I remember that night. It felt like the beginning of everything– everything new, beautiful, amazing. Glory filled the sky, and music, and joy. Peace on earth. Goodwill. My soul longed for it– craved peace. I ran to that stable, bowed before that beautiful promise. And oh, how I loved Him.
That is important, you know. You must never think that I did not love Him. Because I did.
The glow of that night filled me, for awhile. I told everyone I knew that heaven had come. Messiah. All God had promised through the years had happened– would happen– was happening.
Except it didn’t happen.
Years passed, and the world stayed dark as always. The peace and lightness my soul had known that amazing night in Bethlehem disappeared, not in a sudden showy act, but in a slow fade that I didn’t notice until one day they were just gone. Gone. Like the baby of the manger. All was sin and cold and darkness.
I heard one day that a new teacher was gathering followers by the day. His disciples said He was the Son of God. I wondered . . . tried to push thoughts of angels and music and black-eyed babies to the back of my mind . . . but they would not be pushed away. I had to know. I found Him by the river, teaching in a voice both commanding and compassionate, and before He had finished His story I knew. This man– He was Messiah. He was our hope. That day I gave up everything and followed Him, and oh, how I loved Him.
His teachings were revolutionary. That didn’t surprise me, because He was here to change the world. Soon He would sit on David’s throne, and all the world would know. All the world. Sometimes, though, doubts crept in. I never doubted my love for Him, nor of the truth of who He was. But I did not understand His words. So much about love.
Not that I did not see the importance of love. I have already told you that I loved Him. But I knew He must come to judge. He must. All the years of injustice, of oppression, of cruelty– surely He would avenge His own people!
And I wondered, too, sometimes, what He was waiting for. Take the throne, I wanted to tell Him. Be the King. It is who we want You to be.
I did not understand His plan.
There was one day when I was sure He was about to overthrow the corrupt rulers, show them who He was, give up healing the sick and poor and forgiving the dregs of society and declare Himself King. I admit, I was growing tired of following a man who was clearly so powerful, so good, so truly God, and yet who insisted on dining with prostitutes and tax collectors and all sorts of scum. Him, I loved. I had difficulty loving the dirt He walked in, though.
But this day, He rode into Jerusalem and the people shouted and waved branches and laid their cloaks in the road before Him. Hosanna! Hosanna! My shouts rang among the rest. You cannot fathom my joy. Finally, His day had come. The people would see who He was, and they would follow Him. And those who didn’t would be destroyed. I knew it.
I’m not sure what happened next. The day continued in a blur. It was Passover, and Jerusalem was packed with people. I lost track of Him amid the crush. I assumed He was busy plotting the overthrow of Rome. I waited and wondered.
It seemed that all I ever did was wait.
And as I waited, I felt my heart begin to change.
Why hadn’t He overthrown evil long ago?
Why hadn’t He rewarded His faithful followers– like me– with knowledge of His plan? Didn’t He know how much I could advise Him; how worthwhile my own ideas were? Didn’t He understand how much I had given up for Him?
How could He justify spending all His time among worthless, unclean people? Why would someone like Him waste precious time and energy on those who had nothing to offer Him?
How dare He not meet my expectations?
Where was He right now?
I ate Passover in gloom and darkness of soul. I had been a fool to follow such a man. I hated myself– hated Him and all He stood for. I didn’t care if He were the Messiah. There had been a plan– there had been promises– He had not followed through.
A clamor in the streets brought me to the window, and that is where I heard the news. They were going to crucify Him. I was angry. All my love had turned to hatred and I was done with this carpenter and His promises and His “love your neighbor” propaganda. I flew from the room, down the stairs, out to the street. I became a part of the mob, shouting and raging against what we did not understand.
“Release Barabbas!” I screamed with the rest! “Let His blood be on our heads!”
Oh, let His blood be on our heads.
Pilate washed his hands of the entire thing; released Him to the Roman guards. I was on the Roman side now. For once they were doing something right. I followed the mob to the skull hill, right to the edge of where Jesus was walking up the dirty road. Well, not walking as much as stumbling. He was barely human now. Bloody and raw, flesh ripped from bone, rivers of blood and dirt flowing down His torn face. He fell again and again under the weight of the splintered wood upon His back.
And I was glad. I laughed. I spat in His face as He faltered before me. I had no compassion for Him now. No love. Just pure wrath and malice. I spat again, kicked the dirt into His face, cursed His name. I stared defiantly into His eyes and found there only love. I screamed and raged and cursed again. Still He labored along the path up the hill.
I heard His agony when they pierced His hands and feet with cruel sharp spikes. I laughed along with the crowd when they put up a sign proclaiming this unrecognizable lump of flesh “King of the Jews.”
Don’t you see? I laughed. I cursed. I might as well have hammered in those nails myself.
It was all because of me.
He cried out that we might be forgiven, that we didn’t know what we were doing.
Bleeding and suffering and dying, He was forgiving.
He looked at me, standing there in that crowd, His blood on my head, and He forgave. And then He cried out again and He was dead.
I had nightmares that night. I could see His dying face in my dreams, the blood and dirt and cruel horror of it all. I felt my own hand reaching out to strike Him, felt the heaviness of the hammer in my hand as I drove the spikes deeper, deeper. I heard my hysterical voice screaming in hatred at the One I had loved so deeply.
I had not understood what I had loved.
I still did not understand.
But I knew this: His blood was on my head. And yet He forgave.
You cannot imagine my grief. I didn’t know who this man had been. I did not understand why He had allowed them to crucify Him. I had seen miracles. I had seen His power. I had loved Him. I had killed Him.
Never doubt that. It was I who killed Him. My actions. My hatred and cruelty that had laughed and mocked and slain.
A few days passed in sackcloth and ashes. I was desperate to understand, but He was gone. I had no one to turn to. I was alone, the killer of Jesus; and my dreams were haunted, and I saw His face before my eyes even in waking.
And then– a knock on my door. A soft call of my name.
I was imagining it, of course. That voice– that voice. It would never say my name again. Again I felt the blood spraying from open wounds on my unclean hands. I could never wash myself enough.
My name– my name– I heard it again. A bit louder this time, more insistent. A louder knock. It would not be ignored. I was dreaming, dreaming a horrific dream but I must open the door. I stumbled across the room, pulled the door open, and He was there.
He was there.
And He was alive. I had no doubt. This was no dream.
I fell to the floor in anguish of soul, weeping, begging for His forgiveness, begging to be absolved, begging– begging. I was the dust I had so often criticized Him for loving. I saw that now.
He would not leave me there, face down before Him. He could have. I deserved it. But He didn’t.
Strong hands lifted me, strong hands pierced through with my evils, strong hands mighty to save. Afraid I lifted my eyes to His, and I saw grace. Grace.
This was His plan. So much better than mine.
“My blood is on your head, on your hands, on your heart,” He said gently. “It will make you clean. Believe in me. All is forgiven. The price is already paid.”
And oh, how I loved Him.
And oh, how He loves me.