I heard chanting and jeering in the distance.... my curiosity pulled me toward the sound. The closer I got the clearer the chanting became. Though I was still quite a way away I could tell there were hundreds of people gathered, they must all have come from the city centre. As I neared I felt the crowds closing in on me. I could hear various things they were shouting, words like 'hypocrite', 'liar', 'sorcerer'. I wondered who they were aiming these words at.
I pushed forward, squeezing between the tight crowds. The smell of sweat and hot sand lingered in the air, that was normal this time of year, but there was another scent mingled in, I recognized it to be the smell of blood. Finally reaching the front of the crowd, I saw a man, covered in blood, mostly dry blood, probably from the whip wounds on his back. I sighed relief. It was no one I held dear. But, at a longer glance... he did look familiar. It was HIM. That man - what was his name? I couldn't remember... but I did remember why I did not like him at all. He had all the answers really. He was always talking to the 'lower class' - mixing with prostitutes and murderers, then he would have the audacity to turn around and talk about how we needed to change our ways. No, I didn't like him at all. I wonder what he did this time...must be something offensive judging by how furious they all are.
The atmosphere of this crowd was contagious, I began to join in with the accusations, insults and spitting. I had no other plans for the afternoon, it was free entertainment, why not!? Many people were throwing rotten fruit, the spoils of the day, and others were laughing, some seemed really angry. I was definitely one of the angry ones - and yet I had no real reason to be.
I continued playing along with the chaos and craziness while he was nailed down to the wood. He let out screams of absolute anguish and pain as the blood flowed freely from his hands and feet. I was surprised they were going to that extreme really, I am sure they had their reasons though.
Through the sounds of the hammering I could hear whimpering..is someone actually sympathizing with this guy? you can't be serious! I scanned over the crowds trying to see where the sound of crying was coming from. My eyes settled on a group of ladies, hunched over together, hugging and crying. They were mumbling to each other in between crying, but I could not make out what was being said. Curious. I dismissed them and turned my attention back to him - just in time for the raising of the cross too, its the best part! I saw one of the guards gathering bramble and thorns from an bush...he began to twist it together to make a loop, and he pushed it onto the offenders head, so tightly that it pierced into his skin and caused more bleeding. I didn't quite understand why they did that.Why a crown of thorns? I think they were mocking him. Oh yeah. I remember now, this guy, get this, he was going around calling himself the 'king' - not only that, but the 'son of God'. How dare he!
We continued to mock as we watched him being raised into the upright position. His body painfully stretched across the course wood. A block of wood placed beneath his feet, cruelly, so he could raise himself to breathe, thereby lengthening the time it would take for him to die...drawing out the torture and pain. A man prodded him with the back end of a spear every so often to keep him conscious... when he didn't respond once the man pierced his side with the spear. His body jolted. I winced. That's gotta hurt! I was beginning to feel bad for this guy.. but then a new chant began, people were yelling at him, telling him that if he was the son of God then he should save himself. That renewed my anger! They had a point!! Why doesn't he save himself? I spat at the ground near the cross and laughed.
I looked up at the face of this man - he had turned his head toward one of the renowned thieves hanging beside him, they were talking - I wish I could make out what they were saying. Despite my annoyance at this man, something about him drew me. I stared hard at him, then after talking to the thief he turned his head back in my direction. I could swear he was looking right at me. I could see in his face so much pain and torment. He spoke, saying "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.". I shifted, that made me feel uneasy, I couldn't quite believe that despite what was happening to him he still found the strength to seek forgiveness for us. He had a peace, a contentedness, almost resigned to what was going on around him. But briefly I saw the peace leave his face as he took a deep breath and let out a cry, shouting 'my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'. And as he exhaled, we all knew the life had left him, as his body slumped and his muscles collapsed.
Then, well then it went weird...almost immediately the sky darkened. It was terrifying. I heard screams from children as the all ran around trying to find their parents. As I began to make my way toward home, I pushed passed people and overheard gasps, and people saying we had made a mistake. Had we? I had to admit, I felt a sadness in my heart that I did not expect.
I did not sleep well that night. I was haunted by the images of that day. I couldn't shake the feeling that he had looked right at me. It was a piercing look - ironically, as he was pierced at the time! But it was not a look of anger, but a look of, well, loving sadness really. I couldn't place it.
Days later, three days to be exact, there was a buzz in the air. People were all excited. I had heard what the excitement was about. I didn't want to believe it though. If it was true, then I had done something terrible. Unthinkable. Unforgivable. They are saying he is gone. Disappeared into thin air...right out of the tomb he was buried in. Some people claim his body was stolen, but I knew the tomb was guarded... I don't think that was what happened. No, its the other theory that rang true..but it was the other theory that frightened me too. The other theory being that he had risen from the dead. How was that possible? Its not...unless you are the son of God. I think he was. I feel it in my heart.
The more I thought of this man being the son of God, the more I despaired - especially as my actions of that fateful day replayed in my mind. I spat at his feet. I spat at the son of God. He had done nothing wrong to me. I said unthinkable things to him. I tried to think of why I was angry at him in the first place. I think it was mainly because he made me aware of my sin. He seemed to have a way of opening your eyes, and I did not like what I had seen in myself...and I definitely did not like him seeing right through me. That is why I was angry..pride really. Pride and shame. I deserved to die in the way he did, but from what I knew and had seen and heard, he did nothing wrong. He did not deserve the punishment he received. I knew that now, more than anything.
Not long after that I began to hear the whole story. The truth behind this man's death. I could not understand it. The truth made me so ashamed of the way I had treated him. The truth was this... He died for me. He died for me because he knew that a sinner could not have eternal life. At first, I didn't quite understand. Why would he? and what difference would it make? But my good friend explained it to me. See, he was perfect, like a spotless lamb. He was the ultimate sacrifice. And the cost of my sin was eternal death. I could never make up for my sin. Not in a million years. God knew this. He gave me a way out. He gave us a way out. He sent his son, to die in our place...so that his blood would cover us - so that we would be righteous in the eyes of God. God would see Jesus when he looked at us, rather than seeing our sin.
I spat on him, as He died for me. I hurled insults, as He bought me eternal life.
Eternal life. Forgiveness of sins. The ultimate display of love. He died for me. All I have to do is, accept this gift.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
This Easter, I pray you would all remember the amazing gift you have been given, that you would cherish it, and share it with everyone you meet, so they too would be able to receive this incredible gift.