there were wild olives, terebinths, and oaks, all large in size. But which olive, which pine or oak? He looked at each, but nothing seemed right. They were all tall and noble, but he felt nothing right about them. As he turned down the path he nearly passed a tree, which wasn’t much of a tree at all. Apparently, woodsmen had recently passed that way, for they had sawn into it, then decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, then left it. Just beyond lay the stump of a once mighty terebinth. Immediately, Tsedahh felt he had gone too far. He turned back, and his eyes fell on the half-sawn tree.
The ribbon leaped in his hand like a living thing, and he did what he felt he had to do. He went and circled the tree with the ribbon, though he could not understand why this was the chosen tree, it was too small and spindly. There was, moreover, nothing beautiful about it. The leaves were ordinary, and he saw no fruit. The branches were not straight either; they all bent like bows. Why, then, was it the tree for the Son of the Most High?
A blackbird with eyes like polished jetstone hopped to the end of a near pine branch that would have served as a board, it stuck out straight and true. Tsedahh looked up and saw ot was a great, strong, beautiful tree. The sight made him wonder if he could be doing right.
Before Tsedahh, hesitating, could consider the pine’s attractiveness and regular shape over his own choice’s obvious short-comings, he heard voices. People were coming! Since he had no experience with them, and had seen them only from afar, he stepped off the path.
Two sweating woodsmen, shouldering axes, came up the path, then paused for a rest. Poor men, they had to carry out everything they cut, having no donkey, and so they earned little and walked much. One looked and saw the ribbon, then called to the other.
“What is that?”
They both went for a look.
“By the holy mount Gerizzim! It wasn’t there a a short while ago. This tree has just been marked by someone! Someone must see value in wood that is both brittle and soft? What could it be? Perhaps we ought to finish the job, and take the wood to market? You never know, it must be good for something if someone would go to the trouble to mark it with this fine cloth!”
The woodsmen set to work and soon had the tree down, but all they got for their effort was two middling boards, which they shouldered and took away.
The curious blackbird flew off squawking, leaving Tsedahh.
He went to where the tree had stood. The ribbon too was gone, stuffed inside the garment of one of the men. Heart sinking, close to tears, Tsedahh stood looking at the stump, wondering if he had made a mistake. He had marked the tree, never expecting two men would come right away and cut down God’s choice. Now what was he going to do? He had lost God’s tree! And, the thought could not be denied, whatever purpose intended for the tree was now in jeopardy. Could he find another of the same kind to replace the stolen one? Tsedahh looked around for one just like it, but after much searching he found nothing. There was only this one, apparently. Well, there was nothing for it, he decided. He had to get the tree back somehow.
He started on the path the woodsmen had taken. It led him to a poor village not far from Shechem, but he didn’t dare enter, so he climbed round it. The men had gone directly out, carrying the two boards, and soon Tsedahh saw another cluster of houses clinging to a steep hill beside another just like it. This was large enough to be a town, and two well-travelled roads led to it from the north and south.
Here Tsedahh began to feel safer, for he could walk in the dusty road and the dust thrown up by passing donkeys and camels soon covered and obscured his conspicuous brightness thickly (for on the dim Earth, he shone much more in contrast than he did in heaven).
Pulling his robe up over his head, he walked bent over like he saw some old men missing a hand or a foot from some accident begging for bread beside Jacob’s Well. No one gave him a second glance as he climbed up into the town. Looking ahead, he saw most of the people gatheed in the busy marketplace. Lumber lay in a big stack off to one side, and so he made his way there.
He came up just as a wagon was being loaded. His heart gave a lurch as he recognized the woodsmen. One--who possessed the renowned Samaritan agility of tongue in bargaining against shrewd Jews and Ishmaelite traders--stepped to the buyer and pointed out two beams they had just handcarried to town.
“That’s special wood you won’t find in any other market, Excellency of Father Jacob!” the woodsman informed the Jewish trader from Judaea. “We citizens of this splendid and holy city of our people all know the tidhar is ordinary and coarse and the sap is a bother, and the erez may be most fragrant and discourage the burrowing worm, but if you don’t want to spend so much this wood here will make something very nice for you--a goodly chair, or perhaps a mother-in-law’s narrow bedstead for a corner stall of the barn, anything you like that you don’t want too common or too expensive. Don’t pass up such a good deal!”
