I’m watching a scene in a warehouse: long abandoned and bleak as an episode of 24. Concrete grey shadows loom long and dirty against industrial-high walls deadheaded by heating ducts.
There’s a girl tied to a chair, duct tape on her mouth: captive and scared. Three men in dark jeans and Tshirts stand around the little chair. The air is thick with menace and torture. Help is not at hand.
The camera zooms in, the focus shifts and I see the girl on the chair, bound hand and feet. It’s me. They’re not totally out of line: I’ve done things that have brought me to this place and I’m at their mercy. At the mercy of the merciless ones. Not that the things I’ve done seem worthy of this – but my captors like torture and a little bit guilty is enough for them to go on. Tears pour down the girl’s face, my face.
There’s no hope. No help. But then, from behind me a man steps out of the shadows. He has to be mad to be out here on his own. He steps forward calm and steady, says “Let her go. You can have me instead.” I’ve never seen him before.
My heart beats inside my head, it can’t be, they won’t go for it. The torturers greet the man with jeers of mocking laughter. But then, a quick conferring and – I can’t believe my luck - they release me. Tape pulled roughly off my mouth, ropes off my hands. I rub my wrists. Waves of relief and disbelief roll over me, my legs are shaking as I stumble back away from them.
But now they tie him to the chair, and gag him. I can’t watch but can’t stop myself watching as they set into him with glad fury - glad to have a fresh punchbag. Glad to see someone else bleed and bend under the weight of inventive cruelty. I should run. But I can’t: fixed in place with horror as they have their fun. And then one of them pulls out a gun and holds it to his temple. I’m still registering the gun, wondering if it’s just a another trick, when they pull the trigger and bang. His head’s half gone. And the blood. His blood, is everywhere. So much blood. His body’s limp – still tied to the wooden chair.
The men laugh and lose interest. Walk away – voices loud and brash, their retreating footsteps echoing through the empty warehouse.
I stand there in the empty warehouse. I watch myself stand. Free and in freefall. I can’t believe it. I can’t leave him, even though he’s not there anymore. In a way that makes no sense I watch myself stand there for a long time just staring at his broken and empty body. The good man.
And then in a way that could only happen in TV, he walks into the warehouse again, and at the same moment I spin round to see his body is gone from the chair. He walks up and says, “Now they can never ever torture or kill me again. I can’t die again. And neither can you.”
And there’s something in the way he smiles that makes me think this was his plan all along. He’s very bright and wearing an elegant long white coat that has a beautiful crimson trim, a ribbon of scarlet around the bottom edge. It’s the exact same colour as the blood I just saw flow from his head.
Now I’m wearing white too, but it’s not so much that I’m wearing white as I am full of white. And he turns me around in the empty warehouse and now there are two double doors standing there. He nods me towards them so I turn and push through the doors.
I push through the doors and step into a parade, or a party or something. An excited crowd line the way along the way that’s not quite a road, or a stadium: it’s something like an aisle in a bright, high ceilinged place.
Everyone is on their feet, cheering me and whooping, streamers. There are hundreds, thousands, more even – clapping, smiling. They’re all clapping me. As if I’ve done something great. As if I’m the hero. I turn my head, smiling but uncertain, and look at the man. He’s right behind me, walking with me. We’re wearing the same clothes. I can see by the look in his eye, he’s ok with them clapping me. More than ok. Somehow he’s pleased that his brave act makes me the hero. I’ve never felt so small. Or so important.
“He has rescued us completely from the tyrannical rule of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom-realm of his beloved Son. For in the Son all our sins are cancelled and we have the release of redemption through the ransom price he paid – his very blood.”
Colossians 1, 13-14 The Passion Translation
Writer’s note: Of course this is just a story. Jesus died on the cross, not bound to a chair. The cross was the ultimate torture device of the Roman era. Seeing his death in what we can recognise as a modern form of torture, might just give us fresh eyes to see our hero, this Easter.