Friday, April 19, 2019 the foot of the cross

Lydia closed her eyes at the strike of the hammer against nail, wishing she could close her ears against the agonized cries. She wasn't supposed to be here. Abba didn't want her to see the crucifixions, and she had never had a desire to go against his wishes in the past. Today, though, something was different.

She couldn't get that man's eyes out of her mind. She had gone home after the rooster crowed this morning, trying to forget the prisoner who had been taken before Caiaphas, but that had proven impossible. Neighbors had stopped by to tell her father that Jesus of Nazareth was on trial, speaking in hushed tones of Pharisees and miracles and prophecies. All those things had piqued her curiosity, so when her mother had asked her to go to aunt's to borrow some necessitates before the Sabbath, she found herself drawn to a place she had always avoided.

As they lifted the man to the top of a cross, Lydia took note of the sign above his head, placed there so everyone would know his crime: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

"If you're the Son of God, save yourself!"

"You said you could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, but you can't even get yourself off that cross!"

Those were the mild taunts, the ones least filled with hate. The words poured out from everyone who passed and every soldier stationed there. Lydia didn't know how long she stood there, hearing those hateful words, waiting for him to respond to them like the thieves hanging at his sides were doing. Their words didn't surprise her, but the words she heard from him did.

"Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing," he cried, his eyes lifted up to heaven. They didn't sound like the words of a criminal to her.

Lydia noticed a woman at the foot of the cross, alternating between reaching out to the man on the cross and weeping into the shoulder of the younger man standing at her side. She would bury her face, but then start and desperately look back up at the man on the cross, as if afraid to have him out of her sight. Lydia could feel the tears hot on her own face as she watched.

Three crosses stood on the hill that morning, and one of the prisoners began calling out mockingly, "If you're the King, why don't you rescue all of us?"

Jesus didn't answer any of them, Instead, he looked down at the pair standing at his feet and said, "Woman, here is your son," then turning his gaze to the man, said, "Here is your mother." The man on the ground nodded, pulling the woman into the protection of his arm, holding her up as her sobs shook her body.

The other prisoner mustered his strength and cried out, "Don't you fear God? We're getting what we deserve, but this man obviously did nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me."

The man hanging on the cross, broken and bleeding, turned his head to look at the thief hanging at his side. His eyes filled with an unimaginable expression, one of forgiveness and understanding, and he said, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."

Suddenly, the day turned to dark. People looked around in fear, many rushing away, but Lydia couldn't tear her eyes away from the sight in front of her. All time was lost as she stood, mesmerized, tears streaming down her face for this broken man whose crucifixion even the sky seemed to mourn.

She didn't know how much time had passed when she heard him call out words she had heard her father recite: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" They were the words of King David, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"

What kind of criminal would ask that?

Someone held a reed up to his mouth, a sponge attached to its end, but he didn't drink it. Instead, he cried out loudly, "IT IS FINISHED."

At his words, the whole earth shook. Lydia dropped to her knees, terrified, yet not wanting to take her eyes off of this enigma of a man, hanging on a tree, forgiving the people who had put him there, promising paradise to a thief. His head fell forward, and the darkness fled. 

This is the fourth installment of a series of fictional accounts of the events leading up to Easter. Though I've taken creative liberties, I've tried to remain true to the gospel accounts.


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