The lightning had struck early in the morning, on the tenth day of Nisan, the very day on which the procurator returned to the city for his usual stay during the Passover. Not unheralded – for some days past the clouds had been gathering. Agents reported a growing feeling of unrest among the early pilgrims, a few rumors, many rumors, a sea of rumors that “he” was coming, that this time “he” would declare himself openly for what he was, that nothing and nobody would be able to stop the beginning of the “new time”, that the events at the Feast of Tabernacles were no more than a prelude, that no other day but the Passover feast could usher in the coming of the Messiah, the day commemorating Israel’s delivery from bondage.
The old quotations ran from mouth to mouth again, about the “Son of David”, the Anointed One, who would bring peace and happiness to the world, the one of whom Jaqob spoke in the forty-ninth chapter of Genesis: “The scepter shall not be taken away from Judah, or a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of the nations”; quotations from the psalms of David foretelling the coming of the Messiah and Isaias’ dak cry, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.” And they were talking of Jochanaan, the Baptist, as the forerunner Isais mentioned. They called up the prophets one by one, Jeremiah and Ezechiel, Amos and Zacharias and Daniel – but they meant that the day was approaching when the Messiah would scatter the Romans and make an end to their rule.
Then suddenly somebody spread the news that “he” had arrived, that “he” was in Bethany and preparing to enter “his” city, and the news raced across Jerusalem like wildfire, and everywhere people bunched together and shouted with excitement and broke off palm branches and streamed out to receive the King Messiah.
And from then on the messengers came in wild-eyed, spluttering and stammering, scarcely any one of them able to deliver a cold, clear report. And no wonder.
It was incredible but true. He really dared to come out in the open. He came riding on a donkey. Of course! He knew his Scripture. He had read his Zacharias: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem; Behold thy King will come to thee, the just and Savior; he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”
Many hundreds of people came with him. They had gone out to Bethany to fetch him in state, and they found him, of course, as the Romans did not, the Romans who could have prevented all this so easily, if only they had acted at once when the High Priest sent them the message.
That man Eleazar was with the Nazarene telling everyone that he had been raised from the dead, and a number of witnesses cried that they had seen it with their own eyes. And the crowds swelled bigger and bigger, and they shouted “Hosanna!”, “Save…”, and “Blessed be he who cometh in the name of the Lord!” The priest who came to tell the High Priest about it could scarcely articulate for anger against such blasphemy.
– From The Spear, by Louis de Wohl, 1998. p275-276.
I certainly recommend all of Louis de Wohl’s books, many which bring the reader vividly into the lives of different saints, but this one, The Spear, he rightly considered his best. If you read it, you will find in yourself the same fears and scheming that consumed Caiaphas, the same love and ardor of Martha and Mary, alongside the wonder-struck crowd as Lazarus stepped from his tomb, and moved to see Christ, filled with longing and loneliness, enter into the city of Jerusalem and take up his cross. This bringing ourselves into the Passion of Jesus, is not the story of a saint, it is the story of every saint!
– Fr. Dominic Rankin was on a mission trip in Tanzania when he first read this tremendous historical fiction by Louis de Wohl. He read it over Holy week and Easter week two years ago, and his imagination has remained transformed by the imagery and characters ever since. It is books like this that have fostered his desire to vibrantly recount the stories of the saints, as well as inspired in him a new and vivid meditation on the stories we know so well in Scripture.