And Cain rose up against his brother and killed him. – Moses
His brain whirred, shocked by the collision of his skull with the rock. Just a few minutes before he had been cleaning the sheep shed, but here he was – face pressed violently against the bitter earth.
A barrage of questions flooded his mind. What was this sensation of detachment? Where had Cain learnt such? Where was the protection of the angels? The rock had struck his skull first, sending him face flat into the moss. It was obvious that his brother was unfamiliar with the mechanics of a murder. But a flurry of punches, wild blows to the neck and then a kick on his back side would do the trick. There were no words exchanged. It was sudden. His face was drenched with his own blood. There was an otherworldly viciousness in his brother’s voice. He lay helpless and alone.
The sky was bare, stricken with a sickly darkness and the stone altars still smoldered with the fragments of the slaughtered lamb. The smoke was a witness to his innocence. Abba had received his offering but Cain had stormed away in disgust despite attempts to call him back. Now among the rocks, he wondered what had he done to deserve such? Abel felt his heart fail as the ruptured arteries gave way. He closed his eyes.
The thick blackness of night enveloped before what appeared to be the hand of a man peeled the curtain to one side, revealing a jagged mountain side. Abel stood before a tree.
In the past he had caught glimpses of the tree but even now as he lay in a pool of his blood, the vision was clearer than it had ever been. He had received such visions before he started performing sacrifices on his own. But they were always short flashes of light, they never followed a time pattern and they always featured the tree. He remembered it from the stories papa told.
Adam at dusk each day would gather the family round the makeshift altar and recount the days of Eden. From the naming of the bison to the fiery dance with the sentinels of the spirit-gates Gabriel and Michael. From the walks with Abba, to the music of the stars and sea-horses. The nights were always emotional with Adam gripping Eve’s hands especially when they got to the part of the slithering serpent. Adam always reassured Eve that everything would be fine but Abel could see the guilt in her eyes. She had not forgiven herself though Abba had. Abel’s favorite part of the tale was the skinning of the lamb. He found it intriguing that though papa had flaunted Abba’s will, Abba had provided the sacrifice. Usually at this point Cain would grunt about going to watch the stars burn up the sky. Abel always stayed back to listen to the end. And on one of those nights Adam spoke of the promise hidden in a tree.
This was the tree that now loomed large before Abel. It was shaped like a cross, the stipes were soaked with blood and the patibulum hung at a notch glistened red under the sun. The victim was male and naked. His bloodied torso bore marks from the scourging.
He had obviously been whipped. Abel caught flashes of the public beating. Each lash of the flagellum carried with it demonic poison. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. The legionnaire seemed goaded on by the hands of the serpent. The whip heavy with hate landed with nonchalance on the victim’s back each time, yielding a yelp that pierced the air.
There were marks on his face from where he was struck by the high priest when questioned and by the soldiers as they taunted him.
The Roman militia no doubt regarded this as a great joke. How could this provincial Jew claim to be king – they heard from the crowd that he was born a bastard, adopted by one of the skilled carpenters in Nazareth. To further mock him, they had thrown a robe across His shoulders and placed a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) were plaited into the shape of a crown and pressed into His scalp.
Was this the promise Adam spoke of? Adam would recount how God had promised to deliver them from the fetters of fear. Abel turned to the cross again. It was a vision but there was no difference. The spikes had been driven with such brutality that it was a miracle that it broke no bones. Nestled between the radius and ulna, the small bones of the forearm. They were the only things holding the young man up.
As he watched the execution, Abel felt edgy. He recalled that Adam was always teary eyed whenever he spoke of the promise. It was this person, someone his parents were waiting for. They had believed Cain was the one but that was in the past.
Adam’s voice was clear as the brook of Hiddekel, “and you shall bruise his knee”.
The man on the cross was broken and worn. His back was an unrecognizable mass of torn tissue, mingled with the sand and dust of the stone pavement. From his scalp copious amounts of blood drip from the crown of thorns placed on his head – as though to mock him. He screams “Father, forgive them…” There was anguish in his voice. It sounded like the bleat of a lamb on the slaughter table. His heart was struggling to pump sluggish blood. His lungs frantically gasping for small gulps of air.
His strength was dried up like a potsherd; and his tongue cleaved to his jaws. It was almost over. His tissue had lost so much fluid that it was with faint whisper that the victim cried, “I thirst.” A sponge soaked in the dust of death was lifted to His lips but he refused to take any of the liquid. Then there was silence. This was the promise. God’s vengeance against the serpent. Adam’s voice continued … “and He shall bruise your head”.
The reason for all the sacrifices … this was why Adam had taught them to offer lambs without blemish. He finally understood – clear as the night sky over Gihon. He had dared to believe and here he was … mangled and broken in the dust. Abel closed his eyes as Cain with the jawbone of a hyena severed his head from his neck.
God would surely have vengeance
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