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Heaven A Reckoning/Painted in Blood
By DeAnna Brooks

Part One Ė A Reckoning

Dark foreboding clouds roiled overhead, filling the sky rapidly with a heaviness that invaded the soul of the man fixated upon their gathering force. Marcus remained unable to shake the events of the day, and now as he stood overlooking the sea of faces before him, again they played through his mind. Each word. Each sound. Each expression.

As a centurion of Rome for more than a decade, Marcus witnessed in many guises the cruelty called life. Events in Pilateís courtyard today, however, had shown a blackness of humanity that he had never confronted before. Try as he might, Marcus could not shake the images. Unspeakable Evil ... Hatred ... had taken on a cruel, twisted, bodily form ... as an entire people became a single life ... a single voice. A voice dripping death ... undaunted by ... no, demanding ... its cruelest form.

Even Pilate appeared shaken by the malevolence confronting him. Not a kind man, readily known for his own ease in shedding blood, evidenced by the bleeding thorn-crowned form a few feet away, Pilate could hardly fathom the palpitating vehemence raging like a wild storm across his courtyard. It was all Marcusí men could do to hold back the human wave thundering, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

In its wake, Marcus now stood atop a hill while darkness gathered all about him. The crowds, though more settled, milled about restlessly. Were they too, as their eyes lifted to the battered form hanging above them, feeling it? A pervading heaviness? Each drop of blood dripping from the scarred wood seemed to sear his very soul. As Marcus stood among his men, listening to their taunting words cast scornfully upward at the crowned King, he seldom cast his eyes in the direction of the cross, for each time it seemed more impossible to tear his gaze away from the eyes that inevitably meet his own. Sorrowful eyes ... holding a sea of emotion.

Yet that is what drew him, again and again, those eyes. The same ones that looked upon him with such compassion in the Praetorium, even as His own body drank in the scourging, stroke by stroke. Compassion Marcus did not...could not understand. Now, as again their eyes met, Marcus felt himself drowning in their depths. The heaviness he had felt throughout the day suddenly pressed upon him with such intensity his knees trembled simply with standing. He tried to break away, to turn his back on the compassion that flowed from the bleeding wounds, but he could not. Instead, as the dayís bleakness now invaded even his thoughts, Marcus saw, as it were, his own hand holding the cat-o-nine-tails whipping through the airÖ making contact with the trembling flesh before him. Suddenly, it was his arm swinging the hammer, driving the nail, shattering flesh and ligament, fixing them tightly to the ragged wood. In disbelief and horror Marcus knew, deep within his soul, that he was the one guilty of this Manís blood. With the knowing came a sorrow bearing so heavily upon him, Marcusí very soul cried out in despair, "Oh, God, forgive me!" He was without hopeÖand he knew it.

Unexpectedly, a voice, oddly familiar, drew his eyes upward, yet again. Eyes met. An understanding began to grow Ö deep within Marcus. How could it be? Yet the understanding grew, filling Marcus with indescribable awe.

"Father!" With eyes locked in an eternal gaze, Compassion, clothed in the broken, bleeding form of Jesus, the crucified Christ, spoke, and Marcus knew it to be real. "Forgive them, for they know not what they do!"

With forgiveness washing about him, enveloping him, lifting every spot of darkness from his soul, Marcus breathed in ... and a new life began.

Part Two Ė Painted in Blood

Though no longer a young centurion hardened by life, Marcus well remembered the blood-thirsty sea, the cries marking the events in Pilateís courtyard, as if it were yesterday. They had stayed with him step-by-step these past 34 years ... the sovereign canvas on which Heavenís forgiveness had been painted in Blood.

Jesus, once little more than Eyes that had broken Marcusí heart, whose depths had compassionately mirrored back the darkness of Marcusí own soul, whose words, "Father, Forgive them," still pulsated with life in the depths of Marcusí being, had turned his life upside down. Marcus could still hear the last earth-bound words torn from Jesusí suffering Ė "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit." They had become Marcusí own words that day on the hillside as One Life was exchanged for another.

Newly clothed in Forgivenessí raiment, as he tenderly helped remove Heavenís Battered Son from His Own sacrificial altar, little had Marcus understood that blackened afternoon that their journey together had just begun. Their sojourn had covered many landscapes over the years, and Marcus had learned much about Heavenís Heart. About Forgiveness ... woven into every fabric of Heavenís Divine plan. From the moment Forgiveness had first enveloped him at the foot of the cross, washing every spot of darkness from his soul, it had become Marcusí companion. Every time Marcus offered forgiveness to another, it grew immeasurably in his own life. The times he had withheld it, it was his own heart that became imprisoned. As forgiveness grew within Marcus, love kept pace.

And it was here now as Marcus faced another blood-thirsty sea thundering, "Crucify him!" Marcusí sea! Emperor Neroís Circus, awash with the unspeakable hatred and evil that always stood opposed to Grace, now became part of the Sovereign canvas. The sands of this Circus, already having drunk their fill, screamed no more, but the crowds cried louder still.

As Marcusí own body, affixed to a rugged cross, was raised agonizingly heavenward, becoming one more in a sea of crosses bearing Christian burdens, an unnatural hush fell over the frenzied stadium. Above it all, amidst a great cloud of heavenly witnesses, two Mount Moriah fathers and sons shared yet another moment ... a moment when Heavenís voice once more gained manís ear. Marcusí words carried clearly across the great expanse ... "Father, forgive them!"

With the indelible ink of Heavenís blood, forgiveness was written across another page ... for all who had ears to hear.
DeAnna Brooks is a freelance writer currently living in the blessed hill country of Texas. She has written, primarily for her own enjoyment, for over twenty years and is now looking to spread her wings. You can write to DeAnna through the Letters page of this magazine.
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