– by John Woolley –
The thief’s perspective
As one who hung beside Jesus on a cross that day at Calvary, I was a first-hand witness to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Whoever decided to inflict on Jesus the indignity of crucifying him between us two thieves? (Isaiah 53:12).
A man of sorrows
What a sorrowful sight Jesus was when I saw him (Isaiah 53:3). He had been vilely abused at the hands of the crucifixion party, and they continued to mock him. Bruised, stripped, bloodied, with a crown of thorns stuck into his head, he was hardly an attractive sight. Yet, even so, he possessed an alluring majesty, a captivating demeanour, which their ill-treatment of him had not eradicated.
Carrying his cross
This sorrowful man in his weakness carried his cross with a commanding presence, looking so regal in doing so. Was that why one felt embarrassed to look at him? (Isaiah 53:3). He did not have the look of a guilty, defeated, condemned man receiving his comeuppance, rather he exuded a calm dignity, with a complete absence of malice and hate. There was none of the angry self-pity which had overwhelmed my own heart. It was as if he were a willing victim who was carrying someone else’s burden (Isaiah 53:4).
Jesus struggled to carry his cross, as though the weight of the whole world was on his shoulders. Maybe that was why he was so utterly exhausted, even before the execution on the bloody gibbet. He was so weakened that the Romans forced some poor sop passing by to carry his cross for him (Matthew 27:34). Yet, in his fatigue, he did not lose his self-control and the Romans did not have to coerce him. He walked with a fixed determination toward Calvary. I believe he would have made his way there even without an execution squad. It was as if he knew he had to drink this cup!
There is a belief that the cross acts as an example to others. I tell you, Jesus did not suffer the pain, humiliation and abject misery of the cross just to be remembered as a fine example! The terrible degradation of the human spirit, the physical emaciation of the human body and the mental torment of crucifixion cannot be trivialised away as an exemplar of moral courage.
Jesus of Nazareth
I had, of course, heard of this man, Jesus of Nazareth. The outsider, who in the eyes of ordinary folks, towered above the ‘in-crowd’ of religious leaders. Their jealousy and animosity toward him were well known. They were afraid of his popularity for he was held in high esteem by the people. Many said he was God’s promised Messiah. I was