The Way of the Cross

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Though harshly treated, he submitted

and did not open his mouth;

Like a lamb led to slaughter

or a sheep silent before shearers,

he did not open his mouth.

(Isaiah 53:7)

The most profound truth ever revealed to mankind is that Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, God and Savior died for our sins so that we may be with Him in heaven for all eternity.

Imagine, if we had been an eyewitness to Christ’s crucifixion. What would we have done? Run? Cry? Perhaps cheer?

I hope you enjoy this illustration of Jesus’ great gift to all people and one man’s reaction to the torture and death of the Savior of the World.

The Way of The Cross

The man was roused from his slumber by a soft, gentle and sobbing voice, “Patriarch, Patriarch you must move or be trampled. They are coming.” Next to him knelt a beautiful young woman in her early twenties with long, brown hair hidden behind her brown veil. He did not know her or at least he did not remember her. She repeated herself with greater urgency, “Patriarch, you must move or be trampled! They are coming!”

Startled, he stands and steps back from the dusty, stone laden road. He realizes he does know where he is and is surrounded by unfamiliar people and scents. He thinks to himself, ‘How did I get here.’ In this strange place he is two or three inches taller than most of the local people standing around him. Wearing a long indigo tunic with a gold rope around his waist, he stands out among the crowd. Looking down at his garment as he holds his arms out, he understands why the young woman called him patriarch, he is richly dressed for this time and place.

In the distance, he can see and hear a snorting, stomping stallion as it approaches. Some of the gathering crowd around him wail in hysteria while others scream obscenities in a language he does not recognize and yet understands every word. The air is filled with the aroma of musty sweat, animal dung, spring flowers and fresh baked bread. He is stunned by the strange mix of emotions and scents.

Again, the man is pulled from a stunned stupor as a battered and brutalized Man slams to the road in front of him jettisoning dust from the ground in all directions.

Jesus Falls for the First Time

Yet it was our pain that he bore,

our sufferings he endured.

We thought of him as stricken,

struck down by God and afflicted,

(Isaiah 53:4)

The crowd erupts in cheers as the hollow thud of timber hitting the hard surface causes the convicted Man to groan out loud. The patriarch, having shaken off the cobwebs from his mind, comes to a startling realization as to the identify the condemned Man. His own stomach convulses with bile and out loud he yells, “My God, my God, they are killing Him.” Every instinct in his weak human body says to run and hide while his feet stand locked in a vice grip of fear. Before him, his Lord and Savior lay in the dirt convulsing in excruciating pain. Below His crushed body, a pool of Holy Blood forms a dark muck to be trampled under foot. He thinks, “If only they understood, His precious Blood.”

Blood flowing from the two inch thorns piercing his skull, Jesus makes eye contact with the man, says nothing and says everything. There is no pleading for help in His eyes. A gleaming Light of love envelopes the soul of the man as he hears, “For you, for all. Take up your cross and follow me.”

Suddenly, the centurions allowing Him no rest, the Savior of the World is brutally wretched up from His position in the bloody mud and is forced to hoist the load of heavy timber. As He drags the cross toward Golgotha and away from the man, the blood streaming through his torn tunic runs down the back of His legs leaving a trail of love.

From his position above the crowd the man can see the tattered flesh that has been pulled away from His back. “For you, for all. Take up your cross and follow me.” Resonates in the man’s soul. The man follows.

Jesus Meets His Mother

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

Pushing his way through the mob, he keeps sight of the barbaric procession. For once, his size helps him clear the crowd as he muscles his way forward toward his Savior. No more than one hundred feet in the distance, kneeling on the side of the road, three people catch his attention. The woman who woke him, a young baby faced man, no older than a teenager, and an older, strikingly beautiful woman in a blue veil.

Stopping, he asks a nearby merchant selling Passover doves to the crowd, “Who are they?”

The merchant responds, “The Mary’s and John, they are inseparable. The younger woman is from Magdalena, the older woman is the wife of Joseph and the convicted Man’s mother, the man is John and his closest friend.”

