An article written from the perspective of an onlooker.
She was a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus.
- by Lynn Williams
It was a hill for Roman executions. They called it the place of a skull. She wasn’t really sure why she had come here to witness this spectacle of death. She did not take pleasure in such things as certain people did. But for some reason she found herself drawn to the place on this particular day. Perhaps it was mere curiosity to see the one that rumor had said had performed so many wonders and great things. It had been an eerie scene. At noon the sky had turned as black as midnight. After three hours the daylight had returned. Murmurings within the crowd said that the darkness came because this man was being crucified. The God of the Jews was angry they said. Perhaps it was merely superstition. Whatever the reason, she now found herself trying to worm her way towards the front of the crowd in order to gain a better view.
She moved among the gathered mass trying to keep her eyes downcast. Some people looked upon her with sneers. They recognized her for who and what she was. There were some men who eyed her appreciatively though all the while trying to seem as if they were not looking. Some of those men she recognized as having engaged her services before. The sneers she had grown used to. Not many people would even speak to one of her profession in public much less admit to knowing her. In private this was another matter altogether.
“Watch it!” Grumbled a gangly looking young man, who had only recently began to sprout a respectable beard. People behind her were pushing her into him. He and his much older companion standing next to him turned to look at her. The older man glanced at her once and grabbed his friend’s arm in haste.
“Do not speak to her, Tyricus.” He warned. “She is nothing but a harlot.” The younger man suddenly eyed her as if his close proximity to her was enough to convict him of immoral things. “Away with you, harlot.” He said, and spat on her, much to his friend’s amusement who began to laugh.
“Forgive me…” Naecleotris muttered, as she wiped the man’s spittle from her face. But the men had already turned their backs to her. With a sigh, she fought her way through the crowd, and away from them. She was almost sure she had given her services to the older of the two men in the past. No matter though. The only thing that mattered to her now was getting close enough to see the one hanging on the cross at the front of the crowd.
After pushing through the gathered crowd of Jews and Romans, she finally was in a position where she could see without someone’s head blocking her view. Naecleotris was a rather short woman. The sight before her made her unconsciously clutch her robes in tight fists. Her knuckles turned white even as the blood drained from her face. There he hung, the one named Jesus whom many said was the Son of the God of the Jews. He hung there unclothed. A crown of thorns upon his head was digging in so deeply that blood flowed down his face in wide streams of red. Blood also flowed from his palms and feet where thick spike nails had been driven, pinning him to the wooden cross. Blood flowed down his body continuing its trail down the cross and pooled in a small puddle on the ground. Naecleotris felt the overwhelming urge to be sick. She had never before seen someone so beaten, so cruelly treated, so covered in blood. Even the two common thieves who hung one on each side of him had not been so beaten and so torn. She cringed at the sight of him, throwing one hand up to cover her mouth while one went to her stomach as if to will it to settle. The one who hung upon that cross suddenly looked up and across the crowd, his eyes finally coming to rest on her. "That’s crazy! She screamed within her mind. "He’s not looking at me! He’s just looking at the crowd, ...at everyone. But not at me. Why would he look at me with such pity in his eyes? He does not even know me!" The woman standing next to her turned her head away from the sight with a small strangling noise. "He asked God to forgive us", she whispered. "He said we do not know what we do. And maybe he speaks the truth."
Naecleotris turned her face to regard the woman who had spoken. Immediately she recognized the speaker as a woman from the city who had mocked her and threatened to stone her on a number of occasions for being a harlot. Naecleotris shrank back slightly startled and afraid at standing so close to one who had pronounced judgment upon her so often. But the other woman’s eyes seemed glazed and her face pale. She appeared to Naecleotris as if the sight had made her want to be sick as well. She certainly did not give any sign that she was aware of who she was speaking to.
"Forgiveness…." Naecleotris repeated softly, the woman seemed to take it as a question for clarification and nodded ever so slowly. "What if he IS the Son of God?" The woman wailed suddenly, causing Naecleotris to draw back once more, afraid that she was losing her mind. The woman was crying now, tears flowing down her cheeks unheeded. "Heaven forgive. Heaven forgive us." The woman who had stood in mocking judgment of her so many times now fell upon Naecleotris, sobbing about retribution from a God who had made the sky to darken in middle of of the day. Stunned Naecleotris merely held her in a supportive embrace as the woman cried on her shoulder. Finally she pushed away from Naecleotris and went stumbling away towards the rear of the crowd, all the while muttering under her breathe that they surely were all to die for what they had done if this man was the Son of God.
It was than that the one upon the cross in the middle opened his mouth and cried. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" A murmur ran through the crowd and she heard someone behind her whisper, "He is calling for Elijah!" But Naecleotris was not so sure. To her it seemed as if he cried out as one would who sought aid from the Heavens.
"Let us see if Elijah will save him!" She heard another cry. Other voices could be heard mocking the one who was dying helplessly on the tree. She turned to study him once more as he hung there. There was such innocence about him, a purity that shone in his eyes mingled along with the pain that was on his face. Surely she herself had done things more deserving of death than this man. She had not heard whispered one charge of a crime against him deserving of this death.
Upon the cross he drank and then threw his head back and cried aloud once more. "It is finished! Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit!"
As she stood there watching him, his head sank to his chest and she knew that he had died. The ground beneath her feet shook with a great earthquake and many in the crowd lost their balance and fell to the ground. When the shaking stopped she collected herself from the ground and let her gaze rise to study the one hanging lifeless on the cross. Standing at the foot of that cross, a centurion solider also gazed upon the dead man. "Truly this man was the Son of God", he uttered as if in lament.
She was strangely saddened by the soldier's words. She had hoped beyond hope that this Jesus would overcome the crowd; overcome the cross upon which he hung. She wanted him to step down from that cruel tree whole and unmarred. But none of that mattered now. He was dead. She had seen what she had come to see. Oddly, she now realized why she had been drawn to come. Deep within her, she had wished for a way out of her life, a way out of herself and who she was. She had heard this man had forgiven others. Somehow she had wanted him to forgive her as well, even as he hung there dying. But there was no reprieve for Naecleotris. She would be despised and reviled, trapped in a life of doing the unthinkable things that even she herself detested.
Lost in her own thoughts she had not noticed that the crowd had thinned and that the soldiers had moved to begin the work of breaking the legs of those who still remained alive. How long had she stood there staring at the lifeless face of the one named Jesus? She read the sign above his head that she had barely glanced at before. "The King of the Jews" she read aloud with heaviness in her voice. A tear that she had not even felt forming ran down her cheek. Such a sad ending for the life a king, and for the God of the Jews. She thought idly as she started to turn and leave.
It was than that she felt it. It was not an audible voice but it might as well have been someone shouting in her ear for as loudly as it reverberated throughout her entire being. "I AM YOUR GOD, NAECLEOTRIS." The words danced through her mind, pierced her heart, and seared her soul. And just as suddenly, she understood. The one who was hanging in death above her head had truly been looking down at her with pity. He was the Son of God who was to bring salvation. He had suffered and died not for anything he had done, but for her own stained and marred life. "My Lord and my God," she breathed as she sank to her knees weeping. It was not tears of sorrow that burned their way down her cheeks, but tears of happiness. She knew within her that she had been forgiven. Her heart and soul felt light, so light that she felt as if she could float up into the sky.
She stayed there weeping upon her knees and giving thanks to God even as the soldiers were taking Jesus down from that cross. This was an awful place and she had witnessed an awful event. Yet in spite of this she was so extremely glad that she had come. She had come to the place of the skull. But on this day it was no longer a place of death.
It had become a place of life.
Email to Lynn ThriceHoly@aol.com