I’ve always been afraid to feel. I’ve dodged feelings most of my life. I’ve numbed myself for so long that this day is terrorizing me. I’ve awakened to my own nightmares.
I passed out once already. I don’t know how long I was out, but I was awakened by the cold splashing of vinegar on my face as another nail was driven into my other wrist. I screamed and spit at the executioners. They bound my feet and nailed them too.
When they lifted up the cross and let it drop into the hole, I passed out again.
I’m awakened again, but by the screaming of the thief two crosses down. He’s cursing and thrashing like someone trying to hasten their death. God is being blasphemed in words I wouldn’t dare utter.
I hurt. Excruciatingly I hurt. The pain I was most afraid to feel, however, is the pain that weighed on me heavier than the cross I carried up this hill. 40 years of grief, of sorrow, of sin, of guilt, of shame. This pain I cannot bear. These are blows of a damning variety, and they have bludgeoned my soul more than the Roman executioners could ever bludgeon my back.
There’s a crowd gathered below our crosses. The man in the middle…they’re calling him the “King of the Jews.” ……Jesus??…..
People are taunting him to come down from the cross and save Himself. The thief on his other side has joined the jeering. The crowd below is full of mockers…except the small band of women and a handful of men whose attention is transfixed in mournful silence on the man in the middle.
Listen, I don’t know who this man in the middle really is. I have only ever believed what the religious rulers said about him (a lesson learned too late about trusting them to tell the truth), but something tells me this man is hanging here because of a lie and he is innocent, and although lies incriminated me, I’m hanging here because of the truth…I’m guilty.
“Save yourself! Save us all!!” sneered the crucified thief.
I breathed in a sharp shallow breath. “Don’t you fear God,” I yelled to the thief two crosses down, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve! But this man has done nothing wrong!”
I shocked myself. I shocked the crowd below…but not the ones gathered at Jesus’ feet. Their eyes met mine with pain-filled approval.
My head is spinning…my heart is aching…
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those are the first words I have heard from Jesus.
He’s forgiving sin? Is he really who John the Baptist said he was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?” Could he forgive mine? He’s calling God his father…
Flashes of images, conversations, sound bytes are flooding me all at once…The adulterous woman…He forgave her….”Your Messiah will come to you riding on the foal of a donkey”….”If I by the finger of God cast out devils, surely the kingdom of God has come unto you.” “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me…” I heard the Roman guards quoting him while in my prison cell…
My lungs are losing capacity. My conscience has condemned me. My guilt has stabbed my heart and I’m bleeding out…but hope is rising in me…
“Jesus, if you really are a king, the Son of God, the Messiah, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” I cried out.
Jesus answered me, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
“As if a million rivers washed me, all my guilt was swept away, as this Savior in His mercy somehow carried all my pain.
And the Father God embraced me, and I heard Him call me “son”, because the penalty of sin was now resting on that One…
Jesus, the man in the middle.”
I wanted a king…I needed a savior.
“He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay.”* (Crum)
*”He Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe” © 1977 Ellis J. Crum, Publisher (Admin. by Sacred Selections R.E. Winsett LLC)