Tuesday, March 04, 2008

3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time

The horrible thing about torture is that it is gratuitous pain inflicted upon another person. There is often no escape from it except by divulging information that the victim cannot, or does not want to, give. It is suffering that just goes on… and on… and on…, often until death intervenes.

I do not feel good about all that we did to this man from Nazareth. It was a set-up from the start. He criticised his own people and for that, they had to get rid of him. Pilate colluded because although he saw an innocent man, he wanted to keep on the right side of Caesar.

The crowd joined in the condemnation and the sentencing to crucifixion, not because they had necessarily any grudge against Jesus, but because the Temple authorities had cleverly sited rabble-rousers in their midst. It is amazing how easily people will respond when there are troublemakers amongst them. They react even against their own normal thinking. I wonder how many of them, in the clear light of day, would have chosen to send Jesus to his death? I wonder how many of them would have freed a known criminal such as Barabbas? I wonder how many would even have agreed to having Jesus scourged?

Yes, the soldiers joined in the torture of an innocent man. We can make the excuse that we were following orders: after all, that is what a soldier is supposed to do. Yet there was more to it than that. We need not have scourged him for so long or so violently. We need not have woven a crown of thorns and impaled it on his head. We need not have mocked him for claiming to be a king… but our blood was up, do you see? We took out on Jesus our own anger concerning our own poverty and abuse at the hands of our senior officers. Perhaps, had we not ourselves been angry, we also would not have gone to the lengths that we did. I do not know and, at this stage, does it make any difference? Only Pilate now has the authority to stop this farce continuing to the bitter end… and the end will be bitter. Jesus will not escape from the shame or the agony of the Cross.

Calvary is actually very close to Pilate’s residence: only a brief walk, in fact. Yet I am not sure that Jesus will make it there. He is very weak and has lost a great deal of blood. In fact, I am quite surprised by his frailty because he is a strong man, a carpenter, who has lived outdoors for several years. Perhaps his weakness shows up our own brutality? Perhaps we inflicted more violence than even we had realised?

What will happen to us if Jesus dies on the way to Calvary? Will we be in trouble for preventing the spectacle that the crowd is expecting?

The road is not smooth. I had not intended to make a pun, but there it is: Jesus is making his way along a road made of large flat stones, but he is also experiencing great suffering that is making his life anything but easy as he moves towards his execution.

But back to the road. We Romans are excellent road builders. They are straight, never link more than two tribal areas so that the tribes can never unite in great numbers against the might of Rome, but they are also truly a marvel of engineering skill. Each road is built in several layers and must not need any maintenance for a period of one hundred years. In Rome itself, in order to ease congestion, only the Emperor may drive through the city by chariot, which, of course, does not mean that there is not a massive assortment of wagons. Here in Jerusalem, life is different, but the roads are still made in exactly the same way, with large stones making as even a path as it is possible for us to create. Yet, the road is not smooth. It is so easy to trip over the edge of a stone. I know several people who have broken an ankle in this way. For the elderly and infirm, a walk has many hazards.

For someone like Jesus, carrying his crossbeam, weakened by scourging and, I presume, dehydrated through blood loss and through shock and pain, it is inevitable that he will stumble on his way to Calvary.

Saying that, he has just fallen. It must have been incredibly painful, if not downright agony! He is trying to stand, but it is difficult. Some of my colleagues are beating him in an attempt to make him rise more quickly. It is futile. He does not have the strength. He is a brave man to even make the effort to stand. Some would have given up and would have died. It is as if Jesus is determined to reach Calvary.

Who is Jesus of Nazareth, I wonder?

God bless,
Sr. Janet