From Gory to Glory
Julius slowly unsheathed his large knife. He placed it against the neck of the elderly market owner, while threatening, “Don’t move, and you might live!”
The old man said with a quivering voice, “Please… don’t kill me. I have a family.”
While Julius stood his ground, I proceeded to collect the market keeper’s money. I took all the old wretch was worth as fast as I could move. I looked up, and I watched Julius slice the neck of the age-old man with the blade of his knife. The man’s body crumbled lifelessly onto the floor. “What’d you do that for?” I hollered at Julius.
Julius’ eyes met with mine. A devilish grin spread upon his face, and it made my heart boil like lava. Oh, how I burned with rage towards the fool! We stood paralyzed for a brief moment, and the short span of seconds we stood would cost us a greater price than strong imagination can tell of. I hammered Julius with my words, “You have gone too far this time!”
Julius and I failed to realize that a local witness had spoken about our robbery to the authorities. Our robbery was not going unknown as we naively assumed. The nearby Roman soldiers tore through the market area. They were hunting the two of us down like the vile animals that we were.
I caught a glimpse of Roman soldiers, who were decked out in full armor, pushing their way through the crowds. Adrenaline shot through my veins. I felt the fear assail me, and in a flash of time, Julius and I began to make for escape. It would prove to be too late.
Facing Roman soldiers is something that often makes a man into a cowardice rat. My mind raced, while I stumbled through the crowds. I ran quickly like I was trying to escape a cage, but it was proving to be an impenetrable one. Julius and I dodged soldiers, while scurrying down filthy alleyways. Soldiers gained on us, until an alley brought us to a wall of solid brick. We had reached an end that would prove to be our end.
“There’s nowhere for you to go! Don’t be foolish, but surrender willingly!” The Roman officer said in a mocking tone.
Julius was a venomous creature of a man, and I was ravenous as well. A fight we would not leave without. Julius made a move towards one of the warriors and swung his knife. The soldier dodged it, knocked it from his hand, and the soldier thrust Julius against the wall with the force of his shoulder. Julius let out a whimper when he was slammed against the wall that was doglike. Two amused soldiers towered over Julius, and they stomped on him.
Two soldiers began to approach me. I knew I had one chance. I hurled my fist at an approaching soldier. I made contact with his nose, and he stepped backwards in shock from the force. The other massive soldier grabbed me and violently tackled me to the ground. I crashed with a thud. I tried to quickly arise, but I could not get away before the crushing blast of a soldier’s foot met my back. Breath left me. My hands were quickly tied together, and I knew my life was taking a harsh turn.
*** The trial took place soon after our capture and arrest. Our trial was brief, and it seemed to move at the same rate as my pounding heartbeat. I trembled in the face of likely death, which was drawing closer and closer. The judge looked at us with disdain, and he slammed the gavel on the top of his bench. The judge proclaimed, “The Roman Empire cannot tolerate thieves and murderers like the two of you. I hereby sentence Julius Bolden and James Antiphomus to crucifixion.”
A pair of Roman officers took the two of us to the scourging yard. A Roman soldier hooked my chained hands to a brass ring, which hung near the top of an eight foot tall post. I stood, and the fear of pain caused my heart to pound harder and faster than I knew it could. A huge man stepped forward with a large whip in his hands. He swung it in a circular fashion over his head. The leather straps with shards of glass on the end struck my back. A cry escaped from my lips, while the soldiers grinned at the sight of flesh being ripped from my back. The shock of such torment was cruel agony. Many lashes lashes later, in the wake of suffering, I regretted the day I was born.
I felt horror shooting through my tattered back, and I grimaced with every slight movement I made. I hung motionless from the post. An officer unchained my hands from the ring near the top of the scourging post, and I collapsed to the blood tainted ground. I could only hope for the ordeal to end, but I still trembled in the face of death. I fought death’s drink like every other man had through the halls of human history. Although I knew that my life would end, I would discover my efforts of fighting the grave futile, and I would experience death swallowing me like the raging drunkard it was. The light around me became dark, and I faded into unconsciousness.
When I awoke, I found myself back in the nightmarish game of the Romans. A nasty custom of Roman crucifixion took place, and my clothes were stripped from me. I stood naked and ashamed. I felt exposed for the awful man that I was, and shame was all that I wore.