The “Excellency of Father Jacob” had dark, suspicion-filled eyes, and they squinted as he examined the grain of two rather small beams indicated. He tweaked it with his fingers, then laid his nose against it sniffing hard. Finally, he had enough and reared back on the balls of his feet, his jaw and beard jabbing at the air as he cast a look of utmost scorn at the wood and the purveyor. “Ha! What kind of wood is that, you lying, oily tongue of a Samaritan dog? Why should I take your word for it? Tell me the name of the tree, and I will tell you if it is any good. I don’t need the likes of you--a snuffling pig in the sink of vile whoredoms and every foul abomination-- to tell me my trade! You’re nothing but a donkey’s hindquarters, breaking wind in my face! Why, I’ve been at this business twenty years, and my father before me thirty years! And you, you are only a woodcutter’s uncircumcised spawn!”
The woodsmen, tough as he was, colored at so many insults flung by an arch-enemy of his holy people and nation. Though he had heard them many a time before this, a fresh repetition made him all the more determined to gain the advantage over the arrogant Jew. “As you wish, Most Excellent Son of Jacob and Fellow Heir with our Holy Nation of his blessings, ” he said, bowing low as to a learned doctor of religion or a magistrate. “But take a look at them anyway. We found them marked with expensive cloth dyed bright as yellow gold, so we know they are good wood, sire, and must bring us two silver denarii in return.”
The buyer could not believe his beringed ears. First the Samaritan devil had the termerity to include himself as a son of Father Jacob, then for obvious trash he charged the heavens themselves for all the gold and jewels they could possible hold. “You say you found them marked?” he jeered, his well-oiled and dust-stiffened beard jutting out like a goat’s horn in the woodsman’s face. “How so? You mean they had an idolator’s abominable sign carved on them, and you seek to sell me ceremonially defiled wood? How dare you, uncircumcised whoreson of idol-worshippers! I wouldn’t give you two asses for such rubbish!”
“No, not that, but a sign just the same!” they replied equably, suppressing the natural urge to spit right in the trader’s eye, then yank out his holy beard and feed it to the nearest goat. One woodsmen pulled the ribbon from his garment. It had no dust on it. It shone like something fallen from the sky, it was so bright, and people cried out in surprise and ran forward to look at it. A local Samaritan woman of some means wanted to buy it on the spot, but the woodsman thought he still needed it to sway the buyer’s judgment so he held on, waving it in the air.
“Give us one full-weighted denarius then,” offered a woodsmen. “Our wives and children will starve to afford you a bargain like that! Are you not ashamed you drive us into abject penury, so that I must sell my children to eat?”
The trader spat on Samaritan dust. “Good silver for a goat’s manure! Such a thing has never been seen before in heaven and earth! Samaria! Is that what you expect to see happen in this donkey’s rump of a country you have here?”
Nonplussed, the woodsmen waved the wonderful ribbon in the trader’s face, right under his curling, snorting nostrils. “All right then, eight Roman asses for the lot, which is four apiece for two fine beams!”
The buyer, relenting, gave his Libyan slave a nod, and the slave loaded on the two beams into the wagon with the cedar and oak. He flipped the woodsmen five Roman asses, which was half a silver denarius, and they scrambled for it without further protest. Since that would be pay for half a day of labor for one man, they were satisfied, having spent far less time getting the wood. With five Roman asses they could go and buy bread and wine in the town’s tavern, giving them a chance to tell everyone there how they had put it over on a Jewish trader, selling him worthless lumber no builder or carpenter would want.
The woodsmen bowed, and the wagon started off from the market, with Tsedahh, appalled, following hard behind. He never did see what became of the ribbon.
In the same manner they reached a city high in the southern mountains of Judaea.
Tsedahh had time to wonder, “What is this city named?” He had only known one city, the building project called the “City of the Great King.”
Covered with the wagon’s dust, Tsedahh succeeded in entering Jerusalem without trouble, and the wagon continued on until it reached a marketplace. There a man in a tall, red turban and a tasselled and green-striped yellow robe stepped to inspect the load, and as a buyer for the Temple he took everything but the two beams from the dogwood tree, which he judged inferior to the other specimens in strength and utility.
