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Northside Journal Easter

By: Darryl Hoychick

The following is the first of a five-part Easter emphasis. The account written here is a scripturally based fiction written in the first person by people involved in the events surrounding the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

CHAPTER ONE

       The Passover meal was strangely different that night. It was to be our last supper with the Master. None of us ever expected it, but I guess we should have. Jesus had tried to tell us that night.

The evening began miraculously by Jesus sending some of us ahead where we found a man carrying a pitcher of water, just like He had said, who had an upper room already waiting for us. These types of events no longer surprised us; it had become an everyday experience to see miracles. We had experienced everything from seeing the sick healed, to restoring eyesight to the blind to raising the dead. We knew by this time just to do what the Master said and not to worry if we didn't understand.

That evening we were rejoicing together, speaking about the great deliverance of Israel from Egypt and that first Passover meal in captivity thousands of years earlier. It was as though Jesus described it from a personal standpoint of knowledge. Though we were fascinated by His great teaching ability, we did not yet understand that His knowledge was first hand because He had been there in His pre-incarnate state.

But things changed suddenly that evening by Jesus' announcement that one of us would betray Him. It was with shocked unbelief that each responded by asking "Is it I”? When we received no response from Jesus, Peter whispered to John, my brother, who was leaning against Jesus, to ask who it was. That's when Jesus took some bread and dipping it in His dish said, "the one I give this bread to is the one". But when He gave it to Judas and said,  "What you have to do, do quickly," we thought He had changed the direction of His conversation, because He was always sending Judas off to buy food and supplies since he was our treasurer.

As soon as Judas was gone, He took the unleavened bread and broke it and said, “This is my body, which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of Me." Then following His actions we ate the bread. This was very different; this was not part of the Passover meal; this we did not yet understand. Then He shocked us even more by taking the cup and pouring each of us a portion and saying "This cup is the New Testament in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me”. We drank it, but we did not understand!

Each of us knew we had not drank His blood nor had we eaten His flesh, but we knew there was something special here that we would understand later. As we whispered to each other about the meaning of these things and the fact that He said we would remember His death by doing this, Jesus, unnoticed by us, went and picked up the pitcher at the door. None of us had bothered with it when we came in. After all, it held the water for washing one's feet. There were no servants present when we came in and none of us were going to be the one to act like a slave. As a matter of fact, we had been arguing recently about who was going to be the greatest among the twelve when Jesus would set up His Messianic Kingdom.

All of a sudden I realized what Jesus was doing. He had taken off his outer garments, had tied a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin and was washing the other disciples’ feet! I was speechless! This was my Master, my Messiah, and He was washing their feet! Dumbfounded, I sat in silence staring until He came to Peter’s feet.

I was indignant, sitting there thinking “He will not touch the lowly feet of James, the son of thunder!! NO SIR! Not my feet”. But then Peter pulled his feet away and blurted out "You are not going to wash my feet”! Jesus told him that he didn't yet understand what He was doing, but would later. That didn’t convince my friend Peter!  He still said, “No, you are not going to wash my feet!”  I thought, “Me, too, Jesus will never wash my feet.”  But when Jesus looked up at him with those compassionate, now hurting eyes and told him if he didn’t let him wash his feet he could not be part of Him. Peter blurted out “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Exactly as I would have put it! If washing my feet would make me part of Him, I wanted the whole bath! But once again Jesus gave a gentle rebuke and said we were already clean in our spirit, what we all needed to learn was how to be humble and servant-like.

     That was some night!  I know many of you readers still celebrate the Lord’s Supper just as He commanded us. And I know He smiles because you do it in remembrance of His great sacrifice, until He comes again.  So, in this special season please remember what my friend Peter, wrote to you in his first Epistle, you are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. You are born again, not with corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever!

Peace be with you all. Amen.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

Jesus loved to pray in the gardens that stood outside of cities, especially out in the wilderness. I guess it was because of the quiet and solitude of the places. He seemed to draw strength and peace from those long hours in quiet prayer… but this night was different.

