Set Free on Holy Thursday

Today I watched a man go free. I was on a jury, trying him for the crime of breaking into an apartment and stealing a cell phone. We heard the evidence and deliberated for two days. Most people thought he probably did it. He had a mean look about him. But the evidence wasn’t there to say more. A suspect testimony, the same that first got him in jail. He’d been held for a year almost to the day, before today, when he went free.

The man stood up. We saw him standing for the first time, and we saw how small he was. “Not guilty.” Count two. “Not guilty.” He wept.

Today I celebrate the arrest of my God, who tomorrow was executed. (When else can one use the past tense to speak about tomorrow?) Barabbas went free.

Counsel conveyed a message from the free man to his jury. “Thank you. God bless you.” It’s something when those words you hear a zillion times, unto meaninglessness, actually seem to mean something again.

Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.