Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: End (02/13/06)
TITLE: The Beginning (ii)
By Chris Clement
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Below, women wail, but their lamentations are not for me. I die alone. No comfort. No prayers. Only the mocking taunts of soldiers go with me into death.
My strength exhausted, my head hangs low from hunched shoulders. I stare into the mud below that swirls with crimson as if my sins lay before me in convicted blood. My wrongs in life are many and my conscious will not allow me delusions that this end is unfitting.
The blood below is not mine alone. I see a stream of red coursing through the mud. It flows bright and unstained. It crosses to the pool below where the rain and dirt cloud and diminish the life that flowed from my veins. But rather than swirl in the puddle, this blood washes away the dirt like a river or a cleansing spring. I follow its trail leading away. Its path is unmistakable as it flows down the cross next to me. There, another man is pinned by nails, but this man’s flesh was torn from his body long before he was nailed to a cross. A crown of thorns is pressed into his brow and his face is washed red. His back is ripped in shreds like a bloody crag. Even in my agony I am amazed at the amount of blood that flows. Were the whole world crucified on that cross with him, the price in blood could be no more. And somehow, in the agony of slow death, my heart finds pity for one such as him.
He speaks and I can barely discern his words. He prays for the soldiers below. He asks God to forgive them. What sort of man is this? Then I see a Roman centurion weeping as he looks upon the misshapen form next to me. I realize something is happening here that I cannot understand.
The women below mutter prayers. They call him Jesus. I lift my gaze again to the man beside me. I gawk at him and then…I know. Yes, I know this man. He is a teacher and a healer. He is a man who worked great miracles. Some claim he is the Messiah himself. The living son of God! How does God’s son come to this? Were it not enough to die this death, but to die crucified next to a man whose crime is a message of love, mercy, and hope is like a fifth nail piercing my soul.
I hear my companion in crime, who is crucified as well, yelling at Jesus. He demands Jesus call on his powers to save himself and us. I spit blood as I silence my companion for fear of God. I tell him that this man deserves no such death as we. Then I look to Jesus and speak his name softly. Slowly, he lifts his head and looks at me. I ask him for something and I feel utter shame as I speak. God himself knows I deserve no such love, no such grace, but still I ask. I ask that he remember me when he enters his kingdom. He hears my voice and his soft eyes take me in for ever so slight a moment and I feel as though the pain of my sins were withering away. He opens his mouth to speak. He says that I will join him today in paradise. Then his eyes fall as his strength leaves.
I simply stare in awe at God’s son and I know this is why he is here. I look at the nails in his hands, in his feet, and the blood on the cross. In each nail, in each drop of blood, I can see my sins. I weep and feel tears: tears of sorrow, tears of shame, and tears of gratitude.
I died on a cross built for condemnation, pain, and death. But now I sleep unworthy in the arms of Father God because of a cross built for salvation and eternal life.
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