Looking away from the trio for the first time and into the eyes of the merchant, the man can see the merchant is also not like the rest of the growing mob. Older than average for this time, with graying hair, taller than anyone, from what he can see, skin as dark as coal, a scar running down his face, ear to chin and tears flowing in sadness from deep ebony eyes that speak of profound wisdom.

The man asks the merchant, “Do you know them?”

Heartbroken and holding back his emotions, the merchant replies, “I have known them since I was a young man. His father was my closest friend. I am also a disciple of the convicted Man, Jesus.”

There is a certain stoicism about the tall, dark skinned merchant that makes him both likable and foreboding. The man, now known as the Patriarch, asks, “Will you join me on the walk up the hill? He wants us to follow Him.”

In a deep bass voice the merchant answers, “I will join you at the top of the hill, at a distance. For now, I must stay here until the crowd passes. If you are going to follow, stay at a distance. Do not make yourself known to anyone as His follower. The Pharisees will have you arrested and beaten.”

“Thank you, my new friend. May God be with you. I will meet you at the top of Golgotha,” the patriarch replies, his hand out to shake the merchant’s hand. The merchant, not sure what to do, clasps the patriarch’s hand with both of his immense hands and smiles for the first time.

At the sound of a cracking whip penetrating the flesh of one of the two other convicts, the man returns his attention to Jesus and the trio and moves forward in the crowd. He can hear his sandaled feet tapping the dusty stones as he walks with determination. The crowd parts like the Red Sea in front of him as he moves. So focused on the spectacle in front of him, he does not notice the quizzical looks as he proceeds.

Jesus pauses in front of his mother. In response, the man pauses a stones throw from the Mary’s and John’s position alongside the road. He looks on as the Blessed Mother, heart pierced as prophesied by Simeon, comforts her ailing Son and Savior. No words are traded. Serenely, she reaches and gently touches His bleeding face. In the midst of an exchange of perfected loved molded by time and a mutual love for God the Father, they both know His crucifixion is the foundation of His mission on earth.

For a split second an overwhelming spontaneous silence grips the mob as they look on. The almost imperceptible silence ends without the mob acknowledging it existed.

While watching the Mother and Son, a heaviness, the weight of his own sins, begins to press down upon the man’s shoulders. Kneeling, he stumbles under the weight of his own sin as he strains to regain his standing position.

Driven by the merciless Roman centurions, the raucous crowd lurches forward and presses their Victim to advance. Looking over His right shoulder, Jesus makes direct eye contact with the man. His deep hazel eyes calling to the man, “For you, for all. Take up your cross and follow me.”

The man can see each drop of his Savior’s precious blood as it falls to the ground bursting into microscopic crystals splattering into the air. Light resonates from each drop and then fades as it explodes on impact with the ground.

Simon of Cyrene is Made to Bear the Cross

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15:21)

In a distant pasture, behind rows of stacked homes, donkeys can be heard braying as if they sensed the gravity of the event in the streets of Jerusalem. In response to the animals objecting, the fury of the crowd increases as their Redeemer slowly and painfully passes them by. Black thunderclouds begin rolling overhead as a diabolical darkness possesses the mob pushing against each other and the soldiers.

Having never experienced such chaos up close, fear grips the man in blue who is conspicuously following his Savior. A searing pain begins to rise up in his leg, forcing him to drag it as he follows this parade of fury. A voice continues to call, “For you, for all. Take up your cross and follow me.”

To his right, he passes the sobbing mother and her two saintly companions. The young lady who had first awoke him that day looks up at him as he passes. Her deep brown eyes speak of both devastation and loving kindness. Hand prints of blood are impressed upon her veil from comforting Our Lady. Soon, they will also follow the procession of life and death up the hill.

