Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 6 of Passion Week, part 8: The Cross

... he walked alone beneath his burden.

Simon was just trying to conclude his business here so he could start his journey home. He realized he didn't have much time. All business would be put on hold at sun set.

Tomorrow was the Passover celebration. Maybe at any other time he would be thrilled to be in Jerusalem at this time of the year but he had been a long time from home. He just wanted to be done with business so first thing next week he could strike out for home.

Now he had this crowd to get around. Apparently they had finally been able to put an end to this prophet that had everyone so excited. He had seen the Prophet once. He was in another town doing business. He actually saw him give sight back to a blind man. Pretty amazing. Too bad he had to cross the Pharisees like he did. It was bound to end poorly.

There! An opening in the crowd. He could cut through there and save a couple of minutes.

As he stepped through the crowd he froze in mid-step. As his eyes fell on the figure kneeling in the middle of the road, bent beneath the weight of a cross beam, his blood ran cold.

What had they done to him? Could this be the same man he saw in that town so long ago? Could this be the Prophet who gave sight to the blind?

Blood soaked his clothing and pooled on the ground where he knelt. Flesh hung loosely from his back. His hair was matted with blood. Blood covered his face and seemed to cloud his eyes. Well, at least they looked like eyes. It was hard to tell what that was beneath his swollen face. He looked more animal than man.

He should have just kept going but the sight had him transfixed. What could he have possibly done to deserve this?

Then a soldier on a horse called out to him, penetrating the back of his awareness and slowly exploded in on his reality. He looked to the soldier and to his horror realized that he had suddenly become a participant in this slow death.

Before he knew it they had the cross beam tied on to him. He couldn't believe this. He should have avoided the crowd. Why hadn't he taken the longer route?

But as they were pressed to move on his thoughts turned from himself to the Prophet who staggered beside him. How could he go on like this? Why would he go on like this? Why not just refuse to move and let them kill him here instead of on the cross?

As weak as he was the Prophet seemed determined to do this.

The crowd was mixed. Some hurled insults at him, along with stones. Others stood and wept silently. Still others were shouting out words of support. What was it about this man that could provoke such reaction?

The walk was hard under this weight. It seemed to take forever. Any hope that there was of concluding his business was quickly slipping away. But for some reason it seemed to be less important. This Prophet was heading to his death and all he was concerned about was getting his business finished with? When had he lost his humanity? His compassion?

When they arrived at the designated spot he was exhausted. How could they have ever hoped that this man could have carried this thing in his condition?

They had it off his back soon enough and he was prepared to rush off to see what he could get done, but something stopped him. Something kept him fixed on this man who even now seemed like no other man he had ever encountered.

He stepped back into the first row of onlookers just as they threw the Prophet down onto the cross piece. As his back hit the ground he arched in pain. With no thought at all the soldiers grabbed his arms, tying him down and then nailed him in place, as if they were bored with the whole thing. The sound of the nails going through flesh and bone was sickening but he could not turn away.

Besides the weeping that came from some of the women near by a hush had fallen over the crowd. That's the only way it was possible to hear his words. And everyone heard them. Everyone seemed shocked, even disturbed by them. There he was, half beaten to death, laid out on the ground, being nailed to a cross beam and everyone heard him say:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

What? Who was this man?

With that they hoisted him up, fixing him in place. Above his head they nailed a sign that referred to him as the king of the Jews. Was it possible? Is that why they had killed him? With that the wailing began in earnest.

Simon melted into the crowd with the image of the Prophet forever burned into his memory. As he broke free he began to run. He couldn't explain why he ran, he just did. He wanted to be as far from that cursed place as quickly as he possibly could.

What had they just done? ...

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