I spent the night hiding, and waiting to see what would become of the man who is my dearest friend. The mob had clamored for his blood, purchasing the responsibility for it with their lives and the lives of their children. Finally the doors of the Praetorium opened and the guards dragged a wretch out into the street and dropped a cursed cross beside him. I barely was able to recognize the man I had spent so many hours with that I knew his face as well as my own. He was beaten, bruised, and bloodied. Great swaths of his back had been stripped by the whip, leaving it raw. I don’t know how he could have seen well enough through his swollen eyes to find the cross they intended him to carry up the hill to the place of the skull, but he struggled to it.
I had my own load to carry in that moment as his mother collapsed in my arms, weeping at the sight of her broken child. She and several of the other women who had been with us from the beginning insisted on remaining with me. I tried to tell them that when they were done with him they could easily come for us, but they wouldn’t even consider abandoning him. I wish I had their strength at times.
He passed by us, struggling beneath the wait of the cross, enduring the taunts and jeers of the same ones who had laid palm fronds at his feet just days ago. So often he spoke of his sheep, but I wish they were not so easily directed as sheep. Maybe then they would recognize the truth of who is right before them, instead of being led astray by honeyed lips. I fear what this will mean for so many of my people.
Apparently he was not making fast enough progress to suit the soldiers because they dragged Simon of Cyrene from the crowd and forced him to carry the cross. I curse myself for allowing fear to keep me rooted in place instead of helping him. I could have taken up his cross. I could shielded him from the hateful words being hurled at him. I could have let him know that he was not alone on the loneliest walk.
I had to turn my eyes away as the hammer rang out and the nails pierced his flesh. I couldn’t block out the sound of his agony though. His physical is matched by my emotional. Had I realized what was going to happen I would have gladly taken his place, but he wouldn’t have allowed it. I recognize now that he had been preparing for this his entire life. Even as those men maimed him he plead for mercy on their behalf. I could hear him say, “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.” I can’t understand his compassion.
The soldiers knew nothing of who he was when they crucified him. How could they? They are nothing more than gentiles. Yet Pilate has spoken it true, whether he intended to or not. The sign reads King of The Jews. He is more than that still. The ground roars in anguish and even the sun is blotted out in mourning for him.
What is that he said? It is finished? Please, Lord, this can not be the end!