Jerusalem (April6) – Jesus of Nazareth, who captivated the city’s religious faithful with soaring rhetoric and solemn proclamations, is dead. Confirmation came from the office of Gov. Pontius Pilot.
Jesus was convicted this morning on charges of blasphemy and heresy at the behest of High Priest Joseph Caiaphas of the Sanhedrin. With Jesus a citizen of Galilee, Tetrarch Herod Antipas was requested to determine proper jurisdiction. He returned Jesus to Governor Pilot, who pronounced judgment.
An unexplained twilight covered the city from noon until mid-afternoon when an earthquake rocked the region causing widespread damage. Rescue crews were searching downed buildings for survivors and many were treated for minor injuries.
Searchers identified the body of Judas Iscariot, who is alleged to have betrayed his mentor and rabbi Jesus to the Sanhedrin. A medical examiner said Judas apparently died from strangulation and other wounds at his own hand. He had no money or other personal effects.
Spokesmen in the Temple said the earthquake caused irreparable damage to the ancient sacramental veil, which prevented entry to the so-called “Holy of Holies,” except by High Priest Caiaphas. It dates to the original Temple of Solomon and cannot be replaced, scholars said, adding the implications could amount to a new direction for the Church.
The earthquake occurred simultaneous to the moment when Jesus, who had been nailed to the broad-beam cross, is said to have proclaimed in his native Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” translated as “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
The ground continued to rumble and the ominous sky provided a tragic backdrop for his final words, “It is finished.”
Two men convicted as thieves in the court also died later in the ritual crucifixion, their legs broken by Roman executioners. A defendant named Barabbas, who was to be sentenced for murder, was pardoned and released by Governor Pilot. It is a permitted legal move under Roman law. The choice of Barabbas at the crowd’s behest, effectively convicted Jesus, analysts said.
“Take him away,” Governor Pilot was quoted. “This man (Jesus) has done nothing. I wash my hands of any responsibility in this decision. It is yours to own.”
Mourners braved the unsettled conditions, flocking to Golgotha, just outside the Damascus Gate, to venerate the man many believe is the son of God. His admission to interrogators that he is “The Christ,” set the stage for final judgment demanded by the Sanhedrin.
One of the elite Praetorian Guard Centurions said he was awed by the spectacle of Jesus’ courage on the cross. He said, aside from the ordeal of having nails driven into his hands and feet to suspend him on the wooden cross, one of his soldiers stabbed him in the side with a spear and he was given vinegar on a sponge when he asked for a drink of water.
“Surely,” the Centurion proclaimed, “he is the son of God!”
A Praetorium spokesman said permission had been given by Governor Pilot for a man named Joseph of Arimathea to take custody of Jesus’ body. His death comes on what Jews identify as the day of preparation for the “Passover Shabat,” prompting the need for urgent burial. The others remained on their crosses as a threat to other potential criminals.
Joseph asked reporters to respect family and friends helping transport the body, which he wrapped in a linen cloth. The site included a tomb hewn from a rock formation which will be sealed after the body is prepared according to tradition.
Witnesses identified Jesus’ mother Mary, along with close friends Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Cleophas, who were at the crucifixion site, also known as Calvary. They were seen beginning a vigil at the tomb.
Governor Pilot ordered a 24-hour guard on the burial site to prevent Jesus’ followers from stealing the body and claiming that he had returned from the dead, as Jesus predicted would happen.
The eventful day began when the Sanhedrin rushed a shackled Jesus to Governor Pilot’s courtroom. According to Roman law, Jesus underwent a rigorous physical and emotional beating. He was stripped and a mock regal purple robe was wrapped around him. A soldier fashioned a crown out of sprigs from a thorn bush, saying it made Jesus officially “King of the Jews.”
Jesus, bleeding and weakened from his two-day-plus ordeal, was forced to carry the heavy cross the distance to Golgotha along the Roman decumanus maximus, main route across town. Jesus fell three times with his burden and was assisted at one point by a Cyrenian man named Simon. The cross was believed to have been constructed of either cedar or ubiquitous oil wood.
A crude sign was nailed at the top as Jesus’ cross was hoisted into position, proclaiming the same admonition, “King of the Jews.”
Of the two convicted men flanking Jesus’ cross, one taunted that if he was “The Christ” he should save himself. However, the other is said to have asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his “kingdom.”
Jesus is said to have answered, “This day you will be in paradise with me.” –©2012Norman M. Covert
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Originally published in The Covert Letter April 22, 2011. It is reprinted by request.