Jesus of Nazareth - the only begotten Son of God- was accused of six counts by both Jewish and Roman high priests and leaders for claiming to be the “King of Jews” and “Son of God” and crucified. He endured six trials, which included threat to the stability of nation, opposing paying Roman taxes and claiming to be the rightful King of Jews. These were enough charges to merit death by crucifixion.
Events leading to his tragic death begun on Holy Thursday in the Garden of Gethseme when he was arrested by a mob from the Jewish high priests.
Jewish high priest Caiaphas declared Jesus guilty of blasphemy and sought permission from Roman governor Pontius Pilate to execute Him.
After a short trial in kangaroo courts of the time, Jesus was crucified alongside two criminals at the rugged heights of Golgotha, also known as the “Place of the Skull”, 600 metres outside Jerusalem wall in present day Israel.
Jesus, forced to carry his cross to Golgotha, was whipped and mocked on the way and too weak to carry on until soldiers forced a man called Simon of Cyrene, to help him carry the cross the rest of the journey. Soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.
Mockingly, Pilate fixed the INRI inscription on the cross, an acronym for the Latin phrase Nazaremus Rex luadeorum—“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Crucifixion –binding the victim’s hands and feet and nailing them to a cross of wood- was considered a horrible, painful and disgraceful from of capital punishment, reserved for traitors, captive armies, slaves and the worst of criminals.
Christians believe His death is the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind.
“His death on the cross is a symbol of Christianity and everlasting life,” Catholic priest Cosmas Kadzombe, who led the Way of the Cross, told hundreds of parishioners at St. Anthony Church in Blantyre’s Chinyonga township, after they reconstructed Way of the Cross, a two kilometre journey which started from John Paul 11 shrine (Njamba Freedom park) to the church via Kenyatta Road.
Kadzombe said the Way of the Cross, also known in Latin as Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow or Suffering), “accords an opportunity for Christians to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as he carried his cross for the sake of our salvation.”
He said it was his first time in his 14 years of priesthood that he had walked a long distance in the Way of the Cross.
“It was interesting as I saw motorists taking pictures of us and non-Catholics joining in. We have spread the word of Jesus,” he said.
Gervazio Chingoli, who heads the church’s liturgy committee, told MBC Online: “Crucifixion is the summit of salvation and where Christianity originates from.”
There were many Simons on Friday among the St. Anthony church faithful. Women, men and the youth carried the heavy cross, which could not be carried by one person.
Mirriam, in her 50s, carried the cross several times on the way. “I feel good to feel the pain that Jesus went through,” she said, as other women jostled to carry the cross.
The Way of the Cross lasted five hours and the church grounds were turned into Golgotha where a ceremony to lay wreaths on the tomb of Jesus was conducted. The ceremony ended with prayers and Holy Communion inside the church.
The Cross is considered the most defining symbol of Christianity and Jesus its founder, while Holy Week is considered the most sacred time of the year for Christians.