His Voice from the Cross #2

THE THIEF’S GOSPEL
by J. Quisumbing

The thief was getting less groggy now. He remembered drinking some offered wine that tasted sharp and quite acrid. This wine usually was offered to the condemned before the crucifixion to deaden the pain. It didn’t work fast enough.

Now, that his mind cleared, he had to cope with the pain. To do this, he busied himself by scrutinizing his surroundings. He did this very well, especially when he cased a place he wanted to rob.

Execution hill, he knew so well. He had watched the conquerors kill many of his people on this hill since he was a boy. He shook his head. He never thought that he himself would ever end up here.

He looked to his right. He saw no other crosses. He looked to his left and saw only two. He recalled more crosses on this hill and along the road in the past. He was situated on the farthest cross on the right facing the busy road that went into the city. He saw that his partner in crime was on the farthest cross to the left. The middle one was occupied by a man he could not recognize. By the look of him, the conquerors must really hate him. He was definately flogged and on his head was a makeshift crown of thorns. The thorns were at least an inch long and they clearly embedded deep into his scalp. Blood covered his face. He asked himself, why do they despise him so? And not just them, as well. From the big crowd below, he recognized the well dressed leaders and high level priests of his people hurling insults at him. The only other person that could irritate them so, was a roving rabbi from Galilee.

He quickly looked back at him with his eyes wide open. They are crucifying Him! He heard him teach a number of times in the Temple Courts about the Kingdom of Heaven. Oh, he so wished that he could go there, but because he was a career thief, the religious teachers would say otherwise. He believed them and felt that he could not change and there was no hope for him. Until he witnessed something incredible.

He was hiding in a robber’s hole in a quarry used as burial sites for the rich from a nearby village. He and his parter were being hunted by soldiers who almost caught them ransacking their quarters. The thief was holing up in his hole when he observed a funeral procession of a young man from a rich family. Four days later, a large crowd of people gathered around the the burial site of that young man. Among the crowd was the rabbi. The thief was intrigued and decided to come out of his hiding hole.

He watched the rabbi instruct his followers to roll the grave coverstone away even after the cautionary advice of decaying odor from a 4 day old corpse. After the stone was rolled away. The rabbi looked up and prayed, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 11:41-42)

Then he called into the tomb and commanded that the dead man come forth. At first, nothing. Then from the inside the darkness, he could just make out some slight grayish movement. He felt the hairs on his back stand up. The crowd was startled with women screaming as a bound hand came out of the darkness grasping the entrance wall. The rabbi reached in, grasped the other hand and helped the struggling bound man out. He brought this man back to life.

They say that the rabbi from Galilee may be the Messiah. He was never a good student so he was not exactly sure what a Messiah is. But if a Messiah does what this rabbi did, he is truly worthy of following. He could change for him. The thief did make the decision to turn a new leaf. He was so elated that he did not even notice that he was surrounded by soldiers. Apparently these soldiers already arrested his partner who told them where he was.

Then he heard his partner hurl insults at the rabbi, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Then the thief bolstered himself up and called out. “Do you not fear God 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.”

Then he noticed that the prisoner on the center cross was looking towards him. He did not say anything, but the thief felt that the prisoner was waiting for him to say something. The thief took a swallow and said, “Lord… remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then the prisoner said…

“Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)


Author’s Note:

The Bible does not really say what else happened to that thief on the cross except that before the day ended, his legs were eventually broken by the executioners to hasten their deaths. He died. And that’s it.

But allow me to surmise based on all biblical stories of those that believed in Him who gave Himself on the cross. I can imagine the thief dying with no fear and then waking up in the middle of a beautiful garden that he had never experienced ever. In that place of paradise, which I truly believe is the Garden of Eden, the thief and those that believe after would find the Lord there smiling. I confess that I myself had dreams of that place. But that is a subject for another time.

Take note that the story from the perspective of the thief is the product of my creative writing, however the quotes are from the King James Version Bible.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 4

THE HARDEST CHOICE – Golgotha

By the time Jesus reached the top of the hill, they already hung the two thieves who were wailing in pain. The executioners quickly took hold of him, stripped him down to his loin cloth and laid on the cross. Cornelius had to fight the urge to not drawing his weapon on them, but instead stood there stone-faced as they drove nails into his wrists. He expected him to scream in pain, but as they pounded on the nails all he did was quietly moan. Once his feet was nailed onto the post, it took eight men to maneuver the bottom of the cross to the hole on the ground and lift the cross on a standing position.

The north-road and the environs around the execution hill were filled with people. Many of them were the chief priests and their lackies. When a soldier climbed a ladder to mount a sign on Jesus’ cross that said ‘Here is Jesus, King of the Jews’, they protested loudly. They demanded that the sign be changed to ‘Here is Jesus who claims that I am King of the Jews.’

