Most of them stayed away. It was just too dangerous to be seen with this crucified traitor. The women could stand there, they could fall to their knees. They could wail and they could weep: they were no threat. Apparently the young disciple was also too insignificant to worry the guards.
He had been dragged through the streets. They made him carry that cross. They laughed and they mocked as they dressed him up as a king, put a robe around his shoulders and a crown of sorts, a crown of thorns, upon his head. And then they hung him there. Each breath an ordeal of excruciating agony. He had given them the choicest of wine, they quenched his thirst with the dregs left for the lowest.
Beneath the cross as if his dying gasps were not indignity enough the soldiers divided the spoils. The best piece, his tunic, would be ruined if they cut it up, so they turned it into a game. That’s all it was to them.
Jesus, the man they thought had come to liberate, was left to die between two common criminals. The men beside him knew this was not any normal crucifixion. They saw the soldiers taunting Jesus, they heard the religious leaders come and gaze at the sign written in three languages above his head. This joke was not going to be missed by anyone, the man who thought he was king, who said he was above our authority. This man hanging there from a tree.
One of the robbers joined in the joke, he thought this was a win-win situation. He called on Jesus to save himself and while he was at it why not help us out too. If the joke was not a joke he might somehow escape the death that was accelerating towards him. And at the worst he got to go out with one last chuckle. Father forgive them Jesus cried, the words pierced through the pain and the laughter, they do not know what they do.
Even in his agony, maybe especially because of it, the man condemned on Jesus’ other side saw something else. This was not a time to mock, here hung an innocent man. This man, the one they called lord, the would be king, maybe that’s what he was. Don’t count that man’s words for me, he cried, remember me in paradise.
Death came. The legs did not need to be broken, the blood and the water signalled the death of Christ.
For years afterwards the disciples would debate what the last words were that slipped from his lips before he died. But knew as they heard from the women and the young disciple that it was over. Finished.
Under the cover of darkness that came with his death, the curtain in the temple was rendered in two. The divide gone between who was good enough to enter God’s space.
The centurion set at the foot of the cross looked up as Jesus breathed his last, and he knew what they had done. They had killed the king. This man, he was the son of God.