I will never forget the next night. As I heard another few hammer-whacks pounding nails into flesh and wood, and the agonizing cries that immediately followed, I began to see life, or rather death, from their point of view. It was just a matter of time when that would be me, and time was ticking. When I was free, I remember seeing their crosses on the roadside. It scares me half to death when I hear them groan.
It was now late Friday evening (at least I think it was Friday) and Jerusalem would soon celebrate the Passover. It would be my first Passover in prison. On most
evenings, people were in their homes getting ready for the coming meal, but tonight I could hear the faint murmur of a distant, angry mob shouting my name. My ears perked up. After a short hush, I heard the mob shout even louder, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” I guess tonight is my night to join those other criminals on the crosses outside, and my hope of having a new room mate, has run out.
But wait . . . the doors were opening . . . ‘who’s the new criminal?’ . . . But there was none. Just a couple of guards walking purposefully in my direction!
Guard – “Barabbas?”
Rabby – “Yeah, it’s my time isn’t it.”
Guard – “The crowds want you, so out with you.”
As they led me through the streets to the waiting crowd, protesting outside Pilate’s house, my knees shook and buckled as I expected the worst. But nothing came. This gruff form of mercy was something I had never felt before. Maybe I’ll get to see the city one last time before hanging from a cross.
But as I drew closer, I heard the crowd chanting joyfully, “Barabbas is free, and Jesus will die! Barabbas is free, and Jesus will die! Barabbas is free, and Jesus will die!”
Is this Jesus the same person Matt was talking about? The man who can heal from a distance?
As I looked up, I saw the man I thought was Jesus. Wearing a crown of thorns on his head, he had marks from his most recent scourging showing through the purple garment he was wearing, down to his bare feet. He was being led away by several guards who took turns mocking him, hitting him with their staffs on his thorny crown, chanting “hail, king of the Jews!” And this ‘king of the Jews’ would die instead of me? This didn’t make sense. Night time is usually the best time to rob people, but I would set my job aside for one night to watch this fascinating plot unfold.
Pilate decided that the crucifixion would take place on scull hill, a place where I had been many times to say my last good byes to some of my closest friends. And if I had time, I would have asked Judas and Matt to come along with me. But who knows, maybe they were in the crowd.
It took a good hour to make it to the top as Jesus, whom they referred to as ‘the Christ turned criminal’, who was carrying his cross, was in no rush to be nailed to it. I was somewhere in the middle; hearing jeers from Harassees and other men, weeping from women pleading for his release and hungry, tired children, who didn’t want to be there at all.
Though there was hardly any room for a passing lane, a man running towards us attempted to do just that. Late for dinner I suspect. But the Harassees denied him safe passage and demanded that he carry Jesus’ cross back up Skull hill, as he had collapsed under its weight and didn’t have the energy to rise without help. If there was anyone who deserved to carry a cross, this cross, it was me. I could feel a tear running down my cheek because I could not give him the help he needed. He was taking my place, after all.
I was shell-shocked at the recent events. Two hours ago, I was expecting to die at any time. Instead, I am here, watching a complete stranger take my place and die instead. I began to connect the stories Matt had told me the other day and those of crying women behind me. They seemed to make sense somehow. “If this man had done all these good things, why is this happening to him? If I had done all of these bad things, why is this happening to me?”
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