Distracted by the growing anger around him, he almost stumbles into the stalled procession and the Roman soldiers. Catching himself, he locks eyes with a spear carrying soldier. The soldier’s deep blue eyes communicates his own fear and loathing for the task ahead.

The patriarch’s deep indigo tunic, pale white skin and short cropped gray hair mixed in with a crowd of shorter, darker skinned men draws immediate attention from the lead Roman guard sitting high on a dark black stallion. The guard’s demeanor spoke of fury and a possession that could only come from the darkest depth of hell.

Charging forward on an ebony stallion and knocking down all in his path, the guard, cracks his whip in the air with precision and calls out to the Patriarch, or so he thinks, “You there, what are you doing just standing there? Who are you?”

The man in blue, seized with terror, looks away.

Again, the demonic lead centurion yells at the man. “Come, carry this cross for this criminal before we crucify you with Him.”

Jesus looks over His bloodied and scabbed shoulders into the eyes of the man as if pleading, ‘Will you carry my cross?”

Before the man can run, a short, broad shouldered soldier bursts through the crowd in a sprint toward the emerging scene. Again, bile from the depth of the man’s bowls begins to rise to his throat. The lines on the soldiers face conveyed a fury the man has never faced.

Driving his stone-like, chiseled shoulder into all that step in his path, the short soldier charges toward the Patriarch whose fear has frozen him in place. Cursing, the soldier yells and points in the Patriarch’s direction.

The man can hear a broiling commotion behind him and a man objecting to being accosted by two more centurions. “Why must I do this? I am minding my own business? I am no criminal!” the man pleads!

The two centurions have pulled from the company of growing observers a young man from Cyrene to aid Christ in His walk of death and redemption. Throwing the Cyrenian to the ground in utter disregard to his humanity, they ignore his objections and strap his hands next to Jesus. His eternal destiny has been written in stone as he unwillingly aids his Redeemer.

A dog howling in pain as it is beaten by its owner mirrors the sadness that overwhelms the Patriarch as Jesus turns His attention to the Cryenian and His destiny at the top of Golgotha. Tears begin streaming down the man’s now dusty face as he realizes he has rejected his Savior by his actions.

All of his senses and the demonic one whispering in his ear tell him to give up and run from this possessed company of men. Yet, the light emanating from Jesus calls to him, “For you, for all. Take up your cross and follow me.”

The burden of his own cross pressing him to fall reminds him of the pain of his own sinful past. Shoulders bent forward as if he was accompanying Christ in His walk, the man moves forward with his eyes fixed on the Cross of Christ.

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him. (Isaiah 53:2)

The long, slow ascent up the inclined road toward the hill of death and redemption continues as the faces of the crowd become overwhelmed with hatred for what they do not understand. The rolling thunder clouds pound the atmosphere with a rhythm to match the tumultuous march. Looking into the faces the cheering observers, the man can see their eyes twitching from right to left as if in a drugged stupor of hatred. In lines that trace their faces, the man can see deformities of the souls trapped by sin. He thinks, ‘This must be what souls will look like in hell.’

The weight of his own past sins presses the patriarch forward as he drags his leather bound feet through the dusty streets. Beads of sweat are running into his eyes sending a burning sensation through nerve endings and into his brain. Lifting the edge of his tunic to wipe the sweat droplets from his eyes, he can see in the distance the procession has begun to turn to the east and has stopped once again at the edge of Jerusalem. Christ has fallen for the second time.

Both of his legs are now cramped in pain as he carries his own lifetime of sins toward the peak of the hill. A dense fog of dust has risen around him making it impossible to see, yet a tunnel of air is formed clearing the dust as he watches the events unfold.

To the west a middle aged woman approaches the crow, appearing from the dark door in a humble home built from lumber, mud and stone. Inconspicuous, she moves forward with caution and confidence. Her strength and gentleness carries her through the rampaging bodies without being noticed. Kneeling at the side of her Savior, she cries tears of grace filled love. These same tears roll off of her cheeks and onto the swollen cheeks of Christ. As each tear fall on Christ, it appears as if they are absorbed into his aching body.

