His Voice from the Cross #6

STORY HEARD & BELIEVED
by J. Quisumbing

Guard duty can be quite tedious at most times thought the Praetorian especially when he is tasked to watch over anyone who is not the emperor. However, for the past few days, he and his squad of men were ordered to guard a most unusual man who came from the farthest eastern part of the empire. This man is from a strange people that only had one god. There was a small population of them in the poorest quarter of the city of Rome. Except for this man, he had very little interaction with them.

What made this man interesting to the Praetorian was that though this man was scheduled to be executed, he chose to spend his last hours spinning an incredible tale to him. Chained to the Praetorian, he told him of how the son of this one God made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Then, how he purposely became a prisoner condemned to die on a cross.*

[* Philippians 2:6-8]

This man was a master storyteller. He captured the Praetorian’s imagination by transporting him back in time to that hill with three crosses. He watched the prisoner suffer cruelly more than any other condemned on a cross. He could see his battered body; his face swollen from a beating; his back shredded by a scourging; and a crown of inch-long thorns driven painfully into his scalp. With all that had happened to him, he glimpsed the true heart of the son of this one God when he pleaded for forgiveness even when those that caused him pain deserved divine punishment (Luke 23:34). Afterwhich, he learned a lesson of grace poured out through faith, when the prisoner reassured the thief who hung on another cross that he will be with him in paradise (Luke 23:43). The Praetorian was even touched by the prisoner’s concern for his mother’s earthly needs when he entrusted her well being to his disciple’s responsibility (John 19:26-27).

The storyteller then brings his tale to the final moments. In the darkest hours of his suffering, the prisoner cried out with a loud voice inquiring why God his father had forsaken him (Matthew 27:46). The Praetorian asked if the prisoner was regretting his choices and was casting blame to the one God. The storyteller explained that the words uttered was him calling out for all to hear that prophecy was being fulfilled here. He explained that everything that the prisoner went through was planned by the one God.

He thirsted and was given a vile drink of vinegar and gall. After which he declared that it was finished (John 19:30).

The Praetorian asked, “what did he mean?”

The storyteller explained that what was finished was not only the prisoner’s earthly life, not only his suffering and dying, not only the payment for sin and the redemption of the world—but the very reason and purpose he came to earth was finished. His final act of obedience was complete as is according to the Scriptures.

“Afterwhich,” said the storyteller, “the prisoner looked up at the sky, then said…

‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’

Luke 23:46

…And with those words he breathed his last.”

The storyteller’s head slumped forward on his chest. The Praetorian thought he fell asleep. As he gazed at the storyteller’s slumped head, his mind raced. Somehow, he was not satisfied with what he thought was an unsatisfactory end of the story. How can a God of justice doom His son to death? It made no sense to him. Then the storyteller spoke while his head was still slumped.

“Praetorian, I can guess what you are thinking,” he said. “When the prisoner spoke his last words, he showed his complete trust in his Father. You see, he set foot into death in the same way he lived each day of his life, offering up his life as the perfect sacrifice and placing himself in God’s hands. He knew with certainty that he will not be left in the grave.”

“How?” asked the Praetorian.

The storyteller’s head came up smiling. “He knew it because it was written in our Scriptures. ‘For thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol (hell); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.’** And sure enough, on the third day, He rose from the dead!”

[** Psalm 16:10]

“Three days! What happened to him during that time?”

“It is not easy to comprehend. Do you recall the story of Lazarus and the rich man? (Luke 16:19-31)”

The Praetorian nodded though he didn’t really understand its significance.

“That place where all dead go is called Sheol. You know it as Hades. It is written that during those three days, he went and released those who were in Abraham’s bossom. He called it paradise which was a place of comfort and rest for those that lived by faith in the old days since Adam to the thief who died on the cross beside him. After he resurrected, he eventually ascended to heaven and brought them (the ransomed dead) with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells. There, they wait and look forward to when he returns again not as Savior but as Judge to make the world right forever.” (2 Corinthians 12:2–4)

“Storyteller, I desire to be with him… with him who gave his life for me and for all of us. What do I need to do?”

He smiled and said, “You are already doing it. You have listened attentively to the story and already believed (Romans 10:17). And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Eternal life is yours because you believe.”

Then, they both heard voices approach the chamber they were in.

