From the Outside In

From the Outside is a fictionalized account of the death and resurrection of Christ written from the perspective of an archangel, specifically Rafael.   A few things:  I'm no theologian.  I'm a lay woman who works in Insurance who also likes to read.  Taking this seriously in anything other than what it is, fiction, is not advisable.  

Rafael closed his eyes for a moment, remembering the first time he understood this moment would come.   He had wanted to protest, but he hadn't.  He knew that this kind of thing ruminated in the mind of God far earlier than it was said aloud.   Once he said it, with rare exception, it was going to happen.  It had been weighed, measured, and plotted to tiny details.   Still, the shock settled over his face visibly when he understood what God was saying the Son was going to do.    Human.  A hairless ape.  He also remembered the first time he saw them.  Blinking in the sunlight after the light of reason had properly descended upon them.   He'd seen it then.  The blurry image of God before him on the untamed Earth.  There were times it was a like a picture taken through a smeared camera lens but he saw it.  It was there. Underneath the dirt and the grime and filthy rituals some of them did after Lucifer's "intervention", it was still there.  He wasn't without sympathy, but there was distance.  He could do his duty on occasion and help and step back again.   It was there, and the end was in view.   It still seemed unreal.   The Word, made flesh, like a hairless ape. 

In the wilderness he had watched from a distance until the appointed time.  Watched with baited breath until he could intervene.  Until the time was right.  Until God the Son had begun to come into himself and understood more fully who he was.

He found himself fully embracing humanity.  The Son of God, the Word, filthy and tired and hungry and fainting in the wilderness.  He'd fed him, bathed him, (He could barely move) put him in a clean set of clothes and put him to bed in his mother's house.  Rafael made it look as normal as possible for Mary's sake.  She was shocked to find him safe and asleep in a little room off the back of the house.   She knew something was different but didn't want to think about it.  Not then.  She sent word to the family that he had returned in one piece, safe and sound, and tried not to think about the rest.  

It was strange to be here now, waiting until he was needed, know he couldn't intervene this time when he really wanted to.  It was too much.  Too much see what he was seeing and do what he had to do which is not spirit Jesus away from all this so he wouldn't suffer.   He saw him to fall to his knees in anguished prayer and rushed to this side.   Rafael took him in his arms and gave him his strength in the embrace.  

"Did my Father?"  He whispered ... 

"No" Rafael breathed.  "I love you, Lord."  Rafael kissed his forehead, putting all the love and energy into that kiss he could.  He heard people entering the garden from a distance. 

"Go" Jesus whispered and Rafael receded into the shadows again, watching unseen.  Another angel had his hand in a tight grip to remind him not to stop what he was seeing while he wept.  He watched Jesus approach his disciples, asleep and half drunk still, shaken by the things he had been saying over the past weeks and confused.  He was moved to pity by their sorrow at his rebuke, and crushed by the hurt in the Lord's face.  "Could you not stay awake with me one hour?"

No, no they could not. 

The crowd came.  A great flush of people led by Judas who had a familiar smile behind his eyes.   Satan hadn't left this to chance.  He'd come to do the job himself.    His great victory was forthcoming.  "Can I kill him?"  Rafael asked Michael, knowing the answer.

"No, he's mine, and not yet."

"Are we to bear even this insult?  That he takes a bitter man and uses him for this?"

"We are to bear witness. That's what we are to do, Rafael."

More shouting, Judas kissed his cheek, almost casually, Satan casting a glance at the archangels from behind his eye,  more fresh pain in his voice "a kiss?"  Rafael couldn't tell who it came from more.  He knew Jesus could see Satan behind Judas's eyes, and that even then, he remembered him as he was before his fall.   He watched the devil leave him then.  His work done.  Fresh shame sneaking on him even as he had what he thought was his victory.   Then the man, the man coming back to himself and realizing what he had done with his eyes clouded by unmet expectations and desire to see his revenge on the Romans in Judea.   He was waiting, watching the Lord closely thinking that any minute armies of angels would descend on the crowd and he would take his rightful place at the head of great rebellion and then a great victory.   That was not to be.

