The Crucifixion

By Max Watson © 2008 all rights reserved.
As a classified Roman Citizen in the employment of the Governor I am expected to attend certain important events and the execution of a terrorist is such an occasion. I wasn’t particularly concerned I had been to a crucifixion before, but as I was to learn there had never been a crucifixion like this before, nor would there be again.
The prisoner had been duly tried, by several courts, and was found guilty and through a sweetheart deal had been sentenced to death by crucifixion, to take place today. I was keen to impress the Governor, as I wanted a promotion, so I rose early, bathed and dressed appropriately then set off to get a front row spot.
The prisoner was dragged out of the courtyard where he had been severely beaten, people receiving the 39 lashes often die, and tortured but he survived quite well really. Now he had been given the cross bar of his own instrument of death to carry, talk about cruel and unusual punishment.
The crowd waiting at the palace gates was unusually large for a crucifixion, but this guy had been a public figure and very popular with the common people. When the gates opened the procession was lead by a Centurion, which in itself showed just how serious this was, as a Centurion was hardly ever given an execution to oversea. Well, the party finally cleared the gates, and they were closed again.
The prisoner was clothed only in a loin cloth and a makeshift crown that had been fashioned out of a thorn bush commonly found around the outskirts of the city as an obvious way in which to further humiliate him, as if someone being led off to die painfully and slowly needs to be humiliated. His back looked like it had been raked with a brush of nails. How he was even able to stand was a testament to his strength of character and physically.
But even with his observable strength the result of the beatings and the jeering crowd was taking a terrible toll. Every time he even stumbled one of the guards would savagely lash him, as if more beating could encourage anyone in that condition to do better. It was on one such occasion that he fell so heavily the cross beam fell to the ground, and it seemed to me that he not be capable of picking himself up again, let alone his cross piece. The guards became furious and beat him all the more savagely. To no avail of course. The Centurion immediately summed up the situation and could see the prisoner was all but spent. He strode over to the edge of the crowd, an area where there were some apparent supporters and selected a man who appeared reasonably physically fit with adequate strength to carry the cross piece and was commanded to do so.
With a hush the crowd as one took a deep breath as this man slowly lifted the cross piece to his shoulder, the weight of these things is enormous actually they weigh more than a large fat person. They are crafted out of a very hard wood and as well as being heavy they give off a plentiful supply of splinters that pierce deeply and quickly and painfully fester. This man was apparently known to some in the crowd as they called out to him in an effort to encourage him onward and to be free of his imposed burden all the sooner.
Meanwhile the guards had not simply ignored the prisoner, as they were taking turns in spitting on him, or lashing him with whatever they happened to be holding. To the total astonishment of everyone present a woman broke free of the crowd and knelt by the prisoner, she was sobbing, but managed to control herself just enough to transfer a cup from her cloak and pour some water into it then she held it so the prisoner could drink a few quick swallows before one of the guards kicked her and told her to be off.
Consequently, the gruesome procession restarted its slow journey out of the city. All along the streets people would come out to jeer, cry, and shout abuse or encouragement. This man can draw people out of themselves to an opinion if nothing else. The women were wailing and children screaming, many people joined the crowd as we ever so slowly made our way out to execution site, which was always secret until the prisoner arrived. The military always kept several sites prepared so as the leave their options open or to make attending as difficult as possible. There were times when they preferred to do their awful deeds in as much privacy as they could manage.

