Jn. 19:17-20 – Jesus carried his own cross out of the city to the place called “The Skull,” which in Aramaic is Golgotha. And there they nailed him to the cross. He was crucified, along with two others, one on each side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate had them post a sign over the cross, which was written in three languages—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Many of the people of Jerusalem read the sign, for he was crucified near the city. The sign stated: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
What I often think about when I think about the cross is the people that saw His death and the impact it had on them. First I think of the criminal who was released in His place, Barabus. After his release I imagine that He had to make His way to Calvary and have a look at the cross that was meant for him. Actually we are all Barabus in a way. The punishment that was meant for me fell on the Lord. Then there was the thief on the cross. While others who were being executed began to curse and ridicule, the thief recognized who he was dying with. His pleas for mercy found the ear of God. No greater words were ever spoken, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”.
Of course there was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As her Son hung and died she found her thoughts going back to the days of His infancy when He was dedicated in the temple. The voice of Simeon rang in her head as Jesus suffered and died, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Not far away was Mary of Bethany. She alone had anointed His body for burial. She had dreaded this day but she knew that it was His love for her that took Him to the cross. And of course there was the poor centurion who had been saddled with this horrid job, overseeing the death of the Son of God. He had seen hundreds, if not thousands of other crucifixions; no man had ever died the way this one had. The prayers that Jesus prayed for His executioners penetrated the centurion’s heart; “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. The only response this Roman officer could have would have to be the one that anyone who comes to Calvary must have, “Surely this is the Son of God”.