I was a Roman soldier. Part of the thrill of my job was getting the bad guy. I took pleasure in punishing those who deserved it.
It was difficult at first to watch someone get flogged. But, at the age of 15, when I got my first chance to try it myself, I developed a taste for blood. Spatter covered my armor, my arms and my face. I felt alive, like something deep inside me that had been sleeping had finally woken up.
I made friends with my fellow soldiers. Our favorite past time was going for drinks after a hard day at work and making fun of the poor bastards who had gotten the whip that day. We would take turns giving play by plays of our favorite moments.
We thought it was hilarious when our prisoners started crying. That just encouraged us to keep going. We made bets with each other as to how long it would take before we broke them. Most, never even made it through the first round.
Some started crying as soon as they saw the tools. Those were the best! The ones who started crying before we even touched them were usually the ones who messed their pants first too. We had so much power over these people. It was such a high. What a rush!
I loved my job and very few prisoners ever got to me. But, I remember one who did. This guy didn’t talk. We smacked him pretty good. We spit on him, and tried to rile him up, but he didn’t say a word.
“I give him 5 lashes” one of my buddies said.
“I don’t know, I think he’s tougher than he looks” I answered.
“He’d better be,” another one said. "He looks like he’s about to fall over right now."
This guy was something else. He never cried out at all during the lashing. Once we were finished with the whips, and he was still standing, we were ordered to scourge his naked back with a whip that had jagged metal tails at the end of it.
I was supposed to be enjoying this, but for some reason I wasn’t. What was I feeling? Maybe remorse? We had to take it easy and give him time to breathe in between each lash or he’d pass out.
Something happened to me as this man’s blood covered me. I felt weak. Something wasn’t right. That just made me mad, so I tore a piece of flesh from his side with my whip. What are you doing to me? I wanted to shout. He started to cry out then. The pain must have been intense.
We beat this guy almost to death. That wasn’t enough. The people weren’t satisfied. They wanted him crucified. So, we loaded him down with a cross, and along with two other criminals, he marched to a place called the Skull where they were to be put to death.
I walked with them, beating them every now and then along the way. This guy, this Jesus, kept looking at me as if he knew me. That made me even angrier and I took my anger out on him as he struggled down the street. “How dare you look me in the face!” I bellowed at him. “You think you know me?”
We nailed him to his cross, and cast lots for his clothes. I looked up at him and something broke inside me. I was never an emotional person, but as I listened to the priests hurling insults at him as he hung there, I wanted to weep.
Sometime, right before his death, he began to speak. I cocked my head to one side and I couldn’t believe my ears. “Father,” he croaked, barely able to make a sound. “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”(Luke 23:34 NIV)
Forgive who? I thought. Forgive me? You are up there forgiving me?
As his final breath escaped his lungs, the sky went black as night, the earth shook, and I knew. “Surely, this man was the Son of God!”(Mark 15:39b NIV) I bowed my head at his bloody feet, and I cried.
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