Entering Holy Week: The Seven Last Words of Jesus (Bonus Edition) - Second Words
Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." - Luke 23:43
He had heard his friends talk about this Jesus fellow. Had even once seen the crowds following him. In fact, the sound of the people crying praises to him less than a week ago had aroused him from a painful stupor in his jail cell. Hosanna, they'd cried! Hosanna to this broken, bloodied, defeated man next to him - king. King?
Of course, he hadn't seen him himself. He'd been in prison a week already by then, awaiting the fate he now suffered. The waiting almost seemed worse. Now, now...now it was finally almost over. A life of crime hadn't been one he'd relished, but it had kept him alive. Ironic that in the last week of his life he hungered for death.
This man looked like no king he'd ever seen. Not one of stories, or one of reality. Not a Jewish king, nor even Roman or anything else he'd seen on earth.
Messiah even. Not just king. Messiah.
As the catcalls and taunts directed at his man flooded his ears, it was as if something inside him melted away. Some primal response that had always served him. Rage. Anger. Righteous indignation at suffering such an ignoble death at the hands of these Romans thugs.
It all melted away.
This man, made him feel a peace he'd never know. It had to be this man. There was no other accounting for it. Feeling peace on a cross? Peace in this midst of excruciating pain and misery?
It didn't seem to affect their compatriot in suffering. His partner in crime - who had helped him rob a Roman soldier's home - mocked this man just as the crowd did. He rebuked him for it.
And then, before he knew it, the words were out of his mouth: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
A king after all.
And Jesus promised him that today they would be in fact in the new Garden of Eden. Paradise! Him! Him whose life until today had amounted to nothing more than broken relationships, broken laws, as well as a few broken body parts from time to time.
Him! Who had never done anything that hadn't been self-serving. Him, who until a few moments before had even wondered if God even knew he existed.
Set free. Forgiven. Loved even.
Him! And if him? Who else. Suddenly he felt as if this were not the end, but instead the beginning of something new.
Lord of all mercies, you shone your glory on the cross and forgave even those who the rest of the world had written off. You promise life - life that comes through your own scandalous death. Thank you and help us live that life with abandon. Amen