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This being Lent, Christians, during Holy Week, will be celebrating the suffering and death of Christ. At this time I like to reflect on Tissot’s watercolour depiction of the Crucifixion scene.  I like it because it is unusual in so far as it depicts the women and bystanders present as viewed from the Cross itself. I feel myself as being among them and Christ is saying something to me.

John Tissot (1836–1902) was born into a French middle-class devoutly Catholic family. He took to painting and, after a spell painting Parisian women and the like, produced a famous series of religious works based on the Bible. His “Crucifixion” is part of that series.

In the painting a motley group has gathered before the Cross. Among them, "looking on from afar" are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and 'other' ‘Marys’. The man to their right (in white) is probably John the Evangelist. We also see some Jewish scribes who seem satisfied with the situation – after all, they were the ones who had pressed Pilate into having their rival crucified. Also in the foreground we have some pots, probably containing the vinegar offered to Christ instead of water to slack his thirst, and a sponge.

“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” asks a spiritual. As I reflect on the scene I see myself among them, and am moved to answer “Yes”. But where am I?

Am I among the leaders? … who saw the crowds following Jesus and feared the loss of their privileged status; who were so sure they were right that they could even commit murder and justify it as God’s will. Do I, I ask myself, resent the success and happiness of others? Do I drag my feet in helping transform the distribution of the world’s resources. Do I fail to care for the environment out of fear of losing my privileged position? Do I justify myself rather than accept criticism? It is people like these who still place Christ on the Cross. So Jesus died for my sins. Yes, of course I was in that group.

Am I Judas? … Do I betray a position of trust, using my closeness to a person as a weapon? Do I evaluate the worth of friendships by what I can get out of them? Do I close my heart to those who love me, and resist turning from that which I know to be hurting them?
Am I Peter? … who told Jesus he would stand by him even to the point of death, but out of fear denied him when his hour of need arrived.
Am I Pilate … who delivered a man he believed to be innocent over to death rather than get into personal difficulty with the crowd.
Am I one of the crowd? … frustrated at having my hopes of deliverance from ‘the Romans’ crushed.
Am I Mary Magdalene? …a repentant sinner.


Strictly speaking, Jesus was convicted of necromancy-- making dead people get up and walk, in particular.

There were witnesses, too.

Rome depended on the census to collect taxes. Raising the dead screwed with the count.

(Blasphemy was what the Jews charged, but the punishment would have been stoning. It was unprovable-- how do you show that somebody isn't the son of Yahweh-- so they handed him over to Rome as a sorceror, which was a case of prosecutorial inspiration, really.)

(Blasphemy was not something Rome sought convictions for. Who's gonna arrest the Army?)
but my understanding was crucifixion was execution for treason and crimes against the state - the Roman Empire

the charge would be posted - INRI - Jesus Nazarene Rex Judae - in other words - preaching rebellion and inciting riot

Edited at 2016-03-15 03:04 (UTC)
One of the Gospels that officialdom edited from the New Testament mentioned that the reason he was handed over to Pilate for trial was that he was a magician.

The movie Life of Brian was inspired in part by the multitude of claimants to divinity, kingship over the Jews, or both. Jesus was the most harmless of the lot, advocating not only peace but paying Rome's taxes.