As a mother, I had seen many scrapes and cuts on my little boy’s body. I had seen blood pour from his forehead one day when he tripped in the street and cracked his head on the rocks. It was a bloody mess. It ruined the clothes he had on that day.
But it was nothing compared to this. When the spikes first went through his wrists, the blood poured across the wooden crossbeam and pooled in the rocks below. After they lifted the beam and attached it to the upright, the blood still poured from the wounds in his wrists.
I couldn’t stop watching it.
But amazingly, in what seemed like hours ago, it stopped. The wounds were there in his wrists and if he fidgeted too much, or tried to lift himself to breathe easier, it would start again. But never much. Maybe it had run out. Maybe the blood couldn’t reach that high in his body anymore. I don’t know. I just know my son had stopped bleeding. It wasn’t much. He would still die. But somehow this little fact comforted me.
And if only he would quit moving…quit being restless…quit talking…maybe that horror wouldn’t begin again.
He always was a restless boy. Never content to stay still. Even at the foot of his cross, I could remember him as a child going all through the neighborhood, always a following of other kids with him. They would run the streets and play their games but he was never one to stick to any game for long. He would not come home until someone physically brought him home. “He’s got a restless spirit,” his father would say. But somehow I thought it was endearing, this energy, my child, my boy had. I even remembered the time he convinced others that we had said it would be okay for him to stay the night. Oh, the fright when we found he was missing. We thought he was gone for good. But that time would wait until this day.
I sat there in the shadows on this passing day and remembered his growing up. The changes. The restlessness turning to moodiness. The moodiness turning to anger. The anger turning against his family.
I knew he ran around with a dangerous and different crowd. Some of them were prostitutes, both male and female and some were just petty criminals. I didn’t know what my son was but I knew he was still restless, still looking for something, for someone to accept who he was.
What I didn’t know would come out at his so called trial. My son, my restless wandering boy, had turned to a life of crime and offense of our laws. He stole. He lied. He did things that I could not bear to hear. But none of them changed my love for him. I would stand by him. I would bear this shame on my knees – the shame of my love for my child.
And oh, how those around me stood in judgment. Not only would my son be killed for his offenses, but his family was kicked out of the synagogue. We were told not to return, even after his death. Somehow, what he was tainted us as well. It didn’t matter to me, though. I loved him still.
Oh, how I wish I had controlled him a bit more when he was younger now. Maybe without the restlessness and all that followed it, I could somehow have avoided this day. And maybe he wouldn’t keep moving on that cross. I know he was leaving. I didn’t want him to leave. But I wanted him to be at peace. I cried for his peace.
Somewhere in the midst of my tears, I heard one of the others being killed talking. Another said something and I heard my son tell the first to be quiet. He said, “We are getting what we deserve, but this man did nothing.” And the man in the middle said the strangest thing. He looked at me and then looked at my son and said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” I did not know this man but I heard the rumors swirling around him. He was a teacher, a rabbi, who was stirring people up and had to be killed. Strange words from a rabble-rouser. If anything, his words showed more compassion for my son than any religious person had ever shown.
My son stared at the man in the middle for what seemed like an eternity. He never moved a muscle while he watched him. He relaxed. His breathing evened out. His struggle stopped.
And so did the blood.
Eventually, I heard the soldiers coming. They were clearing the way so they could break the legs of those being crucified and hurry their deaths. They checked one of the men and broke his legs – oh, the screams he made. I wished my son would die before they got to him, but still he looked on the man in the middle.
The soldiers checked that man and found he was dead. His mother cried out and I knew her pain but I wished, oh how I wished they would have stayed longer checking on him. I knew what would come next.
The soldier’s reached my son’s cross and he moved his eyes from the man in the middle and looked at me. There wasn’t a muscle moving when they hammered at his legs. I waited for his screams, but nothing came. He looked at me, looked at the man in the middle, and breathed his last breath.
I thought I would cry. I expected to wail. But I didn’t. My son, my son had found peace at last. If I cry in the future, it will only be because he had not found it until that man in the middle spoke to him words of hope and words of love.
My son…my restless son…had found peace.
…one on each side … John 19:18