I don’t know what you are staring at. I already told you I don’t know this man. He means nothing to me. Just because we come from the same place doesn’t make me a fellow conspirator. Of course I’ve heard of him. I’m sure that everybody has. This miracle man. We’ve all heard the tales of the things that he could do. But he went a bit far didn’t he. Maybe it went a bit to his head. Started to think he was a god. But no I never actually met him. Just heard the tales. I just came with my friend. He’s already inside.
What do you mean you saw me in the garden with him? Panic grips me tightly, causes the knot in my stomach to become even more twisted. I shouldn’t have come. There’s no way I’m going to make it out of here alive. They’ve already got Jesus, but will the ring leader be enough? What if these people saw me chop the high priest’s slave’s ear off? That was a stupid misjudgement too. Drawing attention to myself, thinking we could take on the entire Roman Army. Us a few fisherman, a tax collector and a holy man. Imagining that brandishing a sword is going to keep paid soldiers at bay. I should have gone for Judas. He’s the one that’s got us into this mess. Sneaking around behind our backs to sell us out to the chief priests and the Pharisees. But Jesus seemed to be loving to the last. Full of compassion as always. He didn’t seem to be thinking about himself and his future fate. Not thinking what might become of him as he is led away by the soldiers. He told me to put my sword away. Maybe he isn’t as gung ho as he has appeared to be walking towards Jerusalem. Not really willing to risk all our lives as well as his own. He still took the time to act in compassion one more time and heal the man’s ear. Still took the time to make that man feel special as he looked deep into his eyes searching out his soul. He’s a bigger man than I’ll ever be. He almost seemed to accept what was going to happen next, although I’d heard him agonising about it in the garden before I fell asleep. He’d asked God to take this cup away from him, but then as he healed the slave he told me that he had to drink the cup the Father had given him. But it’s his cup. Not mine. I’m not ready to die yet. Not for anyone. I thought I was. Last night. But not now. No I wasn’t there in the garden. I’ve never met the man.
Somewhere close by a cock crows. The hoarse sound breaking through, cutting deep into my heart. “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times” And I could feel his eyes gazing on me, as I stood there by the fire, looking deep into my very soul. Aware of my betrayal. I don’t dare to meet his gaze. I’m not sure what I will find there. Pity? Anger? Condemnation?
“I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of hell will not overcome it”. How could you be so wrong about me? How could I have been so wrong about myself? I’m no rock. I’m no hero.
I remember the words I had uttered that had given me his trust. “What about you? Who do you say I am?” “The Messiah. Son of the living God”. And I’d meant it. Every single word. But Messiah’s aren’t meant to die. Aren’t meant to abandon us to be overcome by the Romans. But he is more than that. He is a friend, and I have deserted him. Totally overcome with guilt I turn and flee, to search out a dark place in the shadows to hide away and weep.
I don’t really understand your problem with this man. He doesn’t seem to be a threat to us Romans. I’ve heard rumours that you think he’s a Messiah come to overthrow us. But kings don’t come to challenge authority riding on a donkey, cheered on by a rabble with palm leaves. I really have better things to do with my time than sort out your petty squabbles as to whether he’s a problem to your faith in your God or not. I’m sick of having to follow your little rituals to keep the peace. But I’m sure I’ll manage it one more time, if you won’t come into my palace to discuss the matter because you worry I’ll somehow make you unclean, I’ll come out to you to get this over and done with. As if having the blood of an innocent man on your hands isn’t more of a problem?
You say he is your king, but you want him to die. Want me to do your dirty work for you? Not quite willing to kill him yourselves, just in case? Well I’ll question him to appease you, if that’s what it will take to keep a mutiny off my hands.
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?”
Can’t you just answer the question? Of course others told me about why they’ve dragged you here. Do you think I want to be here, sorting out petty squabbles over religion?
“What is it you have done?”
“My kingdom is not of this world. It is from another place”
Well that doesn’t really make sense. But you are claiming to be a king? Although probably not one who is a threat to Rome if you come from elsewhere. Where are you a king of? You don’t have any followers. They’ve all deserted you.
Now you are saying that you have come to testify about truth. Well you are just talking in riddles. Try talking in fact, like are you a king or aren’t you. Are you saying that if I condemn you that I condemn the truth and revel in falsehood? This is pointless. He doesn’t seem to have done anything criminal. There aren’t any witnesses that are here to accuse him. What is truth anyway? This man might as well be released. He’s no threat to me.
Look, he’s done nothing wrong. Nothing criminal. Let him go on his way. I can release your king with no charge. He’ll just fade away into obscurity like all the other self-proclaimed Messiah’s before him.
What do you mean you want Barabbas released? Not the Barabbas? Not the one who has led riots? He really is a threat to Rome. A threat to each of you. Are you blind? This is not going to end well. I’ll tell you what. If I flog him, your king, will that appease you? Look here he is wearing his crown of thorns, a purple robe, your king. You can crucify him if you wish, but don’t hang this one on me. You want me to crucify the son of your God? Woah, woah, woah! I can’t do that. Oh no. Now I see why you won’t do it yourselves. Son of God?
