The Gathering of the Eternal Five: Yerushalayim

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Chapter 12

YERUSHALAYIM, The cradle of miracles

Onofrio and Samuel would never find two better mentors than Serou and Tremiyo. Serou, grand gallant Serou even won the attention and admiration of his lovely wife of almost twenty years. Glistening eyes admired the eloquence of his speech, demeanor and gesturing habits. He was the only man she admired and loved for so many years.

“I remember you talking about that miracle. It must have impressed you deeply to remember it in such great detail.”

Serou simply smiled at his wife. “I came home late that night and you fussed at me.” Even Serou had a wife he must answer to as he continued.

“The greatest miracle of all is the resurrection from his death.”

Onofrio was urged to speak, he could not help it. He looked at Samuel as if to apologize, for he had refused to speak of his ordeal. In obvious reluctance Onofrio began to relate his story.

“I had been to Pontius Pilate on business that morning and missed the trial. I noticed Pilate was visibly disturbed by the previous case. He was short tempered and I was quickly dismissed without ceremony when our business was concluded. He was drying his hands as if he just washed them and there was a dripping basin nearby.

I left the Praetorian in no particular haste as I had ample time to see about my other duties. It surprised me to almost immediately be swept into a mob of people going to see Jesus struggling with a ponderous cross on his shoulder.  I managed to see through the crowd that he had been brutally lashed. His back was a deep and ugly criss-cross pattern of bright red lacerations. Little strips of flesh hung from the injuries adding pain where the cross rubbed on the open wounds. The people were pushing, shoving, crying, yelling and some even cursing the rude mob. I tried several times to get to my chariot and horses. I had business elsewhere and no time to witness another crucifixion. Forced in the opposite direction I struggled uselessly against the mob. An old woman we helped a few days prior approached me out that mad herd of distorted faces. Her once black and blue swollen ankle was healed. The old woman was crying painfully bewailing in a highly animated state. She screamed at me and her scream became a command. “Do something. They are going to kill him. Oh, by all the gods in heaven, why him? He does not deserve this death. He is my savior. You can do something to save his life.” The old woman was consumed with uncontrolled hysteria and with borrowed strength forced me into the brainless herd. They had ceased to be human. They were beasts driven by an unknown power. Swept away from the old lady I heard her screams die out in the roar of the pack. I was captured by the mood of the multitude. Unconsciously I fought everybody for an inch forward and a single view of what was happening. When I finally had a clear view of his whip lashes, I felt his pain on my own back. I tried to reason with it, but the hurt was real. My hands were trembling out of control from the pain and agony Jesus was suffering. It was unreasonable and I knew it, but the biting stings on my back were real. My back was in utter torment from the lashes I never received. Through what seemed a foggy mind I heard two men talking alongside me, “They gave him thirty-nine lashes” One said in a tone of no concern. “It was forty-two according to someone nearby,” the second man stated. “The Raven miscounted, again.”

“Who in the hell is the Raven? Asked the first individual.”

“He’s the official scourger that delivers legal punishment in most cases.”

I was too engrossed with the torment of Jesus to join their conversation. Then through my pain, the third man lent his voice to the proceedings.

“Look! Some thoughtful individual braided a wreath of thorns with which to crown the king of the Jews.”

