The Soldier Who Killed a King: A True Retelling of the Passion

The Soldier Who Killed a King: A True Retelling of the Passion


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780825444852
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Publication date: 07/25/2017
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

David Kitz is a Bible dramatist and outreach minister with the Foursquare Church. His previous work includes Psalms Alive! Connecting Heaven and Earth and Little Froggy Explores the BIG World, which won the Word Guild Children’s Picture Book award.

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The Soldier Who Killed a King

A True Retelling of the Passion

By David Kitz

Kregel Publications

Copyright © 2017 David Kitz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8254-4485-2


Four in the afternoon, Sunday, April 2, AD 30

It was never like this before.

I have been posted in Jerusalem for ten years now, but in all that time I had never seen a Passover crowd like this.

It wasn't the numbers. I had seen that before.

The Passover pilgrims always come plodding into the city in reverent caravans. Some of them chant psalms. Others are silent, looking bone-weary as they trudge, like fretful herdsmen with children in tow. Undoubtedly, many are relieved that their holy city is finally in view.

But this year it was different. There was this man — at the center of the whole procession. There had never been a central figure before. Every movement within that huge throng seemed focused on him.

Squinting in a futile attempt to get a better view, I gave Claudius a backhanded slap to the shoulder and demanded, "What are they doing?"

"They're climbing the trees, sir."

"I can see that!" I snapped. "But what are they doing?"

"They seem to be tearing off the palm branches, sir."

"What is going on here?" I said it more to myself than to any of the men standing near me. An uncomfortable feeling crept into me as the procession advanced.

"They don't usually do this?" Claudius questioned.

"No ... They've never done this before." There was worry in my voice.

Claudius had been recently assigned to this place, the festering armpit of the empire, and I was at a loss to explain what was happening before us. We were standing on the wall above the gate of Jerusalem, and less than a half mile away, we could see the jubilant pilgrims surging toward us in alarming numbers.

"They're laying the palm branches on the road in front of that man — the man on the donkey."

Until Claudius said it, I hadn't noticed the donkey. Its small size and the frenzy of activity round about must have obscured this detail in the picture before me. What an odd way for this man to come. I could make no sense of it.

"They're throwing down their cloaks before him."

The sweat-glistened bodies of several men were clearly visible. Outer garments were being cast down before this man as a sign of homage. At the same time the rhythmic chanting of their voices became more distinct.

What were they singing? Could I pick up the words?

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

That's when it hit me like a barbarian's club. I realized what I was witnessing. It was a triumphal entry — the entry of a king.

It was the words. The words they were now boisterously shouting. He was their Messiah. The Son of David! The one they were waiting for! The one who would rid them of the Romans. He would set up his glorious Jewish kingdom, here, in Jerusalem! This is what I had been warned about since the day I first set foot on this cursed Judean soil.

And we, I and my men and the garrison in the city, were all that stood in their way.

This crowd of thousands was sweeping down the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley and then on toward us. They advanced like a huge human wave about to collide with the rock-hewn palisades on which we stood.

Would they sweep us away?

My initial curiosity had grown into worry. Now, in an instant, my worry turned to alarm. Instinctively, everything within me shouted, "Stand! Resist! Be a Roman!"

We had soldiers posted all about the city, especially along the pilgrim route. My own hundred men were among the first to be deployed. During Jewish feasts like this, we made certain we were highly visible. I dreaded what might happen if this crowd ran wild. Rioting could erupt, and with an impassioned throng such as this, riots have a way of quickly turning deadly.

For several moments a debate raged in my mind. Should I order the gate closed to keep this rabble with their pretender king out of the city? Or should I let everything proceed — let it proceed as though somehow we hadn't taken note of what was going on?

"Stand! Ready for orders!" I shouted above the swelling din. The sentinels on the wall snapped to attention.

I hastily scanned the crowd for any sign of weapons, any hint of armed treachery. To my surprise, I saw none. They were paying no attention to us. Everyone was caught up with hailing this man, the man on the donkey.

The front edges of the crowd reached the first platoon of eight men I had positioned by the roadside about four hundred yards before the gate. But they ignored them, sweeping past the clump of soldiers without so much as creating a ripple, like a swift-flowing stream around a stone.

At that moment I knew it made no sense to lower the gate. It would only enrage this crowd that was already fully aroused and moving as one.

Let them come. We'll handle them and their king inside the city.

Their king. On a donkey. I could only shake my head in disbelief.

I had watched many a triumphal entry while growing up in Rome, and the conquering hero always rode a gallant warhorse. And as a boy, I too had dreams of personal glory. But a donkey? It could only happen here, I thought with an incredulous grin.

