By Chuck Holmes
Over 15 years ago, I finished writing “Views of the Cross,” an Easter program for First Baptist Church of Tucker, Georgia. Their Sanctuary Choir performed it on Easter Sunday, 2002. Joe Turner wrote the additional music, and it was conducted by Peggy Ray.
Here is the story:
They came to Jerusalem from many nations for the celebration of the Passover. Thousands of them. In celebration of the night that God has spared the firstborn of the Hebrew families. Where the doorposts were marked with the blood of the lamb, the Angel of Death had passed over. On the day of that Passover, the stark shapes of three crosses stood on Golgatha. Two thieves. And Jesus of Nazareth. Thousands came to watch. Thousands came to view the cross—and to watch Him die. The one who was called the King of the Jews. Who said that He was the Son of God. And on that day—before the sun went down, and the Passover began—Jesus died. Of those around the cross, some just wandered away. Some felt relief. And some felt a terrible sadness. But none understood what they had just seen. On that Friday, Jesus died.
But it had been very different just five days before.
The Testimony of Lilith
Everybody was running down to the road. My father grabbed my hand, and we ran until the crowd was too thick to run any further. People were shouting and waving palms. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” they said.
“Hosanna,” they yelled. People were shoving all around me. My father picked me up so I could see. But what I saw was just a man, riding on a small donkey.
“This is the man who raised Lazarus,” someone said.
I watched him go by. Then I noticed that, no matter how loud the noise was or how the people crowded in, He was calm. He seemed to know just where He was going. I saw Him again. My father and I were in Jerusalem. Again the crowds were lining the road. And they were yelling. It was the same man. But He didn’t look the same. The blood was streaming down His face. The cross was pressing on His back. But no matter how loud the noise was, no matter how the people crowded in, He was calm. He seemed to know just where He was going.
I saw Him just one more time. We walked up the hill and watched them nail Him to the cross. Then we watched Him lifted up, up above the crowd. And we watched Him hang there.
The Testimony of Asher, the Money Changer
I had only seen this man once before. And it wasn’t pleasant then. I was sitting at my table, changing the foreign coins for the temple coins when suddenly there was a commotion. He was like a mad man, hitting people with a rope, and turning over tables. The doves escaped from their cages and the coins from my table rolled across the floor. He looked straight at me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such wrath. I thought He was going to kill me.
“You’ve turned my father’s house into a den of thieves,” He said. Then He kicked some of the coins away and left.
We had had mad men in the temple before. Two or three times a year some dirty, bearded prophet comes down from the hills and preaches in the temple court. He always says that God is going to destroy us. And then he’s gone. We’re still here. But this was different. When He looked at me, I could see His anger, but more than that, I saw a deep sadness. It made me almost ashamed—even though I didn’t know what I was ashamed of.
And then there was the day they arrested Him and brought Him to the temple for trial. There was no anger then. He didn’t shout. In fact, He didn’t say a word. But I saw it again. That great sadness, like He saw something in this world that no one else could see. It made me want to weep—even though I didn’t know what I would be weeping for. I was sorry that they killed Him. Crucifixion is a terrible thing. But He brought it on Himself. You can’t upset people’s lives the way He did. This was the way we’ve always done things. But some nights—in the dark—I remember seeing Him hanging on that cross. And I remember His eyes. And that great sorrow. That great, great sorrow.
The Testimony of Mary, Mother of Jesus
He was my son. All of His life I had known that He was not so much mine as God’s, but still—He was my son. I nursed Him. Joseph and I taught him. We were so proud of Him as He was growing up. Even the neighbors said that there was not another boy like Him. And then He left us. And when we—his brothers and I—went after Him, he sent us away. I don’t think I have ever been so hurt.
“Who are my mother and my brothers,” He said. Then He pointed to the crowd and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.” I cried. But sometime later, the rest of what He had said came to me. “Whoever does the will of God, that person is my mother, my brother, and my sister.” I understood. He was my son. But more than that, he was—he is—the Son of God.
I never knew that more than that day when I stood at the foot of the cross that they hanged Him on. The blood was running from the holes in His hands and His feet, and the sun was beating down us. I could hear the moaning of the men on each side of him. One of them tried to spit on the Roman soldiers, but his mouth and throat was so dry nothing would come out. But Jesus just looked down at me. And He looked at John, His disciple. “Woman, this is your son,” He said. And then—to John—He said, “This is your mother.”
There are many things that to this day I do not understand. I don’t understand why of all the women of Galilee, our Lord chose me. And I don’t understand why, in all of his pain and agony, Jesus would have a thought for me. But I do understand that Jesus had fulfilled the promise of the angel and the prophecy of the ancients. I knew, even as I stood at the foot of the cross among the soldiers and all the others, I knew even then—He was about his Father’s business.