“I strained my neck to get a view and suffered added shock to see the fierce thorns from the wreath piercing the skin around his head. How could I have missed it? Adding to his agony was the hideous crown of thorns. My mind rang with the question, what kind of senseless brutality is this? And what does it prove? Nothing! It proves nothing but a sheer undiluted demonstration of senseless brutality. I felt a sense of anger rising within me and realized the helplessness of my efforts. Kneaded into a perplexing and chocking sensation, I was in pain from multiple sources. Added to my torment came a yell from an upper balcony, “If you’re really the son of God why then do you not save yourself.” From another unseen voice was heard, “You ran out of miracles too soon. You need one for yourself.” “I looked to the flawless sky and remember seeing a single black vulture with wings spread wide slowly circling the rising smell of the blood of Jesus. I took it to be an evil omen and lost hope that a miracle would save the street healer from Nazareth.” He took Senobia’s hand held it close then continued, “Our jeweler friend from Mecca accosted me in a frightful state. He was grief torn beyond recognition and almost yelled at me, “Onofrio, these idiots are going to kill the son of God. There will be such wrath come down from heaven that the world will never be the same again. Make peace with all your Gods. For, the end of the world will soon be upon us all. For all of those that condemned him and equally so for those of us without the courage to prevent it.” The jeweler looked to the infinite sky as if expecting bolts of lightning to come down and burn the earth to a cinder. Maniacally he pleaded with Allah to intervene in this mad injustice and save the Nazarene. I have never seen a man so torn with emotion as our jeweler friend was that day. He promised to atone for all his sins and dedicate his life to the service of Allah if only he saved Jesus from this terrible wrong. In painful tears he told me how he had started searching for Jesus ten years prior and knew Jesus to be the rightful son of god. He praised the pureness of the Nazarene’s spirit, his mind and body. He claimed to have known what Jesus taught before finding him. The jeweler even stated that such pureness of spirit crowned the Nazarene as the sacrificial lamb. Although he wished it not be so. And our ragged jeweler friend disappeared into the frenzied mob still bewailing insanely.” Onofrio looked at Serou to confess, “What I say next will sound  childish, but it’s what I thought at the time. I seriously fought my way forward to rescue Jesus and bring him home to us. Here we have an army to protect him and you could hire a clever attorney to dismiss the false charges against him. I was convinced that a second trial would bear more favorable results. I have much faith in you and even thought at the time that you, Serou the Egyptian master of public works could even heal a scar on the ocean.”

Serou could do nothing but bow his head, touched by such enormous praise he never expected. He took a swallow of wine and saluted his foster son with a simple “thank you,” and recorded the thought.

“Based on that conviction, I charged myself forward. I pushed and shoved and even kicked my way to the forefront where I could reach Jesus and pull him away from his destiny. I knew we could fight for a better outcome for him. I confronted a low class Roman soldier and made an effort to pass beyond him to my objective. He stood solid at his post and I made a second effort. This time he proved that a shielded elbow was mightier than my ambition. He slammed me hard between jaw and chin and I went flying backwards to become carpet for ruthless feet all using me to push forward. I grabbed someone’s robe and pulled myself up to meet with an angry face that shoved me back to the ground. When I finally stood up, I felt a warm trickle running down my face. My clothes were a collection of street dirt and my blood. No low class Roman was going to do that to me and simply walk away. Anger boiled within me. I started grabbing people by their clothes and shoulders projecting myself through walls of living flesh that gave no leeway. With all my strength I fought the mob for an inch of progress to get nowhere. My head was reeling and I shook it to clear my swirling vision. My mouth was bleeding and I spit it out several times. From somewhere in the noisy confusion a hand grabbed me and pulled me to the relative safety of somebody’s front entrance. It was the Syrian overseer from the manufacturing plant where we worked together. He ripped my ruined turban and poured wine on the cloth then pressed it against my wound to stop the bleeding. When I made an effort to pursue my quest, the Syrian kept me from going, advising to remain safe behind the angry maniacal herd. Reluctantly I accepted the wisdom of his advice. He soon spotted a small wiry man and hoisted him up on his shoulders and urged the man to tell us what was happening up front. Painfully reeling I progressed with the Syrian and his shoulder high reporter. We shared a wineskin and I thought I felt better but, perhaps it was the excitement of hearing the progress reports.

“Jesus has fallen. Wait! There’s a woman coming to his aid. No. She’s not helping. She is. She is his mother. Yes. That is Mary, the widow of Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth. Yes, that’s his mother. They’re talking. I’m too far away to hear what they’re saying. Mary of Magdala is there also. They are talking to Jesus. He is still fallen. But wait, he is getting up. Yes, he’s gotten up. He’s taking the cross again.”

Just then the Syrian planted a big foot in the middle of the person in front of him and gave a mighty shove. More than a dozen people started falling in all directions taking many others down with them. He looked at me and I needed no urging to follow. We worked our way forward over fallen bodies and vile insults. Soon the wiry man started reporting again. I was helplessly galvanized to his voice. “Jesus has fallen again. A soldier grabbed a black man and forced him to carry the cross for Jesus. They just made Jesus lead the black man.

