He was a tall man, even by today’s standards. His hair was worn shoulder length as was the custom of the Hebrew people. His tunic, a kimono-like garment fitted him closely at the neck and was made of linen. The tunic was held snugly to His body by a girdle. Simply, a long strip of cloth that was wrapped around the waist and fastened in a knot with a clasp, or sometimes by twisting it around itself.
Generally He wore a cloak. The cloak was similar to the tunic, except heavier, looser, longer. It had no sleeves, since at night it was sometimes used as a blanket. On His feet were the most common footwear of Palestine, the sandal. His sandals had a sole of wood or leather fastened to the foot by thongs. Sandals were always removed before entering a house or a sacred place. It was the task of the humblest servant to wash the dust from the feet of a person arriving from a long journey. This man, Jesus, was known to humbly accept this lowly task. It is observed in the Scriptures that He washed and dried the feet of His disciples.
He carried a staff or a cane, not elaborate; merely a plain stick of wood. This staff served as a support while walking the hills, and for some as protection against robbers and wild beasts. He needed no such protection.
To the casual observer He was, at first glance, much like many in the thronging crowds of Jerusalem-that is until they peered closely at His face, then immediately they would see the eyes! Were there ever such eyes? Eyes that held such pain, such promise, such love. Surely, even His enemies could see, this was more than a mere man of the dust, this Nazarene, this man called Jesus.
He was a Jew, certainly. And He dressed as they did, with tassels on the corner of His garment to show He was of Jewish descent. History tells us that no Jew might sell a garment to a Gentile, until the tassels were removed. At the height of His popularity in Galilee we read that the people “would lay their invalids in the marketplace, begging Him to let them touch even the tassels of His robe.”
In His teachings and in His manner, Jesus was known to be gentle. But, it was no mere soft, patient, tranquil spirit that the crowds in Galilee pushed to hear and see. This teacher was exciting, uncompromising, formidable; strong. Jesus’s sermons were packed with energy. The crowds listened and burned with the electricity of His messages of love and life.
Women, often ill-treated were drawn to Him, troubled by their needs and seeking His soothing presence. They came quietly for healing, strength and forgiveness. Young mothers brought their children for His blessings. His powers flowed giving them strength, offering them hope. It is not surprising that women were first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this man. Surely, as the Scriptures predicted, He was the “Messiah.”
Mary, mother of Jesus had learned early in His life that she would always have to love Him from a distance; searching in a synagogue, on the edge of a crowd, outside a packed house; on the shore of a sea.
“Woman behold your son”
And you know how the story continues; the quick betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, betrayed by a friend, a disciple; Judas Iscariot. Not much for a life, not much at all.
And so they hung Him… Nailed Him to a cross. For 3 hours darkness fell upon the land. Jesus cried out again, and again, then yielded up His spirit. “The earth shook, and the rocks were split…”Matt.27
A mocking superscription was written over Him in the letters of Greek, Latin and Hebrew. “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.’
Later it was noted that between the sixth and ninth hour darkness covered the earth and Jesus was heard to cry out, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” The eyes of the Man of Nazareth closed-the Scriptures were almost fulfilled. And never have words carried so much power. Never has the face of the earth witnessed so much sorrow. And never again would there be a hill so high as Calvary.
In the silence of the afternoon, much of the crowd has left. Those who have stayed are weeping, or silent. None will walk away from this day unscathed. “Careful, oh careful now” says Joseph as they lift His lifeless body down from the cross. The five-inch nails are wrenched from the hard wood, freeing the limp hands.
Joseph of Armathea kneels behind the head of Jesus and tenderly wipes the wounded face. He cleans the blood with a soft, wet cloth and his own tears.
They knew who had pierced his sides. The women cannot believe they have done this to Him. “Why” they cry, “Why.”
Nicodemus gently unrolls linen sheeting that Joseph brought and places it on the rock beside the body. His own tears fall on the face of the crucified King. Never, had a day been so dark. But with the darkness came the promised third day of light.
“He is not here. He is risen !”
And through the mists of time, the curtains part and we are gently transported back to that Jerusalem moment and the empty tomb. We find life and promise in those open arms, and we take courage. We reach across the centuries to hold His hand. And we search for our own peace in the loving eyes of “This man called Jesus.”