The following is a”letter” inspired by the experiences of an eyewitness to the crucifixion. It is excerpted from a sermon entitled “Letters From Golgotha,” which I presented in August 2010.
Martha, my beloved sister.
Where were you today? I know you were busy, and I know it was scary with the trials, the people, and the crucifixion. But I wished you were there.
Martha, I know you were expecting Jesus to restore the kingdom. I think we all were. But didn’t he tell us this had to happen? Who knows but that this is all a part of the plan? I mean, he did raise Lazarus after three days. And he did say that he had to die but would be raised again.
You wouldn’t have believed the priests and teachers. They were so proud, so pompous, it made me sick. I think they actually enjoyed watching Jesus suffer like that. They certainly relished the idea that they had won. I see now what Jesus meant when he called them a brood of vipers.
And then there were the soldiers. I couldn’t believe they could laugh and joke and divide those men’s clothes and such as though it was nothing at all. You know, they almost tore that rag Jesus had worn into pieces so that they would all get their share. But then they decided to cast lots for the whole thing instead. And when it was all over, they just went back to work as though it was no big deal. Talk about callousness.
After Jesus – I can hardly bear to write the word – passed, a couple of men came and took him down. I know I’ve seen them before when Jesus was teaching. I remember that they had tried to make it look like they weren’t listening, staying just beyond the crowd and sometimes pretending to be more interested in something else. I think they were members of the Sanhedrin. They were probably afraid of what would happen if they truly followed Jesus. But that fear didn’t seem to stop them this afternoon. They took Jesus down from that cross, wrapped him in linen, and took him away, down to a tomb in that garden just over from Golgotha.
None of the others could bear to watch, but Jesus’ mother and I just had to follow. And Martha, I will never forget the love that they showed Jesus as they carried him there. I know Peter, James, John and the others were too afraid – too ashamed? – to get near, but these two men – how I wish I knew their names! – I think they were crying as they picked Jesus up and carried him in their arms as one would a small child.
Oh, Martha! I know that Jesus is gone, but I also know that we must not fall away now! To do so would make us no better than the Council that celebrated their victory today. No better than the Romans who just went on with business as usual.
I just know that this whole thing is not over. No, I think it’s just beginning, and we must choose to follow even now. We must choose to live as Jesus taught us to live. We must choose to tell others so that they, too, will follow and live. We must choose.
Oh, Martha, a couple of us are going to the grave as early as we can Sunday. I hope you’ll come with us. I’ll understand if you can’t, though. I don’t even know how we’ll open the tomb. And I hear the Romans posted guards to keep people out. But maybe someone will be there to help.
You know, I remember Jesus once said that “God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” If Jesus is the Son of God, which I think we both know He is, then I guess this is the time we need to show that we really believe.