And as they led him away, they seized one

Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from

The country, and laid on him the

Cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there

Followed him a great multitude of the people

And of women who bewailed and lamented him.

Luke 23: 26-27     NIV

The black man has the cross over his shoulder. Another woman is coming to help Jesus. I know who that is, that is a woman named Bernice.  She is cleaning the face of the Nazarene with her head scarf or maybe a damp rag. I can’t tell for sure. She sneaked behind the soldiers to help Jesus. She’s wiped his face now. It looks a little cleaner of dirt and blood. Awh Awh. A soldier just caught her and shoved her back into the crowd. Poor Bernice, she a good woman and she’s not hurt. Jesus is up and limping. He is weak. He has lost a lot of blood and he looks drained. He is reeling. He will never make it to the top of skull hill. That hill is also known as Golgotha in Hebrew, you know. Loose stones make it very treacherous for an able bodied man, let alone for Jesus who is apparently very weak. The black man has stopped. He’s waiting for Jesus to recover and lead.”

When a group of soldiers came by I urged the Syrian to fall in behind them. The wiry little man never stopped reporting, “Some women have come to his side. They are talking to him and trying to give him some help and perhaps, courage. The women look Jewish. But, I’m not sure. Mary of Magdala is there. Whoa, a soldier just tried to push her away and she stood up to him and refused to move. That takes a lot of courage. Romans are trained to hurt people, you know. This man, Jesus has every woman in Jerusalem crying for him. If I had that many women aching for me, they would not ache for long. Jesus is leaving the women now. He’s shaky. He’s fallen again. This is his third fall. He could never carry that cross up the hill without the black man.“ From an upper balcony I heard a woman yelling out, “Hang the blasphemer. Who needs more Gods? Sons of Gods or sons of bitches, they all end up here.” The crude sign over the scarlet door read “Food, wine and women” in Greek. The wiry little man tapped my shoulder with his toe and pointed to a muscular unshaven man standing at ease by the scarlet door with a goblet in hand. In a near whisper he announced, “That’s Barabbas. Apparently he came to see his cross being used by somebody else.” The Syrian spotted the man and confirmed the report. “Yah! That’s him. He’s got a right to celebrate. But he don’t got the right to show it off.

I saw an elderly man richly dressed like a statesman and his family  behind an iron fence, each one in solemn prayer. They were in obvious trauma over the mad parade passing before their eyes. I could not read the plaque over his door but symbols indicated he was a Roman official. They were all safely away from the tangled menagerie of near human beasts. I heard the cry to spare Jesus his ordeal but it was only a whisper in a raging storm. Momentarily, I leaned on the elderly man’s fence and through the rails he reached to lay his hand on my shoulder. His swollen but kind and gentle face was washed in silver tears running down his beard. In a tormented voice the old man stated, “It’s a terrible day in Judea. But it’s a fine day in heaven. The son of God is coming home.” Mysteriously mechanized I fell in behind a separate set of soldiers along with the Syrian and our happy reporter. He was up high, with a clear view ahead, a free ride and wine.

I looked back just in time to see the elderly gentlemen cleave the sign of the cross in mid-air like a blessing or a farewell.

The crowd was dwindling as we were well out of the city walls now. I was no longer plotting to rescue Jesus but drawn to the finish of this maniacal drama without a will of my own.

“We’re going up the hill to Calvary,” the wiry man reported. “Some call it Golgotha. Oh, I told you that already.”

At the summit, the black man was ordered to drop the cross from his shoulder. Relieved the black man eased the cross off his shoulder to land with a resounding wallop atop Golgotha. The Syrian put the small wiry man down and frantically started pointing at the cross. “Look, Onofrio. Look! That’s the cross you built. They’re gonna crucify Jesus of Nazareth on the cross you made. Look at the bottom of it. It’s got your burned “O” on the upright beam.

