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The Thief on the Cross
by Laurie Kiel 
04/17/11
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Demas had never really believed he would end up on a cross-despite the fact that enough people had told him over the years that he would. His father would often jeer at him, "You’re no good, Demas. You're nothing but trouble. You've broken your mother's heart time and again, and good riddance when you break it one last time by hanging on a cross."

Demas had always laughed at his father's words. Demas' leader, Barabbas, had seemed to live a charmed life where nothing could touch him-or his followers. Demas' mother had begged him, "Come with us to see this wonderful teacher, Jesus. They say He's the Messiah! If you keep following that Barabbas, you'll just wind up on a cross." Demas just laughed at her too. "They'll have to catch us first, and no one can catch Barabbas. It would be like catching the wind."

Even after they all had been arrested, Barabbas continued to lead that charmed life. The guards came and dragged him from his jail cell in the middle of the night. He never came back. Had he been beaten to death? Killed in some particularly hideous fashion to entertain the Romans? No. Nothing like that.

It was one of their fellow prisoners who broke the news. "Demas! Gestas! You’ll never believe it. They didn't kill Barabbas! They let him go!"
"Right," Demas said, scratching one of his many flea bites. "And Herod had invited me over to the palace for dinner. I told him I was otherwise engaged." He and Gestas roared with laughter at his joke, but the laughter stopped when they found out Barabbas truly had been released. The crowd was given the choice of freeing Barabbas or the Rabbi Jesus. The crowd had chosen Barabbas.

Now Demas was hanging on a cross, in the middle hung Jesus, and on the other side hung Gestas. Demas thought of how he should have listened to his mother. If only he had followed Jesus instead of Barabbas. Now it was too late.

Through his haze of pain, Demas heard Jesus saying, "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." Was he hallucinating? Was Jesus actually asking God to forgive his executioners? If Jesus could forgive those who had put him on the cross, perhaps it wasn't too late!

Too late, too late, the words echoed in his head. No! The truth pierced through his pain-hazed mind like the sun through the fog. It WASN'T too late-not yet. However, the fiery pain coursing through his body told him it would be soon. He wasn't too late. He hadn't missed his chance to come to Jesus. He had wanted to do it when he felt he was good enough...now he realized he could never be good= enough.
"If you are the Son of God, save yourself and us," Gestas mocked Jesus.

Demas straightened his legs so that he could get air into his lungs to speak, doing so make him groan at the pressure this put on the nails in his feet. He hadn't said a word the entire time he had been on the cross. Nothing had been worth the agony of doing so. Until now. "Aren't you afraid of God even now, Gestas, when we're all dying? We deserve it, we’ve been sinning our whole lives long. But Jesus has done nothing wrong."

Demas turned his head toward Jesus. "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
Jesus' battered face couldn't hide the love that shone from it. "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise."

The words echoed in Demas' mind over and over and over again, as the pain grew greater and he grew weaker. Today you will be with me in Paradise. Two new flashes of pain barely registered over the immeasurable pain already coursing through his body, as the centurion slammed a mallet against his legs, breaking them one by one. No legs, no breath....
Today you will be with me in Paradise.
A few short moments later...he was.

This story is a dramatization based on Luke 23:32-43


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