This year’s children’s Good Friday story:

A Tear From Jesus

My name is Joah. I am eight-years-old; well, I might be eight-years-old or I might be older, or maybe a bit younger. Nobody knows for sure. I’ld like to think I am eleven-years-old, except then I would be really small for my age; so maybe it’s better that I am eight-years-old.

I don’t know how old I am because I never knew my parents. And I don’t know anyone who ever did know them. My parents left me alone on the street when I was very young. I guess they hoped someone might pick me up and take care of me.

I don’t know why parents abandon their children. Maybe they are too sick or poor to care for them. I don’t think they wanted to leave me alone; but they did.

Someone must have taken care of me for a while because somehow I survived. But I guess they got tired of having me around and, after a while, kicked me back out on to the streets when they thought I was old enough to look after myself.  And, so I have lived for as long as I can remember on the streets of this big noisy dirty old city.

It is hard living on the streets. Nobody likes a wild dirty little child. I had to grow up quick and grow up tough. I learned to steal my food and find shelter in secret hiding places to sleep through the night.

I share the streets with lots of other kids who have been abandoned, or some who ran away from their homes. I don’t know why you would run away from your home if you had one.

No one has friends on the streets. We all look out for ourselves. There is not much loyalty among desperate children.

I can never let down my guard. I am strong and can run fast. I know how to keep out of trouble. But if I have to fight, I do not give up easily. I learned a long time ago to fight anyone who tries to take my food or move into my shelter.

The only thing that occasionally brings us street kids together is when we find someone weaker than us, someone we can torment without worrying that anyone will come to their protection. There is always some poor hurt beggar on the side of the road to make fun of or to steal from without fear of getting into trouble. Nobody cares about a poor beggar.

That is why we all banded together on that Friday. We had heard that some crazy man had been arrested. They had put him in jail for a while and tortured him. Then they had a trial and he was found guilty and sentenced to die. We had no idea why they thought he should die. We knew about these trials. It didn’t matter if you were guilty or innocent. People in power always get exactly what they want. And, for some reason, they wanted this guy dead; so that’s what was going to happen.

When we caught up with him, he was dragging two great beams of wood through the narrow streets. They were attached near the top to form a huge cross. It looked heavy and he stumbled as he walked. When he fell we laughed and shouted insults. We picked up stones and threw them at him. I don’t know why. It just felt good to feel stronger than someone else for a moment.

By the time he was dragging that big cross out through the gates in the wall around the city, he was already covered in blood. Slowly he climbed the path up the hill we call Golgotha. It’s a terrible place. Its name means “the place of the skull”. Nobody ever goes there unless they are in a crowd, or are taken there like this man, to die. It scares people. It is mostly used by the Romans for executions and whenever there is an execution everyone wants to come and see the show.

I’m not afraid of skull hill. I go there all the time. It’s the one place I can be alone. No one hassles me up there. It is quiet and feels strangely safe to me. But I also like to go there when there’s a crowd to watch the spectacle of death. The Romans really know how to make a person suffer.

On this day, there were three men who were going to die. The one everyone was interested in was the most beaten up and the weakest of the three. Someone told me his name was Jesus. And I figured he would die pretty fast once they got him up on that cross.

I watched the nails being pounded in, pinning him to the wood. I heard the dull thud as the cross dropped into the hole the soldiers had dug. I saw his body sag forward straining against the nails that held him in place. Then all that remained was to watch him die.

I stood beneath that cross and looked up at his battered body, with that weird crown of thorns stuck on his head. Some people said he was a king; but this was a really strange shattered kind of king.

The crowd was shouting and jeering. People hurled angry words filled with hatred and scorn. I didn’t understand why they hated this man so much. Even one of the other criminals dying beside him made fun of him, saying if he was such a great king he should save them all.

Then, above all the other voices, I heard a terrible cry. It came from Jesus’ dying body. He cried out,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.

The painful loneliness of that cry pierced through me like a sword. It seemed at that moment as if the whole world stood still. The voices which had been shouting and mocking, fell suddenly silent. No one spoke. A great darkness came over the hill where we stood. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

I no longer wanted to torment that dying man. It seemed as if, in that broken voice, all the pain and rejection I had ever experienced was given voice. I felt that man on the cross held all the hurt I had ever known. He had experienced it all and never turned away. Now it seemed as if the suffering had destroyed him.

But, then, at the last moment before he died, he spoke one last time. His voice was different. The anguish seemed to have gone out of him. It was as if the sorrow and the suffering had mysteriously shifted. His voice was quieter. He said,

Into your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit.

I watched as the last breath squeezed out of his body. Then just before he died a large tear ran slowly down his cheek. I could see it drop from his face. That tear glittered in the dark as it fell. Then, almost as if it had been guided, it landed in my left eye.

In that moment everything changed. In place of the old familiar ache I had carried for so many years, there was warmth. My anger was gone. It was as if something that had been dead inside me, suddenly came to life. I saw light piercing the darkness.

Later that day his frightened friends took his body down off the cross and carried it away. I didn’t follow them. His dead body meant nothing to me. I knew that the presence of that man who had died had come in some mysterious way to live inside me. I knew now I would never again be alone. I knew that I could trust the power of love that had been released in my heart when that tear fell into my eye.

I don’t know what the future is going to look like for me. I still live on the streets. I still have to steal my food. I am pretty sure I will have to fight again to protect myself. But I don’t want to hurt people any more. And I don’t feel alone.

That tear from Jesus brought something to life inside me that doesn’t need to fight. The presence and love I found on that hill feels stronger than all those things that are still scary and hard.