            When we entered the garden of Gethsemane we were singing one of Jesus’ favorite songs of praise. We sang all the way there and were still rejoicing in our praises to God when Jesus stopped us.  The told the other disciples to stay there and pray while He would go further into the garden. He took James, John and me with Him. As we drew a little ways from the rest, Jesus said something so strange.  He said he was sorrowful, even unto death. Jesus had always been so positive and encouraging to us. Even when He rebuked us at times for lack of faith, he always lifted our spirits with words of encouragement. But this night was different. Jesus was distressed and sorrowful. He went off to pray by Himself and told us to stay where we were and watch. We didn’t know what we were supposed to watch for, but we waited as He went about a stones throw away.

            I remember how tired I was and how guilty I felt when I dozed off. I could see Jesus laying prostrate on the ground in deep prayer, but I was so tired. All of a sudden I heard Him calling our names. He was standing there asking us why we were asleep when He had only been gone for an hour. He warned us to watch and pray his time because temptation was close and though our spirit was willing our flesh was weak.

            I was so ashamed! I could see the sweat on His brow and the wet tunic clinging to Him, He truly was distressed. I got on my knees and began praying for Him. I didn’t know what the problem was that He faced, but I loved Him and was determined to support Him. But once again I found myself nodding from sleep and before I knew it Jesus was standing over us again waking us up. Oh, my heart sank as I saw great drops of sweat like blood falling to the ground and on his cloak. I had never seen such agony on my Lord's face and disappointment that once again we had failed him. Again he asked us to pray, and I honestly tried but I was so tired...

The third time He came, we were sleeping, but as we roused from sleep he told us it was alright because we needed the rest, but to get up because he was now betrayed into the hands of sinners. I didn't understand those words then, but I felt a peace because the stress was gone from the Master's face and a great peace permeated His countenance. We found out later that Jesus had prayed that “this cup" of sacrificial death would be removed, but that if God the Father willed His sacrifice He was willing. Angels had come and ministered to Him while we slept. Oh how wonderful it would have been to see them helping the Lord but my weakness robbed me of that blessing.

As we walked back to the other disciples, I saw a crowd coming with torches and swords. I was alarmed at first until I saw Judas leading them. I remember thinking “This must have been what the, Master had told him to do quickly during our supper last night.” As he and the chief priest and elders approached Jesus, Judas walked right up to him and greeted him with a kiss, but Jesus asked him, “Judas do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Then he looked at the crowd and asked who they were looking for. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth”. That’s when things went crazy. Jesus said “I am He” and the crowd moved back with a jerk falling to the ground. Jesus stood over them and told them to leave us alone and take only Him. It was crazy!  This was not supposed to happen! The Messiah was to be the ruler over Israel, not its victim!

When I saw them grab Jesus I took my sword and started swinging wildly to protect my Master. I hit Malchus, the high priest’s servant and cut his ear off, but before I could swing the sword again, Jesus said  “Peter, Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?"  Then he picked up the severed ear and placed it back on Ma1chus and healed it right there. Well, brothers and sisters, I dropped that sword and ran, both in confusion and fear! Every one of us ran and hid in fear, confusion and doubt.

I watched from the darkness as they took Jesus away. Then I noticed John following them so I ran and joined him. We followed the crowd all the way to the house of Annas, the High Priest Caiaphas’ father-in-law, where Caiaphus, the chief priests and elders were waiting for Jesus. John knew Caiaphas so he walked into the house to see what would happen to Jesus, but I stayed outside. I was so scared!! I kept thinking what if someone recognizes me? They'll arrest me too! And sure enough the girl who stood at Caiaphas’ door asked me if I was one of His disciples... fear gripped me so I said, "'No," and turned my face toward the fire and away from her. Then the soldiers by the fire asked me the same question and again in fear I lied. I was trapped. Soldiers were everywhere. I kept wondering why in the world had I come into this place and where was John and why didn’t he come out so we could leave? Then my heart sank as Malchus’ cousin walked up to me and said that he had seen me in the garden. In desperation and fear I began to curse him and told them again I didn’t know Jesus! Then in the distance, I heard a rooster crowing and with shame and regret I remembered Jesus' warning the night before when He said I would betray Him three times before the rooster would crow. As tears filled my eyes and humiliation washed over me like ice water I looked up to see Jesus had been moved aside from the crowd and his eyes gazed into mine. Those eyes said "I understand and I still love you," but I couldn't stand it. I ran until I could run no more and wept! I never went back. I couldn’t face Jesus. My shame was so great, my failure too final.

