There had been so many crowds that followed the Lord, sometimes barely giving Him an opportunity to rest. There had been the 12 disciples and those closest friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as well. There were those He had healed, delivered, and set free. Where were they as Jesus struggled to move with the cross appointed for Him on Golgotha?
Did many fear to come be with Him now? Were they unable to look upon Him after the brutal beatings that He had endured throughout the long night and six trials? There is no question it would have been a brutalized Jesus on that trip from Pilate’s edict and the “place of the Skull”. Were they ashamed for not speaking out for Him and demanding another is set free by Pilate?
It was the Persians who had invented crucifixion, but arguably the Romans would be the ones to perfect it and make it an institution reserved for the worst criminals and lowest of the classes. By design, death on a cross came slowly and involved great pain and humiliation. Yet it was this death Jesus chose to sacrifice for those who would believe in Him and receive His gift of grace.
Many had committed to stand and stay with Him. Few recognized what that might mean or perhaps cost them. In the end there would be only a few at the foot of the cross to watch and wait with Him in his agony.
How unimaginable it would have been for his mother to see her Son’s body that had been savagely beaten, strips of flesh torn from his back, and long thorns piercing His brow. How hard to endure seeing this broken body being forced onto the rough surface of the cross and nailed there. Would the sound of the nails being pounded into his feet and wrists ever stop echoing in her head?
Various passages point to several other women waiting with her through the ordeal and of course, we know John was there was well. Apart from the soldiers with them, we are unsure of any others who would have been a follower of His.
We all make commitments and when we do so, hopefully we are sincere despite the hard truth that we may commit without counting or considering the cost. The challenge we each face is whether or not we will endure until the end.
Endurance, the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way, is evidence of character and a requirement for running the Christian race. We gain it through the process of enduring itself along with a resolve and grace to never give up in the face of the challenges.
It’s interesting to observe those who endured witnessing the last hours of Jesus on the cross. I confess that I cannot imagine the fortitude it took to watch the One I so loved dying this way.
But sometimes it is also true that those who end up enduring and remaining to the end may surprise you. Who would have suspected Joseph of Arimathea who had been a secret disciple would expose himself to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus and provide his own new tomb for His burial? But he did and he also must have known it was crucial it be a new tomb that was used. If it had been an old tomb used for another, some may have said Jesus had come back to life when He touched the bones of a prophet. So now, at the end, Joseph steps out of the shadows and honors the Master openly that He chose to follow secretly.
And then there was Nicodemus who had come to see Jesus by night. He appears to come alongside Joseph to prepare Jesus for burial and provide for all that would be needed. Now, at the end, he brought 75 pounds of a mixture of aloes and myrrh and appeared to help remove the body to Joseph’s tomb to use while they bound the body in linen grave clothes. He too steps into the light of day to honor the Lord.
To endure requires overcoming to follow to the end. When John pens the letters to the churches in Revelation, each one contains a promise to those who overcome…those who endure to the end.
Lord, grant us endurance to follow to the end, to overcome our fear and doubt, and press into your power to be counted upon to the end.