He hated not seeing the stars, feeling the desert breeze, smelling the wood smoke, drinking spring water, hearing the birds, touching the flowers.
Instead, he was in a dark prison cell, always wondering if the next steps he heard would bring some foul food, or an executioner’s axe.
All because he opened his mouth.
When he knew something was wrong, he said so. And if you speak your mind to the wrong people, you pay the price. Even when you’re right, things just don’t always turn out right.
He was a long-haired fanatic, living on little food, preaching a fiery-tongued message as rough-edged and unbending as the craggy desert of his homeland.
His elder cousin preached differently, tenderly. But they both loved the outdoors and the poor people of their country. They were both tanned and muscular. They both had dusty feet and loved the outdoors. They loved each other too.
But his cousin’s eyes, his words, his deeds, his caring drew crowds that he’d never seen. The cousin was special. The prisoner had learned that in the river one day long ago.
But in that prison cell, he had second thoughts as depression set in. Maybe his life had been wasted. Maybe he had been wrong. His cousin was still outside enjoying the free air. He was cooped up, wasting away.
The prisoner got a message out to his cousin, questioning, and his cousin was quick to reassure.
The prisoner didn’t hear what else his cousin told his followers, about the prisoner being the greatest preacher the world had known. But if he had, it would have helped in that prison cell.
Then one day, the steps the prisoner heard approaching his cell seemed different. The iron and wood door opened, and silhouetted in the light was not someone with a food bowl, but with an axe.
They drug him into a room, pushed him onto his knees, put his head face down on a piece of stone, and raised the axe.
His cousin heard what happened. He had the power to have stopped it. He didn’t. He had the power to bring him back to life. He didn’t.
I don’t know why.
Maybe he knew the prisoner had earned something better than the dungeon, better than the stars, better than the wind, better than the wood smoke, better than the birds, better than the flowers.
Maybe he knew that he would soon join the prisoner in violent death, and in renewed life, free from all prisons.
Think about John the Baptizer and his cousin, when the sun comes up behind the lilies this Easter morning.