It took me moments to break down what he said and understand his excitement. When the Syrian’s yammering finally came clear and I understood what he said. My eyes focused on the bottom of the cross and I was horrified to see my burned “O” on the bottom of the upright beam. Sheer terror swept through me in a flash. I shook violently and could not stop. I looked again and there was no mistaking my burned circle shone brightly in the noon day sun. Memories of that day flashed through my mind. I even remembered an insistent little four petal flower that made such a valiant effort to survive. I scanned the rough hewn beam carefully and was sure I spotted the exact location where that insistent little blossom existed. I could not be wrong. It was my cross. When I made a move forward to confirm it, I was stopped again. I could not take my eyes away from the fearsome instrument of death. I saw Jesus speaking painfully to the black man. The bearer of his cross was crying profusely. Streams of silver tears ran down his black, shiny face, now a contorted map of pain. The Syrian tapped my shoulder to cheerfully claim, “One thing for sure, this fellow Jesus got the best we had to offer. Some people have all the luck. My two crosses got used by a pair of common thieves. Your cross was used for the son of God. Some people are just born lucky.” I was disturbed by the Syrian’s cryptic statement but was forced to the unfolding scene. I could not discharge the thought that Jesus would die today on a cross I built.

Slowly the crowd began to disperse all around us. Small hazy clouds were forming in the distant horizon. People were receding down Golgotha since a storm brewing in the far away hills was creeping our way. People had seen crucifixions before and some had lost interest. Crucifixions were a common occurrence to most sightseers. The name “Jesus” was simply one more name soon to be forgotten, like so many others. The festering storm in the distance was slowing advancing forward. No sensible reason to get soaked over some criminals getting their just reward. Disgruntled, disappointed or just bored, thrill seekers found reason to leave the scene. The oncoming tempest slowly dimmed the day like an evening out of time. Brave hearts surrendered to suspenseful apprehension by the eerie silence of the birds and whispering voices riding on the wind.

Two men, both thieves were already secured to their penitent crosses. Jesus stood facing Calvary, examining the cross at his feet. I was unable to move. I was galvanized to the man named Jesus of Nazareth. I was unflinching and immobile before the horrifying spectacle of death so nearby. I could not grasp a single reason why this man should be here to suffer the agony ahead. A trooper came forward and ripped off the clothes draped on Jesus’ shoulders, leaving him naked to the world with only a cloth to cover his genitals. I froze in horror when someone produced a handful of sharp spikes with  a large hammer then tossed them to the ground near the cross. I wanted to lunge forward and stop this raging lunacy but I was immobilized not able to move. Frozen in place staring at the unbelievable proceedings. I felt paralyzed and only my mind and eyes seemed to work. I saw the lacerations on his back still bleeding in tiny trickles. Unceremoniously Jesus was positioned on the cross without a trace of concern.  Not a sign of pity showed in the cold eyes of the trooper well accustomed to the sight of someone else’s blood. Jesus saw the spikes. His face projected a portrait of resignation. A soldier stretched an arm on the patibulum (crossbar) and with only two quick blows drove the spike through the wrist very close to the palm of Jesus’ hand. A task performed with the efficiency of experience. In rapid motion he stepped over Jesus and repeated his performance on his other arm. With the help of added troopers they positioned a foot atop another on the wooden block. The trooper looked carefully at his work. Notably calculating the trajectory of his hammer and with two skillfully delivered blows drove the spike through both feet. I heard the ringing sound of steel hammer striking steel spike and pass through living flesh. My breath failed me and I was unable to scream.

A deathly grip choked me as I literally felt the pain Jesus was suffering. I was crying profusely and found myself completely alone. The Syrian and the small wiry man were gone and I never saw them leave. Thunder was booming and clattering closer in the dimming horizon. I saw Jesus being abnormally quiet. He had not let out a whimper or a scream. He suffered his agony in silence. Not giving his enemies reason to gloat. Such strength could only be God-sent as he intently looked unto heaven armed only with his full hearted devotion.

Down in the heart of the outrageous mob was the mother of Jesus. She and her companions were shoved and pushed aside as they struggled to be close to Jesus. It took their breath away to see him spiked to hardwood timbers. There to suffer painfully until the last breath is forced slowly from his body by his own weight. The rude crowd all too engrossed on achieving the best view showed no concern or mercy for His grieving mother. Finally a strong armed man shoved people aside to allow Mary and her companions safe passage to the front. Having been forced aside an angry voice asked, “Who the hell are those women and what are they doing in this madness?” “Shut up, idiot. That’s the mother of the one on the center cross,”came the stern reply.

