Easter Without Hindsight: “So what am I doing that I don’t know?”
When the trial was over, Jeshua and the two brigands were scourged and taken to be crucified. Jeshua’s flesh would have been shredded from the studs set into the leather scourges and there would have been horror on the faces of the crowd at the injuries. To add insult the soldiers had platted a crown from thorns and had pushed it onto his head. The crowd dared do nothing but weep.
Jeshua continued to command events. “Weep for yourselves” he warned, offering a terrifying prophecy as his blood dripped from him: “Soon you will say ‘A blessing on the barren, on wombs that gave never birth and on breasts that have never nursed children. If they do this to green wood, imagine what they’ll do to dry.” He wasn’t the first to warn that violence against Rome would lead to destruction. If Jeshua was the “green” wood, a man preaching reconciliation who’s crucified, what fire will consume those preaching violence?
Crucifixions were done alongside busy roads so as many as possible would see. Don’t rebel against us, the degradation of crucifixion proclaimed to Rome’s subjects. Friends and family of the dying were watched and sometimes any suspected as seditionists, or rescuers, were summarily crucified alongside their loved ones. By noon, the three had been left naked to die, a last extra humiliation.
The soldiers played dice for their possessions, then there was little for them to do but to wait for death to come. The dying men could support their weight on the spikes through their ankles, which was excruciating but they could still breathe. Or they could hang on their arms, perhaps less painful, but breathing was more difficult. As they supported their weight on arms, then legs, their strength faded until they suffocated. Some executioners thoughtfully placed a bar for the victim to stand on, so death was delayed. That night, though, Sabbath started. All three were to be dead by sunset. The troops would break their legs later on so that, unable to ‘stand’, they would suffocate in time.
Jeshua, though, did not wait that long. As the afternoon drew to a close he “gave up his spirit” and died in his own time. Instead of breaking his legs a soldier pushed a spear through his chest to check. When it was pulled out, there was no pulsing emission, just a stream of blood and water.
Perhaps strangest of all Jeshua didn’t curse those that killed him, as rebels like the Maccabees had in the past. Instead, enigmatically, Jeshua prayed as he struggled to breathe amidst the pain. “Forgive them, Father, They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Jeshua offered the peace of God’s kingdom to all the wrong people and upset those who might have thought of themselves as obvious members. Instead of threatening Romans, as the Jews might have expected, he warned God would judge the Judeans, especially their leaders. He hung now, proclaimed as King of the Jews, but only by his Roman executioners, as an ironic explanation for his death.
Instead of cursing his executioners, Jeshua prayed that God would forgive them: the priests who gave him to the Romans, the crowds who called for a murderer to go free, Pilate who sentenced an innocent man and the soldiers who tortured him to death.
Any of them might have asked: “So what am I doing that I don’t know?”