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Summary: Dramatic monologue: pilgrim to Jerusalem observes behavior of priests, soldiers and disappointed follower at the crucifixion of Jesus.

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Heartsick

And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" Luke 23:35-37

Nathan wished he were anywhere but here. He wished he had stayed in bed that morning. He wished he hadn’t even come to Jerusalem for Passover this year at all. He caught himself at that thought and muttered a brief prayer for forgiveness. But every year, it seemed, the crowds were thicker and the mood was uglier. Was that any way to celebrate the Passover? Curiosity had brought him to the scene outside the Procurator’s palace, and the press of the crowd had prevented him from escaping. Now, it seemed, they were following today’s quota of criminals up to the execution grounds.

He stumbled over a cobblestone - again - and lurched into the man in front of him. A stranger to his left grabbed his arm and steadied his step; grateful, Nathan hissed, "What’s going on here, anyway? Why is everybody so all-fired up?" "Where have you been all week?" The man responded sharply. "Haven’t you noticed how that Galilean Rabbi Yeshua has been baiting the Temple bigwigs? It was only a matter of time before they got the Romans to shut him up for them."

Nathan thought back. "Wasn’t he the one they were hailing as the Messiah at the beginning of the week? He’s been going around the countryside preaching? They say he’s the most powerful healing rabbi in generations. What did he do to get up the priests’ noses like that? And how could they talk the Romans into doing their dirty work for them? Where I come from, we Jews stay as far away from the Roman governor as we can. That’s just asking for trouble!" He tripped again.

"Shut up and watch your step! You can get trampled to death in a crowd like this, they won’t even notice you underfoot. Wait till we get to Golgotha."

Nathan hitched his robe up and tucked it more firmly into his belt. None of this made any sense to him at all. He began to notice something else strange, too. There were women in the crowd, far more than was usual. Jewish women didn’t flock to executions as a rule; they didn’t like blood sports, not like the Greek and Asian women who formed the majority on his home island of Cyprus. But there they were, weeping and wailing as if it were their own children that had been sentenced to death; it almost drowned out the hoots and catcalls from the rest of the mob.

When finally they came to a halt at the top of the hill Nathan and his new-found companion had been pushed to the front, over to one side of the - well, he supposed you could call it an arena, but it was really just a barren circle scratched out on the ground. Two men had already been nailed and tied to their crosses, and the uprights shoved firmly into the ground. There was an eerie silence, broken only by an occasional muffled sob and the harsh creak of one of the crows that lived off the bodies of the executed. The soldiers were just finishing up with the third man. Matter-of-factly they heaved the cross upright and seated it into its hole. It fell with an audible thud, and the man’s gasp of pain was echoed by the crowd’s sudden intake of breath.

A loud voice broke into the silence. "You saved others; save yourself!" Another, then another chimed in. "That’s what happens to people who threaten the temple!" "If you’re the Anointed of God, prove it!" "If you’re really the Son of God, come down from that cross!"

Nathan’s companion turned abruptly to him. "Most of us really believed he might be the Messiah," he said. "You didn’t see him, did you."

"I didn’t hear him preach, no," said Nathan. "But I think I did see him. Didn’t he throw all the money-lenders out of the temple? Kicking over their tables and lashing them down the steps into the street, calling them robbers if not worse? I caught the tail end of the brawl; everything was all in an uproar and I had to come back the next day to buy my thank offering."

"That was him, all right," said the other man. "Nobody expected it, either; he’d been all sweetness and light up to then, talking about forgiveness and God’s love and how you don’t really have to follow all the picky rules and regulations the scribes are so hot on." He paused for a moment. "That’s why the Pharisees were up in arms, of course. Yeshua called ‘em vipers, which I’ll grant you some of them are. The priests didn’t care so much about that; half of them don’t live up to the Pharisees’ standards themselves. But when he started threatening the temple they all got together. Look at them over there, thick as thieves, making sure they’ve gotten rid of him for good!"

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