Hesitantly and ever so slowly, she reaches to touch the thorns of His holy crown. Horrified by the brutality of the crown pressed into His scalp, she stops short of touching the tool of torture. Observing the holy heaving chest of Christ as He lies prone gazing up toward the sky and moved with pity, she removes her own white veil and with great care wipes clean the face of the Man she reveres beyond all others.

Within an instant of having His face wiped, Christ is jerked violently from the ground and commanded to lift His cross. The abrasiveness of the cross against the Man’s body peels back the injured, layers of skin from His holy back. On the ground the woman is left kneeling, invisible and untouched by the hoards. In her hands, pressed against her heart, she holds a priceless gift of love imprinted on her veil for all eternity.

Tears streaming down her face, she looks directly into the stricken eyes the patriarch as he trudges forward. Turning the veil toward him, he can see the precious vision on her veil.

In the distance, imperceptible to most ears, he can hear the call, “For you, for all. Take up your cross and follow me.” The man follows, the tormenting cramps in his legs are now causing tremors to rise up his spine.

Jesus is Stripped of His Clothes

I can count all my bones.

They stare at me and gloat;

they divide my garments among them;

for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalms 22:18-19)

The lead centurion, possessed by legions of demons, grabs the purple garment that has become one with the convicted Savior’s back. Wrestling Him away from Simon the Cyrenian, the centurion throws Jesus and His cross to the ground. The remaining onlookers gasp at the inhumane disregard for the convicted man.

Sprawled out before the patriarch, the Savior of the world is prone, His face crushed in the dust by the weight of the cross. Head lifted and looking toward the edge of the hill filled with blood red blooms where the patriarch attempts to hide from notice, Christ, eyes filled with blood, connects with the distraught man. The deep hazel eyes of his Savior cry out in pain and love.

Sobbing, the patriarch does not notice the dark shadow looming over him. A large hand, as hard as granite, gently touches the top of his head. Frightened the man struggles to rise to his feet. The calm, deep voice reassures him, “It is, I. I am here as promised.” It is the merchant. The two men embrace as if they are long lost brothers. Deafened by emotion, the two foreboding men do not notice the wind has calmed to a dead still in-spite of the monstrous thunderstorms now looming overhead. The eerie calm goes unnoticed by the Romans bent on destruction. As if to signal disaster, animal life has become silent and the dark thunderclouds begin to swirl in a vortex overhead.

Standing together, just below the crest of the hill and surrounded by a sea of red Anemones, they observe in horror the spectacle of Roman and Pharisaical authority. Overcome with sadness and the pain of his own sin, the patriarch’s knees buckle as he is propped up by his new brother in Christ.

The century dismisses the Cyrenian with a crack of his whip and returns to his Victim. With a slash of his sword, the ropes, that bind the Man to the cross, fall to the ground. Two Romans are ordered to step forward and lift the cross from the back of the Convict. Taking the time to kick Him in the side, they both laugh raucously and squeeze the last vestiges of wine from their flasks down their drunken throats. Rolling it off of a His shoulder, the cross crushes the crown of thorns further into the scalp of Christ sending more of His precious blood spurting into the air.

Unable to move, Christ lays silently as He awaits His fate, a fate known to Him for all eternity. The raging centurion savagely lifts Christ by His shoulders and stands Him upright for further humiliation. Indifferent to the pain of the convicted Man standing before him, he grips the collar off the purple robe and tears it away from the open wounds on His back, shoulders and torso. Bowing, he mocks Him, crying out, “All hail the King of the Jews” and shoves him to the ground.

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

They put a sign above his head with the charge against him written on it: “ this is jesus, the king of the jews.” (Matthew 27:37)

Two guards grip Him by His wrists and roll Him over on the redemptive Cross. Wrapping a thick cord around His wrists, the guards stretch the Redeemer’s arm as a third guard places a spike in the center of His hand. Both men watch as the guard drives the spike through their Savior’s hands and into the cross. Each time the hammer comes into violent contact with the spike blood splatters into the air covering the guard and causing the two terror-stricken observers’ bodies to constrict in unison.

