Until the end
I know everything he’s done, and everything he’s said, but still - it shouldn’t be him.
He’s too young, it’s too soon. There’s so much more he could do, that he could have made of himself. I believed in him; I knew we hadn’t seen the best of him yet. All this.... it shouldn’t be happening to him. He’s only 30 years old. All that potential…wasted.
Of course, lots of other people would say he got what was coming to him. That he’s a liar, a thief, and a trouble-maker. But I know him. I’m family, you see. I know he was only trying to do what was right by us. To feed and clothe us. If he didn’t look after us, no-one else would, not our sort. And, yes, he stuck it to the Romans at the same time. That’s why they hated him. He’s a dirty upstart Hebrew who didn’t know his place. Well, he always had a big mouth on him. I should know, he’s my brother. And perhaps he shouldn’t have taken what didn’t belong to him. And then of course the violence… well, he had to defend himself, didn’t he? No-one ever gets anywhere in this world by turning the other cheek. But he doesn’t deserve this. He should have got off with a flogging at most, something to remind others of who’s in charge. As if we needed reminding! Not this…horror.
He shouldn’t be here, like a common criminal. They’re the ones that deserve it. The murderers and villains, with no thought for human life. Still, they got what was coming to them. No-one cries underneath their cross.
Except I see I’m not the only one. There are other women, gathered under another cross, softly crying now. I recognise that state: the one that comes after the disbelief, and anger, and wailing. Soon they’ll be left with nothing but despair, like me. Because what else is there? We’re losing our family and friends. These ordinary men that are extraordinary to us, because we know them and love them. I wonder what he’s done to deserve this?
He’s panting out a few words now, my brother. Cursing the Romans. Spitting out his pain and grief. Insulting the man next to him, who was supposed to be some kind of religious leader, even the promised one from God, for all the good it did him. What else is there left to say?
This other man, the one with all the weeping women, is trying to speak. ‘Father, forgive them…’ Forgive who? The Romans? The Rabbis, now clustering round and muttering between themselves? The mockers, with nothing better to do on a dark Friday afternoon than to poke fun at a dying man? – or does he mean the rest of us, those who wait for death here on this forsaken hill?
There is another criminal, a real hard type, on the far side. Now he’s joining in, having a go at my brother. ‘Whaddya wanna go shouting at him for? He’s done nothing wrong! At least we’re getting what we deserve!’
Are we? Did any of them deserve this? Do any of us, who are watching and waiting, deserve this?
Now he’s asking for some sort of comfort. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom’. Kingdom – huh! There’s a crown of thorns on his head, and a sign above saying ‘King of the Jews’. A fine king he makes, all bloody and broken.
Now this ‘king’ is whispering back: ‘Today, you and I will walk together in paradise’. Well, I wish I could see that, I really do. The king and the criminal, hand in hand. Some people have no idea of reality.
He’s getting weaker. They all are. There’s a weird kind of half-light to the sky, and a low rumble of thunder in the distance. The birds are quiet. Everyone else seems to be staring up at the man beside us, waiting for him to say something more. No-one ever looks at the likes of us like that. We’re not important, not worth paying attention to. Just one more bit of street scum to be cleared away.
Looking up at the man called the king I see he’s looking at my brother, with something like pity on his face. No, not pity: love. It’s as if he knows him, like I know him. And loves him, like I love him. More, even. It’s strange… in the middle of all his pain, the man seems to want to reach out to a low-class scoundrel like my brother, seeing all the good stuff that’s inside him. Knowing all the bad, but loving all the good. My brother jerks his head up suddenly, and meets his eyes. Something happens to him, I don’t know what, but I know it’s good: then he sighs, and his head flops down.
I think he’s gone.
And through my tears I see that the King is looking at me.