 

CHAPTER THREE

Today started just like every other day.  As was my duty as Centurion, I set my sentries at each of their stations around the governor's palace and ordered the rest of my company to patrol the streets immediately surrounding it due to rumors of a revolt among the Jews. Trouble had broken out last week due to some carpenter or prophet or just some trouble­maker who had made a mess of the Temple throwing money changers' tables around; turning over animal cages and even forcing the merchants out of the Temple with a whip of cords. He gave us a good laugh to see the enraged looks on the faces of those self-righteous priests. There were rumors everywhere about that fellow. Some were saying he was one of their ancient prophets come back to life; others claimed he was some guy called Elijah. The dumbest rumor of all was that he was John the Baptist come back to life. That worried old King Herod because it was his fault John was dead; his fault and that wicked wife and step-daughter of his. The thing that worried me was the talk about him being their "Messiah", some man that their God was going to send to drive us all out and cause them to rule the world.  Mind you, I was not worried that he cou1d, because many other “would be messiahs” had risen only to fall by Rome’s mighty hand. I was just worried about those 100 young men under my command. I would have hated seeing them die in the streets because of some zealot Messiah.  Well, my instincts were right. Before the sun even rose, a mob appeared down the street heading straight for Pilate’s Hall.  I ordered my men to block the entrance and prepare their swords.

            The crowd stopped just a couple of feet away, they always did that. They said they couldn’t touch us because we were “unclean”. How many times I had wanted to punch their pious teeth down their throat as they sneered “unclean”! But today they stood with a prisoner demanding to see Pilate. I figured he must be important because Old Annas the retired High Priest, and his son-in-law, Caiaphas, the current High Priest, were at the head of the group which composed most of their Sanhedrin, their own Supreme Court members.

Finding no weapons after a quick search, I instructed them to follow me into the Judgment Hall. They refused!! They said they would become defiled, so they wanted Pilate to come out to them. It took everything I had not to command my men to kill them all.  Their hypocrisy made me sick! There they were with a man bloodied from a beating they had apparently given him that very morning, and they wouldn't defile themselves by touching anyone who wasn't a Jew. Apparently they could kill a Jew with their hands, but could not touch a common Gentile on the street. My blood was boilingwhen I remembered my duty. I was not their judge, as much as I’d like to be. It was my duty to bring him, this “criminal”, to Pilate. Caesar had given every nation the right to judge their own people according to their own laws, up to a point! When their punishment reached the death penalty, they had to petition Rome, for only Rome had the power of death over men.

I commanded two of my men to take the criminal to the Judgment Hall. I was a little surprised when he did not struggle. As a matter of fact he didn't even speak.

When Pilate came into the hall, he walked right past the prisoner and went to the mob and asked them what the accusation was against the man. They didn't want to tell him until he told them to judge the man themselves. Then the truth came out. They wanted him dead. He was the fellow the city was in an uproar about at the Temple. He had broken their law and they claimed he told the Jews not to pay their taxes to Caesar.

