There is a green hill far away outside the city wall
Where our dear Lord was crucified and died to save us all
I was privileged to visit Jerusalem, and whilst there I did the touristy things, including visiting both of Jesus tombs, looked at the very last stone his foot touch before he went up into heaven – shame about the big churchy building on top of it, the view is rather spoiled.
I wondered at the groups of people being led by tourist guides who were holding up company placards so the tourists would not be lost or be tempted to attach themselves to the wrong line! Try as I might I could not find the green hill, which at that moment wasn’t far away, just invisible, a bit of rocky outcrop with a smattering of grass. Or should have been, but they have built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on it. I’m not sure but I suspect that there are more people from all corners of the world wandering around Jerusalem today than there was on the day Jesus was crucified and it was busy then! More languages spoken, more groups of onlookers than ever, it’s a wonder there is room for them all. It’s particularly poignant at this time of year when some folks want to carry a heavy cross, or be whipped as they walk the route they believe Jesus walked. Some like to slow the pace by giving up perfectly good legs made for walking and do the route on their knees; I saw more than one crawling. We are a strange people.
I often thought that the cross on which Jesus was nailed was lifted high so all men could look on him, hence the hill with a tall cross on top. But the more I thought about it the more I came to another view. If you were hung on a cross, suspended there with nails in your hands and feet, it would hurt like blazes. You do not have to be ten feet in the air for your pain threshold to be met. No, just a foot off the ground would be enough. Enough for your pain and suffering to be observed by all those who came to Jerusalem and who wanted to take a good long look at you.
Ten feet up, in constant pain, wracked in agony anything you had to say could be missed, however one foot from the ground in constant pain, wracked in agony anything you said could be heard and recorded; people would hear you, ouch and aaaargh would be heard very clearly. You would be able to look people in the eye, gauge their concern or their dismissal of you. Many of these people came to celebrate a special occasion, some worked there, others were on duty, some may have been tourists, many threw reproachful comments; however there was one comment that was heard coming from the cross that has resounded throughout history; it echoed around Jerusalem, and it resonates throughout the whole world today.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 24:34 NIV)
The scene Jesus looked upon was not a theme park. It was love for his mother, for John and Peter, and the thief hanging next to him, but also it was for you and me. The Cross was as relevant yesterday, as it is today and will be tomorrow.