HIS INCREDIBLE PLEA
by J. Quisumbing
The prisoner’s back was on fire. More than an hour ago, he endured a scourging of 25-30 lashes. He lost count. The whip used was the cat o’ nine tails, an odious punishment tool made up of nine knotted thongs of leather with jagged pieces of metal and bones embedded in the strips. Each stroke was relentless especially when the one wielding it was so enraged because the prisoner made no noise above a moan.
His vision blurred again. By the taste of salt on his lips, he knew that more blood was profusely pouring down over his eyes from the puncture wounds on his scalp. Shutting his eyes tight and blinking a couple of times, his vision somewhat cleared. Looking ahead, he could just make out the infamous execution hill which he knew was north of the city about half a mile from the city gate. Some say that this hill looked like a half buried skull hence its name.
A little strength seem to be coming back to his bruised and cut up legs especially when the heavy burden that he was carrying on his already torn up shoulder was alleviated by the overseers. Earlier, they saw that the prisoner may not make it to execution hill because he was stumbling, falling and getting even weaker with every step he took. So, they stopped the procession, grabbed an unsuspecting spectator from amongst the crowd and forced him to carry the prisoner’s burden which was a roughly hewn cross.
The prisoner finally reached the crest of the hill. He was shoved to where the cross that he carried most of the way was laid out on the ground. Men in red tunics were busily preparing it. He turned his eyes towards a commotion on his left. Another prisoner was screaming out in pain as his hands and feet were impaled onto another cross. Hearing a grating sound to his right, he turned his head to watch another cross being erected, the bottom of which fell into a carved hole on the stony ground. It made a heavy thud sound causing the prisoner already nailed and hanging from it to scream out in agony.
He was then stripped of his outer garments leaving just a loin cloth to cover him. Then, he was roughly shoved down onto the cross. He winced as his bare torn back touched the rough surface of the cross. He braced himself with expectation as his arms were stretched out onto the cross beam. Strong calloused hands pinned his forearms down with his palms facing up. The executioners then simultaneously set the tips of nine inch iron spikes over the prisoners’ wrists. They then, simultaneously pounded those nails through his wrists, expertly missing the arteries with no bones broken. The pain was indescribable.
The executioners turned their attention to his feet. First, they tied his knees together. Then, they bent his legs a little to the left about a quarter of the way up. They rested his feet on an anchored triangle shaped wooden block. With one foot over another, they drove another long spike through, pinning them securely on the sloped block.
Just as he was bearing up to the pain of those spikes being driven into his skin, his own cross was lifted up and manhandled into position. The jarring effect brought even more excruciating pain bringing him to tears and then blacked out.
When he came to, he was gasping for air. He was not breathing properly. His chest felt compressed as he hung there with arms stretched up and his legs were limp. He realized that he can inhale but not exhale. He knew he had to put weight on his feet to exhale. But as he did so his torn back rubbed against the splintered wood, causing a constant stabbing into the open raw flesh. As painful as it was, he knew he had to do it regardless the pain he had to endure.
Then the taunts came.
From his high vantage point, he can see the north road busy with passersby going to and fro from the city. Most of them joined in with the mingling crowd that continued to hurl insults at him.
Someone in a rich robe shouted, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” Many laughed and shook their heads. Others mockingly called him the king of the Jews and that he should come off that cross to rule them. It went on and on, and even the condemned men left and right of him joined in. (Matthew 27)
Then another voice said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
The prisoner recognized that voice. It was the same voice that tried to tempt him during his time of fasting in the wilderness some three years ago. He said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”
In his ear, he can hear that same tempter taunt him. “Son of God,” he would whisper, “You have at your command, legions of angels just waiting for you to give the order to destroy those that have done this against you. These creatures are not worthy of your love. See how they mock you. Elijah once asked God to send down fire upon his enemies who mocked him. You command the elements. Reveal your glory to them and watch them grovel in the ground and beg for forgiveness. Do you not see these people?”
He does see them. He looks down at the overseers laughing among themselves and callously gambling over his garment. He cannot get himself to hate them. Then, he scanned the crowd who continue to jeer at him. He saw their pettiness & shallowness; their angers & fears; their ignorance, their frailty & many faults. He also saw inside their hearts and he knew they were lost and hungry for a better life. He once told his disciples that what he saw in people was a flock without a shepherd. He saw each of them as created in God’s image. No, he could not condemn them. He knew that one day, the time of judgment will come, but not yet.
He peered up at the sky. The sky was clear but in the distance he could see angry clouds forming. He knew that his Holy Father was angry and rightly so.
The prisoner braced his legs and painfully lifted his body up. He breathed in, looked up to Heaven and said…
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Holy Week is just around the corner. Every Week until Resurection Sunday, I will post a story on the last words of this prisoner who hung on a rugged cross and paved a way for you and me who believe to everlasting life.
I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me here at Facebook MESSENGER by audio from 3-5pm Monday to Friday. Scheduled small group chats can be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.