Peter was startled out of his thoughts as he heard people coming up the stairway. He hoped it wasnt Temple police who found out where he was hiding. The door opened and he gave a sigh of relief. John had returned with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Mark and his parents joined them while the three men gave the horrible details about how the Sanhedrin had tricked Pilate into imposing the death sentence on the Lord.
Nicodemus faith and courage shined through the darkness of despair, When he is crucified, we should be there to comfort him as much as possible, even though we are taking a risk.
John thought about Christs mother, Mary should be with us. I will go to Bethany and bring her back with any others who want to be near him too. Then we can all meet at Golgotha. Peter, do you want to come with me?
He grimaced, No, I am not ready to face anyone yet.
It will be safer if Nicodemus and I go with you, Joseph advised. We must leave immediately.
Way of Sorrow
Crucifixion was not a Jewish form of punishment. The Romans took charge of carrying out the sentence. Pilate ordered Cornelius to oversee Jesus crucifixion, and preparations were quickly made for him and two criminals who were also sentenced to die.
About 8 am on Friday morning, the mournful procession descended from the hilltop palace of Herod the Great and headed toward the place of crucifixion outside the northwest city wall. Four soldiers walked beside each condemned man who carried his own crossbeam on his back, with his arms bound by ropes. Jesus, now in his own blood-stained clothes, was the lead prisoner, with the two criminals following behind him.
A great crowd lined the streets on both sides and women raised loud laments in pity and sympathy, making it difficult to pass through. Cornelius walked with the front soldiers who were armed with swords and spears, making a way for them to pass through the crushing onlookers. Many people were weeping, others were curious, and most of the rulers of Israel were pleased at what they had done.
Just before 9 am, the procession reached Golgotha, Place of the Skull, not far from the northwest gate, where roads from Jericho, Galilee, Emmaus, and Bethlehem merged. The Romans chose this location for the maximum effect to deter crime and spite the Jews. The hill was a dreary place, a short walk to the side of the road, with a high rounded skull-like rocky plateau, and a sudden depression or hollow beneath, as if jaws of the skull had opened. Close by were gardens and rock hewn sepulchers.
John arrived from Bethany with the Lords mother, Nicodemus, Joseph, and all the faithful disciples who wanted to be with the Lord in his final hours. Of all the apostles, only John was there, not afraid to be near his beloved Master. The women who were most dearly connected with Christs mother were by her side to comfort her: Mary Magdalene; Mary Clopas, mother of James the younger and Joseph; and Salome, who was sister to Jesus mother, wife of Zebedee, and mother of James and John.
Using the last of his energy, Christ walked up to where the soldiers stood and silently waited to be nailed to his upright. On either side, the thieves who were to die with him were already screaming for mercy as they were dragged to their uprights.
As a final gesture of humanity, it was customary to give a condemned man wine with myrrh to bring on insensibility. When a soldier offered it to Jesus, he refused to drink. No man could take his life from him. He had the power to lay it down and take it up again. He voluntarily would not yield to ordinary human nature, but suffer the full blunt of crucifixion and redemption.
Clothing was removed from the prisoners. Then the soldiers once again attached their crossbars with ropes, and hammered nails in their wrists so they wouldnt rip out. The condemned men were hoisted up, and their beams were fastened into place against the center upright. Heavy spikes were driven through the mens feet. Now the three were upright on their crosses, with Jesus in the center and the two criminals on either side. This completed the ordinary Latin cross that would hold a signboard announcing the charge against them to be attached at the top. The pain was unbearable, but Jesus did not cry out.
A great sob broke from Mary of Nazareth and she turned away, unable to watch the agony of her son any longer. With their own hearts breaking with pity, the other women comforted the Lords mother as best they could. John helped her to a nearby rocky outcrop near the cross where she could rest while he stood beside her.
When the crosses were in place, the crowds moved in. Annas, Caiaphas and leading members of the Sanhedrin dared to come out, and standing a short distance away on a hill apart from the crowd, they began to gloat over what they had done. One of the chief priests noticed Nicodemus and Joseph standing with the group of Christs followers near his cross. These two members of the Sanhedrin had publicly made their choice, and it would be just a formality to make it official they were no longer welcome in the council chamber.
King of the Jews
Only one more thing remained to be done, and Pilate had the last say in the matter. The soldiers now posted signboards at the top of the crosses. The large sign above Christs head stated, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek so everyone who walked by could read it. The governor purposely meant to humiliate the Jews for their part in condemning an innocent man.
When Caiaphas and Annas saw Jesus signboard, they immediately sent the leading priests to Pilate with an urgent complaint, Change it from The King of the Jews to He said, I am King of the Jews.
But the procurator was tired of their demands and replied angrily, What I have written, I have written! It stays exactly as it is!
The high priest and his conspirators knew they had pushed him as far as they could; but watched in satisfaction, knowing the King of the Jews would soon be deadand victory would be theirs. Or would it?