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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

Date: Nine thirty in the morning, Friday, April 7 30A.D.
The crucifixion of Jesus.

I tipped the bucket to one side to get enough swill to fill the dipper. I offered it to Jesus. He took a sip, worked the liquid around in his mouth, discerned the true nature of this bitter potion, and then spit it out. It left a dark stain on the dull gray rock near his feet.
“It will dull the pain,” I said emphatically.
He raised his eyes. They locked with mine. I saw in him the same look, the samebiblical-fiction-award-2017_orig determination I saw on the first day I set eyes on him, the day he rode the donkey into this city. I could still see he had a destination in mind. Some mystical purpose he somehow felt compelled to fulfill.
I dropped my gaze. He must be a fool. In his condition, in this situation, he must be a fool. A fool who unnerved me, but a fool nonetheless.
Once more I offered the drink.
With lips pressed tight, he shook his head.
He was a fool. An arrogant fool! A fool who thinks he’s tough—who can handle this—who can take it straight.
We would see who’s tough. I would show him who’s tough!
Let the big show begin.
“Now, boys!” I called out to the crew. Still wearing the purple robe, he was snatched like a young child and slammed down onto the crossbeam.
A cheer went up.
My right hand seized the hammer from Octavio. My left fumbled, then dove into, the nail pouch.
I dropped my knee onto his fingers.
Stabbed the sharpened point of the spike into the base of the palm.
Raised the hammer.
An enormous cheer went up from the crowd.
Blood spurted across my thigh.
One in.
The Christ was silent. Still . . .
Octavio urged me on. “That’s it, Marcus!”
I sprang to my feet, remembering the full rush of battle. Then scrambled to the other arm. From just off the hill, in the throng, a chant began and established itself. “More. More. More. More.”
Knee on fingers.
Spike jabbed in.
Hammer raised.
Two in. The Christ was silent.
Still . . . He was still beneath the piercing blows.
I rose, panting. Heart pounding. Bloodied hand dripping. Seeing a stain free area farther up my hairy arm, I wiped it across my sweat- drenched brow.
Octavio saluted me with a smile and a thumbs-up signal.
The crowd roared their approval.
This time it was Octavio who yelled, “Hoist him up.”
The Christ was dragged gasping—desperately gasping—to an upright position before the death mast.
Now they could see him, and the crowd went wild with frenzied excitement. Cheering. Clapping. Hooting. Bloodlust took hold.
The props were applied to the arms of the crossbeam.
A new chant went up. 4485 SHARABLE-2
“Raise him up!”
“Raise him up!”
“Raise him up!”
Octavio signaled, and the men in back lifted the beam on which the Christ was pinned above their heads.
Then we all saw it—saw the obvious. He was still clothed. The purple robe billowed out as it was caught by a sudden cold gust of wind. The sight of it brought all my frenzied demons to the fore.
I stepped before him, looked into his agonized face, and said, “You won’t be needing this . . . king of the Jews.”
Then to the cheers of my men, I spit into his face. I added my spittle to all the rest that had dried and was clinging to his beard.
I untied the royal robe and dropped it in a heap to my right. Finally, with a wicked smile, and to cheers all around, I snatched his breechcloth from off his loins.
I tossed it to Octavio. He held it up. A trophy!
We laughed. We all laughed. I
t was a laugh not our own.
I recognized it. It was Herod’s laugh.
When he had regained some composure, the head jailer started the final count.
“Ready . . . one . . . two . . . three . . . now!”
To chants of “Raise him up, raise him up,” the Christ, the Messiah, the king, was lifted up—up before the world.
His head twisted from side to side in writhing agony. His whip-sliced back slammed against the upright as he was dragged higher.
Then with a flesh-tearing lurch, the notch in the horizontal beam found its match in the vertical. The rope was flung around, then drawn tight, securing the two cross members as one.
The silent Christ hung. He hung naked and bleeding before a jeering world.
Only the last spike remained. Awkwardly, I fumbled for it.
But a creeping unease overshadowed me. I glanced over my shoulder. Claudius stood alone, off to the side. Silent . . . He was ghastly pale and silent, transfixed by the sight before him.
I handed the last nail and the hammer back to Octavio and said, “You do it.” He snorted his surprise, but then set quickly to his task.

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