Jesus was led out along with two criminals who were both guilty as sin. They were taken to a barren rock overlooking a busy crossroad, just a stone’s throw outside the city walls. There they forced him down onto the rough hewn beams and bashed horrid, huge spikes through his hands and feet. They hung him between the two crooks. In life and in death, Jesus was among the guilty.
Jesus called out a prayer over those who had nailed him up, saying, “Dad! Don’t hold any of this against them. They have no idea what they’re caught up in”.
The leaders stood aloof and sneered, “He saved so many others, but when push comes to shove he can’t do it for himself. So much for being the ‘Chosen One’”!
The soldiers stood below and mocked him, giving him bitter wine to drink and saying, “Here you go m’Lord. Ready to come down now?!”
And hanging beside him, one of the criminals spat and cursed him saying, “What’s the point of being the Messiah if you end up here? Why don’t you save yourself and us while you’re at it?!”
Yet even in all the insults, there was more truth in them than anyone realised. This was their king. This was their Messiah, and his salvation was still coming, even in the midst of all this brutality and hatred.
The other criminal silenced his friend saying, “For heaven’s sake shut up! What do we have to complain about? We’re just getting what we deserve. But it has taken all these mockers and many more, colluding and conspiring, to get him nailed up here with us. He doesn’t deserve any of it”. Then he turned towards Jesus and said, “Jesus, I don’t know how, but I believe your kingdom is still coming, even on this darkest of all days. It would be enough if you would remember me when you take your throne”.
Jesus looked at him with love and said, “Friend, I’ll do more than that. I will take you there with me. See, my hand is reaching out to you even now”.
By now it was midday, when the sun was at its highest and hottest. Suddenly the whole land was plunged into darkness, as if someone had turned off the sun. The whole of creation seemed to be groaning in grief as its creator dangled from that cross, hanging onto life by a thread. In the darkness, those in the temple heard the great curtain, the one that kept God’s presence safely shuttered away, tear from top to bottom. When the light returned, people were left wondering, ‘Does this mean God is outside, or that we can go inside?’
At last Jesus prayed aloud from the torturous cross, a prayer of surrender and trust, “Dad! I’m in your hands. I believe that you’ve got me, even here”. And with that, he died.
The centurion, who had overseen the grisly work of nailing the condemned men up, found himself praising God saying, “I don’t care what anyone else says, this man was not only innocent but good. The deepest, purest kind of good I have ever known”.
The crowds found that all their insults had died on their lips. Now their eyes were filled with tears and their hearts so heavy they could barely walk. It was like they had woken from a dream to a living nightmare. They left, somber and silent.
But all who had known Jesus watched from a distance, too scared to come closer, too confused to make any sense of it, too sad even to speak.