It had been along day and I was hot and tired after the long journey from the country. There seemed to be a lot of excitement in the air and it was more than just because of the Passover. It was customary for the Governor to release a prisoner at this time and the air was pregnant with expectation and second guessing as to who it would be this time. Talk had been rampant in the country that the recently arrested notorious prisoner, Barabas was a possibility, I hoped not. He was, after all, a most disreputable fellow!
As I listened to the cries of the crowd, "crucify him, crucify him!" I wondered about the cries of 'Hosanna in the highest' that had previously rent the air concerning this very Nazarene teacher, Jesus, who had recently done miraculous signs and wonders. I had heard a lot about him in the country, a distance relation of mine had even been healed of leprosy by him! I idly wondered if he could heal one such as myself. I also wondered what he looked like and what he had had really done wrong. I did not want to be involved in this crucifixion but I hoped to catch a glimpse of the man if only to have something to tell the rest when I got back to the village. Was this teacher really going to be crucified? How cruel, I thought, surely he had not done anything that warranted that!
Feeling the tunic I was wearing clinging to my skin in the hot sun, I wished I could move faster down the steps and through the sea of people and be on time to see the traders I had agreed to meet on this day. It was a tall order because I was moving in the opposite direction and the people seemed to be gaining ground on me, pushing me backwards. It was a hot, damp day and the shoving and pushing only increased my discomfort. I wished I had not used this route as I came into town; I had surely hoped it would be less crowded. I wondered, yet again, where all these people were really going; did they have to go for the crucifixion? Did they not have anything to do with their time?
I hurried down the steps, against the flow of people, hoping to get to the bottom of the steps before the procession of soldiers got the better of me. "Crucify him, crucify him, crucify the king of the Jews", the chants continued unabated as the noise grew rowdier, the people more excited and the crowd larger.
I was intensely looking down, counting the endless steps under my feet, when I suddenly looked up and they were there, the Roman soldiers, right in front of me and menacing too. Beside them was the man Jesus carrying a heavy, wooden, cross. It seemed like he had been beaten up and tortured by the soldiers who continued to flog him as he wavered on his feet. The mangled wreck that was his body was bloodied and the clothes hang loosely on him. Blood oozed in rivulets down his face and onto his chest. I could see the effort it took him to carry the heavy cross on his shoulders and I felt great compassion for him. I wished I had the courage to help this stranger who remained silent like a lamb to the slaughter.
As if in answer to a not-so-well-thought-out prayer, the soldiers looked my way, roughly pulled the cross from the man Jesus and shoved it onto me. A whoosh of air forced itself out of my lungst as I staggered under the weight of the cross. I wondered how this man Jesus had carried all this weight so patiently. They then proceeded to push him ahead of me, but not before I looked into the pool of eyes veiled with pain but emanating such intense love that the breath caught in my throat. I struggled with the cross in total confusion. As I followed the man up the steps, I was a deeply troubled man.
The Roman whips continued descending on the bruised body ahead of me but even with my the head bent low, I felt a strange connection with this man Jesus,; it was almost as if he were talking to me in my mind as we made our way up the stairs. The noise around us ceased to a whisper, the soldiers' whips cracking as if from a distance even as the teacher explained to me the reason for his crucifixion. Tears welled up in my eyes as he communicated about his love for me. I thought of all those days I had spent in loneliness wondering if anyone loved me at all. I remembered my life as an orphan and how I had had to go round the village eating in various houses, sometimes finding no kind neighbors to feed me; all the times I had been ostracized by the community because I was different, because I was born with a slight hump. Now here was a total stranger communicating to me in an inaudible voice, which could only be heard by me, about the kingdom of God that was to come and about the message of salvation.
I realized that I was quietly sobbing; tears of sadness but more tears of relief; that somebody understood me, loved me and did not care what I looked like or who I was. As I adjusted the cross on my back, I felt the hump get in the way so I slanted it at an angle and continued the long journey up to the top of the stairs opening inot the crucifixion grounds ahead.
The steps grew harder and harder to climb but my heart was strangely calm; the weight of the cross now almost welcome. The teacher's head hang low as the whips continuously descended on him. Yet I could not shake the feeling from my head that I had just had the most important time of my life; that heaven had surely come down!
When we were almost at the top of the steps, the Roman soldiers ordered me to return the cross to the Rabbi and roughly pushed me away. For the tinniest of moments, my eyes met the Rabbi's yet again and a warm glow spread from my neck down to my feet. As I reached for the back of my neck, more out of a nervous habit than to iron out the fatigued muscles, I realized that the hump on my back was no longer there!
I jumped up in ecstatic disbelief! With whoops of joy, I pushed through the throngs of people as I charged down the steps. Nothing could explain the weightlessness that I felt nor the gratitude I had for this kind stranger who had healed and released me from bondage! Further more I was saved!
May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.
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