Pilate walked back to the prisoner and asked if he was the “King of the Jews“. The prisoner in turn asked Pilate if he thought that himself, or if it was told to him. Pilate was indignant. I could see it on his face. He told the man off real good! He told him it was his own people, the Jews, who wanted him dead and he wanted to know what he had done. The man said his kingdom was not of this world, that's why His servants didn't fight. I knew Pilate thought he “had him” when he said that, so Pilate asked "So you are a King?", but the man said he just came to tell the truth. That surprised Pilate and he grumbled, “What is truth?” As he walked back to the mob to tell them he found no fault, they began to shout all kinds of accusations against him. Pilate looked at the man and asked him to defend himself, but he never said a word which surprised Pilate, and me! However Pilate wasn't intimidated by them and told them a second time he found no fault. Then they said something that got Pilate's attention. They told him the man had spread the sedition into Galilee. When he found out the man was a Galilean, he commanded me to bring him to Herod, who was in Jerusalem, that very day.

The man never said a word; never struggled with us. As a matter of fact, Herod was happy to see, and question him. But once again he never answered a word. The priests were there making accusations that he never answered. Then Herod and his men had some fun at his expense. They put a royal robe on him and mocked him as a king and told me to bring him back to Pilate.

Pilate was not happy to see me with that prisoner again. He told the priests neither he nor Herod found fault and he was going to chastise him and release him. That didn't go very well with that mob so he decided to give them a choice between releasing the man or a notorious thief and murderer by the name of Barabbas. I figured he was out of his mind then because everyone knew how terrible Barabbas was. It was then, as Pilate sat in his judgment seat, that his wife came past me and told him about the terrible nightmare she'd had about this man and she begged him not to have anything to do with him.

But before she could turn around, the mob and the crowd that had gathered outside began chanting  “Give us Barabbas”.  The only one more shocked than I was Pilate who said, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" That was the first time I had heard his name. All I knew was what people had said about him and the names they had called him. His name was Jesus, a common enough name. Once I started listening to their cries, I realized what they were now chanting: "Crucify him, Crucify him"! I could not believe it. Crucify him, for what? Surely Pilate would never do it. Behead him if he must, but he did not deserve crucifixion! But it was no use. Though Pilate tried to reason with them they chanted even louder, “Crucify him!” That’s when he called for a basin of water and a towel and washed his hands in front of them declaring himself innocent of Jesus' blood. Then he released Barnabbas and sent Jesus to the scourging post.

I marveled at him as he went willingly, never struggling, never speaking a word, offering his bound hands to the scourger to be tied to the post.  He never uttered a curse; never reviled anyone; only the anguished cry of a man whose flesh is being torn from his body. This man Jesus was a real man, a strong man. He never fell beneath the blows of the whip. He was still standing after the final strike of the whip.

As we led him through the Praetorial guard, the soldiers began to mock him. Someone  threw a purple robe on him and smote him with his hands.  They took a hideous crown made of thorns and crushed it into his scalp. He never said a word! They took a reed as a mockery of a King's scepter and struck his thorn-covered head, laughing before him and mocking him as King of the Jews. He never said a word! Some came up and struck him with their fists; others grabbed his beard and jerked handfuls out.

The boys were having fun with him. It did not bother me. It was just the typical mockery that we made of all rebels. In a final desperate move Pilate ordered me to bring him out on the balcony for the crowd to see this beaten, emaciated piece of flesh they called Jesus, the Christ. Pilate said “Behold the man” and their answer was “Crucify him!” You should have seen his face when he heard one of the chief priests yell out that Jesus called himself the Son of God. There was no color left in his face. He went straight out to Jesus and asked, "Where are you from”? The man didn't answer, so Pilate threatened him with his power to crucify him or release him. That's when the man Jesus, standing there with a blood stained robe dripping blood in a circle around his feet, eyes swelling shut, lips broken and bleeding from the beatings he had taken, scalp swelling around the thorns crushed into his head, looked straight into Pilate's eyes with a bone chilling authority and told him, “You could have no power at all against me, except it were given to you from above: therefore, he that delivered me unto you has the greatest sin."

