Connections Across Time
New - 22 September 2008
We the Jury, a novel:
Connections Across Time
In the time of Christ, the Great Sanhedrin was a congregation of 71 members who ruled on the Jewish legalities of the day, albeit subject to the whims of Roman rule at the time. The Sanhedrin was controlled primarily by those Sadducees associated with the ruling elites, and conversely, with comparatively little attention being paid to the Pharisees. For example, the High Priest, Caiaphas, was a Sadducee. More importantly, he had been appointed by the Roman Governor, the predecessor of Pontius Pilate.
In all respects the Roman Empire controlled the officials of the Jewish nation, including the High Priest and members of the Sanhedrin. The Romans in fact dictated the various Jewish appointments... and their removals. Accordingly, it was to the distinct advantage of the Sanhedrin to act as an arm of the Roman authority, lest the current members be replaced with more amenable types. Some limited authority -- and the perks that went with it -- was often deemed to be far better than no authority.
Historically, the timing of any meeting of the Sanhedrin with respect to the issue of Jesus has always been complicated by the fact that the Sanhedrin did not normally conduct any formal meetings on holidays such as Passover, the latter that was only then ending at the time in question. This has led many scholars to suspect that any “Sanhedrin Meeting about Jesus” was instead an ad hoc gathering, and that furthermore may very well have been held at the residence of Caiaphas. This latter suggestion is historically plausible, provided that the first meeting on that fateful Thursday night was a preliminary hearing and not a full trial. There may in fact have been two trials.
Another complication is that while the Sanhedrin may have preferred to condemn Jesus to death, there was inconsistent testimonies from multiple witnesses, many of which included a fair number of false statements. Ultimately, the issue revolved around the heresy of Jesus in claiming to be the Son of God. As Caiaphas was reputed to have said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you? And they all condemned him to be deserving of death.”
Caiaphas was pacing the floor when... okay... he was not pacing... he was striding back and forth, purposefully, dramatically, and commandingly. He was also dressed in his full regalia as High Priest, the latter which added a lot to the dramatic content. His mind was intensely active, not to mention verbose. There’s nothing like a deadly threat to one’s tenure as the leading member of the elite to focus one’s mind, one's attentions, and the accumulation of all of one's powers in order to maintain such powers. Survival, even if only the survival of status -- in particular, high status -- is fundamental if not typical human imperative. 'No man touch my rice bowl!' ...It might once have been said.
Having seen Caiaphas take the stage, and despite the distraction and disguise of his High Priest regalia, the reader might nevertheless have begun to suspect that Caiaphas was quite possibly an early incarnation of Sir Thomas Howell… and that furthermore, his fellow member of the Sanhedrin, a man named Abrams, had more than a passing resemblance to Devon Sophing. But this is probably mere conjecture. It might, for example, imply a passing acquaintance with theories of reincarnation… the latter which would likely only add unnecessary speculation to the narrative.
[On the other hand, the playing of multiple roles across time and space by the same actors and actresses would allow for a notable reduction in the overhead for any movie to be made based on this tale. It could, for example, save the casting director a great deal of time of effort, not to mention the producer's contract negotiations.]
Also present at the meeting in Jerusalem were various other members of the Sanhedrin – a few of whom we will tentatively identify as early versions of Jock Strong, John Robinson, and William Leaver. These men were, at the time we've arrived on the scene, standing in rapt attention to Caiaphas, alongside with one of only two characters on the block without a modern counterpart. The one now present was at the time going by the name of Nicodemus. [The other singular character was a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who had been detained elsewhere, and who it had been determined should not have a modern counterpart for fear of rumors of a Second Coming.]
Meanwhile, all of the characters on stage at this particular moment were paying careful attention to Caiaphas to see where his leadership might take them. All too often their fortunes tended to correlate with the High Priests. Accordingly, on behalf of their social and financial portfolios, the High Priest quickly summarized their common dilemma.
“We are in crisis! This radical itinerant preacher is causing unrest and the Roman authorities will not tolerate it! We are all at risk!”
Abrams/Sophing said, “But he is a Rabbi. He is one of us.”
“And will you join him on the cross?”
Nicodemus then suggested, “Surely, the Romans are not concerned about one man who’s only apparent crime is preaching peace.”
“But not a Roman Peace,” Caiaphas replied.
Nicodemus might have had a good comeback, but he was suddenly interrupted by a Roman Centurion (Samuel Starling, when he was in far better physical shape) entered into the courtyard, trailed by four Roman soldiers, each of their swords already drawn. The Centurion walked boldly up to Caiaphas and the others, each of the members wide eyed at the appearance of the Romans in the residence of the High Priest. This was just not done. Well... obviously it had just been done... and would required numerous letters of complaints and grievances in order to save face, but otherwise to accomplish nothing.
