Note: This series is written as a first-person narrative to present Jesus in the context he walked in with the unknown disciple that narrates introducing my thoughts and sparking more ideas with his questions. Enjoy.
I watched Peter and John, following Jesus. I ran up to join them. The high priest knew John’s family, so he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but we had to wait outside at the door.
John came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there, and brought us in.
“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
I looked at him, and he shook his head.
It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
I followed John in to watch the former high priest, Annas, question Jesus. We stayed in the back, and I nervously looked around when Annas questioned Jesus about us and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.“
One of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
Jesus touched his face, then looked at the man.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”
“Take him to my son, Caiaphas,” Annas ordered.
We followed as those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the current high priest. We arrived to see that the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.
Not all of them, I thought. I don’t see Nicodemus. It’s night, during the festival, this is unprecedented.
We entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. We watched as many came forward to testify, yet, they all contradicted each other.
Finally, two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'”
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.
They grabbed Jesus and blindfolded him. Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”
Ashamed, we left, while John stayed behind. Entering the courtyard, Peter sat down, head in his hands. A servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
With an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely, you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
I put a hand on Peter’s shoulder as he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately, a rooster crowed. I watched realization crawl across his face. Horrified, Peter, under his breath, said the words Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
Pulling from my grip, he ran, crying. John walked up, saddened.
“He went that way.” I pointed.
“Come on, they sent Jesus to Pilate,” John told me.
As soon as we arrived at the governor’s home, Jesus was led out again.
“What’s happening?” I asked someone in the group.
“Pilate is sending him to Herod since this man is a Galilean.”
We arrived at Herod’s Jerusalem home. When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased.
He then began asking Jesus to perform some sign and asked many questions. He appeared to have been drinking before Jesus arrived.
Jesus, covered in bruises, gave him no answer. The ones that hit him, the chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him.
Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant white robe, they sent him back to Pilate.
We couldn’t enter Pilate’s place, so we sat outside until the morning. I wondered what was happening in there until I drifted off. John woke me, accompanied by the women disciples in our group. Jesus’ mother, Mary, was with them.
“Let’s go, remember, it’s the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. Maybe he’ll release Jesus.”
We arrived to see Pilate sitting in the judge’s seat, with Jesus and a known rebel. Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus, who is called the Messiah?”
“Jesus!” we shouted. The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. It was loud.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered. I looked at John, shocked.
“No…” Mary said.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus, who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” They were drowning out our shouts.
Pilate looked in disgust at the crowd, and he took water and washed his hands in front of the group. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
The guards unshackled Barabbas. The others led Jesus away.
We went to where they led people out to be crucified and waited. Movement from the shadows told us they were coming. Three figures, Jesus in the back.
Mary began sobbing and fell to the ground at the sight of him. Angry, I took in the flayed flesh, skin hanging from strips. Jesus was covered in blood from the whipping. A crown of thorns was pushed into the skin on his head, blood running down his face.
He didn’t walk far until falling under the weight of the cross. The soldiers seized a Cyrene man, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “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 childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “‘ they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
What did he say? I wondered. What’s that even mean? He’s about to be killed.
We arrived at Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall, but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.
Jesus and the other two were laid on their crosses. A guard was stretching out each hand and tying it to the crossbeam. Another put a nail at the base of his hand and drove it into the wood through his flesh.
Jesus cried out.
They propped his feet on a base, midway up the cross, and drove nails into them. There would be no way of falling off. Another nailed a notice, written in three languages, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
A message to anyone else who dared to defy Rome.
They lifted up the crosses. Jesus, had a criminal on each side.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and John standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
I wondered, Why he didn’t tell his brothers to care for her?
I watched as Jesus would push himself up so he could breathe. His face was tight with pain as exposed muscle rubbed against the rough wood of the cross, his weight being held by the nails. Crucifixion was a slow death by suffocation, if you didn’t bleed to death first.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
That one was insulting Jesus earlier himself.
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
Were they right about Jesus? I wondered. It’s not supposed to end like this.
From the hill, I watched as the day faded into evening.
“It’s only noon,” Mary Magdalene said.
“How long will this last?” John asked.
We stood in the darkness for hours. Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately, one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Mary cried out and turned, burying her face in John’s shoulder. I began crying.
The earth began to shake. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
A Roman saying that of anyone but Caesar…I’ve never heard of it.
The evening was approaching, and our customs were to have the dead buried before dusk, especially with the Sabbath. I watched as the guards broke the legs of the two thieves so they’d suffocate quicker. They cried out.
One walked up to Jesus, looking at him. No breathing, hanging limp on the cross. He asked for a spear and stabbed Jesus in the side.
Blood and water poured out of the hole.
They took down the crosses and carried the bodies into Jerusalem. We followed and unexpectedly ran into Nicodemus.
“A friend is with Pilate asking for Jesus’ body to be buried. He has a tomb here in the city.”
The man introduced himself as Joseph of Arimathea, a secret believer. He was afraid of the Jews. They prepared Jesus’ body and John, and I left to tell the others where they buried Jesus.
The next day was the Sabbath, so we stayed in the room we had Passover in the night before. Mary Magdalene came up to tell us that Pilate had posted guards at the tomb.
“Why?” Thomas asked.
“He did say he would rise again in three days,” Matthew reminded us.
At the moment, it was kind of hard to believe…