Lead me to the Cross
(Artist: Francesca Battistelli)
The road was rocky and difficult to navigate. My eyes focused on the crowd around me – too many people.
I searched for him, but I couldn’t see him through the bodies shuffling next to me. I looked down and horror filled my chest – a red trail of hope followed him. I walked right through it as sorrow choked my resistance and I let his life seep from the ground into my bear feet.
I was there when they came in the garden. He was tucked away praying and we were supposed to be watching, but we fell asleep, so tired from the days before of fending off the crowds to give him room to breathe. He wanted us to let them through, but we knew better – he had the eyes of compassion, we were focused on the reality bearing down on us.
I heard him whisper that night, on his knees, face lifted to the sky, hands extended towards his father. He spoke of love and trust and belief in our God. His voice waivered only for a moment when he asked if this cup should pass him – let it be so. I snuck a glance at him in that moment for my heart overflowed with compassion. I understood then that I would take his place in his road to suffering if he would but let me, but he would not. He was the shepherd and I was only a sheep, but if I got lost, he would leave all that he loved to seek me out. Of that I was sure.
He knelt there and crimson drops rolled down his face. His back shook from emotion. I heard a faint whisper as he resounded quickly that if the cup could not be removed then let God have his will with him. He collapsed and his hands barely caught him. I moved to catch him without effort, but Peter grabbed me and pulled me back down, shaking his head at me. It was written that the Christ should suffer all these things and then rise into his glory. He was not mine to save. He was not created to be saved – but to save me.
I woke from my reverie as someone shoved me in the crowd. One of the rocks on the road cut into my foot. My emotions were too heavy to feel physical pain. I tried to focus ahead of me, to find him, but tears swam precariously at the edge of my ability to contain them.
I heard the guards screaming at him to move, pulling a poor man from the crowd to help carry that cross, but I shoved my way forward with all my might and made it to him. My heart disintegrated at the sight of him.
His body was torn, stripped, beaten… bloody. A dirty cloak was barely tied around his nakedness, leaving him exposed to everyone.
My God… how had this happened? I staggered, my knees threatening to give out.
He looked up at me and the message that always was spoken between us passed once again between our eyes. Let me take your place, Rabbi.
He looked at me and a small smile played on his flayed lips and he whispered through the wind without ever speaking, No. I die for you today – so that you might stand before my father at the end of your life and be worthy upon entrance into the heavens. I meet this end for it was written that I would take the sin of the world on me – and I do it in the name of love. I do it for you.
I suck in air greedily as I feel the presence of God surround me, suffocate me, hold me. I would’ve given all that I was in that moment to trade places with him, to remove fates design for him, but it would be selfish of me and he would never allow it. I would save him because I loved him with a passion that I’d never experienced before. He woke up emotions in me, in all of us, that we never knew existed or had been taught to bury deep within our essence.
His love for humanity and good was palatable. His desire for justice and truth noteworthy. His respect and awe of the one true God and his unwavering commitment to the father was breathtaking, knee weakening. He made me want to be a better man, called me to live a different life, one that was full of risk that fostered eternal rewards. He spoke of kindness and compassion, of forgiveness and love, things that were so rare in those days.
He was a Lion and a Lamb – he was tender and merciful to the prostitute that bowed before him seeking redemption, forgiveness as the crowd beat down on her, their eyes filled with condemnation, their hands weighed down by the rocks they held. He gave her compassion and taught the onlookers a lesson, for as they held onto their instruments of death under their cloaks of self-righteousness, he called them to throw a stone if they’d yet but sinned.
And I watched as their expressions changed from that of anger and hatred to self-evaluation – and understanding. For they were so quick to condemn her as they hid secrets in their own hearts that if known… would have them lying on the ground at Jesus’ feet and others waiting with baited breath to extinguish the life in them.
He was a fiery revolutionary and he spoke with unwavering conviction of the truth. He challenged the leaders and priest of that time and called the people to not give lip service to God Almighty, but love him, believe in him, have relationship with him – LIVE for him. It was uncomfortable at first to believe in the unseen, ahhhhh… but we didn’t have to for long, for our eyes were unveiled at the majesty of God the father sent to earth in human flesh.
That he would call me out to follow him is almost too much to think about. I would give my family, my freedom, my life, my soul to belong to him.
I came back to myself on that rocky road, turned away from my master and look to the guard who was waiting for the young man from the crowd to take the cross from Jesus – to help him carry it the remainder of the journey up the hill. The boy was terrified at the scene before him, but the guard was relentless – someone would have to carry it -Christ had no more human strength to complete the trip that would lead to my salvation.
Without hesitation, I reached out and grasped the bloody tree, “I’ll carry it; just lead me to the cross.”