of the Cross
I hurry through the city, pushing my way passed the choking crowd. I’m not sure why the crowd is so thick, all I know is that I want to get home to my wife and children. I can only hope my two older sons aren’t out in this mess.
A swollen patch of the crowd catches my attention. I stop on the outskirts of the crowd and crane my neck, using my height to see over the heads of the people in front of me to see into the courtyard. I see three men standing on the steps of the grand house. I recognize two of the men, one being the owner of the very steps on which they stood. It was Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of this area. The other one I recognized as Barabbas, a thief, a rebel leader, and a murderer of the highest degree. Why was Barabbas on Pilate’s steps?
The third man was bruised and bleeding from cuts on his face, his clothes splattered in mud and blood. I knew his face, but I could not recall from where or when. As I studied him his eyes fell on me for a fleeting second. His eyes were warm and gentle, peaceful; even with the forming crowd that noticeably did not like him. As our gazes touched, a feeling of serenity passed over me but then vanished just as quickly when his gaze moved past me. I knew his face, but how?
Whatever way I knew him, I felt in my heart it was from a good experience. I did not wish to know what his punishment would be. With one last look at him I moved on.
About two blocks down I paused, as the crowd began to shout.
“Barabbas! Barabbas! Free Barabbas!” they cried.
I spun around and stared back at the raging crowd, Free Barabbas!? I thought to myself. What in the world did that man do to have Barabbas freed over him? Barabbas was a murderer of children, what was worse then that?
I began to walk back to the crowd, to asked what was happening. But as I reached the crowd the man I couldn’t place was being shoved through it.
“Make way!” the Roman soldier snarled at us, “let us take him to be whipped, this King of the Jews. Maybe we will give you a crown.” He said with a sneer, at the man.
To see what was going to happen, I followed the crowd as they took the man to be whipped. I couldn’t understand why they had called him the King of the Jews. Was he a royal? If so, why in the world were they doing this?
When the crowd stopped I was towards the back of it, so I couldn’t see when they started. I only knew when the whip’s crack filled the air, and a cry of agony followed it. I flinched back from the sound of the man’s pain while others leaned in, reveling in it.
I began to scan the crowd, were Alexander and Rufus here? They were old enough to know about the situation and be amongst the crowd. Were they seeing what was unfolding just outside of my site? Did they know who his man was? Did they cry out for him to be killed over Barabbas? Crack upon crack filled the air and cry upon cry followed, I could only hope they were not watching and had no part in this.
The whipping lasted a long time, I had lost count around sixteen or seventeen whips. The crowd had fallen eerily silent around whip number fifteen. It began to rumble again as people began to move at the sound of shouts.
“Make way! Clear a path! We need to get the king his crown!” a Roman soldier yelled as they pushed their way passed.
I gasped in horror as I beheld the man whom I could not place, he was utterly unrecognizable. He had been stripped of everything he wore save a small cloth to cover his lower parts. Every other part of him was a bleeding, torn, slab of meat.
I numbly moved with the crowd as they followed him and the guards to wherever his crown was. This man, who only had kindness in his eyes when I looked at him, was going to be crucified. I followed them to the place where they made the crosses and watched in horror as they placed his “crown” on his head. Or I guess I should say shoved it down deeply into his skull. His crown was made of long, thick, sharp thorns. I winced as his cry filled the air as the thorns pierced his skin and dug deep into his skull.
“Oh, mighty and magnificent king,” the mocking guard said bowing low before this bloodied man. “How mighty and powerful you are with such an accessory.”
The man kicked at his legs knocking him to his knees. “King of the Jews? I think not,” the guard said as he spat in the man’s face.
I watched as they placed a full cross onto his shoulders; then shuddered, as he nearly crumpled under the weight of the over three-hundred-pound cross. My heart felt heavy and sad but also confused. This man must have been truly horrible to deserve treatment such as this.
“Come on, oh King of the Jews,” a Roman guard sneered at him, “take up your cross and let us get to your death already. I tire of this heat.” Laughter from both the other guards and people from the crowd filled the air.
