It was nearly dawn when they dragged him out and took him to the Roman fortress. A growing crowd was now following, so I no longer needed to hide. I just became one of the many curious. The priests were talking to the Roman governor—very strange. I thought they hated that man. And then some Roman soldiers grabbed Jeshua and took him away.
Again I followed. They took him to the barracks, where I cringed when I saw the flogging post in the center of the courtyard. They chained his hands to the metal ring hanging from the top of the stone post. As they did this, other soldiers gathered around.
My eyes saw only broken glimpses of Jeshua, in between the shuffling frames of the leather-clad soldiers. But then I saw the whip, the whip of many tails, with the shards of bone and metal tied into the leather thongs.
And it began. And I watched. The whip struck, the bone dug into the flesh of his back, and then was ripped away, bringing flesh with it. The blood began to stream down his back. The whip struck again, and again. Every strike made my bowels quiver and seize. I felt sickness rising up in my throat. Yet I still watched. When his knees buckled, he hung from his arms, the blood now pooling at his splayed feet.
Finally they stopped. Professionals at torture, they whipped him near death, but not to death. The soldiers unchained him from the post and dragged him into the barracks. When they bought him back out, Jeshua had regained enough strength to walk, barely. The mob took him back to the waiting Roman Governor and the religious leaders. And then the final verdict was declared. Crucifixion.
By now it was approaching mid-morning. The entire city was awake and word had spread of Jeshua’s arrest. The crowd of curious was growing. I can’t tell you of the crowds’ mood—my concern was for Jeshua, and Anna, and all of us followers who were losing our source of hope and a man we dearly love. Those of us brave enough or gruesomely curious enough watched as he was agonizingly dragged to his death. The rest hid, I suppose. I’d hoped Anna was safe, and his mother.
Again, I was shocked out of my thoughts. The crowd began stirring as the soldiers pulled Jeshua to his feet and forced him to carry a heavy cross. The march to his death is not clear to me. My mind kept drifting in and out of my thoughts. Maybe I was trying to look at something other than Jeshua’s torment. I prayed almost the entire way through the city, out the northwest gate, and up the hill. I was guided along by the flow of the crowd, not really paying attention to where we were going.
Along the way someone else started carrying the cross, for when I approached the top of the hill, I noticed Jeshua lying on the ground, collapsed from weakness. Another man was still dragging the cross up the hill.
My mind cleared from the scattered thoughts and I stared at him, face to the ground, his blood-crusted back bare to the sky, and that crown of thorns jammed onto this skull. I found myself hoping he was already dead—he looked dead. I hoped he would be spared the ultimate torture of the cross. But he was still alive. I saw slight movement as he struggled to breathe.
When the man carrying the cross reached the top of the hill, two of the soldiers took the cross from him and dropped it on the ground next to Jeshua. As it crashed down, I saw him open his eyes, and look at his fate lying next to him. One of the soldiers kicked him in his side, but not very hard… curious.
That’s when my dry eyes started flowing. For looking like an obedient child, Jeshua crawled over to the cross, turned onto his back and lay on it, as if he were crawling into bed—his death bed, with his arms lying out on the cross beam. He was a picture of absolute surrender to his fate. I wept.
I didn’t watch them drive in the spikes; I couldn’t. But the strike of the mallet sent shudders through my guts. And the sound changed from soft to hard as the spike moved through his flesh and into wood. That sound I will never forget. And mixed in with the strikes of the mallet were Jeshua’s pain-racked groans. Finally it stopped.
I cleared the tears from my eyes and looked up as the guards strained to lift the cross and swing the base to the waiting hole in the ground. Then they rose the cross up vertically and its base slid into the hole. With a shudder and a groan from Jeshua, the cross slammed into place.
And then I heard him speak, for the first time since the torture began. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Oh my God! Even drowning in pain, nailed to a cross and on the edge of death, he forgives. Truly he is the Son of God!
I looked away and there, beside me, stood his mother.
Searing, constant pain. I feel like I’m on an ocean, with waves of pain crashing over me. I lift up on my legs to breathe, but the waves crash into my feet and up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back and my dislocated shoulders and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood. There is no escape.
My friends, my family and my children all call me Jeshua—you know me as Jesus, the Christ.
Oh my poor children, so afraid as they still look to me for hope. My heart breaks to see them in such pain, such agony. Their pain is my pain. I feel the agony of all my Father’s children. I feel their suffering. I feel their sins. Their pain has been nailed with me to this cross. Yet the only way I can bare this mounting agony is knowing it’s for them, for all my Father’s children. Oh how I hope they believe.
I see them out there, scattered around my cross—my children, my friends. Some are trying not to be noticed, trying to act indifferent to my death. They are so afraid. I see below the surface to their weeping hearts. There’s Mary, with her heart so full of love, and misery. There’s Lazarus, alive again yet wondering about my fate. There’s John, the young one. Oh, there’s my mother, so strong yet so sad.
I see my accusers also, with those evil smirks on their faces. They seem delighted as they ridicule me and mock me. Yet in them too I see fear. Their souls know their error. But its God’s will.
I’m glad they are all here, for it reminds me why I’m here. If it were not for my love for all of them, I would not be on this cross. It’s not these spikes that hold me here; it’s my love for all my Father’s children, my love for all my friends.
But this pain is devouring me. Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing me. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But it’s being overpowered by the agony of aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me.
Until last night, my humanness has been so sweet. Yet it’s always contained a touch of pain—the pain of fear, the pain of temptation, and the pain of love. But now I feel more human than ever before. I feel fully human, and full of the sins of humanity. Oh, my humanness is being shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is now collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.
“Father, why have you forsaken me?”
I know; it’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me. I feel its weight pulling me down.
The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.
As the light fades, the colors are turning grey. No more color. I still see those who are near. Beyond them, all is growing dark and fading into nothingness. Now those nearest are fading… oh, they are gone. All is black. I wish I could see my friends again, one more time. But the children are gone. My Father is gone. I’m all alone.
No, not alone, yet. I see him down there. I hear his evil laugh. I feel his dark breath drawing me closer. Lucifer, Satan, Devil. He knows what I see. He knows what I fear. His only hope is in my fear. He hopes my fear will call forth the waiting army of angels to save me and lift me free of this cross. That’s the only way he can keep the children in his prison.
But his laugh is filled with fear, for he also knows the truth, and he knows of my love. My love that holds me fast to this cross. He fears my love the most. For my love is more than the love of God. My love is also the love of a man, born of a woman.
It was a man, the man Adam, who took that first step on the path to hell, leading all humanity into the prison of sin. Generation after generation has followed. Enslavement became part of the human inheritance. Yet that slave master Satan knows well that only another man can break the pattern and shatter the chains that have held humanity in bondage. Only I, son of man and Son of God, can set the captives free. Not by war, but by death—my death, paying the penalty of the sentences for all humanity held in this worldly prison.
He laughs still. But his laugh is more fear than ever. He knows the end is near. Not my end, but the end of his reign. As I die, so does his power. Oh, he’s so close. His hot breath burns. Yet now… he too is gone.
There, opening up before me is the dark, lightless, pit. Empty. Alone. Devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. His creation is nowhere. But this pit before me—there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!
The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone. Oh Father, you have done it. You have fulfilled your promise. Thank you. I love you.
“It is finished.”