Let me give him one more chance to prove himself. If he’s really a God how do I find out? “Where do you come from” Come on, give me an answer. Don’t you realise that I can either let you go free or I have the power to crucify you, to crush the very life from yo?. You say you are here to testify to the truth. So testify. Give me a reason to save you.
“You would have no power over me if it were not give to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin”.
This doesn’t sound good. He speaks with an authority that I don’t quite understand. It would be easier if I could assume that he is mad. But he doesn’t speak like a mad man. I don’t want his blood on my hands. But I can hear the bray of the crowd outside. “He’s no friend of Caesar. You’ll be no friend of Caesar if you keep this man alive”. No you are going to have to do it yourselves. I’m ready to pass my judgement.
What do you mean you have a message from my wife. Can’t you see I’m busy. What can possibly be more important than a crowd that’s about to riot. “Don’t have anything to do with this innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him”. Oh this is not helping. Even our gods seem to be telling us to walk away from this one. Why won’t you just let me crucify the real threat in Barabbas instead. Here is your king. Why do you want me to crucify your king? Ok ok I get it. Actually you are much more of a threat to me than this weak and feeble man. He means nothing to me. Take him and crucify him. Just get out of my hair. I wash my hands of him. He’s all yours. On your head be it.
Mary, Mother of Jesus
I stood there, quietly, eyes drawn to the painful sight in front of me. I want to turn away, to hide my eyes from the terrors unfolding before me. But I can’t. It’s the only thing I have left to give him. The knowledge of my deep love passed across in my unfaltering gaze. I’m aware that Mary, Clopas’s wife, and Mary Magdalene still stand there beside me. Providing me with all that they can, their comforting presence. The men have long since deserted us. Cowardly, hiding away, in case they become subject to the same fate.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” He once asked. Well I can show him now. I am. I’m the one still stood here when everyone else has deserted him. I’m the one who loves him like only a mother can. The one who loves him whatever befalls him. I’m the one who picked him up each time he fell as a child. The one who tenderly wiped his scraped knees and helped him blow his nose and dry his tears. I’m the one who sat there at night and stroked his hair when he was ill and couldn’t sleep. I’m the one who held him as we comforted each other when his dad Joseph died. At least, the man that people assumed was his dad, once the gossip had died down about our quick marriage to ensure the baby wasn’t born out of wedlock.
They never really believed me about an angel. Sometimes in the dark nights when the doubts came I started to think I might have imagined it too. How this child I was bringing up could possibly be the Son of the Most High God. The words of the angel “Greetings! Highly favoured one! Don’t be afraid for you have found favour with God” didn’t seem to ring so true now. How could someone so favoured feel so much pain? And the words of Simeon the old man, who had been there when we took Jesus to be dedicated in the Temple, came rushing back “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too”. It wasn’t just a sword piercing my soul, it was as if it were being deliberately twisted and turned, to totally destroy my soul.
But this child, who I had spent so long lifting up when he fell, learnt to fly. I heard tales of him walking on water, of stopping storms just by speaking, of feeding thousands of people with just a few loaves and fish. And then he had in turn lifted others. I heard so many stories of the people he had cared for. The woman stood next to me Mary, had turned her life around since meeting Jesus. Possessed by many evil spirits she had not been capable of looking after a house, let alone being a wife. But here she was, free of her demons and devoted to Jesus. Here to the end where so many had fallen away.
Then there was Elizabeth. Bleeding for so many years. Untouchable. Unlovable. Healed just by grasping the hem of his garment, but given back her life, because she believed. Believed the unthinkable that this man, my son, really was the Messiah, the son of the Most High God.
Then there was Anna who they say had been caught in adultery. Thrown in front of him by a crowd of men all anxious to satisfy their lust for blood. But he knew just how to deal with them. “Let those of you without sin throw the first stone”. And they all slowly turned and walked away, so he could lift her from the dirt, give her back her dignity and send her on her way, to live out a changed life.
He treated each of them as if they were the only person in the world. He would look into your eyes as if he could see and understand your very soul. Sometimes it was as if his heart were only guided by his love and compassion for others. As he saw the pain in Mary and Martha’s eyes when he raised Lazarus from the dead, when he heard the wails of the widow of Nain and raised her son back to life.
But there is no one here who can feel that compassion for me. Who is able to bring my son back? He is raised up in his death upon a cross, tortured for all to see. A sign to others not to step out of line. A person to be mocked. “He can save others but he cannot save himself. If he is the King of Israel let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him”. The scoffers have long since left but the taunts still ring in my ears. When I become aware of another voice. His voice. Almost a whisper. As if his strength is almost gone. Each word an effort as he struggles to breathe. He is looking at me for the first time in this ordeal. “Woman, here is your son”. The tenderness still evident in his voice despite his pain. As I turn I see that John is still there standing silently beside us. I should have known that his closest friend wouldn’t desert him. Even if the more mouthy fisherman has gone. “Here is your mother”. Now I know it is the end. He isn’t going to save himself. There isn’t going to be one last miracle.
“I’m thirsty” he gasps. And the soldiers put a branch with a damp sponge to his lips. A small act of compassion amongst the stench of torture and death.
“It is finished” he shouts. And it is. His head drops down. And he is gone. I sink to my knees and my world turns black.