“What is it the Lord wishes me to do here over again?” he wondered as he realized he was back in Jerusalem, though he recalled how he had been slain there like a dog would be killed, right in the temple courts by all those who opposed the word of God given to him to give to them.
“Will the priests slay me again?” he spoke out loud, not afraid but rather amused this time. “They didn’t like my message then. Will they like it any better now?”
“What did you say, old one?” a priest, passing by him in the street at that moment, said. “”Who has slain you. You look perfectly fit and kicking to my eyes. Perhaps, your mind is slipping away. Who is taking care of you, father? You need your family to take you back home, sire!”
The prophet smiled at the brash, rude, self-willed younger man, who stood regarding him with prescribed degree of perplexity, pity, and the reverence due him by the holy law.
“No,” he said to the priest, “my family is gone. I have been away on a long journey, and have just returned. You need not bother about my old bones!”
“Oh?” said the priest,beginning to lose interest and concern. “What country was it you visited, my ancient father?”
“It was not a country. It was the place our fathers and the ancients called Sheol.”
The young man’s mouth dropped open, his eyes widened, and he shook his head. “You have just proven to me your mind is--ah, very ill, my dear father. Please let me help you. I will try to find someone who can take you in. For you must not wander these mean streets, where robbers may attack your venerable person and throw you down in the gutter. The Samaritans, you know, they are always skulking about, seeking to rob us holy, unsuspecting, Chosen people, and leave us naked and bleeding in the ditches after they have robbed us!”
The prophet brushed away the helping arm. “Thank you, but I am well able to walk unattended. My escorts are gone, I see, but I can make it the rest of the way myself. If only--if only--I knew where the Lord would have me direct my steps--”
Wavering, the prophet did not see the man sli away, giving him a backward glance. The priest hurried off to find a temple guard. He wished to get the old man in charge of the temple and inquire what to do with the old baggage he had found wandering about. The temple sometimes helped the pious aged, when it saw that they were without sufficient family to care for them in their dotage, and this man was definitely not in his right mind to care for his affairs properly! Perhaps he had money and property—best not let it be taken by robbers! The Temple deserved the man’s wealth and he knew he would be roundly thanked for steering the money, er, the old man, Templeward.
Zechariah was approaching the Temple, wondering about its splendid appearance and great size, when he saw a group of priests and guards hurrying his way. He paused and waited.
Just as they came near, a woman approached him first. Her face was shining.
“I know who you are, sire. The holy prophet telling of the horsemen beneath the myrtle trees who protect Holy Israel, standing at the four quarters of the Earth! You spoke also of the horns and the carpenters, the measuring line, the candlestick, and the flying roll! And you spoke bestof all about the Messiah, our beloved Yeshua, the Shepherd sold for thirty pieces, the Fountain for the cleansing of our sin, and the King who will reign gloriously on Earth, when all nations will come to worship him in his Holy City, this royal seat of Jerusalem! “
Noahdiah was the woman, and she knelt down. “Bless me, Father Zechariah, for your daughter has just been raised from the dead by the Lord’s hand of mercy and grace!”
Zechariah, who had not seen the event, believed, and put a hand of blessing on her bowed head. Indeed, he had seen her in Sheol briefly, only to find himself again in her company back in the Holy City! What that meant, he could not say. Perhaps, she was like that burr that sticks to the hem of one’s garments—pesky things! But nothing to fret about. His memories increased as he considered her, however. She had been much comforted and praised in the company of the fathers and mothers of Israel. Even Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Shem bowed to her and put their hands on her head in blessing, for she had honored with her life and blood the Messiah they had long wanted to see!
Another woman, much younger in appearance, quickly joined, and without a word knelt also for his blessing. This one he did not recall. Now he had two burrs clinging to his hem!
“Who are you, child?” he inquired like a loving, most patient father just as the priests and temple guards interrupted the blessing.
“What is going on?” demanded the leader, a man who wore sacred robes and seemed in authority. “Who are these women? What are they doing, kneeling before you? This is an outrage, in the public street, mind you!”
“It is meet that I bless them, my dear children in the faith!” Zechariah boldly declared, recalling his office and his own authority before God. “Do nothing to hinder God’s blessing, lest—lest--.”
He turned again to the younger woman. “And what is your name, dear child?”
The maiden turned up her face, and it too shone with the unmistakable glow of a Resurrected One. “Maryam--the Lord’s handmaiden, and also handmaiden to this mother of Israel.”
“Then I bless you too!” Zechariah replied.
“For shame! for shame!” the chief of the group cried, pulling on the women’s arms to break up the scene. “What are you presuming to do, crazy old one? Who are you? You have no authority or unction from the Temple to do such things, particularly in such a place as this public street! Where is your scrib from the Temple authorizing this blessing? Have you paid the full tax on the dispensing of blessings? If not, you’ll have to answer to the Sacred Treasurer himself!”
By now quite a large crowd of the curious had gathered round. Business halted so that the crowd could see what it all meant.
Zechariah, growing aware of the others, turned to them. “My countrymen! my children! A shepherd of your souls has returned to your bosums! Who is this? He am the one slain in the courts, the prophet called Zechariah! Do you not know the humble servant of the Lord who speaks to you this moment?”
An uproar followed, as the temple men began shouting, trying to drag Zechariah from the center of the crowd’s attention. “No, let him speak!” cried others, who resisted the temple guards. “Take him away, and those foolish women too!” cried the leader of the guards. “A thrashing for the three of them, or I’m a born fool!”
The scene broke into chaos, and then a light shone on them, blinding all but Zechariah and the two women.
All three fell to their knees, worshipping something or someone they only could see.
“Come up, you have testified, come up to your brethren and enter in to My joy!”
After the light faded, some said it had thundered. One or two thought God had spoken, though they were not sure of the words. But all could see plainly that the old man claiming to be Zechariah, as well as the two women with shining faces, had vanished like vapor from their midst in a place where they could not have slipped away unseen.
Angry and upset, the temple chief of the guards and the man who had first accosted the prophet returned to the temple. The chief spoke to the man, accusing him. “What do you mean by this shameful scene!”
“It wasn’t my fault!” the priest retorted. “You saw what happened, sire! He vanished into the light, with the two women, flying upwards in an instant like three brilliant stars!”
“I saw nothing of the sort! Have you gone mad too!” cried the chief of the guards, stomping off into the temple courts, the same ones that had seen the murder of the great prophet by his forebears many years before.