A powerful, irresistible episode today – a little longer than the rest though. But you’ll be glad you follow down to the end if you do.
A PAIR of brawny hands appeared through the rooftop. And they noiselessly lifted a small square of slab off the brick roof over the innermost sacrifice chamber.
As the small block piece gave way in the roof of the most hallowed temple court, the intruder stealthily descended into that holy place through the small opening.
It was the crown prince Àlà.
Prince Àlà had chosen to come upon the captors of his priceless jewel unawares. Like the arrival of a dreadful ghost of the night.
And Àlà would do anything to get his dearest out of that death cage tonight.
The prince had therefore mounted the walls surrounding the huge temple from behind the temple building, where it is darker and more private; and from where a breech would be quicker.
Neither the devotees crowding the arena of the outer courts in the frontage, nor the guarding sentries standing around the temple walls, could mark the silent intruder.
Not until a desperate prince of Jaiye got on the roof and descended into that holy chamber of sacrifice, where the Sacred Rooster to announce the eventual time quietly roosted.
And just when the prince quietly lowered himself into the chamber, the rooster made a loud, big crow.
It was one long blast of the dreaded sound.
Right then a loud call and chorus drifted from the middle courts down to the innermost chamber where the prince was.
‘O Highest, Highest Heavens…!!’ sounded the chief priest’s voice.
And the entire house screamed the chorus. ‘Accept our feeble sacrifice!!!’
Àlà couldn’t take it now. It was time; the rooster had just crowed. Death had come for Iyun, he feared. Death had certainly come for his lady.
With all the strength the young man could muster, he leapt towards the rooster at once and caught the large bird with a hand. The sacred fowl shrieked so loud with a heightened cry of an alarm.
Instantly two standing priests were alarmed. They were guarding the doors leading into that holiest chamber on the outside. And they turned around towards the doors.
As the shouts of the company of priests gathered in the middle courts subsided, the other priests in the middle courts heard the alarming shrieks too.
Right then, everything went frighteningly silent. For one small moment.
Suddenly the priests manning the sacred doors forced them open. And there in the hallowed place they saw a huge masked man.
The fearsome intruder was holding down a heavy blade. The sword was dripping with the blood of the sacred fowl split into two halves already.
The two priests stood in the doorway, in a frozen moment of terror and hesitation.
It was the holiest place of all which they’d never before stepped their foot in…
Yet there it was before them desecrated in the gravest act of sacrilege.
Zenas was yet to arrive at the temple. He wasn’t able to catch up with Àlà’s riding pace. But as a son of the soil himself, he still somehow remembered the pathways to the central temple.
Meanwhile Zenas the evangelist had always desired to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to his own people here in Jaiye. And when he met the crown prince back in the land of the Ashias, he’d thought his goal was already achieved.
But Zenas never knew he would even go back to his homeland to bring Jesus Christ to his people that soon. Zenas never even imagined that the first place he’d have to go would be the grand temple of Jaiye’s sacrificial rituals.
Now as the young evangelist rode down the temple pathway, his mind went back to that that preordained moment in Beersheba.
It went back to when he won the crown prince for Jesus.
The talk between Àlà and Zenas at the Beersheba inn soon developed into a full-blown conversation that fateful day.
Àlà was eager to know. He looked at Zenas. ‘Tell me about that Lord of yours,’ he said. ‘Tell me about your Lord.’
There was a small moment of stillness. Zenas felt grateful for being Christ’s witness to the crown prince of his own nation. He said a quiet prayer now.
‘Lord Jesus,’ mumbled Zenas, ‘please save this soul today and my people too. Amen.’
The evangelist sat up a little. ‘I will tell you now, Your Highness.
‘The world didn’t evolve on its own,’ Zenas began. ‘There is a mighty God in Heaven who formed the world and everything in it. And He still rules in the affairs of His creation.’
Àlà interposed the preacher just then. ‘I agree with you. In Jaiye we are aware that there’s a powerful Force which controls the affairs of us mortals.