Pilate broke into a sweat and began trembling at those words. I was amazed! I had seen many brave men in battle fighting with a courage few have. I had seen wounded men holding their position against an enemy. I have been proud to stand next to them because their courage was contagious. But now I felt something so strange. Here was a man with more courage than I‘d ever seen; not in battle with sword and shield, but...like a lamb being led to slaughter with no fear and no sound of crying. I began to admire this man, but I knew the circumstances would force me to crucify him. I wondered if he could stand that horrendous pain and still be silent.

Pilate gave in when the crowd began to accuse him of treason by allowing Jesus to be called the King of the Jews. It was now my duty to lead him and two other condemned  criminals to the place of crucifixion - a place called Calvary, or as the Jews called it, Golgotha.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

It's dark now and the pain is almost unbearable. But the excruciating pain is nothing compared to the awesome peace I have at this very moment. A peace I have never known before.

This day started out so horribly; like a vicious nightmare tormenting my soul. I know it will end with my death but in between this horrible beginning and the excruciating ending I have had a life changing experience. I want to tell you about it while I still have breath and I still have my senses.

I had been in prison for several days prior to today. I was there because I'm a thief who got caught too many times and this time I was in the wrong company at the wrong time.

You see I met this guy, Barabbas, who was a criminal of enormous reputation. He had put together a sizable gang and. I was invited to join. Barabbas hated the Romans so they were our chief clients. Things had gone pretty good for me. I was making plenty of money without the usual dangers involved in my dishonest trade.

Barabbas’ violent nature scared me at times; I’ve seen him kill a Roman merchant for no reason at all and yet I remained with him because I felt safe in such a sizable gang. Also the friendship I had gained with my fellow thieves helped fill that gnawing emptiness I felt inside. Yet each time I'd wake up from my drunken parties the emptiness was still there along with the headache and nausea. I had tried women thinking they would fill that void inside me and though they did distract me for a time, that emptiness always returned.

Three weeks ago that emptiness depressed me beyond belief when we were surprised by a Roman troop. Most of my friends were killed, but they captured two of us along with Barabbas. Since then we have been waiting to be crucified, the penalty for killing Romans during our attacks.

Then early this morning the soldiers came and took Barabbas. It took four of them to drag him out.  About an hour later they came for us. Both of us fought like wild animals because we knew what awaited us. We had rather had a quick sword, but the soldiers knew what we wanted and they were determined not to kill us. They wanted to see us die slowly on that horrible cross. The fists and blunt handles of swords against my ribs and across my face finally made me stop fighting. They were enjoying inflicting pain on me. If I were going to die, at least I would not give them the pleasure of killing me with their fists.

We came to the courtyard that would lead us to the main avenue out of Jerusalem to the placed called Golgotha. I was shocked at the sight of the bloody, beaten figure already staggering under a cross. I just knew it was Barabbas. They must have taken their revenge out on him. I could not take my eyes off him. I hardly noticed when they placed my own cross on my shoulders and tore out my flesh with their whip. I couldn't believe he had the strength to carry that cross on his raw flesh. As my head bowed under the plow of the whip, I saw a trail of blood following him.

There was something strange though. He was not cursing or fighting anyone. At first I figured it was because of the terrible beating he had taken. I was really puzzled because he never even looked at the people mocking and cursing him.

Then he fell, and as I caught up with him, I saw the soldiers force this guy from the crowd to carry his cross. As I stopped at his feet and heard him speak. It wasn't Barabbas! This voice had a soft embracing sound. He was telling some women not to weep for him, but for themselves and their children.  Who was this man and what happened to Barabbas?

         Anger welled up inside me as I realized I was being crucified because of Barabbas and he was not here. I began to struggle with the guards but they only laughed as they beat me with their fists and whips. Then I turned my anger upon this man who was ahead of me; I felt it was his fault so I began to curse him myself. He never answered my mocking and cursing. He never said a word.

Then came that terrifying moment when they pulled my arms until my shoulders came out of their joints and they laid me on that cross. They held me down as they drove those spikes through my hands and my feet. Then they raised me up and dropped that cross in the hole prepared for it. Because of the tearing into my flesh and the excruciating pain in my dislocated shoulders, I almost passed out.