The heat was building; it was obviously going to be a very hot and uncomfortable day, especially for the prisoners; I omitted to tell you that there were actually three prisoners; the main one is the man I have been concentrating on, but there were two others as well, rather notorious criminals whose guilt was not about to be debated by anyone. So, on we all slowly plodded, out through the gates, where some youths threw a few pieces of fruit at the condemned men.
Once outside the city wall, the crowd seemed to grow even larger, the soldiers started to appear a little concerned as they knew that a crowd like this could overpower them. Nevertheless, with a fair number of religious leaders spread throughout the crowd that was highly unlikely. The religious leaders had pushed hard for this execution, for some unknown reason to me, it suited their purposes, so there was little chance, and they would allow a riot to develop.
The procession was now approaching an execution site known in the common language as “the place of the skull” on account of the fact, that if you looked at this small hill from the correct angle, with the sun behind you as in the early morning, it had the appearance of a human skull. The Centurion gave a command that made it very obvious that this was indeed to be today’s execution site, the massive upright cross parts were already laid out on the ground, raising ropes already attached, holes for them to sit in already dug and waiting.
The crowd was ordered to wait at the bottom of the hill, a usual practice, so the soldiers could carry on their gruesome work with as little taunting as possible. The guards lead the prisoners up the slope to the summit of this strange little rounded hill. The man who had been recruited to carry the cross beam for the main prisoner was directed to drop it on the ground near to the where centre cross would be erected.
Now the guards had to do some real work to earn their blood money. They quickly put the cross piece in place – it would be held securely in place by its own weight easily enough. The nails, rope and hammer were also made ready. The crowd was permitted a little closer now and my vantage point was front and centre. Now the Centurion called out the prisoner, he read the charges and the verdicts and the pronouncement of death by crucifixion, to be carried out now. At this one of the guards knocked the prisoner, we had just heard his name officially, it was Jesus of Nazareth, to the ground and two more guards stretched him out on his cross.
The sergeant had drawn the task of nailing the prisoner to his cross. He took up the long spikes and his mallet, he knelt down placed the first nail on the left wrist of the unfortunate prisoner as he lifted his mallet high in the air, and everyone in the crowd took a deep breath. The mallet fell in an arc swiftly onto the head of the nail, driving it through the flesh into the timber. This barbaric ritual was repeated on the other wrist, then the feet. Added to the nails was the tying of the prisoner’s limbs to the cross, in case the flesh pulled away from the nails.
It was a very painful thing to undergo and it was common for the victim to hurl abuse, or curse at those crucifying him or her. A remarkable thing happened, which had a strange effect on all present. This Jesus yelled with all the power his beaten body could summon “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” This man had been teaching and preaching, his message of love and peace, in the country for the last three years. Even so, now right before my eyes he was living it out, even though he would not live the day out. The pain openly displayed on his face made it difficult to look at him, but no one present could look away. Somehow we in the crowd knew something exceptional was happening. The guards all stood while the Centurion read a message from The Governor and then he nailed a sign on the cross above the prisoner’s head declaring him to be “the king of the Jews.” This immediately got the religious leaders yelling and screaming, as seems to be their way, that the sign must be rewritten however the Centurion remained steadfast and gave the order to raise each cross. This was achieved by means of ropes and pulleys. When each cross was vertical it was secured so it would remain upright, for as long as it took for the prisoner to die.
Now the crowd was allowed to get close now and people were pushing and shoving one another in order to get a better vantage point. The abuse being railed at Jesus became very loud and very bitter. Someone, I assume it was a soldier, offered him a wine mixture on a sponge that he held on a long stick, but Jesus turned his head away refusing to take the drug. But it didn’t seem to bother him, he just hung there on his cross slowly dying, gasping for breath. Without warning one of the felons hanging beside him also began taunting him, yelling at him to do something so that all may be saved. Then amazingly the other criminal spoke up in favour of Jesus; who then blessed the criminal who had displayed a level of faith.
A few hours passed by with little happening then he looked down and recognized some people he knew one of whom was quite obviously his mother, but he did not speak to her rather he spoke to a man standing near her and told him to care for his mother. This had the effect on those gathered around the cross to start the abuse again, myself among them. I yelled at him that he was nothing just a nobody that no one will miss. As I stared at this dying man, he turned his head, opened his eyes and looked directly at me, he did not speak but the look in his eyes was such that I was instantly turned from abuser to champion and in the weeks to come a follower. I pray daily that God would forgive me for what I did that day. The day that changed me for eternity.

The Crucifixion

Maximus

Doonside, Australia

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