A Story

"Come on, let’s go skip stones down by the old pond-I’ve got a good spot!"

“Hey, Christopher, come here! Yeah, it’s me, David! I haven’t seen you in a while! Come on, let’s go skip stones down by the old pond-I’ve got a good spot. See, Chris, I wish my life were more like yours. You get to travel a lot and see more of the whole Roman Empire. What are your parents anyway? Are they soldiers, tax collectors, or officials of some sort?”

“Oh. Well, I don’t lead a very exciting life. I’m just a boy, an average kid, like you, trying to make a life around Jerusalem. My dad’s a carpenter, and I’ve been working with him, trying to learn the family trade. I’ve been working for him, like an apprentice now, for a few years, really just since I turned 9. But you knew all that already, right? Oh, well.

‘Hey, you know, I’m actually getting pretty good at it. You know what we do, right? My dad and I, we have a pretty important job for the Roman Empire. We make crosses for them- to kill the criminals. We help to keep society in a good order, by carrying out the laws that the Romans have set up. We help the soldiers get rid of the murderers, the thieves, and the low-down, cheating scum of the city.

‘Not too long ago, I got some good solid pieces of dogwood, the strongest and the best for crosses, and finally made a really great one. It was perfectly shaped, the corners were perfectly cut, the joints were seamless, I had all the rough spots sanded out and the whole thing was smooth and polished shiny and I knew it was a perfect cross. I was pretty proud of my work, so proud that I even cut my name across the top. Right there, in big letters: david porath. Then, I laid it carefully in the yard with all the rest. I knew the Roman soldiers were going to pick that one for a particularly wicked criminal, one who had committed the worst crimes. They would be hung on the cross, and my name would be up there, so the whole world could see how good my craftsmanship was and how I was helping the society out. I was really proud of that cross, you know. It came out really well.

‘I got started on my next one; I was going to make it another good one, but I didn’t have much time before Passover started and we had to clean the house to accommodate some of the visitors. There were a lot more this year than usual, it seemed, because we had lots of preparation work to do. While we were getting ready, my mother sent me into the city to the marketplace to get a few things for the preparations.

‘On the way, I came upon a huge crowd. They were all pretty excited and saying something about a king coming. I wasn’t too sure about all of this, but I figured the Roman Emperor would be coming for the Passover celebration. I was pretty excited; I thought he might see the cross I made and know what good things I was doing. Can you imagine, getting to see the Roman Emperor, meeting the Roman Emperor? So I joined the crowd, and waited for the king to come. Then, I found out that it wasn’t the Roman Emperor that we were expecting, but instead a different kind of king. And they were certainly right. This king came not with some big royal procession, but instead on a donkey. A lowly donkey! And I heard it wasn’t even his, either, he just borrowed it from someone else. But that didn’t matter. Everybody was so happy to see him, and I’ll admit, I was, too. People said he did great things- making a blind person see, walking on water, raising people from the dead, telling great stories, and teaching. The way he came into the city, it was such a time of great rejoicing and happiness and joy! Everyone was so excited to see him! They shouted praises and hosannas and were taking off their coats and cutting down branches just to make his way a little softer. Everybody loved him! Well, everybody, that is, except the temple merchants. He got pretty upset with them when he came into the city, and from what I hear he caused quite a scene in there, but that’s a different story for a different day.

‘During the next week, I got to see this man Jesus and hear some of what he had to say. He shared some great stories, and some great ideas. I really liked listening to him. He was a good storyteller! It turns out that he’s a carpenter’s son too, just like me. His friends seemed really loyal to him, judging by some of the things they did while in the city. He was pretty amazing, too. One woman who had been really sick for quite a while was healed just by touching his coat! The Pharisees, our religious leaders, gave Jesus a quiz a few times, and he came up with some pretty good answers, sometimes using a story instead of just giving an answer like I probably would have. He must have been pretty smart! I wish I could come up with things like that so quickly!

‘About a week later, the whole city met for the releasing of a prisoner, and our family was there along with everyone else. You know. Pontius Pilate, our governor, does that every year during Passover. He releases one prisoner for the crowd, anyone the crowd wants. At that time, there were two prisoners in the jail that were pretty big names. There was this one really mean, rotten guy called Barabbas. He was some low scum- he raised revolts and was a murderer.

‘Then, they brought out that Jesus person who came in with all those excited proceedings the week before. I was pretty confused when someone told me he was in prison- I never really found out why they arrested him; he certainly didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would get himself arrested. But, I guess something had happened a night or two before. Anyway, Pilate asked which of the two we wanted released. I wanted to see Jesus released, and I called out his name once, but a few of the big chief priests weren’t too far away and gave me a real nasty look. I didn’t want to get our family in trouble with the Romans, so I just shut my mouth. Everybody around me was shouting for Barabbas. He was putting on a little show for support up front, and being pretty funny. Those head priests were shouting especially loudly for him. They hated this practice of releasing a lawbreaker, and we all knew it wouldn’t be too long before he was arrested again anyway.

