Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by the Repentant Thief
We asked a myriad of voices to engage with the crucifixion as if they were one of the characters present and write from that perspective. We gathered last week for an amazing collective of perspectives that ranged from a diverse, colorful, eclectic group of people gazing at the cross. We will post each character and their angle as we approach Easter. Enjoy!
LAST THOUGHTS OF A CRIMINAL. FIRST THOUGHTS OF A REDEEMED SAINT.
My name is Reuben, bar Joseph. My family is from Bethlehem, not far from this city of despair and dashed hopes. The Romans convicted me as a terrorist and, indeed, I am a Zealot, eager to overthrow our hateful oppressors with their ruthless power. But more than a Zealot, I am a man of anger and bitterness and as I drag this heavy cross up the hill of Golgotha a pain deep in my soul is even heavier that all their inflicted pain.
Oh! The pain! The pain! I gasp, fighting for breath. I cry out as the soldiers struggle to lift the cross upright, with me stretched out on it. Here I hang, for all the world to see, naked and in pain beyond belief. I pass out in agony, then come to myself, finding my croaking voice muttering all the oaths and cursings that reflect my wretched being. But now, in the midst of this agony, I am also sensing a weight of guilt oppressing me.
I want to shift my arms in pain but find that the only part of my body that can move is my neck, also my eyes and lips. Everything else is petrified as in stone. As I turn my head and eyes as far to the left as possible, I can just see another figure on a cross. It is Jesus, bar Joseph, the holy man from Galilee, and beyond him my fellow Zealot, also crucified, yelling abuses at Jesus and mocking him. Then I hear Jesus cry out:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Though this seems completely unlike the man I know I am, a sense of indignation comes over me. I call back to him with all the fading energy I can muster:
“We deserve punishment but Jesus has done nothing wrong.”
All I can say is that a spirit of light and love floods my being, something I have not felt for years and a memory comes back to me. I am standing on the edge of a crowd listening to Jesus and hearing these unforgettable words:
“I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Those words must have stayed dormant in my soul, like a seed in the hardest of soils, but now their meaning bursts upon me. It is true! Jesus IS the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel. I believe, though my faith is as tiny as a grain of mustard seed. I gasp:
“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
It is a cry of longing, of faith so weak it hardly exists but without hesitation the strong, clear reply comes back to me:
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
I try to take it in. Can it be true?
Today! Today! Today! To be with Jesus in His Kingdom! I am on wings. I leave that poor emaciated body, hanging limp and dead on its tree and rise, soaring with joy!
I AM ALIVE FOR EVERMORE.