Can you imagine meeting someone, anyone from the past? Who would you visit?
I stumbled over the uneven road as the crowds thrust each other aside in their anxiety to reach the place. My lips parted as if I was to speak, but my tongue, parched from the oppressive heat, stuck to the roof of my mouth. No sound came forth except that of a guttural choke in my throat as it rejected the dust filling my lungs. The swarm of people, shuffling their sandaled feet over the dirt path, raised a cloud almost as dense as fog, trailing their route outside the city gates. With great difficulty, I wove through the crowd. Uneasy thoughts rolled about my brain like the waves of the sea. In one decisive effort I attempted to waylay these doubts. Focusing only on the obstacle at hand, I threaded my way to the edge of the crowd, where they stopped, forming a wide circle before the mount –Golgotha.
Though a gentle breeze nagged at my tunic, I felt nothing. Though the crowd bleated in mixed emotions of anger and sadness, I heard nothing. Though the air carried the thick stench of sweat and blood, I smelt nothing. Neither did I taste the hot dirt on my tongue any longer. But I did see. As if in a daze, I saw the centurion, his brutal features grizzled and hardened, raise the cross.
A crown of thorns they pressed onto his brow till it squeezed out His precious blood. Bruised and beaten, He was not broken. I saw His body hung upon the tree, the accusation written above His head, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”
As quickly as it had come upon me, my reverie ended and once again the tastes, smells, and sounds assailed me. I heard those who passed by from the crowd blaspheme Him who I came to see, Him who hung aloft, between them and God.
Wagging their heads, they shouted, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
Joining in, the chief priests, elders, and scribes mocked, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Soldiers spat, “If you are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
Beaten as He was, He answered, not to them, but for them, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
I was too late. After journeying so long to speak with Him, all I could do was stand dumbly as He was blasphemed and crucified. I stared at His shredded body, radiating holiness; His suffering, full of grace; His eyes, indescribable, forgiving those who murdered Him. He appeared so terrible –beaten and bloodied– but my eyes remained fixed. Even more horrible than this sight before me, was that which I could not see –the wrath of God poured upon the shoulders of His Only Son.
How can it be, O LORD? This is Your Son, I cried inwardly.
Tears rose in my eyes, as if the fountains of the great deep were broken up. A strangled sob left my throat. I choked, not from the dust, but from the rising lump as I fought against my tears. It was useless. My heart yearned to speak to the Savior, but I could not reach Him, so I watched through bleared vision as rivers flowed down my face.
Darkness fell upon the earth. The sun, in shame, hid its face, not daring to watch as its Maker died. Their gruesome sport accomplished, the crowds dispersed, preparing for their Sabbath on the morrow. Yet, my eyes never left the Lamb. I sensed rather than knew there remained a guard and several others weeping. My ears were mute to the words which prompted the centurion to raise a sponge of sour wine to the mouth of the Man on the cross, neither did I hear the words which that same Man spoke to the thief, crucified to his right.
But I heard the cry, piercing the air, as He called, “It is finished!” All the Earth heard that cry, and it trembled, knowing, as those who crucified Him did not know, who hung upon the tree. Unable to stand atop the shivering ground, I fell to my knees, bowing before the King.
Then, with a voice raised above the tumult of the quaking earth and the weeping few, He cried, “Eli eli lama sabachthani –My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
With this final cry, my Savior died.
For me He bled. For me He died. Yet, it was I who disobeyed. It was I who turned from Him. Still, He loved, and still He died. My heart could not bear this gift –it was too great.
Why I should go unpunished?
He had set me free, and yet, at what a great price. Though I uttered not a word with Him, He knew all I longed to say and more. And I knew that one day I would speak with Him. Because of His death, I could, and I would hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” though nothing I have done, nor ever could would merit that eternal gift.
I could no longer see past the blur in my eyes; but I heard the centurion, fallen to the ground close by, utter, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”