By Patrick Hawthorne
The pain was excruciating! Like bolts of lightning, nerve endings screamed in a rhythmic tone as one wave of pain followed another. Still, the thief pushed through the pain as he forced his body upright. The need to breath was greater than the agony of the steel spike that had been thrust through his feet. Pulling against the two other spikes, one through each wrist, he was able to fill his lungs with a fresh supply of air.
The sky was becoming darker, the wind picking up. Although the steady gusts should have brought a modicum of relief, the air itself seemed to add more weight to his already weary body. It felt as if heaven itself was crying.
“If you are the Christ, why don’t you come down off the cross and save us,” spat his companion mockingly. Like the thief, he too was nailed to a wooden cross. They both were paying for their crimes. Thieves with no regard for human lives, taking and killing…leaches on society. Now they were being crucified. One to the left and one to the right of this man named Jesus.
“Shut up!” The thief spat back at his companion. “Do you not fear God? We are getting what we deserve, but not Him. He did nothing wrong! Looking to Jesus, their eyes met.
The thief’s mantra had always been, “An eye for an eye.” Not so with this man named Jesus. Jesus was showing love where there should have been hate; forgiveness where there should have been cursing. Surely his ears must have deceived him. Was Jesus really asking God to forgive those who had beat Him beyond all recognition? Yes! He was.
Somehow, someway, the hardness of the thief’s heart had begun to melt. He did not deserve forgiveness, nor was he asking for it. Yet, each time he looked into the eyes of Jesus, he felt an inward calling…an unction that Jesus could grant him a future beyond the confines of this miserable life he had made for himself.
“Jesus, my Lord, remember me when You enter into Your Kingdom.” At his words, the Roman soldiers laughed. The thief did not care. He felt a sudden release as the cords that once bound his cold heart were cut loose. Eternal life had just flooded his spirit.
Through blood stained lips, Jesus smiled a weak smile. “Verily I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”