I could hear my friend cursing and swearing at the top of his lungs as they did the same thing to him but the other, the one placed between us, he never said a word… not when they dislocated his shoulders… not when they nailed him to the cross.  He never said a word!

            As the soldiers completed their job, they took our clothes that had been stripped off us and divided them among themselves. Then they sat at the foot of the cross in the middle and gambled for his seamless robe.

They were so cold and calloused but not as calloused as the priests who came up to the man in the middle and called out to him "you who destroys the temple and builds it again in three days, save yourself. If you be the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

My anger towards them only deepened as I saw them torment this man, but I also became angry when I realized the man caned himself the Son of God.

I began to join them and tell him to bring us down from this cross too! It wasn't until someone yelled that he called himself the King of the Jews that I noticed the accusation written above his head, “King Of The Jews”. My friend and I had “Thief and Murderer“ on our crosses. He had "The King of the Jews” written in Greek and two other languages I didn't understand. I began cursing him and mocking him to bring us down from the cross, but my mocking and that of the crowd and chief priests didn’t seem to bother him at all. Though he was obviously in pain from the scourging and the cross, he never answered a word.

Though my friend continued to revile him, I stopped and began to watch him. Even now in my own anguish that emptiness that had plagued me all my life began to hurt more than the nails and swollen shoulder.

Then he spoke! With al1 the cursing, with all the humiliation he had gone through, he now finally spoke and said; “Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they do.”

               This just seemed to infuriate the leaders of the Jews who cried out “He saved others, let him save himself. If he be the Christ, the chosen of God.”

Suddenly, my heart was aflame with hope!  Yes hope! Hanging on a cross, I suddenly had hope that I never had before while free. This man claimed to be the Messiah, the chosen one of God, and he just called God his father and asked him to forgive us - Yes us!! Though I had not been guilty of nailing him to the cross, I was guilty of cursing and reviling him and he asked his father to forgive me!!! Could it be? Was it possible that this man now covering the ground beneath his cross with his own blood was the Messiah? Could it be that I could be forgiven?

That emptiness that had torn at me all my life; that emptiness that was never filled with wine, women or money; that emptiness had changed into hope! Hope!! For the first time, hope! This man was not an ordinary man. No man could forgive those who tormented and humiliated him. No man could tell others not to weep for him. No man could die as quietly as a lamb led to the slaughter! No man!!

.             Then I heard my friend throwing insults at him again. Something rushed out of me and with a power not of my own, I found myself rebuking my friend. I said, “Don’t you fear God?" Seeing you are in this same condemnation, and we indeed, are guilty, for we received the due reward of our deeds, but his man has done nothing wrong. "

My voice was breaking into sobs. Tears I had never felt since I was a little boy streaked down my face and I knew who he was. I didn't know his name, but I knew he was the Messiah. How, I didn't know, but suddenly that emptiness had become hope and that hope had become knowledge: He is the Son of God! With every ounce of strength, courage and faith I cried out to him “Lord remember me when You come into your Kingdom." Then he looked at me. For the first time, he looked at me! No one else existed then. It was just he and I. His eyes were awesome! There was a love I had never known or understood. He didn't have to say a word. I knew! I knew! He loved me! I knew somehow his death was for me. He didn’t have to tell me. I knew it!

But then he spoke and it was like heaven opened up. All the pain of my past washed away. It was like I had just lost a thousand pounds of weight. There was no sin - it was gone! Oh, the rejoicing of my soul!!

Then he said it!! "Today, you will be with me in paradise." I began to weep, not tears of sorrow not tears of regret. They were tears of joy! I was dying on a cross and I was glad!! It took the cross to bring me to this man and it was too small a price for me to pay!

