Download the eBook and a Printable Version of A Kid at the Crucifixion
You can download and print this story to share with others or download to your device as an eBook. Just enter your email address to receive it electronically:
Part 2 of A Kid at the Crucifixion
My fists were clenched. I was angry. The Romans needed to pay for this.
Then to my surprise a Roman centurion, who led many if not all of the other soldiers there, said something I will never forget. He was in awe staring at Jesus up on the cross. He didn’t look at Jesus the way the kids looked at me earlier in the day. He wasn’t looking with pity or with disgust. He was in complete awe.
“This man was innocent,” he said pointing to Jesus. “Truly, this man was the Son of God!”
From the look on his face, he meant it, too. I could see the shame he felt for what they had done.
“You there,” said the centurion. “Stop!” He was shouting at one of his men who was going around breaking the legs of the men who were crucified with Jesus. The soldiers did this to make sure they were dead.
“Take your lance and cut his side. This will prove he is dead,” the centurion ordered him. When the soldier pierced his side, Jesus’ body did not flinch. Instead blood and water poured out from the wound.
At this the centurion dropped down to his knees. I couldn’t hear what he said or if he said anything at all, but there were tears in his eyes. I wondered if he was praying.
I had never seen a Roman solider show such weakness. He was supposed to be mean and tough. His men were all there looking up to him. How could those soldiers follow such a weak man now? How could they follow a man so easily brought to tears?
And yet, the other soldiers seemed to change, too. They had mocked Jesus all this time. They had hurt him beyond anything I could imagine. Yet, now they showed remorse. They showed sorrow for what they had done.
The men were all quiet now. They did nothing.
I didn’t know what to think of this. I had never seen the soldiers act in this way. These men were fierce. They took no pity on us. They were here to rule over us and punish us when we stood up to them.
Were they really sorry?
Was I really ready to forgive them?
Then they started to take down the men from the cross. When they came to Jesus, they took him down very gently and so very different from the way they elevated him on the cross.
A man came up to the soldiers and introduced himself as Joseph. He had written proof that Pilate had given him permission to take care of the body. Joseph wrapped the body in linen cloth. He carried Jesus’ body away with the help of some of Jesus’ followers. Everyone was silent. None of them cursed the Romans or showed any sign of anger at all. They were acting just like Jesus, but they were very sad. They looked only upon Jesus’ body as they carried him away. To my surprise, the Roman centurion and other soldiers looked on in sadness, too.
I followed them. I figured that I had come that far and I might as well see this to the end. I followed them down from the hill and away from there.
The women who were there with Jesus’ mother followed behind, too. I stayed out of sight. After awhile the men carrying Jesus body came to the burial place. They took Jesus body into a stone tomb. After a little while, they came out without the body and together they rolled the heavy stone across the entrance. They stood there in silence for a few moments, then departed.
The women came and sat down facing the tomb in silence. I was still at a distance so that they couldn’t see me, but I could hear them. They were praying. They were praying about mercy, not for themselves but for the many people that day who had condemned Jesus and put him to death.
They prayed for chief priests and elders.
They prayed for the crowd of people who came to Jesus’ sentencing.
They prayed for Pilate.
They prayed for revolutionaries who died with Jesus.
They prayed for people I did not know who had abandoned Jesus. The way they spoke of them, it made me think these men were Jesus’ close friends and followers.
Finally, they prayed for the Romans. They asked God to be merciful on them who had killed him.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All day long I had seen Jesus and his followers let the Romans hurt them. They beat Jesus. They mocked him. How could these women possibly ask God to be merciful?
When Jesus died, I felt no mercy for anyone. I felt only anger. Then the Roman centurion showed his sorrow. He even called Jesus the Son of God.
Now these women were asking for God to be merciful. What good was this mercy if the Romans continued to arrest and kill us? What good are all these prayers if this is what happens even to the innocent among us?
When the women finished their prayers, they stood and went away. It was getting late. It was almost the Sabbath now and I needed to get back home to my family for the day of rest.
As I left from the tomb, I remembered how much pain I was in. I had nearly forgotten about the fight I got into this morning with the Roman soldier’s son. I could only imagine what I must have looked like hobbling along as I made my way back to my house.
I was nearly home and it was getting late when I saw a crowd of young boys standing around in the street. As I got closer, I saw the half-Roman in the center of a circle. He was on the ground with a bloody face. I looked around and I saw one of my brothers there standing over top of him. He kicked dirt in his face and spit on the boy.
“Stop!” I said.
This was a stupid thing to say. My brother Judas looked up and saw me for the first time. “Jonathan? Is that you?” he said.
“Stop,” I said again. This time more forcefully.
My brother just looked at me confused. Then he seemed to understand. He smiled. “Oh, you want your piece of him, don’t you?” he said. “Go ahead take your shot. He’s ready for your revenge.”
“Huh?” I said.
“Your revenge. I caught this kid bragging about beating you up this morning. We’re teaching him a lesson: never mess with the Jews again,” my brother said. “Go ahead. Do your worst.”
I looked down at the boy. First, I thought of what I must have looked like this morning. I remembered all the people standing around staring at me or laughing at me. I looked up and saw friends smiling and pointing at the kid.
