The trial and crucifixion of Jesus retold in story form through the eyes of John, loosely based on Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 22-23, and John 19. To read the previous post in this fictional series, read “An Unlikely Intent: A False Friend Exposed.”
The night passed slowly. I could not find any of the disciples. I had never felt so alone in my entire life. I cried off and on without realizing it or caring. My King had been captured, and He seemed to want to be taken. But why? We had worked so hard for years together. Why throw it all away? It just didn’t make sense.
As the night drew on, I simply wandered the streets looking for any of my friends. My brothers who had been closer to me than family were now nowhere to be found, and my heart ached for some thread of normalcy.
I must have fallen asleep on the city street. I woke up to merchants setting up their shops.
“Good morning. Did you hear they captured Jesus of Nazareth in the night?” One shop owner was asking another.
Like a flood of darkness, the realization of why I was asleep on the street hit me. I began weeping all over again. The shop owners looked over at me for a moment but continued in their conversation. I stood up and began walking, unsure of exactly where to go. There was nowhere to go without Jesus.
More and more people entered the streets to start their day. The news of Jesus’s arrest traveled like wildfire in the city. I began to gather that there was a hearing going on where Jesus was being tried by Pilate and would be sentenced.
I found my way to the courtyard, and the crowd was immense. I pressed in but couldn’t get very far. Jesus stood on the platform with several other men. I could not make out what they were saying. Over the sound of the crowd I heard a man say, “Which man do you want me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
My heart leaped with joy! They were going to release Him! The intense joy soon turned to dread as those around me began yelling “Barabbas!” My mouth fell open as I watched my fellow Jews yell for the release of a murderer instead of the release of Jesus. I was completely bewildered that these were the same people who had welcomed Him like a King just a few days ago.
Pilate, obviously surprised, said back to the crowd, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
“Crucify Him!” was the overwhelming reply. The heaviness in my heart jumped up and filled my throat. I could barely breathe as the words “Crucify Him!” encircled me like my own death. The more they said it, the greater my heart broke. This could not be happening. I looked up at Jesus standing so still on the platform, staring out at a crowd willing and ready to murder Him. I was absolutely powerless. I could not save Him. I could do nothing. Overcome with grief, I doubled over and let the agony consume me.
I turned and ran. How could these be my people? I could not stand with them any longer. I could not see properly through my tears. My eyes were swollen and red. I had never thought it would end like this. Betrayed by His own friend. Plotted against by His own people, crowds yelling for His murder. The more I thought of it, the deeper my devastation became.
I turned down a street, and to my amazement, there stood Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
“Oh, John!” Mother Mary said as she reached for me. We could still hear “Crucify Him!” echoing through the streets. My own crying slowed as I held His mother and let her cry. The tears of Jesus’s mother landed in small pools on my shirt and I thought of Him all alone in that moment and how much those tears would mean to Him. How much a mother’s tears mean to any child. My arm tightened around her in an attempt to comfort her. She slowly stopped crying and stood up tall.
She looked me square in the face, “I am so glad He has had you by His side.”
We all turned together, walked toward the crowd once more, and stood at the back. With the two of them, I felt like I could face the crowd again. Apparently, they had taken Jesus inside. The crowd was growing anxious as time continued to pass. No one knew what was happening on the other side of those walls. Time moved slower and slower as we waited for a sign of something, anything, that might let us know what was happening to Jesus.
Pilate walked back out. The crowd grew very quiet. So much hung in that moment.
Pilate said, “Look, I am bringing Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” Jesus came out being supported by two soldiers. His legs were buckling beneath His weight. His clothes were covered in blood, and he appeared to be wearing a crown made from thorns. His head hung low, and He didn’t even look up as He was brought out.
I heard Mary gasp for breath. To see her son like this must have grieved her greatly. I could barely look at Him. My King, my Shepherd, torn down like a criminal.
“Here He is!” Pilate said, and immediately, the chief priests and their officials shouted “Crucify! Crucify!” The crowd followed suit. I took the hand of Mother Mary and looked around, startled beyond belief. Everyone around us continued yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” We were apparently traitors to them, and they were traitors to their King. If we belonged anywhere, it was up there with Him, not down here with the Jews.
Pilate looked shocked and, after washing his hands, said, “You can take Him and crucify Him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against Him.” Pilate went back inside, and the soldiers took Jesus away. The crowd became wilder than ever as people pressed on every side trying to see what was happening and where they were taking Jesus. The three of us left the courtyard.
We didn’t go far, but we had to get out of that crowd. People were dispersing, and the streets were filling up as the news spread of Jesus’s impending crucifixion.