I could see him clearly now. Donkey or not, he had the look of a man who knew exactly what he was doing. Those about him might not know or understand, but he knew. He had a destination in mind, a purpose. You could see it on his face.

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

There was something else different about him. At the time I didn't know what it was. I couldn't put it into words for a long time. I think I noticed it because I had watched all those other men come into Rome in their triumphal processionals. They were conquerors, but still they were hollow men, feeding off the adulation of the crowd, thirsting but never satisfied. You could see them vainly drink it in, hoping it would somehow fill the empty soul.

This donkey-riding king wasn't drinking from the crowd. I somehow sensed he was full already, and what he had within must have come from a different source.

"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Just at that moment a strange feeling seemed to rise within me. Maybe it was the joy of the crowd. I had expected anger. Maybe it was the children waving palm branches or the spontaneity of the singing? I don't know. For one moment it all seemed to come together. It seemed right somehow. Like heaven and earth had finally, for a moment, come into agreement — an agreement that had never been achieved before.

"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

He was much closer now.

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"

He was now within the shadow of the gate.

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

At that moment he looked up. For an instant our eyes met. Then I heard a voice — clearly heard a voice say, "I have a future for you."

I was confused.

I turned to Claudius and said, "What did you mean by that?"

"What did I mean by what?" He had a blank look on his face.

"By what you said about — about the future?"

"I didn't say anything about the future, sir. I didn't say anything."

I was totally baffled. Was I hearing voices? This whole thing was making no sense, no sense at all. Passover pilgrims weren't supposed to come into the city this way. We had a revolutionary on the loose-riding a donkey. And now I was hearing things?

I rubbed the sweat from my forehead, hoping for some clarity to emerge.

I had a hundred men whose lives were in danger from this Jewish Messiah and his horde of followers. That was what mattered.

By this time the donkey man had passed under the gate and was heading in the direction of the temple in the heart of the city.

I signaled for Claudius to follow as I raced down the stairs of the gatehouse. I emerged onto the street and grabbed the first two-legged bit of Jewish scum I saw. Pressing him against the stone wall, I demanded, "Who is that man?" I pointed at the retreating figure on the donkey.

The poor wretch was in shock and seemed quite unable to get out a word.

Claudius reached for his sword.

"Je-Jesus of Nazareth," he stammered and then quickly added, "the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

I loosened my grip.

Then in a voice loud enough for all near to hear, I announced, "Well, there is one thing I do know. We're going to have to keep an eye on that man."


One in the morning, Monday, April 3

Sleep was impossible. The events of the day kept playing through my mind.

He worried me. Donkey man. The donkey king. Jesus of Nazareth.

He could have turned that mob against us. They were in his hands. Why didn't he act?

Maybe it was the women and children in the crowd? Maybe it was a lack of weapons?

He must be waiting for his support to build. He obviously had his supporters from Galilee with him. Maybe he felt he needed to build his base of support here in Jerusalem before he attacked us.

I rolled over. The room felt unusually hot for a spring evening.

Maybe it just wasn't his time. He was a man with a purpose. I could see that. Of course that was it. He was working according to some plan, some script I could only guess at.

What was his next move?

The deep rhythmic breathing of my wife told me she was fast asleep. Zelda knew none of my worries. It was best that way. Our two young sons were also sleeping, in the adjoining room. Let them dream on.

But by the gods, it's hard to sleep when you feel your life is threatened.

I had doubled my men on duty for the nightly foot patrol through the city and put an additional man on as house guard. Maybe that idiot Arius wouldn't fall asleep if he had some company. I could faintly hear feet shuffling in the courtyard from time to time, so I knew they were on duty.

At least I knew our would-be Messiah wasn't in the city. As the sun was setting, I had watched him leave by the same gate by which he had arrived triumphant an hour earlier. Word on the street had it that he was going to spend the night with friends in Bethany. So an overnight coup was not in the works.

Then there was Claudius to worry about, my sister's son. I was so pleased when he first arrived from Antioch. I remembered him as a curly-haired boy back in Rome, but when he stepped off that galleon, I was looking at a man. I didn't even recognize him at that moment, though now I can see he has my sister's eyes.

Yes, there was Claudius. What had he stepped into if this thing erupted?

Hell-bent zealots. I hated them.

I could feel my body tense as the pictures raced through my mind.

There was Andreas, one of my lead men, dumped like a sack of refuse. I found him lying on the blood-drenched cobblestones. His throat was cut.

Then there was young Hermes, pinned to a wall by his own spear. His entrails were hanging to the ground.

Terrorists! Bloody terrorists! That's what they were. And there was no telling when they would strike. The incident last month was still fresh in my mind. Barabbas the Zealot, the ringleader, would pay for this!