“Praetorian. My time is very close. Soon, I will be taken from here and my life will be poured out like a drink offering. You need more understanding. Go! Seek out other believers and learn from them God’s words and be blessed.”

The doors opened and other guards entered to lead the storyteller away. As they were almost out the door, the Praetorian asked, “Storyteller, what was the prisoner’s name?”

The storyteller smiled and said, “His name is…”

JESUS CHRIST

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved. [Acts 4:12]

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. [1 Timothy 2:6]


Author’s Note:

We finish my tale on His Voice from the Cross. This 6 part story, though creatively written, was based on the Bible accounts on Jesus Christ’s last few hours on the cross. The first 5 parts were from first hand perspectives but then I chose that the 6th part be from the perspective of a Roman guard hearing about Jesus’ story some 40-50 years after the crucifixion event.

The storyteller, by the way, is my imagined character of Paul who biblically shared the Gospel to his Praetorian guards even while chained to them.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me here at Facebook MESSENGER by audio from 3-5pm Monday to Friday. Scheduled small group chats can be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

His Voice from the Cross #5

REPRIEVED & PAID IN FULL
by J. Quisumbing

It is now the ninth hour. The day had been long and tortuous. The prisoner had suffered personal humiliation from his own people when they unjustly tried him under the cover of darkness. He was abandoned by those that were closest to him except for one. He endured a punishing scourging by a wicked whip. Mocked cruelly by foreigners then crowned with an entwined ring of thorns into his scalp. Though found not guilty, he was still condemned to death as a political pawn for the corrupt. He was paraded through the city while bearing the heavy tool of his execution on his bruised shoulder. His wrists and feet were impaled on a rugged cross. And for hours, he hung there in constant torture.

As his body lost so much bodily fluids, extreme dehydration caused him to be delirious. in opening his eyes, the world began to spin until everything became very blurred. He closed his eyes but the sensation of spinning continued. He didn’t know when he lost consciousness but when he again opened his eyes, he was standing in the midst of a very bright light. It was familiar and comforting.

Then he heard an echoing voice… “Behold… the long awaited court is in session. Assemble all…”

His vision cleared and he found himself in a vast bright arena. All around him, he felt the presence of a multidude but he could not see them. Instead, his focus was at the center, where another figure waited. Though he knew this figure was of spirit, he chose to appear as a human male. The prisoner knew him as the Accuser. Then, in the middle of a round platform appeared two human beings, a male and a female. They both stood there with blank eyes. They were not aware of their surroundings nor of where they were.

The prisoner then moved to another platform that was much higher and on it was a golden bench which he knew for certain is the Seat of Judgement. With no hesitation, he sat and knew it was his rightful place. Upon sitting, he felt another presence… a much greater and familiar presence.

Then, the Accuser launched into his tirade about the human creatures before him. He spoke like he was reciting from a long long list of transgressions made not by these individuals but by humanity as a whole whom these two represent. The Accuser spoke of deeds from humanity’s past, present and future. Since time was not a factor here, the droning of his voice seem endless. However, the Accuser would, on occasion, return to the act of the first sin that started it all.

“All they had to do was not to eat of the forbidden tree. It was an easy commandment to follow. ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’* But yet they did. These are creatures that Thou hast made in Thine image. They were so easily swayed by my trickery to believe that they could be like Thee. Even when they were discovered in their sin, they cowardly blamed everyone else including Thee, Lord. The court demands that Thy justice be done here.”

[* Genesis 2:16-17]

The prisoner again felt the loving warmth coming from the greater presence that surround him. A gentle voice whispers into his ear, “Thou knowest what to do, my Son.”

The prisoner then spoke, “Accuser, you are right to say that all of humanity have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are without excuse and have earned death… eternal damnation.** As the righteous judge sitting on this holy seat, we have come to the decision… to give them the opportunity of redemption.”

[** Romans 3:23; 1:20; 6:23a]

“How, Lord?”, cried the Accuser. “Only the righteous may enter Thine own realm.”

“Again, Accuser, thou art succinct to say that there is none righteous, ney, not even one.”***

[*** Romans 3:10]

The prisoner stood up, came down off the high platform and went to stand before the man and woman. He studied their blank faces for a few moments. Then, he turned to face the Judgement Seat to find that it was filled with another who was so bright that he could not see His face, but he knew who He was.

