Through the darkness, I heard His voice rend through the air. It was a cry ... piercing ... loud ... anguished ..."Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani!"
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
I turned away. I knew who He was. There was a sign over his head - "King of the Jews". I am not a Hebrew, so He means nothing to me. Am I disturbed by his agony? I am human - of course I am. Who would not be disturbed?
But hasn't God forsaken us all? Is Jesus only now realizing it? I look at a the woman to my right. She is weeping and her eyes meet mine in the darkness. They are filled with sorrow, but there is beauty there.
"Do you see?" she whispers through her weeping.
"See what?" I reply
"Of course I do." Is she silly? How could I not see the bloodied man whose pulse must barely beat by now.
"No," she moves forward and grips my wrist. She is insistent, moving closer so I cannot break away from her gaze. "Do you really see?"
"Yes," I cannot help but whisper in reply. As if the moment is sacred - somehow. "But I see the other men as well."
She glances up at the two thieves who flank Jesus. "And only one knows Him," she breathes, a soft smile touching her lips. She turns back to me. "I want you to know Him too."
"How can I? He is dead."
Light is slowly returning to the sky. A soldier approaches the body and pierces His side with a sword. The woman releases my wrist, sadness covering her face. But curiously enough, it was not sorrow for the dead Man, but a grief directed at me.
"What?" I am defensive. She is beginning to annoy me.
"You don't understand," she backs away. "He did this for you."
"What do you mean? For me?"
"To save you," she whispers and then disappears in the crowd.
I stare at the last spot where I saw her. I don't need saving. I am fine.
A man cries out beside me, "LORD! Lord! Oh Lord!" ... he falls to his knees and stares at the cross. The dead body is gone now. They have buried it. How long have I been standing here ... watching.
"Lord ..." the man's cries fall to a soft plea that I'm embarrassed to overhear. A man shouldn't cry. A man shouldn't look so - so weak.
"Lord, forgive me. You have taken my sin upon you and I live my life as though it is mine and mine alone."
I move away from the man. His oddity would amuse me - if the day didn't seem so grim.
"Wait!" the man cries. I turn to him. He looks into my eyes like the woman before him did. "Do you understand Him?"
"Who?" I ask.
"What's to understand?"
"He will save you."
"I am fine the way I am."
I walk away finally. The madness of the crowd is overhwelming. They are leaving too. I look over my shoulder and only a few remain at the foot of the empty cross. Empty. But the grave is full. I shake my head, shove my hands in my pockets and move on with my day. After all, it's just another day. Just another dead man. Isn't He?
WINNER OF JOANNE BISCHOF'S "Though My Heart is Torn" is: MELISSA ANDRES