We arrived at Pilate’s palace soon after I realized it was Friday. We were not the only ones who were there. Many people were gathered in the courtyard. They were all a buzz with the possibility of a crucifixion.
Soon the praetor came out onto the balcony. Jesus was escorted out shortly after. He looked even more beat up than he had when he arrived. Pilate motioned for the crowd to quiet down.
“This man is from Galilee. Why do you send him to me? Take him to Herod. Herod rules in Galilee.”
With that the Roman guards who flanked Pilate grabbed Jesus and dragged him off, presumably to Herod’s Palace.
A while later Jesus and Pilate re-appeared on the Balcony.
“I find no guilt in this man, and clearly Herod agrees. See, he sends him back to us. Now, it is customary for me to release a prisoner to you for Passover. I suggest you take Jesus.” Pilate lobbied.
His suggestion was not received well. Some of the men who worked at the Temple started shouting, “Crucify him!!! He is a trouble maker! Kill him and be done with it!!!” The crowd soon joined in. Soon the roar was so loud that I was afraid I would never hear again. At this point Pilate motioned for another man to come out.
“Who would you rather have; Jesus, who is your messiah, or Barabbas, the murderous thief?” Pilate asked.
The people screamed, “Give us Barabbas! We want Barabbas!” The crowd was starting to get riled up. Little skirmishes were beginning to break out among those who wanted Barabbas and those few who wanted Jesus. Roman guards moved in and out of the crowd squashing any signs of violence with a swift blow to the gut.
“What then should I do with your messiah?”
Still the crowd grew louder. “Crucify him! Crucify him! He is not our messiah! He is an imposter! Crucify the traitor!”
As the noise swelled around me I could feel my knees buckle from the overwhelming heartbreak I was feeling. As I started to sink to the floor two strong arms caught me and held me up. The man whispered in my ear, and as soon as he did I knew it was Peter. “Little sister, he needs us. You can do this. Stay strong.” He continued to hold me until I felt my strength return.
As I was able to hold myself up, I heard Pilate say that he was going to punish Jesus then let him go. I watched then as the guards dragged Jesus off to be flogged. I moved to follow, but Peter held me in my place.
“Kate, don’t. It will be too much for you.”
“Will you stay with me Peter?” I asked.
He shook his head, no. “Mary will be with you. I need to be there for him. He will be looking for me.”
As I opened my mouth to protest, Peter slipped through the crowd. Mary grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let me follow. We waited there in the crowd for what felt like forever. Finally, Jesus re-appeared. At least, I thought that was who it was. He was covered in blood and when he turned at one point I could see part of his ribs. They had beaten him raw to the point that some of his flesh had been removed. Just seeing the bloody mess he had become made me feel as if I would get sick. I began to cry uncontrollably. I turned to Mary and saw that she too was sobbing.
“Now, I will release him, for I find no guilt in him!” Pilate proclaimed to the angry throng.
“No! Crucify him! We don’t want him back! Kill him Pilate; that is what you do best!” The mob screamed back at him. Pilate shifted uneasily, knowing that if he didn’t give in they would revolt and he would have a massacre on his hands.
Pilate called for a bowl of water. As he washed his hands he announced, “Fine! But do it yourself! I am innocent of this man’s blood!”
With that the crowd roared in approval. The guards dragged Jesus off to be crucified.
We followed the angry mob out to the road. There we waited for our messiah to walk by carrying his cross to his death. As he came near us, I saw people spit on him and slap him with long reed sticks. With every insult his face grew sadder and sadder. The people who were crying for his death were the same people who had cheered for him and welcomed him into Jerusalem days earlier. These people were fickle and ruthless.
Mary and I fought our way to the place Jesus was going to be crucified, pushing our way through the crowd. We eventually met up with the other women and with John. The rest of the disciples were nowhere to be found. Jesus must have fallen somewhere along the way because we made it to the hill before he did and when he did arrive some other man was carrying his cross for him.
The guard who had been supporting Jesus the rest of the way the hill, which was called Golgotha, dropped him to the ground. He and another guard took the cross from the man and laid it down on the ground. Then Jesus was placed, with arms outstretched, on the cross. The guard lined the nail up on Jesus’ hand and swung the hammer down. With a sickening crunch the nail went through his hand and into the wood. After three more, the guard moved on to the other hand. Each swing resulted in a disgusting crunch and a scream from the man on the cross. Each pound in the hammer made me lightheaded and sick.
When the guard moved to Jesus’ feet he had to have someone else hold Jesus still. The guard’s hand was slippery with the blood that had been pouring from Jesus’ wounded hands. His face and armor was covered in spattered blood. It was a gruesome as any horror film I had seen in my own time. Jesus’ face contorted in pain, he opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. He had screamed himself hoarse. Once his feet were nailed and his arms lashed to the cross, they raised him up.
While they had been nailing Jesus to his cross, two thieves were being nailed to their own crosses and raised up beside him. As they all hung there, the crowd jeered and taunted Jesus.
“If you are the son of god, come down from that cross! Save yourself! Some king you are, you couldn’t even save yourself from a little crucifixion.”
Jesus said, “father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
Yet, the insults went on and on. One of the thieves next to him joined the taunts. The other admonished him, to which Jesus replied,
“My friend, today you will be with me in paradise.”
As he was becoming weaker, Jesus turned to John and his mother, Mary.
“John, take care of my mother as if she were your own. Mom, love John as you have loved me.” He gasped to them. John embraced Mary and didn’t let her go until the bitter end. After that, Jesus seemed to lose consciousness. His blood dripped down his arms, pooling under the cross. The ground did not seem to be able to soak it up.
Jesus suddenly lifted his head to the sky, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” He cried out. My heart broke when I heard that. Mary Magdalene’s face drained of all color, and Mary the mother’s knees buckled.
The crowd began to disperse. Only those of us who were mourning his death and a few soldiers were left at the foot of the cross. When Jesus said he was thirsty, one man brought him something to drink on a sponge stuck on a reed. It was vinegar wine, and Jesus spit it back out. He whispered, “It is finished.” And with a loud cry he died.
The sky turned black as night, even though it was the middle of the day. The earth started to shake, knocking all of us to the ground. I heard stories later in the day of some graves near Jerusalem split open and those who were buried inside climbed out and walked among the living. I was also told that the curtain in the inner sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom in the quake.
The soldiers, unsure of if Jesus had died, took a spear and shoved it through his side. Blood and water poured from the new wound covering the ground. About this time I realized I could hear screaming. Mary took me by the shoulders and shook me. Then I knew the screaming I was hearing was coming from me. I collapsed into a pile on the ground by the cross, sobbing and beating the ground with my fist. By the time I was done, my hand was covered in blood. I didn’t know if the blood was mine or Jesus’. Mary held me, and slowly helped me to my feet. They took me back to Joseph’s house.
By the time we had arrived, I was out of tears. I just stared straight ahead. I had known what was going to happen to him, but I didn’t believe it. He had really just died. He was gone. I spent the rest of the night staring. At some point I dozed off to sleep.
My dreams were haunted with the image of the laughing eyes of Jesus I had seen earlier this week. Those eyes would change into the eyes swollen shut, black and blue, from the beatings he had endured. Every instance of my dream was punctuated with the crack of the nail entering Jesus’ hands and feet. After that I slipped into a dreamless, restless sleep.