For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? Luke 23:31 (NIV)
Sheltering in the doorway of a flour merchant, on a street that would later be called the Via Dolorosa, I wait with Mary. I’m grateful for her silent strength. Onlookers line the route to get a glimpse of the condemned. We can hear the catcalls and jeers drifting up from the Roman barracks as our precious Jesus, along with two criminals, are led out to be executed. We say nothing, mired as we are in our misery.
They finally come into view, a pitiful procession of men dragging their crosses up the road and a soldier marching ahead with a notice stuck on the end of his spear. Written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek, it reads, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” As if that’s a crime! Anger and bitterness churn inside me.
Jesus is drawing level with us when He stumbles and collapses under the weight of the heavy beam. Beaten, bloodied and bruised, He’s utterly spent. A soldier mercilessly rains curses and blows on Him. Red rivulets ooze from His lacerated back and side. The scourging has taken its ghastly toll. Despite the sting of the soldier’s whip He’s unable to raise Himself from the stone pavement. The centurion, anxious to be done with this detail, looks around for someone to carry the cross.
We quickly retreat into the flour merchant’s store, even though it’s unlikely for the centurion, despite his legal right, to press a woman into service. A man from Cyrene is coming in from the country and isn’t as quick on the uptake. Before he has a chance to slip away he’s tapped on the shoulder with the flat blade of the centurion’s sword. Officially conscripted the man has to do as he’s told. The cross is put on him. Jesus, having finally mustered His strength and regained His feet, is staggering on. He’s bleeding profusely and sweating, notwithstanding a cold clammy shock. Grief engulfs me, and unable to watch this stumbling train of humiliation I start to weep and wail. Mary cries as well.
Hearing our crying, Jesus stops, turns and searches the crowd with His eyes. Spotting us He gently says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ . . . For if they do this to one who is innocent, what will they someday do to those who are guilty?” This said, He continues on to the place of crucifixion. With His words ringing in our ears, Mary wraps her arm around me and we trudge reluctantly and gloomily to the place called The Skull . . .
[Based on the crucifixion story in Luke 23:26-32]