“Just for the holy Temple I’ll throw those two last prime boards in with the others for only five denarii more,” offered the wood dealer, hoping to recoup something at least. But the temple buyer said nothing and walked away, so the dealer was left to get rid of the wood somewhere else, since the day’s business was over and people were closing up shop everywhere according to the city laws governing trade.
Not wanting to risk it, but desperate to get at least two or three denarii, the dealer moved on and the wagon pulled up to the watchmen-attended gates of a mighty fortress next to the much vaster structure, the platform and Temple built by the late Herod. Guards stood at the Roman fortress’s gates, preventing anyone from walking or riding in. “Good Jewish wood for Roman crosses, noble sirs,” he called out cheerfully. The wood dealer and his slave were questioned, then allowed to pass. Tsedahh stood outside the gate, waiting, and before long the wagon came rattling out, without the wood.
“Oh, no!” Tsedahh cried silently. “They bought it. What am I going to do now?”
He could not think what, and night was dropping fast. He hadn’t expected such a thing as night, and it grew so dark that he couldnd’t see through the gates, which closed anyway for the night. Shut outside in the street, Tsedahh clung miserably to the opposite wall and wondered what he should do.
All of a sudden he was drenched in some kind of very foul vinegarish liquid, which someone had emptied from a nightjar overhead. Gagging, he heard a horrid, coarse laugh and someone say at the window, “Serves the wretch right for standing down there against my house wall! That’ll teach him!”
A passing fotresss second watch guard saw him, or rather smelled him, and turned back. “Move on, beggar!” he roared. “The Antonia is not your place to be at this time of night! Find some gutter to crawl in or--!”
In his wet, filthy garment, Tsedahh took off soggily walking, he had no idea where to. He was totally unaware that his dimness of heavenly glory and his physical shortness were standing him in good stead for once, helping him blend in with the race of humanity. Not so, for the likes of Michael and Gabriel. They would would have been immediately spotted. The entire city would have erupted, The heavenly visitation surely furnishing cause for zealots inciting a riot against the Romans, with the Romans retaliating with a a slaughter of the Jews.
Perfectly acclimated, Tsedahh trudged woefully along level, ramrod-straight Roman-style streets as well as stomach-upsetting up and down, twisting Jewish lanes and byways. People catching wind of him pinched their noses and shook their heads in disgust. Anyone looking at him now would only think he was a homeless beggar, a common sight in the streets of the Holy City, particularly when it was thronged with pilgrims to the various Festivals. This happened to be the Passover season. Streets were packed with humanity during the day and at night there were plenty of left-over of the rough sort roaming about, looking for some advantage, so no one got much sleep. Fortunately, Tsedahh needed none, and it was just as well he kept moving, otherwise he might have been set upon by robbers, even in his stinking robe.
As soon as he dared, however, he crept back to the environs of the Antonia. If the sawn tree left the fortress, he wanted to be there to follow it. As he neared the fortress he heard an uproar in the place of judgement called the Pavement by the Romans, and the Jews the Gabbatha. It was a broad open court just beyond an impresive arch where the Roman procurator, visiting the city during the Holy Days, used to preside over occasional cases that came to him. Tsedahh knew nothing of Roma, not even that Pilatus happened to be in the City for the Sacred Passover observances, his presence affording the chief priests of the Temple and their Pharisee supporters the opportunity they desired to settle a worisome thorn in the flesh--the latest Messiah-claimant called Yeshua of Nazareth. Empowered under Roman law to try him in a Jewish court for blasphemy, yet they could not exert the full force of Jewish religious law in putting him to death, the Romans having taken that power away in their subjection of Judaea. But the procurator, they had determined, could be made to condemn the claimant and crucifiy him in their behalf, given sufficient provocation. So they had, during the night seized the claimant and declared him a blasphemer at a secret trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. That was the first step. The next was to present him before the Roman with a trumped up but believable charge of insurrection--the Romans were always very sensitive on that score, they knew.
The night had been a busy time for many leading Jews and Romans, not to mention “King” Herod the Tetrarch, who was also in the city for the Passover. Something the Jewish authorities could not prevent, Yeshua had been passed back and forth, Herod playing the game so adroitly that the Roman ended up with the decision. Pilatus was to finish the case in the Pavements, whether he was innocent and should be set free, or whether he was a dangerous malefactor and should be crucified with some criminals already in the dungeon for murder and insurrection against Roman rule.
