At length the procession emerged through the vaulted double gateway into the open. A dim, pale light lay over the barren land. The rocky hill stood out clear on the right. A great stir was there. Busy workmen were digging deep holes on the top, others were preparing the stakes for the desert robbers. Those wild creatures were already half naked, and the executioners were slinging cords round them to bind them to the wooden frame. They were the lean, brown Barabbas and the pale, sunken-eyed Dismas. The former gazed around him with his hawk’s eyes, clenched his hands, and tried to burst his fetters. The other was quite broken down, and his unkempt hair hung about him. The disciples had come as far as the tower of the town walls, but had withdrawn in terror, all but John, James, and Peter. For Peter had decided to acknowledge himself a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, should it cost him his life. But no one troubled any further about the strangers. The disciples had seen Judas slinking behind the rocky mounds; he looked abject and forlorn, the very image of despair, and although their rage against the traitor had known no bounds, they were softened by the sight of the miserable creature, regarding him only as an object of horror.
Simeon carried the cross to the top of the hill. And when he laid it down and looked once again into the face of the malefactor who had staggered up beside him, he recognised the Prophet. He recognised the man with whom he had spoken in the desert concerning eternal life. He had then paid scant attention to His words, but he had forgotten none of them. Now he began to understand that whoever lived according to the teaching of this man must attain inward happiness. And was it on account of that teaching that the man was to be executed?
The captain ordered Simeon to move away. Two executioners laid hands on Jesus in order to strip away His garments. He threw one swift glance to Heaven, then closed His eyes, and calmly let them proceed. The guards seized His gown, fought for it, and because they could not agree who had won it they diced for it. Then they accused each other of cheating, and fought afresh. Up came Schobal, the dealer in old clothes, and pointed out with a grin that it was not worth while to crack their skulls over a poor wretch’s old coat. The gown was torn and bloody; it was not worth a penny; but in order to end a dispute between his brave countrymen he would offer fourpence, which they could divide in peace among them. The coat was delivered over to Schobal. He went up and down in the crowd with the garment. It was the coat of the Prophet who was being executed! Who wanted a souvenir of that day? He would sell the coat for the half of its value; it might be bought for twelve pence!
A man brought long iron nails in a basket. The Nazarene was not to be tied, but nailed, because He had once said that He should descend from the cross. When they noticed that Jesus was nearly swooning, they offered Him a refreshing drink of vinegar and myrrh. He refused it with thanks, and when He began to sink down the executioners caught Him and laid Him on the cross.