He nodded to him and said, “I will take their place.”

Then he woke up gasping for breath. The excruciating pain is back and in full force. But he felt it no more and knew. One more prophecy to fulfill. He called out…

“I thirst.”

A soldier poured a mixture of gall and vinegar on a bundled mesh of hyssop. He secured the mesh on the tip of his spear and raised it to the prisoner’s chapped lips. As he sipped on the sickly sweet-sour drink, all he thought was ‘done’.

Then he said…

“It is finished.”

[John 19:28,30]


Author’s Note:

When the prisoner said ‘I thirst’, he fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 69:21 which says, “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

And…

When he finally stated ‘It is finished’, he used the Greek term Tetelestai which means in essence that the debt of sin was paid.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me at Facebook MESSENGER by audio. Scheduled small group chats can also be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

His Voice from the Cross #4

FORSAKEN FOR OUR SAKE
by J. Quisumbing

The disciple whom the prisoner loves was hot and sweating profusely. He slowly scanned the sky. The sun should be shinning a quarter down from it’s zenith at this ninth hour, but the sky was unusually dark due to heavy cloud cover. The heat should be normally dry which he preferred, but the humidity in the air was thick and heavy. If it felt bad for himself, (looking up to his master on the cross) how much more worse for him.

Since midnight, the disciple tried to stay with his teacher, his master… his proclaimed friend… after his arrest in the olive grove garden by the Temple guards by order of the High Priest. He followed them to the grand house of the high priest and managed to get in because he was kin to his household. It was hard for the disciple to just standby and watch him go through a contemptable farce of a trial that the religious leaders held against his master through most of the night. He hated it most when they mocked him, hit him on the head, spat on his face, then handed him over to the foreigners for execution, who nailed him to a cross on execution hill. This was where he found him when he went to fetched the prisoner’s mother.

Looking up again at the master, he saw a look that he had never seen on him before. He saw a desperate look of despair and forlorn, like he was carrying the weight of the world. Then he watched him look up, take a rasping breath and shouted out to the heavens…

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?
(My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)

Mark 15:34

The disciple heard scared voices from the crowd behind him. Some thought that the master was calling for Elias (Elijah). Elijah was a great prophet of old who called out for fire from heaven to smote his enemies and was carried into heaven in a fiery chariot. They searched the skies for Elijah riding on that same chariot to destroy them and save him. The disciple knew otherwise.

He recognized the master’s words from the Scriptures. It was from a psalm written by King David long time ago (Psalm 22:1). Somehow, he knew that his master, who hung on the cross in such agony was not calling out blame, but instead he was calling out for all to hear that prophecy… The Prophecy made by Isaiah (Isaiah 53)… was being fulfilled here.

The disciple understood. Many a times, the master had predicted that he would be handed over and put to death. He and the other disciples strove to prevent this from happening but to no avail. He realized that this was what the master wanted to happen. For months, the master challenged the religious leaders of their hypocrisy, daring them to act. They did act and had succeeded but it was not of their design. He gazed up at the cross. This was the Lord’s doing. This was his plan.

He now understood what the Baptist meant when he declared him to be the ‘Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29), except that unlike the lambs offered as sacrifices at the Temple, this lamb had a will. And he willed to offer himself to take our place. Tears pooled in his eyes. He thought of what his master truly had to endure. He realized that the words he uttered were not because of physical pain. The real pain was being truly cut off from the presence of God… his Heavenly Father. What was most incredible was that the Lord God turned his back on his Son for love of us. It was then he heard his master’s voice echoing in his mind saying…

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16


Author’s Note:

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me at Facebook MESSENGER by audio. Scheduled small group chats can also be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

His Voice from the Cross #1

HIS INCREDIBLE PLEA
by J. Quisumbing

The prisoner’s back was on fire. More than an hour ago, he endured a scourging of 25-30 lashes. He lost count. The whip used was the cat o’ nine tails, an odious punishment tool made up of nine knotted thongs of leather with jagged pieces of metal and bones embedded in the strips. Each stroke was relentless especially when the one wielding it was so enraged because the prisoner made no noise above a moan.

His vision blurred again. By the taste of salt on his lips, he knew that more blood was profusely pouring down over his eyes from the puncture wounds on his scalp. Shutting his eyes tight and blinking a couple of times, his vision somewhat cleared. Looking ahead, he could just make out the infamous execution hill which he knew was north of the city about half a mile from the city gate. Some say that this hill looked like a half buried skull hence its name.