Imagine then the agonizing torment of Mary struggling painfully through that unruly mob to witness her son’s death. Grief beyond measure dwelled in her heart. The child she carried in her womb was now the subject of scorn and obnoxious ridicule. She was subject to obey the law and the law forbade her to help her child. At the summit she waited with painfully beating heart for the end to come and prayed in earnest for the moment not to arrive. But Mary had been recipient and first hand witness to many miracles her son delivered. Can we not speculate that on this fateful day she would pray deeply for Godly intervention and save her son? Of course, we can. Imagine then, the super human strength of his little woman to forge ahead half in prayer and half in acceptance of his pre-ordained fate. Through this terrible ordeal she suffered a thousand deaths and held together by a power she herself did not know. Let alone understand.  In humble solace she had long ago accepted this cruel and unwelcome destiny. Not until the third torturous day would she know peace. When news would come that her son rose from the dead and was seen ascending to heaven. But, that as three long painful days away.

 

When Jesus saw his mother,

and the disciple whom he loved

standing near, he said to his mother,

“woman behold your son!” Then he said

to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”

And from that hour the disciple took

Her to his own home.

John 19: 26-27     NIV

 

 

Workmen materialized and with considerable effort lifted the cross and edged it to the mouth of the pre-dug pit. With a resounding wallop the cross landed at the bottom of the hole. A loud thud echoed from the bowels of Golgotha joined by a resounding clap of approaching thunder. The living body of Jesus shook from the torment. Blood flowed freely from his hands and feet and still not a moan was heard from him. The crown of thorns dug deeper into his flesh with the slightest move. He hung limp on the rude timber, breathing with painful effort. Some stout hearted sightseers still lingered along with a company of soldiers. The work crew used stones, dirt and wooden wedges to position the cross perfectly upright. A rude plaque was secured before the cross went in the hole. It read “INRI” in three languages, meaning “Jesus, of Nazareth king of the Jews.” Jeers, shouts and foul insults all fell from his ear without meaning. Instead he made an effort to give comfort to the pair of thieves on the adjoining crosses. He told them that before this day passed, they would join him in heaven. After an unmeasured length of time, he looked to heaven and clearly stated, “Forgive them father, For they know not what they do.” The words rang in my ear and they seemed senseless considering the reality of the moment. The crown of thorns shifted when the cross landed at the bottom of the pit. New trickles of blood eased their way down his face and chest. The sight seemed to add joy to the callous troopers as they doubled their foul cheers and insults. “Hail, King of the Jews” rang unanimously through their ranks and stout hearted sightseers. “If you be the son of God, your father has forsaken you,” jeered a young soldier. I looked to the sun as my usual time keeper. It was shortly past noon. I noticed a grayish veil began to fill the sky stretching from horizon to horizon. Not like the coming of sunset but like an encircling gloom, coming from all directions. Hardly noticeable at first, but the bright day was slowly dimming like an evening before its time. Again I heard the distinct silence of the birds and whispers in the twirling wind. Could they be conversations between the Gods? My face was stung by the sand blown up in the coming storm. The caustic merriment of moments ago transferred to apprehensive awe and disquieted whispers. Still I could not remove myself from this man now nailed to the center cross. For a brief moment I imagined smelling sulfur, perhaps from the mines in the distant hills. More obvious was the smell of fear coming from the remaining soldiers. I saw tempered warriors gazing at each other in shaded trepidation, while others seemed to grow pale. And the light of day continued to fade into the gloomy veil of an unexpected evening. Two thieves and a Jewish rabble rouser were secure on their crosses. A weird storm was closing in. Their orders had been carried out and some soldiers began to withdraw from the stony hill. A voice perhaps inspired by Jewish dictate called out, “He that cannot save himself, would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, ha, ha, ha.” His voice was followed by mocking laughter. It gave leave for others to launch their insults like stones at the impaled Nazarene. Suffering tremendously and totally helpless he endured their foul mockery. I stood helplessly gazing at the devotion and strength of this slender man. A man of greater physical strength would have long ago cried out in shameless pain. Yet, Jesus with absolute resolve languished on my cross. Bearing Jeer, insult and agony with equal silence. Another unseen voice urged the Nazarene to come down to them and prove he was truly the son of God. I calculated he had been on the cross no less than two hours. I heard him cry for water and someone came with a sponge at the end of a long stick. The individual poured sour wine on the sponge and raised the stick to the face and mouth of Jesus.