These were isolated, random attacks by a few fanatics. For us Romans, the constant threat of terror was demoralizing. Each incident marshaled its own set of fears. But this prophet, this Jesus, with thousands adoring him and singing his praise, what could he do? Anything seemed possible. He put all ofJerusalem in a stir today. And this was only the first day of Passover Week. There was no doubt in my mind that we were in for a killer week, and it would be us or them.

I rolled over. My pillow was wet with sweat.

Then there was Flavio.

All this wouldn't leave me so fuming frustrated if it weren't for the leadership crisis. Late in the day, when Renaldo and I reported all we had seen to Flavio — our tribune, our commanding officer — he was drunk.

Drunk again. So here we were on the cusp of a mass rebellion, and our commander was so intoxicated he couldn't draw his sword to butter his own bread.

I threw back the flimsy cover, quietly pulled on a tunic, and slipped out the door.

Standing on the balcony, I could see the two guards start at my sudden appearance above them. One quickly moved to the street gate, anticipating a rebuke.

The still night air was refreshing as I drew in several long breaths. I reached for the balcony rail to anchor me in the darkness. It was a clear moonlit night. The stars were glorious.

I just needed time to think. All was quiet except for the incessant chirping of crickets.

I needed a plan.

How long I stood there I have no idea. Then it started to come. Slowly at first, and then my mind raced along.

I groped my way forward till I reached the stairs. Then, with the assurance of familiarity, I hurried down them. Beneath the stairs was a storage closet. The hinges creaked as I opened the crude door. I stooped to enter, turned a sharp left, and with fumbling hands reached for a small wooden trunk I knew should be on a shelf straight ahead of me at chest height. I smiled into the blackness as my fingers fell on a well-worn handle. I shifted the trunk's weight onto my hip and ducked back out the door. Moving out of the shadows, I set my trophy down in the center of the courtyard.

Arius shuffled toward me from the gate and in whispered tones asked, "Sir, do you need my help?"

I waved him off.

The clasps gave way before me, and the tight lid squeaked open. I pulled out the robe and held it up to the starlight. I did the same with the carefully folded prayer shawl. The pungent cedar smell of the chest had permeated the fabric. The scent revived me. I hastily stuffed both back into the trunk and carried the treasure up to my chamber.

For what was left of the night, I slept.


Six in the morning, Monday, April 3

The first streaks of dawn were just beginning to spread across the eastern sky when I left the house with the trunk tucked under my arm. In moments I was at Renaldo's gate. The gatekeeper immediately recognized me and granted entry.

Renaldo was a fellow centurion and a trusted friend. Our wives spent untold hours together, since our cramped Roman villas were joined one to another. For Zelda, female companionship of a Roman kind was hard to find in this outpost of the empire, so our wives found in each other a kinship that might never have flourished back home.

In the dim light I caught sight of a familiar toga-clad figure seated on the steps, stroking the head of a large dog. At the sound of my footsteps, Keeper swung free from his master and bounded about me in two great circles with his tail wagging furiously.

"He's such a great watchdog," I said in mock admiration. In fact, I knew he would be just that if a stranger entered.

"You're off to an early start," Renaldo offered as he rose, straightened, and we clasped forearms.

"Yes, well, it's not a regular week."

"No, it's not a regular week," he agreed, then shook his head. "What a show that was yesterday. Holy Jupiter! I thought we were history. That dog on the donkey could have had us trampled and served up as Passover lamb. That was too close. Way too close!"

"Don't I know it." I nodded my full agreement.

"We have to do something. This Jewish prophet is too dangerous."

"That's why I came over. I have a plan. It came to me last night."

"What about Flavio?" Renaldo resumed stroking Keeper. The dog's silky ears twitched beneath his gentle hand.

"Forget Flavio. He'll be drunk for the rest of the week. Herod's coming down about midweek. There'll be a big wine-swilling bash for the upper crust. He'll sober up just long enough so he can bow and scrape for Pilate at the right moment. Forget him. We have to save our own hides."

"All right. So what's this plan?"

"It's not some great master scheme, but I do have a few ideas."

"Yes, get on with it," he said with obvious interest.

"Well, the way I see it, we have way too little information about whatever is going on here. If there's some Passover plot being hatched, we need to be the first to know about it. Not like yesterday. I don't like surprises. Especially Jewish Messiah surprises."

Renaldo scowled in agreement.

"So why the trunk?" he asked.

I had set it down after our greeting, and now it was Keeper, sniffing about it, that brought it to Renaldo's attention.

"This is one way I can get some information."