Cestus was quite disgusted about the festive mood of the passers-by and those who came to watch Jesus on a cross.

“Just last week, they hailed and welcomed him to the city. Now, they celebrate him hung on a cross. Disgusting!”

The chief priests and their lackies fed this festivities by continually hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” Others were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” [Mark 15:29-32]

The people laughed.

The soldiers too were enjoying themselves by dividing up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.

Then Cornelius heard Jesus speak as he called out, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]

Cornelius’ heart broke to hear him who is in agony think kindly of those who are mocking him and even those who are killing him.

Even the thief who hung on Jesus’ left was mocking him, calling to save him from the cross. But then the other thief rebuked saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”

Then Jesus weakly said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:40-43]


The story continues on in my next post.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 056

JORAM THE THIEF
33 AD – Miraculous Sight – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

They led him south of the village into the same small canyon where Joram hid from the Romans. They followed the well worn winding track passing several fenced out grave sites, a number of which had carved circular stones about three feet in diameter covering the openings. They reached the end of the trail that opened up into a wider enclosure where Simon’s clan maintained a garden. The garden was fenced in by a short rock wall about three feet high. There were several burial chambers carved out halfway up the canyon wall. Simon told Jesus that Lazarus was entombed inside the chamber of the first ledge about five feet above the canyon floor.

Jesus climbed the steps to the ledge followed closely by Simon and Jesus followers.. The sobbing sisters also climbed the steps but stopped part way. Jesus placed his hand on the round stone and wept openly.

“See how He loved him!” Joram heard one of the Pharisees saying. But someone else also said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have kept this man also from dying?” [v36,37]

Jesus took a step back and spoke to Peter and Andrew, “Roll the stone away.”

Martha gasped and said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” [v40] Mary’s head came up and looked on him with a desperate hope.

Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” [v41]

So, the two men positioned themselves on the right side of the stone. The round stone was resting in the bottom of its inclined groove carved into the rock. Grunting profusely, they rolled the heavy stone up the slight incline, revealing the small opening into the dark chamber. Except for Jesus, those on the ledge and steps as well as those gathered below the ledge covered the nose and mouth from the obvious smell of decay. They quickly retreated down the steps leaving Jesus alone on the ledge.

Then Jesus raised his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

Then he called out in a commanding voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” [v41-43]

The crowd was silent. When after a while nothing seem to be happening, some in the crowd started snickering. But then a woman gasped and with a trembling hand pointing, she said, “Look!”

Joram climbed the stone wall to look over everyone’s shoulder and get a better look inside of the tomb. At first, all he saw was pitch darkness until he could just make out some slight grayish movement deep inside. He felt the hairs on his back stand up and eyes grew wide. The crowd was startled with a few women screaming out loud as a bound hand came out of the darkness grasping the entrance wall. Jesus reached in, grasped the other hand and helped the struggling bound man out. It was Lazarus alive after four days in the tomb. He was wrapped from head to foot with linen wrappings. The bound wrappings were hardened and stiff from the herbal ointments applied when he was buried.

No one moved. Jesus, who was holding him up, called out to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” [v44]

It was the sisters that reacted first as they both rushed up the steps and embraced Lazarus. Other men rushed up to the ledge and started to tear at the hardened wrappers. His father handed his robe to cover his nakedness. He was still pretty weak, so they had to carry him down.

The people were amazed and were calling loud praises to God. Even those Jews who had laughed at him bowed their heads in respect when Jesus and his disciples walked by following the happy family.

Joram’s mind was reeling. He heard the stories but to witness what he just witnessed was mind boggling. He had to get to know Jesus more. Fortunately, he knew the exact person to make the introduction. He was in such in a light mood that he did not notice a squad of Roman soldiers waiting outside the canyon. When they spotted him, they pounced on him. He tried to struggle free but one of the soldiers hit his head and knocked him out.

When Joram woke up, his head was pounding. It was very dark. When he tried to stand he realized he had a heavy iron cufflinks on his ankle and he was chained to the floor. He heard a moan nearby.

“Who is there? Where am I?” He asked desperately in the dark.

“Stop your wailing! No one will come to help.”

“Where are we?”

“Where else! We are deep in the dungeons of the Praetorium.”

Joram’s mind reeled. The Praetorium is the Roman fortress that overlooks the Temple itself. There is only one way out from here for the likes of him; crucifixion.

Even in his dire situation, he only had one thought, ‘I will never see him again.’
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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 054

JORAM THE THIEF
33 AD – Miraculous Sight – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Joram silently went over a high wall of a villa in the village of Bethany. The occupants were hopefully sound asleep. He saw that there was a light shining through the third floor balcony. With limber agility, he easily climbed up to the third level. Taking a careful peek through the open door of the balcony, he was relieved to see Simon the Leper writing on a parchment under candle light.