The Passover was fast approaching when Pilatus, heartily sick of the whole business and warned by his wife not to harm the defendant, appeared in the Pavements and took his seat. The accused, wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns that Herod and Pilatus’s own soldiers had thoughtfully provided, was brought out under heavy guard. Tsedahh, without knowing what was happening, was swept into the court with a crowd that contained Pharisee ringleaders. Before Tsedahh could leave, he heard a mob of agitated people begin to chant “Crucify him! Crucify him!” on cue from the leading Pharisees and Sadducees.
The judge in the red-bordered white robe stood up, conferred with the plaintiff on a point or two, then sent him away under guard and later brought him back, his shoulders and back torn to bloody shreds. “Behold the man!” the judge declared, but the crowd did not relent as Pilatus hoped and chanted “Crucify him!” all the more.
Even then, Pilatus was resourceful. He had another trick up his sleeve. A condemned criminal was brought out, and the crowd was offered a choice. Yeshua or Bar-Abbas. By custom of favor shown by the procurator during a festival, the people’s choice would be set free.
“Bar-Abbas!” the crowd cried. “We want Bar-Abbas!” So the murderer and insurrectionist was released to them, and Yeshua remained.
Now what to do? Pilatus was stymied, and he hated being forced to do anything against his will by detested inferiors.
So many things happened and were said by both the Roman and the chief priests and the mob, but by this time it was perfectly clear, even to Tsedahh, that the reluctant Roman was gradually caving in to pressure and the claimant was going to be put to a criminal’s disgraceful, public death. Finally, the procurator arose from his judgment chair, and he washed his hands in a laver. “He is innocent, so his blood be upon you, for I wash my hands of any guilt in this matter.”
After this the Roman with his back held ramroad straight strode off and the trial was at an end. Tsedahh was not surprised when a cross was brought out by the Roman guards and laid upon the claimant’s shoulders. The guards led Yeshua away, with the crowd following, hurling every kind of oath at the condemned man along the route to Golgotha, the Hill of the Skull just outside the city wall.
“Oh, no, it’s the tree chosen by the Creator, the blest Elohim!” Tsedahh cried to himself as he pressed forward in the crowd following the condemned and rejected Yeshua. What’s he doing carrying itt? It’s not going to be used for punishing the poor man, surely!”
Horrified, though he had never seen an execution nor could fathom a Roman crucifixion, Tsedahh soon found himself outside the city with the others, staring aghast as the Roman soldiers expertly did their job, taking iron spikes and nailing the claimant’s wrists to the crossbeam, then nailing his feet to the bottom of the upright beam, before setting the cross in a squared incision in the ground, which was solid granite on the top of the hill.
Tsedahh was weeping now from shock and grief for the man as well as with the loss of the holy tree. “This cannot be!” he cried silently, but his eyes said it was, and there was no turning the course of things. Surely, the man would suffer hideously on the tree! Since men were mortal and could be killed in the body, would he not die there also?
The Ribbon-Bearer, bereft of both ribbon and tree, found himself pushed forward in the crowd. Thrown to the ground at one point, Tsedahh gazed up and his look of horror was returned by one of infinite love from the face of the condemned man.
Yeshua was not the only one condemned and crucified that day. On each side hung a thief. Both had been caught robbing the high priest Caiaphas’s granary, stealing the oil and the grain at night, and Caiaphas, with no power to carry out his sentence of death, had turned them over to the Roman Pilatus, who was only to happy to execute Jews.
Now both men, who had carried out robberies for years, called out in turn at Yeshua. “Save us, Messiah! Save us! We are brethren, condemned by these infidel and uncircumcised Romans! Set yourself and us free from their yoke!”
When Yeshua gave them no notice, one fell silent, while the other continued railing. “Oh, so you are powerless! Just like I thought! You can’t save anybody, can you? You are just a man--and will die like any man dies! So much for your claims to be the Messiah, the Hope of our holy nation! You are just another imposter! a fraud!”
The thief gathered his spit and was close enough to spit on Yeshua, which he did. Yeshua did not react, except to cast a forgiving glance his way.
