answer to that question is an outright ‘no;’ because none of us was there.
It was a horrendous experience from an eye-witness account. Some jeered, others cheered, whilst some shed tears in bewilderment. Those who knew Him -- that could not stand the sight-- left head bowed, wondering how this could have happened to a righteous man—the One who went about healing the sick, feeding the hungry, giving the blind back their sight, uplifting the status of the down-trodden. Besides, He taught the people about God’s love.
His disciples deserted Him out of fear for their lives. They had been duly warned; “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered and I will turn my hand against the little ones.” (Zechariah 13:7) In their weakness, they had forgotten the predictions He (Jesus) had made concerning His death. Not only that, by fleeing they had not acknowledged the prophecy of Scripture as revealed by the great prophet Isaiah some 800 years ago. “But He was pierced for our transgressions [wrong doings], He was crushed for our iniquities [sins]; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” .... “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:5, 7)
What was playing out before them were the preliminaries of what God Himself had pronounced in Genesis as He cursed the serpent (Satan); “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will bruise His heels.” (Genesis 3:15) In effect, God is predicting that Jesus, Mary’s offspring, would trample Satan under His feet, while Satan would nail Him to the cross; meaning that he would get Him crucified.
Who had masterminded all of this? Who else but His arch-enemies, the Pharisees and Sadducees? - those whom He had ridiculed in front of the crowds for misinterpreting the Scriptures. They were supposed to have had the people of God foremost in their agenda, but were more preoccupied with currying attention and favour in high places. They had even watered down the Ten Commandments to 400 odd rules and regulations for the people to keep but which they themselves did not observe. How they had for a long time kept the people blindfolded.
In the process, they had lost the majority of their followers because Jesus was doing a new thing. The people themselves remarked that they had never seen such. He taught them as someone who had authority and not as one of the teachers of the law – alluding to the Pharisees and Scribes. (Mark 1:22)
As Jesus’ popularity soared, His enemies sought ways to get Him into trouble with the colonial masters at the time -- the Romans. They capitalised on what Jesus Himself said: “I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.” (Mark 14:58) They had uncannily misconstrued this for the physical temple in Jerusalem that had taken forty years to build. Shallow with regard to the interpretations of the scriptures, they had lost sight of the fact that Jesus was referring to His resurrection. He was telling His disciples that He would die but would rise again in three days.
We were not there, but Pilate, the Roman governor, was. He could not help but take a neutral stand when the perpetrators threatened that if he released Jesus, it would tantamount to not loving emperor Caesar. Yet, in his heart, he had knowingly conceded in his own words; “I find no basis for a charge against Him.” (John 19:4b)
Who else was there? The group of women amongst whom featured Jesus’ mother, witnessed the scene from start to finish. She naturally recalled the birth pangs - constituting the primordial reason for staying put at the scene. Her mind must have flashed back to the words of the prophet Simeon in the temple, when Joseph and Mary in keeping with Jewish tradition came to present the child to the temple’s high priest. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. (Luke 2:34-35)
Among all the twelve disciples, only John – the one whom Jesus loved -- stood his ground at the foot of the cross. He recorded it all. Like Jesus’ mother, every nail that pierced His hands and feet was equally driven through John’s heart.
Present at the scene, unnoticed, was the Spirit of God, who co-ordinated it all. For nothing but the Spirit of God could have knit such a complex web.
Every step the Lord went through had been recorded by the prophets. Not a bone was broken in His body. “He protects His bones, not one of them will be broken.” (Psalm 34:20) When elders Nicodemus and Simeon of Cyrene came to recuperate His body for a fitting burial, it was to put it in a new grave. “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death...” (Isaiah 53:9) “Going to Pilate, he (Joseph of Arimathea) asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.” (Matthew 27:58-60)
All these ‘instruments’ had been called to play their respective roles as the picture unfolded. There was nothing they could have done to prevent it from happening. It was God’s desire for His Son, Jesus, to pay the price of sin.
Just as in the Old Testament, the blood of rams was shed to cleanse sin, so also the Lamb of God had to give up his life to be slaughtered as a sacrifice for our sins; this time round, once and for all. He has become the only appropriate cleanser of sins.
Was our presence necessary? Today, His blood has far-reaching properties straddling oceans and continents to envelop nations, languages and creeds.
It was for humanity God did this. The rams of the Old Testament times would not have sufficed, neither would have the blood of Isaac. Only the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, can take our sins away.