I knew in my heart what was next and I did not want to see.
The scene at Bethlehem? Yes. It was magnificent in its austerity, majestic in its overt simplicity, and so very representative of the humility and grace of the One who was born to die. There was an admitted sentimentality about it, of course, because of the many memorable Christmas celebrations where those very images were central to the joy and familial love of both my childhood, and especially the precious moments with my own wife and children. Time passes so very, very quickly, and those poignant moments are often bittersweet, and the memories are sometimes hard to bear.
But what was coming next made the most heartfelt ache of a human life absolutely nothing in comparison.
Though still on the Balcony, I was standing again. Next to me stood my guide. Though very far away in time and space, my perspective was that of an eyewitness.
I was there, yet not there. The tumult of the crowd and the cruel hysteria of the direct participants were overwhelming. I smelled the fetid human odor of hatred and fear, and my soul was weighted down by the oppression of spiritual darkness so dense and tangible that it felt to me as if I were being physically crushed.
Then I heard the sickening crack of the torturous lash against the back of a Man who was utterly undeserving of judgment, human or divine. I saw the flecks of blood and skin flayed into the air by the well-practiced arm of a professional killer. His skill was diabolically evident in the precision of his ruthlessly placed blows. The sound of each nauseating strike shattered the very fabric of the Universe from earth to the highest Heaven, and yet it seemed of almost no significance to the majority of the humans in attendance.
Soon after these things there came the demonic cry of the mob, "CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!"
Then the horrible efficiency of the iron-headed mallet driving the spikes through innocent human flesh, the dull thud of impact the only thing audible. The victim was resolutely silent, as a Lamb led to the slaughter.
This was followed by the collective groan of the leather-clad Roman soldiers as they laboriously hefted the cross piece onto its stanchion.
The blood of redemption flowed copiously from the thorn-pierced brow and the vicious wounds of of lash and nails.
Evil mocking defiled the human audience with its cruelty and utterly compassionless intensity. Hatred welled up in a vile explosion of purest evil.
And still the Sufferer neither cried out nor cursed.
Then the Voice, that same Voice that created all Time and Space and Matter, finally uttered Words of Power far more profound than those which caused every galaxy to leap into existence from absolute nothingness. These were the utterances that the whole of Creation was groaning for and longing for since the Fall millennia before. This was the most significant moment of all the millions upon millions of moments past or future. It was the penultimate culmination of the eternal counsels of the godhead before the foundation of the world.
"Father!" the Voice called out with surprising strength, "Forgive them for they know not what they do!"
I did not know whether it was unspeakable sorrow or infinite joy that gripped me in an unbreakable vise. I was beyond all weeping or expression, except for one solitary, spirit-breaking thought. I did this! I made this necessary! He is dying so that I might LIVE!
Awe and love and eternal gratitude annihilated all thought of myself. There was only One who is worthy of all praise and blessing and honor and power.
Then this heart-stopping cry from the Cross of Love, "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!"
How could this be happening? Why was not all the Host of Heaven exacting perfect vengeance on the human vermin (myself included) responsible for the most heinous act conceivable?
To hear the broken-hearted cry of the One who came to save, to imagine the infinite grief of the Father as He heard the sorrow and pain of His Beloved and denied Him the mercy He so freely gives to us every moment, this should have undone everything! But it did not! Instead, through the unimaginable grace of the One hanging in agony on that cursed wooden Cross, IT MADE ALL THINGS NEW!
Then came the crowning moment of history.
The Voice once more spoke with the magnificent certainty of complete and undeniable victory. The Words rang out from one end of Creation to the other.
"IT IS FINISHED!"
Now my heart SOARED with the incredible beauty and brilliance of it all! By His death conquering Death. By His undeserved judgment, judging sin FOREVER. By His sacrifice TAKING AWAY the sin of the world! My sin!
And then one last saying.
"Father! Into Your hands I commit my Spirit!"
And I looked and saw The Dead Man on the Cross, and knew beyond all doubt that He died for me.