Then and Now (a reflection)

Copyright © Larry Johnson 2019

There are from time to time moments of stillness that intersect our lives. To sit, looking out a window and drift into pensiveness. It was not long ago that such an event occurred for me. My thoughts were thus.

Waking one morning I heard the sound of a crowd in the distance. Although it resonated from afar, I marked it as a rather raucous congregation. Daybreak was fresh with the scent of spring flowers and my initial inspiration was to peacefully while away the morning in the mild warmth of the sun. The intention was disturbed however by the increase in volume of the aforementioned crowd. I resolved then to satisfy my curiosity, and so after readying myself, commenced a stroll toward the direction of the tumult. It was a beautiful morning for meandering; a cobalt blue sky with wisps of cloud here and there; a cool zephyr intermittently refreshing the face and breath. The road to the city was gentle enough and offered a path of little exertion, until when approaching it I happened on a hill with considerable incline. However any labour encountered was over shadowed by my curiosity and the increasing volume of the crowd. On attaining the peak of the hill, it became clear as to the reason for the turbulence.

An enormous gathering was entering the gates of the city; and while the sight might have appeared somewhat discouraging in terms of my journey’s continuation, my curiosity was far more persuasive. There was much remonstration, observable even from such a distance and becoming evidently more menacing as I approached. I was then permeated with some level of trepidation and my instinct was to return home. Nonetheless, the point had been reached that to do so would be of no avail. The images now observed would only remain with me and the sense of intrigue would bear the fruit of restlessness for the remainder of the day. I then resolved to join the crowd as it pushed its way through one of the city gates. There were alternate entrances but I thought it well to enter by the first one encountered; for all I knew the other accesses would be no different.

Once inside, the multitude jostled for positions along the roadway. The crowd stood many numbers deep and I soon discovered that the chatter was a mixture of anger, sorrow, and bewilderment. Some distance away there seemed to be sound of cracking whips, followed by a roar of the crowd at the conclusion of each strike. As the mass lurched along I was able to writhe my way towards the front of the throng; almost to road’s edge. From here I could descry a man engaged in the laborious task of carrying a wooden cross. At the time of first sighting he was approximately thirty or so paces from my position; and even at this distance the anguish and brutality of his treatment could be clearly seen. Closer did he come, and I could distinguish drops of blood dripping to the ground. The man staggered and the cross teetered one way and then returned the other jolting his head, and with the latter being surrounded by rings of thorned branches, drove the vine deeper still. Blood continued seeping gently down the horizontal bar of the cross to the pavement as gentle rain falls to earth. At once he fell and it appeared would expire directly.

A woman dressed in blue breached the line of soldiers that marked the edge of the road. One tried to restrain her but another encouraged it not. The woman’s eyes were gushing tears as she hurried to the man’s side. As she stroked his head and gently wiped away some of the blood, they engaged in conversation of which, due the continual noise of the crowd, I was unable to hear. I could not but feel intense sorrow for both; it was no doubt his mA short time passed. My eyes were fixed on them when both looked up and engaged my attention. At that moment it was like unto a dagger piercing both mind and heart and the following words apprehended my thoughts:

This is being done for you O man
And your brothers and sisters alike,
This is what your sins have done,
My suffering for them to cleanse.
This is what I do for you,
What is it that you shall do for me?

It wasn’t anger I saw in their gaze: it was more of pity and affection. Perhaps it was even of a plea that I would understand this suffering, undertaken freely and with love. I began to quake within and without; and my mind became heavy with sorrow. I hadn’t known this man that had now revealed in total clarity my weaknesses, the darkness within me: my sin. I fell to my knees and wept bitterly.

I could still could but faintly hear the crowd, notwithstanding the pressing of the multitude. My disposition was a distraction from the unruliness present all around. At last I again became aware of my surroundings and rose to my feet; but the man with sorrow and love in his eyes was there no longer. The lady in blue had also gone; both were out of view. Frozen where I stood the crowd had forced its way around me; and with head bowed I knew not where to go or whether I had the strength to move at all.  

I am not aware of how much time had lapsed since the assemblage had departed. It seemed for that moment I had no sense of time at all. Making my way then through the city gate, I again descried the gathering: and although perhaps not so large now, was standing atop of the hill. Exhausted, I sat down on the ground and rested against the city wall. Again, the yelling rose to fever pitch and three crosses with men nailed to them I saw raised high. The people were gathered around the middle cross and I was of no doubt that this was the man with sorrow and love in his eyes that I had seen a short time ago.

It was some time that I waited there, but how long was not calculable to me. I had seen the skies grow dark, thunder raise its mighty voice and lightning spear the earth. The ground shook: but I could not move, and it was as if the wall of the city might fall upon me. Nonetheless, still fixated was I on the man nailed to the cross on high.

The exhaustion I felt was great; such a short moment in my life these past hours but so drained did they leave me. My focus was once more restored and I beheld the dusk full in measure. Over on the hill I observed the lady in blue gently cradling the gentle man who had now obviously passed away. I could hear her crying and her tears became infectious to me. The lady then released the man to some others who carefully wrapped him in some sheets. Lifting him up, they carried the man away, down the hill and out of sight. I rose from the ground and made my way home, with such heaviness as I am not adequately able to relate.

Still staring out the window, my mind slowly returned to the present day; my muse awakened by the sound of passing traffic. The thoughts experienced seemed so real, and as I gradually drifted back from unhindered daydreaming to purposeful reflection, I wondered of those words I heard him say then: and what they really mean to me now:

 This is being done for you O man 
And your brothers and sisters alike,
This is what your sins have done,
My suffering for them to cleanse.
This is what I do for you,
What is it that you shall do for me?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s