I looked back down at the boy again and I thought this time of Jesus. He never said a word to the Romans for beating him and mocking him. He was innocent yet he let himself be punished brutally.
Then I thought of the Roman soldiers after Jesus died. They were changed. They were different. Jesus’ death had changed them. It was mercy, not revenge that could free us from their oppression.
“No,” I said looking up at my brother. Then I walked over to the boy and extended my hand to help him up.
The half-Roman boy just scowled at me. He didn’t take my hand. Instead, he stood up wincing in pain as he stared at me. Then, he walked passed me shoving me with his should as he limbed by. My brother stepped up to go after him, but I put my arm out to stop him. “No,” I said again. “Let him go.”
My brother gave me the most disappointed look I had ever seen. Without a word, he broke away from my grip and headed for home. I followed behind him.
“He’s a coward!” I could hear my brother Judas shouting this to my parents and brothers as he entered the home. I walked inside shortly after him. My parents saw me for the first time.
“What happened?” my mother said.
“He is a coward! That’s what happened,” Judas said.
I said nothing in response.
My father turned to me. “What do you have to say for yourself?” he asked.
“Who did this to you?” my mother said touching the blood on my tunic.
“It was that half-Roman kid,” Judas said. “He beat Jonathan up this morning. I found him and let him feel what it was like to get beaten and bloodied.”
“Yeah, and?” said my older brother Simon.
“And this coward didn’t do anything about it. He could have gotten his revenge and proven that we Jews don’t take this from any Roman. Instead he just let the kid go. It was an embarrassment.”
“Why would you do that?” asked my mother.
I thought for a moment. “If we want things to change–if we want the Romans to change, then we have to do things differently. We can’t win in a fight, but we can change them.”
“What are you talking about?” my brother Mattathais said.
“I’m talking about Jesus,” I said.
“Jesus? You mean that blasphemer who was crucified today?” said my mother.
“He didn’t say any blasphemy. He didn’t say anything at all. He was innocent and they crucified him,” I said.
“All the more reason to revolt,” said Simon.
“No. That’s not what this was about,” I said to them. “Jesus wasn’t starting a revolution. He wasn’t like Barabbas or the other men crucified today. He was innocent. When he died, the Romans changed. I saw it with my own eyes. I heard what they said.”
“You were there?” asked my mother.
“Yes, I was there when they crucified him. I was there when they laid him in a tomb. He didn’t fight back. He never fought back,” I said.
“So he’s a coward, too,” said Judas.
“No,” I said. “It was the most courageous thing I have ever seen. He was anything but a coward.”
“Well he’s dead now, so what does it matter?” said Simon. “I say we join Barabbas and start another revolt. I say we give those Romans a fight they will remember.”
“Yeah,” my other brothers said together.
“No,” I said in reply. “It won’t work. They will just hate us more.”
“You’re weak and you’re a coward,” said Judas. “Just like Jesus.”
I lunged forward to hit him when I realized it was wrong. That’s not what Jesus did. Instead I just said, “You say so.”
I turned and went off alone inside our house. I felt more alone than ever. It was going to be a long day of rest.
When the Sabbath had ended, I left the house. I didn’t plan to return. Maybe someday, but I didn’t see how my family would ever accept me again.
I don’t know why, but I made my way back to the tomb where Jesus was buried. I thought about all the suffering he had gone through. I thought about all the mockery he had to face. It was so different from everything I had ever been taught.
I arrived at the tomb of Jesus. To my surprise, the stone the men had rolled over the entrance had moved. The tomb was open!
I ran down to the tomb to take a closer look. I stood at the entrance to the tomb, but I didn’t go in. I saw beside the entrance two Roman soldiers.
“What did you do with him?” I said to the soldiers. I realized then that they were shaking in fear. They were lying on the ground with pale faces.
They looked up at him. “He . . . he’s not in there,” said one of the guards.
“Well, where is he?” I asked.
Another guard spoke, “We . . . we don’t know. We never saw him leave.”
“What did you see?” I asked but the men were silent. They were too afraid to speak.
Finally one of them said, “He is not here. He has been raised.”
“Raised?” What do you mean?” I asked.
“We have to go to tell the priests,” said one of the guards who stood now with a little more color in his face. “We must tell all that we have seen.”
“What did you see?” I asked again.
“Go see for yourself,” said another soldier. Then, the men walked back towards the city with a noticeably shaky walk.
I turned and slowly walked into the tomb. There was nothing there but the burial cloths that the man Joseph had used to wrap up Jesus’ body.
Jesus was not here. The guards said he was raised. Did he mean raised from the dead?
“Truly,” I said remembering the words of the Roman centurion. “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”
I ran home as fast as I could. I didn’t care if my family was still disappointed in me. They needed to hear the good news about Jesus. We were all wrong. I had seen Roman soldiers tremble in fear. I had seen them weep in sorrow. I had seen them change.
We didn’t need to start a revolution from the Romans. The revolution had already begun in the hearts of the men who saw Jesus the Christ. If my family could just see and witness this for themselves, surely they would change, too. Surely, we would all change if we met the Son of God who died and rose from the dead.
All I could think as I ran home to tell them was, “Alleluia! Praise be to God!”
And I didn’t care what they thought of me when I told them the story.
For more stories like this one, sign up for the Formative Fiction Newsletter.