This is the first of three reflections which Lucinda is offering us for Holy Week
A reflection for Holy Week by Lucinda McArthur
I was just in the city for the day. The crowd was hot and excited, jostling me about. As I got closer to the center of town, it became apparent that there was something rotten happening. The stink of blood.
lust was heavy in the air. Yet another public execution. The sun bore down, a ball of fire in the sky. The dust choked me and as I coughed, my packages, heavy in my arms, shifted and one fell, hitting the ground. Before I could reach down, it was kicked away from me into the merciless, chanting sea of people, who were growing more raucous by the minute.
Groaning with frustration, I scrambled after it. I felt myself being thrust deeper into the crowd,
closer and closer to…
No, no, no - I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to see. I’m a man of peace. It’s getting
louder and louder and a dark frenzy descends on the masses. I so want to find my package - it’s a gift of spices for my wife. It would mean so much to her. My hands brush against it - and it is again knocked from my grasp. My frustration turns to fear as I look around and suddenly realize I am completely encircled by the crowd. This jeering crowd surrounds me and I find it difficult to take a breath. I am from a small town; I would rather not come to the city at all. Had I known this was happening today…
My thoughts are torn away and I cry out as my gift is kicked into the street. It’s gone.
Gone. Gone is the look on her face, her eyes shining with love. Gone is the warm embrace, her hand on my heart. Her joy, gone. I stand, tossed about by this living, moving miasma of anger, of hatred. I wonder what has stirred this up. I had heard last week Jerusalem had been a different place, full of celebration, jubilation, and adoration for the one they call Jesus. Defeated, I turn and resolutely make up my mind to leave this chaos, even if it means going home with nothing to give her. At least I still have small gifts for Rufus and Alexander. Suddenly, just as I try to press my way through the teeming mass, my heart seizes in terror as a huge hand plants itself on my shoulder, roughly spinning me around.
“You. Drop it.” Drop it? No, please, no. Grief, loss, and panic close in around me. All my
treasures - gone. “But I have to...” “I said drop it. Come on.” My world spins, the crowd echoes
in my ears. I’ve worked so hard... Planned for months... “Let’s GO. I’m not going to say it
again.” He shoves me and my precious gifts tumble to the ground, lost to the crowd. I watch in
misery as they are snatched up by onlookers, carried away as on the tides of the sea. Loss and terror battle in my mind as I’m whipped around and shoved out into the street nearly tripping, tripping over the most horrifying sight I’ve seen in all my years.
Crumpled there in the dirt, a pitiful form of what used to be a man. Oh, oh, oh... Is still a
man... trapped underneath a rough-hewn beam of a cross. I begin to tremble, feeling the cold
come over me. “Pick it up.” I furrow my brow, not comprehending. Pick it... “PICK IT UP!” “Yes,
sir.” Terrified, I look up to see a Roman in all his regalia staring down at me, a bored
haughtiness on his face. A look I cannot quite place, however, passes over his face as, for a
split second, his eyes meet mine. Sympathy... mingled with... fear? Gone as quickly as it
appeared, he points to the beam and flicks his hand up and motions me forward.
I clamp my eyes shut, steel myself, and look down at the frame below me. A wave of
nausea washes over me and I quietly retch. Elbows, knees, all sharp edges collide as he
struggles to rise. Bloody strips of flesh hang from his back. Purple bruises cover his shoulders.
His hands and feet, bloodied and torn, try to find purchase in the dirt. His breathing is ragged
and laboured. A low moan escapes him as he lurches forward, the beam still on him. A force not my own reaches down, pulling the beam off of him, and I whisper, “I’ve got it”.
It is then he looks at me. My heart contracts with pity. Surely, whatever this man has
done doesn’t warrant this. He holds my gaze in his and as we move together I feel the world
shift within me. This man, looking up at me, sweat and blood running in rivulets down his face,
his countenance barely recognizable, knows me. He knows me. I suddenly feel every thought
I’ve ever had laid bare
in front of him. Every word I’ve ever spoken rings in my ears. Every sin
I’ve regretted is in the space between us. He continues to hold my gaze as he continues to
struggle to stand. A ghost of a smile passes over his face and his eyebrows lift ever so slightly. I nod almost imperceptibly. Yes.
Fear, agony, desperation all pass over His face in an instant, to be pushed out of the way
by a look of such longing, gratitude and... love. Yes, love. I tremble even more violently as a
great roar echoes in my ears, drowning out all of the mindless words spoken over a lifetime. All of the careless thoughts coalesce into a cloud that rises out of me and all of the sin that
separates me from Him disappears i
nto a mist of blood and is, in the blink of an eye, gone. He
nods, His bruised mouth turns up at the corners, and His eyes blink rapidly as He reaches out to grasp my hand. It is rough and calloused. And so very weak.
“Carry. The. Cross.” I startle and in one final effort to feel this love unlike any I’ve ever
known, I pull as hard as I dare, raising Him to His feet. It is then I feel the immense heft of the
beam, its splintery roughness and jagged knots as they slice into my shoulders. After one
sidelong glance over His shoulder, He turns and stares resolutely ahead. I take a deep breath
and look ahead, then with all the courage I can muster, I set my eyes on Him as we take a step
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.