I could hear the footsteps of the guards and I knew they were coming for me. I hadn’t slept all night; I was sitting on my bunk listening with dreadful hesitation for the sounds of those steps. I could hear them faintly, and then more clearly, now it sounded like a horrific thunderstorm that scared me as a child. I tucked my knees up to my chest while placing my head against my legs and wrapped my hands around the top of my head, pulling as tight as I could while closing my eyes. I could hear the sound of the key unlock the door….I knew what time it was…I just couldn’t face the brutalizing anguish.
“Get the hell out here” he shouted! I just kept my grip…I knew what was coming, so why make it easy on these guys? “Wake the bastard up!” Next I felt the first strike go across my clinched hands…I understood this was the first of many…it didn’t even hurt anymore.
All I remember after that is cold water bucketing over me like a torrential storm of the hellish kind. My right eye scarcely opened and I saw the water swimming in my tainted blood. Everyone told me I was a bad seed, but was I? It started in early childhood, stealing to eat while slowly evolving into the felonious foe I had become. The embryonic innocent act advanced to a raging animal striking all in his path….just doing what was natural, growing advanced with each score. The little starving boy transformed into an infamous villain….a criminal of a notorious repute.
The news of me got out and they finally found me.
I listened to the music, now I got to pay the band.
“Hey men, we got three to hang today, introduce them to their new lady friend, the last nailing they will get.”
The first one with the huge hands grabbed my hair and pulled like an ox lifting up my beaten body. He hurled me down beside a cross while another one brought the whip down sizzling with heartless laughter. “Pick it up you bloodsucker, you earned it scum.”
They placed the cross over my shoulder and we headed down the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, the road where dead men walk…carrying my cross…clothed in shame… walking the Via Dolorosa…this is going to hurt.
They are going to make this painful, but the joke is on them.
Pain is all I know.
I am a stray dog digging through the trash cans of life…beaten by the owners of who host the demons of greed, forcing them to guard their excessive scraps.
Strike me with a whip and I move without being moved. You can’t guard your cans forever…there are dogs about, moving in the silence, waiting for the precise moment to strike.
It seemed that thousands lined the streets to witness my demise. The crowds hungry for my blood screamed curses of hate and vengeance, reminding me of the savage I had become. I felt spit smack my face followed by, “burn in hell you lousy thief.” A young child struck me with a stick and squawked, “Dad, I struck the wicked man.” Each step towards my fate brought me a reminder of the curse bought by my actions. I own this experience…bought in full. The words they spoke resuscitated the memory of my crimes. Too late to make amends now…I understand what a wretch, rascal; a common thief like me deserves to die.
I can now accept it.
I deserve to die.
Making it to the top of the mountain I dropped my cross in excruciating pain and the dust of the ground made love to my blood covered face. A woman in the crowd rushed to the man being crucified beside me wailing, “My Son, My Son”, only to be flung away like a rag, experiencing a taste of the brute strength of a Roman guard. I thought of my own mother lying in the blood drenched dust. Not a day goes by where I question what would have happen to my life if she would have lived and been able to take care of me. Maybe I wouldn’t have become that street urchin, stealing my meals and landing in a den of thieves. I might have evolved into a respectable man, not a dishonored bandit. I guess I was the lucky one of all the street scamps I walked with in the youth of my life… for they had died committing the crime, or snatching a disease, or had already taken the trip down this dark road of fate…picking up the cross...walking towards death.
Walking the Via Dolorosa.
This is not what my Mother would have chosen for me, in a feeble attempt at penitence, I prayed; “Mother please forgive me…I didn’t know what to do.”
When you live the life of a criminal you know one day your number will be called.
Today is my day.
The first nail tears through my hands, tacking me to my much deserved cross, generating my nightmare to life.
Your first nail is your knock on deaths door….very soon the door will open.
