“Anna, Anna, did you hear?” Tirzah the little girl from next door said anxiously as she ran quickly down the street.
“Hear what?”, Anna shouted back.
“They are going to kill Jesus! There are even rumors that they plan to crucify Him!”
Anna refused to let the words penetrate her soul. Tirzah was a sweet child, and not one to stretch the truth, but perhaps Tirzah had heard wrong. Jerusalem was known for their incorrect gossip.
Tirzah came back to Anna’s house. Anna’s fingers trembled as she prepared a few food items in a basket. It was always wise to be prepared, though she doubted she could ever eat again. She had no idea how long they would be gone.
Anna grabbed her father’s cloak that still hung by the door.
Tirzah yanked Anna’s hand and together they ran down the dead, empty streets of Jerusalem. Everyone wanted to see Jesus.
Anna was grateful that the child knew exactly where to go. Anna was worried that she would’ve simply sat down and cried.
Tirzah brought Anna to the courtyard right outside the judgement seat where criminals were sentenced to death. Anna inwardly hoped that Pilate and King Herod would release Jesus. After all it was evident that He was not a criminal! Anna saw Pilate and Herod in the center. On either side of them was Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas was the notorious criminal of Jerusalem. He had been in and out of prison since before Anna could remember. The look of Barabbas’s face was apathetic, he was used the normal procedures. The look on Jesus’s face was full of pain and deep sorrow. Anna wanted to cry. She couldn’t yet force herself to look into His eyes.
A hush fell over the crowd as Pilate stood up to speak.
“Neither, Herod or I find any fault in this man. We plan to release Jesus to you since it’s custom that someone is released on the week of the Passover.”
“Barabbas, we want Barabbas!” The silent crowds turned violent as they shouted for Barabbas’s release. Barabbas grinned a cocky grin as he side-glanced Jesus.
Pilate tried to calm the people, but to no avail. “Jesus has done nothing wrong. Let’s release Him”. Pilate’s soft-spoken words were lost in the abyss of screams.
Anna had hoped that Pilate’s good intentions would appease the people, but it did not.
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
“For what reason? This man has done nothing to be deserving of death at all and certainly not such a cruel death as this”!
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Pilate looked distressed and Anna saw fear in his eyes. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but he knew that his job and his life were at stake.
“Alright, we will crucify Him”.
Anna feared she would faint, so she clutched Tirzah’s hand. Tirzah squeezed back. Anna saw all the people that had shouted that Jesus be crucified. They were the same people that had praise His name last Sunday. They were the same people that had been healed by His hand, who had eaten the bread He had broken, or watched him raise Lazarus from the dead. What had happened to their loyalty?
The Romans soldiers roughly grabbed Jesus. They shoved the cross at Him and forced Him to walk. Anna and Tirzah were told to back away. They both found Mary the mother of Jesus and other men and women that loved Jesus. Anna wouldn’t leave Jesus. It didn’t matter how much turmoil she was in. She had to be near Him.
The clouds were dark, ominous, and billowing. The Via Dolorosa looked different than a week before. There were people lining the streets, but they were not shouting words of joy but of curses and insults.
Tirzah held tightly to Anna’s hand. Jesus continued to bear the cross. Anna wished to scream and tell everyone to stop. This was Jesus, not some criminal! Once, the weight of it was to much and He collapsed on the cobblestone street. His body was laid in a heap. Before Anna knew what she was doing she left Tirzah and knelt down near Jesus. She poured some water from her flask that she had sense enough to pack hours ago. She poured the water on Jesus’s hair and into His mouth. She wanted to speak, but she couldn’t. Her tears continued to flow. Jesus looked at her with such compassion. It was as if He was suffering for her.
Quickly, Anna was roughly brushed aside by the brawny arms of one of the Roman soldiers. Anna gasped and screamed. “Why are you doing this?” Anna’s face turned white when she saw Luca. She shook her head. Before she could utter a word, Luca disappeared. His face was stoic. To him Jesus was simply another criminal. It wasn’t right! It wasn’t right! If only she could stop this cruelty! For a few minutes or maybe an hour Anna simply stood there stunned. Suddenly she came to her senses. Where was Tirzah? Suddenly, she spotted the little girl’s pink dress.