The disciples, realizing what was about to happen, drew their swords to defend him.  Sloppily, arms shaking, one of them raised his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, slicing the man's ear off.  Shaking his head, Jesus touched the man's ear and restored it. 

 "No more of this," he muttered, and waved them off before they could attempt to do more.   These were not soldiers.   

Jesus questioning them, even then, "am I bandit?  Swords and clubs?"  Judas' eyes registered what this meant.   No army.  No great victory was forthcoming.  He had started to get the idea during the evening meal, but his mind had been clouded by Satan's precense.  He had been drifting from guilt to satisfaction all night long.  His rage just below the surface, his passenger drinking it in like the wine on the table.   So much time.  So much time wasted.  So much power for nothing!  Healing a few peasants?  (He frequently forgot that he too was a peasant.)  He knew the rabbi's power and yet here again, there was nothing.    Nothing when there was so much work to be done. It didn't make any sense.  Despair was creeping over him now.   Rafael watched with regret.  He knew this man's story had a desperate ending.  He still didn't move.  Some choices, he knew, were not able to be unmade.  It wasn't his place to reach out to Judas either.   That was the role of the one standing opposite him with pain and betrayal on his face and fear in his eyes. 
They led him away to the home of the high priest.   Raphael hung further back now.  He had been ordered not to intervene at all from this point forward.  Until the deed was done, all he could do was watch.  Watching was a concession.   He had commanded that they let him do this mostly alone.   None of the little things they normally did to ease human suffering were allowed.  He saw Jesus being taken into Caiaphas's house and saw his fingers touch the woodwork in the doorway.  Rafael remembered that Joseph had put up the new archway years before.    The detail work in wood frame was his signature cut.   The entrance to the outer courtyard was "new" compared to the rest of the house and had been designed to look as impressive as possible to go with the family's change in status.   It certainly did that, but the house had an unease about it.  A soldier grunted at him to keep his hands to himself.  He did so, reluctantly, wondering if he'd done any of the work himself but unable to make himself remember.  

Rafael watched them disappear into the house to see Cephas coming in behind them. He stood in the courtyard around a fire with a few others. He was shaking and it wasn't from the cold.  A young woman approached,recognizing him, she called him out.   "This man was with him."   In her voice there was accusation, the reaction from the disciples had been violent, if sloppy and short lived.   She was a friend of the man whose ear had been sliced off.    She was upset and confused, a little angry, but more frightened because of the healing that had taken place.   The man they arrested had healed her friend's ear.   What had her master done in having him arrested?  Peter swore and said he was not with them.   A violent chill had seized him, terror at meeting the same fate he feared for Jesus.   She looked down at the fire and back at Cephas, then she went into the house.   She wanted to be alone.   She had work to do in the kitchen.  Maybe it would take her mind off the strange things happening here. 

A little while later one of the other men, recognizing Peter, brought it up again, and again he denied he knew Jesus at all.  He could see him through the courtyard.   There was more talk as the night wore on, another one of the men, recognizing Peter as a Galilean, brought it up again.  His accent had given him away.   He swore and denied it a third time.  The rooster crowed in the garden.  It was morning.  Jesus, standing near the door surrounded by armed guards, turned and looked at Peter.   

Peter collapsed inwardly, remembering the words Jesus had spoken to him earlier the night before.  "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times".  He ran out of the house and wept as he walked away.  Rafael followed him, saw him hit his knees once he was out of sight, shaking violently and sobbing hysterically.   Cephas could hardly breathe.  The angel stood in front of him, knelt down and kissed his forhead.   Peter stopped crying.  He knew something had just happened but he didn't know what.  The man got up and walked quickly to the home of one of his cousins.   None of them would dare ask him what was going on and that was how he wanted it just then.  