My agents of death inserted my cross into a hole in the ground, slamming it down to the pits of hell, creating a fury of laughter and cheers from the crowd.
The man on the cross next to me was beaten beyond human recognition with a special touch I had never seen in my life. They placed a crown of thorns on head and a sign on the top of his cross which I couldn’t read through my blood soaked and dust infested eyes. I could hear the crowds mocking him with an intense fervor and I concluded that it was something about this man being the King of Jews. They screamed, “Jesus, where are the angels you are going to call from heaven?” each slur was followed by the roars of laughter. I then understood why the crowds were so huge today. This man Jesus was a renegade philosopher hated by both the religious elite and the Roman government alike. Some said he was the Son of God, a man above all men… he was a poet, a healer, a holy man who could hold crowds on a hillside with the power of his words. But, many saw him as an outlaw, a renegade, a cancer in the fabric of this Land.
I did meet a woman who claimed she was healed from an issue of blood just from touching the hem of his garment. I didn’t give it much thought at the time. I heard of a home town whore he rescued from being stoned and the folks around here love a good stoning session. I heard amazing stories from the common folks, the poor, the undesirables that sung his praise, and claimed he was the Messiah, the Son of God. They said his voice could calm angry crowds, make waves stand still and heal a leper through his spoken word. His fame had spread around these parts; I just hadn’t seen or encountered the man till this fateful day.
Then it happened. I glanced towards him and I encountered his eyes.
It was at that moment I knew he was more than just a man. He tilted his head while looking at me squarely in my eyes. It was a look of grace…no judgment…understanding…full of love. That look went right through me and numbed me to all the pain I had experienced in this life. I became fully at peace and deeply intrigued with that stupendous glace. I said a silent prayer, asking God’s forgiveness for all my heinous acts. I didn’t feel forgiveness was optional at this late in the game until I heard what he said concerning the malicious guards below that was taking his life.
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Hearing his intercession to God for his tormentors forgiveness created something in my heart I had never felt. I felt a gentle ray of hope. I longed to ask him personally for forgiveness, but I felt unworthy to beckon him with a request of redemption.
My fellow thief on the other cross began to spew a river of venomous assaults towards the Christ. Mocking him with unbridled judgment and possessed no remorse for his sinful and lawless life. My partner in crime was a man married to hate and his bitter soul was nothing more than an empty tomb…a dark place where demons love to hide. All his inner demons of hate, greed, lust and pride unleashed countless mocks….devil filled words….inspirations from the pit of hell.
Hate living in human flesh.
Something rose up within me and for the first time I did what I felt was the right thing. I knew redemption was out of the questions, but I could use the final moments of my life to do the right thing.
“Don’t you fear God’s wrath and rage at the end? Are you trying to curse us both into the pit of hell? Today is our day…we are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. Don’t talk to him that way…we are the sinners….we are outlaws….we are getting the devils due for our deeds, but this man is innocent…pure…dying for healing, not for stealing…he’s done nothing wrong. Can’t you see that?”
Christ glanced my way and in a voice nothing like my own I gathered enough courage to ask.
“Lord, will you remember me when you come into your kingdom?”
He looked at me with a look,
That enlightened my mind.
See it’s been a long time,
Since I ain’t been blind.
I discovered on this earth,
That I’ve just been doing time.
Searching for peace in the all the wrong places,
Was my biggest crime.
When he looked at me saying,
“Today you’ll be with me in paradise”,
An inner damn broke,
And since a child I openly cried.
I thought it’s the cross that kills you,
For living such a lie.
Bitterness is the reaper,
That gouges out your eyes.
The sunsets on my death,
I see the world with brand new eyes.
The Kingdom of God is waiting,
Like a young man for his bride.
You obtain eternal life,
When you find your peace,
The grace of God sanctions you,
To kill your inner beast.
I had to go to death row,
To finally find life,
If you’re going to live,
You’re going to have to die.
Dead souls never live,
Live souls never die.
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