So . . . today is Good Friday. I know that historically it's not the exact day Jesus died, but it is the day we normally think of it as the day he died. So when I was trying to figure out what to post today, I decided to write a re-telling of the crucifixion. This is told from the apostle John's POV, and I wrote it in 1st person.
Honestly, I started to write it just "for fun", but as I got further into the story, it was as though I was experiencing the death of Jesus in a new way. I've always known the story, always known that Jesus died for me, but I don't know...I guess just writing it made it seem so much more real. He loved me enough to die for me. Wow.
Anyway, here's the story. Well, the first part anyway. The ending will be posted on Sunday.
The road to Gethsemane was long and crowded. The shouts and yells of the people were deafening as they filled the air around me. His quiet groans of pain could hardly be heard, but I heard them. Maybe not so much heard as saw. Jesus’ brow was caked with blood and sweat, and the cross was heavy upon his shoulders. I tried to force my way through the crowd. I needed to be there, to be close to him. But I couldn’t. Too many people were between us; there was no way I would be able to get any nearer. I saw the pain in his eyes and shuddered. He had spoken of his death, but I think I can speak for all his followers when I say we never saw it like this. His words had been clear, but we saw only what we wanted to see.
Suddenly the roman soldiers around Jesus stopped, and I saw one of them pull a man from a crowd. The cross was lifted off Jesus’ shoulders, and the stranger bore it instead. Jesus, his back open and bleeding from the thrashing he had been given, was pushed along by the romans. He stumbled and fell, incurring the wrath of the soldier nearest him. With an angry shout he reached down and yanked Jesus to his feet.
Jesus clenched his teeth in agony as the soldier pressed the crown of thorns deeper into his head. Fresh drops of blood flowed down his face, but no one seemed to give it any mind as the procession made their way up the hill outside Jerusalem. I felt helpless. Could this truly have been what God had in mind when He sent His son to this earth? This agony and suffering Jesus was enduring, was this truly what needed to be done as a sacrifice for the sin of mankind? For my sin?
This night had turned into a nightmare. For a moment I lost sight of Jesus among the crush of people, but as we neared the top of the hill, the crowd stilled, and I made my way to the front. The Roman centurion who had been put in charge of the execution had established a perimeter around three men, the two criminals and Jesus, and the posted soldiers ensured no one came any closer.
I turned as I felt movement next to me. Mary stepped closer, her eyes on her son. I swallowed hard, trying to keep my emotions under control. How hard would it be to see your son go through this pain, this suffering? I couldn’t even imagine.
A heart-rending cry pierced the air around us, and I turned my attention back to the crosses. Tears rose in my eyes and threatened to spill over and the centurion drove the nail through Jesus’ hands and feet. Mary pressed a hand over her mouth and swayed as though she was going to fall. I reached out an arm to steady her, and she buried her head in my arm. Her shoulders shook with sobs.
She should never have to see this.
She should never have to see this.
As they raised the crosses I looked away, yet the groans of pain could not escape my hearing. My eyes swept the three crude, wooden fixtures. Above each cross, a plain wood board declared what they were being executed for. My eyes read the words written on Jesus’ cross, and I felt a sudden rage flow through me. Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. They couldn’t simply kill my master. They had to mock Him as well.
As I watched, one of the soldiers took a spear with a sponge on the end, and dipped it in what I knew was a mix of vinegar and herbs. I clenched my teeth. So merciful of the Romans to give their victims something to dull their pain.
Jesus turned his head away, and the mixture dripped down Jesus’ neck. I winced. Even though I wasn't the one feeling the pain. I knew the vinegar would burn the open wounds.
At the moment, Jesus looked toward me and his eyes met mine. I had expected to see pain there, but not love. Yet, love burned in Jesus’ eyes. Love toward those who had wronged him. Love for the people he had created.
His gaze traveled to Mary, and his voice was tender, though it was hard for him to speak. “Woman,” he paused as though fighting back against a wave of pain. “Behold, thy son.” He turned ever so slightly and looked at me. “Behold, thy mother.”
I tightened my arm around Mary’s shoulder. Even on the cross, Jesus was caring for others. Yet, wasn’t that love for others what took him to the cross? I wrestled with questions I didn't have answers to. Oh, if only I could ask Jesus! If only he would sit and explain it all again. There was still so much I didn't understand; so much that was beyond my comprehension.
The breeze that had come up brought a whisper of Jesus’ words to my ears. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Forgive. Even after all this, Jesus forgave.
Suddenly his loud, anguished cry swept over all those who were watching. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
My throat tightened. This was the first time that I could remember where Jesus did not refer to God as his father.
As spoke the words, his body suddenly went limp. Mary’s sobs increased, and I squeezed her arm in a feeble attempt to comfort her. At that moment, a violent tremble shook the earth. I lurched, desperately trying to keep my balance. The sky went dark, as though someone had pulled a curtain over the sun. The breeze became a full-fledged wind that threatened to blow over anything in it’s path. It was fitting, I thought. The earth was mourning the death of it’s creator. As the rain began to pour, I helped Mary back down the hill. Jesus was dead, and he had left her in my care. The least I could do for my master, was to obey what he had said, even if I didn’t understand why he had let this happen.
If he wanted, he could have stopped it. I knew he had the power to do so. Could God really have a plan in killing his own son? The tears that had threatened all day overtook me, mixing with the rain that pelted my face.
Oh, that I could only have one more moment to speak with Jesus! Just one more day to hear his words. Another tremble shook the earth, and I knew that as much as I wanted it to be, this was not a dream. Jesus was dead, and I feared I would never understand all he had tried to tell us.
1 John 4: 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his son to be a propitiation for our sins.