Jesus, slowly and intentionally, rolls his battered head to make eye contact with the patriarch. A moment of illumination overcomes the man. With each impact of the hammer against the iron spike the man’s past transgressions become more clear. In the crimson drops of Christ’s precious blood, the regal man can see the reality of his soul.

Suddenly, the man realizes his lifetime of sins have appeared on his body as leperous lesions. Sores are oozing across the entirety of his body, causing him immense pain. Horrified, he buckles over hysterical from remorse. Looking, 30 yards away, into the eyes of his Savior, he knows he has been gifted a moment of grace.

Tears streaming from his wounded soul, he yells for all to hear, “Forgive me, Lord! Do with me as you will!”

In the same moment, a single droplet of blood lets loose from the executioners hammer as it impacts its cold hard target. Thunder booms in the background while the droplet of blood travels through the heavy air. Resembling a lighting bolt, the solitary drop of electrifying blood strikes the man directly in his heart and opens his soul to the purifying love of Christ. The impact hit the man with such great velocity he is knocked out of the supporting arms of the towering merchant and lay prone among the red blooms at the top of Golgotha.

A purifying fire now burns through the man’s body, searing away any vestige of sin from the his past. With each wave of purifying fire the man cries out in pain as the thousands of lesions are lifted from his soul and forgotten forever. From the darkness of the purgative pain, the man can hear a soothing voice’s call, “For you, for all. Take up your cross and follow me.”

Out of the man’s sight, the soldiers raise the cross and rock it back an forth as it drops into the square cavity. With the thump of the cross finding its base, the entirety of Golgotha quakes, a sign the end is near.

Jesus dies on the Cross

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (John 19:30)

From his darkened state of pain the patriarch can hear a deep baritone voice calling to him, “My friend, come to. Wake up! Are you alive? His time has come.”

His new friend, the merchant, is vigorously shaking him. He responds, “I am alive.” He knows he has been healed of his guilt by his Savior.

“I thought you had died from your grief. I could not wake you. They have hung Him on the cross. He will not last much longer. Can I help you?”

The patriarch replies, “You have already helped me more than you know.”

Looking down at his arms, the skin has been renewed with a great vitality.

The merchant nods knowingly.

At the top of the hill, Christ hangs from the cross, blood flowing from thousands of wounds across His body. He has been beaten beyond recognition to all except those that truly love and follow him. His swollen face looks down at His grieving mother and with each labored breath the gurgling of blood can be heard in His lungs.

Mary, His mother, Mary, wife of Cleopas, John, the beloved one and Mary of Magdala wait at the foot of the cross for the inevitable. Despite their incomprehensible sorrow, the two friends observe from at a distance a visible light emanating from the saintly followers of Christ.

Breathing deep, precious blood dripping from His feet and onto the saints, Christ turns to His mother and John and says, “Woman, behold, your son. Behold, your mother.”

After this, aware that everything was now finished, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So the blue eyed Roman centurion with the spear put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

With His last breath expired, Golgotha shook with a mighty earthquake that caused the blue eyed soldier to throw down his lance, prostrate himself and exclaim, “Truly, this man is the Son of God!”

As the quake calmed the thunderstorms exploded in the air, creating a great lightening show as the soul of the Son of God was released from His body to lead the great Old Testament saints through the gates of Heaven.

As they were descending down the mountain the devastated, ebony merchant proclaimed, “We have witnessed that which we do not comprehend, yet we know we are changed forever.”

Putting his arm around the shoulder of his friend, “Yes, God is good and the best is yet to come!” Looking at his quizzical friend, “You will see! We ache with sorrow today, yet great joy is soon to arrive.”

JMJ, Pray for us!

God is good,

Jay

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