Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday: A Cut, a Crucifixion and a Change of Heart

I was only doing my job.  I've been a loyal Roman soldier for many years.  No matter how disgusting the task, I did it to the best of my ability.

It seemed like a regular night.  A late Thursday night apprehension, like many others...or so  I thought.  It was anything but.

We had gotten orders to pick up a Jesus of Nazareth.  I guess He was a troublemaker.  I had seen him, at a distance, from time to time.  He didn't seem really overly unruly to me...but the Pharisees know best.  They wouldn't arrest anyone unjustly, would they?

We got to the outside of the Garden of Gethsemene.  We met up with a fellow named Judas.  I wasn't really impressed with him.  From what I heard, he sold out his friend, and teacher for 30 pieces of silver.  Nice.  No matter...he was there to help us to identify the Man.  I didn't have to be his best friend.  After tonight, I won't have to look at him.

Judas walked up to Jesus and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  That was our cue.  We grabbed His arms and prepared for a fight.  But there wasn't one.  At least not from Jesus.

Some of the guys that were with Him made some noise.  Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain on the right side of my head!  I looked down, and there was blood everywhere!  I grabbed my head and screamed!  Someone had cut off my ear!  The prisoner was the last thing on my mind.  I let go of His arm, and fell to the ground, looking for my missing ear.  I knew I was going to bleed to death right there.  There were no doctors anywhere nearby.  I was sobbing in pain and fear.  I felt a hand help me to my feet, saying, "Enough of that!"  I looked up as Jesus came closer.  I looked right in his face as He placed a hand on the side of my head.  I felt a slight burning sensation, and immediately my ear was reattached!  No pain at all!  He had healed me!  I was amazed!  I kept touching my ear.  What was this?  I had heard rumors that He was a Healer.  I knew it was true.  My commanding officer ordered me to grab His arm once more.  Reluctantly, I did so.

As we took Him to the Pharisees, I saw the man that had cut my ear off...slinking in the crowd, like a snake.  I motioned with my head to one of the women in the crowd.  I heard her ask him if he was with Jesus.  HA...he denied it.  What a coward.  With friends like Jesus had...He surely didn't need any enemies.

The next few hours were difficult.  Jesus went through many interrogations.  The Pharisees, Pilate, Herod Antipas, and back to Pilate.  All during this time, Jesus didn't say a word in His defense.  My fellow soldiers remarked that He must be mad.  What human would not defend himself.  I had a nagging feeling...perhaps He wasn't human.  What human could do the things that He did?  I had never seen one.  Someone in the crowd said He even raised some people from the dead!!  A couple of the soldiers even thought it would be funny to make Him a crown of thorns, since some called Him the King of the Jews.  They slammed it down into His head.  Still...nothing. No attempt to make them stop.

One of the hardest things that I was ordered to do that night...and the next morning....was to physically abuse Jesus.  I was told to beat Him.  I HAD to.  It's my job.  No personal feelings are allowed.  I took my cat o'nine tails and ripped His flesh.  Over and over.  He had hardly any skin left.  With each strike, my ear tingled.  I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn't go away.  This was crazy.  I am a Roman soldier.  Tough as nails.  I can't be getting all emotional over a prisoner.  Even if He did save my life.  But I couldn't help it.  I was feeling so guilty.

Then we watched as He was sentenced to death by crucifixion.  Pilate let the crowd condemn Him.  He even gave them a choice of prisoners.  I couldn't believe that the crowd chose His death over that ruthless killer, Barabbas.  Jesus was an innocent man.  People can be so strange.  We marched up the Via Dolorosa, with Jesus, as He carried His crossbeam.  He looked inhuman.  You couldn't even recognize Him.  We had beaten Him so badly. This was totally getting out of hand. He fell down three times.  I pitied Him.  I yelled for a man in the crowd to help Him carry the beam.

Finally it came time for the execution itself.  I was ordered to grab a hammer and a nail.  I didn't want to...but I didn't want to appear weak, either.  These guys would never let me live it down.  I grabbed His left hand...the Hand that had touched the side of my head.  I could not look at His face as I placed His Hand on the beam and in two swift strikes, nailed Him to the wood.

We then hoisted Him up to the vertical beam.  He screamed in agony.  His cries made my ear throb.  I tried to ignore it, but couldn't.  One of the other soldiers nailed his feet to the footrest.

I reluctantly looked up at Him.  He was looking right at me.  I looked down, quickly.  This was unbearable.  Then I heard Him speak.  He said, "Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do."  He  I tried to shake it off.

There were two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus.  One of them yelled for Jesus to save Himself and them.  The other one reprimanded him and told him that they deserved it...Jesus didn't.  He then asked Jesus if he would remember him when He entered His Kingdom.  Jesus told him, "Surely, today you will be with me in Paradise."  Paradise?  Was there somewhere you went after you died?  I thought you were just...finished.  Nothing.  How could you be in a 'Place'?  If that were true...I wanted to go, also!!

Then I had to look away, as the only one of His disciples came forward.  I heard it was some man named...John.  A woman was leaning on his arm.  She was inconsolable.  It was Jesus' mother.  How sad.  But even from the cross, this Man thought of her.  He told her, "Behold, your son".  He was talking about John.  Then he told John, "Behold, your mother."  Even though He was dying, He made sure His mother was taken care of.  This Man was no criminal.  He was innocent!!  What had I done???  My own pride and selfishness did this.  I didn't stand up for what was right.  I went with the crowd.  My self absorption did this to Him.  I could not bear it.

All of a sudden He screamed, "My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?!"  My blood ran cold, and pounded in my ear.  He was silent for awhile, then weakly called out, "I thirst."  Of course He did.  I grabbed a sponge on a long hyssop branch, dipped it in some nearby sour wine, and touched His lips with it.

Then He called out, "Father, Into Your Hands I commit my Spirit.  It is finished."  He bowed His head and died.

Thunder rolled and lightning flashed.  The veil of the temple ripped in half by itself.  The ground began to shake.  It was terrifying.  I knew that no matter what.  This was one of my last days as a Roman guard.  I had killed the Son of God.

One of the other soldiers, in order to make sure He was dead, stuck a spear in His side.  Out flowed blood and water.  They took Him down and placed Him in His grieving mother's arms.  They then wrapped Him up and placed Him in a new tomb, supplied by Joseph of Arimathia, and from what I gather, Nicodemus the Pharisee helped him.

I wish I could do things over.  I would not have made the same choices.  If I could only see Jesus once more.  I would tell Him how sorry I was.  How I now believe that He is truly God's Son, and I would even be one of His followers, if I could have that chance.  If only I had the chance.

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