Not long passed and an uproar was heard near the courtyard. We turned to see Jesus begin His walk to Golgotha. The weight of the cross was almost too much for Him. With each step, He seemed to lose more and more blood from His wounds. His breathing was labored, and as He walked closer to us, we could see that His face was disfigured from the beatings. He could barely see through His eyes, and half his beard had been ripped away.
He fell, and the dirt matted itself to His wounds. Not a sound came out of Him, and He lay there unable to get up, although He tried several times.
A Roman soldier looked around, “You there!” He pointed to the other side of the street to a strong man who was standing there watching. “You. Come and carry His cross.”
The man walked to Jesus and knelt beside Him. He picked up the cross that was somewhat pinning Jesus to the ground and stood up strong beneath its weight. With the burden of the cross lifted, Jesus slowly stood to His feet and began walking.
Mary Magdalene, Mother Mary, and I began following Him through the streets. Walking through the crowd was irritating and hard. There were so many people, and they were so thickly pressed together that there was barely a way through them. At times, Jesus would stumble and fall, and I would look to Mother Mary while tears silently fell from her eyes.
Eventually, we reached the edge of the city and began our climb to Golgotha. Two criminals were brought to the hill as well to be crucified. As we neared the top of the hill, the crowd was all but gone. Mere handfuls of people remained. I saw several women who were often among the disciple group. There were no greetings but just faces filled with grief, aware of the presence of one another. We watched as they nailed Jesus and the two criminals to their crosses and then raised them. As they rose, I could see the sign that had been nailed above Jesus’s head. It read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
It was nine in the morning, and I could not comprehend how so much had happened since waking. They were hours filled with the most dread of my life. Hours marking the end of an era, the close of world-changing dreams, and the destruction of a Kingdom we had worked so hard to usher in. As I looked up at my King hanging there, my heart ached for the loss of Him and His presence. He contained so much power, and yet He did nothing.
Jesus looked out at the crowd. He saw us and He began to speak. We walked closer. He looked at His mother and said, “Woman, here is your son.” He then looked to me and said, “Here is your mother.” I placed my arm around the shoulders of Mary and looked up at Jesus as He continued to struggle to breathe. I would guard her with my life, and He knew it.
It was mere minutes before the mocking started. Soldiers, onlookers, passersby and even the criminals on either side of Him were jeering at Him. “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One” and “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” Jesus was silent as these continued to ring out one after another.
One criminal said, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
The other criminal immediately rebuked him saying, “Don’t you fear God? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” He turned to address Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus turned to him and said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
We stood there from nine to noon. The mocking slowly subsided. People seemed to be getting bored, and by noon, most had left. The criminals were silent now as the pain from their own crucifixion was taking its toll. At noon, the sky became very dark, and there was a stillness in the air. The sun was no longer shining. It felt as though the earth was reflecting what was in my heart. The loss. The sadness. The immense gaping wound that was forming. This lasted until three when Jesus called out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?”
One of the soldiers apparently thought He was thirsty because he filled a sponge with wine vinegar and raised it to Him on the end of a spear.
With a loud cry, Jesus said, “It is finished!” Immediately, His head hung low, and His knees buckled completely. He was no longer breathing.
I was gripping Mary’s arm so tightly by this point. I released my hold, knowing that He was gone. I hit my knees and buried my face in my hands. It truly was finished, and I felt more lost than ever.
In the stillness of that moment, a centurion standing near me said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” At hearing this, I stood up and looked at Jesus. He was the Son of God; of that I am certain. His death did not change who He was.
Evening was approaching. We came a little way down the hill to join several more disciples who had been standing there watching. Not many spoke because there wasn’t much to say. Someone did mention the location of where we were going to gather shortly, but no one seemed to want to leave. Jesus’s body was still on the cross. It felt wrong in so many ways to leave Him there for the birds, yet we had no way to get Him down.
Time continued to pass, and the group perked up when we saw Joseph and Nicodemus pass by headed for the top of the hill with a few men and some linen cloth as well as several jars of herbs and oils. I let out a sigh, knowing they were going to take Jesus for burial. We could see them now talking with a soldier at the foot of the cross. Slowly, Jesus was lowered down, and Joseph and Nicodemus along with the other men took Him nearby to prepare for His burial.
My heart was relieved. It seemed to signal the closing of the day and a releasing. I turned to the others around me and said, “Let’s go join the others.”
Our steps were weary as we left the place of the Skull. The world seemed empty and pointless. Although I was surrounded by my brothers and sisters I felt more alone than I knew how to express. My best friend and my King was gone. I had no way of knowing what was coming next or, even if He were here, what He would say was next.
To me, there was no next, no tomorrow, no life. It felt as though there was only nothing stretching out forever. Hope had died that day, and I had no way to see past it.
The story will continue in the timeline of the original events. For the next segment in the story, be sure to read “An Unlikely Intent: The End is the Beginning.”
Featured Image by jozefklopacka