I will die today, I know, but it’s still hard to imagine. Blood trails down my arms. My heart is surging, my lungs thrashing, and I am so afraid. Below me, a guard smirks. Behind him stands my mother, eyes wide, hands over her mouth, slowly shaking her grey head.
There are three of us crucified on this hill. There was screaming when they nailed us down, then wailing when they propped us up, but now just the low moans and whimpers of exhausted men who finally believe in death.
But he is different, the one beside me. Not his agony. I see that on his face, hear it in his breathing. But he did not cry out. Most of the crowd is staring at him, yelling at him, and I realize he is the teacher some call a king. Even the soldiers say it, laughing. It adds to the joy of killing him.
Beside me, the crowd draws near the king, and their mocking grows louder. “If you’re the son of God, why are you hanging there naked? Come on down, miracle man!” The teacher gathers his breath to curse, I think, but no…
“Father,” he gasps. “Forgive them.”
Forgive them? Forgive these who laugh at your pain? Who spit at you in your helplessness? I crane my neck to watch him, staring into the sky. Though I am about to die, this man frightens me.
The crowd falls back for a moment, surprised at his words, then they look at each other and laugh all the louder. I see it now. It is his innocence they hate; his peace – even here – that enrages them. They look greedily upon his suffering and would double it if they could. They think they will conquer him by it, but there is no hate in his face, no defeat. He suffers, but I see he will die unchanged, and my fright turns into awe.
“My lord!” I shout. “Can you hear me? Please!” He turns his bloodied head, gives me a tired nod.
“I die for what I have done,” I cry, ashamed, “but you die for what others have done.” I struggle to breathe, to speak, but the crowd has stopped to listen. “Remember me, please, when you enter your kingdom!” I finish in tears, knowing my time is near.
He pulls against the nails in his hands, pushes against the nails in his feet, gathers enough breath to speak. “Today,” he looks at me and nods. “Today, you will be with me there.”
I turned away, confused. The screaming in my wounds, the terrible thirst, the slow suffocation remained, but his words somehow changed me. There was a rest in my soul I did not understand, a stillness in the midst of my fear. I looked at him again and felt stronger.
Again, those watching began to jeer, but – though it was still morning – the sky went dark. The crowd suddenly hushed, began to look around warily, and some crept away. It was in this time of darkness that he broke.
“My God!” he cried, suddenly frantic. “Why have you left me?” His head lunged back and forth, searching the sky in desperation. I wept for myself and for him, afraid because he was afraid.
A few minutes later, he spoke again, quietly now, slowly, with the peace of a man who needs nothing.
“Father. It has all been done. Here is my spirit.”
As his head fell to his chest, the earth howled and shook. The crowd ran from the hill. A centurion stared up at his body and then kneeled.
I stare into the sky, remembering what he said. I will die today, I know. And I am no longer afraid.
At LIFE International, we honor Jesus, who sacrificed his life in our place. At best, we are all like the thief who tells this story – guilty people who ask Jesus to please remember us when he enters his kingdom. The good news is that Jesus says “yes”, not because we are worthy, but because he is good.
“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+103)