“Come Anna. They have taken to the cross.”
Anna wanted to say no. But she wouldn’t leave Jesus. He was all He had.
Meekly Anna followed. She saw Jesus hanging on a wooden cross. He was stripped, bleeding, and dying.
Anna found the small group of Jesus followers. Tirzah ran to be with her weeping mother and father. Anna bravely ventured toward the cross. Maybe her presence would provide Jesus with ounce of comfort.
Anna stood at the foot of the cross. The rain continually washed away the blood that resurfaced and stained the body of her Savior.
She saw Sophia crumpled by an Olive tree. She was separated from the other onlookers. Anna’s heart went out to her. But first she ran to the cross.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness. Jesus, who was nailed to the cross was able to forgive, and Anna realized that for so long she’d been unable to forgive her father for dying, Sophia for being more beautiful, and Luca for rejecting her.
But if her innocent Jesus could forgive while bleeding on a cross why couldn’t she?
“I’m sorry Jesus, so sorry. I forgive them.” Her grudges now seemed like just a drop of water amidst an ocean. Anna knew Jesus had spoken the words just for her. Her tears made it difficult to see.
Now she knew what Jesus wanted her to do. Wiping away her tears, she walked tenderly over to Sophia. Sophia hadn’t moved positions in the past few minutes. The rain had messed up her perfectly matted red hair.
Anna stood near her not quite knowing what to say.
Sophia looked up. Her face was devoid of all color.
“Are you alright?”
“No, no, I’m not.”
“Sophia, I know that it doesn’t make sense, but Jesus is dying for us. He loves you and me.”
“More than that much. We just have to bow at His feet and call Him Lord.”
“No, no, I don’t want to call a dying Jesus Lord. That’s crazy.”
“But Sophia, it has long been foretold that Jesus would die but
Sophia quickly ran away. She didn’t want to hear another word.
She loved Jesus so, but she needed to get away. Thinking of her father, she ran to the temple. She clutched her father’s cloak tightly to her hoping to block out the terrible day. It only it was a dream. Anna knew there was a prophecy about Jesus coming to die. Which one was it? Anna ran to the temple, she had to find out.
By the time she reached the deserted temple, darkness blanketed the land. There was no hope of finding her father’s scrolls here. Anna stood in the temple and wept bitterly.
And then Anna saw it. She blinked her eyes three times to make sure it was true. The veil of the temple curtain tore in two from top to bottom. As a little girl, her father always told her never to go into the holy of holies. Only the highest priest was allowed in once a year. Her father had been in once. Anna remembered her father’s face glowed. But now, now, the divide was broken. Anna realized that she didn’t need to find the scrolls. Now she knew. Jesus died on the cross to break the divide between God and man. She knelt alone in the holy of holies and wept. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.”
Luca sighed. Something about this night was not right. Crucifixion was a part of his normal duties as a Roman solider, but never darkness covering the land so early in the day.
For the past few hours, Luca had stood guard at the foot of the three crosses. Jesus, the man in the middle was different. Luca knew that Anna adored and followed Him. But what was the reason to have Him crucified. Luca knew he couldn’t question Pilate or Herod, but it wasn’t right. Sure, Jesus had overthrown the moneychangers in the temple, but they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Luca saw Sophia and Anna out of the corner of his eye. Anna was talking to his girlfriend! Luca knew that something was up. Anna had her comforting face on. She looked like she was soothing her and pointing her to the cross. It was ironic, but Luca knew that Sophia was in good hands. But mostly Luca couldn’t take his eyes off Jesus. It just didn’t make sense.
“Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ “
In His eyes Luca saw peace. He saw the image of eternity. Luca had been watching Jesus’s rib cage struggling to go up and down. But after Jesus spoke, His body stopped. Luca knew He was dead.
Suddenly, the earth began to shake violently. Luca had no choice but to fall at the feet of Jesus.
The rain continued to pour. Luca’s face was flat on the ground beneath the cross. “Truly, this was the Son of God.” Luca began to cry. His foolishness shamed Him.