Seeing that Yeshua would not return anger for anger, the thief got hotter. “Don’t you dare look at me like that! I am a Jew, I won’t have anybody looking at me like that! What do I have to be forgiven of! You deserve my spit, you fake! you sneaking, little Galilean! I am from Judah, I don’t have to take any Galilean’s disrespect! I--I--”
The other thief broke in. “Shut up! Who are you to set yourself up as something high and mighty? We deserve our punishment, for we have sinned. But this man is innocent--can’t you see? He has done nothing! It is only the chief priests who hate his teachings and his leading the people away from their greedy hands that have put him up here between us! For them this is only a matter of power and greed!”
There was silence from the other thief, as he groaned and sank down on the cross, then struggled to raise himself for yet another breath. When he had raised himself up again, he cast a glance over at his brother thief, crying, “Maybe he is innocent, but he is no Messiah! Otherwise, why would he be hung here as a public spectacle with us, just like a common criminal? No, he is a fraud! He is no Messiah! The Messiah, as everybody knows, can’t come from Galilee--he has to come out of my tribe of Judah! And this Galilean--he ought to have known that before he started making his false claims!”
There was silence between the two thieves for a time, then the one who had reproached his brother thief turned to Yeshua. “Master, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”
Yeshua stirred, and lifted his gaze to the dying thief, whose face streamed with tears. He slowly nodded. “Today you shall be with Me in paradise.”
Tsedahh got to his feet and was pushed on back down the hill, without putting forth any resistance. Sickened and distraught, Tsedahh could see only his abject failure and that look of infinite love.
In his wretchedness he scarcely felt the first quakings of the earth, nor did he make anything of the darkening of the sky before it was time.
Could I get the cross-beams back later, after everyone has gone?” he wondered. So he lingered below the hill, and watched as the two criminals crucified along with the innocent Yeshua were broken in their legs by the guards so they would die quicker. Yeshua was already dead, having cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” and, finally, “It is finished!”
As for the two thieves, they still lived, but the Roman guards were growing restless, and they went and broke their legs so they would not be able to get their breath and die quickly.
Later, while Yeshua’s body still hung on the cross, two-dressed men came creeping up the hill, carrying a heavy bundle, and they laid it down and said something to the guards, who released Yeshua’s body to them, which they carried along with the bundle to a tomb below the hill. Tsedahh turned back to the cross. Three crosses stood on the hill, but he felt without any question in his being that Yeshua had died on the one God had caused him to put the ribbon upon.
The Ribbon-Bearer went to Yeshua’s blood-stained cross, which now lay where the guards had left it. He watered it with the first tears any creature of heaven ever shed, before he even touched it. Then he reached out and his hand touched the crimson-stained wood of the despised dogwood.
Instantly, Tsedahh felt flooded with the glory of God, stronger than anything he had witnessed in the second heaven. Unspeakable fragrance and beauty poured out from the living wood and into Tesedahh. He could not contain it, rising rose skywards, his travelling mandorla shining as brilliant as the sun, even more resplendent in the darkened sky. He felt called heavenward at that moment, for Earth must not see so great a splendor before its time, before the Lord’s Second Coming.
But not only was Tsedahh made to vanish in an instant, the Cross rose skywards with him, wreathed in immortal leaves for the Healing of the Nations, with white blooms of purest radiance shining clustered thickly on its outstetched cross beam. In heaven it would stand towering, and the Crystal River would run through its base, so that stood on both sides of the stream.
Together, Tsedahh and Cross burst through the Universe and entered the second heaven, where the Tree of the Healing of the Nations stood beside and over the crystal river that flows everlastingly from under the Throne of God, and by its right side Tsedahh alone was given a place to stand, while above them newly-birthed royal stars of the first magnitude sang praise for the Crucified and Risen Lamb. “Hunter of Food” had found the tree that furnished bread from heaven to all mankind. For his role the least gained a seat of honor beyond that of Michael and Gabriel.
He might have stayed there, enjoying eternal bliss, but he felt something was lacking. “What could it be?” he wondered.
Suddenly, he knew. The ribbon! He had left it behind without a thought! The Tree of Heaven must not be complete, he thought, without the identifying ribbon.