“The last time I saw you, my old friend, you had no nose,” Joram said lightly.

Simon turned his head a little surprised, but as he recognized his intruder he humorously responded, “I thought the Romans had you in chains by now.”

“They almost caught me once or twice.” He gave a short laugh, then he paused and said, “I feel sorrow for you, my old friend… for the loss of your son.”

“Yes… Thank you…” They were quiet for a long while until finally Simon asked, “So, what has been happening with you?”

“Never mind me,” Joram said. He hesitatingly reached out to touch his face. “It is you that have a story to tell. Except for you, I have not heard of anyone who had escaped the fate of the lepers.”

So, Simon told him of how Jesus healed him. He spoke of his other miracles and teachings which to Joram was somewhat hard to comprehend. They talked the night hours away and just as the sky paled over the eastern hills, Simon confessed his utmost belief that this man Jesus is truly the Messiah. When they broke the night’s fast, Simon invited him to stay… and stay indeed for four days.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 052

JORAM THE THIEF
33 AD – Miraculous Sight – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Thieving had always been Joram’s way of life since he was a small boy in the streets of lower Jerusalem. If he was not pocketing fruit from a vendor’s stall, he would be climbing through a third floor window pilfering someone’s valuables. In whatever situation he was in, he could always count on being chased.

Joram was on the run again.

He was spotted pilfering through the packs of some sleeping Roman legionaries in an encampment in the Jordan River valley just north of Jericho. He decided to evacuate the area most haste. He was about six miles from Jerusalem on the Jericho road, when he was recognized by a Roman patrol and he had to desperately flee into the ragged surroundings of the Judean highlands. When he got to the edge of Bethany, he thought he lost the pursuit, when he heard a shout, “There he is!” from behind him. Rather than hiding in the village, Joram high-tailed it down a narrow track that jotted back into the trees. The track wound it’s way to the south-east side of the village then it went about another mile until it went down into a quarry which is utilized by the wealthy dwellers of Bethany as burial places. He also knew of a well hidden spot.

The quarry is situated in a box-canyon with only one entry way. From behind the bushes he was hiding in, Joram had to dash across out in the open through the entryway. Most thieves normally would not get caught dead in a place with only one entrance, but he was not concerned for he knew of a couple ways out of this canyon. The craggly limestone walls of the quarry rose up about thirty feet on both sides of the path until it widens up. The grave sites that he walked by were fenced in by three foot-high rock walls. Some of the enclosures had flowery gardens in them, a sure sign they belong to the rich.

Joram followed the path further in until it went right by a pile of old rock-fall against a sheer roughly hewn wall. He got on the top of the rock pile then finding hand and foot holds on the wall, he began to climb. He went up about fifteen feet where there was a ledge and a hole in the wall. As he squeezed through it, he found the chamber exactly the way he left it. He had used this hole before. And he went in just in time, for he heard voices below him.

The voices he heard were talking in the Roman tongue. Apparently, from what he could make out was one of the soldiers thought he saw him run into the quarry. They spread out and searched. Fortunately, they will not be able to see the hole from the ground nor will they even notice the ledge since it is not easily distinguishable against the ragged wall.

Joram heard a whistle blow twice. A commanding guttural voice called out, probably a command to assemble. As the voices faded, he took a quick peek outside and sighted the tail-end of the line of soldiers leaving the quarry. He smiled to himself.

“That was a little too close,” he said to himself.

He backed back into the chamber. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark then took stock of his small hideaway. The chamber was not natural. It had a very low ceiling and had room enough for three large persons laying side by side. The far wall was stacked with some very old rusted tools and broken crates. He figured that this chamber was a supply cache when the quarry floor was still level to it. He imagined thousands of bedraggled Israelites digging away and mining it for limestone and marble slabs probably way back in the days of Solomon’s building boom hundred of years back. Joram went to one of the crates and tilted it up to reveal a number of items he left when last he was here. He picked out a small oil lamp. Shook it a little to see if there was some oil left in it. Satisfied that it hadn’t dried out, he struck his flint to light the lamp. From his pouch he pulled out a half eaten roll of flat bread and took a bite. Unfortunately, he would have had a big chunk of a roasted fowl from the mess tent of the Roman soldiers, but the cook’s slave came in just as he was about to carve out a slice. The slave called out an alarm and all he got away with was a bit off piece of flatbread and an over ripe plum. That was his meal until the next day. At least, that was how long he had to stay hidden, he figured.

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If you want to support my writing, there are two options:

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