A short piece of scripture from Mark’s Gospel:
After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).
I just happened to be visiting Jerusalem. I’ve always been tall, and of course, being from Africa, I stood out in the crowd. Be careful, my family said, the Romans will pick on you as a foreigner. I decided to take my chances. It was the most terrifying day of my life. The crowd was pushing and shoving all around me, I was going in the opposite direction to everyone else and the Roman soldiers were carrying out yet another batch of crucifixions.
A soldier shouted at me in Greek ‘hey you’. I looked down, pretending I hadn’t heard, there were so many people there, he couldn’t possibly mean me. Then rough hands grabbed me by the arms and dragged me forwards. A man called Jesus was being led out to be crucified. He looked almost dead already, having been lashed. He was covered in blood.
The soldiers made me lean forwards and then they put a heavy log of wood over my shoulders and strapped it to my arms. Then I was made to follow Jesus and the others to the execution site outside the city. I thought I was going to die. Why did they choose me? Why was I carrying this cross? I hadn’t done anything wrong. All the horror stories about the Romans from back home were running through my mind again.
The cross bar was so heavy, it made me bow constantly and the ropes burnt my skin where it was strapped on my back. I really thought I was going to die. The soldiers had overdone it with lashing Jesus, if he didn’t make it, they’d put me on the cross in his place. As we stumbled through the crowd, women keened and cried out to Jesus. There were more women there than men. It was clear he was a special person to these people. The journey took an age and the cross got heavier alongside my sense of dread. A short trip to Jerusalem and it was going to end in my death.
Eventually, we reached the hill they call Golgotha. The smell was almost unbearable. I fell to the ground as I heard the sounds of the two other prisoners being nailed and hoisted onto their crosses. The soldiers wordlessly cut the ropes around my arms and yanked the cross bar off my back. I stayed where I was, I had no energy to move but the relief of the weight being taken left me feeling like I was floating. It was then I realised that the cross was being given back to Jesus. I managed to sit up and saw as they hammered long nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. Jesus spoke. He said ‘forgive them father’. I had thought I was going to die. But Jesus took my place. He took my place.