Preceding the Messianic Dialogues, this piece accurately reflects what happened to our protagonist Jesus, as he tried to make his way through a border crossing in Jerusalem in the year 33AD to obtain his bank loan.
A soldier stood vigil at the large concrete checkpoint which guarded the wall cutting through the heart of Jerusalem, the Star of David emblazoned on his helmet. Jesus and Mark approached and the guard took a step towards them.
“Papers, please,” he commanded.
Jesus wore a confused expression, “We just need to get to an appointment on the other side of town.”
“Nobody gets past without papers,” the guard said staunchly.
“I don’t understand, isn’t this all Jerusalem?”
“This side is for us the other side is for them,” the guard replied with a hint of disgust in his voice. He motioned towards the other side of the border where people casually walked around, the men with long beards and robes, the women in head-scarves.
“I’m still not following… Aren’t you all from the same place? Why do you hate each other?” Jesus asked.
“We aren’t sure yet. But we despise them,” replied the guard with a fierce tone.
“But I don’t understand, you are the same people,” Jesus said in a frustrated voice.
“Yes, we share the same blood, the same home, the same ancestors and the same dreams, needs and desires,” nodded the guard.
“Then why do you hate them?”
“We feel that, in a while, they will like a slightly different collection of stories than we do,” stated the guard, blankly.
“What? That’s it?” Jesus squealed.
“Yes, we feel very strongly that they will like their character more than our characters.”
“But there are guns and mortar here! There are children here – human children, just like any other!”
“Yes,” the soldier said sadly, “We feel very strongly that once we like different stories, all this will disappear into the shroud of perpetual war and bloodshed, staining this land and endangering the entire world.”
Jesus could not wipe the incredulous look from his face. “But they are just stories! Can’t you just each like your own stories?”
The guard stood with a silent look of incomprehension.
“Look, my friend Mark here loves Chuck Palahniuk’s novels,” Jesus started.
“Fight Club is the ultimate anti-materialist manifesto.” Mark chimed in, nodding.
“What else has he written?” Asked the guard, intrigued.
Mark stood with a blank expression.
Jesus cleared his throat, “As I was saying, Mark likes them, but I think they’re overrated pseudo-philosophical hipster trash; but we don’t shoot each other over it!”
The guard looked over to Mark to confirm this.
Mark nodded, “It’s true, we haven’t shot each other. I won’t let any harm come to my friend Jesus.”
“Oh well, I’m afraid it is already too late,” the soldier said ruefully, “the killing began in earnest long ago, and it escalates year by year. It is far more than just stories now.”
“Well, what else is there?” Jesus pressed.
“Revenge,” the guard declared.
“Well, they killed one of our people last week.”
“Because of the stories?”
“Because we killed one of their people the week before that.”
“Well, why did you kill that person?” Jesus asked with exasperation.
“Oh, because they killed one of our people the week before,” the guard vacantly replied.
Jesus stared at the soldier. “Okay,” he said slowly “So, who was the first person ever to kill one of the other people? Was it you… or was it them?”
“Nobody remembers now, it’s been quite a long time. We just take turns killing each other now; it’s the only fair way to do it.”
“But why don’t you just stop killing people – both of you, just agree to stop killing each other right now. Then nobody else dies to settle a score nobody even remembers?”
The guard stared at Jesus blankly.
A loud voice interrupted from a passer-by.
“We should destroy them all!” the caustic words came from a tall man with a horse face and wavy brown hair that stuck up into the sky. “Fifty years ago we’d have had them hanging upside down from a cross with a fucking fork up their arse!”
The guard’s commanding officer heard the ruckus from inside the border post and came out to settle the dispute.
“You, sir, can shut the fuck up!” The officer yelled, menacingly putting his hand on his sidearm. The passerby stood back and scurried away. The commanding officer rolled his eyes. He took a set of papers from Mark’s hand, shuffled through them and handed them back.
“Sorry about, folks. Here in the Holy Land we don’t tolerate that kind of irrational hostility,” he said, as he pulled the rifle slung over his back into his hands and stared intently at the enemy territory across the border, “Now, you be on your way. And watch out for those fucking Muslims.”
He signaled for the guard to open the gate and Mark and an exhausted Jesus walked through.
Once they were on the other side Mark quietly said to Jesus, “Don’t worry: after they hear the message of Christ, that kind of irrational hate will no longer have any place in this world.”