Jesus knowing that all was now finished,

Said (to fulfill the scripture),”I thirst.”

A bowl of vinegar stood there; so they put

a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop and

held it to his mouth.

John 19: 28-29    NKJV

Still not a single word of anger or retaliation came from Jesus.

When Jesus had received the vinegar,

He said, “It is finished”; and he bowed

His head and gave up his spirit.

John 19: 30

NKJV

 

It was while I stood gazing at the unfathomed devotion of this man that I realized my memory had returned. I saw images of my childhood happiness as clear as if they happened this morning. Years of mystery dissolved into absolute clarity. As graphic as the reality of this man that hung painfully by his bleeding hands, feet and head on a cross I built for pay. This man of healing miracles, a teacher of God’s laws was as innocent of criminal activity as a new born lamb. This was a man devoted to the path of righteousness. A man of such spiritual strength as no ordinary person could ever hope to match. Only the most wanton, depraved and ignorant person could not see that.

It came to be the third hour of his ordeal when he surrendered his spirit. Although many people lingered nearby obsessed by what they saw. Others came to see and weep anew. Some misaligned individuals simply came to enjoy the view. A separate group in black hooded robes was solemnly on their knees, praying in earnest before the son of God. I remained honed into the pain and agony this man suffered. An innocent man condemned to this torturous death by the masters of plot, ploy and scheme.

There was darkness over the whole land until the ninth

Hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of

The temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying in a loud

Voice said, “father, into thy hands I commit my

spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23: 44-46  ESV

 

CRUCIFIXION TO THE WORLD BY

THE CROSS OF CHRIST.

When I survey the wondrous Cross

Where the young prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it. Lord, that I should boast

Save in the death of Christ, my Lord;

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet?

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson like a robe

Spreads o’er his body on the tree,

Then am I dead to all the globe,

And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature be mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so devine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

 

ISAAC WATTS, 1674-1748

 

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see to whose it shall be.”

John 19: 23-24   ESV

And when evening had come, since it was the day of preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respectable member of the council, who was himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.

Mark 15: 42-43  NWT

And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulcher.

Matthew 27: 59-61    NIV

 

As if performing nothing more than a menial task, a soldier drove a spear into the ribcage of the lifeless body of the Nazarene. It proved Jesus was truly dead. Blood eased out of the wound followed by a surprising amount of water. Joseph of Arimathea along with a collection of stout men came to the scene. Joseph showed the Roman guardsman a document signed by Pilate granting him permission to dislodge the corpse and carry it off to a proper burial place. With great effort the cross was carefully dislodged from the pit by strong arms paid to do the work. Gently the cross was brought to the ground atop Golgotha. Joseph insisted with strong demand that no added harm be done to the lifeless body. With the help of an added timber and a metal tool the spikes were carefully extracted and the corpse then smoothly transferred to a makeshift liter. The tempest was drawing ever closer. Black roiling clouds advanced without hesitation. It was raining in the hills nearby. I saw Mary in the company of her other sons and some women. Our eyes met but neither one of us knew each other, so Mary only nodded gently in acceptance of my obvious grief. I bowed my head to her acknowledging her sorrow. My mind raced to the fact that she, the mother of Jesus was another victim of the cross I built. Her unfathomed anguish and pain clearly visible on her face and limp movements. My sense of guilt amplified tenfold at the sight of her despair. The grief and pain of her ordeal became my own. In that fleeting moment and in painful bond Mary and I became as one in shared agony. The cross broadcast pain in wholesale fashion and I was the architect of grief.

Jesus died in thirst and excruciating pain. I experienced physical agony and intense torment such as I have never known. Then without warning an enormous sense of guilt filled me. I was responsible for building the instrument of his death. The Nazarene never did anything to harm me and it was my work that ended his life. I was instrumental in his murder. False accusations condemned him to the cross but I was the executioner. I tried to reason with my guilt and could not free myself of the enormous self reproach that gripped me. I then saw soldiers tossing a leather dice cup for the robe of Jesus. It was a hand-woven seamless garment, colored with walnut stain. I could not fathom how men could be so callous. Jesus was barely dead and these men already contested for the spoils. It was a way of life for these men and I realized that once upon a foggy dream, I had seriously considered becoming one of them.