The whole crowd was cheering with them too, so I joined in. ‘Barabbas! Barabbas!’ So Pilate released him, and people cheered. Then, he asked what he should do with Jesus. This is still pretty tough to talk about. When he asked, the crowd got quieter, but only for a second before a few people started yelling “Crucify him!” Then more people joined in: “Crucify him!” “Crucify him!” Soon the whole crowd was yelling. “Crucify him!” “Crucify him!” Finally, for some reason, I joined in as well. I still don’t know why. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” I don’t know what made me yell- maybe it was the energy of the crowd, the swell of the voices, the heat in the air, or something else. I’m not sure if I really knew what I was saying. But I was soon yelling as with all my heart- “Crucify him!” Pilate even challenged the crowd, asking what evil Jesus had done. I didn’t know of anything this man would or could’ve done that would be that bad after all the good he’d done, but we all just kept yelling, even more: “Crucify him!” Then, Pilate washed his hands and sent the order. They took him away. They mocked him. They gave him a crown made of thorns, and pressed it into his head. It was so cruel, what they were doing to this man!

‘But then, it got even worse. We all followed Jesus and the Roman soldiers to the lumberyard, and watched as the soldiers picked up a cross for Jesus. I watched as they went over to the stack to pick one up. Then I remembered which stack they were at, and I froze. As they lifted it up, I saw the engraving at the top against every hope from every part of me. It was my cross. ‘No!’ I thought. ‘It just wasn’t meant to be this way! That cross was meant for a criminal, someone who deserved to die! Not this innocent man! He doesn’t deserve it!’ Oh, the guilt was so bad! I was so ashamed of myself. I had made that cross, and all the world would see my name, engraved on the top of that cross, and the world would always remember me as the boy who made the cross they killed an innocent man on. It was my cross He carried along the road that day, the day the world was forever changed.

‘It was terrible, the things that happened next. They whipped him along the road, the hot, dusty, dry road; whipped him without mercy. I watched as he trudged through the street with that big heavy cross. I wanted to just run and hide and never be seen again, but I found myself unable even to move. I was behind most of the crowd, glad to be hidden mostly from view, but I could see everything. I watched the pain and suffering in his eyes, so undeserved. As I watched him, he lifted his head a little and looked me straight in the eye. I wasn’t exactly in the front row of people, but he saw me anyway. He knows, I thought. The look in his eyes said so much, but there was no hate. It seemed like he had known all along what was going to happen, and accepted it however much he didn’t want to be going through this. Instead, his eyes showed a love- a different kind of love than what people usually describe in others’ eyes. It was a love that went so far as suffering and dying for a friend- for me. And it was in his eyes that he said ‘This is for you.’ I knew then that I played a part in this torture, but that He was still willing to go through all this even for me. I was so ashamed. I didn’t want any of this to happen, not this man, not my cross. At one point, he was even too weak from the whippings to carry it any further, and the soldiers pulled another man from the crowd to carry it for him. He was being mocked and tortured, and He didn’t even fight back!

‘Finally, they got to the Place of the Skull and the Hill of Calvary, the place where they did the crucifixions. Two other men, robbers, were also there to be executed that day, already on the crosses on either side. Right in the middle there, they put Jesus up on the cross, my cross, with my name engraved in big bold letters on the top. They hammered the nails right through his hands and feet! Right about then, I was wishing I had never been born. I thought for sure everyone there would see my name above that man on the cross, my name proudly displayed as this man’s killer. But then they nailed up a sign, right over my name. Relief flooded in, fought only by the still-intense guilt I felt for yelling with the crowd for his crucifixion. The sign read, “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.” They hung him up there, and continued to mock him. By then, I had to leave- I just couldn’t bear to see it any more. I came out here for a while. I didn’t want to be home or in the city, or near that horrible hill. Around noon, the sky quickly became very dark, like night, and I knew the end was near for him. A few hours later, there was a great earthquake and screams from the temple, where the curtain had been torn in two. I knew it was over then.

‘The next day was the Sabbath, and we rested, according to tradition and law. After a day like that, I needed it. The following day was a work day again, and I got started with a heavy heart. I didn’t go to the lumberyard, not where my last project had ended quite that way. Instead, I worked at a chair I’d been building for a while, just something to pass the time with and distract my mind. It wasn’t until a few days later when I returned to the city that I heard the good news: This man Jesus was alive again! The whole town wondered how it had happened, and the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb were no less amazed. I mean, you’d have to be God or something to come back from the dead like that. He stayed around for just a little while longer, though I’m not sure what all he did in those days he was back. He probably told more stories and finished up some of what he’d started before he went off to somewhere else. I was pretty busy in the workshop, and I worked better and harder and faster in those days because I was so glad. He had carried my cross, but I would not be remembered as the man who killed him because he came back!” What a saving grace that was!

‘Well, Chris, that’s my bit. I hope you don’t think I’m some kind of killer now- I really didn’t mean anything bad. I’m so glad the whole thing is done with now, and I still wonder at how amazing that sacrifice was. It was good talking to you again. Unfortunately, I’ve got to get back home now, before the sun gets down too low. If you’re in town for a while, maybe you could stop by my house for a visit!”

Title: My Cross

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©2006 W. Ben Towne. All rights reserved, except:
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