The Paschal Lamb

As a reward for those of you who waded through last time’s Christianese, I decided this week I would post an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Calling Barabbas. I hope you like it, let me know your thoughts!

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Barabbas awoke to the rumble of his father’s voice. His mouth stuck with sleep and his head pounded behind his eyebrows, protesting awakening like a stampede. He threw back the stifling blankets surrounding him. His father’s voice sounded full of exhaustion and hit Barabbas’ ears in a monotone. “Hello, everyone,” he droned. Not wanting to miss anything, Barabbas scrambled to the edge of his bed. The air in the room felt cramped and close with the addition of his cousins, and he needed to get out.

In his haste, Barabbas knocked the toy animals he and Asher had been playing with off his bed and onto the floor. The resulting commotion drew groans from Martha and a deep-sleep sigh from Asher. Barabbas jumped at the noises and tiptoed around the pallets on the floor, trying to make his way to the doorway. His bare feet scuffed across the cool floor and he reached for the thick drapery blocking the archway into the hall.

As soon as he pushed back the curtain covering his door, he smelled the wonderful rich caramel of roasted lamb. It filled the house with its intoxicating scent and made the taste buds in his mouth water. Barabbas entered the hall, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. When he came to the gathering area, he peeked through the doorway and saw most of the family and guests assembled in the silent room. His grandparents, uncles, and aunts reclined on the soft cushions in the sunken center of the living area. Fresh air swirled about from the porch, and Barabbas breathed a deep breath.

He looked over to the center of everyone’s attention. His father held the sacrificial Paschal Lamb in a woven basket. The ceremonial basket could only be used on Passover to hold the Paschal Lamb. The rest of the year Barabbas’ mother kept it in a dark corner of the kitchen pantry awaiting its responsibility. Pure woven flax wrapped the lamb itself. His father and the other temple priests had already sacrificed, roasted, and prepared their family’s lamb as well as hundreds of thousands of others for the Seder dinner.

Barabbas’ eyes went from the lamb to his father. Layers of dried blood caked and cracked the fabric of his robes. In addition to the dried blood, a swath of fresh redness dripped down his father’s sleeves, still moist with life.

Barabbas’ breath stuck in his throat and pain seized his neck as he tried to swallow the sight, but then he remembered. Of course, the blood came from the sacrifices. His father had spent the day slaughtering thousands of lambs. His father’s appearance made Barabbas wonder what the altars and the temple must be like. The agony in his father’s eyes and drooped shoulders spoke of the suffering inherent in the duty of performing sacrifices. Barabbas’ stomach turned in protest as he stared.

Mary came in from the kitchen and broke the grave atmosphere of the room. “Mary, I have the Paschal Lamb for you,” his father said in a low tone. Barabbas’ mother continued,
“Take it to the kitchen and prepare it for the table.” Mary accepted the basket from Barabbas’ father and turned quietly back toward the kitchen.