"Prophesy, if you can!  Who hit you?"   The soldier sneared with a slurred voice.   Rafael turned and ran back to the house in dead heat and Michael caught him at the door, nearly clothes-lining him with his arm.   "No.  You know we mustn't." Michael held him back.  "Look at him, he's exhausted."   Michael didn't mean the Lord, he meant the soldier.  Rafael stopped fighting and studied his face.  He was sick of the dirty business before him.  The man was tired, tired down to his very soul.  He was irritated that the "revolutionary" he was being forced to guard like he was a rabid dog was a peasant rabbi with dirty clothes and a swollen lip.  He took note that the tunic was nice, but he didn't figure he'd be wearing it much longer.   Quintus, as he was called, was trying to distract himself from the role he was to play in what he was afraid was this man's immanent demise.  

The other man, Titus, took a blind fold and covered Jesus's eyes, hitting him the face.   This went on for a while until they tired of abusing him.   What did he think he was going to do anyway?   Take down the mighty Roman empire?   Rafael saw this on his face and resisted the urge to whisper "eventually, yes" into his ear.  Michael leaned over, smiling a little for the first time that day, and said "just don't" into Rafael's ear. 

Night passed into morning.   

There was something that was supposed to be a trial.   Rafael watched, stunned, as the men did something they no longer wanted to do, simply because they had started doing it.  The whole council conferred, in their jealousy, and decided to take him to the Roman Governor.   Pilot was annoyed at first when he saw them walk in with Jesus as a prisoner.   These were the same men who annoyed him with their religious scruples and their sensitivities.  He listened to them, and examined Jesus.   He didn't see him as a threat.   The council, on the other hand, posed annoyance after annoyance and usually had the power of the mob on their side.  Usually.   He didn't want to get involved.   Rafael looked at Michael a little stunned.  Pilate?  Is it possible he wants to do the right thing?  Michael leaned in a little bit, and remarked that the man probably wanted to go eat and avoid the council, who he did not like and knew that they disliked him.   He sent them to Herod.
Herod, upon seeing them bring him in, was visibly tickled.  He hated the council.  He'd been wanting to see Jesus in hopes that he would perform some sign for him.  Rafael sighed, the man was a buffoon.  Herod was increasingly bored with the tenuity and danger of his position as a Roman puppet.  The religious leaders irritated him.  So did revolutionaries.  He listened to their accusations and upon seeing Jesus refuse to answer any of them, began mocking him.  He sent Jesus back to Pilate.   Herod had no idea that there was anything signifcant going on.  His mind was on his belly.  He didn't like to drink too much in front of the council.  It made him say things they made him regret later.  At any rate, he wanted the noise to stop.  

Pilate, upon seeing them bring Jesus back into his court, sighed deeply.   He laughed a little seeing the robe Herod had put on him.  Maybe the old man had a sense of humor after all?   The angel retreated to the shadows to get grip on his anger.  It was no great thing to them to be doing this.  It was true, Pilate was a little afraid of the mob.  He was a little worried about what his wife had said to him. He was also amused at the way these Jews took themselves and their god so seriously.  He couldn't even figure out what they were so upset about.  The man hadn't done anything wrong so far as he could tell.  He was just more popular than them.   As far as Pilate could tell, he was only more popular at the moment.  In the end, these Jews always went back to their standard rabbis and left the rabble rousers alone. He tried to get them to let him go.  He appealed to their conscience, knowing it would turn tender the next day, and tried to give him to them as was customary.  They picked a bandit instead.  Rafael caught a glimpse of Mary, Jesus's mother, and some other women, disciples, watching from the edge of the crowd.   Their veils shielded their faces and gave them an anonymity the men didn't have.  He stopped watching Pilate, sensing what was about to happen, and went to Mary.  He wrapped his wings around her to shield her from what came next.   It didn't help much.   

Why, what evil has he done?  Pilate asked, exasperated.   A roar came in response.  Crucify him!  They shouted.  Crucify him!  Mary fell, quickly caught by the other women and held up in a manner attempting to hide her shock and despair.  Mari, they whispered, Mari, we can't be seen.   They were terrified.   Rafael made them fade into the crowd.   He wouldn't let them hurt her any more than they already were.   The people around them simply didn't notice the women at that point. They could have if they really wanted to, but they were fixated on other things. Pilate appealed to them again, wishing to satisfy their blood lust with a flogging.   It wouldn't do.   Crucify him!  They roared again.   The women carried her away, bearing her up as she was unable to move under her own power.   Rafael shielded them from notice on the way out and away from scrutiny.   