“Centurion!” Caiaphas acknowledged. His outrage was already being recorded.
Abrams tried to intervene, “Why have you entered here? You have previously agreed…”
“I have entered,” the Centurion interrupted, “to either put you to the sword, or to reason with you.”
Nicodemus spoke for all of them, “Then we are reasonable men.”
“As I expected,” Starling replied.
“What is this all about?” Caiaphas insisted on being the leader.
Starling smiled. “The Governor General is gravely concerned about this rabbi of yours, this troublemaker."
“Jesus of Nazareth?”
“But why? He poses no threat to Rome,” Nicodemus argued.
“At least none we cannot deal with,” Caiaphas assured everyone.
Starling snarled. “Are you attempting to dictate to the Governor General? Do you wish to tell him what his concerns should be?”
Sophing was first to flinch, “No, no, not at all. We merely...”
“You merely… Yes, exactly. For the sake of the peace you enjoy, for the rank so magnanimously bestowed upon you by the Governor General, you will now merely convict this troublemaker, and you will do so unanimously. That way, in the zeal of the Sanhedrin to silence this man, the wrath of Rome will not fall upon you... and your followers as well.”
“Condemn perhaps, but please understand it cannot be unanimous.” Caiaphas always preferred to honor the letter of the law… if convenient.
“Condemn? We have not even heard...”
Interrupting Nicodemus, the Centurion asked, “And why not unanimous?”
“Our law requires that at least one member of the Sanhedrin defend the accused. Otherwise, it cannot be…”
“Your law? As opposed to Roman law? Is this some kind of challenge?”
“It is not a problem,” Sophing interjected. “There is another way.”
Nicodemus turned and walked away, declaring “I am not hearing this.”
His absence was hardly noticed, as Sophing made his point.
“I can defend the convicted man. Of course... I am seldom persuasive.”
“I care not what machinations you undertake,” the Centurion announced. “Accomplish the task.”
Caiaphas raised his hand. “We also have a tradition to take two votes on any such issue. The votes are to be spaced days apart.”
The Centurion almost laughed in the High Priest’s face. “Ignore the tradition. The Governor General is not a patient ruler. I will rely on each of you to expedite the proceedings. You will not want to disappoint me.”
Turning on his heels, he walked out.
In the streets of Jerusalem, an unruly mob had been congregating since early morning. They were there to watch the Roman Soldiers, the High Priest and selected members of the Sanhedrin parade before them, along with the strange rabbi under arrest that they had heard so much about. Clearly, he was there, but it was almost impossible to get a good look at him with so many surrounding him. He must have been a grave threat to the peace and security of the Romans if they were so intent upon preventing his escape.
Nevertheless, several noteworthy bystanders did manage a glance, one that was sufficient to stay with them for a very long time. There was, for example, a Jewish shopkeeper who would one day use the name of Brightman. He had the chance to watch for a moment, but then had turned away and slipped back into his shop… thinking all the while that borrowing trouble was no more holy than borrowing money, and the latter was heavily frowned upon by his culture.
A Jewish mother who would one day be named after a Greek goddess, was there as well, dropping on her knees and grieving loudly. Another woman who will one day return with an oriental heritage, bent over to comfort the first. Both were crying, despite being used to trials and tribulations. That too was an integral part of their culture.
A third woman (we’ll later call her Terri) watched the other two, saw little advantage in following their lead, and then upon catching the look of Thomas Veer as a Roman officer, felt her body suddenly grow cold. The Veer leer was sufficient to strike fear into anyone. Very quickly, she chose to look away and find some other endeavor to focus upon. Then another thought entered her mind and she turned back to yell, “Crucify him!” Crucify him!” Now… if she could just figure out for who it was she was demanding the severest of death penalties… then perhaps she would be on firmer footing.
Another woman (Olivia) reached down to help Thena, and with Lin Sue’s help managed to raise Thena – still crying profusely – to her feet.
Some distance away, perched on a slight rise, was a black man with a far better view of the procession. The man was grim faced, tears running down his cheeks, as he uttered aloud, “It didn’t have to be like this.”
There were of course, three prisoners. One was to get off comparatively lightly… at least for the short term. He would instead be allowed to justify his good fortune with deeds yet to be done.
It was then that the chanting from the mob began to be heard in earnest: “Crucify him. Crucify him. Crucify him.”
Jack and the other jurors were on the bus as it moved along a narrow corridor provided by the police through the demonstrators outside the courtroom. The demonstrators were not attempting to breech the police lines and were basically orderly. But they were also intent upon getting their message across with signs and shouting, most of which sounded horribly like, “Crucify them. Crucify them. Crucify them.”