Suddenly the earth heaved in fierce convulsion, forcing the world to shudder in unmeasured violence. Tongues of angry fire raced across the purple sky in repeated shows of Godly force. Horrendous thunder clapped and roared with savage fury. Each crashing boom louder that the last and close enough to strike fear in the bravest heart. I knew it was mid-afternoon, yet this storm discharged the sun of day into the blackest void. As if the Gods willed this day to cease as my friend, the ragged jeweler had earlier predicted. There was ample reason to believe the Gods were furious because one of their own had been murdered. And I was among those that helped commit that felony. Brave men ran like frightened children seeking shelter. The mob dispersed as fast as scared legs could carry them. Only a few of the more seasoned warriors stood their post. They were captured by the awesome display of godly fury upon the land and sky. I somehow felt that fury directed at me. A soldier standing close by visibly scared and deathly pale looked at Jesus had said, “This man was truly the son of God.”  I fell to my knees expecting the next bolt of lightning to strike me dead as I felt I justly deserved. I had seriously offended the Gods and my penalty was death. Rain fell from the darkened skies in furious gushers. The hill became awash with mad, dashing streams hauling debris, twigs and small stones down the incline. I found it difficult to make my way down the rocky knoll. Lightning struck close by and a small bush ignited in hellish white and blue fire. Only to be quickly extinguished by the heavy downpour. I knew the angry Gods were aiming their vengeful bolts at me and I did not expect to survive the noon day night. From a distant corner in my mind I remembered the words of my father, Horacio Vega de Iberia. “When a man has done wrong, he should be man enough to accept the result of his actions.” My actions were undeniable and my guilt unquestioned. In that light, I resolved to meet my doom when it arrived. I labored for every step down Golgotha. I could not stop trembling violently. I surmised that it was partly in fear and partly in knowing my death was on the way. I imagined a bolt of lightning coming at me and then I saw total darkness. I would be condemned to utter silence and total darkness for eternity. God would not glorify my part in his son’s murder. Emblazoned in my mind was the suffering of Jesus in precise detail. Into myself I asked Jesus to forgive me and gave him logical reason to deny my request. The tempest raged upon me and all around me as far as I could see. I wanted to run but then, to where does one run from an angry God?  Another bolt of lightning struck a water puddle ahead of my next step. Gaseous blue flame raced across the drenched earth as if looking for a victim to strike dead. It was intended for me. I resolved to walk upright and meet my destiny as a man deserving what the Gods dole out. Finally the incline gave way to level ground and I could not hasten my pace. I was drenched to the skin and my clothes were heavy with water. I collected the dragging hems to lessen the burden on my stride. I walked upright although I knew it was with false courage. My very soul was shaking painfully.  I feared to take the next step, thinking it may be my last. There could be no shame in being struck dead by Godly fury. Even the Gods have a right to justice. Hiding my face behind my hands would do no good. The father of Jesus knew who I was and picked me out from the lessening crowd to deliver punishment on me. I knew that if someone murdered a child of my own, I would seek that individual out and destroy him. A life for a life is rightful justice.”

Onofrio stood up and took Senobia in his arm while he caressed her face with his free hand. Eyes the color of the Mediterranean looked back into his in wonder as he softly spoke to her before the gathered families. “Like a soothing breeze that comes when a storm is over, you eased into my troubled mind. If God struck me dead as I struggled away from the murder scene, you would in due course marry someone else. To add injury to my penalty, I would see you in the arms of another man from wherever dead people go. I truly felt pain invade my heart at that realization. Yet, I knew somehow that God, your God would have mercy on my soul and not deny me this very moment with you in my arms. I could not fully believe that, but it was vibrating hope that kept me walking away from the murder at Golgotha. It was the image of you, my love. The image of you and I in this embrace that kept me walking away from that hill and not expecting to make it home to you. I trembled in fear and could not stop. Only the image of you kept me going.” He kissed her forehead and simply held her gently within his arms. And she felt him crying and clearly heard him say in her ear,” Thank you God. Thank you.” She wiped his tears with her sleeve and went to refresh his wine. Never had he said “I love you”, with so much proof in hand.

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