The courtroom was crowded. A low, ominous hush swept over the room as the convicted felon rose from his seat awaiting his punishment.
A timid little girl, no older than five years old, sat uncomfortably at the prosecutor’s desk. Her brown curly hair hung limply around her tear stricken face.
Her mother, Deborah, sat beside her. Her protecting arm draped around her daughter’s little shoulders.
“It’s going to be ok, Elizabeth.” Deborah whispered gently into her beloved daughter’s ears.
No child should have to witness their father’s murder. Deborah’s eyes darkened as she looked at the defendant.
Judge Matthew turned to the jury. “Have you reached a verdict?”
Simon, the jury official, rose to his feet. “We have your honor.”
Simon walked over to the judge’s booth and handed him a thin white envelope. The judge carefully opened it, reading the pending punishment. He cleared his throat and turned his eyes towards the defendant.
“On the charges of rioting the members of the jury find the defendant guilty… On the charges of first-degree murder the members of the jury find the defendant… guilty. The jury herby sentences the defendant to punishment by death.”
The courtroom burst forth with shouts of joy.
Deborah looked at Elizabeth. They exchanged a silent look. A small smile escaped from Elizabeth’s mouth.
Justice had been served.
“Welcome home.” The guard spat out as he threw the convicted murderer into his new home. The convict jumped as the door slammed loudly behind him.
He looked around at his new surroundings, unsure what to think. The stench of urine and filth stung his nostrils. A man, years older than himself, sat frozen in the corner.
The convict nervously cleared his throat before addressing his cell mate. “ So, what do you do for fun in here?”
Cold dark eyes stared back, “I lie here in a cold, dark cell and watch as my life passes before my eyes. Unable to stop the meaningless hours tick away my life.”
”Oh…Um… Why are you in here?... Did you hear me? I asked you …
“I heard you! You watch how you speak to me!... I don’t believe in answering pointless questions…I’m…was…a thief.”
“That’s it? That’s nothin’! I’m the one who’s goin’ to be here for years. Get beat, whipped and spat on until they finally decide to execute me. At least you have some hope.”
“Right... Hope. That word doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.”
“I think I want to switch rooms…”
”Ah, don’t worry. Today’s my last day here.”
”Then why are you so upset. I would kill to get where you are… Funny how that works. Killed to get in, would kill to get out.”
The thief shot him a dirty look, “You’re sick.”
“I’m not the only one sick or I would be all alone in this cell, isn’t that right?”
“Congratulations on your incredibly keen observation.”
“What are you going to do when you get out?”
”What does it matter?”
“Freedom doesn’t matter?”
“It’s too late.”
“What’s too late?”
“The chance to live.”
Footsteps clamored down the empty hallway, stopping at their cell. The familiar guard opened the door and pointed to the thief, “It’s time.”
The thief looked back, “I guess this is it. Nice knowing ya’.”
The guard walked past the thief and grabbed the convict, “You’re going to have to come with me as well.”
”I have orders to let you go. A man named Jesus of Nazareth is taking your place. Get outta here Barrabus. I have no idea why we’re letting a murderer go. You’re a lucky guy.”
A small crowd had gathered on the hill of Calvary.
The executions had begun.
A beaten body hung on the middle cross. Blood streamed down, washing the ground below.
The crowd called him, “Jesus.”
A thief who hungered for freedom, and even more for hope, hung from a neighboring cross. He watched as the men around him spat on this “Jesus.” He kept replaying the guard’s last words to that murderer, Barrabus. "A man named Jesus of Nazareth is going to take your place. Hurry up Barrabus and get outta here". ..Why did this man take that scum’s place? Maybe he is… He turned his eyes towards Jesus.
“Please. I know it’s probably too late, but I want to go with you. To that place I heard others talking about.”
Jesus slowly turned his blood soaked face towards the thief, “We’ll be together today in paradise. I promise.”