Episode Four: Like a criminal

When they thought about it later, they all knew things weren't going to end well. The leaders at the temple didn't like Jesus and they were stirring up trouble. They were plotting to do away with Jesus. 

But what none of Jesus' friends could ever have seen coming was that it would be one of them who would get Jesus arrested. 

When they saw Judas coming through the olive trees that night they were absolutely flabbergasted. Judas was surrounded by soldiers as he walked. He came right up to Jesus and kissed him on the check. Judas looked tortured, as if his life was falling to pieces. And then the soldiers swooped and everything turned crazy. Swords were drawn, a soldiers ear was swiped clean off by Peter who was in a real rage. 

As Andrew sat telling the tale to Mary and Martha later that day, he pictured Jesus' face so clearly. He was calm. In the middle of all the madness Jesus was calm. Just like he had been in that great storm on the lake. Oh so calm. And he told Peter off. "Put that sword away!" he yelled at Peter above the noise. It was clear that Jesus wasn't about to start a fight. 

Tears started to stream down Martha's face as Andrew told her how Jesus had let them tie his hands behind his back and how they had dragged him away. Jesus had not struggled or made a fuss. 

Early the next morning Jesus' friends learned that Jesus had been taken to Pilate, the Roman Governor. Even though they were terrified they headed into the city, making their way to the Antonia Fortress. That's the building shown in this model. That is the place where Jesus is thought to have been put to trial. 

You can see a gate and the building has four towers, one on each corner. Guards would stand on these towers to keep watch. The Antonia Fortress is built right next to the Temple. Herod built it in 35B.C to protect the temple and he had lots of soldiers in the fortress to defend it.

Jesus didn't get a fair trial. Pilate didn't know what to do with him. He couldn't really see what all the fuss was about, but the Jewish leaders really wanted him dead. Pilate wasn't too keen on upsetting them. He asked Jesus some questions, but Jesus didn't really give him answers he understood. He offered to let him or another criminal go free, but the crowd chose to set free the terrorist Barabbas. What strange people these Jews were, thought Pilate to himself.

He asked them, "What am I to do with Jesus, who is called the Messiah?” They all yelled, “Nail him to a cross!” Pilate answered, “But what crime has he done?” “Nail him to a cross!” they yelled even louder. Pilate started to get worried that a riot might break out so he walked over to a bowl of water and washed his hands. Then he yelled at the crowd, "I won’t have anything to do with killing this man. You are the ones doing it!”

So it was that Jesus was sentenced to death. How unfair is that. And his death was the way that criminals were killed. The Romans didn't put Jesus in prison. Instead they killed their criminals on a cross. This was a pole of wood with a beam across it. It was a horrible way to kill someone. The Romans wanted people to think twice before they broke the law. 

There were other people killed that day. In fact there were crosses all the way along the roadside, so people had to pass them as they went in and out of the city. What a horrible sight it must have been. As Jesus hung there on the cross there were lots of conversations going on. 

The leaders of the Temple looked up at him and made fun of him. They laughed to each other, "He saved others, but he can't save himself... He trusted God, so let God save him, if he wants to."  Others passed along the road and hurled insults at him too.

The criminals on the crosses around him said cruel things to him. But one of the criminals looked at Jesus, and asked Jesus something pretty important. "Jesus, don't forget me." Tears rolled down Jesus' face as he looked at this man, a friend! Jesus replied, “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise." 

And there was Jesus' mum, crumpled up in a heap on the ground. Great sobs escaped her body. Comforting her was one of Jesus' dear friends, as well as her sister and two women who were both named Mary. As Jesus looked down at his mum he called out to them, "This man is now your son and she is now your mother." From that day on this disciple took Jesus' mum home and looked after her. What a special thing for Jesus to do, to make sure that someone looked after his mum.

A soldier stands guard. He watches on as the women weep and the passers by hurl their insults. He watches as the leaders of the Temple say some horrible things about this man. And the soldier is puzzled. How can these people say they love their God but do such a horrible thing to this man? Is he really a criminal? Or is it all true?

As he watches, the sky starts to go dark. That's weird, it's only lunch time. The sun just seems to die in the sky as the life dies out of Jesus. And then Jesus yells out, his voice piercing the growing darkness. He yells, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?" The soldier thinks to himself that he has never ever heard a more horrible cry. 

And then Jesus shouts again, "Father, I put myself in your hands!", and his last breath leaves his body. 

The soldier collapses as the whole world seems to let out a cry. The ground under his feet shakes and groans in pain. The rocks shatter with the horror of it all. The very earth grieves when this man dies. And away in the distance the great curtain in the temple tears from top to bottom. 
This is the church that is built on the place where Jesus was killed. It is dark inside this church, just like the sky was on the day Jesus died. But look at that beam of light!

The soldier shakes in fear, but something in his heart is bursting open. It is like a beam of light shining in the darkness. Here he stands, in this place of death but something inside him springs to life. Is it possible? Can it be true? "This man really was God's Son!" he yells at the top of his lungs, so that the dark sky and the broken rocks and all those gathered around the cross can hear. "It's true, it's true, it's true" he yells. 

And something deep inside him tells him that if it is true, then this is not the end... 

To be continued...

Other episodes:
Episode One: The journey begins
Episode Two: Through the gates 
Episode Three - Things get tense

Episode Three - Part Two
Episode Five: The Tomb


Popular posts from this blog

12. Jesus has his first visitors.

Waitangi Day

The Three Kings by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow