Each person breathing the breath of life in their own rhythm, all the others of the house were sleeping soundly as people do when the nights are cool and blankets are heavy. Many were curled up next to another, sharing the heat of their bodies. Jesus lay back to back with his mother Mary, but he wasn’t sleeping. Despite the warmth of his mother’s body, he felt cold and shivered yet again. His eyes were wide open capturing all available light, for light, as is well known, drives out fear. He didn’t want to see in his imagination the images that so terrified him.
If he were to close his eyes, the images might return, so he thought to keep his eyes open as long as possible, so that if he were to fall asleep, it would be sudden, with no time of closed-eye wakefulness before slipping into the oblivion of sleep.
As usually happened Jesus’ mind drifted along and inevitably caught on death. He had seen with his own eyes how the bodies of the dead were quickly prepared, wrapped and laid away inside tombs. The stench from the moldering bodies seared his nostrils and he was only too glad when the stone was rolled back into place across the tomb’s entrance and the terrible stench of death dissipated.
In the night many things seemed to move including things that weren’t supposed to move. Jesus’ hyper-vigilance only served to heighten the apparent danger. The fear that assailed him on most nights was the fear of being assumed dead and then being buried. Buried alive!
Here’s how it usually happened. He would be knocked on the head, knocked unconscious. It would be presumed that he was dead. His body would be prepared for burial and he would be laid in a tomb far from the village. When all the mourners had departed he would regain his senses in the cool and dark of the tomb, just like the cool and dark of this night. Macabre corpses with deathly grimaces would mock him. He would be unable to budge the stone covering the entrance to the tomb. And then it would only be a matter of time before he really died, weak, alone and terrified.
A flash of lightning rent the night sky and the thunder’s boom cracked. Several of the others awoke, looked around and lay back down. Jesus listened attentively as the first large drops of rain pelted the roof above his head, and presently, the steady drum of rain sounding in his ears, he drifted into a heavy exhausted sleep.