A mockery of justice hidden behind locked doors in the dark of night. The accused is silent, sorrowful, as a parade of puppet-witnesses stream before him. No sooner is one word said than another contradicts it. The judges are starting to look more guilty than the defendant. Their faces are grim and their hands clenched into tight fists hidden by the wide sleeves of their black robes. They can feel him slipping from their fingers as yet another bumbling drunkard fouls up a well-rehearsed story.
Finally someone stands up, “I heard him say he can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”
“I heard that too,” another seconds.
At last they have something to work with. It isn’t much, but it’s something. “Well?” the high priest leers at the prisoner. “What about these charges brought against you? Aren’t you going to answer them?” But still he is silent. In a rage the high priest walks right up to him, close enough to see the tear stains on his dusty cheeks from his anguished vigil in the garden. “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
He fancies he sees a little fear or hesitation in the prisoner’s eyes. He is trapped. There is nothing he can say that will not condemn him. But when the prisoner speaks there is no fear, only deep dignity in his voice. “Yes, it is as you say. But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
An indignant glee fills the high priest. This is even better than he’d hoped. He turns to his fellow judges. “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” And he tears his robes in righteous anger.
Slowly they stir themselves out of their shocked silence. “He is worthy of death!” “Kill him!” One or two mumble “Let him go.” A few are silent. No one notices them as the accusers grow bolder and louder. A tall, thin man, a long-time member of the Council, rises to his feet. All eyes are on him as he walks over to the prisoner and slaps him. That is all they need. Pandemonium erupts as they fall on the man like beasts. Those who were quiet or wanted him released slink quietly away, glad of the darkness to mask their departure, horrified at the savagery they’ve seen.
Once the holy men reach their decision the rest goes quickly. It is a simple matter to stir up the people and convince the barbaric Gentiles to let them crucify him. There is blood on their hands as they watch with cruel delight as the Gentiles go even further than they’d dared. They strip the man, scourge him, and push a crown of thorns onto his pain-creased brow. The only thing to dampen their joy is the man’s silence. He will not retaliate, though they mock him horribly. A few more slip into the shadows. Those that remain are practically drooling, thirsty for blood.
Now the long awaited moment. Not even the man can remain silent as they drive nails through his wrists and feet. His cries are music to their ears. The soldiers raise the wooden cross and drop it into the prepared hole. The man groans. His entire body trembles in agony. Let it tremble, he has caused them enough trouble with his bold words. Hypocrites! Whitewashed tombs! A nice long death will appease justice.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
The gentle statement inflames them. Don’t they know what they are doing? One of the younger members of the Council picks up a stone to throw at him, but the others caution him, “The people are watching.” Reluctantly he lets it fall.
A little later a horrible anguish overtakes the man. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he cries as if his heart has been torn out. They smile coldly. Let it be known that blasphemy is punishable by death. Let it be known this man was not a prophet. God does not abandon prophets.
Not long after, a final shudder runs through him. “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
“Redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth,” one of the Council murmurs, recognizing the psalm.
The man dies.
The curtain is torn.
Oh God, what have we done? Forgive us, Father, we murdered your Son!