There are some who are sorry because they got caught. There are some who are sorry after they see the damage their selfishness caused. My sorry came later.
Nobody ever dreams of becoming a thief. I didn’t ask for this life, I just sort of fell into it. I suppose, if I had the means, I wouldn’t have had to steal, but this is real life and I had needs. I only stole from the rich and haughty and if you ask me, they deserved it. I resented their superior attitude and I never felt bad about the things I did.
I pulled off some great heists. I wasn’t selfish with my loot. I shared with my fellow poverty stricken comrades. I considered myself a Robin Hood of sorts and I wouldn’t have been surprised if I got some sort of standing ovation while I received my Nobel Peace Prize.
When I got caught, it was over something stupid. For someone with my natural skill, the occasion to kick myself for such careless stupidity was consuming. I’m a believer in fate and I knew my time was coming. I had grandiose dreams of how I’d be caught, though, and as I mourned my due spotlight, I bowed to fate and took its apron of service with humility.
My chamber was modest. The ‘Soldiers of Doom’, as I like to call them, were preoccupied with some guy down the corridor. I listened for my name from the crowd outside. I imagined immaculately decorated signs for my honor. There was quite a mass gathered and all I could make out were the one’s gathered for the other guy. This isn’t at all what I imagined. Death for such a mediocre crime was the fashion of the Romans, but it would have been so much easier had my fans turned out like I thought they would.
My confident courage was waining and the time was ticking in audible seconds. I was scheduled to be hung on the same day as another thief, but I didn’t exactly know what the deal was with the other guy. I’ve heard ‘treason’ and ‘blasphemy’, but the way they were tearing him apart, I couldn’t imagine mere words on the part of a lunatic would trump my great feats of stealth and deception. I’m not a bad guy, mind you. I’m merely an opportunist. An opportunist whose grandeur was fading.
The beating that echoed through the halls was amplified by the stone. The thing that stuck out to me most was the fact that I couldn’t hear him fight back. He never begged for mercy, he never proclaimed his innocence. He didn’t say anything. He just took it.
Maybe that’s why they kept hitting him. Maybe they wanted him to break, so they kept torturing him. I hate admitting this, but in my own reduced state, I cried. I sat in my cell and felt the blows that the Silent Strength took. I call him the ‘Silent Strength’ because that’s what he became to me in those minutes (hours?) of hearing them beat him.
I could feel myself changing into…something. I was at a more guttural level of my humanity and I was being transformed into a nothing when all of my ‘something’ faded in obscurity.
The guards came to unlock my cell and lead me out to slaughter. I kept looking around for the Silent Strength but couldn’t spot him. I could just hear the crowd in the distance ahead of me and followed his trail of blood as I walked the path he just took. I found a sense of peace as I placed my feet in his footsteps. Not really footsteps, I couldn’t make them out, but in my imagination, I was following the Silent Strength, step by step, with a sobering sense of purpose.
I gleaned from him. Wrong or right, I fed off his courage to walk when I don’t know how a man could walk after what he’d just been through.
When I got to the hill, I saw the other thief spitting and spewing his ugliness as he took his cross. The contrast between he and the Silent Strength was staggering. That man looked at the sky as though he were looking for someone to meet his gaze. I don’t think he ever found it because he cried to the sky, “Why have you forsaken me?”
I waited for him to notice me, my heart caught in my chest with his words and though I was confused, I still felt like I was witnessing something so much greater than anything I’ve ever witnessed in my life.
When the nails were in place and the ropes were tied, the Soldiers of Doom made our cross placement count. We slammed in the ground with a horrific thud and I heard the Silent Strength cry out.
He said something that sent me over the edge. He looked to the sky and cried, ‘Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’
I couldn’t take it.
I watched them make fun of him. ‘King of the Jews,’ they cried, ‘save yourself!’
Women were wailing and he held them up with words. “Don’t cry for me. If they do this when times are good, think of what they’ll do when times are bad.’
I looked at the crowd and found, what I think was, his mother. Her frail frame was supported by a younger man as she cried out his name. Jesus. Then, I heard him separate himself from them.
‘Behold your mother,’ he said. ‘Behold your son.’
They fell into each other as I was losing consciousness.
If only I could sleep until I’m dead, but breathing was nearly impossible in that position. I could feel my life grow weary as I gasped for air. Crucifixion is an effective form of death by slow torture. If they get sick of us holding on to life, they break our ankles so we can’t stand up for air. I could see their mallets in the dirt under me and I wanted to not fight, but my survival instinct was more powerful than my will for death.
I was watching the Silent Strength, Jesus, from the corner of my eye. I heard the other thief join in the mocking. It seemed he was half spitting-half hoping when he said, ‘Are you not the Christ?! Save yourself and us!’
My heart wailed and I screamed words I barely recognized as my own, ‘Have you no fear of God?! We’re getting what we deserve, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong!’
My head was spinning. Somewhere between my ego-centric god complex, I discovered the Truth. I know I deserve my death, but everyone knew that this other man didn’t. They all knew it and still they strung him up like a cursed piece of meat. A sacrifice to the fabricated god of religious politics.
I knew he was fading. I knew my time was short. I felt a sense of desperation when I spoke to him.
‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’
I was His first. My glory was not in my valiant feats of thievery, though I never would have met Him if I had not done wrong. I’m thankful for my own failures because I never would have heard Him say:
‘Believe me when I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
inspired by the crucifixion as told in Luke 23.