Thena watched the mob, tears starting to stream down her face, while Olivia reached from the seat behind to put her hand on Thena’s shoulder. Lin Sue, from across the way watched Thena as well. What exactly, she wondered, was really happening here?
Much later, Lin Sue had a much better understanding of what was important. This fact became evident when she opened her door at the hotel and discreetly ushered Jack inside. She then took the time to look down both directions in the hotel’s hallway. Seeing nothing, she closed the door, locked it with the dead bolt, and slipped on the chain. She then turned to Jack with an embarrassed smile. Jack smiled back, as if to reassure her. For a moment they just looked at each other. Jack finally breached the silence.
“Are you okay? That scene outside the courthouse was pretty...”
“Terrifying? Yeah, I agree. But that’s not exactly why I asked you here.”
“I just assumed it was bothering you.”
“Oh, it was. It still is. But there’s more to it than just that. Maybe we can sit down.”
“Sure. What’s on your mind?”
“I need to explain about John.”
Jack was genuinely puzzled. “Your conjugal visitor?”
“Except that it wasn’t exactly conjugal. Not even slightly. John Robinson is the station manager for channel seven. He had been in the process of turning me down for a job, when he discovered I was on this jury. He essentially hired me on the spot to do an exclusive report on what was going on behind closed doors. It was his idea to pose as my significant other and thus spend a night debriefing me.”
“Yeah,” Jack said, “That would explain why you looked like…”
“Like death warmed over the next morning? That pretty well describes it. We had been up for hours while he had alternated between taking copious notes and complaining about not having his laptop with him.”
Jack grimaced, shrugging his shoulders. “Sounds like your evening was almost as rewarding as mine.”
Lin Sue watched Jack, tilting her head slightly to get a different viewpoint.
Then she returned to her own drama. “I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m having a crisis of conscience. I’ve already decided to sever my connections with Mr. Robinson. I can’t do that anymore.”
“I admire your courage.”
“You may change your mind when…” For a moment Lin Sue hesitated. Swallowing hard, he said, “The reason I first went into journalism was because I thought I could make a real difference – some sort of grandiose idea of saving the world. But when I see those crowds outside the courthouse screaming for blood -- like that’s going to do anything for the victims -- I have to stop and wonder about what the hell I’m doing! Who am I saving and from what? Are they even worth saving?”
Jack shook his head. “When I see the immense diversity in people I sometimes wonder if we’re not different species all together. It’s hard for me to believe that I have the same genetics as some of the people I’ve met over the years, including very specifically the mob outside the courthouse.”
“I guess it’s simpler for me. I’ve always had some overly optimistic view of people. Only now… I guess I’m thinking the number of people I’d really like to help is much fewer in number.”
“My rule is to never try to save the world,” Jack replied. “It’s okay to set an example, but anything else if a violation of their free will.”
Lin Sue stopped to consider Jack’s argument. “Doesn’t that assume everything that happens to people is in reality their responsibility?”
“Oh yeah. That’s not particularly welcome news for most people, but I still think it’s true.”
“I’ll have to wait and see how I feel about that one.”
Jack suddenly looked sheepish. “About Terri and me…” he began. “My conjugal visit wasn’t a whole lot more fulfilling than yours.”
It’s amazing what can be communicated with a one syllable, two-letter word. Really amazing. Suffice it to say that both parties immediately conjured up several, very interesting, possible scenarios.
In the juror’s common room at the hotel, Charlie, Edward and Katrina were alone and sitting around a small table. Each of them assumed the table, the room, and the wine glasses were bugged. But conversation was still conversation, even if certain subjects were avoided like the plague.
Charlie was saying, “So you’re a rocket scientist, huh?”
“Technically, an astronautical engineer.”
“Must play hell with your dating life,” Charlie laughed.
Katrina had to laugh as well. “My dating life… as you so generously call it, is close to non-existent. But I can’t really say I’m all that interested in dating.”
“Which is truly amazing. You’re an extremely attractive woman.”
Katrina smiled. “Thank you. But I think true attraction is based on more than just looks.”
“I agree,” Charlie said. “I, on the other hand, find intelligence to be very attractive. I’m almost agog at the possibilities.”
Edward assumed he could not leave all the vanity dressing to Charlie and added, “What once might have been termed 'wit and charm', an accomplished individual.”
“But aren’t those just some made up rational explanations for what really draws us together?” Katrina was looking far deeper… for something.
“A sense that two people have known each other before. That there’s been a serious bond between them.”
Both men considered the idea. Then Charlie shrugged in agreement. “Yeah. I must admit to sometimes feeling that with Edward.”
