83 – Procession to Crucifixion
Where: Jerusalem, Judea
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Pilate’s order was carried out almost immediately. An execution squad of four solders was organized. Since Jesus was to be crucified now, the Romans decided to execute two “other” criminals at the same time. There had been some concern that Pilate was crucifying them during the Judean Passover, but Pilate believed that it sent a strong message, and that there was little chance of a riot because the Judean Jews would be busy celebrating their Passover.
The squad gathered the three criminals to be crucified and assigned the 100-pound wooden crossbeams for each to carry. The beams were tied to their shoulders, and then the criminals were lined up. Then began the procession, with Jesus, as the most important criminal, to be the first of the prisoners leading the procession.
As the procession moved through the streets of Jerusalem, some people lined the way. Some were supporters of the religious leaders, and they verbally assaulted Jesus. Some had been followers of Jesus, and they cried with this injustice. Some shopkeepers and their customers were curious, while others who just happened to be walking down the street, were forced to stop and wait until the condemned went past.
As the procession left the “Seat of Judgment” in the public square west of the Fortress of Antonia western gates [model], it became quickly obvious that Jesus was far too weak. The guard had not been sufficiently careful. Jesus staggered repeatedly and the wood gouged his exposed muscles. Jesus was kicked to “encourage him” to get up and keep moving, but though he tried, and did in fact go a short distance, he eventually fell down and could not rise.
So one of the guards picked a man from the crowd, who looked strong, to carry the crossbeam of Jesus to the site of the execution. They happened to pick a foreign Jew who had come to Jerusalem for the festival, from the North African city of Cyrene, west of Egypt. He had rented a place outside the city and had come into Jerusalem today to worship at the temple.
The solders untied the crossbeam from Jesus, and Simon picked it up and joined the procession right behind Jesus. Simon had a vague sense of who Jesus was, but little suspected that this “random selection” would radically change his life as well.
Most of the people were sorry that the Romans were executing these Jews. The local women expressed their anguish with loud cries and other physical displays, such as hitting themselves with their hands. Jesus became aware of these expressions of sorrow, and he tried to reach out to them. As he walked past them he tried to warn them. ‘My suffering is ending, cry for Jerusalem. A time is coming, soon, when you will wish for death to release you from the suffering.’
Jesus led the convicted through the gate in the west wall [model], just north of the three towers [model] near the Palace of Herod, to the site [model] where the crucifixion would occur. The place was called Golgotha, the place of the skull, which was the site of a rock quarry [model]. Golgotha was at the northern extension of the Valley of Hinnon that had served as the city dump.
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