I was one of the six legionnaires chosen to escort Jesus and two thieves sentenced with him on the steep, rocky, narrow, twisty path to Golgotha, the place of crucifixion. There was a mounted centurion in charge. I was not looking forward to this journey because it was very difficult to move at all with the crowd pressing in on all sides, some cursing Jesus but quite a few weeping and praying for him. I just wanted to get it over although I had a good deal of sympathy for this man and did not think the sentence was justified. Jesus was a fine looking, strong man but he struggled when it came to taking the weight of the heavy cross for the first time and indeed after a few steps he twisted his leg on a stone and fell.
Then a great shout went up and Jesus’ mum, who many people called the Virgin Mary, was there reaching out to touch him. She was crying but although desperately moved with sorrow she was still dignified. You could only feel deep sympathy for her, seeing her dear son brought so low and treated so callously. It made me think of my sweet mum who I had not seen for nearly twenty years since the time we marched into Rome behind Caesar and I could see her smiling proudly.
Jesus was clearly exhausted. There was a diversion as an old bearded Cyrenean was enlisted to help Jesus bear his burden up the steep and uneven path. Although he looked frail the Cyrenean helped Jesus quite a lot. Then another diversion as an attractive young woman stepped forward and wiped the face of Jesus. I heard Jesus whisper his thanks to this woman called Veronica and saw he was smiling.
We were about half way now and I and the other members of the guard were exhausted; the Centurion kept lashing his horse to push through the dense crowd. Then Jesus fell a second time and the old Cyrenean was too exhausted to assist him any further. Nevertheless, Jesus seeing a crowd of women, many of whom he clearly knew, spoke words of encouragement and consolation to them, saying that he was going to his Father and his Father would welcome him into his mansion and later he would come and visit his followers on earth again. This seemed to placate the women who ceased their lamentations and sang songs of praise and exultation.
Jesus, clearly coming to the end of his tether, fell again.