Jerusalem was teaming with people on my first ever Passover in the Holy city. Although a solemn occasion commemorating the deliverance of our people, I couldn’t help but feel caught up in the excitement and fervor, which many said was amplified by the presence of Jesus of Nazareth in the city.
I had only followed Jesus from afar, as a part of the crowds that surged around him, wherever He went. There was an unknown quantity about Him that fascinated me and although a simple carpenters son He spoke as one in authority. The talk amongst the people was that even the Scribes and Pharisees were in awe of His understanding of the Scriptures, if not also frustrated to distraction in trying to trick Him in to answer in ways that would condemn Him and turn Him over to their hands. But Jesus never fell for their sinister games and would turn it back on them. I respected Him for that. We the common people were always under the hawk like eyes of the Pharisees and other religious leaders. It could be daunting. They had it coming.
Yet I still did not really know what to think of this man called Rabbi by his own disciples and had not put my full faith in Him. Besides, there was starting to be whisperings and rumours that it was becoming dangerous to associate with this man. I had a family to think about. Yet I continued to follow him, from a distance.
And now I had found myself in Jerusalem with this same man. Everywhere he went during the week crowds amassed around him, always fringed by the muttering Pharisees, overseeing the scene like vultures ready for a choice piece of dead meat. Yet Jesus popularity was evident and it held them at bay for fear of causing a riot, should they try to apprehend Him.
Until….there was a betrayal. By one of his own disciples! The news spread throughout the city like wildfire, from house to house, late into the night and early morning hours. Jesus had been arrested!
It turned into the longest day of my life as I followed the crowds to see what would happen. I kept my distance of course but I saw and heard so much; the shouts of the people, now stirred into a frenzy against Jesus, by the religious leaders who whispered from ear to ear that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God, yelling, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Was this what they really wanted? My confusion smothered my thoughts and I simply allowed myself to meld into the crowd as we moved to line the pathway to Golgotha. I saw Him pass by staggering under the load of his own cross, beaten beyond recognition and wondered again if this man could truly be the Messiah. Yet when He turned his bruised and bloody face towards a group of women who were weeping not far from where I stood and then for a second seemed to rest on me, I felt my body go weak. I was certain that what I had seen in His eyes and countenance was the purest of love and compassion and something else…forgiveness? My confusion grew. Who is this man who could make me feel forgiven? Had I not brought my own Passover Lamb into the city to be a covering for my sins?
I fell into a stupor, almost as a drunk man, allowing myself to be pulled along, a reluctant witness to the crucifixion of an innocent man. It's too ghastly to express. The gospel of Luke vividly describes His crucifixion and then what came next.
Luke 23:44-49 By this time it was about midday, and there was darkness over the whole land until 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and the light of the sun failed. And the veil of the Temple was rent in the midst. When Jesus had cried with a great voice, he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." When he had said this he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God. "Truly," he said, "this was a good man." All the crowds, who had come together to see the spectacle, when they saw the things that had happened, went home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances, and the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, stood far off and saw these things.”
The centurion's words were eventually passed back to us. Even the centurion had felt something! My heart, previously hardened to what I thought that I knew about this man, what I could understand, felt broken, humbled and strangely changed.
What had Jesus said one time? That “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32) I was stunned. He was dead. Yet His words were as life within me. In that moment I felt more stirred to follow him, not from a distance, but as a true disciple, than I ever had before. Yet how could I now? The questions burned within me as I too beat my breast and mourned and wept. Yet still I felt it; this wellspring of hope.
I wondered about tomorrow and the next days to come. I knew even less than before. I was filled with grief that He was gone. But a glimmer of hope had befallen me from the shadow of His Cross and as the ominous sky and rumbling earth chased me back down the way I had come, with each shaking step I took away from His Cross, I felt no distance.
Gloria writes and blogs from Caron, Sk. and has published many newspaper articles and columns along with a few personal pieces in various publications. She particularly crafts her writing to reflect Hope and is currently working on a memoir to speak hope and healing.