Reuven pushed up against his cross, intent to relieve the crushing pressure in his chest, to catch just one more breath. The nails tore his feet again and he bit his bottom lip until he tasted blood. He wouldn’t cry out. He wouldn’t give the Roman soldiers below another reason to laugh. Or spit. They were deriving too much pleasure from the agony of the thieves.
He raised his aching head to survey the pinnacles of Jerusalem’s buildings, beyond her high walls. No more will I wander the streets, stealing for Ashur’s cause. If we hadn’t taken that soldier’s horse and sword, we wouldn’t be hanging here now. His gaze slid sideways to Ashur on the other cross. Resentment welled up. Seven months of loyal service and this is the result. Crucifixion!
Life seemed so full when I followed Rabbi Yeshua. He had a way of opening our minds to vast seas of logic. I should have stayed with him. Last Sabbath the people hailed him as King. He’s truly the Messiah. I should have recognized it when I sat listening to him those evenings in Galilee. His words were Life. How could Ashur’s dazzling promises have lured me away?
Now Yeshua will save Israel.
But for me? It’s too late.
Clamor arose along Golgotha’s winding path. Soon an angry mob came into sight. In their midst was a large man shouldering a crossbeam. Before him stumbled a bloodied fellow, his face so swollen it was unrecognizable. The lead soldier spat, “Look! Your king!”
King? Could it be?
Agony squeezed Reuven’s ribs. Raising again, he cursed at the tearing in his feet and the unrelenting cramps that gripped his calves. Between agonized breaths, he studied the battered man with thornbush circling his head and patches of missing beard. Is that Rabbi Yeshua, our Anointed One? Oy, it is! There’s his mother. But they can’t be crucifying him.
Yeshua was hung between Reuven and Ashur. He screamed when his cross dropped into its hole. The cry reverberated, sending chills up Reuven’s back. A soldier pounded a sign into the wood above Yeshua’s head and, with each blow, Yeshua groaned.
Compassion flooded Reuven’s heart. Tears swam across his vision. He couldn’t understand why Yeshua was being killed. There was no kinder, more genuine man than he. From Yeshua’s lips spilled nothing but truth. Now that Truth was being extinguished, like wind across a lamp’s flame. Yet, as Messiah, there must be more to Rabbi Yeshua’s future. He still must fulfill the prophecies, becoming King of all.
Nighttime fell in the middle of the day. Time dragged wearily through Golgotha’s mud and Reuven struggled between what he knew of prophecy and what he saw. The crowd sneered on, goaded by the Temple leaders. Yeshua’s friends and family wept. All attention was focused on the rabbi. That was as it should be. The death of Messiah was momentous; it could not be ignored.
Joining the jeers, Ashur began hurling insults at Yeshua. Reuven longed to shake him. Fool! Who are we, sinners, to treat Adonai’s Anointed in such a manner?
Finally Ashur yammered sarcastically, “Aren’t you Messiah? . . . Save yourself . . . and us!”
Reuven had heard enough. Pushing upward again, he inhaled as much air as the squeezing would allow. “Oy, Ashur! . . . Have you no . . . fear of Adonai? . . . You’re getting the same . . . punishment as he. . . . Ours is fair. . . We’re getting . . . what we deserve . . . for our crimes. . . But this man . . . did nothing wrong.”
Suddenly he recalled Yeshua’s words as he taught his followers. “I have come to the lost of Israel, to save them from their sins. My kingdom is not of this world.”
Reuven cast his gaze in humble repentance toward the middle cross. “Rabbi Yeshua, . . . remember me . . . when You come . . . into Your kingdom.”
The swollen face that turned to Reuven radiated immeasurable love, love which only Adonai Himself could possess. Its intensity made Reuven gasp. “Yes!” said Yeshua. “Today I promise . . . you will be with Me . . . in Paradise.”
Remarkable tranquility settled over Reuven. He’s forgiven me. I am one of those sinful lost. No, ‘was’ one. But the Mighty God, Prince of Peace has forgiven me.
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