While he was doing this, they led Jesus away to be crucified.  Rafael left Mary and the women in the care of some other angels (though they weren't fully aware) when he noticed the chief priest passing by and followed him.    

The chief priest was heading home and threw up on the side of the road along the way.  Something had to be done, he mumbled to himself.  Something had to be done.  It was him or someone else.  Something had to be done.  He claimed to be one with God.  Something had to happen.  But he was Joseph and Mary's boy, and that bothered him.  So did the healings.  What did they mean?  He cursed violently as he passed through the door at the front of the house.  Remembering Jesus as a young man, a gangly boy, helping Joseph put up the lintels.   He had been so jealous of the attention Jesus was getting.  What had he done?  He tried to pray, and found he could not.  The words wouldn't even come off his lips.

Rafael considered comforting him, but decided against it. He looked small and weak in the light in his house.  Less like a man who had spear headed a campaign to murder a rival using the Roman government and more like a man who'd done something he didn't know how to undo.   Rafael decided to let him wallow in it. He didn't understand how it had come to this.   Humanity had been showing promise, but it always came back to this.  

Rafael looked up and realized the moment had come.  He understood now why Jesus had chosen this in a way he hadn't before.  The soldier's shaking hand holding the nails to his wrists.   The stiffening of their jaws as they did what was, at that moment, their duty.   The air smelled of desperation, feces, and blood.   There were thieves on either side of Jesus.  One of them defiant, even naked and nailed to a cross he was defiant, and the other was resigned to his fate and even defending Jesus from the first one's gasping mockery.  Rafael's heart swelled with love, falling to his knees next to the women.   They were weeping.  He was too stunned to move to help them in any way.  Gabriel already stood behind them with his wings spread over them in protection.  He was also stunned and weeping.  

Then it was over.  Rafael watched as they carried the body down from the cross and quickly laid it in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb.   He followed.  He watched as they pushed the rock over the door and began his vigil.  The air was cold and still.  He waited.  He passed the night in silence and about halfway through that Saturday he began to work.  Rafael began to loosen the shroud, light pulsing from his hands as he prepared body for Jesus' return.   The flesh began to heal.  He waited a little while more.   He was hoping  he would be able to sense the return of Lord's spirit, but nothing was happening yet.  One of the angels guarding the door looked in, wanting to know if anything was happening.   Rafael waved him off.  He peeled back more of the shroud. He staunched the wounds that had started to bleed again, but left the scars as he had been instructed.  No breathe yet.  No Jesus.  Rafael washed his hair and cleaned off the dirt and the blood.   He took the clothing he had brought with him and dressed the body.  He waited.  Watching impatiently as the sun went down.

Rafael leaned over and kissed Jesus' forehead.  He heard a shocked gasp and Jesus' eyes fluttered open.    Overcome, Rafael embraced him, crying, and Jesus pulled away.  He looked at the angel with compassion in his eyes and softly said,  "Don't do kiss the women when they come, the shock will kill them."

"Lord..." he muttered.  "It's not, you're not, the body's not ready yet.  You must rest, Master."  He watched him crumple up the shroud at the foot of the slab, and stand up.  

"I have to go meet my brothers."   He leaned over and kissed Rafael on the forehead and told him what to tell the women when they came to the tomb.   Then he left.   Rafael sat there for a few minutes, trying to process what just happened. Michael came in and patted him on the shoulder.  

"You alright, brother?"

"He just got up, told me what to do to send the women to him, and left.  Wouldn't sit still for even a moment.   I'm not even sure he's.."  Michael put a finger to his lips to stop him talking. 

"He got back up and started working, right?"  Rafael nodded.   "Rafi, he's fine.   That's what he does."   

Rafael started to speak again, to protest, when he heard something rustle outside.  "It's them, Michael, let's stand aside while they look around."  They faded into the back wall of the tomb.  

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