barely recognized him. Bruised, bloody, beaten.
He stumbled under the weight of
the thick splintered cross. Wind tunneled down the narrow street,
billowing his blood-soaked robe. Flesh hung from his body, jagged,
ripped skin exposing the flayed muscle. She could see through to his
bones. Bile rose in her throat and tears streamed down her face.
What had they done to him? Why,
The man she loved, whose feet
she’d washed with her tears. They tried him as a common criminal.
Battered and humiliated him beyond recognition. For what? For loving
them? For healing them?
The jeering and mocking of the
crowd pounded in her head like the wild beating of drums and she wanted
to scream. “Stop! Leave him alone!”
Isn’t that how he had defended
her the night she’d washed his feet with her perfume? “Leave her
alone,” he commanded Judas and the others. “She’s done this for my
She knew then of his complete
acceptance, his unending love. His eyes never left her face. No man
ever looked at her the way he did. Pure. Without demand. Without
condition. Now, oh now, she dared to gaze upon him.
He’d fallen and his blood
stained the cobblestones.
“Get up!” The soldier drove his
foot into her Lord’s ribs.
Pain didn’t register on his
battered face. He tried to rise, but the cross tipped off his shoulder
and he stumbled again.
Help him, oh, please, someone,
Then, there, his hand, reaching
out to her. His eyes were swollen closed, but his hand, trembling, red,
and dripping, reaching. To her? His friend. My friend.
Carry the cross.” The soldier jerked a man from the crowd. He tripped
and fell before Jesus, but rose up and with such care, took up his
cross. Blood spread over the man’s clothes, stained his hands and feet.
Mary followed the procession to
the hill, weeping, helpless to stop the driving, pounding nails. The
ting of iron striking iron hanging in the cold air. They nailed his
hands, then his feet to the splintered tree. He flinched with each
blow, not once crying out.
he went, she now knew.
So innocent. So beautiful.
stood at the foot of his
cross, letting the blood fall on her skin. Jesus, gasping for each
breath, gazed down at her. There were others, crowding around, but she
felt as if he saw her alone.
He struggled to see through the
blood seeping from the piercing thorns. She dared to reach up and touch
his battered, pierced foot. He sighed when she touched him.
Any other time, any other man,
she would not have recognized him. But there, in his eyes, she saw her
true love. His lips parted. A smile. Did he smile? In the midst of such
suffering, he smiled. At her?
Now she understood, with every
part of her being, the purpose of this Man. More than the night she’d
wiped his feet with her hair. More than when she’d looked at his face
and he silenced her accusers.
Love. Complete and utter love,
without condition. Nothing could separate them now. Not even death.