February 9, 2011

A Criminal's Tale

Torture. That's what it was, torture. Had I known that I'd have been caught, I would have never done the crime. But I did do it, and now I was having to pay.

I was laid on a wooden cross. Seven inch spikes were driven into my hands and the pain was unbearable. By the time they had finished attaching my feet to the cross, I was in such pain that my animal instincts had taken over.

I wanted to destroy everything that I saw and curse everyone who watched. Knowing that I was certainly going to die, I no longer cared. After all, there had never been a "crucifixion survivor" and they couldn't kill me twice. For an hour I screamed accusations and obscenities that ordinarily would have never crossed my lips.

Then I noticed the One next to me. From what was being shouted at Him, I knew who He was and why He was there. You see, although I had never met Him, I had heard of Him. He claimed to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Sure didn't look like much of a Savior to me. Guess those Jews and Romans didn't buy it either.

The other convict and I started to hurl insults at Him. Why not? He claimed to be the Christ. . . how about doing some of that "Messiah stuff' and getting us outta here?

But then I noticed something different about Him. When they nailed Him to the cross, He didn't even wince. When they cursed His name, He prayed for them in return. When we, being in the same predicament, ridiculed His claims, He said nothing.

How could He do it? I was out of my mind in agony wanting to fight the whole world! How could He be so calm? Then it occurred to me that He just might be who He said He was. . . the Messiah! Who else could endure the finality of death with such repose? Who else would love His accusers, and die for those who would kill Him?

The moment that this thought rushed through my mind, I felt a calm that I have never experienced. I scolded the other convict, telling him of the Nazarene's innocence. How dare him speak this way to God's Son! Who did these onlookers think they were? We deserved this. . . He didn't. My mind screamed out, "stop it, He is the Promised One!"

But they wouldn't stop the ridicule and insults. So I made a desperate move. I asked a Savior whom I had just met for something that I didn't deserve. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

I didn't expect a response at this point. It was hard enough to breathe, much less talk. But He did respond. "Today you shall be with Me in paradise."

Undeserved grace. That's the only kind of grace there is! Dying alone was more than I could bear, but dying with Him was a privilege...

...Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

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