There has been a lot of talk in the city about this man called Jesus of Nazareth. I have known Him for some years now. He is a good man. He performs miracles, calls himself the king of the Jews and even claims to be God. I hear He has now been arrested. What has this good man done to be arrested? Well, let me go and see for myself.
The time is just before 6 am and I hasten to get to Pilate’s palace. This man, Jesus, is set to stand trial before Pilate. I hear Pilate send him to Herod and I follow along, to just get a glimpse of what is happening. I stand distant enough to see and hear Herod and his soldiers ridicule and mock this good man. Although my conscious tells me this good man doesn’t deserve this, I am enjoying hearing Herod ridicule Jesus.
They send Him back to Pilate, and I am still following behind. Pilate finds Him with no fault and deep down my heart, I agree with Pilate. I am on Jesus’ side, definitely. So I scan the crowd to see where I am standing. Surely, knowing this man and what He has done, I will be standing right by his side. Oh no. Am not there. I am in the big crowd. Do you see me? I am in the crowd shouting “crucify him! Crucify him!” I am demanding for the release of Barabbas and I want this man to be done away with.
As they flock his back, scourge his face, torture and humiliate Him, I am standing right there, encouraging the soldiers to beat Him harder.
He is bleeding. His flesh is exposed. He is tired. He is in pain.
I have a minor flashback of how I saw Him heal that blind man by the pool and how He showed kindness to widows. That doesn’t distract me enough. The flashback is drowned in my passion to see this man hang on two pieces of wood.
The good man is sentenced to be crucified. The crowd cheers. I cheer. As I see the joy in the eyes of those around me, I even doubt whether I should call this man “good.” “He deserves death,” I tell the man standing next to me.
As they lead Him to Calvary, I recall that this man said we ought to love our enemies as we love ourselves. I remember that He fed the 5, 000 and gave living water to the woman at the well. As I look at this man now, He is tired, hungry and thirsty. He is carrying his own cross. I once again scan the crowd. Surely I will be standing right there by the road side with a jug of water for this man. Maybe with a piece of bread that I carried in my basket. Perhaps I am colleagues with Simon of Cyrene. As his helps carry Jesus’ cross, I help carry his belongings.
Alas. I am not there either. Where am I then? Can you see me?
I am standing by the road side. Spitting on Jesus as He walks by. I run farther down the road to do the same. I am still shouting at Him. Mocking and teasing Him.
We reach the site of crucifixion. I stand close enough to see this man nailed to the cross. I can hear the nails pierce the veins in His hands. The sound of nails cutting through the bones in His legs reaches me perfectly. I hear Him cry in agony. He is in pain. Severe pain.
They lift the cross to make it stand upright.
The soldiers take His garments and play games on it. Priests mock Him. Criminals hurl insults at Him as if He was one of them or even worse. People passing by shake their heads and shout abusive words at Him. Soldiers mock Him. The time is 10am.
Having followed the events of today, surely, surely I will sympathise with this man by now. I will be standing beneath the cross to encourage this man. If He is going to die, I will be there to make His death just a little bit lighter. Maybe just tell Him how nice He was. Perhaps give Him some water when He asks for His last drink.
Once again, I scan the crowd. Surely this time around I will be found beneath the cross.
Not a chance! I am right there in the midst of the crowd hurling insults at this man. I am agreeing with the priests as they mock him. I am cheering on the soldiers as they strip him of his clothes. Am shouting at the top of my lungs, wishing more pain for this man.
As noon comes and darkness covers the whole land. A thought come to mind. Maybe this man is innocent. That I know, don’t I? Or maybe this man was God himself. He said so. Based on what He said and did, I think He was God. Maybe He doesn’t deserve to die, surely not in this way.
But just as dark as the land is, so is my heart. Knowing His man for years and seeing the events of today does not change what I feel about Him. I just want to see him die in agony.
He shouts, “It is finished!” He commits His spirit into His Father’s hand. He breathes His last.
Perhaps in death my thoughts about this man will change. I have witnessed how much He has been beaten. The abuse and pain He has suffered. Surely I will be one those who take him down from the cross and clean his wounds. Surely I will be among them that will offer their tombs for this man to be buried in. Surely I will be among those who console the mother of this man. Surely I will be standing there, with my heart filled with sorrow and contrition.
So I scan the place around me one last time. Oh no! Am nowhere to be seen. I am not there to take him down the cross. I am not there to clean his wounds. I am not there to do anything. I have joined with several others on our way back to the city. We are recounting the events of the day and laughing to ourselves at Jesus’ experience on that day. What I thought would be a unique crucifixion turns out to be just like any other. Perhaps this one was much funnier because the guy we left hanging on the cross claimed to be God but He couldn’t save Himself.
As I rest my head to sleep at night, I am convicted. No. I just don’t feel bad for laughing at a dying man. I not only feel bad for insulting and spitting at that man. I am convicted of something greater. That I, not him, deserved the death He died. I deserve to be flogged, ridiculed, mocked, insulted at and crucified. I am the sinner, not that man. Today has proved how much of a sinner I am. What about all the sins I had committed in days past? What about days to come? How will I ever be forgiven of all these sins? How will I even be forgiven for crucifying the one who came to save me? What shall wash away my stains?
I do not remember how I got out of my bed to my knees. As my conviction grows deeper and deeper, as the depth of my depravity is slowly appearing before my eyes, these words come to mind:
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:
And so I pray. “Lord, may I plunge myself beneath that flood. Instead of standing near that cross and hurl insults at Jesus. May I stand beneath the cross so that His blood can wash over me. Wash over me Lord. Wash over me and make me clean. Amen”