Shades of indigo clung to the night’s damp air, pooling deep in the stone corners of their dwelling. Mineral scents wafted from the moist earthen floor as James tossed on his straw mat. He pulled his cloak up over his shoulders, drew his limbs in tight against his body, and set his jaw. Yet, even with his back to Mother’s side of the room, her moans needled through his robes to prick his skin. No defense allowed him to rest amid those cries.
Snoring droned from the mats lining the back wall, where his brothers slumbered in a self-deafened bliss. In the years following their father’s death, James tiptoed past the younger boys in the night. He shushed her cries while folding her thrashing arms over her chest. Mother’s breathing slowed as he tucked her cloak back over her. In those days, nightmares came once or twice a season. Now dreams rattled her each night and James could no longer comfort her. For the last three years, he doubted whether he could find comfort himself.
No thanks to that lunatic brother of his.
“A sword!” Mother’s cries punctuated the cacophony of crunching straw and thudding against the tamped earthen floor.
James clenched his fists. No amount of punches would’ve tired him when it came to the unpunished eldest. He would’ve gladly beaten some sense into Jesus years ago. If only that man would stop. Spare their mother this insufferable grief. And let him sleep in peace.
He rolled onto his back and sighed. Of course Jesus wouldn’t listen to his brother. No matter how much he threatened him. Even the Pharisees failed to stop him.
Smoke’s acrid scent whipped across the room as the final ember died in the oil lamp’s wick. Rapping shook the front door. Electricity coursed through James’ body and he jolted upright.
Mother’s groans turned to a series of sharp gasps.
More banging at the entrance. “Wake up! It’s urgent!”
James hustled to the door and unlatched it. Cracking it ajar, he scowled at John’s unmistakable, dewy countenance. “You? My brother’s not here. Didn’t even bother to show up for the feast. Go away, and don’t–”
“I’m here about Jesus.” John pressed his hand against the door. His lips trembled and a tear streaked his young face as he spoke. “Someone needed to tell your mother.”
James stepped outside and crossed his arms. “What has he done wrong this time?”
“Nothing. But, that’s not what the Sanhedrin plans to tell Rome.”
“Rome?” He backed against the doorpost. Splinters dug through the tunic fibers and stung into his spine.
“You must know how much the Pharisees hate him.” John shook his head, then locked eyes with him. “The law won’t be satisfied until he’s dead.”
“Why are you coming now? Sanhedrin never convenes in the middle of the night. And it’s Passover.” He waved him off. “Impossible, anyway. They’d never conspire with the pagans. Someone who had too much wine must’ve fed you bad information.”
Nailing a willowy finger at James’ chest, the young man deepened his voice. “I was there. Armed temple guards arrested Jesus in the garden and dragged him away. There’s nothing just about the court they’re holding tonight. Now go get your mother. There isn’t much time left.”
Within a few minutes, James presented his bleary-eyed mother at the door.
Biting her lip, she gazed at John. “Is it time?”
“I’ll explain on the way.”
“There’s always more than we can explain, son.” She straightened the shawl over her head. With a nod, she set out onto the shadowy road.
James hustled to join her, on the opposite side from Jesus’ friend. He tried to wrap an arm around his mother, but could not match her swift, driving gait. Questions riddled his mind with every step on the dark path.
Why had Jesus let things go so far? Did it really have to end in death? What would happen to his mother? To all of them?
He peered over his mother’s head at the young man. Why would anyone show loyalty to a man condemned to death?
John met his gaze. “He didn’t turn his back on you.”
“Passover. I think … by they way he prayed in the garden … he knew they were coming to take him tonight.”
“Why would he–”
“I don’t know. I don’t understand any of this.” He paused with them in the courtyard. “I just know he wouldn’t turn his back on someone he loves. Not like the rest of us would.”
Shouts poured from the stone building and flooded the courtyard. Above the roof, fat stars huddled around the sickle-shaped moon. Flames from the servants’ fire sent dancing shadows across the eerie gray cast of the building’s facade.
James took a step backward. John laid his hand on Mary’s arm. She shook him off, rolled her shoulders, and marched forward. The two men followed her into the arched mouth of the building.
“Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled …”(Matthew 26:57).
“Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’
‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’”