There is a stage set up in the middle of town. It’s wooden legs creak as the load grows heavy with each step. A sigh escapes from the space between mossy splinters and rain water drips down one side. A damp fog rolls through the air and meshes the sky with the earth. Grey sways through the crowd. Foot steps slosh and gazes are exchanged. A tension begins to build.
There are no red curtains draping the sides of this stage nor any lights highlighting one spot over the other. There aren’t any props or microphones. Not a single white, chalky ‘X’ drawn on the floor for a cue. By all means, this may not even be properly classified as a stage but rather a butchers block. Many lives have been sold here, lost here, and many more will be. There is but a simple pulpit made of the same rotting wood the slaves stand on. Green moss surfacing out of each crevice. The rain begins again.
There is a stage in the middle of town and you find yourself rising up the stairs to find a place on it set apart for anyone such as yourself. Dressed in thin rags, dirt smeared across your face, a single tear sprints down your cold cheek and seeps into the spongy wood beneath your bare feet. “How did I get here?” Dark, judging eyes stare you up and down. Whispers are exchanged. Glances dart back and forth. Money changes hands. The others join you and now you are awake to the reality before you.
You’re being sold. You’re a slave. There is nothing you can do about it.
Numbers are called out, shouts are exchanged and, one by one, your slave mates leave the stage. The shackles on your wrists grow heavier with each transaction. You watch as the most recent purchase receives a swift smack to the backside or a brand to the wrist. With a great but silent cry, they sorrowfully, bitterly, fall in step behind a new master. Maybe there will be no master left that would seek to buy a slave like you.
Your gaze lifts to meet the waiving hands of currency in the air. There is no shortage of demand here. You’ll be bought sure enough and at the mercy of your new salve master. Hot prods with calligraphic initials on each end can be heard sizzling in near by troughs. It’s only a matter of time before greedy eyes get their desire and you’re also led off the stage to the trough in the corner to be branded by a new master.
Greed. Lust. Doubt. Anger. Deceit. Jealousy. Betrayal. Depression.
Who will it be? Who will call out the highest bid and claim your flesh as their own off the stage in the center of town? Which brand will join the others burned into your soul? Does it matter now?
The chains dig deeper into your skin as yet another slave is released into slavery. The stage is growing emptier, wider with every slam of the mallet. It’s almost your turn. Your heart races and your eyes sink to the wood grain pushing into your pale feet. A deep sigh escapes your mouth followed by another tear. Except this one travels down your face and slips between your lips,making your taste buds tingle at the saltiness.
It’s your turn now. The auctioneer grabs the number from around your neck and begins to call out bids. Hands shoot up into the air. The rain quickens and beats louder against the stone road. Your hair mats against your forehead and shame drapes a heavy cloak over your slumped shoulders.
Going once. Going Twice. Sold.
You’ve just been bought.
So consumed with dread, you didn’t even hear the price you were sold for. Maybe it’s better that way. The attendant pulls you back a step and jams a brass key into your own shackles as he has done for the rest. Being the last on the stage, the garland of chain slams to the ground and shatters the air with it’s sharp clang. Blinded by the rain, you’re led down the same shaking stairs you walked up and pushed onto the pavement. Mud fuses under your nails and the taste of dirt grits in your mouth. Cold rain beats against your back. You can’t seem to see past this moment, to comprehend what might be next. Your chest heaves with anxious breath.
A strong arm suddenly pulls you to your feet and drapes you with a thick cloak. Resigned to whatever fate may hold next, you allow the grasp of your new master to pull you along, away from the crowd and away from the singe of iron against flesh. The jeers and snickering begin to fade as you draw away from the stage in the center of town and follow your new master through the wet and winding streets.
Turning down a small corridor, you are led into a small home. The moment you’re in the door, warmth rushes to greet every spot of exposed flesh and your cheeks rush bright red in the sudden change of temperature. Clenching the now soaked cloak around you, you stand there, dripping in the door way of the unknown. Cold. Wet. Your eyes dart around the room. Where am I? Is that prod meant to tend fire or set me a new name? Fear. Panic begin to well up inside you like a swarm of angry bees.
All at once you remember you’re not alone and you can feel a cool gaze looking towards you. Uncertain of what is coming next, you drop the cloak and kneel with your face towards the ground. In all your sorrow, you’ve still not seen the face of your new owner. Afraid of beginning this bondage with a beating, instincts bring you prostrate to whomever you now call master.
Time stands still for just a moment and then His shadow moves over you, He kneels before you, and then places His palms over yours. His hands cover yours completely and the stark contrast between the warmth of His skin against the cold grey of your skin is shocking. His grasp gently tightens at your response. Who is this master that shows such affection at first touch? This is not how the stories go. Visions of brutal beatings and enticements laced with trickery flash through your mind. You’ve known no master to be so kind in the first moments of ownership. Who is this master you now find yourself slave to?
He says your name aloud. It takes a moment to process that it’s your name He has now said and not your number. Your name. How does He know my name? A gentle finger reaches to touch just beneath your chin and tilts your head up and meet His gaze. When you allow yourself to look up, His expression is filled with concern and love, unlike any other you’ve known before. His eyes are kind and His mouth curves in a gentle smile. Robbed of words, He answers the question pulsing at the front of your mind.
“My name is Jesus and I’m your new master.”