A little strength seem to be coming back to his bruised and cut up legs especially when the heavy burden that he was carrying on his already torn up shoulder was alleviated by the overseers. Earlier, they saw that the prisoner may not make it to execution hill because he was stumbling, falling and getting even weaker with every step he took. So, they stopped the procession, grabbed an unsuspecting spectator from amongst the crowd and forced him to carry the prisoner’s burden which was a roughly hewn cross.

The prisoner finally reached the crest of the hill. He was shoved to where the cross that he carried most of the way was laid out on the ground. Men in red tunics were busily preparing it. He turned his eyes towards a commotion on his left. Another prisoner was screaming out in pain as his hands and feet were impaled onto another cross. Hearing a grating sound to his right, he turned his head to watch another cross being erected, the bottom of which fell into a carved hole on the stony ground. It made a heavy thud sound causing the prisoner already nailed and hanging from it to scream out in agony.

He was then stripped of his outer garments leaving just a loin cloth to cover him. Then, he was roughly shoved down onto the cross. He winced as his bare torn back touched the rough surface of the cross. He braced himself with expectation as his arms were stretched out onto the cross beam. Strong calloused hands pinned his forearms down with his palms facing up. The executioners then simultaneously set the tips of nine inch iron spikes over the prisoners’ wrists. They then, simultaneously pounded those nails through his wrists, expertly missing the arteries with no bones broken. The pain was indescribable.

The executioners turned their attention to his feet. First, they tied his knees together. Then, they bent his legs a little to the left about a quarter of the way up. They rested his feet on an anchored triangle shaped wooden block. With one foot over another, they drove another long spike through, pinning them securely on the sloped block.

Just as he was bearing up to the pain of those spikes being driven into his skin, his own cross was lifted up and manhandled into position. The jarring effect brought even more excruciating pain bringing him to tears and then blacked out.

When he came to, he was gasping for air. He was not breathing properly. His chest felt compressed as he hung there with arms stretched up and his legs were limp. He realized that he can inhale but not exhale. He knew he had to put weight on his feet to exhale. But as he did so his torn back rubbed against the splintered wood, causing a constant stabbing into the open raw flesh. As painful as it was, he knew he had to do it regardless the pain he had to endure.

Then the taunts came.

From his high vantage point, he can see the north road busy with passersby going to and fro from the city. Most of them joined in with the mingling crowd that continued to hurl insults at him.

Someone in a rich robe shouted, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” Many laughed and shook their heads. Others mockingly called him the king of the Jews and that he should come off that cross to rule them. It went on and on, and even the condemned men left and right of him joined in. (Matthew 27)

Then another voice said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

The prisoner recognized that voice. It was the same voice that tried to tempt him during his time of fasting in the wilderness some three years ago. He said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”

In his ear, he can hear that same tempter taunt him. “Son of God,” he would whisper, “You have at your command, legions of angels just waiting for you to give the order to destroy those that have done this against you. These creatures are not worthy of your love. See how they mock you. Elijah once asked God to send down fire upon his enemies who mocked him. You command the elements. Reveal your glory to them and watch them grovel in the ground and beg for forgiveness. Do you not see these people?”

He does see them. He looks down at the overseers laughing among themselves and callously gambling over his garment. He cannot get himself to hate them. Then, he scanned the crowd who continue to jeer at him. He saw their pettiness & shallowness; their angers & fears; their ignorance, their frailty & many faults. He also saw inside their hearts and he knew they were lost and hungry for a better life. He once told his disciples that what he saw in people was a flock without a shepherd. He saw each of them as created in God’s image. No, he could not condemn them. He knew that one day, the time of judgment will come, but not yet.

He peered up at the sky. The sky was clear but in the distance he could see angry clouds forming. He knew that his Holy Father was angry and rightly so.

The prisoner braced his legs and painfully lifted his body up. He breathed in, looked up to Heaven and said…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)


Author’s Note:

Holy Week is just around the corner. Every Week until Resurection Sunday, I will post a story on the last words of this prisoner who hung on a rugged cross and paved a way for you and me who believe to everlasting life.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me here at Facebook MESSENGER by audio from 3-5pm Monday to Friday. Scheduled small group chats can be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.