Without being told people split to make a path. I was shoved and pushed farther from him, as people scrambled back so they could still watch this man’s torture. As he slowly creeped his way forward he stumbled and fell to his knees and received no help from the guards. When he finally reached where I was standing he fell and the cross slipped off his shoulders. It landed with a heavy boom. The guards all cursed and kicked at him. Then to my horror the mocking one’s gaze fell on me.
“You!” he said, pointing at me, “come here.”
I stood frozen with anger and fear. Why did they want me to help this man? This man who, clearly from his punishment, was a horrible man. I was a respected man, what if helping him would affect me in the long run? I did not want to even go near this man, whose identity tugged at the corners of my memories. This man whose warm eyes bore into the very center of my soul.
The man looked up from where he was crumpled on the ground. Still, after all he had been through, his eyes held that warmth and peace. I watched as he looked at all the men who were cursing and spitting at him, and what I saw in his eyes as he watched them was an unfaltering love. His eyes slid to mine, and I finally remembered who he was.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Jew who preached in the temple. The man who had healed the blind beggared, the man who healed the lame man, the man who had brought a man four days dead back to life. A man guilty of nothing, a man who’s only purpose had been to help people and preach of the Father he loved so much. A man whose words had changed my family, that had saved my family.
I stepped forward and knelt down in front of him. “Let me help you Master,” I whispered, as I grabbed his hand to helped him to his feet.
“Place it on our shoulders,” I said, as I slung his arm over my shoulder.
The soldiers all laughed at me as they placed it on both of our shoulders. I grunted under the weight it was the heaviest thing I had ever carried but shuffled it forward a bit to get it into position then began to walk.
I looked toward Golgotha, the place of the skull, which was still some ways away, strength surged through me, encouraging me. My feet became steadfast and sure as I carried the cross and supported Jesus. This was something I could do, this was something I felt I needed to do.
As I looked at the crowds faces, as I heard their jeers and snarky remarks I couldn’t believe the way they were treating this man. The Master they had welcomed with cries of joy and palm branches mere days before, they now spit on and cursed at. I was bewildered and ashamed of them. These were my people and this was how they were treating an innocent man and nobody cared.
Soon my shoulders began to ache, and my legs began to burn from the heavy weight on my shoulders. I kept my eyes forward though, and my feet remained steadfast. I could bare this burden for him if only for a little bit. It was the least I could do for the man who had helped and saved so many, who’s warmth had heated even the coldest of hearts.
As we made our way, women who followed behind us wailed and cried out in sorrow for Jesus.
“Daughters of Jerusalem,” Jesus said to them, his voice rough, but his tone gentle, “do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will all say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ And they will say to the mountains, ‘fall on us!’ and to the hills they will cry, ‘cover us!’ for if people do this when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” his words quieted their wails.
I did not understand why this was happening to him, but I did know he was innocent of whatever charges they gave him. This burden they wrongly placed on him did not belong to him, but he took it without a word, without defending himself or helping himself get out of it. I did not know why he took this blame, why he took this… this sin upon his shoulders. I did know that for this short time I could help him carry his heavy burden for him, if only for a little while.
“We are almost there, Master,” I whispered, as we got to the base of the hill.
I knew it was an empty assurance, because once we reached the top he would be crucified for all to see. But if it helped him just a bit, to know this retched journey of an empty stack of crimes was almost over. I was not going to withhold it from him.
When we reached the top, the soldiers wrenched us to a stop and shoved the cross off my shoulder, putting all the weight on his shoulders. He crumpled under the weight, and the guards laughed at him.
“Get back,” one of them snarled at me as I reached to help him. I pushed against him slightly, wanting to help Jesus get back to his feet, but the guard shoved me back. “Get back or suffer the consequences,” the guard snarled.
I looked at Jesus and saw the warning and reassurance in his eyes, I sighed and stepped back. This was wrong in so many ways but I didn’t know how I could stop it. Who was I to stand up against the Romans and the Sadducees? I was no one to them and my life meant as little to them as did a fly’s.
