Remembrance II: I Went To Golgotha

Today I want to take you to a place far, far away, to a place that was and is, but can never be. And I want to take you back to my childhood, to a time when I was five. We all have thresholds of remembrance. Our threshold of remembrance is that age from which we recollect things from our childhood. The way God designed life we live incognizant from zero hour to a certain age. We can’t recollect a thing. That period is filled with foolishnesses and early attempts at functioning as human. Your attempt to talk, your attempt to crawl, your attempt to walk, your attempt to learn to eat by yourself… Those are the earliest trials of life. But they build something in us. We just kept going until we were victorious. Remember the joy of a child when he realises he’s actually walking!

The repositories of those historic data are our parents and guardians. They note all those histories, all those moments… They mark and diarise them as secret knowledge. They’re in the know of what we’re not aware of. Our parents know when we started teething, know when we started uttering gibberish – a woeful attempt at fraternising with the human community. They are the Google drives of our earliest childhood.
Some people begin to remember their childhood from the age of five. Some six, some seven. We all have different ages of remembrance. I have very vivid recollection from the age of four. I remember my fourth and fifth birthdays quite clearly. I can see what I wore on both occasions. I can see the cake on my fifth birthday. I see the five candles. And I can recollect conversations with my dad on that occasion. I remember how proud I was wearing a navy blue pair of shorts. The shirt was buttoned in. It was a short sleeved shirt with narrow piping and faint squares like a 2B notebook. It had a matching tie the material and colour of the shorts. It was what they called “ready-made” in those days, meaning brought from colonial overseas and possibly bought from a department store called Kingsway. It wasn’t sewn by a local tailor. Then there were those black shoes. They simulated adult shoes. They had laces. Beautiful shoes they were. I still have them courtesy of my mum. I remember being happy my friends were coming around. My dad was bemused but happy. His son was happy. That birthday took place on the terrace of the house we lived – a rather expansive terrace it was with panoramic views. On that terrace I had an experience I’ll never forget. I am going to share it with you.
It was Good Friday. Being a public holiday there was no school. That portended relief for us kids. It seemed we had been going to school all our life. No teachers, no assemblies, no learning. It felt like a cruise ship vacation. All that work! My friends and I pulled up chairs to the terrace and sat looking through the balustrade made of iron rods, enjoying what kids enjoy the most – nothing in particular. We were about seven or eight in number. We counted the cars on the road below, among other things. Being in an elevated position we took in the geographic expanse of our locality, saw humans walking, going about their dreams and frustrations. Life is difficult for adults. All those sights and sounds were delightsomeness to us kids. Kids don’t think of anything in particular, neither do they do anything in particular. Kids don’t have a care. It’s how Jesus wants us to be.
As I looked into the sky the sky darkened. Everything turned greyscale, like a threat of rain that will never be – dark and foreboding with occasional flashes in the underbelly of the cloud. But something was happening to me. The other kids continued in their chatter, lost in their world. There was delight in their voices at the wonder of life, little realising what life has in store for them. But ignorance is the protection of kids. I was having this strange experience in which the world had gone monotone, like a charcoal drawing. Normally kids relish the anticipation of rain – the smell, the wind, the disturbance of dust, the possibility of playing in the rain… But on this Good Friday that was not my anticipation. I was experiencing something else – something too deep and profound for a five year old. I was soon transported to a place called Golgotha. Yes, that was how it was known to me – Golgotha. Don’t ask me how I knew of a place called Golgotha at the age of five. I just “knew.”
I stood about thirty feet away from the cross, looking at Jesus hanging on that cross, the angle of sight from below as I turned my gaze heavenward. It was a cinematic perspective. I saw those two thieves on their crosses but they were not my focus. They seemed angled away but there. Everything was in grey tone. It was the colour calibration of pain and suffering, of hopelessness and despair, of extreme anguish of soul. The sky was downcast. Jesus didn’t talk to me. He was going through dying in episodic instalments. He was in so much pain. He looked dirtied and grimy, his hair matted. I can still see that face. He was in so much pain and anguish. I could see other people around the cross – one or two women, the Roman soldiers… But these were all blurry details. My focus was Jesus.
A child doesn’t really understand what pain and anguish is but I somehow knew. I could relate to the man on that cross, feel his pain, his suffering. And then tears began to fall down my innocent face, not at Golgotha but on that terrace where I sat. I began to cry. No one knew what I was going through. I “knew” Jesus had died for me in a way I couldn’t describe. It wasn’t cognition. I could just identify with him – his pain, his suffering, his sorrow. There was a sad and helpless way he looked down from that cross at humanity. Even as I type this there are tears in my eyes. The experience was so personal I couldn’t talk about it. It’s not something you talk about, it’s something you know. It was just so deep, seemed to last an hour. I was at Golgotha for one hour of the crucifixion. I was just there, rooted to the scene, looking at Jesus. And soon the sky cleared and I was away from the brooding and melancholic sky at Golgotha. The sun came out, tentatively at first but it soon grew bolder. It had a happy disposition to it. And I became a kid again. I just sat there thinking, not knowing but understanding. And as I type this my life somehow begins to make some sense to me. There’s that inexpressible understanding again, the type I struggle with. It’s just there.
Here I am trying to rationalise the experience as an adult, trying to marry it to my knowledge of scriptures. I realise as I type this that I had been taken through an ultra-reality experience of the crucifixion, just as Prophet Isaiah was. Prophet Isaiah’s experience was pre enactment, whereas mine was post enactment. His experience must have been surreal. He walked the corridors of time, moved into history, ahead of time. He felt it, tasted it, became one with it. He was there. He identified with it. He became a participant in anticipated drama. It’s like watching a futuristic movie and seeing yourself in it. This is what he wrote: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we did not appreciate his worth or esteem him.” Isaiah 53:3 AMP.
Prophet Isaiah sought to make sense of what he saw. He did have some insight, which was why he wrote, “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5. Then we see Isaiah living in the time of Jesus even though he died 7th century BC. In his ultra-reality experience he could self-identify: “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away.” Isaiah 53:6-8 NLT. Then he gives us an unusual portrait of the humanity of Jesus, one we never even bother to consider: “No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.” Isaiah 53:8-10 NLT.
And then Prophet Isaiah shares with us what God told him about the whole melodrama: “And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” Isaiah 53:11 NLT. And now you know.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder |