I lay in my bed wanting the day before to have been a bad dream. The sun has not broken the horizon yet... and I lay here wide awake remembering. Yesterday was full of fear, anger, death and hope.
There had been a meeting of the elders and scribes in the predawn hours. Peter really did deny knowing Jesus.
But I am just as guilty as I stood in the shadows and watched it all happen. Many witnesses were called but no one could seem to agree on the same thing. Peter denied knowing him three times. It was not just once, but three times. Peter how could you do that?
As Peter heard the crow of the rooster he dropped his head in shame, only to slowly look up into His eyes. Jesus was not even mad. Our Lord stood quietly meeting Peter's eyes. There was no anger or malice... only pure understanding as a connection was made between their hearts and souls. Jealously rose like bile in my throat as I wished He could look at me with such love.
How could Jesus even look at Peter? He betrayed Him.
"Tell us if you are the Messiah, Son of God!" The voice of the high priest screeched angrily at Jesus. The scribes and elders wanted to justify putting Jesus to death, but even with Peter's denial, they did not have enough witnesses to to testify against him.
Jesus looked up directly into the eyes of the high priest and answered him, "I am, and you will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God's right hand and coming back on the clouds of heaven."
The scorching voice of the high priest gleefully shouted to the crowds, "You have just heard His blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? What is your verdict?" They all shouted, "He deserves death!" Then they spat in Jesus' face and started beating Him. I close my eyes in pain wanting to jump into the fray, but knowing I could not save Him. I was but one man in the crowd of a hundred angry men.
Roman law would not allow this death sentence to be carried out that morning, and the crowds seem determined to drag him before Pilate, the Roman Governor. Peter and I hurried to follow them as they forced Jesus through the streets. The sun was just breaking the horizon on this Friday morning, the Passover celebration was this day.
By the time we arrived at Pilate's the crowd had already swollen to more than 250 men. Peter and I stood back away from the mob and watched Pilate's face from a distance. He scanned the crowds before him knowing at the Passover Feast he could pardon and release one criminal. He nervously bit at his lower lip realizing there truly was not evidence to convict Jesus. The roar of the crowd voiced the need to release another prisoner, Barabbas.
I heard Peter breathing hard next to me and I clinched my hands tightly. Was there any hope? Pilate walked away from the crowds, head bent in deliberation.
Suddenly Pilate turned and faced the crowds. His arms were crossed and his eyebrows were knitted tightly together. " Which do you want me to release, Barabbas or Jesus?"
Deafening the crowd roared, "Barabbas, release Barabbas." The cries pierced my ears. I wanted to turn and run right then hearing their chants, but Peter stayed my arm. "We must remain with Him."
"Then what should I do with Jesus?" asked Pilate.
I would have known Him anywhere...those eyes found mine and I could not turn away.
They were filled with LOVE.
Suddenly a large wooden cross was drug and dropped at His feet.
"Get up" yelled a soldier beating him in the head with a club. Another grabbed the reed in his hand and lashed Him with it. I desperately watched Him struggle to His feet and fall again. Leaving Peter I pushed my way through the crowd and again His eyes met mine.
Another man was grabbed by the crowds as he passed by. He was told to help Jesus stand and aid Him bearing the cross over the long walk to the hill. I inquired later to find out his name was Simon of Cyrene. Simon was visiting for Passover Feast and he was forced to help Jesus. It was if the soldiers and the crowd suddenly did not want to be guilty of pushing Jesus and sending Him to death. They had done that already and they pulled a passerby in to do "the dirty job" carrying Jesus' cross. Along the way the jeering crowds fell to their knees, "All Hail the King of the Jews". Peter and I raced to find the other disciples.
We made it to the hillside and watched Him grimace as they nailed him to the cross. Jesus' Mother was there as well as his aunt and Mary Magdelene. Jesus called to her, "Woman here is your son, " nodding toward me, "Here is your mother." My heart was full as I knew I was to care for the mother of my Lord.
My eyes never left Him as they raised His cross between two other men. Someone seem to offer Jesus something to drink, but He refused. I found out later it was wine and vinegar. The taunts became crueler was the time passed. "Save yourself if you are truly the Son of God." "He saved others, but he cannot save himself." "Let God save him." They even threw out dice seeing who could win his clothes. Even one of the criminals lashed out at Him. A soldier pierced His side with a spear and blood and water poured out of the wound.
PAIN and HUMILIATION.
The other criminal said to Jesus, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It was close to noon I am guessing when things truly took another turn. The sun literally disappeared. I have never in all my days seen this happen. It turned black... and the ground began to shake and rumble. Many of the crowd left not knowing what was happening but we stayed... and the sun stayed dark for hours.
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Jesus moaned from the cross.
A short time later we heard Jesus call out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
A nearby Centurion had watched it all with us. “Surely this was a righteous man.” Many in the crowd cried as they went away... but we all stood there waiting and watching from a distance.
|The Entombment by Jacopo Carucci, known as Pontormo
After that I brought Mary home and settled her safely within. I knew Joseph of Arimathea, a fellow disciple, was going before Pilate to obtain permission to take Jesus' body. Nicodemus was with him. Peter told me the two men wrapped his body in spices and strips of linen in accordance with customs. Nearby was a garden with an empty tomb and it was there they were going to leave His body.
Lord, what do I do this day? You are gone. Your mother is here safe in my home and I will protect her with my life. Where do we go from here?
Words of heart with readings from Matthew, Luke and John.