I retreated, anger at their heartlessness boiling up inside me. I clenched my fists as I watched them push the cross off of him and roughly dragged him on top of it. They tied ropes to his wrists and stretched one arm out. I watched powerless as the placed a spike at his palm and hammered it through his hand. His scream rang in my ears. After they did that hand they pulled his other arm out tugging hard at it, I heard a pop and then Jesus cried out, they must have dislocated his shoulder, tears stung my eyes as his pain filled my ears.
I ground my teeth as they pounded another spike into his other hand and then his feet, each cry of agony hitting me like a stone. Hot anger flashed up my spine as I watched them nail a sign to the top of his cross. It read, in three different languages, King of the Jews. They carelessly stood the cross up and it jerked his ruined body all about. He moaned as the cross settled, and I felt the persistent burn of tears behind my eyes and then the tickle of a tear spilling over onto my cheek.
“You saved others, now save yourself, if you truly are God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” people cried out to him mockingly.
“Would you like some wine, oh King?” a soldier said as he stuck a sponge soaked in sour wine, up to him on a spear. “Surely, if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself. Bring yourself down from that tree you hang from.” He said with a sneer.
Jesus did not even acknowledge it as he stared ahead, ignoring his words as well. The soldier brought the sponge down and went and joined the other soldiers as they cast lots over Jesus’ garments.
I looked away from them in discuss as Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Shame washed over me from my anger. This man who had endured such vile things being done to his body was asking Jehovah God to forgive these men.
As I watched I heard one of the prisoners next to him call out to him, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us from these wretched things!”
“Enough,” called the one on his other side, “don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are justly punished, this is what we deserve for our wrong deeds. This man is innocent, he does not deserve this.” After that he looked to Jesus and said, “Jesus, Master, remember me when you go into your kingdom.”
Jesus looked at him and said, “Truly I tell you, today, you will be with me in paradise.”
“Thank you master,” the prisoner said tearfully.
Hours passed, and the morning turned to noon, and a darkness settled across the sky as far as I could see.
I looked up at Jesus just as he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” A deep ache spread across my chest at his words and the crowd grew silent.
A deep rumble filled the air and I heard Jesus say “It… is… finished.” He sighed, and I knew it was his final breath as his body relaxed and his head slumped over.
The earth began to shake furiously, and I heard a loud echoing rip sound across the world. Wails of sorrow filled the air from both women and men. It was to late for them to take back their comments, too late to stop the murder of the innocent they called Master and Teacher. The agony in the crowd was palpable as one of the soldiers shoved a spear through his side
I heard a soldier who was standing near me whisper to his companion, “Maybe he truly was the promised Messiah.”
With tears in my eyes, I turned away from them as they pierced his side with a spear to make sure he was truly dead. A heavy sorrow weighed on my shoulders as I left the dead Son of God behind me.
Three Days Later
“Father! Father!” my son, Alexander called to me as he rushed into our home, “He’s gone! They went to His tomb and found it empty. He’s not there!”
“Alexander,” I said smiling, “slow done my son, who is it you’re talking about exactly?”
“Simon,” my wife addressed me, coming into the room, “what is wrong, what is all this noise?”
“I’m about to find out” I said, then turned back to my son, “Alexander?”
“Jesus! I’m talking about Jesus, father!” my son cried, “When Mary Magdalene and some other women went to go embalm Him, His tomb was empty! The stone had been rolled away and the guards had died from fear! An angel sat at the tombs mouth and told them not to be afraid because Jesus had risen from the dead, he had defeated the grave!
“Then they were told to go find the disciples and they rushed to find Peter and John, and as they went Jesus appeared to them. He told them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, that they would see him there! Father!” his son shouted in a frenzied delight, “Jesus Christ lives!”
As I listened to those words I was filled with a warm, welcoming feeling. I knew what my son said was truth. I could feel it in my heart, I could feel the warm welcoming presence His eyes had given me inside my heart, and I knew He had returned to us. I knew we had to spread the word and tell as many people as we possibly could of the good news.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth has defeated death and everyone needs to hear this.