“You’ll be with me in paradise, today.”
That’s what he said. He said to me, “today.” “In paradise,” he said, “with me.” That’s what he said to me.
I saw the superscription nailed above his head. THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS it said. No one could mistake what it said. Three times it was written. In Greek it was written: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ In Latin it proclaimed: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ And in Hebrew, my own tongue, the word was there: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS!
But the Jews didn’t want a king. They wanted a deliverer to rid them of the Roman overlords. At least, some of them did. Others? They had their petty kingdoms. Their coffers and their storehouses brimmed. They didn’t want a king who might demand of them a tribute, an allegiance. The only allegiance they would recognize was to themselves. No, they did not want a king.
I heard the Roman Procurator said, “I find no fault in him.” Now that brought on a riot. We heard the shouting in the prison. Someone said they threatened him – threatened the Roman Procurator! They said he was no friend of Caesar’s, and in the end he told them “I am innocent of the blood of this just person, see ye to it.”
So they brought him out with us. Can you imagine? A king to die the same death as a thief? Two thieves? It was quite a spectacle. They followed us to the place of the execution. They were so determined to make sure that he died. To make sure that he was crucified. But they weren’t happy with Pilate’s superscription. Not at all.
The Roman soldiers ignored them, so they went off to demand that Pilate have it changed. But he must have refused. They came back muttering and shaking their fists. I heard one say, “But he only said he was a king – he talked about his kingdom all the time. What sort of king has only a few women and a puny lad for subjects?” And he shouted to the man on the cross, “If you are the king of the Jews, come down, and then we may believe you!”
My fellow thief took up the cry, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself, and us!” And then it seemed all wrong. We were thieves; he and I. Pilate had not said of us, “I find no fault in them.” We deserved to die. But I had seen this man walk the streets of the city. I heard about the miracles he did. I saw the crowds who followed him. I was beside the pool when he told the man to pick up his bed and go his way. A man who had to be carried to the pool every day in hope of finding a cure. A man who had difficulty moving. But he took up his bed and walked away.
And I said to him, “Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Why did I do that? I do not really know. It just seemed like the right thing to do. What did I expect him to do? Again, I do not really know. But he answered me. He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Is this the entrance into paradise – a bloodstained cross? Paradise, the garden of the king.
He died. Before the sun went down they broke our legs. They could not leave the crosses standing on a holy day. They took us down and threw us on the rubbish heap.
But Jesus was already dead. They took him to a tomb and rolled a stone across to seal him in.
He said to me, “You’ll be with me in paradise today.” I looked into his eyes. I saw him die. And I know that what he said is true. I’ll be with him in Paradise today.
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