“Really? Would you care to elaborate?” Edward was laughing.
“I don’t know exactly how to explain it. It’s just that I completely trust you… and that is not something I normally do. But with you, it’s an automatic response. Nothing rational… just a gut feeling.”
“That’s quite a compliment,” Edward acknowledged with a bit of humility.
Katrina looked at Edward with an extra intensity. With a twinkle in her eye, she added, “That goes for me too.”
Charlie laughed. “Now that’s an even better compliment!”
Edward could only smile his initial embarrassment and reply, “I’m indebted to both of you.”
Katrina touched his arm. “I wouldn’t think of it as a debt.”
“I would,” Charlie immediately noted. “And I’m charging interest. Whoo… boy! The power of compound interest! Man, you owe me big!”
Edward was totally serious. “Actually, I would have to agree with you. I can’t believe we haven’t had some experience with one another… or else our electrons are vibrating in harmony… or something.”
Katrina took her own tack. “I think I’d prefer to forgive all debts and just begin again. It’s better that way.”
“That’s very wise,” Edward said, “provided of course that the old debts are truly forgiven.”
Katrina took a long look at Edward’s pointed remark. “Now why does that make me sad?”
“Maybe,” Charlie replied, “because you’re thinking only of the old debts, the history, and not the next beginning.”
Katrina, with just a hint of a tear in her eyes, turned from her concentration on Edward to look at Charlie. Both men kept their full attention on Katrina, as she turned back to Edward and then lowered her eyes and took a deep breath.
In the courtroom that morning, with everyone taking the seats after the judge’s grand entrance, Pence and Matson had continued to stand. Sophing was at first surprised, but then attempted to get them to sit down. When they ignored him, and Starling finally noticed them, albeit with a raised eyebrow, Pence said, “Your Honor, Mr. Matson and I would like to testify on our own behalf.”
There was a momentary hush in the courtroom, as Sophing, Howell and Starling showed varying degrees of surprise. Sophing was the first to gather his wits, and stood up to state unequivocally, “Your Honor, this is contrary to my advice as counsel and I respectfully...”
Howell was already standing, when he asked, “Your Honor, may we approach the bench?”
Starling frowned heavily. “Both counsels and the defendants in my chambers. Now! Bailiff, take the jury out.”
In the juror’s holding room at the Denver Federal Courthouse, the jurors abruptly left to their own devices were milling about, only a few bothering to take a seat. Most had pretty much had their fill of sitting… standing was blissfully the better alternative. This unexpected diversion was an unexpected seventh inning stretch.
Veer found himself leaning against the wall next to the door, watching the others. Several of the jurors made eye contact, but no one said anything. Finally, Edward smiled, turned, and leaned against the table in the center of the room. To himself, he mused, “Interesting. Verrrry interesting.”
Lin Sue smiled at him. Then she sat down at one of the vacant chairs around the table, where she leaned forward, her arms forming a prayer mode and touching her lips in serious contemplation. “I’ve always been very curious about what really goes on in a judge’s chambers.”
Charlie took a seat next to her. “I’m just trying to figure out why the judge would object to a defendant testifying.”
“That is very strange,” Jack added, starting to slowly move about the room rather than light in one spot. Jack had always been more prone to pacing than to remaining still… even when attempting to meditate. In fact, he preferred to call what he did: ‘walking meditation’. Meanwhile his wife had always called it ‘pacing’.
Veer folded his arms across his chest and said, “I don’t think we should be talking about any of this right now.”
Edward agreed. “You may be right. So what would you suggest as a topic of conversation?”
Veer, with a stoic expression, looked at Edward and then after clutching at more than a few short straws, smiled. “Something you said earlier, about the… Sanhedrin, about it’s being “indirectly” responsible for Jesus being crucified.”
“Well… yes. The overriding law was Roman.”
“But it was the Jews who crucified Jesus Christ!”
“Not really,” Edward answered. “Crucifixion was a Roman punishment. Exclusively. Only Rome could crucify someone. Had the Jews wanted Christ dead, they would have stoned him to death.”
Veer frowned, having suddenly realized the kind of man he was now being cooped up with. “You must be some kind of lunatic.”
Edward laughed. It is a truism that one never takes offense at the ramblings of the ignorant. Accordingly, whenever possible, one should laugh. “Quite possibly,” he replied. “Come to think of it, I’ve always liked the Moon. Never quite worshiped it, but yes, I was always a fan of Luna.”
Veer had no idea what Edward was talking about and resolved instead to simply stare at the man. Edward maintained a faint and possibly cynical smile… until the jury room door opened and the Bailiff stepped in part way.
“Time to party again,” he announced.
With heavy sighs all around, the jurors began to file out of the room.
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