‘We have dug deep into earth, waded through rivers and even mounted the proudest mountains.
‘But one thing we haven’t done and cannot do is reaching up to the heavens. We serve the Heavens in Jaiye,’ the prince said.
Zenas was relieved. He could tell from Àlà’s words that the latter was listening so well. He decided to use the Jaiye culture as an illustrative portrait for his message.
Zenas resumed speaking. ‘As much as God created us for a divine purpose, the first man gravely sinned from the beginning and fell from God’s grace and favour,’ he said.
‘Since then, from generation to generation the root of Sin was passed down to everyone from the first man.
‘And we all became sinners. Not because we sin but because we are born sinners. The nature of sin is passed down to us and that is why we can’t help doing wrong.’
The Jaiye prince heaved a quiet sigh.
Zenas continued. ‘Yet the judgement for sinfulness is Eternal Death. So it means because of our sinful nature which we can’t help, we bring damnation to ourselves.
‘Like we do say in Jaiye that we are plagued with the Death Curse,’ explained the evangelist.
Àlà nodded. Zenas’ words were easy to understand. The Jaiye prince found the explanations so relatable and down to earth. And so he continued to listen.
Zenas went on in a moment. ‘So, to redeem us from Eternal Death…’ attempted the preacher.
‘We make sacrifices to the Heavens every season!’ Àlà interrupted.
Zenas smiled. ‘Yes you are right, Your Highness. A sacrifice was made. But not one of slain animals,’ he asserted.
‘Animals cannot give life to man,’ continued the evangelist. ‘Just as man cannot give life to animals. Or can a slave pay the ransom for his master? Not at all!
‘If a slave that is also a human cannot redeem his own master, how then can animals redeem us when we are not the same beings?’ explained Zenas.
Àlà was quiet and still. He understood the point right then. The words made absolute sense. Animals cannot redeem man indeed, he admitted.
Just then the Jaiye heir remembered the new verdict passed by the chief priest a few moons ago.
Let horses die for horses and man die for himself, the chief priest had declared.
Àlà spoke up now. ‘You are right, Zenas. You are very right. And that is the same reason why we ourselves have sought the will of the High Heavens, and we’ve changed our offering now. Animals will no longer die for man. A beautiful and pure maiden…!’
Àlà stopped right then.
The crown prince couldn’t complete his words. He realised at that instant that the maiden with the beauty of a goddess demanded as the new sacrificial offering, was to be a slave girl. (Even though he hadn’t yet known that the sacrifice back at home would now be his own beautiful lady, Iyun.)
Right then the prince realised he’d lost the argument even before he began.
A random slave girl cannot save us at Jaiye, Àlà surrendered.
The noble heir spoke up now. ‘All right, I agree with you,’ he said. ‘Then tell me what should rather be the sacrificial offering?’ he enquired.
‘Thank you for asking, Your Royal Highness,’ replied the preacher. ‘The Almighty God had looked down on us His helpless creation, and He chose to save us from eternal damnation,’ he began.
‘So God sent a part of Himself to us to bridge the gap between us and Him and ransom our lost souls. God sent down His very image many ages ago.
‘And that Redeemer sent to bring us back was the one beloved Son of God, the lover of our souls. He is Jesus Christ the Lord.
‘And although the Lord Jesus was in the glorious form of God Himself, He came down to this earth as fully man. He was born like us, grew among us and lived with us in this same mortal flesh.
‘And the Son of God became the son of man… just so He could show us the way back to God the Father.
‘But the Lord Jesus was hated and scorned beyond words,’ continued Zenas. ‘In fact, far more than you saw me being persecuted for His sake a while ago. Yet Jesus was the first and only one to live a guiltless and sinless life.’
Àlà listened quietly.
‘But it wasn’t just about that, Your Highness,’ Zenas added. ‘Jesus Christ was brutally wounded, beaten and condemned to a sinner’s cross. And there He was crucified and died.’
Àlà made to speak now. But he just suppressed the urge to ask a question every other time.
Zenas went on without noticing anything.
