The man was travel weary. His garments were worn thin from the passage of time and the burden he carried was a heavy yoke on his shoulder. The package consisted of all his possessions in the world. Each step he took was laborious, accompanied with heavy pants that would shame a farrowing sow. It was evident he had come far, his bread was stale and his water skin was almost empty. Looking at him, the fact that the serpents of life had copiously infused their venom into his life was glaring.
Suppurating boils covered him in a vicious rash. Most of his legs and arms were wrapped with bandages that had become rust coloured with age and pus. He was feverish and had a headache that made him feel someone was felling trees in his skull.
As he walked, he wondered whether he was not on a wild goose chase. His efforts to hang himself at the first attempt had proved abortive. An old man had fortuitously happened upon him in the forest and had held on to his legs before the noose could bite into his neck with implacable ferocity. The old man had fed him with rabbit roasted on a pit, washed down with honeyed mead. Emotionally and physically exhausted, he had slept all night, though the aged man kept watch stoking the flames to keep beasts at bay.
The next morning, the man had told him, “look for the hill, there your fortunes will change.”
He had thrust an old map into his hands, saying, “The location you seek for is circled in red.”
The journey had been long and arduous, but finally he saw the hill jutting like a fist into the night sky. It was dawn when he got to the base of the knoll. He checked the crumpled map again to make sure he was at the right place. The circled name jumped out at him and he exhaled. With rising excitement, he finished his stale bread and drank his water skin empty. He had finally come to his journey’s end. He had arrived at Golgotha.
As he climbed, the sheer reality of the place dampened his spirit. He started wondering whether his old friend was insane. The location did not have a shred of beauty to make it desirous to anyone; it was a place of stark ugliness. The top of the mount had a cross at a juncture of roads. The cross was wooden, rough and rugged. It wasn’t burnished or chiseled. He figured it was a whole tree that had been uprooted whole and hewn into a cross by axes. Splinters jutted out of the frame from every angle. A crown of thorns was situated on its top beam and bits of flesh clung to it but the most horrifying sight was the blood that ran all the way down its frame to the ground. The volume of blood was so immense that he was mortified. The old man must have been mad even though he seemed so sane. The place he sent him to was one of death, a site of crucifixion where a Galilean shepherd had been killed. The story made no sense to him; The Shepherd had given His life for His sheep in a flagrant show of crazy love.
He looked around and saw other travelers like him milling about the cross. Most had looks of incredulity, others of confusion and many found the whole situation despicable, unbelievable. Disappointment was rife within the ranks, disgust abounded. Multitudes of the human throng walked past the cross and took the road descending down the hill. Anywhere was better than this they reckoned.
He almost joined the river of humanity flowing down the hill, but caught himself. There was something about the old man that he couldn’t shake off. The man’s presence of mind had seemed needle sharp. He turned back to take a closer look at the whole situation.
As he got closer and fastened his gaze on the cross, suddenly it seemed a veil was torn before him. Mists of invisibility gave way to the rays of the rising sun and his vision cleared. He saw men clothed in white bartering things with other travelers who had paid attention to the cross. He was amazed to see the location was a trading place! The radiant men traded bad for good, ugliness for beauty, old for new, poverty for prosperity, sickness for health, death for life, humanity for divinity, chains of slavery for robes of freedom. Burdens were lifted; there was a surfeit hot bread and wine. There was an abundance life’s most beautiful things. Wounds were taken care of; dirty garments were exchanged for purple robes. The panoply of gold and silver astounded his senses. Understanding dawned; the things that were bestowed for free were the opposite of the negative things the Galilean suffered. His demotion, agony, shame and death were reversed for anyone who dared to believe.
Even though Golgotha was cursed (an ancient law has it that to be hanged on a tree was a curse), the Galilean’s blood neutralized the hex and substituted the damnation for a blessing. Beyond the gruesomeness, the hill was full of delirious and rapturous joy. It was a spot of rebirth, a place of undying hope.
By the time the traveler had traded all he had ascended the hill with for all the treasures on top of Golgotha, he was absolutely unrecognizable. Replete with the tastiest food he had ever eaten, he was alive with new energy. He had become a brand new man. He joined other favoured pilgrims to follow another road, upwards towards a city on top of a higher hill. Sunlight glinted gleefully of the spires of the white castles in the distance. The vast distance between where he was and his ultimate destination were filled with good and conquerable lands.
The old man was right… For anyone who had the revelation to see, Golgotha was the richest place in the world…. a point of exchange, a place of fortunes beyond the imaginations of the human mind….
FOR THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS IS TO THEM THAT PERISH FOOLISHNESS; BUT UNTO US WHICH ARE SAVED IT IS THE POWER OF GOD.
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©2015 Ekpo Ezechinyere