I watched in awe as they nailed Him to His cross. He had been stripped, scourged, and beaten – they had even pulled out His beard – and now they were nailing Him to the cross. As the hammer drove the first nail through His wrist His whole body convulsed with pain, yet He did not cry out. They had to dislocate His shoulder to stretch His other arm far enough to reach the old hole, and the only sound to be heard was the sickening pop as the joint was displaced. Not once did He scream.
When they drove the final nail through His ankles and lifted Him up, I got a look at His eyes. They were not filled with anger or hatred, as I expected – instead they were filled with love and forgiveness. What a strange Man! He bore no hatred for His tormenters, despite His innocence.
Then it was my turn. They jerked me out of the crowd, laid me on the rough wood of my cross, held the nail against my wrist, and raised the hammer. I flinched in sudden terror – my pending death had not seemed real until this moment. The hammer came smashing down, and I could not help but cry out at the excruciating pain; then the world went black.
The jerking of the cross dropping into its hole shook me back to consciousness just in time to hear the screams of my fellow convict as they nailed him down. I tried to feel contempt for him; for screaming out his pain in such a way, but I could not – knowing that I had done the same before my screams were silenced by unconsciousness.
They raised him up, and there we were – we three condemned on the hill of Golgotha – two thieves crucified beside a Man whose only crime was teaching us to love one another.
We hung there for some time, in view of the whole city, struggling simply to breathe. The pain in my limbs had long ago faded to numbness as my body began to succumb to the inevitable. The Man next to me, however, was continually jerking, as if receiving enormous physical blows. Once they had offered Him wine and myrrh for the pain, but He refused – turning His head away.
Then the man on the far side shouted at Him, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself, and us!”
Before He could answer, I took a breath and responded, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserved for our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then, turning to the innocent Man beside me I said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
Rousing Himself for a moment from His pain, this Man said to me, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Those words renewed my hope. I may suffer here for a while longer, but I knew that soon the pain must end, and I would enter a greater place.
Shortly afterwards, He roused Himself one more time and shouted out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” Then he was gone. The soldier at the base of His cross looked up and, to make sure He was dead, ran his spear through His side. Blood and water poured from the wound, covering the soldier.
Then there was a stir among the watching Pharisees, and one of the guards standing near them stepped forward with a large club. I knew what was coming next. The Sabbath would start soon, and they wanted to hurry our deaths so they could bury our bodies before the Sabbath began.
The soldier stepped up to my far companion first, raised the club, and swung it at his legs. There was a sickening cracking sound at the impact that was quickly drowned out by the renewed screams of my fellow criminal. Then the soldier came to me, and I looked him directly in the eyes – all fear forgotten. Once again there was the sound of the swinging club, the crack of bone, but this time there was no scream. My body slumped, having lost all support, and I could no longer breathe. My vision began to go gray, then black, and then there was Light – all-encompassing Light…
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