by Dottie McElreath

I'm a man most miserable. How did I come to this state? Well most of my problems started from thinking that I was superior to my fellowman and I justified my actions by saying I was right and therefore they must be wrong. Does my thinking reflect normal man? Yes, it does, but maybe I can atone for my sins, which are many, and stop other people from walking down this road I've come down.

I am Caiaphas, a priest, or was, and I was well respected and my words carried great weight at the council and at the temple. I was a man who should not have been born in this time, for that is the only thing that would have helped me.

I was a keeper of the law most stringently. I have been educated from birth for my life as a high priest. My father and his father before him and all the way back to Moses my families have been priests for I am of the tribe of Levi.

Forty years ago we had a man in our midst that denounced us and circumvented our authority before the people. He said he was the Messiah, the King of the Jews, but where was his kingdom? We all thought he was possessed or demented and we had to stop people from listening to him and, alas, we eventually had to stop him.

I persuaded Judas to help us by telling him we wanted to bring him before the courts, but in actuality, he had become such a thorn in our side that we had to dispose of him so we would have our authority back. This impudent man dared to defy us in public and quoted God's words to us as if he had a right too, but, under the law, this was not possible. He was very intelligent and we couldn't outsmart him, but his words against us were uncalled for. Why, he treated us as liars and thieves and we were to be looked up to by all men because we talked to Jehovah and went into the Holy of Holies. Maybe we should have handled it differently. We should have put him in the Holy of Holies and let God kill him for an impostor instead of doing what we did.

I voted against him in the Sanhedrin and we congratulated ourselves on pulling this off and true to form, he stood before Pilate and answered his questions with quiet dignity. He should have been afraid and said that he would behave, but instead he said that we had no power over him except he gave it. Oh, but that was the last straw! "Kill this man," we all said. "Crucify him and be done with it before we have more like him."

I came close to listening to him one time because my emotions became involved, but my superior intelligence came to my aid to remind me that if he were the Son of God that he would command angels and I had seen none. I would have been better born stupid.

I urged and enflamed the people to hatred by lying and when Judas came to me after the decision to crucify him and tried to give the money back, I couldn't take it. That was blood money and couldn't be allowed back in the temple. I knew the law.

I felt sorry for Judas because of his state. He had betrayed his friend and he was desperate to undo what he had done. I kept seeing myself in him and I had made my stand and I couldn't back down now.

Jesus was dragging his cross and I couldn't believe what the soldiers had done to him. I could still have stopped this and I would have but he looked at me as if I was dirt and I hit him. He stumbled and almost fell and I got nauseous. He had lost so much blood, some old, some new, that it was caked and in various stages of drying. Some people were spitting on him and some were hitting him and then they would look as sick as I felt. I guess that it was Satan's way of fighting back, or so I thought then.

I knew the exact minute that he died because my spirit died within me. It was as if I had lived my whole life for this time and there was nothing left to live for. I didn't have to be there but I wish to God I had known what I know now, for I would not be in this state now. I would have stopped it.

Some of the priests were worried about the body, but I didn't want to be involved anymore. I know inside that I had done murder and I was sick. I couldn't face God in the temple because blood was on my hands and he would strike me dead so I was afraid.

I heard that the body had disappeared from the tomb and I myself heard some of his followers saying that he had arisen and I wanted to believe that this was true, but I was going through my own hell and it was a hell of my making. I was showing signs of leprosy on the hand that I had struck Jesus with and I was ostracized from the people.

I was now among the living dead. I slept in a section of wilderness that was assigned to us and I scrounged for food. People who had leprosy that I had avoided before; now, avoided me. They were not afraid that I would give them new infections but I think, because of how I had treated them in the past. I know that each time I saw one of them I would remember what I had said to them and I was hurt anew as if these words were said to me. I have asked God repeatedly to tell people not to do as I have done, but to no avail, so I guess this is a job that God wants me to do myself.

I get as close as I can to his disciples as they preach, but I wear the headdress of leprosy so they know not who I am. I have not asked them in all these years to pray for me, although I am sure they would. I have not forgiven myself, so how can God forgive me?

There was a widow lady that I harassed unmercifully when she became a follower of Jesus and I grieved with her when her son was killed. He left many fine sons and daughters that now preach the words of Jesus. I have noticed that when they kill one, a dozen more spring up.

I find myself again outside her home on the outskirts of the city. If she only knew the nights I have wept bitter tears at my actions towards her. She doesn't know me because of my disfigurement and I don't have much flesh left on my arm or my face. I am a man most ugly, but she smiles at me as if she loves me and it breaks my heart anew.

She tells stories to her relatives of her adventures with Jesus and she saw him after his resurrection. I know this is true because I saw him too, and he knew who I was. This time there was a look of pity and sorrow on his face. I couldn't say I was sorry because I was crying under my headdress but I think he knew.

I come here when I'm hungry and she puts food out for me and I come when it's feast time because she will tell again the stories that I long to hear.

Tonight I think my death must be close because I feel different and I'm ready to leave this hell I live in. She talks tonight about the miracle of the loaves and fishes and I can feel what she felt when she was there. I feel his presence when I'm around her and it's soothing where it used to be irritating. When I felt him close again, I decided to do what I should have done forty years ago. I told him I was sorry and I asked him to forgive me and he was standing in front of me with his arms open. It has been so long since someone hugged me that I leapt into his arms and I must have jumped into the fire. I felt a burning inside and out and my soul vibrated as he spoke these words:

Because I love you,
I lay down my life for you.
Your debt is paid and you're forgiven,
The door is open now for you.

He showed me a vision of me preaching in his name and he showed me putting my arms around other lepers just like me. He told me that you must walk in another person's shoes to know the pain that person is in.

I felt his presence lift from me and I raised my hands to worship him and in place of a stump at the wrist I had a hand with skin and I touched my raw open sore of a face and I felt skin and my skin had no blemish or spot. I was truly clean both inside and out.

I gazed out into the desert and I saw a leper crippled and crawling along the ground and I felt such a love for him and Jesus spoke again into my spirit and said, "Love him as you love me for of such is the Kingdom of God."

I held out my arms to embrace my brother and he fell sobbing into my arms.

For Bible Study: (Loaves & Fishes + The Leper)

John the Baptist beheaded:
• Matthew 14:7-12
• Mark 6:24-30
Loaves & Fishes:
• Matthew 14:13-21
• Mark 6:31-44
• Luke 9:10-17
• John 6:1-14
Judas Iscariot:
• Matthew 26:14-16
• Matthew 27:3-8
• Luke 22:3-6
• Luke 22:47-48
• Acts 1:16-19
King of the Jews:
• John 18:33-38
• John 19:2-3
• John 19:21-22

Leper
• Leviticus 13 & 14
• Numbers 12:10-15
• Matthew 8:2-3
• Matthew 26:6-7
• Mark 1:40-45
• Mark 14:3
Caiaphas
• Matthew 26:3-4
• Matthew 26:57
• John 11:49-53
• John 18:13-14
Forty years:
• Hebrews 3:15-19
Jesus' Authority
• John 10:18