“We know the breed,” replied Joseph, “and so do you. But you are afraid of it. Our Master would have made an end of it. But you are a broken reed. Many of our great men have been ruined by Roman arrogance, but it was Roman cowardice that cost our Master His life.”
The Governor started, but remained impassive.
He signed with his hand: “Let me hear no more of this affair. Do what you like with Him. Sentries can be placed at the grave. I’ve had more than enough of you and your Jews to-day.”
Thus the Arimathean was dismissed, ungraciously, it is true, but with permission to bury the beloved corpse.
Meanwhile the torment of the two desert robbers had ended. And Dismas was at last set free from Barabbas, to whom a demoniacal fate had chained him his whole life long. Jesus had come between them, and had divided the penitent man from the impenitent. It is true that their bodies were thrown into the same grave, but the soul of Dismas had found the appointed trysting-place.
As soon as the Arimathean returned from his interview with the Governor, late as the hour was, Jesus was unfastened from the cross and lowered to the ground with cloths. Then the body was anointed with precious oil, wrapped in white linen, and carried to Joseph’s garden. They laid it in the grave in the stillness of the night.
A holy peace breathed o’er the earth, and the stars shone in the heavens like lamps at the repose of the Lord.
In the night which followed this saddest of all sad days, Mary, His mother, could not sleep. And yet she saw a vision such as could not have been seen by anyone awake.
Crouching down, leaning against the stone, her eyes resting on the cross that rose tall and straight into the sky, she seemed to see a tree covered with red and white blossoms. It was as if that branch of the Tree of Paradise which the angel had once handed over the hedge had bloomed. It stood in the midst of a beautiful rose-garden filled with pleasant odours, running water, and songs of birds, with a wonderful light over all. Innumerable companies of men and women passed into that Eden from out a deep abyss. They ascended slowly and solemnly out of the gloomy depths to the shining heights. In front of all came a couple, our first father, Adam, walking with Eve. Just behind them Abel, arm-in-arm with Cain. Then crowded up the patriarchs, the judges, the kings, the prophets, and the psalmists, among them Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, Solomon and David, Zachariah and Josiah, Eleazar and Jehoiakim, and quite at the back—an old man, walking alone, supporting himself on a stick from which lilies sprouted—Joseph, her husband. He was in no hurry; he stopped and looked round at Mary.
So all passed into Paradise.
That was what Mary saw, and then day dawned.