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Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Christian Ghost Story

This is the challenge I set myself this Halloween: when you get to that stage at a Halloween party of sitting around swapping ghost stories, I want to tell one about Jesus and the Resurrection.

So I wrote this.

A long long time ago, an innocent man died a cruel and unjust death. But it was worse than that, it was about the cruellest and most painful death that people had ever invented. It's no exaggeration to say that he died screaming in agony. But, as I said, he was innocent, and was killed for crimes he did not commit.

It happened like this. A friend of his, whom he trusted, had betrayed him for money, and he found himself surrounded by his enemies who captured him, held a sham trial to find him "guilty" and sentenced him to die. Then they tortured him, just for the fun of it. After that, they made him carry the thing that was going to kill him to the place where he was going to die. He'd lost so much blood as a result of the torture, they had to get someone to drag him up the hill in the end - they killed him on top of a hill because they wanted him to die in full view of as many people as possible.

The thing that killed him was a massive block of wood, and they literally stapled his body to it, stood it on end and left him hanging in the blazing sun.

He died on an unlucky day, a Friday. The original Friday the 13th. To make it worse, the people of his time had a belief, or a superstition, call it what you will, that if anybody died on a Friday, and was buried on a Saturday, those who'd buried him would be in trouble. Others would avoid them, they would be counted as "unclean" and they wouldn't be allowed to mix with people until they had made a sacrifice to pay for their transgression.

So his friends couldn't bury him properly. The rule was that you had until the sun went down on Friday, and then you had to stop work. Not just burying, but all work. You had to stop when the sun went down, or face the consequences. So they had a couple of hours, no more. One of them gave his own gravespace, and they shovelled his body in as quickly as they could, before the last rays of the sun went down. They couldn't wait around anyway, because the army had sent soldiers to guard the grave. There was a rumour going round that said that this man was not going to rest easy in his grave, and they didn't want to take any chances.

Darkness fell on Friday night. The graveyard was quiet and still. Saturday came and Saturday went. Afraid of the law, the friends kept away all day and did no work. They got ready to visit his grave again on Sunday morning, bringing some flowers.

Darkness fell on Saturday night. The graveyard was quiet and still. The guards shivered in the cold. They weren't enjoying this job. They jumped at the slightest sound, eyes straining in the darkness, minds imagining all sorts of strange happenings in the graveyard all around. Fancy sitting here, with all these bones. all these dead people resting, some peacefully, some perhaps, not so peacefully. After all, people say that those who die unjustly cannot rest.

I wonder, did they stand with their backs to the grave, or did they keep it in view? They knew the man had died unjustly, did they worry that he might stir in his grave? Did they tell themselves that they weren't frightened, that superstitions like that were for children, not grown men and soldiers? If they did, it wasn't working, because they were jumping out of their skins at the slightest sound.

At last it was midnight. Sunday had begun. Friday, Saturday, Sunday - the third day since the innocent man died in screaming agony. And as Sunday began, his grave began to open, and the guards trembled and became like dead men.

What happened next? I don't know, because there was no one watching to give a report. The guards had fainted with fear. But this I know, that dead man was dead no longer, because now it was Sunday, and the man's name was JESUS CHRIST.

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