I know his name now. Two men came and took his body. They called him "Jesus". Jesus, what a name!! I don’t understand everything that happened today, but the words continue to ring in ears; '"Today you will be with me in paradise”.  Just before Jesus died, he called to God and said, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit." Oh, the peace of those words. And now, with no strength left for me to speak, I can only say it in my mind, "Father, into your hands, I, too, commend my spirit.”

 

CHAPTER FIVE

These past three days have brought me from the depths of depression to the height of elation.  My entire life has changed.  My understanding of the past three years has become crystal clear.  Let me explain.

Three days ago Jesus’ crucifixion had to be the darkest day of my life.  I had been one of his disciples for three years.  The love I had for him was greater than for any of my friends or family members.  I knew He was the Messiah.  It took a while to understand that, but with the combination of miracles and teachings I knew who he was.  That is until the night of his betrayal.  We were all so scared and confused that we ran and abandoned him into the hands of the priests and temple guards.

My love for him finally overcame my fear and I followed them to the priest’s home and witnessed their illegal trial of Jesus.  I kept wondering when he would call down angels to stop this mockery.  After all, he was the Messiah.  He was supposed to rule the world, not be treated like a common criminal.  But things did not progress like I thought.  As a matter of fact, he didn’t call down angels.  He didn’t open his mouth to even defend himself against the false witnesses.  He simply told them that they would never believe anything he would say.  That’s when the high priest asked him straight out, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

And Jesus answered just as straight.  “I am, and you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest was furious.  He condemned him as a blasphemer and they began to beat him and mock him.  I stood there helpless, knowing Jesus had commanded us in the garden not to fight.  When they led him away to Pilate, I could go no further.  I just waited outside the palace, hoping against hope that somehow God would intervene, but he never did.

After a long wait, I saw them leading Jesus out and heard the rumors spreading among the rapidly growing crowd that he was going to Herod.  We waited and soon he was returned to Pilate.  Later, the chief priest came out and worked up the crowd to begin demanding that Pilate crucify Jesus.  I couldn’t believe it – not crucifixion!  But that’s exactly what did happen.  Pilate first ordered him to be scourged.

Jesus was so bloody and beaten he was hardly recognizable.  I followed him to Golgotha and watched helplessly as they nailed Him to the cross.  Soon, some of the women who ministered to Jesus over the last years appeared with Mary, Jesus’ mother.  I didn’t want her there, but she said she would not leave.  The crowd was vicious as they mocked the Lord and he never did a thing except to forgive them.

After a while, looking at me he said to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” Then to me he said “John, behold your mother.” What an honor, to be trusted with the care of his humble little mother.

I was standing there in total confusion when all at once darkness overcame the sun – at midday!!  I thought “Now God is going to straighten this out,” but nothing happened.  I waited and waited, but the only thing that happened was the silencing of all the mockers.  This strange darkness became the new topic of conversation.

Jesus said little during those terrible hours on the cross, but as always, his love and compassion shone through as he forgave one of the thieves being crucified with him that day.  I had seen many people changed over the last three years, but never had I seen such peace in the midst of suffering and death.  That man never said another word, other than repeating “Thank you, Lord.”  During those hours Jesus’ suffering caused him to cry out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”  I wondered that too.  “Why God, are you allowing the one I thought was your son to die such a horrible, humiliating death?”

Neither of us seemed to receive an answer.

I heard Mary whispering over and over again, “Oh, Simeon, the sword pierces so deeply.”

I didn’t understand then, but later I found out that on the day of Mary’s purification after Jesus’ birth, an old man named Simeon had prophesied over Jesus and Mary.  He told her then that the sword would pierce her own soul because of Him.  Now at the cross, the sword pierced deeply.

Suddenly, there was rumbling of the ground like an earthquake.  In the darkness that engulfed us there was a deafening silence of fear and expectation.  We began to hear cries and screams in the city and people running.  They were shouting that the veil in the temple had been torn in two from the top to the bottom.  People were fleeing the city in fear.  I only looked up at the Savior and heard Him say, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”  Then unexpectedly the centurion, who had been in charge of Jesus from the time he was turned over to Pilate, said, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”  I turned to look at him and his hard face was awash with light and tears streaked his weather beaten cheeks and beard.  And I wondered, “How could a thief and the centurion who officiated his crucifixion now have a peace that I, his beloved disciple, had lost?”