The Testimony of Peter, the Disciple
If Jesus had not found me, nobody would remember me. I would have been just another fisherman. If Jesus had forgotten me, I would have been remembered, but as coward, a buffoon, one who pretended to be more than he was intended to be. This is Peter, who tried to walk on the water. And sank. This is Peter, who told Jesus not to talk about His death. And He scolded me. This is Peter, who tried to be brave when Jesus was arrested, but denied him not once, but three times. This is Peter, who saw the cross from a distance—because I was afraid. So afraid.
I don’t know if Jesus saw me crouching on the edge of the crowd, but I know He knew I was there. He knew so much about me. He knew that I was weak. He knew that I would deny him. He told me so. But He loved me. You know, when He told me that I would deny Him, the very next thing He said was, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in me.”
As I crouched at the edge of the crowd, I wept. I believed. No matter what I said, I still believed. And I saw him hanging there. If that had been the end of it, nobody would have remembered any of us. But it wasn’t. Jesus hanging on the cross became Jesus among us, the Jesus that rose from the dead. The Jesus, the Son of God, who promised us His spirit. I’m not afraid anymore. Jesus told me that He was going to his Father to prepare a place for me. And I’ll go there—when I have done all that He has for me to do here. This is Peter, who serves the resurrected Son of the Most High God.
The Testimony of Mary Magdaline
Jesus saved me. Long before that day, He saved me. I was mad, they said, possessed of seven demons. Jesus delivered me from the demons, and after that day, I followed Him. The women were gathered at the foot of the cross. There was Mary, his mother. Mary’s sister. And there were some others. We came, not out of courage, but out of sorrow. Here was one we loved. We watched as He drug the cross up the hill. And we watched as they drove the nails into His hands and His feet. I wanted to turn away. But I couldn’t. Here was someone who had done so much for me, and I could do nothing for Him, but be there and not turn away. Those cruel nails pierced His wrists—and then, His feet. When they raised the cross, the nails tore at His skin.
We stayed there until they pierced His side with the spear. Then we left, to find out from the Romans when we could claim Him and prepare His body for burial. It was on Sunday, very early, when we went to the tomb to prepare His body. When I got there I saw that the huge boulder that they had blocked the entrance to the tomb with had been moved away. The soldiers were nowhere to be seen. I ran and told Peter and John that someone had taken Jesus from the tomb. First, they had killed Him. Then they had taken Him.
The disciples ran to the tomb, and I just fell to the ground, weeping. Then somebody asked me, “Woman, why do you weep?” Without looking up, I told him that they had taken my Lord away. I looked up, and through my tears I saw this man. I asked Him if He knew where they had taken my Lord. Then He called me by name. “Mary.” And I knew who He was. This was Jesus, my Lord. And this is the day I remember. Not as He died. But as He lived, and stood before me.
The Testimony of Bar Aaron, the Thief
They crucified me, too. But I knew why. My life had not been worth much. I had been a rebel and a thief. But this man, Jesus, He had done nothing to deserve this. They tied us to the crosses—Caleb and me. They knew that the sun and suffocation would eventually kill us. But Jesus…Jesus they nailed to that wood.
For a while, Caleb and I were not in that much pain. We could hold our backs against the cross; we could breathe. Caleb spat on the soldiers, and called them names. Then he turned to Jesus, and laughed. “Well,” he said, “Aren’t you the Christ? Why don’t you save yourself and us as well”?
Jesus said nothing, so I answered him. I told him Jesus had done nothing to deserve this. Then I asked Him to remember me when He came into His kingdom. I don’t know why, but I knew that this cross, this death was not the end of Jesus. He turned to me and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Me. Who had done not one good thing, but this: I saw the Christ in Jesus. On that dreadful day, I saw Him face to face. I saw the Christ.
The Testimony of Thomas
My name is Thomas. You know me as the Doubter. I followed Jesus. I ate with him. I went among the crowds with Him. I was there when He fed the multitudes. But I am remembered for doubting, for saying that I had to touch His hands and the hole in His side. But that wasn’t just for me. It was also for you. I was there. I was there when He ministered to the poor and healed the sick. I was there when He was arrested. I was there at the cross. I watched Him die. I cried with the rest of them. But for the resurrection of our Lord to be real, it has to be real even to those who can only believe when they see the holes of the nails and the spear. For you I asked the question. For you, I touched His hands and His side. I am your witness.
I am Thomas. I am witness to the risen Lord, to the Christ who has conquered sin. To the Son of God who conquered death. I am witness that this day is in remembrance of God reaching down and lifting His only begotten son from the tomb, and bringing to me and to you salvation—from our sins and to eternal life.
I am Thomas. And I do not doubt. Jesus Christ is the risen Lord.