The soldier looked back to the valley behind then back up the path he was on;
ahead on the bend, near a fork in the road, sat a man in the afternoon sun.
The Roman continued to walk up the path and choked on the dust as he passed.
He longingly looked at the water the man was drinking ahead on the grass.
The man was a Jew, it was easy to see, but thirst and the length of his walk
caused him to stop and look on the man; to ask for a drink and to talk.
The man only smiled and motioned him down and gave him the wineskin to use;
the water was cool and opened his heart, and he thought of the “King of the Jews.”
He turned to the man and saw him smile and the soldier remembered how meek
the man who had died just a few days before had been, and he started to speak:
“I thank you”, he said as he gave back the skin, “I’ve been traveling such a long time
to flee from events at Jerusalem, and leaving my post is a crime.”
The silent man nodded that he understood, and the soldier continued his tale:
“I could not tarry there; we had murdered a god!” and the memory caused him to pale.
“I had gone with some others to go apprehend a man we’d been told was a threat;
And saw him betrayed with a cursory kiss, on a cheek wet with scarlet sweat.
A servant reached out to hold to the man and swiftly a follower’s blade
hit the priest’s servant nigh’ unto the head and took off his ear in the trade.
But then, with a touch, the prisoner did what’s never been done by a man —
the bleeding was staunched; the ear was restored! — Then his awful ordeal began.”
The Roman reflected on what had occurred and looked to the Jewish man’s face;
with a shake of his head he said to the man, “His trial was an utter disgrace.
Illegally held, they took this man to Annas who questioned his case.
The man, Jesus, answered without any guile, and was needlessly smote on the face.
Annas sent him to Caiphas next, as part of their envious plot,
and as we took him outside in the street, I saw one familiar I thought.
I broke from the group and turned to the fire and heard from those I approached;
that the man they addressed was connected with him whom the priests now held in reproach.
‘Surely thou art one of them?’ they said to a solemn and thoughtful Jew,
‘Thou art from Galilee.’ they said. ‘Thy speech agreeth thereto.’
The man they examined cursed and swore and raved at the very thought.
‘I know not the man!’ he growled at the group, and then came the crow of a cock.
Even from where I was standing, I saw the man go as white as a sheet.
He turned to your King who now looked back and the man fled and started to weep.
I ran to the group to go with your King and accompanied them to the place
of Caiphas, the chief priest over the Jews, to continue the trial of disgrace.
Caiphas questioned the silent man, ‘Art thou truly the Son of the Blessed?’
‘Thou has said’, he replied, and I shivered at that and a glow warmed a fire in my breast.
‘Blasphemy !’ cried the furious host. ‘This man is condemned to death!’
And we took him away and bound him up, and the others cursed him under their breath.
They stripped him bare, and put on him a robe and crown of thorns,
and spat on him as they slapped his face and issued scoffs and scorns.
‘Prophesy !’ they taunted him from beyond his covered eyes.
‘Tell us who did smite your face, if you’re so very wise.’
We took him next to Pilate, the governor to see.
But the charge was changed to sedition then, not that of blasphemy.
But Pilate found no fault in him, no reason to condemn,
and sent the case to Herod’s court and put us out again.
Herod asked him many questions, but Jesus answered none,
so hit again and beaten down they mocked the silent one.
Herod had not one small charge to hold to him at all
and so he sent us back again to Pilate for the call.
According to custom on that day, Pilate offered to set him free,
but yet incited by the priests, the mob sent up their plea:
‘Crucify the man’, they said, and Pilate’s heart took dread
for he knew the priests and Jews for envy sought him dead.
‘Why?’ cried Pilate in disbelief, ‘The man has done no ill!’
‘So I will scourge him as I wish then set him free at will.’
‘No !’ the mob cried once again, ‘Our king he wants to be!
We have no king but Caesar! You can not set him free!
If you release this man, this enemy of Rome,
you are no friend of Caesar and have no place at home.’
I watched as Pilate summoned a towel and water bowl
and washed his hands symbolically, to try and clean his soul.
His blood is on your heads,’ he said. His voice was full of fear.
That rabble took responsibility, but the water still was clear.
We took the man and tied him to a pillar in the square
and with our whips with metal tips we whipped and scourged him there.
The other soldiers mocked the man and spat upon his face
then took and put him on the path and put his cross in place.