I stood there wondering what to do.  There was no place to bury him.   They may even leave him there until the others died.  As I stood helplessly by, the soldiers came and broke the logs of the thief who reviled Jesus so wickedly, then they pushed me aside and said, “He is dead, there is no need to break his legs,” but one said, “Let’s make sure” and he shoved his spear into Jesus’ side and blood and water poured from his body like a fountain flowing for all mankind.  Then as they broke the forgiven thief’s legs, I heard him whisper, “Too small a price to die with the Christ.”

My heart was relieved when Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea came with orders from Pilate to take his body down and bury him.  The ladies helped wrap his body in cloth, which the men had brought, and they covered his face with a napkin, then we all went to the tomb, which Joseph had prepared for himself.  The soldiers came with us and sealed the stone over the tomb so not one could enter.  They made us leave while they guarded the tomb against those who would try to steal his body.  Though I was numb and in confusion, I remembered thinking, “How stupid to think someone would try to steal his body.”

Each of us went our way because the Passover was near.  No one had time to anoint his body properly, but there was nothing we could do due to the gathering darkness that would begin Passover.  It would have to wait.

            Yes, that was the deepest depression I’ve ever felt.  Jesus, my Messiah, was dead.  It couldn’t be.  The Messiah was to rule the world.  Could we have been wrong?  But if he was not the Messiah, how could he do such miracles and why would God speak from the cloud and tell us Jesus was His Son?  How?  What?  Why?  All I had were questions and no answers.

But today that deep depression has given in to my highest elation, for you see, early this morning certain women came and told us Jesus’ body was gone and an angel had told them he was risen.  Peter and I began running to the tomb.  Peter was behind me when I peered into the tomb, but he rushed right by me and found the cloth and napkin from Jesus’ face neatly wrapped up and placed by itself.

I was elated!! Jesus had risen.  I began to remember how he told us he would have to die and rise again.  Now it had happened!!  Peter didn’t believe it.  I could see the deep hurt in his face.  I knew he had denied the master three times and he kept saying he could never be forgiven.  I tried to encourage him, but it was no use.  He could not believe.  Peter went to his house and I returned to mine.

That evening I went to the upper room where we had held our last supper with Jesus.  Suddenly, Peter entered the room and with great excitement told me Jesus had met with him and forgiven him.  He was so excited he was radiant. I told him Mary Magdalene had also met the Master in the garden after we left this morning.  While we were talking all our brothers began to come like they were drawn to the upper room.  Everyone was there except Thomas.  Two disciples came and told us Jesus had met them on the way home to Emmaus, and had revealed himself to them only after teaching them why Messiah had to die and rise again.

While they were telling us all these things, Jesus suddenly appeared in the room and said, “Peace be unto you.”  He said, “peace” but in truth, he scared us to death.  We thought he was a spirit.  Even Peter was scared, but Jesus calmed us and showed us his pierced hands and feet and offered for us to touch him to see he was flesh and bone.  We still stood speechless, both with wonder and with joy, so he asked for some of our broiled fish and honeycomb and ate it in front of us.

Finally the joy conquered the fear and we began to weep with joy.  He truly was alive.  It was Jesus!!  After a moment, one of the disciples gently hugged him still unsure, but oh, the joy when Jesus smiled and we all began hugging and touching him.  He is Alive!  He is Alive!!” Were the shouts piercing the night. 

Later, He disappeared just as quickly as he appeared.  Now each of the disciples had gone home rejoicing and as I walk to my own home, joy flows through me like I’ve never known before.  My Savior who died for me is Alive.  He is Alive!  Let Heaven and Earth Praise His Name – He is Alive!