A merciless soldier placed a hundred pound beam onto my aching shoulders. Sharp aches raced throughout all of my body, and I nearly crumbled underneath the rugged timber. I let loose cries and curses, while burning tears streamed my face. The surrounding crowds screamed; chaos encircled the atmosphere; confusion echoed through my mind, while the voices of many spewed words of contempt at me.
I looked to my left, and I found my eyes meeting with the man, who had become famous in this region. I had heard many stories of him, which I had perceived as fun fables. He was the great rumor of the day amidst the crowds, and I wondered why he was being crucified with us. A guard pushed and mocked him, “Take your cross, you so-called Christ!”
My eyes continued to behold him. He had on his head a crown of thorns, which dug into his skull. The soldiers surrounded him, and they mocked him relentlessly. One of them took a rod and beat him on the head. The silent man was barely able to stand. I was bewildered that he did not say anything. He just stood there, regal and determined for some peculiar reason. I could not stop looking at him. He looked my way. His eyes looked straight into me, and they pierced straight through me like barbed arrows.
I watched him have much trouble carrying the rugged beam. His body trembled as he walked. He walked slowly because of the dismal amount of energy left in him. Strength had seemingly left his body. He could carry it no longer, and I watched him as he collapsed to the ground.
The centurion stopped the organized death march and searched through the crowd. He found a man, who had a strong physique in the midst of the crowd. He called him out of the others, and said, “You! You carry his cross for him!”
The man, who had a dark complexion and sturdy frame, stepped forward. Two Roman officers untied the wooden beam from Jesus’ back. They placed the beam onto the shoulders of the large black man. The centurion shouted out, “Move forward!”
I continued to stumble forward. The sweat coming from my pours stung my back like hornets. I had never experienced such physical misery, and the distress I felt was beyond anything I could have conceived possible. We continued to stumble forward, and we finally reached the hill. I did not want to die, but of what use was I? I never held a valid job. I was only a useless and shameful criminal of the Roman Empire. The tasteless way I had lived my life disgusted me, but I did not want to die. The brutal enemy named death still terrified me.
The officers took me and pushed me to the ground. I felt excruciating anguish shoot through my back. My body surged, while I grimaced. They grabbed my arms, and forced them into place on the crossbeam. One man held my trembling left arm to the rugged wood, and the other slammed a seven inch iron spike through my wrist with a large hammer. Aches were blasting through my body, and I looked to my right while they nailed my other wrist into the crossbeam.
I managed to look at Julius, who was hollering while the Roman officers slammed the iron nails through his wrists. He was fighting death till the very end, and it was a fight he would obviously lose. It was clear we all would lose that battle this day.
Jesus, who everyone was talking about this horrific day, was pushed to the ground so that he would be nailed to his cross. To my astonishment, the surreal man climbed onto the wooden beam without resistance. I was stunned by his strange actions. He was not battling death like Julius and I. There was a determined look about him. The Roman officer grabbed his right hand, and Jesus did not fight it at all. A nail was ruthlessly driven through his wrist, and he cried out from the hurt. He looked into me again with piercing eyes.
The three of our crosses were stood up. I felt an explosion go off in my nerves, while the weight of my body pulled on my wrists. My feet were moved into place by a smirking soldier, and another spike was slammed through my feet. The pain felt unbearable, and I could barely breathe. For hours, I would pull myself up by the nails in my wrists in search of oxygen. While I pulled myself upwards, the torment would shoot throughout all of my body. The cramps in my muscles were sharp.
The crowds below continued to mock Jesus, who was in between Julius and me. Men, who were dressed in religious attire, walked below and persistently mocked him. The crowds below ridiculed him, and their sick, haunting laughter filled the air. Julius looked at him, and mocked as well. He told him, “Why don’t you get us out of this if you are who you say you are?”
I looked at my life-long friend, Julius. The image of Julius murdering the old market owner flashed through my mind. I thought of the many people that we had hurt together over the years. I thought of stolen possessions, and people we had hurt and even killed. The guilt was heavy like an anvil upon my conscience. I could contain my words no longer. I told Julius, “We deserve what we are getting, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong!”
I looked at the extraordinary man. His eyes were piercing through me, and it felt like he knew everything about me. I said to him, “Don’t forget me when you rule your kingdom.”
The lion of a man continued to look through me. To my shock, I saw a slight smile on his face. He responded, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”