He laboured under the heavy weight and stumbled on his way,
until we seized a man to come and carry it away.
He slowly walked up to the hill where the crosses would be set
and humbly lay upon the beam, stripped bare with arms outstretched.
The heavy nails were placed against the wounded man’s warm wrists,
and with a blow couldn’t watch were hammered through his fists.
His feet were placed one on the other and the wicked nail hit wood;
then the wooden cross was lifted up, and with a jarring thump it stood.
Above his head, a mocking sign proclaimed to all, the news
that we had nailed upon a cross the King of the Jews.
A form of kindness, I suppose, if ever a thing could be,
was offering the man a drug to dull his agony.
Yet Jesus refused the bitter drink and bore the pain alone,
and hung and suffered on the cross in thirst without a groan.
The people passed and shook their heads and mocked the dying man.
‘Save yourself’ the people jeered, ‘Save yourself if you can.’
A fellow sufferer, by his side, demanded rescue too,
If you are truly King, command that we be spared with you.
But yet another, opposite, requested mercy when
They all had died, and sought a place with Jesus up in heaven.
‘Lord, think of me,’ the thief implored, ‘when entering thy kingdom.’
‘I promise,’ Jesus said to him, ‘beyond, we’ll meet again.’
Jesus looked down on the crowd of those with anguished eyes
and looked upon the woman who had raised him up to size.
“‘Woman behold thy son,’ he cried, then turned to another friend
‘Behold thy mother’, Jesus said, to care for his mother in the end.
As fellow soldiers cast their lots upon his clothes and cloak,
darkness gathered on the scene and mocking people joked.
Jesus then spoke again. His words were soft and true.
‘Father forgive them.’ I heard through the din. ‘They know not what they do.’
And then a pause; I saw him pale, his agony increased.
I could tell that he must be where the worst pain was released.
He seemed to shake and twist a bit, as though the pain that rages
was equal to, or greater than, the pain of all the ages.
He closed his eyes; the worst had come.’Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’
In Aramic he cried to heaven, ‘Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me?’
The pain subsided, Jesus calmed, and slowly, his life diminished.
He loudly cried up to the sky, ‘Father, it is finished.’ “
Jesus died that very moment and earthquakes rent the sod;
in awe I cried within myself, this was the Son of God!
A soldier went to every cross and broke the others legs,
but when he reached the Jewish king, Jesus of Nazareth was dead.
A soldier came, and to my shock thrust in his vicious spear
and pierced the side of the lifeless king and water and blood appeared.
Aghast at the scene, I left the place and went back to Jerusalem
and passed by the palace of Pilate and affirmed the sad truth to him.
The king, with his crown of long wicked thorns, was taken from worldly display
and placed in a tomb from which it was said he would rise in a matter of days.
So, the paranoid leaders insisted a cause to have a watch placed at the head
to keep his disciples from stealing the corpse to claim he had risen from the dead.
I was placed as a guard of that holy man’s grave, despite my long pleas for relief.
For I believed what was said of his being a King and I feared the results of belief.
On the dawn of the third it was worse than I feared, for two angels of God did appear.
They rolled back the stone from the mouth of the tomb and I fled from the city in fear.
As I ran from the garden, it rang in my ears, this phrase over Jerusalem’s din;
an angel had said it, it had to be true, the angel had said, ‘He is risen!’
And so I have traveled away from the city that murdered the Son of God,
but if I am found I will surely be killed, so on for my safety l’ve trod.”
The soldier, the Roman, looked on as the Jew arose and extended a hand.
Accepting the help, the centurion took it and thus he was lifted to stand.
“I thank you again,” the soldier said, “for your water and listening ear.
Please take my hand in the clasp of Rome, and then we must part, I fear.”
The Jew reached out and took his arm and then the veil withdrew,
the Roman man now held a hand with nail prints clear to view.
He sank to earth, and cried “MY GOD !”and bathed His feet with tears,
then Christ bid him rise and follow Him through a journey to holier spheres.
W.R. Gilmour has been a reader and wordsmith of eclectic subjects and styles since childhood, and especially enjoys crafting truthspeaking fiction and poetry that creates elevating reader experiences. He is currently a high school equivalency teacher at a men’s prison in Missouri, a husband, the father of 2 brilliant children, the servant of his wife’s 5 disapproving cats, and the author of a large body of work that he has only recently gotten around to sharing with the world.