‘In that predestined death on a cursed cross,’ resumed the evangelist, ‘the sinless Christ offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for Sin before God the Father… and for all of humanity.
‘And when Jesus died and was buried, He went down to Hades and tasted damnation for us all…’
Àlà couldn’t hold in his question now. ‘But if He died and went down to the grave,’ he interposed, ‘then why is He better than anyone of us?
‘Why is the Son of God better than any warlord who dies in battle? Or than any great man who die like a mortal? Why, huh?’
Zenas smiled. ‘Your Highness, it is impossible for the grave to hold God captive. God the Son died but didn’t stay dead. It was impossible for Hades to keep the Lord!’
Àlà’s interest was stirred up right then, as the evangelist went on speaking.
‘So when Christ was buried, He went down to the pit and there He seized the keys of Hades and conquered eternal death,’ explained Zenas.
‘And on the third day after He died, Jesus Christ rose again to live eternally… never to die again!
‘Jesus has since ascended to Heaven. So God has now commanded by a changeless decree that everyone who comes to Him the Father must come through His Son Jesus Christ… the sinless sacrifice for mankind.
‘So whoever believes in God through Jesus our Redeemer, to Him the Lord will give power to live a new life on earth. And such a person will escape damnation in the afterlife.’
Àlà heard everything and it made absolute sense. He had nothing against the preacher’s words. Yet one last question troubled the Jaiye heir. And he wasn’t going to bury it but spit it out like others.
Zenas’ words were quite clear and understandable to the prince. But he still couldn’t let go of the religious traditions of his people; what he’d been brought up with his entire life.
Àlà decided to spit it out as it is. ‘But we serve the High Heavens in Jaiye. How can our sincere worship be wrong?’ Àlà queried. ‘Huh, how can our sincere acts of worship be all wrong?!’
Zenas was about to speak, but it seemed Àlà had a little more to say.
‘The ancestors handed our traditions down to us in Jaiye?’ continued the noble heir. ‘How can the forefathers be wrong? How can every other way be wrong, huh?!’ He queried.
Àlà wasn’t satisfied. ‘There are so many ways we can take to find God, aren’t there? I believe every nation and every people should create just what is suitable for them! Shouldn’t it be like that? Huh…?! You’re not answering, my friend!!’
Zenas looked at the crown prince and understood so well. He’d also asked these kind of questions the day he first heard the gospel of Christ.
The preacher had asked why the disciples of Jesus Christ claimed He is the one and only Way to God. The young man had wondered how Christ’s followers could be that so sure.
The young man had asked these questions for quite a time and thought the scriptures were simply filled with imaginative stories. Stories of miraculous things that never really happened…
Not until the day Zenas encountered the supernatural power of Christ which left him a completely different man.
That day the young man came to fully understand the transformation that turned Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle of Christ.
But Zenas only replied Àlà in simpler words. ‘Your Royal Highness,’ he said, ‘back there at home in Jaiye we all say that we worship the Unknown God and have chosen to call Him the High Heavens.’
He looked at the prince a moment and declared.
‘Nobody can reach the high heavens, Your Royal Highness. And no one can reach the Most High God, no matter how many ways we try! No mortal can reach the Almighty God on his own terms!’ he said.
Àlà let out a deep, thoughtful sigh.
Zenas went on. ‘That is why the Unknown God we worship via natural things in Jaiye kingdom is only a miserly, created shadow of the Divine Nature.
‘That is why God Himself became man in order to redeem us through His Son Jesus Christ.
‘And in Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for our Death Curse is absolutely divine and yet absolutely human.
‘And this is why the Lord Jesus Christ is the worthiest redemption for you, for me, and for all!’ the evangelist finished.
Àlà’s jaw dropped. He’d never heard such a great heavenly mystery. So profound and yet so simple.
Àlà trembled at the grand masterplan of Heaven redeeming earth. Of the Most High God redeeming mortal man.
‘Ah please…!’ he cried. ‘I want this Jesus to be my Lord too!!’
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© 2020 by Kayode & Tola Olla