I opened the trunk and pulled out several items of clothing, among them a Jewish prayer shawl and several phylacteries. Holding one of the fringed garments to myself, I announced, "Today I am Benjamin. Benjamin from Alexandria, and I've come to celebrate the Passover here, in the holy city, Jerusalem."

All this was done with a thick Aramaic accent and a mock reverence that left Renaldo slapping his thigh in laughter.


Excerpted from The Soldier Who Killed a King by David Kitz. Copyright © 2017 David Kitz. Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Soldier Who Killed a King: A True Retelling of the Passion 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Strong research supports the book and puts it into cultural, political, and historical perspective as David Kitz sets the stage for ‘The Soldier Who Killed the King'. The character development is wonderful. Kitz portrays a Centurion, a model of strength and decorum, who had overseen many an execution being utterly transformed by what took place at Golgotha. The reader is transported alongside the soldier to the cross where together they stand in awe
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received a copy of THE SOLDIER WHO KILLED A KING: ATRUE RETELLING OF THE PASSION by David Kitz from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. This is a standalone book. This book…wow. Subject matter aside, it blew me away. The writing is superb. It feel as if you are watching a movie, but a 4D movie. (This would make a great Broadway play) It puts you in the scene. You taste and feel and smell. You are transported back in time. You get to really know the characters as if they were people living on your block. You travel back in time to the first-century world and experience it all. Now for the subject matter. According to the blurb: A stunning story of Holy Week through the eyes of a Roman centurion. The centurion is Marcus Longinus. This story shows the events leading up to the Passion Week. This is a new take on a story that has been told many times. I admit to thinking it might “just be another one.” If you hesitate because of that, you’re missing out. This is historical Christian fiction at its finest. I highly recommend it for your collection.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
"What would it have been like to live in the geopolitical center of the first-century world, when donkeys and camels were the cars and trucks, conversations over goblets of wine were the social media, and religious conflict influenced every facet of life? What would it have been like to live under pagan, political domination of Roman tyranny, while also under the oppressive ritualistic control of hypocritical religious bigots? What would it have been like to live in the very week that this dark, confused world was invaded by heaven - a week when history shifted from BC to AD? The Soldier Who Killed A King by David Kitz, is a gripping story that offers its readers front row seats from which we can see the action. It's a hidden camera on the helmet of the primary witness of the history-altering drama when the Sovereign of the Universe, quietly riding a lowly donkey, overthrew the pomp and dominion of the most powerful kingdom this world has ever known. More than that, it's a look into the mind and heart of a man, not unlike you or me, who wrestled with the meaning and purpose of life. As you read the thoughtful eyewitness account of Marcus Longinus, the Roman centurion, the soldier who killed a king, you'll feel his anxiety and anguish as well as the exult in his ultimate answers because - despite the differences of time and culture - his story is our story." ~ Dr. Barry Buzza The Soldier Who Killed A King by David Kitz is a work of historical fiction. Like other works in this genre, there are points where imagination is essential in order to round out the characters and fill n the details missing from the historical record. However every effort has been made to tell this story in the biblically accurate manner. Frequently, when the story narrative intersects with the biblical account, direct quotes from the Bible are used. This book marks the week of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, a pivotal week in human history. Time and date entries at the head of each chapter acts as road markers as you work your way through the week. Most historical and biblical scholars situate this epic drama during the Passover week of AD 30, and if this is so, then we can pinpoint the many events to within minutes of this occurence. I received The Soldier Who Killed A King by David Kitz compliments of Kregel Publications. This is such a wonderful book because as the foreward states, you feel like you are seeing these events as they occurred through the eyes of the Roman centurion. As you near the crucifixion, the reality of what really happened begins to cause your chest to tighten as if you were actually there. You feel the nails being pounded into the flesh of Jesus even though he uttered no words while this barbaric death was performed. This is one of the reasons I love biblical fiction because it takes those notable events from the Bible and takes the reader right into the heart of the action. I will be keeping this one tucked away in my permanent library and well worthy of all 5 out of 5 stars.
lilagirl78 More than 1 year ago
It was graphic in places, but that was necessary to get the full impact of what Jesus suffered. It was depressing and gut-wrenching in places. But the beautiful ending made me tear up. I think the ending could have had a little more resolution, a little prolonging of the joy to help make up for so much tension built up through the entire book. But it is a great reminder of the Passion Week's happenings and an imaginative fiction of what other people might have been feeling going through it. I read this while going through a book study on it, with discussion questions written by the author. Reading it for answers made it feel a little too much like a literature class, and I think would be better suited for a nonfiction. Next Easter time I intend to re-read this book through like the fiction it was written as, and try not to critique it next time. I think that will increase the pleasure and help me get into the story even more. (I received this book free, but the decision to write a review, as well as the opinions expressed in it, are all my own.)