A few years ago I was reflecting on the stations of the cross and I began to wonder about the different people’s experience of seeing His Passion in person. Of course there would be a wide-range of emotion, a stark contrast between a love beyond understanding and such burning hatred. I wrote this version of the Stations of the Cross to reflect these conflicting feelings. It was originally set as a play and is out of my own imagination. It is not meant to be historically accurate. It is meant to put us into the events of that day, for Jesus’ Passion is our story, too.
Each day over the next week I will post another “eye-witness” account. As you read, put yourself in the story and compare your own reactions, motivations, hopes and fears with the character’s. I invite you to reflect with me:
As a Roman Centurion, it is my duty to enforce the laws of Caesar that Pontius Pilate, our governor, puts forth. We had been told to expect trouble during this time of the year—it was a time the Jews call the Passover. Sure enough, late last night something began to happen. I saw a man roughly brought into the courtyard of a house before the High Priest. People were restless. Something was under foot. I notified my superior who went to Pontius to warn him.
This morning, the Jews dragged this same man—Jesus was his name—before Pilate and indicated that he was deserving of punishment, that he claimed he was the King of the Jews. So, Pilate asked us soldiers to bring him in for questioning. When there, Pilate asked him pointedly, “Are you the King of the Jews?” At this Jesus did not respond to defend himself, only saying, “You say that I am.” I’ve never seen this occur before, a man not pleading for his life before Pilate—he is a fair man, but can be ruthless.
Pilate brought Jesus back out and said that he found no cause for punishment. At this the crowds were stirred up by the chief priests. An order was given to attend to the crowds. I grabbed my spear and held it facing the High Priest. It was hot; the air was tense with anticipation. Everyone was jittery. That’s when Pilate said, “Each year at this time I release a prisoner to you. I am holding a notorious murderer named Barabbas. Who shall I release to you? Barabbas or Jesus?”
The crowds’ response was startling, even to me. They shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” with such venom! I wondered what could a man due to incite such hatred? Pilate gave the order to carry out their wishes so we led Jesus off to prepare him for crucifixion.
I was preparing my home for the Sabbath, and for the Passover sacrifice to take place later today. That’s when I heard the commotion outside in the streets. Horse’s hooves, shouting, profanity, Roman soldiers’ armor clinking. Even weeping.
I went to the door to find out what was going on. I saw the chief priests standing nearby, conversing heatedly. Next were the soldiers pushing everyone back from the road. Then came two condemned criminals carrying cross-beams to the outskirts of the city. I wonder what awful crimes they committed to deserve this punishment. Something beyond my wildest dreams, no doubt. Sinners. Hmph, that explains the shouting. But the crowd seems to be getting even louder now. Even the chief priests are yelling at someone.
I jostle my way closer to the street so I can see what criminal, what sinner, they are yelling at. That’s when I saw Him. Jesus. How can this be?
Just a few days ago I watched another procession where this same man was riding on a donkey, the people—myself included—shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The spit and insults being hurled at Jesus conflict with the palm branches we laid down before Him on that day. Instead of riding on the back of a donkey, now, he is carrying a cross that looks like it was made from the largest tree I’ve ever seen!
What sin did He commit? What law did He violate? The crowd seems so sure but I don’t know what He could have done to merit death like this. I had hoped He might even be the promised one—the Messiah…I guess not…