I remember that day like it was yesterday. The sky had been yellow that evening just beyond the mountains, and the clouds hung low and long like our bodies. Death came slow, but it came nonetheless.
As I hung there, wracked with pain, I was amazed at how clear my thoughts were. I was born to a good family and I had always kept the law, but I was tired of those Roman dogs cheating us out of our deserved day’s wage and that’s when the fight had erupted. I had worked hard that day, but as usual I got only a portion of what I’d earned, so when I saw the vineyard owner’s purse there, well, I couldn’t help but take what I knew was mine. One of the vineyard keepers had seen me and a quarrel took place that caused quite a disruption.
I was arrested at daybreak and the noise of that morning was more than I could bear as my mother began to weep and tear at the guards robes. Even the crows in the sky above flocked together like a party of mourners. My father stood by silent, disgraced at my outcome.
I was immediately thrown into a huddle with two other prisoners, neither of which I knew. They led us away to the courts where we were to be judged and jailed until our execution. One prisoner, however, was left with the drunken guards for the scouring rack. I pitied him but thanked God it had not been me.
Upon their return, they threw him into a pit with me and his body was so bloodied I hardly recognized him as the same man. I remained silent for some time but finally found enough courage to ask him his name. We talked well into the night and his words pierced me. He talked of heaven as though he’d been there and of our people’s deliverance as if it were near.
I questioned, “Who can deliver Israel from Rome?”
He answered me in what seemed like a riddle. “The King is here and you will see his deliverance this day.”
His words angered me, “Maybe for Israel, but as for me…today I will only see death.”
We slept till the Sun rose and at daybreak the guards came and drug us away.
With a crowd already forming they threw dead wood on our backs and whipped us like donkey’s into submission up the long hill where all the guilty go to die. Somehow in my heart I knew this man I had been jailed with did not deserve what lie ahead.
At the top of that hill events took place that no nightmare could depict. Naked and shivering from fear, I lay there waiting to be nailed to my wooden tomb. You could not imagine the horror and screams that echoed off that mountain as stakes pierced our bodies and wood making them one. The pain was so great, I barely had breath to take it all in.
I drifted back to a place in time when life had been much simpler and I could see the face of my dear mother and father. It was the heckling rabble from the criminal to my right that roused me from my thoughts back to the horrific reality I now found myself in.
His venom spewed out with utter contempt as he shouted to the man in the middle, “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
Anger rose up in me despite my pain, “Shut up you, “ I called back straining for breath, “Don’t you fear God? You fool! I deserve this and so do you, but… “I paused, “This man is innocent.”
At that moment the riddle he had spoke to me in that dark cell became clear. The King….The king is here, and I was hanging next to him!
As I watched him cry out for forgiveness for his murderers, I knew that gift was also for me.
I remember turning my face towards his and he was already looking at me as if he knew.
“Please master,” I spoke clearly, “When you enter paradise…please remember me.”
“Today, “he answered, “You and I will be there together.”
Death came quicker for him than it did for me and I watched him for what seemed like hours. I knew with his last breath he had given me a gift that would last forever.
-Scripture references taken from Matthew and Luke.
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